Pixel Scroll 6/10/21 Revenge Of The Unknown Knowns

(1) SHIPPING NEWS. The New York Times tells how “’Ships of the Northern Fleet,’ a crowdsourced sci-fi project, navigated from TikTok all the way to the convention circuit,” in “The Show Is Fake. The Fandom Is Real.”

…Maybe you remember it, too — but it’s much more likely that you don’t. That’s because “Ships of the Northern Fleet” isn’t real. It’s fabricated. Fake. A nonexistent TV series.

Its fan base, however, very much exists. “Fleeters,” as they’re known, congregate on Discord and TikTok to talk about their favorite “memories” of the adventures of the ship crews of the Four Fleets. Popular discussion topics include the Cog Hogs, small clockwork hedgehogs that are cuter than the Porgs of “Star Wars” fame, and the majestic Sky Whales, giant beasts who flew in the sky next to the pirates’ soaring airships.

Fans debate the merits of the ships’ various captains, including Captain Neil Barnabus (the leader of the True Winds fleet, named after the fantasy writer Neil Gaiman) and Captain George Hellman (who is “played” by Nathan Fillion, a fixture of the sci-fi genre; he wrote in an email that though he hadn’t heard of the show, he is “all for it”).

So, how exactly did “Ships of the Northern Fleet” come into semi-existence? It started, like so many other dramatic arcs online, with a throwaway post on social media.

A Show Is Born

In early February, in a video on TikTok, the video game writer Tyler James Nicol encouraged his viewers to “participate in a hallucinatory experience” by sharing their favorite memories and moments from a show “that will and has never existed,” and that, according to the proposed imaginary construct, had been canceled before its time.

The fake “steampunk sky pirate show,” would be called “Ships of the Northern Fleet” after the name of a novel that Mr. Nicol, 36, had once planned to write.

He never got around to the manuscript, but he did have the title, a TikTok account and an idea to crowdsource its plot and fictional lore.

It took off quickly. Mr. Nicol, Mx. Osborn and four others — Patrick Loller, Erik Tait, Gary Hampton and Logan South — connected on TikTok and started streaming together on Twitch, where they performed improv in character, riffing on questions fans asked them via chat about “working” on the show.

Enthusiasts banded together to create a subreddit, a Discord server and a wiki with over 300 entries. They’ve also produced fan art, songs and a “Ships” tabletop game. There’s knockoff merchandise out there, too, though fans can buy “real” merch from Mr. Nicol; he donates all his earnings from those sales to the Trevor Project….

(2) KAFKA COLLECTION. “Max Brod’s Franz Kafka Archive Digitized”Smithsonian Magazine has the story.

During his lifetime, the celebrated Czech Jewish author Franz Kafka penned an array of strange and gripping works, including a novella about a man who turns into a bug and a story about a person wrongly charged with an unknown crime. Now, almost a century after the acclaimed author’s death, literary lovers can view a newly digitized collection of his letters, manuscripts and drawings via the National Library of Israel’s website.

As Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports, the collection contains around 120 drawings and more than 200 letters owned by Max Brod, a friend and fellow writer who served as Kafka’s literary executor. Instead of destroying the author’s papers as he had requested, Brod chose to publish and preserve them….

(3) AFROFUTURISM BUNDLE. StoryBundle is offering The Afrofuturism and the Black Fantastic Bundle curated by Tenea D. Johnson.

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Slay by Nicole Givens Kurtz
  • Talk Like a Man by Nisi Shawl
  • Dominion by Zelda Knight and Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki
  • The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan by Zig Zag Claybourne

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus six more books and a fiction album! That’s a total of 11!

  • New Worlds, Old Ways edited by Karen Lord
  • Queen of Zazzau by J.S. Emuakpor
  • Baaaad Muthaz by Bill Campbell, David Brame and Damian Duffy
  • How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend by Linda D. Addison
  • Reenu-You by Michele Tracy Berger
  • Frequencies by Tenea D. Johnson
  • Afro Puffs Are the Antennae of the Universe by Zig Zag Claybourne

(4) FROM SCOTLAND TO THE BORGO PASS. At CrimeReads, Laurie R. King profiles Emily Gerard, whose travels in Transylvania provided Bram Stoker with a lot of inspiration and ideas when he was writing Dracula – “The Scottish Anthropologist Who Inspired Dracula”.

… When she was in her thirties, mother of two young sons, her husband took up a position in the far corner of Transylvania. Gerard was a writer by this time, having published stories, reviews, and a few novels in collaboration with her sister, so her imagination was roused by this fascinating and utterly unknown part of the world. Apparently fearless—“Nonsense!” she says, when her young son urges her to take her revolver on a solitary trek—and fluent in several languages, she would merrily set off on an “easy” walk (“not more than two hours off”) to a spot on a map far from any road, or to a ragged tent she’d spotted on waste-land. There she would watch, and listen, and ask all manner of questions about the work, beliefs, rituals, and lives of the residents.

From these experiences, Gerard wrote an essay on “Transylvanian Superstitions,” which was accepted for publication in one of Britain’s most widely respected journals….

(5) EREWHON AND ELSEWHERE. “Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans” Episode 14 is a visit with Liz Gorinsky.

Friend of the podcast Liz Gorinsky arrives to share her experiences as an editor, from her early days of reading comic books, to her work at Tor.com, and finally starting Erewhon Books. Mary Anne and Ben inquire about the technical and career aspects of editing, as well as the importance of grappling with their internal editor in their own writing process.

(6) DINOS RETURNING. And SYFY Wire has the new poster: “Jurassic World: Dominion prologue before IMAX F9 screenings, first teaser image”.

Jurassic World: Dominion is finally ramping up its larger-than-life marketing campaign with an extended preview that will play before IMAX screenings of F9 (out in North America Friday, June 25)….

Described as “a prologue” to the main story, the 5-minute sneak peek is set 65 million years ago in the Cretaceous period when…*clears throat*…DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH. Mr. DNA is on vacation, but Michael Giacchino’s score will be there to guide viewers through the origin story of a lone mosquito that decides to slurp up some tasty dino-blood. The release also promises (count em’) SEVEN new species never before glimpsed within the Jurassic franchise. And just before you think it’s all over, the preview excavates “some real trademark Jurassic surprises with dinosaurs later roaming an Earth that is decidedly less theirs alone,” reads the synopsis.

(7) GRAYSKULL IS BACK. Netflix dropped a trailer forKevin Smith’s Masters Of The Universe:  Revelation.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 10, 1955 — On this day in 1955, This Island Earth premiered in New York City. It was produced by William Alland, and directed by Joseph M. Newman and Jack Arnold. It  Jeff Morrow, Faith Domergue and Rex Reason. It was based on the novel by Raymond F. Jones, which was first published in the Thrilling Wonder Stories as three novelettes: “The Alien Machine” in the June 1949 issue, “The Shroud of Secrecy” in December 1949 issue, and “The Greater Conflict” in February 1950 issue.  Critics in general loved it, it did very well at the box office but currently the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a not great forty-four percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 10, 1918 — Barry Morse. He was Prof. Victor Bergman on Space: 1999, a show I never did quite cotton to, and he also appeared on the Twilight Zone , Outer Limits, The InvadersTekWarThe Martian ChroniclesRay Bradbury TheaterSpace Island OneMemory RunThe Shape of Things to Come and The Return of Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1918 – Frank Hamilton.  He didn’t invent the Shadow, or Doc Savage, but he illustrated them excellently.  Here is an FH Shadow on the cover of Frank Eisgruber’s Gangland’s Doomhere is the FH cover for a Doc Savage tribute; both with lots of interiors.  Here is a note from ThePulp.net with a 1982 FH self-portrait; here is a note from “The Shadow” wiki.  Find, if you can, his Amazing Pulp Heroes (with Link Hullar’s text).  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1922 – Judy Garland.  For us this star shines in the MGM Wizard of Oz (Thorpe, Fleming, Vidor dirs. 1939) – winning her only Academy Award.  I love the Oz Frank Baum wrote; in the MGM version much is right, and otherwise, as a law-school professor of mine said – of a major figure with whom he disagreed vigorously – There is a sense in which a genius can’t be wrong.  The rest of JG’s career was such a tragedy because there too she earned such glory.  (Died 1969) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1928 — Maurice Sendak. In Seattle many years ago, I saw the painted flats he did for The Nutcracker. Truly stunning. Of course, he’s known for Where the Wild Things Are which I think is genre adapted into other media including a film by Spike Jonze. In the Night Kitchen might be genre and it is often on Banned Books lists. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born June 10, 1935 – Tatsumi Yoshiro.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  He coined gekiga for a development of manga he preferred; see here.  I can’t go along with calling it more realistic, or saying that’s better – I had this quarrel with people when Watchmen first appeared – but Tatsumi-san was a genius, and we could stand knowing more about SF and related art of Japan.  Here is the cover for his memoir of 1945-1960 A Drifting Life (English version); here is a Wikipedia article about it; here is an article about gekiga and mangahere is an article in the Lambiek Comiclopedia with panels showing his work.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1937 — Luciana Paluzzi, 84. She is best known for playing SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe in Thunderball. She also appeared in Hercules as Iole’s maid, The Green Slime as Doctor Lisa Benson, Captain Nemo and the Underwater City as Mala and The Six Million Dollar Man: The Solid Gold Kidnapping as Contessa DeRojas. (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1951 — Charles Vess, 70. If you ever need a crash course in learning about his art, go find a copy of Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess which lavishly covers his career up to about a decade ago. I’ve got a personally signed copy here along with lots of his artwork. He’s had interesting career including the Spider-Man: Spirits of the Earth graphic novel that he wrote and illustrated. I strongly recommend the illustrated version of Stardust he did as it’s amazing. (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1952 — Kage Baker. I never met her but we had a decade-long conversation via email and once in a while via phone. We were supposed to write a Company concordance for Golden Gryphon but she got too ill for it to happen. Harry the Space Raptor is now living with her sister Katheleen. The two of them were also frequent attenders of Ren Faires were they set up a tavern (John Hertz knew her that way) and sold various ales. Kage had a deep fascination with Elizabethan English and Harry Flashman as well who she incorporated into her novels effectively. (Died 2010.)(CE)
  • Born June 10, 1953 – Don Maitz, age 68.  Two hundred thirty covers, a hundred twenty interiors from this luckily prolific artist; two Hugos, one Worldcon committee special award, eight Chesleys; World Fantasy award; Society of Illustrators Silver Medal. Two artbooks, First Maitz (he created the image of Captain Sir Henry Morgan 1635-1688 for Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum) and Dreamquests; two sets of DM Fantasy Art Trading Cards.  Guest of Honor at Boskone 18, Lunacon 28, Loscon 19, Minicon 49, Balticon 27, and Lonestarcon 2 the 55th Worldcon.  Here is his cover (with his wife Janny Wurts) for The Darkest Road.  Here is his cover for his Worldcon’s Souvenir Book.  [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1962 –  Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, M.D., Ph.D.  Author, physician, Professor of Medicine.  Two hundred books in both Egyptian and Classical Arabic; also in Web-based magazines. Refaat Ismael of his Beyond Nature series is a retired bachelor doctor with a sarcastic attitude who keeps having paranormal adventures.  In Utopia Egyptians live in a dystopian and utopian (or as I should say cacotopian and eutopian) society separated by walls.  Cheryl Morgan interviewed AKT in Locus 614.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1964 — Andrew M. Niccol, 57. Screenwriter / producer / director who wrote and produced one of my favorite genre films, The Truman Show. The film won him a Hugo at Aussiecon Three.  He also involved in GattacaThe TerminalIn TimeThe HostThe Minutes short videoand Anon. Sort of genre adjacent is that he‘s been announced as the screenwriter for a live version of the Monopoly game but it still in development.  Personally I think it’s in the games section of The Library in The Dreaming. (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1986 – Amanda Havard, age 35.  In The Survivors and two sequels Sadie Matthau searches for answers about her family who survived the Salem witch trials through supernatural abilities; on an Immersedition interactive book application are AH’s original music, and maps, photos, background, commentary; a syndication at Wattpad.com has had 5 million readers.  Independent Publisher’s Editor’s Choice award, eLit bronze medals for Fantasy – Science Fiction and Young Adult.  [JH]

