Pixel Scroll 8/13/18 I Can’t See Me Scrolling Nobody But You, For All My File

(1) SATURDAY AFTERNOON AT WORLDCON. Adam Rakunas is publicizing the availability of help for those who want it:

(2) NEWS CLIPPING. Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy reports that in 2019 Saga Press will publish Rivers Solomon’s novel inspired by a song from 2017 Hugo nominee Clipping,—a group that includes Tony-winner Daveed Diggs. Thread starts here.

(3) BEAM UP MORE GOLD. Borys Kit, in “Chris Pine and Chris Hemsworth ‘Star Trek 4’ Future In Doubt as Talks Fall Through (Exclusive)”  in The Hollywood Reporter says that both Pine and Hemsworth (who was supposed to play Captain James T. Kirk’s father) have said they won’t be in Star Trek 4 because of pay issues.

The deal points came down to the usual suspect: money. Pine and Hemsworth, among Hollywood’s A-list when starring in DC or Marvel movies, are said to be asking the studios to stick to existing deals. Paramount, according to insiders, contends that Star Trek is not like a Marvel or Star Wars movie and is trying to hold the line on a budget.

The actors, according to sources, insist they have deals in place and that the studios are reneging on them, forcing them to take pay cuts as they try to budget a movie that is following a mediocre performer.

Pine, at least, has had a deal in place for several years. The actor, now a key player in the Wonder Woman franchise, signed up for a fourth movie when he made his deal for 2016’s Star Trek Beyond. Hemsworth has been attached to Star Trek 4 since Paramount, then run by the previous regime headed by Brad Grey, announced the fourth installment in 2016, although his exact status remains murky.

(4) SIGNING STORIES. Delilah S. Dawson gets a lot of great answers. Thread starts here.

Includes a RedWombat sighting –

(5) IT’S THAT DAY. In Pogo, Walt Kelly had a running gag: “Be careful, Friday the 13th falls on a Sunday/ Monday/ Tuesday, etc. this month.” Friday the 13th falls on a Monday in August.

(6) A MODERN SAGA. Brought to you by Amal El-Mohtar.

(7) THE BEST OF. James Davis Nicoll looks back at Del Rey Books’ “Best of…” series in “A Survey of Some of the Best Science Fiction Ever Published (Thanks to Judy-Lynn Del Rey)” at Tor,com, although some of the humor made me wonder if he really liked all the collections. (Which I suppose he did, otherwise why write the piece?) Like this note:

John Brunner’s fiction covered a spectrum ranging from morose to intensely gloomy. Readers intrigued by this collection who want to enjoy his strengths at novel length should seek out Brunner’s thematically-related SF standalone novels: The Jagged Orbit, The Sheep Look Up, Stand on Zanzibar, and The Shockwave Rider. Each book tackles One Big Issue (racial conflict, pollution, overpopulation, and future shock, respectively).

(8) HUGHART OKAY. The query about author Barry Hughart’s well-being in the August 4 Scroll (item 5) has been answered, and the news is good. Bill Schafer of Subterranean Press replied today —

Dear Mr. Glyer,

In response to your recent thread about Barry Hughart’s whereabouts…

I am happy to report I just got off the phone with Barry Hughart, who is very much still with us. (He is terrible about responding to emails, which led me into my email archives to dig out his phone number.)

Oddly enough, we’ve been doing business for ten years or more, and this is the first time we’ve spoken.

Best,

Bill

(9) ROHAN OBIT. A note about the passing of Michael Scott Rohan (1951-2018) at the SF Encyclopedia.

Michael Scott Rohan died in hospital in his home town of Edlnburgh on 12 August 2018; he was 67. Although his first novel Run to the Stars (1983, pictured) was a lively science-fiction adventure, his considerable reputation rests mainly on the Winter of the World fantasy sequence beginning with The Anvil of Ice (1986) and the Spiral science-fantasies beginning with Chase the Morning (1990).

