Pixel Scroll 9/27/21 A Pixel Scroll Title That Turns Out To Have Been Used Before

(1) B5. Variety reports J. Michael Straczynski is working on bringing back his keynote show: “’Babylon 5′ Reboot in Development at The CW From Original Creator”.

… Original series creator J. Michael Straczynski is onboard to write the project. He will also executive producer under his Studio JMS banner. Warner Bros. Television, which produced the original series, will produce the reboot.

The new iteration of the sci-fi series is described as a “from-the-ground-up reboot.” In the series, John Sheridan, an Earthforce officer with a mysterious background, is assigned to Babylon 5, a five-mile-long space station in neutral space, a port of call for travelers, smugglers, corporate explorers and alien diplomats at a time of uneasy peace and the constant threat of war. His arrival triggers a destiny beyond anything he could have imagined, as an exploratory Earth company accidentally triggers a conflict with a civilization a million years ahead of us, putting Sheridan and the rest of the B5 crew in the line of fire as the last, best hope for the survival of the human race.

Which all makes sense of Straczynski’s cryptic tweet of two weeks ago.

(2) LDV NEWS. Today Straczynski also tweeted a brief update about the status of Last Dangerous Visions.

(3) TWO TO TANGO. James Davis Nicoll is there “When Authors Collide: Five SFF Works of Collaborative Fiction” at Tor.com.

The writing of prose is often depicted as a solitary activity, an occupation suited to hermits sealed into poorly lit garrets, sliding their manuscripts out under their front door, receiving flat food under the same door. Now this can be a perfectly functional approach to writing…but it is not the only one…..

(4) READERCON. The Readercon committee announced the next con will be in 2023. Rose Fox will be interim con chair leading their “year of renovation.” Readercon 32 Moved to July 13–16, 2023.

There will be no Readercon in 2022. But don’t panic! We’re not going anywhere! We just need some time to recharge and get our house in order.

The last two years have been a doozy for everyone. We all need some rest. And Readercon as an organization needs an opportunity to revamp back-end processes, update and streamline old systems, and recruit new volunteers to fill key positions. Just as you can’t fix your car’s brakes while you’re driving, we can’t make all those changes at the same time as putting on a convention. So after much behind-the-scenes discussion, we’re officially taking 2022 as a Renovation Year!…

(5) CORFLU. The convention for fanzine fans, Corflu 39 Pangloss, still aspires to run on its March 18-20, 2022 date – and toward that end has published Progress Report #1 with all the info about venue, membership, and who’s on the committee.

We live in parlous times. There is great confusion under heaven, and the conditions are excellent.  Which is to say, thanks to border closures, travel restrictions, economic wobbles, and ongoing pandemic uncertainty, much of what we can tell you about Corflu 39 is aspirational, provisional, or pending better data with the unfolding of future events.  But we step out in hope, and choose to be optimistic that all our Corflu wishes will come true.  Thus, Corflu Pangloss….

(6) CITY PICKS BUTLER BOOK. The city of South Pasadena (CA) has voted its One City One Story book for 2021 – Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. The South Pasadena Public Library will hold an in-person discussion on October 21 and a Zoom discussion on November 10 – register at the links.

One City One Story is the South Pasadena Public Library’s Citywide Reading Program. Community voting took place for a title from September 1-10. The winning book, Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler, was announced on September 27. We encourage South Pasadenans to read it to engage with this year’s theme, “Navigating Nature”. Dive even deeper with community discussions and themed programs.

(7) BANKS TV ADAPTATION PLANNED. Producer Matthew James Wilkinson (Yesterday) is teaming up with Poldark and Endeavour exec producer Tom Mullens on a TV adaptation of The Business by Iain Banks – Deadline has the story: “’Poldark’ & ‘Yesterday’ Producers Team For Iain Banks Adaptation”.

The Business follows Kate Telman, a working-class Glaswegian who has risen through the ranks to become a senior executive in a secretive super-corporation, known only as The Business. Telman discovers that The Business is planning to buy a small country in order to secure a seat on the UN and that, despite the benevolent image and democratic structure it presents to the world, the company will stop at nothing to increase its influence. So begins a dangerous personal reckoning as Telman travels the globe from Scotland to the Swiss Alps, the American Midwest, Pakistan and the Himalayas, determined to uncover the conspiracy at the heart of the shady company she works for.

…Mullens and Wilkinson said: “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to adapt Iain Banks’ wickedly satirical The Business for television. As relevant today as when it was first published, we look forward to honouring Iain’s work with a powerful, entertaining thriller.”

(8) THE EFFECTS THAT WON THE AWARDS. This ILM look at season 2 of The Mandalorian dropped last week: “The Emmy-Winning Special Visual Effects Of The Mandalorian: Season 2”.

Join Visual Effects Supervisor, Richard Bluff, as he shares a peek behind the curtain of the effects of The Mandalorian: Season 2, winner of 7 Emmy® Awards including Special Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Cinematography, Prosthetic Makeup, Stunt Coordination, Stunt Performance, and Music Composition. For its sophomore outing, Lucasfilm’s hit Disney+ series built upon the groundbreaking technical and artistic achievements accomplished during season one, combining traditional methodologies, with ever-advancing new technologies. The team also increased the physical size of the ILM StageCraft LED Volume which would again be used for over half of all scenes. This season also marked the debut of ILM’s state-of-the-art real-time cinema render engine called, Helios. The high-resolution, high-fidelity engine was used for all final pixel rendering displayed on the LED screens and offers unmatched performance for the types of complex scenes prevalent in today’s episodic and feature film production. Practical creature effects have been a vital part of the aesthetic and charm of the Star Wars universe since 1977, and for season two, the effects team realized over 100 puppeteered creatures, droids, and animatronic masks, which included the beloved Tatooine Bantha, realized as a ten foot-high puppeteered rideable creature. Practical miniatures and motion control photography were used once again for scale model ships, as well as miniature set extensions built for use in ILM’s StageCraft LED volume. Stop motion animation was also utilized for the Scrap Walker at the Karthon Chop Fields. The greater krayt dragon on Tatooine was realized as a six-hundred-foot computer-generated creature that would swim shark-like through the sand environment by way of a liquefaction effect, wherein the sand would behave like water.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1964 – Fifty-seven years ago this evening on CBS, My Living Doll, a SF comedy, first aired. Another production of the Desilu Studios, My Living Doll was rather unusual in that it was purchased by the network without any pilot at the request of CBS’s president, due to the success of Chertok’s previous series, My Favorite Martian. The series starred Bob Cummings as Dr. Bob McDonald, a psychiatrist who is given care of Rhoda Miller, an android who was played by Julie Newmar who would later be Catwoman on Batman. Unlike My Favorite Martian which ran three seasons and over a hundred episodes, it would last a single season of twenty six episodes. It is available on DVD but not on streaming services. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 27, 1927 — Martin Caidin. His best-known novel is Cyborg which was the basis for The Six Million Dollar Man franchise. He wrote two novels in the Indiana Jones franchise and one for the Buck Rogers franchise as well. He wrote myriad other sf novels. The Six Million Dollar Man film was nominated for a Hugo at Discon II which Woody Allen’s Sleeper won, and Marooned was nominated at Heicon ’70 when TV Coverage of Apollo XI was chosen for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo. (Died 1997.)
  • Born September 27, 1932 — Roger Charles Carmel. The original Harcourt Fenton “Harry” Mudd as he appeared in two episodes of the original Star Trek, “Mudd’s Women” and “I, Mudd” and one episode of the animated series as well, “Mudd’s Passion.” I say original because Discovery has decided that they have a Harry Mudd too. He also had one-offs on I-SpyMunstersThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Batman. It is rumored but cannot be confirmed that he was going to reprise his role as Harry Mudd in a first-season episode of Next Gen but died before filming could start. (Died 1986.)
  • Born September 27, 1934 — Wilford Brimley. His first genre role was as Dr. Blair in John Carpenter’s The Thing. He’s Benjamin ‘Ben’ Luckett in the Cocoon films, and Agency Director Harold Smith in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. He made a rather splendid President Grover Cleveland in The Wild Wild West Revisted. And finally I note that he was Noa in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. (Died 2020.)
  • Born September 27, 1947 — Meat Loaf, 74. He has a rather tasty role as Eddie in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  He also has film roles in Wishcraft (horror), Stage Fright (horror) and Urban Decay (yes more horror). He’s also in BloodRayne which is yes, horror. He’s had one-offs on Tales from the CryptThe Outer LimitsMonstersMasters of Horror and was Doug Rennie, a main cast member of Ghost Wars. I think one of his songs, particularly the video version, “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” qualifies as genre. 
  • Born September 27, 1956 — Sheila Williams, 65. Editor, Asimov’s Science Fiction, the past fifteen years. She won the Hugo Award for Best Short Form Editor at Renovation and Chicon 7. (She’s nominated this year again.) With the late Gardner Dozois, she co-edited a bonnie bunch of anthologies such as Isaac Asimov’s RobotsIsaac Asimov’s Christmas and Isaac Asimov’s Cyberdreams. She was also responsible for the Isaac Asimov Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy writing being renamed the Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing.
  • Born September 27, 1966 — David Bishop, 55. In Nineties, he edited the UK Judge Dredd Megazine (1991–2002) and 2000 AD (1995–2000). He wrote a number of Dredd, Warhammer and Who novels including the Who novel Who Killed Kennedy which is a popular Third Doctor story.  He’s written Big Finish stories in the DreddSarah Jane and Who lines. Dredd audio drams. Huh.
  • Born September 27, 1970 — Tamara Taylor, 51. Best remembered I’d say as Camille Saroyan in Bones which is at least genre adjacent being connect to Sleepy Hollow. Genre wise, she was in season seven of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as the primary antagonist, Sibyl. She also appeared in Lost, as the former girlfriend of Michael and mother of Walt, Susan Lloyd. And she has a brief appearance in the Serenity film just listed as Teacher.

(11) TONY AWARDS. The American Theater Wing presented its Tony Awards over the weekend. A Christmas Carol won five of them.  “Tony Awards: The Full List Of Winners”.

(12) DUCK! There’s four days left to bid on the original “Duck with a Pearl Earring” by Omar Rayyan, offered by Last Week Tonight with John Oliver with all proceeds going to benefit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Bidding was up to $16,351 last I looked.

This is an original oil on paper painting, commissioned by Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

The painting was entered in the 2021 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest, in which the winning entry is turned into a duck stamp and sold to raise funds for conserving the nation’s wetlands and other wildlife habitats. It is a take on a classic painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring. But there is one significant difference between the two works of art: ours is good, because it is a duck.

Shockingly this masterpiece did not win, but you can still help conserve habitats for birds and other wildlife in our National Wildlife Refuge System by bidding on the painting here.

(13) START AGAIN. “New Limits Give Chinese Video Gamers Whiplash” reports the New York Times.

China’s video game industry is booming. But it sure doesn’t feel that way to Stone Shi, a game designer in China.

Mr. Shi, 27, got his first job in 2018, when Beijing temporarily suspended approval of new games. The next year, the government placed new limits on minors’ playing time. A few weeks ago, the rules got stricter still. People under 18 can now play just three hours a week, during prescribed times on weekends.

“We never hear any good news about the gaming industry,” Mr. Shi said. “We have this joke, ‘Each time this happens, people say it’s doomsday for the video game industry.’ So we say, ‘Every day is doomsday.’”

That’s a bit of an exaggeration. Mr. Shi remains employed and hundreds of millions of Chinese continue to play games each day. Minors still find ways around government blocks. Chinese tech companies, like Tencent, are cornerstones of the global gaming industry. The country has also been quick to embrace competitive gaming, building e-sports stadiums and enabling college students to major in the topic.

(14) MUSH-A-BOOM. Jaya Saxena takes the opening of the Ratatouille ride at Walt Disney World on October 1 as the excuse for a culinary experiment: “Disney Made Me Do It: The Lightning Mushroom From ‘Ratatouille’” at Eater.

…Remy is, of course, an animated talking rat, and this is a movie that presumes, among other things, that a human body is an elaborate marionette operated by hair. I know the lightning cheese mushroom is not realistic. But it looked so enticing, like a crunchy balloon, or like if Eleven Madison Park made a Cheeto. I would very much like to taste an exploded mushroom. So to that end, I nearly set my house on fire.

…There aren’t many recipes for applying lightning to mushrooms, but some people have tried to approximate what this might taste like. My first attempt at distilling the flavor of a storm came from Disney itself, which published a recipe for “Lightning-y Mushrooms” adapted from Fiction-Food Café. Already I saw a problem, though: This recipe calls for fresh, spreadable chevre, which is whipped with herbs and honey and stuffed into mushroom caps. But in the film, Remy is enthralled to find not fresh chevre, but Tomme de Chevre, a semisoft cheese with a grey rind that’s been aged for at least seven weeks. I opted to follow in Remy’s footsteps, and ad-lib where I could.

…I decided I needed to employ some actual electricity. But short of sticking a mushroomed fork in a socket and hoping I didn’t die, I had no idea what to do. So I called Chris Young, co-author of Modernist Cuisine, hoping he had come across something like this in his experiments.

Young explained what I was trying to do is called ohmic cooking, which is actually quite common, especially in the dairy industry. Picture how a power cord plugged into a wall tends to heat up. That’s because it’s a conductor for the electricity, and because a wire is not a perfect conductor, the resistance begins to generate heat. The same thing can happen with food when you essentially make the food the wire…. 

(15) ACRONYMS. Brought to you by Harvard.edu, “Dumb Or Overly Forced Astronomical Acronyms Site (or DOOFAAS)”. This is the kind of thing we’re talking about:

SMIRFSSub Millimeter InfraRed Fiber-feed System (or something)
SMOGSpitzer Mapping of the Outer Galaxy
SMUDGESSystematic Multiwavelength Unbiased catalog of Dwarf Galaxies and Evolution of Structure 

(16) TRAILER TIME. Netflix dropped a trailer for its animated series Arcane.

From the creators of League of Legends comes a new animated series, Arcane. Set in the utopian region of Piltover and the oppressed underground of Zaun, the story follows the origins of two iconic League champions-and the power that will tear them apart.

And while I’m not that wowed by the trailer for Muppets Haunted Mansion people keep sending me the link, so what do I know?

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chris Barkley, Marc Criley, Michael J. Walsh, Daniel Dern, Jerry Kaufman, Bill Burns, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 9/13/21 Headcanon: The Universe Will Come To An End Following The Generation Of Nine Billion Pixel Scroll Titles

(1) THE WAY THEY DO IT DOWNTOWN. Nisi Shawl celebrated a rare moment on Facebook:

My name on a book ad in Times Square! I feel like in that Stevie Wonder song: “New York! Just like I pictured it–skyscrapers an everything!” The Black Stars anthology is now blasting way past cool…

(2) GROWING PAINS. Alyx Dellamonica tells how to diagnose “Is my short story really a novel idea?”

Does it make sense to keep working on short fiction, with the idea of developing my writing skills before moving on to a novel? How do you know when one of your own ideas will be a short story or a novel??

These are two great and related questions that I get a lot, and I have a lecture-length answer to should I work on short fiction before tackling novels? at Clarkesworld, home of several of my writing craft essays as well as a novelette called “The Immolation of Kev Magee.”

What about the second question, though–what do you do if you’ve started writing a story, and now you think it might actually be a novel?

This is an issue that comes up a lot when you’re workshopping. What happens in those cases is that your readers notice that you have a lot going on in the story you’ve submitted. Like, a lot: lots of characters, lots of complexity within the world you’ve built, maybe even multiple story threads. You’ve alluded to a dozen or more incredibly interesting things and none of them feels fully realized, and several readers are calling for you to expand each and every one of those elements. But you’re already pushing 7,500 words!…

(3) NOT BURMA BUT TIBET. “Shaving the Yak — such is life. How do you live your truth in a system…” Marianne de Pierres ponders the answer at Medium.

If someone asked me to reflect on my life, I’d probably say something like “yeah, I’m the woman who missed the moments.” I watched Veronica Mars for the first time in 2017, The OC in 2020, drank my first red wine when I was 50, and learned the meaning of “Shaving the Yak” when I was 60.

Being late to the party is kind of my tribute song. Annoyingly, it means there’s no one to hoot and holler with, about what you’re just discovering/crushing on.

Also, I regularly feel slightly… well… dumb.

So this week I heard the expression “shaving the yak” for the first time. A very polite gentleman I was interviewing, explained to me that it meant wanting to solve a problem, but running into a bunch of other problems you have to navigate, to get to the thing you want to do. It first got wings after a Ren and Stimpy show in the early 2000s. And for those of you that prefer a visual cue, here’s Hal doing it in Malcolm in the Middle, circa 2001….

(4) Q&A WITH BETSY WOLLHEIM. On YouTube, “An Interview with Betsy Wollheim: President, co-Publisher, and co-Editor-in-chief of DAW Books.”

Betsy Wollheim gives us insight into her nearly fifty years of experience in the publishing industry, highlighting her work with author Kristen Britain and the “Green Rider” series.

(5) MILES AND MILES. Book Riot’s Laura Sackton uses Bujold’s Vorkosigan series as the text to discuss “What Makes a Great Long-Running Series?”

