Pixel Scroll 6/2/21 For The File Is Scrollow, And I Have Ticked The Box

(1) CATEGORY CHALLENGED. “’Asian Fantasy’ Is A Popular Category — But Is It A Useful One?”NPR’s Kalyani Saxena poses the question to Rebecca F. Kuang, Cindy Pon, Ken Liu, Fonda Lee, Roshani Chokshi, and Tasha Suri.

…However, not all Asian authors writing fantasy feel at home with the genre label. When I reached out to Rebecca F. Kuang, author of The Poppy War, a Hugo-nominated fantasy trilogy inspired by Chinese history, she said that she finds “Asian fantasy” to be a reductive category.

“I think that Asian doesn’t really make a lot of sense, either as a literary category or as an identity category. Obviously, there are a lot of different things that fall under the subcategory of Asian, including East Asian, including South Asians, Southeast Asian, Pacific Islander, for example,” she says. “So when we call works just blanket ‘Asian,’ that belies an entire world of difference.”

So while the growing popularity of Asian fantasy marks a positive turn towards a broader and more inclusive range of experiences in fantasy, it also raises important questions: Does it actually make sense to group novels by a geographic region, especially one that encompasses billions of people? Does the label “Asian fantasy” help or hurt Asian authors? Well, the answer depends on who you’re asking….

(2) SOMTOW ON SCREEN. The Maestro – A Symphony of Terror, from Somtow Sucharitkul (in the title role) and filmmaker Paul Spurrier, opens July 14 in Bangkok at Central World SF Cinema (one of the major movie chains in Thailand). From there it will do the festival circuit, maybe book a few weird international gigs, and onto some kind of streaming platform, Somtow predicts.

The Maestro tells the story of a misunderstood genius with profound psychological problems. Rejected by the European musical establishment, he returns to his native Thailand and gets a job teaching music in a youth program. Stalked by an obsessed opera singer, ridiculed by his public, his big premiere preempted by a world-renowned conducting mediocrity, he begins a descent into madness. Accompanied by street busking violinist and a prodigy pianist from a dysfunctional family, he sets out to build a musical utopia in the wilderness to bring his transcendent vision to life … only, inevitably, it all goes horribly wrong.

(3) IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT. Hugo Book Club Blog compared the official list of 1963 Hugo Award nominees with a copy of the ballot and found something was missing. And there unquestionably was. But stay tuned for the rest of the story….

They even convinced The Hugo Awards official site to enter a correction:

Note: We previously listed Burn, Witch, Burn (1962) (alt: Night of the Eagle) ([Anglo-Amalgamated/Independent Artists] Directed by Sidney Hayers; Screenplay by Charles Beaumont & Richard Matheson and George Baxt; based on the novel Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber) as a finalist for the 1963 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation; however, a copy of the 1963 Hugo Award final ballot that we received on June 2, 2021 does not include this work as a finalist.

And yet when you look at a scanned copy of the 1963 Worldcon Program Book Burn, Witch, Burn is included. (Remember – 1962 is the eligibility year.)

In the DRAMATIC PRODUCTION category, the top four for 1962 were:

TV series: Twilight Zone

Movie: Last Year at Marienbad

Movie: The Day the Earth Caught Fire

Movie: Burn, Witch, Burn

Why is there a discrepancy between the Program Book and the official use-no-other, no-write-ins-allowed postcard ballot? Because someone made a mistake while typing the stencil for the 1963 ballot. Chair George Scithers blushingly told what happened in the Worldcon runner’s manual he wrote after the con — DisCon 1 Guide: Introduction:

…To encourage voting, we used printed, return addressed, postage prepaid postcards with the names of the nominees thereon. This of course was expensive; about $16, plus printing. On the other hand, it did improve the number of votes (about 226 people voted in the final poll, not counting late votes) and it did insure against anyone not a member sending in a forged card. For future cons, I’d suggest prepaid postcards for both nominations and final votes. Be careful and proofread these final ballots; we left “Burn, Witch, Burn” off our postcard list (4) [If George wasn’t accepting the principle of Collective Responsibility, this would read properly: “Dick Eney left ‘Burn, Witch, Burn’ off …”], an omission which was very embarrassing indeed.

(4) GOT TO HAVE IT. Julie Nováková inventories “What Technology Can’t SF Writers Live Without?” at the SFWA Blog.

When I started editing an anthology of SF stories centered around alien life, each accompanied by a short essay on the science of the story, naturally I was curious about what sciences or technologies inspire the contributing authors, how their process works and how they rely on technology. Conducting a mini-interview with each author, I asked, among other things, whether there’s any technology they can’t imagine to live without. Think for a moment what it would be for you. Some piece of 21st century technology, or something vital developed thousands of years ago? Something to guide your writing process, or indispensable in your life regardless of the craft?

Many writers (including myself, after all) can’t imagine working without computers. Rich Larson says: “Over half my day is spent on my netbook.” He uses it for around ten hours of writing and other work, and then for recreation and socialization. At night, its USB port powers the small fan that lets him sleep. “It’s basically a vital organ!”

“My Bose QC 35 wireless headphones,” says Tobias S. Buckell. They help him create a focusing space around himself. “The ritual of turning on noise canceling and hearing the world around me drop into background; it’s this trigger for focus that really helps me,” he adds….

(5) PURPLE EATER PEOPLE. Inspired by the park’s chicken dinners and boysenberry pie – and a few less legal substances —  Rolly Crump’s “Legendary theme park ride resurfaces at Knott’s Berry Farm” reports the Los Angeles Times. “Knott’s Bear-y Tales: Return to the Fair” has been recreated after being out of service for a generation. Crump, the 91-year-old designer, also helped shape It’s a Small World, the Enchanted Tiki Room and the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, 

… “Everyone comes together at the fair at the end,” Merritt says. “All the characters you saw in the previous scene make a new appearance, doing something different and fun. It’s a big room. It takes up almost half of the show building.”

