Pixel Scroll 9/10/21 It Was A Pixel Scroll Of Rare Device

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman offers listeners a chance to feast on Indian food with Veronica Schanoes in episode 153 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Veronica Schanoes

Award-winning writer Veronica Schanoes and I shared Indian food though there were hundreds of miles between us — hers from Brooklyn, New York’s Masala Grill, me from Hagerstown, Maryland’s Sitar of India.

Veronica Schanoes has published fiction in the magazines Lady Churchill’s Rosebud WristletSybil’s Garage, and Fantasy; the anthologies The Doll CollectionQueen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp FantasyThe Mammoth Book of Cthulhu: New Lovecraftian Fiction; and online at Strange Horizons and Tor.com. Her novella “Burning Girls” was nominated for the Nebula Award and the World Fantasy Award, and won the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novella in 2013. Her first scholarly monograph, Fairy Tales, Myth, and Psychoanalytic Theory: Feminism and Re-telling the Tale, was published by Ashgate in 2014. Her collection Burning Girls and Other Stories was published earlier this year.

We discussed what it’s been like trying to write her first novel during a pandemic, why she can only read Jane Yolen’s intro to her new collection half a page at a time, how she makes sure her fairy tale-inspired fiction works even for those who don’t catch the allusions, the joy which comes from putting the right words in the right order, how Kelly Link convinced her she should take herself seriously as a writer, whether research inspires stories or stories inspire research (and how writers make sure they don’t force readers to suffer for that research), the way fairy tales take place “outside of historical space-time,” the importance of Joe Strummer and the Clash, and much more.

(2) MODERN THOUGHT. S.E. Lindberg interviews pulp scholar and sword-and-sorcery author and editor Jason Ray Carney at Black Gate. “Sublime, Cruel Beauty: An Interview with Jason Ray Carney”.

What is this concept of Modernity, and why did it haunt/inspire you to write a thesis on it?

Modernity is one of those concepts with a rich intellectual history, and people spill a lot of ink over it, but it is not very complicated (in my opinion): sometimes around the 1780s, the world changed. Feudalism gave way to democracy. New technologies upset how human economies and cities were organized. Religious belief waned and changed. We stopped believing (for the most part) in the supernatural. Let me cite Max Weber again: with modernity, the world became “disenchanted.” This, of course, is only part of the story. Though this story is myopic in its Eurocentrism, it is not less valid for its narrow purview. The story of modernization outside of Europe can be told, but it will be different, with maze-like branching conversations that posit multiple “modernities.” Anyway, modernity really intrigues me.

(3) VINDICATION. In “confirmation”, former Hugo Awards administrator David Bratman tells how he once found himself at loggerheads with Locus’ Charles N. Brown.  

When I was administrator for the Hugo Awards in 1996, one of the Best Novel finalists* was Remake by Connie Willis. By that time, SF novels were tending very long, but Remake was short. Though published as a standalone volume, it made a small one.

Charles Brown of Locus,** the newsletter of the SF field, insisted to me that Remake was under 40 thousand words and thus, by Hugo rules (which were shared in this respect by most other awards in the field), it fell in the Novella category, not Novel. And indeed, in the Locus awards it was put in the Novella category, which it won (not surprisingly, being one of the longest in the category as well as being by Connie Willis)….

The rest of the analysis is at the link.

(4) FICTION IN TRANSLATION. Jennifer Croft argues “Why translators should be named on book covers” in The Guardian.

“Translators are like ninjas. If you notice them, they’re no good.” This quote, attributed to Israeli author Etgar Keret, proliferates in memes, and who doesn’t love a pithy quote involving ninjas? Yet this idea – that a literary translator might make, at any moment, a surprise attack, and that at every moment we are deceiving the reader as part of an elaborate mercenary plot – is among the most toxic in world literature.

The reality of the international circulation of texts is that in their new contexts, it is up to their translators to choose every word they will contain. When you read Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights in English, the words are all mine. Translators aren’t like ninjas, but words are human, which means that they’re unique and have no direct equivalents. You can see this in English: “cool” is not identical to “chilly”, although it’s similar. “Frosty” has other connotations, other usages; so does “frigid”. Selecting one of these options on its own doesn’t make sense; it must be weighed in the balance of the sentence, the paragraph, the whole, and it is the translator who is responsible, from start to finish, for building a flourishing lexical community that is both self-contained and in profound relation with its model….

(5) MARTIN ON MALTIN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this 2018 podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Floyd Norman, a pioneering Black animator and cartoonist (Maltin on Movies: Floyd Norman).

Norman started working for Walt Disney in the mid-1950s, and remembers being at Disneyland during its opening week (but not opening day, a legendary disaster). He recalls what it was like producing feature-length animation before computers and how everyone involved in animated film “worked like Marines” until the job was done, although Walt Disney insisted everyone leave the studio at 9 to spend some time with their families. People who remember the “string of pearls” sequence in Mary Poppins should realize that was a sequence that stressed out the animators.

Norman talked about how he was hired and quit Disney several times, and was involved in developing the stories for PIxar’s Toy Story 2 and Monsters Inc.  He also self-published his own books of cartoons, including one entirely devoted to making fun of Disney CEO Michael Eisner, who Norman thinks a major egotist.  Norman says Eisner didn’t mind the criticism, “as long as the book was about him.”

This may be too DIsney-centric for some but I enjoyed this episode.

(6) CHECK IT OUT. The New Yorker’s Daniel A. Gross analyzes “The Surprisingly Big Business of Library E-books”.

The sudden shift to e-books had enormous practical and financial implications, not only for OverDrive but for public libraries across the country. Libraries can buy print books in bulk from any seller that they choose, and, thanks to a legal principle called the first-sale doctrine, they have the right to lend those books to any number of readers free of charge. But the first-sale doctrine does not apply to digital content. For the most part, publishers do not sell their e-books or audiobooks to libraries—they sell digital distribution rights to third-party venders, such as OverDrive, and people like Steve Potash sell lending rights to libraries. These rights often have an expiration date, and they make library e-books “a lot more expensive, in general, than print books,” Michelle Jeske, who oversees Denver’s public-library system, told me. Digital content gives publishers more power over prices, because it allows them to treat libraries differently than they treat other kinds of buyers. Last year, the Denver Public Library increased its digital checkouts by more than sixty per cent, to 2.3 million, and spent about a third of its collections budget on digital content, up from twenty per cent the year before….

(7) UP ALL NIGHT. It so happens the only time I ever watched Adult Swim was sitting in a hospital waiting room after driving someone to ER — but that’s not a knock, what I saw was pretty amusing. The New York Times celebrated the program block’s 20th anniversary with an oral history: “Adult Swim: How an Animation Experiment Conquered Late-Night TV”.

By all accounts, it was a minor miracle that Adult Swim ever made it off the drawing board 20 years ago. Money was next to nonexistent. The editor of Cartoon Network’s first original series worked from a closet. A celebrity guest on that series, unaware of the weirdness he had signed up for, walked out mid-taping.

In retrospect, it seems right that one of modern TV’s most consistent generators of bizarro humor — and cult followings — had origins that were, themselves, pretty freewheeling.

WILLIS The idea for “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” started with a [expletive] fast food restaurant that tried to use all the scraps of meat they weren’t allowed by the F.D.A. to put into a hamburger, wadded together. We saw Meatwad as this poor, neglected creature — I think his line in his first script was like [in Meatwad voice], “Please, God, kill me.” I did the voice, and I can’t tell you how many times people said, “I don’t understand what he’s saying; you need to recast him.” But we stuck to our guns. I always thought of it like Willie Nelson, who sings real quietly, and so everyone is on the edge of their seat trying to listen to what he’s saying. As a result, you’re more into it. At least, that was my excuse! [Laughs.]

(8) LIFE OF LEWIS. A trailer dropped for the C.S. Lewis biopic titled The Most Reluctant Convert: The Untold Story Of C.S. Lewis that arrives in theaters November 3.

(9) TIME HAS BEEN BROKEN. So they tell us. The new season of Star Trek: Picard premieres February 2022 on Paramount+.

(10) BUCKS AND BUCK ROGERS. Think of it as the military-industrial-entertainment complex: “The making of an Enterprise: How NASA, the Smithsonian and the aerospace industry helped create Star Trek” in The Space Review.

…At the end of WWII, 60–70% of the American aerospace industry was based in Southern California. The good climate and open land that helped draw aviation to the region also helped lure the motion picture industry. When Roddenberry began developing Star Trek, 15 of the 25 largest aerospace companies were located in the greater Los Angeles area. Many were situated close to Paramount’s Desilu Studios where the series was made.

Roddenberry drew upon the most current spaceflight technology then available to incorporate into Star Trek. He read, wrote, phoned and even dumpster-dived to get material for his new series.

A direct example of how the aerospace industry influenced Star Trek appears in the episode “The Trouble With Tribbles.” In this episode furry little creatures that “coo” and have a tremendous desire for eating and breeding overrun the Federation’s K-7 space station.

The principal elements of the K-7 as it is shown in the episode first appeared in a report done by Douglas Aircraft. The 1959 study outlined the operational requirements of an extendable orbiting space station. Constructed on Earth then launched atop a “Saturn-type missile,” the station was designed to automatically unfold in space into a donut-shape with a conical reentry vehicle at its center.[3]

Richard Datin, a model maker who helped build the original production model Enterprise, described how the K-7 design materialized. “I was told upon viewing the original model, and maybe by Roddenberry, that he obtained it [the Douglas space station model] from Douglas Aircraft whose main office was in nearby Santa Monica. Apparently, Gene had a following from people in the space industry, particularly Caltech in Pasadena.”

(11) MICHAEL K. WILLIAMS (1966-2021). Actor Michael K. Williams died September 6 at the age of 54 reports the New York Times.  While famous for his work in cop and crime series including The Wire and Boardwalk Empire, sff fans knew him as the lead in Lovecraft Country, and saw him in the 2014 RoboCop remake, The Purge: Anarchy (2014), and Ghostbusters (2016).