(10) BONUS BIRTHDAY. A.V. Club also reminds us: “Today’s the birth date of the miracle replicant baby in Blade Runner 2049”.

It’s a happy day on both Earth and the off-world colonies alike, at least for high-level replicants who haven’t been “retired” yet. That’s because today, June 10, 2021, is the date repeatedly shown in Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 as the birth date of the miracle replicant messiah baby conceived by Nexus-7 replicant Rachael and Blade Runner Rick Deckard (who is also probably a replicant). The birth should’ve been impossible, because replicants are definitely just pieces of machinery who don’t have thoughts or feelings of their own and shouldn’t be capable of having children, because then it would be harder to argue that they’re not normal people and humans might start feeling bad for how they treat them (humans are the worst). That’s what makes this miracle messiah baby so important to the distinctly Jared Leto-like creep Niander Wallace, who wants to use the miracle baby to figure out how he can make more miracle babies and satiate his enormous god-complex…. but that hasn’t happened yet, because it’s still only 2021….

(11) BLESS THEIR HEARTS. ScreenRant pulled up a 1977 video interview where “Stan Lee Admitted Marvel Trolled DC In The Most Hilarious Way”.

…In an interview in the late ’70s, the former Marvel editor-in-chief was asked about his competition at DC Comics. Without hesitation, Lee said “bless their little innocent hearts,” before admitting that they had “fun with them” after they started selling more comics. According to Lee, DC studied Marvel’s covers in an effort to try to emulate their success. Lee said DC noticed the use of red on their comics and started doing their own red covers. He added DC did the same thing with dialogue on the covers. In response, Marvel took “all the red” and dialogue off their covers, which Lee revealed still led to their books still selling better. Lee said it drove DC “crazy.” (Lee’s answer begins around the 8-minute mark of the YouTube video below)….

(12) STORMBRINGER. Spoilerverse carries “Michael Moorcock’s Multiverse: From Melniboné to Hollywood”, a podcast with Andrew Sumner conducting the interview.

Sumner welcomes the world’s greatest living fantasy author, Michael Moorcock, to Hard Agree for the first in an ongoing series of conversations about Michael’s life and work. In this debut episode, Sumner & Moorcock discuss Michael’s parents, his Dad’s regard for Arthur C Clarke, completing the latest Elric of Melniboné novel (due for release in Fall 2022), the beginnings of Jerry Cornelius, Michael’s great friendship with feminist author Andrea Dworkin – and they begin a discussion of Michael’s wild ride through Hollywood that will roll into our next episode.

(13) MONEY SHOULD FLOW TO THE WRITER. Max Florschutz breaks down “Why You Won’t Be Seeing My Work on Serial Story Sites” at Unusual Things.

…See, story services like this are based off of similar setups that come from Asia that started with mangas. And from a business perspective, they’re designed to be explotative.

See, the idea is that the site itself exists to gather as many content creators as possible and then create a microcosm of a “free market,” where everyone is competing with everyone else. Except it’s not really that “free” since it’s controlled by a single entity who runs the service. And they can therefore manipulate how it functions to their advantage.

And oh, do they ever. These services are designed to maximize their profits … at the expense of those who flood them with content.

For instance, there’s an upper limit on how much you can release with each post. Vella, for instance, has a limit per chapter of 5000 words. You can’t release anything larger. Why? Because it maximizes the volume of content readers must click through or pay for, increasing ad and subscription revenue. What would be one chapter becomes two or even three, which means 2-3 times the revenue per reader. Tricky … but effective.

But worse, they actively design the system to produce free content the site runners earn revenue off of for free. When you start at these places, you start at “the bottom.” IE for a lot of the founding originators of this idea, you earned nothing… 

(14) ROUNDUP TIME. In Petréa Mitchell’s “Anime roundup 6/10/2021: It Gets Real” at Amazing Stories.

ODDTAXI #10 – Odokawa attempts to recruit Yamamoto into his scheme to upset the heist, only to wind up setting himself up to be conveniently murdered. It is only thanks to Shirakawa that he survives long enough to meet up with Dobu again for a sketch of Dobu’s plan and the long-awaited title drop.

It’s an excellent moment when Shirakawa finally gets to use her capoeira skills in anger, but it leads to the question: how did she happen to be hanging around in the very construction site where Yamamoto was planning to dispose of Odokawa in the middle of the night?…

(15) HE REVIEWS THOSE THEWS. In the Washington Post, Michael Dirda gives an introduction to the fiction of Robert E. Howard as well as biographical and critical works about him. “Robert E. Howard became famous for creating Conan. But that warrior was only the beginning.”

As a reviewer, I’ve always regarded myself as a generalist, lurching from a novel this week to a biography or work of history the next, occasionally interspersing an essay or rediscovering a neglected classic. But every so often, I feel the need to be much more — what’s the right word? — serious, intense, almost scholarly. I yearn to immerse myself in the works of a single author, to spend time reading as much of his or her writing as possible. During these literary sprees, I even undertake actual research, scribble notes, talk to experts.

Last month, I realized that this column would coincide with Robert E. Howard Remembrance Days in Cross Plains, Tex. There, the writer’s fans gather each June 11 — the day the 30-year-old shot himself in 1936 — for talks, barbecue and camaraderie. This year’s guest of honor is Roy Thomas, who wrote the 1970s Marvel comics which — along with Lancer paperbacks featuring brutal and sensual cover art by Frank Frazetta — created a new audience for Howard’s best-known character, the greatest warrior of the ancient Hyborian age.

We first learn his name in the soul-stirring epigraph of “The Phoenix on the Sword”: “Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet.”…

(16) COVER YOURSELF. The Retro Science Fiction Collage Hawaiian Shirt is an eye-catcher.

(17) A BEAUTY AND SOME BEASTS. Enchanted Living Magazine introduces readers to “The Magical Beasts of Anastasiya Dobrovolskaya”.

… Dobrovolskaya’s first shoot with Stepan took place in January, and she says, “it was a wonderful experience thanks to which we made amazing photos.” She describes Stepan as “the cutest bear in the world: very loving and delicate,” and says that his story “is an example of an endless love between people and an animal. When I saw him for the first time I could not hold back the tears because I saw such a huge love between this animal and his people. I wish that all people treated their pets like Stepan’s family have been treating him.”

Dobrovolskaya has always loved and cared for animals. “As a child I brought home puppies and kittens that had been thrown out,” she said. “On??, I brought a baby raven whose wing was broken. Nothing has changed. I still love animals with all my heart and am always trying to help those in trouble.” She first incorporated animals in her photography by chance in 2018. She’d been taking portraits for a few months when she received a message from a woman who organizes photo shoots in Moscow, offering Dobrovolskaya the opportunity to participate in a shoot with a chicken and a mini pig. How could she resist?

She found a model, plucked a dress from her  own closet, and went—but didn’t know what to do.  “Should the chicken be on the floor? Or should I put him on the fence? The pig suddenly fell asleep—was it okay to wake her up? The only thing I knew was that I wanted those photos to look like fashion ones.” So she told her model Margo, “Imagine that we’re making content for Vogue.” The photos turned out smashingly and even went on to be recognized in the huge international photo contest 35 AWARDS 2018.

As it turned out, the couple who owned the chicken and the mini pig took care of other animals too, including a baby fox cub and an owl. Dobrovolskaya asked if it were possible to take photos with them as well, though she was “very worried that it was stressful for the animals.” The owners assured her it was okay, and to Dobrovolskaya’s surprise, “both the fox and owl were very happy to have an additional walk in a park and didn’t even notice the paparazzi.”…

(18) GOOGLE FOR DUMBOS. Scientific American is there when “The First ‘Google Translate’ for Elephants Debuts”. [Via Slashdot.]

