Barkley: DisCon III, the Fifth Day

To Be Fair, I Was Left Unsupervised: A Disjointed Chronicle of 79th World Science Fiction Convention, Discon III – Day Five

By Chris M. Barkley:

DAY FIVE: THE LAST DAY

Sunday, the very last day of Discon III, was a VERY busy day.

Juli and I had finished packing the night before.

I was also up early (again) because I had a 10am panel; “Inspired Or Copied, The Ethics of Art”, featuring artists agent Jane Frank, attorney at law Harold Feld, and authors Keith DeCandido, J.T. Greathouse and myself. As I looked in the program book, I did not see anyone listed as a moderator. Which made me wonder why I was on this panel to begin with. Oh well, I thought…  

But first, there were two other issues on my plate that morning. As I got dressed, Juli informed me that I maybe in hot water with our friend, author Jonathan Brazee. Apparently, I misstated his rank in the United States Marine Corps as “Lt. Colonel” instead of his actual rank upon retirement as full Colonel. 

If you think the distinction is rather minor, think again. Consider this; my brain fart is the equivalent of mistaking the rock band Nickelback for The Beatles. I have several friends and relatives who have served in the armed services and nothing upsets them more than civilians like myself getting aspects of their lives dead wrong. So, I got dressed, dreading the prospect of running into the Colonel.

The other thing that caught my attention was a Facebook post by Adam-Troy Castro. In it, Mr. Castro totally eviscerates Jon Del Arroz, a internet provocateur (troll) mostly known for his incredibly egotistical boasts of writing talent and notorious passive-aggressive attacks on progressive writers, women, the LGBTQ community and practically anyone else who casts doubts his on his “greatness”.

Needless to say, I picked up Mr. Castro’s post and spread it all over Facebook (including the DisCon III page) and on my Twitter page with the caption (gleefully borrowed from Game of Thrones): “He who SHOUTS that he is a King, is no king.”  

THAT, dear readers, felt very, VERY satisfying.

On my way to my panel, I decided to grab a quick bite of something in the DisCon III Green Room (located just off to the side of the hotel’s main restaurant) to tide me over until I could eat a fuller breakfast. And guess who was there, having coffee with a friend —

As I started to apologize profusely, he laughed and said that he actually got a kick out of being one of the “luminaries” spotted at the bottom of the first column of this series of DisCon III reports. Totally relieved that I would not be set upon by angry veterans or service members of the armed forces, I grabbed a cup of tea and made my way to my panel. (Subsequently, Col. Brazee contacted me via text and said that no further public apology was necessary but I must disagree. When a mistake of that magnitude is made by a reporter, a correction is not only called for, it’s mandatory as far as I’m concerned.)

As I passed through the lobby, I stopped by the Information Desk for the last newsletter and the traditional hoax parody as well. I also saw that there were several dozen silver colored, Flash Gordon shaped foam rockets on the next table over. Curious, I went over and examined one and saw the red and black label, which is how I found out that the defense contractor Raytheon was an official sponsor of DisCon III. (WHAT? I should have been paying more attention during the con! In my defense, I was unsupervised…)

Thinking that these would make a nice trinket for my four grandchildren, I grabbed several of them. As I passed by Ellen Datlow, who was seated in the East Promenade eating from the grab and go buffet, I gifted her with one as well. She was very appreciative since this rocket was MUCH lighter than the Short Form Editing Hugo Award she had won yesterday evening.

[Chris Barkley’s report continues after the jump.]

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(1) LET US REMEMBER THE TWENTY-FIRST OF DECEMBER. It’s already dark out! Oh, wait – today’s the Winter Solstice! No wonder. Let NASA Ames Research Center tell you all about it.

(2) RAYTHEON. Social media criticism for DisCon III’s acceptance of Raytheon sponsorship money splashed onto some of the Hugo ceremony participants. The committee issued this statement:

Cora Buhlert commented:

(3) WORLDCON ACCESSIBILITY ISSUES. Mari Ness, who navigates convention space in a wheelchair, summarizes her experiences with DisCon III, which she ultimately decided against attending: “Are we really doing this again? Discon III, accessibility, and genre cons” at Blogging with Dragons.

Discon III turned out to be my worst Worldcon ever – one of my worst genre events, ever.

And I didn’t even go….

(4) THE GAME’S AFOOT. Congratulations to James Nicoll Reviews on posting their 2000th review today: “Just Lots of Little Frames”, about Greg Stafford, Jeff Richard, and Jason Durall’s 2021 The Runequest Starter Set, which is a starter set for Runequest: Roleplaying in Glorantha . As always, the footnotes are great!

(5) FIFTY THOUSAND BEBOP FANS CAN’T BE WRONG. Yahoo!‘s Jeff Yeung has an updated report about the ongoing Cowboy Bebop petition:

Netflix’s recent cancellation of the live-action Cowboy Bebop has left many fans disappointed, and now more than 50,000 of them have signed a petition to bring the show back for a second season.”

“I truly loved working on this,” the show’s co-executive producer Javier Grillo-Marxuach said on Twitter after Netflix’s decision. “It came from a real and pure place of respect and affection. I wish we could make what we planned for a second season, but you know what they say, men plan, God laughs.” He added that the team “had so much cool sh*t planned” for Cowboy Bebop’s second season.”

(6) SUITE MEMORIES. Covert J. Beach gives a full rundown on the party suite he used for his “loosely invitational” parties at DisCon III (which also ended up being the location for the Chengdu Victory Party when “it turned out that the suite that had been earmarked for Chengdu had been given away.”)  

….At over 1800 sqft the Suite was bigger than my Condo, complete with full kitchen (I even baked something) and a full washer-dryer. To do it justice I brought three bags of booze rather than just two, discovering in the process that the Briggs and Riley Baseline Carryon is a fantastic piece of luggage to carry booze. It is the perfect width for most long whisky tins. It took two full trips of the car to move the party kit to the hotel, and two back (the 2nd return load which totally packed the car is picured), with a third supplementary trip each way. I caused a lot of bemusement with the valets.

The Convention had a bartender on tap over zoom so people could get advice on what drinks to make. I hear a number of calls were made from the room in the suite called “The Library” where the bartender was amazed at the variety the Capclave/Balticon Scotch Cabal put together (I don’t bring it all.) Much was drunk….

(7) TOP SHELF. Polygon offers its picks of “The best fantasy and sci-fi books of 2021”. In alphabetical order by author’s last name, so no definitive number one ranking.

…If you love books then you know: They aren’t just escapism, they also inspire introspection, making us think harder about the world we live in. This is precisely the promise of great science fiction and fantasy — categories we’ve chosen to consider in a list together, as fantastic books continue to blur the line between the two speculative genres (and besides, we love to read them all). These 20 books span genres and perspectives — from space operas, to Norse mythology retellings, to romances with a dash of time travel. But all of them gave us something new to consider.

In a year with so many incredible choices, it was hard to narrow down the list. So we’ve also included some of our favorite runners up….

(8) WOMEN OF MARVEL. In March, Women Of Marvel #1 will continue highlighting Marvel’s female heroes in an all-new collection of tales. 

  • A Squirrel Girl and Black Widow team-up against a maniacal villain in a story that explores the complexities of super hero identities by Hugo award winning writer Charlie Jane Anders
  • An action-packed Shanna the She-Devil and Silver Sable short sees the jungle ladies battle against wild animal poachers by award winning video game script writer Rhianna Pratchett
  • A dark Jessica Jones tale of compulsion and redemption from celebrated creator Jordie Bellaire and drawn by rising star Zoe Thorogood
  • A fun-filled page-flipper of Black Cat’s greatest failures and latest triumphes by novelist Preeti Chhibber and superstar artists Jen Bartel, Marguerite Sauvage and more!
  • The Marvel Comics writing debut of artist Mirka Andolfo and much more!

(9) MILAN MEMBER OF JURY IN HIGHLY-PUBLICIZED CASE. [Item by rcade.] The romance novelist Courtney Milan revealed on Twitter that she was a juror in the trial that led to truck driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos being sentenced to 110 years in prison for the 29-vehicle crash in Colorado that killed four people in 2019. The brakes on his truck failed while he was descending mountains on Interstate 70, leading to the accident after he didn’t veer off into a runaway truck lane.

Milan wrote this on December 14 in tweets she subsequently deleted (Archive.today copy below):

I’m going to write something longer about this, but I just have to say this right now: 110 years is unjust. I feel sick with how unjust this is.

I don’t feel like I can say much right now because my brain keeps stuttering out on this, but my brain will come back online at some point.

I was on the jury in this case and if I had known this was the mandatory minimum for a kid who made some really bad decisions at exactly the wrong time, I would absolutely have engaged in jury nullification.

The severity of the sentence, which must be served consecutively, has brought international attention to the case. A Change.org petition asking Colorado Gov. Jared Polis to grant clemency or a commutation to Aguilera-Mederos has received over 4.5 million signatures.

Before becoming a full-time romance writer, Milan was a law professor at Seattle University School of Law and clerk to Supreme Court justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy, according to the Washington Post.

A male juror in the case told Fox 31 the sentence was “100-fold of what it should have been” and had this reaction when it was handed down: “I cried my eyes out.”

(10) STEP RIGHT UP. Signal boosting Connie Willis’ appeal for Locus subscriptions and donations. If she were here she’d say click to support Locus today.

(11) ORENSTEIN OBIT. Inventor Henry Orenstein, responsible for many popular toys including Transformers, died December 14. The New York Times paid tribute: “Henry Orenstein, 98, Dies; Force Behind Transformers and Poker on TV”.

…He refashioned himself as a toy inventor (he held dozens of patents) and broker. During the Toy Fair in Manhattan in the early 1980s, he saw a Japanese-made toy — a tiny car that could easily change into an airplane — and recognized more elaborate possibilities.

“He started playing with it and said, ‘This is the best thing I’ve seen in at least 10 years,’” recalled Mrs. Orenstein, who, as Carolyn Sue Vankovich, met her future husband in 1967 when she was demonstrating Suzy Homemaker at the Toy Fair. “He had the sparkle he got when he got excited.”

Mr. Orenstein put together a deal between Hasbro and the Japanese manufacturer, Takara, which led to Hasbro’s introduction in 1984 of Transformers, toy robots that could turn into vehicles or beasts. They would become hugely popular, spawning an animated television series and a movie franchise.

“Ideas don’t come in little pieces,” Mr. Orenstein told Newsweek in 2016. “It’s in, it’s out. It’s there or it’s not,” he said. “I was just an inventor. You needed a big company to do what I thought should be done: making real transformations from complex things to other complex things.”…

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1965 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] ?Fifty-six years ago one of the best Bond films premiered in the form of Thunderball. Directed by Terence Young, it was the fourth Bond film off a  screenplay by Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins off yet another Fleming novel. The original screenplay was by Jack Whittingham but it wasn’t used. 

Need I say that Sean Connery plays Bond here? Well this will be only the first time that Connery plays Bond based off this novel as he’ll play him in Never Say Never Again which was executive produced by Kevin McClory, one of the original writers of the Thunderball story. McClory had the filming rights of the novel following a very long legal battle dating from the Sixties.

Reception from critics was decidedly mixed but Dilys Powell of The Sunday Times said that “The cinema was a duller place before 007.”  The box office was fantastic as it earned out one hundred and forty million against a budget of under ten million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a rather excellent seventy-three percent rating. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 21, 1898 Hubert Rogers. Illustrator during the Golden Age of pulp magazines. His first freelance work was for Ace-HighAdventureRomance, and West. In ‘42, he started doing covers for Astounding Science Fiction which he would do until ‘53. He did the cover art for the ‘51 edition of The Green Hills of Earth, the ‘50 edition of The Man Who Sold the Moon and the ‘53 edition of Revolt in 2100. (Died 1982.)
  • Born December 21, 1928 Frank Hampson. A British illustrator that is best known as the creator and artist of Dan Dare, Pilot of The Future and other characters in the boys’ comic, The Eagle, to which he contributed from 1950 to 1961. There is some dispute over how much his original scripts were altered by his assistants before being printed. (Died 1985.)
  • Born December 21, 1929 James Cawthorn. An illustrator, comics artist and writer who worked predominantly with Michael Moorcock. He had met him through their involvement in fandom. They would co-wrote The Land that Time Forgot film, and he drew “The Sonic Assassins” strip which was based on Hawkwind that ran in Frendz. He also did interior and cover art for a number of publications from the Fifties onwards including (but not limited to) Vector 3New Worlds SFScience Fantasy and Yandro. (Died 2008.)
  • Born December 21, 1937 Jane Fonda, 84. I’m sure everyone here has seen her in Barbarella. Her only other genre appearances are apparently voice work as Shuriki in the animated Elena of Avalor series, and in the Spirits of the Dead, 1968 anthology film based on the work of Poe. She was the Contessa Frederique de Metzengerstein in the “Metzengerstein” segment of the film.  
  • Born December 21, 1948 Samuel L. Jackson, 73. Where to start? Did you know that with his permission, his likeness was used for the Ultimates version of the Nick Fury? It’s a great series btw. He has also played Fury in the Iron ManIron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First AvengerThe AvengersCaptain America: The Winter SoldierAvengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers: Infinity War and showed up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. too! He voiced Lucius Best (a.k.a. Frozone) in the Incredibles franchise, Mace Windu in The Phantom Menace and The Clone Wars, the Afro Samurai character in the anime series of the same name and more other genre work than can be listed here comfortably so go ahead and add your favorite role by him.
  • Born December 21, 1943 Jack Nance. Let’s just say he and David Lynch were rather connected. He’s in Henry Spencer in Eraserhead, he had a small role as the Harkonnen Captain Iakin Nefud in Dune and he’s Pete Martell in Twin Peaks. He’s also a supporting role as Paul, a friend of Dennis Hopper’s villain character in Blue Velvet but even I couldn’t stretch that film to be even genre adjacent. (Died 1996.)
  • Born December 21, 1944 James Sallis, 77. Ok he’d be getting a Birthday today if only for his SJW cred of giving up teaching at a college rather than sign a state-mandated loyalty oath that he regarded as unconstitutional. But he also does have a short SFF novel Renderings more short fiction that I can count, a book review column in F&SF and he co-edited several issues of New Worlds Magazine with Michael Moorcock.  Worthy of a Birthday write-up! 
  • Born December 21, 1966 Kiefer Sutherland, 55. My he’s been in a lot of genre undertakings! I think that The Lost Boys was his first such of many to come including FlatlinersTwin Peaks: Fire Walk with MeThe Three Musketeers, voice work in Armitage: Poly-MatrixDark City, more voice work in The Land Before Time X: The Great Longneck Migration, Marmaduke and Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn TwilightMirrors, and yes, he’s in the second Flatliners as a new character. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld’s alternate history drives the world of a well-known Christmas carol.

(15) SWEDEN ACQUIRES A STEED. “Dark Horse Comics to Be Acquired by Gaming Giant Embracer Group”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Dark Horse Comics properties such as Hellboy and The Umbrella Academy are finding a new home. The indie comics publisher has agreed to be sold to Embracer Group, the Swedish video game conglomerate. The deal is expected to close in early 2022….

(16) THE RAIN IN NEW SPAIN STAYS THE LAUNCH AGAIN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Astronomers have once again been told they must wait a bit to open their Big Present—launch of the James Webb space telescope. The latest, and hopefully the last, delay has pushed the launch until Christmas day. This one-day delay is due to expected advert weather conditions. “Delay pushes NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope launch to Christmas morning” at CNN.

The highly anticipated launch of the James Webb Space Telescope has been delayed yet again — this time because of interference by Mother Nature.

Now, the telescope is expected to launch on December 25 from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

The launch window opens Christmas morning at 7:20 a.m. ET and closes at 7:52 a.m. ET. Live coverage of the launch will stream on NASA’s TV channel and website beginning Saturday at 6 a.m.

The news of adverse weather conditions came shortly after NASA shared that the Launch Readiness Review for the telescope was completed on Tuesday….

(17) ABOUT THE WESTERN SPELLING OF A CHENGDU GOH’S NAME. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Given the fuss some make over pronunciation, I am a little reluctant to wade in here (though I have lost count of the number of times my own name has been mispronounced, misspelled and even an alternate used (well, this last is a bit debatable but suffice to say my first name is not the one I am commonly known as – and no it wasn’t my choice).)  There are simply far more important things to get exercised about: human rights, political rights (*cough* Hong Kong) and climate change to name but a few.  Anyway…

How do you spell Sergei Lukyanenko / Lukianenko?  Well, conversions to the Latin alphabet are always problematic. I do not know about the US, but here in Brit Cit William Heinemann published Sergei Lukyanenko’s Night Watch series.  If that is his commonly-used publishing name in the West then arguably it would be best to use that so that folk can internet search out his work.