Speaking personally, Mike Rohan was an old and valued friend whose unexpected death leaves an aching hole in the world. — David Langford

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 13, 1942 — Disney’s Bambi premiered in New York City.
  • August 13, 1953 — The original War Of The Worlds was released in New York City.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 13, 1899 – Alfred Hitchcock. Let’s see… The Birds and Psycho. Y’all think anything else might be loosely be genre which I include horror in?
  • Born August 13 – Kevin Tighe, 74. First genre role was in This Immortal series, nearly fifty years ago; appeared also in The Six Million Dollar Man, Tales from the Crypt, Escape to Witch Mountain, The Outer Limits, Star Trek: Voyager, Strange World, The 4400, Lost and Salem. 
  • Born August 13 –Danny Bonaduce, 59. First genre role was in The Ghost & Mrs. Muir; later roles included acting in Bewitched, Shazam!, Fantasy Island (original series), Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and Bigfoot. Voice work includes Dr. DolittleFred Flintstone and Friends and Goober and the Ghost Chasers.
  • Born August 13 – John Slattery, 56. Howard Stark in the MCU film franchise, appeared in The Adjustment Bureau film based loosely I suspect of the Philip K. Dick short story ‘Adjustment Team’, 3rd Rock, From the Earth to the Moon miniseries and Flashpoint.
  • Born August 13 – Michael De Luca, 53. Producer, second Suicide Squad film, Childhood’s End, Ghost Rider and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Dracula Untold, Lost in Space, Blade and Blade II, Pleasantville and Zathura: A Space Adventure which is not a complete listing. Also writer for an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the first Dredd film (oh well), the Freddy’s Nightmares series and the Dark Justice series which though not genre was rather fun.
  • Born August 13 – Sebastian Stan, 36. Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier in the MCU film franchise; also appeared in Once Upon a Time series, The Martian, The Apparition, Ares III, and Kings, a contemporary alternate-history series about a man who rises to become the King of his nation, based on the biblical story of King David.
  • Born August 13 – Sara Serraiocco, 28. Currently in Counterpoint, a cross-universe Cold War thriller. That’s it.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) MEDICAL ADVICE. At Dorkly, “Two Doctors Figured Out How To Treat A Centaur Having a Heart Attack”. I hope Rick Riordan is taking notes.

Case in point: centaurs – what’s THEIR deal? Half man, half horse, and ALL anatomical mysteries. See, the way centaurs are broken down is that it’s the torso ‘n up part of a human combined with the whole body of a horse (minus the head and neck). But that presents a problem, because (anatomically-speaking) the two halves share a whole bunch of organs, namely the heart.

So a doctor (@FredWuMD) took to Twitter to ask fellow medical professionals an incredibly important question – if a centaur was in the midst of a cardiac arrest, where would you presume the heart is? Where would you use defibrillator pads?

(14) WHAT’S ON HIS MIND? Mike Alger says: “Weekend project: By combining a 3D scan with an MRI (don’t worry I’m fine), I can now step out of my body and legitimately look into my head at my own brain.”

Thread starts here. Mlex says, “This reminded me of Ted Chiang’s story, ‘Exhalation’, in Lightspeed Magazine.”

(15) COSTUMING HISTORY. The International Costumers Gallery continues its series, “Convention Costuming History: The Post WWII Years – 1946”.

…The Pacificon Convention News, issue #2 promised a Costume Ball, essentially acknowledging how much a part of the convention wearing costumes had become. Hearkening back to the pre-war events, it anticipated “BEMs and MONSTERS from every solar system and dimension; famous characters from the stories you have read and loved and every kind of costume that the fertile mentalities of fen (the best fertilized minds in existence) do be able to thunk up<sic>.”(2) Whether it was actually a “ball” or just a party is not clear.

Participants and costumes reported were Myrtle Douglas winning first prize for her Snake Mother dress (3)(4) and Arthur Joquel II (5) dressed as a “high priest”, winning a prize for “characterization”. Fan and fanzine writer Dale Hart’s “Gray Lensman” costume was judged “most ingenious”. (6)

(16) THE GREAT WALL OF HYDROGEN. The New Horizons probe is looking for evidence of it: “NASA spotted a vast, glowing ‘hydrogen wall’ at the edge of our solar system”.