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1977 – Forty-four years ago this evening on CBS, Space Academy, a Filmation children’s series, first aired. (Jason of Star Command would come out of it.) It was created by Allen Ducovny who previously only done such animated shows as The New Adventures of Superman and Aquaman. The program starred Jonathan Harris in the lead role; co-starring were Pamelyn Ferdin, Ric Carrott, Maggie Cooper, Brian Tochi, Ty Henderson, and Eric Greene. There was a cute robot as well named Peepo. Would I kid you?  It would last for just fifteen half-hour episodes. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 10, 1914 — Robert Wise. Film director, producer, and editor. Among his accomplishments are directing The Curse of The Cat PeopleThe Day the Earth Stood StillThe HauntingThe Andromeda Strain and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Though not at all genre, he also directed West Side Story and edited Citizen Kane,  two exemplary accomplishments indeed. (Died 2005.)
  • Born September 10, 1937 — Spencer Milligan, 84. He’s best known for playing Rick Marshall, the father of Will and Holly Marshall, on the first two seasons of Land of the Lost. (He left because he didn’t get a cut of the merch sales.) Genre wise, he’d previously been in Woody Allen’s Sleeper as Jeb Hrmthmg, and later appeared in an episode of The Bionic Woman. That’s it.
  • Born September 10, 1952 — Gerry Conway, 69. He’s  known for co-creating  the Punisher (with artists John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru) as well as the first Ms. Marvel and scripting the death of the character Gwen Stacy during his run on The Amazing Spider-Man. He shares the story credit for Conan the Destroyer with Roy Thomas. At DC, he created a number of characters including Firestorm, Count Vertigo and Killer Croc. Not genre at all, but he wrote a lot of scripts for Law and Order: Criminal Intent, one of my favorite series.
  • Born September 10, 1953 — Stuart Milligan, 68. He first shows up as Walters on the Sean Connery-led Outland and a few years later we see him as a Police Sergeant on Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He’ll play Richard Nixon in Doctor Who for two Eleventh Doctor stories, “The Impossible Astronuat” and “Day of The Moon”. His latest genre role is in Wonder Woman 1984 as the U.S. President.
  • Born September 10, 1953 — Pat Cadigan, 68. Tea from an Empty Cup and Dervish is Digital are both amazing works. And I’m fascinated that she has co-written with Paul Dini, creator of Batman: The Animated Series, a DCU novel called Harley Quinn: Mad Love. Her only Hugo win was at LoneStarCon 3 for the “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi” novelette.  Her latest work is the novelization of the first-draft Alien 3 screenplay by William Gibson. She’s well stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born September 10, 1955 — Victoria Strauss, 66. Author of the Burning Land two novel series, and she should be praised unto high for being founder along with AC Crispin of the Committee on Writing Scams. She maintains the Writer Beware website and blog. 
  • Born September 10, 1959 — Nancy A. Collins, 62. Author of the Sonja Blue vampire novels, some of the best of that genre I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. She had a long run on Swamp Thing from issues 110 to 138, and it is generally considered a very good period in that narrative.  She also wrote  Vampirella, the Forrest J Ackerman and Trina Robbins creation, for awhile. 
  • Born September 10, 1968 — Guy Ritchie, 53. Director of Sherlock Holmes and its sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, both of each I rather liked, and the live-action Aladdin. He did also directed / wrote / produced the rebooted The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which got rather nice reviews to my surprise as well as King Arthur: Legend of the Sword which apparently is quite excellent as audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a seventy percent rating. 

(14) FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD RECORD-SETTER. The Hollywood Reporter knows it’s worth a headline when “First Spider-Man Comic Book Sets Record for Biggest Sale Ever”.

The sale of Amazing Fantasy no. 15, featuring the first appearance of Spider-Man, has set the record for the most expensive comic ever sold.

The comic sold Thursday for $3.6 million as part of Heritage Auction’s Signature Comics & Comic Art auction being held Sept. 8 to 12.

The senses-shattering sale beat out the previous record, Action Comics no. 1, published in 1938 and featuring the first appearance of Superman, which sold privately for $3.25 million earlier this year.

(15) A SLEIGHLOAD TO ADD TO YOUR MT. TBR. SF² Concatenation has posted its list of “Forthcoming SF books in the run-up to Christmas UK SF book releases September – 31st December 2021” from the major UK imprints (available/or on order elsewhere from specialist bookshops). This is an advance posting (6th September) of the ‘forthcoming books’ sections’ of SF² Concatenation’s autumnal news page whose full edition will be posted September 15. 

With just 90, or thereabouts, shopping days to Christmas, time to see what SF will be published. The SF² Concatenation seasonal news page’s forthcoming books listings are an amalgamation of the titles in the catalogues sent by major UK publishers. 

As they these titles already in the catalogues, they can be ordered, or advance-ordered, now either from the publisher directly or – if you are outside the UK – from specialist SF bookshops and their related retail websites.

The books are listed alphabetically by author.

(16) SPEAKER FOR THE READ. The next episode of Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron is “You’re Not Ender Wiggins, and That’s Okay – A Show on Strategy, Leadership, and Modern Conflict by Way of Scifi.” Streams Saturday, September 11 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern via YouTube, Facebook Live, and Twitch.

Steven Leonard, Max Brooks, Major General Mick Ryan, and Jon Klug, join us to discuss strategy, leadership, and modern conflict from the perspective of science fiction.

One of the chapters in the book is called “You’re Not Ender Wiggins, and That’s Okay” (by Will Meddings). Be still, my heart.

(17) HUGE NEWS. A T-Rex might have made a nice snack for one of these: “Researchers Identify Dinosaur Species 5 Times Larger Than the T-Rex: ‘This Is Very Exciting’”Yahoo! News has the story.

Researchers have discovered a new species of dinosaur that loomed over Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The Calgary Herald reports that University of Calgary scientists helped identify the massive new species named Ulughbegasaurus, which roamed the earth as an apex predator 90 million years ago.

Researchers were able to identify the new species — which was five times bigger than the fearsome T-Rex — through the dinosaur’s fossilized jaw, which was likely first found by a Russian paleontologist during a dig in the 1980s.

…The researchers found that the dinosaur was between 7.5 to eight meters (24 to 26 feet) in length and likely weighed over 1,000 kilograms (2,204 lbs). At the time Ulughbegasaurus roamed the earth, the T-Rex wasn’t fully evolved and was much smaller in comparison, weighing less than 200 kilograms (440 lbs).

Comparing the two species, Zelenitsky said Ulughbegasaurus “was like a grizzly bear” if T-Rex had been a coyote….

(18) CUBE ROOTS. The New York Times shares scientists’ curiosity about a relic that lends itself to alternate history: “Did Nazis Produce These Uranium Cubes? Researchers Look for an Answer.”

The failure of Nazi Germany’s nuclear program is well established in the historical record. What is less documented is how a handful of uranium cubes, possibly produced by the Nazis, ended up at laboratories in the United States.

Scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Maryland are working to determine whether three uranium cubes they have in their possession were produced by Germany’s failed nuclear program during World War II.

The answer could lead to more questions, such as whether the Nazis might have had enough uranium to create a critical reaction. And, if the Nazis had been successful in building an atomic bomb, what would that have meant for the war?

Researchers at the laboratory believe they may know the origins of the cubes by the end of October. For the moment, the main evidence is anecdotal, in the form of stories passed down from other scientists, according to Jon Schwantes, the project’s principal investigator.

The lab does not have scientific evidence or documentation that would confirm that Nazi Germany produced the black cubes, which measure about two inches on each side. The Nazis produced 1,000 to 1,200 cubes, about half of which were confiscated by the Allied forces, he said.

“The whereabouts of most all of those cubes is unknown today,” Dr. Schwantes said, adding that “most likely those cubes were folded into our weapons stockpile.”…

(19) THE TRUTH MAY BE OUT THERE, IT’S NOT HERE. Samantha Bee of Full Frontal shares“Sam Bee’s Not-Solved Mysteriez: UFOs” on YouTube.

Sam once again dons her trench coat to take one small step for man and one giant leap for a late night television host with an “Unsolved Mysteries” obsession. That’s right…she’s trying to figure out WTF is up with UFOs!

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

Pixel Scroll 7/13/21 They Scrolled In Through The ‘Fresher Portal

(1) BETTER: LATE OR NEVER? Barbara Hambly talks about “One of the problems I’ve had in writing historicals” at her LiveJournal.

One of the problems I’ve had in writing historicals – particularly earlier on, when I was researching from libraries rather than the Internet – is when after the book came out (usually about a year after), a book that would have been REALLY REALLY USEFUL for my research on a particular topic will appear, and cause me to say, Grrr, dammit… In one case the discrepancy was great enough that I phoned the editor and asked that a couple of paragraphs be changed in the next printing… I don’t know if they ever did that or not…. 

(2) THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ZEROS. How can I not link to something with this title? “Is This The End of Our Hero, Coke Zero, Part III: The Final Zeronation” – by John Scalzi at Whatever. The subject turns out to be less mysterious than one might expect.

…As with last time the formula was tweaked, people are wondering what I, who basically lives on Coke Zero (not because I have fragile masculinity I SWEAR but because I prefer the taste to Diet Coke), thinks of the plan to fiddle with the taste profile. My response is basically the same as last time: If it ends up tasting more like regular Coke, great, because that’s what I want; if it goes horribly wrong and I hate it, well, then, it’s a very fine time for me to give up my cola addiction, which as a 52-year-old man is probably doing neither my pancreas or my kidneys any favors. That said, the last time Coke tweaked the Zero formula, I was perfectly fine with it; it was only subtly different….

(3) LIBERTYCON WILL HOST DEEPSOUTHCON 61. Newly-elected Southern Fandom Confederation President Randy Boyd Cleary announced that next year’s DeepSouthCon will be hosted as part of LibertyCon in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2023. [After the Scroll was posted, Cleary has issued a correction that 2023 is the year DSC and LibertyCon will be jointly held.]

LibertyCon has a membership ceiling – recently raised from 750 to 1000 paid attendees – and the available memberships for the 2022 convention go on sale July 23 at Noon Eastern time.

(4) TEEN LIFE IS UNBEARABLE. Disney and Pixar’s Turning Red releases March 11, 2022.

Growing up is a beast. …Mei Lee [is] a 13-year-old who suddenly “poofs” into a giant red panda when she gets too excited (which is practically ALWAYS). Sandra Oh voices Mei Lee’s protective, if not slightly overbearing mother, Ming, who is never far from her daughter—an unfortunate reality for the teenager….

(5) HEAD’S UP. [Item by Meredith.] YouTube’s making a change to their rules which will render a lot of linked videos inaccessible, but people can opt out if they know about it.

(6) A LITTLE DIP. Shat showed up on Shark Week! Let Yahoo! tell you about it: “90-year-old William Shatner conquers his fear of sharks by swimming with them”.

As Discovery’s Shark Week swims on, Monday’s special called Expedition Unknown: Shark Trek, featured Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, trying to conquer his fear of sharks by boldly going and jumping into the water with them.