(18) LIFE IMITATES ART. You know the humorous motorcade bits that interrupted the Hugo Awards ceremony? Well, Andrew Porter did not have to leave Washington without seeing the real thing. Here’s his photo of a motorcade taken from his Shoreham Hotel window. 

Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter

(19) IN BEAUTIFUL BURBANK. “The Mystic Museum In Southern California Is Full Of Fascinating Oddities And Vintage Items”Only In Your State’s article includes a photo gallery.

The Mystic Museum is a small museum dedicated to the occult, paranormal, mysticism, and horror. If you find yourself fascinated by the macabre, then consider it the place for you!

(20) HOLIDAY WHO. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist/illustrator Colin Howard did this piece on the 2003 animated Doctor Who serial “Scream of the Shalka”:

(21) THE OTHER GRAND CANYON. Microsoft News for Kids reports: “Orbiter discovers ‘significant amounts of water’ in Grand Canyon-like area of Mars”.

A researcher orbiter circling around Mars has discovered “significant amounts of water” underneath the surface of an area on the red planet similar to the Grand Canyon, according to the European Space Agency.

The orbiter, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, was launched by the European Space Agency along with the Russian Space Agency in 2016 and has been orbiting Mars ever since, with the goal of learning more about the gases and the possibility of life on the planet.

Recently, the orbiter was scanning an area of Mars called Valles Marineris, using the Fine Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector instrument, or FREND, which can detect hydrogen on and up to 3 feet underneath Mars’ soil.

The Valles Marineris is a 2,500-mile-long canyon on Mars with parts that are 4 miles deep. Not only is it 10 times longer and 4 times deeper than the Grand Canyon, but the Valles Marineris’ length is nearly as long as the entire United States.

Data collected from the instrument from May 2018 to Feb. 2021 showed the middle part of the canyon contained a large amount of water, indicating some form of life could possibly be sustained. The findings were published in the solar system journal Icarus on Wednesday…. 

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Spider Man: No Way Home Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spoiler-filled episode, has the producer watch the five Spider-Man movies before Tom Holland shows up so he can understand the many special guest stars in this one.  “How are we going to market this film without revealing all the crazy stuff?” the producer asks.  “Leaks!” the writer says.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Ben Bird Person, rcade, Bonnie McDaniel, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 12/4/21 This Pixel Made The John Kessel Pun In Under Twelve Pure Products

(1) NOT LOOKING GOOD.  “Friends who attended anime convention with man who contracted omicron have tested positive for coronavirus, health official says” reports the Washington Post.

The Minnesota man who contracted the omicron variant of the coronavirus met up with about 35 friends at a New York City anime convention and about half have tested positive for the coronavirus, a state health official said Friday.

Members of the group traveled to New York from a variety of states for the weekend convention that began Nov. 19 and tested positive after their return, said Kris Ehresmann, director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention, and Control Division at the Minnesota Department of Health. It is not known whether they are infected with omicron or another variant.“We don’t know if we’ll see a lot of omicron, or we’ll see a lot of delta,” Ehresmann said in an interview. “But we’re likely to see a lot of covid” out of the convention, which drew 53,000 people and tightly packed crowds from Nov. 19 to 21. The development is not sufficient, by itself, to determine where people were infected, who gave the virus to whom, or to develop a timeline of its spread, Ehresmann said. The man infected with omicron also spent time elsewhere in New York City. New York, Minnesota and other states, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are investigating the case and have begun tracing the Minnesota man’s contacts….

(2) ANDREW PORTER HEALTH UPDATE. [Item by Andrew Porter.] When I had my annual check-up at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in November—as you might remember, I was successfully operated on for Pancreatic Cancer in 2007—blood tests found an elevated cancer marker. As a result, I had a CT scan there on November 26th—the day after Thanksgiving. 

After having a very dark Thanksgiving, and the days leading up to the results, the news is that I remain cancer-free. The scan found some minor problems, but No Cancer!!!

I’ll expect my usual pixel payment for this.

(3) FAREWELL TOUR. In the Guardian: “Jodie Whittaker on saying goodbye to Doctor Who: ‘I thought, what if I’ve ruined this for actresses?’”

That must have felt like a lot of pressure at times.

The most heightened point of pressure for me was at Madison Square Garden in September 2018, at New York Comic Con. The very first episode was being shown live in front of a massive audience, and I went and sat next to my husband, and I’d absolutely gone. I just thought: “There’s this crowd of Whovians that are really excited and full of love and support.” And I was like: “What if I have pitched this so badly wrong? What if I’ve ruined it for actresses?” Because I know full well that when lads were cast in the part, they weren’t representing men, they were representing their own personal casting. The way it was described in every outlet was not: “Can Jodie Whittaker play the part?”, it was: “It’s a woman!” I suddenly thought: “Have I hindered us? Have I held us back?” Because we’d filmed the first series, and I’d loved it. I really felt confident all the way through. Then there is that moment where you go, oh God …

I don’t think the backlash to the Doctor being a woman was necessarily there in the way that some people anticipated, though.

“No bras in the Tardis” and stuff like that? There’s noise like that about everything, and that’s not the kind of thing that affects me, day to day. As soon as the first episode goes out, it’s either your cup of tea or it’s not. You realise, you’re not representing anyone other than yourself. Then you get the amazing Jo Martin [another incarnation of the Doctor], so then it’s really old news about me. And hopefully, with the next 15 generations of Doctors, we never have to have this chat again. I’m delighted it was mine, but it never has to happen again, thank God.

(4) MIDDLE-EARTH ALL OVER THE WORLD. The British Science Fiction Association’s Vector has posted a written roundtable about the global appeal of Tolkien’s work, based on a Zoom panel involving the same participants, in “Global Tolkien – A Roundtable”.

Following the interest generated by the Tolkien and Diversity Panel at Oxonmoot 2020, (hosted by Sultana Raza), another Panel on Global Tolkien was proposed and accepted by the Tolkien Society for Oxonmoot 2021. The idea for this Panel was formed because of a rising trend in SFF and Tolkien enthusiasts, against diversity in fandoms and interpretations of SFF writers. Luckily, the Tolkien Society doesn’t seem to ascribe to this view, and has been encouraging further dialogue on this topic.

The Panelists included Sultana Raza (also the Moderator), Ali Ghaderi (Iran), María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez (Chile), and Gözde Ersoy (Turkey). Gözde Ersoy (assistant-professor of English Literature at Mu?la S?tk? Koçman University, Turkey) also briefly presented a video of an online event she had organized with school children in Turkey, on the Tolkien Reading Day, where they’d read an excerpt from The Hobbit in Turkish.

Sultana Raza: The huge international success of Tolkien’s novels and adaptations especially The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) prove that the same common human values are prevalent in most cultures globally. Most people can identify with at least one major character from these books, (who also have archetypal qualities), and are eager to follow their journey, experiencing some form of catharsis at the end. In general, the appeal of SFF stories lies in the core of the human story at the centre of the drama, whether it’s unfolding on Arrakis, in Westeros, in Narnia, in Middle-Earth, or in the Undying Lands. 

(5) THE BAEN OF HIS EXISTENCE. Bruce Bethke’s “Files found while looking for something else” at Stupefying Stories Magazine tells why you probably haven’t read his novel Cyberpunk – and never could have.

Well, golly. While looking for the original source for the shareware beta version of Cyberpunk—which I still haven’t found—I found the files for the 2011 version, which was being developed under the working title of Cyberpunk 1989 for a book deal that fell through. I have some affection for the proposed cover art:

Ten years ago it probably would have been considered very edgy, although it looks kind of silly and amateurish now.

Of more interest to me is that the folder contains the prelude and postlude that I wrote specifically to go with that version of the novel, and it contains some things I’d forgotten I’d written. Without further ado, then…

…Twenty-some years later [n.b., 30 now], I still don’t know quite what to think of this one. As a 21st Century bildungsroman, it works fairly well, and there are many things in this book with which I am still quite pleased.

All the same, it’s not the novel that I set out to write, nor is it by any stretch of the imagination a “cyberpunk” novel, in the sense that the term came to be redefined by the flood of Imitation Neuromancer novels that hit the market in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In the final analysis, it simply is what it is. In my less charitable moments I sometimes call this my Baen-damaged novel, but in my more honest moments I must admit that it’s largely my own fault. I wanted to do whatever it took to get an original novel into print, and willingly went along with every change Jim Baen asked me to make, right up until the moment he told me to end the book with Mikey going on a shooting rampage inside his high school. Even ten years before “Columbine” became a synonym for insane atrocity, I found the idea of writing that ending—and of turning my hero into a mass-murderer—to be abhorrent.

But it was my refusal to bend over and grab my ankles one more time, and to excrete the ending Jim Baen specifically told me to write, that killed this book….

(6) MILES MORALES IS BACK. Sony Pictures has released a first look at Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse (Part One).

Miles Morales returns for the next chapter of the Oscar®-winning Spider-Verse saga, an epic adventure that will transport Brooklyn’s full-time, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man across the Multiverse to join forces with Gwen Stacy and a new team of Spider-People to face off with a villain more powerful than anything they have ever encountered.

(7) DIANA G. GALLAGHER (1946-2021). Author, filker and fan artist Diana G. Gallagher died December 3. She wrote numerous media tie-in novels for such series as Buffy the Vampire SlayerSabrina the Teenage Witch and Charmed. As a filksong creator she had a number of tapes performing her songs commercially produced in the Eighties, and won a Pegasus Award for Best Original Humorous Song (1986) and Best Children’s Song (1994). She won the Best Fan Artist Hugo in 1989 (as Diana Gallagher Wu). She was married four times, the third time to the writer William F. Wu, ending in 1990, and the fourth time to writer and filker Marty Burke, who died in 2011.

(8) JAMES R. TERRY. A fan who helped start Los Angeles’ Doctor Who-themed convention Gallifrey One, James R. “Jim” Terry Jr., died unexpectedly from complications following heart surgery on December 1.  He was a familiar figure at Southern California cons, often in Starfleet attire. The Gallifrey One Facebook page paid tribute:

…Jim wholeheartedly embraced his geekdom… though he loved Doctor Who, Star Trek was the one thing truly embedded in his blood. Yet that was just one facet of Jim; he was also a kind soul, a loyal friend, never a harsh word for the people he cared about… a list of fellow friends and fans that went on and on. From days of being a regular at LASFS or Time Meddlers of Los Angeles meetings, to fan socials and viewing parties and cons and dinners, so many of us were privileged to know him. His last visit to Gallifrey One was in 2019, joining us to celebrate our 30th anniversary, and he had planned to return this coming February….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1985 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-six years ago on this date in the United Kingdom, Back to The Future premiered.  It was directed by Robert Zemeckis and produced by Neil Canton and Bob Gale. It was written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale. It starred Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover.  It would win a Hugo at ConFederation where Bob Shaw was the Toastmaster. The reception for it among critics and audience alike was overwhelmingly positive. Roger Ebert said that it had “a fine comic touch”. It made nearly three hundred and ninety million on a budget of only nineteen million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it currently an impressive ninety four percent rating. It would spawn two sequels, of which Back to The Future III would nominated for a Hugo at Chicon V. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 4, 1939 Jimmy Hunt, 82. He plays Dave MacLean in Invaders from Mars. Some three decades later, he’ll appear in the remake as the Police Chief. He’s an uncredited appearance early in his career in My Brother Talks to Horses which is definitely genre. And he’s in Close Encounters of the 4th Kind: Infestation from Mars though I know nothing of this film. Have any of you seen it? 
  • Born December 4, 1949 Richard Lynch, 72. Writer, Editor, Historian, and Fan who with his wife Nicki produced the long-running fanzine Mimosa from 1982 to 2003, which was nominated fourteen times for the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine, winning six of those years. He has been a member of several fan groups and APAs, chaired a Chattacon, and edited the BucConeer Worldcon Souvenir Program Book. He and Nicki have been Fan Guests of Honor at several conventions, and were honored with the Phoenix Award by Southern Fandom.
  • Born December 4, 1949 Jeff Bridges, 72. I’d say his best genre role was as Starman / Scott Hayden in the film of that name. Other genre work includes King Kong, the voice of Prince Lir in Peter Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, Jack Lucas in The Fisher King, Iron Monger in Iron Man and Kevin Flynn/CLU 2 in Tron: Legacy. He appeared also in a film called R.I.P.D. as Roycephus “Roy” Pulsipher which was either really bad or really, really bad. 
  • Born December 4, 1954 Sally Kobee, 67. Fan, Bookseller, Filker. She has served on the committees for myriad conventions, and chaired both Ohio Valley Filk Fest 4 and OVFF 10, and WFC 2010 and 2016. She was honored as a Fellow of NESFA and as a Guest of Honor at Windycon XXVII. She and her now late husband purchased a bookstore in the nineties. She continues to the day to provide convention bookstores.
  • Born December 4, 1957 Lucy Sussex, 64. Fan, reviewer, author, and editor. Born in New Zealand, resident in Australia, she’s been writing SFF ever since attending a Terry Carr-led workshop. And she’s an editor as well having edited several anthologies such as She’s Fantastical, the first collection of Australian women’s speculative fiction. Sussex has won three Ditmar Awards, an A. Bertram Chandler Award and an Aurealis Award to name some of her awards — impressive indeed!   
  • Born December 4, 1974 Anne KG [Murphy] Gray, 47. Engineer, Physicist, Writer, Editor, Conrunner, and Fan. Known in fandom as Netmouse, she was a member of the Ann Arbor Science Fiction Association, and has served on numerous convention committees and chaired three ConFusions. As a member of Midfan, which ran four Midwest Construction regional conrunner training conventions in the 2000s, she was editor of their publication MidFanzine. She is a past president of the Science Fiction Oral History Association. She is married to Brian Gray, with whom she won the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund in 2010; they went to Eastercon and Corflu in the UK and produced a TAFF trip report, a piece on the Sherlock Holmes museum, and a photo album.
  • Born December 4, 1988 Natasha Pulley, 33. She’s best known for her debut Victorian steampunk novel, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street winner of the Betty Trask Award given for first novels written by authors under the age of 35 who reside in a current or former Commonwealth nation. She has three other novels. The second was The Bedlam Stacks. Her third, The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, is the sequel to her first novel. Her latest, The Kingdoms, was just published.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld’s new cartoon for the Guardian:

(12) THE SWEAT SPOT. Now You See It explains why the characters in Dune aren’t sweating.

I loved Dune, but one thing about it irked me. On a planet where sweat is so crucial to survival, why do we see so little of it? Let’s take a look at how Dune’s implementation of sweat alters the emotional feeling of the story, the planet, and the characters.

(13) BUSTED. At Kalimac’s Corner, David Bratman once again disputes that Peter Jackson’s departures from Tolkien’s text were imposed by the requirements of moviemaking rather than just unilateral choices: “Contra Jackson”.

…One of my basic points about the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies, dating back to my original article on the subject in 2004, is to dispute the defense of the changes to the story on the grounds that (and here I’m paraphrasing the tone of voice used by those who make this argument) “They haaad to do it that way because it’s a mooooooovie.

In other words, that there are inviolable Laws of Movie-Making that have to be followed by anyone who wishes their blockbuster not to tank at the box office.

…In fact, I am certain that, when Jackson changed Tolkien’s story, it was because he wanted to, not because some mythical Laws of Movie-Making forced him to. And this is because Jackson boldly violated the conventions of movie-making when he wanted to. And he endured criticism for it: the prime example is the supposed “five endings” of The Return of the King when it keeps seeming as if the movie is about to wrap up with a celebration scene and then it keeps going. Here, Jackson is trying to follow Tolkien, but he’s not doing it very well, because Tolkien’s versions of these scenes don’t read like a series of postponed endings (and not because you can see the physical end of the book coming up, because in fact 160 pages, in the paperback, of appendix and index intervene between the end of the story and the end of the book).

One major movie rule-breaking Jackson indulged in was to make a trilogy of movies that were three parts of one story (again copying the books, albeit ignorantly). Series of interconnected movies, as opposed to stand-alone sequels, were (unusual? unknown?) then. They’re common now, of course, but that’s because the rules consist of “whatever worked for the last successful blockbuster” and The Lord of the Rings was certainly a successful blockbuster….

(14) ORDER IN THE GONCOURT. Sarah Lyall’s review of The Anomaly for the New York Times is certainly interesting, so maybe the book is too: “‘The Anomaly,’ Part Airplane Thriller and Part Exploration of Reality, Fate and Free Will”.

…“The Anomaly,” a runaway best seller in France, where it won the Prix Goncourt last year, lies in that exciting Venn diagram where high entertainment meets serious literature. Its plot might have been borrowed from “The Twilight Zone” or “Black Mirror,” but it movingly explores urgent questions about reality, fate and free will. If our lives might not be our own and we end up dying either way, how should we live?

… It’s a measure of Le Tellier’s masterful storytelling that he makes us wait all the way to Page 151 to find out what bizarre thing has befallen the plane in question, Air France Flight 006 from Paris to New York. But before that, we meet some of its passengers and learn about their lives on the ground.

