Pixel Scroll 2/7/21 Scroll Nine From Filer Space

(1) HWA YIELDS TO SAFETY CONCERNS. This year’s StokerCon will be virtual: “StokerCon™ 2021 Special Announcement”. The virtual event will keep the announced May 20 to 23 dates. Next-year’s in-person event will take place in Denver at the same hotel they intended to use in 2021.

The Horror Writers Association has made the difficult decision to shift StokerCon™ 2021 from an in-person event to a virtual platform during its originally scheduled May 20 to 23 dates. With the ongoing pandemic, the emergence of viral variants, and the broad range of travel obstacles around the world, we have deemed this to be the safest, most responsible way to hold the event.

As might be expected with an event of this size, switching to a virtual footing poses many challenges, but Con co-chairs, James Chambers and Brian Matthews; HWA President, John Palisano; Vice President, Meghan Arcuri; Administrator, Brad Hodson; and the officers and trustees of the HWA Board have made significant progress in executing this change.  Our hope is to preserve the spirit of StokerCon and create an event that will resemble as closely as possible our usual programming—panels, presentations, interviews, author readings, ceremonies, and the Bram Stoker Awards® presentation. At this time our plans include the Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference, Librarians’ Day, Horror University, and the Final Frame Film Competition. And while we won’t be able to gather in the same place, all attendees of this virtual StokerCon will receive—or, outside the U.S., have the option to receive—a printed copy of the beautiful souvenir book created and edited by Josh Viola and HEX Publishing….

(2) BOSKONE’S INTERVIEW SERIES. Boskone 58, to be held February 12-14 has been running a series of interview posts.

Dr. Gillian Polack

…If you were planning a holiday or vacation and could visit any location, whether in the real world or fictional worlds, where would you go? Why? 

I love portal fantasies. I always dreamed of the doors in other peoples’ writing and of walking through those doors into enchanted lands. Then I wrote my own. I now want to visit the house in Borderlanders and travel to strange places. I seldom want to visit anywhere I’ve written about, for I know all the downsides of all the places, but doors that lead to hidden seas or to rooms lined with liquid glass? That’s different.

Here are links to more mini-interviews:

(3) HOUR AFTER HOUR. Jim Freund is “Celebrating 50 years of Hour of the Wolf, his WBAI radio show.

Hour of the Wolf premiered in early 1971, somewhere between January and early March. I was to engineer the majority of her programs. Adler came up with the title, taken from the 1967 Ingmar Bergman film of the same name starring Liv Ullman and Max von Sydow. Initially there was no consistent opening music theme until early 1972, when we saw the environmentally-aware science fiction movie Silent Running. The best thing in the film (IMO) was the fabulous soundtrack by Peter Schickele of P.D.Q. Bach fame. There is a grand scene in the movie in which we see small robots caring for and watering the last trees in existence; the camera then pans out to an exterior perspective showing us that this is one of many ships set up as environmental domes. The name of this music is “The Space Fleet,” and once we found a copy in a bin in a 69-cent store, it became the official theme music of the show….

…In 1973, Margot and I both passed the entrance qualifications for the Clarion West Science Fiction Writers Workshop — an intense six-week seminar that featured a different teacher each week that was a veritable Who’s Who of progressive writing in the era. I could not afford to go to Seattle for that long, much less the entrance fee, plane fare, and room and board. Furthermore, Margot told me if I could not go, I would take over Hour of the Wolf in her absence. And that’s what happened. When Margot came back, she was offered a 7-9 AM slot twice a week, which fit her schedule better, and it was agreed that I would stay over after Hour of the Wolf and engineer her show as well….

(4) BE SERIOUS. While the BBC hasn’t said Jodie Whittaker is moving on, speculation is rife – and Radio Times’ Huw Fullerton scoffs at the rumored replacements. “The next Doctor and why all the guesses are wrong”.

… Every single time we start talking about who the next Doctor should be, people invariably start suggesting names so absurd and unlikely that you have to wonder if they’ve recently returned from a parallel universe, where appearing in a popular British sci-fi series is the pinnacle of creative and financial achievement.

Tilda Swinton? Richard Ayoade? Idris Elba? If people seriously think these sort of names are realistic, they haven’t been paying attention to the way the show is made, or its demands. It’s like watching the judges on The Masked Singer confidently predicting that Brad Pitt has decided to dress up as a talking clock and sing ballads on ITV primetime – while technically possible, not a suggestion that anyone could really take seriously….

(5) PRO TIPS. Lou J. Berger drew on his 15 years of experience for this writing advice on Facebook.

… The second bit of advice is to write for yourself, first and foremost. If you are changing your manuscript because you know exactly how each of your critique partners will judge it, see the above advice about finding a new group. The value of a strong critique group will ALWAYS be better than writing in a vacuum. Unless there’s toxicity. Then get the hell out, immediately.

Writing for yourself means that you write something you want to read. And when you read it through other people’s eyes, you are catering to another person’s will. We’ve been through enough in our lives, bending to the will of others. Don’t let your prose get sullied by that same desperate need to conform. It is in the writing of your HEART that you will find release, and the passions that stir you, in the quiet hallways of your own mind, deserve the treatment that only you, and you alone, can give them. Write your HEART and let the others be damned. If there’s one thing in this godforsaken world that you can lay claim to, it is your innermost, private thoughts, and they shall always be yours, the true essence of what makes you unique….

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 7, 1992 The Ray Bradbury Theater aired “The Utterly Perfect Murder” episode. Based on a short story by Bradbury, it concerns the long anticipated revenge of a boy tormented in his childhood who now thinks he has plotted the utterly perfect murder. It’s directed by Stuart Margolian, and stars Richard Kiley, Robert Clothier and David Turri. You can watch it here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 7, 1478 – Sir Thomas More.  Recognized as a saint in the Catholic Church.  Renowned among us for Utopia, which would be just fine if we read it carefully enough to realize that, as Lafferty had a fictional TM repeat in Past Master, it’s a satire.  (Died 1535) [JH]
  • Born February 7, 1812 – Charles Dickens.  Many of us know “A Christmas Carol”, with ghosts; he wrote fourscore more fantastic stories, among much else he is still famous for; some say he believed the end of Mr. Krook in Bleak House was possible, others call it fantasy.  I can’t let CD’s greatness go without saying, but it’s mostly outside our field.  (Died 1870) [JH]
  • Born February 7, 1883 – John Taine.  A dozen novels, three shorter stories.  Under another name he earned a Ph.D., taught math at Cal Tech, wrote Men of Mathematics which he wanted to entitle The Lives of Mathematicians, and several others, The Queen of the SciencesThe Handmaiden of the SciencesThe Development of MathematicsMathematics: Queen and Servant of Science, of substantial literary ability in this subject which is far easier to do than to write prose about.  (Died 1960) [JH]
  • February 7, 1908 Buster Crabbe. He played the lead roles in the Tarzan the FearlessFlash Gordon, and Buck Rogers series in the Thirties, the only person to do so although other actors played some of those roles.  He would show up in the Seventies series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as a retired fighter pilot named Brigadier Gordon. (Died 1983.) (CE)
  • Born February 7, 1913 – Henry Hasse.  His superb “He Who Shrank” is in the superb Healy-McComas anthology Adventures in Time and Space.  Since this is File 770, I’ll note HH is named co-author of Ray Bradbury’s “Pendulum”, Sep 41 Super Science Stories, which I understand is RB’s first publication in a prozine.  A story “The Pendulum” appeared in the Fall 39 Futuria Fantasia, RB’s fanzine.  The Kent State Univ. Collected Stories of RB vol. 1 lists both: do you know how they differ?  I can’t get at these sources just now.  But we digress.  One novel; twoscore more shorter stories, two with RB, two with Emil Petaja, two with Albert de Pina.  (Died 1977) [JH]
  • Born February 7, 1921 – John Baltadonis.  Today is the hundredth birth-anniversary of this fannish giant (he was in fact 6’2″ [1.9 m] tall).  See the note about him yesterday, No. 6 in the Pixel Scroll.  Don’t neglect his fanart; we did during his life, he never had enough Best Fanartist nominations even to reach the Hugo ballot.  [JH]
  • February 7, 1949 Alan Grant, 72. He’s best known for writing Judge Dredd in 2000 AD as well as various Batman titles from the late 1980s to the early 2000s.  If you can find it, there’s a great Batman / Judge Dredd crossover “Judgement on Gotham” that he worked on. His recent work has largely been for small independents including his own company. (CE)
  • February 7, 1950 Karen Joy Fowler, 71. Michael Toman in a letter to our OGH asked we note her Birthday as he has a “A Good Word for one of his favorite writers” and so do I. Her first work was “Recalling Cinderella” in L Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Vol I. Her later genre works are Sarah Canary, the Black Glass collection and  the novel The Jane Austen Book Club, is not SF though SF plays a intrinsic role in it, and two short works of hers, “Always” and ““The Pelican Bar” won significant Awards. Her latest genre novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, is being adored far and wide. (CE)
  • February 7, 1952 Gareth Hunt. Mike Gambit in The New Avengers, the two-season revival of The Avengers that also starred Joanna Lumley as Purdey and Patrick Macnee as John Steed. Quite excellent series. He was also Arak in the Third Doctor story, “Planet of The Spiders”. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • February 7, 1955 Miguel  Ferrer. You likely best remember him as OCP VP Bob Morton in  RoboCop  who came to a most grisly death. Other notable genre roles include playing FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield on Twin Peaks and USS Excelsior helm officer in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. In a very scary role, he was Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning in Brave New World.  Lastly I’d like to note that he did voice work in the DC Universe at the end of his life, voice Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz) in Justice League: The New Frontier and Deathstroke (Slade Joseph Wilson) in Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. (Died 2017.) (CE) 
  • February 7, 1960 James Spader, 61. Most recently he did the voice and motion-capture for Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron. No, I did not enjoy that film, nor the Ultron character. Before that, he played Stewart Swinton in Wolf, a Jack Nicholson endeavor. Then of course he was Daniel Jackson in Stargate, a film I still enjoy though I think the series did get it better. He also plays Nick Vanzant in Supernova andJulian Rome in Alien Hunter. (CE)
  • Born February 7, 1990 – Jessica Khoury, age 30.  Seven novels. “Read as much as you can, in as many genres as you can.  Read insatiably.  Read ingredients on your food.  Read warning labels on heavy machinery.  Read the newspaper, read magazines, read manga”.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) SAME BAT CHANNEL, SAME BAT BROKEN RECORD. Busted again: “AWKKKKKK! Batman No. 1 Sells for $2.2 Million” reports Print.

Last week, reported The Hollywood Reporter, a near-mint copy of the Batman No. 1 comic, published in 1940, “sold as part of Heritage Auction’s comics and comic art events. … The final price was $2,220,000, which included the buyer’s premium fee.” Just in case you’re worrying about how you’re going to pay your monthly health insurance premium or children’s college tuition, that number, to repeat, was $2,220,000—a record for “the most expensive Batman comic ever sold.”

Does that mean that other comic books have sold for more? Well, according to Helen Stoilas in The Art Newspaper, “The rare 1940 issue, which marks the first appearance of the Joker and Catwoman, is the second most-expensive comic book ever sold. Even before the live sale opened on Thursday [Jan. 14], the start of Heritage’s four-day Comics and Comic Art event, online pre-bidding for the comic book had shot up to $1.9 million. Its sale of $2.22 million, to a U.S. bidder on the auction house’s online HA Live platform, knocked out the previous Batman record holder, a copy of 1939’s Detective Comics #27, which introduced the character to the world and sold for $1.5 million at Heritage this past November.”

(10) THROWBACK TEAM. “Justice Society: World War II” on YouTube is a trailer for a new WB cartoon about the original matchup of DC superheroes.

(11) CATCHING UP TO FANDOM. The New York Times shows why “‘Bridgerton’ Is Just the Beginning”.

It’s a world of corsets, stays and chemises. Of weskits, bum rolls, breeches and hoop panniers. For actors, wearing period costume has long meant literally stepping into the past: lacing soft modern flesh into antique shapes and learning how to use the toilet without peeling off multiple layers.

“Bridgerton,” Shonda Rhimes’s racially diverse Netflix series set in 1813 England, has suddenly ignited new interest in Regency fashions. But a global community of hobbyists has been designing, making and wearing clothing from the 19th century and earlier for many years. Long a private obsession fueled by films like “The Leopard” and “Pride and Prejudice,” social media has widened the conversation, with fans of all ages and backgrounds worldwide now trading notes on how best to trim a sleeve or adjust a straw bonnet.

Pre-pandemic, they gathered in Los Angeles at Costume College, an annual conference, at Venice’s Carnival and the Fêtes Galantes at Versailles. Some lucky Europeans, like Filippa Trozelli, find themselves invited to wear their historical clothing to private parties at ancient local estates….

(12) THE FINAL CAT FRONTIER. “Star Trek Enterprise Cat Tree: Bolding Going Where No Cat Has Gone Before” at Technabob. I’m thinking the cats shown posing on this tree might easily be mistaken for aliens.

A USS Enterprise and Deep Space Nine themed cat tree: it’s what every Star Trek loving feline owner’s home has been missing. And now thanks to Etsy seller CE360designs, you can finally fill that void with a custom Star Trek Enterprise 1701D and DS9 Wood Cat Tower. You know they say good things come in small packages, but I imagine this box being on the larger side.

According to the sales copy, “The bottom is a wormhole but can be a Borg ship.”

(13) MARS SPINOFFS. The space agency tells how “NASA’s Perseverance Pays Off Back Home”.

A laser-light sensor that can identify bacteria in a wound may sound far-fetched, but it’s already becoming a reality, thanks in part to NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. The technology is going to Mars for the first time on Perseverance, which will touch down on the Red Planet in February, but it’s already detecting trace contaminants in pharmaceutical manufacturing, wastewater treatment, and other important operations on Earth.

That’s not the only technology headed to Mars that’s already paying dividends on the ground. Here on Earth, these innovations are also improving circuit board manufacturing and even led to a special drill bit design for geologists….

(14) SLOW WOOD? That’s what Michael J. Walsh asked after reading CBC Radio’s article: “Scientists develop transparent wood that is stronger and lighter than glass”.

Researchers at the University of Maryland have turned ordinary sheets of wood into transparent material that is nearly as clear as glass, but stronger and with better insulating properties. It could become an energy efficient building material in the future.

Wood is made of two basic ingredients: cellulose, which are tiny fibres, and lignin, which bonds those fibres together to give it strength.

Tear a paper towel in half and look closely along the edge. You will see the little cellulose fibres sticking up. Lignin is a glue-like material that bonds the fibres together, a little like the plastic resin in fibreglass or carbon fibre. The lignin also contains molecules called chromophores, which give the wood its brown colour and prevent light from passing through.

Early attempts to make transparent wood involved removing the lignin, but this involved hazardous chemicals, high temperatures and a lot of time, making the product expensive and somewhat brittle. The new technique is so cheap and easy it could literally be done in a backyard….

(15) DAVIDSON READ ALOUD. The Avram Davidson Universe is a podcast dedicated to the life work and impact of award-winning author, Avram Davidson. Episode 6 features “Alan Dean Foster & “Help! I Am Dr. Morris Goldpepper”.  It’s a very funny science fiction story about dentists. 

In each episode, we perform a reading and discussion of his works with a special guest. Avram Davidson (1923–1993) was a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and crime fiction. Davidson was born in Yonkers, NY and and served in the Navy during World War II. His life work includes 19 novels and over 200 short stories, all of which have been widely recognized for their wit and originality. Davidson’s works have won awards in three genres: an Edgar Award for mystery, a Hugo Award for science fiction, and three World Fantasy Awards.

(16) SUPER BOWL COMMERCIAL. The most genre of today’s TV spots was “Edward Scissorhands – Cadillac Super Bowl Commercial”.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Professor Layton” on Honest Game Trailers, Fandom Games says that while Professor Layton is “the world’s worst Sherlock Holmes cosplayer” the game’s many quizzes should appeal to fans of “anime, Agatha Christie, and people who enjoy the puzzle section in the newspaper.”

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

Pixel Scroll 2/6/21 Scroll from the Ninth Dimension

(1) THEY CAME FROM SPACE. Christie’s “Deep Impact: Martian, Lunar and Other Rare Meteorites” auction will offer rare meteorites for bid between February 9-23. Wonderful photos at the link.

The weight of every known meteorite is less than the world’s annual output of gold, and this sale offers spectacular examples for every collector, available at estimates ranging from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The sale will offer 72 of the 75 lots at no reserve, with estimates starting at $250….

There are a dozen offerings of the Moon and the planet Mars and another dozen from some of the most famous museums in the world — as well as meteorites containing gems from outer space. 

(2) WHAT WE SHOULD EXPECT. In the first issue of the Space Force Journal, a professional journal for the new branch of DoD, Wendy Whitman Cobb tries to separate sf from the SF. “’It’s a Trap!’ The Pros and Mostly ‘Khans’ of Science Fiction’s Influence on the United States Space Force”.

As the United States Space Force has been debated and ultimately stood up, it has often been linked with various science fiction undertakings, most prominently, Star Trek. For the most part, the science fiction connections are not new in the history of space and can be beneficial. Yet being compared to science fiction also presents challenges for the Space Force. This article begins by analyzing both qualitative and quantitative evidence of a science fiction-Space Force link, and finds that this link has been prevalent over the past several years. The space domain is susceptible to science fiction-based influences because of the unknowns that remain with space-based operations. This is even more true with respect to the public’s view of the Space Force. Thus, the leaders of the Space Force are forced to address the cognitive dissonance between what the public expects and what the Space Force can actually achieve in the near- to mid-term. Space Force leaders should therefore focus on “de-science fictionalizing” to draw a distinction between imagined futures and strategic challenges of today….

(3) A COMPLEX STEW OF FEELS. Jeannette Ng shares a whole chain of thoughts set off by watching Wandavision. Thread starts here.

(4) WHY SPECULATIVE POETRY? SPECPO asks SFPA Grand Master – Linda D. Addison.

CA What inspires you to write poetry and why speculative poetry? (What themes do you explore or do they always change?)

LDA: I am a big daydreamer from when I was a young child and those daydreams were always speculative, things like cats with wings. I was totally into the early fables with animals that talked and walked. I’ve always wondered What if? in the realm of Speculative-ness. Although I write fiction too, poetry is my first voice. I hear poetry inside all the time.

Everything inspires me to write, my reactions to the world around me and inside me. I’m not sure I can look at my work and say what themes they explore, since I write organically, without a lot of planning, unless I’m writing to a theme for a project. I would say the themes change, depending on what touches my heart and soul. Perhaps this is a question better answered by my readers.

(5) HOW CAN YOU RESIST? Ann Leckie has something to share:

(6) A FANNISH CENTENNIAL. First Fandom Experience celebrates the hundredth anniversary tomorrow of the birth of John V. Baltadonis (1921-1998) in “JVB 100”. Lots of his early fanzine art, and work he did when he got really good later on. A leading Philadelphia fan who attended the claimed First Convention held in his hometown in 1936, and traveled to New York for the first Worldcon in 1939, Baltadonis was elected to the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1998.  