… At 34, I was a very different reader than I was at 15, when I first read Shards of Honor. Sure, the series has its flaws. The vast majority of sci-fi published the 1980s has flaws. And I’m not going to pretend that I can be objective about it, because I have a deep emotional connection to the world and its characters. But what struck me, on this most recent reread, was how well the series stands up. I was consistently impressed with Bujold’s mastery of the series as a form. I picked up on small details I hadn’t noticed before. I started to paying attention to the way Bujold plots each novel and to how each book connects to the others. I noticed patterns. Certain things started to jump out at me: how the books end, the ways the characters change over time, the many different kinds of stories contained in the series as a whole….

(6) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1974 – Forty-seven years ago this evening on ABC, Kolchak: The Night Stalker first aired. It was preceded by The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler films, both written by Richard Matheson. It was created by Jeff Rice who Mike has some thoughts about here. As you know it has a small cast consisting of Darren McGavin, Simon Oakland, Jack Grinnage and Ruth McDevitt. It has become a cult favorite which currently carries a not surprising ninety-four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes but it was a Nielsen ratings failure and only lasted one season of twenty episodes before being cancelled.  Chris Carter who credits the series as the primary inspiration for The X-Files wanted McGavin to appear as Kolchak in one or more episodes of that series, but McGavin was unwilling to reprise the character for the show. He did appear on the series as retired FBI agent very obviously attired in Kolchak’s trademark seersucker jacket, black knit tie, and straw hat.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 13, 1916 — Roald Dahl. Did you know he wrote the screenplay for You Only Live Twice? Or did he hosted and wrote for a sf and horror television anthology series called Way Out which aired before The Twilight Zone for a season? He also hosted the UK Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected.  My favorite Dahl work is The BFG. What’s yours? (Died 1990.)
  • Born September 13, 1931 — Barbara Bain, 90. She’s most remembered for co-starring in the original Mission: Impossible television series in the 1960s as Cinnamon Carter, and Space: 1999 as Doctor Helena Russell.  Her first genre role was as Alma in the “KAOS in CONTROL” episode of Get Smart! She was active as of last year as showed in the Space Command series as Auut Simone in the “Ripple Effect” episode. 
  • Born September 13, 1939 — Richard Kiel. He’s definitely  best remembered  for being the steely mouthed Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. Now let’s see what other SFF films he’s been in…  One of his last credits was voicing Vlad in the animated Tangled. He was The Salorite in The Phantom Planet, Eegah in the low budget horror film Eegah,  a giant in House of the Damned, Dr. Kolos in The Human Duplicators, a Psychiatric Hospital Patient in Brainstorm, Bolob in the Italian L’umanoide, internationally released as The Humanoid, and he reprised his Jaws character in Inspector Gadget. Series wise, he’s shown up in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Twilight Zone, Kolchak: The Night StalkerThe Wild Wild West (where he worked in a recurring role with Michael Dunn as Dr. Miguelito Loveless), I Dream of JeannieGilligan’s IslandLand of The Lost and Superboy. (Died 2014.)
  • Born September 13, 1944 — Jacqueline Bisset, 77. I never pass up a Bond performance and so she’s got on the Birthday Honors by being Giovanna Goodthighs in Casino Royale even though that might have been one of the dumbest character names ever. As near as I can tell, until she shows up in as Charlotte Burton in the “Love the Lie” episode of the Counterpart series that’s her entire encounter with genre acting. Genre adjacent, she appeared in the Albert Finney fronted Murder on the Orient Express as Countess Helena Andrenyi. 
  • Born September 13, 1947 — Mike Grell, 74. He’s best known for his work on books such as Green Lantern/Green ArrowThe Warlord, and Jon Sable FreelanceThe Warlord featuring Travis Morgan is a hollow Earth adventure series set in Skartaris which is a homage to Jules Verne as Grell points out “the name comes from the mountain peak Scartaris that points the way to the passage to the earth’s core in Journey to the Center of the Earth. Theanimated Justice League Unlimited “Chaos at the Earth’s Core“ episode made use of this story. 
  • Born September 13, 1960 — Bob Eggleton, 61. He’s has been honored with the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist eight times! He was guest of honor at Chicon 2000. There’s a reasonably up to date look at his artwork,  Primal Darkness: The Gothic & Horror Art of Bob Eggleton  which he put together in 2010 and was published by Cartouche Press.
  • Born September 13, 1961 — Tom Holt, 60. Assuming you like comical fantasy, I’d recommend both Faust Among Equals and Who Afraid of Beowulf? as being well worth time. If you madly, deeply into Wagner, you’ll love Expecting Someone Taller; if not, skip it. His only two Awards are a pair of World Fantasy Awards, both for novellas, “A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong” and “Let’s Maps to Others”. And yes, I know that he also publishes under the K. J. Parker name as well but I won’t go into the works he publishes there here. 
  • Born September 13, 1974 — Fiona Avery, 47. Comic book and genre series scriptwriter. While being a reference editor on the final season of Babylon 5, she wrote “The Well of Forever” and “Patterns of the Soul” as well as two that were not produced, “Value Judgements” and “Tried and True”. After work on the Crusade series ended, she turned to comic book writing, working for Marvel and Top Cow with J. Michael Straczynski’s Rising Stars series being another place where her scripts were used. She created the Marvel character Anya Sofia Corazon later named Spider-girl. She did work on Tomb RaiderSpider-ManX-Men and Witchblade as well.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side shows the Scarecrow’s plans to be another Lincoln will have to be postponed.
  • The Argyle Sweater has an Oz-themed joke of its own involving Dorothy.

(9) SEE YOU AT THE RBEM. Wauke-Con – Waukegan’s First Comic Book Convention — will be at the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum on October 16 and 17 at the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum, located at lucky 13 N. Genesee, from 12-6 both days. Buy a ticket here.

(10) HAWKEYE TRAILER. Disney+ shares a look at Marvel Studios’ Hawkeye.

Disney+ and Marvel Studios invite you on an unexpected holiday getaway, unwrapping a brand-new teaser trailer and poster today for “Hawkeye,” a new series set in post-blip New York City. Former Avenger Clint Barton has a seemingly simple mission: get back to his family for Christmas. Possible? Maybe with the help of Kate Bishop, a 22-year-old archer with dreams of becoming a Super Hero. The two are forced to work together when a presence from Barton’s past threatens to derail far more than the festive spirit.

(11) FORBIDDEN ADDRESS. Powell’s Books presents “Caitlin Starling in Conversation With Wendy N. Wagner” on October 6 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for the free Zoom webinar here.

From Bram Stoker-nominated Caitlin Starling, author of The Luminous Dead, comes The Death of Jane Lawrence (St. Martin’s), a new gothic fantasy horror novel. Practical, unassuming Jane Shoringfield has done the calculations, and decided that the most secure path forward is this: a husband, in a marriage of convenience, who will allow her to remain independent and occupied with meaningful work. Her first choice, the dashing but reclusive doctor Augustine Lawrence, agrees to her proposal with only one condition: that she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his crumbling family manor outside of town. Yet on their wedding night, an accident strands her at his door in a pitch-black rainstorm, and she finds him changed. Gone is the bold, courageous surgeon, and in his place is a terrified, paranoid man — one who cannot tell reality from nightmare, and fears Jane is an apparition, come to haunt him. By morning, Augustine is himself again, but Jane knows something is deeply wrong at Lindridge Hall, and with the man she has so hastily bound her safety to. Set in a dark-mirror version of post-war England, Starling crafts a new kind of gothic horror from the bones of the beloved canon. This Crimson Peak-inspired story assembles, then upends, every expectation set in place by Shirley Jackson and Rebecca, and will leave readers shaken, desperate to begin again as soon as they are finished. Starling will be joined in conversation by Wendy N. Wagner, editor of Nightmare magazine and author of An Oath of Dogs.

(12) MUCHO MOOLA FOR WOOLLY BULLY. Slashdot reports a “Firm Raises $15 Million To Bring Back Woolly Mammoth From Extinction”. How much to bring back two?

… The scientists have set their initial sights on creating an elephant-mammoth hybrid by making embryos in the laboratory that carry mammoth DNA. The starting point for the project involves taking skin cells from Asian elephants, which are threatened with extinction, and reprogramming them into more versatile stem cells that carry mammoth DNA….

(13) B5 DREAMING. Add this to your list of rumors of SF series reboots/sequels. Make of it what you will.

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Joyce Scrivner, Dann, Steven H Silver, Marc Criley, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 8/18/21 Science Fiction Grand Pixel Banned From Scroll

(1) WHEN SHALL I MAKE AN END. Lois McMaster Bujold is one of the authors who answers the question “When should writers return to old, abandoned work?” for The Writer. Can you guess the story she’s discussing? Click through to see if you’re right.

Mood as a factor

Mood can take two forms – the mood of the story or novel you abandoned and the mood you’re in when you try to get back into it – that is, your emotional state of mind. As any writer can tell you, the mood you’re in makes a great difference when you tackle any work of fiction. But let’s say this project’s been gathering dust for several years. Are you charged up enough to take it on? Do you have the right inspiration?

Lois McMaster Bujold, speculative fiction writer and four-time winner of the Hugo Award, can speak to these very questions. She returned to an abortive novella after a seven-year hiatus. In 2011, she had completed 15,000 words on a “high-concept tale” about bioengineering, which she nicknamed Radbugs! Then she ran into a brick wall: “Radbugs, and then what?”

Plot-wise she had drawn up short: “The internal problem was that of making the Radbug bioengineering project central, as semi-realistic science (fiction) – it didn’t have a novella-like time frame or structure.” She considered two options, the first being a story that concentrated more on the research. “But scientific research like that is just a whole lot of tedious back-and-forthing on experiments and data collection for several years until the concept either becomes viable or is proved not to work.” Her second option didn’t seem viable, either. “Letting the story focus instead on some of the human problems encountered in those first 15,000 words seemed too much like another story I’d written. I eventually stopped and went on to other things, thinking I’d finally own a trunk story. But it itched. It was half done.”

In 2018, she was in the right frame of mind to return to it….

(2) FIFTY SENSE. NPR has posted its choices for “The 50 Best Science Fiction And Fantasy Books Of The Past Decade”. I’ve read 17 of these. Which doesn’t sound like a good score, yet is higher than I expected. My favorite book of them all happens to be the first one listed, Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice.

This year’s summer reader poll was also shaped by a series of “what ifs” — most importantly, what if, instead of looking at the entire history of the field the way we did in our 2011 poll, we only focused on what’s happened in the decade since? These past 10 years have brought seismic change to science fiction and fantasy (sometimes literally, in the case of N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series), and we wanted to celebrate the world-shaking rush of new voices, new perspectives, new styles and new stories. And though we limited ourselves to 50 books this time around, the result is a list that’s truly stellar — as poll judge Tochi Onyebuchi put it, “alive.”…

How We Built This

Wow, you’re some dedicated readers! Thanks for coming all the way down here to find out more. As I said above, we decided to limit ourselves to 50 books this year instead of our usual 100, which made winnowing down the list a particular challenge. As you may know, this poll isn’t a straight-up popularity contest — though, if it were, the Broken Earth books would have crushed all comers; y’all have good taste! Instead, we take your votes (over 16,000 this year) and pare them down to about 250 semifinalists, and then during a truly epic conference call, our panel of expert judges goes through those titles, cuts some, adds some, and hammers out a final curated list….

(3) SHAUN TAN ART. Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book Week runs August 21-27 with the theme “Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds.” The campaign includes this poster by Shaun Tan.

(4) DODGY PRACTICES. Smashwords informed Nigerian writer and editor Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki that they cannot pay him outstanding e-book royalties, because he doesn’t have a PayPal account – which is due to PayPal not operating in Nigeria.

(5) WRITING MODULE. Speculative Literature Foundation’s video interview “Paolo Bacigalupi: Values Fiction” comes with a set of discussion questions.

In this clip, author Paolo Bacigalupi discusses how he writes fictional solutions into the personas and experiences of the characters that populate his novels

Discussion Questions

(1) Ecological message fiction provides a space for authors to imagine inspired, inventive technology for the future. Bacigalupi believes that crafting these ideas for a better life within dystopian settings ultimately creates a more powerful message for his readers. Do you agree? Why or why not? Can you think of any examples of message fiction that are not set within a dystopian context?

(2) The focus on a ‘chosen one’ or set of heroes as the solution to the problems presented in values fiction can be limiting for a narrative’s overall message. Why do you think this would be? Are there any broader societal implications for ‘chosen one’ style-plots? Is there a situation in which this narrative structure would be useful?

(3) Bacigalupi says that writing fully “lived-in”, interesting characters with varied perspectives on the topic at hand is more effective in getting your message across than creating characters who specifically espouse your values. Do you agree with Bacigalupi? As a reader, what do you find you relate most to in the characters you read?

(4) Bacigalupi cites Gene Wolfe’s claim that those who want to write values fiction need to be able to argue all sides of the argument they’re engaging with in order to make their own point as strong as possible. Can you think of any topic in which arguing all sides would completely contradict your own values as a writer? Would you do it anyway? 

(6) ARC MARKET. The return of the sale of of ARCs. From the Wall Street Journal: “Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and Others Whose ‘Not-for-Sale’ Books Are Fetching Thousands”. Andrew Porter recalls, “I sold a bound galley of a Stephen King Doubleday book for $500 in 1984.” (The WSJ is usually paywalled, but this was open to read today.)

“Not for sale,” reads the fine print on the back of an advance reader copy (ARC) of Sally Rooney’s forthcoming novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You, which days ago sold on eBay for $79.99 (with tote bag). Another advance copy sold earlier this summer for around $200—roughly 10 times what it costs to preorder the hardcover. An ARC of Jonathan Franzen’s forthcoming Crossroads was recently listed on eBay for $165. 

Free copies of forthcoming books—in the form of ARCs, galleys and uncorrected proofs—are typically sent by publishing houses to authors, reviewers, bookstores and, increasingly, celebrities and influencers months before publication. The copies can draw a bidding frenzy, especially inside the literary world. One publicist described Rooney’s galleys, along with Ottessa Moshfegh’s, as “almost like trading cards” among junior publishing employees. 

Early, unfinished versions of classic novels have long been collectible, with some fetching astronomical prices. This is especially true for early-20th-century books, when advance copies were rare and tended to be made with higher-quality materials. They can also provide a window into a canonical author’s process—highlighting revisions made between drafts, say—and may include handwritten corrections.

An uncorrected advance copy of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row is currently available for $35,000; an early version of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is on sale for $28,000. More recent releases from bestselling authors—such as an uncorrected proof of Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, on sale for $3,000—typically sell for less. And then there’s Harry Potter. This May, an uncorrected version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone sold for over $29,000….

(7) NEW B5 COMMENTARY. J. Michael Straczynski has released another Babylon 5 commentary, on the episode “Signs and Portents”. These commentaries originally were only available through his Patreon page.

(8) YOUNGSON OBIT. Jeanne Youngson, founder of the Vampire Empire (originally the Count Dracula Fan Club), has died reports Nancy Kilpratrick. The Free Dictionary’s article about her accomplishments notes:

…In 1960 she married Robert G. Youngson, a renowned movie producer and historian, and that same year she launched a career as an independent filmmaker, winning numerous prizes as an animator. She also produced medical documentaries, including “My Name Is Debbie,” about the life of a post-operative male to female transsexual. The film is still being shown at Gender Identity conferences in tandem with a Canadian documentary featuring the actual operation.