There’s a “hydrogen wall” at the edge of our solar system, and NASA scientists think their New Horizons spacecraft can see it.

That hydrogen wall is the outer boundary of our home system, the place where our sun’s bubble of solar wind ends and where a mass of interstellar matter too small to bust through that wind builds up, pressing inward….

What New Horizons definitely sees, the researchers reported in a paper published Aug. 7 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, is some extra ultraviolet light — the kind the researchers would expect such a wall of galactic hydrogen to produce. That replicates an ultraviolet signal the two Voyager spacecraft — NASA’s farthest-traveling probes, which launched in the late 1970s — spotted all the way back in 1992. [Images: Dust Grains from Interstellar Space]

However, the researchers cautioned, that signal isn’t a sure sign that New Horizons has seen the hydrogen wall, or that Voyager did. All three probes could have actually detected the ultraviolet light from some other source, emanating from much deeper in the galaxy, the researchers wrote.

(17) SEEING SPOTS. Lasers been berry berry good to me. NPR: “Growers Are Beaming Over The Success Of Lasers To Stave Off Thieving Birds”.

During every berry-picking season in the Pacific Northwest, blueberry and raspberry growers fight to prevent birds from gobbling up the crop before harvest. This year, some farmers are trying something new to scare away the thieving birds: lasers….

The lasers cross over in erratic patterns. The sweeping green laser beams emanate from what look like security cameras atop metal poles.

They also work during the daytime. But in sunlight, the human eye can only see green dots dancing across the berry-laden bushes.

(18) SFFANZ 500. Congratulations to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ) on their blog’s 500th post – “SF Writer at the Manawatu Writers Festival + 500th Post”.

A heads up for SF fans about the Manawatu Writers’ Festival (Sept 7 – 11, 2018). This year they have a session with one of NZ’s longest running successful writers, Lyn Mc Conchie.

Lyn McConchie is an internationally successful author, who has had 44 books published, 300+ short stories, and 150+ articles. Her work has appeared in English, Polish, Russian, Spanish, and from publishers there as well as in America, Australia, New Zealand, and the Irish Republic. Lyn isn’t in any ruts, she writes mysteries, SF/F, animal tales, post-apocalypse, YA, picture books, and humorous and scholarly non-fiction and she has no plans to stop any time soon. Lyn’s latest book, Coal & Ashes, is is one of her apocalyptic stories, set in Australia, one of a series.

(19) THERAPEUTIC POOH. The LA Times profiles Christopher Robin: “With ‘Christopher Robin,’ Winnie the Pooh faces his greatest challenge yet: A marriage in crisis”.

So many Disney films follow a child or young adult suddenly thrown into a grown-up world and forced to overcome all of its headaches. “Christopher Robin,” however, turns a childhood hero of those who grew up admiring A.A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” tales into a depressed and overwhelmed adult — a man whose youthful imagination ultimately proved no match for the realities of war, fatherhood and a thankless job.

In the film, an old and familiar pal comes to the rescue, but is Winnie the Pooh — a plump stuffed bear whose biggest bothers often involved stealing honey from a bee — ready to fix the life of a workaholic whose marriage is entering crisis mode? Or, perhaps more accurately, are Pooh fans ready to see it?

Those who worked on “Christopher Robin” say the mission was to tap into the original Milne template, one that mixed comedy and complex emotions to deliver patient life lessons. The ultimate goal of the film: to dispel any notion that Winnie the Pooh is simply kid stuff.

“I wouldn’t be ashamed to be a grown man going to see a ‘Winnie the Pooh’ movie in the theater with no child next to me, so let’s make sure we’re making that movie,” said Alex Ross Perry, a filmmaker with several acclaimed indies under his belt and one of three credited screenwriters on the picture. “It has to be completely logical in that Pixar sense, where adults can go see it in a roomful of kids, but it doesn’t feel like you’re seeing a kids movie.”