Crump’s theme park designs were known for near constant movement. The figures may not have been as advanced as those at Disneyland, but every mechanical creature was moving. Today’s theme park fans may want to picture the grand musical and animal finale of Disneyland’s soon-to-be rethemed Splash Mountain when trying to picture the closing seconds of Bear-y Tales.

Describes Merritt, “In the middle of the room, there’s a big balloon coming from the ceiling where the Bear-y Family are going up and down, and there’s music, there’s Dr. Fox selling his Weird Juice, there’s puppets and there’s a frog jumping contest. There’s musicians, there’s a rabbit who’s walking on wire, there’s jugglers. It’s too much. It’s sensory overload.”

…The more one digs into the scenes of the Bear-y Tales ride, the more detail and uniqueness one uncovers.

One of Crump’s first jobs at Disney was to partner with illusionist Yale Gracey on potential effects for the Haunted Mansion, so it’s perhaps no surprise that Crump wanted a sense of magic throughout Bear-y Tales. The ride was liberal in its use of projections and Pepper’s ghost-like effects. There were floating instruments, hovering candle tips and one neat trick that Merritt recalls involving an adorable mouse suddenly appearing out of a candle holder in midair.

But perhaps the real reason Bear-y Tales had such a grip on those who rode it is because in some ways it represents the kind of ride that doesn’t really exist anymore. Crump’s original had pies — and pie scents — but was little more than a story about a bunch of nomadic, bohemian animals.

“It’s super unique. It was such a snapshot in time,” says Nix. “When you look at the pictures, it wasn’t terribly advanced. The animatronics were simple, but there were a lot of them. You just felt like you were in these scenes and places.”…

(6) VIRTUAL 4TH STREET. Elizabeth Bear has made public an edition of her Throwanotherbearinthecanoe newsletter: “What we’ve been doing around here…” After fulminating against the latest “improvement” of Instagram, she alerts readers to her coming appearance at a virtual con:

….Anyway, speaking of things to do on the internet that are actually fun, there will be a Virtual 4th Street Fantasy convention this year. I’ve recorded a panel for it (“Personalizing the Apocalypse”) with a remarkable cast of brilliant people, and we will be doing a live Q&A for attendees on the weekend of June 18th.

If you would like to “attend,” you can register here! Moneys collected go toward paying off hotel expenses, and if you would like to make a donation, the convention is a 401(c) nonprofit organization, which means donations are tax-deductible.

(7) ATWOOD ACQUISITION. “Doubleday to Publish Margaret Atwood Essay Collection”Publishers Weekly has the story.

Doubleday will publish a new collection of Margaret Atwood’s essays, Burning Questions: Essays 2004-2021, on March 1, 2022. U.S. rights were acquired from Karolina Sutton at Curtis Brown.

…The selection of more than 50 essays, the publisher said, “seeks answers to burning questions such as: Why do people everywhere, in all cultures, tell stories? How much of yourself can you give away without evaporating? How can we live on our planet? Is it true? And is it fair? What do zombies have to do with authoritarianism?”…

(8) TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW. John Hertz celebrates Bob Madle’s 101st birthday with this poem:

All our yesterdays
Live on, or some of them do,
In the fannish mind,
Vitally moving new deeds
Even as we joke of them.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

