Pixel Scroll 12/5/21 Pixelo And Scrolliet, A Play In 3 Acts By Filiam Scollspeare

(1) NO CHANGE ON DISCON III / WECHAT STATUS. DisCon III announced on November 29 they had to remove WeChat as a payment option. “Due to their restrictions on charitable giving, we are unable to use WeChat services at this time.” Their tech team was trying to find a workaround to help overseas fans who want to pay using WeChat. Today File 770 checked in with Tim Szczesuil, DisCon III’s Site Selection Administrator, and asked if they’d had success. He said no:

Our Tech person has been working with WeChat to resolve the situation, but our WeChat Pay account is still locked. The lockout is on their end, not ours. We haven’t given up hope that this will be resolved, but time is running out.

Many people in China are buying memberships and paying for the voting fee via credit card. Currently, there is nothing much we can do.

(2) AROUND THE BLOCK. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik notes that “language development” software GPT-3 has become open source which has led Sudowrite to develop a tool that could help blocked writers complete their articles.  So Zeitchik interviews Gay Talese about his famous article “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” (which, remember, has an appearance by Harlan Ellison) and film critic Katie Walsh, and has Sudowrite come up with synthetic completions of their articles which he asks Talese and Walsh to grade.  He concludes that software can help writers but not yet replace them. “Sudowrite and GPT-3 imitate Gay Talese in this test of artificial intelligence”.

…I asked Walsh what she made of the fact that a computer program could, with her raw material, come up with something that sounded like a professional review.

She replied: “This is way better than I expected from it! It’s pretty good! I can see this now not as ‘taking my job’ (because the machine can’t watch the movie … yet), but as a tool for a writer/editor to evade writers block.” She continued, “I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility to take the AI paragraph and rework it, because it did successfully guess where I was going most times.”

Oddly, Gupta hasn’t optimized Sudowrite yet for nonfiction; it’s more for novelists. But he saw GPT-3 as very adaptive to journalism.

“Ultimately, it’s a tool that will move things up the chain,” he said. “As a writer, you may not need to crank out words anymore. You’re more of an editor, choosing the best versions.”

This seemed pretty scary to me, and I spent the rest of the day wondering if it was too late to enroll in trade school….

(3) TRIFFID TALK. A BBC Radio 3 panel discusses John Wyndham’s classic: “Free Thinking, The Day of the Triffids”. Listen at the link.

Killer plants, a blinding meteor shower, the spread of an unknown disease: John Wyndham’s 1951 story explores ideas about the hazards of bioengineering and what happens when society breaks down. Matthew Sweet is joined by writers Amy Binns and Tanvir Bush, broadcaster Peter White and New Generation Thinker Sarah Dillon to look at the novel which spawned film, TV and radio adaptations and discuss what resonance it has today.

Amy Binns has written a biography of John Wyndham – ‘Hidden Wyndham: Love, Life, Letters’. Tanvir Bush is a writer and photographer whose most recent novel is ‘Cull’. Peter White is the BBC’s Disability Affairs Correspondent and presents You and Yours on Radio 4.  Sarah Dillon is Professor of English at Cambridge University and a Radio 3 New Generation Thinker. Her most recent book is ‘Storylistening: Narrative Evidence and Public Reasoning’.

(4) BLINDNESS IN SFF. Meanwhile, you can still hear a Triffid-referencing episode of BBC Radio 4’s program Seriously… about “Sci-Fi Blindness”:

From Victorian novels to the latest Hollywood blockbusters, sci-fi regularly returns to the theme of blindness.

Peter White, who was heavily influenced as a child by one of the classics, sets out to explore the impact of these explorations of sight on blind and visually impaired people.

He believes a scene in The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham imbued him with a strange confidence – and he considers the power of science fiction to present an alternative reality for blind readers precisely at a time when lockdown and social distancing has seen visually impaired people marginalised.

He talks to technology producer Dave Williams about Star Trek The Next Generation’s Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge, Dr Sheri Wells-Jensen talks about Birdbox and world-building from a blind point of view in James L Cambias’s A Darkling Sea. Professor Hannah Thompson of Royal Holloway University of London takes us back to 1910 to consider The Blue Peril – a novel which in some ways is more forward thinking in its depiction of blindness than Hollywood now.

And Doctor Who actor Ellie Wallwork gives us her take on why blindness is so fascinating to the creators of science fiction.

(5) HOT WINGS. The Penguin will celebrate 80 years as a Batman villain in an uncharacteristic way: “Unmasked: the Penguin saves world from Covid in Danny DeVito’s Batman story” in the Guardian.

Batman’s least intimidating foe the Penguin, usually seen plotting the heist of Gotham City’s priciest jewels, has a somewhat less dastardly plan up his sleeve in his latest outing: he’s out to vaccinate the world.

The feathered supervillain’s latest storyline was dreamed up by the actor Danny DeVito, who played the character in the 1992 film Batman Returns. Working with artist Dan Mora, DeVito has written the story Bird Cat Love for an anthology celebrating Batman’s enemies, Gotham City Villains, published on Tuesday by DC Comics to celebrate the 80th anniversary year of the character’s creation.

Rather than depicting the Penguin up to his usual tricks, however, DeVito has him stealing all the world’s vaccines from the pharmaceutical companies who are hoarding them, according to an early report from comics site Bleeding Cool News – and then forcibly vaccinating everyone on the planet.

(6) A STAKE IN FUTURE WHO. “Sony officially acquires Doctor Who series 14 producer Bad Wolf” reports Radio Times.

Sony Pictures Television has officially bought Bad Wolf, the company set to produce Doctor Who series 14.

Sony purchased a majority stake in the indie production company, which is behind shows such as His Dark Materials and I Hate Suzie, while the deal also includes the Wolf Studios Wales facility in Cardiff and a minority stake in Bad Wolf America.

Russell T Davies, who will return as showrunner for Doctor Who’s 60th year, will be enlisting the help of Bad Wolf to produce the next season, set to air on BBC One in 2023 with a brand new Doctor.

The company was founded by former BBC executives Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter back in 2015 and while Sky, HBO and Access Entertainment did hold stakes in it, Sony has now taken them over….

(7) NOT OF THIS MIDDLE-EARTH. Yahoo! says “Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Show Will (Majorly) Break From Tolkien’s Canon”. Well, how could it not, when did showrunners ever follow the books? But if you’re interested in speculations about the exact departures from the books, read on. Here are two short excerpts:

What’s young Aragorn got to do with anything?

Turns out, nothing. Early reports about the series speculated that it would follow the adventures of young Aragorn, whose path prior to his introduction in The Fellowship of the Ring was long and winding. However, when Amazon tweeted, “Welcome to the Second Age,” which took place thousands of years before Aragorn’s birth, speculation was debunked….

Who’s attached to the series?

Three lead actors have been announced: Robert Aramayo (Game of Thrones) will star as Beldor, an “experienced fighter”; Markella Kavengeh (Picnic at Hanging Rock) will play Tyra, an “empathetic” individual who’s likely an elf; and Joseph Mawle (Game of Thrones‘ Uncle Benjen) will star as Oren, the lead villain. It’s worth noting that none of these characters are Tolkien characters—all are new, original characters. Moryfdd Clark will follow in Cate Blanchett’s footsteps as Galadriel, suggesting that other familiar roles, like Elrond, may be recast….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1977 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-four years ago on CBC, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas first aired. It would premiere a year later in the States on HBO.  It was based off of the children’s book of the same name by Russell Hoban and his wife Lillian Hoban. Russell Hoban you’ll no doubt recognize as the author of Riddley Walker which won a John W. Campbell Memorial Award. It was directed and produced by Jim Henson off the script by Jerry Juhl who was known for his work on The Muppet ShowFraggle Rock and Sesame Street.

The Muppets voice cast was Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz, Marilyn Sokol and Eren Ozker. Paul Williams, who I was surprised to learn wrote Three Dog Night’s “An Old Fashioned Love Song” among quite a few other songs, composed the music and several songs here. This would not be his last such Muppets work as he would be involved in The Muppet Movie several years later among other of his Muppets projects. 

Reception was very positive with the New York Times comparing it to The Wind in The Willows saying and “These really are the nicest folk on the river.” And AV Critic said that “it was “The kind of Christmas special you could wrap in tissue when the season’s over and store carefully in a box in the attic.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an eighty-four percent rating. 

Oh, and Bret McKenzie is writing the script and songs for a film adaptation of it which will be produced by The Jim Henson Company. You fans of The Hobbit films might recognize him. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • 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. It’s most excellent I think. (Died 1976.)
  • 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 DwarfsPinocchioFantasiaDumbo, and BambiCinderella and Mary Poppins, 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.)
  • Born December 5, 1921 Alvy Moore. He shows up first in a genre role uncredited as Zippy in The War of the Worlds. (He was also uncredited in The Girls of Pleasure Island that same year.) He’s again uncredited, as a scientist this time, in The Invisible Boy (aka S.O.S Spaceship) and The Gnome-Mobile saw his continue that streak as a Gas Mechanic. The Brotherhood of Satan saw him get a credit role as did The Witchmaker, both all budget horror films. He’s listed as having co-written and produced, along with LQ Jones, A Boy and His Dog, the Ellison originated film. (Died 1997.)
  • Born December 5, 1951 Susan Palermo-Piscatello. SF Site in its obit said that she was “was active in fandom in the early 1970s, taking pictures that appeared in The Monster Times and working for the company that brought Japanese monster films, including Battle for the Planets and Time of the Apes to the US. She was among the first bartenders at CBGB and was in the band Cheap Perfume. She had recently returned to fandom after several years of gafiation.” (Died 2011.)
  • Born December 5, 1951 Elizabeth R. Wollheim, 70. 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  at Chicon 7 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.
  • Born December 5, 1961 Nicholas Jainschigg, 60. Teacher, Artist and Illustrator. He began his career by doing covers and interior art for Asimov’s and Analog magazines, then progressed to covers for books and other magazines, eventually providing art for Wizards of the Coast gaming materials and for Marvel and DC Comics. As an Associate Professor for the Rhode Island School of Design, his private work these days is mainly in animations, interactive illustration, painting in oils, and paleontological reconstructions in murals and dioramas.
  • Born December 5, 1973 Christine Stephen-Daly, 48. 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 of such things of cringe-causing violence. She was also Miss Meyers in the two part “Sky” story on The Sarah Jane Adventures

(10) SOMEONE WHO KNOWS ABOUT BANKS. Grimes, a female pop musician who had a two-year relationship and a son with Elon Musk, Tesla baron and Iain M. Banks fan, has released the song “Player of Games” off of her new album Book 1. Observers guess that she is punning off the Banks book of the same name. “What Does Grimes New Song Mean, Player Of Games & Elon Musk” at Kotaku.

Apparently, Musk really loves the game and is the greatest gamer, but not much of a lover or boyfriend, assuming the song is indeed about him. (Which it super, probably is.)

(11) READING RED. Mike Thorpe, a sedimentary geochemist contracted to NASA and a Towson University grad, is interviewed about the analysis of samples gathered by the Mars rovers: “Reading the Story in Red Soil” in Towson University Magazine.

Just because it will take years for the samples taken by Perseverance to return to Earth doesn’t mean Thorpe is idle.

“Right now, I’m busy collecting and curating reference materials from the Mars 2020 rover with the team here at NASA JSC as well as the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), ultimately helping build a history of sample collection through the course of the mission,” he says.

“All this work leading up to Mars sample return is to make sure we know that what’s in these samples is truly Martian. Perseverance was made here on Earth and we want to keep Earth, Earth and Mars, Mars. We need to analyze every step of the way, including every part of making the rover, to understand what sources of contamination there might be.”

Another of his responsibilities requires him to consider things that may not exist yet: what tools are going to be used to analyze the samples when they come back.

“Some of the instruments that we may be analyzing these samples with haven’t even been built yet,” he says. “We may have some newer technology with capabilities that we aren’t even familiar with yet. So it’s understanding what is state of the art now and also projecting what it is going to be in the future and how we can improve that to handle some of the most precious geological samples we’ll ever have in our lifetime.”

But to have materials to handle, they have to be extracted from the surface of Mars first….

(12) FEELINGS. The goal of this technology is to create the sensation of touch for VR users. “Meta haptic glove prototype lets you feel VR objects using air pockets” at The Verge.

You cannot pet a dog in Meta’s new, high-tech virtual reality gloves. But researchers are getting closer.

Meta (formerly Facebook) is known for its high-profile moves into virtual and augmented reality. For seven years, though, it’s been quietly working on one of its most ambitious projects yet: a haptic glove that reproduces sensations like grasping an object or running your hand along a surface. While Meta’s not letting the glove out of its Reality Labs research division, the company is showing it off for the first time today, and it sees the device — alongside other wearable tech — as the future of VR and AR interaction….

(13) KUDOS. A customer who bought LEGO’s Mos Eisley Cantina set, which has over 3,000 pieces and costs $350, was halfway through building it when he realized the box was missing a bag of pieces. Fast Company praises the company’s response email (which you can read at the link): “A Customer Discovered Their $350 Lego Set Was Missing Pieces”.

… I mean, if you’re not a Star Wars fan, the email doesn’t really seem like much, but that’s the point. The person who wrote the email clearly understood that anyone who buys this set isn’t just a loyal LEGO fan, they’re a die-hard Star Wars fan.

Whoever wrote the email clearly knows their audience and took the time to make it fun. With what is arguably very little effort, they turned a disappointing situation into something delightful….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] If you’re a rat, strange things happen to you in the alchemist’s lab!

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

Pixel Scroll 12/1/21 Scrolls, Glorious Scrolls, Fresh Godstalked And Pixeled

(1) FUTURE RACE. Kathryn Finch discusses the way sff uses cross-species “hybrid” characters to discuss racial issues and how those depictions still often fail in “The Kids Aren’t Alright: The Race Essentialism of Sci-fi Hybrids” at Blood Knife.

…Whether it’s the regal elves and (literally) down-to-earth dwarves of the Lord of the Rings or the regal Vulcans and (not-so-literally) down-to-earth Klingons of Trek, world building often relies on generalizations. Race essentialism has been a useful shorthand for some writers, and giving each new race in a populous universe a specific “hat” to wear allows for the appearance of novelty and diversity, without the requirement to actually flesh out individual characters more than the minimum necessary for the purposes of the plot. This does not strike the casual observer as problematic, as the innate foreignness of a creature from another world is much more expected than any sort of familiarity.

And therein lies the problem. In the future, racism is not extinguished, but transformed. A conflict between two completely different species is patently understandable; they are, quite literally, otherworldly….

(2) LAVISH EDITIONS. [Item by Jeffrey Smith.] Unsurprisingly, Michael Dirda is living in our libraries. “Critic’s picks: Best illustrated nonfiction books” in the Washington Post.

What do Santa Claus, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, a certain Washington Post reviewer and the Lord High Executioner from “The Mikado” all have in common? Give up? Each of us has been known to say, “I’ve got a little list.” This holiday season, though, my list isn’t so little. In fact, it will extend over three weeks. This is the first, focusing on large-sized, illustrated nonfiction….

‘Spider-Man,’ by Roy Thomas (Folio Society, $125)

To complement his three-volume historical sampler of Marvel Comics (“The Golden Age,” “The Silver Age,” “The Bronze Age”), the company’s former editor in chief, Roy Thomas, has begun to assemble additional volumes, each devoted to a major superhero. After last year’s Captain Marvel, this fall’s release showcases everyone’s favorite web-slinger in eight representative Spider-Man adventures, starring either Peter Parker or Miles Morales. Given the ritzy Folio Society treatment, Spidey never looked so good — and that goes for his archenemies, too, including my grandson’s favorites, Venom and Doctor Octopus. So if you know someone enthralled by the Spider-Verse, your shopping is done.

(3) WATCH THIS SPACE. The Planetary Society lists “The Best of 2021” in space exploration. For example:

Most exciting planetary science moment

2021 was quite a year for space exploration firsts, but the one that voters loved best was the Ingenuity Mars helicopter’s first flight. On April 19th the little spacecraft took its first leap off the Martian surface, becoming the first aircraft to complete a powered, controlled flight on another planet. 

(4) AFRICAN BOOKS HONORED. Brittle Paper’s list of “50 Notable African Books of 2021” includes several genre works, most notably —

The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021)

(Editor) Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

The collection celebrates African speculative fiction at its best, giving lovers of the genre an immersive experience of non-realist worlds. Well-known and new authors offer stories in sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and more.

(5) DOUGLAS Q&A. Ian Douglas is one of the many pseudonyms for William H. Keith, creator of many sff works. Writer’s Digest has published an interview with him: “Ian Douglas: On Telling the Truth in Science Fiction”.

What prompted you to write this book?

Alien Hostiles is the second entry in a three-book series, picking up where Book One—Alien Agendas—leaves off and continuing with plot elements introduced there … though it can also be read as a stand-alone work.

My reason for writing the entire series was, I suppose, prompted by my distaste for the extremely bad science and logic behind so many current UFO conspiracy theories, most of which read like very bad B-movie sci-fi. I was at particular pains to weave those theories—those I chose to include, of course—into a seamless whole, a plausible story with at least some reasonable science behind it.

Probably the one idea that was the most important in shaping the entire series has to do with the ubiquitous alien Grays, those big-headed guys with big black eyes and spindly bodies we seem to see everywhere nowadays. It is my contention that the Grays are far, far too human to literally be alien life forms. At several points throughout each of the books, I introduce real aliens, and try to show how different they would be in anatomy, biochemistry, and psychology.

In this way I suppose I follow in the sandal-prints of Poo-Bah, in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, as I provide “corroborative detail intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.”…

(6) EH? WHAT’S THAT? “Here’s Why Movie Dialogue Has Gotten More Difficult To Understand (And Three Ways To Fix It)” at SlashFilm.

I used to be able to understand 99% of the dialogue in Hollywood films. But over the past 10 years or so, I’ve noticed that percentage has dropped significantly — and it’s not due to hearing loss on my end. It’s gotten to the point where I find myself occasionally not being able to parse entire lines of dialogue when I see a movie in a theater, and when I watch things at home, I’ve defaulted to turning the subtitles on to make sure I don’t miss anything crucial to the plot.

Knowing I’m not alone in having these experiences, I reached out to several professional sound editors, designers, and mixers, many of whom have won Oscars for their work on some of Hollywood’s biggest films, to get to the bottom of what’s going on. One person refused to talk to me, saying it would be “professional suicide” to address this topic on the record. Another agreed to talk, but only under the condition that they remain anonymous. But several others spoke openly about the topic, and it quickly became apparent that this is a familiar subject among the folks in the sound community, since they’re the ones who often bear the brunt of complaints about dialogue intelligibility…. 

(7) PODCAST PEOPLE. Podside Picnic episode 145 features Karlo Yeager Rodriguez and Connor Southard making their “Hugo Predictions Beer Run”. My hearing isn’t good enough to take a listen, which is too bad because there are a couple categories I’m curious to hear them talk about.

(8) SCORING ENCANTO. At Nerds of a Feather, Arthur Serrano’s “I’m Colombian. Here’s what ‘Encanto’ means to me” provides analysis of how the new Disney animated movie makes use of Colombian culture.

…So when I, a Colombian reviewer, draw attention to the significance of Mickey Mouse dancing cumbia at the end of Encanto, I’m absolutely not in any way framing it as our culture being finally worthy of being showcased by Hollywood. The question to ask is exactly the opposite: it’s whether Hollywood is worthy of getting its hands on our culture….

One example of it being deployed effectively:

…Just like in the United States you hear of a divide between the prosperous, educated, productive coastal cities vs. the neglected flyover country, in Colombia we have prosperous, educated, productive mountain cities vs. the neglected coasts and forests. It has become a habitual refrain to say that ruling elites in Colombia live secluded between mountains and oblivious to what goes on elsewhere. In the flashback scene where the matriarch of the Madrigal family loses her husband, bursts into tears and magically creates an entire town (am I the only one getting WandaVision vibes here?) so that she can raise her kids in safety, the most striking image is the rising of the mountains that keep her refuge closed off from the world. This is a symbolic clue to the persistent anxiety that defines this character: she’s afraid of everything outside of her microcosm.