The idea for a Dracula Club came to Youngson in 1965 while on a trip to Romania. Society Headquarters were set up in London, England, and New York City upon her return; and by the beginning of the 1970s the club had become a growing concern. In the meantime she found it necessary to give up filmmaking to devote her energies to the Dracula and Bram Stoker genres….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1950 – Seventy-one years ago on this date, Destination Moon, produced by George Pal, premiered in the United Kingdom. It would be voted a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at the Millennium Philcon. It was directed by Irving Pichel from the screenplay by Alford Van Ronkel and Robert A. Heinlein and James O’Hanlon. It’s based off Robert A. Heinlein‘s Rocketship Galileo novel. It starred John Archer, Warner Anderson,  Erin O’Brien-Moore, Tom Powers and Dick Wesson. Mainstream critics usually didn’t like it but Asimov said In Memory Yet Green that it was “the first intelligent science-fiction movie made.”  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a mediocre 48% rating though the critics overall give a sixty four percent rating there. It is not in the public domain but the trailers are and here  is one for you.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 18, 1925 Brian Aldiss. Fiction wise, I’ll single out his Helliconia series, Hothouse and The Malacia Tapestry as my favorites. He won a Hugo at Chicon III for “The Long Afternoon of The Earth”, another at Conspiracy ’87 for Trillion Year Spree which he co-authored with David Wingrove. He’s edited far too many collections to know which one to single out. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 18, 1929 Joan Taylor. Her first genre role was Earth vs. the Flying Saucers as Carol Marvin, and she followed that with 20 Million Miles to Earth as Marisa Leonardo. Her last genre role was as Carol Gordon in Men into Space, a late Fifties series about a USAF attempt to explore and develop outer space. She retired from acting in the early Sixties. (Died 2012.)
  • Born August 18, 1931 Grant Williams. He is best remembered for his portrayal of Scott Carey in The Incredible Shrinking Man though he did have the role of the psychopathic killer in Robert Bloch’s The Couch. Of course he shows up in Outer Limits where he plays Major Douglas McKinnon in “The Brain of Colonel Barham”.  And he’s Major Kurt Mason in The Doomsday Machine. (Died 1985.)
  • Born August 18, 1934 Michael de Larrabeiti. He is best known for writing The Borrible Trilogy which is noted by several sources online as being an influence on writers in the New Weird movement. Ok folks, I’ve not read it so please explain how The Borrible Trilogy influences that literary movement as it doesn’t seem like there’s any connection. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 18, 1954 Russell Blackford, 67. Writer resident in Australia for awhile but now in Wales. Author of Terminator 2: The New John Connor Chronicles, and editor of the Australian Science Fiction Review in the Eighties. With Van Ikin and Sean McMullen, he wrote Strange Constellations: A History of Australian Science Fiction, and Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination: Visions, Minds, Ethics which is just out.
  • Born August 18, 1958 Madeleine Stowe, 63. She’s in the Twelve Monkeys film as Kathryn Railly, and she’s in the Twelve Monkeys series as Lillian in the “Memory of Tomorrow” episode. Her only other genre work was a one-off in The Amazing Spider-Man which ran for thirteen episodes nearly forty years ago. She was Maria Calderon in “Escort to Danger” in that series, and she also played Mia Olham in Impostor which scripted off Philip K. Dick’s “Impostor” story. 
  • Born August 18, 1966 Alison Goodman, 55. Australian writer who’s won three Aurealis Awards for Excellence in Speculative Fiction for Singing the Dogstar BluesThe Two Pearls of Wisdom and Lady Helen and the Dark Days PactThe Two Pearls of Wisdom was nominated for an Otherwise Award. 
  • Born August 18, 1967 Brian Michael Bendis, 54. He’s both writer and artist, a still uncommon occurrence. Did you know he’s garnered five Eisner Awards for both his creator-owned work and Marvel Comics? Very impressive! He’s the primary force behind the creation of the Ultimate Marvel Universe, launching Ultimate Spider-Man which is an amazing series which I read on the Marvel Unlimited app. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater shows a robot leaving an autograph in an unexpected place.
  • Half Full is about a kind of house that I didn’t think needed an energy saving plan.

(12) VOTING WITH DOLLARS. “Tabletop Game Makers Crowdfund New Projects” Publishers Weekly charts the successes.

…Anya Combs, director of games outreach at Kickstarter, says one of the key reasons that 2020 was such an explosive year of growth for tabletop gaming was the Covid pandemic, which forced everyone indoors for months on end.

Last year, the global board games market grew by 20% over 2019, according to DW, an international news and media site. The market research firm Arizton Advisory and Intelligence predicted that board games would see a compound annual growth rate spurt of approximately 13% from 2020 to 2026—a surge driven in part by Covid-related lockdowns.

But to chalk up all of tabletop’s recent success to the pandemic would be shortsighted. Tabletop gaming has been enjoying expansion for years. In 2019, Grand View Research estimated that the playing cards and board games market would reach $21.56 billion by 2025.

“Tabletop has been having a moment for a long time,” Combs says. “A lot of it stems from this retro nostalgic aspect, and many point to Stranger Things and the resurgence of role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons. Tabletop provides a level of play that people needed during Covid. There’s something very genuine about sitting with your friends and sharing in a communal way.”…

(13) PICARD TO ENTERPRISE. You don’t have to wait for Starfleet to issue yours if you’re willing to order it from Amazon: Star Trek Next Generation 2021 Bluetooth Communicator  Combadge with Chirp Sound Effects, Microphone & Speaker. And there are several styles.

  • Presenting the Star Trek the Next Generation Bluetooth Communicator Badge! Since its debut in 1987 the TNG Communicator Badge has been a sought-after future tech we all wish we had. Now available, a few centuries early, connect to your phone, tablet or computer to enjoy hands and ear. The Star Trek TNG ComBadge features an accurate on-screen matte gold with black outline & silver delta plate. High quality ABS & Zinc materials.
  • The Star Trek Communicator connects to all phones or tablets that have Bluetooth (any modern phone) with Bluetooth version 5 for longer range and extended payback time. It features a built-in Microphone and Speaker for phone calls and music playback. Strong magnet backplate so no holes in your clothes! | 2 hours constant music or phone usage / 48 hours Cos-play “Chirp” mode.
  • HIGH QUALITY SOUND | Plays the classic Star Trek TNG ComBadge chirp sound effect when you press it for Cosplay, when you receive phone calls or enable Siri, Google, Cortana or Alexa! With 30 to 300 foot Bluetooth “Badge to phone” range you can keep your phone in your pocket while you make phone calls, listen to music or use voice your voice assistant.

(14) FLIPPER. A pair of Boston Dynamics robots run a complicated course.

Parkour is the perfect sandbox for the Atlas team at Boston Dynamics to experiment with new behaviors. In this video our humanoid robots demonstrate their whole-body athletics, maintaining its balance through a variety of rapidly changing, high-energy activities. Through jumps, balance beams, and vaults, we demonstrate how we push Atlas to its limits to discover the next generation of mobility, perception, and athletic intelligence.

(15) KEEPS ON TICKING. Ars Technica says Ingenuity is still buzzing Martian skies: “After a dozen flights, NASA’s chopper has yet to come a cropper”.

NASA’s tiny Mars helicopter, which has a fuselage about the size of a small toaster, has successfully flown above the planet for the 12th time.

Nearly half a year after the Perseverance rover landed on Mars, the Ingenuity helicopter is still going strong on the surface of the planet. The small flyer has done so well that it has been separated from Perseverance for some time as it scouts ahead on the red planet….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] In the spoiler-filled “Old Pitch Meeting” on YouTube, the producer, when he learns that the aging powers of the mysterious beach enables two six-year olds to mature so fast that they have a baby that dies 20 minutes after it is born, says “I could have been a doctor!”  The shocking third act plot twist is SO ridiculous that George makes you very glad you didn’t spend any money on this stinker.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Olav Rokne, Cliff, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 8/2/21 Don’t Talk About Scrolldays! You Kidding Me? Scrolldays? I Just Hope We Can Scroll!

(1) SWEET AND SOUR NOTES. Kameron Hurley shares her answer to a professional challenge: “When Should You Compromise? How to Evaluate Editorial Feedback” at Locus Online.

…There is also a huge variance in the quality of editorial and stakeholder feedback. Some­times you get notes that make it clear that the person making them was reading (or wants to read) an entirely different book than the one you’ve written.

So how do you determine which notes to take to heart, and which to ignore?

For me, it all comes back to understanding my novel and the story I want to tell. The feedback I get that gets me closer to refining and communicating that story is the feedback I take. The notes I get that that are clearly moving off into a direction that takes me away from the story I want to tell are the ones I toss….

(2) TRUE PRO TRUTH. John Scalzi announced “Dispatcher 3: Finished!” Soon after he tweeted —

(3) STAND BY. Vanity Fair says the LOTR for television is coming out in 2022. “Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Unveils a First Image and Release Date”. Someone – not the Vanity Fair writer — pointed out the September 2 release date coincides with the anniversary of Tolkien’s death in 1973. (Actually, the Vanity Fair article names two different September release dates, but the second presumably is a typo.)

Ever since 2017 when Amazon first announced the massively expensive deal that would send TV audiences back into the world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, fans have been eagerly wondering when their journey might begin. The folks behind the as-yet unnamed series have picked a very auspicious date indeed. Break out the Longbottom Leaf and mark your calendars for September 2, 2022 so you can see what Amazon has had cooking over in New Zealand these last few years.

The date announcement comes with a first image of the series to celebrate the wrap of filming in New Zealand, and fans will be sure to eagerly pore over every pixel. We can confirm that the image is from the first episode though sources close to the production are declining to confirm the identity of the figure seen there. This could be an image of a city in Valinor. The trees in the background, at least, are very interesting. …

(3) DREAMS. Read Aaron Starr’s amazing parable “Feathers or Stones” at Black Gate. Today!

Once, long ago, there was a poor writer who lived in the depths of a forest with his wife. He would spend his evenings putting words to page while his wife rested by the fire. As she did so she would read those stories which were complete, and yet not yet ready for market. Using a special red pencil, she would note occasional errors and put to him questions the writing had left unresolved, in order that his next version of the story might be improved.

During the day she would walk out into the forest and spend her time hewing mighty trees, for she was a woodcutter by trade. He, meanwhile, would tend to the small garden, and every few days journey into the nearby town, riding down the river on a mighty raft formed of entire tree trunks she had stripped, all lashed together, and he would walk back home before sundown. Thus they had a modest supply of silver, and the wife was content they be together every evening.

But the writer was not content….

(4) INTERRUPTED DEBUT. Galactic Journey reviews the latest (in 1966) issue of If, including this story by a brand new author: “[August 2, 1966] Mirages (September 1966 IF)”.

The Empty Man, by Gardner Dozois

Jhon Charlton is a weapon created by the Terran Empire. Nearly invulnerable, incredibly strong and fast, he can even summon tremendous energies. Unfortunately for him, for the last three years, he has shared his mind with a sarcastic entity called Moros, which has appointed itself as his conscience. Now, Jhon has been sent to the planet Apollon to help the local rebels overthrow the dictatorial government.

Gardner Dozois is this month’s new author, and this is quite a debut. It’s a long piece for a novice, but he seems up to it. There’s room for some cuts, but not much. The mix of science fiction and almost fantasy elements is interesting and works. The only place I’d say a lack of experience and polish shows it at the very end. The point is a bit facile and could have been delivered a touch more smoothly, but it’s a fine start to a new career. Mr. Dozois has entered the Army, though, so it may be a while before we see anything else from him.

(5) FROM MASHUPS TO SMASHUPS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Reader, Financial Times.] In the July 28 Financial Times, Tom Faber discusses video game crossovers.

Most crossovers are like this:  Brawlers created solely to let fans collide fictional DNA of their favourite characters against each other,  Their storylines are little more than a set dressing,usually involving a convenient tear in the space-time continuum. Kingdom Hearts, a collaboration between Disney and Final Fantasy developer Square-Enix, took narrative more seriously to offer a role-playing game with original characters and complex lore.  Sending plucky anime heroes out adventuring with Donald Duck to learn the true meaning of friendship may sound like a painfully trite exercise, but the games proved a runaway success. Kingdom Hearts developed into a stranger, darker story than anyone expected.

Today we are at peak crossover. There is The Little Prince- in -Sky:  Children of the Light, Assassin’s Creed in Final Fantasy, DC Comics heroes in Mortal Kombat and dozens of franchises distilled into costumes for party game Fall Guys.  Sometimes these make sense:  Yes, ace attorney Phoenix Wright and kindly Professor Layton could plausibly solve crimes together while Pirates of the Caribbean nestles neatly into the nautical fiction of Den of Thieves.  Others are plain wrongheaded: Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing pits the blue hedgehog against other Sega characters in go-karts, blithely ignoring his defining trait–Sonic doesn’t need a vehicle to go anywhere fast. 

(6) MIDSOUTHCON HONORS. Nominations are being taken for the 2022 Darrell Awards through December 1. See complete guidelines at the link.

In order to qualify, the work must either be written by an author who is living in the greater Memphis area (as defined below) when the work is published OR have at least one significant scene set within that area. Broadly defined, the area is west Tennessee, north Mississippi and northeast Arkansas.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1991 – Thirty years ago, Charles de Lint’s The Little Country novel wins a HOMer Award. The HOMer Awards were given by the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Forum on CompuServe. Locus notes that the winning authors were active there. (The novel was set in Cornwall though the music in it is influenced by Northumberland bagpiper Billy Pigg as the principal character is smallpiper Janey Little.) It was also nominated for the Aurora, Locus, Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature and World Fantasy Awards as well. It’s just been released as an audiobook, and it is available from the usual suspects. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 2, 1917 Wah Chang. Of interest to us are the props he designed for the original Star Trek seriesincluding the tricorder and communicator. He did a number of other things for the series — the Rabbit you see on the “Shore Leave” episode, the Tribbles,  the Vulcan harp first seen in “Charlie X“ and the Romulan Bird of Prey. Other work included building the title object from The Time Machine, and the dinosaurs in Land of the Lost. (Died 2003.)
  • Born August 2, 1920 Theodore Marcuse. He was Korob in “Catspaw”, a second season Trek episode that aired just before Halloween aptly enough. He had appearances in The Twilight Zone (“The Trade-Ins” and “To Serve Man”), Time TunnelVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaWild Wild West and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in the episodes “The Re-collectors Affair,”  “The Minus-X Affair,”  and “The Pieces of Fate Affair.” (Died 1967.)
  • Born August 2, 1932 Peter O’Toole. I’m tempted to say his first genre role was playing King Henry in A Lion in Winter as it is alternate history. Neat film. Actually before that he’s got an uncredited role in Casino Royale as a Scottish piper. Really he does. His first genre role without dispute is as Zaltar in Supergirl followed by being Dr. Harry Wolverine in Creator. He’s Peter Plunkett in the superb High Spirits, he’s in FairyTale: A True Story as Arthur Conan Doyle, and Stardust as King of Stormhold. Not surprisingly, he played Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (Died 2013.)
  • Born August 2, 1948 Robert Holdstock. Another one who died far too young. His Ryhope Wood series is simply amazing with Lavondyss being my favorite volume. And let’s not overlook his Merlin Codex series which is one of the more original takes on that character I’ve read. The Ragthorn, co-written with Garry Kilworth, is interesting as well. Tor, which has the rights to him in the States, has been slow to bring him to the usual suspects. (Died 2009.)
  • Born August 2, 1949 Wes Craven. Swamp Thing comes to mind first plus of course the Nightmare on Elm Street franchiseof nine films for which he created Freddy Krueger. Let’s not forget The Serpent and the Rainbow. (Died 2015.)
  • Born August 2, 1954 Ken MacLeod, 67. Sometimes I don’t realize until I do a Birthday note just how much I’ve read of a certain author. And so it was of this author. I’ve read the entire Fall Revolution series, not quite all of the Engines of Light Trilogy, just the first two of the Corporation Wars but I’ve got it in my to be finished queue,and every one of his one-off novels save Descent. His Restoration Game is quite chilling. I should go find his Giant Lizards from Another Star collection as I’ve not read his short fiction. Damn it’s not available from the usual suspects!
  • Born August 2, 1955 Caleb Carr, 66. Ok, I’ll admit that this is another author that ISFDB lists as genre that I don’t think of as being as genre. ISFDB list all four of his novels as being genre including The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness which are not even genre adjacent by my reading. So is there something in those novels that I missed? 
  • Born August 2, 1976 Emma Newman, 45. Author of quite a few SF novels and and a collection of short fiction. Of interest to us is that she is co-creator along with her husband Peter, of the Worldcon 75 Hugo Award winning podcast Tea and Jeopardy which centers around her hosting another creator for a nice cup of tea and cake, while her scheming butler Latimer (played by Peter) attempts to send them to their deaths at the end of the episode. Her Planetfall series was nominated for a Hugo at CoNZealand.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark shows even an animated celebrity’s prosthetics can’t get past TSA.

(10) SOMETIMES THEY DO GROW WEARY. R.H. Lossin revisits “William Morris, Romantic Revolutionary” at the New York Review of Books.

At the end of William Morris’s News from Nowhere, or, An Epoch of Rest (Being Some Chapters from a Utopian Romance), a woman named Ellen explains to the visitor, William Guest, that he cannot stay in this perfect place of clean air, meaningful work, and satisfying leisure. Not because of any fictional science of time travel, nor because he poses a threat to this particular future’s social harmony, but because his very being has been so thoroughly deformed by the social conditions of nineteenth-century industrial capitalism that he is incapable of experiencing the pleasures and desires of a world freed of competition, exploitation, and suffering. “You belong,” explains Ellen, “so entirely to the unhappiness of the past that our happiness even would weary you.”

…Many aspects of News from Nowhere set it apart from other utopian fiction of the time—it is decidedly socialist, conscious of the environmental costs of industrialization, backward-looking rather than futuristic, and free of prescriptiveness about any particular social arrangements—but Ellen’s melancholy observation on the psychic life of the capitalist subject is singularly important. If no other argument for revolutionary change made within the novel seems persuasive, this line, appearing late in the narrative, should give us reason to consider the insufficiency, even the costs, of a pragmatic reformist mindset. At a moment in history when social reform and conservationist policy have appeared on the political horizon, William Morris offers a reminder of the constitutive limits of our imaginations. He urges us to wish harder, not plan better….

(11) INSIDE HIS STRUGGLE. SFF Book Reviews’ “The State of SFF – August 2021” roundup has an excellent lead-in to Scott Lynch’s recently-made-public newsletter update.

…Scott Lynch has always been transparent about his battle with depression and the resulting delay in publishing further books in the Gentleman Bastard series. When The Republic of Thieves came out years after the previous volume, me and the other Locke Lamora fans were happy and excited and hopeful that the series would continue soon. In 2019, Lynch mentioned that the next instalment, The Thorn of Emberlain, was as good as finished. It had a cover and everything. But as of 2021, the book hasn’t been published yet.

Scott has recently posted an update about his struggle with anxiety and his difficulties letting go of his work (handing it in to the publisher, making posts public, etc.). I found the post both brave and educating. I am no stranger to anxiety but it can take so many shapes and forms and not all of them are well-known. Scott is now taking medication to help him and as far as comments on the internet go, I think we all agree that we wish him the best! Whether the next book comes out soon or not isn’t even a point of discussion. We just want Scott to be okay.