…What do they have in common, besides being on this fateful flight? Who are the shadowy government figures quietly rounding them up? And why does the bulletproof, government-issued cellphone of a nerdy Princeton statistician whose T-shirt says “I love zero, one and Fibonacci” suddenly ring, after 20 years of silence, starting an emergency response plan known as Protocol 42?

 (15) NEW EXOPLANET JUST AN IRON CORE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A large but Mercury-like planet has been detected orbiting very close to a small red dwarf. The research has been reported in this week’s Science journal. (Alas it is behind a pay-wall but the abstract is here.)

It is an odd planet of about 0.7 Earth-radii with a very high density suggesting it is largely metallic iron and it orbits close to its star in just 7.7-hours.It is so close to its star that the daytime side will be a furnace heated to 1,400°C, such that even rock would be molten.

The type of planet was able to be determined because its orbit took it between its sun and us and so (from the star’s dimming) its size could be calculated. From its orbit’s period, and its distance from its star, the planet’s mass could be calculated. Linking this into its size enabled its density to be deduced. The planet has a very high density and it thought to largely made of iron and so the best part of it is a planetary core with hardly any mantle. As such, it is much like our own system’s planet Mercury. However, Mercury orbits the Sun every 88 days and despite our Sun being hotter than a red dwarf the daytime bare rock on Mercury is heated only to 430°C. (See Lam, K. W. F. et al (2021) GJ 367b: A dense, ultrashort-period sub-Earth planet transiting a nearby red dwarf star. Science, vol. 374, p1271-1275.)

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Star Wars fans wonder how they can get their fix of Star Wars music during Christmas.  Well, why not combine Star Wars AND carols?

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Sultana Raza, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 11/28/21 I Have Squandered All My Pixels

(1) CASTAWAY. BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs hosted “Neil Gaiman, writer” who shared the eight tracks, book and luxury item he would take with him if cast away to a desert island. Listen to the program at the link.

Or, let BBC Radio 4 blab it to you in a post: “Nine things we learned from Neil Gaiman’s Desert Island Discs”.

Neil Gaiman is a multi-award winning author whose work includes the novels Stardust, American Gods and The Graveyard Book and the comic book series The Sandman. His first novel, Good Omens, written with Terry Pratchett, was published in 1990, and Neil recently adapted it as a TV series starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen. He specialises in creating fantastic alternative realities which exist under the nose of the world as we know it. He recently told his 2.8 million Twitter followers that he wore his ‘lucky Batman underpants’ for his Desert Island Discs recording – and here are nine things we learned from the programme…

5. A furious child inspired his first book for younger readers

Neil published The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish in 1997.

“The idea, like most of my children’s books, was stolen from one of my children,” explains Neil. “In this case from my son, Mike, and he would have been four, maybe five years old. I’d said something to him that he didn’t like, like possibly suggesting to him that it was actually his bedtime.”

“And he looked up at me with a fury that only a small boy can generate, a special kind of fury and he just said, ‘I wish I didn’t have a dad’. He said, ‘I wish I had….’ And then he paused because he hadn’t thought that through and, and then he said, ‘I wish I had goldfish!’ And he stomped off while I just thought ‘That is brilliant!’”

(2) HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS, DISCON 1. Andrew Porter received this postcard after reserving his room for Discon, the 1963 Worldcon in Washington DC. “Back when I was still Andy Silverberg…” – his name at the time.

(3) QANTAS PHYSICS. Fanac.org’s next “FanHistory Project Zoom Session” will be “Wrong Turns on the Wallaby Track: Australian Science Fiction Fandom to Aussiecon – Part 1, 1936 to 1960” featuring Leigh Edmonds and Perry Middlemiss. According to your time zone, it starts December 4 at 7PM Dec 4 EST, 4PM Dec 4 PST, or December 5 at 11AM in Melbourne AU. RSVP to fanac@fanac.org to get the Zoom link.

From the 1930s to the 1950s sf fandom in Australia was active and buoyant. Centred mainly around the city of Sydney their activities included fanzine production, club meetings and feuding. Yet by the beginning of the 1960s it had nearly all withered away. How did this vibrant community survive the Second World War and yet somehow fail to make it through peacetime? This, and many other questions, will be addressed by Dr Leigh Edmonds, sf fan and professional historian, in his FANAC talk titled “Wrong Turns on the Wallaby Track: Australian Science Fiction Fandom to Aussiecon – Part 1, 1936 to 1960.”

(4) WHO WAS THAT MASKED FAN? The Los Angeles Times reports on Comic-Con Special Edition: “Comic-Con returns to San Diego amid COVID-19 pandemic”.

They say not all superheroes wear capes. But they do all now wear masks.

This weekend, thousands of people flocked to San Diego for the city’s first in-person Comic-Con — the beloved geekfest for all things science fiction, superhero and fantasy — in two and a half years.

The cosplayers squeezed into their spandex, strapped on their plastic weapons and secured their brightly colored wigs.

But with great power comes great responsibility. So, in a pandemic twist, they all donned face masks and red wristbands after proving they had either been vaccinated against or had recently tested negative for the greatest villain of all: COVID-19….

(5) COMIC-CON MUSEUM. The Times of San Diego takes its “First Peek Inside Comic-Con Museum, Revealing Exhibits Amid Soft Opening”.

…Local dignitaries, Comic-Con officials and volunteers were the first to see the 250,000 square feet of exhibits as a “special edition” San Diego Comic Convention opened Friday at the San Diego Convention Center.

The former San Diego Hall of Champions sports museum will be a destination for Comic-Con attendees, who can take a free shuttle between to the venue. The shuttle goes every 30 minutes….

This is the link to the Museum website where these six theme exhibits are now on display:

  • Gene Roddenberry: Sci-Fi Visionary as creator of “Star Trek.”
  • Chas Addams…Family and Friends as cartoonist of darkly humorous and macabre characters.
  • Eight Decades of Archie: a new pop-up exhibition that explores the storied history of America’s typical teenagers
  • Cardboard Superheroes: the art of teenage brothers Connor (17) and Bauer (14) Lee, this exhibit features life-size cardboard models of superheroes such as Hulkbuster, Groot, C-3PO, and Baby Yoda.
  • Out of the Darkness: Comics in the Times of COVID featuring artwork by San Diego young people.
  • The PAC-MAN Arcade on the 2020 Museum Character Hall of Fame Inductee.

(6) COMICS EXHIBIT IN WASHINGTON, DC. There’s news about what the Library of Congress is doing with Steve Geppi’s collection of comics. Geppi Gems is on view in the LOC’s Graphic Arts Gallery through March 2022. A second rotation, with a completely different selection, is intended for the Spring of 2022. “Geppi Gems Exhibit: Highlights from the Stephen A. Geppi Collection at the Library of Congress”.

…Stephen A. Geppi opened the Geppi Entertainment Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, in 2006, with the intent of showing how artistic creations from the pages of newspaper comic strips and comic books permeated popular culture. Over time, he expanded his collecting interests to reflect such comic book themes as superheroes, westerns, science fiction, horror, sports, music and entertainment. When the Geppi Entertainment Museum closed its doors in 2018, Mr. Geppi generously donated a large portion of its contents to the Library of Congress, with a desire that thousands of people share his excitement for comic books….

There’s also an online version of the exhibit: “Geppi Gems”.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1972 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-nine years ago this evening, Via Galactica, a SF rock musical, premiered on Broadway. Critics all hated it. Audiences really weren’t fond of it either. It lasted but seven shows before being cancelled. Yes, it was that bad. The story by Christopher Gore and Judith Ross, lyrics by Gore, and music by Galt MacDermot. It marked the Broadway debut of actor Mark Baker who went on to far better things. (Raul Julia was in the cast.) The storyline was so difficult to follow that at the very last moment producers inserted a plot synopsis in Playbill, but audiences still had no idea what they were witnessing unfolding on stage which involved, among other things, a clamshell-shaped garbage ship called the Helen of Troy. No, I’m not kidding. It would be one of the very first Broadway plays to lose a million dollars. That’s over six million dollars today. 

Jennifer George, daughter of the producer George W. George, has a look at it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 28, 1930 William Sargent, 91. He played Dr. Leighton in “The Conscience of the King”, a first season episode of Star Trek. He also shows up in Night Slaves (really don’t ask), Mission: ImpossibleShazam!Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Twilight ZoneAlfred Hitchcock Presents and The Invaders. He was in the pilot for The Immortal series but wasn’t in the regular cast.
  • Born November 28, 1939 Walter Velez. His agent and fellow artist Jill Bauman wrote, “Walter created illustrations for most of the major book and gaming companies. He has been long known for his cover art for such popular books such as the Thieves World series and the Myth Adventures series, both edited by Robert Asprin; and the EbenezumWuntor, and Cineverse Cycle series, all by Craig Shaw Gardner. Walter illustrated for TSR games extensively. He applied his multi-faceted talents to trading cards for the Goosebumps series for the Topps Company, and a series of Dune trading cards. In the early 80’s he worked with Random House to create art for several Star Wars books that were licensed from George Lucas.” (Died 2018.)
  • Born November 28, 1944 Rita Mae Brown, 76. Author of the Sister Jane mysteries which features foxes, hounds and cats as characters with voices which in my mind makes them genre novels. Not to mention her creation of Sneaky Pie Brown who “is a New York Times best-selling writer and cat who co-authors the Mrs. Murphy series of mystery novels with her owner, Rita Mae Brown.” And who she has an entire series devoted to. 
  • Born November 28, 1946 Joe Dante, 75. Warning, this is a personal list of Dante’s works that I’ve really, really enjoyed starting off with The Howling then adding in Innnerspace, both of the Gremlins films though I think only the first is a masterpiece even if the second has its moments, Small Soldiers and The Hole. For television work, he’s done a lot but the only one I can say that I recall and was impressed by was his Legends of Tomorrow’s “Night of the Hawk” episode.  That’s his work as Director. As a Producer, I see he’s responsible for The Phantom proving everyone has a horrible day.  
  • Born November 28, 1952 S. Epatha Merkerson, 69. Best remembered as Lieutenant Anita Van Buren on Law & Order appearing in 395 episodes of the series. Since Dick Wolf also is responsible for Chicago Med, she’s now playing Sharon Goodwin there. Both of her major SF roles involve robots. The first was in Terminator 2: Judgment Day as Tarissa Dyson; a year later, she had a recurring role as Capt. Margaret Claghorn in Mann & Machine. And she had a recurring role as Reba on Pee-wee’s Playhouse which I believe the consensus here is that it’s genre. 
  • Born November 28, 1962 Mark Hodder, 59. Best known for his Burton & Swinburne alternate Victorian steampunk novels starting off with The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack that deservedly garnered a Philip K. Dick Award. He also wrote A Red Sun Also Rises which recreates sort of Victorian London on a far distant alien world. Emphasis on sort of. And then there’s Consulting Detective Macalister Fogg which appears to be his riff off of Sherlock Holmes only decidedly weirder. 
  • Born November 28, 1981 Louise Bourgoin, 40. Her main SFF film is as the title character of Adèle Blanc-Sec in The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec as directed by Luc Besson. Anybody watched the uncensored English version that came out on Blu-ray? It’s on my list To Be Watched list. She also played Audrey in Black Heaven (L’Autre monde), and she’s the voice heard in the Angélique’s Day for Night animation short.
  • Born November 28, 1987 Karen Gillan, 34. Amy Pond, companion to the Eleventh Doctor. Nebula in the Guardians of The Galaxy and in the later MCU films, Ruby Roundhouse in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Two episodes of Who she was in did win Hugos, “The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang” and “The Doctor’s Wife”, the first at Renovation and the latter at Chicon 7. 

(9) FORTY WHACKS. The New Yorker enumerates “The Lessons of ‘The Lorax’”.

In 1989, the year that Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for the death of Salman Rushdie, for writing “The Satanic Verses,” American parents in Laytonville, a small town in Northern California, demanded that their children’s elementary school take Dr. Seuss’s 1971 book, “The Lorax,” off its list of required reading for second graders. The book is “Silent Spring” for the under-ten set. “I speak for the trees,” the Lorax says, attempting to defend a soon to be blighted forest, its tufted Truffula trees chopped down and knit into hideous thneeds—“a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need”—until there is nothing left but one single seed.

…“I drew a Lorax and he was obviously a Lorax,” Geisel said. “Doesn’t he look like a Lorax to you?” But, in 1989, to Bill and Judith Bailey, the founders of a logging-equipment business in Laytonville, the Lorax looked like an environmental activist. “Papa, we can’t cut trees down,” their eight-year-old son, Sammy, said after reading the book, in which a “Super-Axe-Hacker” whacks “four Truffula Trees at one smacker.” Townspeople were caught up in the so-called “timber wars,” when environmentalists camped out in trees and loggers wore T-shirts that read “Spotted Owl Tastes Like Chicken.” Logging families took out ads in the local newspaper. One said, “To teach our children that harvesting redwood trees is bad is not the education we need.”…

(10) ONE DAM THING AFTER ANOTHER. “Ian Frazier Wishes Somebody Would Write About the World’s Largest Beaver Dam” in the New York Times. He avoids SF…but we’ll skip that quote.

Which subjects do you wish more authors would write about?

I don’t know — how about the world’s largest beaver dam? It’s in northern Alberta, Canada, and very hard to get to. Supposedly it’s the largest animal-made structure visible from space. I would like to write about it myself, but no editors are interested. (Write about it, that is, without actually going there.)

(11) ELON MUSK NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post.  Isabelle Khurshudyan and Mary Ilyushina discuss the popularity of Elon Musk in Russia.  Among his fans is Pavel Antonov, who wants to be the first bartender in space, with his role model being the android Michael Sheen played in Passengers. “Why Russia’s mania for Elon Musk just keeps on growing”.

…Pavel Antonov’s life goal can be traced back to the 2016 movie “Passengers,” a sci-fi romance that takes place on a luxury spaceship. One character in the movie is Arthur, an android bartender played by Michael Sheen. Arthur provides smiling relief amid the chaos.

“I immediately thought Musk will definitely need such a person who would distract from all problems,” Antonov said. “For at least one hour, you can sit at the bar, forget about everything and talk about neutral topics. From then on, I decided that I want to be the first bartender on Mars.”…

He’s developed “a signature cocktail for Mars” which is bright blue and a red cherry for the Red Planet…

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Mr. Sci-Fi” Marc Scott Zicree is roaming the aisles at San Diego Comic-Con — Special Edition.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Alan Baumler, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 10/26/21 Big Pixel In Little Scroll

(1) KRUGMAN’S RINGING ENDORSEMENT. “‘Dune’ Is the Movie We Always Wanted” says Paul Krugman.  After pausing to tell us why he hates Apple TV’s Foundation series, he tells why he loves the Villenueve Dune adaptation.

… Now on to “Dune.” The book is everything “Foundation” isn’t: There’s a glittering, hierarchical society wracked by intrigue and warfare, a young hero of noble birth who may be a prophesied Messiah, a sinister but alluring sisterhood of witches, fierce desert warriors and, of course, giant worms.

And yes, it’s fun. When I was a teenager, my friends and I would engage in mock combat in which the killing blow had to be delivered slowly to penetrate your opponent’s shield — which will make sense if you read the book or watch the movie.

What makes “Dune” more than an ordinary space opera are two things: its subtlety and the richness of its world-building.

Thus, the Bene Gesserit derive their power not from magic but from deep self-control, awareness and understanding of human psychology. The journey of Paul Atreides is heroic but morally ambiguous; he knows that if he succeeds, war and vast slaughter will follow.

And the world Herbert created is given depth by layers of cultural references. He borrowed from Islamic and Ayurvedic traditions, from European feudalism and more — “Dune” represents cultural appropriation on a, well, interstellar scale. It’s also deeply steeped in fairly serious ecological thinking…

(2) SILICON VOLLEY. Did you have any doubts? “’Dune: Part 2′ Officially Greenlit” reports Variety. But you have to wait ‘til 2023 to see it.

… Legendary Entertainment announced the news in a tweet on Tuesday, ensuring that the spice will continue to flow on screen. Warner Bros. will distribute the film and help finance it, though Legendary is the primary money behind the movie and owns the film rights to the book series. The film is expected to have an exclusive theatrical run, and Legendary will likely make that point iron-clad after “Dune” debuted simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max last week. The unorthodox distribution pattern was a pandemic-era concession by Warner Bros., but one that caused an uproar when it was unveiled in 2020. “Dune: Part 2” will hit theaters on Oct. 20, 2023….

When interviewed by Variety at the Toronto Film Festival, Villeneuve said, “I wanted at the beginning to do the two parts simultaneously. For several reasons, it didn’t happen, and I agreed to the challenge of making part one and then wait to see if the movie rings enough enthusiasm… As I was doing the first part, I really put all my passion into it, in case it would be the only one. But I’m optimistic.”

