Pixel Scroll 3/16/21 I Want To Be In The Scroll Where It Pixels

(1) HUGO NOMINATING DEADLINE IMMINENT. DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon, told Facebook readers yesterday that 674 people have submitted Hugo Awards nominations so far. Don’t miss out! The deadline to cast your nominating ballot is this Friday March 19 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific.

(2) OR OH, SO NICE. James Davis Nicoll finds “Five SF Stories in Which Kindness Prevails” for Tor.com readers.

There are many people in the world who seem to agree that the correct reaction to impediments, setbacks, and personal affronts is a firm, unambiguous response. After all, how are people to understand that “its” and “it’s” are two different words if their homeworld is not immediately reduced to a lifeless cinder? But there are enough of us who prefer kinder, gentler responses that we form an audience for writers who give us protagonists who are kind… and still manage to prosper. Could the power of niceness possibly prevail in the real world? Perhaps not, but niceness makes for comforting reading….

(3) WHO’S SORRY NOW. Cruella De Vil is not “oh, so nice” – this sneak peek from Emma Stone’s forthcoming Disney movie shows some of the reasons why.

(4) A MYSTERIOUS IMPROVEMENT. Kim Neville, in “How Reading Mystery Novels Made Me a Better Fantasy Writer” on CrimeReads, says that reading mysteries helped her plot and structure her first novel, The Memory Collectors.

…When I started writing The Memory Collectors, the task of holding an entire, novel-length plot in my head seemed impossible. I’d had some success with short fiction, but the ability to manage the intricacies of a larger story, with multiple characters and subplots, seemed its own kind of magic. I didn’t understand how other authors did it. My strengths lay in beautiful descriptive passages and character explorations. Over time, I’d learned to craft effective dialogue and individual scenes. Where I struggled most was with overall story structure. My previous attempts at novels were a jumble of interesting characters and intriguing hooks that led…nowhere.   

I knew I needed help, so I turned to the masters, and to those books where plot shines most brilliantly. I started reading mystery, crime and psychological thrillers, everything from Agatha Christie to the latest Karin Slaughter… 

(5) THE FALCON AND THE SNOWMAN, ER, WINTER SOLDIER. Io9’s James Whitbrooktells how the “Falcon and Winter Soldier Final Trailer Tackles Cap’s Legacy”.

… The “final” trailer—cutting it a bit tight, considering the six-episode series begins this week!—gives us a better look at the Flag Smashers and their mysterious leader, Karli Morgenthau (played by Solo: A Star Wars Story’s Erin Kellyman). In the comics, Flag-Smasher (there have been two to hold the mantle, Karl Morgenthau and Guy Thierrault) was, uh…an anti-nationalist terrorist pushing back against the idea of countries as a concept, particularly American exceptionalism as a foe of Captain America?…

(6) LIBRARY OF HORROR CLASSICS. The next volume being added to the Horror Writers Association’s Haunted Library of Horror Classics is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Parasite and Other Tales of Terror, “Nine spine-tingling stories from the creator of Sherlock Holmes.” Ships May 4. Available for pre-order at the link.

Mournful cries in an ice-bound sea, a potion that allows the user to commune with ghosts, an Egyptian priest who cannot die, and a mesmerist of unrivaled power. Brace yourself for these and other chilling encounters in The Parasite and Other Tales of Terror. Even before he created Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle terrified and delighted readers with tales of suspense, haunted by mysterious forces that defy rational explanation. These stories capture the unique draw of the uncanny and the curiosity that compels us all to ask, “Could it be true?”

Presented by the Horror Writers Association, and introduced by award-winning author Daniel Stashower, this collection illuminates Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s talent for the macabre and the supernatural. The Parasite and the other stories in this collection showcase Conan Doyle at his most inventive, sure to entertain both new readers and his most dedicated fans.

(7) SPOILERVISION. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Spoiler alert, don’t watch this Honest Trailers video until you’ve finished watching all 9 episodes of WandaVision, because spoilers galore. (As with many of these things, they’re often not wrong about criticisms, but that’s show biz.)

(8) YOU CAN HELP. Katrina Templeton, who commented here as Katster, is asking for help — “Fundraiser by Katrina Templeton : Mom is dying. We need help with expenses.” At this writing they’re raised $2,900 of the $5,000 goal.

I wish I never had to make this post. My mom is dying and it looks like we’re going to need help with the funeral expenses. My mom was my scout leader as a kid, my fiercest advocate, and my sounding board. It hurts to have to type this up. I’m sure Jill would say the same thing and Dad — well, Dad is just destroyed by the whole thing. We’ve always struggled a bit — the best gift my mom might have given us is how to keep surviving and fighting even when the odds are stacked against us.

We’re going to need these funds as soon as possible, because the timeframe Mom’s got left isn’t very long. So if there’s any way you can help, I’d appreciate it. We might not make the full number here, but anything can help. Jill and I are handling the funeral expenses, so any money I get is going to be put into my savings account until the point we need them.

(9) KOTTO OBIT. Actor Yaphet Kotto (1939-2021) died March 14 reports Comicbook.com.

Alien star Yaphet Kotto has died. A statement shared to his official Facebook page by his wife reveals the actor passed away Sunday night due to unknown causes. Though Kotto was best known for his role as technician Dennis Parker in Alien, the actor appeared in other mainstay hits throughout the 1980s and 1990s, such as NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Street, [the Bond movie] Live and Let Die, and The Running Man. He was 81.

Kotto also was in The Puppet Masters (1994).

(10) DARROW OBIT. Actor Henry Darrow (1933-2021) died March 14 at the age of 87. Although by 1965 he had already been in episodes of The Outer Limits and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, it was while appearing that year in the stage production of Ray Bradbury’s The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit at the Coronet Theatre in Los Angeles that he was seen by the producer who would cast him in the Western series The High Chapparal, his most famous role. Darrow later appeared in the vampire-Western Curse Of The Undead, The Invisible Man (1975), Halloween With The New Adams Family, Beyond The Universe and The Hitcher. He was the first Latino actor to portray “Zorro” on TV (over three different shows). His other genre work included The Wild Wild West, Rod Serling’s Night Gallery (as “Dr. Juan Munos” in H.P. Lovecraft’s ‘Cool Air’), Kung Fu (‘The Brujo’), The Six Million Dollar Man, Gemini Man, Wonder Woman, The Bionic Woman, The Incredible Hulk, Knight Rider, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Time Trax, Star Trek: Voyager, Babylon 5, Nightman and Beyond Belief: Fact Or Fiction.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 16, 2003 –Eighteen years ago on this date, Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune first aired on the Sci Fi Channel. Based on Frank Herbert’s novels Frank Herbert’s  Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, it was the sequel to Frank Herbert’s Dune. It was directed by Greg Yaitanes off a screenplay by John Harrison, executive producer of the forthcoming Dune film. It starred James McAvoy, Alec Newman, Julie Cox,  Daniela Amavia, Alice Krige and Susan Sarandon. Both it and its predecessor are two of the highest rated series ever broadcast on the network, and both hold an eighty percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 16, 1920 Leo McKern. He shows up in a recurring role as Number Two on The Prisoner in  “The Chimes of Big Ben”, “Once Upon a Time” and “Fall Out”. Other genre appearances include Police Inspector McGill in X the Unknown, Bill Macguire in The Day the Earth Caught Fire, Professor Moriarty in  The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, The Voice of Gwent in “The Infernal Machine” episode of Space: 1999. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born March 16, 1926 – Edwar al-Kharrat.  Two novels for us available in English.  Nahguib Mahfouz Medal (although Rama and the Dragon was later translated).  Al-Owais Cultural Award.  Translator into Arabic of Keats, Shelley, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy.  “I want there to be something in … everything I write … which will make even a single reader lift his head proudly and feel with me that in the end the world is not a desolate, meaningless landscape….  I write because the world’s a riddle, a woman is a riddle and so is my fellow man.  All creation is a riddle.”  See here.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born March 16, 1935 – Olga Larionova, age 86.  A novel and a score of shorter stories, only three available in English that I know of, which is too bad, since she won the Aelita Prize and several others, one of few successful Russian women SF authors.  [JH]
  • Born March 16, 1943 Susan Bay Nimoy, 78. Wife of that actor. She portrayed Admiral Rollman in two episodes of Deep Space Nine: “Past Prologue” in the first season and “Whispers” in the second. Her only other genre appearance I believe was in the Mr. Merlin series. (CE) 
  • Born March 16, 1948 – Margaret Weis, age 73.  Twoscore novels, as many shorter stories, two poems, with Tracy Hickman; five novels and four shorter stores with Don Perrin; six novels and a shorter story with Robert Krammes; a few others; MW & TH created the Dragonlance game world, to which much of this writing relates; MW says her Star of the Guardians series is her favorite; however, she says, she does not read fantasy books.  Twenty-five million copies sold.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born March 16, 1951 P. C. Hodgell, 70. Her best known work is the God Stalker Chronicles series with By Demons Possessed being the current novel. She has dabbled in writing in the Holmesian metaverse with “A Ballad of the White Plague” that was first published in The Confidential Casebook of Sherlock Holmes as edited by Marvin Kaye. All of the God Stalker Chronicles series are available from the usual suspects. (CE) 
  • Born March 16, 1952 Alice Hoffman, 69. Best known for Practical Magic which was made into a rather good film. I’d also recommend The Story Sisters, a Gateway story, The Ice Queen, an intense riff off of that myth, and Aquamarine, a fascinating retelling of the mermaid legend. The Rules of Magic was nominated for Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature Award.  (CE) 
  • Born March 16, 1955 – James Warhola, age 66.  Fourscore covers, seventy interiors.  Fantasy art trading cards.  Here is The Persistence of Vision.  Here is Unicorn Variations.  Here is Stranger in a Strange Land.  Here is Jack of Shadows.  Related to Andy Warhol; Int’l Reading Ass’n Award for Uncle Andy’s.  Contributes to Mad.  [JH]
  • Born March 16, 1957 – Joseph DeVito, age 64.  A hundred covers, twoscore interiors.  Fantasy art cards.  Here is Voice of Our Shadow.  Here is Psycho (he did another one later).  Here is The Stepford Wives.  Here is the Winter 99 Amazing.  Here is Six Scarlet Scorpions.  Here is his bronze Centennial Tarzan.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born March 16, 1971 Alan Tudyk, 50. Hoban “Wash” Washburne  in the Firefly universe whose death I’m still pissed about. Wat in A Knight’s Tale. (Chortle. Is it genre? Who cares, it’s a great film.)  He’s K-2SO in Rogue One and yes he does both the voice and motion capture. Impressive. He also had a recurring role on Dollhose as Alpha, he voiced a number of characters in the Young Justice series streaming on HBO Max, and he was a very irritating Mr. Nobody on the Doom Patrol series also on HBO Max. (CE)
  • Born March 16, 1974 – Aimee Lane, age 47.  Two novels and a short story, two covers, for us: here is Belfield’s Blue Moon.  Of herself she says “With an MBA and a degree in Applied Mathematics, there’s absolutely no reason she should be writing romance novels.”  Has read a Complete Andersen’s Fairy TalesWhere the Wild Things Are, both of Carroll’s Alice books, Les MisèrablesThe Count of Monte CristoA Tale of Two Cities.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville has a strategy for avoiding an AI takeover.
  • Macanudo suggests another fantasy writer unfairly ignored by the Nobel committee!

(14) LOVES JLA. Gail Simone tells about DC’s Justice League concept – but promises no #SnyderCut spoilers. Twitter thread starts here.

(15) STARGIRL’S NEXT OPPONENT. “Get a look at Stargirl’s Season 2 big bad Eclipso” at Lyles Movie Files.

I really enjoyed Stargirl’s first season as it finally leaned in on the legacy of the DCU in a way no other live-action property has really ever done. In the season finale, we got a tease of Season 2’s villain Eclipso and now we get our first look at him courtesy of TVLine….

Eclipso’s character description sounds promising:  “[an] ancient entity of corruption and vengeance, who is described as physically imposing and frightening. Brimming with a cold, terrifying darkness, Eclipso exploits the flaws of others, reveling in the impure and sinful, sadistically feeding off the dark side of humanity.”

The design is a pretty solid translation of more modern takes on Eclipso. Stargirl has done a fantastic job with the costumes so I wasn’t worried about that in the slightest and the show’s fantastic track record continues.

(16) DON’T STAND UNDERNEATH WHEN THEY FLY BY. The Conversation’s article“How do astronauts go to the bathroom in space?” comes with a dramatic finish —

…If you’ve ever seen a shooting star, it might have been a meteorite burning up in Earth’s atmosphere – or it might have been flaming astronaut poo. And the next time you have to pee or poop, be thankful that you’re doing it with gravity’s help.

(17) MOSTLY HARMLESS. Although you might prefer to take your chances with astronaut poo if this is the other choice: “ISS Ditches 2.9-Ton Pallet of Batteries, Creating Its Most Massive Piece of Space Trash” reports Gizmodo.

Weighing 2.9 tons and traveling 4.8 miles per second, this heap of old batteries is now the heaviest single piece of garbage to be jettisoned from the International Space Station.

The pallet is packed with nickel-hydrogen batteries, and it will stay in low Earth orbit for the next two to four years “before burning up harmlessly in the atmosphere,” according to a NASA statement. SpaceFlightNow reports that the pallet is the “most massive object ever jettisoned from the orbiting outpost.”

NASA spokesperson Leah Cheshier confirmed this as being the case.

“The External Pallet was the largest object—mass-wise—ever jettisoned from the International Space Station at 2.9 tons, more than twice the mass of the Early Ammonia Servicing System tank jettisoned by spacewalker Clay Anderson during the STS-118 mission in 2007,” wrote Cheshier in an email.

NASA’s ballistics officers “indicate no threat” of the pallet smashing into other space objects, but “this item, like all, will be tracked by U.S. Space Command,” she added.

It wasn’t the original plan for the pallet to be discarded like this. The failed launch of a Soyuz rocket in 2018, in which NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin were forced to make an emergency landing in the Kazakh steppe, caused a disruption to the spacewalking schedule, leading to the leftover pallet….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “HISHE Dubs – Justice League (Comedy Parody)–Theatrical Version” on YouTube, the How It Should Have Ended crew make fun of the theatrical version of Justice League in preparation for taking on the Snyder Cut.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/7/21 There Is No Pixel – Only Scruul

(1) HOW TO KEEP GOING THE DAY AFTER. Sarah Gailey’s “Coup Self-Care” at Here’s the Thing has a long list of ideas for taking care of yourself (that begins after the following excerpt.)

