2021 Compton Crook Award

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) has announced that the 2021 Compton Crook Award winner is The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson. The award is given for best first novel in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. Johnson will receive $1,000, and an invitation to be the Compton Crook Guest of Honor at Balticon (the BSFS annual convention held over the Memorial Day weekend) for the next two years (in 2021 and 2022). Due to COVID-19, this year’s Balticon will be online only. For more information visit Balticon.org.

Members of BSFS rated The Space Between Worlds higher than the five other finalists:

•    Architects of Memory by Karen Osborne
•    Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis
•    Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
•    Docile by K.M Szpara
•    Nameless Queen by Rebecca McLaughlin

Micaiah Johnson grew up in California’s Mojave Desert and is working on a Ph.D. in American Literature at Vanderbilt University.

Members of BSFS selected the finalists by reading and rating debut novels published between Nov 1, 2019 and October 31, 2020. They then rated the finalists to determine the winner.

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) has administered the Compton Crook Award for best first novel since 1983. Last year’s winner was Arkady Martine for A Memory Called Empire.

The Award was named in memory of Towson State College Professor of Natural Sciences Compton Crook, who wrote under the name Stephen Tall, and who died in 1981. Professor Crook was active for many years in the Baltimore Science Fiction Society and was a staunch champion of new works in the fields eligible for the award.

BSFS is a 501(c)(3), non-profit, charitable, literary and educational organization, dedicated to the promotion of, and an appreciation for, science fiction in all of its many forms. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society was launched on January 5, 1963 and has been holding Balticon since 1967.

[Based on a press release.]

BSFS Shares Outcome of Investigation Into Harassment Complaints

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society has released the results of an outside investigation into four allegations that Balticon 54 committee member and forthcoming Balticon 55 chair Eric Gasior violated the club’s Code of Conduct. (See also “BSFS Opens New Investigation of Harassment Complaints”.)

The investigator, a Maryland attorney who specializes in employment law and also conducts HR training on the avoidance of illegal discrimination and harassment in the workplace, found that two complaints about “conduct in personal relationships” were unsubstantiated, while concluding that two complaints about the treatment of Balticon 54 volunteers was substantiated.

The BSFS Board of Directors has asked Gasior to resign as Chair of Balticon 55. Vice Chair Yakira Heistand will take over as this year’s con chair.

The club’s press release says —


The investigation has been completed into allegations that Eric Gasior violated the Code of Conduct of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS”). The investigator found that two complaints about conduct in personal relationships were unsubstantiated. Complaints were substantiated about the treatment of Balticon Tech Department volunteers during preparations for Balticon 54.

The BSFS Board has asked Mr. Gasior to resign as Chair of the upcoming Balticon 55, which also entails no longer serving on the BSFS Board. Ms. Yakira Heistand will move up from Vice Chair and will serve as the Chair of the Con. The Board is taking other steps recommended by an independent investigator to make organizational improvements including providing anti-harassment training for all BSFS leadership, requiring all BSFS volunteers to sign the Code of Conduct, and creating new policies on handling Code of Conduct investigations.

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society (“BSFS”) received complaints against Eric Gasior from four people who claimed that Mr. Gasior had violated the BSFS Code of Conduct and/or engaged in other actions inconsistent with a leadership position within the organization. Mr. Gasior was Vice Chair of BSFS’s Balticon 54 and was elected to serve as Con Chair of Balticon 55. Both positions are part of the Board of Directors.

The BSFS Board is committed to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all attendees and volunteers at BSFS events and Balticon. Any complaints of Code of Conduct violations are taken very seriously. To resolve concerns that the Board did not make an effective response to the complaints against Mr. Gasior, we retained Melissa Menkel McGuire, Esq. of Wright, Constable & Skeen, LLC to conduct an independent, thorough, and fair investigation of the complaints against Mr. Gasior.

The full report is not being released to protect the privacy of the complainants, witnesses, and Mr. Gasior. Further, maintaining confidentiality creates an environment in which people will feel comfortable reporting issues of harassment, discrimination and other violations of the Code of Conduct while protecting the integrity of investigations.

The nature of the complaints and the investigator’s conclusions are as follows:

Complaint #1: Mr. Gasior failed to respect personal boundaries during a friendship with the complainant, who also expressed concern over Mr. Gasior’s leadership role at BSFS.

This complaint was found unsubstantiated.

Complaint # 2: Mr. Gasior failed to respect personal boundaries in a prior personal relationship in 2015 and 2016. The allegations were unrelated to any BSFS event. The complainant’s articulated reason for submitting the complaint to BSFS was due to a concern about Mr. Gasior having a position of power within BSFS.

This complaint was found unsubstantiated.

Complaints #3 and #4: Two people complained that Mr. Gasior engaged in actions that were disruptive to members of the Technical Department during preparations for Balticon 54.

The investigator found that these complaints were substantiated.

The BSFS Board is taking the following actions in response to seven recommendations in Ms. McGuire’s report:

1. The Board has informed the complainants of the results of their individual complaints. A copy of the investigation report will not be provided to any party. The report is subject to attorney-client privilege and the Board is not waiving this privilege on the advice of counsel.

2. The Board will release a public statement addressing the disposition of all complaints without identifying complainants by name. In further respect of the privacy of complainants and witnesses no details beyond the text of this statement will be released.

3. Under the BSFS By-Laws, the Board does not have the power to remove Mr. Gasior as Chair of Balticon 55. He has not agreed our request to voluntarily step aside from that position. Accordingly, his continuance as Con Chair and member of the Board is subject to a review by the BSFS membership at the monthly meeting on April 10, 2021.

4. Effective immediately, all volunteers are required to sign an acknowledgment that they have read the Code of Conduct and will abide by its requirements. Submissions from current volunteers are due not later than May 1, 2021. New volunteers will meet this requirement at the beginning of their service. An online form will be provided in the near future to accomplish this.

5. The Board will develop and adopt a policy and guidance for conducting any future investigations of Code of Conduct violations.

6. An anti-harassment training program for all BSFS and Balticon leadership and critical personnel will be implemented to minimize the potential for Code of Conduct violations at Balticon, BSFS events, or through BSFS controlled communication channels. The program will include a requirement for documenting training completion. A guidance document will be provided to volunteers in other positions. The program will be implemented before the return to in-person Balticons.

7. The Board will explore ways to improve communications within the Balticon Committee and strengthen our ability to treat our volunteers with the respect they deserve.

The Baltimore Science Fictions Society, Inc., a 501(c)(3) all volunteer organization, exists to promote the creation and appreciation of science fiction and fantasy cultural arts primarily through literary art forms, but also embracing the many related graphical, musical, and theatrical creations inspired by SF. The public is welcome to attend a variety of BSFS sponsored events. Please see the calendar on www.bsfs.org/bsfscldr.htm for the current event calendar.


C. J. Cherryh Wins 2021 Robert A. Heinlein Award

C. J. Cherryh is the 2021 winner of the Robert A. Heinlein Award. The award is bestowed for outstanding published works in science fiction and technical writings that inspire the human exploration of space. This award is in recognition of Cherryh’s body of work, with emphasis on her detailed social science and commercial-relationship-based stories set in the space station rich Alliance–Union universe. She is currently working with Jane S. Fancher on a sequel to their 2019 novel Alliance Rising set in the Alliance–Union universe.

The award will be formally announced on the evening of Friday, May 28, 2021, 8:00 PM at opening ceremonies during Virtual Balticon 55, the 55th Maryland Regional Science Fiction Convention. Cherryh will participate on program at Virtual Balticon across Memorial Day Weekend. Virtual Balticon will be a free online event for the second year in a row because of the pandemic. (Donations will be appreciated to defray costs)

Balticon and the Robert A. Heinlein Award are both managed and sponsored by The Baltimore Science Fiction Society. A grant from the Heinlein Society funds half of the costs associated with the award and the family of the late author Dr. Yoji Kondo provides additional funding for the award.

The Robert A. Heinlein Award is a sterling silver medallion bearing the image of Robert A. Heinlein, as depicted by artist Arlin Robbins. The medallion is matched with a red-white-blue lanyard. In addition, the winner receives two lapel pins for use when a large medallion is impractical, and a plaque describing the award for home or office wall display.  

The Robert A. Heinlein Award selection committee consists of science fiction writers and was founded by Dr. Yoji Kondo, a long-time friend of Robert and Virginia Heinlein. Members of the original committee were approved by Virginia Heinlein.

Virginia Heinlein authorized multiple awards in memory of her husband, other awards include the Heinlein Prize, which is fully funded by Virginia Heinlein’s estate, and a National Space Society award for volunteer projects.

More information on the Robert A. Heinlein Award, including past winners, can be found here.

Carolyn Janice Cherry, known to readers as C. J. Cherryh, maintains an official website here. She lives in Spokane, Washington.

[Based on a press release.]

C.J. Cherryh at NorWesCon in 2006. Photo taken by Sharon Reynolds

Pixel Scroll 1/26/21 When I Know Every Button On Galactus’ Planoform

(1) ANOTHER YP PROJECT. James Davis Nicoll has set his Young People Read Old SFF panelists to work on a new series – “Young People Read Old Hugo Finalists.” And he’s looking for more contributors —

…This time I will exposing my youthful volunteers to the Hugo Finalists of Yore, specifically the finalists for Best Short Story, starting with a story from 19561! The Hugo Awards reward the best SFF of their time, as chosen by the members of WorldCons through the centuries. How much fun we will have discovering how effectively Hugo finalists have kept their luster!

If you are 30 years of age or younger and you would like to take part in this phase of Young People Read Old SFF, please send email to jdnicoll at panix dot com. If you are already a contributor to Young People, you are welcome to keep contributing regardless of age issues. After all, I let me post.

(2) GOOD TO THE LAST DRAGON. A trailer has dropped for Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon, theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access on March 5.

“Raya and the Last Dragon” takes us on an exciting, epic journey to the fantasy world of Kumandra, where humans and dragons lived together long ago in harmony. But when an evil force threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, that same evil has returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the legendary last dragon to restore the fractured land and its divided people. However, along her journey, she’ll learn that it’ll take more than a dragon to save the world—it’s going to take trust and teamwork as well.

(3) NOBODY HOME. In “The Best Books on Abandoned Places” at Five Books, Cal Flyn recommends novels by Jeff VanderMeer and J.G. Ballard for readers who like books about abandoned places.

VanderMeer followed this up with Authority and Acceptance.

Yes. What’s interesting about the Southern Reach trilogy is that it doesn’t answer all the questions that it poses. You have to be quite willing to come away at the end still not quite certain what is going on. But I like that about it.