“I am deathly afraid of sharks,” Shatner told the show’s host, Josh Gates. “I really am.”

So to ease the Star Trek actor into things, Gates started by taking Shatner through a couple of relatively safe visits with hammerhead and reef sharks, neither of which are known to eat or attack humans. But those were just the appetizer courses, the main course was swimming with potentially deadly tiger sharks, and hoping not to become the main course….

(7) QUIZ TIME. Heroes & Icons challenges viewers: “How well do you remember the colors of ‘Star Trek’?” I only scored 4 out of 8 and was derisively told “You’ve either never seen Star Trek, or you’re color blind.” Surely you can do better!

(8) SCANNERS LIVE. Stuff reports New Zealand’s “National Library signs ‘historic’ agreement to donate 600,000 books to online archive” Cat Eldridge, who sent the link, wonders how that’s supposed to work because, “Errr, they don’t own the copyright to those books.”

The National Library will donate 600,000 books that it was planning to cull from its overseas collection to a United States-based internet archive that will make digital copies of the works freely available online.

National Librarian Rachel Esson announced the “historic” agreement on Monday, saying books left at the end of the library’s review process would be donated to the Internet Archive, a digital library with the self-stated mission of universal access to all knowledge.

“This is a great outcome for us,” Esson said…

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

July 13, 1984 – Thirty-seven years ago, The Last Starfighter premiered. It was produced by Gary Adelson and directed by Nick Castle and Edward O. Denault. It was written by Jonathan R. Betuel who would later write and direct Theodore Rex. It starred Lance Guest, Dan O’Herlihy, Robert Preston and Catherine Mary Stewart. It was nominated for a Hugo at Aussiecon Two which was the year 2010: Odyssey Two won. Reception among critics was remarkably middlin’ for it with even Ebert neither really liking or not liking it. The Box Office likewise was just OK with it breaking even. The audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a excellent rating of seventy percent. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 13, 1904 — Norvell W. Page. Chief writer of The Spider pulp series as Grant Stockbridge. He started out by writing a backup story in the first issue of The Spider pulp: “Murder Undercover” and by the third issue was writing the main Spider stories which he did for some seventy stories. He also wrote The Black Bat and The Phantom Detective pulps. (Died 1961.)
  • Born July 13, 1926 — Robert H. Justman. Producer and director who worked on many a genre series including Adventures of SupermanThe Outer LimitsStar TrekMission: ImpossibleMan from Atlantis and Star Trek: The Next Generation.  He was the assistant director for the first two Star Trek episodes: “The Cage” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 13, 1937 — Jack Purvis. He appeared in three of director Terry Gilliam’s early fantasy films, with roles in Time BanditsThe Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Brazil. He’s in three of the Star Wars films, the only actor who claims to have played three different roles, and he’s also in Wombling Free (based on The Womblies, a UK Children’s series), The Dark Crystal and Willow. (Died 1997.)
  • Born July 13, 1940 — Sir Patrick Stewart OBE, 81. Jean-Luc Picard starting with being Captain of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) on Star Trek: The Next Generation up through the current Star Trek: Picard. (They’re filming two seasons of Picard back to back.) Also had some minor role in the MCU as Professor Charles Xavier, and played Leodegrance in Excalibur. Though only slightly genre adjacent, I’m fond of his role as King Henry II in the second version of The Lion in Winter
  • Born July 13, 1942 — Harrison Ford, 79. Three  great roles of course, the first being Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones, Jr. in the Indiana Jones franchise which is four films deep with a fifth on the way. The second of course being Han Solo in the Star Wars franchise, a role he’s done four times plus a brief cameo in The Rise of Skywalker. And the third being Rick Deckard in Blade Runner, a role he reprised for Blade Runner 2049. Oh, and he played the older Indy at age fifty in the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in the “Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues” episode. 
  • Born July 13, 1955 — David J. Schow, 66. Writer of splatterpunk horror novels, short stories, and screenplays. (He’s oft times credited with coining the splatterpunk term.) His screenplays include The Crow and Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. He’s also done scripts for Masters of HorrorPerversions of Science and The Outer Limits. As an editor, he did the very impressive three-volume collection of Robert Bloch fiction, The Lost Bloch.
  • Born July 13, 1981 — Monica Byrne, 40. Her debut novel The Girl in the Road which is stellar won the Otherwise Award and was nominated for the Locus and Kitschies awards. The Actual Novel, her next novel, is due out in September. She’s written a generous handful of short fiction which you can find some of at her excellent website.
  • Born July 13, 1985 — Holly Lyn Walrath, 36. I don’t acknowledge SFF genre poetry nearly enough here, so let’s do it now. Her Glimmerglass Girl collection won the Elgin Award given by the Science Fiction Poetry Association. She’s also been a four-time finalist for the Rhysling Award which is given by the same group for the best genre poem of the year. Now who’s calling to tell me who these Awards are named after?

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump shows a traffic encounter with some clever wordplay.

(12) KRAFTWERK. The Takeout’s reviewers actually loved it — “Taste Test: Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Ice Cream (yes, it’s real)”.

Look, you’re about to read a lot about bright orange, macaroni-and-cheese-flavored ice cream. If that’s objectionable to you, we completely understand. It wasn’t something we expected to find information about in our own inboxes, either. But find it we did, and according to a press release, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Ice Cream is, in fact, an intentional product and not some horrible mistake….

The reviewers trade comments in realtime –

MS: It’s kind of… noodly. I’m getting the starchy noodle flavor as much as the cheese.

LS: It actually tastes startlingly like Kraft mac and cheese. [laughing]

MS: Have you ever had goat cheese ice cream? It tasted a lot like that on the front end. I wonder if I would have tasted “mac and cheese” if it wasn’t orange, and if it didn’t say Kraft right on it….

(13) FEELING BETTER. There’s a saying about the permanence of LASFS membership, “Death will not release you. Even if you die!” It came to mind when I saw the trailer for Risen.

Disaster unfolds when a meteor strikes a small town, turning the environment uninhabitable and killing everything in the surrounding area. Exobiologist Lauren Stone is called to find answers to the unearthly event. As she begins to uncover the truth, imminent danger awakens and it becomes a race against time to save mankind.

(14) SEVENTIES TV. CrimeReads shows that in the early 1970s TV movies often focused on sf, fantasy, and horror. “In 1970s America, Bizarre TV Movie Thrillers Were All the Rage”. Although I mainly remember reading the TV listings for these and thinking, “There’s something I won’t have to watch.”

The series of movies was promoted as “an original motion picture produced especially for the Movie of the Week.” The use of the phrase “motion picture” seemed to imply class, of course.

The anthology film series began on September 23, 1969 with the airing of “Seven in Darkness,” about a plane crash whose seven survivors are all blind and must make their way out of the wilderness together. It starred old-school comedian Milton Berle, so perhaps there were bugs to be worked out of the prestige made-for-TV movie machine.

The first year’s worth of TV movies were dominated by thrillers starring the likes of Christopher George in the pilot for “The Immortal,” a TV series that I previously wrote about for CrimeReads, as well as films starring Eva Gabor, Sammy Davis Jr., Larry Hagman and Karen Valentine as the new Gidget. That movie, “Gidget Grows Up,” was a pilot for a TV series, a practice to be repeated many times during the 1970s TV-movie era.

The second season of the ABC movie anthology gave viewers more dynamic thrillers, though. “How Awful about Allan” starred Anthony Perkins. James Franciscus of “Longstreet” and Leslie Nielsen starred in “Night Slaves.” “The House That Would Not Die” featured Barbara Stanwyck….

(15) SUPER MARIO GOES FOR SUPER PRICE. “’Super Mario’ cartridge sold for video game record $1.5 million” reports Yahoo! Presumably the buyer isn’t going to take it out of the package.

A cartridge of Nintendo’s classic video game “Super Mario 64” set a world record Sunday, selling at auction for $1.56 million.

The sale, the first ever of a game cartridge to surpass $1 million, came just two days after a sealed copy of “The Legend of Zelda” — made for the old Nintendo NES console — sold for a then-record of $870,000.

Dallas-based Heritage Auctions, which handled both sales, has not identified the buyers. Before Friday, the record for a video game auction was the sale in April of a 1986 “Super Mario Bros.” cartridge: it went for $660,000….

(16) FOLLOW THE BOUNCING APPLE. Daniel Dern has decided, “Rather than wait until late Sept (when Foundation starts) — we’re turning in for… Schmigadoon!” “Apple’s musical comedy series ‘Schmigadoon!’ breaks into song with new trailer”.

… Apple TV+ today released the trailer for its new musical comedy series “Schmigadoon!,” executive produced by Lorne Michaels and starring Emmy Award nominee Cecily Strong and Emmy Award winner Keegan-Michael Key. The first two episodes will premiere globally on Friday, July 16, 2021 exclusively on Apple TV+, followed by one new episode weekly every Friday.

A parody of iconic Golden Age musicals, “Schmigadoon!” stars Strong and Key as a couple on a backpacking trip designed to reinvigorate their relationship who discover a magical town living in a 1940s musical. They then learn that they can’t leave until they find “true love.” The six-episode season also stars Alan Cumming, Kristin Chenoweth, Aaron Tveit, Dove Cameron, Ariana DeBose, Fred Armisen, Jaime Camil, Jane Krakowski and Ann Harada. Martin Short guest stars….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In the Honest Game Trailers “World of Warcraft:  the Burning Crusade Classic,” Fandom Games says in this reissue of a 2008 expansion.”Everyone playing it is at least 30, so you can discuss your burgeoning health problems!”

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

Pixel Scroll 6/5/21 Scroll Up The Usual Pixels

(1) NEBULA MUSIC. The 56th Annual Nebula Award winners post is at the link. Below, you can watch host Aydrea Walden’s fantastic song referencing all 40 finalists, then hear the great acceptance speeches:

(2) DEBARKLE. Camestros Felapton’s history of the Puppy slates and how they illuminate right wing politics has reached the announcement of the 2015 Hugo finalists, which were overwhelmingly Puppy: “Debarkle Chapter 39: April — Part 1, the Finalists”.

…In the headline Best Novel category, the combined Sad and Rabid Puppy slates had won three of the five finalist positions but would have won four out of five if Correia had not withdrawn. The Sad Puppy nominated Baen book Trial by Fire by Charles E. Gannon and the Rabid Puppy nominated Baen book The Chaplain’s War by Brad Torgersen both fell a few votes short of being a finalist. The addition of Correia’s withdrawal meant that despite everything, once again no Baen novels were Hugo finalists. In an added irony, one of the two Tor published novels in the finalists was the Sad/Rabid Puppy nominated The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson.