L-R Jack Agnew, Robert A. Madle, John Newton, Oswald V. Train, John V. Baltadonis. PSFS meeting – Nov 17, 1984. Courtesy of David Ritter.

(7) SPIDER-MAN COLLECTOR HAS TO LET GO. Long article about the “Ultimate Spider-Man Collection to Be Sold Under Heart-Wrenching Circumstances” – profiling the rarities and the collector, who is dying from cancer and is selling to set up his wife and daughter after he’s gone.

…If you talk to Levine long enough, soon you realize it’s not necessarily the comics he treasures the most. Anyone with money can buy comics, he notes. It’s the weird stuff that he covets, like a collection of  1990s-era Fruit Roll-Ups boxes that he’s only seen go up for auction once or twice and finally snagged. There’s still one, featuring the villain the Rhino, that he doesn’t own, and it eats him up inside because he’s seen an advertisement for it and knows it exists. (“I’d pay $10,000 for it, because in 35 years I’ve never seen it [at auction],” says Levine.)

These are his holy grails.

Among the other rarities: storyboards for James Cameron’s aborted Spider-Man movie; a never-sold, Spider-Man themed Camel Cigarette pack; and a letter Ditko wrote a fan in which the notoriously grumpy artist tells the recipient what he really thinks.

(8) HENRY OBIT. Actor Mike Henry died January 8 at the age of 84.

…He was cast as Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, in three films: Tarzan and the Valley of Gold (1966), Tarzan and the Great River (1967), and Tarzan and the Jungle Boy (1968).

His run as the jungle lord ended after being bitten by a chimpanzee while filming.

Henry segued into another franchise in 1977, playing Junior, the son of Jackie Gleason’s Sheriff Buford T. Justice, in Smokey and the Bandit. He reprised the role in the film’s 1981 and 1983 sequels.

Among Henry’s other film roles were appearances in Skyjacked (1972), Soylent Green (1973) and The Longest Yard (1974). His TV credits included roles on M*A*S*H, General Hospital and Fantasy Island….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1981 — Thirty years ago at Denventon Two, Gordon R. Dickson had the ever so rare accomplishment of winning two Hugos at a single Con, first for the Best Novella for “Lost Dorsai” which been published in Destinies v2 #1 Feb/Mar 1980, second for Best Novelette for  “The Cloak and the Staff” which had been published in Analog in August of 1980. Other than an earlier short story Hugo for “ Soldier, Ask Not”, these are the only Hugos that he won.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 6, 1850 – Elizabeth Champney.  Three novels for us; a hundred all told, also shorter stories, essays, poems, travel.  A Vassar woman; see here. From In the Sky-Gardenhere is her husband James Champney’s title page; here is “A Ride on the Rocket-Star”.  (Died 1922) [JH]
  • Born February 6, 1922 Patrick Macnee. He was best known as the secret agent John Steed in The Avengers, a role he reprised in the New Avengers. Avoid the putrid Avengers film which he is not in at peril of your soul. He made his genre debut as Young Jacob Marley in Scrooge. He then starred as Derek Longbow in Incense for the Damned (also released as BloodsuckersFreedom Seeker Incense for the Damned and Bloodsuckers, Freedom Seeker and Doctors Wear Scarlet). Next up is an uncredited role voicing Imperious Leader on the original Battlestar Galactica.  He played Captain John Good R.N. in King Solomon’s Treasure based rather loosely on the H. Rider Haggard source material. What else? Let’s see… he shows up in The Howling as Dr. George Waggner, as Dr. stark in a film as alternative title is, I kid you not, Naked Space and Spaceship. It’s a parody apparently of Alien. Next up for him is another toff named Sir Wilfred in Waxwork and its sequel. Yes, he wears a suit rather nicely. At least being Professor Plocostomos in Lobster Man from Mars is an open farce.  Yes, let me note that he had a voice only role in the absolutely awful remake of The Avengers as Invisible Jones, a Ministry Agent. I do hope they paid him well. His last film work was genre as well, The Low Budget Time Machine, in which he started as Dr. Bernard. (Died 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born February 6, 1924 Sonya Dorman. Her best-known work of SF is “When I Was Miss Dow” which received an Otherwise retrospective award nomination.  She also appeared in Dangerous Visions with the “Go, Go, Go, Said the Bird” story. Poem “Corruption of Metals” won a Rhysling Award. (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born February 6, 1932 Rip Torn. First genre work that comes to mind is of course RoboCop 3 and his Men in Black films. His first dip into our world comes as Dr. Nathan Bryce In The Man Who Fell to Earth. Yeah that film. Actually if you count Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he’s been a member of our community since his Twenties. He also shows up on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well. (Died 2019.) (CE) 
  • Born February 6, 1947 – Eric Flint, age 74.  Auto, oil, and steel worker, glassblower, longshoreman, machinist, meatpacker, truck driver, and trade-union activist, with a master’s degree in History from Univ. Cal. Los Angeles, he’s the publisher of Ring of Fire Press (first virtual RoFcon, 8-11 Oct 20) and the Grantville Gazette; fourscore novels, threescore shorter stories, many with co-authors; anthologies.  He edited the 2002 editions of Garrett’s Lord Darcy stories and Laumer’s Retief stories; wrote an appreciation of Tom Kidd for the 2018 World Fantasy Convention.  [JH]
  • Born February 6, 1948 Larry Todd, 73. Writer and cartoonist, best known for the decidedly adult  Dr. Atomic strips that originally appeared in the underground newspaper The Sunday Paper and his other work in underground comics, often with a SF bent. In our circles, Galaxy Science FictionAmazing Science Fiction and Imagination were three of his venues. He also did some writing for If. He also did, and it’s really weird art, the cover art and interior illustrations for Harlan Ellison’s Chocolate Alphabet. (CE)
  • Born February 6, 1950 – Michele Lundgren, age 71.  Known to us as the wife of Detroit graphic artist Carl Lundgren (four Chesleys including Artistic Achievement), she has been doing artwork of her own as a photographer; two books, The Photographic Eye and Side Streets.  [JH]
  • Born February 6, 1958 – Marc Schirmeister, age 63.  To borrow a line from Robert Silverberg about someone else, we’re all unique here but some of us are more unique than others.  Schirm has quietly – no – unobtrusively – no – well, idiosyncratically drawn Schirmish creatures for AlexiadAmraAsimov’sBanana WingsChungaFantasy BookFile 770FlagNew Toy, the Noreascon 4 Program Book (62nd Worldcon), Riverside QuarterlyVanamonde.  Artist Guest of Honor at Westercon 63.  Rotsler Award.  Did the Five of Wands for Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck – all the images and BP’s introduction here (PDF).  [JH]
  • Born February 6, 1959 – Curt Phillips, age 62.  Corflu 50 Fan Fund delegate to Corflu 26 (fanziners’ convention; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid).  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate to Loncon 3 the 72nd Worldcon; report here.  Interviewed Alexis Gilliland for SF Review.  Co-ordinated celebrations of Bob Madle’s 100th birthday.  Often seen in Banana WingsChungaFile 770FlagRaucous Caucus – the usual suspects.  [JH]
  • Born February 6, 1974 Rajan Khanna, 47. To quote his website, he’s “an author, reviewer, podcaster, musician, and narrator.”  His three novels are from Pyr Books, all set in a fantastic universe of airships and steampunk, are Falling SkyRising Tide and Raining Fire. The audiobooks are first rate. (CE) 
  • Born February 6, 1977 Karin Tidbeck, 44. Their first work in English, Jagannath, a short story collection, made the shortlist for the Otherwise Award and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award. The short story “Augusta Prima”, originally written by her in Swedish, was translated into English by them which won them a Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Award in the Short Form category. Their next novel The Memory Theater is forthcoming this month. (CE) 
  • Born February 6, 1990 – Isamu Fukui, age 31.  (Personal name first, U.S. style.)  Three novels, the first written when he was 15, much made of it and him; the others a prequel and a sequel.  See here.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • What do we call this, a Bayeaux Tapestry for Star Trek?

(12) A VALENTINE MINE BE. GeekTyrant points out the availability of Star Wars-themed pop-up Valentines. Yoda and Darth are options.

(13) SUPPORT LITERACY. The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers’ fundraising anthology Turning the Tied goes on sale March 13. All proceeds go to the World Literacy Foundation.

Like so many others, we at the IAMTW watched—horrified, heartbroken, and furious—as the tumultuous events transpired in the Spring and Summer of 2020 in the U.S..  The IAMTW added its voice of support to those fighting for better conditions, for justice, and for more equal opportunities for everyone.  We didn’t want to just speak up, however.  We wanted to actually do something, no matter how small,  to contribute to a solution.  To that end…writers write.  What could be more perfect than doing what we love to do, to help others and give readers something they’ll enjoy?  While the social upheaval in the U.S. provided the impetus for this anthology, we realize that marginalization and prejudice are a worldwide problem.  One of the best means of combating the disparities is education.  Therefore all the proceeds from this book will go to the World Literacy Foundation  (https://worldliteracyfoundation.org/) which promotes literacy worldwide with a focus on helping those who are underprivileged.

… This dazzling collection of uplifting and curious tales will take you through the centuries and from the depths of the ocean to the stars. You’ll discover well-known, beloved characters in new settings and circumstances.
Penned by some of the finest writers working in tie-in fiction today.

Sherlock Holmes, John Carter of Mars, Hopalong Cassidy, Mulan, Dracula, Mina Harker, the Three Musketeers, Cyrano de Bergerac, Baron Munchausen, and Frankenstein’s Creature are a scattering of the literary souls that populate these pages. And cats. There are more than a few cats.

(14) BRADBURY’S SOMETHING WICKED. A 2019 ScreenRant listicle claims these are “10 Hidden Details You Didn’t Know About Something Wicked This Way Comes”. Maybe 7 of them were, like this one:

4. Mr. Dark Appears In Another Bradbury Work

Mr. Dark is not only the ringmaster of the carnival but a member of the freakshow as well. His oddity? He is the Illustrated Man, The tattoos over his body shift, change, and alter. This is an impressive visual effect, but it’s also familiar to anyone exposed to Bradbury’s books.

Ray Bradbury’s short story collection, The Illustrated Man, is connected through an encounter with the titular Illustrated Man, whose ever-changing tattoos tell the stories in the book. The character is an aimless wanderer who tells the protagonist he was once a member of a carnival freakshow. Sounding familiar? Perhaps this was the true fate of Mr. Dark after the carnivals destruction? Who knows…

(15) WHAT’S YOUR TAKE? Futurism.com collates reports that “Scientists Are Weaving Human Brain Cells Into Microchips”. Dann sent the link with a note, “I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be inspired or terrified by these kinds of stories.”

Brain Jack

It’s not unusual for artificial intelligence developers to take inspiration from the human brain when designing their algorithms or the circuitry they run on, but now a project is taking that biological inspiration a step further.

Scientists from England’s Aston University are physically integrating human brain stem cells into AI microchips, according to a university press release. The goal, the scientists say, is to push the boundaries of what AI can do by borrowing some of the human brain’s processing capabilities.

Neural Boost

The project, dubbed Neu-ChiP, sounds like the beginning of a sci-fi B movie where all-powerful AI runs amok. Typically, projects like this in the field of neuromorphic or brain-inspired computing focus on making AI algorithms more efficient, but Neu-ChiP aims to make them more powerful, too.

“Our aim is to harness the unrivaled computing power of the human brain to dramatically increase the ability of computers to help us solve complex problems,” Aston University mathematician David Saad said in the release. “We believe this project has the potential to break through current limitations of processing power and energy consumption to bring about a paradigm shift in machine learning technology.”

(16) QUICKEST TURNAROUND. “SpaceX launches 60 Starlink satellites on record-setting used rocket, nails landing”.

 SpaceX launched 60 more Starlink internet satellites to orbit this morning (Feb. 4) on a mission that notched a booster-reusability milestone for the company.

A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket topped with the 60 broadband spacecraft lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 here at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station today at 1:19 a.m. EST (0619 GMT). 

Approximately nine minutes later, the rocket’s first stage returned to Earth, landing smoothly on one of SpaceX’s drone ships in the Atlantic Ocean. The massive ship, “Of Course I Still Love You,” is one of two SpaceX vessels that catch falling boosters and return them to port.

It was the fifth launch for this Falcon 9 first stage, which last flew just 27 days ago — the quickest turnaround between missions for any SpaceX booster….

(17) WORLD OF TOMORROW.  Next week’s Kickstarter might be a way to get a copy into your hands.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Superman Returns/The Science of Superman” on YouTube is a documentary that I believe was originally a bonus feature on the Superman Returns DVD that looks at whether Superman’s powers are scientifically plausible.  For example:  if Superman has heat vision, what’s the heat source?  Does his X-ray vision deal in any way with how X-rays actually act in the real world?  And, a question that entertained our parents when they were kids:  if he’s invulnerable, how does he get a haircut?

Scientists including University of California (Irvine) physicist Michael Dennin and Chapman University biologist Frank Frisch explain the scientifc howlers.  For example, remember in Superman:  The Movie when Lois Lane falls off a skyscraper and Superman flies up to catch her?  Dennin notes that Lois is falling at terminal velocity and if caught by a super-fast Superman Lois’s body would have 1000 times the impact than if Superman had stayed on the ground and caught her.  Even more implausible is the scene where Superman turns back time because, unfortunately, no one has found a way to reverse time.

I thought this was worth an hour.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/22/21 Enzyme Summer

(1) KEEP YOUR EYE ON THAT PALANTIR. An insurrectionist wants a federal District Court to force the U.S. to adopt an interim government from the history of Middle-Earth: “Paul Davis Cites ‘Lord of the Rings’ in Lawsuit, Declares ‘Gondor Has No King’” – the case is briefed by Law and Crime.

Paul M. Davis, the Texas lawyer who was fired from his in-house counsel job after he recorded himself among a mob at the U.S. Capitol Complex on Jan. 6, has filed legal documents which set a new floor for legal embarrassment in U.S. jurisprudence. The documents employ a series of awkward references to — and ideas from — the temporary government of the Kingdom of Gondor in The Lord of the Rings.

Davis’s lawsuit bombastically attempts to assert that Joe Biden is not a legitimate president and that a rightful heir to that office will someday return. Until then, the case foolishly argues that a federal judge might be able to appoint a group of “stewards” from the cabinet of former President Donald Trump to run most of the government from the White House. That should occur, the lawsuit lawlessly speculates, after the Secret Service escorts Biden and his wife out of the executive residence at the order of a federal judge.

…After a few lines of formalities, a six-page Amended Motion filed Thursday argued yet again for a restraining order.

“Gondor has no King,” the document says in its second paragraph, “to invoke a very appropriate quote from the J.R.R. Tolkien epic classic, ‘Lord of the Rings.’”

A footnote explains the analogy:

During the course of the epic trilogy, the rightful King of Gondor had abandoned the throne. Since only the rightful king could sit on the throne of Gondor, a steward was appointed to manage Gondor until the return of the King, known as “Aragorn,” occurred at the end of the story. This analogy is applicable since there is now in Washington, D.C., a group of individuals calling themselves the President, Vice President, and Congress who have no rightful claim to govern the American People. Accordingly, as set forth in the Proposed Temporary Restraining Order, as a remedy the Court should appoint a group of special masters (the “Stewards”) to provide a check the power of the illegitimate President until this Constitutional Crisis can be resolved through a peaceful legal process of a Preliminary Injunction Hearing and a jury trial on the merits.

(2) INAUGURATION DAY PRESENTS. More examples of the Bernie Sanders meme. First, where he’s dropped into fine art: “Bernie Sanders Stars in Art History’s Greatest Works in New Viral Meme” at ARTnews.

…A cascade of similar images soon followed. The art historian Michael Lobel made a version in which Sanders inside a moody café from Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks—itself the subject of one of the more memorable Covid-era memes—and others placed the senator within iconic works by Sandro Botticelli, Vincent van Gogh, ASCO, Joseph Beuys, and Georges Seurat. (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grand Jatte with Bernie, anyone?) There was even a version where Sanders appeared seated atop a stylite column that appeared first in a 5th century Byzantine manuscript.

But no version of the newest Sanders joke proved more memorable than one created by the writer R. Eric Thomas, who inset him facing Marina Abramovi? for one famous performance that appeared at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010. MoMA picked it up, tweeting, “Bernie is present.” Something about Thomas’s rendition may help explain its charm. In most pictures of The Artist Is Present, Abramovi?’s steely eyes meet her viewer, almost daring anyone who sits before to look away. But in the meme version, Sanders looks away from her, his eyes cast toward the floor. In this meme, there seems to be a willful disregard of something that was construed by many as being great—an anti-establishment spirit that befits Sanders’s own views.

Then, StarTrek.com also ginned up some silly ones: “#BernieBeams into the Captain’s Chair”.

(3) COURT DECIDES AGAINST PARLER. “Amazon can keep Parler offline, judge rules” – the Seattle Times has the story.

… On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein said that forcing Amazon to get Parler back online goes against the public interest, given “the kind of abusive, violent content at issue in this case, particularly in light of the recent riots at the U.S. Capitol.”

“That event was a tragic reminder that inflammatory rhetoric can — more swiftly and easily than many of us would have hoped — turn a lawful protest into a violent insurrection,” she wrote. “The Court rejects any suggestion that the public interest favors requiring AWS to host the incendiary speech that the record shows some of Parler’s users have engaged in.”

Amazon welcomed the judge’s ruling. In a statement, the company issued a rejoinder to critics who have said Amazon infringed on Parler’s First Amendment rights when it suspended Parler’s account.

“This was not a case about free speech,” the statement said. “It was about a customer that consistently violated our terms of service by allowing content to be published on their website that actively encouraged violence (and without an effective plan to moderate it).” …

(4) WILL GOOGLE GO? “Google threatens to leave Australia because of new media law” reports the Washington Post.

… The threat is the latest and most intense in a long-running battle that has pitted Australian lawmakers and news organizations against U.S.-based tech giants Google and Facebook. For years, news organizations in Australia have argued they should be paid when Internet companies aggregate news stories on their websites. Google and Facebook say their sites help people find news, and the resulting traffic to news websites is valuable on its own.The proposed media law would force the tech companies to negotiate with media companies on payments for previewing and linking to their content. If they can’t reach a deal, a government regulator would step in to set the rates. That arrangement is untenable, Mel Silva, the head of Google in Australia and New Zealand, said in prepared testimony released ahead of the hearing Friday. …The idea that Google should pay for showing news in its search results is not new. In Spain, Google shut down its news aggregation website in 2014 after the country passed a law requiring online platforms that profit off news links to share their revenue with media companies. Just this week, Google agreed to negotiate payments to French publishers.

In the United States, Google is facing multiple federal and state antitrust lawsuits that allege the company has used its domination of online search to benefit its other businesses and push out competitors.

“It seems very peculiar to me that effectively Google wants to blackmail Australian consumers and policymakers with threats to go ahead and leave this jurisdiction when these discussions are happening all around the world, including in the U.S. itself,” Australian Sen. Andrew Bragg said during the Senate hearing, which was broadcast remotely.