June 2, 1950 – On this day in 1950, Rocketship X-M premiered. The film was produced and directed by Kurt Neumann. The screenplay was by Orville H. Hampton, Kurt Neumann and Dalton Trumbo (of Johnny Got His Gun fame). It starred Lloyd Bridges, Osa Massen, John Emery, Noah Beery, Jr., Hugh O’Brian, and Morris Ankrum. It was shot on a budget of just ninety-four thousand dollars. It was nominated for the 1951 Retro Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at the Millennium Philcon when Destination Moon won that Award. Fandom holds it in a higher esteem that audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes do who give it a mere fifteen percent rating! Oh, and it was the first SF film to use a theremin in the soundtrack. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 2, 1857 – Karl Gjellerup.  In The Pilgrim Kamanita, the Pilgrim meets a strange monk who he does not know is Gautama Buddha.  In The World-Roamers, characters re-experience happenings of former eons.  In The Holiest Animal, the snake that killed Cleopatra, Odysseus’ dog, Jesus’ donkey, and others, meeting after death, choose as the holiest animal the Buddha’s horse – but he has vanished without a trace, to Nirvana. Nobel Prize in Literature.  (Died 1919) [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1899 – Lotte Reiniger.  Pioneer of Silhouette animation.  Animated intertitles and wooden rats for Paul Wegener’s Pied Piper of Hamelin (1918); a falcon for Fritz Lang’s Nibelungen (Part 1 – Siegfried, 1924).  Her own Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) is the oldest known surviving feature-length animated film.  Doctor Dolittle and His Animals, 1928.  Her early version of a mutiplane camera preceded Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks by a decade. Great Cross of the Order of Merit of the Fed’l Republic of Germany, 1979.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1915 – Lester del Rey.  Fan, pro, short-order cook.  Used many names, not least of which was Ramon Felipe San Juan Mario Silvio Enrico Smith Heathcourt-Brace Sierra y Alvarez-del-Rey de los Verdes.  Two dozen novels alone and with others; a hundred shorter stories (see the 2-vol. Selected Short Stories); half a dozen non-fiction books; Skylark Award, SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Grand Master; reviews for Analog, features editor for Galaxy; SF editor for Ballantine; with Judy-Lynn del Rey and after her death, Del Rey Books.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1920 – Bob Madle, age 101.  He may be Oldest of All.  He was at Nycon I the 1st Worldcon; he named the Hugo Awards.  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Fan Guest of Honor at SunCon the 35th Worldcon.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  Moskowitz Award for collecting.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  This post from last year includes photos and a summary in his own words.  [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1929 — Norton Juster. Author of The Phantom Tollbooth, it is said that he met Jules Feiffer who illustrated that work when he was taking his trash out. There is of course the superb film that followed. And let’s not forget The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, a work well worth spending an evening reading. (Died 2021.) (CE)
  • Born June 2, 1921 — Virginia Kidd. Literary agent, writer and editor, who worked mostly in SF and related fields. She represented  R.A. Lafferty,  Ursula K. Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Judith Merril, and Gene Wolfe. She was married to James Blish, and she published a handful of genre short fiction.  Wolfe modeled Ann Schindler, a character in Castleview, in large part on Kidd. (Died 2003.) (CE) 
  • Born June 2, 1937 — Sally Kellerman, 83. Here for her role as Elizabeth Dehner  in “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, the second pilot for Star Trek. Her first genre role was in an episode of the Outer Limits, “The Bellero Shield”.  She shows up in the Invaders in the “Labyrinth” episode. Her last genre appearance was on the Ray Bradbury Theater in the “Exorcism” episode. She also appeared in the Lost Horizon film. (CE) 
  • Born June 2, 1941 — Stacy Keach, 80. Though best known for playing hard-boiled Detective Mike Hammer, he’s got a long association with our genre starting with The Mountain of the Cannibal God, an Italian horror film. Next up for him was Class of 1999, followed by voicing both Carl Beaumont / Voice of Phantasm in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, a film I really, really like. More horror, and a really silly title, awaited him in Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return. Whereas The Hollow has a tasteful title, the Man with the Screaming Brain does not. Storm War, also known as Weather Wars, is SF. And then there is Sin City: A Dame to Kill which is a rather nice piece of film making. And yes, he’s been in a televised version of Macbeth playing Banquo. (CE) 
  • Born June 2, 1948 – Leigh Edmonds, age 73. Founder of ANZAPA (Australia – New Zealand Amateur Press Ass’n).  Melbourne SF Club Achievement Award.  First DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate, published Emu Tracks Over America.  First A-NZ Administrator of GUFF (Get-Up-and-over Fan Fund, or Going Under Fan Fund, in alternate years).  Helped organize 10th Australian natcon (i.e. national convention); Fan Guest of Honour (with Valma Brown) at 30th.  Two Ditmars for Best Fanzine, three for Best Fanwriter. [JH] 
  • Born June 2, 1959 – Lloyd Penney, age 62. Thirty years on Ad Astra con committees (Toronto); Chair 1993 & 1994.  “Royal Canadian Mounted Starfleet” (with Yvonne Penney & others – and song) in Chicon IV Masquerade (40th Worldcon).  Also with Yvonne, Chairs of SMOFcon VI (Secret Masters Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said “a joke-nonjoke-joke”; con-runners’ con); CUFF (Canadian Unity Fan Fund) delegates, published Penneys Up the River; Fan Guests of Honor, Loscon 34.  Prolific loccer (loc or LoC = letter of comment, the blood of fanzines); 5 FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards.  [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1965 — Sean Stewart, 56. Fantastic author whose Galveston novel that won the World Fantasy Award I highly recommend, as well as the Resurrection Man novels. I’ve not read his most recent set of novels, The Cathy’s Book series, but it’s take on augmented reality sounds intriguing. (CE) 
  • Born June 2, 1973 – Carlos Acosta, age 48. Cuban director of Birmingham Royal Ballet; before that, 17 years at The Royal Ballet, many other companies.  Prix Benois de la Danse. Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to ballet.  Besides dancing in many fantasies (Afternoon of a FaunApolloThe NutcrackerSwan Lake) – and finding time for a wife and three children – he’s written a magic-realism novel, Pig’s Foot.  Memoir, No Way Home.  [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1979 — Morena Baccarin, 42. Very long genre history starting with portraying Inara Serra in Firefly and  Serenity; Adria in the Stargate SG-1 series and the Stargate: The Ark of Truth; Anna in the 2009 version of the series V; Vanessa in the Deadpool franchise; and Dr. Leslie Thompkins in Gotham. She did an exemplary job of voicing Black Canary in Justice League Unlimited.  (CE) 

(11) ASIAN AMERICAN SUPERHERO Q&A. View “Jim Lee and Asian American Superheroes”, a video interview available at the Library of Congress.

DC Chief Creative Officer and Publisher Jim Lee discusses his work in celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. He will appear in conversation with illustrator Bernard Chang (“Generations Forged”) and writers Sarah Kuhn (“Shadow of the Batgirl”) and Minh Lê (“Green Lantern: Legacy”). This event is moderated by former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene Luen Yang (“Superman Smashes the Klan”).

(12) PRODUCT PLACEMENT. This iconic watch has been on stars’ wrists from Elvis to the Men in Black: “Exploring The Hollywood History Of The Hamilton Ventura Watch” at A Blog to Watch.

…The Hamilton Ventura has always been part of the Men in Black movies. Back in 1997, when the first installment (Men in Black) hit the cinema, the choice of Agents J and K was the classic Hamilton Ventura Quartz (ref. H24411732). Five years later, in 2002’s Men in Black II, the Ventura Chrono Quartz (ref. H24412732) was chosen in the starring role instead. The next decade saw those two watches reunite on-screen for Men in Black III (2012), as well as introducing the Hamilton Ventura XXL.

Men in Black: International will build on the cult following enjoyed by the Ventura since its launch in ’57. The new film focuses on two agents attempting to protect the world from a mole within their own organization, while dressed in their classic suits and armed with their essential neuralyzer pens. Helping Agent M and Agent H on their mission are the classic Hamilton Ventura Quartz (M), and the Hamilton Ventura Automatic with a cut-out dial and brown leather strap (H), respectively….

(13) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watched a contestant miss this one on last night’s Jeopardy!

Final Jeopardy; category: Around the World

Answer: In the 1860s, a zoologist proposed that this island was once part of a lost continent he dubbed Lemuria.

Wrong question: What is Galapagos? 

Correct question: What is Madagascar?

(14) JDA SUSPENDED FROM TWITTER AND FACEBOOK. Straight from the horse’s…mouth.

(15) A HOLE IN THE WRONG ONE. “’Scary stuff’: International Space Station robotic arm struck by space junk” reports The Guardian.