It’s a brilliant move by the film to establish the grandmother’s character flaw in terms of her relation to physical space. It has been pointed out that Encanto is the rare adventure story where the adventure doesn’t leave the home, and there’s a solid reason for that. There’s a certain current in Colombian literature that treats the extended family household as a metaphor for the country…. 

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1995 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-six years ago, The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space premiered in the USA at theaters though details of where are scant to say the least. It was not released elsewhere in this manner as far I can determine. 

It is about the adventures of Fifties actor Ty Farrell who plays the title character in The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space, a series akin to Captain Video. And it won’t surprise you that it was intended to pay homage to both Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon.

The cast was Nichelle Nichols as Sagan, High Priestess of Pangea, Ron Perlman as Lord Vox of Vestron, Daniel Riordan as Ty Farrell / Captain Zoom, Liz Vassey as Princess Tyra, Native Leader of Pangea and Gia Carides as Vesper, High Priestess of Vestron. 

Reception was excellent with critics universally liking it. It hasn’t apparently been given a video release, nor does it apparently made it to the streaming services, so it has no rating over at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 1, 1905 Charles G. Finney. Writer and Editor. It’s rare that I pick writers whose main accomplishment is one work which has defined them, but his one such work is, well, phenomenal. His first novel and most famous work, The Circus of Dr. Lao, was a Hugo finalist at Loncon II and won one of the inaugural National Book Awards, the Most Original Book of 1935; it is most decidedly fantasy. Ray Bradbury liked the novel so much that he included it as the headline story in his anthology The Circus of Dr. Lao and Other Improbable Stories; it is said that the carnival in his Something Wicked This Way Comes is modeled upon The Circus of Dr. Lao. (Died 1984.)
  • Born December 1, 1928 Malachi Throne. You’ve likely seen him if you watched genre television on the Sixties and Seventies as he had roles on Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaStar TrekNext GenLand of the GiantsThe Time TunnelMission: Impossible, Lost in SpaceOuter LimitsThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. , Batman,  and The Six Million Dollar Man. He provided the voice of the Keeper in Trek’s first pilot episode “The Cage”. Throne was cast in another role in “The Menagerie”, Commodore José I. Méndez, so his voice has altered in his “Cage” role. (Died 2013.)
  • Born December 1, 1936 Melissa Jaffer, 85. Likely you best remember her as Utu Noranti Pralatong on Farscape though she was also in Mad Max: Fury Road where she played Keeper of the Seeds. And she was Annie in the Good Vibrations series. And she played Adeline Fitzgerald on Glitch, the Australian paranormal series. It ran for seven seasons. 
  • Born December 1, 1942 John Crowley, 79. I’m tempted to say he’s a frelling literary genius and stop there but I won’t. Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and World Fantasy Award winning Little, Big is brilliant but if anything his crow-centric novel of Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr which received the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award makes that novel look like child’s play in comparison. (Yes Little, Big did a Hugo nomination at Chicon IV.) Did you know he wrote a novella called The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines? Or Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land, which contains an entire imaginary novel by the poet? 
  • Born December 1, 1962 Gail Z. Martin, 59. Best known for known for The Chronicles of The Necromancer fantasy adventure series. Her single award to date, and it is impressive, is the Manly Wade Wellman Award for North Carolina Science Fiction and Fantasy for her Scourge novel. It was the seventh time that she had been a finalist for it. 
  • Born December 1, 1964 Jo Walton, 57. She’s won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. In her World Fantasy Award-winning Tooth and Claw dragons got positively and delightfully Victorian. Even if they eat each other. Her Small Change trilogy may be the finest WW II novels I’ve read bar none, and her Sulien series is an excellent retelling of the Arthurian myth.  Among Others which won a Hugo at Chicon 7 is she says about the “coming-of-age experience of having books instead of people for friends and solace”. I can relate to that as I imagine many here can too. She even won an Aurora Award for her “Nidhog” poem! 
  • Born December 1, 1965 Bill Willingham, 56. Best known I’d say for his long running Fable series though personally I think his best work was Proposition Player. He got his start in the late 1970s to early 1980s as a staff artist for TSR games where he was the cover artist for the AD&D Player Character Record Sheets and a lot of games I don’t recognize not being a gamer at that time. I do recognize his superb 1980s comic book series Elementals, and he later write the equally excellent Shadowpact for DC. I was always quite ambivalent about the Jack of Fables series that he spun off of Fables. Though his House of Mystery was rather good. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SIX-PACK. In “6 Books with Marissa Lingen”, Nerds of a Feather’s Paul Weimer gets to hear what’s on a writer’s shelves, or might be soon.

1. What book are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Megan E. O’Keefe’s Catalyst Gate, which is the culmination of a trilogy that starts with Velocity Weapon. It’s space opera that’s filled with spaceships, alien intelligence, nanites, and shooty-shoot–and also personal relationships and the human heart. The series is full of twists and turns, and I can’t wait to see where it all ends up.

(13) KDRAMA. The Silent Sea comes to Netflix on December 24.

With Earth in ruins, 24 hours on the clock, and the odds stacked against them, a team of space specialists embarks on a seemingly routine mission to the moon. But when things quickly take a turn for the worse, they’ll fight for their lives and uncover secrets that make their mission seem more and more impossible by the minute.

(14) THE MACHINES ARE TAKING OVER. ARE WE READY? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] And now for a bit of science culture from the nation that first put someone on the Moon (with the aid of Cavorite;).

A bit of one of the many cultural traditions in Brit Cit are the annual Reith LecturesBaron Lord Reith, in case your memory needs jogging, was the first Director-General of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The BBC’s Reith Lectures were instituted in 1948 in his honour. These annual radio talks, with the aim of advancing “public understanding and debate about significant issues of contemporary interest” have been held every year since, with the exception of 1992.

This year the Reith Lectures’ topic will be Living With Artificial Intelligence. There will be one lecture per week this month broadcast Wednesdays 09.00 GMT. “The Reith Lectures – Reith Lectures 2021 – Living With Artificial Intelligence”.

Stuart Russell, Professor of Computer Science and founder of the Centre for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the University of California, Berkeley will be the 2021 BBC Reith Lecturer. He will deliver four lectures this autumn, which will explore the impact of AI on our lives and discuss how we can retain power over machines more powerful than ourselves.

The lectures will examine what Stu Russell will argue is the most profound change in human history as the world becomes increasingly reliant on super-powerful AI. Examining the impact of AI on jobs, military conflict and human behaviour, Stu Russell will argue that our current approach to AI is wrong and that if we continue down this path, we will have less and less control over AI at the same time as it has an increasing impact on our lives. How can we ensure machines do the right thing? The lectures will suggest a way forward based on a new model for AI, one based on machines that learn about and defer to human preferences

The first lecture (already broadcast and online) is entitled What is AI and should we fear it?

In it Stuart Russell reflects on the birth of AI, tracing our thinking about it back to Aristotle. He will outline the definition of AI, its successes and failures, and potential risks for the future. Why do we often fear the potential of AI? Referencing the representation of AI systems in film and popular culture, Russell will examine whether our fears are well founded. As previous Reith Lecturer Professor Stephen Hawking said in 2014, “Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks.” Russell will ask how those risks arise and whether they can be avoided, allowing humanity and AI to coexist successfully.

The lectures will be downloadable as an .mp3 for a month after broadcast. The
first is here.

(15) TOP 10. JustWatch says these were the Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies and TV Shows in the United States in November 2021:

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1Free GuyThe Wheel of Time
2DuneDoctor Who
3GhostbustersCowboy Bebop (1998)
4Venom: Let There Be CarnageHawkeye
5Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten RingsArcane
6Spider-ManFoundation
7Spider-Man: Far From HomeRick and Morty
8VenomBlade Runner: Black Lotus
9Spider-Man: HomecomingBattlestar Galactica
10The Amazing Spider-ManInvasion

*Based on JustWatch popularity score. Genre data is sourced from themoviedb.org

(16) THE HOLE TRUTH? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Ars Technica reports “Russia threatens criminal charges against a NASA astronaut”.  (1) This traces back to the August 2018 “hole in the Soyuz” incident. (2) The headline implies criminal charges may be pending. That seems to be an overstatement, based on what is actually written in the article. The article could, however, have left out information that would support the headline.

The Russian space corporation, Roscosmos, said it has completed an investigation into a “hole” found in a Soyuz spacecraft when the vehicle was docked to the International Space Station in 2018.

Moreover, Roscosmos told the Russian publication RIA Novosti that it has sent the results of the investigation to law enforcement officials. “All results of the investigation regarding the hole in the habitation module of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft were transmitted to Law Enforcement officials,” Roscosmos said. No further details were provided.

In Russia, the results of such an investigation are sent to law enforcement to allow officials to decide whether or not to initiate a criminal case, which would be akin to issuing an indictment…. 

Since then, the focus has been on what—or who—may have caused the hole. A micrometeoroid strike was soon ruled out. Some Russian media reported that the hole had been caused by a manufacturing or testing defect, and this seems to be the most plausible theory. At the same time, however, sources in the Russian government started baseless rumors that perhaps a disgruntled NASA astronaut had drilled the hole….

(17) MONSTROUS BEHAVIOR. “2022 National Park Monsters Calendar” strikes me as a highly amusing product. However, the seller I ordered it from bit me with an $8.99 “tax” that was not shown to me as part of my order and now I am disputing it. So no link….

Real National Parks; Fake Monsters! It’s the 2022 Alternate Histories Calendar, packed with monsters, aliens, zombies, and other creatures rampaging through America’s National Parks.

(18) ONE HACKER’S OPINION. Behind a paywall at Wired, Andy Greenberg makes the argument that “The Matrix Is the Best Hacker Movie“ ever. Oh, he admits that the actual amount of hacking shown is quite small, but, quoting an early viewer of the movie, Neo understood that “by interfacing with this black screen with glowing green writing on it, he could change the world in ways that it was not necessarily meant to be changed.”

Or, in Greenberg‘s words, “The real hacking in The Matrix is metaphorical. The red-pill lesson Morpheus gives Neo is that a user in a digital system doesn’t have to abide by its terms of service.“

…For years the generally accepted canon of classic hacker movies has been a kind of holy trinity: 1983’s WarGames, with its digital delinquent caught up in Cold War geopolitics; the 1992 computers-and-cryptography heist film Sneakers; and 1995’s teen cyber-hijinks thriller Hackers. With a couple of decades of hindsight, however, it’s well past time to recognize that The Matrix has in some ways eclipsed that triumvirate. As other hacker films ossify, turning into computer cat-and-mouse-game time capsules, The Matrix has become the most abiding, popular, and relevant portrayal of hacking—a brain-plug jacked so deeply into our cultural conception of the genre that we’ve almost forgotten it’s there….

(19) WE HAVE IGNITION. Yahoo! recaps a network TV show which includes a genre Christmas light extravaganza: “Homemade ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ decorations set high bar for Christmas displays”.

The holiday season was in full swing Sunday as ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight returned for yet another year. While there were no large crowds in attendance this year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was still a festive celebration filled with thousands of lights and incredibly creative decoration themes. One of the more popular themes from the night was based on the stop-motion holiday classic The Nightmare Before Christmas.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Ghostbusters: Afterlife Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, has the writer pitch that all the fans who were mad at the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot will pay to see a “loving tribute” to the original, including the last third that “follows the third act of the original, beat for beat.”  Also the writer has the producer play “product placement Mad Libs,” which is why we have characters buying a lot of Baskin-Robbins ice cream at Wal-Mart.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Kurt Schiller, Jeffrey Smith, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Twisty Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/16/21 Escape From Pixel Scroll

(1) SUPERMAN MOTTO CHANGED.  The motto associated with Forties radio Superman, and the George Reeves TV show, and sporadically used since then, has been swapped for something else. The Daily Beast has the story: “DC Comics Changes Superman Motto, Swaps ‘American Way’ With ‘Better Tomorrow’”. Normally one would say “something new”, except this sounds like it was lifted from old GE advertising.

After more than 50 years of upholding “truth, justice, and the American way,” Superman is changing his motto.

The superhero will now stand for “truth, justice, and a better tomorrow,” DC Comics announced during its DC FanDome event Saturday. In a press release, the company said the motto will “better reflect the global storylines that we are telling across DC.”

“Superman has long been a symbol of hope who inspires people from around the world, and it is that optimism and hope that powers him forward with this new mission statement,” Jim Lee, the company’s publisher and chief creative officer, said….

Hard as it is to believe, alt-right Bounding Into Comics does not yet have a post up about the change.

(2) HOLLYWOOD AGREEMENT AVERTS STRIKE. AP reports “Strike dodged with deal between film and TV crews, studios”. Details of the new contracts were not immediately revealed.

An 11th-hour deal was reached Saturday, averting a strike of film and television crews that would have seen some 60,000 behind-the-scenes workers walk off their jobs and would have frozen productions in Hollywood and across the U.S.

After days of marathon negotiations, representatives from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and from the studios and entertainment companies who employ them reached the three-year contract agreement before a Monday strike deadline, avoiding a serious setback for an industry that had just gotten back to work after long pandemic shutdowns.

Jarryd Gonzales, spokesman for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios and other entertainment companies in negotiations, confirmed the agreement to The Associated Press.

The union’s members still must vote to approve the tentative agreement….

(3) THE JURY IS IN. In the “2021 Hugo Short Story Panel of Awesomeness”, Hugos There podcaster Seth Heasley is joined by Cora Buhlert, Ivor Watkins, Alan Bailey, Lise Andreasen, Sarah Elkins, JW Wartick, Lori Anderson, Haley Zapal, and Amy Salley to discuss the 2021 nominees for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story. (The podcast version is here.)

(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to join the marvelous Sam Maggs for drinks on episode 156 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Sam Maggs

This time around, you’ll get to eavesdrop on my chat with Sam Maggs, a writer with whom I share an artistic bond, even though we’re from entirely different generations of comic book creators.

That’s because Sam wrote the adventures of the she/her Captain Marvel in 2019 — 42 years after I wrote about he/him Captain Marvel in 1977. She’s also written comics about Jem and the HologramsRick & MortyMy Little PonyTransformers, and Invader Zim. She’s published pure prose as well, including her first book The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the young adult novel The Unstoppable Wasp: Built on Hope. Her games writing includes Spider-Man: The City that Never Sleeps, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and many others.

We discussed the Stargate SG-1 convention that was her gateway drug for fandom, why her debut comic book story turned out to be a Star Trek tale, the way the arcs of our careers ran in completely opposite directions, what it was like releasing six books during a pandemic, how The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy was born though complete serendipity, the audition that got her the gig to write an Unstoppable Wasp novel, how she dreamed up her pitch for Captain Marvel, and much more.

(5) OFFICE IN THE OBSERVATORY. Brother Guy Consolmagno appears this week in Nature’s “Where I work” feature, including a photo of him peering through an antique telescope.

SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie sent the link, proud to remember Brother Guy is someone with whom he’d in the past (years ago) appeared with on a Worldcon panel:

Paul McAuley, Jonathan Cowie, Br. Guy Consolmagno

(6) RUN THE NEBULA CONFERENCE. SFWA says “We Need You! SFWA is Hiring a Nebula Conference Manager!”. Full guidelines at the link.

The SFWA Nebula CPM would be responsible for all project management activities associated with the annual SFWA Nebula Conference. In 2022, the organization will be offering a hybrid model of the conference, with both an online component and in-person event. The CPM would be leading the entire 2022 Conference, supervising and working closely with the online conference project manager. 

(7) NO HOLDING BACK. Tim Kirk shared Harlan Ellison’s special coffee recipe in a public post on the Harlan Ellison Facebook Fan Club page.

Back in the 1970s I made numerous trips up to Ellison Wonderland. Harlan had asked me to illustrate “The Last Dangerous Visions,” and I spent many Saturdays reading manuscripts in his living room; and I drank many cups of a delicious coffee mixture Harlan had concocted himself: “Cafe’ Ellison Diabolique.” This recipe was published in Anne McCaffrey’s very entertaining collection of recipes by SF and fantasy authors, “Cooking Out of This World” (Ballantine Books 1973). Harlan left out one Mystery Ingredient, which he later revealed to me: Ovaltine. Pictured here is the official Little Orphan Annie Ovaltine Mug that Harlan gave me….

(8) SPEAKEASY. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik says that AI has advanced to the point that instantaneous translation of films is possible leading to a future without dubbing and subtitles. “Every movie and TV show could soon be dubbed into any language you want”.

… Traditional dubbing often works like this. A studio or local distributor, having decided it wants a local-language release, pays to translate a script, hire a set of voice actors to play the characters, rent out engineering equipment, put the actors through numerous voice takes, record them and then splice their readings back into the original video — a mighty grapple to achieve a smooth final product. The whole process can take months.

Auto-dubbing can work like this. The original actor records five minutes of random text in their own language. Then the machines take over: A neural network learns the actor’s voice, a program digests that vocal information and applies it to a digital translation of the script, then the AI spits out perfectly timed lines from the film in the foreign language and drops them into the action. The whole process could take weeks…

(9) RECLASSIFIED? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The first argument I’ve seen that Dhalgren is a horror novel. Andy Marino in “Under Your Skin: The Horror of the Inexplicable” on CrimeReads.

Consider the moment you wake from a nap into disorientation so pure, the first thing you see when you open your eyes—a lamp, a windowsill—is distorted and unfamiliar. You glitch. Draw a blank.

Imagine a distillation of this perception as an elusive high. I’d argue that the kind of fiction that bottles up this feeling and pours it down your throat is more terrifying than any haunted house, vengeful ghost, or Little Kid Who Sees Things.

That’s not to say that the time-honored elements of horror can’t be used to great and satisfying effect, or reconfigured into something wholly fresh. I’m not one to mess with the staples that make up so much of the horror I love. But it’s the off-kilter portrayal of the mundane, where reality comes unstitched in a vaguely sickening way, that really gets under your fingernails and lays its quivering eggs….

(10) MOUDRY OBIT. Southern fan Joe Moudry died October 15 reports Guy H. Lillian III. Moudry was a member of many amateur press associations (apas) over the years – the Southern Fandom Press Alliance (SFPA, where he once served as Official Editor), PAAPA, the Hyborian Legion, PEAPS, and was a member of the Esoteric Order of Dagon and its Official Editor in 1981.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1950 – Seventy-one years on this day, C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was  first published in the United Kingdom by Geoffrey Bles who would publish the first five of this series.  It is the first published and best known of seven novels in The Chronicles of Narnia. Among all the author’s books, it is also the most widely held in American and British libraries. It would be illustrated by Pauline Baynes who would later do the artwork for some of Tolkien’s work.  It was extremely popular, despite the fears of the publisher that it wouldn’t be, from the moment it was published, and has remained so to this day. The movie of sixteen years vintage also enjoys an equally popular reception with a box office just behind Revenge of the Sith, and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently giving it an eighty percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 16, 1854 Oscar Wilde. Writer, Journalist, Playwright, and Poet from Ireland whose only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, has been translated into more than a dozen languages, made into countless radio plays, musicals, TV films and movies — the 1945 version of which was awarded a Retro Hugo at CoNZealand — and had enduring influence on modern popular culture as an examination of morality. His long list of short fiction credits includes some fairy tales and genre stories, of which the best known is “The Canterville Ghost”, which has likewise undergone a copious number of translations and adaptations into various media. (Died 1900.)
  • Born October 16, 1925 Dame Angela Brigid Lansbury, 96. She first shows up in a genre work as Sibyl Vane in The Picture of Dorian Gray. A few years later, she’s Queen Anne of France in The Three Musketeers. Somewhat later, she’s Miss Eglantine Price in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. She voices Mommy Fortuna in The Last Unicorn, and is Granny in A Company of Wolves which won the  BSFA Award for Best Film and it’s based off Angela Carter’s A Company of Wolves. And yes she’s in Mary Poppins Returns as The Balloon Lady. And I’ll toss in the stage production of The King and I where she was Anna Leonowens as that was at least genre adjacent.
  • Born October 16, 1940 Barry Corbin, 81. Actor whose face will be familiar from his many character roles — frequently as gruff military officers or crusty eccentrics — including those in genre movies WarGamesMy Science ProjectGhost DadRace to SpaceDawn of the Crescent Moon, Curdled, Critters 2, and Timequest, which appears to be an uncredited version of Greg Benford’s Timescape (which provided the name for the Pocket Books line of science fiction novels helmed by David G. Hartwell in the early 1980s). He narrated Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America’s Race to the Moon, based on the book by Mercury Seven astronaut Alan Shepard.
  • Born October 16, 1956 Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, 65. Aside from appearing on Xena: Warrior PrincessStar Trek: Voyager, and Quantum Leap, she’s lent her voice acting to The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest HeroesGhost in the Shell: Stand Alone ComplexNarutoX-Men, and Bleach to name but a few of her roles. She was a Guest of Honor at Anime Expo 2007, Long Beach.
  • Born October 16, 1963 Glenn Glazer, 58. Conrunner and Fan who has been on the concoms for many Worldcons and regional conventions, chaired a Smofcon and a Westercon, and was one of three vice-chairs for Sasquan, the 2015 Worldcon. He has been involved in a number of APAs, including SWAPA, Mutations, The Calling, LASFAPA, APA-69, and APA-FNORD.
  • Born October 16, 1971 Lawrence Schimel, 50. Writer, Editor, Poet, and Translator. He is a founding member of The Publishing Triangle, an organization promoting fiction by LGBTQ authors and/or with LGBTQ themes, which inform many of his short fiction works. He has edited, mostly in collaboration with Martin H. Greenberg, at least 10 anthologies. His solo anthology, Things Invisible to See, and one of his short fiction collections were both recognized with Lambda Award nominations, and his speculative poetry has garnered a Rhysling Award nomination and a win. 
  • Born October 16, 1917 Claire Necker. This might be going a little astray from genre birthdays but I think not, given most of us have SJW creds. A librarian by trade, she wrote a number of feline related academic works including The Natural History of CatsSupernatural Cats: An Anthology which includes writers such as Fritz Lieber and H.P. Lovecraft , Four Centuries of Cat Books and Cat’s Got Our Tongue which is are feline cantered proverbs. She unfortunately has not made into the digital realm. (Died 2010.)
  • Born October 16, 1973 Eva Röse, 48. Most likely best known for her role as the android Niska in Season 1 of the Swedish Äkta människor  (Real Humans) upon which AMC’s Humans was based. She also was one of the voice cast for the animated Creepschool series, and was Jasmie on The Befallen, a supernatural series that lasted one season there. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump shows a famous monster with a terrible problem.