(12) WATCH ALONG WITH JMS. J. Michael Straczynski has made public another Synced Straczynski Commentary for Babylon 5 for the “And the Sky, Full of Stars” episode.

Originally created for Patrons of my page at: https://www.patreon.com/syntheticworlds This is an original full-length commentary/reaction for And the Sky, Full of Stars, one of our most important season one episodes. Sync up at the start of the commentary, and hit play.

(13) UNBREAKABLE. SYFY Wire is astonished: “Coulson (Still) Lives?! Marvel Confirms Clark Gregg Is Back For ‘What If…?’ Series”.

Phil Coulson just can’t be killed! Thanks to a production brief for Marvel’s What If…? (debuting next week), we now have it confirmed that Clark Gregg officially recorded dialogue for the animated anthology series. While the document doesn’t go into specifics about the episode Gregg’s featured in, we’d say it’s not too far-fetched to assume that he’ll reprise the role of the Corvette-loving S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who has a rather impressive talent for sticking around the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Coulson, whose MCU tenure can be traced back to the very beginning in 2008’s Iron Man, was a regular recurring character across the movies until he was murdered by Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in 2012’s The Avengers. As Mobius (Owen Wilson) was kind enough to remind us in the season premiere of Loki, the agent’s death was the catalyst for bringing together Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

(14) WHY PROVO IS FANNISH PT. 64. [Item by David Doering.] Here at the Provo City Cemetery is another reason why our city is suitably fannish–even Daleks come here to die… 

A Dalek Named Thomas… kids’ book maybe?

(15) REANIMATION. The Huntington knows our day won’t be complete without a timelapse video of the blooming of one of its famous Corpse Flowers.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The How It Should Have Ended gang takes on Loki in this episode with spoilers. “Villain Pub – Into the Loki-Verse”.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/26/21 Buy Me Some Pixels And Shadowjack, I Don’t Care If I Never Loop Back

(1) BLACK PANTHER. Today marks the end of an era for one of Marvel’s most acclaimed series: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther. View never-before-seen artwork from Coates’ final issue and revisit some of the best moments of this iconic run in the all-new Black Panther #25 trailer.

Alongside artists Daniel Acuña and Brian Stelfreeze, the National Book Award winner and New York Times Best-selling author closes out his game-changing run with a special giant-sized finale issue. Since taking over the title in 2016, Coates has transformed the Black Panther mythos. Now five years later, he departs, leaving the world of Wakanda and the Marvel Universe as a whole forever changed and laying the groundwork for the next bold era of one of Marvel’s most celebrated heroes.

(2) BOSEMAN REMEMBERED. “Howard University names fine arts college after Chadwick Boseman” – the Washington Post has the story.

Howard University is renaming its College of Fine Arts after one of its most acclaimed alums: actor Chadwick Boseman.

On Wednesday, Howard renamed its performing and visual arts school after the “Black Panther” star, who earned an Academy Award nomination for his role in last year’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Boseman, who graduated from Howard in 2000 with a bachelor of arts degree in directing, died in August at the age of 43 from colon cancer.The renaming unites Howard and Walt Disney Co.’s executive chairman, Bob Iger, who will spearhead fundraising for an endowment named after Boseman, as well as help raise money for the construction of a state-of-the-art building on the campus. The new building will house the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts, the Cathy Hughes School of Communications, its TV station, WHUT, and its radio station, WHUR 96.3 FM.

(3) SFF FROM AFRICAN WRITERS. Omenana Issue 17 is out, the latest issue of a tri-monthly magazine that publishes speculative fiction by writers from across Africa and the African Diaspora. The magazine is credted by Mazi Nwonwu, Co-founder/Managing Editor; Chinelo Onwualu, Co-founder; Iquo DianaAbasi, Contributing Editor; and Godson ChukwuEmeka Okeiyi, Graphic Designer.

Omenana is the Igbo word for divinity – it also loosely translates as “culture” – and embodies our attempt to recover our wildest stories. We are looking for well-written speculative fiction that bridges the gap between past, present and future through imagination and shakes us out of the corner we have pushed ourselves into.

(4) TORCON 2021. Tor.com is running another virtual convention in June. The full schedule is at the link: “Stay Home. Geek Out. Again. Announcing the TorCon 2021 Schedule of Events”.

We’re thrilled to share that TorCon is back! Taking place from June 10 through June 13, 2021, TorCon is a virtual convention that was launched in 2020 with a simple goal: to bring the entertainment and excitement of live book conventions into the virtual space. From Thursday, June 10 through Sunday, June 13, Tor Books, Forge Books, Tordotcom Publishing, Tor Teen, and Nightfire are presenting ten panels featuring more than 30 of your favorite authors, in conversation with each other—and with you!

Join authors, including James Rollins, Charlie Jane Anders, Joe Pera, Catriona Ward, Gillian Flynn, TJ Klune, Alix E. Harrow, Seanan McGuire, Nghi Vo, and many others for four days of pure geekery, exclusive reveals, content drops, giveaways, and more…all from the comfort of your own home!

(5) REPRESENTING MEDIA TIE-IN AUTHORS. Here is Max Alan Collins’ history of how the organization began: “A Blast from the Past – the Origins of the IAMTW – International Association of Media Tie-In Writers”.

I got involved with tie-in writing when, as the then-scripter of the Dick Tracy comic strip, I was enlisted to write the novel of the Warren Beatty film. That was, happily, a successful book that led to my writing novels for In the Line of Fire, Air Force One, Saving Private Ryan, and many others, including Maverick, that favorite of my childhood. Eventually I wrote TV tie-ins as well, in particular CSI and its spin-offs. Finally I got the opportunity to work with the Mickey Spillane estate to write Mike Hammer novels – a dream job, since Spillane had been my favorite writer growing up and Hammer my favorite character.

The founding of the IAMTW came out of a series of panels about tie-ins at San Diego Comic Con. Lee Goldberg, a rare example of a TV writer/producer who also wrote tie-in novels, was an especially knowledgeable and entertaining participant on those panels. He and I shared a frustration that the best work in the tie-in field was ignored by the various writing organizations that gave awards in assorted genres, including mystery, horror, and science-fiction.

Individually, we began poking around, talking to our peers, wondering if maybe an organization for media tie-in writers wouldn’t be a way to give annual awards and to grow this disparate group of creative folk into a community. I don’t remember whether Lee called me or I called Lee, but we decided to combine our efforts. What came out of that was the International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers and our annual Scribe Awards, as well as the Faust, our Life Achievement Award.

(6) SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL OUTLAW.

(7) HOW MANY HAVE YOU READ? AbeBooks has come up with their own list of “100 (Fiction) Books to Read in a Lifetime”, and some genre books are on it. I’ve read 29. (My midlife decision to read Moby Dick is constantly rewarded by raising my score on these things.)

We’ve seen these lists before – from Amazon to the Telegraph to Time Magazine and beyond. Plenty of folks have lists of the 100 best books of all time, the 100 books you should read, and on. And beautifully, despite overlap, they are all different. The glorious subjectivity of art means that no two of these lists should ever be exactly alike. So this is ours, our special snowflake of a list, born out of our passion for books. We kept it to fiction this time. Some of the expected classics are there, alongside some more contemporary fare. There is some science fiction, some YA, and above all else, some unforgettable stories.

Do any of the included titles shock you? Are you outraged by any omissions? Let us know what makes the cut for your top 100 novels.

(8) JMS’ B5 EPISODE COMMENTARY NOW ON YOUTUBE. For nearly a year J. Michael Straczynski has been providing his Patreon supporters full-length on-camera Babylon 5 commentaries. He’s now going to make some of them available to the public. Up first: “The Parliament of Dreams.” For this to work, you need to get access to a recording of the episode. Like JMS says —

For those who would like to sync up with the commentary on this video (since full-length TV episodes are not allowed here), fire up the episode and be ready to hit Play at the appropriate (or inappropriate) moment.

(9) CARLE OBIT. Eric Carle, who illustrated more than 70 books, most of which he also wrote, died May 23 reports NPR: “Eric Carle, Creator Of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar,’ Dies At 91”.

…Carle headed straight back to the U.S. after graduating from art school at age 23 and was immediately hired by The New York Times. He fell in love with the impressionists (“color, color, color!”), served in the U.S. military during the Korean War, and, upon his return, moved into advertising.

Perhaps that career helped him prepare for using the simple, resonant language of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. For the book’s 50th anniversary in 2019, professor Michelle H. Martin told NPR that The Very Hungry Caterpillar‘s writing helps little kids grasp concepts such as numbers and the days of the week. (“On Monday he ate through one apple. But he was still hungry. On Tuesday he ate through two pears, but he was still hungry.”)

Martin, the Beverly Cleary Endowed Professor for Children and Youth Services at the University of Washington, told NPR the book builds literacy by gently guiding toddlers toward unfamiliar words. For example, when Saturday comes around and the hungry caterpillar binges on “one piece of chocolate cake, one ice-cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake, and one slice of watermelon,” words such as salami and Swiss cheese might be new to 3-year-olds already familiar with ice cream and lollipops….

Jane Yolen mourned his death in a public Facebook post:

…I am devastated. One of my oldest friends in the business. Our whole family loved him. HE and Bobbie lived for years about twenty five minutes from our house, and then in Northampton for some time before moving down South.

He was funny, dear, a favorite “uncle” to my kids.And his museum is twenty minutes from my house. I have been sobbing since I heard about two hours ago from a notice sent out by the family….

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 26, 1995 — On this day in 1995, Johnny Mnemonic premiered. Based on the William Gibson short story of the same name, it was directed by Robert Longo in his directorial debut. It starred Keanu Reeves, Takeshi Kitan,  Henry Rollins, Ice-T, Dina Meyer and Dolph Lundgren. Despite the story itself being well received and even being nominated for a Nebula Award, the response among critics to the film was overwhelmingly negative. It currently holds a 31% rating on Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers. It is available to watch here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 26, 1865 — Robert Chambers. His most remembered work was The King in Yellow short stories. Though he would turn away from these supernatural tellings, Lovecraft’s included some of them in his Supernatural Horror in Literature critical study. Critics thought his work wasn’t as great as could have been. That said, Stross, Wagner, Carter and even Blish are said to have been influenced by him. (Died 1933.) (CE) 
  • Born May 26, 1903 — Harry Steeger. He  co-founded Popular Publications in 1930, one of the major publishers of pulp magazines, with former classmate Harold S. Goldsmith. They published The Spider which he created, and with Horror Stories and Terror Tales, he started the “Shudder Pulp” genre. So lacking in taste were these pulps that even a jaded public eventually rejected them. (Died 1990.) (CE) 
  • Born May 26, 1913 — Peter Cushing. Best known for his roles in the Hammer Productions horror films of the Fifties to the Seventies, as well as his performance as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars. He also played Holmes many times, and though not considered canon, he was the Doctor in Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. and Dr. Who and the Daleks. He even made appearances in both The Avengers and The New Avengers as well as Space: 1999. A CGI recreation of Grand Moff Tarkin was used for his likeness in Rogue One. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born May 26, 1913 – Joan Jefferson Farjeon.  Scenic designer, illustrated published versions of plays she’d done, also fairy tales.  See here (a frog footman), here (a tiger lily), here.  From a 1951 stage production, here is a moment in Beauty and the Beast.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1923 — James Arness. He appeared in three Fifties SF films, Two Lost WorldsThem! and The Thing from Another World. The latter is based on the 1938 novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell (writing under the pseudonym of Don A. Stuart). The novella would be the basis of John Carpenter’s The Thing thirty years later. (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born May 26, 1923 — Roy Dotrice. I’ll always think of him first and foremost as Jacob “Father” Wells on Beauty and the Beast. He was Commissioner Simmonds in two episodes of Space: 1999. He also appeared in a recurring role on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys as Zeus. He’s on A Game of Thrones in the second season playing “Wisdom Hallyne the Pyromancer” in  “The Ghost of Harrenhal” and “Blackwater” episodes. He narrates at least some of the GoT audiobooks. (Died 2017.) (CE) 
  • Born May 26, 1925 – Howard DeVore.  Began collecting, 1936.  Michigan Science Fantasy Society, 1948 (Hal Shapiro said it was the Michigan Instigators of Science Fantasy for Intellectual Thinkers Society, i.e. MISFITS).  Leading dealer in SF books, paraphernalia; known as Big-Hearted Howard, a compliment-complaint-compliment; called himself “a huckster, 1st class”.  Active in N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n); Neffy Award.  Also FAPA (Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n), SAPS (Spectator Am. Pr. Society).  Said a Worldcon would be in Detroit over his dead body; was dragged across the stage; became Publicity head for Detention the 17th Worldcon.  With Donald Franson The Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards (through 3rd ed’n 1998).  Named Fan Guest of Honor for 64th Worldcon, but died before the con.  His beanie had a full-size airplane propeller.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1933 – Yôji Kondô, Ph.D.  Black belt in Aikido (7th degree) and judo (6th degree).  Senior positions at NASA, Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement; two hundred scientific papers, see here.  SF as Eric Kotani; six novels, most with J.M. Roberts; two shorter stories; edited Requiem tribute to Heinlein; non-fiction Interstellar Travel & Multi-Generation Space Ships with F. Bruhweiler, J. Moore, C. Sheffield; essays, mostly co-authored, in SF Age and Analog.  Heinlein Award.  Writers of the Future judge.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1938 – Lyudmila Petrushevskaya, age 83.  Author (including plays and screenwriting), singer, painter, animator.  Russian Booker Prize, Pushkin Prize, World Fantasy Award.  Twenty short stories for us.  See here.  [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1954 – Lisbeth Zwerger, age 67.  Children’s-book illustrator.  Hans Christian Andersen and Silver Brush awards; Grand Prize from German Academy for Children’s & Youth Literature.  Thirty books, most of them fantasy; see here (Swan Lake), here (the Mad Tea Party), here.  [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1964 — Caitlín R. Kiernan, 57. She’s an impressive two-time recipient of both the World Fantasy and Bram Stoker awards. As for novels, I’d single out Low Red MoonBlood Oranges (writing as Kathleen Tierney) and The Drowning Girl: A Memoir as being particularly worth reading. She also fronted a band, Death’s Little Sister, named for Neil Gaiman’s character, Delirium. (CE) 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) ZOOMING WITH THE TRIMBLES. Fanac.org has posted a videos of “Bjo and John Trimble – A Fan History Zoom Session with Joe Siclari (Parts 1 and 2)”.

Bjo and John Trimble sit with Joe Siclari (May 2021) to tell us about their fannish histories. In part 1 of this interview, they talk about how they each found fandom, their ultimate meet-cute under Forry Ackerman’s grand piano, Burbee’s “Golden Treachery” and more serious topics. The Trimbles changed their part of fandom. Bjo talks about how she revitalized LASFS in the 1950s, and about the beginnings of the convention art show as we know it today (and Seth Johnson’s surprising part in that). Fandom is not without its controversies, and the Trimbles also speak about the Breendoggle and Coventry. Part 1 finishes up with anecdotes about Tony Boucher’s poker games. In Part 2, the interview will continue with the Trimbles’ roles in the Save Star Trek campaign. For more fan history, go to <FANAC.org> and <Fancyclopedia.org>. If you enjoyed this video, please subscribe to our channel.

In part 2 of Bjo and John Trimble’s interview with Joe Siclari (May 2021), they tell the remarkable story of how they met Gene Roddenberry and became involved in Star Trek. Learn the story of how they started, orchestrated and managed the “Save Star Trek” campaign which resulted in the third year of Star Trek, the original series. Hint: it all started in Clelveland. There’s much more in this interview. There are stories of the early days of the SCA, including how it got the name “Society for Creative Anachronism”, the day that a Knight of St. Fantony appeared at an SCA event, and the unlikely story of the first coronation of an SCA king. Additionally, you’ll hear about costuming, Takumi Shibano and how Gene Roddenberry helped get him to Worldcon (and how Bjo helped Shibano-san learn that his wife spoke English), and Q&A from the attendees.

(14) HERE KITTY. The lion is moving. “James Bond, Meet Jeff Bezos: Amazon Makes $8.45 Billion Deal for MGM” – the New York Times is there when they’re introduced.

In the ultimate symbol of one Hollywood era ending and another beginning, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, home to James Bond and Rocky, finally found a buyer willing to pay retail: Amazon.

The e-commerce giant said on Wednesday that it would acquire the 97-year-old film and television studio for $8.45 billion — or about 40 percent more than other prospective buyers, including Apple and Comcast, thought MGM was worth….

So why did Amazon pay such a startling premium?

For starters, it can. The company has $71 billion in cash and a market capitalization of $1.64 trillion….

 Amazon most likely paid more than others thought MGM was worth because of its all-important Prime membership program.

In addition to paying Amazon $119 a year or $13 a month for free shipping and other perks — notably access to the Prime Video streaming service — households with Prime memberships typically spend $3,000 a year on Amazon. That is more than twice what households without the membership spend, according to Morgan Stanley. About 200 million people pay for Prime memberships.

“More and more Prime members are using video more often, spending more hours on there, so I think this is a way to add more content and more talent around movies,” said Brian Yarbrough, a senior analyst at Edward Jones.