(3) DISCON III BUSINESS MEETING DEADLINE. Meeting chair Kevin Standlee reminds all that the deadline for submitting proposals to the 2021 WSFS Business Meeting is November 16, 2021. Any two or more members of DisCon III (including supporting and virtual members) may sponsor new business. Submit proposals to businessmeeting@discon3.org. See “A Guide to the WSFS Business Meeting at DisCon III” [PDF file] for more information about the WSFS Business Meeting.

Reports from committees of the Business Meeting and financial reports from Worldcon committees are also due by November 16, 2021. Send reports to businessmeeting@discon3.org.

(4) RED ALERT. Remember when you had half a year to do all your Hugo reading? Okay, now’s time to panic. DisCon III today posted a reminder that the Hugo voting deadline is just a few weeks away.

(5) 6TH ANNUAL CITY TECH SF SYMPOSIUM. The Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium on Access and SF has extended the submission deadline of its call for papers until October 29. See full guidelines at the link.

The Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium aims to explore the broad theme of “Access and SF” as a way to understand the relationship between access and SF, identify what’s at stake and for whom, foster alliances between those fighting for access, and discuss how improving access for some improves access for all.

The Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium is a virtual event that will be held online Thursday, December 9 from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Eastern at CUNY in New York.

(6) HORROR TRIUMVIRATE Q&A. Goodreads invites fans to “Meet the Authors of Today’s Big Horror Novels”.

Stephen Graham Jones, author of My Heart Is a Chainsaw

GR: What’s your definition of a perfect horror novel?

SGJ: One that changes your daily behavior—makes you afraid of the shower, afraid of the dark, suspicious of the people in your life. One that leaves you no longer certain about yourself or the world you live in. A perfect horror novel is one you forget is a book at all. It’s one that lodges in your head and your heart as an experience, a little perturbation inside you that you only snag your thoughts on when alone. But when those thoughts start to seep blood, you place that cut to your mouth and drink. This is the nourishment you need, never mind how drained it leaves you feeling. Nothing’s for free.

Caitlin Starling, author of The Death of Jane Lawrence

GR: What’s your definition of a perfect horror novel?

CS:  I want to drown in atmosphere. That doesn’t mean I want only slow-moving horror but books that feel like the movies The Blackcoat’s Daughter or A Dark Song—something in that vein. I also want characters that I can live inside, that even if I question their decisions, I don’t just hate or want to suffer. It’s more fun for me to watch a character I enjoy struggle.

Grady Hendrix, author of The Final Girl Support Group

GR: What sparked the idea for your latest book?

GH: Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to see R-rated movies, so after Boy Scout meetings when our Scoutmaster took us to the gas station for snacks, I convinced him that I was allowed to buy issues of Fangoria with my snack money instead. I’d pore over Fango’s deeply detailed plot breakdowns and photo spreads so that I could pretend to have seen all these horror movies. The first one I remember was their feature on the opening of Friday the 13th Part 2, in which the final girl from Part 1, played by Adrienne King, gets murdered by Jason. The casual cruelty of that blew my mind. This woman had seen all her friends die, decapitated the killer, and survived, but she still couldn’t let her guard down. I always wanted to write her a happier ending.
(Fun fact: Adrienne King is the audiobook narrator for The Final Girl Support Group.)

(7) CLASSISM IN SESSION. In “The Potterization of Science Fiction”, The Hugo Book Club Blog decries a prevalent type of sff story, and the distortions it has wrought on the TV adaptation of Foundation.

…One of the fundamentally troubling assumptions behind the born-great protagonist is the anti-democratic idea that the lives of some people simply matter more than the lives of other people. If we accept that Harry Potter is destined to be the only one who can do the thing that’s important, then why should we care about the life of Ritchie Coote? Likewise, if Aragorn is destined for the throne then we have to accept that all other Men of Gondor would be incapable of managing the kingdom (let alone Women of Gondor). There is a direct link between the idea that one person can be born great, with the ideas that underpin racism, classism, and sexism. See also: the equally flawed “great man” theory….

(8) DEATH FROM ABOVE. In the latest episode of Phil Nichols and Colin Kuskie’s Science Fiction 101 podcast, “Fly Me To The Moon”, they review The Apollo Murders.

The author, Chris Hadfield, has flown on the Space Shuttle and on Soyuz, worked on the Russian Mir space station, and commanded the International Space Station. You can’t get more astronaut experience than that.

….If you’ve been tempted by The Apollo Murders, listen to our review to see if it’s the kind of thing that appeal to you. But do be warned: here there be spoilers!

(9) FRIENDLY LOCAL GAME STORE DOCUMENTARY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Here’s a trailer for an interesting Kickstarter documentary about the largest independent games store on Earth. Now, I might be biased, since I worked there in the 1990s, but Sentry Box is great. One of the best SF book selections anywhere (Gord, the owner handed me my first copy of Lest Darkness Fall … and Steve Jackson and Judith Reeves-Stevens used to visit the store semi-regularly.) 

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1984 – Thirty-seven years ago, The Terminator said “I’ll be back” as the first in that franchise was released.  It was directed by James Cameron who wrote it along with Gale Anne Hurd who also produced it. (She would marry Cameron in 1985.) It starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton.  Almost all the critics at the time really liked it, though the New York Times thought there was way too much violence. You think? One critic at the time said it had, and I quote, “guns, guns and more guns.” Huh.  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a very high score of eighty-nine percent. I was surprised that it did not get a Hugo nomination.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 26, 1942 Bob Hoskins. I’ll insist his role as Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is his finest genre role though I suppose Mario Mario in Super Mario Bros. could be said… Just kidding! He’s the Director of The Raggedy Rawney which he also had a role, a strange might be genre film, and he’s Smee in Hook as well. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 26, 1954 Jennifer Roberson, 67. Writer of of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is the desert based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed is her Sherwood duo-logy that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood which tells the Robin Hood tale from the perspective of Marian. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis. 
  • Born October 26, 1960 Patrick Breen, 61. He’s Redgick, a Squid, a minor character that appeared in Men in Black. In beloved Galaxy Quest, he’s Quelled, a Thermian who forms a bond with Alexander Dane. It’s a wonderful role. And he has a recurring role as Larry Your-Waiter, a member of V.F.D. on A Series of Unfortunate Events series. 
  • Born October 26, 1962 Faith Hunter, 59. Her longest running and most notable series to date is the Jane Yellowrock series though I’ve mixed feelings about the recent turn of events. She’s got a nifty SF series called Junkyard that’s been coming out on Audible first. Her only award to date is the Lifetime Achievement award to a science fiction professional given by DeepSouthCon. 
  • Born October 26, 1962 Cary Elwes, 57. He’s in the ever-so-excellent Princess Bride which won a Hugo at Nolacon II as Westley / Dread Pirate Roberts / The Man in Black. He also shows up in Dr. Lawrence Gordon in the Saw franchise, and was cast as Larry Kline, Mayor of Hawkins, for the third season of Stranger Things. And no, that’s hardly all his genre roles. 
  • Born October 26, 1963 Keith Topping, 58. It being the month of ghoulies, I’ve got another academic for you. He’s published Slayer: The Totally Cool Unofficial Guide to BuffyHollywood Vampire: An Expanded and Updated Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to AngelThe Complete Slayer: An Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Every Episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and one and one for horror film fans in general, A Vault of Horror: A Book of 80 Great British Horror Movies from 1956-1974. He’s also written some novels in the Doctor Who universe, some with Martin Day, and written non-fiction works on the original Avengers, you know which ones I mean, with Martin Day also, and ST: TNG & DS9 and Stargate as well with Paul Cornell. 
  • Born October 26, 1971 Jim Butcher, 50. I really don’t know how far I got in the the Dresden Files, at least though Proven Guilty, and I will go back to it eventually. Who here has read his other series, Codex Alera and Cinder Spires? I see he won a Dragon this year for his Battle Ground novel, the latest in the Dresden Files series.
  • Born October 26, 1973 Seth MacFarlane, 48. Ok, I confess that I tried watching The Orville which he created and it just didn’t appeal to me. For those of you who are fans, why do you like it? I will admit that having it described as trying to be a better Trek ain’t helping. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Garfield shows we need some better way to handle giant robots. (I imagine Slim Pickens delivering the line in the comic.)

(13) DIOP WINS NEUSTADT. Boubacar Boris Diop is the 27th laureate of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, which recognizes outstanding literary merit in literature worldwide. Diop is not a genre writer so far as I’m aware, but this major literary award news came out today.

Francophone writer Diop (b. 1946, Dakar, Senegal) is the author of many novels, plays and essays. He was awarded the Senegalese Republic Grand Prize in 1990 for Les Tambours de la mémoire as well as the Prix Tropiques for The Knight and His Shadow. His Doomi Golo was the first novel to be translated from Wolof into English. Toni Morrison called his novel Murambi: The Book of Bones “a miracle,” and the Zimbabwe International Book Fair listed it as one of the 100 best African books of the 20th century.

…The Neustadt Prize is the first international literary award of its scope to originate in the United States and is one of the very few international prizes for which poets, novelists and playwrights are equally eligible. Winners are awarded $50,000, a replica of an eagle feather cast in silver and a certificate.

Boubacar Boris Diop

(14) SCIENCE FICTION IS ALWAYS ABOUT THE PRESENT.  Ali Karjoo-Ravary’s article about the Dune novel and movie’s use of culture is much more nuanced than the headline Slate gives it: “Is HBO’s 2021 adaptation of Frank Herbert’s book a white savior narrative?”

…Part of this is also Herbert’s fault. By writing a story in which he intended to critique “Western man,” Herbert also centered Western man. Often when critiquing something, one falls into a binary that prevents the very third option that so many have been looking for since decolonization. Herbert’s greatest shortcoming can be seen in his analysis of T.E. Lawrence and the deification of leaders in an interview he gave in 1969. He said, “If Lawrence of Arabia had died at the crucial moment of the British … he would have been deified. And it would have been the most terrifying thing the British had ever encountered, because the Arabs would have swept that entire peninsula with that sort of force, because one of the things we’ve done in our society is exploited this power.”

Herbert’s shortcoming is not his idea that “Western man” seeks to exploit the deification of charismatic leaders but that Arabs (or any other non-Western) would fall easily for it. This notion, in fact, builds on a stereotype that motivated European powers to fund propaganda among Muslims during the world wars in the hope that they could provoke a global jihad against one another. Needless to say, that didn’t happen, because Islam isn’t a “warrior religion” whose followers are just waiting for the right trigger to go berserk. Islam’s followers are human and are as complicated and multifaceted as other humans. Herbert should have seen that more clearly….

(15) PILE THESE ON TOP OF MT. TBR. CrimeReads’ Rektok Ross recommends some compelling YA horror and sf novels: “9 YA Survival Thrillers To Get Your Heart Pounding This Fall”.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

During a catastrophic natural disaster, high school sophomore Miranda takes shelter with her family in this heart-stopping thriller. After a meteor knocks the moon closer to earth, worldwide tsunamis demolish entire cities, earthquakes rock the world, and ash from volcanic explosions block out the sun. When the summer turns dark and wintery in northeastern Pennsylvania, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother are forced to hideout in their sunroom, where they must survive solely on stockpiled food and limited water. Readers will find themselves completely riveted by this story of desperation in an unfamiliar world although there are small slivers of hope, too.

(16) UNCOVERED. Tenth Letter of the Alphabet, in “Inspiration: The Reflection”, compares Will Bradley’s 1894 art with the science fictional cover by Mike Hinge it inspired, published by the 1975 fanzine Algol. Editor Andrew Porter commented there —

…This issue was the first with a full color cover. Working with the artist, Mike Hinge, was a challenge. He was a stickler for details, even demanded that his copyright appear on the front cover, in the artwork! This was also the first issue with the covers printed on 10pt Kromecoate, so the image really bumped up.

I forgot to mention that Hinge also did interior artwork, for the Le Guin piece. Also, all the type on the cover, and the headlines inside was done using LetraSet, which I still have dozens of sheets of, though I haven’t used it in decades.

(17) TOCHI ONYEBUCHI AND NGHI VO. At Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron, Nghi Vo and Tochi Onyebuchi joined Alan Bond and Karen Castelletti to talk about their 2021 Hugo Awards nominated works, Empress of Salt and Fortune and Riot Baby.

(18) FAMILY TREE. Joe Abercrombie’s response to Nina Melia’s tweet is, “Holy shit I’m Frodo in this metaphor?”

(19) THE WEED OF CRIME. In the Washington Post, Hannah Knowles says that federal prosecutors have charged Vinath Oudomzine for fraudulently obtaining a pandemic-related Small Businsss Administration loan. Prosecutors charge that Oudomosine spend $57,789 on a Pokemon card, which they did not identify. “Vinath Oudomsine used covid-19 business relief to buy a Pokémon card, federal prosecutors say”.

… On July 14, 2020, according to prosecutors, Oudomsine sought a loan for a business that he said had 10 employees and revenue of $235,000 over a year. The next month, court documents state, the SBA deposited $85,000 into a bank account in Oudomsine’s name.

Court filings give few details about the alleged Pokémon card purchase — such as which “Pocket Monster” it carried — simply stating that Oudomsine bought it “on or about” Jan. 8 of this year.

Collectible gaming cards can fetch big sums — this year, one unopened box of first-edition Pokémon cards sold for more than $400,000.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Halloween Kills Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, which has spoilers, Ryan George says Michael Myers managers to escape from the cliffhanger of the previous Halloween movie, even though he’s “an eight-fingered 60-year-old with smoke inhalation.”  Also, Jamie Lee Curtis, despite her billing, is barely in the movie and about half the script is various characters saying, “Evil dies tonight!”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chris Barkley, Lise Andreasen, Jennifer Hawthorne, Rob Thornton, Michael J. Walsh, Dann, Gadi Evron, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Danny Sichel.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

Aeon Flux (2005, directed by Karyn Kusama)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is not a video of the landing.

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

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

Pixel Scroll 7/10/21 More Scrolls About Pixels And Fnord

(1) GRRM’S NEW PROJECT. George R.R. Martin is one of the executive producers of the forthcoming Dark Winds series based on the books by Tony Hillerman. The Hollywood Reporter lists the others:

…The series is created and executive produced by Graham Roland (Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan) and stars Zahn McClarnon (Fargo), who is also an executive producer, and Kiowa Gordon (The Red Road). Vince Calandra (Castle Rock) is the showrunner and also an executive producer. Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals) will direct the pilot and executive produce. Other executive producers include George R.R. MartinRobert Redford, Tina Elmo and Vince Gerardis. In a rare move, the production has secured permission to film on tribal lands in New Mexico….

Martin’s own announcement on Not A Blog says:

…I am thrilled to report, Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee are returning to television.

We just got word from AMC that they are greenlighting DARK WINDS, based on Tony’s novels about the two Navajo tribal policemen.   The first season will be six episodes long, adapted (largely) from LISTENING WOMAN, one of my favorite books in the series.   If we get the viewers. more seasons will follow, and more books will be adapted.

…DARK WINDS will be filmed in and around Santa Fe and Gallup, and on the Navajo reservation, and based out of the Native-owned Camel Rock Studios (the former Camel Rock Casino), right here in the Land of Enchantment.   Filming will begin in August, and continue — we hope — for many years.

Bob Redford and Chris Eyre have put together a great team (with a little help from yours truly), and we hope to make a great show, one that truly captures the magic of this very special place.   Look for DARK WINDS on AMC in 2022.

(2) EYEWITNESS TO SFF HISTORY. Alec Nevala-Lee introduces the video of his interview: “Talking with Barry Malzberg”.

In the course of researching my book Astounding, I got to know the author Barry N. Malzberg, who by any estimation has had one of the most singular careers in all of science fiction. Over the course of three sessions in July 2019, I interviewed Barry about his life and work in a conversation that ended up lasting close to two hours, which I’ve finally put online. We spoke about his influences and early career; his time at the Scott Meredith Literary Agency; the rise and fall of the softcore erotica market; his friendships with Dean Koontz and Bill Pronzini; his brief stint as editor of Amazing Stories magazine; his encounter with the editor John W. Campbell; and the origins, legacy, and “bad karma” of his novel Beyond Apollo. I think there’s some good stuff there, so enjoy! (If you get the chance, you might also want to check out my recent interview with the science fiction podcaster Mikel J. Wisler, in which we discuss a similarly broad range of topics, including my New York Times review of Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir.)

(3) BUHLERT ONLINE READING. Cora Buhlert will be taking part in the monthly Flash Fiction Night organized by Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree, California on Tuesday, July 13 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific US Time. It’s a free online event — register here.

Cora wrote at her blog:

I’ll be reading some science fiction flash fiction together with Andy Dibble and Douglas A. Blanc. It’s already the third Flash Fiction Night and you can watch recordings of the first two on the Space Cowboy Books YouTube channel.