(14) GACHAPON. “A Tiny Gas Meter? The More Mundane the Better for Japan’s Capsule Toys” says the New York Times.

… Isolated in their plastic spheres, the tiny reproductions feel like a metaphor for Covid-era life. On social media, users — as gachapon designers insist on calling their customers — arrange their purchases in wistful tableaus of life outside the bubble, Zen rock gardens for the 21st century. Some have faithfully recreated drab offices, outfitted with whiteboards and paper shredders, others business hotel rooms complete with a pants press.

For Mr. Yamanishi, whose company, Toys Cabin, is based in Shizuoka, not far from Tokyo, success is “not about whether it sells or not.”

“You want people to ask themselves, ‘Who in the world would buy this?’” he said.

It’s a rhetorical question, but in recent years, the answer is young women. They make up more than 70 percent of the market, and have been especially active in promoting the toys on social media, said Katsuhiko Onoo, head of the Japan Gachagacha Association. (Gachagacha is an alternative term for the toys.)…

The products are not particularly profitable for most makers, but they offer designers a creative outlet and find a ready customer base in a country that has always had a taste for whimsy, said Hiroaki Omatsu, who writes a weekly column about the toys for a website run by the Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper.

“Creating gachapon for adults is all about devoting yourself to making something that’s worthless,” he said. “‘This is ridiculous’ is the highest form of praise.”

(15) TODAY’S TIME TRAVEL FAQ. Courtesy of Keaton Patti.

I was going to have to revoke the previous joke til I confirmed he wasn’t talking about Gene Wolfe in this tweet —

(16) ZERO SUM GAME. Eater reports on how a “Robot Cafe Considers Itself Pro-Worker by Not Hiring Any Workers”.

Despite fully automated luxury communism sounding pretty sweet, Western workers have mostly felt haunted the specter of our jobs being taken by robots. Take RC Coffee, Canada’s first “robotic cafe,” aka an “unattended espresso machine,” which is basically a glorified version of whatever spat sludge and foam into a cup for five quarters in your college dorm’s lounge. But it is probably aware of that association, and the fear that kiosks like it could actually replace a barista, so it’s trying a new tactic; robots as pro-worker….

(17) FESS UP. They’d still like to get it back. “Rock. Paper. Pranksters.” At University of Oregon’s “Around the O.”

OK, mystery pranksters. It’s been 43 years since the Great Halloween Meteorite Caper of ’78. Your identities have never become widely known. Time to come forward.

Halloween night that year, a group calling itself the Meteorite Cleaning Service staged a distraction at Prince Lucien Campbell Hall. “A strangling man appeared to be hanging from a window of PLC. Campus security went to investigate only to discover the man was in fact a balloon, a shirt, and some pants,” student reporter Jock Hatfield wrote in the Oregon Daily Emerald.

While campus security responded to PLC, the pranksters headed to the Museum of Natural History, then located in what is now Pacific Hall. Their target was on display out front: a life-size, plaster-and-chicken-wire replica of the sixth-largest meteorite found on Earth, the Willamette Meteorite or “Tomanowos,” as named by the Clackamas people.

The next day, “it was immediately evident the meteorite replica was gone,” remembers Alice Parman, then the museum director. Eight hundred pounds of mock rock, 12 feet wide and 6 feet tall, gone, leaving nothing but questions: Why? How? And who?…

(18) CHINA SENDS CREW TO THEIR SPACE STATION. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] “China launches 6-month crewed mission as it cements position as global space power” reports CNN. Crew includes Wang Yaping, first female taikonaut on the station and first scheduled to do a spacewalk.

China launched a three-person crew into space in the early hours of Saturday — a major step for the country’s young space program, which is rapidly becoming one of the world’s most advanced.

The three astronauts lifted off on the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft just past midnight local time, launched by a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert, located in Inner Mongolia.

They will dock at China’s new space station, Tiangong (which means Heavenly Palace), six and a half hours after launch. They will live and work at the station for 183 days, or just about six months — the country’s longest mission yet….

(19) WOOF, WOOF, BANG, BANG. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] While they look like cousins, don’t confuse this robodog with Boston Dynamics’ Spot. The much-less-aptly-named canid-like bot Vision 60 is made by Ghost Robotics out of Philly. A version of Vision has been demonstrated carrying a sniper rifle, albeit one that is aimed and fired by a remote operator. Unarmed versions of Vision 60 have been used in military exercises. The article doesn’t address whether Ghost Robotics has any customers for the armed version. “Welp, Now We Have Robo-Dogs With Sniper Rifles” at Popular Mechanics.

Science fiction has seeped into science reality this week, as a robotics company showed off its sniper rifle-equipped robo-dog at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual convention in Washington, D.C.

Sure, the quadruped robot might resemble a good boy, but it’s packing a built-in sniper rifle capable of engaging targets from three-quarters of a mile away. The service could operate this robotic weapon system remotely. Importantly, it would only engage targets with permission from a human being….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Extent” is an sff short film distributed by DUST.

Time stands still as two old friends attempt to grapple with a question that defines their very existence. If you could live forever, would you?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Rich Lynch, Cora Buhlert, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Jeffrey Smith, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 9/9/21 Please Remove Shoes Before Standing On Shoulders Of Giant

(1) TAKEI PAYS TRIBUTE TO BJO. [Item by David Doering.] If you didn’t catch it, last night the Paramount+ network put on a Star Trek Day special. They included short retrospectives on past Star Trek series from cast members. For TOS, they had George Takei. He described how the series was rescued for a third season, but then went out of his way with the short time he had to mention Bjo Trimble as the force behind it. His mention received a roar of applause and cheers from the crowd. I was deeply touched by both his highlighting Bjo and the audience’s response.

He went on to say that thanks to the third season, TOS could go into syndication, which is what cultivated a whole world of fans which led…and so on. Today we will have FIVE simultaneous Trek series on TV. Woah. So, SO glad to live to this era! 

(2) WATCH STAR TREK DAY SPECIAL. A recording of the three-hour-plus Star Trek Day livestream celebration is available at Facebook Live today.

(3) YOU WON’T EAT LUNCH IN THIS TOWN AGAIN. They controlled the vertical. They controlled the horizontal. The 1965 Worldcon committee even found a way to tune out Harlan Ellison, writer of Outer Limits’ “Soldier” episode. The Hugo Book Club Blog replays that bit of history in “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bombastic Ego”.

…Though he backed down from that attempt, Ellison was adamant that there should be a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1965, and encouraged other fans to write in nominations for the category … with the apparent belief that if the category was being considered that year, his Outer Limits episode would be a shoe-in.

But the 1965 Hugo Awards operated under a unique set of rules that have not been used since; as per the convention committee, the shortlist was created via “nomination by a panel of experts, selecting from suggestions offered by the membership at large.” In practice, this meant that no matter how many voters included “Soldier” on their nominating ballot, the Hugo Committee could omit it if they so chose….

(4) REMATRIX. The Matrix Resurrections will be in theaters and on HBO Max on December 22.

From visionary filmmaker Lana Wachowski comes “The Matrix Resurrections,” the long-awaited fourth film in the groundbreaking franchise that redefined a genre. The new film reunites original stars Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss in the iconic roles they made famous, Neo and Trinity.

(5) HE’S DEAD, JIM. Did you notice anything missing from the trailer above? Vice tries to explain the absence of a major character: “Is Morpheus Not in The Matrix Trailer Because He Died in The Matrix MMO?”

So you just watched the new Matrix Resurrections trailer and you’re wondering where Laurence Fishburne character Morpheus is. I’ve got bad news for you: Canonically, he’s been dead since the mid 2000s.

As part of an ambitious plan to continue The Matrix franchise after the films, the Wachowskis gave their blessing to a massively multiplayer online game based on the franchise, which launched in 2005. Victim of an overcrowded MMO market, The Matrix Online was canceled only four years later in 2009, and had less than 500 active players by that point. That this game is little known and now impossible to play does not also stop the following from being true: Technically, everything that occurred in that game is canon. The Matrix’s fan wiki considers The Matrix Online canon, and the Wachowskis were heavily involved in the creation of some of the Matrix games. They even appeared in The Matrix: Path of Neo.

According to The Matrix‘s fan wiki, Morpheus’s death was part of an in-game event where the character was, as always, up to some esoteric scheme…

(6) BYO. The real event was cancelled due to Covid, but 15,000 people showed up anyway. “Nevada sheriff says ‘Renegade’ Burning Man kept officers busy with rowdy behavior” reports the Reno Gazette Journal.

Things got a little salty on the playa at this year’s rogue Burning Man, according to the sheriff who has been overseeing the annual festival since 2015.

Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen described this year’s event — held outside the official auspices of the Burning Man organization — as  “people packed in a small space in the heat, no shade or cooling other than nighttime, little respect for your fellow man, and this year add the thick amounts of smoke and no (organized group) to attempt to diffuse situations.”

In addition to an increase in car crashes and open acts of speeding, there was a general “lack of care for fellow participants” over gathering that culminated Monday, Allen said.

He estimated more than 15,000 people flocked to what was dubbed “Renegade” Burning Man after organizers canceled the event for the second year in a row amid the COVID-19 pandemic. https://www.usatodaynetworkservice.com/tangstatic/html/pren/sf-q1a2z3be0d353f.min.html Typically, the annual event attracts more than 80,000 people to the playa about two hours north of Reno.

Last year it was estimated that about 5,000 people gathered in the Black Rock Desert even though the arts festival was cancelled.  

(7) CALLING BUGGIRL200. The New York Times profiles the creator of “A T-Shirt Shop for the Semi-Ironic ‘Twilight’ Fan”.

… She started selling them on Depop — a site often used to list “pre-loved” items — but realized, after receiving nearly 80 requests in her first day, that she’d need to scale up. So, she bought a web domain, BUGGIRL200.com (after her TikTok user name), and built her own online store. She has since sold more than 15,000 shirts, each of them reflecting tongue-in-cheek nostalgia for cultural touchstones from the last two decades. 

…This shirt — one of several “Twilight”-themed items Ms. Sinclair has made — was posted by Olivia Rodrigo on Instagram.

Her work has not gone unnoticed by the celebrity class: Olivia Rodrigo, for instance, tagged her friend Iris Apatow — daughter of Judd — in a photo on Instagram of a BUGGIRL200 original that reads as follows: “I think the Twilight movies are AWESOME!!!!! If you don’t think that makes me SEXY and COOL, DON’T FREAKING TALK TO ME!!!!! I am not even kidding.”

The image caught the eye of Dulce Clara, 21, a student in San Marcos, Calif. “‘Twilight’ will forever have a special place in my heart because not only did I grow up watching the movies, but it was actually my first teen romance film,” she said. When she saw Ms. Rodrigo’s post, she said, “I instantly fell in love with the shirt and bought it.”

(8) CHUNG MEDICAL UPDATE. Winchell Chung of Atomic Rockets has announced he is battling cancer.

Ad Astra Games reports on the efforts to keep Atomic Rockets online:

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1978 – Forty-three years ago this week, the Jason of Star Command series was first seen on CBS. It was created and produced by Arthur H. Nadel who was previously responsible for Shazam!The Secrets of Isis and Space Academy which this is a spin-off of. (The only series of these which I’ve seen is the first. I really liked it at the time. No idea what the Suck Fairy would make of it.) It would last but two seasons of twenty eight episodes.  (The first season episodes were fifteen minutes long and formed one story, the second were thirty minutes long.) James Doohan would be in the cast as Commander Canarvin for the first season before leaving to film Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and the chief villain here was Sid Haig who had appeared on Star Trek as the First Lawgiver in “The Return of the Archons”. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 9, 1922 — Pauline Baynes. She was the first illustrator of some of J. R. R. Tolkien’s lesser known works such as Farmer Giles of Ham and Smith of Wootton Major and of C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. With the help of cartographers from the Bordon military camp in Hampshire, Baynes created a map that Allen & Unwin published as a poster in 1970. Tolkien was generally pleased with it, though he didn’t particularly like her creatures especially her conception of a spider. (Died 2008.)
  • Born September 9, 1929 — Joseph Wrzos, 92. He edited Amazing Stories and Fantastic under the name Joseph Ross from 1965 through early 1967. With Hannes Bok, he edited in 2012, Hannes Bok: A Life in Illustration. He won First Fandom Hall of Fame Award, and its Sam Moskowitz Archive Award twice.
  • Born September 9, 1935 — Topol, 86. He’s best remembered for his role of Tevye the Dairyman in Fiddler on the Roof, on both stage and screen, but that’s not why he’s getting a Birthday.  No, that’s because it’s because he was Dr. Hans Zarkov in the 1980 Flash Gordon film. He’s got just two other genre appearences, once in Tales of the Unexpected as Professor Max Kelada  in the “Mr. Know-All” episode, and in the Bond film, For Your Eyes Only.
  • Born September 9, 1943 — Tom Shippey, 78. Largely known as a Tolkien expert, though I see he wrote a scholarly 21-page introduction to Flights of Eagles, a collection of James Blish work. Under the pseudonym of John Holm, he is also the co-author, with Harry Harrison, of The Hammer and the Cross trilogy of alternate history novels. And early on, he did a lot of SF related non-fiction tomes such as Fiction 2000: Cyberpunk and the Future of Narrative (edited with George Slusser). He edited The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories thirty years ago. 
  • Born September 9, 1952 — Angela Cartwright, 69. Fondly remembered as Penny Robinson on the original Lost in Space. She, like several of her fellow cast members, made an appearance in the Lost in Space film. In her case, it was as Shelia Harris in the “Echoes” episode. She appeared in the Logan’s Run series in “The Collectors” episode as Karen, and in Airwolf as Mrs. Cranovich in the “Eruption” episode. 
  • Born September 9, 1955 — Janet Fielding, 66. Tegan Jovanka, companion to the Fifth Doctor. The actress had a rather short performing career starting with the Hammer House of Horror series in 1980 where she was Secretary Mandy on the “Charlie Boy” episode” before landing the Doctor Who gig through 1984 before her career ending in the early Nineties. She was part of the 2013 50th Anniversary The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Her last acting role was voicing Dr. Mendez in the “Breakout” episode of the Australian Prisoner Zero series.
  • Born September 9, 1960 — Hugh Grant, 61. He appeared in The Lair of the White Worm as Lord James D’Ampton and in the remake of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as Mr. Waverly. And he was the Handsome Doctor in Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, the 1999 Doctor Who special made for the Red Nose Day charity telethon. He’s in the forthcoming Dungeons & Dragons as Forge Fletcher. 
  • Born September 9, 1971 — Henry Thomas, 50. Elliot in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Let’s just say that he’s had a busy post-E.T. acting career for which I will single out his rather good work in Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King and The Haunting of Hill House series. He’s playing Doctor Mid-Nite in the ongoing Stargirl series which I really need to see. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

Lise Andreasen supplies a Danish/English translation for the Wulffmorgenthaler 7/9 cartoon published at Politiken.

Good news!  Now that the apocalypse is over, we actually have the resources to rebuild the whole society, just as it was before!  What do you say!?

How about we don’t!  How do you think we ended up here?  Think, Lars!

(12) TILT. Somewhere down the I-10 from me a pop culture mecca is going away: “Pinball Museum Will Auction 1,700 Arcade Games After Closing Its Doors” says the New York Times.

Inside an unremarkable warehouse near Palm Springs, Calif., hundreds of pinball machines once beckoned arcade game aficionados from far and wide, their blinking lights and coin slots a throwback to a time long before Xbox.

But then came the coronavirus pandemic, and the game, one that the museum’s owner said was already a losing proposition because of the economic climate and the cost of real estate and insurance, was over. No flippers could keep the ball in play.

Now, the Museum of Pinball in Banning, Calif., one of the largest museums devoted to pinball machines, is about to do something that once might have seemed inconceivable: It will start on Friday to auction off more than 1,700 arcade games.

The auction will be conducted both online and at the museum itself, where in 2015 a Guinness World Record was set for the most people playing pinball simultaneously: 331.

The collection could be worth as much as $7 million, according to the auctioneer handling the sale, which includes some machines more than 60 years old. The holy grail of the sale could be a “Pirates of the Caribbean” collector’s edition pinball machine from 2018, associated with the Disney franchise, which the auction house said could fetch up to $35,000….

(13) MEET THE CREW. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds cast announcement does major fan service. See the video at StarTrek.com.

(14) CONTROL THAT IMPULSE. That’s the plan, says Yahoo! News: “A 150-Year Old Idea Could Lead To A Breakthrough In Space Travel”.

… Once the exclusive province of science fiction films, space colonization has been moving closer to becoming a reality thanks to major advances in astronautics and astrophysics; rocket propulsion and design, robotics and medicine. Trekkies, along with the otherworldly technology featured in the Star Trek series, have helped define the science fiction universe. One of the most mind-boggling of these technologies from those shows is the “Impulse Drive,” a propulsion system used on the spaceships of many species to get across the galaxy in amazingly short timeframes measured in months or a few years rather than centuries or millennia. 

And now scientists have unveiled the Holy Grail of Space Travel: A real-life Impulse Drive system able to achieve sub-light velocities using zero fuel propellants. After 30 years of tinkering and fine-tuning, a pair of scientists might finally be close to turning science fiction into science fact. 

And, NASA is taking the idea seriously. 

Conventional spaceships burn rocket fuel to achieve escape velocities, maneuver, and even land, in the case of SpaceX rockets. But what if you could build a spaceship that runs entirely on electricity?

That’s exactly what the Mach Effect Gravity Assist (MEGA) drive does.

Jim Woodward, a physics professor emeritus at California State University, Fullerton, and Hal Fearn, a physicist at Fullerton, have developed the Mach Effect Gravity Assist (MEGA) Drive propulsion based on what they say is peer-reviewed, technically credible physics.

With the help of a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) grant, the two scientists have developed MEGA Drive based on the physics described in Einstein’s theory of relativity….

(15) WHAT A TOOL. “Judge Says an AI Can’t Be an Inventor on a Patent Because It’s Not a Person”MSN.com has the verdict.