“This isn’t one studio buying another,” he added. “If you’re Amazon, the perspective is what’s the potential for Prime membership, what is the potential for advertising.”…

(15) SAME BAT-TIME, SAME BAT-CHANNEL. Galactic Journey’s Erica Frank is tuning in to 1966 where Adam West’s Batman on the air: “[May 26, 1966] Batman: So Bad It’s Good?”.

I have been greatly enjoying the new Batman tv series. Campy costumes, over-the-top acting, wacky super-science gizmos, silly plots, the chance to see several of my favorite comic book characters on a screen; it’s all good fun….

The Batman Drinking Game

The best way to watch this show: Before it starts, get yourself a beer, glass of wine, or couple of shots of something harder. Every time you see a gizmo that can’t actually work as shown, take a sip. Every time Robin says, “Holy [something]!,” take a sip. When either of the Dynamic Duo is trapped, take a sip; if they’re both trapped, take two. Every time a supposedly valuable item, like a museum statue, is destroyed during the obligatory heroes-vs-thugs slugfest, take another sip. By the time the show is over, you’ll be pleasantly relaxed—unless you actually know much about science and technology, in which case, you’ll have left “relaxed” in the dust and be on your way to “blitzed.”…

(16) HUGO READING. Camestros Felapton reviews a finalist: “Hugo 2021: Black Sun (Between Earth & Sky 1) by Rebecca Roanhorse”.

…I thoroughly enjoyed this and despite the scale of the world-building, I found myself immersed into the setting very quickly. It is a book with a sense of bigness to it with quite different magical elements to it distinct to the individual characters. The growing tension as chapter by chapter we get closer to what will clearly be a very bad day for all concerned, is well executed and if I hadn’t been using the audiobook version I would probably have rushed through the final chapters.

I’ve enjoyed other works by Roanhorse but this is definitely a more skilful and mature work from a writer who started with a lot of promise. It sits in that sweet spot of delivering the vibe of the big magical saga but with enough innovation in setting and magic to feel fresh and original….

(17) AROUND THE BIG TOP. The latest sf review column in the Washington Post by Lavie Tidhar and Silvia Moreno-Garcia includes praise for Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Illustrated Man. “Clowns are creepy. Let’s talk about horror, science-fiction and fantasy books that make the most of circus settings.”

The circus, with its built-in otherworldliness, is an ideal setting for fantasy, horror and science-fiction novels. Authors have been capitalizing on it for years. Stephen King terrified a whole generation with Pennywise the clown in 1986’s “It,” then tackled a carnival setting 27 years later in “Joyland.” In 2011, Erin Morgenstern charmed readers and scored a big hit with “The Night Circus.” So what other great fiction hides under the big top?…

(18) INVISIBLE INKED. “Inquisitor 1699 An Alternative Guide to Wonderland by Phi” at Fifteensquared analyzes all the answers to a fantasy-themed crossword, with the added bonus of a David Langford comment.

…By now, I was starting to see that the shaded letters would be forming some sort of figure, a pooka indeed and it seemed to be symmetrical. Also, I had enough of the early across answers to start to see the quotation forming. With “Years ago my mother say this world”. An internet search revealed, “Years ago my mother [used to say to me,] she’d say, [“In this world, Elwood, you must be” – she always called me Elwood] – “In this world, Elwood, you must be [oh so] smart or [oh so] pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me. ”…

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: The DCEU (400th episode), the Screen Junkies, for their 400th episode, portray the entire DC Extended Universe, a world where “Superman doesn’t want to save people, Batman’s a murderer, Wonder Woman’s an incel, and Harley Quinn takes three movies to break up with Joker, who looks like my coke dealer.”  And given a choice between all the quips in Marvel movies, and DC films where “everyone talks like a 14-year-old boy trying to sound badass while they’re reading a Wiki page,” wouldn’t you rather see an Air Bud movie?”

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

Pixel Scroll 4/26/21 In A Scrolling Way, It’s About That Pixel

(1) INTRODUCING BEST EDITOR. During last night’s telecast: “Harrison Ford uses Oscar soapbox to get some Blade Runner complaints off his chest”.

“I’d like to share some notes, some editorial suggestions that were prepared after the screening of, uh, a movie I was in,” joked Ford. “Opening too choppy. Why is this voice-over track so terrible? He sounds drugged.”

“Were they all on drugs? Dekker at the piano is interminable. Flashback dialogue is confusing. Is he listening to a tape? Why do we need the third cut to the eggs? The synagogue music is awful on the street. We’ve got to use Vangelis. Up to Zora’s death, the movie is deadly dull. This movie gets worse every screening.

(2) TRUST ME, IT DIDN’T WIN. EscYOUnited, in “Eurovision Movie’s ‘Húsavík’ does not win 2021 Oscar for Best Original Song”, admits its fans are disappointed, but notes how many other honors the movie has received – including a Hugo nomination.

…Sadly things did not go in Fire Saga’s favor, as H.E.R., Dernest Emile II, and Tiara Thomas won the award for their song “Fight For You” featured in Judas and the Black Messiah. Even without tonight’s Oscar, the Eurovision movie is still a two time award winning film. Prior to tonight the music editor team won the award for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Musical for Feature film and “Húsavík” won the award for Outstanding Original Song for Visual Media….

(3) REMEMBERED. The Oscars 2021 In Memoriam video included Ian Holm, Max Von Sydow, Christopher Plummer, Wilford Brimley, Ron Cobb, Hal Holbrook, Helen McCrory, Carl Reiner, Brian Dennehy, Diana Rigg, Sean Connery, Chadwick Boseman, and others with genre credits.

(4) BONUS MURDERBOT. Tom Becker pointed out Tor.com’s post of “Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory”, by Martha Wells.

Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory was originally given free to readers who pre-ordered Martha’s Murderbot novel, Network Effect. The story is set just after the 4th novella,Exit Strategy.

(5) MARTHA WELLS PROFILE. The Orange County Register’s Erik Pedersen tells “How ‘Murderbot Diaries’ author Martha Wells overcame a career in crisis to create the killer series”.

There was a time before Martha Wells created Murderbot, the character that narrates her award-winning science fiction series “The Murderbot Diaries,” when she thought her career might be dead.

After a successful start in the ‘90s, things had cooled down by the mid-2000s. When the final book in her “Fall of Ile-Rien” trilogy was published without fanfare, the soft-spoken Texan wondered if that was it for her.

“I was kind of at that point in my career where, you know, women writers my age were supposed to quietly fade away. It’s like, ‘Well, you had your shot, and that was it, and now go away.’ So I was not real optimistic about being able to continue to be published,” says the now 56-year-old novelist during a call from her College Station home, which she shares with her husband and three cats.

“I could not sell another book,” says Wells. “I knew my career was in a lot of trouble.”

But she refused to give up. Over the next few years, she got a new agent, started a new series, found a new publisher.

“That kind of got me back going again. I ended up also doing a Star Wars novel and did some work on some stories for Magic the Gathering,” she says, describing herself as plugging away but not soaring during that period. “I thought, ‘Well, this is probably about as high up as I can go,’ you know? It’s like, I’m not gonna win awards, and I’m not gonna be, you know, super popular or anything like that. But if I can keep going at this level, I’ll be okay.

“And then Murderbot just hit big,” she says….

(6) EUROCON. Eurocon 2021 in Fiuggi, Italy will be an in-person con the committee announced.

Just had green light for Eurocon in-person!

All attendees will have to be vaccinated or pre-tested for Covid 19.

If the con were to be held today, we could accommodate a little more than 200 guests. We are confident that it will be possible to increase this number in July. Hope to see you in Italy!!!

(7) B5 WAS THE PROTOTYPE. TechRadar boldly asks “Is Babylon 5 secretly the most influential TV show of the past 25 years?”

… If most TV viewers had no idea what a showrunner was back in the ’90s, even fewer could name one. Only superstar producers such as Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue creator Steven Bochco were big enough to occasionally eclipse their brands. However, the name of J Michael Straczynski was all over Babylon 5, as synonymous with the show as Minbari, Narn and Vorlons – just as much as The West Wing was Aaron Sorkin’s creation or The Sopranos David Chase’s, Babylon 5 was his. Arguably more so, in fact, seeing as he wrote 92 of the show’s 110 episodes, including the entirety of seasons 3 and 4. 

Babylon 5 was an auteur’s vision on an epic scale. On the rare occasions guest writers were brought in, they were often genre legends such as Neil Gaiman, Harlan Ellison and regular Star Trek writer DC Fontana – this show was never scared to embrace the harder edges of science fiction. And just as would later become the norm with showrunners such as Russell T Davies on Doctor Who or Dave Filoni on The Clone Wars, Straczynski was the public face of his show, becoming one of the first writers to talk directly to the fanbase via the internet.

A veteran of ’80s cartoons such as She-Ra: Princess of Power, The Real Ghostbusters, and Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, Straczynski always had big plans for Babylon 5. He set out to tell a story taking in space battles, political intrigue, epic mythology and more, and wanted to do it over the course of five years. 

That may not feel unusual now, when shows such as Breaking Bad, Lost and even comedies such as Schitt’s Creek make a big thing of spreading their stories over multiple seasons. But in the mid-’90s, the Babylon 5 approach was seriously radical. Most of the TV of the era was built on standalone episodes, with serialization kept to a minimum to ensure episodes could be watched in any order once they ended up in syndication. That Babylon 5 should so brazenly break the mould was a big shock to the system for ’90s viewers…

… It was ‘Westeros in space’ before George RR Martin had even published his first A Song of Ice and Fire novel, a show that rewarded viewers who tuned in for every installment. Babylon 5 was a show purpose-built for streaming and binge-viewing, trapped in the era of broadcast and cable….

(8) ESSENCE OF WONDER. “Strategy Strikes Back: Star Wars And Modern Military Conflict” will be the topic on Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron on May 1 at 3 p.m. Eastern. Register for the Zoom webinar here.

Strategy Strikes Back authors Lt. Col. Matt CavanaughMax BrooksAugust Cole, and Steve Leonard join Gadi and Karen to discuss Star Wars and modern military conflict. In the book, they made understanding strategy fun by the use of a common global language – The love of Star Wars. We’ll be happy to share that love with them.

(9) BILLIONS AND BILLIONS. What Carl Sagan used to say about the number of stars this fellow says about his bank account. SpaceX’s Elon Musk will host Saturday Night Live on May 8 reports NPR.

Saturday Night Live doesn’t usually have business executives host its show, but as pointed out in a story by The Associated Press, Musk is far from a stuffy corporate type. He regularly jokes around on Twitter, where he has nearly 52 million followers and has gotten into legal trouble for making disparaging remarks about critics and hinting that he might lead a buyout of Tesla that resulted him getting fined $20 million by stock market regulators.

… Not counting news interview shows and press conferences, Musk has made guest appearances on the CBS shows Young Sheldon and The Big Bang Theory. His voice has also been heard on the animated shows South ParkThe Simpsons and Rick and Morty. Plus he made a cameo in the film Iron Man 2.

(10) WOLFE SPEAKS. Colombian author Triunfo Arciniegas reposted Lawrence Person’s 1998 interview with Gene Wolfe yesterday: “DRAGON: Suns New, Long, and Short / An Interview with Gene Wolfe”.

LP: You have literally dozens of characters in The Book of the Long Sun, yet many times you have scenes with a number of characters all speaking in turn, without being identified, and yet their speech patterns are so clearly and cleverly differentiated that we’re never confused about who’s talking. Just how do you do that?

GW: (Laughs) I’m certainly glad that you were never confused! There are two things. Obviously, you have the speech patterns. Spider does not talk like Maytera Mint. And if you understand speech patterns, you should be able to put in any statement Spider makes, certain characteristic phrases or mistakes, or whatever, that will identify him as the speaker. The other thing is, that if you’re doing it right, the speech that, oh, let’s say, Maytera Marble makes under a certain circumstance, is not the speech that Blood would make under that circumstance. When Maytera Marble talks, she is saying something that only Maytera Marble would say. When Blood speaks, he is saying something that only Blood would say. And so the reader, if the reader is intelligent, knows who said that from what was said.

(11) HWA POETRY SHOWCASE. Horror Writers Association is taking submissions from members to its 2021 Poetry Showcase.

The HWA is proud to announce that it will call for submissions from its members for the Poetry Showcase Volume VIII beginning April 1. Stephanie Wytovich will be the editor for the volume. This year’s judges, along with Stephanie, will include Sara Tantlinger and Angela Yuriko Smith.

Only HWA members (of any status) may submit. The reason for this can be found in the word “Showcase.” The HWA is very proud of the tradition of poetry in the horror genre and of the HWA’s support for poetry. This volume is designed to showcase the talents of HWA members which is why it is now limited to members….

(12) WILLIAMS OBIT. Charlie Williams, a long-time Nashville fan, passed away April 25 reports Tom Feller. He had been residing in a nursing home/rehab facility after being hospitalized for pneumonia.  He is survived by his wife Patsy and sister Jennifer.  Funeral arrangements are pending.

[NOTE: He is a different Charlie Williams than the fanartist from Knoxville.]

(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 26, 2008 — On this date in 2008, Star Wars: The Clone Wars premiered on the Cartoon Network. created by George Lucas and produced by Lucasfilm Animation, the series ran for seven seasons. It’s currently airing, as is all things Star Wars, on Disney+. 

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 26, 1914 – Horace L. Gold.  One novel (with Sprague de Camp), twoscore shorter stories.  Edited Galaxy (insistence on taking SF in a new direction resulted in “You’ll never see it in Galaxy!”) and If; a dozen anthologies.  A Best-Prozine Hugo for Galaxy; Life Achievement Award from Westercon 28; Forry, Milford Awards.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born April 26, 1922 A. E. van Vogt. I admit it’s been so long since I read him that I don’t clearly remember what I liked by him though I know I read Slan and The Weapon Makers.  I am fascinated by the wiki page that noted Damon Knight took a strong dislike to his writing whereas Philip K. Dick and Paul Di Filippo defended him strongly. What do y’all think of him? (Died 2000.) (CE)
  • Born April 26, 1925 Richard Deming. I think that all of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. novellasor in this case the Girl from U.N.C.L.E. novellas, were listed under the house name of Robert Hart Davis. Deming was only one of a very long list of writers (I know of Richard Curtis, Richard Deming, I. G. Edmonds, John Jakes, Frank Belknap Long, Dennis Lynds, Talmage Powell, Bill Pronzini, Charles Ventura and Harry Whittington) that were writers who penned novels in the twin U.N.C.L.E. series.(Died 1983.) (CE) 
  • Born April 26, 1939 Rex Miller. Horror writer with a hand in many pies, bloody ones at that. (Sorry couldn’t resist.) The Chaingang series featured Daniel Bunkowski, a half-ton killing-machine. Definitely genre. He contributed to some thirty anthologies including Hotter Blood: More Tales of Erotic HorrorFrankenstein: The Monster WakesDick Tracy: The Secret Files and The Crow: Shattered Lives and Broken Dreams. (Died 2005.) (CE)
  • Born April 26, 1950 Peter Jurasik, 71. Ambassador Londo Mollari on Babylon 5 who would be Emperor one day and die for his sins. (Yes, spoiler.) He has also very short genre credits other than Babylon 5— Doctor Oberon Geiger for several episodes on Sliders and Crom, the timid and pudgy compound interest program, in the Tron film. (CE)
  • Born April 26, 1943 – Bill Warren.  Three stories, three poems; best known as a student and critic of SF film, see his Keep Watching the Skies!  Fan Guest of Honor at Ambercon 3, VCON 11, Loscon 11, MisCon 6.  Evans-Freehafer Award (service to LASFS, Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.), Sampo Award (unsung-hero service).  Edited 15 posthumous issues of Bill Rotsler’s Masque. Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here. (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born April 26 [Year unknown] – Miriam Lloyd.  Various fanzines under Goojie Publications as M. Dyches; Klein Bottle and Fanac as M. Carr with first husband Terry Carr; A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Poughkeepsie as M. Knight with second husband Jerry Knight; see here.  (Died 2020) [JH]
  • Born April 26, 1948 – Marta Randall, age 73.  Eight novels, a score of shorter stories.  Fanzine, Mother Weary.  Edited Nebula Awards 19, New Dimensions 11-13.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  Toastmaster at Norwescon VII, Baycon ’87, Windycon XIII, ConFusion 14, Chicon IV & V the 40th and 49th Worldcons.  Master of Ceremonies at Con*Stellation V.  Pro Guest of Honor at ConClave VIII, WisCon 7, Lunacon 29.  First female President of SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America).  [JH]
  • Born April 26, 1952 Peter Lauritson, 69. Long involved with the Trek franchise starting with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He became the producer of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and supervising producer for Deep Space NineVoyager and Enterprise. He directed three episodes of those series, including the Hugo Award-winning “The Inner Light”, as well as being second unit director for two Trek films. (CE) 
  • Born April 26, 1955 – Brad W. Foster, age 66.  Widely-applauded fanartist.  Eight Hugos.  Chesley.  Rebel, Neffy (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n), Rotsler Awards.  Guest of Honor at ArmadilloCon 10, Loscon 18, Westercon 49, Norwescon XX, Conestoga 9, ReConStruction the 10th NASFiC (N. Amer. SF Con, since 1975 held when Worldcon is overseas), Sasquan the 73rd Worldcon.  [JH]
  • Born April 26, 1967 – Nicholas Whyte, age 54.  Hugo Administrator twice and still alive; at it again this year and Worldcon Site Selection too.  Dr Who fan which is less nearly unique.  Reads 200-300 books a year (“in non-plague times, I have a long commute”).  Announced as Fan Guest of Honour for Eastercon 72 (April 2022).  Helpful fan with catholic (I know I didn’t capitalize that, go look it up) taste.  [JH]
  • Born April 26, 1969 Gina Torres, 52.  The first thing I remember seeing her in was Cleopatra 2525 where she was Helen ‘Hel’ Carter. Her first genre was in the M.A.N.T.I.S. pilot as Dr. Amy Ellis, and she actually was in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions as a character named Cas but I’ll frankly admit I remember almost nothing of those films. She’s had a number of DC voice roles including a recurring Justice League Unlimited run as Vixen / Mari McCabe. And of course Zoe in the Firefly verse. Lastly anyone remember her on the Angel series as Jasmine? (CE) 

(15) I’M JUST DREW THAT WAY. Daniel Dern found the excuse to give this item its title in io9’s production news roundup “Marvel She-Hulk Filming Pictures Sees Tatiana Maslany on Set”:

Tom Swift joins Nancy Drew in the synopsis for “The Celestial Visitor” airing May 12.