When a male African savanna elephant folds his ears while simultaneously waving them, he’s ready for a fight. When a female folds her ears and accompanies the action with an ear flap, that means she’s also issuing a serious threat. But when elephants come together and fold their ears while also rapidly flapping them, the animals are expressing a warm, affiliative greeting that is part of their bonding ceremonies.

Elephants possess an incredibly rich repertoire of communication techniques, including hundreds of calls and gestures that convey specific meanings and can change depending on the context. Different elephant populations also exhibit culturally learned behaviors unique to their specific group. Elephant behaviors are so complex, in fact, that even scientists may struggle to keep up with them all. Now, to get the animals and researchers on the same page, a renowned biologist who has been studying endangered savanna elephants for nearly 50 years has co-developed a digital elephant ethogram, a repository of everything known about their behavior and communication….

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

Pixel Scroll 4/3/21 Oh, Dear, One Of My Cats Just Brought Me Half A Pixel

(1) BSFA AWARDS LINK CHANGE. Use this link instead of the one posted yesterday to view the BSFA Awards ceremony on April 4.

BSFA chair Allen Stroud says, “Apologies for the alteration. Owing to a case of deleting a scheduled event (totally my fault), the url for the awards has changed.”

(2) WFC PROGRESS REPORT. World Fantasy Convention 2021 – which still plans an in-person con in Montreal this November – has released Progress Report #2. Chair Diane Lacey says:

…In the midst of these difficult times, we want to assure everyone that we are actively monitoring the COVID-19 situation. We’re working hard to ascertain every contingency that may have an impact on WFC 2021. We will make modifications to our plans accordingly to keep our membership safe. We sincerely hope there will be progress in controlling and conquering the virus long before our convention, and we are quite confident we will be able to hold an in person convention. We look forward to welcoming you all to Montréal. Please feel free to contact us at any time with your concerns or questions….

(3) 2024 WORLDCON BID NEWS. The UK in 2024 bid committee aired this video update during the virtual Eastercon:

(4) SLF PODCAST LAUNCHES. The Speculative Literature Foundation has started a new podcast, “Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans”, hosted by Mary Anne Mohanraj and Benjamin Rosenbaum.

Join two old friends as they talk about science fiction, community, the writing life, teaching, parenting, and a whole lot more. Does Ben really think you should let your kids touch the stove, and did he really burn his son’s homework? Why did he write a novel with no men or women in it? What exactly did a young Mary Anne do to appall her aunts in college, and how did it lead circuitously to her founding science fiction’s longest-running webzine? Mohanraj and Rosenbaum… Are Humans? Yes, yes they are.

Episodes of the Spring 2021 season are being released on Mondays and Thursdays, starting March 22. They’re available on major podcast platforms including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube, etc. Or tune into the “Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans” website. Episodes available so far are –

  1. Episode 1: “Introductions” (Published 22 March 2021)
  2. Bonus Episode 1: “The Capitol and the Cafe” (Published 25 March 2021)
  3. Episode 2: “The Toilet Seat Con Hook-Up” (Published 29 March 2021)

Mohanraj is the author of A Feast of Serendib, Bodies in Motion, The Stars Change, and twelve other titles. Mohanraj founded Hugo-nominated and World Fantasy Award-winning speculative literature magazine Strange Horizons, and serves as Executive Director of both DesiLit (desilit.org) and the Speculative Literature Foundation (speclit.org). Rosenbaum’s short stories have been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, Locus, BSFA, and World Fantasy Awards. He designed the Ennie-nominated Jewish historical fantasy tabletop roleplaying game Dream Apart, and serves on the board of Basel’s liberal Jewish congregation, Migwan. He lives in Switzerland with his wife Esther and a gradually emptying nest of children. His first SF novel, The Unravelling, is forthcoming from Erewhon Books.

(5) DC PROJECTS SHELVED. Two DC movies, Ava DuVernay’s New Gods and James Wan’s Aquaman spinoff The Trench, are “not moving forward” Warner Bros. and DC told The Hollywood Reporter.

…New Gods, which DuVernay has been developing as a directing vehicle with acclaimed comic book writer Tom King since 2018, would have brought to the screen the comic book characters created by the late and legendary artist Jack Kirby. DuVernay, however, remains in the DC fold and is currently working on the DC series Naomi for The CW.

The Trench, meanwhile, was to have been a horror-tinged project spinning out of Aquaman and focused on the group of deadly amphibious creatures seen in the $1 billion-grossing 2018 film. Noah Gardner and Aidan Fitzgerald had written the script, which Wan was developing as a producer with collaborator Peter Safran. Wan, too, remains in the DC fold as he is prepping to shoot Aquaman 2 for the studio later this year….

(6) THESE SPUDS WON’T PEEL THEMSELVES. Ted Chiang tells New Yorker readers “Why Computers Won’t Make Themselves Smarter”.

…The idea of an intelligence explosion was revived in 1993, by the author and computer scientist Vernor Vinge, who called it “the singularity,” and the idea has since achieved some popularity among technologists and philosophers. Books such as Nick Bostrom’s “Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies,” Max Tegmark’s “Life 3.0: Being Human in the age of Artificial Intelligence,” and Stuart Russell’s “Human Compatible: Artificial Intelligence and the Problem of Control” all describe scenarios of “recursive self-improvement,” in which an artificial-intelligence program designs an improved version of itself repeatedly.

I believe that Good’s and Anselm’s arguments have something in common, which is that, in both cases, a lot of the work is being done by the initial definitions. These definitions seem superficially reasonable, which is why they are generally accepted at face value, but they deserve closer examination. I think that the more we scrutinize the implicit assumptions of Good’s argument, the less plausible the idea of an intelligence explosion becomes.

… Some proponents of an intelligence explosion argue that it’s possible to increase a system’s intelligence without fully understanding how the system works. They imply that intelligent systems, such as the human brain or an A.I. program, have one or more hidden “intelligence knobs,” and that we only need to be smart enough to find the knobs. I’m not sure that we currently have many good candidates for these knobs, so it’s hard to evaluate the reasonableness of this idea. Perhaps the most commonly suggested way to “turn up” artificial intelligence is to increase the speed of the hardware on which a program runs. Some have said that, once we create software that is as intelligent as a human being, running the software on a faster computer will effectively create superhuman intelligence. Would this lead to an intelligence explosion?…

(7) BLACK WIDOW SPINNING YOUR WAY. “We have unfinished business” is the keynote of  Marvel Studios’ Black Widow trailer dropped today. The movie comes to theaters or Disney+ with Premier Access on July 9.

(8) PENNY FRIERSON OBIT. Penny Frierson (1941-2021), co-chair of the 1986 Atlanta Worldcon, has died reports Guy H. Lillian III, who received the news through Charlotte Proctor.

Frierson joined fandom in 1968.  She chaired DeepSouthCon 15 in Birmingham, AL in 1977 and helped found the Birmingham Science Fiction Club in 1978.

Penny also was a member of the Southern Fandom Press Alliance. She won the Rebel Award in 1986.

She was married to Meade Frierson III, who predeceased her in 2001.