U.S. federal judge Leonie Brikema ruled this week that an AI can’t be listed as an inventor on a U.S. patent under current law. The case was brought forward by Stephen Thaler, who is part of the Artificial Inventor Project, an international initiative that argues that an AI should be allowed to be listed as an inventor in a patent (the owner of the AI would legally own the patent).

Thaler sued the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office after it denied his patent applications because he had listed the AI named DABUS as the inventor of a new type of flashing light and a beverage container. In various responses spanning several months, the Patent Office explained to Thaler that a machine does not qualify as an inventor because it is not a person. In fact, the machine is a tool used by people to create inventions, the agency maintained.

Brikema determined that the Patent Office correctly enforced the nation’s patent laws and pointed out that it basically all boils down to the everyday use of language. In the latest revision of the nation’s patent law in 2011, Congress explicitly defined an inventor as an “individual.” The Patent Act also references an inventor using words such as “himself” and herself.”

(16) HIJACK THE STARSHIP. Star Trek: Prodigy is coming to Nickelodeon.

Developed by Emmy Award-winners Kevin and Dan Hageman (“Trollhunters” and “Ninjago”) the CG-animated series STAR TREK: PRODIGY is the first “Star Trek” series aimed at younger audiences and will follow a motley crew of young aliens who must figure out how to work together while navigating a greater galaxy, in search for a better future. These six young outcasts know nothing about the ship they have commandeered – a first in the history of the Star Trek Franchise – but over the course of their adventures together, they will each be introduced to Starfleet and the ideals it represents.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, N., Lise Andreasen, Chris Barkley, James Davis Nicoll, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and  John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/14/21 WandangerousVisions

(1) VOX DAY MOVES AGAIN. Three days after being shut down by Blogger Vox Day has migrated his blog to a second URL — “voxday.net”. The mirror blog he opened at “milosbookclub.com” was temporary and hasn’t been updated since August 12. 

The new site isn’t accepting comments, a deficiency Vox covered with a blustery attack on a critic at Anonymous Conservative [Internet Archive link] — “Comments Gone, Gammas Hardest Hit” [Internet Archive link]. Here are the first two of his four progressively more remarkable justifications:

…First, I have made it perfectly clear since 2003 that I don’t care about the comments. I permitted them as a courtesy, nothing more.

Second, it is a distinct pleasure to no longer have to spend any time moderating the hundreds of spam and troll and wise and insightful comments. I had no idea how much time I was wasting on it until I suddenly didn’t have to think about it anymore…

(2) CONVERGENCE COVID WARNING. The CONvergence 2021 committee announced on Twitter they received a report that someone who attended the con a week ago on Thursday and Friday has tested positive for COVID-19. Thread starts here.

(3) MIDDLE-EARTH FALLOUT. New Zealand is rocked by Amazon’s decision to move Lord of the Rings production to the UK reports Variety: “New Zealand Reacts to Shame of Losing ‘Lord of the Rings’ Mega-Series”.

…“It’s a shame and I feel for everyone who has put their hearts into this production. Season two was expected to begin later in 2022, so our role now is to work hard to keep the Kiwi screen sector employed,” said David Strong, CEO of the New Zealand Film Commission. He said that the series’ departure “opens the door wider to others to come in” and that the NZFC will continue to work closely with government on assisting these productions to shoot in the country.

New Zealand offers one of the most generous location incentive schemes in the world. This includes a 20% rebate scheme and, for especially large productions that deliver an infrastructure or other long-lasting benefit to the country, there is a discretionary additional subsidy known as an “uplift” equivalent to a further 5% of location spending.

According to government documents published in April this year, Amazon was estimated to be spending about NZ$650 million ($455 million) filming the first season of the show. It would have been eligible for a rebate of about NZ$162 million ($114 million), the government said, though it later reduced that figure.

Amazon’s statement makes it clear that it will walk away from the NZ$33 million ($23.1 million) of uplift that was agreed in April, when the company indicated, but did not commit to, shooting the second season in the country….

(4) UK CLUB REUNITES. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] After 17 months the Northumberland Heath SF group had its first meeting. The event, held August 12 at the Heath’s Duchess of Kent in the Beer Garden, took place at the height of the Perseid meteor shower and an observation duly took place.

There was also a free SF/F book giveaway courtesy of a sponsor.

In addition to over a year’s worth of catch-up there was the usual wide-ranging SFnal chat with topics including —

Whether or not regular (the 2nd Thursday of the month) meetings will resume depends on whether CoVID cases reduce. Fingers crossed.

Attached picture of group and the books member’s chose for their free book give-away (courtesy of a group sponsor).

(5) TOON TUNES. SYFY Wire shares the music: “Animaniacs: Watch exclusive lyric videos from Hulu reboot”.

…Both musical numbers come from the reboot premiere and revolve around how much has changed since Animaniacs left the airwaves more than 20 years ago. Presidents and cultural norms may have shifted, but the core creative team behind the iconic property — save for creator Tom Ruegger — has not. Steven Spielberg is still an executive producer, while Yakko, Wakko, and Dot continue to be voiced by the trio of Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, and Tress MacNeille. Maurice LaMarche rounds out the OG crew as the voice of Brain, the megalomaniacal lab mouse who is always trying to take over the world with the dim-witted Pinky (also Paulsen).

(6) STEVE PERRIN (1946-2021). Legendary game designer Steve Perrin died August 13 at the age of 75. Perrin helped create RuneQuest, published in 1978. While working at Chaosium he contributed to Thieves’ World (1981), Worlds of Wonder (1982), and Superworld.

Steve Perrin

George R.R. Martin notified all the Wild Cards writers of Perrin’s death because Superworld was the inspiration for the Wild Cards universe and Perrin just had his first Wild Cards story published in the latest volume, Joker Moon, which came out last month.

Chaosium posted a tribute: “Vale and farewell, Steve Perrin”.

…To sum up all that Steve was to the Chaosium family cannot be typed up in a few sentences. 

He is one of our Great Old Ones. An innovative genius who helped pave the way for us to exist today, delighting gamers while they sit around a table, in person or online, exploring stories and adventures together, weaving new tales of derring-do. RuneQuest and Superworld were his children, and his imprint on so many of our other games is indelibly present.

Many of us grew up playing his games. He was the uncle we admired, envied, and listened to for his wise counsel. In the last few years, as a new edition of RuneQuest was born he was there, his wisdom and experience reminding us of the simple, pure, and wondrous origins of the magic of roleplaying. How can you say thank you for that?…

The other projects he worked on during his career can be seen in his Wikipedia article.

Perrin also was a founding member of the Society for Creative Anachronism in Berkeley in 1966. The SCA is where he met his wife, Luise, who survives him. Unfortunately, Luise is in ill health, and last month Steve opened a GoFundMe to help pay for her care,

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2009 – Twelve years ago, District 9 premiered. It was produced by Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham, and directed by Neill Blomkamp in his feature film debut. Written by Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell. Adapted from Blomkamp’s Alive in Joburg short film. It starred Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, Vanessa Haywood, Mandla Gaduka, Kenneth Nkosi and David James. Critics including Ebert loved it, the box office for it was fantastic as it earned over two hundred million against a thirty million budget and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a most excellent eighty-two percent rating. The screenplay was nominated for a Hugo at Aussiecon 4 but the Moon screenplay won. Why were the screenplays nominated instead of the films? 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 14, 1910 Herta Herzog. At the Radio Project, she was part of the team of that conducted the groundbreaking research on Orson Welles’ 1938 broadcast of The War of the Worlds in the study The Invasion from Mars. The Radio Research Project was founded in 1937 as a social research project and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation to look into the effects of mass media on society. (Died 2010.)
  • Born August 14, 1932 Lee Hoffman. In the early Fifties, she edited and published the Quandry fanzine. At the same time, she began publication of Science-Fiction Five-Yearly which appeared regularly until ‘til 2006. It won a Hugo at Nippon 2007 which she shared with Geri Sullivan and Randy Byers. It was awarded after her death. She wrote four novels and a handful of short fiction, none of which are in the usual suspects. (Died 2007.)
  • Born August 14, 1940 Alexei Panshin, 81. He has written multiple critical works along with several novels, including the Nebula Award-winning Rite of Passage and the Hugo Award-winning study of SF, The World Beyond the Hill which he co-wrote with his wife, Cory Panshin. He also wrote the first serious study of Heinlein, Heinlein in Dimension: A Critical Analysis.
  • Born August 14, 1950 Gary Larson, 71. Setting aside long and delightful career in creating the weird for us, ISFDB notes a SF link  that deserve noting. The Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association’s clubzine Warp ran his cartoon “The crew of the Starship Enterprise encounters the floating head of Zsa Zsa Gabor” in the March 1991 issue.
  • Born August 14, 1951 Carl Lumbly, 70. I first encountered him voicing the Martian Manhunter on the Justice League series and he later played M’yrnn J’onzz, the father of the Martian Manhunter on the first Supergirl series.  His first major genre role was in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as John Parker, and he later had a number of voice roles in such films as Justice League: Doom and Justice League: Gods and Monsters. He of course was the lead in the short lived M.A.N.T.I.S. as Miles Hawkins. 
  • Born August 14, 1956 Joan Slonczewski, 65, Their novel A Door into Ocean won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. They won a second John W. Campbell Memorial Award for their Highest Frontier novel. They were nominated for an Otherwise Award for The Children Star novel.
  • Born August 14, 1965 Brannon Braga 56. Writer, producer and creator for the Next GenVoyagerEnterprise, as well as on the Star Trek Generations and Star Trek: First Contact films. He has written more episodes in the Trek franchise than anyone else with one hundred nine to date. He was responsible for the Next Gen series finale “All Good Things…” which won him a Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo (1995), along with Ronald D. Moore.
  • Born August 14, 1966 Halle Berry, 55. Her first role genre was not as I thought Miss Stone in The Flintstones but a minor role in a forgotten SF series called They Came from Outer Space. This was followed by being Storm in the X- Men franchiseand Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson in Die Another Day, the twentieth Bond film. She then shows up as Catwoman. She has myriad roles in Cloud Atlas

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) RUN. Atlanta Magazine did a feature about Rep. John Lewis’s posthumous graphic novel. “The next chapter of John Lewis’s legacy”.

Back in 2013, the debut of a memoir in comic-book form by civil rights figure and longtime Atlanta congressman John Lewis seemed an unlikely format for a legendary activist with gravitas to spare. But Lewis’s March trilogy—co-authored with aide Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell—proved to be a juggernaut, landing on bestseller lists, securing a place on high-school and college curricula, and ultimately earning a National Book Award.

The March trilogy chronicles Lewis’s early life and involvement in the civil rights movement, ending with the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Lewis had planned to continue the work, and before the congressman’s death in July 2020, he and Aydin had drafted the script for the Run series. The first volume of Runpublished in August by Abrams ComicArts, covers the tumultuous events of 1965-1966, including schisms between established civil rights leaders and Black Power activists, the history-making election of Julian Bond to the Georgia Legislature. Just in March, the book does not shy away from unvarnished accounts of history. It opens with a fearsome scene of Klan intimidation and closes with Lewis’s departure from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Today, with political storms swirling around both the issues of expanding voter access and teaching the country’s racist history, Run feels more timely than ever. “The fight that’s happening today is a direct continuation of the fight that began on August 7, 1965, immediately after the signing of the Voting Rights Act,” Aydin said….

(11) REMEMBERING. JJ admires the Dedication from Matt Wallace’s new book, Savage Bounty, released July 20:

(12) REACHING OUT. And I love this title:

(13) SPEAK, MEMORY. MSN.com tells how “AI recreates actor Val Kilmer’s voice that was lost to throat cancer”.

A British artificial intelligence (AI) company has recreated Hollywood actor Val Kilmer’s voice – with amazingly realistic results. 

London-based firm Sonantic used the actor’s voice recordings from throughout his career, which were fed to their AI to create the lifelike yet artificial mock-up.  

Film producers could potentially use the tool – described as ‘Photoshop for voice’ – for voiceovers if they have a role in mind that would be suited to Kilmer’s tones. 

Kilmer, whose career has spanned nearly four decades, has starred in blockbusters such as Top Gun, Willow, The Doors, Tombstone and Batman Forever. 

But after undergoing a tracheotomy in 2014 as part of his treatment for throat cancer, Kilmer’s voice is now barely recognisable. 

Luckily, Kilmer himself is also able to use the AI tool in his personal life, to help him communicate, rather than relying on a voice box to speak.

Somatic, the company that did it, has its own article about “Helping actor Val Kilmer reclaim his voice”. And there’s a video where you can listen to a demonstration of the result:

(14) TROUBLESHOOTING REQUIRED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Boeing is having trouble fixing a valve issue on their Starliner space capsule which was due for an uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station. They’re now planning to remove the craft from its booster to continue troubleshooting. This will ground the Boeing program for an indefinite time. The Crew Dragon from SpaceX will continue for now to be the only US spacecraft cleared for crewed trips to the ISS. Ars Technica reports: “Boeing to ground Starliner indefinitely until valve issue solved”.

Boeing said Friday that its Starliner spacecraft will be grounded indefinitely while it continues to investigate problems with the valves in the propulsion system.

In the 10 days since Boeing and NASA scrubbed the launch in Florida, technicians and engineers have sought to open 13 valves that control the flow of dinitrogen tetroxide (NTO) oxidizer through the service module of the spacecraft. There are 24 oxidizer valves in the propulsion system, which is critical both for in-space travel as well as launch emergency escapes.

Boeing has been able to open nine of the valves, said John Vollmer, vice president and program manager of Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program. The other four remain stuck. As a result, the company plans to de-stack the Starliner spacecraft from its Atlas V rocket and move it to the nearby Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility for deeper troubleshooting…

(15) MARS RETURN TO SENDER. Science details the probe that will be “Searching for life on Mars and its moons”.

Sample-return missions will look for extraterrestrial life and biomarkers on Mars and Phobos

The planned Mars Sample-Return (MSR) mission of NASA and the European Space Agency should reveal more about the habitability of Mars by helping to determine the geologic evolution of Jezero crater and its surrounding areas, which are believed to be the site of an ancient lake… The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover will attempt to collect samples that will allow scientists to explore the evolution of Jezero crater and its habitability over time, as well as samples that may contain evidence of biosignatures. A high-priority science objective for MSR returned-sample science is to understand the habitability of Mars and look for potential signs of both extinct and extant life.

(16) TRAILER PARK. Doom Patrol Season 3 begins streaming September 23 on HBO Max.

Go through the looking glass with a super-powered gang of outcasts (including Matt Bomer as Negative Man, Joivan Wade as Cyborg, Brendan Fraser as Robotman, and more). Last seen at a decrepit amusement park where Chief (Timothy Dalton) witnessed his metahuman daughter, Dorothy (Abigail Shapiro) engaged in a fiery face-off with “The Candlemaker,” an ancient evil deity who will stop at nothing to fulfill his world-ending destiny, join the #DoomPatrol for an action-packed third season.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Lee Gold, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 7/30/21 I Never Could Get The Hang Of Scrolldays

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC CELEBRATES EPISODE 150. Scott Edelman encourages listeners to binge on the Balkans with Eisner Award-winning comics writer Tom King in episode 150 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Tom King

Tom started out in comics by interning for both DC and Marvel, where he was an assistant to X-Men writer Chris Claremont. After his comics-inspired debut novel A Once Crowded Sky was published in 2013, and after a stint in the CIA, he went on to write Batman and Mister Miracle for DC, The Vision for Marvel, and many other projects, which won him an Eisner Award in 2018 for Best Writer. Plus — and I only realized this while taking note of comic artist Joe Giella’s recent 93rd birthday — we’ve both written Supergirl stories — 43 years apart! But that’s not the only commonality to our comics careers, as you’ll soon hear.

We discussed the two questions no one in comics can answer, his attempt at age 11 to get a job at Archie Comics, how he goes back to the beginning when writing a classic character such as Supergirl, whether Alan Moore would have had the impetus to create Watchmen in today’s environment, our dealings with comic book censorship, the weird way Monica Lewinsky caused him not to get hired by MAD magazine, the differences we discovered early on between Marvel and DC, what he learned as an intern to the legendary Chris Claremont, the Black Knight pitch he got paid for which was never published, the way comic book people are like circus folk, why the current state of Krypto proves I could never go back to writing comics, and much more.

(2) WORDPLAY IN ANNIE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Historically, the bad guys in the Annie comics have had names ranging from more-or-less backwards, to descriptive ones. (Sorry, can’t think of or find examples off the top of my head nor thru brief web search, no time to walk over to L/O/A books in bedroom bookshelf…) (The names in Dick Tracy are no slouch, neither.) Currently Annie features a villain called “Bandy Dessinay”… and if that sounds familiar:

Bandes dessinées (singular bande dessinée; literally ‘drawn strips’), abbreviated BDs and also referred to as Franco-Belgian comics (BD franco-belge), are comics that are usually originally in the French language and created for readership in France and Belgium.

As for why I recognized the rephoneticized term, it’s mostly from the year or three that I was subscribing to ComiXology Unlimited (their streaming digital comic book offering), where Bandes Dessinées was often one of the group/type categories along with (something like, IIRC) issues, series, collections.

Interestingly (at least, I think so), “Annie has appeared in the Dick Tracy comic strip after Little Orphan Annie was discontinued.” according to the Pigtails in Paint article on “Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie”.

Pogo fans will, of course, remember Albert Alligator and Beauregard Frontenac Bugleboy III (“The Faithful Dog”) (or perhaps Ponce de Leon Montgomery County Alabama Georgia Beauregard Possum, per a different web site) periodically gearing up as “Little Arfin’ Lulu,” with (his) eyes “all blunked out” and Sandy.

(3) PAPERBACK SHOW RETURNS. March 20, 2022 will be the date for the Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Collectors Show. The 42nd edition of the show (which had to skip 2021) will take place as usual at the Glendale Civic Auditorium, in Glendale, California.

(4) SHARPSON REVIEWED. [Item by Olav Rokne.] “The Future Refusing To Be Born” at The Hugo Book Club Blog. I keep thinking about the book, and how the author ties rejection of modernity (nostalgia) to authoritarianism. Definitely think that Sharpson will end up on my personal ballot for the Astounding Award based on this book. 

In Neil Sharpson’s debut novel When The Sparrow Falls, that place is The Caspian Republic: a country founded by expatriate American and Russian bioconservative activists, whose boundaries are roughly those of present-day Azerbaijan.

While the rest of the world has embraced an almost-singularitarian future of AI-guided mass prosperity, near immortality, and widespread expansive human rights, this Caspian Republic has hewed to a quasi-religious “Humanity First” doctrine and polices the use of technology.

…Sharpson’s prose is sparse, clear, and engaging. He ably paints a picture of a deeply flawed society, and one that is the all-too-believable result of nostalgia-driven politics and identity-driven ideology. Because the Caspian Republic’s technology is pretty much limited to what was common in North America in the 1980s, readers will be reminded of late-era Cold War spy stories….

(5) 100 YEARS OF LEM. The Viennese are participating in the Stanislaw Lem centenary reports Radio Poland: “Austrian capital honours Polish sci-fi great Lem”. See video of the dance on Facebook.

Lem’s centenary is being celebrated in Poland as the Year of Lem, and now Vienna, the writer’s home in the 1980s, has joined in, staging a series of musical events collectively dubbed the Lem Festival.

Poland’s Adam Mickiewicz Institute (IAM) is the driving force behind the project, in co-operation with the ImPuls Tanz festival and the Klangforum Wien ensemble.

During the events, which run through the end of July, dancers and musicians are expected to invite audiences “to reflect on the possibility of communication with ‘the Alien,'” according to the Polish institute.

This is because, a century after Lem was born, and following the NASA rover’s landing on Mars, this question has again become our civilisation’s most pressing problem, the organisers have said….

(6) THEY MADE IT. The Uncanny Kickstarter hit its initial funding goal – now they start work on the stretch goals.

(7) APEX AND ABOVE. Likewise, the Apex Magazine 2022 Kickstarter reached its basic goal and is rolling up its milestone rewards. First on the list, a story by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam – who does a Q&A with publisher Jason Sizemore in the linked update.

JASON SIZEMORE: Do you and Levar Burton hang out? Talk a little about the process of working with Mr. Burton and hearing your words narrated by Mr. Reading Rainbow?