TIAN RICHARDS (“BURDEN,” “DUMPLIN”) GUEST STARS AS TOM SWIFT – As things begin to go haywire at The Claw, a striking stranger appears looking for Nancy (Kennedy McMann), and announces himself as the billionaire Tom Swift (guest star Tian Richards).

(16) BIG CHAP. Yahoo! Entertainment’s Ethan Alter discusses a rare find: “’Alien’ Day: The terrifying, long-lost Xenomorph prototype never before seen in public” – photos at the link.

Here’s an #AlienDay reveal that’ll make you happier than a long-haul space tug crew member headed back to Earth: A piece of ultra-rare Alien memorabilia that was blasted out of the airlock four decades ago has been salvaged and is now up for sale. On April 29, Julien’s Auctions is unveiling a long-lost early prototype of H.R. Giger’s classic Xenomorph design as the centerpiece attraction in a genre-themed “Hollywood Legends” auction. Known as “Big Chap,” this version of the franchise’s signature creature features a translucent design that’s distinctly different than the opaque acid-spitting monster we know and love. 

It should be noted that bidding on the Big Chap starts at $40,000. But you can get a closer look at the big guy for free courtesy of our exclusive virtual experience, which allows you to zoom in on Giger’s original vision for the Xenomorph, which evolved out of the Swiss artist’s pioneering “biomechanoid” designs. (Giger died in 2014.)

(17) WARP FACTORY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Here is a ten-minute physics briefing on some recent research of SFnal relevance from the wonderful PBS Space Time: there are “NEW Warp Drive Possibilities”.

That Einstein guy was a real bummer for our hopes of a star-hopping, science-fiction-y future. His whole “nothing travels faster than light” rule seems to ensure that exploration of even the local part of our galaxy will be an excruciating slow. But Einstein also gave us a glimmer of hope. He showed us that space and time can be warped – and so the warp drive was conceived. Just recently, a couple of papers contend that these are not pure science fiction.

This briefing builds on another PBS Space Time video from five years ago that introduces the notion of an FTL warp drive asking “Is The Alcubierre Warp Drive Possible?” Since then it has racked up 2.4 million views.

Inspired by Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, physicist Miguel Alcubierre set out to transform one of the cornerstones of science fiction iconography, the Warp Drive, into reality. But is it even possible? Can we “warp” the fabric of reality so that we can break the speed of light?

(18) THREE’S A CHARM. Ingenuity buzzes Mars again. CNN has the story — “Ingenuity Mars helicopter achieves fastest, farthest flight yet”.

… Ingenuity exceeded speeds and distances beyond what it proved capable of doing during testing on Earth before launching to Mars.

The helicopter flew at 1:31 a.m. ET, or 12:33 p.m. local Mars time. Data and imagery began streaming into the control room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, at 10:16 a.m. ET Sunday. The Perseverance rover captured an image of the helicopter in flight and shared it shortly after.

(19) AND GNAW, THE GNEWS. Another Dern special, inspired by Gizmodo’s article “Beavers Take Down Canada Internet Service After Chewing Cables”.

…Tumbler Ridge, a tiny municipality in northeastern British Columbia with a population of about 2,000 people, lost service for roughly 36 hours in what Telus described as a “uniquely Canadian disruption!”

“Beavers have chewed through our fibre cable at multiple points, causing extensive damage,” said Telus spokesperson Liz Sauvé in an email to Gizmodo. “Our team located a nearby dam, and it appears the beavers dug underground alongside the creek to reach our cable, which is buried about three feet underground and protected by a 4.5-inch thick conduit. The beavers first chewed through the conduit before chewing through the cable in multiple locations.”

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George explains that one character’s gratuitous dancing was put in the series “because people enjoyed memes of Thantos twerking.” This spoiler-filled video dropped today.

[Thanks to Tom Becker, Rich Lynch, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Gadi Evron, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 1/31/21 The Gripping Hand Is Quicker Than The Eye With A Mote In It

(1) IBA WINNERS. The “Infected by Art 9 Winners” were announced January 18. The jury panel members were Ed Binkley, Tran Nguyen, John Picacio and Dug Stanat. [H/t Locus Online]

Scott Gustafson – St. George and the Dragon

GRAND PRIZE WINNERS

The artworks that won Art Medium Category Honors are listed here.

Hope Doe was also chosen by her peers to win the Body of Work Award for IBA 9.

Out of almost 2,000 pieces submitted to this year’s competition there were 63 artworks that were unanimously selected by the Jury Panel through their rounds of voting which have been given special recognition. What the Jury Panel felt were the best pieces submitted to IBA 9 can be viewed at the link. See all 336 artworks selected for IBA 9 here.

Infected by Art Volume 9 will have 269 artists represented. IBA 9 will go into production in Spring and debut next Fall at IX 2021.

(2) PERPETUAL FAVORITE. In the Washington Post, Danny Freedman discusses The Monster At The End Of This Book, a Sesame Street Little Golden Book which has sold 13 million copies, been turned into a book app and a half-hour animated special on HBO Max, and introduced generations of four-year-olds to metafiction. “’The Monster at the End of this Book’ is still a hit”.

… It’s one of the top-10 selling Little Golden Books of all time. A decade-old interactive app version has been downloaded more than half a million times and is among the most popular book apps. Last fall, HBO Max released an animated special based on the book, giving sales another bump.

All of that has made “The Monster at the End of This Book” an unlikely constant, at a rarefied height, though it still chases the iconic status of picture books such as “The Cat in the Hat,” “Goodnight Moon” and “Where the Wild Things Are.”

And the book’s long tail of influence is out of proportion with its 24 pages and its cardboard cover devoid of medallions. It’s come to be regarded as an evolutionary step in children’s metafiction, nudging further the creation of stories that “demystify bookmaking for children and invite them to sort of get their hands dirty,” says children’s book historian Leonard Marcus.

(3) WISCON 2021. Due to the pandemic there will not be a full-scale WisCon in 2021, only a small event sufficient to honor the hotel contract. The guests of honor have once again been rolled forward to the next in-person WisCon in 2022: Rebecca Roanhorse and Yoon Ha Lee, who were originally invited to attend WisCon 44 in 2020; as well as Sheree Renée Thomas and Zen Cho, who were originally invited to attend WisCon 45 in 2021.

What will happen instead?
Firstly, we are in the process of planning a much smaller in-person event to occur at the Concourse Hotel in May in order to fulfill the contract we signed with them. This would look something like an intensive workshop event, rather than a convention, and the Workshops department has been looking into how it could work. The number of attendees would also be vastly reduced, in compliance with whatever guidance Public Health Madison & Dane County has in place at the time. We’ll be talking again with the Concourse Hotel this month and probably again later to revisit these plans.

The group would also like to plan another WisCONline to occur in 2021 if they can get enough help.

(4) THE MILENNIUM APPROACHES. James Davis Nicoll is making a list and checking it twice – of the number of works he’s reviewed on his blog. James says, “I have just discovered I am 4 1/2 books away from having reviewed an even one thousand books by women.”

Grand Total to Date
1770 works reviewed. 994.5 by women (56%), 738.5 by men (42%), 21 by non-binary authors (1%), 15 by gender unknown (1%), 488.75 by POC (28%)

(5) MEET THE FANEDS. Cora Buhlert has two more Fanzine Spotlight posts, one for Runalong the Shelves, a UK book blog by “Runalong Womble”, and the other for Warp Speed Odyssey, a Canadian SFF site.

Tell us about your site or zine.

Runalong The Shelves is now in its fourth year and is very much a book blog with a big focus on reviewing science fiction and fantasy but also interested in horror and the occasional thriller. You may find me interviewing authors on recent works; answering the odd book tag and taking part in a small annual blogger jury award named Subjective Chaos Kind of Award which is a lot of fun debating books with different bloggers. I try to be diverse both in the types of books I review but also increasingly promoting the diverse voices creating them which I think is a wonderful move for our genre (and way overdue)

Who are the people behind your site or zine?

I [Steven Morrissette] started by myself slowly but then I met Jean-Paul Garnier from Space Cowboy Books who was of tremendous help and also became the first contributing author, reviewing some books and conducting some interviews for Warp Speed Odyssey. Furthermore, Robin Rose Graves who is a friend of Jean-Paul became the second contributing author submitting book reviews and interviews as well. And Finally, there is my sister Jessica who started translating some of the articles into french.

(6) DE FOREST OBIT. The Space Review reported the death of Kellam de Forest (1926–2021) on January 19 from complications due to COVID-19: “Kellam de Forest, who gave us Stardates and the Gorn”.

…De Forest was one of two technical advisors that Gene Roddenberry employed during the production of the original Star Trek television series….

With a degree in American history from Yale, de Forest made many major contributions to the original television series created by Gene Roddenberry including developing the idea of the Stardate, which he supplied for Star Trek’s second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”

(7) TODAY’S DAY.

January 31 Gorilla Suit Day

Mad Magazine artist Don Martin created the idea of Gorilla Suit Day for a 1963 comic strip in which a character mocks the holiday and is then assaulted by gorillas and people in gorilla suits. 

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARIES.

  • 1981 — Forty years ago, Clifford D. Simak’s “Grotto of the Dancing Deer” wins the Hugo Award for Short Story at Denvention Two. It would also win a Nebula, and both Locus and Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact would make it their first place pick that year. It was originally published in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact in the April 1980 issue.
  • January 31, 1993 Space Rangers came to a quick end on CBS, airing its fouth of sixth episodes, “To Be … Or Not To Be”. (The final two episodes aired later.) It was created by Pat Densham, and it starred a cast that arguably was larger than the length of the series: Jeff Kaake, Jack McGee, Marjorie Monaghan, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Danny Quinn, Clint Howard, Linda Hunt and Gottfried John. The series is available on DVD which is out of print at this point. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 31, 1901 – Maria Luise Kaschnitz.  Highly regarded as a poet; also prose fiction, essays.  A novel and a few shorter stories for us; «Gespenster» is in English as “Ghosts!”  Outside our field, see The House of ChildhoodCirce’s Mountain and Long Shadows (shorter stories); Whether or Not (tr. of memoir Steht noch dahin, more literally Still there); Selected Later Poems.  Büchner Prize, Roswitha Prize.  Kaschnitz Prize named for her.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born January 31, 1927 —  Norm Prescott. Co-founder and executive producer at Filmation Associates, an animation studio he created with veteran animator Lou Scheimer. The studio is responsible for such productions as The New Adventures of SupermanFantastic VoyageThe Batman/Superman Hour and Star Trek: The Animated Series. (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born January 31, 1937 —  Philip Glass, 84. 1000 Airplanes on the Roof: A Science Fiction Music-DramaEinstein on the BeachThe Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (with a libretto by Doris Lessing based on her novel of the same name), The marriages between zones three, four, and five (1997, libretto by Doris Lessing, after her second novel from Canopus in Argos), The Witches of Venice and The Juniper Tree would be a very fragmentary listing of his works that have a genre underpinning.  (CE) 
  • Born January 31, 1934 – Gene DeWeese.  Fan and pro. Thirty novels, as many shorter stories, some with Buck Coulson; almost three hundred reviews in “Once Over Lightly” for SF Review.  Now You See It/Him/Them and Charles Fort Never Mentioned Wombats, both with Buck, are classic faan fiction, i.e. fiction by fans about fans; Now is set at Discon II the 32nd Worldcon and has more or less recognizably e.g. Dean Grennell, George Scithers, Buck’s wife Juanita; Charles is a sequel set in Sydney just before Aussiecon I the 32nd Worldcon with e.g. Rusty Hevelin, Denny Lien, Bob Tucker.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born January 31, 1941 —  Jonathan Banks, 80. First genre role was as Deputy Brent in Gremlins, a film I adore. In the same year, he’s a Lizardo Hospital Guard in another film I adore, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Ahhh, a good year indeed. Next I see him playing Michelette in Freejack, another better than merely good sf film. The last thing I see him doing film wise is voicing Rick Dicker in the fairly recent Incredibles 2.  Series wise and these are just my highlights, I’ve got him on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Shel-la in the “Battle Lines” episode, in Highlander: The Series as Mako in the “Under Colour of Authority” episode and as Kommander Nuveen Kroll in short lived Otherworld series. In SeaQuest 2032 also had for two episodes as Maximillian Scully. (CE)
  • Born January 31, 1959 – Laura Lippman, age 62.  Three short stories for us and, little as I like titles with colonitis, “In a Strange City: Baltimore and the Poe Toaster”.  Next door in detective fiction she has won the Agatha, Anthony, Barry, Edgar, Gumshoe, Nero, and Shamus Awards. Three NY Times Best-Sellers that I know of.  Writes in a neighborhood coffee shop.  Teaches at Goucher College.  [JH]
  • Born January 31, 1960 —  Grant Morrison, 61. If you can find it, his early stuff on such U.K. publishers as Galaxy Media and Harrier Comics is worth searching out. Not your hero in tights materials at all. For his work in that venue, I’d recommend his run on The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, all of his Doom Patrol work (and the HBO series is based on his work and is quite spectacular), Seven Soldiers and The Multiversity which is spectacularly weird. (CE) 
  • Born January 31, 1963 – Jeffrey Scott Savage, age 58.  A dozen novels for us, half a dozen others.  Has been a plumber and a French chef.  To “What is your favorite book that you didn’t write?” he answered “I am always discovering new books that I love.  But if I had to pick my very favorite of all time, it would probably be Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”  [JH]
  • Born January 31, 1967 Sam Weller, 54. Author of Ray Bradbury: The Last InterviewShadow Show: All New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury (co-edited with Mort Castle), The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury and Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews. He also recently published his first collection of short fiction, Dark Black. (CE) 
  • Born January 31, 1975 – Krista McGee, age 46.  Three novels for us, as many others. Said C.S. Lewis’ Space trilogy “is … fantastic … underappreciated…. a brilliant work of science fiction, well worth the time and effort it takes to read.”  [JH]
  • Born January 3, 1981 – Chris McCoy, age 40.  Has a wicked tennis serve.  Went via a writing scholarship to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji.  First novel for us actually called Scurvy Goonda.  Although, in case you couldn’t tell, I don’t always agree with Kirkus, its reviewer said “imaginary friends – no, ‘Abstract Companions’ – are … manufactured … in Orion’s Belt….  all … vanish suddenly … recruited into an army of Ab-Coms….  [In] a climactic battle … a gigantic slab of bacon and melted-down video games figure prominently.”  Next, The Prom-Goer’s Interstellar Excursion.  [JH]
  • Born January 31, 1987 Sabaa Tahir, 34. Pakistani-American YA writer best known for her NYT-bestselling An Ember in the Ashes series and its sequels.  An Ember in the Ashes, the first novel in the now four novels deep series, was nominated for the David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy.(CE) 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld: “Waiting for Godot to Join the Zoom Meeting”

(11) ON THE SPINNER RACK. Cora Buhlert reaches back to the Sixties to review a then-new paperback for Galactic Journey: “[January 22, 1966] Monks, Demi-Gods and Cat People: The Sword of Lankor by Howard L. Cory”.

The Sword of Lankor by Howard L. Cory plunges us right in medias res with our hero, the mercenary Thuron of Ulmekoor embroiled in a tavern brawl in the city of Taveeshe on the planet of Lankor. Thuron is certainly the perfect protagonist, because – so the author assures us – “adventure followed him around like a friendly puppy”. He’s also tall, strong and a skilled swordsman.

During the tavern brawl, Thuron saves the life of Gaar, a member of a race of furry cat people called Kend. As a result, Gaar is now Thuron’s servant for a year and a day, as the customs of his people demand. But Gaar brings other skills to the partnership as well, for he is an oracle, conjurer and pickpocket. Gaar is also the brains of the duo, while Thuron is the brawn.

If you are reminded at this point of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories, you are not alone. And indeed the Burroughs comparison on the backcover is misleading, for there are many authors that The Sword of Lankor is more reminiscent of than Burroughs.

(12) BABYLON 5 VISUALS UPGRADED. Engadget delivers the good news that “’Babylon 5 Remastered’ now available to buy or stream on HBO Max”.