1992 Worldcon: Charlotte Proctor, Penny Frierson, Nicki Lynch, Rich Lynch.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 3, 1953 — In London sixty-eight years ago, The War Of The Worlds based on the H.G. wells novel had its very first theatrical showing. It was the recipient of a 1954 Retro-Hugo Award at Noreascon 4 in 2004.  It was produced by George Pal, and directed by Byron Haskin. It starred Gene Barry and Ann Robinson. It was deemed culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant in 2011 by the United States Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 3, 1783 Washington Irving. Best remembered for his short stories “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, both of which appear in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. collection. The latter in particular has been endlessly reworked downed the centuries into genre fiction including the recent Sleepy Hollow series. (Died 1859.) (CE)
  • Born April 3, 1905 – Noel Loomis.  Two novels, three dozen shorter stories for us (five at Project Gutenberg); also detective fiction; Westerns (including film, television) and related nonfiction: two Spur Awards, President of Western Writers of America.  Also printing; he edited this.  (Died 1969) [JH]
  • Born April 3, 1927 Donald M. Grant. He was responsible for the creation of several genre small press publishers. He co-founded Grant-Hadley Enterprises in 1945, Buffalo Book Company in 1946, Centaur Press in 1970 and Donald M. Grant, Publisher, Inc. in 1964. Between 1976 and 2003, he won five World Fantasy Awards and a Balrog Award as well. (Died 2009.) (CE)
  • Born April 3, 1928 – Colin Kapp.  A dozen novels, three dozen shorter stories; perhaps best known for the Unorthodox Engineers: collection recently republished for Kindle.  CK was an engineer himself, though art doesn’t always work that way.  Guest of Honour at Eastercon 31.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born April 3, 1929 Ernest Callenbach. Ecotopia: The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston was rejected by every major publisher so Callenbach initially self-published it. Ecotopia Emerging is a prequel and sequel as well was published later. Yes, I read both. As such fiction goes, they’re just ok.  If you can find a copy, Christopher Swan’s YV 88: An Eco-Fiction of Tomorrow which depicts the rewilded Yosemite Valley is a much more interesting read. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born April 3, 1936 Reginald Hill. Now this surprised me. He’s the author of the most excellent Dalziel and Pascoe copper series centered on profane, often piggish Andrew Dalziel, and his long suffering, more by the book partner Peter Pascoe solving traditional Yorkshire crimes. Well there’s a SF mystery in there set in 2010, many years after the other Dalziel and Pascoe stories, and involves them investigating the first Luna murder. I’ll need to read this one. There’s another with Peter Pascoe as a future European Pan Police Commissioner. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born April 3, 1946 Lyn McConchie, 75. New Zealand author who has written three sequels in the Beast Master series that Andre Norton created and four novels in Norton’s Witch World as well. She has written a lot of Holmesian fiction, so I’ll just recommend her collection of short stories, Sherlock Holmes: Familar Crimes: New Tales of The Great Detective. She’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born April 3, 1950 – Mark Linneman, age 61.  Helpful reliable fan often found where such are needed and even the non-monetary compensation we can grant is scant, e.g. tallying Worldcon Site Selection ballots, which ML has done four times I can think of.  Often seen at Midwestcons, SMOFcons (Secret Masters Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke; con for studying, trying to improve, SF cons and like that).  North America agent for Aussiecon 4 the 68th Worldcon.  Guest of Honor at Concave 33.  [JH]
  • Born April 3, 1950 – Tony Parker, age 71.  Co-chaired TropiCon VIII-IX (with wife Judy Bemis).  Guest of Honor at Concave 16 (with JB).  Thoughtful and even (sorry, Tony) wise. [JH]
  • Born April 3, 1958 – Vanna Bonta.  One novel, three collections of poetry.  Voice actress in Beauty and the Beast (1991).  She, her husband, and the zero-gravity suit she invented were in The Universe (2008); she designed a pressure-release device for high-combustion engines in NASA (U.S. Nat’l Aeronautics & Space Adm’n) and Northrop Grumman’s Lunar Lander Challenge.  Among twelve thousand haiku submitted to NASA for inclusion with the Mars explorer MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere & Volatile EvolutioN), hers made the top five: “Thirty-six million / miles of whispering welcome. / Mars, you called us home.”  You’ll see its alliteration; do attend to its ambiguity.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born April 3, 1958 Alec Baldwin, 63. I’ve no idea how many times I’ve seen him in Beetlejuice as Adam Maitland since it’s one of my favorite films, period. Despite those who don’t like The Shadow and him in his dual role of Lamont  Cranston and The Shadow, I’m quite fond of it. Let’s just skip past any mention of The Cat in the Hat… Ahhhh Rise of the Guardians where he voices Nicholas St. North is quite fantastic. Another go to, feel good film for me. He’s Alan Hunley in some of the Mission: Impossible franchise, a series I think I’ve only seen the first two films of. And here’s a weird one — the US. run of Thomas The Tank Engine & Friends replaced the U.K. narrator, some minor musician no one had ever heard of by the name of Ringo Starr, with him. (CE)
  • Born April 3, 1962 James R. Black, 59. I’d like to say he’s best known for his leading role as Agent Michael Hailey on The Burning Zone but since it was short-lived and I’m not sure anyone actually watched it on UPN that might be stretching reality a bit. If you like great popcorn viewing, The Burning Zone is certainly worth seeing. Prior to his run on that series, he’s got a number of one-offs including Babylon 5Deep Space 9, The SentinelSpace: Above and Beyond with his first genre role being Doctor Death in Zombie Cop. (CE)
  • Born April 3, 1989 – Elaine Vilar Madruga, age 32.  Two novels, fifty shorter stories, some in English: last year “Elsinore Revolution”, see the Jan/Feb Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; her poem “The Apocalypse According to My Name” in Spanish and English, see the Spring Star*Line; four more.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) THE SOUND OF MUSIC? Puppeteer and space aficionado Mary Robinette Kowal told Twitter followers, “I giggled all the way through this puppet music video ‘Everybody Poops In Space’ from @AdlerPlanet There’s a SINGING FECAL CONTAINMENT BAG”. Consider yourself warned.

(13) FROM THE BOTTOM TO THE TOP. Variety’s Matthew Chernov puts 33 films in order in “Godzilla: All the Movies Ranked Including ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’”.

He’s been dissolved at the bottom of the ocean, frozen solid in an iceberg, blown up in a volcano, disintegrated in an atomic meltdown, and killed by missiles on the Brooklyn Bridge, but thanks to the millions of fans who love him, Godzilla will never die. Japan’s biggest star returns again in “Godzilla vs. Kong,” the latest entry in the Big G’s ever-expanding filmography. Pitted against his hairy rival for the second time in history, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is the fourth movie in Legendary Pictures popular MonsterVerse saga, which launched in 2014 with Gareth Edwards’ stylish reboot.

Like many long-running franchises, the Godzilla series has gone through a number of distinct phrases since its introduction. The first phrase, which covers the 15 titles released between 1954 and 1975, is commonly known by fans as the Showa era. These kaiju films (kaiju is the Japanese term for giant monster) are marked by their dramatic shift in tone, from the somber and haunting original classic to the wonderfully ludicrous “Godzilla vs. Hedorah.”

The second phase is often referred to as the Heisei era, and it includes the seven titles released between 1984 and 1995. These Godzilla films feature a greater sense of narrative continuity, and they ask complex philosophical questions about science and humanity. The third phase is the Millennium era, which covers the six titles released between 1999 and 2004. The majority of these Godzilla films are self-contained stories, much like an anthology series. There have also been a number of standalone reboots, both Japanese and American, that put their own unique spin on the character.

To help you program the ultimate monster marathon, here’s our Godzilla movie ranking, listed from wretched worst to bestial best. Long live the lizard king!

(14) WAS THE GRINCH AN ASTRONAUT? [Item by rcade.] Spaceflight can cause the heart to shrink, according to a study in the journal Circulation led by Dr. Benjamin Levine of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “Long spaceflights and endurance swimming can ‘shrink the heart’” at BBC News.

The study examined astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent 340 days about the International Space Station, and endurance swimmer Benoît Lecomte. Swimming for extended periods of time is a useful model for time spent in orbit. Lecomte trained over five hours a day for five months preparing to swim the Pacific Ocean.

Both Kelly and Lecomte showed signs of heart atrophy and lost mass in the organ — 19 to 27 percent loss in Kelly.

Levine said:

One of the things we’ve learned over many years of study, is that the heart is remarkably plastic. So the heart adapts to the load that’s placed on it. …

In spaceflight, one of the things that happens, is you no longer have to pump blood uphill, because you’re not pumping against gravity….

(15) WITCHER WRAP. Netflix dropped a behind-the-scenes trailer for season 2 of The Witcher.

15 locations, 89 cast members, and 1,200 crew members later, The Witcher has officially wrapped production on Season 2! Here’s a look behind-the-scenes at some of the excitement among the cast and crew – led by showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich.

(16) WHAT’S BUGGING YOU? In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri offers a “handy quiz” to determine whether you’re someone who is emerging from a year of pandemic lockdown or if you are a Brood X cicada!

Check all that apply:

  • You haven’t had any contact with friends or other members of your generation in what feels like 17 years….

(17) FAKE OLDS TO GO WITH FAKE NEWS. Gizmodo surveys research showing how “Scientists Implant and Then Reverse False Memories in People”.

Researchers have demonstrated just how easy it is to trick the mind into remembering something that didn’t happen. They also used two very simple techniques to reverse those false memories, in a feat that paves the way for a deeper understanding of how memory works….

“When people describe a memory, they will say that they are ‘absolutely certain’ of it. But this certainty can be an illusion. We suffer from the illusion of believing that our memories are accurate and pure,” Lisa Son, professor of Psychology at Barnard College of Columbia University, told Gizmodo. “This is despite the fact that we, in fact, forget all the time.”

Indeed, our minds are able to fabricate memories of entire events just by piecing together bits of stories, photographs, and anecdotes somebody else shares. These so-called false memories have been a hot topic of research for a while now, and there’s growing evidence that they could be a widespread phenomenon, according to a 2016 analysis of the field.

Building off of that, Oeberst’s lab recently implanted false memories in 52 people by using suggestive interviewing techniques. First, they had the participants’ parents privately answer a questionnaire and come up with some real childhood memories and two plausible, but fake, ones—all negative in nature, such as how their pet died or when they lost their toy. Then they had researchers ask the participants to recall these made-up events in a detailed manner, including specifics about what happened. For example, “Your parents told us that when you were 12 years old during a holiday in Italy with your family you got lost. Can you tell me more about it?”

The test subjects met their interviewer three times, once every two weeks, and by the third session most participants believed these anecdotes were true, and over half (56%) developed and recollected actual false memories—a significantly higher percentage than most studies in this area of research….

(18) REMEMBER THE DEAN DRIVE. “Latest EmDrive tests at Dresden University shows “impossible Engine” does not develop any thrust”.

… After tests in NASA laboratories had initially stirred up hope that the so-called EmDrive could represent a revolutionary, fuel-free alternative to space propulsion, the sobering final reports on the results of intensive tests and analyzes of three EmDrive variants by physicists at the Dresden University of Technology (TU Dresden) are now available. Grenzwissenschaft-Aktuell.de (GreWi) has exclusively interviewed the head of studies Prof. Dr. Martin Tajmar about the results….

(19) DOUBLE DUTCH LUNAR EXCURSION MODULE. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Live Science asks “How long would it take to walk around the moon?” Depends whether you go with the wind before or behind you, right?

…A total of 12 humans have stepped foot on the lunar surface, all of whom were part of the Apollo missions between 1969 and 1972, according to NASA. The footage that was beamed back to Earth showed how challenging (and, apparently, fun) it was to walk — or more accurately, bounce — around in the moon’s low gravity, which is one-sixth the gravity of Earth

However, research from NASA has since suggested that it is possible for humans to maneuver much faster on the moon than the Apollo astronauts did. Theoretically, walking the circumference of the moon could be done faster than previously predicted.

Picking up the pace 

During the Apollo missions, astronauts bounced around the surface at a casual 1.4 mph (2.2 km/h), according to NASA. This slow speed was mainly due to their clunky, pressurized spacesuits that were not designed with mobility in mind. If the “moonwalkers” had sported sleeker suits, they might have found it a lot easier to move and, as a result, picked up the pace.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Persona 5 Strikers” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that this game combines the happy joys of teenagers vacationing in Japan with the thrill of ‘spending 80 hours slaughtering one billion people,” a combination that’s like “peanut butter and methamphetamines.”