BONNIE JO STUFFLEBEAM: What an experience! I got an unexpected email from Julia Smith, the producer of LeVar Burton Reads, inviting me to be LeVar’s featured writer at his live Dallas event for my story “In the City of Martyrs.” I had no idea that this was an email that one could get, so I was immediately ecstatic to both appear live and to have my story appear on the podcast. The night of the show, I got to meet Julia and LeVar, both amazing and talented professionals, then got to hear LeVar read my story to musical accompaniment. After the reading, we did a Q&A with LeVar and then with the audience.

What I remember most from the event was LeVar’s generosity; he offered to meet-and-greet the very large group of people who came to support me. Also, the audience questions for the Q&A were perceptive as hell. The audience was clearly full of serious readers, and I’m not sure there’s a better feeling than to be surrounded by people who share that passion. Then, of course, there was the magic of hearing my short story read by a man whose voice I grew up listening to. Normally, I can’t divorce the reading of my own stories from the fact that I wrote them, but hearing LeVar read my work with a balalaika setting the story’s mood throughout, I got goosebumps.

(8) DISNEY GETS ROUGH. As reported here earlier, Scarlett Johansson filed a high-stakes breach of contract lawsuit against Disney over the release of Black Widow, alleging Disney broke its contract with her by releasing her solo feature on streaming platform Disney+ on the same day as theaters. Disney’s reply drags their star through the mud: “Disney blasts Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Black Widow’ suit: ‘No merit whatsoever’”.

…However, Disney pushed back hard against Johansson’s arguments. In a statement issued to Yahoo Finance, the media giant said, “There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”…

Johansson’s representatives at CAA hit back: “Hollywood agent Bryan Lourd steps into Disney v Scarjo fight” in the Los Angeles Times.

“They have shamelessly and falsely accused Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic, in an attempt to make her appear to be someone they and I know she isn’t,” Lourd, co-chairman of Creative Artists Agency said in a statement. Lourd represents some of Hollywood’s biggest stars besides Johansson, such as Brad Pitt and George Clooney. Disney did not respond to requests for comment on Lourd’s statement….

“Scarlett has been Disney’s partner on nine movies, which have earned Disney and its shareholders billions,” Lourd said. “The company included her salary in their press statement in an attempt to weaponize her success as an artist and businesswoman, as if that were something she should be ashamed of.”

(9) BLUE ORIGIN TRIES TO REVIVE NASA’S INTEREST. Blue Origin says it’s willing to cover $2 billion of the cost for a second lunar lander contract, should NASA award one. In a July 26th letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos said his company is willing to waive up to $2 billion in payments over the current and next two government fiscal years in exchange for a fixed-priced contract. In April, NASA selected SpaceX as the recipient of its Human Landing System (HLS) contract, a decision that competitors Blue Origin and Dynetics protested shortly after. The full letter is at the link, here are some excerpts:

Blue Origin is committed to building a future where millions of people live and work in space to benefit the Earth….

This is why Blue Origin answered NASA’s urgent call to develop a Human Landing System. We built the National Team – with four major partners and more than 200 small and medium suppliers in 47 states – to focus on designing, building, and operating a flight system the nation could count on. NASA invested over half a billion dollars in the National Team in 2020-21, and we performed well. The team developed and risk-reduced a safe, mass-efficient design that could achieve a human landing in 2024. 

Our approach is designed to be sustainable for repeated lunar missions and, above all, to keep our astronauts safe. We created a 21st-century lunar landing system inspired by the well-characterized Apollo architecture — an architecture with many benefits. One of its important benefits is that it prioritizes safety. As NASA recognized, the National Team’s design offers a “comprehensive approach to aborts and contingencies [that] places a priority on crew safety throughout all mission phases.” 

Unlike Apollo, our approach is designed to be sustainable and to grow into permanent, affordable lunar operations. Our lander uses liquid hydrogen for fuel. Not only is hydrogen the highest-performing rocket fuel, but it can also be mined on the Moon. That feature will prove essential for sustained future operations on the Moon and beyond.

From the beginning, we designed our system to be capable of flying on multiple launch vehicles, including Falcon Heavy, SLS, Vulcan, and New Glenn. The value of being able to fly on many different launch vehicles cannot be over-stated…

Yet, in spite of these benefits and at the last minute, the Source Selection Official veered from the Agency’s oft-stated procurement strategy. Instead of investing in two competing lunar landers as originally intended, the Agency chose to confer a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar head start to SpaceX. That decision broke the mold of NASA’s successful commercial space programs by putting an end to meaningful competition for years to come…. 

(10) TED LEWIN (1935-2021). Illustrator and writer of children’s books Ted Lewin died July 28. Jane Yolen paid tribute on Facebook.

Heartbroken–this says it all. Ted and [his wife] Betsy were dear friends for many years and Ted illustrated David’s only children’s book (HIGH RIDGE GOBBLER) and a bunch of mine, Several of his originals for the books decorate my dining room. I see them everyday. Ted was a lovely, lovely man, a wonderful storyteller, who brought much beauty to the world.

Ted Lewin illustrated over 200 books, winning a 1994 Caldecott Honor for Peppe The Lamplighter. A number of these were done in collaboration with his wife, Betsy.

As a young man who wanted to go to art school at the Pratt Institute, he earned money to finance his education by taking a summer job as a professional wrestler – the beginning of a fifteen year part-time career that eventually inspired his autobiographical book I Was a Teenage Professional Wrestler.

Lewin’s professional honors also include a Silver Medal in the Society of Illustrators Annual Show (2007), and he and Betsy were inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 2015. [Click below for larger image.]

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1987  – In July of 1987, Emma Bull’s War for The Oaks was published by Ace Books. It would win a Locus Best First Novel Award and be nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. This urban fantasy would get its own trailer courtesy of Will Shetterly who financed it instead of running for Governor. You’ll no doubt recognize many of the performers here as some of them are from Minnesota fandom.  Decades later, it was scheduled to have a hardcover edition from Tor Books but it got canceled after the books were printed. (They were printed. I have a signed one here.) And the music in War for The Oaks would later be done by Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull and other members of fandom with lyrics by John Ford, Steven Brust and others. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 30, 1927 Victor Wong. I remember him best as the Chinese sorcerer Egg Shen in John Carpenter’s exemplary Big Trouble in Little China. He was also The Old Man in The Golden Child, Walter Chang in Tremors, Dr. Wong in the “China Moon” episode of the Beauty and the Beast series and Lee Tzin-Soong in the “Fox Spirit” episode of Poltergeist: The Legacy. (Died 2001.)
  • Born July 30, 1947 John E. Stith, 74. Winner of two HOMer Awards, given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Forum on CompuServe, for Redshift Rendezvous and Naught for Hire. The former would be nominated for a Nebula as well. The HOMer Awards ended in about 2000. 
  • Born July 30, 1947 Arnold Schwarzenegger, 74. Terminator franchise, of course, as well as Running ManConan the Barbarian and  Conan the DestroyerTales from the Crypt and True Lies. Apparently in sort of announced Conan and Terminator reboots. Though I think that’s more rumor than reality. 
  • Born July 30, 1948 Carel Struycken, 73. I remember him best as the gong ringing Mr. Holm on Next Gen, companion to Deanna Troi’s mother. He was also Lurch in The Addams FamilyAddams Family Values and the Addams Family Reunion. He’s listed as being Fidel in The Witches of Eastwick but I’ll be damned if I remembered his role in that film though I’ve seen it twice. And he’s in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor which I’ve never seen. 
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jess Nevins, 55. Author of the superlative Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victorian and the equally great Heroes & Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which is far better than the film ever could be. He’s also written the Fable Encyclopedia which is a most excellent look at Willingham series. I didn’t know he also wrote fiction ‘til now but he has two genre novels, The Road to Prester John and The Datong Incident
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jason Watkins, 55. His first genre role was William Herrick in Being Human. He’s also had a recurring role on Dirk Gentely as DI Gilks. And he voiced Captain Orchis on Watership Down.  Naturally, he’s been in Doctor Who, specifically as Webly in the Eleventh Doctor story, “Nightmare in Silver”.  He showed up in The Golden Compass as Bolvangar Official.
  • Born July 30, 1970 Christopher Nolan, 51. Writer, producer and often director as well of the latest Batman film franchise, The PrestigeInterstellarInception and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to name some of his work. His latest, Tenet, has been nominated for a Hugo this year. 
  • Born July 30, 1975 Cherie Priest, 46. Her Southern gothic Eden Moore series is kickass good and Clockwork Universe series isa refreshing take on steampunk which has been turned into full cast audiobooks by GraphicAudio. I’ve not read the Cheshire Red Reports novels so have no idea how good they are. Anyone read these?  She won an Endeavour Award for her Dreadnought novel.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest shows the judge throwing the book at an unexpected traffic offender.

(14) GET YOUR ANSWERS READY. Your hosts for Science Fiction 101 podcast are Phil Nichols of the Bradburymedia website, who is also known for the Bradbury 100 podcast and the Bradbury 101 YouTube channel; and Colin Kuskie of the Take Me To Your Reader podcast. Episode 7, “We Goes There”, features a sci-fi quiz.

(15) BASEDCON. *Rolls eyes* Thread starts here.

(16) HEAP OF GLORY. “Londoners Were Promised a Hill With a View. They Got a Pile of Scaffolding.” Linking to this New York Times item so you can appreciate the amusing comment which I’ve quoted below.

Advance publicity for the Marble Arch Mound — London’s newest visitor attraction — suggested that an Arcadian landscape would be created in the middle of the city, with spectacular views over Hyde Park.

A huge artificial hill, over 80 feet high, would rise at one end of Oxford Street, London’s busiest shopping district. Costing around 2 million pounds, or about $2.7 million, design renderings suggested that it would be covered in lush trees and that visitors would be able to climb to the top — and “feel a light breeze” against their skin.

The hill was part of a £150 million plan by Westminster Council to lure visitors back into the center of the city after the pandemic. In May, Time Out, London’s main listings magazine, described it as “visually arresting/bonkers.”

The reality has turned out to be somewhat different. Since opening on Monday, the mound has been widely mocked online as more of a folly than a dream — a pile of blocky scaffolding covered in patches of vegetation that look in danger of slipping off, and that it isn’t even high enough to look over the trees into Hyde Park….

 A commenter on the article said:

To be fair to Westminster City Council that spot has become increasingly difficult to manage, with the combination effect of a long record of unplanned and haphazard development accumulating to create serious problems. 

Obviously, the confluence of ley lines and faerie roads there lead to that being the natural place for the portal to Avalon, which in turn attracted the gate into Narnia. But, installing the secret entrance to Q branch’s main workshop so close to both the back door to the Ministry of Magic and unquiet spirits of Tyburn Tree was asking for trouble, and probably meant spatio-temporal subsidence would inevitably produce The Rift. 

Although finding a more plausible way to conceal the essential interdimensional-engineering work needed might have been better, it can be argued that attracting widespread ridicule with this hill has provided the sort of smokescreen that was wanted more cost-effectively. 

We probably shouldn’t rush to judgement, and wait for the official paperwork to be declassified and released under the 5,000-year rule.

(17) ROBODOG. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Is the game “Quick, spot the cop” or “Quick Spot, the cop”? Another publication has chimed in on whether robotic “dogs” are suitable for use by police. “Robotic Police Dogs: Useful Hounds or Dehumanizing Machines?” at U.S. News & World Report.

If you’re homeless and looking for temporary shelter in Hawaii’s capital, expect a visit from a robotic police dog that will scan your eye to make sure you don’t have a fever.

That’s just one of the ways public safety agencies are starting to use Spot, the best-known of a new commercial category of robots that trot around with animal-like agility.

The handful of police officials experimenting with the four-legged machines say they’re just another tool, like existing drones and simple wheeled robots, to keep emergency responders out of harm’s way as they scout for dangers. But privacy watchdogs — the human kind — warn that police are secretly rushing to buy the robots without setting safeguards against aggressive, invasive or dehumanizing uses.

In Honolulu, the police department spent about $150,000 in federal pandemic relief money to buy their Spot from robotics firm Boston Dynamics for use at a government-run tent city near the airport.

“Because these people are houseless it’s considered OK to do that,” said Jongwook Kim, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii. “At some point it will come out again for some different use after the pandemic is over.”…

(18) AI ASSESSES CATS. Meanwhile, a breakthrough in cat happiness technology has made the headlines: “Feline okay? The app that tells you if your cat’s happy” reports Reuters.

Cat owners who love to take pictures of their furry friends now have a new excuse to pull out their smartphones and take a snapshot: it may actually help the cat.

A Calgary, Alberta, animal health technology company, Sylvester.ai, has developed an app called Tably that uses the phone’s camera to tell whether a feline is feeling pain.

The app looks at ear and head position, eye-narrowing, muzzle tension, and how whiskers change, to detect distress. A 2019 study published in peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports found that the so-called ‘feline grimace scale,’ or FGS, is a valid and reliable tool for acute pain assessment in cats….

(19) GIVING THE GOVERNMENT THE DIGIT. If an AI can be trusted with your cat, surely their work should not go unrewarded! “Australian Court Rules That AI Can Be an Inventor”Gizmodo has the story.

In what can only be considered a triumph for all robot-kind, this week, a federal court has ruled that an artificially intelligent machine can, in fact, be an inventor—a decision that came after a year’s worth of legal battles across the globe.

The ruling came on the heels of a years-long quest by University of Surrey law professor Ryan Abbot, who started putting out patent applications in 17 different countries across the globe earlier this year. Abbot—whose work focuses on the intersection between AI and the law—first launched two international patent filings as part of The Artificial Inventor Project at the end of 2019. Both patents (one for an adjustable food container, and one for an emergency beacon) listed a creative neural system dubbed “DABUS” as the inventor.

The artificially intelligent inventor listed here, DABUS, was created by Dr. Stephen Thaler, who describes it as a “creativity engine” that’s capable of generating novel ideas (and inventions) based on communications between the trillions of computational neurons that it’s been outfitted with. Despite being an impressive piece of machinery, last year, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) ruled that an AI cannot be listed as the inventor in a patent application—specifically stating that under the country’s current patent laws, only “natural persons,” are allowed to be recognized. Not long after, Thaler sued the USPTO, and Abbott represented him in the suit….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol,” Fandom Games says this game will take you back to the ’90s (remember Scholastic book fairs?  All-denim outfits?) and will “tickle your nostalgia nose” but still frustrate you even though you’re not a teenager any more, but have kids and a mortgage.

(21) TINGLING BULLETINS AS THEY BREAK. Chuck Tingle told Facebook followers today that the music rights holders withdrew their complaints three days ago, but Twitter still hasn’t done doodly about restoring his account.

first off POWER OF LOVE IS STRONG with help of some true buckaroos behind scenes (who i will thank when this is all over and direct you to their websites and other ways) AND ALSO with help of all buckaroos on social media: SONY MUSIC and IFPI have decided to withdraw their copyright complaints and say ‘okay just take them down lets trot on you can have your account back’ which is HUGE DEAL. SO THANK YOU SO MUCH THIS PROVES LOVE IS REAL. also even though this situation is frustrating for chuck i must say sincere thank you to sony and ifpi this was a choice they made to do right thing by chuck in the name of the buckaroo lifestyle. so thank you everyone (with more thanks to come)

this happened THREE DAYS ago and twitter was notified. since then twitter has not responded to any methods of contact from chuck or sam rand or manager of chuck. chuck remains suspended with no way of contacting them that does not get automated response even though fact of the matter is:

THERE IS NO REASON FOR CHUCK TINGLE TWITTER TO BE SUSPENDED AT THIS POINT i do not have copyright infringement marks anymore or any other infractions. i have sent message to say ‘can you tell WHY my account is still suspended even after you said it would be better if i fixed these issues?’ and no response.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/25/21 The Pixel Unvanquishable, Save for Scrollnope

(1) BE SEEING YOU. The trailer for the next season of Doctor Who was released at San Diego Comic-Con International today. As a YouTube commenter concluded, “The end was literally BBC saying to us: Any questions? No? See you soon.”

Radio Times adds details showrunner Chris Chibnall shared during that SDCC virtual panel: “Doctor Who series 13 to be serialised connected story”.

…However, it looks like the next series of Doctor Who will be particularly unusual for the “modern” (aka post-2005) era of the show, with showrunner Chris Chibnall revealing during a virtual panel that the upcoming season 13 (starring Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill and John Bishop, above) would be a single serialised story rather than the usual collection of self-contained episodes.

“The big thing we’re going to be doing this year is that it’s all one story – so every episode is a chapter in a bigger story,” Chibnall said during Doctor Who’s Comic-Con@Home panel. “And so we’ve changed the shape of the series for this year.

“It’s very much not a business as usual time,” he added, explaining the role that coronavirus restrictions had made on the decision.

“And I think the challenges of getting the show up and running.. […] there were two ways we could go. You could go ‘we’re just going to do lots and lots of tiny episodes in one room with no monsters. Or we can throw down the gauntlet and say we’re gonna do the biggest story we’ve ever done, and we’re going to go to all kind of different places, and have all different characters and monsters, and it’s all gonna be part of a bigger whole.

“I think it’s definitely the most ambitious thing we’ve done…it’s epic and ambitious and we do go to a lot of places.”

Notably, this serialisation ties into the casting of newly-announced series star Jacob Anderson, who is set to play a character called Vinder across a number of episodes and whose presence across the series hints at more shared elements between episodes than fans might be used to….

And here’s the full video of the panel:

(2) CHUCK TINGLE UPDATE. Chuck’s Twitter account is still out of commission. Here’s the update he gave to his Facebook readers.

(3) THE AI AFTERLIFE. “What Should Happen to Our Data When We Die?” asks the New York Times, raising the issue of posthumous privacy.  

The new Anthony Bourdain documentary, “Roadrunner,” is one of many projects dedicated to the larger-than-life chef, writer and television personality. But the film has drawn outsize attention, in part because of its subtle reliance on artificial intelligence technology.

Using several hours of Mr. Bourdain’s voice recordings, a software company created 45 seconds of new audio for the documentary. The A.I. voice sounds just like Mr. Bourdain speaking from the great beyond; at one point in the movie, it reads an email he sent before his death by suicide in 2018.

“If you watch the film, other than that line you mentioned, you probably don’t know what the other lines are that were spoken by the A.I., and you’re not going to know,” Morgan Neville, the director, said in an interview with The New Yorker. “We can have a documentary-ethics panel about it later.”

The time for that panel may be now. The dead are being digitally resurrected with growing frequency: as 2-D projections, 3-D holograms, C.G.I. renderings and A.I. chat bots….

(4) CHUTZPAH. Miguel Esteban’s memoir “Octavia Butler and the Pimply, Pompous Publisher” in the Los Angeles Review of Books reminds me of me trying to corral material from pros for my first fanzine earlier in the same decade – excluding offering to pay for it, of course.

…In 1979, when I was 14, I was determined to publish a biweekly, 24-page magazine of and about science fiction entitled Transmission. I commissioned Octavia, who was 32, to write an essay. (I do not believe I ever told her my age.) On July 28 of that year, I had heard her speak at the Fantasy Faire convention in Pasadena, California, where she participated in a panel debating the topic “How Science Fiction Handles Social Change.” [1] Pasadena was Octavia’s hometown.

… On August 3, 1979, I spoke and then wrote to Octavia, inviting her to contribute a 3,000-word essay to the inaugural (and ultimately only) issue of Transmission Magazine….

I offered her $50, which she accepted on the condition that she retain the copyright and the right to resell the essay three months after publication. “Since I am the only black woman writing sf, I have a feeling I’ll be needing this article again,” she explained.

At the end of the month, Octavia sent me her first draft, titled “Lost Races of Science Fiction.” We spoke over the phone, following which this cocky, 14-year-old editor sent his comments to an established and revered writer….

(5) LET’S BUNGLE IN THE JUNGLE. “’It’s Like a Joy Bomb!’ Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson Open Up About New Disney Jungle Cruise Movie” in Parade Magazine.

Who would fare better in a jungle, Dwayne Johnson or Emily Blunt? “I’d like to think I would be OK,” Johnson says, then points his finger at Blunt, his co-star in the new action-packed summer movie Jungle Cruise. “You would struggle.”