Nearly thirty years after its first broadcast and close to twenty since its troubled DVD release, Babylon 5 is finally getting a polish. From today, Warner Bros. is launching Babylon 5 Remastered both as a digital download (from iTunes and Amazon where available globally) and on HBO Max. It might not be the perfect version of the show that its creators had intended, but it’s likely the best we’re gonna get. 

A Warner Bros. spokesperson told Engadget that Babylon 5 Remastered has been scanned from the original camera negative. The film sequences were scanned in 4K and then “finished,” or downscaled, back to HD, with a dirt and scratch clean-up, as well as color correction. The show’s CGI and composite sequences, meanwhile, have been digitally upscaled to HD with only some minor tweaks where absolutely necessary.

In order to maintain visual quality and fidelity between the show’s filmed and effects-heavy sequences, the new version is only available in 4:3. That’s the same format that the show was originally broadcast in, rather than the widescreen DVD releases….

(13) THAT’S HEDLEY. The Reprobate tells how Warner went through the charade of producing a Blazing Saddles TV series to hold onto its rights to make a sequel to Mel Brooks’ movie: “Black Bart – The Buried TV Sequel To Blazing Saddles”. I must have blinked and missed the pilot when it aired in 1975. The IMDB listing is here.

….But perhaps the most absurd of these contractual obligation projects came with Blazing Saddles, which was adapted into a TV series that ran for four seasons – which would suggest a major hit show by 1970s television standards, except for the fact that it never aired. Not a single episode beyond the pilot was shown on TV anywhere.

…What the cast and crew thought of all this is hard to gauge – Gossett has talked about the weirdness of it all, but you have to wonder just how anyone managed to drum up any enthusiasm once it became clear that the show would never air. Ironically, the plans for a Blazing Saddles sequel ultimately went nowhere – by 1979, it was clear that the moment had passed and audience tastes had changed. The sequel was shelved, and the series was finally cancelled. The pilot episode has since turned up on the Blazing Saddles DVD and blu-ray, but the other episodes have yet to be seen. It’s entirely possible that they were never even completed beyond the ones shown to Brooks, and may have been trashed

(14) BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATERS. “Army robots made of robots? New LEGO-like method could make it happen” reports Army Times.

…“Robots rearranging to form a bridge made of robots, similar to ants, is one embodiment of our concept of structural robotics, which blur the line between active and passive elements and feature reconfigurability. It is still a motivating use case for the system, but we are looking at broader implications for ground robotics which are adaptable, reconfigurable, and resilient,” said Dr. Christopher Cameron, an Army researcher.

Researchers are also interested in building those impact-absorbing materials for similar robots. Using the LEGO-lattice configuration paired with injection molding helps for rapid assembly. And they don’t have to do just one thing.

That method of building the structures could give them a combination of characteristics such as becoming thicker when force is applied, getting stiff or flexible, depending on the need or reaction. And by using these materials in these ways, researchers said that larger structures can be put together than with conventional materials used in robots today.

(15) CRIME’S A WASTIN’. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] This is hilarious: “Midsomer Murders ‘Series Finale’: Finally An Explanation for all Those Murders” at Mystery Tribune.

DCI Barnaby looked down at the body and then at me. “Everyone else is dead or in jail. So, I’m going to guess you’re the murderer.”…

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Thomas J. Yagodinski created “Jawa Plays Eruption: A Stop Motion Tribute to the Great Edward Van Halen”.

…This was an extremely FUN way to pay respects to a musical Legend and to also challenge myself to recreate Eddie’s amazing solo, frame by frame via stop motion animation. Is it perfect? Of course not, that’s impossible and nothing ever is 🙂 The Jawa is a stop motion puppet I fabricated and the guitar is the 1:4 scale (16inch) Mini Guitar (#EVH?-004) that I further customized.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/22/21 Enzyme Summer

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

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

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

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

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

A footnote explains the analogy:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Boxleitner also mourned on Facebook:

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

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

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Payette was an astronaut before being appointed GG.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 11/28/20 It’s Instant Scroll, Not Constantly Pixel

(1) GIBSON TOPS THIS LIST. The Times of London’s Simon Ings picked the five “Best sci-fi books of the year 2020” (behind a paywall). He rates William Gibson’s Agency the best of the year. The other four you’ll have to pay to find out.

(2) LOSCON ONLINE. This weekend’s Virtual Loscon 2020 Panel with Guests of Honor video is available, as are many more panels on Loscon’s YouTube channel.

Writer Guest Dr. Gregory Benford, our Artist Guest Jeff Sturgeon, and the Fan Guests of Honor Dennis and Kristine Cherry have all agreed to be there and look forward to next year. Hear from them in our deluxe virtual panel space this year, chatting with Loscon 47 chairman Scott Beckstead and Zoom Elf Susan Fox.

(3) BREEZYCON. Likewise, several of the panels from Breezycon, this year’s online replacement for Windycon, can be found at Windycon’s YouTube channel.

They include: Breezycon Opening Remarks, Software for your Home Rapid Prototyping Technology, 3D Printers and Lasers and CNC Mills, Oh My, Before Hastings, The Worldcon is Coming to Chicago, Ray VanTilburg Studio Tour, Characters Motivations in a Post Scarcity World, and Staying Productive as a Writer Through Lockdown (the last “About the experience of being a writer during the pandemic and its effects on one’s process and work” with panelist: Seanan McGuire and moderator: Evan Reeves.)

(4) WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS? This time the author can tell you. “Owl Be Home For Christmas” – Diane Duane had to write it.

Sometimes work and life come at you fast, in tandem.

I was taking a break from work on Tales of the Five 3: The Librarian last week, and (as I do frequently during the day) having a look at Twitter, when something unusual came across my dashboard: this.

So: a status report. I’m well into the body of the story now. My estimate at the moment is that it will run about 20.000 words. (If I need more, I’ll take more: but I refuse to push a story into being longer than it needs to for mere length’s sake.)

My intention is to drop the story on both Amazon and at Ebooks.Direct in the early evening (7PM-ish US/EST) of December 2, 2020, to coincide with the lighting of the tree in Rockefeller Center. I’ll tweet the Amazon and EBD links then, and I’ll add purchase links / widgets on this blog post/page: so you might want to bookmark it. If you’re a Twitter user, you can also keep an eye on the #OwlBeHomeForChristmas hashtag there—I’ll use it to post the occasional update between now and Wednesday.

(5) AN INSIDE LOOK WITH JMS. J. Michael Straczynski has started a series of video commentaries about his Babylon 5 episodes for subscribers to his Patreon at the $10/mo and above level.

So despite my utter horror at the prospect of appearing on-camera, because there’s always someone, somewhere (usually in Bolivia) who points at the image and screams, “That’s him! That’s the guy that did it!”, I’ve begun doing exclusive video reactions/commentaries to Babylon 5 episodes for my Patrons at Starfury level or above.

The first to have gone up is “The Parliament of Dreams,” which — because I’m doing a commentary on the full episode, and can’t put that online, has to be done as a home-sync, meaning viewers cue up the episode at home — has gone over remarkably well.

The plan is to do commentaries that are not on the DVDs, but in some cases there will be the same episodes because time has lent a new perspective to the show as I look back on it. So they will be either new or very different from what came before.

Patrons get to vote on which episode I do next. The current poll is Infection, And the Sky Full of Stars, and Signs and Portents.

Should these continue to go well and not lead to unwanted visitations by Homeland Security, I will likely also start to do some on Sense8 and some of the movies.

(6) FAN FITNESS. “Stroll With the Stars: Home Edition Fall 2020” is another ingenious virtual workaround of a convention tradition.

We been Strolling With the Stars at Worldcon for over a decade now, giving fans a chance to spend some quiet time with their favorite authors, artists and editors, while getting some fresh air.

We still can’t meet in person right now… but we can do what we did in the spring, a daily series of short strolls-at-home here on Facebook Live. Tune in to see what’s up in the lives of some of your favorite sff creators… how they’re dealing with what has sadly become The New Normal.

Join us at 5PM EDT every day, beginning November 27! (Or if you can’t make it live, watch the video right here afterwards.)

  • Sunday, Nov 29 — Scott Edelman
  • Monday, Nov 30 — Gerald Brandt
  • Tuesday, Dec 1 — Toni Weisskopf
  • Wednesday, Dec 2 — Alex Dawson
  • Thursday, Dec 3 — Tom Doyle
  • Friday, Dec 4 —Jody Lynn Nye
  • Saturday, Dec 5 —John Kessel
  • Sunday, Dec 6 — Ellen Kushner
  • Monday, Dec 7 — Justin Barba
  • Tuesday, Dec 8 — Alma Alexander
  • Wednesday, Dec 9 — Steven H Silver
  • Thursday, Dec 10 — Lee Murray
  • Friday, Dec 11 — Brianna Wu  & Frank Wu
  • Saturday, Dec 12 — Dr. Lawrence M. Schoen
  • Sunday, Dec 13 — Gay & Joe Haldeman
  • Monday, Dec 14 — Kate Baker
  • Tuesday, Dec 15 — Sheila Williams
  • Wednesday, Dec 16 — Troy Carrol Bucher
  • Thursday, Dec 17 — TBD
  • Friday, Dec 18 — Catherynne Valente
  • Saturday, Dec 19 — Valya Dudycz Lupescu & Stephen Segal
  • Sunday, Dec 20 — James Patrick Kelly

(7) PHULISHNESS. ”The Myth and the Phule: Writing with Robert Asprin” – at the Mythaxis Review, Eric Del Carlo recalls the experience of collaborating with a legend.

Everyone in the French Quarter of New Orleans traded in bullshit. Not the tourists. Well, yes the tourists too. But whatever self-aggrandizing malarkey they brought to town was drastically upstaged by their stupidity, usually taking form as epic drinking fails.

But this guy… No. He’d been vouched for. He was who he said he was.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Asprin.” I shook his hand in the Quarter bar. He lived in the Quarter; I did too. Nothing to do at night but hit the bars.

It was a little of that slowed-down awe of a car accident. I had shelved this man’s books in bookstores I’d worked in. Now I was waiting tables in the tourist feeding frenzy of pre-Katrina New Orleans. I also wrote, in his same genres. Science fiction, fantasy. It was all I wanted to do with my life. But you don’t say that, not to a man who didn’t have to trade in the local currency of bullshit to amplify himself, who could just be who he was, indisputably. That I hadn’t read his immensely popular humorous Myth or Phule series didn’t matter. I understood his significance, his stature.

I started calling him Bob because everyone else did. Some Quarter bars were for locals, and my wife and I went to these, and Robert Asprin would be there, inhabiting a stool, dishing out jokes, witty banter, stories. I was most interested in the stories, anecdotes populated by other famous writers in the field. Harry Harrison. Spider Robinson.

It eventually came out to Bob that I wrote, that I had a good number of small press sales under my belt. Well, so what, compared to what he’d accomplished? But he expressed an interest. He himself had been out of the game for some while. Years. Writer’s block, issues with the IRS. Nonetheless we sat side by side at the bar—he with Irish whiskey, rum and Coke for me—and I enthused about the wonder of writing, the pure elation of putting words together….

(8) TWO HUNDED YEARS AGO. The New Yorker launched “A Quest to Discover America’s First Science-Fiction Writer”. Here’s their favorite candidate.

On November 22, 1820, the New York Evening Post ran a perfunctory book ad that was none too particular in its typesetting:

WILEY & HALSTED, No. 3 Wall street, have just received SYMZONIA, or a voyage to the internal world, by capt. Adam Seaborn. Price $1.

As literary landmarks go, it’s not quite Emerson greeting Whitman at the start of a great career. But this humble advert may herald the first American science-fiction novel. Although one might point to the crushingly dull “A Flight to the Moon,” from 1813, that text is more of a philosophical dialogue than a story, and what little story it has proves to be just a dream. “Symzonia; Voyage of Discovery” is boldly and unambiguously sci-fi. The book takes a deeply weird quasi-scientific theory and runs with it—or, more accurately, sails with it, all the way to Antarctica.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1948 – Seventy-two years ago this month, Against the Fall of Night by Arthur C. Clarke was first published in the short-lived Startling Stories zine which was edited by Sam Merwin, Jr.  Earle Bergey provided the cover illustration for this novel which has been continuously in print ever since in both in hard copy and now from the usual digital suspects, in three editions no less. A sequel novel was done in 1990 by him and Gregory Benford called Beyond the Fall of Night.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 28, 1685 – Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve.  She published La Belle et la Bête in 1740, the oldest known telling of Beauty and the Beast.  During her life she was known for other works, particularly The Gardener of Vincennes (1753).  In fact, you should pardon the expression, it’s complicated, as Brian Stableford discusses in NY Review of SF 338.  (Died 1755) [JH]
  • Born November 28, 1757 – William Blake.  Four dozen of his poems are ours; many of his graphics.  Here is The Ancient of Days.  Here is the demiurge Urizen praying.  Here is Jacob’s Ladder.  Here is The Raising of Lazarus.  (Died 1827) [JH]
  • Born November 28, 1783 Washington Irving. Best remembered for his short stories “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, both of which appear in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. collection. The latter in particular has been endlessly reworked downed the centuries into genre fiction including the recent Sleepy Hollow series. (Died 1859.) (CE)
  • Born November 28, 1946 Joe Dante, 74. Warning, this is a personal list of Dante’s works that I’ve really, really enjoyed starting off with The Howling then adding in Innnerspace, both of the Gremlins films though I think only the first is a masterpiece even if the second has its moments, Small Soldiers and The Hole. For television work, he’s done but the only one I can say I recall and was impressed was his Legends of Tomorrow’s “Night of the Hawk” episode.  That’s his work as Director. As a Producer, I see he’s responsible for The Phantom proving everyone has a horrible day.  (CE)
  • Born November 28, 1939 – Walter Velez.  A hundred sixty covers, half a dozen interiors.  Outside our field, album covers, commercial and fine art.  Here is Seetee.  Here is Lord Darcy.  Here is Demon Blues.  Here is How the Ewoks Saved the Trees.  Here is The Dual Nature of Gravity.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born November 28, 1952 S. Epatha Merkerson, 68. Both of her major SF roles involve robots. The first was in Terminator 2: Judgment Day as Tarissa Dyson; a year later, she had a recurring role as Capt. Margaret Claghorn in Mann & Machine. And she had a recurring role as Reba on Pee-wee’s Playhouse though I can’t remember if the consensus here was that it was genre or genre adjacent. (CE);
  • Born November 28, 1962 Mark Hodder, 58. Best known for his Burton & Swinburne Alternate Victorian steampunk novels starting off with The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack that deservedly garnered a Philip K. Dick Award. He also wrote A Red Sun Also Rises which recreates sort of Victorian London on a far distant alien world. Emphasis on sort of. And then there’s Consulting Detective Macalister Fogg which appears to be his riff off of Sherlock Holmes only decidedly weirder. (CE) 
  • Born November 28, 1979 – Sarah Perry, Ph.D., age 41.  For us three novels, one a Waterstones Book of the Year, another an East Anglia Book of the Year; one shorter story.  Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.  Outside our field, Naipaul Prize for travel writing.  [JH]
  • Born November 28, 1981 Louise Bourgoin, 39. Her main SFF film is as the title character of Adèle Blanc-Sec in The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec as directed by Luc Besson. Anybody watched the uncensored English version that came out on Blu-ray? She also played Audrey in Black Heaven (L’Autre monde), and she’s the voice heard in the Angélique’s Day for Night animation short. (CE) 
  • Born November 28, 1987 Karen Gillan, 33. Amy Pond, companion to the Eleventh Doctor. Nebula in both of the Guardians of The Galaxy films and in later MCU films, and Ruby Roundhouse in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Jumanji: The Next Level. Two episodes of Who she was in did win Hugos for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form), “The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang” at Renovation (2011) and “The Doctor’s Wife” at Chicon 7 (2012). (CE) 
  • Born November 28, 1988 – Daniel Cohen, 32.  Four novels; Coldmaker an Amazon Best-Seller.  Saxophonist. Has read The Old Man and the SeaThe Phantom TollboothThe Stars My Destination.  [JH]
  • Born November 28, 1992 – Shelly Li, 28.  Arriving from China and learning English, she had seven stories published in Nature, nine more, by the time of this interview during her freshman year at Duke.  [JH]

(11) KEEPING THE BLEEP IN TREK. At “Integrated Outtakes”, they “improve” Star Trek episodes by putting back the mistakes. The link is to a playlist. An example is embedded below.

Sometimes bloopers, when edited back into the finished episodes, can add a bit of humanity to characters. Sometimes they just add a bit of absurdity. Both are good.

(12) UTOPIA CANCELLED. “Amazon’s Utopia Canceled After One Season”. Vulture thinks the show was a little too spot-on.

Between the dark conspiracy theories, violence, global pandemic, and impending apocalypse, it would seem Amazon Prime Video’s Utopia was the wrong show at the exact wrong moment. That, or everyone just had a lot going on this fall. Either way, according to Deadline, the streaming platform has canceled the series, adapted by Gone Girl author and screenwriter Gillian Flynn from the 2013 British series of the same name, after one season. The show premiered on the service on September 25.