(20) NOW YOU’RE TALKING. John Scalzi boosts a great idea —

(21) EYE-OPENING COLLECTIBLE. Something to find a Worldcon 76 –

(22) THE TRAVELER. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus will interrupt his daily commute to 1963 in order to appear at Worldcon 76 –

(23) RADIO ACTIVITY. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie tuned into BBC Radio 4 this weekend. He picked out highlights you can access online.

Looks like Dan Dare is a full blown radio series consisting of a number of linked  two-part adventures. Next up next Sunday will be on Radio 4 Extra and shortly after for a month on BBC i-Player linked off here.

Episode 1

Dan Dare, The Red Moon Mystery Episode 1 of 2

4 Extra Debut. Infected by the Mekon’s virus, Dan’s crew orbit Earth until the Inter-Planet Space Force orders them to Mars. Stars Ed Stoppard

Next Sunday 18:00

BBC Radio 4 Extra

Also this weekend we had on BBC Radio 4

Open Book  “Claire Fuller, Neil Gaiman, Iranian fiction”

Claire Fuller talks to Mariella Frostrup about her new novel Bitter Orange and the appeal of the crumbling country house as a setting.

Neil Gaiman explains why forgotten classic Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees deserves a wider readership.

What does the combination of sanctions and censorship mean for Iran’s writers? The Guardian’s Saeed Kamali Dehghan and publisher Azadeh Parsapour discuss.

And Carrie Plitt, agent at Felicity Bryan Associates recommends Sally Rooney’s Normal People for our monthly Editor’s Tip.

This is available to listen to for next 4 weeks

[Thanks to JJ, David Langford, Jonathan Cowie, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Leo Doroschenko, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 8/4/18 Your Pixeled Pal Who’s Fun To Scroll With!

(1) AMERICA HELD HOSTAGE, DAY FOUR. Crusading investigative fanwriter Camestros Felapton has been trying to find out why the Dragon Awards ballot wasn’t released August 1, the date posted on the site, and when it will come out. Here’s what he’s been told:

The latest report is this. I got an email saying that the finalists will be announced this upcoming Tuesday (presumably US time). Don’t all get too excited at once.

(2) COME BACK, JEAN-LUC. “Patrick Stewart to star in new Star Trek TV series”Entertainment Weekly has the story.

Stewart will reprise his iconic character, Jean-Luc Picard, for a CBS All Access series that “will tell the story of the next chapter of Picard’s life.”

Stewart himself just announced the news in a surprise appearance at the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention.

“I will always be very proud to have been a part of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but when we wrapped that final movie in the spring of 2002, I truly felt my time with Star Trek had run its natural course,” Stewart said. “It is, therefore, an unexpected but delightful surprise to find myself excited and invigorated to be returning to Jean-Luc Picard and to explore new dimensions within him. Seeking out new life for him, when I thought that life was over.”

And Michael Chabon will be one of the executive producers reports Variety.

The untitled series hails from Alex Kurtzman, James Duff, Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, and Kirsten Beyer. Kurtzman, Duff, Goldsman, and Chabon will also serve as executive producers on the series along with Stewart, Trevor Roth, Heather Kadin, and Rod Roddenberry. CBS Television Studios will produce. The new series does not currently have a premiere date

(3) BOREANAZ ON BUFFY. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo Entertainment story “David Boreanaz has no plans to be in controversial ‘Buffy’ reboot: ‘I just let it be and lend my support from afar'” says that Boreanaz is too busy with SEAL Team to worry about the forthcoming Buffy reboot (which is controversial because showrunner Monica Owusu-Breen might find a new actor to play Buffy) but he doesn’t have any objections to it.