…This kind of stress — the stress of a fucking coup happening in a big country that tends to be irresponsible with its feelings — is hard to weather. I’d wager I’m not the only one struggling with work today. Yesterday I didn’t struggle with work, because I have the luxury of being able to say “nothing is getting done today” when there’s a coup happening. So I didn’t struggle with work, because I didn’t even try to work — instead I watched what was happening, had phone calls with friends and family to process the domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol, and reached out to loved ones in an effort to remind all of us that we are not alone.

…What’s happening in America right now, for most of us, doesn’t feel quite so navigable as that. The coup isn’t something we can reach out and touch and change and solve. There are a ton of possible consequences and outcomes, some which we can predict and some which we can’t, and all of them will affect us, and none of them feel like things we can control. This shit is scary and destabilizing. It’s okay to feel scared and destabilized about the things we can’t control.

It’s also important to remember that the things we can’t control don’t take up the entire horizon. It’s easy to feel swallowed up by that sense of helplessness — but we aren’t helpless. There are things we can’t control, and there are things we can.

Let’s take a look at some things we can control. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen some of this before, but look through anyway to remind yourself of the places you can stabilize. These might not all apply to you. This is intended to be a broad assortment of options, not a definitive list! Take what works and throw the rest in the trash….

(2) MARK HIM PRESENT.  John C. Wright says he and his family were in Washington DC yesterday “to show our support for Trump, but, more to the point, our support for curtailing election fraud.”“Regarding the Events of Jan 6”. Short post followed by a lot of comments from Trump supporters.

(3) DAVID WEBER UPDATE. Today on David Weber’s author page at Facebook:

Latest from Mr. Weber:

BP is under control pretty much completely now. Still watching for possible clotting issues, but that’s only a general precaution at this point. We’re doing fairly gentle in-room therapy, and the lungs are mostly clear now, but O2 absorption is still lagging. Got me up to the level where they want me, but it’s still taking 6 liters of pressure to keep it there. So we work to bring that down on a day by day basis.

(4) HOW WRITERS DON’T GET PAID. Renowned sf critic Paul Kincaid posted on Facebook about the exploitation of nonfiction writers:

…Ten years ago I found myself inadvertently reviewing for the Los Angeles Review of Books (a review I had submitted to SF Studies was passed on to the LARB instead). At the time LARB was a start-up, a new kid on the block, and when you wrote for them you got a screed about how they were a professional publication and how much they appreciated their contributors but how they were operating on a shoestring so if we would consider not taking money for the review it would help. And yes, I was happy to help on those terms, so I did review after review for them for free. Until I was made redundant and I needed some income. So on my next review I asked to be paid. And they coughed up, no problem, money came through without a hiccup. Then they stopped asking me to review. Critics are valued only so long as you don’t have to pay them….

(5) TOMORROW PRIZE. Still time to enter The Tomorrow Prize contest for short science fiction by an L.A. County high school student – the deadline is February 1, 2021. For further information visit the contest webpage.

The Tomorrow Prize showcases the best in creative, critical thinking, as well as great storytelling, by students from throughout Los Angeles. 

The Tomorrow Prize is free for students to submit up to two original short stories of 1,500 words or less. Prizes include cash prizes for First, Second, and Third, as well as a special prize for the best environmental conservation themed story! 

This prize, The Green Feather Award is co-sponsored by the LA Audubon Society. The winner will receive a small cash prize and will be published in the LA Audubon newsletter.

(5A) THIS SHOULD TIDE YOU OVER. Fanac.org now has available for free download two of the biggest fanzines ever published.

Bergeron’s Willis issue of Warhoon came out in 1978. In those mimeo days File 770 was brand new, and I helped Bergeron promote his project with a rider attached to issue #5.

(6) FREE READ. Some of the Best from Tor.com 2020 is available free, featuring twenty-four original stories published on the site in the past year. It’s convenient if you haven’t already read them on the Tor.com site. Download from your favorite vendors.

(7) KNIT UP THE RAVELED SLEAVE. Here’s another entry in the Future Tense Fiction series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives.  “Dream Soft, Dream Big” by Hal Y. Zhang, “A new short story about science, startups, and a cultish online community.”

BECKER NGUYEN (NARRATION): Complete the sequence—the wheel, the printing press, the transistor … what’s next? What if I tell you the next revolutionary invention may already exist, but instead of being powered by coal or electricity, it’s powered purely by the most nebulous parts of our minds?

I’m Becker Nguyen. On today’s episode of Static Shock: how one man discovered something extraordinary about our dreams that could save the world, and what happened next that made it all seem like a nightmare.

It’s accompanied by a response essay by sleep researcher Kristin E.G. Sanders: “Can we convince the sleeping brain to process our problems?”

…In a recent study, my collaborators and I asked whether targeted memory reactivation could improve problem-solving. In evening sessions, participants attempted to solve brain teasers, each paired with a different music clip. Then, we presented some of the music clips while participants slept. In the morning, participants reattempted the same brain teasers they failed to solve the prior night. We were excited to find that participants solved more of the brain teasers that were cued overnight. Interestingly, unlike for Katia, the solutions did not come to them in a dream. And unlike Loewi, they did not awaken with the solution in the middle of the night. Instead, participants solved the brain teasers when they actively worked on them again.

(8) YOUR MIND’S EAR. [Item by Daniel Dern.] A message I just read on LinkedIn gave the person’s location as Dunedin, <State>.

My <brain or whatever> initially parsed (internally pronounced) it as:

Duned-in

at which point some other part of my brain went, “Wait, that’s not right,” called up the Tolkein reference cells, and burped up, “Du-ne-din”

Yeah, it’s likely the real pronunciation-influencer was my being on LinkedIn (which I pronouce/see as two syllables).

Can anybody think of other words with different pronounciations based on sf-or-fantasy PoV?

(9) A TREAT FOR THE EYE. Dreams of Space – Books and Ephemera has numerous scans of the excellent art in the Russian book Hour of Space (1962).

This book is a soviet history of spaceflight and text heavy. What is notable about it are the color plates and some of the chapter header illustrations…. 

Vladimir Lvov. Illustrated by V. Noskov. Hour of Space. Moscow: Publishing House of the Central Committee if the Komsomol. 206 p. 20 cm. 1962.

(10) ELLISON AT IGUANACON. Fanac.org has posted the first segment of a recording of “Harlan Ellison: Burning the Phoenix” from 1978.

IguanCon II, the 36th Worldcon, was held in Phoenix, Arizona in 1978. Guest of Honor Harlan Ellison held forth for hours in “Burning the Phoenix: Remarks, Dark & Light.” This audio recording, illustrated with images, is the first 40 minutes of that talk. Harlan tells a great story about Avon, talks about The Tonight Show, his script for Asimov’s “I, Robot” and about his plans for “The Last Dangerous Visions”. Harlan was a charismatic, funny, witty speaker, and at this event, he is talking to a large audience of his appreciative and enthusiastic fans.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • January 7, 1934 — The first Flash Gordon comic strips of Alex Raymond were published by King Features Syndicate. The strip was subsequently adapted into many other media, from three Universal movie serials (Thirties Flash Gordon and Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars, and Forties Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe) to a 1970s television series and a 1980 feature film, Flash Gordon

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz]

  • Born January 7, 1899 – Orlin Tremaine.  Noteworthy to us for years as editor of Astounding.  His editorial “Thought Variants” struck a spark.  At one point headed half a dozen Street & Smith magazines e.g. Air TrailsCowboy StoriesDynamic AdventuresRomance Range.  Published half a dozen stories of his own.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  (Died 1956) [JH]
  • Born January 7, 1891 – Page Cooper.  World War II reporter.  Wrote books about horses and dogs including the fine Man o’ War.  For us she put eight poems in Weird Tales; two are quoted, more about her is told here.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born January 7, 1912 Charles Addams. Illustrator best known for the Addams Family which he first drew in 1932 and kept drawing until his death. Needless to say there have been a number of films using these characters of which The Addams Family is my favorite. Linda H. Davis’ Charles Addams: A Cartoonist’s Life is well worth seeking out and reading. (Died 1988.) (CE) 
  • Born January 7, 1924 – Col. Christine Haycock, M.D.  Nurse in World War II, first woman intern at Walter Reed Hospital, professor, graduate of U.S. Army War College, Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.  Olympic fencer, amateur radio, photography.  Married Sam Moskowitz; both were Guests of Honor at Disclave 9.  Treasurer of the Lunarians.  After SaM died, won the Moskowitz Archive Award.  American Medical Women’s Ass’n appreciation here.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born January 7, 1926 – Graham Stone.  Leading Australian fan, being also, as is often included, a bibliographer, collector, small-press publisher.  Notes on Australian SFAustralian SF Bibliography 1948-1999 (rev. 2010), Vol Molesworth’s History of Australian SF Fandom 1935-1963.  Correspondent of Riverside QuarterlySF ChronicleSF Commentary.  Bertram Chandler Award.  See here.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born January 7, 1948 – Jeannie DiModica, age 73.  Immortalized in Ginjer Buchanan’s “I’ve Had No Sleep and I Must Giggle”.  [JH]
  • Born January 7, 1950 Erin Gray, 71. She’s best known as Colonel Wilma Deering Buck Rogers in the 25th Century series. Would it surprise you that she shows up in as Commander Grey in Star Trek Continues, one of those video Trek fanfic? Well it certainly doesn’t surprise me at all. (CE) 
  • Born January 7, 1955 Karen Haber, 66. I fondly remember reading her Hugo nominated  Meditations on Middle Earth anthology, not to mention the three Universe anthologies she did with her husband Robert Silverberg which are most excellent. I don’t remember reading any of her novels but that’s hardly a certainty that I didn’t as even when my memory was a lot better than is now,  I hardly remembered all the genre fiction I’ve read. (CE) 
  • Born January 7, 1957 Nicholson Baker, 64. Ok ISFDB lists him as having two SFF novels, The Fermata and House of Holes. The Wiki page him lists those as being two out of the three erotic novels that he’s written. Not having read them, are they indeed erotic SFF? I see that ESF say they’re indeed SFF and yes are erotic. H’h. (CE) 
  • Born January 7, 1961 Mark Allen Shepherd, 60.  Morn, the bar patron on Deep Space Nine. Amazingly he was in Quark’s bar a total of ninety three episodes plus one episode each on Next Gen and Voyager. Technically he’s uncredited in almost all of those appearances. That’s pretty much his entire acting career. I’m trying to remember if he has any lines. He’s also an abstract painter whose work was used frequently on DS9 sets. (CE) 
  • Born January 7, 1966 Heidi Elizabeth Yolen Stemple, 55. Daughter of Jane Yolen, sister of Adam Stemple who was the vocalist of Boiled in Lead which mother wrote lyrics for. She and mother co-wrote the Mirror, Mirror: Forty Folktales for Mothers and Daughters to Share anthology which I highly recommend for your reading pleasureISFDBsays they did two chapbooks as well, A Kite for Moon and Monster Academy.  (CE) 
  • Born January 7, 1968 – Georgi Gospodinov, age 53.  A novel and a shorter story for us; other short stories, plays, screenplays, four books of poetry.  Angelus Award, Jan Michalski Prize, six Bulgarian awards.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Herman has an alien encounter with a short order cook.
  • Bizarro shows one step in a witch’s purchase of a new home.
  • Get Fuzzy has a disturbing example of cat litigation….

(14) ARG! Rabbit Rabbit provides “A Game Designer’s Analysis Of QAnon” on Medium.

I am a game designer with experience in a very small niche. I create and research games designed to be played in reality. I’ve worked in Alternate Reality Games (ARGs), LARPsexperience fictioninteractive theater, and “serious games”. Stories and games that can start on a computer, and finish in the real world. Fictions designed to feel as real as possible. Games that teach you. Puzzles that come to life all around the players. Games where the deeper you dig, the more you find. Games with rabbit holes that invite you into wonderland and entice you through the looking glass.

When I saw QAnon, I knew exactly what it was and what it was doing. I had seen it before. I had almost built it before. It was gaming’s evil twin. A game that plays people. (cue ominous music)

QAnon has often been compared to ARGs and LARPs and rightly so. It uses many of the same gaming mechanisms and rewards. It has a game-like feel to it that is evident to anyone who has ever played an ARG, online role-play (RP) or LARP before. The similarities are so striking that it has often been referred to as a LARP or ARG. However this beast is very very different from a game.

It is the differences that shed the light on how QAnon works and many of them are hard to see if you’re not involved in game development. QAnon is like the reflection of a game in a mirror, it looks just like one, but it is inverted.

First characteristic on the list:

Guided Apophenia

(15) KARMA CHAMELEON. “Rutgers engineers have created a new type of light-reacting hydrogel”SYFY Wire has the story.

Blending in with one’s immediate environment like the active camouflage technology used by the alien hunter in Predator would certainly have alarming applications in the real world, making the procurement of a free windmill cookie from the bulk food bin at grocery stores nearly undetectable.

But clever scientists and engineers at Rutgers University are eager to replicate that amazing invisibility ability by inventing a new type of 3D-printed stretchable material with the power to change color on demand. While the potentials for such shifting smart gels are limitless, the immediate goal is targeting an advanced method of military camouflage.

(16) SCREAMING HEADLINES. Here a high-definition re-upload of the late MF Doom’s supervillain-themed “All Caps” music video

(17) LOST WORLD, FOUND SFF. In “Revisiting The Lost World, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Rollicking Adventure Novel” on CrimeReads, Jon Lellenberg discusses why Doyle wrote The Lost World and explains his interest in sf. (Note: CrimeReads misspelled the author’s name which is Jon and not John.)

… In the end, Conan Doyle went in another direction, but did not lose his desire to write a “Rider Haggardy” novel. While he admired authors like George Meredith and Charles Reade and his own contemporary, Thomas Hardy, he preferred to write Romances and Adventures. Even being a doctor was a Romance to him, embraced in his “The Romance of Medicine” talk in 1910 at St. Mary’s Hospital, London, where his son Kingsley was a medical student. And the scientific consulting detective Sherlock Holmes’s investigations were Adventures as far as Conan Doyle was concerned, rather than Cases, or Mysteries.

By 1911, these tendencies collided with a regret over diminishing “blank spaces” on the world’s map. When a Lost World character remarks that “The big blank spaces in the map are all being filled up, and there’s no room for romance anywhere,” Conan Doyle was quoting himself anonymously, from a talk he’d given the year before at a luncheon honoring the Arctic explorer Robert Peary….