In the next chapters, we will look at some of the immediate and later reactions to the Puppy sweep of the finalists. However, in this chapter, I want to concentrate on the shifting nature of the finalists.

In the days that followed many of the people co-opted by Torgersen and Day as nominees for their slates discussed their inclusion. Matthew David Surridge, a writer at The Black Gate fanzine and a nominee on both the Sad and Rabid Puppy slates for Best Fan Writer, explained that he had declined a nomination.

… Surridge had discovered accidentally that he was on the slates in February but thinking that it was unlikely that he’d be a finalist, he had ignored them. When contacted by the Hugo administrators, he declined. Surridge declining meant that Laura Mixon, author of the report on Requires Hate, became a finalist, which also meant that Best Fan Writer had one non-Puppy nominated finalist.

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman gets to break a 428-day streak with Karen Osborne in Episode 146 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Karen Osborne

Up until my meal with writer Karen Osborne on which you’ll be eavesdropping this episode, it had been 428 days since I’d last seen an unmasked face other than my wife or son. (Except on Zoom, that is.) Due to COVID-19, I hadn’t been able to pull off that kind face-to-face chatting and chewing since Episode 117, recorded in March 2020 with the Pulitzer Prize-winning Michael Dirda. I’m more thrilled that I can possibly convey to begin the slow crawl back to a new normal.

Karen Osborne was a Nebula Award finalist last year for her short story “The Dead, In Their Uncontrollable Power.” Her fiction has appeared in UncannyFiresideEscape PodRobot Dinosaurs, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Her debut novel, Architects of Memory, the first book of The Memory War series, was published in September 2020 by Tor Books, and its sequel, Engines of Oblivion, was published this past February. She’s the emcee for the Charm City Spec reading series, has won a filmmaking award for taping a Klingon wedding, and most importantly, accompanied me on the theremin during my late-night ukulele singalong when I was Guest of Honor a few years back at the Baltimore World Fantasy Convention.

We discussed her biggest surprise after signing with an agent for her first novel, how she was able to celebrate the launch of that debut book and a Nebula nomination during the COVID-19 lockdown, what you need to keep in your head to never go wrong about a character’s motivations, how the Viable Paradise writing workshop taught her to lean in on her weird, the favorite line she’s ever written, how she wrote fanfic of her own characters to better understand them, why she doesn’t want her daughter to read her second novel until she’s 13, the way Star Trek: The Next Generation changed her life, how the Clarion workshop taught her to let go of caring what other people think of her writing, what Levar Burton means to her childhood, and much more.

(4) NOW FOR ANOTHER MUSICAL NUMBER. Nerdist says the promise is finally fulfilled: “Starlight’s Ballad from THE BOYS Season 2 Gets Full Music Video”.

Season two of The Boys put star Erin Moriarty’s musical chops on display. The first episode of the bunch set the action at the funeral of deceased Seven fixture Translucent; the emotional, and highly publicized event gave Moriarty’s character Starlight a chance to sing her heart out. However, viewers of the Amazon Prime series only got a snippet of the ballad, titled “Never Truly Vanished.” Creative forces behind the program always intended to release a longer version by way of a formal music video.

Showrunner Eric Kripke made mention of these plans to CinemaBlend back in September, just after the season had dropped online. As with so many other productions, constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic waylaid said plans. But now that things are a bit safer in the macro, the The Boys team has come together to give us the music video once promised. Take a gander below at Starlight’s rendition of “Never Truly Vanished.”

(5) SORTED. Patrick Susmilch at Hard Drive says “Progress: We Finally Have a Female Orson Scott Card” – and it’s J.K. Rowling.

Young adult fiction fans are rejoicing as the literature world finally has a female equivalent to Orson Scott Card now that J.K. Rowling’s recent series of anti-trans tweets and a 3,600 word essay have given them an opportunity to be disappointed by a female author’s hatred. 

“I’m used to seeing tears on a reader’s face when I explain that the author of Ender’s Game believes that homosexuality is caused by child abuse,” said librarian Jennifer Kinsley, “but it’s a huge step forward to have to explain to young fans that their favorite female author believes that only women menstruate and that trans women are secretly trying to molest them in gender-neutral bathrooms.”…

(6) CENTER NAMES FELLOWS. Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination has announced its inaugural class of Applied Imagination Fellows, “who will work over the next year on projects to catalyze transformative change and advance visions of inclusive futures in partnership with communities around the world.”

Congratulations to Regina Kanyu Wang who is one of them:

So excited and honored to be part of the cohort! I am an imagination fellow of CSI@ASU this year!

I will create a series of video interviews with female science fiction authors, editors and fans, as well as scientists and entrepreneurs, from across China, both to foreground the creative vitality of women imagining and creating the future and to explore how these creators promote nondualistic thinking in their work, as a way to reframe conflicts and imagine a more inclusive, harmonious future. This will also be part of my PhD project at CoFUTURES, UiO.

(7) THE 50K FURSUIT. Here is an interesting confluence of fandom, tech and venture capital: “$50,000 FURSUIT: crypto-fueled bidding smashes auction record at The Dealers Den”Dogpatch Press has the story.

The new all-time fursuit auction record is worth a nice car or some people’s yearly income. (Highest commission is a different number.) It’s been 3 years since the last record by MixedCandy: A look at furry business with a $17,017 record fursuit auction price, July 2018.

Shifting winds of tech and business helped make this possible; it has to do with porn, politics, and payment providers. We’ll get into that… but I’m sure that wasn’t on the mind of Zuri Studios and Sabi, the owner/maker based in the Czech Republic with a fluffalicious folio of “god tier fursuits“.

Sabi just found out there’s no business like sew business.

…Tripling the record since 2018 gets steaming hot takes on social media. How can any suit be worth so much? 

Like any painting or original object, it’s because something’s rare and someone’s willing to pay. (Try offering less for this one!) The price isn’t just the worth of one costume; it’s for years of school and practice, growing clients and a business, and developing networks for knowledge, trade and materials. Fursuits aren’t art to hang on the wall, they’re eye candy you hug at cons. When live events thrive, it makes a market. But you don’t have to fight for this fursuit when there’s makers for many budgets, who share free DIY maker knowledge. Just remember it isn’t a get-rich business, one fursuit isn’t a goldmine, the market isn’t cornered, and it’s not a payday for a big corporation. There’s more room for makers to be pro-fans when one can get such a big reward.

But how does that kind of purchasing power come from furries?…

(8) HWA PRIDE. Horror Writers Association starts its Pride Month thematic posts with “A Point of Pride: Interview with Greg Herren”.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

Horror is one of the few forms of art—regardless of form, whether it’s the written word or a visual medium—that can evoke a visceral reaction from the audience—physical, emotional, intellectual—and I’ve always thought that was impressive.

I’ve always loved being scared (which is weird, now that I think about it). When I was a kid, my grandmother introduced me to crime and suspense movies, and she also loved what she called (and I still call them this in my head) “scary movies”—I don’t think she ever called them horror—and I also loved the haunted houses at amusement parks. I’ve always, as long as I can remember, been partial to ghost stories more than anything else….

(9) APPROVAL RATING. [Item by Rich Horton.] I stumbled into a Twitter thread about yesterday’s episode of Mythic Quest, which showed C. W. Longbottom working for “Amazing Tales” in 1972, and winning a Nebula for “Best Debut Novel” (!) in 1973 for a novel he wrote that Isaac Asimov basically rewrote …  And the Nebula they used was a misprinted Nebula made in 2005 that they got from Steven Silver! Thread starts here. (Mythic Quest is an uneven show, but when it’s on, it can be wonderful!)

(10) KRAFT OBIT. David Anthony Kraft, who worked on The Defenders, Captain America and Man-Wolf early in his career, died of complications of the coronavirus on May 19. The New York Times tribute is here: “David Anthony Kraft, Comic Book Writer and Chronicler, Dies at 68”.

…Growing up as a boy in small-town North Dakota, David Anthony Kraft escaped into the world of comic books. He read issues of The Incredible Hulk hidden in his textbooks at school. He trudged through snow during brutal winters to buy the latest adventure of Thor.

When he was 12, he decided to write his own comics, so he installed a desk and a lamp in a closet at home. His stepmother soon found him scribbling away.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“I’m writing,” he said. “This is my office.”

“What makes you think you can be a writer?”

“I will be a writer. And I’m going to work for Marvel.”

At least in his retelling, so began the real-life superhero origin story of David Anthony Kraft.

Soon enough, he sold a piece to Amazing Stories. In his teens, he wrote tales for pulpy horror comics. He developed a correspondence with Marvel’s offices in New York, and he kept asking about job openings. When he was 22, they asked him to try out for a junior staff position, and he drove to the city on his motorcycle, arriving at Marvel’s Midtown Manhattan headquarters in 1974.

Mr. Kraft became one of Marvel’s writers during the 1970s and ’80s. He was known for his work on The Defenders and on titles like Captain America and Man-Wolf. He wrote nearly the entire run of The Savage She-Hulk….