 “I think it’s great,” says David Boreanaz, who played the ensouled vampire Angel on Buffy for three seasons before graduating to his own self-titled spin-off. “I’m sure they’ll find the right storylines and the right people to fill shoes of whatever characters they want to portray. It was great to be a part of it when it first started, and now to see it being revived is just another testimony to the hard work that we did. I congratulate that, and applaud that.”

(4) KRESS REQUEST. Nancy Kress announced on Facebook:

A few people have asked if I will autograph their books at Worldcn San Jose. However, I was disappointed that Programming Reboot has given me no panels, no autographing session, and no kaffeklatch. I do have one reading, at 4:30 on Sunday, which I cannot linger afterwards because of a Hugo dinner. So if anyone wants anything autographed, I will hang around the Hyatt lobby at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday.

(5) REACHING OUT TO HUGHART. Mike Berro, who runs the Barry Hughart Bibliography website is asking for help:

If anyone knows how to contact Barry Hughart, please let me know. I run a fan page, and would constantly get emails from people wanting to contact him, mostly about doing a movie or theatrical adaptation of Bridge of Birds. I would forward them to him, and he would always politely reply (with “no thanks”). I haven’t had a reply now for over a year, and just got an email from someone who reported that even his publishers cannot contact him. I fear something unfortunate has happened.

Berro says neither SFWA nor Subterranean Press have been able to offer any help.

Mike Berro’s contact email address is — hughart@collector.org

(6) PRO ADVICE. Not certain who Mary Robinette Kowal had in mind, although JDA was sure it was about him. (Of course, he thinks everything is.)

(7) CLOUDS OF WITNESSES. Crisis Magazine recalls “When C.S. Lewis Befriended a Living Catholic Saint”.

When Luigi Calabria, a shoemaker married to a housemaid, died in Verona, Italy in 1882, the youngest of his seven sons, Giovanni, nine years old, had to quit school and take a job as an apprentice. A local parish priest, Don Pietro Scapini, privately tutored him for the minor seminary, from which he took a leave to serve two years in the army. During that time, he established a remarkable reputation for edifying his fellow soldiers and converting some of them. Even before ordination, he established a charitable institution for the care of poor sick people and, as a parish priest, in 1907 he founded the Poor Servants of Divine Providence. The society grew, receiving diocesan approval in 1932. The women’s branch he started in 1910 would become a refuge for Jewish women during the Second World War. To his own surprise, since he was a rather private person, his order spread from Italy to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, India, Kenya, Romania, and the Philippines.

With remarkable economy of time, he was a keen reader, and in 1947 he came across a book translated as Le lettere di Berlicche by a professor at the University of Milan, Alberto Castelli, who later became a titular archbishop as Vice President of the Pontifical Council of the Laity. Berlicche was Screwtape and “Malacode” served for Wormwood. The original, of course, had been published in 1943 as The Screwtape Letters and Calabria was so taken with it that he sent a letter of appreciation to the author in England. Lacking English, he wrote it in the Latin with which he had become proficient since his juvenile tutorials with Don Pietro.

… Lewis’s correspondence with Calabria went on for about seven years, and after the holy priest died, Lewis wrote at least seven letters to another member of Calabria’s religious community, Don Luigi Castelli, who died in 1986 at the age of 96. Learning of Calabria’s death, Lewis referred to him in a message to Castelli with what I suspect was a deliberate invocation of the phrase about “the dearly departed” that Horace used to console Virgil on the death of Quintilius Varo: tam carum caput. It appears as well in Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley Novels. It was an unfortunate habit of Lewis to throw out letters he received when he thought he might otherwise betray confidences. So what we have are only what he sent. The letters are a radiant model of philia friendship that he described in his 1958 radio talks:

(8) WHO’S THE HERO? John Dilillo claims “Amazon’s Proposed ‘Lord of the Rings’ Series Misses the Point of Middle-Earth” at Film School Rejects.