(18) WIRED FOR SOUND. Literary Hub introduces “Charlie Jane Anders Reads from Victories Greater Than Death” in the Storybound podcast. (“S3. Ep. 4: Charlie Jane Anders reads an excerpt from “Victories Greater Than Death”.)

Storybound is a radio theater program designed for the podcast age. Hosted by Jude Brewer and with original music composed for each episode, the podcast features the voices of today’s literary icons reading their essays, poems, and fiction.

On the fourth episode of the third season, Charlie Jane Anders reads an excerpt from Victories Greater Than Death, with sound design and music composition from Oginalii.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Spock’s Surprise Visit To The Carol Burnett Show” on YouTube shows a cameo that Leonard Nimoy made as Spock on the show in 1967.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/5/20 It’s A Flamin’ Platypus!

(1) WORLDWIDE SFF. The editor makes his pitch: “Celebrating International Speculative Fiction: Lavie Tidhar on The Best of World SF Anthology.

…I spent the past decade trying to pitch a simple idea to publishers: a mass market anthology of international speculative fiction for the bookstore shelf. The responses varied from, well, no response at all to an under-an-hour rejection (that one still hurts).

The idea is simple and, to me, both logical and necessary. I am of that new generation of writers who grew up in a language other than English, and who decided at some point that our way in is to write in this peculiar, second language. Somehow, we reasoned, against all odds and common sense, we’ll break through into that rarefied Anglophone world, maybe even make a go of it. After all, how hard could English be?

Many of the writers in The Best of World SF do indeed write in English as a second language. Others are translated, thanks to the tireless effort of passionate translators from around the world. As a sometimes translator myself, I know how rarely translators get acknowledged or, indeed, paid, and I made sure that they were paid the same for these stories as the authors themselves.

(2) CHILLING TRAILER. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina returns for Part 4 on December 31.

(3) FIND FANNISH PHOTOS. Carl Andor has a new site up with SF convention photos from 1973 through 2018 at thepacificoceanspeaksforitself.com

Hello and welcome! I initially created this website because costume.org’s “International Costumer’s Gallery” has been down for quite a while, and they only allowed me to post my costume photos. My convention photos include props, displays, celebrities, and sets, as well. Here, I’m able to post them all.

The gallery is accessible from this page.

This archive is a collection of convention and costume event photos going back to 1973. It includes Science Fiction conventions, Costume conventions, Costume College, and other events and exhibits. It will be added to over time, as the digitizing of negatives continues. The currently displayed photos are those that have been previously published on costume.org’s website, as well as photos not previously published. Since costume.org’s site is down for an indeterminate period of time, this will allow you access to my collection.

(4) BLOOM SINCE BRADBURY. The Guardian has an interview with 2011 Hugo finalist Rachel Bloom: “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Rachel Bloom: ‘Ten years ago, no one talked about a cultural problem in comedy’”.

On the day in April that Rachel Bloom finally took her newborn daughter home from the hospital, one of her best friends died. Her daughter had arrived with fluid in her lungs, into a maternity ward that was rapidly filling with furniture as other wards were transformed into Covid wards. Bloom, tired and elated to be home, had a nap. Her husband woke her with the news: Adam Schlesinger – the well-loved musician and one of Bloom’s closest collaborators on the musical-dramedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – had died from Covid-19 in a New York hospital, aged 52.

For a wild and strange period, it was unclear how to grieve. Schlesinger, like so many of this year’s dead, had no funeral. Jack Dolgen, the third part of the songwriting trio behind the TV show, came to mourn with Bloom, standing 15ft from her fence. Aline Brosh McKenna, the showrunner, stood in the street. “We didn’t know anything, there was no testing, we didn’t know how this thing spread,” Bloom says. “Now we have a Crazy Ex Zoom, where we all talk. But there’s nothing natural about it.”…

… Bloom was only 23 when her parody song Fuck Me Ray Bradbury went viral on YouTube, and just 26 when Brosh McKenna approached her for Crazy Ex. But she was already weathered enough by experience to know what she wanted on the set, particularly in the writers’ room. It “had to be nice”, she says. “People can’t be creative if they feel threatened. You need people saying random weird shit without feeling their boss will yell at them. And it worked. I think there has been an awakening of compassion, since, a reckoning with privilege.”

(5) VASTER THAN EMPIRES. “This Video Calculates How Huge STAR TREK’s Enterprise-D Is”Nerdist believes you want to know. And maybe you do! After all, I once figured out how tall a real-life Hugo rocket would be.

…EC Henry posted the video to YouTube, noting that even though everyone knows the Enterprise-D is big, it is, in fact, massive. And while that is, of course, a subjective assessment, relatively speaking it has to be true. In the video, EC says he used the enormous amounts of available data on the fictional ship to make his estimates. In fact, the nerdy artist (our description), used “comprehensive” blueprints of all 42 decks of the Enterprise-D. Which, while not canonical, still apparently provide realistic measurements.

(6) LANDER OBIT. Actor David Lander, best known as Laverne & Shirley’s “Squiggy,” died December 4 at the age of 73 reports Variety. He voiced many genre roles.

…As a voice actor, Lander was the voice behind Smart Ass in the 1988 Disney movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” and was credited as Stephen Lander in “Boo” and “Zino and the Snurks.” He also voiced Ch’p in the DC Comics animated movie, “Green Lantern: First Flight” in 2009.

Lander most recently voiced Rumpelstiltskin in Disney’s children’s show, “Goldie & Bear,” and Donnie the Shark in an episode of “SpongeBob Squarepants” in 2016.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVESARY.

  • In 1986, Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s The Illuminatus Trilogy consisting of The Eye in the PyramidThe Golden Apple and Leviathan would be selected for the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. All three novels were originally published eleven years earlier by Dell as separate novels with the trilogy coming out in 1984. It is his only win of six nominations for Prometheus Awards to date with The Illuminatus Trilogy being nominated twice.  The Schrödinger’s Cat trilogy has not been nominated to date. (CE)

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

December 5, 1945 “Aircraft Squadron Disappears in the Bermuda Triangle”.

…Two hours after the flight began, the leader of the squadron, who had been flying in the area for more than six months, reported that his compass and back-up compass had failed and that his position was unknown. The other planes experienced similar instrument malfunctions. Radio facilities on land were contacted to find the location of the lost squadron, but none were successful. After two more hours of confused messages from the fliers, a distorted radio transmission from the squadron leader was heard at 6:20 p.m., apparently calling for his men to prepare to ditch their aircraft simultaneously because of lack of fuel.

By this time, several land radar stations finally determined that Flight 19 was somewhere north of the Bahamas and east of the Florida coast, and at 7:27 p.m. a search and rescue Mariner aircraft took off with a 13-man crew. Three minutes later, the Mariner aircraft radioed to its home base that its mission was underway. The Mariner was never heard from again. Later, there was a report from a tanker cruising off the coast of Florida of a visible explosion seen at 7:50 p.m….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 5, 1830 – Christina Rossetti.  A novelette, a short story, two dozen poems for us, best known “Goblin Market”; much other work.  Applauded by Hopkins, Swinburne, Tennyson.  “In the Bleak Midwinter” set to music as a Christmas carol by Holst, later by Darke; “Love Came Down at Christmas” by many.  (Died 1894) [JH]
  • Born December 5, 1890 Fritz Lang. Metropolis of course, but also Woman in the Moon (German Frau im Mond) considered to be one of the first “serious” SF films. I saw Metropolis in one of those art cinemas in Seattle in the late Seventies. (Died 1976.) (CE) 
  • Born December 5, 1901 Walt Disney. With Ub Iwerks, he developed the character Mickey Mouse in 1928; he also provided the voice for his creation in the early years. During Disney’s lifetime his studio produced features such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), PinocchioFantasia (both 1940), Dumbo (1941), and Bambi (1942), Cinderella (1950) and Mary Poppins (1964), the latter of which received five Academy Awards. In 1955 he opened Disneyland. In the Fifties he also launched television programs, such as Walt Disney’s Disneyland and The Mickey Mouse Club. In 1965, he began development of another theme park, Disney World, and the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” (EPCOT). I’ll pick Fantasia as my favorite film that he’s responsible for though I’m also very fond of Cinderella and Mary Poppins. And, of course, there’s “The Three little Pigs” with the weird note about the father of the little pigs. (Died 1966.) (CE) 
  • Born December 5, 1936 James Lee Burke, 84. This is one of the listings by ISFDB that has me going “Eh?” as to it being genre. The Dave Robicheaux series has no SFF elements in it and despite the title, In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead, neither does that novel. The character makes it clear that it’s very, very likely he’s hallucinating. Great novel. (CE) 
  • Born December 5, 1941 – Jon DeCles, age 79.  Two novels, a dozen shorter stories; “Haiku Portraits” (under another name, with David McDaniel) reprinted in A Tolkien Treasury.  Portrayed Mark Twain, whom I thus met and conversed with, at ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon.  Knew Ben Bova at Milford.  See here.  [JH]
  • Born December 5, 1954 Betsy Wollheim, 66. President, co-Publisher and co-Editor-in-Chief of DAW Books. Winner, along with her co-Publisher and co-Editor-in-Chief Sheila E. Gilbert, of a Hugo Award for Long Form Editing. In the early Nineties, they won two Chesley Awards for best art direction. DAW is, despite being headquartered at Penguin Random House, a small private company, owned exclusively by its publishers. (CE)
  • Born December 5, 1961 – Nicholas Jainschigg, age 59.  A hundred covers, two hundred twenty interiors.  Here is the Feb 89 Asimov’s.  Here is the Dec 91 Amazing.  Here is Bears Discover Fire.  Here is Northern Stars.  Here is the Jul-Aug 99 Analog.  Here is an interior for “Still Life with Scorpions”.  Also card games, comics, landscapes, digital paleontology.  Gaughan Award.  Professor at Rhode Island College of Design.  “Amazing beauty can be found … between parking lots, between buildings.”  Website.  [JH]
  • Born December 5, 1969 – Erec Stebbins, Ph.D., age 51.  Microbiologist and SF author.  Three novels for us.  Mostly occupied as Head of the Division of Structural Biology of Infection and Immunity at the German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg.  [JH]
  • Born December 5, 1973 Christine Stephen-Daly, 47. Her unpleasant fate as Lt. Teeg on Farscape literally at the hands of her commanding officer Crais was proof if you still need it that this series wasn’t afraid to push boundaries. She was also Miss Meyers in the two part “Sky” story on The Sarah Jane Adventures. (CE) 
  • Born December 5, 1980 Gabriel Luna, 40. He plays Robbie Reyes who is the Ghost Rider rather perfectly in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. Rather much better I’d say than Nick Cage ever did in the films. He was also Terminator Rev-9 in Terminator: Dark Fate, and he did voice work for the Black Site: Area 51 video game. (CE)
  • Born December 5, 1986 – Amy DuBoff, age 34.  Ten novels, plus more with co-authors; a dozen shorter stories.  Norton finalist last year.  Proudly says some readers call her the modern Queen of Space Opera.  [JH]
  • Born December 5, 1988 Natasha Pulley, 32. She’s best known for her debut Victorian steampunk novel, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street which won a Betty Trask Award. She has two other novels, Her second novel, The Bedlam Stacks, was published in while her third, The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, is the sequel to her first novel. (CE)
  • Born December 5, 2002 – Caroline David, age 18.  With Peter David wrote Fearless, sequel to his Tigerheart.  She was 11 at the time but got full co-author credit.  Later she began sculpting (the word should really be sculping, but never mind for now) things like these.  [JH]

(10) FORGET SHERLOCK. Who was his favorite character? The Guardian has unearthed a photo of Arthur Conan Doyle cosplaying Professor Challenger: “The photo is the clue: Arthur Conan Doyle’s love for his Lost World hero”. See the photo at the link.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger, the fictional scientist and explorer who discovers a forgotten land of dinosaurs, went on to inspire a string of adventure films, including Jurassic Park. He was a headstrong and irascible antihero, but there is now proof he also served as his creator’s literary alter ego.

The evidence of handwritten notes and amendments, laid out this week with the first publication of the full manuscript of Conan Doyle’s original and most famous Challenger story, The Lost World, show the author not only posed for a photograph of himself dressed as the professor, but also initially gave the character his own age and address.

Conan Doyle spent much of his writing career distancing himself from his best-known creation, Sherlock Holmes, and his family later spoke of the great detective as “a curse”. Yet it seems Conan Doyle was happy to be confused with Challenger….

… Conan Doyle even persuaded his friends to join him in posing for a mocked-up photograph of the story’s imaginary expedition team. They appear grouped around a table before they set off for a hidden mountain plateau above the Amazon river in search of creatures from the Jurassic age. Conan Doyle hoped the image of himself in a fake beard and bushy eyebrows would give his story an air of authenticity, but the editor refused to print it.

(11) MAY IN DECEMBER. Arthur Conan Doyle wasn’t the only 19th century author cosplaying his own characters. Karl May did it, too: “The Life of Armchair Adventurer Karl May”, a photo gallery at Der Spiegel.

Karl May, who died 100 years ago, was an impostor, a liar and a thief — and one of Germany’s most widely read authors. He embellished his own biography with as much fantasy as the scenarios in his adventure novels, and when the deceit was finally exposed, he never recovered. But his legend lives on. Here, May dressed as his cowboy character Old Shatterhand.

(12) FULL OF STARS. “The Astronomical Beadwork of Margaret Nazon” at WCC Digest.

…But it wasn’t until 2009, when Nazon’s partner showed her images sent back from the Hubble Space Shuttle Program, that she reached her astronomical epiphany: what if she beaded the stars? Turns out, the different sized and colored beads were the perfect medium to depict the twirls, swirls, and clouds of supernovas, galaxies, black holes, and other out-of-this-world phenomena.

(13) SALAD AD ASTRA. NASA Harvested Radishes on the International Space Station” reports Food & Wine.

…On Monday, American astronaut Kate Rubins plucked 20 radish plants from the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) on the International Space Station (ISS), wrapping them in foil and placing them in cold storage until it’s time for their return trip home on SpaceX’s 22nd Commercial Resupply Services mission in 2021. According to a NASA fact sheet, 11 experiments have been completed growing veggies for human consumption as part of this program—from ‘Outredgeous’ red romaine lettuce in 2015 to Mizuna mustard last year. NASA says radishes made for a logical next step as they mature in less than a month and have a “sensitive bulb formation” which allows for analysis of CO2 effects and mineral acquisition and distribution.