(5) WOTC LITIGATION ENDS. The lawsuit creators Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman filed against Wizards of the Coast last fall was settled without trial in December. “Dragonlance Writers End Lawsuit Against Dungeons & Dragons Maker” reported Comicbook.com.

A surprising lawsuit involving the seminal writers of the Dragonlance novels and the parent company of Dungeons & Dragons has seemingly ended. Last week, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, the primary authors behind the popular Dragonlance novels, filed to voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit against Wizards of the CoastWeis and Hickman filed the lawsuit in US District Court earlier this year, alleging that Wizards of the Coast breached a licensing contract to write a trilogy of new Dragonlance books by informing the pair’s publisher that they were no longer moving forward with the books without explanation. The duo, who claimed that a Dragonlance novel was already completed and that substantial work had begun on a second book, sought up to $10 million in damages in the initial lawsuit.

The filing noted that Wizards of the Coast had not formally answered their lawsuit, nor had they filed for a summary judgement. As Weis and Hickman filed for a dismissal without prejudice, the duo could hypothetically re-file their lawsuit at a later date.

(6) QUESTION TIME. Octothorpe is a podcast from John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty about science fiction and SF fandom. In episode 23, “A Lot of Foreshadowing”, the three “discuss the recent debate over the Hugo Awards and DisCon III’s approach to the same, before touching on some upcoming fannish events.” One segment is provocatively titled, “Are the Hugos a massive cankerous boil on the Worldcon that just needs to be completely purged?”

(7) FURLAN OBIT. Actress Mira Furlan, who gained fame playing Delenn on Babylon 5 and Danielle Rousseau on Lost, died January 20 at the age of 65. The Variety tribute is here.

Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski gave a deeply emotional eulogy:  

… We’ve known for some time now that Mira’s health was failing…I’m not sure that this is the right time or place to discuss the sheer randomness of what happened…and have all been dreading this day. We kept hoping that she would improve. In a group email sent to the cast a while back, I heard that she might be improving.

Then came the call from Peter Jurasik. “I wanted you to know that Goran’s bringing Mira home,” he said.

“Do you mean, he’s bringing her home as in she’s better now, or is he bringing her home as in he’s bringing her home?”

“He’s bringing her home, Joe,” Peter said, and I could hear the catch in his voice as he said it.

And as a family, we held our counsel, and began the long wait, which has now ended.

Mira was a good and kind woman, a stunningly talented performer, and a friend to everyone in the cast and crew of Babylon 5, and we are all devastated by the news. The cast members with whom she was especially close since the show’s end will need room to process this moment, so please be gentle if they are unresponsive for a time. We have been down this road too often, and it only gets harder.

Bruce Boxleitner also mourned on Facebook:

…We have lost a light in our galaxy, but another has gained one. I will miss our talks, our laughs, our deep discussions about Hollywood and life. I will miss our dinners and trips abroad. I will miss the way her eyes sparkled when she smiled. I will miss her captivating voice and contagious laughter. I will miss sharing with her one of the most gratifying experiences of my life: the relationship between Sheridan and Delenn.

(8) SAUNDERS APPRECIATION. The New York Times obituary of the famous fantasy writer has appeared: “A Black Literary Trailblazer’s Solitary Death: Charles Saunders, 73”. He died last May, and as reported here on January 1, had been buried in an unmarked grave until friends raised money for a headstone. The Times has an extensive obituary with photos and book covers.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • January 22, 1984 Airwolf premiered on CBS where it would run for three seasons before moving to USA for a fourth season. Airwolf was created by Donald P. Bellisario who also created Quantum Leap and Tales of The Golden Monkey, two other great genre series. It starred Jan-Michael Vincent, Jean Bruce Scott. Ernest Borgnine, Alex Cord and Jean Bruce Scott. It airs sporadically in syndication and apparently has not developed enough of a following to get a Rotten Tomatoes rating.
  • January 22, 2000 Cleopatra 2525 first aired in syndication. It was created by R.J. Stewart and Robert G. Tapert. Many who aired it do so as part of the Back2Back Action Hour, along with Jack of All Trades. The primary cast of this SF with chicks not wearing much series was Gina Torres of later Firefly fame, Victoria Pratt and Jennifer Sky. (A sexist statement? We think you should take a look at the show.)  it would last two seasons and twenty episodes, six episodes longer than Jack of All Trades. (Chicks rule?) it gets a 100% rating by its audience reviewers at a Rotten Tomatoes though the aggregate critics score is a much lower 40%. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 22, 1788 – George Gordon, 6th Baron Byron.  Mad, bad, and dangerous to know; but, as George Szell said of Glenn Gould, “that nut is a genius”.  Wrote fantasy among much else, e.g. “Darkness”The Giaour, Manfred.  It could be said that his rhymes were fantastic – “And sell you, mixed with western sentimentalism, / Some samples of the finest Orientalism” (Beppo, Stanza LI).  (Died 1824) [JH]
  • Born January 22, 1906 Robert E. Howard. He’s best remembered for his characters Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane, less so for Kull, and is widely regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre. His Cthulhu mythos stories are quite good. I believe all of these were published in Weird Tales.  If you’re interested in reading him on your slate, you’re in luck as all the usual suspects are deep stockers of him at very reasonable prices. (Died 1936.) (CE) 
  • Born January 22, 1925 – Katherine MacLean.  Five novels, fifty shorter stories.  One Nebula.  Guest of Honor at WisCon 1. Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award.  Interviewed in NY Review of SF.  (Died 2019) [JH] 
  • Born January 22, 1934 Bill Bixby. Principal casting in several genre series, first in My Favorite Martian as Tim O’Hara, a young newspaper reporter for the LA Sun who discovers that alien, and then as Dr. David Banner in The Incredible Hulk seriesand in both The Incredible Hulk Returns and The Death of the Incredible Hulk films.  He shows up in a number of other genre series including Fantasy IslandTales of the UnexpectedNight GalleryThe Ghost & Mrs. Muir and The Twilight Zone (original version). He also had the lead as Anthony Blake / Anthony Dorian in The Magician series but as he was a stage illusionist, I couldn’t count it as genre… (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born January 22, 1940 John Hurt.  I rarely grieve over the death of one individual but his death really hurt. I liked him. It’s rare that someone comes along like Hurt who is both talented and is genuinely good person that’s easy to like.  If we count his role as Tom Rawlings in The Ghoul, Hurt had an almost fifty year span in genre films and series. He next did voice work in Watership Down where he voiced Hazel and The Lord of the Rings as the voice of Aragon before appearing as Kane, the first victim, in Alien. Though not genre, I must comment his role as Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man — simply remarkable. He had the lead as Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four and had a cameo as that character in Spaceballs. He narrates Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound and will later be one of two of the narrators of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. That role is simply magnificent. Ok, I’m just at 1994. He’s about to be S.R. Hadden in Contact. Did you remember he played Garrick Ollivander In Harry Potter films? You certainly remember him as Trevor Bruttenholm in the Hellboy films, all four of them in total. He’s in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as Dr. Harold Oxley, one of the few decent things about that film. Series wise, he’s been around. I’ve got him in Spectre, a Roddenberry occult detective pilot that I’ve not seen. On the Merlin live action series, he provides the voice of the Great Dragon. It’s an amazing role for him. And fitting that he’s a dragon, isn’t it? And of course he played The War Doctor. It, despite the brevity of the screen time, was a role that he seemed destined to play. Oh for an entire series of stories about His Doctor! Big Finish, the audiobook company, had the singular honor of having him flesh out his character in a series of stories that he did with them just before his death. I’ve heard some, they’re quite remarkable. If I’ve missed anything about him that you feel I should’ve touched upon, do tell me. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born January 22, 1951 – Donna Ball, age 70.  Eight novels for us as D. Boyd, Rebecca Flanders; ninety all told, with other pen names too.  Award-winning dog trainer.  [JH]
  • Born January 22, 1962 – Alison Spedding, Ph.D., age 59.  Author and anthropologist.  Three historical-fantasy novels; one science fiction in Spanish; three other novels in Spanish; shorter stories, a play, nonfiction.  While living in Bolivia criticized the government; imprisoned, many fellow academics thinking it political; released on a surety.  [JH]
  • Born January 22, 1972 – Stephen Graham Jones, Ph.D., age 49.  Nine novels for us (about The Only Good Indians last year, which caught the attention of the NY Times Book Review, note that SGJ is himself Blackfeet), a dozen others; ninety shorter stories for us, two hundred others.  Texas Institute of Letters Award.  Stoker Award.  Professor of English at Univ. Colorado, Boulder.  See this from the ReaderCon 30 Program Book.  Special Guest at World Fantasy Con 2020.  [JH]
  • Born January 22, 1982 – Janci Patterson, age 39.  A dozen novels for us, a score of others; some with co-authors including Brandon Sanderson.  Customizes Barbie dolls, watches “reality” television.  [JH]

(11) SUPER AUCTION ITEM. You have until January 28 to bid on a “Fantastic 1941 Letter Signed by Jerry Siegel, Thanking Sheldon Mayer for Promoting ’Superman’’’. Current bid is $783.

Excellent letter by Jerry Siegel, creator of ”Superman”, thanking comic pioneer Sheldon Mayer for promoting the comic before it was published in ”Action Comics #1” in 1938. Dated 18 September 1941, letter reads in part, ”Dear Sheldon: I may be coming to New York inside a few weeks and I hope we can get together at that time and curse the comic business to our heart’s content.

Again I want to thank you for all you’ve done to help make SUPERMAN what it is. I’m very much afraid that if it weren’t for a chap named Sheldon Mayer, as far as syndication is concerned SUPERMAN might still be gathering dust, and Joe [Shuster] and I would be working for a living…[signed] Jerry”.

Sheldon Mayer was one of the first employees of the McClure Syndicate, headed by comics pioneer Maxwell Gaines. Although many have taken credit for discovering ”Superman”, this letter serves as ultimate confirmation that it was Mayer’s championing of the comic which led to its inclusion in ”Action Comics #1”.

(12) GUNN APPRECIATION. John Kessel has posted some of his correspondence with the late sf author and scholar James Gunn from 2018 on Facebook: showing the advice he gave about a recently published novella.

In the wake of sf writer James Gunn’s death in December, I’ve been thinking of him and what he meant to me. The publication of my novella “The Dark Ride” in this month’s F&SF reminded me that I had sent him a draft of the story and we had this correspondence about it, which helped me to shape the final version.

I thought I’d post these emails just to show how generous and engaged he was even in his late 90s. I’m so glad that I knew him….

(13) CHUCKED OUT THE AIRLOCK.  [Item by James Davis Nicoll.] “The queen’s rep in Canada calls it quits after probe into toxic workplace” in Politico. If the Queen is not in Canada, the Governor General is our head of state. Not SFnal in itself but what makes this SF-adjacent is Payette is getting the heave ho over permitting a culture of harassment that included —

Allegations [dating] to the earliest days of her tenure when she would reportedly put staff on the spot to quiz them on outer space, demanding they name every planet or correctly state the distance between the sun and the moon….

Payette was an astronaut before being appointed GG.

…And last year, CBC News reported that Trudeau’s office failed to check with Payette’s former employees during its vetting process. As it turned out, Payette had resigned from the Montreal Science Centre in 2016 following complaints of mistreatment of employees, according to the news outlet. She also left the Canadian Olympic Committee in 2017, the year she became governor general, after two internal probes into claims she had verbally harassed staff members.

(14) FINN DE SIECLE. MEL Magazine joins its voice to the continuing uproar: “Finn Deserved Better — And So Did Black ‘Star Wars’ Fans”.

…Later on, in perhaps the most exciting shot of the trailer (at least for me), we see Finn standing in a frozen forest. His eyes are steely, determined. He looks every inch the hero — defiant, ready. He turns on his lightsaber. Its blue glow leaps to life just as we see the villain Kylo Ren and his red lightsaber spitting hot energy from its hilt. All of that tension, all of that conflict, absolutely crackling with dramatic potential. Only for all of it to fizzle away in the three films that followed.

We started with a Black stormtrooper who becomes a conscientious objector, follows his moral compass and joins the rebels to risk his life in order to save the galaxy. Somewhere along the way, though, the filmmakers made that character boring. That’s why Star Wars fans are still so pissed at the great betrayal of Finn. It’s why his name was trending on Twitter on Tuesday, a full year after the final film of the newest trilogy was released in theaters.

That last point is key: Finn deserved better. Hell, we all deserved better. The “we” in this instance is Black sci-fi fans. We’ve had to live on some thin soup from Hollywood for far too long. (Although we do have to give a shout out to Star Trek for Capt. Sisko.) For Blerds like me, we held out a small hope that it might be different this time. That Star Wars might finally move on from its Victorian-Nazi melodrama past and embrace the diversity of our moment. Specifically, by creating a credible Black hero.

The first time Star Wars added a Black character, we got a space pimp. Lando Calrissian felt like he’d escaped from a Blaxploitation film or a 1970s malt liquor commercial. But at least he was cool — paper thin, but undeniably cool….

(15) DRAGON APATHY. Declan Finn complains that no one wants to talk about the Dragon Awards on his blog, in “Emerging Dragons”.  

…But I am no longer going to ask for more suggestions. I’m not even going to try for a discussion this year. Why? Because every time I’ve done this, no one WANTS a discussion. Almost everyone who comes by drops a link in the comments going ME ME ME, and disappears.

With the exception of three or four people who are genuinely trying to have a conversation, the authors don’t even read the post. Literally. Two years ago, when I last tried this, I had people who came by, asking me to to add them to the list … and they didn’t realize they were already on it.

It was worse last year when I said “We’re not playing this game,” and people made the same request– proving that they didn’t bother to read the post.

(16) BENEFIT FROM EXPERIENCE. More encouragement to get the vaccine from the Governator. Followed on FB by comments from a legion of anti-vaxxers, naturally.  

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The monologue on last night’s The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, starting around the 10:15 mark, has Colbert telling disillusioned Q-anon conspiracy theorists how to fill the void by taking up his own enthusiasm for the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

(18) VIDEO OF A MUCH EARLIER DAY. “Steve Martin and Kermit The Frog In Dueling Banjos” on YouTube is a Funny or Die sketch from 2013, and come on, who doesn’t like Kermit The Frog or Steve Martin?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Rose, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Jennifer Hawthorne, James Davis Nicoll, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 11/25/20 Pixel To Elf Queen’s Midsummer Knight’s Four

(1) CAPTAIN JACK SIGHTINGS. You’ll be seeing Captain Jack again soon — the question is, how often? Radio Times asks “Is John Barrowman’s Captain Jack in Doctor Who series 13?”

It’s official – Captain Jack is back for the Doctor Who Christmas special, with John Barrowman’s immortal Time Agent set to join the TARDIS team in Revolution of the Daleks.

Of course, this isn’t as big a shock as it might have been. Jack Harkness already popped up once after a decade away from Doctor Who in series 12’s Fugitive of the Judoon, and fans had long suspected this could be followed by a larger onscreen return. After all, he hasn’t even met Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor yet!

But now that his festive presence has been confirmed, we have to wonder… is this just the start of Jack’s new era in the TARDIS? Does John Barrowman already have a key cut for Roath Lock Studios in Cardiff? Is Jack’s coat currently being dusted off for another adventure?

(2) RESISTANCE IS FUTILE. “Penguin Random House to Buy Simon & Schuster” reports Shelf Awareness.

Bertelsmann, owner of Penguin Random House, is buying Simon & Schuster from ViacomCBS and will make it part of PRH, the company announced. The deal should close in the second half of next year, subject to the usual closing procedures as well as regulatory approval. The deal is reportedly for more than $2 billion. PRH is the largest trade book publisher in the world, and both it and S&S have substantial distribution operations.

ViacomCBS had put S&S up for sale in March, saying the publisher was “not a core asset.” At the time, ViacomCBS was reportedly asking at least $1.2 billion for S&S. Bertelsmann publicly expressed interest in September; News Corp., owner of HarperCollins, was also interested in the company.

In a memo to staff, PRH CEO Markus Dohle said in part, “I have long admired the team at Simon & Schuster and the books they publish, and I am incredibly excited to welcome our new colleagues to Penguin Random House. Simon & Schuster’s distinguished legacy of publishing notable authors, perennial bestsellers, and culture-shaping blockbusters is a natural complement to our publishing programs and catalogs around the world.”

Referring to the merger of Penguin and Random House and other PRH acquisitions, he said, “As we have demonstrated, we can successfully unite company cultures and prestigious publishing teams while preserving each imprint’s identity and independence. Simon & Schuster aligns completely with the creative and entrepreneurial culture that we nurture by providing editorial autonomy to our publishers, funding their pursuit of new stories, ideas, and voices, and maximizing reach for our authors….”

(3) 100 MORE TBR. The New York Times’ “100 Notable Books of 2020” has plenty of good reading even if there are just a few titles that register as genre — and of those, none I’ve heard of. Mind you, I’m generally not impressed to see the dismissive phrase, “Well, I never heard of it,” and I’m counting on you to remain equally unmoved when I say it; I’m just reporting. Besides, some of you probably have heard of them and can say something on their behalf.

(4) 2021 NEBULA CONFERENCE. SFWA announced that 2021 Nebula Conference Online Registration is now open. The virtual event will take place June 4-6. Registration is $125.

The SFWA Airship Nebula will be returning in June 2021… Captaining the ship this year, SFWA is also very pleased to announce that L.D. Lewis is joining the Nebula Conference team.

Lewis is an award-winning SF/F writer and editor, and serves as a founding creator, Art Director, and Project Manager for the World Fantasy Award-winning and Hugo Award-nominated FIYAH Literary Magazine. She primarily writes stories of ordinary Black women and femmes with extraordinary powers in equally extraordinary worlds.

Coming off the success of helming FIYAHCON last month, L.D. will be acting as the project manager for all of the exciting year-round events associated with the Nebula Conference. We hope you join us in welcoming L.D. aboard.

With smaller events leading up to our main conference, the team is working on elevating our content and offerings again this year, and celebrating the best that science fiction and fantasy have to offer with our annual Nebula Awards ceremony.

So, please join us for another weekend full of professional development, workshops, and opportunities to network in one of the coolest virtual spaces there is. There will be more dance parties, karaoke, and social meet-ups around special interests. We’ll also be bringing back our conference-specific mentorship program and office hours.

(5) ABOUT THE SFF COMMUNITY. Cat Rambo considers how to advance the democratization of sff, particularly the programming of conventions, in “Moving Beyond Diversity: A Conversation We Need To Have In SFF” at Strange Horizons.

…Diversity is about getting the most differently informed points of view on a panel because that is a valuable thing. Because it means we all get a chance to learn new and interesting aspects to a topic.  And sometimes it is about making sure that the voices that have not been able to contribute in the past for one reason or another get a chance to take part in the conversation by reaching out to them.