I made the mistake of taking Annihilation with me on a trip to Swona, an abandoned island off the north coast of Scotland, where I spent 24 hours alone and slept in an abandoned house. I’d travelled there in June, when the wildflowers were in bloom and the birds were breeding; I thought it would be nice to see it so full of life, and it was. But the ‘life’ was not pleased to see me. I was threatened by what we call bonxies – great skuas, big busty seabirds – and then dive-bombed and scratched by Arctic terns when I accidentally got too close to their colony.

Being there amid the abandoned houses, all in various states of dereliction, some with belongings still in the cupboards and one with the dining table still set, was very unsettling. Even though I knew myself to be safe, I just couldn’t relax. There were birds stamping around in the roof space of the house I stayed in overnight, which kept me awake. And my only reading matter was this, which definitely didn’t help. In the end I had to put it back in my rucksack and read a 1974 Readers Digest that I found in a cupboard, because it was making me far too jumpy to sleep.

(4) ON THEIR WAY TO THE FUTURE. The Edmonton crew is interviewed by Cora Buhlert — “Fanzine Spotlight: Hugo Book Club Blog”.

In the past twenty years, fanzines have increasingly moved online. What do you think the future of fanzines looks like?

Our book club includes librarians and former journalists, and even we are surprised by some of the changes in publishing technology. Who knows what will happen next? Perhaps blockchain-mediated identity verification will drive a new revolution in trustworthy news sources, and we’ll end up singing kumbaya in a unified and peaceful version of fandom. Perhaps the next generation of fans will be dealing with ink-and-paper fanzines delivered by a Kevin-Costner-on-horseback-based mail system. Or perhaps the singularity will happen and every fanzine that could ever exist will be beamed straight into your neuro-cortex.

(5) CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN. “Paramount+ teaser unites Star Trek, Beavis and Butt-Head, Dora & more” in the promo for the rebranded CBS All Access streaming service. SYFY Wire sets the frame:

It’s not every day that Spock and Captain Kirk get to go mountain climbing — let alone with a motley gang of questers that includes Beavis and Butt-Head and Dora the Explorer. But as CBS All Access gets ready to make the switch to the new Paramount+ streaming platform, the service is giving fans a fun reminder of all the cross-genre stars who’ll be making the big ascent together.

(6) ANOTHER NAME TO CONJURE WITH. After nearly 12 years on the air, Krypton Radio yesterday rebranded itself SCIFI.radio (“sci-fi dot radio”). Gene Turnbow says:

We’re the oldest and biggest scifi fandom radio station in the world now, with more than 100,000 listeners ever month in 183 countires around the world.

Gene Turnbow’s 2017 guest post “Krypton Radio: Music for the Geeking World” has much information about the project that is still relevant.

(7) BALTICON 55. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society made it official that their annual Balticon will remain virtual this year.

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) and Balticon look forward to once again holding in-person events when it is safe to do so, but the health of our membership, guests, and volunteer staff is our top priority. Accordingly, we will be holding Balticon 55 as an online event on May 28-31, 2021.

We apologize for the delay in this announcement. While we anticipated that the 2021 Balticon would be virtual, we needed to finalize key details with our host hotel regarding future Balticons before announcing this change.

We will continue to roll over previously-purchased memberships towards our next in-person Balticon. If you have any questions or need further membership information, please email Registration at registration@balticon.org.

While Virtual Balticon 55 will be a free online event, it does not come without cost to BSFS. Like last year, we will be launching a GoFundMe campaign with great swag at each giving level. As always, you can donate to BSFS and Balticon year-round through PayPal.

(8) ATTRACTED TO BANKS. In “The Culture War: Iain M. Banks’s Billionaire Fans” at Bloody Knife, Kurt Schiller theorizes about the author’s appeal to a pair of super-rich space enthusiasts.

…At times, reading or watching long-form fiction from someone to whom you are ideologically opposed can feel exhausting, draining, aggravating, and ultimately a bit futile—like being at a party where you simply don’t like anyone, don’t care about the discussions, and are annoyed at the food. There’s much to be gained by engaging with our rhetorical opponents… but, frankly, only up to a point.

What then are we to take from the distinct and quite public fascination of the two richest men in the world—Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, together worth more than $375 billion—with the sci-fi works of Iain M. Banks, an avowedly socialist author who set his far-future fiction in what might best be described as a post-scarcity, anarcho-communist utopia; a world where your Bezoses and your Musks are not just irrelevant, but actively sought out and disempowered by a society comprised of property-less workers and all-caring, mostly-benevolent A.I.s?

…At first glance, it seems like exactly what you’re imagining when you hear the phrase “space opera,” and so of course two super-wealthy spaceflight-and-sci-fi aficionados would be fans, right? After all, both men own private spaceflight contractors (Musk’s SpaceX and Bezos’s Blue Origin) and speak often of mankind’s future among the stars, with Musk proposing a mission to Mars and Bezos pitching a return to the moon and other intrasystem exploration. Seeking the stars seems to be in their blood (assuming it hasn’t been completely replaced with Soylent and whatever nootropics billionaires get).

Both men have found ways to conspicuously show their fandom: Musk by naming SpaceX rockets after Banks’s tongue-in-cheek Culture ships (“Just Read The Instructions,” “Of Course I Still Love You”) and a “brain interface” loosely patterned after the Culture’s neural laces; Bezos by attempting to bankroll a big-budget TV series based on the books, although this latter effort was unceremoniously canceled after Banks’s estate abruptly backed out. (Probably a wise decision, given both the challenge of adapting the material and the absurdity of one of the most exploitative corporations in the world attempting to adapt proudly far-left sci-fi.)

(9) ARNOLD OBIT. Richard Arnold, Gene Roddenberry’s assistant and the Star Trek archivist, has died. He worked many conventions, including helping Showmasters at some of LA’s Doctor Who-themed Gallifrey One conventions.  

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • January 26, 1967 — On this date in 1967, Star Trek’s “Tomorrow Is Yesterday” first aired on NBC. Written by D. C. Fontana and directed by Michael O’Herlihy, It was nineteenth episode of the first season. It was not nominated for a Hugo the following year when five episodes of the series were. A nifty time travel episode, the slingshot trick used here would later be used in the season two “Assignment: Earth” episode and The Voyage Home film as well. Later reviewers really liked it. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 26, 1923 Anne Jeffreys. Her first role in our end of things was as a young woman on the early Forties film Tarzan’s New York Adventure. She’s Jean Le Danse (note the name) around the same time in the comedy Zombies on Broadway (film geeks here — is this the earliest zombie film?). And no, I’ve not forgotten she had the lead role as Marion Kerby in the Topper series. She also had one-offs in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.Fantasy Island and Battlestar Galactica. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born January 26, 1926 – Jean-François Jamoul.  Essays and covers for FictionGalaxieUnivers.  I’ve not found his writing in English, but here is the Jul 71 Galaxiehere is the May 72; here is one from the 3rd trimester 1973; here is the Apr 79 Fiction.  Here is the back cover for Joy Division’s record Licht und Blindheit (Side A “Atmosphere”, Side B “Dead Souls”).  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born January 26, 1928 Roger Vadim. Director, Barbarbella with Jane Fonda in a leather bikini. That alone gets a Birthday Honor. But he was one of three directors of Spirits of the Dead, a horror anthology film. (Louis Malle and Federico Fellini were the others.) And not to stop there, he directed another horror film, Blood and Roses (Et mourir de plaisir) and even was involved in The Hitchhiker horror anthology series. And Don Juan, or If Don Juan Were a Woman is at least genre adjacent… (Died 2000.) (CE)
  • Born January 26, 1918 Philip José Farmer. I know I’ve read at least the first three Riverworld novels (To Your Scattered Bodies GoThe Fabulous Riverboat and The Dark Design) but I’ll be damned if I recognize the latter ones. Great novels those first three are. And I’ll admit that I’m not familiar at all with the World of Tiers or Dayworld series. I’m sure someone here has read them.  I do remember his Doc Savage novel Escape from Loki as being a highly entertaining read, and I see he’s done a number of Tarzan novels as well.  (Died 2009.) (CE) 
  • Born January 26, 1929 Jules Feiffer, 92. On the Birthday list as he’s the illustrator of The Phantom Tollbooth. Well and that he’s also illustrated Eisner’s Spirit which helped get him into the Comic Book Hall of Fame. Let’s not overlook that he wrote The Great Comic Book Heroes in the Sixties which made it the first history of the superheroes of the late Thirties and Forties and their creators. (CE) 
  • Born January 26, 1943 – Judy-Lynn del Rey, F.N.  Spectacular editor for GalaxyIf, Ballantine, and after marrying Lester del Rey, her own line Del Rey Books.  Skylark Award.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Seven Stellar SF anthologies plus one Stellar Short Novels.  Interviewed by Bill Rotsler for Vertex.  P.K. Dick called her a master craftsman (the suffx -man is not masculine) and “the best editor I’ve ever worked with”.  She left us a few months before ConFederation the 44th Worldcon; she had won a Hugo as Best Professional Editor, but Lester declined it on her behalf, saying she would have objected to an award’s being given her just because she had recently died. (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born January 26, 1952 – Dwight Decker, age 69.  Four novels, nine shorter stories.  Active in comics fandom; translator for Fantagraphics and Gladstone.  Did an Elfquest Gatherium with the Pinis.  Correspondent of NY Review of SFRiverside QuarterlySF Review.  Fanzine Torch.  [JH]
  • Born January 26, 1960 – Dave Bara, age 61.  Half a dozen novels, four shorter stories.  “If you let your mind wander, inspiration will find you.”  [JH]
  • Born January 26, 1960 Stephen Cox, 61. Pop culture writer who has written a number of books on genre subjects including The Munchkins Remember: The Wizard of Oz and BeyondThe Addams Chronicles: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about the Addams FamilyDreaming of Jeannie: TV’s Primetime in a Bottle and The Munsters: A Trip Down Mockingbird Lane. I’ll admit to being puzzled by his Cooking in Oz  that he did with Elaine Willingham as I really, really don’t remember that much for food in the Oz books… (CE)
  • Born January 26, 1974 – Shannon Hale, age 47.  A dozen novels, as many shorter stories, for us, some with husband Dean Hale; thirty novels all told.  Newbery Honor.  Josette Frank Award, Whitney Award, Cybils Award.  Three NY Times Best Sellers.  Keeps all her rejection letters, so far a sixty-foot scroll.  Has read Moby-DickLes MisérablesA Tale of Two CitiesHuckleberry FinnOne Hundred Years of Solitude.  [JH]
  • Born January 26, 1979 Yoon Ha Lee, 42. Best known for his Machineries of Empire space opera novels and his best excellent short fiction. His first novel, Ninefox Gambit, won a Locus Award for Best First Novel. Dragon Pearl would win a Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel. (CE) 
  • Born January 26, 1986 – Brian McClellan, age 35.  Eight novels, a dozen shorter stories.  Morningstar Award.  Lives on the side of a mountain in Utah.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) TREK REUNION. They’re making another short together, though not playing their TOS characters. Heavy.com has the details: “Nichelle Nichols & Walter Koenig Star in ‘Star Trek’ Film”.