(4) THE FUTURE’S NOT FAR AWAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Kim Stanley Robinson took part in a forum about climate change moderated by Ezra Klein in the June 27 New York Times Magazine.  Other panelists include Saul Griffith, Rhinna Gunn-Wright, and Shilela Jasanoff.  Klein appeared pretty familiar with The Ministry of the Future. “What if American Democracy Fails the Climate Crisis?”

Klein: Stan, imagining outside the current context is your specialty as a science-fiction novelist, so I’m wondering what you think the weaknesses of our current systems are.

Kim Stanley Robinson: Well, we are stuck in an international system of nation-states, and we don’t have time to invent and institute any kind of alternative world governance, so we have to use what we’ve got. But we also have the Paris agreement, and climate equity was written into it so that developed rich nations were tasked with paying more and doing more and helping the historically disadvantaged and even colonized nations. Executing all that is, of course, a different story.

(5) LE GUIN. Andrew Porter sent this link to an article which he says surprisingly eluded him when The Guardian originally published it in March. It’s a review of the nonfiction book Le Guin completed during her last year: “Dreams Must Explain Themselves by Ursula K Le Guin review – writing and the feminist fellowship”. (The title essay appeared in Porter’s fanzine, and was collected in a 40-page chapbook of essays under the same title in 1975.)

In 1973 Ursula Le Guin was phoned by publisher and science fiction fan Andrew I Porter, trying to persuade her to write about herself in his magazine Algol. “Andy kept saying things like, ‘Tell the readers about yourself,’ and I kept saying things like, ‘How? Why?’” Standing in her hallway, with a child and a cat circling her legs, it seemed impossible to explain over the crackling connection that “the Jungian spectrum of introvert/extrovert can be applied not only to human beings but also to authors”. Le Guin knew that at one end of the spectrum there are authors such as Norman Mailer, who talk about themselves, and at the other, authors who, like her, need privacy….

(6) IT’S AROUND HERE SOMEPLACE. “Look: Long-lost ‘Wizard of Oz’ dress found in box at D.C. school” reports UPI. And it’s not quite as rare as you might at first believe. It’s the sixth version of Dorothy’s dress from the 1939 film known to still exist.

A long-lost dress worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz has been found decades later in a box at a university in Washington, D.C.

Catholic University announced in a news release that the dress, which was gifted to the school nearly 50 years ago by actress Mercedes McCambridge while she was serving as the drama department’s artist-in-residence, was found by drama department lecturer Matt Ripa in a box placed atop some mail slots near his desk.

Ripa said he had often gone searching for the dress during his free time after hearing about the long-lost item in 2014, but he was apparently beaten to the discovery by Thomas Donahue, a now-retired drama professor, who had placed the box in Ripa’s office before leaving the school last year.

Ripa said the box must have been placed atop the mail slots by someone, causing it to evade his notice until last month.

“As soon as I popped the top off the box, I knew what it was,” Ripa told The Washington Post. “I saw that blue gingham and I just started laughing and laughing. I mean, I’m still laughing. Because I was shocked, holding a piece of Hollywood history right in my hands.”

The school contacted Ryan Lintelman, entertainment curator at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History, to verify whether the dress was authentic. Lintelman and two colleagues examined the garment and determined that it appears to be the real deal.

(7) SPEAKING OF. “Andy Serkis Is Returning To The Lord Of The Rings”Giant Freakin Robot has the story.

Andy Serkis is going back to Middle Earth – but not in the way you might think. The actor, who has lent his voice to Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the first Hobbit film, will be narrating J.R.R Tolkien’s work in a brand new series of audiobooks.

(8) ON THE TUBE. In The Space Review, Emily Carney and Dwayne Day give a very deep, spoiler-filled dive into the second season of For All Mankind“Revisiting the past’s future: ongoing ruminations about ‘For All Mankind’”.

Emily Carney:

Another interesting aspect about “For All Mankind” is that the show includes women as equal characters with equal time in the show’s narrative. That probably owes to the show’s “Star Trek” heritage. But the show doesn’t really start out that way in season one: it begins with the Soviets beating the US to the punch, and shows how the US astronaut cadre responds to this defeat. By this point in the show’s timeline, women aren’t astronauts, so we see the show’s Deke Slayton imploring his men to “get mad,” “kick the dog,” and let loose during the weekend after the Soviet landing.

This is when we get to meet Ed Baldwin and Gordo Stevens, who were just mere kilometers from the lunar surface weeks before. At The Outpost, an astronaut hangout modeled on a long-gone bar not far from Johnson Space Center, the astronauts have an insane, alcohol-soaked party, which culminates in a group singalong to Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted?” In my mind, I think this was shown to compare how men coped with defeat and heartbreak versus how women—in the upcoming narrative—would cope with similar stressful situations. Ed Baldwin even briefly kneecapped his own career by opening up about his frustrations with NASA to a reporter. At any rate, by this point, women were wives and mothers in the “For All Mankind” universe, not astronauts or management.

Dwayne:

Yeah, that’s a good observation. Initially, it’s all machismo. It’s brave men and heroes. But that’s about to change very fast. And that makes the show’s title a bit ironic—it’s not about “man” after the first episode.

After the Soviet Union beats America to the Moon, the Americans respond by landing Apollo 11, which in this alternative timeline, nearly ends in failure. But the Soviets then follow up with another significant first when they land a woman on the Moon. We see one of the female characters—a young Mexican girl named Aleida—smile when she sees that a woman is on the Moon.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1981 — Forty years ago, John Carpenter’s Escape from New York premiered. (That was how it was shown on-screen.)  Starring Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, this film was written by John Carpenter and Nick Castle. It was directed by John  Carpenter, and produced by  Larry Franco and Debra Hill. Supporting cast was Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasence, Ernest Borgnine, Isaac Hayes, Adrienne Barbeau, and Harry Dean Stanton. The film received generally positive reviews with Russell in particular finding strong favor with the critics; it did very well at the box office earning far more than it cost to produce; and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a seventy-seven percent rating which is far better than the thirty-nine percent rating the the Escape from L.A. sequel gets. It did not get a Hugo nomination at Chicon IV. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 10, 1903 — John Wyndham. His best known works include The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos, both written in the Fifties. The latter novel was filmed twice as Village of the Damned. The usual suspects have an impressive selection of his novels including these titles though little of his short fiction is available, alas. The Day of the Triffids is currently a buck ninety-nine there. (Died 1969.)
George Clayton Johnson by Tony Gleeson.
  • Born July 10, 1929 — George Clayton Johnson, He’s best known for co-writing with William F. Nolan the Logan’s Run novel, the source for the Logan’s Run film. He was also known for his scripts for the Twilight Zone including “A Game of Pool,” “Kick the Can,” “Nothing in the Dark,” and “A Penny for Your Thoughts,” and the first telecast episode of the original Star Trek, “The Man Trap.” (Died 2015.)
  • Born July 10, 1931 — Julian May. She‘s best known for her Saga of Pliocene Exile (known as the Saga of the Exiles in the UK) and Galactic Milieu series: Jack the BodilessDiamond Mask and Magnificat. She was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame at Sasquan. (Died 2017.)
  • Born July 10, 1941 — David Hartwell. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction describes him as “perhaps the single most influential book editor of the past forty years in the American science fiction publishing world”.  I certainly fondly remember the The Space Opera Renaissance he co-edited with Kathryn Cramer. Not to mention that his Year’s Best Fantasy and Year’s Best SF anthologies are still quite excellent reading, and they’re available at the usual suspects for a very reasonable price. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 10, 1941 — Susan Seddon Boulet. If you’ve read the American edition of Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife (which won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature Award), you’ve seen her amazing work. Or perhaps you’ve got a copy of Pomegranate‘s edition of Ursula Le Guin’s Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight which also features her art. If you’re keen on knowing more about this amazing artist, see the Green Man review of Susan Seddon Boulet: A Retrospective. (Died 1997.) 
  • Born July 10, 1945 — Ron Glass. Probably best known genre-wise as Shepherd Book in the Firefly series and its sequel Serenity. His first genre role was as Jerry Merris in Jerry Merris, a SF horror film, and he’d later show up voicing Philo D. Grenman in Strange Frame: Love & Sax (“slated as the world’s first animated lesbian-themed sci-fi film”; look it up as it has a very impressive voice cast) and he showed up twice as J. Streiten, MD in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Oh, and he was on Voyager playing a character named Loken in the “Nightingale” episode. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 10, 1953 — Hans Beimler, 68. He was co-executive producer, director, and writer on TekWar before co-producing a number of Next Gen episodes. He was involved in over a hundred episodes of Deep Space Nine in a numberof production roles too complicated to describe here. And he was one of the executive producers of the short-lived Dresden Files.
  • Born July 10, 1970 — John Simm, 51. The second of the modern Masters on Doctor Who.  He appeared in the final three episodes of the Time of the Tenth Doctor: “Utopia,” “The Sound of Drums,” and “Last of the Time Lords.” He also played Sam Tyler in the most excellent Life on Mars. And he played Macbeth atChichester Festival Theatre.

(11) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. Janice Marcus spotlights the latest (in 1966) work from oft-overlooked writer Rosel George Brown: “[July 10, 1966] Froth, Fun, and Serious Social Commentary (Sibyl Sue Blue)”.

Sibyl Sue Blue was not what I expected.

Set in the futuristic year of 1990, Rosel George Brown’s Sibyl Sue Blue takes place in a world both like and unlike today’s world of 1966. Sibyl is a tenacious and smart detective working for the city’s homicide department. When a series of bizarre ‘suicides’ start plaguing the city’s youth, she’s called in to investigate. As she follows the clues, she’s drawn into increasingly strange events, from trying alien drugs to being invited to join a spacefaring millionaire on an off-world jaunt.

Sounds like fun, right? Yet when Judith Merril told me the other day that she’ll be reviewing it in an upcoming issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction, she mentioned that “…under all the froth and fun and furious action, there is more acute comment on contemporary society than you are likely to find in any half dozen deadly serious social novels.

She’s right!

(12) JUNGLE CRUISE. Yahoo! shows what the redesigned Disneyland attraction will be like: “Disneyland revamps Jungle Cruise ride after racism criticism”.

…The Jungle Cruise will officially reopen on July 16, with some changes, the park announced Friday. The ride, which takes passengers through Asia, Africa and South America, had been closed since the park itself reopened April 30, after being shutdown because the pandemic. 

The company had announced in January that it would remove “negative depictions” of native people and pledged to make further changes to “reflect and value the diversity of the world around us.” 

The ride, which originally opened in 1955, has been criticized, for example, for depicting the locals as headhunters.

“We’re excited to be building on the story of the Jungle Cruise to include new adventures that stay true to the experience we know and love, while adding more humor, more wildlife, and an interconnected story,” Chris Beatty, an Imagineer who worked on the renovations, said in a news release. “As part of creative development, we’ve also introduced characters from around the world and took a thoughtful approach to ensure accurate representation of cultures in our story.”

Beatty explained in behind-the-scenes video of the upgrade that one of the team’s goals was to “bring a sense of inclusivity” to the project. “We want to make sure that everyone that rides the Jungle Cruise can see themselves in the characters and in this experience.”

They also wanted to keep it classic and to highlight the “skippers,” the Disney cast members who make jokes while leading the faux tour of the area.

As part of the new storyline, chimpanzees have taken over a wrecked boat and the tourists have climbed up a tree in search of safety…. 

(13) RISKY BUSINESS. The Hubble Space Telescope suddenly went offline almost a month ago. Now “NASA will attempt a ‘risky’ maneuver to fix its broken Hubble Space Telescope as early as next week”.

…However, a recent NASA announcement suggests a glimmer of hope: The agency tweeted on Thursday that it had successfully tested a procedure that would switch parts of the telescope’s hardware to their back-up components.

This could pave the way for the payload computer to come back online, leading to the restart of Hubble’s scientific observations.

NASA reported the procedure could happen as early as next week, following additional preparations and reviews. The telescope and the scientific instruments on board remain in working condition.

But the switch will be “risky,” according to NASA astrophysics division director Paul Hertz.

“You can’t actually put your hands on and change hardware or take a voltage, so that does make it very challenging,” he told New Scientist.

…On June 30, NASA announced it had figured out that the source of the payload computer problem was in Hubble’s Science Instrument Command and Data Handling unit (SI C&DH for short), where the computer resides.

“A few hardware pieces on the SI C&DH could be the culprit(s),” NASA said.

Backup pieces of hardware are pre-installed on the telescope. So it’s just a matter of switching over to that redundant hardware. But before attempting the tricky switch from Earth, engineers have to practice in a simulator, the agency added.

NASA has rebooted Hubble using this type of operation in the past. In 2008, after a computer crash took the telescope offline for two weeks, engineers successfully switched over to redundant hardware. A year later, astronauts repaired two broken instruments while in-orbit – Hubble’s fifth and final reservicing operation. (NASA does not currently have a way to launch astronauts to the space telescope.)

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

Pixel Scroll 1/6/21 First There is A Mount-To-Be-Read, Then There Is No MTBR, Then There Is

(1) INSIDE THE HATCH. ‘”If the aliens lay eggs, how does that affect architecture?’: sci-fi writers on how they build their worlds”. Nest-designing tips from Alastair Reynolds, Nnedi Okorafor, Ann Leckie, Becky Chambers, Kim Stanley Robinson and M. John Harrison.

Nnedi Okorafor

Binti (2015), Akata Witch (2011), Who Fears Death (2010)

My stories tend to start with the characters. Then I look through their eyes (or however they “see”), minds, perspectives to observe the world. Typically this happens the moment the character exists. So I know the world not long after I know the characters. I walk through it, I smell the air, listen to the gossip, observe its insect world, hear its history through various perspectives, and so on … I experience it.

I don’t make notes initially or while writing – I find that distracting. And while writing, I can hold the world pretty fully in my mind … I tend to write first drafts swiftly and nonstop, putting it aside to cool only when it’s complete (which means it carries everything in it; it’s out of my head and on the page). I might draw maps, charts or diagrams while editing. My editing phase is much longer than the writing phase….

(2) THE MAN WITH THE POWER. Fabrice Mathieu, four years after “Darth by Darthwest,” returns with his wonderful “DARTH BY DARTHWEST Episode II”

Cary Grant is back in a new galactic adventure! This time, he is their only hope! When Alfred Hitchcock meets George Lucas…

(3) CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS. Chuck Serface and Christopher J. Garcia are working on an issue of The Drink Tank dedicated to cults and new religious movements, and they want material to suit the theme:

We’re looking for related articles, fiction, poetry, personal essays, artwork, and photography.  We’re open to explorations of cults and new religious movements, cults and new religious movements in genre fiction and comics . . . you get the idea.  The deadline for submissions is Monday January 25, 2021. We’ll have the issue out shortly thereafter.  Please send your contributions or your questions to either Chris at johnnyeponymous@gmail.com or to Chuck at ceserface@gmail.com.

(4) KEEP THOSE CLICKS COMING. The rumored departure of Jodie Whittaker gives pop culture pundits something to chew on. At Radio Times, Huw Fullerton argues it’s too early for her to go:  “Jodie Whittaker leaving Doctor Who? Why the 13th Doctor should stay”.

… Whether these reports are true or not is currently unclear – the BBC has declined to comment on what it describes as “speculation” about Whittaker’s future in the show, which isn’t a firm denial – but if they are borne out by the facts, I have to confess I’m disappointed.

Because really, it still feels like Whittaker is just getting started. After two series and an awful lot of adventures, I’m still looking and waiting for her quintessential “Doctor” moment, the scene that will define her period in the role and be looked back on by fans with fond nostalgia….

Fullerton also devotes his podcast to the topic here.

(5) THE FACE OF POE. Joe R. Lansdale credits Edgar Allan Poe as his “Dark Inspiration” in 2009 article from The Texas Observer. (It’s news to me!)

I can’t think about Edgar Allan Poe without thinking about my life, because he was there in dark spirit, in my room and in my head. He was out there in the shadows of the East Texas pines, roaming along the creeks and the Sabine River, a friendly specter with gothic tales to tell. It was a perfect place for him. East Texas. It’s the part of Texas that is behind the pine curtain, down here in the damp dark. It’s Poe country, hands down.

These thoughts were in my mind as I toured the Harry Ransom Center’s current exhibition, From Out That Shadow: The Life and Legacy of Edgar Allan Poe. The Center, at the University of Texas at Austin, is celebrating the bicentennial of Poe’s birth with an exhibition that includes original manuscripts and illustrations. Looking at these artifacts, it occurred to me that Poe reached out from the grave and saved this East Texan from the aluminum chair factory. I know there are those who will say working in an aluminum chair factory is good honest work, and I’m going to agree. But I will say without hesitation and with no concern of insult that it damn sure wasn’t work of my choosing, and that it takes the skill of a trained raccoon and the I.Q. of a can of green beans, minus the label, to get it done….