We need to rethink the ways we create [convention] programming. Consider this art form, the quilt. A practical item made beautiful, and often a way to use up excess fabric or recycled rags. One variant is the “crazy quilt,” which uses up odds and ends in irregularly shaped patches, sometimes with embroidered details. Crazy quilts can be beautiful, but not by nature. When they are it is the result of serendipitous accident or the creation of someone experienced and talented at putting those scraps together. Programming should not be a crazy quilt made up of the varied scraps of material different participants pull out of their pockets.

Quilts with deliberately created patterns can be extraordinarily beautiful, and this is where our programming metaphor comes in. The Multiverse [Con in Atlanta] was such a quilt, pulling from those eight tracks and interspersing them in a rhythm that made the convention’s quilt far greater than the sum of its yardage. Partially because they realized the world is not binary—a thing that’s hard to do sometimes in America in a political scene which doesn’t acknowledge that people can agree on one thing and not another.

The democratisation of conventions created by the move online has been heartening, because conventions have previously been limited to the people of means and those who the first group was willing to club together and help. The Hugos are voted on by people who have the money to afford the membership fee; the Nebulas, while voted on by F&SF writers, are still limited to those writers with the money for a membership fee. (One reason why I worked to find ways to reduce or ameliorate that fee when holding SFWA office.) One of the things that has come out of 2020, in fact, has been this democratisation, which has made the conventions available to people who historically and geographically were barred from them due to factors over which they had no control….

(6) CHANGING OF THE GUARD AT F&SF. On The Coode Street Podcast Jonathan and Gary K. Wolf devote Episode 538 to a parlay with the incoming and outgoing editors of F&SF, Sheree Renée Thomas and Charles Coleman Finlay.

Charles Coleman Finlay, who for more than five years has carried on the grand tradition of editing The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fictionand Sheree Renée Thomas, who picks up the mantle as new editor beginning with the March/April 2021 issue. We talk about the magazine’s distinguished history, the challenges of maintaining an iconic magazine in a radically changing short fiction field, and their own experiences as SF readers, writers, and editors.

(7) BE A MEDIEVAL SURVIVALIST. In “A Survival Guide to Medieval Fairy Tales” at Medievalists.net, Marta Cobb looks at great medieval romances such as Sir Orfeo and Sir Gawain And The Green Knight to discover the moral lessons these romances convey, particularly in dealing with the supernatural.

Rule 1: Know the signs

The border between the supernatural world and our own can be extremely permeable. Sometimes it’s easy to tell when the supernatural has intruded upon more normal life, such as when the Green Knight barges into a holiday feast (it is not that the Green Knight wears green clothing but that his skin and hair and even his horse are completely green). Sometimes, however, the signs are more subtle, such as a deer that leads a knight away from his friends and into the unknown or a boat that sails away in the absence of sailors. In the case of Sir Lanval, it can be a mysterious woman in an opulent tent….

(8) KOBAYASHI OBIT. Japanese author Yasumi Kobayashi (1962-2020) died November 23 at the age of 58. His short story “The Man Who Watched the Sea” won the Hayakawa Award for best short story in 1998.Two more were nominated for the Seiun Award for best short story in 2003 and 2004. He was nominated as “Best Foreign Author” in the Chinese-language Galaxy Awards in 2009.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • November 25, 1998 Babylon 5 ended its five year run with the “Sleeping in the Light” finale. In the year 2281, twenty years since Sheridan died on Z’ha’dum and twenty years since the Interstellar Alliance was formed, Sheridan realises his time is running out and calls his old friends for one last get-together before embarking on one final journey. In the process, he learns that his fate and that of Babylon 5 remain interconnected. Trivia note: The worker who throws the final switch to shut down the station is played by Straczynski. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 25, 1904 – Amelia Reynolds Long.  Pioneer female SF author; one novel, a score of short stories for us.  “Reverse Phylogeny” is in Conklin’s fine SF Adventures in Dimension.  Also detective fiction, poetry.  Here is a tribute site.  (Died 1978) [JH]
  • Born November 25, 1920 Ricardo Montalbán. Khan Noonien Singh and the first Mr. Rourke. Armando and Grandpa Valentin Avellan as well. I’m picking those as four most memorable roles he’s played and they just happen to all be genre in nature. Oh, and is Khan Noonien Singh the only occurrence of a non-crew character carrying over from the original series into the films? I suspect not but I can’t think of anyone other. If there is, I’m sure one of you will tell me. (Died 2009.) (CE) 
  • Born November 25, 1926 Poul Anderson. My favorite ones by him? Orion Shall Rise for the mix of personal scale story with his usual grand political stories, and all of the Flandry and van Rijn stories. I also enjoy his Time Patrol stories as well, and the two Operation Luna tales are quite fun. He was quite honored with seven Hugo Awards and three Nebula Awards. I’m currently reading the first two volumes of his NESFA short fiction series which I will review here soon. (Died 2001.) (CE)
  • Born November 25, 1926 Jeffrey Hunter. Best known for his role as the first Captain Christopher Pike in the original pilot episode of Star Trek and the later use of that material in “The Menagerie” episode.  Other genre work included Dimension 5A Witch Without A BroomStrange Portrait (never released, no print is known to exists), Alfred Hitchcock HourJourney into Fear and The Green Hornet. (Died 1969.) (CE) 
  • Born November 25, 1941 – Sandra Miesel, 79.  Two novels, half a dozen shorter stories; anthologies; Myth, Symbol, and Religion in “The Lord of the Rings”Against Time’s Arrow (Poul Anderson); more than a hundred essays, forewords and afterwords, letters, reviews; collection of fanwriting, Sweetmeats (Jerry Kaufman, ed.); much other work outside our field.  Guest of Honor at Rivercon III.  [JH]
  • Born November 25, 1953 – Michael “Orange Mike” Lowrey, 67.  Why orange?  So he dresses – inside and out: he has sixty pairs of orange underwear.  Fanzine, Vojo de Vivo; he is also an Esperantist.  Fan Guest of Honor at ICON 25.  Elected the 2020 TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Often seen here.  In case you wonder, he doesn’t wear orange on St. Patrick’s Day – but only then.  [JH]
  • Born November 25, 1953 Mark Frost, 67. He’s best known as a writer for Hill Street Blues (I know it’s not genre but superb nonetheless) and as the co-creator with David Lynch of Twin Peaks in which he’s been involved with in other roles as well. He had a hand in writing both of the not well regarded Fantastic Four films. He was also one of the Executive Producers of the very short lived All Souls series. (CE) 
  • Born November 25, 1963 – Tony Daniel, 57.  A dozen novels, forty shorter stories, a dozen poems.  “The Infuence of ‘The Song of the South’ on Lucius Shepard” in NY Review of SF.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  “Life on the Moon” was a Readers’ Choice in Asimov’s.  [JH]
  • Born November 25, 1972 – D.A. Adams, 48.  Five books about the Brotherhood of Dwarves; others outside our field.  Likes C.S. Lewis and Toni Morrison.  Has read The Glass Bead Game and Absalom, Absalom!  [JH]
  • Born November 25, 1974 Sarah Monette, 46. Under the pen name of Katherine Addison, she published The Goblin Emperor which garnered the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel and was nominated for the NebulaHugo and World Fantasy Awards. She won the Spectrum Award in 2003 for her short story “Three Letters from the Queen of Elfland”.  Her first two novels Mélusine and The Virtu are quite wonderful and I highly recommend her Iskryne series that she co-wrote with Elizabeth Bear. (CE) 
  • Born November 25, 1980 – Licia Troisi, 40.  Astrophysicist; she is currently the best-selling Italian fantasy author.  Fifteen novels.  “If you don’t read, you cannot write.  Read everything, not only your favorite genre.”  [JH]
  • Born November 25, 1986 Katie Cassidy, 34. Best remembered as Laurel Lance / Black Canary in the Arrowverse, primarily on Arrow but also Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. She was also Ruby on Supernatural, Patricia “Trish” Washington on Harper’s Island and Kris Fowles on A Nightmare on Elm Street. (CE) 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) RACE AND SF. The Fifth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium on the topic of Race and SF was held on November 19 via Zoom. (See the full program here.) You can watch the videos of each session, access links to expanded presentations, and hear SF writers reading their stories in this roundup of the event — “Videos from The Fifth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium on Race and Science Fiction” at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY website.

(13) DESTROY TO CREATE. This post contains the whole recipe for reproducing classic silent film actor Buster Keaton’s trademark hat — “’How To Make a Porkpie Hat’ by Eleanor Keaton” – published nine years ago, but it’s news to me!

…My favorite memory of Buster making his hat is when we were in Germany in 1962 to promote the screenings of The General. He needed a new hat. Buster went to a little hat shop next to our hotel in Frankfurt and pointed out the hat he wanted to the little elderly man who ran the shop. Buster pantomimed everything, as he did not speak German and the shopkeeper did not speak English. Buster tried on the fedora and liked it. He then pantomimed scissors, and the shopkeeper handed Buster a pair of shears. Buster proceeded to tear the entire hat lining out, fold down the crown and cut the brim. The old man looked like he was about to have a stroke because Buster had not yet paid for the hat. When Buster finished and placed the hat on his head to test it, the old man recognized who Buster was and what was taking place in his hat shop.

(14) STUNNING PRICE. “Pokémon: First edition cards net $360,000; Team Rocket pack found in Colorado”SYFY Wire makes it sound like to catch ‘em all you have to spend it all:

Never underestimate the popularity of Pocket Monsters. A box of unopened, first edition base set Pokémon trading cards recently sold for a whopping $360,000 at Heritage Auctions’ Comics & Comic Art Auction. The item, which is over 20-years-old, was purchased by Thomas Fish, president of Blowoutcards.com. “I am thrilled to purchase this pedigree box,” Fish said in a statement.

His winning bid shattered the previous world record, also held by Heritage Auctions, which sold a similar set last September for $198,000. Demand for the still-shrink wrapped box was reportedly so heated, that online offers broke the record before bidding even officially began.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: The New Mutants” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say that the final X-Men movie “looks like a long pilot episode for a series the CW passed on” and where the producers saved money by not having a dialect coach and by having the mutants rarely use their powers.”

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

Hollywood Icons Go on the Block December 18

Heritage Auction’s next Hollywood Auction on December 18 will feature Margaret Hamilton’s “Wicked Witch of the West” screen-worn flying hat from The Wizard of Oz. Among the other goodies you can bid on are —

  • Elizabeth Taylor “Cleopatra” lavender gown and headdress from Cleopatra (1963).
  • Marlon Brando “Fletcher Christian” Royal Navy officer uniform from Mutiny on the Bounty (1962).
  • Original Lucasfilm-sanctioned “Darth Vader” promotional costume for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes back and Return of the Jedi
  • Frank Darabont personal 3-sheet poster from Planet of the Apes signed by Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall and James Whitmore.
  • Ultra-heavy “Thor” Mjölnir hammer used by all the Avengers in the “worthy test” sequence in Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Moe Howard’s (70+) page handwritten manuscript for his autobiography Moe Howard and the Three Stooges.
  • Robert Keeshan’s iconic “Captain Kangaroo” jacket from Captain Kangaroo
  • Lou Ferrigno “The Hulk” screen worn costume on custom display from The Incredible Hulk
  • Kevin Costner “Mariner” costume ensemble from Waterworld
  • Director Barry Sonnenfeld’s annotated shooting script from The Addams Family.

Plus the Michael Keaton original “Batman” cowl and display from Batman Returns.

Also the helmet worn by actor Michael Ansara in the “Soldier” episode of Outer Limits. (Which John King Tarpinian assures me was also worn by Robin Williams in an episode of Mork and Mindy.)

Or maybe you’d like to exchange a pile of dollars for these cubits from Battlestar Galactica.

And I’m sure we all remember Apocalypse Kong – don’t we?

Finally, for your listening pleasure, a recording of a Star Trek score — but which episode? Perhaps “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” the third episode which aired two days after the date on the box.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 10/10/20 Schrödinger’s Box Remains Both Ticked And Unticked At The Same Time Until You Pixel It

(1) A NOT-SO-LITTLE LIST. BookRiot concocted a way of assessing an interesting question: “How Do Readers Rate The New York Times Best-Selling Books?”

…For their research, the organization pooled all titles on the NYT List from June 22, 2008 to March 29, 2020. They then determined the top 100 titles from the NYT list based on the number of times it appeared on the lists in that time frame, and each of those titles was subtracted from its average ranking on the list. This made for a total of 716 unique titles.

Once those titles were identified, the top 100 reviews on Goodreads—the reader’s view of books—were pulled. The researchers looked at how many times those titles appeared on the NYT List, then subtracted this from the average list ranking. A book’s total score was calculated using this number, as well as the average Goodreads starred rating for the title….

READERS RANK THE BEST BESTSELLERS

Using the methodology laid out above, which books that landed on the NYT List were among the most well-reviewed by readers on Goodreads? The researchers calculated 20 titles among the top.

… The top ranking best seller for readers was Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. The book appeared on the bestseller list over 600 times, ranking at an average of #3, and readers gave it an average rating of 4.1 stars on Goodreads.

Interestingly, 11 of the titles on this list are children’s, middle grade, or YA books, and of the remaining titles, six are self-help/productivity books. Given that the NYT List has primarily featured white authors until more recently—and it’s still primarily white in some categories—it’s not a surprise to see that only a small number of the top 20 books are by authors of color…

(2) HOW HUMANS RELATE TO PROGRAMS. Future Tense ran a piece by Torie Bosch about “Shouting at Alexa”.

… For years now, commentators have reminded us that the gendered dynamics of digital assistants are troubling. In September, Future Tense ran an excerpt from The Smart Wife: Why Siri, Alexa, and Other Smart Home Devices Need a Feminist Reboot by Yolande Strengers and Jenny Kennedy . “Friendly and helpful feminized devices often take a great deal of abuse when their owners swear or yell at them. They are also commonly glitchy, leading to their characterization as ditzy feminized devices by owners and technology commentators—traits that reinforce outdated (and unfounded) gendered stereotypes about essentialized female inferior intellectual ability,” they write.

That’s me, swearing and yelling at my feminized device even though it only wants to be friendly and helpful.

What I tell myself, though, is that I’m really trying to avoid anthropomorphizing the Echo and the rest of the tech in my life. It’s a tendency I’ve had ever since I got to know ELIZA, the chatbot created by an MIT researcher in the 1960s. ELIZA was designed to mimic Rogerian therapy—which basically means that this simple program turns everything you say into a question. For some reason, it was installed on some of the computers in my middle-school library in the ’90s. Most of the time, I tried to get her—I mean it!— to swear, but I also spilled my tweenage heart out occasionally. And I’m not the only one. As a Radiolab episode from 2013 detailed: “At first, ELIZA’s creator Joseph Weizenbaum thought the idea of a computer therapist was funny. But when his students and secretary started talking to it for hours, what had seemed to him to be an amusing idea suddenly felt like an appalling reality.”…

(3) THE WRITER’S CRAFT. Delilah S. Dawson on how to write a synopsis. Thread starts here. (H/t to Cat Rambo.)  

(4) IT’S A NOPE. The Mary Sue checked the social media response from two people whose opinions we’d like to hear: “Rhianna Pratchett and Neil Gaiman React To the First Trailer for The Watch.  

…Terry Pratchett’s daughter, Rhianna Pratchett, responded to the clips on Twitter, writing “Look, I think it’s fairly obvious that
@TheWatch shares no DNA with my father’s Watch. This is neither criticism nor support. It is what it is.”

… Beloved author Neil Gaiman also weighed in on Twitter in response to fan questions on the faithfulness of adaptions. Gaiman, who collaborated with Terry Pratchett on Good Omens, personally oversaw the novel’s adaptation into a miniseries on Amazon Prime, serving as writer and showrunner for the series. Gaiman defended the creator’s original vision of their work, stating “If you do something else, you risk alienating the fans on a monumental scale. It’s not Batman if he’s now a news reporter in a yellow trenchcoat with a pet bat.”

(5) VINTAGE DARKNESS. “25 years of His Dark Materials: Philip Pullman on the journey of a lifetime” as told by the author in The Guardian.

It was 1993 when I thought of Lyra and began writing His Dark Materials. John Major was prime minister, the UK was still in the EU, there was no Facebook or Twitter or Google, and although I had a computer and could word-process on it, I didn’t have email. No one I knew had email, so I wouldn’t have been able to use it anyway. If I wanted to look something up I went to the library; if I wanted to buy a book I went to a bookshop. There were only four terrestrial TV channels, and if you forgot to record a programme you’d wanted to watch, tough luck. Smart phones and iPads and text messaging had never been heard of. The announcers on Radio 3 had not yet started trying to be our warm and chatty friends. The BBC and the National Health Service were as much part of our identity, of our idea of ourselves as a nation, as Stonehenge.

Twenty-seven years later I’m still writing about Lyra, and meanwhile the world has been utterly transformed.

To some extent, my story was protected from awkward change because I set it in a world that was not ours. It was like ours, but different, so I could take account of the real-world changes that helped my story, and ignore those that didn’t. 

(6) SATISFIED CUSTOMER. “One Good Thing: The wonderful sci-fi novel A Memory Called Empire makes diplomacy enthralling” – a review at Vox.

Arkady Martine’s A Memory Called Empire, which recently won the Best Novel award at science fiction’s prestigious Hugo Awards, reads like its author was simultaneously influenced by Game of Thrones, histories of the Cold War, various anti-colonialism writings, and the Star Wars prequels. It’s a grand, galaxy-spanning space opera that is mostly about diplomacy. Or, if you prefer, it’s an impressively wonky novel about galactic geopolitics that just happens to feature spaceships and aliens. I love it.

It’s difficult to talk about A Memory Called Empire without spoiling some of its best surprises because the core of the book sounds impossibly dry. But let me give it a shot anyway, because the best way to read this book is to know almost nothing about what happens after its first few chapters….

(7) AFTERGLOW. The Guardian’s Matt Kamen asks — “Cancel culture: is Netflix killing off series too soon?”

Another day, another cancellation – or at least, that’s how it’s starting to feel when it comes to Netflix. Having culled the likes of Sense8, The OA, Santa Clarita Diet and Altered Carbon in recent years, all after two or three seasons and often leaving viewers on major cliffhangers, the streaming service has turned its bloodlust on to Glow, which had already started filming its fourth season before the pandemic hit, and The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

The latter, a prequel to the cult-favourite 1983 Jim Henson movie, produced and performed entirely with staggeringly intricate puppets and animatronics, and featuring an all-star cast, premiered on Netflix in August 2019. It garnered near-universal acclaim from critics, and a slate of awards nominations – including, crucially, picking up a 2020 Emmy for outstanding children’s program. Yet even awards success hasn’t spared it the axe, with the executive producer, Lisa Henson, confirming it won’t be returning….