(14) DRONING OVERHEAD. “Police Drones Are Starting to Think for Themselves” – don’t take the New York Times’ headline literally – yet.

…Each day, the Chula Vista police respond to as many as 15 emergency calls with a drone, launching more than 4,100 flights since the program began two years ago. Chula Vista, a Southern California city with a population of 270,000, is the first in the country to adopt such a program, called Drone as First Responder.

…Shield AI, a start-up in San Diego that has worked with police departments, has developed a drone that can fly into a building and inspect the length and breadth of the premises on its own, with no pilot, in the dark as well as in daylight. Others, including Skydio and DJI, a company in China that makes the drones launched from the roof of the Chula Vista Police Department, are building similar technology.

The Chula Vista department treats drone video much as it does video from police body cams, storing footage as evidence and publicly releasing it only with approval, Capt. Don Redmond said. The department does not use drones for routine patrols.

For privacy advocates like Mr. Stanley of the A.C.L.U., the concern is that increasingly powerful technology will be used to target parts of the community — or strictly enforce laws that are out of step with social norms.

“It could allow law enforcement to enforce any area of the law against anyone they want,” Mr. Stanley said.

Drones, for instance, could easily be used to identify people and restrict activity during protests like those that have been so prevalent across the country in recent months. Captain Redmond said the Chula Vista department did not deploy drones over Black Lives Matters protests because its policies forbade it.

(15) THE BIRDS. “The beauty of starling murmurations – in pictures” – a photo gallery in The Guardian.

Copenhagen-based Søren Solkær , best known for taking photographic portraits of big names in music and film such as Björk and David Lynch, has spent the past four years capturing starling murmurations. Inspired by traditional Japanese landscape painting and calligraphy, these stunning photographs are collected in a new book, Black Sun.

“The starlings move as one unified organism that vigorously opposes any outside threat. A strong visual expression is created, like that of an ink drawing or a calligraphic brush stroke, asserting itself against the sky,” says Solkær.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “I’m Flying” from the 1960 TV Version of Peter Pan is an excerpt from a musical broadcast on NBC featuring Mary Martin as Peter Pan, with choreography by Jerome Robbins and a song by Carolyn Leigh and Moose Charlap.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cora Buhlert, Mike Kennedy, Contrarius, Jeff Smith, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Carl Andor, Cath Jackel, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 11/20/20 Trapped In A Pixel He Never Scrolled

(1) “THE FUTURE WAS SO BAD.” “HOW BAD WAS IT?” The Library of Congress’ National Book Festival Blog introduces “2020 National Book Festival Highlights: Dystopian Worlds”.

Why is it that some of us love dystopian novels, the kind of fiction that takes a dim, bleak view of the future? Is it because writers of this genre show us how bad things can become if we aren’t careful? Or that we can feel better about the current state of affairs because they aren’t nearly as bad as the book’s scenario?

The “Dystopian Worlds” conversation at the 2020 National Book Festival featured Dark Star trilogy novelist Marlon James, who spoke with sci-fi/fantasy writer Jeff VanderMeer. James’s most recent novel is “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” (Riverhead), and VanderMeer’s is “A Peculiar Peril” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Everdeen Mason, senior audience editor of The Washington Post, moderated and, in her words, is an “occasional book critic.”

(2) BLOOM’S FINAL LE GUIN APPRECIATION. “The Strange Friendships of Ursula K. Le Guin’s ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’” in The New Yorker is an essay was drawn from The Bright Book of Life: Novels to Read and Reread by Harold Bloom (d. 2019), out this month.

…Though I have written about “The Left Hand of Darkness” before, in 1987 and again in 2000, I have forgotten what I said and do not want to consult it now, but, rather, make a fresh start on this marvellous romance. In one of her letters, Ursula remarked that writing “The Dispossessed” was liberating for her, and she seemed to prefer it to “The Left Hand of Darkness.” Rereading both, I find myself torn between the two. The protagonist, Shevek, in “The Dispossessed,” is far more interesting than anyone in the earlier book, and yet he and his story manifest something of the ambivalence of Le Guin’s subtitle: “An Ambiguous Utopia.”

In a fierce introduction to “The Left Hand of Darkness,” Le Guin charmingly remarks, “A novelist’s business is lying.” She adumbrates:

“I talk about the gods; I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth.

“The only truth I can understand or express is, logically defined, a lie. Psychologically defined, a symbol. Aesthetically defined, a metaphor.”

Always in Le Guin we hear reverberations of Lao Tzu’s “Tao Te Ching,” which she translated, with J. P. Seaton, as “A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way” (1997). We corresponded about her understanding of the Tao, yet I had to confess my permanent difficulty in absorbing this way that is not a way. I myself always keep to hand a copy of “The Bhagavad-Gita” as rendered by Barbara Stoler Miller, which I purchased in the autumn of 1986, the year of its publication. After hundreds of readings, I think I know what Krishna means by “dark inertia,” “passion,” and “lucidity,” but a dozen readings of the Le Guin-Seaton “Tao Te Ching” have left me muttering that I do not apprehend the water and stone of the Way. Is it that I am not enough open to my own female component? That seems not right. I am more my late mother than my late father. What moves me most in Ursula is the serenity. I lack it utterly….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to loaf around with A.C. Wise in Episode 132 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast as they nibble — she on chocolate zucchini bread and he on cherry pecan bread.

A.C. Wise

Wise is a two-time finalist for the Nebula Award, two-time finalist for the Sunburst Award, and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Plus she’s won the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Her fiction has appeared in UncannyTor.comShimmer, and multiple Year’s Best anthologies. Her work can also be found in two collections, The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again and The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories, both published with Lethe Press. Her debut novel, Wendy, Darling, will be out from Titan Books in June 2021, and a new short story collection, The Ghost Sequences, will be published by Undertow Books next August.

We discussed how her first professionally published fiction ended up printed on a coffee can, the 24-hour challenge which led to the creation of her Lambda Award-nominated collection, which comic book character obsesses her the most, how individual stories can act as commentary on all stories, why she enjoys wielding the power of ambiguity, how workshopping with other writers can help make stories better, what The Queen’s Gambit can teach us about dealing with reader expectations, the unexpected way a flash fiction piece turned into her first novel, and much more

(4) SLF WANTS ENTRIES FOR ILLUSTRATION OF THE YEAR. The Speculative Literature Foundation is making an open call for original artwork combining fantasy and science fiction themes, to be featured as its cover art (Illustrationof the Year or Artwork) for 2021.

Artwork will be displayed on the Speculative Literature Foundation’s (SLF) website and social media accounts. Artwork will also be used as a visual element of SLF’s marketing material and swag, including but not limited to, bookmarks, pins, posters, etc., and may be cropped or otherwise minimally altered to fit these different formats.

The winning artist will receive $500.00 (USD) and will be announced, along with the selected Artwork, on SLF’s website and in a press release.

This is the SLF’s second international open call for Illustration of the Year, and the fourth consecutive year that it has featured an illustration. The SLF, founded in 2004 by author and creative writing professor Mary Anne Mohanraj, is a global non-profit arts foundation serving the speculative literature (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) community. It provides resources to speculative fiction writers, editors, illustrators, and publishers, and aims to develop a greater public appreciation of this art.

Submission Dates: November 20, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. through December 20, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.

Criteria: Each artist (Artist) may submit one (1) artwork for consideration. The artwork may be created digitally or by hand (no photography). The subject matter must combine fantasy and science fiction elements as well as incorporate SLF’s literary focus. All artwork must be submitted in both jpeg and pdf formats. Aspect ratio must work for the website banner, being at least 1500 points wide, and 400-500 points high. Final resolution for print must be at least 11 inches wide and 300 dpi. Files are limited to 10MB.

Submit artwork to development@speculativeliterature.org, including your name, email address, phone number and short bio.

(5) DON’T INVITEMS. LitHub’s Chris Gosden explains “Why Harry Houdini DID NOT Like Arthur Conan Doyle”.

… Later in 1924 Houdini wrote a book exposing mediums and their activities at séances—A Magician among the Spirits.

Houdini’s position was complex and interesting. The greatest illusionist of the last century became the great debunker of illusions. Conversely, Houdini was keen to stress the physical skill and strength that formed the basis for his act and to reveal the tricks employed by others, many of whom claimed not to be tricksters. Houdini himself became the subject of myth-making, seen by some as having shamanistic powers; and Conan Doyle was not alone in considering Houdini to be a magician, a view expressed in his book The Edge of the Unknown (1930).

Conan Doyle’s two-volume work The History of Spiritualism (1926) was an argument for the veracity and validity of the spiritualist movement, citing, among many other cases, the Davenport brothers and the Spirit Cabinet as an instance when people were able to summon spirits.

Important issues were contained in the disagreements between Houdini and Doyle that resonated elsewhere. First was the issue of evidence and how different people were either convinced by, or skeptical of, exactly the same set of events, such as the activities within the Davenports’ Spirit Cabinet. The creator of the arch-empiricist and logician, Sherlock Holmes, was famously credulous. Houdini took a lot to be convinced of other-worldly phenomena.

Deeper issues were also involved, concerning the nature of the person and of reality more broadly. Were people divided into body and spirit, with the latter surviving the death of the body? As skepticism concerning religious belief grew, so did doubts about life after death, which in turn threw notions of the composition of the person into doubt—perhaps people did not have souls or some form of immaterial reality?…

(6) THE G.O.A.T. In “An Oral History of ‘Marge vs The Monorail’, the Episode That Changed ‘The Simpsons'” on Vice, Sean Cole interviews the people involved in “Marge vs. The Monorail,” which many think is the greatest episode of The Simpsons.  The episode was written by Conan O’Brien, directed by Rich Moore (who won an Oscar for Zootopia) and had guest spots by Phil Hartman and Leonard Nimoy.

Jeff Martin: Mindless groupthink is a recurrent theme on The Simpsons, and I think the monorail episode is the best – and certainly my favourite – example of Springfield mob mentality. Watching the episode, I decided to go ahead and time it. From Lanley whistling in the back of the auditorium to the entire town marching on the town hall steps singing “Monorail!” is a little less than two minutes. I think it took Harold Hill at least four minutes to whip up River City.

Rich Moore: That musical number was almost harder to pull off than the whole third act climax. I’d done “A Streetcar Named Marge” before. That was a big musical spectacular, so it felt like, ‘Okay, we’re going to have to pull off what we did on that episode.’ That’s hard to do when you’re not working under the same roof as the animators. We would send a very complete blueprint, with all the key posing and animation timing, to Korea [where the bulk of animation is done by a studio called AKOM], but there was a bit of crossing your fingers and hoping, since you’re not there in the room to direct them. Everything is being communicated through instructions on exposure sheets, which have been translated from English to Korean.

Jeff Martin: Every single word of the monorail song was unchanged from Conan’s first draft, which is impressive. My niche on the show in those days was to actually write the tunes to the songs. I wrote a bunch of songs, so I was assigned to set the monorail song to music. It’s sort of like, “Bum, bum, bum, bum. I think I’m done!” It’s barely a song. It’s just sort of a rhythm and “Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!” The notion that Conan and I co-wrote that song is laughable. I’ve told Conan over the years that he had his part in that song. Elton John, meaning me, needs Bernie Taupin, meaning him.

(7) VOSS OBIT. Actor Philip Voss has died of COVID-19 at the age of 84. The Guardian ran anoverview of his career.

…His television career had begun in the first (1963) season of Doctor Who, with William Hartnell, as Acomat, the leader of Mongolian bandits, in the Marco Polo story, and as a young Dulcian, Wahed, a humanoid pacifist killed by Quarks, a few years later, with Patrick Troughton as the second doctor. His last television role was as Ian McKellen’s acid-tongued brother, Mason, in the sitcom Vicious (2013-16).

In the late 1970s he was also a member of the BBC Radio Drama Company, working with the directors Jane Morgan and Celia De Wolff, in subsequent years, on The Lord of the Rings (he was Lord of the Nazgûl)… On film, he popped up in Octopussy (1983) with Roger Moore as James Bond, Trevor Nunn’s Lady Jane (1986), Bob Rafelson’s Mountains of the Moon (1990) and as Laura’s father in Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994).

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1980 — Forty years ago, Roger Zelazny would win the Balrog Award for “The Last Defenders of Camelot”. It was originally published in Asimov’s SF Adventure Magazine, Summer 1979. The Balrog Award were a set of awards given annually from 1979 to 1985 for the best works and achievements of genre fiction in the previous year. You knew what they were named after. The awards were originally announced by editor Jonathan Bacon in Issue #15 of Fantasy Crossroads and presented at the Fool-Con II convention on April Fool’s Day, 1979. Bacon says that they were not to considered serious awards. 