(6) THESE MY JOINTS. That robot army you’re always reading about in sf? Might be getting closer. Army Times has the story: “Not quite the Terminator, but ‘muscle-bound’ robots are coming for the Army, Marines”.

Army researchers are looking to add muscle tissue to robot platforms, giving them “never before seen mobility and agility.”

The effort by scientists with the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command, Army Research Laboratory and Duke University and the University of North Carolina is looking first at adding muscle to legged robot joints rather than using actuators, according to an Army Research Laboratory statement….

While the early Army research makes no mention of cyborgs, scientists do note the advantages of muscle tissue as compared to robotics components currently in use.

(7) RELEASE THE BROKEN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the December 30 Financial Times, gaming columnist Tom Faber uses the problems of Cyberpunk 2077 to explain why developers release so many bug-ridden games.

So why can’t a developer simply delay a game until it’s ready?  Release dates are rarely chosen by  the makers; instead they are imposed by marketing departments and shareholders, calibrated to avoid competitors, giving a game a fighting chance in a crowded market, or timed to tie in with a holiday season or new console.  Pushing back a game’s release can send costs spiralling as marketing needs to be replanned and other games in the pipeline are delayed as a consequence.  A game is a calculated economic risk, and if it flops, a studio can collapse.  Sometimes it makes more sense to release a bug-ridden game than to further delay it…

…The increasing prevalence of patching has incentivized the release of games before they are ready.  This has coincided with a demand for increasingly sophisticated games that developers are struggling to meet.  The result iis unrealistic production schedules and the controversial labor practice known as ‘crunch,’  where developers work six- or seven-day weeks and long hours on the run up to release.  This acceleration is unsustainable, and glitches are simply the external evidence of deeper problems in the industry.

(8) FAREWELL SALE. Offworld Designs owners Ray and Barb Van Tilburg say after 31 years of service to fandom they are retiring. They’re holding a big sale to move their inventory.

We appreciate all of our customers so much.  Whether we met at a Science Fiction, Gaming, Anime, Furry or Comic Con, you’ve been the people we wanted to work for and share this nerdy adventure with. 
 
After the horrible year we’ve all just lived through and the rolling disaster in Washington that’s unfolding while I write this, we need to unlock the value of our dragon’s hoard of inventory.  We were so busy we didn’t know the meaning of the word “scale” as the business grew, but still built something special with the help of family, friends and great employees from our little town of Sandwich, Illinois. 
 
We’ve marked everything down by 50% with nothing held back, including convention souvenirs from our wonderful licensors. 
 
What does this mean in the short term?  Well, we still have staff and equipment to print or embroider for you while we work through this process but we’re not adding new designs to our huge inventory.  Let us know how we can be of service and if we can do it sooner as opposed to later, we’ll be there for you.   

We are open to a sale of the business if you know someone, but it’s time to get moving toward whatever is waiting for us in 2021 and beyond.

(9) LARKIN OBIT. David Larkin has died at the age of 84. Art director for Granada Publishing, Pan, Panther, and had his own imprint. The Guardian’s obituary was written by his brother, Colin.

In 1972 David was headhunted to join Pan Books and in 1980 he moved to the US, setting up David Larkin Books, often working in association with the US publisher Ian Ballantine. By then David had achieved major success with the Fantastic Art seriesFaeries, Giants, Shaker and countless coffee-table books including Barn, Mill, Farm and the Country Wisdom series. He regarded his final book, When Art Worked, as his finest work.

Married Sabra Elliot, who survives him.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • January 6, 1975 –In the United Kingdom, The Changes was first broadcast on the BBC. It was a ten-part series adapting Peter Dickinson’s trilogy of The WeathermongerHeartsease and The Devil’s Children. It was adapted by Anna Home and directed by John Prowse. It starred Victoria Williams, Keith Ashton, David Garfield, Rafiq Anwar,  Zuleika Robson and  Raghbir Brar. Though written as a children’s series, its themes caused considerable controversy. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 6, 1832 – Gustave Doré.  Illustrated Dante’s Divine Comedy, Milton’s Paradise LostMother Goose, Poe’s “Raven”Puss in Boots, Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel, Shakespeare’s Tempest, and much more outside our field or at our border (is Tennyson’s Idylls of the King – about Arthur – fantasy? what about Cervantes’ Don Quixote?).  Famous in his day as a painter, maybe even greater with engravings and woodcuts. Here is Cinderella.  This is from History of Holy Russia – it’s a dream, so is it fantasy?  Here is a vision of Paradise.  Also sculpture, watercolor, and in fact pioneering comic strips.  (Died 1883) [JH]
  • Born January 6, 1895 Tom Fadden. He’s on the Birthday Honors List for the original  Invasion of the Body Snatchers where his character was one of the first victims to yield to the invaders.  It wasn’t his first SFF role as some thirty years before that role, he would make his Broadway debut as Peter Jekyll in The Wonderful Visit based off the novel of the same name by H. G. Wells, who also co-wrote the play.  The last note of his that I’ll not was that one of his first television roles was Eben Kent, the man who adopts Kal-El on the first episode of The Adventures of Superman series. (Died 1980.) (CE) 
  • Born January 6, 1905 Eric Frank Russell. He won the first Hugo Award for Best Short Story at Clevention in 1955 for “Allamagoosa” first published in the May 1955 issue of Astounding Science FictionSinister Barrier, his first novel, appeared in Unknown in 1939, the first novel to appear there. Much of his work has not made to the digital realm yet. What’s you favorite work by him? (Died 1978.) (CE) 
  • Born January 6, 1941 – Joni Stopa.  Fanwriter since the 1950s – teens can do things.  Helped Bjo (there should be a circumflex over the j, an Esperantism indicating pronunciation “bee-joe”) Trimble invent SF con Art Shows.  Married Jon Stopa, went to live at his family’s ski lodge in Wilmot, Wisconsin.  Mother Joni’s Jams and Jellies raised money for TAFF and DUFF.   Co-founded Windycon; Fan Guest of Honor at Windycon II.   Fine Masquerade entries (our costume competition) with Jon; ran the Masquerade at Chicon IV the 40th Worldcon; she & Jon Fan GoH at Chicon V the 49th.  Three remembrances of her.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born January 6, 1947 – Bob Vardeman, age 74.  Active fan and pro.  Seventy novels (some with co-authors), fifty shorter stories.  Helped found Albuqurque SF Society and Bubonicon where he has often been Toastmaster (no documentation that he ever said “Tackett, you’re toast!”); elsewhere too.  Guest of Honor at AggieCon IV, CopperCon 8, ChattaCon XV.  [JH]
  • Born January 6, 1955 Rowan Atkinson, 64. An unlikely Birthday perhaps except for that he was the lead in Doctor Who and The Curse of Fatal Death which I know did not give him the dubious distinction of the shortest lived Doctor as that goes another actor though who I’ve not a clue.  Other genre appearances were scant I think (clause inserted for the nit pickers here) though he did play Nigel Small-Fawcett in Never Say Never Again and Mr. Stringer in The Witches which I really like even if the author hates.  (CE) 
  • Born January 6, 1959 – Ahrvid Engholm, age 62.  Early winner of the Appeltofft Award.  Two collections in English of Swedish fanwriting (note his initials at lower left; he drew this cover).  Co-founded Baltcon.  Interviewed the Strugatsky brothers for Yellow Submarine.  [JH]
  • Born January 6, 1960 Andrea Thompson, 62. I’ll not mention her memorable scene on Arli$$ as it’s not genre though it was worth seeing.  Her best genre work was as the telepath Talia Winters on Babylon 5. Her first genre role was in Nightmare Weekend which I’ll say was definitely a schlock film. Next up was playing a monster in the short lived Monsters anthology series. She had an one-off on Quantum Leap before landing the Talia Winters gig. Then came Captain Simian & The Space Monkeys. Really. Truly. Her last genre role to date appears to be in the Heroes: Destiny web series. (CE) 
  • Born January 6, 1969 Aron Eisenberg. Nog on Deep Space 9. Way after DS9, he’d show up in Renegades, a would-be Trek series loaded with Trek alumni including Nichelle Nichols, Robert Beltran,  Walter Koenig and Terry Farrell. It lasted two episodes. Born with only one partially functioning kidney, he died of kidney failure way too young. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born January 6, 1974 – Ashley Barnard, age 47.  Four novels for us; three others, one about Byron.  Cast of Illusions is a Shakespearean fantasy (it’s not fair for me to quote “Jonathan Wilder…. preferred dying by the sword, as smothering and choking usually occurred when he was a woman”; that part – I warned you about these puns – is in 16th Century theater).  Has read The MonkThe Scarlet Pimpernel, two by Hardy, two by Willkie Collins, five by Austen, six by Dickens.  [JH]
  • Born January 6, 1976 Guy Adams, 45. If you’ve listened to a Big Finish audio-work, it’s likely that you are familiar with his writing as he’s done scripts for their DoctorUNIT and Torchwood series among his many endeavors there. Not surprisingly, he’s also written novels on Doctor Who, Torchwood, Sherlock Holmes and so forth. I’ve read some of his Torchwood novels — they’re good popcorn corn literature. (CE) 
  • Born January 6, 1983 – Rachel Cotterill, Ph.D., age 38.  Four novels.  Runs.  Bakes tofu in spicy baharat marinade.  Has read Harriet the Invincible hello Wombat, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and I can’t tell whose edition of the Dhammapada.  [JH]

(12) IS THE FATE OF DC COMICS IN THE BALANCE? AT&T’s balance sheet, that is. Publishers Weekly looks in as “DC Comics Leaves Its Legacy Behind”.

The world’s #2 superhero comics publisher is undergoing a stress test. DC Comics, the venerable publisher of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Watchmen, and dozens of other celebrated superhero characters, looks to be caught in the corporate restructuring taking place at its parent company, AT&T, along with other divisions of WarnerMedia, which the telecom giant acquired in 2019. After several rounds of layoffs and controversial business decisions, comics fans, comics professionals, and retailers are speculating whether DC, or its parent company, will choose to abandon comics publishing or the comics shop market entirely….

AT&T can’t afford to be concerned with DC’s legacy, no matter what it represents to the U.S. comics market. The company took on an even heavier debt load following the WarnerMedia acquisition, and has much bigger problems, including the controversial move to shift all of WarnerMedia subsidiary Warner Bros.’s 2021 theatrical film releases to streaming in an effort to keep the newly launched HBO Max service alive in a streaming-media war it appears to be losing badly to Disney+.

At the moment, DC’s value seems to be as a licensor of some very famous comics characters and logos that serve as the flagship of a popular consumer brand. That DC also publishes print comics that sell reasonably well in comics stores and the mass market (Walmart, Target), in addition to a strong and growing trade book program, is a bonus. The past, as far as AT&T may be concerned, is history. And that’s too bad, because to a lot of longtime fans, the past is what makes DC, DC.

(13) BOFFO B.O. In the Washington Post, Peter Marks reviews Ratatouille:  The Tik Tok Musical, which premiered Friday online as a benefit for the Actors Fund, which says the show raised $1 million on opening night.  The show has a professional cast and 51 minutes of songs, or half as many as would appear in a full production.  Marks credits Hartsdale, New York teacher Emily Jacobsen as being the inspiration for this project. “’Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical’ debuts online”.

… Let’s acknowledge the affirmative circumstances of this virtual performance, which also offers up the talents of Wayne Brady, Ashley Park, Adam Lambert, Andrew Barth Feldman and André De Shields as Anton Ego, the restaurant critic whose effete heart Remy melts. It augurs the arrival, in the midst of a fraught time for theater and other performing arts, of a bona fide new musical. Even more remarkable — as its title suggests — is that it came together via TikTok, the digital platform on which users create videos of up to a minute….

(14) JEOPARDY! Faithful Jeopardy! viewer Andrew Porter saw the contestants hit another stumbling block tonight —

Final Jeopardy: Blockbuster Movies

Answer: Released in 2017, this movie is the highest-grossing film in the U.S. that’s set during WorldWar I.

All three contestants got it wrong, asking, “What is 1917?” and “What is Dunkirk?”

The correct question: “What is Wonder Woman?”

(15) THEIR WORDS REMAIN. James Davis Nicoll shares memories of “Five Books by Authors We Lost in 2020” at Tor.com. His first book is by Ben Bova.

It is a regrettable fact that authors are mortal. This year has seen at least sixty SFF-related authors, artists, and editors die, some of natural causes, some due to the ongoing pandemic. Here are five books of interest by five different authors we lost in the last few months….

(16) BIOGRAPHY OF AN ICON. Jeff Foust reviews a new memoir about Stephen Hawking for The Space Review: “Review: Stephen Hawking: A Memoir of Friendship and Physics”.

It’s been nearly three years since Stephen Hawking passed away. At the time of his death in 2018, Hawking had been for decades one of the most famous scientists in the world, even though few people understood his research in topics such as black holes and cosmology. He was, in many respects, a cultural figure, revered for his intelligence and his achievements in spite of the physical limitations imposed by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Lost in those recollections is the fact that Hawking was not just a scientist, or a pop culture representation of one, but also a human being with a personality, a person with desires and pet peeves and passions. That aspect of Hawking is illustrated in Stephen Hawking: A Memoir of Friendship and Physics by Leonard Mlodinow, a physicist who worked closely with Hawking for years.

(17) NEED NEW CABIN IN THE SKY. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport surveys what private space companies want to do to replace the aging International Space Station, with Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada, and Axiom Space all having their own alternatives. “The International Space Station can’t stay up there forever. Will privately run, commercial replacements be ready in time?”

… While NASA and the private sector work toward developing commercial habitats, China is building its own space station that it hopes to launch within a couple of years and is recruiting countries around the world as partners. The United States would not be one of them, however, since NASA is effectively barred by law from partnering with China in space.

“I think it would be a tragedy if, after all of this time and all of this effort, we were to abandon low Earth orbit and cede that territory,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told a Senate panel earlier this year.

The ISS still does have some good years left, officials said. “We’re good from an engineering standpoint,” Joel Montalbano, NASA’s space station program manager, said in an interview. “We’re cleared through 2028.”

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. On Jimmy Kimmel Live, Elizabeth Olsen talks being in London during the lockdown, celebrating New Year’s Eve abroad, an exclusive never-before-seen clip from Marvel’s WandaVision premiering on Disney+ January 15th, and she reacts to online fan theories about the show. The discussion of WandaVision starts around the 3:00 mark, the clip rolls around 4:25.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Chuck Serface, Stephen H Silver, StephenfromOttawa, and Daniel Dern for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “En Fuego” Dern.]

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Pixel Scroll 12/2/20 The Television Will Not Be Revolutionized

(1) FLIGHT WORN ART. Artist Gregory Manchess tells how he designed the Dragon Crew One patch – and how he got the gig in the first place: “Mission Patch: Crew One” at Muddy Colors.

…Through a convoluted process of attending conventions and patiently waiting for the right timing, I’d met an astronaut who is a fan of science fiction. Kjell Lindgren, the year before, had opened the envelope to read one of the winners for the World Science Fiction convention in 2016. . .while floating in zero g at the space station.

The following year, Kjell (pronounced ‘Chell’) attended the WSF convention in Helsinki, which I attended, and I got to meet him. A year after that, I ran into him again at the same convention in Texas. I asked him about his next flight up and joked that I’d like to come along. He asked if I knew how to handle a robotic arm and I said, “Man, I can handle a brush. How could that be any harder?” I think he actually did a spit take on that one.

Then I asked him, seriously, who was doing their mission patch. Several conversations later, I found myself on a Skype call with Kjell, the mission commander, Mike “Hopper” Hopkins, and mission pilot, Victor “Ike” Glover.

One never knows when an opportunity may arise that can be taken advantage of. My timing was right and my enthusiasm authentic. A deadly combination for winning over clients….

(2) THE IMAGINATION DESK. The latest episode of the Center for Science and the Imagination’s podcast The Imagination Desk features an interview with science fiction author, editor, and researcher Regina Kanyu Wang. Here are direct links to the podcast, on the CSI website (which links out to the other services), Apple PodcastsSpotifyRadioPublic, and Libsyn

Regina Kanyu Wang is a science fiction writer, researcher, and critic from Shanghai. She is now based at the University of Oslo, where she is part of the CoFUTURES project. In this conversation, we talk about the Chinese science fiction scene, its fan culture, and gender politics in the genre, as well as insights on Regina’s own recent writing—including how she builds nuance and complexity into her portrayals of AI and other technologies.

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Priya Sharma and Justin C. Key on Wednesday, December 16, at 7 p.m. in a livestreamed event on YouTube. Link forthcoming. Listen to their podcast of readings here.

  • Priya Sharma

Priya Sharma is a short story writer whose collection All the Fabulous Beasts won a British Fantasy Award and a Shirley Jackson Award. Her first novella Ormeshadow from Tor won a Shirley Jackson Award. When she’s not writing she works as a doctor in the UK.