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1993 – Twenty-seven years ago, The Flash Girls released their first album, The Return of Pansy Smith and Violet Jones. The Minneapolis based band consisted of Emma Bull and Lorraine Garland, also known as The Fabulous Lorraine. Garland is notable as being Neil Gaiman’s personal assistant. Among the songwriters were Jane Yolen, Alan Moore, and Neil Gaiman. Bull and Garland adopted the names Pansy Smith and Violet Jones as their alternate personas and would become characters in the DC Sovereign Seven series where they run a coffee shop. They would release two more albums, Maurice and I and Play Each Morning Wild Queen. Bull and Shetterly moved to California which broke up the band and Garland formed Folk Underground which also had songs written by Neil Gaiman and Jane Yolen. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 10, 1895 – Lin Yutang, Ph.D.  Author, editor, translator, gifted popularizer (yes, it’s possible).  One SF novel.  Built a working Chinese typewriter (yes, it’s –) never developed commercially but pivotal in machine-translation research.  My Country, My People a best-seller.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1929 Robin Hardy. Wicker Man is the film he’s known for though he followed that up with The Wicker Tree, an adaptation of his Cowboys for Christ novel. Anyone seen it? The Bulldance is at least genre adjacent. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born October 10, 1931 Victor Pemberton. Writer of the script for the “Fury from the Deep”, a Second Doctor story in which he created the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. He had appeared as an actor in the series, in a non-speaking role as a scientist in “The Moonbase”, a Second Doctor story. In the Seventies, he wrote the BBC Doctor Who and the Pescatons audio drama which I remember hearing. It was quite excellent. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born October 10, 1931 – Jack Jardine.  Writing under another name, four Agent of T.E.R.R.A. novels, three others.  Indeed many other names.  Radio disc jockey, humorist.  See Bill Mills’ appreciation here.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1942 – Wojtek Siudmak, 78.  More than seven hundred covers, seventy interiors.  Six artbooks (in French).  Two Chesleys.  Here is Double Star.  Here is a volume of Norman Spinrad.  Here is Dune.  Here is The Return of the King.  Here is Expansion.  [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1957 – Rumiko Takahashi, 63.  (Names would be reversed in Japanese style.)  Manga artist with 200 million copies of her work in circulation.  Two Shogakukan Awards, two Seiun Awards.  Inkpot.  Science Fiction & Fantasy Hall of Fame, Eisner Hall of Fame.  Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême, second woman and second Japanese to win.  Scottish rock band named for Urusei Yatsura, her first to be animated.  This cover reprinting vols. 1&2 of Ranma 1/2 shows Ranma’s dad changed into a panda and Ranma into a girl.  [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1959 Kerrie Hughes, 61. Anthologist, some of which impressively have had several printings. Favorite titles for me for me include Chicks Kick Butt (co-edited with Rachael Caine), Zombie Raccoons & Killer Bunnies (with Martin H. Greenberg) and Shadowed Souls (with Jim Butcher). She’s written short fiction and essays as well. It looks like almost all of her anthologies are available from the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born October 10, 1968 Mark Bould, 52. British academic whose done a number of interesting genre-related works including Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction, co-edited with China Miéville, Parietal Games: Critical Writings by and on M. John Harrison with M. John Harrison and Michelle Reid, and Fifty Key Figures in Science Fiction written with Andrew M. Butler and Adam Roberts and Sherryl Vint. (CE) 
  • Born October 10, 1976 Marjan Neshat, 44. Best remembered for her recurring role as Samar Hashmi on Quantico which is at least genre related. She’s also had roles in the Robocop reboot, FringeElementaryNew Amsterdam and Person of Interest. (CE)
  • Born October 10, 1971 – Jeff Miracola, 49.  Magic, the Gathering (over a hundred cards) and Shadowrun; children’s books e.g. The Book of Impossible Objects; Electronic Arts video game Mini-Golf.  In eight issues of Spectrum so far (2-5, 15-16, 19-20); Advanced Photoshop magazine; 30 Years of Adventure (Dungeons & Dragons).  Here is a cover for Tower of Babel.  “Continue to work on your craft.  Draw, paint, and create always.  Consider getting together with other artists…. actually creating and feeding off each other’s energy.”  [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1984 Jenna Lê, 36. Minnesota-born daughter of Vietnam War refugees, her genre poetry is collected in A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora along with other poems. That collection placed second for an Elgin Award. You can find an excellent interview with her here. (CE) 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SMILE FOR THE CAMERA. This weekend, the New York Comic Con managed to run a cosplay competition despite being a virtual event: “Sew And Tell! Virtual Championships Of Cosplay Winners Announced At NYCC 2020” at SYFY Wire.

… The Beginners victor was Commander Poptart, a U.S. entrant who dressed as Ahsoka Tano from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. “This was an incredible build for a beginner. Well, done, Commander Poptart,” said JediManda, who was dressed as Baby Yoda from The Mandalorian

No runner-up was announced.

The runner-up in Needlework was Demorafairy from the U.K., who dressed as Little Red Ashe from Overwatch. “We loved this costume, the letterwork is so impressive on it. All her engineering, like the vest, was done in three different layers, so every piece would lay correctly,” said Yaya Han. “I thought that was just really genius and it just has such a great balance of different techniques used. All her sewing was very clean and the skirt was the right length and everything was finished.”

Sewcialist Revolution from the U.S. nabbed the top honor for the Needlework category with her Claire Fraser costume inspired by Outlander. She spent five years learning how to make 18th-century clothing and then hunkered down for an extra six months putting the dress together. “This is needlework in its best representation,” Han added. “She used period-accurate methods, so much of it was hand-done … We really appreciated all of the efforts that she went into.”…

And more.

(12) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY EFFECTS. “Making the Monsters of ‘Lovecraft Country’” is discussed in the New York Times.

…Consider the monstrous, man-eating Shoggoths of HBO’s “Lovecraft Country,” last seen decimating a squad of racist police officers on Sunday night. They may not be the mind-bending series’s most terrifying menace — that title goes to vintage, 1950s white supremacy — but it isn’t for lack of trying.

Shoggoths are hideous to look at — pale, bulbous, covered in scabby, asymmetric eyes — and deadly to encounter, with concentric rows of gnarled teeth that turn trespassers into tartare. H.P. Lovecraft first wrote about blob-like creatures called Shoggoths in the late ’20s in a series of sonnets, and they appeared in his 1936 novella “At the Mountains of Madness.”

But the original Shoggoths, described by Lovecraft as “normally shapeless entities composed of a viscous jelly which looked like an agglutination of bubbles,” bear little resemblance to the fast-moving, gorilla-like beasts that first terrorized Tic, Leti and co. in the series premiere.

(13) IN SPACE THEY CAN HEAR YOU SING. Earlier this year NPR’s “Science-Fiction Music: Monsters, Aliens In ‘Filk'” covered all pop music, including work by fans.

As science fiction spread within music, fans began to share songs with one another, and the movement became known as Filk. It took its name from a 1950s article about these unusual songs, which misspelled “Folk” as “Filk.” Bill Sutton is the president of Interfilk, an organization that helps fans and musicians attend Filk conventions. Sutton says otherworldly ideas in popular music, combined with excitement about the space program, made people believe that technology could save everything.

(14) 007, MUNSTER, AND RIPLEY, OH MY! Want to buy the Green Hornet’s car? At Profiles in History’s “The Icons & Legends of Hollywood Auction” on November 12-13, many extraordinary costumes, props and relics are going under the hammer. 

Following is just a glimpse of the items awaiting you in these pages that left indelible marks in Hollywood history: 

  • John Travolta “Tony Manero” screen worn signature leather jacket from Saturday Night Fever.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio “Jack Dawson” poker game/boarding costume from Titanic.
  • Roger Moore “James Bond” Royal Navy uniform jacket from The Spy Who Loved Me.
  • Jane Seymour “Solitaire” psychic medium cape and headdress from Live and Let Die.
  • Orson Welles “Charles Foster Kane” coat from Citizen Kane.
  • Marilyn Monroe “The Girl” fantasy tiger gown from The Seven Year Itch.
  • Gene Kelly “Don Lockwood” legendary rain suit from the Singin’ in the Rain.
  • Gary Cooper “Lou Gehrig” Yankee uniform from The Pride of the Yankees.
  • James Dean “Jett Rink” tuxedo from Giant.
  • Elizabeth Taylor “Leslie Benedict” arrival to Reata ensemble from Giant.
  • Vivien Leigh “Scarlett O’Hara” traveling dress from Gone With the Wind.
  • Fred Gwynne “Herman Munster” signature costume from The Munsters.
  • Tina Louise “Ginger” signature glamor dress from Gilligan’s Island.
  • Sir Richard Attenborough “John Hammond” signature cane from Jurassic Park
  • Sigourney Weaver “Ripley” signature Nostromo jumpsuit from Alien.
  • Hero “ramming” Chestburster with articulating jaw and “whiplash” tail from Alien
  • Hero “Ra” Cheops class Pyramid Warship filming miniature from Stargate.
  • Hero X-71 Shuttle “Independence” filming miniature from Armageddon.
  • Zed’s “Grace” Harley chopper ridden by Bruce Willis “Butch Coolidge” in Pulp Fiction

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

Pixel Scroll 6/28/20 No One Expects The Fannish Inquisition! Our Chief Weapons Are Filing, Scrolls, And A Fanatical Devotion To The Pixel

(1) IN POOH’S OWN PAW. Pooh may have been a bear of very little brain, but he knew etiquette.

A 1935 letter signed by “Winnie the Pooh” — actually written by illustrator Ernest Howard Shepard — fetched triple its expected amount when it sold for more than $15,000.

The note, which included a drawing of the titular bear from A.A. Milne‘s book series as well as best friend Piglet, apologizes to a young fan named “Buffkins” for missing his birthday party.

(2) COLD DECK. Vox’s Aja Romano asks: “Did Cards Against Humanity’s ironic humor mask a toxic culture all along?” Tagline: “The popular brand built its progressive ethos through a game that encouraged ironic bigotry. Now, it faces a reckoning.”

The company’s own statement begins:

Starting on June 6, several of our former employees posted reports on social media about a toxic work environment in our Chicago office. Many of them centered on one of our eight co-founders, Max Temkin, who led that office. We immediately began an internal investigation, and on June 9, we made the following commitments to our staff:

  • Max Temkin stepped down and no longer has any active role at Cards Against Humanity, effective that day.
  • We’re hiring a specialist firm to review and improve all HR, hiring, and management practices at the company. Our goal is to make these practices more inclusive, transparent, and equitable.
  • An outside organization will lead workplace training for all partners and employees of Cards Against Humanity, focusing on communication and unconscious bias at work.

Romano’s Vox article continues with an explanation of the problematic aspects of the game, and why they were not called out earlier –

…CAH’s namesake card game, a self-proclaimed “party game for terrible people,” is an off-color derivative of the family-friendly Apples to Apples, the Mad Libs-style party game. Players use a small handful of words to fill in blanks within loaded phrases for maximum comedic effect, and the appeal lies in the goal of creating a more shocking, provocative one-liner from your hand of cards than your fellow players in order to be dubbed the funniest player in the group. It’s the kind of wordplay silliness that goes over well among a lot of drunk party-goers.

But detractors have argued for years that CAH’s real appeal is, in a word, racism. A 2016 study published in the academic journal Humanity & Society found that a quarter of the cards in the original deck dealt with race, and nearly all of those cards involving minorities seemed to invite the worst readings possible. Consider, for example, the card about indigenous Rwandans, “Stifling a giggle at the mention of Hutus and Tutsis,” later reportedly changed to “Helplessly giggling at the mention …” The phrase implies that something about the names of indigenous tribes is inherently funny, and that even though we all know it’s wrong, we just can’t help but indulge in our racism just a little bit, for a laugh. (CAH removed this card from circulation in 2015.)…

(3) ANOTHER CUCKOO IN THE SLUSHPILE. [Item by Andrew Porter.]  Okay, which word in the title would you have changed?

(4) PRACTICE YOUR WORLDCON SKILLS. In the CoNZealand 2020 Worldcon Community Group on Facebook, Laurie Mann announced there will be training and practice sessions for the apps they will use to run the virtual Worldcon.

To help people learn about Grenadine, Zoom & Discord & to get practice using these apps leading up to, we will have training sessions & practice sessions over the next few weeks. The schedule, using New Zealand Time, is here: https://conzealand.grenadine.co/en/cnzpreconz/ If you plan to attend any items, don’t forget to log into Grenadine – there’s information about that on the first page of the schedule.

(5) SUMMER SCHOOL. The Clarion West Write-A-Thon has started. The schedule and other nformation is at the links:

The Write-a-thon is on! Five hundred and eight participants have begun guided writing sessions, and on Tuesday, we hosted a livestream video of Andy Duncan’s reading. In the coming weeks, the world can tune in to see and hear Eileen Gunn, Nalo Hopkinson, Tina Connolly, Caroline M. Yoachim, and an editors’ roundtable featuring Scott H. Andrews, Chinelo OnwualuJulia Rios, and Wendy Wagner. These live events include ASL interpreters to help ensure that they are accessible to as many as possible. If you prefer closed captioning, please contact the Seattle Public Library. Please subscribe to our newly revamped YouTube channel for reminders about these events and more!

(6) DYSON SPHERE OF INFLUENCE. From the March 2018 New York Review of Books: “The Big Bang”. Tagline: The following letters to relatives and the accompanying headnotes are adapted from Freeman Dyson’s Maker of Patterns: An Autobiography Through Letters, published by Liveright. This would be of interest in any case, all the more so to readers of Robert J. Sawyer’s new The Oppenheimer Alternative.

… Yesterday I had a talk with [Hans] Bethe about my future. Bethe told me that unless I raise objections, he will press for me to be given a second year; he said this was “in the interests of science as well as in your own interests.” He said I should spend the second year at Princeton with [J. Robert] Oppenheimer, and that Oppenheimer would be glad to look after me…

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 1982 — Ursula K, Le Guin’s The Compass Rose was published  by Pendragon Press, the Welsh publisher. This edition was of only 550 copies, and featured cover art by Tom Canty with interior illustrations by Anne Yvonne Gilbert.  It would garner a Best Single Author Collection From the annual Locus Readers Poll. And a Ditmar was also awarded. It’s been in print even since, and has quite a few translations.  Most of the stories here are reprinted from elsewhere but some such as the horrific “The Wife’s Story” which is highly reminiscent of work done by Angela Carter is written for here. (CE)

(8)  TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born June 28, 1948 Kathy Bates, 72. Her performance in Misery based on the King novel was her big Hollywood film. She was soon in Dolores Claiborne, another King derived film. Another genre roles included Mrs. Green in Dick Tracy, Mrs. Miriam Belmont in Dragonfly, voice of the Sea Hag in Popeye’s Voyage: The Quest for Pappy, voice of Bitsy the Cow in Charlotte’s Web and Secretary of Defense Regina Jackson in The Day the Earth Stood Still , a very loose adaption of the Fifties film of the same name. (CE)
  • Born June 28, 1954 Deborah Grabien, 66. She makes the Birthday list for her most excellent Haunted Ballads series in which a folk musician and his lover tackle the matter of actual haunted spaces. It leads off with The Weaver and the Factory Maid. You can read the first chapter here. Oh, and she makes truly great dark chocolate fudge. (CE)
  • Born June 28, 1954 Alice Krige, 66. I think her first genre role was in the full role of Eva Galli  and Alma Mobley in Ghost Story. From there, she plays Mary Shelley (née Godwin) in Haunted Summer before going onto being Mary Brady in Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers. Now Star Trek: First Contact in which she first plays the Borg Queen, a role she’ll repeat in the 2001 finale of Star Trek: Voyager, “Endgame”. She’s had a number of other genre roles but I only note that she was Eir in Thor: The Dark World. (CE)
  • Born June 28, 1979 Felicia Day, 41. She was Vi in  Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dr. Holly Marten in Eureka, and had a recurring role as Charles Bradbury on Supernatural. She also appears  as Kinga Forrester in Mystery Science Theater 3000. (CE)
  • Born June 28, 1957 Mark Helprin, 73. Author of three works of significance to the genre, Winter’s TaleA City in Winter which won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella and The Veil of Snows. The latter two are tastefully illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. I know Winter’s Tale was turned into a film but color me very disinterested in seeing it.  (CE)
  • Born June 27, 1926 Mel Brooks, 94. Blazing Saddles I’ve watched, oh, at least two dozen times. And Get Smart several times at least wholly or in part. Spaceballs, errr, once was enough. And let’s not mention Robin Hood: Men in Tights, though The Producers (not genre I grant you) was brilliant. So what do you like or dislike by him? (CE)
  • Born June 27, 1951 Lalla Ward, 69. She is known for her role as Romana (or Romanadvoratrelundar in full) on  Doctor Who during the time of the Fourth Doctor. She has reprised the character in Dimensions in Time, the webcast version of Shada, and in several Doctor Who Big Finish productions. In addition, she played Ophelia to Derek Jacobi’s Hamlet in the BBC television production.  And she was Helga in an early horror film called Vampire Circus. (CE)
  • Born June 27, 1954 Raffaella De Laurentiis, 66. Yes, she’s related to that De Laurentiis hence she was the producer of the Dune film. She also did Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer, both staring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Kull the Conqueror. She also produced all films in the Dragonheart series. She was the Executive Producer of the Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. (CE)
  • Born June 28, 1918 – Martin Greenberg.  Co-founded Gnome Press with Dave Kyle (Dave’s logograph is here), publishing ninety books in hard covers including Anderson, Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Moore, Norton, Simak.  Edited eight anthologies.  Lost his shirt to Bob Bloch at poker.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born June 28, 1930 – Joe Schaumburger.  Active in our two longest-running apas, the Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n (FAPA) and Spectator Amateur Press Society (SAPS).  President of the New Jersey SF Society and the Dickens Fellowship of New York.  Founded Wossname (Pratchett fans).  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born June 28, 1944 – Peggy Rae Sapienza.  Daughter of Jack McKnight who made the first Hugo Award trophies.  Active in FAPA.  With husband Bob Pavlat was given the Big Heart, our highest service award.  Chaired Smofcon 9.  Vice-chair of ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon.  After BP’s death, married John Sapienza.  Chaired BucConeer the 56th Worldcon, Nebula Awards Weekend 2012 and 2014, World Fantasy Convention 2014.  Fan Guest of Honor at Chicon 7 the 70th Worldcon.  When Japanese fans bid for and won the right, privilege, or typhoon of holding the 65th Worldcon, she was the North America agent, as probably no one else on the continent could have been.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation is here.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born June 28, 1945 – Jon Gustafson.  Co-founded Moscon (Moscow, Idaho) and the Ass’n of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists (ASFA); ASFA Western Region Director until his death. Wrote “The Gimlet Eye” for Science Fiction Review and Pulphouse.  Edited the Program Books for Westercon 46 and MagiCon the 50th Worldcon; the 1995 SFWA Handbook (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America); Chroma, the Art of Alex Schomburg.  Founded JMG Appraisals, first professional SF art and book appraisal service in North America.  Wouldn’t lead Art Show tours but walked around with me so I could lead them better.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born June 28, 1954 – Darcy Pattison, 66.  Author and quilter; “Houses and Stars” on the cover of Quilting Today (September 1991); Great Arkansas Quilt Show 2002, 2007-2008.  The Wayfinder among a dozen novels for us, a few shorter stories; thirty more books for children and adults.  Leads the Novel-Revision Retreat.  Five Nat’l Science Teaching Ass’n (NSTA) Outstanding Science Trade Books.  Arkansas Governor’s Art Award.  Translated into Arabic, Chinese, Danish, German, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish.  [JH]
  • Born June 28, 1983 – Gina Damico, 37.  CroakWax, and four more novels for us.  Grew up under four feet of snow in Syracuse, New York; California now.  Hardcore crocheter and knitter.  Likes Utz cheese balls.  Even she has seized the Iron Throne.  Her Website is here.  [JH]

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

On Mel Brooks’ birthday, let John King Tarpinian tell you about attending the premiere of Blazing Saddles. Not the one in the movie, but the real one at the Pickwick Drive-in in Burbank. 