(13) YEP, I CLICKED. Jess Nevins shamelessly conflates the ideas of “fandom” and “science fiction fandom” to reassign sf fandom’s origins to the women readers of Wild West pulp magazines. (Thread starts here.) Did Gernsback imitate someone else’s successful magazine marketing idea? That doesn’t mean sf fandom wasn’t started through the efforts of Amazing. Nor should it be overlooked that the idea of “fandom” flows from a whole collection of tributaries (see Teresa Nielsen Hayden, below.)   

And Teresa Nielsen Hayden wades right in:

There’s a lot more to learn in TNH’s 2002 post “Lost fandoms” at Making Light.

(14) TITLE BOUT. What won the Diagram Prize? Let The Guardian be the first to tell you: “A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path wins oddest book title of the year”.

A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path has beaten Introducing the Medieval Ass to win the Diagram prize for oddest book title of the year.

Both books are academic studies, with the winning title by University of Alberta anthropologist Gregory Forth. It sees Forth look at how the Nage, an indigenous people primarily living on the islands of Flores and Timor, understand metaphor, and use their knowledge of animals to shape specific expressions. The title itself is an idiom for someone who begins a task but is then distracted by other matters.

Runner-up Introducing the Medieval Ass, sees the University of Melbourne’s medieval historian Kathryn L Smithies explore “the ass’s enormous socio-economic and cultural significance in the middle ages”. Other contenders included Classical Antiquity in Heavy Metal Music, Lawnmowers: An Illustrated History and The Slaughter of Farmed Animals: Practical Ways of Enhancing Animal Welfare.

… “I thought it would be a closer race, but A Dog Pissing is practically a perfect Venn diagram of an ideal winner,” said Tom Tivnan, the prize coordinator and managing editor of the Bookseller. He said it combined “the three most fecund Diagram prize territories: university presses (a tradition dating back to the first champ, 1978’s University of Tokyo-published Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice); animals (like 2012’s Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop or 2003’s The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories); and bodily functions (such as 2013’s How to Poo on a Date and 2011’s Cooking with Poo).”

Founded by Trevor Bounford and the late Bruce Robertson in 1978 ‘as a way to stave off boredom at the Frankfurt Book Fair,’ the Diagram Prize has had a home at the Bookseller and with legendary diarist Horace Bent since 1982. The winner is decided by a public vote.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers:  The Mandalorian” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies note that not only does The Mandalorian have enough comedians in supporting roles to be “the best alternate Saturday Night Live cast ever” but as a bonus you get Werner Herzog playing himself saying, “I see nothing but death and chaos.”

[Thanks to JJ, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Kathryn Sullivan, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Lise Andreasen, Steven H Silver, Danny Sichel, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 6/23/18 And Now It’s Scrolling All Over the Land; I Still Can’t Seem to Understand

(1) COC ENFORCEMENT AT ORIGINS. Organizers of the Origins Game Fair have issued a statement telling how they will handle reported violations of their Code of Conduct at the 2018 convention, which ended June 17.

Tabletop Gaming overviewed the accusations: “Multiple reports of sexual harassment emerge from this year’s Origins Game Fair”.

Reports first surfaced during the weekend of the show, with one designer and senior member of a games publisher alleged to have asked multiple women to “play test his erect penis”.

In a separate incident, another woman was reportedly followed for multiple blocks back to her hotel.

Tabletop gaming personality Bebo used Twitter to raise awareness of the distressing events on behalf of the anonymous victims, adding: “Anyone who says harassment of women isn’t an issue in the industry can eat dirt.”

Both situations were reported to GAMA, the organiser of Origins, which is said to be taking appropriate action in response, although the company is yet to issue a public statement regarding the events.

Polygon’s story covers responses from the accused, and by Origins’ administering body, GAMA: “Accusations of sexual harassment rock the board gaming community”.

Origins Game Fair, which ran June 13-17 this year, is a tabletop gaming convention sponsored by the Game Manufacturer’s Association (GAMA). Its partner this year was Wizards of The Coast, known for Dungeons & Dragons and the Magic: The Gathering franchises. Other sponsors included a who’s who list of major publishers, including Rio Grande Games, Iello, Wizkids, Paizo and CMON.

Origins is an opportunity for fans to see the latest games, and for those in the industry to see each other and do some networking ahead of Gen Con, the nation’s largest tabletop gaming convention, which is held in Indianapolis each August. Many in the industry choose to mingle outside of the event, and that’s where at least one attendee says an exhibitor sexually harassed them. The allegations surfaced on a personal Facebook page and on Twitter, but were also sent to GAMA. The individual accused has denied the allegations….

GAMA’s official statement says in part:

An incident arose through social media at Origins this year pointing out some specific allegations of harassment. This illicit behavior is a clear violation of our show policies.

To ensure that a thorough review of any allegation is conducted, we must have statements from individuals with firsthand knowledge of the event. Unfortunately, that did not happen in this instance so gathering the information is taking more time. We understand that it can be difficult to come forward and share a statement after an incident occurs, but with the cooperation from individuals involved we can address these situations in a timely fashion.

As we demonstrated earlier this year, we take harassment very seriously and are committed to providing a safe, welcoming and fun environment for everyone at the show.

This serious allegation has not been taken lightly. We are committed to handling this in a thorough and professional manner. We are interviewing all parties involved and gathering statements from witnesses who viewed the incident firsthand. We owe all parties involved a fair process to gather the facts and discern as much as possible those confirmed elements before we act. The ramifications of an unjustified response are simply irreplaceably damaging….

The complete statement is at the Polygon link.

The accusations also prompted Katie Aidley, with several years of experience working for gaming companies and in booths at conventions, to release her post “The truth about sexual harrassment and boardgaming”.

(2) SPEAKING TO THE NEXT GENERATION. A passage from Liu Cixin’s The Micro-Age was utilized in the reading comprehension section of China’s national college entrance exam: “Excerpt of popular Chinese sci-fi writer Liu Cixin’s novel selected in gaokao”.

An excerpt of famous Chinese science fiction writer Liu Cixin’s novel was selected as reading comprehension material in the test paper for the Chinese gaokao exam, China’s National College Entrance Exam that took place on Thursday, which not only surprised many participants but also the writer. Liu later responded saying that science fiction meets the demand of people in this day and age.

After the exam in southwest China’s Sichuan Province ended, participants expressed their surprise at finding an excerpt of Liu’s novel “The Micro-Age” since this type of literature was rare in such a rigorous exam.

…Speaking about this year’s gaokao essay topics, Liu expressed that one of the topics was related to science fiction as it required students to write a letter to the generation of 2035 to elaborate on the big events that have occurred since the year 2000 in China.

He said that unlike previous essay topics which tended to focus on current affairs or the past, this year’s topics were more likely to focus on the future.

(3) DETECTIVE WORK. Carl Slaughter asks, “How can I resist a headline like this?” It absolutely belongs in the Scroll: “This insane golden chamber contains water so pure it can dissolve metal, and is helping scientists detect dying stars.” Business Insider has the story.

Hidden 1,000 metres under Mount Ikeno in Japan is a place that looks like a supervillain’s dream.

Super-Kamiokande (or “Super-K” as it’s sometimes referred to) is a neutrino detector. Neutrinos are sub-atomic particles which travel through space and pass through solid matter as though it were air.

Studying these particles is helping scientists detect dying stars and learn more about the universe. Business Insider spoke to three scientists about how the giant gold chamber works — and the dangers of conducting experiments inside it.

(4) HOW’S HE DOING? Eric Flint gave Facebook reader a health update.

I thought I’d bring everyone up to date on my medical condition, since I haven’t said anything about it for quite a while. That’s because it’s been… complicated.

On the positive side, there’s no indication that the lymphoma has come back. So, yay for homicide therapy, AKA chemotherapy.

On the down side, I started developing atrial fibrillation a year and a half ago, right around the same time the cancer was diagnosed. Whether there’s a causal relationship there or it’s just coincidence, nobody really knows….

Flint continues with full details.

(5) BABYLON FIFTH. In “‘Babylon 5’ is great, so why does it look so bad?”, Engadget’s Daniel Cooper describes in great technical detail the show’s digital origins and resulting challenges when aired using current technology.

Now that the series has made its way to Amazon Prime, it is ripe for a whole new generation of fans to discover it. Except that, if they do, they may find that the picture quality is highly variable, and some sequences are quite hard to watch. Now, it’s fair to say that the show is so good that it’s worth persisting with nevertheless. But how it ended up in this state is a tale of folks trying to plan for its future, only to be defeated by executive neglect…

How bad does it look?

We should probably begin by outlining how effects-heavy shows like Babylon 5 are made, albeit simplistically. There are three different types of shot that were put together to make an episode. You have live-action scenes, which are just actors talking in a room; composites, which have a mix of live-action and CGI; and pure-CGI scenes. In order to protect your suspension of disbelief, it’s important that you aren’t noticing the transitions between them.

A great sequence to explain Babylon 5’s problem is the monorail scene from the Season 2 finale, The Fall of Night, which originally aired on November 1st, 1995. We begin with an entirely live-action shot, where Captain Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) boards a monorail shuttle. And you can tell, because it’s framed properly and looks pretty good, even if the film is a little grainy because it hasn’t been restored or remastered….

(6) MURDERBOT’S ASPIRATIONS. Adri Joy delivers a fascinating character analysis in “A Robot Learns to Love Itself: Reflecting on the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells” at Nerds of a Feather.

There’s a moment near the start of Rogue Protocol, the third in Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries series (forthcoming August 7, 2018 from Tor.com Publishing), that quietly broke my heart. The self-proclaimed Murderbot, a rogue SecUnit (a human-robot hybrid “construct”) which hacked its own governor module after an unfortunate murder-based incident that was subsequently wiped from its memory, is trying to distract itself from the endless, stupid problems of humans by watching a new show. Unfortunately, the plot isn’t working out, and Murderbot is eager to get within range of a station so it can download something different. If only, it tells us, this terraforming horror series had a rogue SecUnit character who could stop the squishy humans from all getting horribly killed…

On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. Murderbot watches rather a lot of shows – indeed, extensive media consumption is its most prominent character quirk – and it also does a lot of complaining, so the combination of the two is not exactly unusual. However, this is the first time it has articulated a desire to see itself represented positively in media.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock spotted a Library Comic about All Systems Red. Chip adds, “The author’s former strip used to recommend something (often genre) at least once a week, and most of them were good; nice to see him back at it.”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 23, 1976 Logan’s Run debuted.
  • June 23, 1989 — Tim Burton’s Batman is released in theaters.
  • June 23, 1989 Honey, I Shrunk the Kids premiered.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 23 – Joss Whedon, 54. Known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, FireflyDr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Dollhouse, Avengers and Agents Of S.H.I..E.L.D. which is not a complete listing by any means.
  • Born June 23 – Selma Blair, 46. Scream 2 appears to be her first genre role, also Xena: Warrior Princess, Hellboy and Hellboy 2,  both of the Hellboy animated films, The Fog and most recently Lost in Space.
  • Born June 23 – Melissa Rauch, 38. Bernadette Rostenkowski in The Big Bang Theory, Harley Quinn in the animated Batman and Harley Quinn film, Summer in True Blood, and Wasp / Hope Pym  in the Ant Man animated shorts.

(10) FAITH OF THE FUTURE. Syfy Wire’s story “In modern science fiction, religion plays a vital, secular role” by Tricia Ennis examines how religion is treated on a handful of TV sf series — Battlestar Galactica—the reboot of the mid/late 2000’s; not the original, The 100, and Killjoys.

It’s easy to think that science fiction and religion are anathemas to each other. Science fiction is, after all, about imagining a scientifically advanced future where we have moved to the point of near magic, explaining through science things that modern understanding can only dream up. Religion, meanwhile, is about not explaining those things at all, instead choosing to rely on faith and parable and scripture to explain the mysteries of the universe and to comfort the minds of those who follow its teachings. Obviously, those two don’t really go together.

Perhaps science and faith don’t necessarily mesh—but if you’ve been keeping an eye on certain recent science fiction television series, you’ll notice a pattern. Sci-fi might still have trouble bridging the spiritual and the secular, but it certainly recognizes the importance of scripture to understanding our past — and protecting our future.

(11) REENACTORS. Nancy Kress introduced a highly amusing photo taken at Taos Toolbox:

George R. R. Martin and the Red Workshop. If a wedding, why not a writing seminar?

Walter Jon Williams identified the bodies:

Among the casualties were David DeGraff, Jo Miles, Brenda Kalt, Sarah Paige Hofrichter, Kevin O’Neill, Sherri Woosley, Gayle Schultz, Nancy Kress, Walter Jon Williams, Autumn Kalquist, Joey Yu, Liz Colter, Peri Fletcher, Amanda Helms, Carsten Schmitt, Gabrielle Harbowy, Harrison Lee, Kelli Fitzpatrick, Isabel Yap, and Elliotte Rusty Harold.

(12) MUSEUM VISITOR. Rick Riordan said the minerals on display reminded him of this —

(13) A HUGO VOTER IS HEARD FROM. Joe Sherry shares another section of his ballot in “Reading the Hugos: Novelette” at Nerds of A Feather. Ranked somewhere in the middle is this nominee —

A Series of Steaks: Since I’ve already written about the Short Story category, this is Vina Jie-Min Prasad’s second story on the Hugo ballot and it is a real standout. Besides everything, what I really enjoy about “A Series of Steaks” is the framing of forgery and what makes a good forger. Ultimately, that’s what “A Series of Steaks” is about. Helena semi-legally fabricates meat for restaurants that is otherwise undetectable for not being the real thing (ultimately, a forgery). She is offered a contract that she can’t refuse because it comes with a threat to expose her.

The rest of the story is a tense game of Helena (and her new assistant) trying to fulfill the order and somehow protect herself. Prasad’s writing is clear and pulled me right in. It’s a damn fine story and I’m going to be looking for much more from Vina Jie-Min Prasad.

(14) ON THE ROAD. John Scalzi has thrown the Theory of Evolution into doubt. Could this man’s primordial ancestors possibly have lived in trees without room service?

(15) TOON TOWN. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story, ”’Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ turns 30: How the toon-powered classic revolutionized Hollywood” interviews screenwriters Peter S. Seaman and Jeffrey price about the 30th anniversary of this film, first released on June 22, 1988.

According to the screenwriters, Zemeckis always had a grand vision for the Ink and Paint Club as a place where multiple cartoon characters — each of whom had its own bit of funny business — would fill the frame. A cursory glance around the nightclub reveals penguin waiters, an octopus bartender, and a vintage black-and-white cartoon heroine slinging drinks. “Bob wanted one of those almost Scorsese-like reveals, where you track in and all the stuff is happening,” Seaman remembers. “We did write gags for like the bartenders — he’s got eight arms, and he’s making these different cocktails. We’d write gags for the penguins, and everybody in there.”

(16) LUCKY PAIR. JSTOR Daily delves into “The Fairytale Language of the Brothers Grimm”.

There once were two brothers from Hanau whose family had fallen on hard times. Their father had died, leaving a wife and six children utterly penniless. Their poverty was so great that the family was reduced to eating but once a day.

So it was determined that the brothers must go out into the world to seek their fortune. They soon found their way to the university in Marburg to study law, but there they could not find luck from any quarter. Though they had been the sons of a state magistrate, it was the sons of the nobility that received state aid and stipends. The poor brothers met countless humiliations and obstacles scraping by an education, far from home.

Around this time, after Jacob had to abandon his studies to support his family, the entire German kingdom of Westphalia became part of the French Empire under Napoleon Bonaparte’s conquering rule. Finding refuge in the library, the brothers spent many hours studying and searching for stories, poems, and songs that told tales of the people they had left behind. Against the rumblings of war and political upheaval, somehow the nostalgia of stories from an earlier time, of people’s lives and language, in the little villages and towns, in the fields and forest, seemed more important than ever.

This then is the strange rags-to-riches tale of two mild-mannered librarians, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (affectionately known as the Brothers Grimm), who went hunting for fairytales and accidentally ended up changing the course of historical linguistics and kickstarting a whole new field of scholarship in folklore.

(17) LEND HER AN EAR. BBC invites you to “Meet Game of Thrones’ woman of weapons”.

It’s probably not a good idea to get into an argument with Natalia Lee.

The only female armourer working on Game of Thrones, she looks after all the show’s weapons, from flaming arrows to giant catapults.

She also played the fearsome Chella in season one, because they needed “a warrior who chops ears off” and then strings them around her neck.

But while she loves working with the actors, she gets worked up if anyone questions the fact that a woman is wielding swords and slingshots.

“I’m constantly told, ‘Women don’t want to see that, women don’t want to do that.’ It’s so frustrating,” says Australian-born Natalia, 35.

“We’re capable of handling weapons, I’ve proved I can carry all of them.

“My job’s a learned, technical skillset, so your gender has no bearing.”

(18) PANIC OR PATHOLOGY? Answering a pixel from 6/18: “WHO gaming disorder listing a ‘moral panic’, say experts”.

But biological psychology lecturer Dr Peter Etchells said the move risked “pathologising” a behaviour that was harmless for most people.

The WHO said it had reviewed available evidence before including it.

It added that the views reflected a “consensus of experts from different disciplines and geographical regions” and defined addiction as a pattern of persistent gaming behaviour so severe it “takes precedence over other life interests”.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge Carl Slaughter, Brian Z., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus, who took inspiration from yesterday’s lyric reference.]