The sudden appearance of a small hole in a robotic arm aboard the international space station (ISS) has brought renewed attention to the danger posed by space junk.

Mission managers discovered the puncture during an inspection of the exterior of the spacecraft on 12 May. The Canadian space agency (CSA), which operates the arm, described it as a “lucky strike” that did not affect operations or endanger the seven astronauts in orbit aboard the station.

It is not known what kind of object struck the space station or when it happened. But analysts say the incident is a reminder of the proliferating amount of junk circling Earth and the risk that poses as launches and satellites in orbit increase.

“There’s a lot of stuff out there traveling at over 17,500mph and obviously it can do a lot of damage,” John Crassidis, SUNY distinguished professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Buffalo, told the Guardian….

(16) SABERKITTENS. These prehistoric credentials probably looked pretty cute as long as you weren’t a mammoth. “Sabercats Raised Their Kittens for Years” affirms Smithsonian Magazine.

…Two new studies published this year have underscored the fact that sabercats required some of the same family ties that today’s big cats rely upon. Some young sabercats may have stayed with their parents for two years or more as they waited for their impressive fangs to come in. Those parents likely played an essential role in teaching their saberkittens how to catch and eat food, including dragging mammoth legs home to chew on. Together, these studies help highlight how sabercat behavior evolved to cope with a world in which many carnivorous species—from dire wolves to giant bears—competed for prey.

(17) WATCH YOUR SIXTH. What’s more dangerous, a sabertooth or the Doctor? Artist JohannesVIII did this piece of Doctor Who‘s Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) as a cat! 

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Ben Bird Person, John A Arkansawyer, Martin Morse Wooster, 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #59

Top Recommendations for the 2021 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation,

Part Two – Stand Alone Films

By Chris M. Barkley:  Decisions, decisions, decisions…and time is running out.

In Part One of my Recommendations for the 2021 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, I listed a relatively INSANE number of television series that were eligible in our pandemic year of 2020.

While the Covid-19 pandemic may have been box office poison (literally) for theater owners, movie lovers who were mostly confined to their homes had plenty of options, thanks to the abundance of premium and streaming channels eager to serve (and collect cold hard cash from) a captive audience.

But theaters aren’t down for the count just yet; with several vaccines in circulation and the infection rates projected to drop precipitously by the end of the year, I have no doubt whatsoever that people (like myself) who are starving for a complete spectrum of theatrical experiences are definitely going out when it’s safe and that going to the movies will be at the top of nearly everyone’s to do list.

And thankfully, some of the highly-anticipated films postponed from last year will make their big screen debuts in 2021; Denis Villenueve’s adaptation of Dune, Marvel’s Black Widow, Morbius, Spider-Man: No Way Home and Shang-Chi, A Quiet Place Part II, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, DC’s Suicide Squad sequel and the fourth film in The Matrix series are on the schedule.

But, before I reveal my BDP Hugo Nomination Ballot choices, let’s contemplate these ten outstanding films from 2020.

The Invisible Man (Blumhouse Productions/Universal,124 minutes), with Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodger, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman and. Written and Directed by Leigh Whannell based on H.G. Wells novel The Invisible Man.

One of the oldest storytelling tropes in the books is throwing an entirely innocent person into an impossible pit of problems and seeing if they can emerge from the ordeal relatively intact.

In this modern retelling of H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man, Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) barely escapes from an abusive partner Adrian (Oliver Jackson- Cohen). And just when she thinks she’s quite safe, Cecilia is beset by the odd feeling she is being observed and other strange occurrences. And by the time figures out she’s being stalked by an invisible tormentor, her family, friends and most notably the police, think she has most definitely lost her mind.

This movie has everything going for it, a crackling script full of mayhem, murder and suspense, some impeccable direction and special effects and some superb acting from the lead actors, Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodger,  Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman and Storm Reid. Somewhere, Alfred Hitchcock is smiling because this is precisely the sort of film he would make if he were around today. 

Tenet (Warner Brothers, 150 minutes), with John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Dibecki, Micael Caine and Kenneth Branagh. Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan.

After an extraction mission in Ukraine goes disastrously sideways, an unnamed CIA field operative (John David Washington) is recruited into a mysterious organization called TENET, which is (seemingly) dedicated to looking into strange anomalies. “The Protagonist’s” first case is to investigate who is receiving weapons being sent back through time from the future (through a process called “inverted entropy”). His “antagonist” is Andrei Sator, a ruthless Russian arms dealer, whose estranged wife Kat, (Elizabeth Dibecki) could hold the key to destroying his empire.

The plot description I outlined above is far, FAR more complex than I can possibly do justice to. What makes Tenet a fantastic film is that it is not only a “anti-James Bond” film, it is also essentially an “anti-time travel” tale as well, as it perfectly subverts genre tropes by setting a whole new set of cinematic rules. This high octane, mind bending thrill ride is certainly the equal of (or BETTER) than Inception, Christopher Nolan’s 2010 BDP Long Form Hugo winner.

YES, Christopher Nolan is screwing around with our heads again and I am LOVING every moment of it.

The Old Guard (Netflix, 125 Minutes) with Charlize Theron, Kiki Layne, Marwan Kenzari, Matthias Schoenaerts, Luca Marinelli, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Harry Melling. Written by Greg Rucka, based on The Old Guard by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández, Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood.

“Forever Is Harder Than It Looks” is the promotional tagline of The Old Guard, and a brilliantly realized adaptation of  Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernándezo’s graphic novel.  If you think immortal beings have it easy, this film disabuses you of that notion from its bloody and brutal start..

Andromache of Scythia (Charlize Theron) and her crew of deadly mercenaries, Booker, Joe, and Nicky (Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari and Luca Marinelli are quick healing immortals who live in the shadows. Their activities and remarkable regenerative powers come to the attention of Merrick (Harry Melling), the head of a pharmaceutical firm who wants to capture and experiment on them. Things become even more complicated when they have to take a newly emerged immortal Nile (Kiki Layne) under their protection while constantly on the run from Merrick’s forces.