“Attending on horseback was encouraged,” says John. “It was a block from what was then called the Pickwick Stables, now the Burbank Equestrian Center.  What is now the entrance back then was a grass lawn, which is where George Burns, as God, made his final phone booth call to John Denver.”

(10) A ROSE OF TEXAS BY ANY OTHER NAME. There’s not much to it besides a map of the district and a news clipping: “Lou Antonelli for Congress – Texas 4th District”.

(11) HOW’S FOR DINNER? “Dolphins Learn Foraging Tricks From Each Other, Not Just From Mom”.

Dolphins learn special foraging techniques from their mothers—and it’s now clear that they can learn from their buddies as well. Take the clever trick that some dolphins use to catch fish by trapping them in seashells. It turns out that they learn this skill by watching their pals do the job.

The discovery, reported in the journal Current Biology, helps reveal how groups of wild animals can transmit learned behaviors and develop their own distinct cultures.

“Dolphins are indeed very clever animals. So it makes sense that they are able to learn from others,” says Sonja Wild, a researcher at the University of Konstanz in Germany. She says young dolphins spend years in close association with their mothers and naturally tend to adopt their mothers’ ways, but this study shows that “dolphins are not only capable, but also motivated to learn from their peers.”

The bottlenose dolphins that live in Shark Bay, Western Australia, have been studied for decades, and scientists have identified over a thousand individuals by looking at the unique shape and markings of their dorsal fins. Researchers know what families the dolphins belong to, and keep track of their close associates. These dolphins use a variety ways of finding food—and not every dolphin uses every method.

Some dolphins, for examples, use sponges as tools. The dolphins break a conical sponge off the seafloor, and then wear it almost like a protective cap on their long snout, or beak. This apparently helps them probe into the rough sand of the rocky seafloor and search for buried prey.

(12) WE HAVE ALWAYS PUNKED IN THE CASTLE. “Shirley Jackson Meets Johnny Rotten In ‘Dark Blood Comes From The Feet'”NPR will tell you about it.

Horror isn’t many readers’ first choice during times like these. And while the prospect of wallowing in the murkier end of the emotional spectrum isn’t exactly high on the list of anyone’s self-care regimen right now, there’s a lot to be said for confronting our demons on the printed page as well as in real life. Emma J. Gibbon gets it. The Maine-by-way-of-England author’s debut collection of short stories, Dark Blood Comes from the Feet, is an assortment of seventeen scalding, acidic tales that eat away at society’s thin veneer of normalcy, convention, and even reality. At the same time, these horrific confections leave a sweet aftertaste of humanity.

As with all great horror, Dark Blood puts its characters first. In “Janine,” a reporter interviews a broken, middle-aged woman whose experience during her prom night in the ’80s shattered lives as well as reality. It’s the doom-laden, small-town fable of rich boy romancing a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, as if Stephen King had written Pretty in Pink instead of John Hughes.

“The Tale of Bobby Red Eyes” is more mysterious but no less sympathetic to its titular character. In it, a group of children set out to investigate a local urban legend. The ending isn’t exactly happy. “If you say ‘Bobby Red Eyes’ three times in the mirror on Halloween, he’ll be your reflection,” whispers the story’s narrator, and Gibbon builds that incantatory force until it’s incandescently frightening. And in “The Last Witch in Florida,” Gibbon etches an endearingly weird portrait of an elderly witch who’s retired to the Sunshine State, stirring up magical mischief using pink plastic flamingoes and whatever she can scare up at the corner CVS.

(13) UNRELEASED. An NPR review: “A Painful Past And Ghostly Present Converge In ‘Tokyo Ueno Station'”.

Kazu, the narrator of Tokyo Ueno Station, had hoped that his death would bring him some rest, some sense of closure. The man led a life marked with hard work and intense pain; he spent his final years homeless, living in a makeshift shelter in a Tokyo park. But when he dies, he finds the afterlife — such as it is — is nothing like he expected.

“I thought that once I was dead, I would be reunited with the dead,” he reflects. “I thought something would be resolved by death … But then I realized that I was back in the park. I was not going anywhere, I had not understood anything, I was still stunned by the same numberless doubts, only I was now outside life looking in, as someone who has lost the capacity to exist, now ceaselessly thinking, ceaselessly feeling –“

Kazu’s painful past and ghostly present are the subject of Tokyo Ueno Station, the latest book by Korean-Japanese author Yu Miri to be published in English. It’s a relatively slim novel that packs an enormous emotional punch, thanks to Yu’s gorgeous, haunting writing and Morgan Giles’ wonderful translation.

(14) NOT UNCUT AFTER ALL. Bruce Haring, in the Deadline story, “‘South Park’ Missing Five Episodes From HBO Max Offerings Because Of Prophet Muhammad Depictions”, says that HBO Max is offering 23 seasons of South Park except for five episodes that have the Prophet Muhammad as a character.  Two of the five episodes are on the South Park website.

…The controversial episodes violate a widespread Islamic belief that depictions of Muhammad or any of the other prophets of Islam are forbidden, as they encourage the worship of idols. The prohibitions cover images, drawings, statues and cartoons.

…The episodes not available on HBO Max include season five’s Super Best Friends and season 14’s 200 and 201. Those shows had previously been removed from a streaming deal with Hulu and also were axed on the official South Park website. Also not made available to HBO Max were season 10’s Cartoon Wars Part I and Cartoon Wars Part 2, although those episodes can still be streamed on the South Park website.

South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker were threatened in 2010 for the prior depictions of Muhammad. That prompted Comedy Central to remove voice and visual references in the episodes, and eventually to pull the entire episodes from streaming.

(15) A SPOONFUL OF NOT-SUGAR. BBC explains “How one teaspoon of Amazon soil teems with fungal life”.

A teaspoon of soil from the Amazon contains as many as 1,800 microscopic life forms, of which 400 are fungi.

Largely invisible and hidden underground, the “dark matter” of life on Earth has “amazing properties”, which we’re just starting to explore, say scientists.

The vast majority of the estimated 3.8 million fungi in the world have yet to be formally classified.

Yet, fungi are surprisingly abundant in soil from Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.

To help protect the Amazon rainforest, which is being lost at an ever-faster rate, it is essential to understand the role of fungi, said a team of researchers led by Prof Alexandre Antonelli, director of science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

…Fungi in soil from tropical countries are particularly poorly understood. To find out about soil from the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, researchers collected samples of soil and leaf litter from four regions.

Genetic analysis revealed hundreds of different fungi, including lichen, fungi living on the roots of plants, and fungal pathogens, most of which are unknown or extremely rare. Most species have yet to be named and investigated.

Areas of naturally open grasslands, known as campinas, were found to be the richest habitat for fungi overall, where they may help the poorer soil take up nutrients.

Understanding soil diversity is critical in conservation actions to preserve the world’s most diverse forest in a changing world, said Dr Camila Ritter of the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany.

(16) VIDEO OF YESTERDAY. The Locus Awards virtual ceremony video is now available at YouTube.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/30/20 The Master And Margaritas

(1) THE DC COMICS SALE TO END ALL. Comicbook.com says “Sotheby’s Selling Most Complete DC Comics Collection Ever Featuring Rare Batman and Superman Comics”.

Today Sotheby announced that is will auction DC Complete: The Ian Levine Collection, a comic book collection that includes every comic book published by DC Comics from 1935 through 2016, including complete runs of SupermanBatmanAction Comics, and Detective Comics. The collection includes more than 40,000 comics that also feature Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and the Justice League. The collection is available to view now on the Sotheby’s website. Sotheby’s chose today to start the private sale as it marks the 81st anniversary of the release of Detective Comics #27, which included the first appearance of Batman.

It’s a private sale, which means there is no public auction, just negotiations between Sotheby’s specialists and one or more private buyers.* Bids are being taken starting today – here’s the Sotheby’s link. Download the catalog here [PDF file]. A quote about how the collection was assembled, from the auction house’s article —

For a decade, Levine purchased a new copy of every DC issue he could find, while trying to fill in earlier issues. However, in pre-internet 1987, Levine despaired of finding many Golden Age comics he lacked, and decided to sell many of his best issues in order to fund his collection of Northern Soul records and Doctor Who film prints. However, reviewing his stacks of comic books with the purchaser reawakened his passion for this pop art form, and Levine bought his comics back from the dealer he had sold them to—at a 50% premium. Amassing about half of the comics DC had ever published, Levine determined to form a complete collection. Sacrificing his incomparable collection of Northern Soul records and Doctor Who prints, along with the assistance of the nascent internet and dealer, advisor, and author of The Comic Book Paul Sassienie, he achieved this ambition, which would essentially be impossible to replicate. In 2010, Levine’s paramount, unique collection was utilized to supply the illustrations for Taschen’s monumental publication 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking by Paul Levitz, the former president and publisher of DC.

(2) ASK THE EXPERTS. The Boston Globe asks futurists and SF writers to look ahead: “It actually may be the end of the world as we know it”. Beware paywall.

…ANNALEE NEWITZ, science-fiction and nonfiction author, podcaster

I have a couple of scenarios I’ve been batting around in my head, which both feel equally plausible at this point.

Scenario One: As more people hunker down at home, more of our most vital and personal activities will have to go online. Lots of people are learning how to have serious meetings remotely, and how to work as teams in group chat.

Then there’s the arguably more psychologically vital stuff: I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons with my gamer group using videoconferencing, and watching TV with a housebound, high-risk loved one by hitting play at the same time on a TV episode and videochatting with him at the same time.

I’m not alone. A lot of us are cut off from our loved ones right now, and online connection is all we have. Suddenly “online” doesn’t feel like a fantasy realm. It’s our social fabric. The online world is going to become a fully robust public space, and we won’t want to see garbage and detritus everywhere. We will finally start to see social media companies taking responsibility for what’s on their platforms — information will need to be accurate, or people will die.

…Scenario Two: The pandemic rips through the population, aided in part by contradictory messages from state and federal governments, as well as misinformation online. As social groups and families are torn apart by disease and unemployment, people look increasingly to social media for radical solutions: violent uprisings, internment camps for immigrants and other “suspicious” groups, and off-the-grid cults that promise sanctuary from death.

(3) HAS THE JURY REACHED A VERDICT? James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF panel considers “Rediscovery: Of All Possible Worlds, Rosel George Brown”.

This is the second Brown featured in Rediscovery. As mentioned last month, Brown was a promising author whose career was cut short by her death in 1967. I don’t have much to add to that, except to wonder if my Young People will enjoy this story more than they did the previous one.

(4) WHO WAS THAT MASKED FAN? John King Tarpinian has already ordered “Classic Monster Aloha Safety Mask”. Get yours for a mere $9.95. More styles here. And they sell matching shirts for some of them — Daniel Dern says “I’ve got the first two in that were shown in this post.”

Introducing Aloha Safety Face masks!! Hawaiian Printed Masks that are fashionable , fun, and made in the USA!!

And just like that, my shirt factory has shifted production, retooled, and is making much needed face masks for hospitals and clinics. We are all proud to be part of the effort to in the corona-virus fight and provide protective gear to Doctors, Nurses, and hospital staff, who in my eyes are the front line soldiers in this global pandemic.Due to the unprecedented demand for masks, healthcare system completely lacks the needed supplies and we are on a mission to outfit them. 

While they are our priority so is  the safety of my friends, neighbors, and countrymen. Many people with elderly parents, respiratory illnesses, diabetes, are at high risk, or want to protect their families have reached out. I know it’s hard to find masks of any kind anywhere.

(5) NEW ZEALAND. This year’s Worldcon, CoNZealand, has already announced they’re going virtual. The need for the decision can only be reinforced by the Prime Minister’s statement today: “Coronavirus: Jacinda Ardern warns border restrictions will exist for some time”.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has warned New Zealanders should get used to border restrictions in New Zealand and overseas, saying they’re likely to be in place “for some time”.

She said border restrictions overseas would likely persist until a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, believed to be one year to eighteen months away at the earliest – some vaccines take a decade to develop. 

“We will be having to manage covid-19 for months, until of course there is a vaccine and that will be many months,” she said.

Ardern told RNZ: “I’m anticipating border restrictions for some time.”

(6) WRITING THEIR WAY OUT. Melinda Snodgrass, Robert Vardeman, and Walter Jon Williams answered the Albuquerque Journal’s questions in “Science fact & fiction: Three New Mexico authors see parallels between the genre they write and the current world situation”.

Life as it is now – with most of us confined to home, getting out only for a walk in the sunshine or a quick trip to pick up mail, prescriptions, another bottle of water, an extra loaf of bread – is something we might have read about in a science fiction novel, seen on TV or at the movies but never before experienced personally to the extent we are dealing with now.

“I feel like I’m in what (science fiction author) Brian Aldiss called a cozy catastrophe,” said Walter Jon Williams, a writer of science fiction and fantasy who lives in Belen. “We have clothing, shelter, enough food in the fridge to last a month, and everything works. But everyone is gone. We just don’t see people. I went for a walk to the park today and saw one person.”

(7) SWIPER, NO SWIPING. Publishers Weekly boosts the signal as “Authors Guild, AAP Outraged by IA’s ‘National Emergency Library'”.  

The outcry from publisher and author groups has been swift and furious after the Internet Archive announced last week the launch of it’s National Emergency Library, which has removed access restrictions for some 1.4 million scans of mostly 20th century books in the IA’s Open Library initiative, making the scans available for unlimited borrowing during the Covid-19 Outbreak.

“We are stunned by the Internet Archive’s aggressive, unlawful, and opportunistic attack on the rights of authors and publishers in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic,” reads a March 27 statement from Association of American Publishers president and CEO Maria Pallante, adding that publishers are already “working tirelessly to support the public with numerous, innovative, and socially-aware programs that address every side of the crisis: providing free global access to research and medical journals that pertain to the virus; complementary digital education materials to schools and parents; and expanding powerful storytelling platforms for readers of all ages.”

The Authors Guild said it too was “appalled” by the program. “[The Internet Archive] is using a global crisis to advance a copyright ideology that violates current federal law and hurts most authors,” reads a March 27 statement. “It has misrepresented the nature and legality of the project through a deceptive publicity campaign. Despite giving off the impression that it is expanding access to older and public domain books, a large proportion of the books on Open Library are in fact recent in-copyright books that publishers and authors rely on for critical revenue. Acting as a piracy site—of which there already are too many—the Internet Archive tramples on authors’ rights by giving away their books to the world.”

In a statement on March 24, Edward Hasbrouck, co-chair of the National Writers’ Union ‘s book division also accused the IA of “using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse” to redistribute copyrighted works without permission or payment.

“So much for authors’ incomes in a time of crisis. Do librarians and archivists really want to kick authors while our incomes are down?” Hasbrouck writes. “The argument is that students need e-books while they are staying home. But that’s an argument for spending public funds to purchase or license those resources for public use — not putting the burden of providing educational materials for free on writers, illustrators, and photographers. Authors also need to eat and pay rent during this crisis.”

The Internet Archive announced the National Emergency Library project on March 24, in response to the closures of libraries during the Covid-19 crisis, building upon the Internet Archive’s “Controlled Digital Lending” program. …

(8) MANDEL OBIT. Playwright and screenwriter Loring Mandel died March 24. His 1959 script ”Project Immortality” for Playhouse 90 got him his first Emmy nomination: “Key defense scientist Doner has cancer. Schramm is assigned to code Doner’s thinking into a computer. He gets to know him as a friend, a husband and father. The project is successful, but he now knows identity is not programmable.”

He was the screenwriter for Countdown, released in 1967, the year before the first Moon landing: “Desperate to reach the moon first, N.A.S.A. sends a man and shelter separately, one-way. He must find it to survive. He can’t return until Apollo is ready.” The movie starred James Caan and Robert Duvall.

However, as The Hollywood Reporter tribute notes, he was more famous for non-genre work: “Loring Mandel, Screenwriter and ‘Advise and Consent’ Playwright, Dies at 91”. “Mandel earned five Emmy nominations during his career, winning twice: in 1968 for his work on an installment of CBS Playhouse and in 2001 for penning the BBC-HBO telefilm Conspiracy.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 30, 2013 Orphan Black premiered on BBC America in the USA and Space in Canada. Starring Tatiana Maslany as the clones, it run for five seasons and fifty episodes. It would win a Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form Hugo at Sasquan for “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 30, 1904 Herbert van Thal. Editor of the Pan Book of Horror Stories series that ran twenty-four volumes from 1959 to 1983. Back From the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories is a look at the series and it contains Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares, the first biography of him written by Pan Book of Horror Stories expert Johnny Mains. (Died 1983.)
  • Born March 30, 1927 Greta Thyssen. Labeled Queen of the B-Movies she appeared in a number of genre films such as The Beast of Budapest,  Creature from Blood Island andJourney to the Seventh Planet. (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 30, 1928 Chad Oliver. Writer of both Westerns and SF, a not uncommon occupation at that time. He considered himself an anthropological science fiction writer whose training as an academic informed his fiction, an early Le Guin if you will. Not a terribly prolific writer with just nine novels and two collections to his name over a forty-year span. Mists of Dawn, his first novel, is a YA novel which I’d recommend as it reads a lot a similar Heinlein would. (Died 1993.)
  • Born March 30, 1933 Anna Ruud. Dr. ingrid Naarveg in the Three Stooges film Have Rocket — Will Travel. Hey, it is genre of a sorts. On a more serious note, she was Doctor Sigrid Bomark in 12 to the Moon. She had one-offs in Voyage to the Bottom of The SeaThe Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 30, 1943 Dennis Etchison. As editor, he received two World Fantasy Awards for Best Anthology, MetaHorror and The Museum of Horrors. As a writer, he’s best remembered as a short story writer of quite tasty horror. Talking in the Dark Is his personally selected collection of his stories. (Died 2019.)
  • Born March 30, 1948 Jeanne Robinson. She co-wrote the Stardance Saga with her husband Spider Robinson. To my knowledge, her only other piece of writing was ‘Serendipity: Do, Some Thoughts About Collaborative Writing ‘ which was published in the MagiCon Program. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 30, 1958 Maurice LaMarche, 62. Voice actor primarily for such roles as Pinky and The Brain (both of which Stross makes use of) with Pinky modelled off Orson Welles, the entire cast as near as I can tell of Futurama, the villain Sylar on Heroes, the voice of Orson Welles in Ed Wood, a less serious Pepé Le Pew in Space Jam, and, though maybe not genre, he’s voiced  Kellogg’s Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam and  the animated Willy Wonka character in Nestlé’s Willy Wonka Candy Company commercials. 
  • Born March 30, 1990 Cassie Scerbo, 30. Nova Clarke in the Sharknado film series alongside Ian Ziering and Tara Reid (2013–2018). And one site listed her as being a member of the cast of Star Trek: Progeny, yet another of those video Trek fanfics.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) FROM COMIC BOOKS TO HISTORY BOOKS. “Overlooked No More: Kate Worley, a Pioneer Writer of Erotic Comics”. The New York Times says “Worley, who wrote Omaha the Cat Dancer, about a feline stripper, ‘injected a woman’s point of view’ that helped the comic stand out from others in the 1980s.”