  • Justin C. Key


Justin C. Key is a speculative fiction writer and psychiatrist. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, Tor.com, Escape Pod, and Crossed Genres. His novella, Spider King, will be released by Serial Box in early 2021. He’s currently working on a near-future novel inspired by his medical training. He lives in Los Angeles.

(4) DON’T BEAM UP THE PLAGUE. “Captain Kirk calls out Alberta for not adopting federal tracing app” – Edmonton’s City News has the story.

It appears Captain Kirk is a fan of the federal COVID-19 tracing up and a critic of Alberta’s decision not to adopt it.

Canadian icon William Shatner, who played the famous Star Trek character, voiced his opinion on Twitter Wednesday, promoting the COVIDAlert app.

“Now you just need to get Alberta on board,” said Shatner. “I’ve heard that certain people have an issue with the app because they have their own app.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada responded to the tweet, thanking Shatner for promoting contact tracing.

(5) SEA SQUARED. Being a successful writer is a dream come true. Or is that a nightmare? “Jeff VanderMeer on the Saga of The Festival of the Freshwater Squid” at LitHub.

…The Ambergris books received a ton of critical acclaim, well beyond what one might expect for fictions centered around squid and mushroom people. They also sold well enough that a non-rabid, fairly polite fan base sprouted up around Ambergris.

In short, I wrote about the fantastical Festival of the Freshwater Squid for years without anything particularly odd happening. What did happen tended to fall into one of three categories.

Category the first. Dried squid. Tons of it. Acres of it. More dried squid than there are undried squid. Every year, without fail, people sent me dried squid in the mail. Never the same people, I must add, so this was not a stalkery situation, but merely an issue of proper methods of disposal. I don’t actually like to eat squid because having become an amateur squidologist, I know just how intelligent squid are and how likely it is that they would rule over us if they lived fifty years instead of two to four. But, of course, it’s the thought that counts, and the thought of receiving bags and bags of dried squid for the rest of my life might’ve been disturbing, but it was also a testament to the power of Ambergris. (Ironically, I never received any ambergris in the mail.)…

(6) THREE MORE FOR YOUR TBR. Because why would you only read the first book after seeing this pitch? “Kelly Link: Why You Should Read This Classic Trilogy” in LitHub.

…At the heart of the Deptford Trilogy is a set of mysteries. There is the question of whether the woman struck in the head by the snowball may or may not be, afterward and as a consequence, a saint capable of raising the dead and other miracles. Tied to this is the question of the peculiar death of a man named Boy Staunton. At the end of Fifth Business, a clue is offered by a Brazen Head, which floats above a stage. “He was killed by the usual cabal,” it says. But the cabal of characters here and in Fifth Business’s sequels is anything other than usual. It is, in fact, an extraordinary cabal and unlike any you are likely to encounter in novels less bold in their scope. Davies has the scalpel-like acuity of a mystery novel sleuth who has been invited to attend a birthday party and for his own entertainment proceeds to pin down the secret desires, transgressions, and petty misdeeds of each guest. In fact, part of the strangeness and originality of Fifth Business is that, in the moment where a clue is offered by the Brazen Head, it becomes apparent that we are reading a mystery novel in reverse order. First, we are given a leisurely and pleasurable introduction to a cast of disreputable, eccentric characters along with their motivations, opportunities, and confessions. Then, as the book draws to its end, we arrive with a jolt at the moment when a body is discovered under the most perplexing circumstances. Afterward, rather than being given a solution, we are briskly shown out of the novel by its narrator.

(7) PRESERVE TOLKIEN’S HOME. The stars are aligning to make sure one of Tolkien’s homes meets a better fate than, say, Ray Bradbury’s. The goal is to establish a literary center there: “Lord of the Rings Cast Reunite to Buy $6 Million Home of Author J.R.R. Tolkien” reports People. The Tolkien Estate is not involved.

Lord of the Rings stars Sir Ian McKellen and John Rhys-Davies are embarking on another epic adventure.

Rather than crossing Middle Earth to battle the evil forces of Sauron, however, the British actors have joined a fellowship to save 20 Northmoor Road, the Oxford house in which J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, in advance of it being put on the market by realtors Breckon & Breckon.

The initiative, called Project Northmoor, starts crowdfunding on December 2 and hopes to raise $6 million to purchase the home and create a literary center in honor of Tolkien. It is also supported by The Hobbit star, Martin Freeman.

…”This is just an opportunity that can’t be ignored,” John Rhys-Davies, who played Gimli and voiced Treebeard in the films, tells PEOPLE from his self-isolation in a New Zealand hotel.

“If people are still reading in 1,000 years, Tolkien will be regarded as one of the great myth-makers of Britain and it will be evident within a matter of years that not to secure this place would have been such an act of arrogance and ignorance and folly on our part.”

The donation site is here: “Project Northmoor – Save Tolkien’s Home”.

J.R.R. and Edith Tolkien moved into 20 Northmoor Road with their young family in 1930. Over the next 17 crucial years the house was the heart of the Tolkien home. It was here that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, which he had begun as a bedtime story for his children, and followed that with another unexpected journey. That book became The Lord of the Rings.

(8) KEAYS-BYRNE OBIT. Boing Boing reports “Hugh Keays-Byrne, of Mad Max fame, dead at 73”

(9) MORE ABOUT BOVA. Ben Bova’s son commemorated his late father in this Facebook profile: “Ben Bova, by his son. Benjamin William Bova”.

… Widely read, Dr. Bova would delight in reciting entire poems of, say, Rudyard Kipling, or the songs of Cole Porter on occasion. He would acknowledge the most esoteric pun or obscure reference with a groan or a wry grin. He could – as he often did during writing breaks – with pen and sans eraser, complete entire New York Times crossword puzzles in the time it takes to finish a lunch cup of yoghurt. Words were his tools; his memory and imagination, his toolbox. And his two pointing fingers – he never used his entire set of fingers to write, the hammers that pounded first the typewriter keys and then, when it was invented, the home computer to conceive and mold a good story….

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1995 – Twenty-five years ago Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Forgiveness Day,” published in the November 1994 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction, would win the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. The other nominees were Maureen F. McHugh’s “Nekropolis” and Michael Bishop’s “Cri de Coeur”.  It would also win a Locus Award for Best Novella. It was last published in The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas of Ursula K. Le Guin on Saga Press which is available in print and digital editions.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 2, 1913 – Jerry Sohl.  Fourteen novels, two dozen shorter stories for us, other work including television, film, a chess book and a bridge book.  Title of posthumous collection Filet of Sohl not his fault.  (Died 2002)  [JH]
  • Born December 2, 1914 Ray Walston. Best remembered, of course, for playing the lead in My Favorite Martian from 1963 to 1966, alongside co-star Bill Bixby. Before that, played the Devil in Damn Yankees. His later genre appearances would include The Wild Wild WestMission: ImpossibleSix Million Dollar ManGalaxy of TerrorAmazing Stories, PopeyeFriday the 13th: The Series and Addams Family Reunion.   He would appear in The Incredible Hulk (in which David Banner was played by Bill Bixby) as Jasper the Magician in an episode called “My Favorite Magician”. (Died 2001.) (CE) 
  • Born December 2, 1929 – Lael Littke, age 91.  Two novels, a dozen shorter stories for us; she has published forty books, six dozen shorter stories, including Ellery Queen’sLadies Home JournalSeventeen.  “The trick is to recognize a good idea when it sweeps by.”  [JH]
  • Born December 2, 1937 – Brian Lumley, age 83.  Eight Cthulhu novels, a score of shorter stories (“My guys fight back.  Also, they like to have a laugh along the way”); two dozen more novels including Necroscope best-sellers, ten dozen more shorter stories, three dozen poems.  World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.  [JH]
  • Born December 2, 1946 David Macaulay, 74. British-born American illustrator and writer who is genre adjacent I’d say. Creator of such cool works as CathedralThe New Way Things Work which has he updated for the computer technology age, and I really like one of latest works, Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World. (CE) 
  • Born December 2, 1946 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon which was based on the Russian fairy tale “The Feather of Finist the Falcon”. She was a prolific writer both on her own and with other writer such as Mecedes Lackey with whom she wrote A Cast of Corbies and two Buffyverse novels with Laura Anne Gilman.   I knew her personally as a folklorist first and that is she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and  Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man twenty years ago: “Josepha Sherman’s Winter Queen Speech”  (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born December 2, 1952 OR Melling, 68. One of her favorite authors is Alan Garner whose The Owl Service is a frequent read of hers she tells me. As for novels by her that I’d recommend, the Chronicles of Faerie series is quite excellent. For more adult fare, her People of the Great Journey is quite good. (CE)
  • Born December 2, 1954 – Laura Underwood, age 66.  Nine novels, eighty shorter stories.  Here is her cover for Bradley Sinor’s Dark & Stormy Nights.  [JH]
  • Born December 2, 1968 Lucy Liu, 52. She was Joan Watson on Elementary in its impressive seven-year run. Her other genre role, and it’s been long running, has been voicing Tinkermist in the Disney Fairies animated franchise. I kid you not. She’s had a few genre one-offs on The X-FilesHercules: The Legendary Journeys and the Rise: Blood Hunter film, but not much overall haughty she did show up in Luke Cage. (CE) 
  • Born December 2, 1971 Frank Cho, 49. Writer and illustrator, best remembered  as creator of the let excellent  Liberty Meadows series as well as work on HulkMighty Avengers and Shanna the She-Devil for Marvel Comics, and Jungle Girl for Dynamite Entertainment. I recommend the Frank Cho Art Book from Delcourt as being a superb look at his work. CE)
  • Born December 2, 1976 – Kate Milford, age 44.  Eight novels, another due next February.  Has read A Canticle for LeibowitzPoems of Ambrose Bierce, Borges’ Ficciones, and Serve It Forth.  She very frankly says “I update this site sometimes.”  [JH]
  • Born December 2, 1980 – Leander Deeny, age 40.  One novel by this man whom someone wants us to know was in the BBC series Merlin and the Captain America film The First Avenger.  He likes whisky, cookery, falconry, and another thing I keep forgetting.  [JH]

(12) ALIEN REAL ESTATE. “Netflix Reveals What Mysterious ‘Alien Worlds’ May Look Like” – let the Daily Beast fill you in.

Netflix is brimming with outlandish out-of-this-world genre fare, but the streaming giant’s latest docuseries, Alien Worlds, puts the science back in science fiction. Imagining what life might be like on distant planets, producer Nigel Paterson’s four-episode endeavor utilizes what we know about biology and civilization on Earth to speculate about extraterrestrial existence—a mix of knowledge and conjecture that’s echoed by its form, which marries nature documentary footage from around the globe with inventive CGI panoramas of bizarre landscapes and creatures. The result is a fantastical—and fascinating—intergalactic version of Planet Earth.

In light of that structure, it’s only natural that Alien Worlds (premiering Dec. 2) boasts its own David Attenborough-like narrator: acclaimed English actress Sophie Okonedo, who imparts surprising and enlightening facts about Earth’s varied ecosystems—and surmises about what that could mean for life elsewhere—with sonorous, import-laden gravity….

(13) RETURN OF THE TOASTMAKER. Food Network ran a listicle about the “12 Best Star Wars Kitchen Tools”. This is the kind of thing we’re talking about – aren’t you glad these helmets are good for something?

Star Wars Storm Trooper Toaster

$49.95 

WILLIAMS SONOMA

We’re willing to bet that this is the fiercest toaster you’ve ever laid eyes on. It’s shaped like a Stormtrooper’s helmet, but that doesn’t stop it from perfectly preparing your toast. The slots are extra-wide in order to accommodate different types of bread, and features a removable crumb tray for easy cleaning.

(14) CREDENTIAL HEALTH CHECK. Michael Toman sent this link with a reassuring note: “Nope, I’m definitely NOT suggesting ‘Cats Throw Up on SF’ as a new photo contest category for File 770!” Anyway, it’s Mental Floss’ fault that we’re wondering “Why Do Cats Throw Up So Often?”

And y’know, maybe I’ll forego putting an excerpt here.

(15) A MATCH MADE IN HELL. Ryan Reynolds calls it “A Love Story for the ages. Or at least this age.”

(16) I’M PIXELING MY SCROLL FOR THE MISTY MOUNTAINS. Another reason to remember today’s date, on December 2, 1971 Led Zeppelin released ”Misty Mountain Hop” as a single in the US.

The most common interpretation of the song’s title involves a reference to the Misty Mountains in J. R. R. Tolkien‘s The Hobbit.

(17) BOMBS AWAY. While tuned in to tonight’s Jeopardy, Andrew Porter saw these efforts to score during Final Jeopardy:

Novel Characters.

Answer: This character from an 1851 novel “was intent on an audacious, immitigable, and supernatural revenge.”

Wrong questions: “Who is Frankenstein?” “Who is The Count of Monte Cristo?”

Correct question: “Who is Captain Ahab?”

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Franz Kafka’s It’s A Wonderful Life” on YouTube is a short film, written and directed by Peter Capaldi, that was originally broadcast on BBC Scotland in 1993.  The film, starring Richard E. Grant as Kafka, really is a variation on Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life, and earned Capaldi an Oscar for Best Short Film–Live Action in 1995.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Arnie Fenner, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Rob Thornton, Alan Baumler, Olav Rokne, Contrarius, Mike Kennedy, Dann, Steve Davidson, Sean Wallace, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/23/20 Pixels Should Scroll A Minimum Of Six Feet Apart

(1) OVERVIEW OF SF IN CHINA. A lot of good information in Regina Kanyu Wang’s “Chinese Science Fiction Goes Global”, available in English at Korean Literature Now.

…Back in 1991, 1997, and 2007, Science Fiction World, the largest SF magazine and publisher in China, convened for international conventions that not only received government support, but featured government leaders in attendance. Since 2016, the China Association for Science and Technology has sponsored the China SF Convention in Beijing, Chengdu, and Shenzhen. Not only was the opening ceremony attended by the Chinese vice president, but association leaders and local officials have attended every year since then. In 2017, Chengdu, Sichuan Province, co-hosted the 2017 China SF Con as well as the China International SF Conference, and it was declared that the latter event would, in perpetuity, become biennial and be held in Chengdu.

The aforementioned names and their linkages may be a complicated matter, but suffice it to say, the two major SF conventions in contemporary China are led by the China Association for Science and Technology and the Sichuan Province Association for Science and Technology. Another grassroots science fiction event—the Xingyun (Nebula) Awards for Global Chinese Science Fiction ceremony—gained government support and commercial viability a few years after being financially sponsored by its founders. Unlike the fan-fueled activities of their international counterparts, the major SF conventions within China are tied to the popularization of science and development of the SF industry and rarely do without speeches from officials, high-level summits, laser light shows, closed-door banquets, and the like. To solidify the connection between domestic and foreign conventions, the science and technology associations and local governments have regularly sent representatives to Worldcon in recent years, heading overseas to study how to hold international SF conventions, with panel discussions, marketplaces, exhibitions, and parties—and various other activities that have since become commonplace. Relatively speaking, China’s science fiction conventions have become fancier, as well as more commercial, whereas overseas science fiction conventions have generally become more grassroots.

Particularly noteworthy is the case of Chengdu, Sichuan Province, home of the longstanding Chinese SF institution, Science Fiction World magazine. Today, Chengdu is competing with Memphis in the United States to host the 2023 Worldcon. This is but one such initiative designed to cement Chengdu’s reputation as the Capital of Science Fiction. According to the 2019 Chinese Science Fiction Industry Report: “In order to develop the city’s ‘Silicon Valley’ for science fiction film and television industry, Chengdu plans to invest more than 2 billion yuan and add another 200,000 square meters to its current size of 150,000 square meters, for a total gross investment of 26 billion yuan.” Chengdu is not the only local government to invest in science fiction as a growth sector. In the city of Mianyang, also in Sichuan Province, the Pisces Dome Sci-Fi World is a project that spans about 2500 Chinese mu—or 412 acres—and calls for a total gross investment of 5 billion RMB to implement cutting-edge VR/AR (virtual reality and augmented reality) technology, establishing the city as a science and technology tourist destination. In Qianjiang, Hubei Province, plans are underway for the construction of the so-called Chinese Sci-Fi Author Village, where authors will be invited to assume the post of village head and write works on the theme of the Qianjiang crawfish (a local delicacy), and engage in other related commercial activities.

Thus, it should be clear that to the Chinese government, science fiction is not only literature, but a lucrative industry…. 

(2) CONTRADICTING THE RECEIVED WISDOM. From [link to pirate site removed.]

HALDERMAN: You do invent wonderful landscapes. The Earthsea trilogy creates such a vivid picture of the sea—have you done a lot of sailing?