But the actress is not having it. “You would be lost without your lip balm!” she says. “And you wouldn’t have your soap. He’s the cleanest human being alive. He needs to shower about five times a day.” Blunt slams down her hand and looks at their interviewer. “Now, what else do you want to know?”…

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1953 – Sixty- eight years ago on this date, Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century, a Merrie Melodies cartoon starring Daffy Duck as space hero Duck Dodgers, premiered before films playing in the United States. This cartoon was the first of many appearances of the Duck Dodgers character including the Duck Dodgers series on the Cartoon Network. Porky Pig is here as a space cadet as is Marvin the Martian who first appeared very briefly in Haredevil Hare, a 1948 cartoon. It was directed by Charles M. Jones from a story by Michael Maltese and produced by Edward Selzer though he’s uncredited in the cartoon. 

George Lucas wanted it be shown before Star Wars during its initial run in theaters  but couldn’t get the rights.  At Noreascon 4, it was nominated for a Retro Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation — Short Form though The War of the Worlds (1953; Paramount) would win. Bits of the cartoon are on YouTube but the entire cartoon is not. You can purchase it on iTunes in a twofer with another Daffy cartoon, “The Scarlet Pumpernickel” for a buck ninety nine. Yeah I bought it. (And don’t get started me on the rabbit hole of watching Warner Brothers cartoons!) 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 25, 1907 Cyril Luckham. He played the White Guardian first in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Ribos Opperation”, part one and than twice more in the two part Fifth Doctor story, “Enlightment”.  He was also Dr. Moe in the Fifties pulp film Stranger from Venus, and also showed up in The Omega FactorA Midsummer Night’s DreamRandall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Tales of The Unexpected. (Died 1989.)
  • Born July 25, 1910 Kendell Foster Crossen. He was the creator and writer of the Green Lama stories.  He was a Buddhist crime fighter whose powers were activated upon the recitation of the Tibetan chant om mani padme hum. He also wrote Manning Draco series, an intergalactic insurance investigator, four of which are can be found in Once Upon a Star: A Novel of the Future. Kindle has a really deep catalog of his genre work, and the Green Lama stories have been made into audio works as well. (Died 1981.)
  • Born July 25, 1922 Evelyn E. Smith. She has the delightful bio of being a writer of sf and mysteries, as well as a compiler of crossword puzzles. During the 1950s, she published both short stories and novelettes in Galaxy Science FictionFantastic Universe and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her SF novels include The Perfect Planet and The Copy Shop. A look at the usual suspects shows a two story collections but none of her novels. Interestingly there are myriad stories by her offered up separately for sale. (Died 2000.)
  • Born July 25, 1948 Brian Stableford, 73. I am reasonably sure that I’ve read and enjoyed all of the Hooded Swan series a long time ago which I see has since been collected as Swan Songs: The Complete Hooded Swan Collection. And I’ve certainly read a fair amount of his short fiction down the years. He has but one English language Award, a BSFA for Best Short Fiction for “The Hunger and Ecstasy of Vampires” though he has a lot of nominations. The Hooded Swan series is available as separate novels from the usual suspects for two dollars and ninety-nine cents each. 
  • Born July 25, 1969 D.B Woodside, 52. He has a recurring role as Principal Robin Wood on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, mostly in season seven.  Later he’s Amenadiel on Lucifer. He has one-offs in Prey which I’ve never heard of and Numb3rs.
  • Born July 25, 1971 Chloë Annett, 50. She played Holly Turner in the Crime Traveller series and Kristine Kochanski in the Red Dwarf series. She was in the “Klingons vs. Vulcans” episode of the Space Cadets sort of game show. 
  • Born July 25, 1973 Mur Lafferty, 48. Podcaster and writer. Co-editor of the Escape Pod podcast with Divya Breed, her second time around. She is also the host and creator of the podcast I Should Be Writing which won a Parsec Award for Best Writing Podcast.. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Escape Artists short fiction magazine Mothership Zeta. And then there’s the Ditch Diggers podcast she started with Matt Wallace which is suppose to show the brutal, honest side of writing. For that, It won the Hugo Award for Best Fancast at Worldcon 76, having been a finalist the year before.  Fiction wise, I loved both The Shambling Guide to New York City and A Ghost Train to New Orleans with I think the second being a better novel.
  • Born July 25, 1979 Bryan Cogman, 42. He wrote eleven episodes of The Game of Thrones. He also acted in it, that being a cameo in “The Lion and The Rose” episode as a Dragonstone waiter. He would share a Hugo at Chicon 7 for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form for Game of Thrones, Season One. He’s writer and producer of the forthcoming The Sword in The Stone series on Disney+. He’s also a write and consulting producer for the forthcoming The Lord of The Rings on Amazon’s streaming service.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Ziggy’s solves a problem and creates a neighborhood attraction.

(9) SLOUCHING TOWARD THE ISS. “Russian Module Headed for the ISS Is Still Having Problems”Gizmodo has the details.

Russia’s newly launched International Space Station module Nauka is still in the fight as of Friday afternoon, as early reports indicate that the module’s backup engines have fired successfully. That’s a big relief for Roscosmos, which nearly saw its long-awaited module become a tragic piece of space trivia instead of the newest piece of the International Space Station. But it’s not out of the woods yet.

The first glitch in Nauka’s journey happened yesterday, when the spacecraft didn’t complete its first orbit-raising burn. This meant that the uncrewed Nauka wasn’t on track to actually intercept the ISS, which it’s scheduled to dock with on Thursday, July 29. The problem was attributed to a software issue in a computer aboard Nauka, which prevented the spacecraft’s main engines from firing. Nauka’s team was able to manage a remote course correction, but a second bout of course corrections were deemed necessary, and scheduled for today. One early report from journalist Anatoly Zak indicated that one of the spacecraft’s engines sputtered back to life in a mission. The “backup engine seems to have fired fine,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, in an email today, though he added that the status of the engines was not yet certain and it would likely be a few hours before a new dataset from Nauka verified the situation.

The thrusters are just one piece of the engineering puzzle, so the new module is hardly home free…. 

(10) CLOUDY, WITH A CHANCE OF HOMICIDE. Mashable introduces the trailer for a new animated series: “’Blade Runner: Black Lotus’ trailer: Adult Swim and Crunchyroll team up”.

A new trailer for the team-up between the Cartoon Network offshoot and anime streamer Crunchyroll serves us a first look at this CG take on the sci-fi dystopia dreamed up by filmmaker Ridley Scott. The 13-episode series stars, on the English-language side, Jessica Henwick (Netflix Marvel’s Colleen Wing) as a female replicant with a mysterious backstory and purpose.

(11) JOE DANTE RETROSPECTIVE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Joe Dante’s Battle With Hollywood,” the Royal Ocean Film Society looks at the career of Joe Dante through three films:  Looney Tunes:  Back In Action, which Dante says took up a year and a half of his life and was micromanaged to death; Explorers, which has its moments but is essentially a rough draft, and Gremlins 2:  A New Batch, which is a crazy film that has Leonard Maltin killed on screen for writing a bad review and Robert Picardo marrying a gremlin!

(12) RARITIES. YouTube’s “The Auction Professor” calls these the “Top 20 Most Valuable Vintage Paperbacks”. Editions of Richard Bachman? Check. Something published by Vargo Statten – what? I didn’t know anybody outside of fanzines had ever heard of Vargo! As for the Star Wars and nonfiction books about Dune, I’m sorry to say I’ve never owned any of them! (If I own it, it’s not rare, predictably.) Don’t miss the “bonus” commentary following the credits.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/25/21 Files Runs The Pixel Down

(1) FUTURE UNIONS. “Workers of All Worlds Unite,” a public talk about labor unions in science fiction with Olav Rokne, is a free Zoom event happening Thursday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m. Mountain time. Join the Zoom free here. Or you could also support the event by getting tickets here.

Workers Of All Worlds Unite!

Science fiction is filled with depictions of standard capitalist employment relationships, but little thought seems to have been given to how workers in the future will assert their rights. Join Olav Rokne as he explores the troubled history of labour unions in science fiction, and makes an argument as to why this history matters.

(2) ELLISON TRUST VICTORY. Two weeks ago J. Michael Straczynski, Executor of the Harlan and Susan Ellison Trust, updated fans about a successful action to fight off opportunistic banks.

(3) EXTREMELY HONEST. Ian Moore takes the first step in his Hugo finalist Mt. Tsundoku 12-step program by admitting powerlessness:

(4) HE’LL BE IN SCOTLAND AFORE YE. Recorded April 15, Shoreline of Infinity brings you “Ken MacLeod’s Road Trip”.

Ken MacLeod’s Road Trip takes us from Scotland through the north of England and London to the far side of the Earth. Three talkative passengers – Charles Stross, Justina Robson and Tasha Suri – read from their work, and over the car radio Hannah and Sam Bennett play drive-time music live from the wonderful world of tomorrow. Hosted by Shoreline of Infinity – science fiction magazine and publisher based in Scotland for the world to enjoy.

(5) WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE WAR? People have been trying to answer that question about these familiar names for years.“L. Ron Hubbard, Robert Heinlein and the Kamikaze Group Think Tank – Not So ‘Nothing’ After All?” at The McClaughry’s Blog is a 2017 post, but it’s news to me!

… Not that Hubbard was some kind of White Knight or anything, far from it. Even a brief perusal of our work here at the blog would tell you very quickly that we don’t go easy on Mr. Hubbard. But, I don’t think that we need to discredit his actual bad acts by throwing out wrong characterizations and outright lies about him either.

Hubbard has two big holes in his Navy history that none of the so-called ‘experts’ ever noticed that I documented in my post. Either one of which could easily have been this Aleutians business, and I’m guessing it was the second “hole” from November 3 to November 25, 1944.

It actually fits well with then being tasked with Heinlein to deal with anti-Kamikaze tactics. Heinlein details that two assignments came to him from Naval Intelligence, practically back to back. The problem is, people have put wrong times for when these were. Times that don’t fit with KNOWN dates and events.

Heinlein and other science fiction writers were utilized several times for Naval Intelligence projects…

Right on the back of that is when Heinlein formed his Think Tank on Kamikazes with Hubbard etc. which was also called a “crash” project.

In 1944, Heinlein recruited Hubbard, Sturgeon and others for a project: “Op-Nav-23, a brainstorming job on antikamikaze measures.” [46] The Bradbury Chronicles by Sam Weller, p. 12

I had been ordered to round up science fiction writers for this crash project-the wildest brains I could find, so Ted was a welcome recruit. Some of the others were George O. Smith, John W. Campbell Jr., Murray Leinster, L. Ron Hubbard, Sprague de Camp, and Fletcher Pratt…

– Stephen Dedman in May the Armed Forces Be with You

Ok, first question would be when were these kamikaze attacks?

Although there had been spotty “kamikaze” actions by Japanese fighter pilots with engine troubles etc. earlier in WWII, the first inklings of an actual program appears to have been decided upon by August 1944 but not acted upon until Vice-Admiral Takijiro Onishi, took command of the 1st Air Fleet in the Philippines on October 17, 1944. Onishi had initially opposed the idea, but changed his mind when he took command.

Three days later kamikaze attacks – kamikaze means “Divine Wind” – were introduced October 20 of 1944 and on October 25 the first formal (and mass) kamikaze attacks launched in the Phillippines….

(6) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1976 – Forty-five years ago at MidAmeriCon, the Hugo for Best Novella went to Roger Zelazny for “Home Is the Hangman” which was published in Analog, November 1975.  It would also win the Nebula the same year. The other nominated novellas were “The Storms of Windhaven” by George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle [Analog, May 1975] “ARM” by Larry Niven [Epoch, 1975] “The Silent Eyes of Time” by Algis Budrys [F&SF, Nov 1975] and “The Custodians” by Richard Cowper [F&SF, Oct 1975]. It is collected with the other two novellas in this series, “The Eve of RUMOKO“ and “Kjwalll’kje’k’koothaïlll’kje’k“ in My Name in Legion which is available from the usual suspects. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 25, 1897 Fletcher Pratt. He’s best remembered for his fiction written with L. Sprague de Camp, to wit Land of Unreason, The Carnelian Cube and The Complete Compleat Enchanter. I’m rather fond of The Well of the Unicorn and Double Jeopardy. I see that he and Jack Coggins were nominated for International Fantasy Award for their Rockets, Jets, Guided Missiles and Space Ships, a non-fiction work published in 1951. Anyone known about this? (Died 1956.) (CE) 
  • Born April 25, 1915 Mort Weisinger. Comic book editor best known for editing  Superman during in the Silver Age of comic books. He also served as story editor for the Adventures of Superman series,  Before that he was one of the earliest active sf fans, working on fanzines like The Planet (1931) and The Time Traveller (1932) and attending the New York area fan club  known as The Scienceers. (Died 1978.) (CE) 
  • Born April 25, 1915 – Leslie Croutch.  Television & radio repairman.  Half a dozen stories.  Contributor to The AcolyteFuturian War DigestSpacewaysTin TacksVoice of the Imagi-NationLe Zombie.  Various fanzines of his own, notably Light.  See here and Harry Warner’s appreciation here (PDF).  (Died 1969) [JH]
  • Born April 25, 1920 John Mantley. He wrote but one SF novel, The 27th Day,  but it rated a detailed write-up by Bud Webster in The Magazine of F&SF which you can read here. (He wrote the screenplay for the film version of his novel which gets an abysmal score of twenty-five percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.) He also produced a number of episodes of The Wild Wild WestBuck Rogers in the 25th Century and MacGyver. (Died 2003.) (CE)
  • Born April 25, 1925 – Margery Gill.  A dozen covers, as many interiors for us; much else.  Here is Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds.  Here is The Saracen Lamp.  Here is Over Sea, Under Stone.  Here is English Fairy Tales.  Here is an interior from A Little Princess.  See this appreciation in the Illustrators Wiki.  (Died 2008) [JH] 
  • Born April 25, 1929 Robert A. Collins. Edited a number of quite interesting publications including the Fantasy Newsletter in the early Eighties, the IAFA Newsletter in the late Eighties and the early Nineties along with the Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Review Annual with Rob Latham at the latter time. He also wrote Thomas Burnett Swann: A Brief Critical Biography & Annotated Bibliography. (Died 2009.) (CE) 
  • Born April 25, 1941 – Stella Nemeth, age 80.  Book reviews and occasional drawings in The DiversifierLan’s LanternSF BooklogZeor Forum; seen in Algol.  More recently in Art With a Needle.  [JH]
  • Born April 25, 1957 – Deborah Chester, age 64.  Three dozen novels for us (some under different names); several others.  Has a recipe in Anne McCaffrey’s Serve It Forth.  Professor at Univ. Oklahoma.  [JH]
  • Born April 25, 1961 Gillian Polack, 60. Australian writer and editor. She created the Ceres Universe, a fascinating story setting. And she’s a great short story writer as Datlow demonstrated when she selected “Happy Faces for Happy Families” for her recommended reading section in the ‘04 Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. She’s reasonably stocked at the usual suspects. (CE) 
  • Born April 25, 1975 – Courtney Schafer, age 46.  Three novels, one shorter story.  Electrical engineer, worked in aerospace.  While at Cal Tech (California Inst. of Technology) she also learned rock climbing, skiing, SCUBA diving; later, figure skating.  Favorite series, the Lymond Chronicles; has also read Hidden FiguresThe Little PrinceWatership Down.  [JH]
  • Born April 25, 1979 – Christopher Hopper, age 42.  Half a dozen novels, a score more with co-authors; one shorter story.  Encouraged by his wife he has two million words published; also plays in her band.  He’s breakfasted with Winnie Mandela, kite-surfed in Hawai’i, photographed white rhinos in South Africa, climbed the Great Wall of China.  [JH]
  • Born April 25, 1981 Silvia Moreno-Garcia, 40. Canadian of Mexican descent. She’s the publisher of Innmouths Free Press, an imprint devoted to weird fiction. Not surprisingly, she co-edited with Paula R. Stiles for the press, the Historical Lovecraft and Future Lovecraft anthologies. She won a World Fantasy Award for the She Walks in Shadows anthology, also on Innsmouth Free Press. She was a finalist for the Nebula Award 2019 in the Best Novel category for her Gods of Jade and Shadow novel. And finally with Lavie Tidhar, she edits the Jewish Mexican Literary Review. Not genre, but sort of genre adjacent. (CE) 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro finds something at the window gently tapping.

(9) X-MEN NEWS. Christian Holub, in the Entertainment Weekly story “Marvel reveals the results of X-Men fan election” says Marvel sent out a bunch of mini-comics before deciding whether Banshee, Strong Guy, Boom-Boom, or other rookies got to join the X-Men team. Those Twitter comics are linked at the end of the article.

…Election season is finally over for the X-Men. Back in January, Marvel conducted a public vote for fans to choose a member of the newest X-Men team that is set to debut at the much-anticipated Hellfire Gala in June’s Planet-Sized X-Men #1. As with any election, there can only be one winner, and unfortunately lots of losers. But at least fans get to see how each of the candidates — Banshee, Polaris, Forge, Boom-Boom, Tempo, Cannonball, Sunspot, Strong Guy, Marrow, and Armor — responded to the results in a new series of mini-comics published to Marvel’s social media accounts over the past week.

Written by Zeb Wells (Hellions) and illustrated by a variety of artists (including Rachelle Rosenberg who colored them all), each installment of these Twitter comics featured two candidates each reckoning with their loss. First up was Strong Guy and Forge, illustrated by Mike Henderson. Despite the fact that Forge has used his mutant affinity with technology to develop all kinds of bio-organic resources for the new mutant nation-state on the living island of Krakoa, Strong Guy points out that they’re equal in defeat….

(10) WHY DID YOU DESIGN? There’s a Kickstarter to fund production of “The Prisoner Retro Style Action Figures by Wandering Planet Toys”, with versions of Number 6 as he was attired in different episodes, a boxed pair with Number 6 and his nemesis Number 2, and even a Rover figure.  

In 1967 the cult classic TV series, THE PRISONER, came bursting onto the screen. The series, about an unnamed British intelligence agent who awakes to find himself trapped in an idyllic seaside village, was not only an instant hit with viewers at the time, it went on to be watched and re-watched obsessively by fans, quickly gaining cult status.

While there have been several collectables released over the decades, THE PRISONER has never received a line of OFFICIALLY LICENSED ACTION FIGURES… and Wandering Planet Toys is working with our licensing partners at ITV Studios to bring to life 4-inch RETRO STYLE ACTION FIGURES that celebrate Patrick McGoohan’s brilliant series. 

… Want to get information about these figures? Good, because by hook or by crook you will!

No discussion of THE PRISONER is complete without mention of the Village’s spherical guardian and menace, ROVER. In order to evoke the iconic moment of NUMBER 6 pushed up against the gelatinous side of the guardian, we’ve created a Limited Edition plastic packaging unit depicting our hero in the belly of the beast. This package is a resealable clamshell so the figure can be removed for display, then reinserted.

(11) SENATOR, YOU’RE NO JACK KENNEDY. But he makes a pretty good John Scalzi.

(12) REDRUM. It’s official! “NASA’s first color photo from the Mars Ingenuity helicopter is… red” reports Mashable. Images at the link.

Mars is often referred to as the “Red Planet” because of the rusty, reddish-orange sandscape blanketing the planet. That comes into sharp focus in our first color photo snapped by the Mars Ingenuity helicopter.

That was taken about 17 feet above the ground. You can clearly see the sandy red-orange Martian surface. And if you look at the bottom of the image, you’ll clearly see Ingenuity’s shadow, with two of its spindly legs visibly jutting out from it’s rectangular body.

Those patterns in the ground that look like tracks are in fact… tracks left by the Perseverance rover, the remote-operated research vehicle that carried Ingenuity safely to Mars. Once it deposited its flying robot friend the Perseverance headed off to a new location, first to monitor the helicopter for a month and then to proceed with its other duties.

Here’s a closer look at those tracks….

(13) JOSH FIGHT. There can be only one… Josh! Wikipedia explains yesterday’s “Josh fight”. Which is sounds a little like a Pennsic Wars where all the combatants have the same first name.