…At the heart of the series was the writer Kate Worley, who gave the comic its distinctive voice and helped cultivate its wide-ranging fan base.

The character Omaha, created by the writer and artist Reed Waller, made her debut in 1978 as part of a fanzine. She eventually found her way into her own comic book, beginning in 1984. But then Waller got writer’s block.

“He wasn’t sure he wanted to continue,” Worley wrote in an introduction to a 1989 collected edition of Omaha. So she offered some suggestions. “I chattered for some time about possible plot directions, new characters,” she said.

When she was finished, Waller asked, “Would you like a job?” Worley took over as the writer, while Waller continued to draw the comic.

(13) A CLASSIC AGES GRACEFULLY. Tor.com’s prolific James Davis Nicoll goes monster hunting: “Another One of Them New Worlds: Revisiting Forbidden Planet”.

…United Planets cruiser C-57D, under the command of Commander John J. Adams (Leslie Nielsen), was dispatched to Altair IV to find out what had happened to an expedition that had been sent out twenty years earlier. As soon as the starship arrives in orbit, C-57D receives a transmission from the surface. There is at least one survivor of the earlier mission. To Adams’ surprise, the survivor, scientist Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) doesn’t want to be rescued. Indeed, he warns the craft to go away if it wants to save its crew.

(14) HAULING THE FREIGHT. SpaceX has been selected as a contractor to deliver supplies to NASA’s Lunar Gateway station. “NASA Awards Artemis Contract for Gateway Logistics Services”.

NASA has selected SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, as the first U.S. commercial provider under the Gateway Logistics Services contract to deliver cargo, experiments and other supplies to the agency’s Gateway in lunar orbit. The award is a significant step forward for NASA’s Artemis program that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024 and build a sustainable human lunar presence.

At the Moon, NASA and its partners will gain the experience necessary to mount a historic human mission to Mars.

SpaceX will deliver critical pressurized and unpressurized cargo, science experiments and supplies to the Gateway, such as sample collection materials and other items the crew may need on the Gateway and during their expeditions on the lunar surface. 

(15) HE AM IRON MAN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Should the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever decide to reboot, we may have found our new Iron Man…

(16) BEWARE THOSE DARNED SPOILERS. The Guardian’s Stephen Kelly doesn’t sound like a fan of the show: “Star Trek: Picard is the dark reboot that boldly goes where nobody wanted it to”. And did I mention, this article HAS SPOILERS?

It is the year 2364, and Jean-Luc Picard – the revered captain of the USS Enterprise – has just come face to face with three humans who have been frozen in time since the late 20th century. By this point in the story – the 1988 finale of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation – he has met Klingons, Romulans, a pool of black goo, but nothing is as alien as these greedy, selfish relics.

This is Star Trek, after all: the pop-culture behemoth built on the idealistic future envisioned in the 60s by its creator Gene Roddenberry. “A lot has changed in the past 300 years,” Picard tells them. “People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things. We’ve eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions. We’ve grown out of our infancy.”

Or have we? Revisiting the character 30 years later in Star Trek: Picard, Patrick Stewart’s grand return to the role at the age of 79, it seems the world has not progressed as much as we were led to believe. Set during a time in which the Federation – a union of planets with shared democratic values and interests – has turned isolationist in response to a terror attack, it has proved to be a divisively dark, gritty and morally bleak take on the Star Trek universe….

(17) TAKE IT IN STAGES. Harvard’s School of Public Health concludes that “On-again, off-again looks to be best social-distancing option”.

With global coronavirus cases heading toward half a million, Harvard infectious disease experts said recent modeling shows that — absent the development of a vaccine or other intervention — a staggered pattern of social distancing would save more lives than a one-and-done strategy and avoid overwhelming hospitals while allowing immunity to build in the population.

The work, conducted by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and led by Yonatan Grad, the Melvin J. and Geraldine L. Glimcher Assistant Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, and Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology, also shows that if strict social distancing such as that imposed in China — which cuts transmission by 60 percent — is relaxed, it results in epidemic peaks in the fall and winter similar in size and with similar impacts on the health care system as those in an uncontrolled epidemic.

“We looked at how it would affect the thing that matters most — overwhelming the critical-care unit,” Grad said.

The problem, the researchers said, is that while strict social distancing may appear to be the most effective strategy, little population-level immunity is developed to a virus that is very likely to come around again.

(18) PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENTS. A lot of genre figures are getting in on the act – we learned about these three from Comicbook.com:

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Stay safe out there.

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[Thanks to Daniel Dern, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Michael J. Walsh, Cat Eldridge, Darrah Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. (* )Thanks to Bill Burns for the assist. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 3/2/20 Overhead, Without Any Fuss, The Pixels Were Scrolling Out

(1) WAKANDA WILL NEED A NEW WRITER. The Hollywood Reporter relayed word that “Ta-Nehisi Coates Leaving Marvel’s ‘Black Panther'”. (But he’ll still be working on Captain America.)

The writer’s final issue of the acclaimed series will be released in June.

Ta-Nehisi Coates will be leaving Marvel’s Black Panther this summer with the 25th issue of the title’s current run. The news, announced Saturday at Chicago’s C2E2 comic book convention, will leave the titular character — and his position inside Marvel in both fictional and real-world incarnations — significantly different.

Black Panther No. 25, to be released in June and illustrated by Daniel Acuna, will wrap up the storylines Coates has been telling since he started writing the character with the first issue of a series that ran from 2016-2018.

(2) WHO RAH. Buried deep in this interview with a retiring Maryland Public Television host is an amusing anecdote about Tom Baker-era Doctor Who: “Exit interview: After more than four decades at MPT, Rhea Feikin signs off for the last time” in the Baltimore Sun.

SUN: Before we go, I have to ask about your adventures in fund raising, the live pledge drives like the four hours you will be doing Sunday on your final night on MPT.

FEIKIN: Let me tell you one story. A long time ago, we used to work late into the night until 1 o’clock sometimes. And on Saturday nights, they had this program that I never watched, “Dr. Who.” I disliked the program, never watched it, so they never asked me to pledge it, and I never worked on Saturday nights.

But one time they had an emergency, and they asked me to please work on a Saturday night, and I did. And, of course. we had to pledge “Dr. Who.” So, I go out for the first break and do whatever I do and say whatever I say with whomever I was working with that night, and the phones are really dead. And there is nothing more miserable than to have no phones ringing.

So, you go back to the green room and wait for the second break. And I go out, it’s the same thing. It’s painful. So then, the third break comes and I’m tired now and annoyed that I have to be there, and again the phones aren’t ringing. And, finally, I just say, “You know what? I have to tell you, I’m going to really level with you, I don’t like this show. In fact, I never watch this show. And I don’t care if they take this show off the air. I really don’t. But if you like it, then you have to do something to keep it on the air. And you know what that is. You have to call in, you have to make a pledge.

Well, the phones went crazy. We got so much money in one break, it was just wonderful. Now, I never did do it again, I will say. Of course, when you get the book on how you’re supposed to do pledge, you’re never ever supposed to that.

(3) TWO COMPANIONS TO CHECK OUT OF TARDIS. Actors Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole will be moving on: “Bradley Walsh to quit Doctor Who after this year’s Christmas special”.

…Policewoman Yaz, played by Mandip Gill, 32, will remain and Whittaker, 37, is confirmed for a third season.

The festive special has been filmed but the exit storyline for Bradley and Tosin’s characters, Graham and step-grandson Ryan, remains a closely guarded secret.

A show source said: “Two years is a long time in the world of Doctor Who. Yaz will be back but Christmas will be the last outing for Ryan and Graham.”

What will the actors do next?

Walsh fronts an ITV travel show with son Barney called Breaking Dad and will continue to host popular quiz The Chase.

And he is already working on a new entertainment series for the BBC with Holly Willoughby . Co-star Tosin has landed a leading role in courtroom drama 61st Street for US channel AMC.

(4) NYRSF READINGS. The New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series on March 3 will feature writers from Serial Box, which “delivers premium audio and reading entertainment for an on-the-go audience that loves immersive original storytelling.” Readers will be Jay Edidin, Steve Marcarelli, E.C. Myers and K Arsenault Rivera.

Designed to fit today’s fast-paced lifestyle, Serial Box is available on all mobile devices. Users can read or listen to each weekly installment, switching between ebook and audio in just one click, without losing their place in the narrative. There will be SB-related gifts to all who come.

Jay Edidin is a reasonably professional writer, editor, and podcaster; an occasional performer; and a fledgling New Yorker. He co-wrote Thor: Metal Gods for Serial Box. Elsewhere in the Marvel multiverse, he’s the writer of the upcoming X-Men: Marvels Snapshot, a minor villain on Earth-92131, and marginally Internet famous as half of the podcast Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men.

Steve Marcarelli is a screenwriter and television producer living in Brooklyn with his wife, two rescue cats and record collection. He enjoys horror movies and romantic comedies. You can find him on Twitter @stevemarcarelli. He is the co-writer of Serial Box’s upcoming series LOW LIFE, together with Billy Lalor.

E. C. Myers is the author of six YA novels, including the Andre Norton Award-winning Fair Coin. He was assembled in the U.S. from Korean and German parts and raised by a single mother and a public library in Yonkers, New York. His work for Serial Box includes episodes of ReMade, Alternis, and Orphan Black: The Next Chapter. He lives with his wife, son, and three doofy pets in Pennsylvania.

K Arsenault Rivera is the author of The Tiger’s Daughter, a novel the Washington Post calls “thoughtfully rendered and palpably felt.” She immigrated to New York City from Puerto Rico as a toddler and has been complaining about the cold ever since. When not working with a non-profit organization, K spends her time at home in Brooklyn with her partners playing tabletop games. She is the lead writer on Serial Box’s supernatural noir series, KNOX.

The event takes place Tuesday, March 3 at The Brooklyn Commons Café, 388 Atlantic Avenue  (between Hoyt & Bond St.). Doors open at 6:30 — event begins at 7.

(5) AHH, ROMANCE. The Romantic Novelists’ Association revealed the winners for the 2020 Romantic Novel Awards on March 2. [Via Locus Online.]

The Fantasy Romantic Novel Award

  • Ruth Hogan, Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel, Two Roads

(6) YOLEN GRANT. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators announced the winners of the 2019 Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Grant:

  • Alethea Kontis
  • Tanuja Desai Hidier

The grant awards $3,000 to mid-list authors and aims to help raise awareness about their current works-in-progress. [Via Locus Online.]

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 2, 1984 Repo Man premiered. It was written and directed by Alex Cox. It was produced by Jonathan Wacks and Peter McCarthy with the executive producer being Michael Nesmith. It starred Harry Dean Stanton and Emilio Estevez. It is widely considered to be one of the best films of 1984, genre or otherwise. Ebert in his review said that “Repo Man comes out of left field, has no big stars, didn’t cost much, takes chances, dares to be unconventional, is funny, and works. There is a lesson here.” It currently holds a 98% rating among the Rotten Tomatoes audience. You can watch it here .
  • March 2, 1988 Gandahar (aka Light Years) premiered. It is a French animated science fantasy film. It was directed by René Laloux as  based on Jean-Pierre Andrevon’s novel Les Hommes-machines contre Gandahar (The Machine-Men versus Gandahar).  Notable English language voice actors include Glenn Close, John Shea, Penn Jillette and Teller. (Both speak.) Asimov made the revision for the translation. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes like it giving it a 73% rating. See it here on YouTube.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 2, 1904 Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel. My favorite books by him are Horton Hears a Who!, Green Eggs and Ham, and The Cat in The Hat. I adored the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas, can’t stand the Jim Carrey one and haven’t seen the most recent version. Oh, and let’s not forget the splendid The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. For which he wrote the story, screenplay and lyrics. (Died 1991.)
  • Born March 2, 1939 Hugh Walters. He showed up three times on Who, first in a First Doctor story, “The Chase” playing Shakespeare, next as Runcible in “ The Deadly Assassin”, a Fourth Doctor story and finally as Vogel in “ Revelation of the Daleks”, a Sixth Doctor story. He’s also Carruthers on Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon, and has one-offs in New AvengersThe Ghosts of Motley Hall and She-Wolf of London. (Died 2015.)
  • Born March 2, 1943 Peter Straub, 77. Horror writer who won the World Fantasy Award for Koko and the August Derleth Award for Floating Dragon. He’s co-authored several novels with Stephen King, The Talisman, which itself won a World Fantasy Award, and Black House. Both The Throat and In the Night Room won Bram Stoker Awards as did 5 Stories, a short collection by him. Ok, you know I’m impressed by awards, but this is reallyimpressed! 
  • Born March 2, 1960 Peter F. Hamilton, 60. I read and quite enjoyed his Night’s Dawn trilogy when it first came out and I’m fairly sure that I’ve read Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained as they sound really familiar. (Too much genre fiction read over the years to remember everything…) What else have y’all read by him?
  • Born March 2, 1966 Ann Leckie,  54. Ancillary Justice won the Hugo Award for Best Novel and the Nebula Award, Kitschies Award Golden Tentacle, Locus Award for Best First Novel, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the BSFA Award. The Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy did not win awards but are no less impressive. 
  • Born March 2, 1968 Daniel Craig, 52. Obviously Bond in the present-day series of films which I like a lot, but also in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider as Alex West, Lord Asriel In the film adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, in SF horror film The Invasion as Ben Driscoll, in the very weird Cowboys & Aliens as Jake Lonergan,voicing Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine / Red Rackham  in The Adventures of Tintin and an uncredited appearance as Stormtrooper FN-1824 In Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
  • Born March 2, 1992 Maisie Richardson-Sellers, 28. A most believable Vixen on Legends of Tomorrow for the first three seasons in my opinion as I’ve always liked that DC character.  (Season four onward, she’s been Clotho.) Prior to that role, she was recurring role as Rebekah Mikaelson / Eva Sinclair on The Originals, andshe had a cameo as Korr Sella in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) NYC BOOK FAIR. On March 6 and 7, the New York City Book and Ephemera Fair will take place in Wallace Hall at St. Ignatius Church, 980 Park Ave at 83rd. There will be 60 dealers from 20 states, Canada, and Italy.

(11) UNDER THE HAMMER. “Marvel Announces Auction for ‘The Punisher,’ ‘The Defenders’ Props”, coming up in May.

Marvel Entertainment’s Netflix television partnership, which produced shows such as “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones,” might be dead, but fans can acquire a piece of the superhero franchise’s history at an upcoming auction.

On Friday, Marvel and Prop Store announced a June auction that will feature a variety of items from “The Punisher” and “The Defenders.” Bidding opens in May though the event, which does not have a specific date, will take place in Los Angeles, fans will be able to bid via telephone or online.

Props expected to be auctioned off include the Punisher’s (Jon Bernthal) vest and skull-clad armor, and a handful of masks from the series’ second season. Several other superhero costumes, including the red Daredevil mask and Colleen Wing’s (Jessica Henwick) katana will also be auctioned off.

Marvel held its first auction for its Netflix television shows last March, which featured over 750 lots (the iconic Daredevil suit went for $55,000). Additional “Jessica Jones” props were auctioned off last December.

(12) FAN CHARITY. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution we learn “Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta will be the charity beneficiary of Dragon Con 2020”.

“Inspired by the Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mission of creating and supporting one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth, Dragon Con challenges its fans to support the charity and get involved,” the release reads.

But the partnership goes well beyond encouraging support. In the past five years, Dragon Con says it has raised more than $566,000 for its charity beneficiaries. Last year’s charity, the American Heart Association, was given more than $142,000, according to Dragon Con.

(13) THEORY OF ROCKETRY. Those science films may have been useful; in “From YouTube to your school” the Harvard Gazette reports that research shows online STEM demonstrations can be as effective as classroom teaching.

YouTube has become the go-to for quick tutorials on almost any topic, from how to replace a zipper to how to install a water heater. But could some of the most memorable parts of a STEM course — live demonstrations — be brought to the screen effectively? In a new paper, Harvard researchers show for the first time that research-based online STEM demonstrations not only can teach students more, but can be just as enjoyable.

Researchers hope these findings will help spur the creation of a catalogue of free online STEM video demonstrations to supplement lectures at institutions that cannot conduct their own. “We have an incredible group of scientists who present live demos for our students, but very few schools have these dedicated resources,” said co-author Logan McCarty, director of science education in the Department of Physics, who oversees Harvard’s Lecture Demonstration team. “With YouTube and other online channels, we can share Harvard’s technical and pedagogical expertise with the world.”

The research was based on previous literature by Kelly Miller, a lecturer in applied physics and co-author with McCarty. The previous article, published in 2013 by Miller and Eric Mazur, Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics, showed that students often misunderstand lecture demonstrations. They turned to science demos after hearing time and again that they are students’ favorite part of the lecture. After all, who could forget a ball levitating on a sound wave or a laser bending into a tank of water?

“Our research suggests that when live demos are unavailable, videos can provide students with an equally effective — or possibly even more effective — learning experience,” said co-author Louis Deslauriers, director of science teaching and learning in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “Even when live demonstrations are available, it may be helpful to supplement them with high-quality videos.”

Their paper in the February issue of Physical Review, Physics Education Research was spun into motion by first author Greg Kestin, a preceptor in physics who produces a series with NOVA called “What the Physics?!”

(14) SETBACK FOR SPACEX. A SpaceX Starship test article failed during a pressure test. CNET reports “SpaceX Starship prototype explodes during test in Texas”.

Getting to space is hard, and SpaceX is working through some kinks early in the process of developing its next-generation Starship that it hopes will eventually take legions of humans to Mars.

Video from sources with a view of the company’s Boca Chica, Texas development facility showed Starship prototype “SN1” apparently exploding during a pressure test Friday.

NASASpaceflight reports that the partial rocket failed during a cryogenic pressure test after one of its tanks filled with liquid nitrogen.

An earlier, more basic prototype dubbed “Mk1” popped its top during a pressurization test at Boca Chica last year.

This latest anomaly — as explosions tend to be called in the space business — appears to be doing little to set back Starship’s development. Elon Musk showed off the company’s stockpile of nose cones at Boca Chica last month, and prototype SN2 continued to come together on one side of the site this weekend, even as the remains of SN1 were being cleaned up nearby.

(15) NOT A SPACE WALRUS. BBC says “Huge ‘space snowman’ is two merging stars”.

Researchers have discovered a huge snowman-shaped star with an atmospheric composition never seen before.