Two cast members of the Star Trek: The Original Series are teaming up with another Star Trek legend to create an epic new sci-fi adventure. Nichelle Nichols, known to fans as Lieutenant Uhura, and Walter Koenig, also known as Pavel Chekov, will co-star in the upcoming short film Star Trek Renegades Ominara. The film is directed by another Trek actor, Tim Russ, who fans know as Tuvok from Star Trek: Voyager.

The short is a follow-up to two previous fan films in the Star Trek: Renegades series. The series was set 10 years after Voyager’s return to Earth. Koenig reprised his role as Pavel Chekov and co-starred with Russ, who reprised his role as Tuvok. Russ also directed both shorts.

Though Koenig starred as Admiral Chekov in the previous shorts in the Renegades series, he will not be reprising that role in the new film. Additionally, Nichols will not be appearing as Uhura.

(14) BABY T.REX FOUND. An exciting development in paleontology was announced yesterday, giving a clearer picture at the lives of one of the most iconic dinosaurs. “Scientists unearth first baby tyrannosaur fossils ever found” in the University of Alberta Folio.

“Tyrannosaurs are represented by dozens of skeletons and thousands of isolated bones or partial skeletons,” said Mark Powers, second author on the study and PhD student in the Department of Biological Sciences. “But despite this wealth of data for tyrannosaur biology, the smallest identifiable individuals are aged three to four years old, much larger than when they would have hatched. No tyrannosaur eggs or embryos have been found even after 150 years of searching—until now.”

(15) VOTE FOR THE FINAL MEMBER OF THE X-MEN. The first-ever X-Men election is here! The fate of the X-Men is in YOUR hands. Vote at marvel.com/xmenvote starting January 27 until February 2 to determine the final member of the first X-Men team of the Krakoan era – and one of the most iconic teams in the Marvel Universe.

 As revealed in X-MEN #16, Cyclops and Jean Grey shared the need for a new X-Men team to protect the mutant nation of Krakoa and fight on mutantkind’s behalf. A number of nominations have been accepted since then…but the last member of the X-Men is now in YOUR hands!

 X-Men Ballot Nominations include:

  1. Banshee
  2. Polaris
  3. Forge
  4. Boom-Boom
  5. Tempo
  6. Cannonball
  7. Sunspot
  8. Strong Guy
  9. Marrow
  10. Armor

Election results, along with the full X-Men team, will be unveiled during the Hellfire Gala in Marvel comics this June.

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Olav Rokne, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “Model of a Modern” Dern.]

BSFS Opens New Investigation of Harassment Complaints

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society has announced a new investigation of harassment complaints to be conducted by an outside investigator who will be looking into complaints the club addressed in an earlier statement. In the meantime, Balticon 55 chair Eric Gasior has voluntarily stepped aside from the club Board and the Balticon Committee, with Vice Chair Yakira Heistand to serve as the acting con chair.

The club’s press release says —


On the evening of January 4, 2021, the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) Board of Directors (the Board) released a statement on the completed investigation of harassment complaints submitted against Mr. Gasior, the Con-Chair of the upcoming Balticon 55 convention.

At the monthly BSFS business meeting of the general membership on January 9, 2021, a BSFS member made a motion to reopen the harassment investigation. During debate on the motion, attendees raised concerns about the thoroughness, completeness, and transparency of the harassment investigation. Additionally, a previously anonymous complainant voluntarily identified herself as a complainant and repeated her complaint. After much discussion, the motion was tabled to be taken up at a closed meeting of the Board to be held the next day, January 10, 2021.

In light of the new information and the concerns the BSFS business meeting raised, the Board decided to engage an impartial, independent, outside investigator to perform a new, thorough, complete, and transparent investigation into the harassment complaints.

Using resources maintained by a locally based association of non-profits, the Board developed and is evaluating a list of investigators holding expertise relevant to performing a harassment investigation. From the list the Board will identify the best investigator available to perform a timely investigation. The Board’s expectation is to engage an investigator within the coming week to start work at the earliest date possible. The Board will provide the investigator with all the evidence the Board collected during the previous investigation. The Board will fully support the investigator’s efforts to gather additional evidence.

In the interest of cooperating with this investigation while Balticon 55 planning proceeds, Mr. Gasior has voluntarily stepped aside from the Board and the Balticon Committee for the duration of the investigation. Mr. Gasior’s status as a Life Member of BSFS remains unchanged. Effective immediately, and for the duration of the investigation, Ms Yakira Heistand, the current Vice Chair of Balticon 55, will serve as the acting Balticon 55 Con-Chair.

Upon completion of the investigation the Board will work with the investigator to publish the investigator’s findings and report. Within the context of the results of the investigation the Board may revisit the question of the Balticon 55 Con-Chair authority. The Board is committed to acting in accordance with the results of the investigation.


Pixel Scroll 1/10/21 I’m The Pixel Of Hugos Past And I’m Here To Warn Mike Not To Use That Scroll Title

DAVID WEBER OUT OF HOSPITAL. A good news post yesterday at the David Weber the Author page on Facebook:

Latest update from Mr. Weber:

It’s official. The paperwork needs to be processed, and that’s gonna take a while, but they’re gonna let me go home still tonight! Passed the walking test with no O2 and without ever dropping below 96%.

Yaaaay me!

A few hours later Sharon Rice-Weber announced “He’s home!” with a photo.

(2) DOWN BY THE OLD TV STREAM. “Epic fantasy to anarchic animation: the TV trends to look out for in 2021”The Guardian’s list starts with epically expensive fantasy:

Pretenders to the Thrones

For the second year in a row there is a Game of Thrones-shaped chasm in the calendar: prequel House of the Dragon won’t launch until 2022. That presents an opening for deep-pocketed rivals. Netflix’s own medieval-tinged gorefest The Witcher is back for a second season, joined on the platform by sorcery saga Shadow and Bone (April). And Amazon Prime Video is set to launch two formidable fantasy franchises: The Wheel of Time adapts Robert Jordan’s hefty series of novels, with Rosamund Pike starring, while we might finally see its long-awaited The Lord of the Rings adaptation, set to be the most expensive TV show of all time at a cool $1bn.

(3) ARNOLD ON THE INSURRECTION. “Schwarzenegger compares attack on Capitol to Nazi violence” — the LA Times summarizes a video released by the actor and former California governor.

Arnold Schwarzenegger likened this week’s siege of the U.S. Capitol to Nazi attacks on Jews in Europe ahead of World War II in a scathing video in which the former California governor also called President Trump “the worst president ever.”

Schwarzenegger wasn’t yet alive when Nazis rampaged through Germany and Austria during Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, in 1938, attacking Jewish homes and businesses and taking thousands to concentration camps. He was born in Austria two years after World War II ended. But the trauma inflicted by the violent collapse of democracy — and the complicity of some of those close to him — shaped his childhood, he said in the video released via Twitter early Sunday.

“Growing up, I was surrounded by broken men drinking away their guilt over their participation in the most evil regime in history,” he said. “Not all of them were rabid anti-Semites or Nazis. Many just went along step by step down the road.”

Schwarzenegger said that his father would often come home drunk and hit him and other family members, which didn’t seem remarkable because their neighbor was doing the same thing.

“They were in physical pain from the shrapnel in their bodies and in emotional pain from what they saw or did,” Schwarzenegger said. “It all started with lies, and lies, and lies, and intolerance.”

Similarly, he said, Trump misled his supporters with lies as he sought a coup to overturn the results of the presidential election…

(4) WRIGHT. For more of the sort of thing Schwarzenegger is opposing, see John C. Wright’s Journal, “A Word of Encouragement” [Internet Archive link] from January 8, a lengthy appeal to religious faith for the belief that Trump will continue as President:   

…If I am wrong, I am a fool, and I have fooled others. But I will not be any more or less unhappy in that hour than wiser souls now weeping and gnashing their teeth. But if I am right, our enemies will be repenting and lamenting in jail, or slain at each other’s hands….

Over 200 comments follow.

(5) BALTICON. There is an unofficial discussion being carried on by commenters at the Balticon Discussions, A Safe Space (Unaffiliated, Privately Run) group (publicly visible) about the statement issued by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society and reported in a post here (“BSFS Reports Results of a Code of Conduct Investigation”).

(6) LUTZ OBIT. John Lutz (1939-2021) died January 9 after a long illness. Mystery writer, past President of Mystery Writers of America and Private Eye Writers of America. Edgar winner for the short story “Ride The Lightning” (1985), and twice winner of the Shamus Award. His “SWF Seeks Same” was adapted for the film Single White Female (Bridget Fonda, Jennifer Jason Leigh). 

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • January 10, 1967 The Invaders premiered in television history. It was created by Larry Cohen and aired on ABC for two seasons. Roy Thinnes starred as David Vincent. Gold Key Comics published four issues of an Invaders comic book.  The series was a Quinn Martin production who was also responsible for A Twist in the Tale, an anthology series that did some SFF.
  • January 10, 1999 Batman Beyond premiered on Kids’ WB. It was created by Bruce Timm. Will Friedle as Terry McGinnis, the new  Batman and you know who played the old Batman. It lasted three seasons and fifty two episodes. The actual origin episode for Terry is to be found on Justice League Beyond in the “Epilogue” episode. The episode was originally intended to be the series finale for Justice League and the DCAU in general but they got renewed for a third season after it aired as the second season finale.   