On the chosen day, several hundred people, including many named Josh, congregated at Air Park.[4][6] Attendees came from as far as New YorkHouston,[7] and Washington[8] with some dressed in superhero and Star Wars costumes.[9][10] The gathering also included a fundraising element for Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha, which raised over $8,000 USD,[3][11] and a food drive that collected over 200 pounds (90 kg) of food for a nearby food bank.[12][13]

Three ‘fights’ were held – one game of rock paper scissors for those named Josh Swain, a second with pool noodles for all attendees named Josh, and a third and final all-in battle for anyone in possession of a pool noodle willing to participate.[14] Only two Josh Swains were in attendance – Josh Swain, the event’s creator, beat a rival Josh Swain from Omaha in the rock paper scissors event.[12] A local four-year-old boy named Josh Vinson Jr., dubbed ‘Little Josh’, who had been treated at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha for seizures when he was two years old, was declared the winner and crowned with a paper crown from Burger King as well as a replica AEW World Championship belt

(14) WHAT IF MY ‘PARTNER’ HAS A JOB AND I DON’T? In “AI ethicist Kate Darling: ‘Robots can be our partners’” – a Guardian interviewer goes for the jugular:

But companies are trying to develop robots to take humans out of the equation – driverless robot cars, package delivery by drone. Doesn’t an animal analogy conceal what, in fact, is a significant threat?

There is a threat to people’s jobs. But that threat is not the robots – it is company decisions that are driven by a broader economic and political system of corporate capitalism. The animal analogy helps illustrate that we have some options. The different ways that we’ve harnessed animals’ skills in the past shows we could choose to design and use this technology as a supplement to human labour, instead of just trying to automate people away.

(15) DOME IMPROVEMENTS. The New Yorker asks “Do Brain Implants Change Your Identity?”

The first thing that Rita Leggett saw when she regained consciousness was a pair of piercing blue eyes peering curiously into hers. “I know you, don’t I?” she said. The man with the blue eyes replied, “Yes, you do.” But he didn’t say anything else, and for a while Leggett just wondered and stared. Then it came to her: “You’re my surgeon!”

It was November, 2010, and Leggett had just undergone neurosurgery at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. She recalled a surge of loneliness as she waited alone in a hotel room the night before the operation and the fear she felt when she entered the operating room. She’d worried about the surgeon cutting off her waist-length hair. What am I doing in here? she’d thought. But just before the anesthetic took hold, she recalled, she had said to herself, “I deserve this.”

Leggett was forty-nine years old and had suffered from epilepsy since she was born. During the operation, her surgeon, Andrew Morokoff, had placed an experimental device inside her skull, part of a brain-computer interface that, it was hoped, would be able to predict when she was about to have a seizure. The device, developed by a Seattle company called NeuroVista, had entered a trial stage known in medical research as “first in human.” A research team drawn from three prominent epilepsy centers based in Melbourne had selected fifteen patients to test the device. Leggett was Patient 14….

(16) ANIMATION INSPIRATION. “David Letterman Interviews Mel Blanc in 1982” from Late Night.

Even in his 70’s, Mel never lost those little voices. It amazes me how he could go from one to another so quickly and effortlessly.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/20/21 Because A Pixel Softly Filing, Left More Books As I Was Whiling

(1) A LITTLE SMACK, BUT WHERE? Andrew Hoe advises about “Spec-Fic-Fu: How to Make Aliens and Robots Fight Better” at the SFWA Blog.

…The prevalence of human-to-humanlike alien combat in sci-fi has even been lampooned in Star Trek: Lower Decks, where First Officer Jack Ransom needs only his barrel roll and double-handed swinging-fist to throw down–good-natured pokes at the limited repertoire Captain Kirk demonstrates when fighting an anthropomorphic Gorn (TOS, “Arena”) Yet people in the speculative fiction galaxy aren’t cookie-cutter humanoid, and their fighting styles shouldn’t be either.

Enter: Spec-Fic-Fu—the art of using martial philosophy to create enhanced sci-fi battles.  

 Primary Targets

First, consider an attacker’s primary targets. What must be protected? What should be attacked? Do your alien characters have the equivalent of Kung Fu paralysis points? Is your robot’s CPU located in its abdomen, making that a primary area to attack?…

(2) WHY AREN’T THERE MORE NOVELLAS? Lincoln Michel’s previous three posts in this series are quite interesting. The latest one is, too, but has definite flaws and oversights. “Novels and Novellas and Tomes, Oh My!” at Counter Craft. (You probably know Connie Willis wrote the 2011 award winner named in the excerpt.)

…So why are most novels published in a relatively narrow range of 60k to 120k words?

Or to put it another way: why doesn’t anyone publish novellas in America? Novellas as a form thrive in many parts of the world. They’re very popular in Latin America and Korea, and hardly uncommon in Europe. Yet it’s almost impossible to find a book labeled “a novella” in America outside of small press translations or classics imprints….

…Three quick notes on this chart. In 2012, the Pulitzer board refused to pick a winner from the finalists (justice for Train Dreams!). In 2019, the Booker co-awarded Bernardine Evaristo and Margaret Atwood so I averaged their page lengths. The 2011 Nebula and Hugo winner was Blackout / All Clear by Jo Walton, a single novel published as two books of 491 and 656 pages individually. Since the two were awarded as one book, I’ve combined the page count.

To be honest, I expected the page counts to be a bit more bloated than they are. Although the average (mean) for each award was in the tome territory of low 400s for the lit awards and high 400s for the SFF awards, excepting the NBA which came in at a longish-but-not-a-tome average of 321 pages.

The chart does add a data point to the anecdotal evidence that SFF books tend to be longer than literary fiction ones. Although the average (mean) lengths weren’t that different, there is far more variation of length in the lit awards including many shorter books below 300 pages.  Between the Hugo and Nebula, only one book—Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation—is under 300 pages versus seven from the three lit world prizes. The median lit award novel was 336 pages vs. 432 pages for the SFF awards….

(3) HURLEY COLLECTION COMING NEXT YEAR. Apex Publications announced the acquisition of Future Artifacts: Stories by Kameron Hurley, the award-winning author and trained historian specializing in the future of war and resistance movements. Her books include The Light BrigadeThe Stars are Legion, and The God’s War Trilogy, among others.

Future Artifacts is Kameron Hurley’s second short fiction collection and is comprised of 18 stories, many of which were previously only available through her Patreon. These stories include:

“Sky Boys”
“Overdark”
“The Judgement of Gods and Monsters”
“The One We Feed”
“Broker of Souls”
“Corpse Soldier”
“Leviathan”
“Unblooded”
“The Skulls of Our Fathers”
“Body Politic”
“We Burn”
“Antibodies”
“The Traitor Lords”
“Wonder Maul Doll”
“Our Prisoners, the Stars”
“The Body Remembers”
“Moontide”
“Citizens of Elsewhen”

Future Artifacts: Stories is slated to be released in the first quarter of 2022.

(4) BALTIC RESIDENCY. The BALTIC, an art gallery in North East England, released its “BALTIC Writer/Curator Residency Announcement 2021” yesterday.  

We’re pleased to announce that Alice Bucknell will participate in BALTIC’s Writer/curator Residency in Alnmouth, Northumberland in collaboration with Shoreside Huts.

Alice Bucknell’s interdisciplinary practice spans writing, video, and 3D design to develop ecological world-building strategies. Drawing on the work of feminist science fiction authors including Octavia E. Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin, she is interested in the potential of emerging technologies including artificial intelligence and game engines in building alternative more-than-human futures.

Bucknell is currently a staff writer at Elephant Magazine and the Harvard Design Magazine, and her writing is published in titles including Flash ArtfriezeMoussePIN-UP, and The Architectural Review. During the BALTIC Writer/curator Residency, she will be laying the groundwork for ‘New Mystics’, a hybrid curatorial-editorial project that draws together the expanded practices of twelve artists fusing properties of mysticism and magic with advanced technology. The project will continue to be developed at Rupert in Lithuania in May and launched in summer 2021.

(5) HE LOOKED INSIDE. Rich Horton makes “A Delightful Discovery Inside an Old Book” at Black Gate. Let’s not spoil the surprise, but here’s a tiny clue:

…I have an ongoing interest in Twayne Triplets*, even though only two were ever published, so I grabbed my used copy of Witches Three eagerly many years ago. But while I’ve leafed through it before, I haven’t read it, partly because I already had copies of the other stories….

(6) Q&A ABOUT EARLY STAR TREK FANDOM. Fanac.org’s Edie Stern outlines what was discussed in April 17’s interview with two founders of Star Trek fandom. See the hour-plus video on their YouTube channel.

In this Fan History Zoom (April 2021), fan historian Joe Siclari interviews Ruth Berman and Devra Langsam about early Star Trek fandom. Ruth and Devra speak candidly about their introductions to fandom, the origins of their seminal fanzines T-Negative, Spockanalia and Inside Star Trek, and how the first Star Trek convention came to be. Hear the first hand stories of the reactions of science fiction fandom to Star Trek, before, during and after the run of the original series. How did fan fiction become so prominent in Trek fandom? Where did slash fiction come from? How did clips from the show make their way into the community? With contributions by Linda Deneroff, and others, along with an excellent Q&A session, this recording provides an entertaining and informative look at the beginnings of the first real media fandom, and how it grew.

(7) ALL IN THE SKYWALKER FAMILY. “Darth Vader ‘Star Wars’ script reveals how huge secret was preserved”CNN says it will be auctioned on May the Fourth—“Star Wars Day”

A script for “Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back” reveals how a pivotal plot twist in the movie franchise was considered to be such a secret that it was not reflected in the lines provided to actors.

The script, which belonged to Darth Vader actor David Prowse, will be auctioned next month by East Bristol Auctions in the UK. The actor died in November aged 85.

Prowse wore the black suit and helmet to play Vader in the original “Star Wars” trilogy.

But it was the actor James Earl Jones who provided the character’s voice — and who delivered one of Vader’s most famous lines to Luke Skywalker, telling the young Jedi: “I am your father.”

However, the script provided to Prowse omits this key revelation and shows different lines in its place.

“Luke, we will be the most powerful in the galaxy. You will have everything you could ever want… do not resist… it is our destiny,” the script given to Prowse reads….

Prowse’s incomplete copy of the “The Empire Strikes Back” script, which is marked “Vader” at the top of each page, is expected to sell for between £2,500-4,000 ($3,490-5,580) at auction alongside other “Star Wars” memorabilia.

(8) SHOOTING PROMPTS ANOTHER LOOK AT BRONIES. EJ Dickson, in a Rolling Stone article reposted by Yahoo!, asks: “Do Bronies Have a ‘Nazi Problem’? FedEx Shooting Shines Light on Faction of Subculture”.

It is a sad reflection of the times we live in that mass shootings in the United States tend to follow a specific pattern. In the hours after a shooting, reporters tend to comb through the shooter’s social media presence, usually revealing a lengthy history of anonymous message-board postings and far-right indoctrination. Following the April 15th attack on the FedEx ground facility in Indianapolis, which resulted in the deaths of nine people including the gunman, there was a slight variation on this pattern: The 19-year-old gunman was revealed to be affiliated with the brony subculture.

According to The Wall Street Journal — which cited internal memos circulated by Facebook in the wake of the attack — the gunman primarily used his Facebook accounts to discuss his love for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magica children’s cartoon series featuring magical ponies; male fans of the show are often referred to as “bronies.”

Though the memo was quick to state that there was no indication that brony culture played a role in the attack, the gunman posted about his love of a tawny pony named Applejack, one of the main characters of the franchise, less than an hour before the rampage. “I hope that I can be with Applejack in the afterlife, my life has no meaning without her,” he wrote. “If there’s no afterlife and she isn’t real then my life never mattered anyway.” The gunman also reportedly had a history of posting far-right content, such as a meme suggesting Jesus had been reincarnated as Hitler, the memo stated.

It’s important to note that the brony fandom is highly misunderstood, and it is not inherently racist or white supremacist; the majority of members of the fandom are simply fans of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Members of the community have also rallied to raise money for the victims with various GoFundMe campaigns circulating on social media. Yet the shooter’s social-media presence has drawn renewed attention to a disturbing trend within the community, which has been infiltrated by far-right forces since its beginning….

(9) CATASTROPHIC LIBRARY LOSSES. “Wildfire Deals Hard Blow to South Africa’s Archives” reports the New York Times.

Firefighters in Cape Town battled a wildfire on Monday that had engulfed the slopes of the city’s famed Table Mountain and destroyed parts of the University of Cape Town’s library, a devastating blow to the world’s archives of Southern African history.

… the fallout from this fire was also felt across the region after towers of orange and red flames devoured Cape Town University’s special collections library — home to one of the most expansive collections of first-edition books, films, photographs and other primary sources documenting Southern African history.

“We are of course devastated about the loss of our special collection in the library, it’s things that we cannot replace. It pains us, it pains us to see what it looks like now in ashes,” Mamokgethi Phakeng, vice chancellor of the University of Cape Town, said on Monday. “The resources that we had there, the collections that we had in the library were not just for us but for the continent.”

She added: “It’s a huge loss.”

By Sunday evening, a special-collections reading room at the university’s library had been gutted by the blaze, according to university officials. The reading room housed parts of the university’s African Studies Collection, which includes works on Africa and South Africa printed before 1925, hard-to-find volumes in European and African languages and other rare books, according to Niklas Zimmer, a library manager at the university.

A curator of the school’s archive, Pippa Skotnes, said on Monday that the university’s African film collection, comprising about 3,500 archival films, had been lost to the fire. The archive was one of the largest collections in the world of films made in Africa or featuring Africa-related content.

The library will conduct a full assessment of what has been lost once the building has been declared safe, university officials said.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 20, 1848 – Kurd Laßwitz, Ph.D.  First major SF writer in German.  One novel, seven shorter stories available in English; poetry; a dozen nonfiction books; four dozen essays; four hundred twenty works all told.  Eponym – swell word, that – of the Kurd Laßwitz Award.  (Died 1910) [JH]
  • Born April 20, 1914 – Karel Thole. (“tow-leh”) Best known as cover artist for Urania 233-1330; seven hundred sixty more covers, five dozen interiors.  Here is Urania 247 (L’altra faccia di Mister Kiel “The other face of Mister Kiel” is J. Hunter Holly’s Encounter).  Here is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  Here is The End of Eternity.  Here is The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton (tr. as “The third hand”).  Here is White Queen.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born April 20, 1917 – Terry Maloney. Twoscore covers.  Here is Sinister Barrier.  Here is The Last Space Ship.  Here is New Worlds 50.  Here is the Apr 57 Science Fantasy.  Here is New Worlds 62.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born April 20, 1926 – June Moffatt.  First fannish career with husband Eph (“eef”) Konigsberg, then flourishing with 2nd husband Len Moffatt: TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegates, Fan Guests of Honor at Loscon 8, Evans-Freehafer Award (service to LASFS, Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.), co-editors with me of Button-Tack; First Fandom Hall of Fame; next door in detective-fiction fandom, co-founders of Bouchercon, named for Anthony Boucher who excelled there and in SF.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation of JM here; mine here and here.  (Died 2018) [JH] 
  • Born April 20, 1935 – Mary Hoffman, age 86. A score of novels, two dozen shorter stories, a dozen collections for us; seven dozen books all told.  Outside our field Amazing Grace was a NY Times Best-Seller (1.5 million copies sold); its 2015 ed’n has an afterword by LeVar Burton.  Here is Quantum Squeak.  Here is Women of Camelot.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born April 20, 1937 George Takei, 84. Hikaru Sulu on the original Trek. And yes, I know that Vonda McIntyre wouldn’t coin the first name until a decade later in her Entropy Effect novel.  Post-Trek, he would write Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe with Robert Asprin. By the way, his first genre roles were actually dubbing the English voices of Professor Kashiwagi of Rodan! The Flying Monster and the same of the Commander of Landing Craft of Godzilla Raids Again. He also was Kaito Nakamura on Heroes. And later he got to play his character once again on one of those video fanfics, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II. (CE) 
  • Born April 20, 1939 Peter S. Beagle, 82. I’ve known him for about fifteen years now, met him but once in that time. He’s quite charming. (I had dinner with him here once several years back. His former agent is not so charming.)  My favorite works? A Fine and Private PlaceThe Folk of The AirTamsinSummerlong and In Calabria. He won the Novelette Hugo at L.A. Con IV for “Two Hearts”. And he has the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. (CE) 
  • Born April 20, 1943 Ian Watson, 78. He’s won the BSFA Award twice, first for his novel, The Jonah Kit, and recently for his short story, “The Beloved Time of Their Lives“. He also got a BSFA nomination for his charmingly-titled “The World Science Fiction Convention of 2080”.  (CE)
  • Born April 20, 1949 John Ostrander, 72. Writer of comic books, including GrimjackSuicide Squad and Star Wars: Legacy. Well those are the titles he most frequently gets noted for but I’ll add in The Spectre, Martian Manhunter and the late Eighties Manhunter as well. His run on the Suicide Squad isavailable on the DC Universe app as is his amazing work on The Spectre.  (CE) 
  • Born April 20, 1951 Louise Jameson, 70. Leela of the Sevateem, companion to the Fourth Doctor. Appeared in nine stories of which my favorite was “The Talons of Weng Chiang” which I reviewed here. She segued from Dr. Who to The Omega Factor where she was the regular cast as Dr. Anne Reynolds. These appear to her only meaningful genre roles. And she like so many Who performers has reprised her role for Big Finish productions. (CE) 
  • Born April 20, 1959 Carole E. Barrowman, 62. Sister of John Barrowman. John and Carole co-wrote a Torchwood comic strip, featuring Jack Harkness, entitled Captain Jack and the Selkie. They’ve also written the Torchwood: Exodus Code audiobook. In addition, they’ve written Hollow Earth, a horror novel. She contributed an essay about her brother to the Chicks Dig Time Lords anthology which is lot of fun to read. (CE) 
  • Born April 20, 1971 – Ruth Long, age 50.  Author and librarian.  Half a dozen novels, three shorter stories, some under another name.  Spirit of Dedication Award from Eurocon 37.  [JH]

(11) ACTIVITY IN SPITE OF IT ALL. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik looks at the Paramount Plus series No Activity and all the technical problems when it went from being a live-action comedy to an animated series as a result of the pandemic. “The Paramount Plus show No Activity has gone animated for a fourth season because of the pandemic”.

… After all, to make animated TV, actors needed equipment that would normally be at the studio. So kits containing boom microphones, advanced screens and other digital implements were sent to dozens of them around the world, complete with a snake’s den of colorful wires they had to untangle.

“It was a suitcase full of tech with Ikea-level instructions,” Farrell said.

“Actors aren’t usually the head of IT,” said Danny Feldheim, senior vice president of original content for ViacomCBS’s Paramount Plus, who oversees the show.

Hollywood stars decoding Fig B and Input C was only the start of the trouble. Producers and the animation company they hired, Flight School Studio from Dallas, needed to turn around eight half-hour episodes of animation in 11 months to make the Paramount Plus launch. (It can often take 18 months to do that.) The budget also couldn’t grow even though animation can be expensive….

(12) SET YOUR COURSE. At Psychology Today, Zorana Ivcevic Pringle Ph.D. extracts “Creative Leadership Lessons from Female Star Trek Captain Janeway”.

… Captain Janeway’s leadership style is different from other captains in the Star Trek universe. She is more measured than Captain Kirk and less aloof than Captain Picard. She is an immensely successful leader, succeeding in bringing Voyager home and solving problems never seen before. How she did it offers four main lessons about creative leadership.

1. Leading with emotional intelligence

Emotionally intelligent leaders are skilled in four ways related to dealing with one’s own and others’ emotions. First, they are skilled at accurately reading emotions, such as realizing when someone is frustrated or disappointed. They are not only aware of emotions but acknowledge them explicitly. Second, emotionally intelligent leaders help their staff channel feelings, even difficult ones, toward achieving important goals. They inspire enthusiasm and lead by hearing and considering both optimistic and pessimistic voices (or, concerns and hopes behind them). Third, emotionally intelligent leaders understand how their decisions or other events affect staff. And finally, they successfully manage their own emotions, as well as help staff when they are discouraged….

(13) TREK DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKERS. There will be a Zoom panel “Star Trek Deep Space Nine What We Left Behind Documentary Filmmaking with 455 Films and G-Technology” on May 20 from 5:00-6:00 p.m. Eastern. Click on this link to join the webinar. Passcode: 599833?