[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Cat Eldridge, Guy H. Lillian III, JJ, John Hertz, Lorien Gray, Rob Thornton, JeffWarner, Andrew Porter, rcade, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, James Davis Nicoll, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 11/10/20 Pixelled On Next Scroll

(1) IN TRANSLATION. BBC’s World Service’s “In the Studio” feature “Ann Goldstein: The art of the translator” is available to hear online.

Daniel Hahn and Ann Goldstein are translators, inhabiting a strange world between creation and publication, but with their own literary and linguistic creativity shaping the final form. Goldstein has been translating for decades, turning the words of Elena Ferrante, Primo Levi and Jhumpa Lahiri, amongst others, into English. She works prolifically, and in this episode Daniel, himself a prize-winning author and literary judge, spends time with her over the course of three days in 2018 as she translates an award-winning Italian book. 

Daniel Hahn discusses with her how to know where to translate exactly and where to get the sense, how to translate phrases which have no translation, and shares experiences about the politics of translation. He finds out how this literary great came to translating, how she chooses the books she wishes to translate and to what extent she acts – as so many translators do – as an advocate for foreign-language books to English-language publishers. And implicit in all this is what is core to the translator’s art – intercession between cultures, sharing ideas and stories which would otherwise go unshared.

(2) WOLLSTONECRAFT STATUE. [Item by Dann.] Today they unveiled a statue in honor of Mary Wollstonecraft for her work as an early feminist. As I understand it, the statue is not of her but is instead a statue representing all women.  The woman depicted in the statue is nude.  Some folks don’t like that. Image in this tweet.

(3) OR E-CON. The schedule of the free virtual OR e-con (November 13-15) has been posted.

… This event will be hosted online via ZOOM, with link being provided to the Orycon mailing list.

TO REGISTER AND RECEIVE THE ACCESS LINK: We will be giving access links for the Zoom rooms to the OR e-Con mailing list. To sign up for our mailing list, please email: announceadmin@orycon.org

While this will be a free event, we will be requesting donations both to cover the costs of the virtual event and for use elsewhere in the organization. Volunteers are also needed for this event, and you can request more information by contacting volunteers@orycon.org.

AUTHOR GUEST OF HONOR: A. Lee Martinez

ARTIST GUESTS OF HONOR: Phil and Kaja Foglio

The programming schedule outlined below are for the 3 main Zoom rooms that will be available, along with the Creation Station events (to be announced).

(4) CROWDFUNDING FOR TWO HUMANS. Mary Anne Mohanraj and Benjamin Rosenbaum have opened a Kickstarter — “SLF Podcast: Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans” – to raise $1500 to fund the editing costs of the first season of their forthcoming podcast.

Join two old friends as they talk about science fiction, community, the writing life, teaching, parenting, and a whole lot more. Does Ben really think you should let your kids touch the stove, and did he really burn his son’s homework? Why did he write a novel with no men or women in it? What exactly did a young Mary Anne do to appall her aunts in college, and how did it lead circuitously to her founding science fiction’s longest-running webzine? Mohanraj and Rosenbaum… Are Humans? Yes, yes they are.

They’re working on the first season of 12 weekly episodes, to launch January 2021. There’s a trailer video at the link.

(5) MEMORY OF EARLY SFWA OFFICER. The Lansing Community College Lookout tells how Joan Hunter Holly is being remembered in “Late LCC professor’s legacy lives on”.

…She was a member of Science Fiction Writers of America, serving as treasurer from 1976 to 1979, and a member of the Academy of Science Fiction and Fantasy Films.

Her career was put on pause due to a brain tumor. She had it removed in 1970 and resumed writing….

Hunter said his ultimate goal is to work with Holly’s family to release some of her unpublished works. 

“I have several short stories that a fan of Joan’s has compiled into a trilogy that we’d like to publish,” Hunter said. “In general, I just want to raise awareness of her work. I may create a website devoted to her work in the future, too.”

Vincent Tomanica worked at The Lookout from 1976-1978. He took Holly’s LCC Short Story Writing class in 1977. He is a retired teacher and writer.

The pair formed a friendship and Holly confided in Tomanica about her cancer. She told Tomanica he would be a successful author and encouraged him to get published.

“I was encouraged by her confidence in me,” Tomanica said. “She was very kind … soft spoken and very thoughtful … she was very contained and self-possessed.

Holly urged Tomanica to get back in touch with her after he got published.

“I got busy … but I still found time to submit manuscripts to publishers anyway,” Tomanica said. “A couple years after taking her class I did get published in a national magazine and I eagerly contacted LCC’s Communications Department to pass my good news along to Joan. You can imagine how devastated I was to hear that she had passed away because of cancer.”

(6) OUT IN FRONT. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron’s topic on November 14 will be “You’re a Geek in a Leadership Role. Now What?” Register at the link for the free virtual event.

A show on leadership, discussed by geeks. On the show will be Steve Kelner, Vincent Docherty, and Imri Goldberg, and of course Karen and Gadi.

On the show, each of the participants will share their own experience with leadership, their exposure to the field, as well as game a rapid-fire exercise with various HBR-like questions on leadership scenarios and challenges.

When:
3 PM US Eastern Time, November 14th.

(7) PANDEMIC DELAYS EUROCON. Next year’s Eurocon in Italy has been postponed a few months: “Eurocon 2021 postponed due to COVID-19 emergency”

Because of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) emergency, the planned Eurocon 2021 had to be reconsidered. In our commitment to ensure the highest level od safety for participants, we have decided to postpone Eurocon 2021, that was scheduled for March 15-18 2021. The new dates are July 15-18 2021.

(8) SHELF LIFE. Atlas Obscura takes readers “Inside the New York Public Library’s Last, Secret Apartments”.

There used to be parties in the apartments on the top floors of New York City’s branch libraries. On other nights, when the libraries were closed, the kids who lived there might sit reading alone among the books or roll around on the wooden library carts—if they weren’t dusting the shelves or shoveling coal. Their hopscotch courts were on the roof. A cat might sneak down the stairs to investigate the library patrons.

When these libraries were built, about a century ago, they needed people to take care of them. Andrew Carnegie had given New York $5.2 million, worth well over $100 million today, to create a city-wide system of library branches, and these buildings, the Carnegie libraries, were heated by coal. Each had a custodian, who was tasked with keeping those fires burning and who lived in the library, often with his family. “The family mantra was: Don’t let that furnace go out,” one woman who grew up in a library told the New York Times.

But since the ’70s and ’80s, when the coal furnaces started being upgraded and library custodians began retiring, those apartments have been emptying out, and the idyll of living in a library has disappeared. Many of the apartments have vanished, too, absorbed back into the buildings through renovations for more modern uses. Today there are just 13 library apartments left in the New York Public Library system.

(9) MEDIA ANIVERSARY.

  • November 1990 — Thirty years ago, Geoff Ryman’s The Child Garden which bears the variant title of The Child Garden or A Low Comedy would win the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best SF Novel. It would also win the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel, and it would be nominated for both a BSFA Best SF Novel award and Locus Award for Best SF Novel as well. Unwin Hyman had published it the previous year though it was originally published in the Summer-Autumn 1987 issue of Interzone as “Love Sickness” before it would be very much expanded as this novel. Cover art is by Dave McKean. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 10, 1899 – Kate Seredy.  Author and illustrator of children’s books, some fantastic.  Wrote and illustrated The White Stag (legends of Huns settling Hungary), winning the Newbery Medal and Lewis Carroll Shelf Award.  Here is an interior for Andre Norton’s first novel The Prince Commands.  Two Newbery Honors, Caldecott Honor.  “For yesterday and for all tomorrows, we dance the best we know.”  (Died 1975) [JH]
  • Born November 10, 1927 – Don C. Thompson.  FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Award for Best Fanwriter.  Best known fanzine, Don-O-Saur.  Co-chaired Denvention Two the 39th Worldcon.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 31 (co-chaired by Our Gracious Host), MileHiCon 20 & 22.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • November 10, 1935 – Marilyn Duckworth, 85.  Novelist, poet, radio & television writer.  Her first novel A Gap in the Spectrum is ours, published when MD was 23; a dozen others; memoir Camping on the Faultline.  New Zealand Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement.  [JH]
  • Born November 10, 1950 – Dean Wesley Smith, 70.  Two hundred novels, hundreds of shorter stories.  With wife Kristine Kathryn Rusch, best known for Pulphouse.  World Fantasy Award to both of them for it.  [JH]
  • Born November 10, 1955 Roland Emmerich, 65. He’s very strong campaigner for the LGBT community, and is openly gay so bravo for him!  The Noah’s Ark Principle was in ‘84 by him written and directed by him as his thesis after seeing Star Wars  at the Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film MünchenMoon 44 followed which likely most of you haven’t seen but now we get to his Hollywood films, to wit Universal SoldierThe High Crusade (yes, the Poul Anderson novel), StargateIndependence Day…no, I’m going to stop there. Suffice it to say he’s created a lot of genre film. And oh, he directed Stonewall, the 2015 look at that historic event which I know isn’t genre or genre adjacent but is worth noting. (CE)
  • Born November 10, 1955 Clare Higgins, 65. Her genre film appearances include HellraiserHellbound: Hellraiser II and The Golden Compass. She was Miss Cackle on the Worst Witch series, and had a memorable role on Doctor Who as Ohila, the High Priestess of the Sisterhood of Karn, that started off with the War Doctor story, “The Night of The Doctor” which included the Eighth Doctor and continued through several appearances with the Twelfth Doctor. (CE) 
  • Born November 10, 1960 Neil Gaiman, 60. Summarizing him is nigh unto impossible so I won’t beyond saying that his works that I’ve immensely enjoyed include NeverwhereAnansi Boys, the Sandman series, StardustAmerican Gods and Coraline. As for film, I think the finest script he did is his “Day of The Dead” one for Babylon 5, not his Doctor Who scripts. The animated Coraline is I think the most faithful work of one of his novels, Neverwhere needs to be remade with decent CGI and the less said about Stardust the better. My first encounter with him was reading the BBC trade paper edition of Neverwhere followed by pretty much everything else he did until the last decade or so. (CE) 
  • Born November 10, 1963 Hugh Bonneville, 57. He’s here because he was Captain Avery in two Eleventh Doctor stories, “The Curse of the Black Spot” and “A Good Man Goes to War”. Which is not to say that he hasn’t done other genre work as he has as he’s got appearances on Da Vinci’s DemonsBonekickersBugs and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. And he had a bit part in a Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies.(CE)
  • Born November 10, 1969 – Sarah Porter, 51.  Half a dozen novels, one shorter story “Ratspeak”.  “When not writing my own weird stuff…. I might be drawing, or gardening, or wandering wraithlike through the streets.  I live in Brooklyn, land of mystery.”  Gallery here.  Note the hands and the womb.  [JH]
  • Born November 10, 1971 Holly Black, 49. Best known for her Spiderwick Chronicles, which were created with fellow writer & illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi, and for the Modern Faerie Tales YA trilogy.  Her first novel was Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale. (It’s very good.) There have been two sequels set in the same universe. The first, Valiant, won the first Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Doll Bones which is really, really creepy was awarded a Newbery Honor and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature.  Suffice it to say if you like horror, you’ll love her.  (CE)
  • Born November 10, 1982 Aliette de Bodard, 38. The latest work in her oh so excellent Xuya Universe series, the “Seven of Infinities” novella, was released today. Her Xuya Universe novella “The Tea Master and the Detective” won a Nebula Award for Best Novella and a World Fantasy Award for Best Novella, and was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Novella as well. “The Shipmaker”, also set herein, won a BSFA for Best Short Fiction.  Her other major series is The Dominion of the Fallen which is equally lauded. All of her fiction is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born November 10, 1984 – Yû Kamiya, 36.  (Name written Japanese style, personal name last.)  Wrote and illustrated light novel series No Game No Life, adapted into animé, and one of ten to receive a Yomiuri Shimbun Sugoi Japan Award.  Also Clockwork Planet light novels & manga with Himana Tsubaki.  [JH]