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 10, 1797 – Annette von Droste-Hülshoff.  Knew Wilhelm Grimm, contributed to the G brothers’ collection of fairy tales.  Schumann set a D poem to music.  Her poetical works “imperishable…. originality…. the works of a genius….  Germany’s greatest poetess” (Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)).  Many have supernatural elements.  (Died 1848) [JH]
  • Born January 10, 1883 – Alexei Nikolayevich Tolstoy.  Three novels for us available in English, two science fiction and one a version of Pinocchio; other fiction, poetry.  Everyone acknowledged his gifts, but since he first scorned, then embraced the Bolsheviks, he was thereafter scorned (by e.g. Nikolai Tolstoy, George Orwell) or embraced (two Stalin Prizes) politically; anyway a Russian-language SF pioneer.  (Died 1945; I give his patronymic to distinguish him from Alexei Constantinovich Tolstoy 1817-1875) [JH]
  • Born January 10, 1904 Ray Bolger. Best remembered obviously as The Scarecrow In The Wizard of Oz. He also showedas the villainous Barnaby in Babes in Toyland, two appearances on Fantasy Island, and Vector In “Greetings from Earth” on the classic version of Battlestar Galactica.  He narrated a version of Peter and The Wolf which certainly is genre. (Died 1987.) (CE)
  • Born January 10, 1908 Bernard Lee. He’s best known for his role as M in the first eleven Eon Productions-produced James Bond films ending with Moonraker. He also portrayed Tarmut the sculptor in Terence Fisher’s Hammer Horror picture Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell. And he appeared in several episodes of Danger Man. (Died 1981.) (CE) 
  • Born January 10, 1924 Mike Butterworth. In 1965 he became the primary script writers at Ranger magazine where he was responsible for scripting the space opera The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire which remains to this day one of the most popular boys’ adventure strips ever published in the UK. Between Ranger and later Look and Learn, it would have a very impressive run of 854 issues in total, divided between the two magazines. (Died 1986.) (CE)
  • Born January 10, 1924 – Aila Mariluoto.  Poet, mostly.  Well known in Finland.  Translated Goethe, Rilke, Shakespeare.  The Worldcon 75 Souvenir Book duly reviewed (in English) her SF novel Green Hair; thanks, Jukka.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born January 10, 1937 Elizabeth Anne Hull, 84. Widow of Frederik Pohl with whom she co-edited the most excellent Tales from the Planet Earth anthology. Not surprisingly, she later edited Gateways: Original New Stories Inspired by Frederik Pohl. She has been a member of the panel for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best SF novel since 1986. (CE)
  • Born January 10, 1947 George Alec Effinger. I’ve read his Marîd Audran series at least three times  as it’s an amazing series in both the characters and the setting. I never read the short stories set in this setting until Golden Gryphon Press sent me Budayeen Nights for Green Man to review.  I really should listen to the stories soon to see how they work that way. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born January 10, 1948 – Roberta Lamming, age 73.  A dozen short stories for us, some under another name.  Poem in L. Tuttle’s horror anthology Skin of the Soul.  Note on writers’ workshops in Focus.  [JH]
  • Born January 10, 1959 Fran Walsh, 61. Partner of Peter Jackson, she has contributed to all of his films since the late Eighties when she started out as co-writer of Meet the Feebles, and as producer since The Fellowship of the Ring which won a Hugo. Need I note the next two films won Hugos as well? Huh The Hobbit films did not win Hugos.  (CE) 
  • Born January 10, 1975 – André Vianco, age 46.  Novelist, screenwriter, film and television director, a million books sold.  A dozen novels for us.  Wikipedia tells his tale.  [JH]
  • Born January 10, 1984 – Tomohito Moriyama, age 37.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Playwright, mostly.  One translation of his SF story “Two of Six” is published with English text followed by parallel text in Japanese and English for people who want to practice their Japanese.  A review of the story is here.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) THE DOCTOR IS IN. BBC News tells how this kid’s parents thrilled him on Christmas: “Doctor Who: Saxmundham superfan, 8, given Tardis door frame” (H/t David Gerrold.)

…The Tardis was created in the family garage over about four months by school bus driver Mr Tucker, while the family shielded during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mrs Tucker said: “Luke is Doctor Who mad and he said he would love a police public call box.

“We spent the first lockdown doing gardening but, as restrictions continued, this has really helped get Phil through the time at home while he has been furloughed….

“We all enjoy the show and Luke has really taken to it – he likes all of the classic episodes, too. He has a fez, bow tie and scarf – and about six sonic screwdrivers.”

(11) DOC OF THE EBAY. This is supposed to be the NECA Back to The Future Doc Brown Action Figure [Ultimate Version, Wrench, Flux Capacitor Drawing & Blueprint], but it looks more like Michael Sheen to me.

(12) WELL VERSED. A work of art from Bill left in comments.

I met a Filer from an antique Scroll
Who said — “Two vast and towering stacks of books
Stand in the bedroom … Near them, novels by Pohl,
And others of a Golden Age, whose frowns,
And uncracked spines, and sneers of cold control
Beckon toward the fan. They lay there waiting, and unread.
Worlds, though built, not yet explored by glance or looks
At pages filled with men of space, who from Earth have fled.
And on the nightstand, these words appear:
My name is Tsundoko, Stack of Books;
Look on my pages, Pixels, and Despair!”

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

BSFS Reports Results of a Code of Conduct Investigation

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) Board of Directors has issued a statement about their investigation into “allegations that Mr. Eric Gasior acted inappropriately and/or violated BSFS’s Code of Conduct.” Gasior was Vice Chair of the Virtual Balticon 54 (2020) and will continue as Chair Balticon 55 (2021) now that the Board has determined his “actions were not behavior prohibited under the Code of Conduct.” However, “they did represent repeated and concerning problems in communication with Balticon volunteers” and the statement lists steps the club has taken to address those problems.

Specifics about the complaints and who made them are not disclosed in the statement.

This statement summarizes the results of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) Board of Directors’ (Board) investigation into allegations that Mr. Eric Gasior acted inappropriately and/or violated BSFS’s Code of Conduct.

The Board has investigated all complaints brought to our attention from Virtual Balticon 54 (VB54) and in October 2020. The complaints arose from two major sources. The first complaints the Board received were caused by communication failures caused by emergency changes to Balticon in response to Covid-19. In attempting to better understand changing plans for the virtual convention, Mr. Gasior disrupted some staff preparations creating confusion and additional stress. The BSFS Board deeply regrets that this was not effectively handled at the time. Other complaints did not arise directly from Balticon or BSFS activities; this information was considered in order to deepen our understanding of the problem and because, as Balticon Chair, Mr. Gasior represents BSFS. Based on all evidence presented, we concluded that Mr. Gasior’s actions were not behavior prohibited under the Code of Conduct;[i] however, they did represent repeated and concerning problems in communication with Balticon volunteers.

The BSFS Board takes all allegations of violations of the Code of Conduct very seriously and will not tolerate inappropriate behavior at any BSFS related event, including Balticon. All members and guests are encouraged to bring such matters to the Board’s attention at any time, without fear of any adverse action being taken against them for doing so.

The Board took a considered and deliberative approach to the investigation. Because the Board takes such allegations seriously, we took the time required to investigate these complaints to be confident we gave all parties a fair opportunity to provide any and all evidence each party wished to share. We regret that this led to the mistaken impression that the Board was not addressing the allegations. We appreciate our volunteers and the work they put into making Balticon happen. The Board apologizes for any stress caused because we did not intervene in these matters prior to VB54 and for any subsequent harm during the period in which we were working to fully investigate, understand, and deliberate on the matters placed before us.                                                            

During our investigation, the Board identified confusion about the role of the Anti-Harassment Working Group[ii] and concern that individuals holding a senior role in the working group, while also holding a major role in investigating alleged violations of the Code of Conduct, might have a conflict of interest[iii]. The investigation also revealed additional information about the number of VB54 volunteers affected by the behavior described in the complaints.

To address the problems identified during the investigation, the Board has taken the following actions:

1. Issued this statement to the BSFS community, including our apology for any impacts on our volunteers and the rest of the BSFS community.

2. Advised Mr. Gasior that the roles of Con Chair and Vice-Chair are not compatible with hands-on involvement in any Balticon department and strongly recommended he work through the department heads.

3. Renamed the Anti-Harassment Working Group to the Anti-Harassment Policy Group to clarify the Group’s purpose. We have accepted Mr. Gasior’s resignation from the Group. He will not be part of the Group while he is serving as Con Chair. This clarifies the separate roles of policy development versus incident investigation and resolution.

4. Recommended that Mr. Gasior work closely with the Balticon Vice-Chair, Ms. Yakira Heistand, and other members of the Board, for assistance in managing Balticon communications. The Board will continue to monitor preparations for Balticon 55 and take additional action if warranted by future events.


[i]  In general, prohibited actions include sexual harassment or misconduct, violence or the threat of violence, other unwelcome physical contact, coercion, stalking, or slurs and derogatory comments and similar behavior. For details on the Code of Conduct, please see https://bsfs.org/policy.htm.

[ii] The Anti-Harassment Working Group members provide advice to the BSFS Board on preventing harassment and drafting the Code of Conduct and related policies. The Group’s members have no role in investigating or resolving alleged violations, and were not part of this investigation or adjudication of these complaints.

[iii] Mr. Gasior was not part of any Board discussions concerning this investigation except for the opportunities provided to submit responses to the complaints.

Virtual Congoing

[Editor’s note: This report tells how one fan navigated the new experience of attending a virtual Balticon. It was originally posted at España Sheriff’s Futuriana blog on May 29. Reprinted by permission.]

Virtual Congoing

By España Sheriff: Last weekend was a bank holiday in the UK and Memorial Day in the States. Once upon a time would have that meant Baycon, Fanime, Clockwork Alchemy, and more would all be running at the same time, and I’d be popping between at least two of them and hearing rumours and news from the rest. Obviously that ended once I moved to the UK, but the muscle memory is still there, and I still had the vicarious enjoyment from social media and the occasional text.

This year, all of the above have been postponed anyway. But a few cons elsewhere decided to move online, including Balticon. They aren’t the first events to go virtual, but they do seem to be among the first sff cons to deploy a true multi-platform attempt to replicate as much of the convention experience as possible. 

I’ve never been to Baltimore, but a couple of friends alerted me to the Virtual Balticon Facebook page and it looked interesting, especially with CoNZealand on the horizon. 

I went to the website  and found itwell laid out, with all the relevant information front and center, a good starting sign. So I made a nominal donation, enough that I didn’t feel like a total ghost but not so much I’d feel ripped off if it was all a bit of a fizzle. 

The basics; 

The big events like opening ceremonies and masquerade were on Twitch and Youtube, as was the Film Festival. The Zoom panels were recorded and I believe at least some broadcast too, the convention is working on getting the rest up once the captioning is tidied up. I had vague plans to stay up for the masquerade, which was at 1am my time, but decided against it. It turned out to be less than 15 minutes long so that was the right choice. I am glad they did one, but it seems like an area that might need some developing for the current conditions.

Panels, readings, and similar were on Zoom, with advance audience sign up. They had two separate text chats; Q&A and general chatter. I mainly signed up for literary ones and found them overall good. As with any con the quality of panelists and moderators was variable, but I learned later that both panelists and moderators had to do a run through in advance, to make sure they were comfortable with the basics and that their technology would stand up to the task. I wonder if this also helped everyone focus a bit as well and weed out the “I don’t know why I am on this panel/I forgot I was on this panel and did zero prep” tendencies. Technical issues were minimal, there were spirited after-panel discussions (more on which later). I was also amused to see the “wall of books” panelist trick replicated in the form of a Zoom background. 

The heart of any convention, the socialising, was mostly on Discord. This is where I spent the bulk of my time. The advantages being that it is primarily text-chat, so you can dip in and out and access it on all devices. The convention had set it up such that after joining their Discord server you were funnelled through some welcome channels that explained both Discord itself and the Balticon set up. The absolute first step was to read and agree to the Code of Conduct, with relevant links and contacts, and only then were you allowed onto the rest of the channels.