What makes The Old Guard a cut above other entries in this genre is not the explosive action sequences (which it has aplenty), but an unusual amount of emotional heft (mostly delivered by the immortals in the cast) that other films are sadly lacking. This film demands that you sit up and pay attention to their plight and that is rare and noteworthy.

Wonder Woman 1984 (Warner Brothers, 151 Minutes) with Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright and Connie Neilsen. Written by Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns and Dave Callaham, based on Wonder Woman by William Moulton Marston. Directed by Patty Jenkins.

It distresses me no end when armchair film critics and film fans on social media go out of their way to lambast a popular film when they have no idea how films are actually made.

Wonder Woman may have been created by psychologist William Moulton Marston in 1941, but today this comic book icon is the sole intellectual property of DC Comics and Warner Brothers. They, and corporations like them, are actually run by lawyers, agents, accountants and marketing drones, not creative artists.

And since they value it as a very valuable commodity, it took decades for a theatrical Wonder Woman film to be developed and made. And by an incredible stroke of good luck, they chose a gifted director, Patty Jenkins, to bring Wonder Woman to the big screen and grossing over $820 million dollars at the box office.

But Jenkins did not have total creative control of the first film; late in the filming, executives did think very much of the more subtle (and decidedly non-violent) ending she and the screenwriters came up with. Instead, they forced her to film a more bombastic endgame, figuring that audiences would just love a Die Hard-like finish.

Segue to filming the sequel; when Jenkins presented the new screenplay, co-written with Geoff Johns and Dave Callaham, the lengthy opening sequence featured a young Diana being taught an important lesson by her mother Hippolyta (Connie Neilsen) and aunt Antiope (Robin Wright). When the studio executives gave her notes indicating that that the sequence was unnecessary, Jenkins, having been burned once before, drew a line in the sand and said that the sequence was going to be done or she wouldn’t be doing this project. The executives, fearing a fan backlash and no 2020 summer tentpole film to present backed down.

Wonder Woman 1984 finds Diana Price (Gal Gadot) still mourning for her lost love, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) who sacrificed himself during the climactic battle of the first film. A chance encounter with an ancient artifact seemingly revives Trevor from the dead and attracts the attention of a fellow scientist Roberta Minerva (Kristen Wiig) and a power mad businessman Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) whose plans may bring on an apocalyptic event…

While the film itself received decidedly mixed reviews from film critics, a large number of fans were calling it a complete and utter failure. (As of this writing, WW1984 is rated  5.4/10 on IMDb, 59% on Rotten Tomatoes, 60% on MetaCritic and 67% on Google.com)

As for myself, I loved it and think it is quite as Hugo worthy as its predecessor. And yes, I plan on buying the Blu-Ray edition when it comes out at the end of the month. Enough said.

Palm Springs (Limelight Productions, 90 Minutes) with Christin Miloti, Andy Samberg, J.K. Simmons, Peter Gallagher, Tyler Hoechlin and Meredith Hagner. Written by Andy Siaraand Max Barbakow, Directed by Max Barbakow.

When I first heard about the buzz being generated by time loop comedy Palm Springs at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2020, I admit I rolled my eyes a little at the prospect. Because these tales of repeated time travel paradox have become its own sub-genre since 1993’s Groundhog’s Day and I can only account for a handful which are of any merit (Looper, The Edge of Tomorrow, Interstellar and Source Code being my primary choices on the subject.)

I also admit that I am not really a fan of Andy Samberg’s work as an actor, at least until I saw Palm Springs. Samberg plays Nyles, a wedding guest who became trapped in a time loop. When he starts flirting with the bride’s troubled sister, Sarah (Christin Miloti), she returns his interest. But their romantic interlude is interrupted when a mysterious stranger named Roy (J. K. Simmons) suddenly and savagely attacks Myles and Sarah finds herself trapped in the loop as well.

Besides being an outstanding comedy, Palm Springs is also an introspective character study of three people trapped in a circumstance that is seeming out of their control and mediation on love, relationships and drinking WAY too much alcohol at weddings. And seeing that it clocks in at ninety minutes, it’s one of the rare feature films these days that can safely be nominated in the Short Form category.

Soul (Pixar/Walt Disney, 101 Minutes) with Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Angela Bassett, Graham Norton, Rachel House, Questlove, Alice Braga and Phylicia Rashad. Music by Trent Reznor, Atticus Finch and Jon Batiste. Written by Pete Docter, Mike Jones and Kemp Powers, Directed by Pete Docter.

Just when you think the geniuses at Pixar cannot possibly outdo themselves, they damned well do it AGAIN.

Joe Gardner (Jamir Foxx) a middle aged, middle grade music teacher in New York
City is still dreaming of scoring his big break as a jazz musician. When his friend Lamont (Questlove) gets him an audition to play with the great contemporary jazz player Dorothea Williams, he impresses her with his piano prowess and gets a gig playing in her band. Unfortunately for Joe, he’s so excited that falls down a manhole and finds himself struggling to escape “the Great Beyond”, where all souls migrate to after death. With the help of 22 (Tina Fey), a pesky proto-soul trying to figure out her path in the universe, Joe just may make it back to Earth in time for his gig…

If I were going to introduce a child to a film that might instill a love of music, especially an enduring art form like jazz, I would definitely make sure they saw Soul (SORRY, Not Sorry, La La Land!). The ambient score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Finch combined with the original songs by jazz composer Jon Batiste are perfectly bound together. I can say without any hesitation at all that Soul is probably the front runner to be nominated and win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film.  

And the voice casting is spot on and the plot is light, airy, and not terribly scary, which makes it perfectly suitable for kids and the Hugo Awards final ballot as well.     

The Midnight Sky (Netflix/Smokehouse Pictures, 118 Minutes), with George Clooney, Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo , Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir, Tiffany Boone and Caoilinn Springall. Screenplay by Mark L. Smith, Directed by George Clooney.

The Midnight Sky was yet another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic, having a limited theatrical release last December followed by a quick turnaround to Netflix shortly thereafter. Almost immediately the word spread pretty quickly that it was either too slow, too episodic or too depressing. Of course, being the contrarian I am, I say nonsense.