LE GUIN: All that sailing is complete fakery. It’s amazing what you can fake. I’ve never sailed anything in my life except a nine-foot catboat, and that was in the Berkeley basin in about three feet of water. And we managed to sink it. The sail got wet and it went down while we sang “Nearer My God to Thee.” We had to wade to shore, and go back to the place we’d rented it and tell them. They couldn’t believe it. “You did what?” You know, it’s interesting, they always tell people to write about what they know about. But you don’t have to know about things, you just have to be able to imagine them really well.

(3) MORE ABOUT LUPOFF. The Wikipedia reminds us:

Starting in 1977, Lupoff co-hosted a program on Pacifica Radio station KPFA-FM in Berkeley, California that featured book reviews and interviews, primarily with science fiction (and mystery) authors. Originally an occasional one-hour program called Probabilities Unlimited, after several months it became a regular weekly, half-hour program called simply Probabilities, which aired until 1995. The program relaunched that year as Cover to Cover; Lupoff departed in 2001 to focus on his writing career. Among the notable authors interviewed by Lupoff and his co-host, Richard Wolinsky, were such luminaries as Ray BradburyOctavia ButlerRichard AdamsUrsula K. Le Guin, and Kurt Vonnegut.

Andrew Porter says all of Dick’s interviews on KPFA are still on the Internet here. And he sent three photos he took of Lupoff over the years. [Credit: Photos by and copyright © Andrew Porter.]

(4) NYRSF READINGS. The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings for November 2 features James Morrow. The online event and starts at 7:00 Eastern. Jim Freund says —

Normally we convene (virtually or not) on the first Tuesday of each month, but this November that would mean Election Eve, and it was pointed out that may be a wee bit distracting. But you can’t ask for a better distraction than James Morrow, who will read from his latest published novella, “The Purloined Nation,” from the anthology “And the Last Trump Shall Sound.”

James Morrow is the award-winning author of over ten novels, as well as novellas and short-story collections. His critically acclaimed works include Blameless in Abaddon, New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and The Last Witchfinder called “provocative book-club bait” and “an inventive feat” by critic Janet Maslin. He has twice received the World Fantasy Award, for Only Begotten Daughter and Towing Jehovah, and has also won the Nebula Award and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. He lives in State College, Pennsylvania, with his wife and their two enigmatic dogs.

Arc Manor Books is generously offering a 40% discount to attendees through the end of November. the other contributors are Cat Rambo and Harry Turtledove, so you’ll want to take advantage.

(5) BEST BOOKS OF 2020. Locus Online has extracted the works of genre interest from the list of “Publishers Weekly Best Books 2020” (see the full list at PW.) Their coverage begins with the SF/Fantasy/Horror category.

  • The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
  • Everyone on the Moon Is Essential Personnel, Julian K. Jarboe (Lethe)
  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, V.E. Schwab (Tor)
  • The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, Natasha Pulley (Bloomsbury)
  • The Only Good Indians, Stephen Graham Jones (Saga)
  • Riot Baby, Tochi Onyebuchi (Tor.com publishing)
  • Strange Labour, Robert G. Penner (Radiant)

There are also works of genre interest in other categories.

(6) IT’S PERSONAL. Anna Martino tells why we should remember Captain Nemo in “Personal Canons: Jules Verne”.

…My 10th birthday, in January of 1991, was a special occasion for two very different reasons. There was a war going on in Iraq, and the adults at the party talked of little else. And my maternal grandmother — a Brazilian-Italian lady who had never been the warmest of women — gave me a collection of Jules Verne’s books as a present.

Those eleven hardcover books had once belonged to my mother. They were first published in Brazil in the early 1960s, with proper names translated into Portuguese (Conseil became Conselho and the Times of London became O Tempo) — but, other than that, they were completely unabridged.

These two facts moulded my life. I was curious about that strange, televised war — even moreso when my father explained there were rules to the battle. This led me, many years later, to a Master’s Degree in International Relations, focusing on conflict and news reception (namely, how do you know what you think you know about other countries?)

And then there was Captain Nemo.

Whenever someone talks about “The Great Canon of SFF”, I notice more of what’s not being said than what is. I’m Brazilian: my canon isn’t your canon. There’s the language barrier and the cultural perspective to consider. More’s the pity if you can’t read in Portuguese: you are missing out on fantastic stuff (but that’s a topic for another moment.)…

(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites everyone to “Get crunchy with Robert Shearman” in Episode 130 of Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Robert Shearman has won the World Fantasy Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, and multiple British Fantasy Awards for his fiction, some of which has been gathered in such collections as Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical (2009), Remember Why You Fear Me (2012), They Do the Same Things Different There (2014), and earlier this year, a massive three-volume collection We All Hear Stories in the Dark. His writings for television, radio, and the stage have won him the Sophie Winter Memorial Trust Award, the Sunday Times Playwriting Award, the World Drama Trust Award, and the Guinness Award for Theatre Ingenuity. He also wrote the Hugo Award-nominated Doctor Who episode “Dalek” at the request of producer Russell T. Davies.

We discussed the reason we’re lucky we each survived to adulthood, how he almost talked his way out of selling his first short story, the way he starts every story thinking it’s funny even as things turn horrific, why some readers find his new collection offensive and others uplifting, how he’s following up that three-volume, 2,000-page, 650,000-word, 101-story collection, the way his brush with COVID-19 has affected his writing, and much more.

(8) WILLETT’S NEW BOOKS. In September, Saskatchewan author, Edward Willett released two books.

The Moonlit World from DAW is the third novel in his Worldshaper series

In The Moonlit World, fresh from their adventures in Master of the World in a world inspired by Jules Verne, Shawna Keys and Karl Yatsar find themselves in a world that mirrors much darker tales. Beneath a full moon that hangs motionless in the sky, they’re forced to flee terrifying creatures that can only be vampires…only to run straight into a pack of werewolves….

His second release, Shapers of Worlds, is an anthology project that Willett took on himself with his own press and features stories from multiple award winners and international best sellers in the science fiction genre.  Shapers of Worlds was successfully Kickstarted earlier this year, raising $15,700 from more than 330 backers and the book will be available through all major retailers. The ebook came out September 22, and the print edition is coming out November 14 Regina’s Shadowpaw Press.

Shapers of Worlds features new stories from Seanan McGuire, Tanya Huff, David Weber, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., D.J. Butler, Christopher Ruocchio, John C. Wright, Shelley Adina, and Willett himself, plus reprints from John Scalzi, David Brin, Joe Haldeman, Julie E. Czerneda, Fonda Lee, Dr. Charles E. Gannon, Gareth L. Powell, Derek Künsken, and Thoraiya Dyer.

All of the featured authors were guests during the first year of Willett’s podcast, The Worldshapers, winner of the 2019 Aurora Award (Canada’s top award for science fiction and fantasy) for Best Fan Related Work.

Willett is himself an award-winning author of more than sixty books of fantasy, science fiction, and non-fiction for readers of all ages.

(9) PAINSTAKING. Elizabeth Bear is interviewed about her new book, Machine, a sequel to Ancestral Night, at Fantasy Hive.

Dr. Jens in Machine has a chronic pain condition. And that’s one of the things that mediates the way through which she interacts with the world around her. What was it like writing for a character with this condition?

I have an autoimmune condition myself. So I do have a certain amount of chronic pain. It’s not as debilitating as Jens’ chronic pain. It occurred to me while I was writing this book that I have, throughout my career, actually tended to write a lot of characters with some sort of chronic pain disability. All the way back to my first published novel, Hammered, the protagonist of which is a military veteran with some long-term damage from her combat experience. This is the first time though that I’ve really been conscious of the fact that I was writing something like that out of my own experience. 

It’s odd how your brain compartmentalizes things. 

This is very personal, but I think it’s because I had a really bad autoimmune flare starting in about the summer of 2015. That has really changed my ability to do a lot of things that I took for granted. We all process our trauma through our art. If you try not to do it, you’re just going to be writing very two-dimensional art. And so, it was in some ways cathartic. It was in some ways difficult and emotional. But also, I feel very strongly that there need to be narratives about marginalized people that do not center that marginalization. That there need to be narratives about queer people where the entire point of the narrative is not to problematize their queerness. And having grown up very rarely seeing somebody who I felt reflected me in the books that I was reading, I like to be able to widen the door to different kinds of protagonists. 

I think the real strength of science fiction and fantasy right now, my generation of writers and the generation of writers that are right after us, is that we are very diverse in our backgrounds and outlooks. And that… that is making science fiction and fantasy a much wilder and more interesting place.

(10) CHAMPION OBIT. Marge Champion, a great dancer in the 1940s and 1950s who was also a model that Disney animators used as Snow White and a hippopotamus in Fantasia died October 21 reports SYFY Wire. She was 101 years old. The Hollywood Reporter adds:

…Marge even danced for them as the dwarf Dopey, she recalled. She also served as a Disney model for the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio (1940), for Hyacinth Hippo in Fantasia (1940) and for Mr. Stock in Dumbo (1941).

…In 1936, she performed before large crowds with the Los Angeles Civic Opera and a year later married Art Babbitt, the Disney animator who created Goofy (she was 17 and he was 29; they divorced in 1940). She then played Snow White in a touring vaudeville act with The Three Stooges.

(11) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

1970 — Fifty years ago at Heicon ’70 which had John Brunner as Toastmaster, The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin won the Hugo for Best Novel. Runner-ups were Robert Silverberg’s Up the Line, Piers Anthony’s Macroscope, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr’s Slaughterhouse-Five and Norman Spinrad’s Bug Jack Barron. She would also win the Nebula for this novel. In all, she would garner nine Hugos with her final one being for the superlative The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition for Best Art Book as illustrated by Charles Vess.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 23, 1919 – Roy Lavender.  Engineer.  First Fandom (active at least as early as the first Worldcon, 1939; few still alive; a First Fandom organization continues).  Cincinnati Fantasy Group.  Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society.  Fan Guest of Honor, Kubla Khatch 22.  Memoir here.  Len Moffatt’s appreciation here (PDF).  “When the Apollo circled the Moon and the astronauts reached into B-3 locker for their cameras, they pulled them from the shock absorbing sheath I designed.  On the test stand for the Saturn rockets, cameras look up into the flame to photograph the performance (or failure) of the engines.  They survive in a protective box I designed.”  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born October 23, 1935 Bruce Mars, 85. He was on Trek three times, one uncredited, with his best remembered being in the most excellent Shore Leave as Finnegan. He also had one-offs in The Time Tunnel, Voyage to the Bottom of The Sea, and Mission: Impossible. (CE) 
  • Born October 23, 1938 Christopher Lloyd, 82. He has starred as Commander Kruge in The Search for Spock, Emmett “Doc” Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy, Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Uncle Fester in The Addams Family and the Addams Family Values. (Huh. I didn’t spot him in those.) Let’s not forget that he was in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as John Bigbooté, and he played Dr. Cletus Poffenberger in a recurring role on Tremors. (CE) 
  • Born October 23, 1938 – Bob Pepper.  Ten dozen covers.  Here is Titus Groan.  Here is a Fahrenheit 451.  Here is a Demolished Man.  Here is Lord Tyger.  Here is The Continent Makers.  Here is Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born October 23, 1940 Terry Gilliam, 80. He’s directed many films of which the vast majority are firmly genre. I think I’ve seen most of them though I though I’ve not seen The Man Who Killed Don QuixoteTidelandThe Zero Theorem or The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. I’ve seen everything else. Yes, I skipped past his start as the animator for Monty Python’s Flying Circus which grew out of his for the children’s series Do Not Adjust Your Set which had staff of Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin.  Though he largely was the animator in the series and the films, he did occasionally take acting roles according to his autobiography, particularly roles no one else wanted such those requiring extensive makeup.  He’s also co-directed a number of scenes.  Awards? Of course. Twelve Monkeys is the most decorated followed by Brazil with two and Time Bandits and The Fisher King which each have but one.  My favorite films by him? Oh, the one I’ve watched the most is The Adventures of Baron Munchausen followed by Time Bandits. (CE)
  • Born October 23, 1948 – Kent Bloom, 72.  Chaired Denvention 3 the 66th Worldcon.  Earlier, living in Washington, DC, chaired DatClave 1 (Jack Chalker’s con report here); after moving to Denver, Smofcon 16 (SMOF for “secret masters of fandom”, as Bruce Pelz said, a joke – nonjoke – joke; SMOFcon draws people who often do the work at SF conventions and want to do it better).  Host (with wife Mary Morman) of First Friday Fandom.  Fan Guest of Honor (with Mary), Westercon 71.  [JH]
  • Born October 23, 1952 – Donna Andrews, 68.  A detective-fiction novel about an Artificial Intelligence personality that became sapient (I don’t know why people keep misusing “sentient” which means having senses – plants and animals are sentient, but so far as we can now perceive aren’t sapient, a distinction which makes a difference), named Turing Hopper, won the Agatha Christie award for best mystery of the year (You’ve Got Murder, 2002); three more.  Many other novels and shorter stories in that genre.  See her Website.  [JH]
  • Born October 23, 1953 Ira Steven Behr, 67. Best remembered for his work on the Trek franchise, particularly Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, on which he served as showrunner and executive producer. As writer and or producer, he been in involved in Beyond RealityDark AngelThe Twilight ZoneThe 4400Alphas, and Outlander. (CE) 
  • Born October 23, 1957 – Olga Slavnikova, 63.  Won the Russian Booker Prize for her novel 2017 (tr. English 2010); also for us A Light Head (2010; Eng. Light-headed 2015).  Five other novels.  Director since 2001 of the Debut Prize; see this 2012 New Yorker interview.  [JH]
  • Born October 23, 1959 Sam Raimi, 61. Responsible for, and this is not a complete listing, the Darkman franchise , M.A.N.T.I.S., the Jack of All Trades series that Kage loved, the Cleopatra 2525 series, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess series and the Spider-Man trilogy. (CE)
  • Born October 23, 1983 – Dan Salmieri, 37.  Illustrator, sometimes for us.  Here is his note about his book Bear and Wolf.  Here is a sketch from the New York Times about the Twins Study brothers Mark & Scott Kelly.  Here is one from Data Collector.  Here is one from Brain Pickings.  Here is a cover for What Do Dragons Like Best to Eat? (in Dutch).  [JH]
  • Born October 23, 2007 Lilly Aspell, 13. She’s a Scottish-born performer best known so far for portraying the young Diana in Wonder Woman. She was Newschild in Holmes & Watson, and Megan in the alien invasion flick Extinction. (CE) 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close To Home says this is about Halloween but it reminds me of Dr. Moreau.

(14) CHECKING IN. Andrew Porter tears himself away from the TV to share a moment from tonight’s Jeopardy! He says, “Not SF/F, but memorable!”

Category: Movie Sum-Up

Answer: Death takes a chess holiday; your move, Max Von Sydow.

Wrong questions: “What is Checkmate?” “What is Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey?”

Correct question: “What is ‘The Seventh Seal’?”

(15) FROM BUS STOP FLOP TO TOP. The Guardian alerts viewers “Documentary to tell how Dorset bus drivers took Alien to West End”.

When they came up with the idea of adapting the classic sci-fi horror film Alien for the stage, a troupe of amateur actors from deepest Dorset intended it to be faithful to the terrifying original.

It did not quite work out as as planned. The sets were shaky, the monsters not very scary and the acting not up to Hollywood standards – only one of the cast went with an American accent, the rest stuck with English west country. Nobody was frightened.

Alien on Stage, put on by a group of bus drivers and their friends, would have sunk without a trace had it not been noticed by a couple of London-based artistic types who had the madcap idea of transferring it to the West End of London.

The weird and wonderful tale of how Alien on Stage came to be performed in the West End is being told in a documentary to be premiered on Saturday at FrightFest in London…

(16) BRIDGE OVER RUBBLED WATERS. When Twisted Sifter says “This Animation of How Bridges Were Constructed in 14th Century Prague is Amazing” they speak sooth!

In this informative animation we learn how the iconic Charles Bridge was constructed in 1357. The historic bridge crosses the Vltava (Moldau) river in Prague, Czech Republic and is 516 metres (1,693 ft) long and nearly 10 metres (33 ft) wide. It was built as a bow bridge with 16 arches shielded by ice guards.

(17) ALL AIN’TS DAY. James Davis Nicoll’s “Five SF Tales About Dead or Dying Worlds” is not a Halloween-themed piece, but it does contain the word candy.

Life on Earth is most likely doomed…in a billion years or so. The Sun’s slowly increasing luminosity will trigger a runaway greenhouse effect like that seen on Venus. Later stages in stellar evolution will further sear the Earth into an airless husk (unless the red giant sun simply gobbles up the planet like a piece of candy). Oh woe is us!

The following five tales of dying worlds might be of some interest during this interesting time. Remember: when the prospect of yet another Zoom meeting provokes anxiety and loathing, we can always tell ourselves that it could be worse…

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “If A Ghost Possessed Someone in 2020” on YouTube, Ryan George explains that demonic possession just isn’t scary in tumultuous 2020.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Mlex, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Scott Edelman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day C.A. Collins.]