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1971 — Fifty years ago at Noreascon I, the Hugo for Best Short Story went to Theodore Sturgeon for “Slow Sculpture”. It was published in Galaxy, February 1970. Other nominated works were  “Continued on Next Rock” by R. A. Lafferty (Orbit #7, 1970) “Jean Duprès” by Gordon R. Dickson (Nova #1, 1970) “In the Queue” by Keith Laumer [Orbit #7, 1970] “Brillo” by Ben Bova and Harlan Ellison (Analog, August 1970). It is available from the usual suspects in his Slow Sculpture collection at a very reasonable price.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 5, 1844 — L. T. Meade. Author of series aimed generally at girls but who wrote several genre series as well, to wit Stories of the Sanctuary ClubThe Brotherhood of the Seven Kings and The Sorceress of the Strand. All of these were co-written by Robert Eustace. Meade and Eustace also created the occult detective and palmist Diana Marburg in “The Oracle of Maddox Street” found initially in Pearson’s Magazine in 1902. (Died 1924.) (CE)
  • Born June 5, 1928 — Robert Lansing. He was secret agent Gary Seven in the “Assignment: Earth” episode of Trek. The episode was a backdoor pilot for a Roddenberry series that would have starred him and Teri Garr, but the series never happened.  He of course appeared on other genre series such as the Twilight ZoneJourney to the UnknownThriller and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born June 5, 1899 – Boris Artzybasheff.  Prolific graphic artist in and out of our field; two hundred covers for Time (one was Craig Rice – pen name of Georgiana Craig – first mystery-fiction writer shown there, 28 Jan 46).  Here is his cover for The Circus of Dr. Lao – he did its interiors too; here is The Incomplete Enchanter.  Here is a commercial illustration, “Steel”; here is Buckminster Fuller.  Don’t miss Artzybasheff in Vincent Di Fate’s Infinite Worlds.  Book of his artwork, As I See (rev. 2008).  (Died 1965) [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1908 – John Fearn.  British author of SF, crime fiction, Westerns; fairground assistant, cinema projectionist; wrote under two dozen names.  Two hundred books in our field, two hundred eighty shorter stories.  Guest of Honour at Eastercon 2.  (Died 1960) [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1931 – Barbara Paul, age 90.  She says, “I did not grow up reading science fiction…. I was one of those smug mundanes who thought ‘sci-fi’ was all death-rays and aluminum-foil spacesuits and Robby the Robot.  (Well, maybe sci-fi is, but not SF.)  It wasn’t until my son, eleven at the time, handed me a book of short stories by Robert Sheckley that I began to realize what I’d been missing.”  For us, six novels (I’m counting Liars and Tyrants and People who Turn Blue, which depends upon a psychic character), a dozen and a half shorter stories; more of other kinds e.g. detectives.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1946 — John Bach, 75. Einstein on Farscape (though he was deliberately uncredited for most of the series), the Gondorian Ranger Madril in the second and third movies of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Also a British body guard on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. And he was the body double for shooting Saruman in place of Christopher Lee, who was unable to fly to New Zealand for principal photography on The Hobbit film series. (CE) 
  • Born June 5, 1953 — Kathleen Kennedy, 68. Film producer responsible for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, her first film, and later produced the Jurassic Park franchise.  She’s been involved in over sixty films, I’d say of which at least half are genre, starting with Raiders of the Lost Ark  as an associate to Steven Spielberg. Amblin Films with her husband and Spielberg has produced many of the genre’s best loved films. (CE) 
  • Born June 5, 1960 – Margo Lanagan, age 61. A dozen novels, six dozen shorter stories, in our field; among the two dozen contributors to “Celebrating 50 Years of Locus” in Locus 687.  Four Ditmars, six Aurealis awards, three World Fantasy awards.  Recent collection, Stray Bats.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1964 – P.J. Haarsma, age 57.  Author, photographer.  Co-founder of Kids Need to Read.  Four Rings of Orbis books, two Spectrum comics (with Alan Tudyk, Sarah Stone) in that world, and an electronic role-playing game.  Crowd-funded $3.2 million to start Con Man (television).  Redbear Films commercial production.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1976 — Lauren Beukes, 45. South African writer and scriptwriter.  Moxyland, her first novel, is a cyberpunk novel set in a future Cape Town.  Zoo City, a hardboiled thriller with fantasy elements is set in a re-imagined Johannesburg. It won both the Arthur C. Clarke Award and a Kitschies Red Tentacle for best novel. And The Shining Girls would win her an August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel. Afterland, her latest genre novel, was on the long list for a NOMMO. (CE) 
  • Born June 5, 1980 – Timo Kümmel, age 41.  One novel, five dozen covers, twoscore interiors.  Here is The Time Machine of Charlemagne.  Here is Hello Summer, Goodbye.  Here is Exodus 33.  Here is The Eternity Project.  Here is phantastisch! 81.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump features a celebrity’s relative.
  • Macanudo describes a particular danger of witchcraft:

(14) DROP A DIME, YOU CAN CALL ME ANYTIME. The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd weighs in on the government’s UFO report: “E.T., Phone Me!”

…Who on Earth wanted a “Friends” reunion, and why in heaven’s name doesn’t anyone from the Biden White House return my calls?

We must consider the terrestrials in our midst who seem very extraterrestrial. Mitch McConnell and Marjorie Taylor Greene are in no strict sense earthlings.

And yet not since Michael Rennie’s Klaatu and his all-powerful robot, Gort, landed their flying saucer on the Mall in the 1951 movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still” has the capital been so riveted by the possibility of aliens hovering.

Carbon-based life-forms are eagerly awaiting a report by intelligence officials about aerial phenomena lighting up the skies in recent years, mysterious objects witnessed and recorded by Navy pilots.

After reading The New York Times story on what the report will say, Luis Elizondo, who once ran the Pentagon’s secret program on U.F.O.s, tweeted, “If The New York Times reporting is accurate, the objects being witnessed by pilots around the world are far more advanced than any earthly technologies known to our intelligence services.”

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that a government that couldn’t get it together to prevent a primitive mob from attacking the seat of government on Jan. 6 can’t figure out a series of close encounters.

Could it be that we are not the center of the universe? The truth, if it’s out there, certainly isn’t in the report.

As Julian Barnes and Helene Cooper wrote in The Times, intelligence officials said they have found no evidence that the mysterious sightings are alien spacecraft. But they have also found no evidence that they’re not.

(15) THE LEADER. If your eyeballs haven’t been abused enough already, Jon Del Arroz takes his victory lap on Vox Day’s blog: “JDA defeats Worldcon” [Internet Archive link].

… I followed Vox’s lead and decided to fight it with everything I had. We filed suit for defamation and have been engaged in a long court battle for nearly 4 years. Finally, WorldCon opted to settle and wrote me a formal, public apology and gave us financial compensation…

(16) FINE BY FEYNMAN. Priyamvada Natarajan reviews three science books for The New York Review of Books in “All Things Great and Small”.

…Three new books examine our current understanding of matter’s origin and qualities, and chronicle our continuing quest to probe beyond atoms. Neutron Stars: The Quest to Understand the Zombies of the Cosmos by Katia Moskvitch, a science writer, explores recent research into the super-dense remains of stars ten times more massive than our Sun, whose precise material composition has eluded us. The astrophysicist Katie Mack’s The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking) shows how the contents of our universe—matter and energy—determine its destiny and, ultimately, its demise. In Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality, the physicist Frank Wilczek, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2004, addresses new discoveries that are leading to a reassessment of the atomic hypothesis. He explains how notions of matter have changed over the past decades from “all things are made of atoms” to “all things are made of elementary particles”—the expanding list of which includes quarks, gluons, muons, and the recently discovered Higgs boson….

(17) HISTORIC PLAQUE. Via Alison Scott:

(18) A WHIFF OF THINGTIME. Atlas Obscura traces “How a Giant, Stinky, Delightful Corpse Flower Got to an Abandoned Gas Station” and interviews its keeper.

…Many of us doted on houseplants, but probably not the way that Solomon Leyva did. Leyva lives in AlamedaCalifornia, an island just west of Oakland, where he raises and sells cacti, succulents, and rare plants. One of Leyva’s pandemic-era pals was a titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum), a gargantuan plant better known as the corpse flower on account of the unmistakably unsavory stench of its blooms. The plant usually shows off like this only once every several years—and when it does, its glorious fringe wilts after just a day or two. So, when Leyva’s titan arum bloomed in May, he lugged it onto a wagon and rolled it to a patch of asphalt in front of an abandoned gas station, so human neighbors could come say hello….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Omori,” which comes with a spoiler warning, Fandom Games argues that Omori’s creators succeeded in creating one of the most depressing video games ever, with “a fairly simple story that stretched out to 20 hours.”

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Scott Edelman, Peer, Rich Horton, Patch O’Furr, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Final Hours of SFWA Silent Auction

Monday, May 17, at Noon PST, will bring a close to The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc., (SFWA) 2021 Silent Auction. Final bids may be placed at bitly.com/sfwaauction.

The auction opened on May 10. In the past week, over 1,100 bids have been placed, with at least $9,500 raised for over 160 signed books and advanced reading copies (ARCs), collectibles, informal opportunities to spend time with fan favorite authors in virtual kaffeeklatsches, and services geared toward writers such a career advising, author assistance hours, and pitch and manuscript critiques. 

A number of outstanding items and opportunities are still available for $25 or less, at the time of this communication. To name a few:

  • A signed, limited edition of Ian R. MacLeod’s Journeys.
  • Seats for kaffeeklatsches with writers, editors, and agents such as Troy L. Wiggins, Phoebe Barton, Sarah Pinsker, and Lynne M. Thomas.
  • Framed trading cards from The Walter Day Collection, featuring science fiction and fantasy legends such as H.G. Wells and Larry Nivens. 

The most highly prized items and services available, at bids of $150 and higher at the time of this communication, include:

  • Virtual career coaching from authors and agents such as Seth Fishman, N.K. Jemisin, Catherynne M. Valente, and DongWon Song.
  • Virtual and written manuscript critiques from authors, editors, and agents such as Lucienne Diver, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Lynne M. Thomas.
  • Virtual kaffeeklatsch seats for spending an hour talking online with authors Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss.
  • A signed manuscript for Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Spare Man, which will be published in 2022.

Of course, there are a great many more items and services available between those price ranges. 

Proceeds from the auction will support SFWA’s expanding membership base of over 2,000 members, advocacy efforts for all writers such as launching the #DisneyMustPay campaign and task force, and initiatives to better serve marginalized communities within the larger speculative fiction writing world.

The auction infrastructure is furnished by a partnership with Worldbuilders, an organization of “geeks doing good” that supports humanitarian efforts worldwide.

For questions or to learn about donating your own goods or services for future auctions, contact the SFWA Fundraising Committee at funding@sfwa.org.

[Based on a press release.]

SFWA Silent Auction
Begins May 10

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc., (SFWA) is launching an online auction to support its expanding membership base of over 2,000 members, advocacy efforts for all writers, and initiatives to better serve marginalized communities within the larger speculative fiction writing world. This silent auction will open May 10 at 12:00 p.m. Pacific and close May 17 at 12:00 p.m. Pacific at the auction website: bitly.com/sfwaauction.

The auction infrastructure is furnished by a partnership with Worldbuilders an organization of “geeks doing good” that supports humanitarian efforts worldwide.

SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal says, “We are delighted to partner with Worldbuilders for this auction. They’ve been very kind to share what they’ve learned from doing great work with the speculative fiction community.”

The money raised from this auction will benefit SFWA programs that affect both the future of the science fiction and fantasy genres and the organization itself. 

A few examples of the work SFWA has undertaken to address the needs and challenges that speculative fiction authors face today:

  • Over 100 scholarships are being targeted to writer populations in need for this year’s Nebula Conference.
  • The ongoing #DisneyMustPay Task Force is working to make sure that writer contracts are honored after major media acquisitions.
  • SFWA offers a mentorship program open to all genre writers, even if they’re not SFWA members.
  • As soon as the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, SFWA created a fund through which authors could seek assistance if their livelihoods were threatened. 