The next section let you select the areas of interest, so your list wasn’t cluttered with irrelevant stuff. So for example the gaming room did not exist for me, just like at a regular con! This section also included information specific to vendors, artists, and fan tables, plus a link to the info desk. 

Done with all that, you could see the full set up, divided into sections;

General Discord: Announcements, Discord Help, a Virtual Map the local discord server, of all the convention resources and platforms, plus useful things like timezones. The info desk was well staffed but I found this very useful to refer back to.

General Balticon 54 channels; consuite, bar, filking, info desk, volunteers, watch parties, and a couple of other areas of specific interest like a Second Life change; 

Below that the rest of the sections as chosen, so mine included the Dealers, Artist Alley, Fan Tables, and After Panel Discussions. 

The dealers and artists sections replicated the big room with individual booths experience by having a general chat for each section and then individual ones for each vendor/artist. This allowed for general socialising and announcements, while also letting booths post without getting lost to the scroll. It also meant you could pop by a booth and leave a question even if the vendor was away at the moment. 

The fan tables seemed to be one of the busiest sections, probably because they usually had someone staffing the room and eager to talk most of the day. Second to them were the after-panel discussions, they had one channel per track (gaming, literary, fan interest, etc) and therefore doubled as general chat rooms after the panel-specific conversations died down.

Finally, each text channel had a voice chat equivalent. The voice icons are easy to miss so this was a bit confusing at first, I wish Discord did colour coding or something, but it ended up being a really nice option, I had some nice chats in the Glasgow and Discon III rooms. These spaces were much quieter though, aside from technical constraints, text is asynchronous, so it’s obviously much easier to have a text channel open in case anyone wanders in. Paying attention to an empty voice channel is less fun. I wonder if this is a place it would be useful to deploy volunteers, just send out pairs of extroverts to bounce around having conversations until rooms were self-sustaining, then flit off to the next place. Hmmm.

Some of the fan tables held Zoom parties in the evenings too, I only found out on Sunday and of course timezones are tricky, but I managed a couple of hours in the Discon III one on Sunday at 8pm EST. It was nice and chill, but I get the impression that the prime ones were jumpin’.

Beyond all this there was filking, watch parties, gaming using Tabletop Simulator and Roll20, and Balticon Station in Second Life

It’s obviously not the same as the real thing, but it’s also actually pretty great. I wouldn’t have been attending a convention this weekend otherwise, so my perspective is skewed by that. But it’s made me very hopeful for what CoNZealand can achieve.


BALTICON 54 ARCHIVES. The convention website is here. Some of the online experiences were preserved. Many panels have been captioned and added to the BSFS YouTube channel.

Pixel Scroll 5/25/20 Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Pixels How Do You Measure, Measure A Scroll?

(1) THE SANTA FE. Now he’ll really be George Railroad Martin: “George R. R. Martin Buys Part of Historic Santa Fe Railroad”.

George R. R. Martin, who wrote the book series that was adapted into the HBO series “Game of Thrones,” and two co-investors have bought an abandoned, 18-mile spur railroad line from Santa Fe to Lamy, New Mexico, with the intent of restoring it to its former glory as a tourist attraction, The Business Insider reported on Monday.

No price was mentioned for the purchase, which also includes 10 antique rail cars, two vintage locomotives, and a station house at Lamy currently leased by Amtrak that is part of its twice daily line from Chicago to Los Angeles.

“There are a lot of opportunities for a new tourist attraction,” Martin told the Albuquerque Journal. “COVID has thrown a monkey wrench into our plan. We had hoped to get things up and running in 2021, but now it won’t be until 2022.”

I’ve caught a train at the Lamy station, after visiting my sister in Santa Fe. It’s miles out of town — despite the city’s iconic railroad name, the Amtrak line doesn’t run through the city.

Martin explains his plans in more detail in his blog post “All Aboard for Lamy” which concludes:

…It is going to take a lot of work, more than a few bucks, and a fair amount of time to get the railroad running again.   There are tracks and trestles to inspect and repair, old historic coaches to restore to their former splendor, a dead locomotive to bring back to life.   And the coronavirus has slowed the process way down.   But sooner or later, we do hope to have the old Lamy Line chuffing and puffing once again, and we have all sorts of fun ideas for the future, live music and murder mysteries and train robberies and escape rooms and… well, we shall see.

And best of all, we won’t need to pull up the tracks when Christmas is over.

(2) CON CANCELLATION. Pulpfest, planned for August, has been cancelled, too. They made the announcement today: “There is Nothing Wrong with Your Television Set . . .”

…We regret to announce that PulpFest is being postponed until August 2021.

Although it is likely that businesses and events in the region where PulpFest is staged will be allowed to resume operations in June, they will have to follow guidelines issued by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

…Given the substantial risks involved and our desire to maintain the health and well-being of our many supporters, the PulpFest organizing committee voted unanimously to postpone this year’s convention until early August 2021.

(3) LEAP, BUT NOT QUANTUM. Chancellor Agard, in “Watch Legends of Tomorrow jump from Friends to Downton Abbey in exclusive sneak peek” on Entertainment Weekly discusses tomorrow’s episode, where the Legends jump from the world of a show like Friends to one like Downton Abbey to one like Star Trek.

(4) A HORSE, OF COURSE. Yesterday was the thirtieth anniversary of the debut of the third Back to the Future movie. Yahoo! Entertaiment put together a quiz — “‘Back to the Future Part III’ turns 30: Take this quiz to test your knowledge”. I really blew this one – only 6 out of 14. And one of my right answers was about how special effects manure was made – am I supposed to be proud of that?

… On May 24, 1990, the final film in Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale’s Back to the Future trilogy premiered in theaters. Directly picking up from the cliffhanger of 1989’s Back to the Future Part II, where Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and the DeLorean time machine accidentally being struck by lightning, sending him back to the Old West. Part III picks up with Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) traveling to 1885 to rescue Doc and return him to the present. 

(5) SPACE FORCE REDUX. Netflix dropped a second trailer for Space Force, which they have cleverly called Space Force Trailer 2.

Steve Carell was also on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Thursday  promoting Space Force but he doesn’t talk about the show until 5-1/2 minutes into the segment.

(6) STILES REMEMBERED. Balticon 54’s website includes a tribute to the late fanartist: “In Memoriam: Steve Stiles (1943-2020)”. Includes lots of photos and art.

Steve Stiles became a science fiction fan in 1957; he’d been illustrating fanzines from then until his death, earning him the first Rotsler Fan Artist Award in 1998, and a Fan Artist Hugo in 2016. Professionally, he worked in numerous comic book genres since 1973 (horror, super hero, science fiction, humor), including the award-winning Xenozoic Tales and perhaps the first steampunk graphic novel, The Adventures of Professor Thintwhistle, with author Richard Lupoff.

(7) TODAY’S DAY.

May 25Towel Day which is celebrated by fans every year on May 25 as a tribute to the author Douglas Adams. Fans carry a towel with them as described in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The commemoration was first held May 25, 2001 two weeks after Douglas Adams’ death. [Via Rocketmail.]

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 25, 1977 Star Wars premiered. Later retitled as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, it was written and directed by George Lucas. You know who the cast is so we’ll not list all of them here. Lucas envisioned the film as being in the tradition of Buck Rodgers which he originally intended to remake but couldn’t get the rights to.  Reception by critics and fans alike was fantastic with IguanaCon II voting it the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo over Close Encounters of The Third Kind. It holds a stellar 96% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • May 25, 1983 Return of the Jedi, the last of the original trilogy, premiered. Later retitled Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, it came out six years after Star Wars. It is directed not by Lucas this time but by Richard Marquand from a screenplay by Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan who co-wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark.  The principal cast is the same as the first film. Critics were ever so slightly less pleased with this concluding film of the trilogy but the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it an equally stellar 94% rating as the first film. It would win The Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo at L.A. con II beating Right Stuff and WarGames. Box office wise, it sold more tickets for most of its first eight week American run than any other film.  

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 25, 1915 – DeeDee Lavender.  Four decades an active fan with her husband Roy.  Together they were Secretary-Treasurer of the Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n in 1950.  They were at Aussiecon I the 33rd World Science Fiction Convention (I wasn’t), and Noreascon II the 38th (I was).  They’re in Harlan Ellison’s forewords to his collections I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream and Angry Candy; they knew Leigh Brackett & Edmond Hamilton, and were guests at the B&H homes in Ohio and California.  They were part of a Southern California fannish social group called the Petards, named by one of Rick Sneary’s famous misspellings, hoist for host.  Here she is with Roy at a Petards meeting in 1983 (Dik Daniels photo), and thirty years earlier in New York (L to R, Bea Mahaffey, Hannes Bok, DeeDee, Roy, Stan Skirvin; Mike Resnick collection).  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1916 – Charles Hornig.  Publishing his fanzine The Fantasy Fan in 1933, thus First Fandom (i.e. active by at least the first Worldcon, 1939), and hired, age 17, by Hugo Gernsback to edit Wonder Stories.  Founded the Science Fiction League with HG, 1934; later edited Fantasy; also Future and Science Fiction (they eventually combined); SF Quarterly.  See his notes on Nycon I, the first Worldcon, here.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1926 – Phyllis Gotlieb.  Prix Aurora for A Judgement of Dragons (note spelling; she was Canadian).  The Sunburst Award is named for her first novel.  Thirteen SF novels, twenty shorter stories, eight poetry collections (the first being Who Knows One?).  Translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian.  Among her husband’s Physics students was Cory Doctorow’s father.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1946 Frank Oz, 74. Actor, director including The Dark Crystal, Little Shop of Horrors and the second version of The Stepford Wives, producer and puppeteer. His career began as a puppeteer, where he performed the Muppet characters of Animal, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and oh so patriotic Sam Eagle in The Muppet Show, and Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover in Sesame Street. Genre wise, he’s also known for the role of Yoda in the Star Wars franchise. An interesting Trivia note: he’s in the Blues Brothers as a Corrections Officer, and is the Warden in Blues Brothers 2000. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1946 Janet Morris, 74. Hey I get to mention Thieves’ World! Yea! In that universe, she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes. She has three series, both listed as SF though I’d call one of them fantasy,  the Silistra quartet, the Kerrion Space trilogy and the Threshold series. And let’s not over overlook her Heroes in Hell series she wrote,most co-authorEd with her husband Chris Morris, some with C J Cherryh and David Drake. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1950 – Kathryn Daugherty.  Engineer.  Married four decades to James Stanley Daugherty.  Back when FORTRAN wasn’t even Two-tran she fed punch-cards to a Control Data CDC 6400.  For ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon, Official Editor of the con committee’s APA (Amateur Press Ass’n, a collection of fanzines) The Never-Ending Meeting.  At Bucconeer the 56th Worldcon, headed Contents of Tables; a typo made it “Contests of Tables”: in each newsletter I announced “Today’s winner is the Picnic”, “Today’s winner is the Periodic”.  Chaired Westercon LIII, a hard one: it was at Honolulu, see my report here [PDF; p. 11].  Luckily not exhausted; she and JSD were Fan Guests of Honor at Baycon in 2001, and Loscon XXXI (2004).  Joined me in liking Mission of Gravity.  Obituary by OGH here.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1952 Al Sarrantonio, 68. His horror short stories are brilliant and they‘ve earned him a Stoker for 999: New Tales of Horror and Suspense and a Jackson for Stories: All-New Tales, the latter co-edited with Gaiman. His Masters of Mars series is SF and he’s written a Babylon 5 novel as well, Personal Agendas. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1953 – Stan Sakai.  Lettered Groo the Wanderer comics; since 1984, author of Usagi Yojimbo comics about samurai rabbit Miyamoto Usagi, who has (wouldn’t you know it) crossed paths with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  The rônin lifeis hard.  During the most recent Year of the Rabbit (2011), the Japanese-American Nat’l Museum in Los Angeles had an Usagi Yojimbo exhibit.  Sakai has won a Parents’ Choice award, an Inkpot, six Eisners, an Inkwell, two Harveys, two Haxturs (Spain), a Plumilla de Plata (Mexico), a Cultural Ambassador award, and a Nat’l Cartoonists Society award.  [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1960 Eric Brown, 60. Well-deserved winner of two BSFA awards for his short stories, “Hunting the Slarqye” and “The Children of The Winter”.  He’s very prolific, averaging a novel a year over the past three decades and countless novellas and short stories. As far as SF goes, I’d start with his Binary System and Bengal Station series, both of which are superb. And I’m going to single out his Sherlock Holmes metaverse novel, The Martian Menace, in which The Great Detective meets and defeats those Invaders. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1966 Vera Nazarian, 54. To date, she has written ten novels including Dreams of the Compass Rose, what I’d called a mosaic novel structured as a series of interlinked stories similar in to The One Thousand and One Nights that reminds a bit of Valente’s The Orphans Tales. She’s the publisher of Norilana Books which publishes such works as Catherynne M. Valente’s Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies,and Tanith Lee’s Lee’s Sounds and Furies. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1982 – Bertrand Bonnet.  Six dozen reviews in Bifrost (French-language prozine; European SF Society award for Best Magazine, 2016), of Blish, Le Guin, Pohl (with and without Kornbluth), Resnick, Tolkien (including the Letters, yay).  [JH] 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur’s birds learn about their ancestors.
  • Non Sequitur sells foresight.
  • Non Sequitur has an SJWC intervention.
  • Mikey Heller drew a comic about a cat café. It’s got sjw credentials, sf, everything!