George Clooney plays Augustine Lofthouse, a seriously ill scientist who is on his own after an Arctic research station is abandoned in the wake of an unnamed ecological calamity sweeping the Earth. He has given himself the task of making contact and warning off the Aether, a manned spacecraft with a crew returning from a successful mission from Jupiter. His task is complicated when he finds himself caring for a little girl who was supposed to have been evacuated earlier.

Meanwhile, aboard the Aether, the crew (Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo , Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir and Tiffany Boone) are facing their own set of problems; despite their best efforts they have lost contact with Earth and have an unexpected course correction that takes their ship into an dangerous and uncharted section of the solar system. 

Eventually, the story of these characters come together towards the end of this beautiful and poignant film which, through no fault of its own,had the bad timing to come out during a worldwide pandemic. Eventually, I hope The Midnight Sky will eventually find an audience that will appreciate it for what it is, a soulful parable about the endurance of the human spirit under crushing circumstances.

Sputnik (Vodorod Pictures/Sony Pictures/Hulu, 113 Minutes), with Oksana Akinshina, Pyotr Fyodorov, Fyodor Bondarchuk and Anton Vasiliev. Written by Oleg Malovichko and Andrei Zolotarev, Directed by Egor Abramenko.

While I have nothing but scorn and contempt for the political situation in Russia, I can easily and eagerly praise one of their horror films, which is one of the best genre films released in 2020.

Set in 1983, a Soviet space mission ends tragically when one cosmonaut is killed and another, Konstantin (Pyotr Fyodorov), suffers a traumatic injury. Quarantined at a remote military base, he is examined at length by Tatyana Klimova (Oksana Akinshina), a controversial neurophysiologist brought in by the base commander, Colonel Semiradov (Fyodor Bondarchuk).

Klimova soon finds out her true mission is to study and eventually find a way to control an alien creature inhabiting Konstantin’s body so the military can deploy it as a biological weapon. But Konstantin, and the creature, have other plans…

I haven’t watched very many foreign sf films until this past year and I more or less picked Sputnik out of the cornucopia of genre films made available on various streaming services. And I was quite surprised at how tightly scripted, well acted and directed Sputnik is. And on top of that, the production design, practical and visual effects are the equal of any other film made today. Sputnik deserves your attention as a potential Hugo nominee this year.

Possessor (Elevation Pictures, 104 Minutes) with Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Rossif Sutherland, Tuppence Middleton, Sean Bean and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Written and Directed by Brandon Cronenberg.

One of the last movies I came across that really intrigued me was Possessor, which turned up on the Thrilllist.com and the Film School Rejects websites as highly recommended.

The setup is perfectly twisted; Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) may seem like a divorced woman who still has some feelings for her ex-husband Michael (Rossif Sutherland) and her adorable son Ira (Gage Graham-Arbuthnot), but you would be dead wrong, in every sense of the word.

Vos is a cold blooded assassin who employs a high tech trick; she has her personality electronically inserted into a person who has access to the intended target who then kills and conviently commits suicide or is killed by the police. And Vos is pretty good at her job until she gradually starts losing control of her latest host, Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott), the fiance of Ava Parse (Tuppence Middleton). Vos is possessing him in order to kill Ava and her father John (Sean Bean) in a murderous power grab by their board of directors.

As Vos spirals out of control, she finds herself in a constant battle against her increasingly fragmented memories and personality versus Tate’s traumatized and confused persona.

Possessor is the second feature film of Brandon Cronenberg, the son of the acclaimed Canadian director (and occasional actor) David Cronenberg. And from the looks of this film, we can see that the creative apple of this family fell VERY close to the trunk of the tree. If anything, the younger Cronenberg has taken his father’s themes of body horror, self loathing, sexuality and questions of personal identity to the Nth degree. I am not very fond of horror movies on the whole but I must say that I will be very, VERY interested in seeing his next film project.

Hamilton (5000 Broadway Productions/Walt Disney, 160 Minutes) with Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom, Jr., Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Daveed Diggs, Christopher Jackson, Jonathan Groff, Anthony Ramos Okieriete Onaodowan and Jasmine Cephas Jones as Peggy. Written and Composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Directed by Thomas Kail.

And finally, we have Hamilton.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s extraordinary musical dramatizing the life and times of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is an incredible marriage of song, story and history.

I am not here to sell you on how brilliant the melding of hip hop, rap and traditional Broadway into the score is. Or how great the costuming, lighting, choreography and production design are. Nor am I going to tell you what this rendition of historical events is even more potent and heart rending as Peter Stone and Sherman Edwards classic 1776. 

(But, C’MON MAN; Daveed Digg’s electrifying performance in the double role of the Marquis de Lafayette AND Thomas Jefferson alone is worth a Hugo nomination. But, I digress…)

But what I am telling you is that when a cast made of mostly people of color portray some of the most famous figures in American history not only gives a new perspective on how troubled America’s origins (and its subsequent action since then) are, it also is an infectious and energetic retelling that will inspire theater goers AND film fans for generations to come.

And through that particular lens I proclaim that this production of Hamilton most DEFINITELY qualifies as a tale of alternative history.

I am nominating Hamilton for a Hugo Award in the Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form category.

Anyone want to duel about it?