Featured auction items include:

  • Virtual kaffeeklatsches with authors such as Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Amal El-Mohtar, R.F. Kuang, and Sarah Pinsker.
  • One-on-one virtual career sessions with authors such as N.K. Jemisin, Holly Black, Maurice Broaddus, and Catherynne M. Valente, or literary agents such as Seth Fishman, Sara Megibow, and DongWon Song.
  • Virtual or written manuscript critiques from authors, agents, and editors such as Tobias S. Buckell, Lucienne Diver, Jason Sizemore, Arley Sorg, and Lynne M. Thomas.
  • Signed books, manuscripts, and advanced reading copies from authors such as Sofia Samatar, Ken Liu, C. J. Cherryh, and Gene Wolfe.
  • Other one-of-a-kind genre collectibles, including a signed Staten Island Dire Wolves jersey and Pop figurines.

For questions, contact the SFWA Fundraising Committee at funding@sfwa.org.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 5/6/21 One Day, When The Scrolling’ Is Done, We’ll Tick The Box And Go

(1) BEYOND “MY BAD”. In this video Cat Rambo offers pro tips about “How to Screw Up”. Which maybe you thought you already knew how to do, right? That’s probably true. Cat’s advice is really about what to do afterwards.

(2) BONESTELLS SELL IN HERITAGE AUCTION. “Mars Illustration a Top Lot at $2.3-Million Heritage Auction”Fine Books and Collections has the story.

…Just a couple of months after the Perseverance Rover landing on Mars, Chesley Bonestell’s The Exploration of Mars book cover, Winged Rocket Ferry Orbits Mars Prior to Landing after 250-Day Flight, 1956 soared to $87,500, nearly three times its high pre-auction estimate. The offered image appeared on the cover of Wernher von Braun’s iconic book, The Exploration of Mars. The painting illustrates von Braun’s design for the space ship that would allow humans to go where no man had gone before.

A second work by Bonestell, Mars as Seen from the Outer Satellite, Deimos, The Solar System interior book illustration, 1961, brought a winning bid of $41,250.

(3) WOMEN’S PRIZE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The shortlist for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction, an important UK literary award, has been announced. Piranesi by Susannah Clarke is one of the finalists. Another finalist is at least borderline SF and yet another is a crime novel: “Women’s prize for fiction shortlist entirely first-time nominees” in the Guardian. The winner will be announced July 7, and receive £30,000. 

The 2021 Women’s prize shortlist

(4) DOCTOR WHO BLOG TOUR. Titan Comics’ Doctor Who: Vol. 1: Alternating Current blog tour will be visiting File 770 on May 24 to share an art preview.

(5) NO STARTING GATE. In “The Art of Worldbuilding In Media Res” on CrimeReads, Nicole Kornher-Stace recommends novels by Lauren Beukes, Hannu Rajanemi, and Stephen Graham Jones for readers who want to start their novels with an action scene without a lot of backstory about how the world you are creating operates.

…Stephen Graham Jones’s The Only Good Indians starts practically in the middle of a parking-lot bar brawl, full of asides about events and characters that will make no sense to you until you get further in, but you’re being reeled into the story one sucker-punch of a sentence at a time. You don’t care that you don’t understand yet. You don’t need to. You’re immersed, and you realize distantly that you have no idea who or what is being referenced in some of these asides, but by that point you’re in it up to the eyeballs, and the only way out is through….

(6) NOT A SILENT MOVIE. A Quiet Place Part II will be in theatres May 28.

Following the deadly events at home, the Abbott family (Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe) must now face the terrors of the outside world as they continue their fight for survival in silence. Forced to venture into the unknown, they quickly realize that the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats that lurk beyond the sand path.

(7) THAT’S T-REX SHIRT, NOT T-SHIRT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From the company that has brought great (but not all still available) planets’n’space designs (see “Shirts Are The Reason for the Season”), a dino-themed  Hawaiian shirt:

I don’t remember my dino chronology to know off-hand whether this is era-ologically inaccurate (were they all contemporaneous and in the Jurassic), but do we care?

I have several High Seas shirts already, they’re well made and worth the price.

I’d sent this to Robert J. Sawyer, since he’s a dinophile (or at least knowledgeable about ’em), for interest, along with my comment that I didn’t know enough to be sure whether the shirt was, chronologically, inaccurate/misleading. Here’s his reply, which he OK’d to use:

Robert J. Sawyer: “Very cool!  They aren’t all contemporaneous, sadly.  Triceratops (lower left) is the very end of the Cretaceous, for instance.  But it’s a great-looking shirt!”

(8) NEW ATTITUDE. Here’s an art piece of Guilala, the kaiju in 1967’s The X From Outer Space — as a muppet. The artist is Melanie Scott/

(9) STRANGER THINGS. In “Stranger Things 4 clip teases Hawkins National Laboratory footage, Eleven clip”, SYFY Wire sets the scene.

Whatever’s happening underground at Hawkins, it definitely looks sinister… but then again, didn’t it always? Netflix is seemingly hinting that new evils are brewing for Stranger Things 4, and they’re unfolding mostly out of sight, inside the secret government lab that formerly served as Eleven’s supernaturally cold childhood home.

(10) LEON OBIT. Talented comics artist John Paul Leon has died of cancer May 1 at the age of 49: “DC Remembers John Paul Leon 1972 – 2021” at the DC blog.

From his time drawing the iconic Milestone Media hero Static Shock while a junior at New York’s School of Visual Arts to his work on the genre-defining Earth X for Marvel in the late 1990s to his recent DC work with writer Kurt Busiek on Batman: Creature of the Night and the upcoming Batman/Catwoman Special, Leon brought his unmistakable take to everything that he touched.

DC executives and talent alike shared their thoughts across social media at the news of his passing. DC publisher and chief creative officer Jim Lee offered high praise for Leon, saying, “One of the greatest artists of our generation, he was also one of the nicest and most talented creators one could be lucky enough to have met.”…

(11) MEMORY LANE.

1971 –Fifty years ago, Mary Stewart won the first Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for The Crystal Cave. The other nominated works were The Marvellous Misadventures of Sebastian by Lloyd Alexander, Deryni Rising by Katherine Kurtz and Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny. She would later win another Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for The Hollow Hills novel. These would be her only genre awards. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 6, 1915 Orson Welles. Certainly the broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” in 1938 was his pinnacle of genre success but he also did for the Federal Theatre Project the 1936 adaptation of Macbeth with an entirely African American cast. That was known as the Voodoo Macbeth which might give you an idea of what he did to it. He would later do a more straightforward film of Macbeth. And of course he made a most excellent radio Shadow as well! (Died 1985.) (CE) 
  • Born May 6, 1923 – Gordon Davies.  Ninety covers for us; some other work e.g. the Eagle Annual.  Here is the Nov 52 Authentic.  Here is Earthlight.  Here is Space Cadet.  Here is C. Brown ed., Alien Worlds.  Here is M. Ashley ed., The History of the SF Magazine pt. 4.  (Died 1994) [JH]
  • Born May 6, 1927 – Gerard Quinn.  Fourscore covers, two hundred eighty interiors.  Here is Gateway to Tomorrow.  Here is Jack of Eagles.  Here is a drawing that appears to have been auctioned at Loncon I the 15th Worldcon.  Here is the Nov 61 New Worlds.  Here is the Apr/May 82 Extro.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born May 6, 1946 Nancy Kilpatrick, 75. Fangoria called her “Canada’s answer to Anne Rice”. I do recommend the anthology she edited Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper as it’s a most excellent horror collection. She’s exceptionally well stocked at the usual suspects. (CE) 
  • Born May 6, 1950 – Craig Strete, age 71.  Six novels, threescore shorter stories for us; eight other novels.  Did this cover for Red Planet Earth 2 while editor.  First place in the 1984 Dramatists Guild – CBS New Plays Program.  Sometimes uses the name Sovereign Falconer; he is Cherokee.  [JH]
  • Born May 6, 1952 Michael O’Hare. He was best known for playing Commander Jeffrey Sinclair on Babylon 5.  Other genre appearances were limited — he played Fuller in the 1984 film C.H.U.D, was Jimmy in the “ Heretic” episode of Tales from the Darkside and appeared as a thug on the subway train in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk. And yes he’s one of many Babylon 5 actors who died well before they should’ve. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born May 6, 1955 – Barbara McClintock, age 66.  Half a dozen covers for us.  Here is The Red-Eared Ghosts.  Here is a Complete Tales of Uncle Remus (who, I respectfully suggest, deserves study, even with our modern reservations, however late we have been with them, in hand).  Various books and prizes; five NY Times Best Books, two Time Best Books.  Sets and costumes for the Minneapolis Children’s Theatre Twelve Dancing Princesses.  Illustrated for Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born May 6, 1962 – Kamil Vojnar, age 59.  Threescore covers.  Here is Killing Time.  Here is Flying in Place.  Here is Others of My Kind.  [JH]
  • Born May 6, 1969 Annalee Newitz, 52. They are the winner of a Hugo Award for Best Fancast At Dublin 2019 for “Our Opinions Are Correct”. And their novel Autonomous was a finalist for the Nebula Award for Best Novel, John W. Campbell Memorial Award and the Locus Award for Best First Novel while winning a Lambda Literary Award. They are also the winner of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short science fiction, ”When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis”. (CE) 
  • Born May 6, 1983 – Ingrid Jonach, age 38.  One novel for us; three others.  “Once you finally understand that the world is round, there is no way to make it flat again.”  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • xkcd has a bit of a time warp.
  • While Dilbert has (theoretically) found a cure to racism.
  • Danish cartoonist Wulffmorgenthaler’s May 3 has Sauron visiting a construction side. Translation to English: “Hm… Well, I know art deco is beautiful, but we were thinking more like gothic and black for my tower…” Lise Andreasen says, “I love the orc driving The Eye around.)”

(14) HERE’S LOKI AT YOU, KID. SYFY Wire covers an announcement by “Marvel Studios’ Loki”.

Channeling Loki himself, Disney+ decided to pivot without warning by moving the debut of the character’s Marvel Cinematic Universe TV show up two days to Wednesday, June 9. In fact, all episodes of Loki will now premiere on Wednesdays, instead of the usual Friday window that was reserved for WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter SoldierTom Hiddleston confirmed the news during a special video announcement that begins with an epic display of famous Marvel props: Iron Man’s helmet, Cap’s shield, and, of course, Thor’s hammer.