(11) LID OVERFLOW. In The Full Lid 22nd May 2020 Alasdair Stuart takes a look “at how now is very much the time for Strange New Worlds and what the Short Treks set on Pike’s Enterprise can teach us about the show’s tone.”

I also take a look at excellent, furious and overlooked movie Assassination Nation and Bog Bodies, a superb crime graphic novel out this week. Signal Boost is big this week but the YA/MG Author spotlight that follows it is much bigger and full of amazing books.

This week Stuart also launched The Full Lid Plus! A monthly supplement covering Disney Plus.

It’s first issue covers what we learn in the first for episodes of The Mandalorian and looks at award winning free-climbing documentary Free Solo. Oh and Will Smith sings.

The Full Lid Plus is published monthly and run off a paid subscription model, Details at the link.

Stuart’s Hugo Voting Packet for 2020 is also available at his website. “It touches on all my non-fiction work, has links to every piece and a consolidated PDF of everything too.”

(12) NO GO. It barely got out of California:“Virgin Orbit rocket fails on debut flight”

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit company has tried unsuccessfully to launch a rocket over the Pacific Ocean.

The booster was released from under the wing of one of the UK entrepreneur’s old jumbos which had been specially converted for the task.

The rocket should have ignited its engine seconds later but engineers had to terminate the flight.

Virgin Orbit’s goal is to try to capture a share of the emerging market for the launch of small satellites.

It’s not clear at this stage what went wrong but the firm had warned beforehand that the chances of success might be in the region of 50:50.

The history of rocketry shows that maiden outings very often encounter technical problems.

The firm is sure to be back for another attempt pretty soon – depending on the outcome of the post-mission analysis.

(13) FLOCKING OFF. [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] I just noticed this monologue from the May 18th Late Night with Seth Meyers. There was no genre-related sketch that night. However!

When Seth Meyers first started broadcasting from home, he apparently (to my eyes, at least) ordered several feet of cheap respectable-looking trade paper and hardcover books from a local used book store. One that caught my eye was Shardik, which has a lot of whitespace on the spine and that weird symbol. The two copies of a book about Thessalonica were the big tip-off to me these were surplus and not garage detritus.

And then there was The Thorn Birds. No one seemed to believe Seth Meyers was a Thorn Birds fan.

Soon Meyers moved out of his garage and into his attic, where he has a plain backdrop…and an end table with a small stack of books. I’ve seen two dust-jacketed books claiming to be The Thorn Birds and one unjacketed copy between them. The Janelle Monae clip has a stack of Thorn Birds, Thorn Birds II: More Thorns, and Thorn Birds III: Something written in script too fine for me to read.

But the best one yet you can see in this clip, in the lower left-hand corner:

(14) JUST WHEN THE PREZ LEARNED HOW TO PRONOUNCE IT. BBC reports “WHO halts trials of hydroxychloroquine over safety fears”.

Testing of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for coronavirus has been halted because of safety fears, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

Trials in several countries are being “temporarily” suspended as a precaution, the agency said on Monday.

It comes after a recent medical study suggested the drug could increase the risk of patients dying from Covid-19.

(15) DON’T KNOW HOW GOOD YOU’VE GOT IT. And we close with this benediction from The Onion: “Nation’s Politicians, Law Enforcement, Corporate Executives Marvel At Futuristic Utopia They’re Living In”.

“To think that I have all this at my fingertips, whether it’s automated high-volume stock trading or unlimited surveillance footage of my employees, it’s like something out of a science fiction paradise,” said pharmaceutical executive Ron Pollard, who claimed previous generations of police officers, elected officials, and business leaders could never comprehend the world of unlimited possibilities that has been created for them, where they are free to do whatever they want all the time.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/24/20 He Was A Bug-Eyed, Lizard-Gorn, Filing Purple Pixel Scroller

(1) VIRTUAL BALTICON IN-PROGRESS REPORT. The Sunday Edition of the Virtual Balticon 54 Newsletter Rocketmail, which can be downloaded here, says the total unique attendance on Zoom for all of Friday was 1,343 and on Saturday 2,787 people. This does not count the fans participating on other platforms. The newsletter also contains Masquerade participant info, and fundraising totals.

Balticon runs through tomorrow, and you can access it in a variety of ways. Dale S. Arnold explains:

You can of course continue/start enjoying the Virtual Balticon 54 by going to WWW.balticon.org and choosing links off the schedule and or links on the platform page. You can ghost by just watching the YouTube and Twitch feeds which stream the items each hour that the most people signed up for participating on that item in zoom if you prefer not to register on zoom as well…. Programs continue all the way through Monday…

However, they are running a GoFundMe to pay the virtual freight.

For the record as of 5:20 AM on 5/24/20 the total GoFundMe donations are at $11,065.00 gifted by the generous fans that are making Virtual Balticon 54 possible. An additional $495.00 has come into the BSFS paypal account during the GoFundMe campaign by folks who did not want to use GoFundMe using the http://www.bsfs.org/donate.htm link. The BSFS treasurer reports that “almost” $2,000.00 has also been received as checks and or people donating their B45 memberships instead of taking a refund.

(2) FANFIC DISPUTE GOES TO COURT. There’s a lawsuit in progress over reuse of fanfic tropes in commercial genre fic. It could have repercussions well beyond hyper-niche erotica. The New York Times devotes a long article to the litigation: “A Feud in Wolf-Kink Erotica Raises a Deep Legal Question”.

…Then, in 2018, Ms. Cain heard about an up-and-coming fantasy writer with the pen name Zoey Ellis, who had published an erotic fantasy series with a premise that sounded awfully familiar. It featured an Alpha and Omega couple, and lots of lupine sex.

…Ms. Cain urged Blushing Books to do something. The publisher sent copyright violation notices to more than half a dozen online retailers, alleging that Ms. Ellis’s story was “a copy” with scenes that were “almost identical to Addison Cain’s book.” 

… “You have to make sure you use the tropes of Omegaverse in order to be recognized by fans of the genre,” Ms. Ellis said. “Crave to Conquer” and its sequel, “Crave to Capture,” were published in early 2018 by Quill Ink Books, a London company she founded. Readers gave the series glowing reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, calling it “sensational new Omegaverse!” and the “best Omega yet.”

In late April 2018, Ms. Ellis got an email from a reader who had ordered one of her books from Barnes & Noble, then learned that it wasn’t available anymore. She soon discovered that all of her Omegaverse books had disappeared from major stores, all because of a claim of copyright infringement from Ms. Cain and her publisher. Ms. Ellis found it bewildering.

“I couldn’t see how a story I had written using recognized tropes from a shared universe, to tell a story that was quite different than anything else out there commercially, could be targeted in that way,” Ms. Ellis said. “There are moments and scenarios that seem almost identical, but it’s a trope that can be found in hundreds of stories.”

A lawyer for Ms. Ellis and Quill filed counter-notices to websites that had removed her books. Some took weeks to restore the titles; others took months. There was no way to recover the lost sales. “As a new author, I was building momentum, and that momentum was lost,” Ms. Ellis said. And she worried that the “plagiarist” label would permanently mar her reputation.

Ms. Ellis decided to sue. “Everything would have been in question, my integrity would have been questioned, my ability to write and tell stories — all of that would have been under threat if I didn’t challenge these claims,” she said.

In the fall of 2018, Quill Ink filed against Blushing Books and Ms. Cain in federal court in Oklahoma, where Ms. Ellis’s digital distributor is based, seeking $1.25 million in damages for defamation, interfering with Ms. Ellis’s career, and for filing false copyright infringement notices. In the suit, Quill’s lawyers argued that “no one owns the ‘omegaverse’ or the various tropes that define ‘omegaverse.’”

Ms. Ellis’s lawyers thought they had a strong position. But they struggled to find a prior case that addressed whether fan fiction tropes could be protected by copyright….

The biggest development in the case so far is that Blushing Books has left Ms. Cain to contest the matter alone. Last year, the publisher conceded that no plagiarism or copyright infringement had occurred, and a judgment was entered against the company, which paid undisclosed monetary damages to Quill and Ms. Ellis. (Ms. Cain is now self-publishing.)