…Every conventionally heroic duty performed by Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings is performed in service of a greater act of heroism by Hobbits, characters who choose their own destiny instead of following the path their bloodline lays out for them. Without Hobbits, Middle-earth is just another cliched fantasy tapestry, painting with the same old tired strokes. What makes Aragorn special is not his heritage or his backstory; it is that he recognizes that he is not the hero of this story. Aragorn is the king who bows to the Hobbits. Stripped of that identity, he is indistinguishable from any other gruff sword-wielding badass.

On top of all this, we’ve already seen the type of story that results from a Tolkien adaptation that loses sight of true heroism in favor of grand tales of redeemed sons and doomed kings. The great failing of the Hobbit trilogy is that it abandons its titular character all too often in favor of the gloomy angst of Richard Armitage’s Thorin Oakenshield. Armitage does a fine job projecting gloomy wounded pride, and whoever assumes the lead role in Amazon’s series will doubtless give just as effective a performance. But all of that is ultimately wasted when the real appeal of a Middle-earth story comes from the Shire, not the Lonely Mountain. A Hobbit story that isn’t about Bilbo Baggins is a failure, and it’s a failure that should be learned from….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 4 — Richard Belzer, 74. The Third Rock fromThe Sun series as himself, also the Species II film and an awful adaption of Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, along with series work too in The X-Files, The Invaders, Human Target, and acrecurring role in the original Flash series to name a few of his genre roles.
  • Born August 4 — Daniel Dae Kim, 50. First genre role was in the NightMan series, other roles include the Brave New World tv film, the second Fantasy Island series, recurring roles on LostAngel and Crusade, the Babylon 5 spinoff series, Star Trek: Voyager, Charmed and voice work on Justice League Unlimited.
  • Born August 4 — Abigail Spencer, 37. First genre role was in the Campfire horror anthology series, other roles include Ghost Whisperer, Jekyll, a film that’s an sf riff off that meme, Cowboys & Aliens, the Oz the Great and Powerful film and Timeless, the sf series recently allowed a proper ending
  • Born August 4 — Meaghan Markle, 37. Yes, Her Royalness. Appeared in Fringe and the newer Knight Rider. Also the near future legal drama Century City.

(10) INSTAPOLL. Survey says –

(11) KEN LIU TO TV. Andrew Liptak says an animated show is on the way: “AMC is developing a sci-fi show based on Ken Liu’s short stories”.

Ken Liu is one of science fiction’s most celebrated writers working today. In addition to translating Cixin Liu’s acclaimed Three Body Problem and Death’s End, he’s also earned numerous awards, most significantly for his short story, “The Paper Menagerie”. Now, it looks as though his works could reach a new audience: AMC is developing series based on his works called Pantheon, according to Deadline.

If it’s produced, Pantheon will be an animated show “based on a series of short stories by [Liu] about uploaded intelligence,” reports Deadline. Craig Silverstein, who created and produced AMC’s American revolution drama Turn, will serve as showrunner, producer, and writer.

(12) SOLO. Lela E. Buis points out the casting problems: “Review of Solo: A Star Wars Story”.

…The worst problem with this film, of course, was Alden Ehrenreich trying to step into Harrison Ford’s shoes. Ehrenreich did a workmanlike job with the character, but workmanlike just isn’t Han Solo. Donald Glover as Calrissian got glowing reviews, but it was really the charismatic Woody Harrelson as Beckett who lights up the film—an understated, low key performance notwithstanding. Also prominent was Lando’s co-pilot L3-37, an animated character fighting against the slavery of droids.

This brings up another question. Why isn’t Disney investing in flashier talent for these movies?

(13) BAEN CHALLENGE COINS. Baen Books is taking orders for the first pressing of its new Challenge  Coins commemorating iconic names or events in the books of Ringo, Williamson, Kratman and probably whoever else you’d expect to fill out a list that starts with those three names.

Each coin is $15. Buy all 13 author coins, and the “I Read Baen’d Books” coin comes free. Shipping and handling is a flat rate of $15, $45 international, for up to 13 coins. Write to info@baen.com for rates on bulk orders.