“Look, I’m sorry to interrupt,” Hiddleston says, abruptly cutting off the noble montage. “It’s just I’ve noticed that in these long superhero montages, Loki tends to get a bit left out, even though, arguably, he’s incredibly heroic himself [as well as] cunning and charming. I could go on, but maybe … why don’t I just prove it to you? Wednesdays are the new Fridays.”

(15) TRAILER ON STEROIDS. Screen Culture shares “DC’s The Batman (2022) Ultimate Trailer”.

Take a look at our ultimate trailer for Matt Reeves’ The Batman (2022), the trailer features footage from ‘The Batman Official Trailer’ as well as from previous Batman films and contains scenes that resonates with the actual plot for ‘The Batman’

(16) COMICS/GAME CROSSOVER.  Here’s a clip promoting Batman’s entry into Fortnite.

Featured in the new Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point comics, Grab the Batman Zero Outfit in the Fortnite Shop now!

(17) A LONG TIME AGO IN A GALAXY NOT SO FAR AWAY. Mike Dunford, a lawyer who does law streams on Twitch called The Questionable Authority, did a lawstream about the time Star Wars tried to sue the original Battlestar Galactica series for copyright infringement. The discussion of the lawsuit itself is here if people are interested. The stfnal part starts 50 minutes in. He created a cool intro to his talk:

(18) SCREENLESS. [Item by David Doering.] The Engineering heroes at my alma mater, BYU, are developing incredible 3D simulations without monitors. Yes, free-floating 3D images of the Enterprise in combat with a Bird of Prey or a light saber battle. Wow. Has to be seen to be believed. “Using lasers to create the displays of science fiction, inspired by Star Wars and Star Trek”.

Inspired by the displays of science fiction like the holodeck from Star Trek and the Princess Leia projector from Star Wars, a BYU electrical and computer engineering team is working to develop screenless volumetric display technologies. Led by Dan Smalley, BYU professor of electical engineering, the team uses laser beams to trap and illuminate a particle and then to move the particle and draw an image in mid-air. “Like a 3D printer for light,” these displays appear as physical objects to the viewer and, unlike a screen-based image, can be seen from any angle. In this demonstration of the technology, the team shows how they’ve created tiny animations of battle explosions and other images created completely with laser light. Smalley also provides an update on new research that shows how to simulate virtual images in a volumetric display (research published in the April 6, 2021 issue of Scientific Reports).

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Cat Rambo has lots of other good advice, in this video about “5 Tips for Story Submissions.”

I’ve talked before about sending out fantasy and science fiction story submissions. Here’s five tips (well, four and a half, really) about what to do once you’ve submitted a story.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Cora Buhlert, John Hertz, Dann, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Lise Andreasen, David Doering, Ben Bird Person, Cat Eldridge, Jennifer Hawthorne, Martin Morse Wooster, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 4/23/21 Look Out Pixel, ’Cause I’m Scrolling Technology, Ain’t Got Time To File No Apology

Martha Wells. Photo by Igor Kraguljac.

(1) MORE MURDERBOT IN OUR FUTURE. Martha Wells has a new six-book deal with Tordotcom reports Publishers Weekly – three of them in the Murderbot series.

Tordotcom’s Lee Harris took world English rights to six books by Martha Wells. The six-figure acquisition, which the imprint said is its largest to date, was brokered by Jennifer Jackson at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. Wells is the author of the bestselling Murderbot Diaries series, which is published by Tordotcom; the new deal covers three more books in that series, as well as three unrelated novels. The first book under the agreement, Witch King, is set for fall 2022.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to grab an egg roll and join comics writer/editor Jim Salicrup in Episode 143 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Jim Salicrup

I’d planned to take a day trip to New York last year to chat with Jim Salicrup, whom I’d met during the mid-‘70s when we both worked in the Marvel Comics Bullpen, but (for reasons I’m sure you understand) that couldn’t happen. And as I continue to pretend we’re living in the world we want, rather than the one we’ve been handed, I recently had that meal … albeit remotely.

For the past 15 years, Jim’s been the editor-in-chief at Papercutz, which publishes Nancy DrewThe Hardy BoysSmurfsAsterix, and more, but when I met him, he was at the start of his 20-year Marvel career, where he wrote TransformersSledge HammerThe A-TeamSpidey Super Stories, the infamous Incredible Hulk toilet paper, and much more. He also edited The AvengersThe Uncanny X-MenThe Fantastic Four, and The Amazing Spider-Man. In between those two jobs, he worked at Topps, where edited books such as Bram Stoker’s DraculaX-FilesZorro, and a line of Jack Kirby superhero comics — and also did a stint at Stan Lee Media as well.

We discussed the illustrated postcard which convinced Marvel Comics to hire him at age 15, how John Romita Sr. caused him to change his name the first day on the job, what he did to enrage MAD magazine’s Al Feldstein, his late-night mission to secure Stan Lee’s toupee, what editor Mark Gruenwald had in common with Bill Murray, why the 1970s’ X-Men revival was like Amazing Fantasy #15, how he convinced Todd McFarlane to stick to Spider-Man (which eventually led to a blockbuster new comic), the possible connection between Stan’s love of crossword puzzles and the famed Marvel Method, and much more.

(3) A NAME TO CONJURE WITH. “Unusual Humanism: Five Works by the Great Clifford D. Simak” are extolled by James Davis Nicoll at Tor.com.

Clifford Donald Simak was born on August 3, 1904, in Wisconsin. He died in Minnesota on April 25, 1988. That’s thirty-three years ago as of this Sunday….

Unfamiliar with Simak? Here are five of his works you could sample….

Time Is the Simplest Thing (1961)

Having learned the hard way that frail human bodies cannot withstand the rigors of interstellar travel, humanity turned to psychic exploration. Where physical exploration fails, psychic exploration succeeds. Casting astral projections to the stars, paranormals—“parries” in the vernacular—like Shepherd Blaine bring home the Milky Way’s wealth…at least, the riches that can be conveyed by a human mind. A bitterly disappointing result for most humans, but a source of great wealth for the Fishhook Corporation, which controls astral exploration.

Shepherd is too successful. After an encounter with a pink blob (who greets him telepathically with the words “Hi pal, I trade with you my mind…”), Shepherd returns home with an uninvited hitchhiker sharing his brain. Now, explorers who bring home guests vanish into Fishhook’s hospitality, never to be seen again. What happens after that is unclear. Certain that he does not want to find out what Fishhook does with (or to) the explorers, Shepherd goes on the run. He discovers that not only did he acquire a passenger out there in the stars, Shepherd himself has been transformed in…interesting…ways.

(4) THE BIG QUESTIONS. Blood Knife’s special cosmic horror issue includes these articles of interest:

  • “The Architecture of Woe” — Examines the role that architecture plays in gothic and cosmic horror past and present, and the way abandoned architecture and empty factories can evoke sensations of horror, awe, and inhumanity here in the real world.

…There is a haunting, dead quality to old buildings. They speak to us of lost possibility, of what was once mundane but which has been rendered fantastical by the passage of time—to walk their corridors or trip through their dust- and brickstrewn courtyards is to follow ancient footsteps, of men and women dead for decades and centuries. There is an energy to them, a sense that the past still lingers there. That it might reach out and take your hand, and pull you headlong and irresistibly back beyond your birth into the foreign realm of yesteryear….

  • “Interview: Laird Barron on Cosmic Horror” — Blood Knife’s Kurt Schiller interviews Laird Barron, discussing the current state of the genre, his own history with cosmic horror, and the way horror can be a tool for examining philosophical and cultural questions.  

Blood Knife: Cosmic horror often touches on these vast concepts far beyond human comprehension, but at the same time so much of the genre — as well as your own fiction (The Croning, Lagerstatte, etc.) — seems anchored to individual tragedy or loss. Is this balance between the cosmic and the individual something that you think about when writing?

Barron: The previous question touched on the micro/macro duality of cosmic horror. This is a facet of science fiction as well. Big concept, shallow character development vs. character driven narratives where the big concept is a backdrop. I’ve dabbled in both, but prefer the latter. I grew up telling stories to my brothers by kerosene lamplight. I improved those tales over time by observing their reactions. Invariably, they were most affected by narratives that centered people with problems. The background was just that—background. A trippy cosmic horror revelation works well as a destination. Characters are the vehicle that gets you there.

(5) SHELF CURIOSITY. Nerds of a Feather explores an author’s favorites in “6 Books with David Bowles”.

1. What book are you currently reading? 

A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine, the second in her Teixcalaan series. As a scholar of Nahuatl who has written a lot about pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, I really admired how Martine has done her homework for this series, mining Indigenous Mexican culture in such re

(6) BEHIND THE MASK. “New York Comic Con returning for smaller in-person event this fall” says SYFY Wire. And they’ve got events planned for other cities, too.

Manhattan’s Javits Center will *fingers crossed* once again be hustling and bustling with nerd activity between Oct 7-10 come this fall. ReedPop announced today that New York Comic Con (aka the “Metaverse”) is coming back for an in-person event this year, albeit with limited attendance and other safety measures (enforced social distancing, mandatory face coverings, and regular temperature checks) that help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Pro tip: make sure you cosplay as a character who is famous for wearing a face covering at all times. Din Djarin, Zamus, Sheik, and Deadpool all come to mind….

…In addition to NYCC, ReedPop will also host Floridia’s Supercon between Sep. 10-12; Seattle’s Emerald City Comic Con between Dec. 2-5; and Chicago’s C2E2 between Dec. 10-12. The biggest unknown right now is how many people are going to be allowed to attend these events (the attendance numbers, which are reliant on local and state mandates, can grow or shrink at any time). What’s more: we don’t know if proof of vaccination is going to be required before ticket-buyers start mingling among a throng of their fellow pop culture acolytes.

(7) THESE GROOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKING. The Verge thinks “Disney’s amazing bipedal robot Groot looks like Asimo discovered cosplay”.

Disney’s R&D labs, commonly known as its Imagineering team, does some extremely impressive — and expressive — things with robots. It’s made mechanical stunt doubleslifelike alien Na’vi, and, uh, this skinless weirdo. But the company’s latest creation looks like it quite literally walked out of a Disney movie. It’s a bipedal Groot that can amble about tether-free. As Disney’s Pinocchio would put it: he’s got no strings to hold him down.

TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino has the low-down on this robotic milestone for Disney. It’s part of the company’s long-term efforts to develop autonomous robot actors for its parks, says Panzarino, under the codename of “Project Kiwi.” The company’s engineers spent years creating their own free-standing bipedal robotics platform to power Groot, and Panzarino — who got to see the robot in person — came away impressed with their efforts….