Ms. Ellis and her publishing company filed a new civil suit against Ms. Cain in her home state of Virginia, arguing that she maliciously directed her publisher to send false copyright infringement notices to retailers. Ms. Cain’s lawyers have denied the claims, and have lined up authors, bloggers and readers as witnesses.

If the judge, or a jury, finds Ms. Cain in the wrong, the case would send a message to overzealous genre writers that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is not to be abused. By the same token, authors of genuinely original stories might find they have one fewer legal lever to protect their work. And a victory by Ms. Cain could encourage a free-for-all, emboldening authors to knock back competitors and formally assert their ownership of swaths of the fan fiction universe and common tropes in genre fiction.

Discovery is ongoing, and a pretrial conference before a judge is scheduled for June. In the meantime, the Omegaverse continues to thrive. This year, more than 200 new books from the genre have been published on Amazon.

The latest batch draws on virtually every genre and trope imaginable: paranormal shifter romances, paranormal Mpreg romances, reverse harem romances, sci-fi alien warrior romances. There are fantastical Alpha-Omega stories featuring witches, unicorns, dragons, vampires, wolf-shifters, bear-shifters, and wolf-shifters versus bear-shifters. There are comparatively pedestrian Omegaverse romances about celebrity chefs, dentists, frat boys, bakers, bodyguards and billionaires. In a teeming multiverse of stories, the tropes are still evolving, inexhaustible.

(3) MEXICANX INITIATIVE REMEMBERED. This San Antonio Current story shows John Picacio, winner of SFWA’s 2020 Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award, is also a hometown hero: “San Antonio Science Fiction Artist John Picacio Wins Award for Opening Door to Mexicanx Talent”.

… “Many of the folks I selected were rising stars such as David Bowles, Julia Rios and Marcela Davison Aviles,” Picacio said. “The Initiative enhanced their networks, but the vast majority of my picks were much newer talents to the field. The industry badly needs their cultural perspective and their voice right now.”

(4) AFRICAN SFF AT STORYBUNDLE. The “African Speculative Fiction Bundle curated by Ivor W. Hartmann” is available from StoryBundle. Same deal as always – “Support awesome authors by paying however much you think their work is worth!”

This is the most comprehensive collection of African speculative fiction authors ever assembled. With the complete bundle containing nearly 100 authors and over 145 works it stands both as an excellent introduction to the rapidly evolving canon of African SF and a unique one-time collection of their works. From established stars you might know such as Nnedi Okorafor, Tade Thompson, and Sarah Lotz, to upcomers like Wole Talabi, Chinelo Onwualu, Nerine Dorman, Dilman Dila, and so many more.

The road to this bundle has been paved by the work of countless African writers, editors, publishers, and most importantly readers. For too long was the African experience, imagination, and insight, held captive and until relatively recently only glimpsed through the thick lens of other cultures and their inherent biases. In a big way this is what the new wave of African Speculative Fiction is about: telling our own stories, revealing our vibrant cultures from within, sharing our unique perspectives, and writing ourselves into futures that for so long seemed to spell our doom by virtue of our absence.

(5) CLASSIC RETURNING. “Battlestar Galactica Reboot Producer Sam Esmail Teases the New Series” at Comicbook.com.

[Sam] Esmail says he never planned to helm the series himself. “I’m a huge fan of Ronald Moore’s Battlestar, but I don’t know if I’m great at hard sci-fi like that,” he says. “I love it. I’m a fan of it. But I knew early on that we were going to have to bring somebody in to run the room and to write the scripts.”

He went to explain why the job went to Lesslie, who is best known for the miniseries The Little Drummer Girl. “He’s just a fantastic writer,” Esmail says. “I loved his series, Little Drummer Girl, and the one thing that really struck me about him and his take for Battlestar, one of the reasons I even wanted to do Battlestar, was that the way Ron Moore, what he did with his remake in the early 2000s where it was this sort of hard sci-fi series with lots of action set pieces and really this exciting sci-fi adventure but purely grounded in an allegory of what was going on at the time, which was post-9/11. And it wasn’t that subtle, the links, I would say. But because he was also attuned to the sci-fi nature of the show, you didn’t feel it.

“When I was approached to do Battlestar now, it has to have that same sort of dynamic. It can’t be just a retread of what he already did so masterfully back then. What are we saying about today’s world? And Mike just had this great take, and I’m not going to go into it because obviously, I don’t want to spoil it for fans, but you kind of see it a little bit in Little Drummer Girl where politics plays a big part in it but without compromising the entertainment value, because in my opinion, you’ve got to have that….” 

(6) SUPER RESOURCE. There’s always a ton of news at the Superman Supersite about the iconic Kryptonian and those who keep the legend going. It’s where I found out about this new series: “’Superman & Lois’ Detailed Synopsis and Premiere Announced”.

The CW Network has announced that “Superman & Lois” will officially premiere in January, 2021 when the network launches its new season.

…In “Superman & Lois”, after years of facing megalomaniacal supervillains, monsters wreaking havoc on Metropolis, and alien invaders intent on wiping out the human race, the world’s most famous superhero, The Man of Steel aka Clark Kent (Tyler Hoechlin, “Teen Wolf”) and comic books’ most famous journalist, Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch, “Grimm”), come face to face with one of their greatest challenges ever – dealing with all the stress, pressures and complexities that come with being working parents in today’s society. Complicating the already daunting job of raising two boys, Clark and Lois must also concern themselves with whether or not their sons Jonathan (Jordan Elsass, “Little Fires Everywhere”) and Jordan (Alexander Garfin, “The Peanuts Movie”) could inherit their father’s Kryptonian superpowers as they grow older.

Returning to Smallville to handle some Kent family business, Clark and Lois are reacquainted with Lana Lang (Emmanuelle Chriqui, “Entourage”), a local loan officer who also happens to be Clark’s first love, and her Fire Chief husband Kyle Cushing (Erik Valdez, “Graceland”). The adults aren’t the only ones rediscovering old friendships in Smallville as the Kent sons are reacquainted with Lana and Kyle’s rebellious daughter, Sarah (Inde Navarrette, “Wander Darkly”). Of course, there’s never a dull moment in the life of a superhero, especially with Lois’ father, General Samuel Lane (Dylan Walsh, “Nip/Tuck”) looking for Superman to vanquish a villain or save the day at a moment’s notice. Meanwhile, Superman and Lois’ return to idyllic Smallville is set to be upended when a mysterious stranger (Wolé Parks, “All American”) enters their lives.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 24, 1957 Quatermass 2 premiered In the U.K. It was produced by Anthony Hinds, and directed by Val Guest. It’s a sequel to The Quatermass Xperiment. Screenplay was by Nigel Kneale and Val Guest.  It stars Brian Donlevy, John Longden, Sid James, Bryan Forbes, Vera Day, and William Franklyn. Like the first film, some critics thought it was a lot of fun, some were less than impressed. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a respectable sixty percent rating. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz!]

  • Born 24 May 1794 – Rev. Dr. William Whewell.  Pronounced “hew-ell”.  Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, 1841-1866. Crater on the Moon named after him.  Mathematician, Anglican priest, historian of science.  Coined the words scientistphysicistlinguisticsosmosisionastigmatism.  Royal Medal for organizing thousands of volunteers internationally to study ocean tides.  Clifton Fadiman put him here by anthologizing in Fantasia Mathematica this poem.  (Died 1866) [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1917 – Irving Cox.  Five dozen stories in AmazingAstoundingCosmosFantasticFutureIfImaginationOrbitRocket StoriesSaturnSF AdventuresSF QuarterlySF StoriesUniverse – and that’s just some of the prozines we’ve had – translated into French, German, Italian.  You can read ten of his stories from 1953-1960 here.  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1925 Carmine Infantino. Comics artist and editor, mostly for DC Comics, during the late 1950s known as the Silver Age of Comics. He created the Silver Age version of the Flash (with writer Robert Kanigher), Deadman with writer Arnold Drake and the Elongated Man (with John Broome). He also introduced Barbara Gordon as a new version of Batgirl. Infantino wrote or contributed to two books about his life and career: The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino (Vanguard Productions and Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1928 – William Trevor.  Whitbread Prize for The Children of Dynmouth, reviewed by Elaine Cochrane in SF Commentary 60/61, p. 26 [PDF]; two more Whitbreads; Hawthornden Prize; Saoi; four O. Henry Awards (not limited to U.S. authors since 2002).  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born 24 May 1930 – Terri Pinckard.  Stories in Fantasy BookVertex; wrote the Introduction to Womanthology (F. Ackerman & P. Keesey eds. 2003).  Told the L.A. Times (3 Jun 99) that when we landed on the Moon “I cried.  Science fiction writers were the ones who dreamed it.”  With husband Tom hosted the Pinckard Salon; Big Heart Award to both, 1984; the Salon drew Ackerman, Bloch, Bradbury, Daugherty, George Clayton Johnson, C.L. Moore, Niven, Pournelle, Roddenberry, Spinrad, and like that.  Dian Girard dedicated Tetragravitron (as by J.D. Crayne) to “Members of the Pinckard Salon”.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1935 W. P. Kinsella. Best I’d say known for his novel Shoeless Joe which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams, one of the few films that Kevin Costner is a decent actor in, ironic as the other is Bull Durham. Kinsella’s other genre novel is The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and it’s rather less well-known than Shoeless Joe is but it’s excellent. He also edited Baseball Fantastic, an anthology of just what the title says they are. Given that he’s got eighteen collections of short stories listed on his wiki page, I’m reasonably sure his ISFDB page doesn’t come close to listing all his short stories. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1945 Graham Williams. He produced three seasons of Doctor Who during Tom Baker’s era as the Fourth Doctor. He’d write a novelization of his story, The Nightmare Fair, developed as a Sixth Doctor story but never filmed when Colin Baker’s contract was terminated. He would die at home of an accident gunshot wound. (Died 1990) (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1949 Barry Windsor-Smith, 71. Illustrator and painter, mostly for Marvel Comics. Oh, his work on Conan the Barbarian in the early Seventies was amazing, truly amazing! And then there was the original Weapon X story arc involving Wolverine which still ranks among the best stories told largely because of his artwork. And let’s not forget that he and writer Roy Thomas created Red Sonja as partially based on Howard’s characters Red Sonya of Rogatino and Dark Agnes de Chastillon. (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1960 Michael Chabon, 60. Author of the single best fantasy novel about baseball, Summerland which won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. His other two genre novels, Gentlemen of the Road and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, winner of Best Novel at Denvention 3, are stellar works in themselves. He was Showrunner for the first season of Picard but will be Executive Producer for the upcoming season. (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1960 Doug Jones, 60. I first saw him as Abe Sapien on Hellboy, an amazing role indeed. To pick a few of my favorite roles by him, he’s  in Pan’s Labyrinth as The Faun and The Pale Man (creepy film), a clown in Batman Returns, the Lead Gentleman in the “Hush” episode of Buffy and Commander Saru on Discovery
  • Born May 24, 1965 – Shinichirô Watanabe.  Co-directed Macross Plus; directed Cowboy Bebop, alternative-history Samurai ChamplooSpace DandyCarole & Tuesday.  Blade Runner – Black Lotus is in the works.  Don’t ask me why my host’s daughter at the Yokohama Worldcon was rehearsing The Magic Flute but I don’t know any of my fellow gaijin rehearsing Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees.  [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1985 – Isabelle Melançon.  Drawings in Oziana and The Baum Bugle.  Oz found its way into the Webcomic that Isa co-authors, Namesake – or vice versa.  Here’s a sketch for Quibbling and even one for Hamilton – will this man write The Federalist?  [JH]

(9) SUPERERO GENESIS. In the Washington Post, African-American author Tre Johnson discusses how he is using the language and ideas of superheroes to enable him to cope with the pandemic. “The coronavirus has made the waking world into a dreamscape”.