(11) INTERNATIONAL COMICS. BBC Radio’s Outlook follows “The wild ride of a Tamil comic book pioneer” (44 minute audio.)

This edition of Outlook is devoted to the impact of comic books and three remarkable journeys taken by artists and publishers who fell in love with comics as children.

Indian comic enthusiast Vijayan Soundrapandian has been working to bring his favourite characters to audiences in Tamil Nadu. His company Lion-Muthu Comics translates some of the world’s most famous comics into Tamil.

In 2017 Outlook reporter Daniel Gross went to South Africa to meet cartoonist Mogorosi Motshumi. Mogorosi witnessed the worst of apartheid, and in the 1970s and 80s, was one of the only black artists using comics to document township life.

And we stay in the Outlook archive by revisiting an interview Emily did with Chinese-American comic creator Gene Luen Yang, he’s the author behind the first Chinese Superman.

(12) HUMBLE BUNDLE. On offer for 90 days is the Humble Book Bundle: Be The Change Supporting The American Library Association – includes books by Delany, Butler and Hopkinson.

 We’ve teamed up with the American Library Association for this spectacular, one-of-a-kind book bundle! Get ebooks and audiobooks that feature and highlight PoC authors, creators, and characters like Falling in Love With Hominids, Neveryona, and This Book is Anti-Racist. Plus, your purchase will support the American Library Association and the Freedom to Read Foundation!

(13) FASTER THAN CRUISING SPEED. Tony Quine says that Russia is going to film a movie at the International Space Station a few weeks before Tom Cruise shows up. “Russia looks for actress to steal Tom Cruise space movie thunder” in The Space Review. Tom Cruise’s flight to the ISS is arranged through Axiom Space and SpaceX for October 2021.

Russia’s not-too-subtle effort to upstage Tom Cruise’s plans to film the first ever feature film in Earth orbit have taken a major step forward, with more details announced jointly by the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Channel One TV, from Moscow.

Vague details released in September have now been fleshed out, with the headline grabbing news being the decision to base the Russian movie plot around a woman, meaning that the filmmakers will need to find an actress willing to fly on a Soyuz rocket in October next year.

The project, which is tentatively called Vyzov, or The Challenge, has the tag line, “Become a star, by flying to the stars!”

… Although it has not been explicitly stated, the woman selected will need to fly on the Soyuz MS-19 mission, replacing one of the three professional cosmonauts currently pencilled in to fly that mission. This in turn, will mean that one of the crew on the preceding mission Soyuz MS-18 will need to remain on the ISS until the spring of 2022. This is because Russia has only six seats to the ISS available in 2021 (Soyuz MS-18 and MS-19) and needs to find a way to accommodate this previously unplanned “project” within those available resources.

The only other crewed Russian flight planned for 2021 is the first wholly commercial Soyuz mission, arranged in conjunction with experienced spaceflight provider Space Adventures. This will be Soyuz MS-20 and will fly in December 2021. Space Adventures is not involved in the “movie” project, and the actress will not occupy one of their seats. While they have not made any official comment about their future clients, the latest unofficial information emanating from Roscosmos and Space Adventures indicates that Soyuz MS-20 will be flown by veteran cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, and two female spaceflight participants: Austrian aviator Johanna Maislinger and a Japanese showbiz celebrity whose name has yet to be revealed (see “Orbital space tourism set for rebirth in 2021”, The Space Review, August 10, 2020).

However, the Russian movie proposal has not met with universal approval, with some Russian spaceflight commentators taking to social media to suggest that utilizing ISS resources for a purpose not obviously connected to scientific research, or Russian national interests, may actually be illegal, and have called for transparency with regard to the underlying financial arrangements….

(14) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was dialed into tonight’s Jeopardy! and saw this answer elude contestants:

Category: Books by Subtitle.

Answer: 1995: “The Life and Times of” a certain “Wizard of Oz” Character.

Wrong questions: “Who is Dorothy?” “Who is The Wicked Witch?”

Correct question: “What is ‘Wicked?'”

Two contestants didn’t get this one either –

Final Jeopardy: History in the Movies

Answer: Vehicles in “2001: A Space Odyssey” featured this airline’s logo, but the company went bankrupt in 1991.

Wrong Questions: “What is Eastern Airlines?” and “What is Martin?”

Correct question: “What is Pan Am?”

(15) TAKE A WHIFF. “Powell’s Books Is Releasing a Fragrance that Smells Like a Bookstore” reports Kottke.org.

Beloved Portland indie bookseller Powell’s Books is selling a unisex fragrance that smells like a bookstore.

This scent contains the lives of countless heroes and heroines. Apply to the pulse points when seeking sensory succor or a brush with immortality.

According to KOIN, the company noticed that customers missed the smell when they were closed during the pandemic lockdown in the spring.

Powell’s Books is releasing a limited edition unisex fragrance that captures what they said is what customers missed most about Powell’s — the aroma.

Store officials said they surveyed customers about what they missed while the store was temporarily closed by the pandemic. It’s not the books. It’s the smell.

The perfume comes packaged in something that looks like a book, like a hidden bottle of hooch or a gun.

(16) SO ARE THE DAYS OF OUR LIVES. Randall Munroe contemplates “What Makes Sand Soft?” in the New York Times. Tagline: “Understanding how grains flow is vital for everything from landslide prediction to agricultural processing, and scientists aren’t very good at it.”

… Karen Daniels, a physicist at North Carolina State University who studies sand and other granular materials — a field actually called “soft matter” — told me that sand is challenging in part because the grains have so many different properties, like size, shape, roughness and more: “One reason we don’t have a general theory is that all of these properties matter.”…

(17) BOOK TRAILER OF THE DAY. Lovely artwork in this new edition of two Lewis Carroll classics.

Alice’s adventures in the dreamlike worlds of Wonderland and the Looking Glass Kingdom are some of the most original and best-loved children’s stories ever written. These joyous, thrilling and utterly nonsensical tales are filled with vivid, unforgettable images and characters. This new edition contains the texts of both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking Glass in a beautiful, clothbound flipped book – illustrated throughout in glorious colour. Floor Rieder’s gorgeous drawings are an original and fresh imagining of Alice’s topsy-turvy world. Out now from Pushkin Children’s, this clothbound edition is a must for any Alice fans, and the perfect Christmas gift for all.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/30/20 The Pixel Scroll Is Read, Yet There’s Much More To Be Said

(1) DON’T BE THAT AUTHOR. Brenda Clough’s list grows longer: “Ways to Trash Your Writing Career: An Intermittent Series”.

There are the really obvious ways to torch your career — rudeness to editors, for instance.  And then there are the hidden trap doors.  The one I am going to reveal today is truly obscure.  It could be broadly described as meddling with the publication process. More specifically, you can enrage the publisher’s sales reps.  Kill your book dead in one easy step! …

(2) AND DON’T BE THAT POET. F.J. Bergmann wrote and Melanie Stormm designed “How To Piss Off A Poetry Editor” for readers of SPECPO, the blog of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. Here’s the header —

(3) KGB READINGS ONLINE. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Benjamin Rosenbaum and Mike Allen Wednesday, July 15 in a YouTube livestream event. Starts at 7 p.m. Eastern.

Benjamin Rosenbaum

Benjamin Rosenbaum’s short fiction has been nominated for the Nebula, Hugo, BSFA, Sturgeon, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards, and collected in The Ant King and Other Stories. His first novel, The Unraveling, a far-future comedy of manners and social unrest, comes out this October from Erewhon Books. His tabletop roleplaying game of Jewish historical fantasy in the shtetl, Dream Apart, was nominated for an Ennie Award. He lives near Basel, Switzerland with his family.