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • November 20, 1964 The First Men in the Moon premiered. It’s an adaptation by screenwriter Nigel Kneale of H. G. Wells novel of the same name. It was produced by Charles H. Schneer, and directed by Nathan Juran. It  starred Edward Judd, Martha Hyer and Lionel Jeffries. Ray Harryhausen of course did the special effects with sculptor Bryan Kneale constructing the Selenites from Harryhausen’s designs. With the exception of the grinch critic at the New York Times, critics loved it, though it was a box-office bomb which Harryhausen thought was the fault of too much comedy in the script. It holds a respectable sixty-seven percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 20, 1858 – Selma Lagerlöf.  Nine novels, a score of shorter stories for us, many others of each outside our field.  First woman to win Nobel Prize in Literature; given “in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination, and spiritual perception that characterize her writings”.  (Died 1940) [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1923 – Len Moffatt.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 25.  Forry Award (for life contribution to SF; given to pros and fans, some people are both).  With wife June, Fan GoH at Loscon 8; TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegates, publishing The Moffatt House Abroad; Evans-Freehafer Award (for service to L.A. Science Fantasy Society); fanzine Moonshine; L & J and I published Button-Tack (memorial zine for Rick Sneary – rhymes with “sherry”); L & J posthumously in First Fandom Hall of Fame.  My appreciation of Len here.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1926 John Gardner. Author of more Bond novels that one would think possible. He’d write fourteen original James Bond novels, more than Fleming wrote, and the novelized versions of two Bond films. He also dip into the Sherlock universe, writing three novels around the character of Professor Moriarty. Rights to film them were optioned but never developed. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born November 20, 1929 Jerry Hardin, 91. He’s best known for playing Deep Throat on The X-Files. He’s also been on Quantum Leap, StarmanBrimstone and Strange World, plus he was in the Doomsday Virus miniseries. And he made a rather good Samuel Clemens in the two part “Time’s Arrow” story on Next Gen. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1932 Richard Dawson. Usually one appearance in a genre film or show isn’t enough to make the Birthday list but he was Damon Killian on The Running Man, a juicy enough role to ensure his making this list, and twenty years earlier he was Joey on Munster, Go Home! He’d voiceLong John Silver on an animated Treasure Island film in the Seventies as well. And he had a one-off on the classic Fantasy Island. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1936 – Don DeLillo, 84.  A dozen novels, half as many shorter stories, for us; four other novels, a score of other shorter stories, plays, a screenplay.  Nat’l Book Award, PEN/Faulkner Award (Poets, Essayists, Novelists), PEN / Saul Bellow Award, Lib’y of Congress Award.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1944 Molly Gloss, 76. She received the Otherwise Award for her Wild Life novel, and nominated for another one for The Dazzle of Day novel.  Much of her excellent short stories are collected in the recently released Unforeseen which along with her two genre novels are available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1950 – Donita Paul, 70.  A dozen novels.  Romances and juveniles under another name.  Why shouldn’t a Christian author write of dragons – what about St. George? [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1956 Bo Derek, 64. She makes the Birthday list for being Jane Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man. There’s also Ghosts Can’t Do It and Horror 101 as wellas the two Sharknado films she just did. (CE)
  • Born November 20, 1959 Sean Young, 61. Rachael and her clone in the original Blade Runner and the sequel. More intriguingly she played Chani in Dune. A bit old for the role, wasn’t she? She was the lead, Helen Hyde, in Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde. And she’s a Trekkie as she was in the Star Trek: Renegades video fanfic pilot as Dr. Lucien. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1972 – Cerece Rennie Murphy, 48.  Seven novels, one shorter story.  Ardent fan of John Donne, Alice Walker, Kurt Vonnegut, and Alexander Pope from an early age.  A 2nd Grade teacher applauds a CRM book for children, “I have struggled to find books with African-American characters who are not stereotyped or set in a time period of racial struggle.”  [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1980 – Ignacio Bazán Lazcano, 40.  Illustrator and conceptual artist.  Here is Beneath Ceaseless Skies 101.  Here is The Fall of Io.  Here is Welcome.  Here is an astronaut.  Here is a robot bartender.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Rich Horton says this Rhymes With Orange reminded him of Howard Waldrop’s first sale (to Analog! Possibly even to Campbell!) — “Lunchbox”.

(12) GREAT DAYS OF ANIMATION. Join legendary animator Glen Keane, director of Over The Moon, for a virtual retrospective conversation with filmmaker and animator Sergio Pablos. Free event on Saturday, December 5 at 7:30 p.m. Pacific. Register here.

A 38-year veteran of Walt Disney Feature Animation, Glen Keane trained under Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men. Keane went on to create many beloved Disney characters such as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Beast, Tarzan, and Rapunzel. In 2012, Keane departed Disney to begin Glen Keane Productions as a way to further his artistic explorations in animation, design, and film. He has since gone on to collaborate with Google, the Paris Ballet, and Kobe Bryant. In 2017, he animated and directed the Academy Award-winning animated film “Dear Basketball” in collaboration with legends Kobe Bryant and John Williams. Most recently, he directed OVER THE MOON, now available on Netflix.

(13) A STARCHY PARABLE. [Item by rcade.] The AmITheAsshole subreddit is a place for people to find out whether they’ve done something to someone else that makes them an asshole.

A woman asked: “AITA for “ruining” the rice that my boyfriend cooks with by consolidating the multiple bags of rice which he claims are “different” into a single container?”

Here’s where it becomes fodder for File 770. Commenter SelectNetwork1 has responded in the form of a fairy tale in this thread. [There are now over 4K comments, and it took OGH 10 minutes to find it again, so we’re just going to quote it in full.]

Once there was a princess who always wanted things her way. There were three bags of rice in the kitchen and every day she asked, why can’t all the rice be in the same bag? They are all the same.” And every day her boyfriend replied, “They look the same to you because you only look at them from a distance, but they are not the same. They won’t cook right if they’re mixed together.”

One day, the princess’s boyfriend went away for the weekend, leaving the princess home alone. The three bags of rice sitting were all she could think about. They are the same! she thought, over and over. Why are they not in the same bag together! At last she could stand it no more. She went to the kitchen, found a single, big container, and dumped all three bags of rice into it. Then she shook it very hard so the grains would mix. There, now all the rice is together, she thought. At last, she was at peace.

A few hours later, there was a knock at the door. The princess went to answer it, and on the front step was a mysterious woman. “Did you mix three bags of rice all together?” asked the mysterious woman. “They were all the same, they belonged in one bag,” said the princess. The mysterious woman seemed to grow to a hundred feet tall! The princess cowered, and let out a squeak. She covered her eyes with her hands, and realized her hands were paws! She had been turned into a mouse.

The mysterious woman picked her up and put the mouse princess on her shoulder. The mouse princess clung to her shirt as the mysterious woman went into the house and walked straight to the kitchen. She took the big bag of rice and dumped it out on the kitchen table, then gently lifted the mouse princess off her shoulder and set her down beside the rice, which towered above her mouse head like a mountain. “Do you wish to become a human princess again?” the mysterious woman asked, and the mouse princess nodded and squeaked. “Then you must separate these grains of rice that you have mixed together. Only then will you return to your true form.”

The mouse princess stared up at the mountain of rice: it was too large to contemplate, and the rice was all the same! It seemed like an impossible task. She turned back to the mysterious woman, but she had vanished: the kitchen was empty.

For a while, the mouse princess sulked. Eventually, she got bored, and picked up a grain of rice between her paws. “It’s just rice, it’s all the same,” she tried to say, but it came out as “squeak.” She put it aside, and picked up another grain of rice. “See, just rice?” she tried to say, but that, too, came out as “squeak.” This grain was heavier than the first one, and she looked more closely at it. The first grain was long and thin, and this one was a little shorter, and fatter at the middle. She pawed through the pile and came up with another: this grain was shorter and fatter still. “They are not the same!” she tried to exclaim, but it came out as “Squeak!”

The mouse princess contemplated the mountain of rice, and for the first time since she had been turned into a mouse by the mysterious stranger, she felt a little hope. She took the three grains of rice and set them down in three corners of the table, then went back to the mountain of rice and began to take it apart, one grain at a time.

The longer she worked, the easier it became. After a while, she didn’t have to examine the grains to tell them apart, she could see the difference as soon as she as much as glanced at them. She worked until she was exhausted, then she fell asleep on a pile of rice, and woke up again a few hours later to begin working again. She worked and slept, worked and slept, and worked again.

After three days and three nights, the mouse princess was finished. As soon as she pushed the last grain of rice into its pile, she felt as if the room were shrinking around her! She leapt off the table before she could spill the rice, and landed on the floor on her human feet.

Just as she was getting her bearings, she heard the front door open. Her boyfriend was home! She swiftly found the original bags and swept the three piles of rice into their three separate containers. Just as she set the last bag of rice on the table, her boyfriend walked into the room. When he saw the bags of rice, he sighed. “I’ve told you before, they are not the same just because they look the same to you,” he said. The princess smiled. “I know,” she said. “All the rice looked the same to me when I looked at them only from a distance; now I have looked closer, and I understand that each rice is unique.”

The human princess’s boyfriend looked surprised, but happy. “I’ll start making dinner,” he said. “What kind of rice would you like to eat?”

“The medium-length one,” the princess said. “But rinse it carefully… I think I saw a mouse around here somewhere.”

(14) STAY FROSTY. Variety peeks behind the curtain as “George Clooney Navigates Two Worlds in Sci-Fi Drama ‘The Midnight Sky’”.

Netflix’s sci-fi drama “The Midnight Sky,” set for release next month, will see George Clooney as a scientist in the Arctic trying to protect a little girl, and prevent a group of astronauts from coming back home after a global catastrophe.

“It’s two different worlds; we were basically saying we were going to shoot ‘The Revenant’ and stop, and then shoot ‘Gravity,’” said Clooney about his seventh feature as a director during an online seminar at EnergaCamerimage Film Festival dedicated to “The Midnight Sky,” an adaptation of Lily Brooks-Dalton novel “Good Morning, Midnight.” He was accompanied by the film’s cinematographer Martin Ruhe.

“Usually, when space movies are shot, up is up and down is down, and that’s not exactly how it works. In ‘Gravity,’ the camera was constantly rotating. We wanted to keep the idea of the horizon being different, without making everyone throw up along the way. But our first conversation was: ‘How do we shoot winter’?,” said Clooney, mentioning that while two-thirds of Earthbound sequences were shot in Iceland, one-third was completed on the sound stage, “which was as cold as Iceland for some reason!,” he said.

(15) A LITTLE GAFFE. “Star Wars: The Mandalorian Has Its Own Game of Thrones Coffee Cup Blunder” in “Chapter 12: The Seige.”

…For the second time on The Mandalorian, an on-set mistake has been noticed, reminding fans of the infamous coffee cup on Game of Thrones. Photo at the link.

Without giving too much away, this episode sees Mando and Baby Yoda return to Nevarro, where Din Djarrin reunites with Greef Carga and Cara Dune to shut down an old Imperial base on the planet. While they’re working through the base, getting into a shootout with a few stormtroopers, a pretty obvious mistake can be noticed in the background….

In the back-left corner of the frame, a man can be seen that clearly isn’t a part of the Star Wars universe. He’s wearing a t-shirt, blue jeans, and a watch. You can only see the left side of his body, and his head is thankfully out of the frame, but it’s still very noticeable.

(16) LAST LIGHTNING. People reports “The CW’s Black Lightning to End with Season 4”.

Black Lightning is coming to an end, the CW announced Friday.

The superhero drama will conclude with its upcoming fourth season, set to premiere in February 2021. Though the network did not give a reason for the series’ end, showrunner Salim Akil released a statement thanking the cast, crew and fans.

“When we first started the Black Lighting journey, I knew that Jefferson Pierce and his family of powerful Black women would be a unique addition to the superhero genre,” the statement said, according to Entertainment Weekly.

He continued, “The love that Blerds and all comic book fans around the globe have shown this series over the past three seasons proved what we imagined: Black people want to see themselves in all their complexities.”

(17) NIGHT OF THE GAS GIANTS, Mental Floss urges everyone, “Don’t Miss Saturn And Jupiter’s Great Conjunction on the Winter Solstice” on December 21.

In 2020, skygazers were treated to meteor showers, a new comet, and a Halloween blue moon. One of the last major astronomical events of the year is set to fall on the night of the winter solstice. On December 21, look up to catch Saturn in conjunction with Jupiter.

WHAT IS THE CONJUNCTION OF SATURN AND JUPITER?

In astronomy, a conjunction occurs when two planets appear exceptionally close in the night sky. Two of our solar system’s gas giants will share a celestial “kiss” on the longest night of the year. The rare meeting of Saturn and Jupiter is known as the “great conjunction” by astronomers.

(18) A MODEST DESIGN PROPOSAL. The election coverage is winding down, so here’s what Fox News has moved on to: “Grow-your-own human steaks meal kit is not ‘technically’ cannibalism, makers say”.

…A “DIY meal kit” for growing steaks made from human cells was recently nominated for “design of the year” by the London-based Design Museum.

Named the Ouroboros Steak after the circular symbol of a snake eating itself tail-first, the hypothetical kit would come with everything one needs to use their own cells to grow miniature human meat steaks.

“People think that eating oneself is cannibalism, which technically this is not,” Grace Knight, one of the designers, told Dezeen magazine.

(19) THAT’S NO MOON! The Planetary Society pointed readers to NASA’s story “Earth May Have Captured a 1960s-Era Rocket Booster”. This one’s not a conjunction – it’s just regular junk.

Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory were puzzled over Earth’s newest moon: an object in orbit around the Earth, temporarily captured by our planet’s gravity. Tracing the object’s trajectory back through time, they discovered it came from Earth itself in 1966, when NASA launched Surveyor 2 to the Moon. The object is likely the rocket’s upper stage.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/30/19 The Past Is Long And Full Of Writers

(1) BACK IN THE SHED. The tower for Artemis is being hauled under cover: “Kennedy Space Center bracing for Hurricane Dorian”.

NASA civil servants and contractors at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida are bracing for high winds and rain from Hurricane Dorian. Ahead of the storm, they are securing rocket stages, spacecraft assembly areas and even hauling a 6.7-million-pound mobile launch tower, designed for the huge rocket being built for the Artemis moon program, back to the cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building for safekeeping.

The 355-foot-tall gantry structure, carried atop a squat Apollo-era crawler-transporter, is scheduled to begin the 4.2-mile trip from launch complex 39B back to the protection of the VAB at dawn Friday — a journey that’s expected to take more than eight hours to complete.

(2) DUBLIN UP. Two more Worldcon write-ups.

Noelle Ameijenda, in “The Fantastic comes Home”, tells how she juggled attending and working the con:

Thursday (15th August) was the first full day – I spent a while in the morning doing some running for the Chair’s office  – up and down the elevator with bits and pieces – highly important bits and pieces, of course! Then I got to attend two brilliant panels –  ‘Invasions and the Irish Imagination’ and ‘When scientists write science fiction’ – before a quick bite for lunch with my friend Karina, and then a 3-hour Writers’ Workshop with the amazing Diane Duane. What was great about this workshop was the amazing DD, and the other fantastic participants – I made 2 lovely new friends  – Eliana all the way from Paraguay, and Caoilfhionn from Kilkenny – we hung out at the bar lots together. There was an ‘interesting’ bit in the middle of the workshop when I was terribly rude and had to answer a phone call from my Featured Artist, Jim, who was having technical difficulties at his presentation – SO SO sorry to interrupt the flow of the workshop, but we got it sorted.  The opening ceremony then was great, including the Retro Hugos. And seeing 3 members of my (real-life, work) company onstage with the rousing choir at the close : ‘where the strawberry fields…’.

Sara at Not Another Book Blogger penned one of the sweetest conreports I ever saw: “Dublin 2019 My First WorldCon”. Lots of photos of her and her kids.

GRRM The Irish Connection with Colm Lundberg (Moderator) William Simpson, Peadar O’Guilin and Parris McBride Martin. It was a really enjoyable panel on their Irish Connections and great to have it confirmed that Westeros is indeed a map of Ireland upside down!