It is more massive than our Sun but only two-thirds the Earth’s diameter.

The object is thought to have resulted from the merger of two so-called white dwarf stars that often explode as powerful supernovas.

Dr Mark Hollands, of Warwick University, said the team’s discovery could help scientists better understand how this process occurs.

“The most exciting aspect of this star is that it must have just about failed to explode as a supernova. There aren’t that many white dwarfs this massive.

“There remains much uncertainty about what kind of stellar systems make it to the supernova stage. Strange as it may sound, measuring the properties of this ‘failed’ supernova, and future look-alikes, is telling us a lot about the pathways to thermonuclear self-annihilation.”

(16) SOUND FAMILIAR? In the Washington Post, Max Brooks says in a Perspectives piece that his 2006 novel World War Z was banned in China because he predicted that the zombie pandemic began in China and how he refused to change the name of China to an imaginary country in order for his novel to have a Chinese edition. “China barred my dystopian novel about how its system enables epidemics”.

I refused. Having an open society, where the government operates transparently and information circulates freely, is the bedrock of public health. Censoring those chapters would play into the very dynamics that endanger citizens. Even with the best of intentions, a government that operates secretively and without accountability is ill-equipped to contain an epidemic. Lacking trust in the authorities, or dependable sources of knowledge about how to protect themselves — whether from infection or from abuses of power — citizens are left more vulnerable to both.

As much as I’d like to take creative credit for coming up with this scenario in my book, the one that inadvertently foreshadowed today’s crisis, I didn’t: I based the spread of my virus on the real-life spread of SARS. Cases emerged in China in late 2002, but for months, the Chinese government did not warn the public about the new and deadly pathogen.

(17) DON’T GET YOUR HOPES UP. “Star Trek Vet William Shatner Offers Update For Fans Hoping To See Captain Kirk TV Show “CinemaBlend has the story.

Following the announcement that Captain Picard’s adventures would continue in CBS All Access’ Picard, fans wondered whether Patrick Stewart’s return to the franchise meant that other Star Trek alum could also get their own series. Last year, William Shatner said he “would not be interested” in doing a Kirk TV series, citing how “debilitating” it was to shoot a series due, in large part, to the long working hours. Fast forward a year later and Shatner provides an update when a fan posed the question on Twitter. The answer is, unsurprisingly, still a big nope. In his words:

No. I think Kirk’s story is pretty well played out at this point.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/12/19 You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Time Lord

(1) MONSTER PRICE. Bernie Wrightson’s original wrap-around cover artwork for Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley sold at auction today for $1 million dollars. The catalog description at the link claims —

…It can also easily be said that the 1983 Marvel publication of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein is arguably the finest illustrated book of the second half of the 20th century. Originally written in 1818, the novel was later painstakingly illustrated over the course of nearly a decade by pen and ink master Bernie Wrightson. We are proud to offer here, what we consider the finest fantasy ink drawing of the 20th century, if not of all time….

(2) UNCERTAIN FUTURE. Editor Alex Shvartsman’s foreword in Future Science Fiction Digest issue 5 explains why it contains only about 20% of the wordage of previous issues – the launch funding from its Chinese partner has run out.

As Future SF enters its second year, we do so without a safety net.

Our first year’s run was sponsored by the Future Affairs Administration. Together we were able to publish a considerable amount of excellent international fiction, and we thank FAA for their help and support as the magazine launched and found its footing. While FAA is still considering their options regarding any future partnerships with us, at this moment they’re not affiliated with the magazine.

So, what does it mean for Future SF going forward? We aren’t going away, but we have to considerably scale back until we secure alternate funding, or follow the path of many other e-zines in our field and slowly build up a subscription and patron base.

I’m currently talking to the FAA, as well as to a couple of other companies, to see if we can work out another sponsorship or partnership. But even if that proves successful, it is a temporary solution. Only a substantial base of subscribers can ensure stable funding in the long term….

(3) IN TIMES THAT CAME. The Bookseller points to a realm of publishing where change is happening almost quicker than it can be predicted: “Voicing a revolution”.

“Voice tech” will be the next revolution. It’s hard to imagine in today’s text- and screen-based society, but voice recognition apps such as search, device control, shopping and social media will replace screens. It’s already here: only five years after inception, half of citizens in the developed world (47%) owns a smart speaker. How odd we were, the next generation will think, for our incessant tapping on little screens. Wearable tech such as Amazon’s Echo Loop (a small ring enabling you to whisper demands into your palm, and cup your ear for Alexa’s answer) gives a glimpse of the shape our future, with virtual assistants always at our disposal. No need to pull out your phone, even for a phone call. Audiobooks will be a beneficiary of the new generation of voice apps as spheres of our lives transition and we get used to the ease and convenience of voice, and brands have to offer aligned products. Audiobooks are part of the fabric of a healthier technology on the go, where screens play a small role. 

Every book published will be available as an audiobook. AI-driven Text-to-Speech apps for audiobook production will leap forward. The AI narrator could be a sampled actor, or a “designer voice” to match the book or brand….

(4) DOUBLE YOUR READING PLEASURE. Cora Buhlert suggests great holiday gifts for the sff readers of 1964 at Galactic Journey: “[December 11, 1964] December GalactoscopE”.

Personally, I think that books are the best gifts. And so I gave myself Margaret St. Clair’s latest, when I spotted it in the spinner rack at my local import bookstore, since I enjoyed last year’s Sign of the Labrys a lot. Even better, this book is an Ace Double, which means I get two new tales for the price of one. Or rather, I get six, because one half is a collection of five short stories.

First on her list —

Message from the Eocene by Margaret St. Clair (Ace Double M-105)….

 (5) FOR 10 YEARS WE’VE BEEN ON OUR OWN. At Nerds of a Feather, Adri Joy and Joe Sherry find nine books worthy of listing as the best of the past 10 years – plus six honorable mentions: “Adri and Joe Talk About Books: The Best of the Decade”. First up —

Range of Ghosts, by Elizabeth Bear (2012): Elizabeth Bear is something of a chameleon of a writer. Whether it is near future cyberpunk thrillers, urban fantasy, alternate historical vampire fiction, espionage, space opera, steampunk, a Criminal Minds meets the X-Files mashup, or epic fantasy – Bear can write it all.

Eschewing the trappings of the stereotypical European setting, Range of Ghosts is silk road epic fantasy – meaning that the novel has a more Mongolian flavor and has an entirely different cultural grounding than what is so often considered “traditional epic fantasy”. Bear pulls no punches in delivering a full realized and top notch epic with rich characterization and incredible worldbuilding. The magic and religion and battles of Range of Ghosts is handled with a deft touch and the best thing is that all of this is set up for something far larger. Range of Ghosts is Elizabeth Bear at the height of her considerable powers. (G’s Review) (Joe)

(6) THOSE OLD FAMILIAR HAUNTS. Emily Littlejohn, in “The Elements of the Haunted House: A Primer” on CrimeReads, says that haunted house mysteries work if they’re in the right place and have ghosts who are appealing but who didn’t die too young or too old.

…Of course, not all ghost stories feature a malevolent spirit intent on wreaking havoc on the living; there are some lovely novels that feature ghosts that are sad rather than mad, more unsettled than vengeful. Those books can be enjoyed in the bright light of day, perhaps with a nice sandwich and a glass of lemonade. But if you like your haunted houses a bit darker, a little less safe, read on for this writer’s perspective.

If I were to write a haunted house novel, I know where I would start: the setting. The canon practically demands a stately manor from the pages of a historical register or an architectural study, all turrets and gables and perhaps a few strange windows that seem a little too much like eyes. Long hallways, flickering light from an early electric bulb or a candle, rooms with furniture shrouded in sheets . . . and nooks, so many nooks, to hide in.

(7) ANCIENT ART. “44,000-Year-Old Indonesian Cave Painting Is Rewriting The History Of Art”NPR says they know because they analyzed the calcite “popcorn” on a pig. (Say that three times fast.)

Scientists say they have found the oldest known figurative painting, in a cave in Indonesia. And the stunning scene of a hunting party, painted some 44,000 years ago, is helping to rewrite the history of the origins of art.

Until recently, the long-held story was that humans started painting in caves in Europe. For example, art from the Chauvet Cave in France is dated as old as 37,000 years.

But several years ago, a group of scientists started dating cave paintings in Indonesia — and found that they are thousands of years older.

“They are at least 40,000 years old, which was a very, very surprising discovery,” says Adam Brumm, an archaeologist at Australia’s Griffith University. He and his colleagues used a technique called uranium-series analysis to determine the paintings’ age. The oldest figurative painting in those analyses was a striking image of a wild cow.

These works had been known for years by locals on the island of Sulawesi — but Brumm adds that “it was assumed they couldn’t be that old.”

Since that big reveal, Brumm’s team — which he led with archaeologists Maxime Aubert and Adhi Agus Oktaviana — has been searching for more art in these caves. In 2017, they found something breathtaking — the massive hunting scene, stretching across about 16 feet of a cave wall. And after testing it, they say it’s the oldest known figurative art attributed to early modern humans. They published their findings in the journal Nature.

The BBC adds details: “Sulawesi art: Animal painting found in cave is 44,000 years old”.

The Indonesian drawing is not the oldest in the world. Last year, scientists said they found “humanity’s oldest drawing” on a fragment of rock in South Africa, dated at 73,000 years old.

…It may not be the oldest drawing, but researchers say it could be the oldest story ever found.

“Previously, rock art found in European sites dated to around 14,000 to 21,000 years old were considered to be the world’s oldest clearly narrative artworks,” said the paper in Nature.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 12, 2014 Bill The Galactic Hero premiered. Directed by Cox and a lot of friends, it likewise had a cast that was rather large. Yes it’s based on Harrison’s novel. Cox got the rights just after Repo Man came out. Costing just over a hundred thousand to produce, it got generally positive reviews and currently is not available anywhere for viewing. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 12, 1893 Edward G. Robinson. His very last film was Soylent Green in which was he was Sol Roth. He shortly before that played Abraham Goldman in “The Messiah on Mott Street” on Night Gallery, and he shows up uncredited as himself in the “Batman’s Satisfaction” episode of Batman. (Died 1973.)
  • Born December 12, 1944 Ginjer Buchanan, 75. Longtime Editor-in-Chief at Ace Books and Roc Books where she worked for three decades until recently. She received a Hugo for Best Editor, Long Form at Loncon 3. She has a novel, White Silence, in the Highlander metaverse, and three short stories in anthologies edited by Mike Resnick. And she’s a Browncoat as she has an essay, “Who Killed Firefly?” in the Jane Espenson edited Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly.
  • Born December 12, 1945 Karl Edward Wagner. As an editor, he created a three-volume set of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian fiction restored to its original form as it was originally written by Howard.  He is possibly best-known for his creation of Kane, the Mystic Swordsman.  (Died 1994.)
  • Born December 12, 1946 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon which was based on the Russian fairy tale “The Feather of Finist the Falcon”. She was a prolific writer both on her own and with other other writer such as Mecedes Lackey with whom she wrote A Cast of Corbies and two Buffyverse novels with Laura Anne Gilman. I knew her personally as a folklorist first and that she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and  Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man twenty years ago. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 12, 1949 Bill Nighy, 70. Yes he shows up as Dr. Black on Who in an Eleventh Doctor story, “ Vincent and the Doctor”. He’d make a fine Doctor, I’d say. He’s done a lot of other genre performances from the well-known Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and Slartibartfast in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, to the blink and he’s gone as he was as the ENT Doc in Curse of the Pink Panther.
  • Born December 12, 1961 Sarah Sutton, 58. She’s best known for her role as Nyssa who was a Companion to both the Fourth and Fifth Doctors.  She reprised the role of Nyssa in the 1993 Children in Need special Dimensions in Time, and of course in the Big Finish audio dramas. She’s in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born December 12, 1966 Hiromi Goto, 53. Winner of the Otherwise Award for The Kappa Child. She followed that with two more SFF novels, The Water of Possibility and Half World, though it’s been a decade since the latter came out. Systems Fail, the 2014 WisCon Guest of Honor publication, highlighted her work and that of .K. Jemisin. Hopeful Monsters, her collection of early genre short fiction, is the only such work available digitally from her.
  • Born December 12, 1970 Jennifer Connelly, 49. Her first genre outing wasn’t as Sarah Williams in Labyrinth, but rather in the decidedly more low-budget Italian horror film Phenomena.  She goes to be in The Rocketeer as Jenny Blake, and Dark City as Emma Murdoch / Anna, both great roles for her. I’m giving a pass to the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still which she was involved in and not saying anything about it. Alita: Battle Angel in which she’s Dr. Chiren scores decently with audiences. 
  • Born December 12, 1976 Tim Pratt, 43. I think his best work was his very first novel which was The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl but there’s no doubt that later work such as The Constantine Affliction, Bone Shop and The Stormglass Protocol are equally superb. That’s not to overlook his short fiction which if you’ve not tried it you should, and I’d recommend Little Gods as a good place to start. 
  • Born December 12, 1981 C.S. E. Cooney, 38. She won the Rhysling Award for “The Sea King’s Second Bride” and a World Fantasy Award for her Bone Swans collection. She has what appears to be a very short novel out, Desdemona and the Deep, published by Tor.com. The latter and her collection are available digitally on Apple Books, Kindle and Kobo. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) WATCHMEN. In the LA Times, Lorraine Ali and Robert Lloyd dissent from praise the show has generally received: “Commentary: More manipulative than meaningful, ‘Watchmen’ has a ‘Lost’ problem”.

LLOYD: Lorraine, you steal thoughts from my head. (Are you Dr. Manhattan?) Yes, “Lost” is what I thought of too, though the apparent randomness of a polar bear on a tropical island was much more interesting than when they got around to an explanation. There’s an effective trickery when it comes to coincidence — they’re always spooky on some level — and “Lost” got a lot of mileage from repeating the same essentially meaningless sequences of numbers all over the damn place. (Fans spent an enormous amount of time puzzling the show out, even as, fundamentally, there was no puzzle.) In “Watchmen” it’s clocks and eggs and such, and a narrative that leans heavily on dark secrets and (not always) amazing reveals for its dramatic effects: X is the Y of Z!

It works on some primal level, yet it still feels more manipulative than meaningful to me. “Watchmen” is a lot tighter than “Lost” was, though; the circular systems have been obviously worked through in advance, where “Lost” was a festival of retconning.

(12) SEEKING TOMORROW. Steven Cave says, “The Futurium needs a bolder vision to show that we, technology and nature are one,” in his Nature review, “Lost in the house of tomorrow: Berlin’s newest museum”.

Thirty years ago, the future became passé. When the Berlin Wall fell in late 1989 and the communist regimes that hid behind it collapsed, political scientist Francis Fukuyama called the event “the end of history”. But he also cast it as the finale of the future: the end of imagining how things might be different. The utopian visions driving both communism and fascism had been discredited and defeated. They were to be replaced by an eternal ‘now’ that, in Fukuyama’s words, saw “Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government”.

… Overall, the Futurium succeeds best as a showcase for the shiniest aspects of the present. In this way, it resembles other tech-engagement centres, such as Science Gallery Dublin and its six sister venues around the world, or Tokyo’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. But it claims to be something more: a place for co-imagining alternative futures. To succeed, it will need to be bolder. Even though the Berlin landscape is dotted with monuments to failed ideologies, such as the Stasi Museum, history did not end when the wall fell. To imagine new futures, this museum must free itself from the conceptual frameworks of the past.

(13) STARBEGOTTEN. The Parker Probe’s investigation of the Sun takes scientists “A step closer to the Sun’s secrets”.

Although the Sun is quite near to us compared with other stars, it has always kept intriguing and fundamental scientific secrets from us. For instance, we still don’t know how the solar corona — the Sun’s outermost atmosphere — maintains temperatures in excess of one million kelvin, whereas the visible surface has temperatures of just below 6,000?K 

(14) AN OLD SELFIE. “Stonehenge 1875 family photo may be earliest at monument” – see that and many more photos shot at the ancient monument.

An 1875 photograph of a family dressed in finery enjoying a day out at Stonehenge may be the earliest such snap taken at the monument.

English Heritage asked people to send in their pictures to mark 100 years of public ownership of the stones.

After sifting through more than 1,000 images historians said they believed the photograph of Isabel, Maud and Robert Routh was the oldest.

It will be part of a new exhibition of personal photos titled Your Stonehenge.

…The exhibition shows how photography has changed – illustrated by “the way that people pose” and how “their faces have got closer to the camera until they are taking a picture of themselves more than they are of Stonehenge”, said Ms Greaney.

(15) WAY DOWN YONDER. Lots of juicy detail in BBC’s report — “Denman Glacier: Deepest point on land found in Antarctica”.

The deepest point on continental Earth has been identified in East Antarctica, under Denman Glacier.

This ice-filled canyon reaches 3.5km (11,500ft) below sea level. Only the great ocean trenches go deeper.

The discovery is illustrated in a new map of the White Continent that reveals the shape of the bedrock under the ice sheet in unprecedented detail.

Its features will be critical to our understanding of how the polar south might change in the future.

It shows, for example, previously unrecognised ridges that will impede the retreat of melting glaciers in a warming world; and, alternatively, a number of smooth, sloping terrains that could accelerate withdrawals.

“This is undoubtedly the most accurate portrait yet of what lies beneath Antarctica’s ice sheet,” said Dr Mathieu Morlighem, who’s worked on the project for six years.

(16) STEAL ME. Plagiarism Today tells how artists are “Battling the Copyright-Infringing T-Shirt Bots”.

…The exploit was actually very simple. Many of these unethical shops use automated bots to scour Twitter and other social media looking for users saying they want a particular image on the t-shirt and then they simply grab the image and produce the t-shirt, site unseen.

The artists exploited this by basically poisoning the well. They created artwork that no reasonable person would want on a shirt sold on their store and convinced the bots to do exactly that.

(17) OPENING A GOOD VINTAGE. Joe Sherry does a fine retrospective of this Connie Willis book at Nerds of a Feather: “The Hugo Initiative: Doomsday Book (1993, Best Novel)”. It tied for the Hugo, but Joe, by not saying which of the two books was really the best, avoids the mistake Your Good Host once made that launched a thousand ships Jo Walton into orbit. Sherry’s conclusion is:

…The thing about Doomsday Book is that it works. It is a masterful piece of storytelling that perhaps shouldn’t work as well as it does almost three decades later. It’s good enough that I want to read Fire Watch and the other three Oxford Time Travel novels sooner rather than later(though perhaps not specifically for The Hugo Initiative). The novel is a softer form of science fiction that uses time travel in a way that makes sense. No paradoxes, there is risk, and maybe don’t visit a time and place with bubonic plague. And really, who doesn’t want to read a novel where the protagonist is surrounded by bubonic plague and renders as much aid as she can?

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Vacation on Vimeo, Andrey Kasay looks at vacations that went out of control.

(19) VIDEO OF SOME OTHER DAY. The Mandalorian CHiPs intro. Think of Ponch and Jon long ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Contrarius, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “Houndog” Dern.]