Stand Alone Films: Honorable Mentions

  • The Vast of Night
  • Bird of Prey OR the Fantabulous Emancipation of Harley Quinn

Other Eligible 2020 Films of Note

  • Mulan (Walt Disney/Good Fear Productions)
  • Freaky (Universal/Blumhouse)
  • Onward ( Pixar/Walt Disney)
  • The Witches (HBO Max/Warner Brothers)
  • Vivarium (XYZ Films/Fantastic Films)
  • Time To Hunt (Netflix)
  • Archive (Vertical Entertainment)
  • Synchronic (XYZ Films)
  • Love and Monsters (Paramount)
  • Bill and Ted Face the Music (Orion/United Artists)
  • Save Yourselves (Bleecker Street)
  • Spontaneous (Paramount)
  • Sea Fever (Signature Entertainment)

After months of watching and research, filling in the ten slots on my Hugo Nomination Ballot was hard. In fact, the selection process was so tough, I’m not quite sure I’ve made my final choices. But, as of Sunday evening, I chose these productions as my nominees in the Best Dramatic Presentation categories:

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form Nominees

  1. Dark – Season Three
  2. Lovecraft Country
  3. Tenet
  4. The Midnight Sun
  5. Hamilton

Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form

  1. Palm Springs
  2. Star Trek Discovery – Terra Firma Parts 1 & 2
  3. The Mandalorian – “Chapter 15: The Believer” with “Chapter 16: The Rescue”
  4. Soul
  5. Star Trek: Picard – Episodes 9 & 10 (“Broken Pieces”and “Et in Arcadia Ego”).

To those of you who have read both of these columns, I hope you have found the information and opinions I have presented here helpful and informative. I urge everyone to nominate and submit their favorite books, stories, non-fiction works, films, tv shows and other dramatic works by the upcoming deadline, which is 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time (PDT) on Thursday, March 19, 2021.

Good Luck choosing!

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #58

Top Recommendations for the 2021 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Part One

By Chris M. Barkley: The end of January marked the beginning of the nomination period for the 2021 Hugo Awards, which will remain open until March 19th at Midnight (Pacific Daylight Time).

We all continue to slog through and survive the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-2021 (so far) by wearing a mask in public, practicing social distancing, staying out of theaters and mostly sheltering in place. 

And the thing that REALLY helped us all from going mad in confinement was the incredible cornucopia of films, streaming series and special events that could have easily filled a dozen Best Dramatic Presentation Long and Short Form ballots this year.

In a perfect world, all of these nominees would be on the ballot. But, alas, we are limited by the number of slots available to fill in.

My criteria for a work being “Hugo Worthy” is obviously going to differ from yours. Also, I fully recognize that what I might consider the cream of the crop does not even begin to scratch the surface of other dramatic works; the plays, short videos and music albums that first saw the light of day in 2020. 

At this point, I’d like to climb up on my soapbox and complain, LOUDLY, about the inequities of the Best Dramatic Presentation split, which, ironically, I and several others originally proposed at the Aussiecon 3 World Science Fiction Society Business Meeting in 1999 and helped along to its inauguration at Torcon III in 2003. 

Here is the current wording of the Best Dramatic Presentation in the WSFS Constitution:

3.3.8: Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. Any theatrical feature or other production, with a complete running time of more than 90 minutes, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year. 

3.3.9: Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Any television program or other production, with a complete running time of 90 minutes or less, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year.   

To the casual observer, this seems like an excellent division that could neatly separate most theatrical movies from television episodes, which for the most part it did during the first decade of its existence.

But the number of fantasy, horror and sf projects in every medium has grown exponentially over the past two decades. Although several ideas about amending the BDP Hugo categories have been explored and proposed in the past few years, my good friend and (legendary) UK fan, Vincent Docherty, came up with what we thought was a serviceable solution several years ago. After consulting with Mr. Docherty, I made a few slight changes in the original proposal and offer them here publicly for the first time:

Best Dramatic Presentation – Feature Film:  Any theatrical, feature length film for screening, television, the internet or any other source, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year. 

Best Dramatic Presentation – Episodic Series: Any continuing television series, presented on television, the internet or any other source, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year. 

Best Dramatic Presentation –  Other Forms: Any visual program OR any other media production, which is neither a stand alone feature film or a television series, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year. 

I think this proposal easily separates movies, television series and individual episodes of anthology series, plays, music albums and practically any other qualifying works. Whether or not this, or anything like it, will ever be implemented will be up to the members of the WSFS Business Meeting. 

One of the continuing pet peeves I have had with Hugo voters over the past few years is that they still tend to nominate individual episodes of a miniseries or a continuing series instead of nominating the whole work. I was especially disappointed when HBO’s Watchmen and The Mandalorian, which were both obviously serial stories, had individual episodes nominated and were not nominated on the whole as a series as they should have been. As a result, neither project won Hugo Awards.

In the capsule reviews I am offering below, I have separated the feature films (which will be presented in Part Two of this column) from the ongoing series. And while I will offer some suggested episodes for individual honors, I also heartily opine that each should be nominated in the Long Form category, too.  (Happily climbs off the soapbox…)

So, let’s move on to this year’s prospective nominees…

[Capsule reviews begin after the jump.]

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 1/21/21 Underpeople S’top And S’tare, They Don’t Bother Me

(1) 45 PROOF. [Item by Rich Lynch.] A couple of years ago, in SFPA, I ran an essay titled “Of Beer and the Beltway” which was reprinted in the current (25th) issue of My Back Pages.

In it, I mentioned that a local craft brewery, 7 Locks, was producing a Rye Pale Ale they had named “Surrender Dorothy”, the name a riff on The Wizard of Oz but also a homage to a stunt that happened at a Washington Beltway railroad bridge overpass back in the 1970s.  Here’s what the beer’s logo looks like:  Surrender Dorothy RyePA – 7 Locks Brewing

In that same issue of MBP, I noted that there had recently been modern day pranksters at work who had updated the “Surrender Dorothy” Beltway bridge stunt by spray-painting that same bridge with “Surrender Donald”.  And now 7 Locks has produced a limited-run Rye PA with that same name:  Surrender Donald 6-packs | 7 Locks Brewing Online Shop

I didn’t find out about it until today, when it was described in a short news item in The Washington Post.  And since it was a limited run, it’s unfortunately no longer available.  I see they have beer glasses with that logo listed, so I may try to get one of them.  But damn!  Wish I’d known about it before today!

(2) SUPER TRAILER. The CW dropped a trailer for Superman & Lois.

(3) VIRTUAL CAPRICON. Capricon 41 begins two weeks from today. It’s usually in Chicago, but will be held this year in virtual space.