The production team at 455 Films will be discussing and showcasing the process behind the scenes in creating their recent documentary film “What We Left Behind” about the legacy of the Star Trek Deep Space Nine television series. Come learn how they created this documentary, from start to finish. They will be discussing how they came up with the idea, crowdsourced the financing, obtained legal approvals and contact with the actors and producers for filming, developed the film’s story and content throughout the whole process, and used G-Technology storage solutions during the filming and editing phases. There will also be a sneak peak of the current documentary they are working on for the Star Trek Voyager series. And there will be a raffle at the end of the event for a G-Technology hard drive. 

(14) WORF NEWS. [Item by rcade.] Michael Dorn set all the planets of the federation ablaze with a tweet Monday afternoon.

Dorn played Worf for 272 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine as well as four movies. But the project doesn’t involve anything for Paramount+, according to TrekMovie.Com: “Confirmed: Michael Dorn’s Cryptic Tweet About Starfleet Return Isn’t For A Star Trek Show Or Movie”.

While Dorn’s tweet about being summoned back into action by Starfleet could be seen as a hint related to his Captain Worf show, or possibly one of the three live-action or two animated Star Trek series currently in development, it appears that isn’t the case. TrekMovie has confirmed with sources that whatever this is, it isn’t related to a Paramount+ Star Trek project.

It probably doesn’t involve a movie either. Go back to your lives, citizens.

(15) RISE AND SHINE. Yahoo! advises, “The Lyrid meteor shower will leave ‘glowing dust trains’ across the sky on Thursday. Here’s how to watch.”

… The best time to glimpse the Lyrids is in the wee morning hours on Thursday, April 22, before the sun rises.

Waiting until the waxing moon sets – about 4 a.m. on the US East Coast – will make it easier to spot the meteors and their dust trains. Otherwise, the bright glow from the almost-full moon (it’ll be 68% full on Thursday) may obscure the meteor streaks.

Head to an area well away from a city or street lights, and bring a sleeping bag or blanket. No need to pack a telescope or binoculars, since meteor showers are best seen with the naked eye….

(16) BEAUTIFUL BALLOON. “The First Flight On Another World Wasn’t on Mars. It Was on Venus, 36 Years Ago” at Air and Space Magazine.

The world was thrilled this week as NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter pulled off something truly novel (see video above)—the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. But if you paid close attention, the precise wording of that accomplishment included qualifiers. Like the Wright brothers’ airplane, the Mars helicopter was preceded by balloons. In Ingenuity’s case it was a pair of aerobots that rode along with the Soviet Vega 1 and 2 Venus spacecraft and flew through the Venusian atmosphere in 1985. The episode is recounted in Jay Gallentine’s lively 2016 history of planetary exploration, Infinity Beckoned, from which the following excerpt is adapted….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. You can speak to a digital Albert Einstein thanks to UneeQ’s “digital human platform.”

On the 100th year anniversary of Albert Einstein winning the Nobel Prize for Physics, one of the smartest minds and most recognisable personalities in modern history is stepping back into the fray. Digital Einstein is a realistic recreation of his namesake, embodying the great man’s personality and knowledge – multiplied by the power of conversational AI and powered by UneeQ’s digital human platform.

(18) VIDEO OF THE NIGHT. In “Honest Game Trailers: Balan Wonderworld” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that Balan Wonderworld is so weird that it has “the deeply cursed vibes of a failed Kickstarter” and “might drive you insane H.P. Lovecraft-style if you play it too long.”

[Thanks to Meredith, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Lorien Gray, Steven H Silver, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, JJ, rcade, John King Tarpinian, Jason Sizemore, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 4/13/21 The Fan Who Scrolled Tropes To Gnoles

(1) F&SF. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s May/June 2021 cover art is by David A. Hardy. Thanks to Publisher Gordon Van Gelder for the advance look.

(2) VICTORY LAP. “Charlie Jane Anders On New Book Victories Greater Than Death is a Nerdist Q&A with the author.

Charlie Jane Anders has long been a vocal presence within the sci-fi fandom at large. Her prose writing has earned her multiple Hugo Awards as well as a Nebula award for her novel All The Birds In The Sky. With her upcoming book, Victories Greater Than Death, Anders kicks off a planned trilogy within the YA space. A tale reminiscent of the big flashy space opera adventures she grew up adoring. Nerdist recently had the chance to speak with Anders about her newest work….

A common theme in your novels is characters moving towards a destiny that they’re only vaguely aware of.  Is there something about this particular trope that you feel drawn to explore?

Yes! One of my obsessions as a writer is the “quest that people don’t necessarily know is a quest.” I hate writing characters who just go where the plot needs them to go, because I start to get bored if the characters don’t have a more personal stake in what’s going on. I just feel like this is more real and grounded. We usually don’t know where all of our searching is going to end up, until we get there.

I also feel like a quest needs to be spiritual as much as logistical, so I try to write characters who are searching for fulfillment as much as trying to accomplish a plot-driven goal. I read a ton of medieval texts like Piers Plowman and Pilgrim’s Progress back in college, and they left me with an enduring love for the quest for “what does it mean to be a good person?”

(3) NOT JUST A LABEL. In the Washington Post, Charlie Jane Anders has an op-ed where she discusses her own experiences as a transgender person and says that some bills (like North Carolina’s)”subject young people to extraordinary scrutiny and intervention when they need time to explore their interests and personalities.” “We should celebrate trans kids, not crack down on them”.

…Figuring out your own gender identity is hard work, requiring large amounts of self-awareness and vulnerability. Your gender isn’t just a label: It’s a matter of how your inner conception of yourself meets everyone else’s perceptions.

My own experience of finding myself as a transgender person involved a lot of false starts and soul-searching, as I tried to reconcile the person I’d been told I was with everything I felt inside. Often, it may appear that trans kids and adults emerge fully formed, like Athena from the brow of Zeus, when in reality we’ve spent endless hours trying to make sense of our selves. The moment we reveal the end result of our self-discovery to the world, we face microaggressions, outright hostility and discrimination.

For anyone, of any age, this can feel like riding a unicycle across a muddy field while bystanders shout unhelpful advice….

(4) THE ART OF VILLAINY. And we complete our Charlie Jane Anders trifecta with “Six Sinister Secrets to Creating a Truly Scary Villain”, a guest post at Stone Soup.

We’re facing a real shortage of pants-wetting villains in pop culture these days. I’ve gotten used to seeing a lot of villains, especially in movies and TV shows, who feel like a bit of an afterthought, or just a nasty copy of the hero. Or else they’re so sympathetic that they end up becoming more of an anti-hero, and usually get redeemed.

Villains should be able to commit almost any sin – except for the cardinal sin of being forgettable. Every time they show up, we should get scared and excited, because some shit is about to go down.

When I set out to write Victories Greater Than Death, my young adult space opera novel about heroic queer teens who save all the worlds, I really wanted to include an old-school, capital-v Villain. For my previous novels, I had tried to keep the morality of all my characters ambiguous, so that everybody got to make terrible decisions but also be pretty decent at times. But when it came to writing a swash-buckling, trash-talking adventure story with space battles and narrow escapes, I was determined to cook up a really monstrous baddie, like the ones who unnerved me when I was a kid.

(5) ALMOST AN ALT-HIST DOCUMENTARY. The Space Review’s Dwayne A. Day compliments an ambitious series: “It is very cold in space: Season 2 of ‘For All Mankind’”.

…So often, Hollywood demonstrates only a thin understanding of the subject matter of the shows it produces. Real doctors, lawyers, police officers, theologians, scientists, psychologists, teachers, engineers, and astronauts watch programs about their professions and scoff at how little they get right. TV writers quite often seem to get their knowledge of complex subjects from Wikipedia. But “For All Mankind” is different. It is almost as if the show has dropped its cameras into the time period (the late 1960s and early 1970s in season one, 1983 in season two) and filmed what actually happened, even though it didn’t… but could have.

The show’s strengths go beyond its level of verisimilitude. This is one of the few shows on television that is about something, that has questions to ask and answers to pose and ideas to explore. The show’s second season is mostly successful at doing that, although it stumbles a bit at the finish line….

(6) JACOBS OBIT. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna remembers Frank Jacobs, who died on April 5 at 92.  His song parodies inspired Weird Al Yankovic, who is interviewed in the piece, and earned him the name of MAD’s “Poet Lauridiot.” “Remembering Frank Jacobs, the ‘poet lauridiot’ of Mad magazine who inspired comics like ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic”.

…He was best known for cutting lyrics set to standards from the great American songbook — including such tuneful spoofs as “East Side Story,” “Flawrence of Arabia” and “Keep On Trekin’ ” — and his musical parodies were even at the center of a landmark copyright-law case.

Music publishers and named plaintiff Irving Berlin sued Mad over a 1961 special edition that featured more than 50 parody lyrics to such songs as Berlin’s “A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody,” which Jacobs turned into “Louella Schwartz Describes Her Malady.” In 1964, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled in Mad’s favor, with Circuit Court Judge Irving Kaufman writing in his decision: “We doubt that even so eminent a composer as plaintiff Irving Berlin should be permitted to claim a property interest in iambic pentameter.”

Jacobs began writing for Mad in 1957, crafting early pieces such as “Why I Left the Army and Became a Civilian,” which humorously contrasted the discipline of military life with the demands of being an everyday married commuter. He also liked to spoof other cartoons, including in works such as “Obituaries for Comic Strip Characters” and “If the Characters in ‘Peanuts’ Aged Like Ordinary People”; the latter spoof was published in 1972, when Mad was at its pop cultural peak, reaching millions of readers each month.

“What is really amazing to me today is that there still are people who can sing all the words to some of his parodies,” says his son, Alex Jacobs….

(7) FRANCES OBIT. In “Myra Frances obituary”, The Guardian pays tribute to an actor with a notable genre resume who died April 13.

The actor Myra Frances, who has died aged 78 of cancer, broke a British screen taboo when she and Alison Steadman shared television’s first lesbian kiss in 1974. 

… her other standout screen role, as the selfish, self-obsessed Anne Tranter in the first series of Survivors (1975), a post-apocalyptic drama devised by Terry Nation, best known as the creator of the Daleks in Doctor Who.

Tranter, who has enjoyed a privileged upbringing, is one of less than 1% of the world’s population not wiped out by a plague, and Frances gives an intensely powerful portrayal of her as a screen villain, dumping her disabled partner and refusing to help others, having regard for only her self-preservation – the qualities of a true survivor.

The drama ran for a further two series with regularly changing characters, and in 1979 Frances appeared in another cult screen hit, Doctor Who. In The Creature From the Pit adventure, she played Lady Adrasta, doomed ruler of Chloris, who controls the valuable metals on her verdant planet of foggy forests until her people turn against her.

(8) HUGHES OBIT. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Guardian journalist and TV critic Sarah Hughes, who did their episode-by-episode reviews of Game of Thrones among others, has died of cancer at the aged only 48. I was shocked to read this, because I had seen her final article, a review of an episode of the UK crime drama Line of Duty, only a day before her death, so she was literally still reviewing TV episodes on her deathbed. There’s also a lovely tribute by a fellow Guardian journalist: “’My TV bellwether, my wonderful friend’: a tribute to Sarah Hughes”.

…Over the past 10 years, Sarah Hughes cultivated the most wonderful and witty community for fans of the cultural juggernaut Game of Thrones. Readers flocked to her weekly recaps to share in her great love and knowledge of television. With boundless energy and absolutely no spoilers, she gave telly addicts a home and she always made them feel loved and listened to.

I had the honour of editing my TV bellwether, my wonderful friend, who died of cancer on Monday after outliving by years the prognosis doctors dared to give her. I put her longevity down to her passion for life, telly, trashy books, Tottenham Hotspur and Cheltenham races – plus, of course, the depth of her love for her husband, Kris, and their two children, Ruby and Oisín….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 13, 1893 – Harold Sheldon, Ph.D.  Physics professor, Prentice-Hall science editor, pioneer in conduction of electricity through crystals (basis of electronic integrated circuits) and ultra-high-frequency radio.  Third Ph.D. member of the American Interplanetary Society.  Introduction to Lasser’s The Conquest of Space.  Television (1929!).  Space, Time & Relativity.  Light Waves and Their Uses.  Okay, okay, these weren’t fiction.  (Died 1964) [JH]
  • Born April 13, 1931 Beverley Cross. English screenwriter responsible for an amazing trio of films, to wit namely Jason And The ArgonautsSinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger and Clash Of The Titans. He also wrote the screenplay for The Long Ships which is at genre adjacent. (Died 1998.) (CE) 
  • Born April 13, 1937 Terry Carr. Well-known and loved fan, author, editor, and writing instructor. I usually don’t list awards both won and nominated for but his are damned impressive so I will. He was nominated five times for Hugos for Best Fanzine (1959–1961, 1967–1968), winning in 1959, was nominated three times for Best Fan Writer (1971–1973), winning in 1973, and he was Fan Guest of Honor at ConFederation in 1986. Wow. He worked at Ace Books before going freelance where he edited an original story anthology series called Universe, and The Best Science Fiction of the Year anthologies that ran from 1972 until his early death in 1987. Back to awards again. He was nominated for the Hugo for Best Editor thirteen times (1973–1975, 1977–1979, 1981–1987), winning twice (1985 and 1987). His win in 1985 was the first time a freelance editor had won. Wow indeed. Novelist as well. Just three novels but all are still in print today though I don’t think his collections are and none of his anthologies seem to be currently either. A final note. An original anthology of science fiction, Terry’s Universe, was published the year after his death and all proceeds went to his widow. (Died 1987.) (CE) 
  • Born April 13, 1941 – John Foyster.  Mainspring of the 7th Australian SF Con; Fan Guest of Honour at 8th, 12th, 20th.  Instigated Aussiecon I the 33rd Worldcon.  Co-founded DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund).  First GUFF (Get Up and over Fan Fund northbound, Going Under Fan Fund south) delegate, report Stranger in Stranger Lands.  Australian SF Review.  Australian Fan History 1953-1966.  Journal of Omphalistic Epistemology (with Bruce Gillespie).  Contributor & correspondent, ChungaIzzardNY Rev SFSF CommentarySF ReviewVision of Tomorrow.  Chandler Award.  Three Ditmars.  More here.   (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born April 13, 1949 – Teddy Harvia, age 72.  Four Hugos as Best Fanartist.  Fan Guest of Honor at Minicon 25, DeepSouthCon 35, ArmadilloCon 23, Loscon 30, ConQuesT 38; Special Guest (with wife Diana Thayer), Boskone 36 (Boskone has no Fan Guest of Honor; the Special Guest need not be a fan).  Rebel Award.  Rotsler Award.  See my note here.  [JH]
  • Born April 13, 1951 Peter Davison, 70. The Fifth Doctor and one that I came to be very fond of unlike the one that followed him. And he put a lot of gravitas into the voice of Mole he did for The Wind in the Willows animated special Mole’s Christmas. For twenty years now, he has reprised his role as the Fifth Doctor in myriad Doctor Who audio dramas for Big Finish. (CE)
  • Born April 13, 1953 – Helen Hollick, age 68. Eight novels, two shorter stories.  Historical fiction “not to include Merlin…. no magic…. no Holy Grail quest…. not a fantasy” about Arthur, Harold II, Emma of Normandy; also “pirate-based nautical adventures … part fantasy … intended for adult reading.”  Website.  [JH]
  • Born April 13, 1954 Michael Cassutt, 67. Producer, screenwriter, and author. His notable TV work includes work for the animated Dungeons & DragonsMax HeadroomThe Outer LimitsBeauty and The BeastSeaQuestFarscape and The Twilight Zone. He’s also written a number of genre works including the Heaven’s Shadow series that was co-written with David S. Goyer. (VE) 
  • Born April 13, 1950 Ron Perlman, 71. Hellboy in a total of five films including three animated films (Hellboy: Sword of StormsHellboy: Blood and Iron and the Redcap short). He’s got a very long association with the genre as his very first film was Quest for Fire in which he was Amoukar. The Ice Pirates and being Zeno was followed quickly By being Captain Soames in Sleepwalkers and Angel  De La Guardia in the Mexican horror film Cronos.  Several years later, I see he’s Boltar in Prince Valiant, followed by the hard SF of being Johnher in Alien Resurrection and Reman Viceroy in Star Trek: Nemesis. And I should note he was in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as Gnarlack, a goblin gangster if I read the Cliff notes to that correctly. No, I’m not forgetting about his most amazing role of all, Vincent in Beauty and The Beast. (Having not rewatched for fear of the Suck Fairy having come down hard on it.) At the time, I thought it was the most awesome practical makeup I’d ever seen. And the costume just made look him even still more amazing.  (CE) 
  • Born April 13, 1967 – Mayra Calvani, age 54.  Some work under Zoe Kalo may have to be sought that way; three novels as MC, five as ZK.  Also MC nonfiction e.g. anthology Latina Authors and Their Muses (Int’l Latina Book Award).  [JH]
  • Born April 13, 1985 – Karsten Knight, age 36.  Six novels, three shorter stories. “Favorite song: ‘The Very Thought of You’ by Billie Holiday…. I performed as a beatboxer in various a cappella groups for almost a decade.” [JH]

(10) SOLE MAN. “’Rocky Horror’ played to an empty theater for 54 weeks. Now, audiences return to Portland’s longest-running movie”OregonLive interviews the audience. Almost every one of him.

Some things are constants in a chaotic world: Death, taxes and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” which has played at Portland’s Clinton Street Theater every Saturday night for 43 years.

So, on March 15, 2020, when the theater was forced to close due to coronavirus restrictions, one man was determined not to break the streak.

For the next 54 Saturdays, Nathan Williams came to an empty theater to screen the film, sometimes with a friend, sometimes by himself.

“I watched it alone. I watched it during the snowstorm,” said Williams, who serves as emcee for the theater’s “Rocky” nights. “I was in a position to keep a flame burning, to keep a torch lit.

“I’m just a guy holding a torch for the city of Portland, for all the weirdos, for all the people who don’t have a safe place to call home, we’re home.”

Lani Jo Leigh, owner of Clinton Street Theater since 2012, said it was important for the community to know that the theater was still waiting for them…

(11) SPACE ON THE SHELVES. Delish reports “Lucky Charms Galactic Is Coming To Cereal Aisles Soon”.

…Announcing the release of Lucky Charms Galactic, General Mills is clearly keeping the cereal game on lock as well as keeping cereal lovers on their toes. Delivering an intergalactic twist on the beloved Lucky Charms brand, the new limited-edition offering still hosts the traditional frosted toasted oat cereal with marshmallow pieces that we love, but now includes three additional new magic charms. How lucky are we?!

The new charms—which are said to have “special powers”—include two colorful planet charms that can duplicate and a rocket charm that has the power to race through space…. 

(12) LAST IN SPACE. UPI brings you into the picture as “Astronaut breaks Guinness record for longest time between spacewalks”.

A Japanese astronaut was awarded a Guinness World Record when he took two spacewalks 15 years and 214 days apart.

Soichi Noguchi, an astronaut with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, went for a spacewalk March 5 as part of the ISS Expedition 64, a record-breaking amount of time after his Aug. 3, 2005, spacewalk.

(13) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. AI cats are already a thing – The Verge worries that “Soon, the internet will make its own cat photos and then it won’t need us”.

These are computer-generated images from This Cat Does Not Exist, and folks: I think we are in trouble.

I understand this is going to sound crackpot, but hear me out. What if our computers are already smarter than us, and the only reason they’re pretending they aren’t is so we’ll continue feeding them their favorite thing, photos of our cats? I understand that in isolation this sounds ridiculous, but I don’t think it’s any sillier than the Singularity.

Under this theory, Skynet has already happened, but Skynet is benign because one of the first things we taught it was that cats were cute. And Skynet doesn’t have cats. We do. This is our major structural advantage: we can feed the internet fresh cat photos. It’s why the internet — thus far, anyway — has remained willing to continue human life as we know it: for our cats…

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Monster Hunter Rise” on YouTube, Fandom Games says this game is “another entry in the turning monsters into fashion accessories genre” which should appeal to gamers who enjoy “whacking dinosaurs with comically oversize weapons.”

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Gordon Van Gelder, Dann, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day jayn.]