(8) TODAY’S DAY.

The unofficial annual holiday celebrates the day in 2011 when the first episode of the sixth season of the [Doctor Who] series was aired in the United KingdomUnited States, and Canada….

Called “The Impossible Astronaut,” the episode became one of the most appreciated and watched episodes of the series.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 23, 1974 — On this day in 1974, Planet Earth premiered. It created by Gene Roddenberry, written by Roddenberry and Juanita Bartlett, not surprisingly,  was based on a story by Roddenberry. It starred John Saxon as Dylan Hunt. The rest of cast was Diana Muldaur, Ted Cassidy, Janet Margolin, Christopher Cary. Corrine Camacho and Majel Barrett. It was intended  as a pilot for a new weekly television series, but that never came to be. It was the second attempt by him to produce a weekly series set on a post-apocalyptic future Earth with Genesis II being the previous pilot.  Roddenberry recycled both the concepts and characters used in Genesis II. Some of the characters here would show up in the Andromeda series such as Dylan Hunt. It was generally well-received by critics at the time, and it currently has a fifty percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 23, 1923 Avram Davidson. Equally at home writing mystery, fantasy or science fiction, he wrote two splendid Ellery Queen mysteries, And on the Eighth Day and The Fourth Side of the Triangle. I’m fond of his Vergil Magus series if only for the names of the novels, like The Phoenix and the Mirror or, The Enigmatic Speculum. There was a 2020 audiobook edition of The Avram Davidson Treasury: A Tribute Collection edited by Robert Silverberg and Grania Davis, first published in 1998, with afterwords by Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison, and intros by many other sff writers.  (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born April 23, 1946 Blair Brown, 75. Emily Jessup In Altered States (based on the Paddy Chayefsky novel) was her first genre role. Later roles include Nina Sharp, the executive director of Massive Dynamic, on Fringe, an amazing role indeed, and Elizabeth Collins Stoddard in the 2004 television remake of Dark Shadows. Her last genre role I think was Kate Durning on Elementary. (CE)
  • Born April 23, 1955 Paul J. McAuley, 66. Four Hundred Billion Stars, his first novel, won the Philip K. Dick Award, Fairyland which I adore won an Arthur C. Clarke Award and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel. He was Toastmaster along Kim Newman at Interaction. (CE) 
  • Born April 23, 1956 Caroline Thompson, 65. She wrote the screenplays for Tim Burton’s Edward ScissorhandsThe Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride. A stage version of the latter with director and choreographer Matthew Bourne was co-adapted with her this year. She also wrote the screenplay for The Addams Family. (CE) 
  • Born April 23, 1962 John Hannah, 59. Here for being Jonathan Carnahan in The MummyThe Mummy Returns, and there was apparently a third film as well, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. In a meatier role, he was the title characters in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and of late he’s been Holden Radcliffe on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. Though not even remotely genre adjacent, he was Rebus in the one of BBC adaptation in of the Ian Rankin series. (CE) 
  • Born April 23, 1973 Naomi Kritzer, 48. I saw that her 2015 short story “Cat Pictures Please” had been a Hugo Award winner at  MidAmeriCon II, so I went and purchased Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories off iBooks so I could read it. It was superb as was Catfishing on CatNet which won a Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book in 2020. A sequel Chaos on Catnet comes out next week. (CE)
  • Born April 23, 1564 – William Shakespeare.  After five centuries a strong candidate for greatest writer in English.  Four plays, one narrative poem for us; much else.  Where his art pointed to fantasy he was as masterly as in the more mundane.  In plays he had to inspire belief by showing his beings’ speech and acts; which he did.  Priceless to read, to perform, despite and because of what has and hasn’t changed since.  (Died 1616) [JH]
  • Born April 23, 1879 – Talbot Mundy.  Four divorces, five wives; for years fifty cigarettes a day; failed at business ventures; married money and spent it; ivory poacher; war stories of himself false.  Yet sold a score of novels, half a dozen shorter fictions – in our field, not counting e.g. seven hundred radio scripts for Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy.  Hated fascism and Marxism-Leninism.  Racist anti-colonialist.  Sexist pioneer of strong female characters.  King – of the Khyber Rifles and Tros of Samothrace are on Kindle.  (Died 1940) [JH]
  • Born April 23, 1935 – Tom Doherty, age 86.  From book salesman to publisher of Tempo and Ace, then Tor and Tom Doherty Associates.  Skylark, Solstice, Gallun, World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Awards.  Guest of Honor at Boskone 23; Balticon 21; Lunacon 33; Fourth Street Fantasy 1991; Minicon 29, 32, 50; ArmadilloCon24, WindyCon XXX; Westercon 58; World Fantasy Con 2008; Anticipation the 67th Worldcon.  [JH]
  • Born April 23, 1942 – Amanda Prantera, age 79.  Briton sixty years in Italy.  Translator.  Euhemerist (another fine word that).  A dozen novels.  I don’t see how anything can be “very clear” in Strange Loop; in Conversations with Lord Byron a computer given everything known about B becomes sapient (not “sentient”, Brother Clute, argh) and starts writing poetry, I’d add “naturally” but –  [JH]
  • Born April 23, 1977 – Yasser Bahjatt, age 44.  Computerman, gamer, SF fan, first Sa‘udi in Singularity University’s graduate program and thus worked on Matternet, translator of TED (Technology, Engineering, Design) talks into Arabic, chair of Jeddah for 2026 Worldcon bid.  Wrote Yaqteenya, first Arabic alternative-history novel; it and three more novels (with Ibraheem Abbas) are available in English.  Insists on “a distinct correlation between a culture’s exposure to science fiction and the amount of scientific thought”.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater only looks like it’s in Rot-13 — that’s how these aliens really speak.

(12) BUSTED. In “Meanwhile, in Texas: A McAllen Thief Pilfered $400 Worth of Spider-Man Comic Books”, Texas Monthly tries to explain why these comics were worth stealing – if you are a collector.

What happened?

Kaboom Comics, a comic-book store in McAllen, had proudly built a display of rare comics on its “Wall of Keys,” featuring iconic issues of various titles. On April 14, however, an employee noticed bare spots on the wall where some of the key issues should have been, and, after checking with coworkers, confirmed that no one had purchased them. According to MyRGV.com, the store released on social media the security footage showing the heist taking place and placed a call—a veritable bat signal, if you will—asking the community to help identify the thief. 

What did they steal?

The biggest score in the heist was a copy of Amazing Spider-Man number 252, a key 1984 issue in Spidey’s mythology. A couple of issues of Venom, a spin-off series starring the web-slinger’s more sinister counterpart, as well as a stack of new-release comics were also skimmed off of the shelves.

Who took them?

While there’s yet to be a conviction in the case, the caper seems to be relatively cut and dried: a caller identified the suspect to McAllen police, and then the man she named—Edinburg High School assistant principal Juan Martinez Jr.—turned himself in, along with the comics, to the police department, offering a full confession and waiving his Miranda rights. He was arrested and charged with a Class B misdemeanor for theft of property worth between $100 and $750 (the value of the books was estimated at $409.93)…

(13) DEER NORMAN. That’s not how it’s signed, just how it should be. Nate D. Sanders Auctions currently shows a $5,000 bid for a Walt Disney Signed ”Bambi” Cel, Personally Inscribed to Norman Rockwell. You have until April 29 to top it.

Walt Disney signed display of Bambi and Thumper cels, uniquely inscribed to fellow American icon Norman Rockwell. Disney signs the mat in green wax crayon, ”To Norman / With Best Wishes / Walt”. Large display includes cels of Bambi, Thumper, two quail birds, grass and log, used in the 1942 classic film ”Bambi”, with a hand-painted background measuring approximately 11” x 9”, framed to a size of 19.375” x 17.5”. With ”Original WDP [Walt Disney Productions]” stamp above Disney’s signature. Some foxing and light discoloration to outer portion of mat. Cels remain in beautifully well-preserved condition, with only one hairline crack appearing on Bambi’s leg. With an LOA from Carl Sprague of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Norman Rockwell’s town, whose wife Susan Merrill was previously married to Jarvis Rockwell, Norman Rockwell’s son.

(14) PLEASE RELEASE ME. At Nerds of a Feather, Sean Dowie appreciates a novel’s account of the struggle to be free: “Microreview [Book]: Defekt by Nino Cipri”.  

…Defekt is the most enjoyably bubbly book I’ve read exploring the burden of shackles. Not literal shackles, but ones that can extend to life as a retail worker or a one of self-doubt. Those shackles siphon your time at the expense of empty praise from apathetic bosses, or it hamstrings the growth of your relationships. But Defekt shows that being unshackled and free is a possibility and is only deceptively difficult…

(15) FIRST IN THE FIELD. Also at Nerds of a Feather, Arturo Serrano’s “Review: The Dominion Anthology” leads with the note: “Ours is a time of ever-increasing visibility for African SFF—now it has its first anthology.”

…Edited by Zelda Knight and Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, and with a foreword by Tananarive Due, the Dominion anthology collects twelve stories and one poem about imagined futures and reimagined pasts told with deep sincerity and robustness of worldbuilding. This is certainly an exciting time for diversity in speculative fiction….

(16) ASTRONAUTS EN ROUTE TO ISS. SpaceX Crew2 launched and the crew is on its way to the Space Station.

This is a successful re-use of SpaceX craft – Space.com has the storyL “SpaceX launches 4 astronauts to space station, nails rocket landing”.

SpaceX just launched its third astronaut mission in less than a year. 

A slightly sooty Falcon 9 rocket topped with a Crew Dragon capsule took to the skies above NASA’s Kennedy Space Center here at 5:49 a.m. EDT (0949 GMT) today (April 23), lighting up the predawn sky as it lifted off from the historic Pad 39A. The launch kicked off SpaceX’s Crew-2 mission, which will carry four astronauts — NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Japanese spaceflyer Akihiko Hoshide — on a 24-hour flight to the International Space Station (ISS).

More here, reported by Reuters: “SpaceX rocketship launches 4 astronauts on NASA mission to space station”.

…The rocket’s first stage, meanwhile, descended back to Earth and touched down safely on a landing platform floating in the Atlantic on a drone ship affectionately named Of Course I Still Love You….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. While Soul may be a Hugo-nominated film, no movie is without sin – Cinema Sins, anyway: “Everything Wrong With Soul in 17 Minutes or Less”,

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

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.]