These coins were designed by Jack Wylder with the active participation of the authors. Here’s an example —

Front: I Read Baen’d Books

Reverse: RIP Joe Buckley

All profits from this coin will go to support two charities founded, supported, and run by Baen readers: Operation Baen Bulk, which provides care packages for deployed service members, and Read Assist, a 501c3 company that serves our disabled readers. http://www.readassist.org/ Each coin is $15. Buy all 13 author coins, and the “I Read Baen’d Books” coin comes free. “I read Baened Books” was first used by Chris French. “Joe Buckley” used courtesy of Joe Buckley. Don’t forget to duck

(14) A CENTURY OF STURGEON. Scott Bradfield tries to jumpstart the party — “Celebrating Theodore Sturgeon’s centenary – so should we all” in the LA Times. (Unfortunately, the Times initially failed to get David Gerrold’s permission to run his photo of Sturgeon with the post…)

I’ve always been a bit confused by these various centenary and multi-centenary celebrations that punctuate our discussions of literature, such as Thoreau’s recent 200th birthday (2017), or the centenary of James Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” (first published in 1917), or even the fourth centenary of the death of Cervantes (d. 1616), etc. (By the way, celebrating the anniversary of someone’s death strikes me as pretty grisly.) But while some writers seem to continually receive such posthumous honors, others suffer unfairly in silence. No cake, no candles, no old friends leaping out of closets, no nothing. And this year, that seems to be the case for one of America’s greatest and most original short story writers, Theodore Sturgeon, who was born on Feb. 26, 1918. From what I can tell, nobody has yet to pitch in and even buy him a decent card.

…Take, for example, the opening of his brilliant (and often poorly imitated) 1941 novelette, “Microcosmic God”: “Here is a story about a man who had too much power, and a man who took too much, but don’t worry; I’m not going political on you. The man who had the power was named James Kidder, and the other was his banker.”

Or this, from the aforementioned “The Dreaming Jewels” (1950): “They caught the kid doing something disgusting under the bleachers at the high-school stadium, and he was sent home from the grammar school across the street.”

Or even this, from his haunting and beautiful story, “The Man Who Lost the Sea” (1959): “Say you’re a kid, and one dark night you’re running along the cold sand with this helicopter in your hand, saying very fast witchy-witchy-witchy.”

Every opening plops you down bang in the middle of a story that is already happening and in the life of a character it is already happening to. And while many of his stories were collected in “horror” or “suspense” anthologies, they are rarely shocking or violent or grotesque. Instead, they begin by introducing you to a slightly strange world and a slightly strange character who lives there; then, before the story is over, you both feel at home in the world and compassion for the character who now lives there with you.

The greatness of Sturgeon’s stories reside in their almost inflexible, relentless unfolding of strangely logical events and relationships; each sentence is as beautiful and convincing as the last; and the science-fictional inventions never rely on tricks or deus ex machinas to reach a satisfying resolution; instead, a Sturgeon story always resolves itself at the level of the all-too-human.

(15) ACCESS. At io9 Ace Ratcliff asks “Staircases in Space: Why Are Places in Science Fiction Not Wheelchair-Accessible?”

I never used to notice stairs. They were simply a way for me to get from one place to another. Occasionally they were tiresome, but they never actually stymied or stopped me entirely. Eventually, I managed to get where I needed to go.

Then I started using a wheelchair. Suddenly, stairs became a barrier that prevented me from getting from here to there. One step was often enough to stop me in my tracks. It turns out that when you start using a wheelchair, you quickly realize that there are a lot of staircases and steps in our world—and a lot of broken (or nonexistent) elevators and ramps….

Once you start realizing how many stairs there are stopping you in real life, it becomes impossible not to notice them existing in the sci-fi you adore. Turns out they’re everywhere, in all of our sci-fi. Whether it’s decades-old or shiny and brand-new, our sci-fi imitates a real-world reliance on steps and stairs in our architecture.