Mike Allen

Mike Allen has twice been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award. His horror tales are gathered in the Shirley Jackson Award-nominated collection Unseaming, and in his newest book, Aftermath of an Industrial Accident. His novella The Comforter, sequel to his Nebula Award-nominated story “The Button Bin,” just appeared in the anthology A Sinister Quartet. By day, he writes the arts column for The Roanoke (Va.) Times.

Listen to podcasts of the KGB readings here.

(4) FUTURE TENSE. The June 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “The Last of the Goggled Barskys,” by Joey Siara.

Transmitted herewith are excerpts from statements provided by members of the Barsky family regarding the incident with Hayden Barsky, age 11.

The true origins of KHAOS remain unknown….

It was published along with a response essay, “How Not to Optimize Parenthood” by Brigid Schulte, director of the Better Life Lab and author of the book Overwhelmed: Work, Love, & Play When No One Has the Time.

Most parents are well-intentioned. We try to do the right thing, hoping to spare our children at least a measure of the pain or heartache we muddled through, to smooth the rough edges of life and give them every advantage to make it in an uncertain and often cruel world.

That’s at least the hope. In practice, no one really knows how to do that. So, particularly in America, where “winning” and the self-improvement dictate to “beat yesterday” are akin to sacred commandments, we have always turned to the experts for help. What does the science say? What are the neighbors doing? What book or podcast or shiny gadget will instantly make my child’s life easier? More joyful? Miraculous? And, perhaps most importantly, better than your kid’s?…

(5) LOCKDOWN MOVIE. “Quarantine Without Ever Meeting”Vanity Fair profiles the filmmakers. Tagline: “The actors set up lights, did their own makeup, and ran the cameras. The filmmakers advised on Zoom. Somehow…it worked.”

…While Hollywood is struggling to figure out if it’s possible to make a feature-length movie in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, this group of independent filmmakers and actors have already done it. “The whole movie has been written, produced, packaged, shot within quarantine. Now we’re in postproduction, and I had a first cut of the whole film done on Friday,” said director and cowriter Simon. As The Untitled Horror Movie nears completion, its producers are finally announcing the secret project and seeking a distributor. It appears to be the first movie created entirely within the parameters of the lockdown.

The horror comedy is about a group of needy and desperate young stars from a once-popular TV series who learn, via video conference, that their show has just been canceled. Fearing obscurity, they decide to stay in the spotlight by making a quickie horror film—but while shooting it, they perform a ritual that accidentally invokes an actual demonic spirit. Mayhem follows. “We kind of described it going into it as Scream meets For Your Consideration,” Simon said.

(6) OFF THE COAST. In the Washington Post, Rob Wolfe says that Wizards of the Coast has banned seven Magic:  The Gathering cards it says are “racist or culturally offensive” and promises a review of all 20,000 cards to find any other ones it deems questionable. “‘Racist’ and ‘culturally offensive’ images pulled from hugely popular trading card game”

The card had been around since 1994, tagged “Invoke Prejudice” by the world’s most popular trading card game. It showed figures in white robes and pointed hoods — an image that evoked the Ku Klux Klan for many people.This month, the company behind “Magic: The Gathering” permanently banned that card and six others carrying labels like “Jihad” and “Pradesh Gypsies.” Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of toy giant Hasbro, acknowledged the images were “racist or culturally offensive.”

“There’s no place for racism in our game, nor anywhere else,” the company said in a statement announcing its action.

With the country roiled by tensions and protests over African Americans’ deaths at the hands of police, the issues entangling Magic and its creators are unlikely to subside soon. The fantasy game of goblins, elves, spells and more boasts some 20 million players, and in pre-pandemic times, thousands flocked to elite international tournaments with hefty prizes. Players of color say they have long felt excluded in the white- and male-dominated community from the game’s top echelons, as well as employment at the company….

(7) WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN. “A Better World ?” seems to be a kind of text-based game letting players choose among “Uchronies,” a French term that partakes of alternate history but is more fantastic in nature. I racked up a lot of karma in a hurry, sad to say.

The dates you can change are in yellow.

The dates you just changed are in pink.

Click on one of them to change the past!

Your current karma:

0

See the list of Uchronies (cancels the current game)

It didn’t go well, I’d like to start over…

(8) ANOTHER TONGUE. James Davis Nicoll says there are a bundle of “Intriguing SFF Works Awaiting English Translations” at Tor.com.

I am monolingual, which limits me to reading works in English. One of the joys of this modern, interconnected world in which we’re living is that any speculative fiction work written in another language could (in theory) be translated into English. One of my frustrations is that, generally speaking, they haven’t been. Here are five works about which I know enough to know that I’d read them if only they were translated….

(9) I’M READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP. Olav Rokne says, “Sometimes, you just want to ask the question nobody wants.” He passed along some of the hilarious responses.   

(10) CARL REINER OBIT. The creator of The Dick Van Dyke Show and straight man to Mel Brooks’ “2000 Year Old Man,” died June 29 at the age of 98. The duo won a Grammy in 1998 for their The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000. (The New York Times eulogy is here.)

He shared the lead in The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming and appeared in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. He directed numerous movies, including several starring Steve Martin. In recent years he voiced characters in several genre animated TV shows — and Carl Reineroceros in Toy Story 4.

John King Tarpinian remembers:

He is not genre but his passing reminds me of the good old days.  Back in the 80s, I was president of the largest Atari club consortium in the US.  One of the members owned the Vine Street Bar & Grill.  It was between Hollywood & Sunset.  The first Wednesday of the month the guest jazz singer was Estelle Reiner.  Ron Berinstein, club member and club owner invited me to come on Estelle’s nights to make sure the club was always full.  The first time I went her husband, Carl, was also there.  I learned that he always came…and that he’d have friends join them.  Over the years everybody from Sid Caesar, Buck Henry, Neil Simon, Dick Van Dyke, Mel Brooks & more.

During Estelle’s break between sets Carl & whomever was also there would get up and entertain.  Carl & Mel would do their 2000 Year Old Man routine but not the Ed Sullivan version but the version they’d do a parties.  My ribs would be sore the next morning from laughing so hard. 

Sid Caesar would come to Ray Bradbury’s plays.  Imagine somebody being able to upstage Ray…who also would be laughing so hard.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 30, 1971 Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory premiered. Based on Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory novel, it was directed by Mel Stuart, and produced by Stan Margulies and David L. Wolper. The screenplay was by Roald Dahl and David Seltzer. It featured Gene Wilder as Willie Wonka with a supporting cast of Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum, Roy Kinnear, Julie Dawn Cole, Leonard Stone and Denise Nickerson. Some critics truly loved it while others loathed it. It currently holds an 87% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 30, 1905 — Nestor Paiva. Sometimes it only takes one film or series  for a performer to get a Birthday write-up from me. Paiva makes it for Lucas the boat captain in The Creature from the Black Lagoon and its oft forgotten sequel Revenge of the Creature. Though that was hardly his only genre role as his first role was in the early Forties as an uncredited prison guard in Tarzan’s Desert Mystery and he’d be in many a genre film and series over the decades as Prof. Etienne Lafarge in The Mole People, as the saloon owner in (I kid you not!) Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, Felicity’s Father in The Spirit Is Willing, Captain Grimby in “The Great Treasure Hunt” of The Adamms Family and a Doorman in the “Our Man in Leotards” episode of Get Smart. (Died 1966.) (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1920 Sam Moskowitz. SF writer, critic, and historian. Chair of the very first World Science Fiction Convention held in NYC in 1939. He barred several Futurians from the con in what was later called the Great Exclusion Act. In the Fifties, he edited Science-Fiction Plus, a short-lived genre magazine owned by Hugo Gernsback, and would edit several dozen anthologies, and a few single-author collections, most published in the Sixties and early Seventies. His most enduring legacy was as a historian of the genre with such works as Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of “The Scientific Romance” in the Munsey Magazines, 1912–1920 and Hugo Gernsback: Father of Science Fiction. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1929 – Anie Linard, 91.  Active from France, herself and with Jean Linard, in the 1950s and 1960s; fanzines Innavigable MouthMeuhVintkatX-trap.  Voted in the 1958 TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) campaign.  She was, like many of us, a correspondent of Ned Brooks.  I have not traced her more recently than June 1962.  Anie, if you see this, salut!  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1935 – Jon Stopa, 85.  Active with Advent publishing house, half a dozen covers including In Search of WonderThe Eighth Stage of Fandom, and The Issue at Hand.  Three stories in Astounding.  Program Book for Chicon III the 20th Worldcon, and cover for its Proceedings; with wife Joni, Fan Guests of Honor at Chicon V the 49th, where I think they were in some of the Madeira tastings I assembled when I found four or five D’Oliveiras in the hotel bar.  The Stopas were (Joni has left the stage) also great costumers, both as entrants and judges; there’s a YouTube of their work here.  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1959 Vincent D’Onofrio, 61. Kingpin in that not terribly good or bad Daredevil film, Edgar the Bug in the only truly great Men in Black film and Vic Hoskins in Jurassic World. He also was Jason Whitney / Jerry Ashton in The Thirteenth Floor, loosely based upon Simulacron-3, a early Sixties novel by Daniel F. Galouye. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1961 Diane Purkiss, 59. I’ve not read her Corydon Trilogy she wrote with Michael Dowling, her son, but I can say that  At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Nymphs, and Other Troublesome Things is as splendid as the title suggests it is. She’s also written Fairies and Fairy Stories: A History. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1961 – Nigel Rowe, 59.  Published Timeless Sands history of New Zealand fandom, then moved to Chicago.  Here is a 1994 photo of him with Russell Chauvenet (who coined the word fanzine) at Corflu 11 in Virginia.  A 2019 photo of him is on p. 47 of Random Jottings 20 (PDF), the Proceedings of Corflu 36 in Maryland; he’s also on the cover (back right; you may be able to make out his badge “Nigel”).  Very helpful relaying paper fanzines across the seas.  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1961 – carl juarez, 59.  No capital letters in his name.  Co-edited the fanzine Apparatchik with Andy Hooper (from Apak 62), later Chunga with Hooper and Randy Byers.  Here is his cover for Chunga 8.  He’s on the right of the cover for Chunga 17 (PDF).  Chunga credited cj as designer, the results being indeed fine.  He, Byers, and Hooper were such a tripod that with Byers’ death, Chunga tottered; should it fall, may cj find his feet.  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1963 Rupert S. Graves, 57. Here because he played Inspector G. Lestrade on that Sherlock series. He also appeared on Doctor Who as Riddell in the Eleventh Doctor story, “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”. He had one-offs in The Nightmare Worlds of H. G. Wells: The MothTwelve MonkeysKrypton and Return of the Saint. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1966 – Penny Watson, 54.  Degrees in plant taxonomy, horticultural science, biology, and floral design; “there is nothing better than getting up in the morning, heading out to your garden and picking fresh basil, cherry tomatoes, cukes, and arugula greens for breakfast.”  Obsessed with dachshunds.  Has trained dolphins, coached field hockey and lacrosse.  Nat’l Excellence in Romance Fiction Award.  Eight novels, five of them and a novella for us.  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1966 Peter Outerbridge, 54. Dr. David Sandström in what I think is the underrated ReGenesis series as well as being Henrik “Hank” Johanssen in Orphan Black anda recurring role on Millennium as Special Agent Barry Baldwin. He’s currently in two series, The Umbrella Academy with a recurring role as The Conductor, and as Calix Niklosin in V-Wars, yet another Netflix SF series. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1972 Molly Parker, 48. Maureen Robinson on the current Lost in Space series. One-offs in Nightmare Cafe, The Outer Limits, The SentinelHighlander: The SeriesPoltergeist: The LegacyHuman Target and she appeared in The Wicker Man asSister Rose / Sister Thorn. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1974 – Juli Zeh, 46.  A dozen novels so far, three for us.  Deutscher BücherpreisSolothurner Literaturpreis; doctorate in international law, honorary judge at the Brandenburg constitutional court.  About Schilf (“reed”, name of a character – likewise an English surname), translated into English as Dark Matter (London) and In Free Fall (New York), when a Boston Globe interviewer asked “Are you asking the reader to reconsider the nature of reality?” JZ answered “Yes, I want to take the reader on an intellectual journey”; to “Can a novel of ideas be written today, without irony?” JZ answered “As long as mankind doesn’t lose its curiosity to think about the miracles of being.”  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur shows us the first science fiction writer — and true Hard SF, even as to the medium it’s composed on.
  • Today’s Bizarro is not an SF comic, but one with good advice for the privileged rich kid starting a literary career.