A more perfect origin story would’ve had a superheroic tinge. Maybe I’d be sitting in my apartment, on the couch, contemplating how to move safely about Philadelphia when a clatter of glass would erupt and a ball of coronavirus — the size of a grapefruit with the spiny ridge of a porcupine — would bound through my window, roll to my feet and pulse with exhaustion. I’d stare at it and think Yes, father, that is what I will do, I will become an anti-virus. And that would be the reason to don the mask that I now wear daily when I walk my neighborhood.

(10) BAKE ME A CAKE AS FAST AS YOUR CAN. And mark it with a “C” – for corona. “Pandemic-Baking Britain Has an ‘Obscene’ Need for Flour” – the New York Times has a full accounting.

A week before Britain came to a standstill in mid-March, the Wessex Mill found itself fielding nearly 600 calls a day requesting one of the country’s hottest commodities: flour.

The mill in Oxfordshire has produced nearly 13,000 small bags of flour each day during the coronavirus pandemic, a fourfold increase. Demand led Emily Munsey, a flour miller who runs the business with her father, to hire more staff and add afternoon and night shifts to keep the mill running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the first time in its 125-year history.

“It’s been very challenging as a company. The amount of work we’ve all had to do has increased a huge amount,” said Ms. Munsey, who has since scaled back to five days a week, though still around the clock, to give employees a weekend break. “Demand remains consistently obscene.”

Commercial mills produce nearly four million tons of flour each year in Britain, according to the National Association of British and Irish Flour Millers. With much of the country stuck at home, baking has surged, and retail-size flour bags have become scarce on grocery shelves.

The coronavirus outbreak has flooded social media with #coronavirusbaking and #quarantine cookies. Yeast is in short supply, and butter sales have soared. In April, Google searches for cake, bread and flour skyrocketed….

(12) CURTAIN CALL. [Item by JJ.] Anthropomorphic phone — I’m calling it genre.

(13) READING IN THE NEW CAPTAIN. Ted Anthony, in the Associated Press story “Kirk 2.0:  Capt. Pike of the New ‘Star Trek’ A Welcome New Icon” says he welcomes Christopher Pike as the captain of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds because he sees James T. Kirk as “an interstellar Don Draper–brooding, arrogant, a top-down manager who earned his privilege but often presumed it” and thinks Pike will be a more responsible captain.

…It’s not accidental that Pike is the son of a father who taught science AND comparative religion — an embodiment of the empiricism-faith equation that “Star Trek” and its captains have always espoused. In many ways, in fact — even more so than Chris Pine in the movie reboots — Pike functions as James T. Kirk 2.0.

(14) COSMIC CREEPOUT. “Every ‘I Have A Bad Feeling About This’ In Star Wars Movies”: ScreenRant tries to round up every time someone said they had a bad feeling about something.

…However, George Lucas’ wonderful world of science fiction space opera has also provided the world with a series of timeless movie quotes. “May the Force be with you” has taken on a life of its own and “I am your father” is now a staple of Father’s Day greetings cards. In more recent years, less prominent quotes have come to the fore thanks to the onset of meme culture, “it’s a trap!” being the most famous. Now The Mandalorian is getting in on the act with “this is the way” and “I have spoken.

But undoubtedly one of the most famous utterances in the Star Wars universe is “I have a bad feeling about this,” …

(15) A WHOLE NEW BALL GAME. As reported last month (item 13), Lou Antontelli is running for Congress in Texas. But this week the district’s Republican incumbent John Ratcliffe resigned his seat to accept appointment as director of National Intelligence. With no incumbent to run against, shit just got real! And at least one Texas paper (besides the one owned by the candidate himself) thinks it’s terrific that Lou Antonelli is running: “Libertarians field viable candidate for District 4 seat”. The question is how well these pearls of wisdom will play with the locals:

… Antonelli said his goal running as a third party candidate is to inject original ideas into the discussion, and push for the Libertarian Party to become the second party in the district, displacing the Democrats.

“Can you imagine how much better our political system would be if the two major parties were the Republicans and Libertarians, instead of the Republicans and Democrats?” Antonelli asked. “Libertarians are the loyal opposition, as opposed to the Democrats, who are the disloyal opposition.”

Antonelli said Libertarians stand for hacking away strangling bureaucracy at all levels of government, and returning as much authority as possible to individuals.

“Thanks to the Covid pandemic, we have all gotten a free trial of socialism,” he said. “How do you like it?”

(16) ON YOUR MARK: “Nasa SpaceX launch: Astronauts complete rehearsal for historic mission”

Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have completed their dress rehearsal for Wednesday’s flight to the International Space Station.

The mission, the first crewed outing from American soil in nine years, will see the pair ride to orbit in a SpaceX Falcon rocket and Crew Dragon capsule.

It’s a demonstration of the new “taxi” service the US space agency will be buying from the Californian firm.

Lift-off on Wednesday is timed for 16:33 EDT (20:33 GMT / 21:33 BST).

The weather around the Kennedy Space Center in Florida may have other ideas, however.

A forecast released on Saturday by the US Space Force 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron predicted just a 40% chance of favourable conditions come launch time.

There is a strong possibility the Kennedy complex could see thick cloud, rain and even thunder.

If controllers are forced to scrub, everyone will come back on Saturday for a second try.

Hurley and Behnken are now all but done with their preparations.

The weekend “Dry Dress” rehearsal saw the pair don their made-to-measure spacesuits, walk out to a Tesla, and then make a 6km drive down to Kennedy’s famous Launch Complex 39A.

(17) GET SET: “Nasa SpaceX launch: Who are the astronauts?”

On 27 May, two US astronauts will achieve a world first when they launch to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a spacecraft built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Here, BBC News profiles the astronauts who will make the historic journey.

Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are about to break a nine-year hiatus for Nasa, becoming the first astronauts to launch from US soil since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.

…”It’s well past time to be launching an American rocket from the Florida coast to the International Space Station and I am certainly honoured to be a part of it,” Hurley, 53, said earlier this month.

Behnken, 49, added: “On my first flight… I didn’t have a son, so I’m really excited to share the mission with him.”

Nasa has chosen two of its most experienced astronauts to help California-based SpaceX ready the Crew Dragon for launch. The two are also longstanding friends.

“Being lucky enough to fly with your best friend… I think there’s a lot of people who wish they could do that,” says Hurley.

When they blast off atop a Falcon 9 rocket, their spouses will know exactly what they are going through. That’s because they’re astronauts too.

(18) GO: “Nasa SpaceX launch: What’s the mission plan?”

On Wednesday, the California company SpaceX will launch a mission to the International Space Station (ISS). It’s something the firm has done many times before, taking cargo to the sky-high laboratory. But on this occasion, the firm will be transporting people.

It’s one of those seminal moments in the history of spaceflight.

When Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken lift off atop their Falcon-9 rocket, inside their Crew Dragon capsule, it will mark the first time humans have left US territory to reach low-Earth orbit in almost nine years.

But more than that, it sees a shift to the commercialisation of human space transportation – of companies selling “taxi” rides to government and anyone else who wants to purchase the service.

This page details the key phases in the mission sequence.

Launch will occur from the Kennedy Space Center’s Complex 39A. This is the famous Florida pad from where the Apollo 11 moonwalkers and the very first shuttle, Columbia, also began their missions.

(19) CLASSIC OR STINKER? In the Yahoo! Entertainment story “The ‘Lost’ finale at 10: Why viewers loved and hated ‘The End'”, Ethan Alter says even though it was 10 years since Lost ended, controversy continues over whether the ending of the show was brilliant or stupid. UH, SPOILERS, I GUESS?

…What the duo decided to do was to design a finale that emphasizes character over mystery. “The End” plays out in two realities: the mysterious island where mystical forces and weird science live side-by-side, as well as the “Flash sideways” timeline where Jack and the rest of the castaways were back in the real world, albeit leading different lives than what we saw in the flashback sequences that were a major part of previous seasons. The island-based sequences are explicitly devoted to tying up some, though not all of the loose ends: Jack has a final confrontation with the Man in Black, currently housed in the body of John Locke (Terry O’Quinn); Hurley (Jorge Garcia) becomes the new protector of the island, with Ben Linus (Michael Emerson) as his sidekick; and pilot Frank Lapidus (Jeff Fahey) gets everyone else — including Kate (Lilly), Sawyer (Holloway) and Claire (Emilie de Ravin) — the heck out of dodge. As the plane soars away from the island, a mortally wounded Jack watches it depart from his final resting place as his eyes close, a direct nod to the first shot of the first episode….  

(20) WHO SAW IT COMING? Usually we’re filling in this blank with Philip K. Dick’s name. See how bad things have gotten, that PKD isn’t the answer! “2020 Is One Great Big George Saunders Story” says InsideHook.

…But there is one author who predicted these dumb and absurd times: George Saunders. 

The MacArthur “Genius” and Booker Prize-winning Saunders has been publishing darkly hilarious visions of America since the early 1990s. Zadie Smith has said “not since Twain has America produced a satirist this funny” while The New York Times noted “no one writes more powerfully than George Saunders about the lost, the unlucky, the disenfranchised.” Perhaps the archetypal Saunders story is “Sea Oak,” which follows a trod-upon worker at an aviation-themed male strip club called Joysticks: “Guests rank us as Knockout, Honeypie, Adequate, or Stinker. Not that I’m complaining. At least I’m working.” At home, his family lives in a dangerous neighborhood and anesthetizes themselves with reality TV shows like How My Child Died Violently while fantasizing about the American dream, summarized by one character as “you start out in a dangerous craphole and work hard so you can someday move up to a somewhat less dangerous craphole. And finally maybe you get a mansion.”

(21) JANELLE MONÁE. On Late Night with Seth Meyers Janelle Monáe talks about David Byrne using one of her songs in his musical American Utopia, a musical she wrote as a child and her efforts to help communities during the pandemic.

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