Afterwards he walked right by me and I said hello which is probably the closest I’ll ever get to him! We got chatting with William Simpson who is absolutely lovely, very passionate about climate change as is Abigail. William drew all of the storyboards for Game of Thrones and while we were chatting he drew a dragon for Abigail in her notebook! So very cool.

(3) NEXT YEAR’S WORLDCON. CoNZealand invites everyone to view their promotional video from the Dublin 2019 closing ceremony, featuring their Author Guests of Honour, Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon, NZ Artist Guest of Honour, Greg Broadmore, and special guests, Tania Taylor, Sir Richard Taylor, and the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern.

(4) KEEP COOL WITH THE CREW. Don’t we all need one of these for Christmas? — “Star Stre V Auto Sun Shades”.

(5) THANK YOU. Mike Resnick posted another update to his GoFundMe “Help Mike Resnick pay off a near-death experience”.

“I just want to thank all the people who have contributed to my GoFundMe appeal. I’m still weak, but I can walk about 50 feet without a cane or a walker. Carol and I have been overwhelmed by your numbers, and by the absolute love we read in your messages. I’m back to work — not as fast as I’d wish — but I did sell 3 short stories in the last two weeks, so at least you know your good wishes and outporing of affection aren’t going into a black hole. I have been moved beyond belief.”

The donations passed $19,000 today.

(6) ROBOTS AND KNIGHTS. Jewish in Seattle recently published two items of interest to Filers. The first is a short story entitled “Next Year In” by Merridawn Duckler. It won the magazine’s short story competition.

…The day of Team meeting for the spring robot fashion launch, it was raining hard. Other protectorates have man-made precipitation but here in New Cascadia we still have the real thing, from little eyelash dusters, to the full, sideways sliding downpour. I like real rain. I’ve experienced the human-made stuff and it’s just not the same; too uniform, each drop perfect, dries too fast. Plus, it stops. Still, I complain about the rain like everyone else. The last thing we need is for more people to emigrate here…. 

The second is “How Yiddish Writers Influenced Arthurian Legend” by Emily Boynton, a non-fiction article.

…And Yiddish? One Arthurian figure, Wigalois, has piqued the interest of Annegret Oehme, a University of Washington assistant professor of Germanics who specializes in pre-modern literatures and languages. She argues that the story of Wigalois (pronounced vee-gah-loy) is an intercultural production between medieval German and Jewish societies. Not only does Wigalois appear in Yiddish, but Oehme argues that it interacted with and influenced Germanic versions of the story.

“It’s really important to see that the Jewish community was familiar with courtly literature, they participated with transmission, and didn’t just read and produce religious texts,” Oehme says.

The son of prominent Arthurian knight Gawain, Wigalois grows up in a fairylike land with his mother before setting off to find his father in Camelot. While at court, he accepts the quest of a maiden seeking aid for her kingdom, which is under siege. Battling dragons and giants along the way, Wigalois successfully defeats the usurper and frees the kingdom, becomes a knight, and marries a princess.

The tale packs enough action for an HBO series, yet Oehme argues the real stakes of the story lie in what it tells us about early modern Yiddish culture….

(7) HINES’ SAD ANNOUNCEMENT. Jim C. Hines told Facebook readers that his wife, Amy, died yesterday after a nine-month fight with cancer. Read more on Facebook.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 30, 1797 Mary Shelley. Author of the Gothic novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus which I’ll admit that I’ve not read. Who here has read it? It certainly has spawned a multiverse of novels and films since it came, some quite good, some quite bad. (Died 1851.)
  • Born August 30, 1896 Raymond Massey. In 1936, he starred in Things to Come, a film adaptation by H.G. Wells of his own novel The Shape of Things to Come. Other than several appearances on Night Gallery forty years later, that’s it for genre appearances. (Died 1983.)
  • Born August 30, 1942 Judith Moffett, 77. She won the first Theodore Sturgeon Award  with her story “Surviving” and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer at the Nolacon II for her Pennterra novel. Asimov wrote an introduction for the book and published it under his Isaac Asimov Presents series. 
  • Born August 30, 1943 Robert Crumb, 76. He’s here because ISFDB lists him as the illustrator of The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick which is likely they say an interview that Dick did with Gregg Rickman and published in Rickman’s The Last Testament. They’re also listing the cover art for Edward Abby’s The Monkey Wrench Gang as genre but that’s a very generous definition of genre.
  • Born August 30, 1955 Jeannette Holloman. She was one of the founding members of the Greater Columbia Costumers Guild and she was a participant at masquerades at Worldcon, CostumeCon, and other conventions. Her costumes were featured in The Costume Makers Art and Thread magazine. (Died 2019.)
  • Born August 30, 1963 Michael Chiklis, 56. He was The Thing in two first Fantastic Four films, and Jim Powell on the the No Ordinary Family series which I’ve never heard of.  He was on American Horror Story for its fourth season, American Horror Story: Freak Show as Dell Toledo. The following year he was cast as Nathaniel Barnes, in the second season of Gotham, in a recurring role. And he voiced Lt. Jan Agusta in Heavy Gear: The Animated Series
  • Born August 30, 1965 Laeta Kalogridis, 54. She was an executive producer of the short-lived excellent Birds of Prey series and she co-wrote the screenplays for Terminator Genisys and Alita: Battle Angel. She recently was the creator and executive producer of Altered Carbon. She also has a screenwriting credit for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, a film the fanboys hate but which I really like.
  • Born August 30, 1967 Frederique van der Wal, 52. She appeared in exactly one genre film — Wild Wild West as Amazonia. Oh well. 
  • Born August 30, 1972 Cameron Diaz, 47. She first shows as Tina Carlyle in The Mask, an amazing film. She voices Princess Fiona in the Shrek franchise. While dating Tom Cruise, she’s an uncredited Bus passengers in Minority Report. Oh and she’s Lenore Case in the cringingly awful Green Hornet.
  • Born August 30, 1980 Angel Coulby, 39. She is best known as Gwen (Guinevere) in the BBC’s Merlin. She also shows up in Doctor Who as Katherine in the “The Girl in the Fireplace”, a Tenth Doctor story. She also voices Tanusha ‘Kayo’ Kyrano in the revived Thunderbirds Are Go.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Incidental Comics by Grant Snider – “Reader’s Block”

(10) TIPTREE AWARD NAME CHALLENGED. According to the award’s Motherboard, they’ve taken under advisement a request to drop the name because in her last acts the author shot her invalid husband before killing herself.

(11) SUPERREALISM. In “Review: The Boys (Amazon)”, Camestros Felapton indicates the show suffers from certain inconsistencies in storytelling.

…Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) is a young man whose girlfriend is brutally killed accidentally by the superhero A-Train — a Flash like superhero whose superspeed essentially explodes Campbell’s girlfriend in front of him. This early scene sets the confused tone of the series: gory, comical and shocking, with events often set up like jokes but then played out for emotional impact.

A distraught Hughie is recruited by Billy Butcher — Karl Urban sporting the accent he used as Skurge in Thor: Ragnarok. Butcher is a foul-mouthed cockney rogue CIA agent on his own personal mission of revenge against the seven….

(12) WAVING HELLO. NPR reports “After Months In A Dish, Lab-Grown Minibrains Start Making ‘Brain Waves'”

By the time a fetus is 6 months old, it is producing electrical signals recognizable as brain waves.

And clusters of lab-grown human brain cells known as organoids seem to follow a similar schedule, researchers reported Thursday in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

“After these organoids are in that six-to-nine-months range, that’s when [the electrical patterns] start to look a lot like what you’d see with a preterm infant,” says Alysson Muotri, director of the stem cell program at the University of California, San Diego.

The finding suggests that organoids can help scientists study the earliest phase of human brain development and perhaps reveal the earliest biological beginnings of conditions such as schizophrenia and autism.

But the presence of humanlike brain waves in a dish is also likely to focus attention on the ethical questions surrounding this sort of research.

(13) SAUCE FOR THE GANDER. “Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey has account hacked” – BBC has the story.

The co-founder and chief executive of Twitter had his own account on the service briefly taken over by hackers.

A group referring to itself as the Chuckling Squad said it was behind the breach of Jack Dorsey’s account.

The profile, which has more than four million followers, tweeted out a flurry of highly offensive and racist remarks for about 15 minutes.

Twitter said its own systems were not compromised, instead blaming an unnamed mobile operator.

(14) SHERLOCKIAN FALLACY. BBC details “The two illusions that tricked Arthur Conan Doyle”.

Two real-life hoaxes managed to fool the creator of Sherlock Holmes – and they help to reveal our own ‘metacognitive illusions’ that influence our memory and perception.

On 21 March 1919, a committee including a paranormal investigator, a viscountess, a mind reader, a Scotland Yard detective, and a coroner were all assembled in a small flat in Bloomsbury, London. “I have spent years performing with fake mediums all over the world in order to disprove spiritualism,” declared their host. “Now at last, I have come across a genuine medium.”

The woman who entered the room was wearing a veil that concealed the lower half of her face. She began with a séance which involved a demonstration of “clairvoyance”. Each member of the committee had been instructed to bring with them a small personal item or written letter. Before the medium arrived all the objects were placed into a bag, which was then locked inside a box.

The medium held the locked box in her lap, and while the committee watched carefully, she proceeded to not only name the objects within, but to describe them in vivid detail. She divined that one of the objects was a ring belonging to the deceased son of the paranormal investigator, and even read the faded inscription.

…The creator of Sherlock Holmes declared that he was highly impressed with the clairvoyant demonstration, although he said he would need to see the ghost again before he would attest to its paranormality.

Today, Conan Doyle is best known for his detective stories, but the good doctor was also an illustrious paranormal investigator who often failed to see the frauds in front of his eyes. He famously fell for the photographs of the Cottingley Fairies, for instance, faked by two children – Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright. He attended séances, too. As a spiritualist, Conan Doyle also asserted that he witnessed mediums make direct contact with the spirits of the dead.

…Conan Doyle’s reactions to these hoaxes are clearly problematic, but they are also an illustration of psychological phenomena known as “metacognitive illusions”.

“Metacognition” is the idea of thinking about thinking. By extension, metacognitive illusions occur when people hold mistaken beliefs about their own cognitive systems. We all tend to feel like we are experts about the nature of our own perceptions and memories. After all, we generally perceive things and remember things successfully throughout most of our day-to-day lives. However, in many cases our intuitions about our own cognitive systems can be surprisingly unreliable – we are not always nearly as observant as we think we are and our memories can be surprisingly malleable.

(15) TERMINATOR, BUT NEVER THE END. Yahoo! Entertainment: “Linda Hamilton delivers a classic ‘Terminator’ line in new ‘Dark Fate’ trailer”.

In case there were any lingering doubts, Sarah Connor is most definitely back. Reprising her signature role for the first time in nearly 30 years, Linda Hamilton asserts her authority in the latest trailer for Terminator: Dark Fate by delivering the franchise’s most famous line … you know the one. (Watch the trailer.)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Danny Sichel, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Tolan, Jerry Kaufman, and Chip Hitchcock, for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]

Pixel Scroll 12/4/18 You Miss 100 Percent Of The Pixels You Don’t Scroll

(1) WRITING IDENTITY. Lara Elena Donnelly discusses the challenges to a writer in an industry with entrenched genre labels and sublabels. Thread starts here.

(2) “I’M SHOCKED”: The Wrap begins its story

We sense a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of bank accounts suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly emptied.

…Hollywood auction house Profiles in History is offering the original lightsaber prop used by Mark Hamill in 1977’s “Star Wars: A New Hope” at the estimated value of $150,000 – $200,000.

But is it the real McCoy? BBC reports that “Mark Hamill questions Luke Skywalker lightsaber auction”.

[On] Twitter, Mr Hamill explained it may not be a one-off.

But the Academy Award-winning production designer for the original Star Wars film, Roger Christian, told the BBC the lightsaber is an original.

“There are five originals I handmade myself, and this is one of them,” he said. “It is real – I’ve got the Oscar to prove it.”

(3) ON THE FRONT. “How I became a book cover designer: Chip Kidd” at USA Today.

Q: What has been your biggest career high and your biggest career low?

Kidd: High: “Jurassic Park.” That will be the first line of my obituary, and I’m extremely proud of that. I have absolutely no regrets.

Low: There’s nothing where I think, oh my God, I’m so ashamed I did X or Y- I mean, I’m really not. There are books that you work on that you are hoping are going to do really well, but that’s not the same – that’s not saying ‘oh my God, I’m so ashamed of that,’ it’s just like saying, ‘well, we did our best and that didn’t work.’

(4) THE BOOK OF KINGFISHER Camestros Felapton chimes in with “Review: Swordheart by T. Kingfisher”.

This book positively sparkles with snappy dialogue as if it were a 1940s romantic comedy…but with swords, talking badger people and a possibly demonic bird.

We are back to the world of the Clockwork Boys, a few years on since the end of the Clocktaur wars. There are no shared characters but the shared fantasy setting relieves the story from having to spend time on additional world building. There are hints of broader trouble brewing but unlike the Clockwork Boys this is a less conventional fantasy quest.

(5) AUDIBLE.COM BEST OF THE YEAR. Audible.com has announced the audiobooks picked in various categories as the Best of the Year 2018.

Tade Thompson’s Rosewater is the Sci-Fi Winner.

Sci-Fi Winner: Rosewater

Rosewater is one of the most unique sci-fi books I’ve listened to in the past few years, let alone 2018. Author Tade Thompson—who won the inaugural Nommo Award (Africa’s first speculative fiction award) for this novel—describes his concept as a Frankenstein of influences, a phrase that calls to mind a monster cobbled together with mismatched parts. But in reality, the pieces all fit together in near-perfect synchronicity. A completely original alien invasion story with neocolonialist themes, combined with top-notch world-building make this series as unpredictable as it is unputdownable. And enhancing the experience is new narrator Bayo Gbadamosi, who was personally chosen by the author, and whose effortless performance of various characters and accents immerse the listener in this twisty, enthralling world. —Sam, Audible Editor

The other finalsists were Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu, Level Five by William Ledbetter, The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal, and Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor.

Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver is the Fantasy Winner.