When we think of sci-fi that’s run the test of time, Doctor Who immediately springs to mind. The inside of the TARDIS is littered with steps—from Christopher Eccleston to Peter Capaldi, there’s no way a wheelchair using companion would be able to navigate that beautiful blue time machine. Prior to the 2005 reboot, previous embodiments of the spaceship were no less inaccessible. You’d think that a spaceship that is regularly re-decorated could easily manage ramps in at least one iteration, but no set designers seem bothered enough to make it happen. I was pleased to learn that a quick finger snap seems to occasionally unlock the TARDIS doors—a quirky replacement for the buttons that exist in real-life, usually installed near closed doors and pressed by disabled people to assist with automatically opening them—but trying to scootch through the narrow opening of that British police box with an accessibility device looks nigh impossible, even without the need for a key.

(16) KERMODE ON SF FILMS. On August 7, BBC 4 airs an episode of Mark Kermode’s Secrets of the Cinema about science fiction.

SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie says —

This is an excellent series for film aficionados but the August 7th edition will also appeal to SF fans as this episode will be on science fiction film.

Also the series is co-written by the genre critic Kim Newman whom,  some Worldcon fans will recall, with SF author Paul McAuley,  co-presented the last CalHab (formerly known as Glasgow) Worldcon Hugo Award ceremony (2005). So be assured this episode has a solid grounding.

Mark Kemode’s Secrets of the Cinema SF film episode should be available on BBC iPlayer for a few weeks after broadcast.

BBC 4’s intro reads —

Mark Kermode continues his fresh and very personal look at the art of cinema by examining the techniques and conventions behind classic film genres, uncovering the ingredients that keep audiences coming back for more.

This time Mark explores the most visionary of all genres – science fiction, and shows how film-makers have risen to the challenge of making the unbelievable believable. Always at the forefront of cinema technology, science fiction films have used cutting-edge visual effects to transport us to other worlds or into the far future. But as Mark shows, it’s not just about the effects. Films as diverse as 2001, the Back to the Future trilogy and Blade Runner have used product placement and commercial brand references to make their future worlds seem more credible. The recent hit Arrival proved that the art of film editing can play with our sense of past and future as well as any time machine. Meanwhile, films such as Silent Running and WALL-E have drawn on silent era acting techniques to help robot characters convey emotion. And District 9 reached back to Orson Welles by using news reporting techniques to render an alien visitation credible.

Mark argues that for all their spectacle, science fiction films ultimately derive their power from being about us. They take us to other worlds and eras, and introduce us to alien and artificial beings, in order to help us better understand our own humanity.

(17) GETTING BACK IN BUSINESS. “NASA Announces Crew For First Commercial Space Flights”NPR has the story.

NASA has announced the names of the astronauts who will be the first people in history to ride to orbit in private space taxis next year, if all goes as planned.

In 2019, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner are both scheduled to blast off on test flights with NASA astronauts on board. “For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Friday, standing in front of a giant American flag at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Since NASA retired its space shuttles, the agency has had to buy seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get its crews to the International Space Station.

(18) MUNG DYNASTY. FastCompany predicts “Plant-based eggs are coming for your breakfast sandwiches”.

When you order a breakfast sandwich or a scramble at New Seasons Market, a local chain in Portland, Seattle, and Northern California, you’ll bite into a yellow, fluffy food that tastes just like an egg, but did not, in fact, come from an animal. Instead, what you’re eating is a mung bean, a legume that people have been eating for thousands of years that, when ground into a liquid, happens to scramble and gel just like an egg.

Mung beans are the key ingredient in Just Egg, the latest product from Just, Inc.–the company formerly known as Hampton Creek, which manufactures plant-based alternatives to products like mayonnaise, cookie dough, and salad dressing. Just Egg, a liquid that scrambles in a way that’s eerily similar to an egg when cooked in a pan, is derived from mung bean protein, and colored with turmeric to mimic the light yellow of an egg. It’s slowly rolling out in stores and restaurants across the U.S., and New Seasons Market has gone as far as to entirely replace its regular eggs with the mung bean mixture.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Berro, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and David Langford for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day jayn.]