(14) DOOMSCROLLING. I learned a useful new word from John Scalzi’s post “Check In, 6/30/20”.

…With that said, there’s another aspect of it, too, which I think I’ve been minimizing: it’s not just time on social media, it’s engagement when I am on it, and how social media is making me feel when I use it. The term “doomscrolling” refers to how people basically suck down fountains of bad news on their social media thanks to friends (and others) posting things they’re outraged about. It’s gotten to the point for me where, particularly on Twitter, it feels like it’s almost all doomscrolling, all the time, whether I want it to be or not.

(15) STANDING UP. David Gerrold’s unlocked Patreon post “I Stand With The Science Fiction Writers of America” may be a reaction to yesterday’s item about the publisher of Cirsova, and certainly gives emphatic support to SFWA’s recent statement about BLM.

…The BLM movement are not terrorists. They are not thugs. They are peaceful protesters, marching against industrial discrimination and system-entrenched bigotry. The demonstrators have actually caught looters and rioters and delivered them to the police.

It doesn’t matter how much the limousine-liberals preach equality if there are no serious efforts to redress the grievances of the disadvantaged. 

If we truly are all in this together, then it behooves all of us to reach out to each other and create partnerships and opportunities. This isn’t preferential treatment. It’s a necessary bit of repair work to a damaged genre. 

If we don’t talk about it, if we don’t take steps, if we don’t address it, then we are guilty of complicity. If the racism of the past was a product of its time, then let our attempts to redress the situation be a product of our time. 

(16) BLOCKED OUT. Missed this in March: “Lego embraces the dark side with three helmet building kits”. And it’s not like I didn’t have time on my hands.

… These sets are up for preorder now from Lego at $59.99 and are set to ship on April 19.

  • Stormtrooper Buildable Model Helmet ($59.99; lego.com)
  • Boba Fett Buildable Model Helmet ($59.99; lego.com)
  • TIE Fighter Pilot Buildable Model Helmet ($59.99; lego.com)

With the Stormtrooper, you’re getting a 647-piece helmet-building set, complete with the blacked-out visor, two nodes on the bottom for speaking and stickers to complete the look. Similarly, the Boba Fett helmet will let you pay homage to the original Mandalorian. This set is 21 centimeters tall (a little over 8 inches) and has 625 pieces. You’ll be constructing each detail of the helmet, including the fold-down viewfinder that lets Boba easily track down his targets. (He is a bounty hunter, after all.)

(17) HAKUNA ERRATA. [Item by Daniel Dern.] In Pixel Scroll 5/27/20 Johnny Mnemonic B. Goode I’d said —

This in turn reminded me of one of my favorite songs by Chris Smither, “Henry David Thoreau” riffing on (same tune) Berry’s song. Oddly, even incomprehensibly, I find NO mention of it anywhere via DuckDuckGo nor Google, even though I’ve heard Smither sing it numerous times. (I also checked his discography.

It turns out that, while I have heard Chris Smither sing this song, he wasn’t the author. That was Paul Geremia, one of Boston/Cambridge’s wonderful acoustic blues musicians.

The song is on his Self Portrait In Blues album. (And on my ~2,800-song Spotify playlist, which is how, when it came around again this morning on the guitar, as it were, I realized my mistake.)

Here’s a so-so performance:

The song (and much of the album) is on Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple, and elsewhere. Apple’s got a reasonable sample snippet.

(18) THE STAR VANISHES. The BBC says Alfred Hitchcock isn’t involved in “Mystery over monster star’s vanishing act”.

Astronomers have been baffled by the disappearance of a massive star they had been observing.

They now wonder whether the distant object collapsed to form a black hole without exploding in a supernova.

If correct, it would be the first example of such a huge stellar object coming to the end of its life in this manner.

But there is another possibility, the study in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society reports.

The object’s brightness might have dipped because it is partially obscured by dust.

It is located some 75 million light-years away in the Kinman Dwarf galaxy, in the constellation of Aquarius.

The giant star belongs – or belonged – to a type known as a luminous blue variable; it is some 2.5 million times brighter than the Sun.

Stars of this kind are unstable, showing occasional dramatic shifts in their spectra – the amount of light emitted at different wavelengths – and brightness.

(19) YOU WILL BELIEVE A…EH, NO YOU WON’T. NPR explains “How Snakes Fly (Hint: It’s Not On A Plane)”

Flying snakes like Chrysopelea paradisi, the paradise tree snake, normally live in the trees of South and Southeast Asia. There, they cruise along tree branches and, sometimes, to get to the ground or another tree, they’ll launch themselves into the air and glide down at an angle.

They undulate their serpentine bodies as they glide through the air, and it turns out that these special movements are what let these limbless creatures make such remarkable flights.

That’s according to some new research in the journal Nature Physics that involved putting motion-capture tags on seven snakes and then filming them with high-speed cameras as the snakes flew across a giant four-story-high theater.

How far they can go really depends on how high up they are when they jump, says Jake Socha at Virginia Tech, who has studied these snakes for almost a quarter-century. He recalls that one time he watched a snake start from about 30 feet up and then land nearly 70 feet away. “It was really a spectacular glide,” Socha recalls.

Part of the way the snakes do this is by flattening out their bodies, he says. But the snakes’ bodies also make wavelike movements. “The snake looks like it’s swimming in the air,” he says. “And when it’s swimming, it’s undulating.”

(20) BLOCKBUSTED. “With Big Summer Films Delayed, AMC Theatres Puts Off U.S. Reopening”.

The nation’s largest movie theater chain is delaying its U.S. reopening until the end of July because film companies have postponed release dates of two anticipated blockbusters.

AMC Theatres announced that a first round of approximately 450 locations will resume operations two weeks later than initially planned, to coincide with the updated August release dates of Warner Brothers’ Tenet and Disney’s Mulan.

“Our theatre general managers across the U.S. started working full time again today and are back in their theatres gearing up to get their buildings fully ready just a few weeks from now for moviegoers,” CEO Adam Aron said in a June 29 statement. “That happy day, when we can welcome guests back into most of our U.S. theatres, will be Thursday, July 30.”

The company said it expects its more than 600 U.S. theaters to be “essentially to full operation” by early August.

AMC Theatres made headlines earlier this month when it announced patrons will be required to wear masks, reversing course on a controversial reopening plan that had only encouraged them to do so.

(21) ALL THE SMART KIDS ARE DOING IT. “Famous New York Public Library Lions Mask Up To Set An Example”.

For the first time, the familiar marble faces outside the New York Public Library will be obscured by masks.

Patience and Fortitude, the iconic lion sculptures guarding the 42nd Street library, are wearing face coverings to remind New Yorkers to stay safe and stop the spread of COVID-19.

The masks arrived on June 29, and measure three feet wide by two feet tall, according to a library statement.

New York Public Library President Anthony Marx emphasized the symbolism of the aptly named lions, and said New Yorkers are similarly strong and resilient.

(22) NEVERENDING SENDUP. The Screen Junkies continue their look at oldies with an “Honest Trailer” for The Neverending Story, where they show that gloomy Germans created “a world of neverending misery.”  They discovered that star Noah Hathaway subsequently played Harry Potter Jr. in Troll (1986) with Michael Moriarty playing Harry Potter Sr.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Joey Eschrich, Rich Horton, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Darrah Chavey, Olav Rokne, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to wandering minstrel of the day Cliff.]