Fantasy Winner: Spinning Silver

Spinning Silver is unexpectedly epic. The spell of it sneaks up on the listener. Yes, it’s a fairytale retelling of Rumplestiltskin, only with six different character perspectives and a fully fleshed-out world that’s familiar, but imbued with magic. At its center are two main heroines, Miryem and Wanda. Together, they carry complicated and relatable problems on their shoulders, making this an easily accessible fantasy for those who might be daunted by the genre. The land around them is bewitching and enchanting, made all the more so from Lisa Flanagan’s subtly accented narration. Simply put, it led us away to a wintry fantasy land and trapped us there, firmly cementing its place in our minds. —Melissa, Audible Editor

(6) EXPANDING UNIVERSE. Awareness of science-fiction’s blossoming of cultural inclusivity seems to be reaching the mainstream, as the BBC culture writer Tom Cassauwers looks at a variety of literary movements that are making the genre more meaningful to more people: “What Science Fiction Says About The Cultures That Create It”.

Well-known artistic depictions of the future have traditionally been regarded as the preserve of the West, and have shown a marked lack of diversity. Yet new regions and authors are depicting the future from their perspectives. Chinese science fiction has boomed in recent years, with stand-out books like Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem. And Afrofuturism is on the rise since the release of the blockbuster Black Panther. Around the world, science fiction is blossoming.

Susana Morris, Associate Professor at Georgia Institute of Technology says:

“People often think Afrofuturism is a genre, while really it’s a cultural movement. It isn’t just black science fiction. It’s a way for black folks across the diaspora to think about our past and future.”

(7) THE OTHER FIRST PERSON. “Jonathan Lethem on First-Person Narrators: When Men Write Women and Women Write Men” on Bookmarks has a conversation between Lethem and Jane Ciabattari about novels with first-person narration from the opposite gender.  Among the books discussed are Philip K. Dick’s The Transmigration of Timothy Archer and Anna Kavan’s Ice.

JL: …One of the things that’s striking about Dick’s work is that for such a wildly imaginative writer, he also frequently uses material from his own life quite directly, and the two nestle side-by-side very easily.

(8) BLACK MIRROR HINTS. Get yer red hot wild guesses here — “‘Black Mirror’ Season 5 Date and Episode Title Leak, Prompting Fan Theories” at Yahoo! Entertainment.

The wait for new “Black Mirror” is almost over, maybe. As reported by Entertainment Weekly, Netflix’s science-fiction Twitter account @NXonNetflix accidentally leaked the Season 5 premiere date and first episode title. If the tweet is to be believed, then “Black Mirror” returns December 28 with an episode called “Bandersnatch.” The tweet was deleted off Twitter but not before fans captured it via photo and sent it around the web.

…The “Bandersnatch” is a fictional creature in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass” and his 1874 poem “The Hunting of the Snark,” but, as one eagle-eyed Twitter user uncovered, it was the name of a video game listed on the cover of a fictional magazine in the Season 3 episode “Playtest,” directed by Dan Trachtenberg and starring Wyatt Russell.

The “Bandersnatch” game, as it turns out, is real. The UK-based Imagine Software developed the project in 1984 but it was never released to the public…

(9) STAYS MAINLY ON THE PLAIN. Cat Rambo livetweeted highlights of theRambo Academy for Wayward Writers’ December 1 class “Highspeed Worldbuilding for Games and Fiction” with James L. Sutter. Thread starts here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born December 4, 1945 – Karl Edward Wagner, Writer, Editor, Publisher, Poet, and Fan. As an editor, he created a three-volume set of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian fiction restored to its original form as was it was originally written by Howard. He is quite likely best known for his invention of the character Kane, the Mystic Swordsman, who appeared in thirty novels. His short fiction amassed piles of World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Stoker Award nominations and took home the trophy for many of them. He took over as editor of The Year’s Best Horror Stories series for DAW Books at the 8th edition, a role he held for fifteen years. He also edited the three Echoes of Valor anthologies that came out around the late 1980s. His Carcosa publishing company issued four volumes of stories by authors of the Golden Age pulp magazines. He received a British Fantasy Awards Special Award for his work with Carcosa; in 1997, the BFS renamed this award in his honor. (Died 1994.)
  • Born December 4, 1949 – Richard Lynch, 69, 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 1998 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, 69, Oscar-winning Actor whose best genre role, I’d say, was as the Oscar-nominated, Saturn-winning lead in Starman – but many genre fans would offer his Saturn-winning dual role as Keven Flynn/CLU in TRON and the followup TRON: Legacy as his main genre credential. Other genre work includes Kiss Me Goodbye, K-PAX, Tideland, King Kong (1976), the Saturn-nominated titular character in The Fisher King, Iron Monger in Iron Man, and the voice of Prince Lir in The Last Unicorn. He appeared also as an undead police officer in a film called R.I.P.D. (the Rest in Peace Department), which was either really bad or really, really bad.
  • Born December 4, 1949 – Pamela Stephenson, 69, Psychologist, Writer, Actor, and Comedian who was born in New Zealand, grew up in Australia, and emigrated to the UK. She may be recognized by genre fans as villain Robert Vaughn’s moll in Superman III, or as Mademoiselle Rimbaud in Mel Brooks’ alt-history History of the World: Part I. Other roles include the films The Comeback and Bloodbath at the House of Death, and guest parts on episodes of Space: 1999, The New Avengers, Tales of the Unexpected, and – of special interest to Ursula Vernon fans – a 3-episode arc as Wombat Woman on the British series Ratman. She is married to comedian Billy Connolly, with whom she has three children; she was the travel researcher for his film series Billy Connolly’s World Tour of…, which JJ highly recommends, as each trip includes visits to numerous interesting sites of quirky, bizarre, and supernatural reknown.
  • Born December 4, 1954 – Sally Kobee, 64, Bookseller, Filker, and Fan who, with Larry Smith, ran for 25 years comprehensive dealer stores at Worldcons and other conventions, which always contained books written and illustrated by convention guests, so that fans could obtain works for autographing sessions. She has served on the committees for numerous conventions, and chaired two Ohio Valley Filk Fests and two World Fantasy Conventions. She was honored as a NESFA Fellow and as a Guest of Honor at Windycon.
  • Born December 4, 1954 – Tony Todd, 64, Actor, Director, and Producer. Let’s see… He was memorable as Kurn in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, and as Captain Anderson of EarthForce in Babylon 5: A Call to Arms, but he is likely best known to horror fans as the lead character in the Candyman horror trilogy. He also had main roles in Night of the Living Dead, the Final Destination film series, and played Cecrops in Xena: Warrion Princess and Gladius on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. He provided the voice of The Fallen in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
  • Born December 4, 1957 – Lucy Sussex, 61, Teacher, Writer, Editor, Critic, and Fan from New Zealand who emigrated to Australia. Writing across the range of science fiction, fantasy, and horror (as well as crime and detective fiction), her works have won 4 Ditmar Awards, 2 Aurealis Awards, and a Sir Julius Vogel Award, mostly for short fiction; however, her Ditmar-winning novel The Scarlet Rider was also longlisted for the Tiptree Award. Her anthology She’s Fantastical was nominated for a World Fantasy Award. She has been an instructor at Clarion West and Clarion South. She has been Guest of Honor at several conventions including the New Zealand Natcon, and has been honored with the A. Bertram Chandler Award for Outstanding Achievement in Australian Science Fiction and the Peter McNamara Achievement Award.
  • Born December 4, 1964 – Marisa Tomei, 54, Oscar-winning Actor of Stage and Screen and Producer who played May Parker in Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Spider-Man: Far From Home, but also, to my delight, has an uncredited role as a Health Club Girl in The Toxic Avenger! She also had a guest role in the “Unwomen” episode of The Handmaid’s Tale.
  • Born December 4, 1974 – Anne KG [Murphy] Gray, 44, 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.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • PvP Online takes a turn with one of 770’s favorite motifs….

(12) PRIME SUSPECTS. Christopher Sandford, in “Who Was the Real Sherlock Holmes?” on CrimeReads, has an excerpt from his book The Man Who Would Be Sherlock where he looks at the people who inspired Sherlock Holmes, including Dr. Joseph Bell and Conan Doyle’s rich imagination.

Although Conan Doyle, like most authors, deplored the habit of identifying ‘real-life’ models for his characters, he also took the opportunity to pay Dr Joseph Bell (1837–1911) the compliment of calling him the “true Holmes.”

The frock-coated Bell was 39 years old when Doyle, an impoverished medical student, first attended one of his lectures at Edinburgh University. Described as a “thin, white-haired Scot with the look of a prematurely hatched bird, whose Adam’s apple danced up and down his narrow neck,” the doctor spoke in a piping voice and is said to have walked with a jerky, scuttling gait “suggestive of his considerable reserves of nervous energy.” Bell was a keen observer of his patients’ mental and physical characteristics—”The Method” as he called it—which he used as an aid to diagnosis. A lecture in the university’s gaslit amphitheater might, for example, open with Bell informing his audience that the subject standing beside him in the well of the auditorium had obviously served, at some time, as a non-commissioned officer in a Highland regiment in the West Indies—an inference based on the man’s failure to remove his hat (a Scots military custom) and telltale signs of tropical illness, among other minutiae. Added to his impressive powers of deduction, Bell also liked to bring an element of drama to his lectures, for instance by once swallowing a phial of malodorous liquid in front of his students, the better to determine whether or not it was a deadly poison. (He survived the test.) For much of the last century, Bell has been the individual most popularly associated with the “real Holmes.”

(13) GAME OF STRAPHANGERS. Gothamist says commuters will have a chance to buy collectible prepaid fare cards: “Limited Edition ‘Game Of Thrones’ MetroCards Available At Grand Central Starting Tuesday”.

Last week, the MTA announced that there would be a delay on a set of limited edition Game Of Thrones-emblazoned MetroCards planned for release in advance of the hotly-anticipated final season of the show. Today, we’ve learned that the MetroCards will be available starting tomorrow (Tuesday, 12/4) at Grand Central Terminal—and you can get a first look at them up above.

There will be 250,000 copies of the four MetroCards available at in the Grand Central subway station while supplies last.

(14) WHO’S ON FIRST. Galactic Journey was there in November 1963 for the series premiere: “[Dec. 3, 1963] Dr. Who?  An Adventure In Space And Time”.

Produced by Verity Lambert (the BBC’s youngest and only woman producer), Doctor Who is the new science fiction series from the BBC, about the mysterious eponymous old man and his machine that allows him to travel through time and space. Along with him are his granddaughter, Susan, and two of her school teachers, Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright. Together, they’ll travel backwards and forwards through history, and upside down and sideways through the universe. According to the Radio Times, each adventure may bring them to the North Pole, distant worlds devastated by neutron bombs (well, THERE’S a relevant story for you!), and even the caravan of Marco Polo. I also hear this show is to have a bit of an educational element, so I’ll be looking forward to seeing how that goes.

(15) BELIEVABLE FANTASY. Marion Deeds and Terry Weyna, in their review of Alexandra Rowland’s novel at Fantasy Literature, “A Conspiracy of Truths: Interesting debut novel from a writer to watch”, point out that Chant is an unreliable narrator – but maybe not that unreliable:

For a story that takes place mostly within prison cells, where it seems pretty likely the first person narrator has not been executed, A Conspiracy of Truths becomes surprisingly suspenseful. Partly this is because there are characters at risk, particularly Ylfing and Consanza, but the suspense comes also not from “what will happen,” but “how will it happen?”

(16) A BIT MUCH. Fantasy Literature’s Taya Okerlund wrote a headline that made me read her review — “Legendary: If you like The Cheesecake Factory, this book might be for you” – and wrote a review that talked me out of reading the book:

The CARAVAL series has been very well received among YA readers; I guess I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Critics call it sweeping and immersive, and I’ll go with that. The writing is quite rich, and conjures to mind a world that might have been decorated by a cooperative design team from The Cheesecake Factory and Victoria’s Secret. It is gilded, rich and sugar crusted — which may be just the thing for an escapist read, but it wasn’t for me.

(17) SUPERCALI-WHAT? “Odeon defends £40 hi-tech cinema prices” — per an image, ticket prices for a show of Mary Poppins Returns started at £25.75; average price in the UK is £7.49. Just how much better than a typical cinema is this one? (And does this mean the bankers are the heroes in the Poppins sequel?)

Odeon has responded to criticism over the prices it is charging for seats at its new hi-tech cinema in London, where tickets will cost up to £40 ($51).

It told the BBC the prices were similar to tickets for theatre or live sports.

The newly refurbished Odeon Leicester Square will re-open later this month, showing Mary Poppins Returns.

It has had a multi-million pound facelift in partnership with Dolby, which is providing cutting-edge audio-visual technology.

(18) SHATNER CLAUS. Cleopatra Records would love to sell you a copy —

A very special gift of the holidays – the first ever Christmas album from the godfather of dramatic musical interpretations and a legend of stage and screen, Mr. William Shatner!

(19) FURSUITS AND LAWSUITS. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn says a well-known Chicago-region vendor “Lemonbrat Has Filed Suit Against Former Employee (and Con-Runner) Corey Wood “. (They specialize in costumes and gear of interest to furries.)

In a series of events that has left many of us shocked, frequent convention vendor Lemonbrat has filed a lawsuit against their former financial manager Corey Wood.

The Cook County Record story lists the allegations:

According to the complaint, Wood has been employed by the plaintiffs since January 2013 as a financial manager and prepared payroll and the company’s books. The plaintiffs allege they discovered Wood established separate Square accounts for Lemonbrat and its predecessor that diverted credit card payments that belonging to the plaintiffs to Wood personally. The plaintiffs allege Wood diverted more than $40,000 to himself via his false Square account or accounts and has written more than $15,000 in bogus checks.

Dorn adds:

What makes it even more important though is Wood’s prominence in the con running community. Wood is the convention chair for Anime Milwaukee (Wisconsin’s largest anime convention), and owns and operates other events including the upcoming furry convention Aquatifur.

(20) PICKING HELLBOY. In an episode of PeopleTV’s video series Couch Surfing, Ron Perlman says that director Guillermo del Toro had to work a long time to get Perlman cast in HellboyEntertainment Weekly has the story (“Guillermo del Toro fought 7 years for Ron Perlman to star as Hellboy”), transcribing part of the video. It wasn’t until del Toro’s success with Blade II that producers would listen to him.

Before actor Ron Perlman played the titular role in Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro’s 2004 unconventional superhero flick Hellboy, he was a typecast character actor, successful but with little hopes of ascending to leading man status. Luckily for Perlman, del Toro had a very specific vision for the film, with Perlman front and center.

“I said to him from the get-go, ‘That’s a great idea and god bless you, I love you for entertaining the idea, but it’ll never happen,’” Perlman says in the latest episode of PeopleTV’s Couch Surfing, recalling his disbelief that he’d ever excite studios enough to be cast. “Sure enough, for seven years he’d go to these meetings at these studios, and he’d say, ‘Ron Perlman.’”

(21) MISSION-CRITICAL. Another first world problem: “Research worms ‘too old’ to go to space station”.

Thousands of worms being blasted into space could be “too old” for research when they get to the International Space Station (ISS).

The launch of a SpaceX rocket was delayed after mouldy food was found among another research team’s kit.

Teams from Exeter, Nottingham and Lancaster universities are hoping the microscopic worms could lead to new treatments for muscular dystrophy.

The worms were meant to be “just turning into adults” at the launch.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was due to launch from the NASA Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Tuesday evening, but has now been rescheduled for 18:16 GMT on Wednesday.

(22) PASSING THE POST. Congratulations to Adri Joy for reaching a specialized kind of milestone with “Microreview [Book]: A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy by Alex White” at Nerds of a Feather.

Hurrah! With this review, I have officially reached my “sequeliversary” for Nerds of a Feather: Alex White’s A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe was one of the first books I reviewed on this site, and now here I am looking at its successor for your potential reading pleasure! Admittedly, there were only six months between the two, but I still think that’s cool. If you haven’t read White’s breakneck opener full of grumpy yet brilliant ladies and satisfying space magic, now’s the time to go check out that review and the book behind it…

A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy opens one year after we last saw the crew of the Capricious, having hunted down the big ship at the edge of the universe (also known as the Harrow) and started to uncover a galaxy spanning plot. Like it’s predecessor, Bad Deal doesn’t waste any time, throwing its audience right into the middle of things

(23) WHERE THERE’S SMOKE. Vance K adds James Tiptree Jr. to the dossier in “Feminist Futures: Her Smoke Rose Up Forever” at Nerds of a Feather.

In reading Tiptree, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Flannery O’Connor in that wherever the stories started or whichever direction they may start heading, they would always veer hard to death. Characters don’t get happy endings, hope is inevitably extinguished just when it seemed likely to pay off, and those misgivings nagging at the back of characters’ minds always turn out to be harbingers of a doom lurking just up ahead.

(24) GEM OF A DINO. National Geographic has a photo of this exotic find: “Sparkly, opal-filled fossils reveal new dinosaur species”.

In a dazzling discovery, fossils brought up from a mine in Wee Warra, near the Australian outback town of Lightning Ridge, belong to the newly named dinosaur species Weewarrasaurus pobeni. The animal, which was about the size of a Labrador retriever, walked on its hind legs and had both a beak and teeth for nibbling vegetation.

…But perhaps the most striking thing about this fossil—described today in a paper published in the journal PeerJ—is that it is made from opal, a precious gemstone that this part of the state of New South Wales is known for.

(25) ALL FINISHED. Gothamist tweaks the celebrated fantasy author: “George R.R. Martin Finally Finishes His Guide To NYC Pizza”.

Do you ever get the feeling that George R.R. Martin will do literally anything to get out of finishing the A Song Of Ice & Fire series? It’s been well over seven years since the release of A Dance Of Dragons, and in lieu of the long-awaited new GoT book, Martin has released spin-off books like Fire and Blood, he’s helped adapt his 1980 novella Nightflyers into a TV show, he’s started non-profits, he’s cameoed in Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!, gone to some Dead shows, campaigned for Hillary Clinton, and he’s blogged way too much about the Jets.

The latest iteration of this phenomenon: to promote Fire & Blood, Martin gave his guide to NYC pizza. Did we really need the creator of Game Of Thrones to confirm what we all already know, that NYC pizza is by far the best in the world?

 

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

Pixel Scroll 5/22/16 Pixelpotamus vs. Scrolloceros

(1) PRECISION. In “Save the Allegory!” on Slate, Laura Miller calls on writers to actually define “allegory” correctly.  She quotes from C. S. Lewis’ The Allegory of Love at length and makes lots of superhero references.

What people usually mean when they call something an allegory today is that the fictional work in question can function as a metaphor for some real-world situation or event. This is a common arts journalist’s device: finding a political parallel to whatever you happen to be reviewing is a handy way to make it appear worth writing about in the first place. Calling that parallel an allegory serves to make the comparison more forceful. Fusion says that Batman v Superman is a “none-too-subtle allegory for the fight between Republican presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.” (It is not.) The Hollywood Reporter calls Zootopia an “accidental anti-Trump allegory”—this despite the fact that there is no literary form less accidental than allegory. The meaning of the word has drifted so far that even works that aren’t especially metaphorical get labeled as allegory: A film about artistic repression in Iran is a “clunky allegory” for … artistic repression in Iran.

Allegory or metaphor: The distinction might seem obscure and academic to many readers. Shouldn’t allegory be grateful to get any attention at all? Isn’t it just an archaic literary mode that nobody uses anymore? Yes and no. About the only people creating true allegories today are political cartoonists. But a culture never entirely discards its roots, and allegory, which first appeared in the waning years of the Roman Empire, is one of the foundations of Western literature. Maybe if we understood it better, we’d realize how much we owe to it.

(2) NEXT AT SFWA. While detailing her writing and travel plans for the summer, Cat Rambo also previews SFWA’s upcoming activities in “Catching My Breath and What’s Coming Up”. In her second year as the organization’s president, she will be putting some needed infrastructure in place.

In SFWA areas, I’m focusing on a new committee that I’ll be working with, the Membership Retention Committee, whose job will be to look at the new member experience for SFWA members as well as how to keep the organization useful for members. (If you’re interested in volunteering with that, feel free to drop me a line.) Other efforts include a) working with SFWA fundraising, b) a small musical endeavor that I just prodded someone about and which involves Tom Lehrer (yes, that Tom Lehrer), and c) helping out where I can with some of M.C.A. Hogarth’s amazing efforts, such as this mysterious thing here lurking under a tarp that I am not at liberty to discuss. *mouths the words “SFWA University” then is dragged away by the SFWA honey badgers while shouting something about a guidebook*

Three other important SFWA things:

  1. I’ll be watching the results of our decision to admit game writers with keen interest. I can tell you that the initial set is criteria is being voted on right now and I expect to see it announced soon.
  2. An effort is in the works that I think will prove a lovely tribute to longtime SFWA volunteer Bud Webster and which will, in the longtime SFWA tradition, provide a benefit for professional writers at every level of their careers.
  3. And we’ll (finally) be announcing some of the partnerships we’ve been making — you saw reps from Amazon, Audible, BookBub, Draft2Digital, Kickstarter, Kobo and Patreon at the Nebulas and those relationships are going to extend beyond the weekend and give our members special resources and relationships at all of those companies — and others, including one that I am super-stoked to have facilitated.

(3) DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH. Neil deGrasse Tyson gives his view about how long you could survive on each planet in our solar system. It’s a 2015 video.

(4) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 22, 1859 — Scottish writer Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes.

(5) POSERS FOR TINGLE. Neigh, a thousand times neigh!

(6) EVERMORE. The Baltimore Sun quotes lots of people involved with the convention in “Balticon grew to 50 as sci-fi, fantasy grew more mainstream”. Several are Filers.

Even 50 Balticons later, Ray Ridenour remembers his introduction to the annual gathering of the Baltimore region’s science-fiction and fantasy aficionados.

Ridenour, then a student at the University of Maryland, College Park, recalls taking the elevator to the top floor of the city’s since-demolished Emerson Hotel. This was the first Balticon put together by the then-4-year-old Baltimore Science Fiction Society, and he had little idea what to expect.

“As soon as I stepped out of the elevator, I heard something very noisy and stepped back in,” he recalls. “Two guys roared by in a wheelchair; one of them was singing loudly, the other was pushing loudly. They careened down the hotel aisle and then zoomed in another direction and disappeared.”

Ridenour asked someone walking by if they had any idea what was going on. “‘Oh, yeah,'” came the reply. “‘That was the president of the club.'”

Ridenour, now 68, a graphic artist and designer living in Hampden and a veteran of every Balticon since, knew he was in the right place. “So I said, ‘Well, these guys look like they know how to party.'”

…Baltimore natives Miller, 65, and Lee, 63, authors of a series of books set in the Liaden universe, were guests of honor at Balticon 37 in 2003. Veterans of Balticons dating to the mid-’70s — they met at Balticon 10 in 1976, when Lee won a short-story contest Miller had helped start — they have been married since 1980.

Balticon’s strength, Miller says, lies in its deep fan base. At a time when many fan gatherings have become massive affairs staged by professional organizations whose business is organizing conventions, with an emphasis on movie- and TV-star guests, Balticon is still organized and run by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society and skewed toward the written word.

“Balticon hasn’t lost touch with the fact that it’s a bunch of fans putting this together, for their own interests and the interests of their friends,” Miller says.

(7) DUNGEON N-COUNTER. Jo Lindsay Walton tweeted this sample of what goes on in the Sputnik Award’s Dungeons of Democracy.

(8) ARE GO. Michael Flett describes the 2015 revival in “Thunderbirds 1965” at GeekChocolate.

…Adhering strictly to the ethic of the late sixties, wires are visible, the motion and expressions of the puppets are limited but still capable of expressing great character, and while Tracy Island is extended by the use of archive footage of tropical islands there can no justifiable objection to this use of stock footage nor in the famous launch sequences or any repeated shots of flybys, as this was all part and parcel of the original productions.

What is undeniable is the loving recreations of puppets, props, sets and machines, from Lady Penelope’s wonderfully shiny pink Rolls Royce FAB1 to the Thunderbirds vehicles themselves, the characters themselves graced by the creations of costume designer Liz Comstock-Smith who has crafted an exquisite new wardrobe for Lady Penelope, much to the chagrin of her chauffeur Aloysius Parker who in addition to his other duties must act as porter.

“When one is visiting, one tries to look one’s best,” his employer drily responds as she arrives at Tracy Island in opening episode Introducing Thunderbirds, less of an audio adventure now granted a visual dimension than, as the name would suggest, a showcase of International Rescue’s secret base and the amazing vehicles used to perform their daring missions.

Adapted from the soundtrack of F.A.B., The Abominable Snowman offers more in the way of spectacle with big explosions from the opening moments as a fire rages at Meddings Uranium, named of course in honour of the late special effects designer Derek Meddings who worked on many Anderson shows and later progressed to several James Bond films….

(9) STOP FIGHTING THE LAST WAR. Jim Henley, in “Hugo McHugoface Has Sailed”, offers his own frame for the Hugo reform discussions.

…Various options – including some kind of jury component and restricting voting rights (e.g. to only attending members) – have raised the objection that “They change the fundamental character of the award.” That class of objections fails to recognize the core truth: the character of the Hugo Awards has already changed. Again, the character of the Hugo Awards has already changed.

The Hugo Awards have become an internet poll in the age of Boaty McBoatface, freeping and chan culture. Nobody set out to make them this, and ex ante it was reasonable to imagine that the supporting membership fee (currently $50) was enough of a gating function to keep LULZers and trolls from targeting the process for abuse. But experience shows that there are enough motivated bad actors willing to spend that much to tie up the bulk of the ballot with whatever works their whims inspire them to place there, motivated by any combination of venial and mortal sins.

There is no question of preserving the character of the Hugo Awards. That ship has sailed, and it is not named for David Attenborough. The question is how can the award process be restructured so that future nominees and award winners will be of a character consistent with the Hugo tradition for the ’70 years prior to the mid-’10s.

I suppose the other question is how long it will take Hugo fandom and WSFS members to admit this.

(10) VERBAL AUTOPSY. Toby Litt tells Guardian readers “What makes bad writing bad”.

…Bad writers continue to write badly because they have many reasons – in their view very good reasons – for writing in the way they do. Writers are bad because they cleave to the causes of writing badly.

Bad writing is almost always a love poem addressed by the self to the self. The person who will admire it first and last and most is the writer herself.

When Updike began writing Rabbit, Run it was either going to be a great technical feat or a humiliating misjudgment

While bad writers may read a great many diverse works of fiction, they are unable or unwilling to perceive the things these works do which their own writing fails to do. So the most dangerous kind of writers for bad writers to read are what I call excuse writers – writers of the sort who seem to grant permission to others to borrow or imitate their failings.

I’ll give you some examples: Jack Kerouac, John Updike, David Foster Wallace, Virginia Woolf, Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou. Bad writers bulwark themselves against a confrontation with their own badness by reference to other writers with whom they feel they share certain defence-worthy characteristics….

(11) DOWN UNDER FAN FUND. Julian Warner, Justin Ackroyd and Lucy Huntzinger officially announced that the winner of the 2016 race is Australian fan Clare McDonald-Sims. She was the only candidate. The administrators say voting numbers to follow. McDonald-Sims will attend MidAmeriCon II.

(12) IT’S STILL NEWS TO SOMEONE. Fanac.org now has James V. Taurasi’s classic fan newzine Fantasy Times online, published from 1941-1955.

Also, congratulations to Jack Weaver, Fanac.org’s Webmaster of 20 years, and the site’s software developer, who received a special award at FanHistoricon in Virginia last month.

weaverplaque

(13) TANK FOR THE MEMORIES. NPR covered yesterday’s transfer from the harbor to the museum – “A 66,000 Pound Space Shuttle Fuel Tank Is Parading Through The Streets Of LA”.

fuel tank

The last remaining space shuttle external propellant tank is moved across the 405 freeway in Los Angeles on Saturday. The ET-94 will be displayed with the retired space shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center.

A massive space shuttle fuel tank is winding its way through the streets of Los Angeles Saturday, on a 16-mile trek heading to the California Science Center.

It’s set to be displayed with the space shuttle Endeavor. The tank, which was never used in a mission, is the “last flight-qualified space shuttle external tank in existence,” according to the science center…..

As The Associated Press reports, the giant tank started moving at midnight from Marina del Rey, where it “arrived by barge Wednesday.” It’s crawling along at about 5 mph, the wire service reports, and is expected to take 13 to 18 hours to reach the science center….

The tank was donated by NASA, and Science Center President Jeff Rudolph tells Danielle that he’s thrilled to acquire the tank.

“As soon as we got Endeavor, we said we got to see if there’s any way we can get that one remaining external tank,” he says. Danielle adds that the center is hoping to eventually add booster rockets to the display.

According to the center, that means it will be the “be the only place in the world that people will be able to see a complete shuttle stack — orbiter, external tank, and solid rocket booster — with all real flight hardware in launch configuration.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., Brian Z., and Jim Henley for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]