We have some really amazing program lined up for you, with awesome panelists from all over the world. Check out the full schedule at https://guide.capricon.org/. This is a mostly final schedule, but note that there may still be a few changes to times and panelists to come

Don’t Forget to Register! Everyone must register to access the virtual convention space. Register here.

(4) BERNIE SITS IN. A meme-driven website lets you “Put Bernie Anywhere!” The New York Times explains: “Bernie Sanders Is Once Again the Star of a Meme”.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is a fierce advocate of fair wages and a former presidential candidate who lost the Democratic nomination to now-President Biden. And thanks to his practical clothing choices he is also now the center of a seemingly endless flood of altered pictures that dominated some corners of the internet in the hours after Mr. Biden’s socially distanced inauguration on Wednesday.

Amid the dark suits and bright coats dotting the Capitol steps, Mr. Sanders was photographed sitting masked, cross-legged and bundled up in a bulky coat and mittens against the frigid weather in Washington, D.C. Soon after, the image, taken by the photographer Brendan Smialowski for Getty Images, began to circulate on social media inserted into a wide array of photographs and scenes from movies and artworks….

(5) NIGHTMARE FROM DEL TORO. “Searchlight Sets Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Nightmare Alley’ for December” reports Yahoo! Entertainment.

Searchlight Pictures has updated its 2021 release calendar, dating Guillermo del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley” for December 3. The date puts del Toro’s latest in the thick of the 2021-2022 awards season. Searchlight appears to be following the same release plan it gave del Toro’s last movie, “The Shape of Water,” which started its U.S. theatrical rollout on the first weekend of December. “The Shape of Water” debuted at the Venice Film Festival, winning the Golden Lion, and it seems likely “Nightmare Alley” will show up on the fall film festival circuit.

Del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley” is adapted by the filmmaker, and film critic Kim Morgan, from the 1946 William Lindsay Gresham novel of the same name. The ensemble cast includes Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Ron Perlman, Rooney Mara, and David Strathairn…

(6) CASE IN POINT. The Hugo Book Club blog is going through all the Hugo-shortlisted dramatic presentations in order to see how the art of SFF cinema has evolved over time. The third post in the series is: “Hugo Cinema Club: 1960 Gets In The Zone”.

In 1960, for example, Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling seems to have been mostly unaware of the award until some two weeks later when a delegation of California-based fans who had just returned from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania visited the CBS offices to hand him a three-pound chrome rocketship on September 22.

The fans — including Bjo and John Trimble, Rick Sneary and Forrest J Ackerman — were greeted warmly by the television legend, who had also earned his fourth Emmy that summer….

(7) DISTAFF SUPERHEROES. The Women of Marvel podcast announced a special celebrating Marvel’s heroes will debut in April. Women Of Marvel #1 will spotlight iconic characters from the X-Men to the Avengers in a collection of tales by an all-female lineup from throughout the entertainment industry.

Kicking things off will be comics legend Louise Simonson with a must-read introduction. Simonson will be followed by some of the hottest rising stars in the graphic novel industry. Nadia Shammas punches the glass ceiling with an action-packed She-Hulk adventure, Elsa Sjunneson grits her way to the front line with a tale about Captain Peggy Carter, Sophie Campbell goes feral with a bone-grinding Marrow story, video game and comics writer Anne Toole gets gritty in the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, and Natasha Alterici of Heathen fame charges sword-first into the Marvel Universe with a revelatory tale about Rogue and Mystique. With astonishing art from new and established artists Kei Zama (TransformersDeath’s Head), Eleonora Carlini (Power RangersBatgirl), Skylar Patridge (ResonantRelics of Youth), Joanna Estep (Fantastic FourFraggle Rock) and more, readers are sure to come away powered up and ready to slay.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2006 — Fifteen years ago at L.A.con IV, Serenity wins the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. Serenity was the film that finished off the story that started in the much beloved by fans Firefly series that aired briefly on FOX. Other finalists that year were Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-RabbitThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the WardrobeBatman Begins and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It currently holds a phenomenal ninety-one percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 21, 1858 – Anna Dodd.  Short stories, novels, essays and other nonfiction e.g. criticism for The Art JournalIn and Out of Three Normandy InnsTalleyrand.  Fluent in French and Italian.  Some say Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward was inspired by AD’s novel for us The Republic of the Future, subtitled Socialism a Reality, but it’s no joyous forecast.  (Died 1929) [JH]
  • Born January 21, 1921 – Charles Eric Maine.  A score of novels, as many shorter stories.  Here is a cover for his fanzine The Satellite – not to be confused with this.  Many applaud his Mind of Mr Soames.  Also detective fiction, engineering, radio, television, film.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born January 21, 1923 – Judith Merril.  Four novels, thirty shorter stories; book reviews for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; half a dozen collections e.g. The Best of JM and posthumous Homecalling; a dozen annual Year’s Best SF (“a practically flawless anthologist” – Anthony Boucher).  Introduced and commented on Canadian broadcasts of Doctor Who.  Co-founded Milford Writers’ Conference.  Toronto Public Library’s Merril Collection named for her.  SF Hall of Fame.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born January 21, 1925 Charles Aidman. He makes the Birthday Honors for having the recurring role of Jeremy Pike on The Wild Wild West, playing him four times. Other SFF appearances include Destination SpaceThe InvadersTwilight ZoneMission: Impossible and Kolchak the Night Stalker to name but a few of them. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born January 21, 1929 – Arthur Jean Cox.  Two novels, a score of shorter stories.  Active in his local club – a six-year string of perfect attendance at weekly meetings, eight terms as an officer – and cons e.g. Pacificon I the 4th Worldcon.  Essays, letters, reviews in AmazingAstoundingFantasy TimesF & SFRiverside QuarterlySF ChronicleSF Review.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born January 21, 1938 Wolfman Jack. Here because I spotted him showing up twice in Battlestar Galactica 1980 presumably as himself if I trust IMDb as it doesn’t list a character for him. He does have genre character roles having been in the Swamp Thing and Wonder Women series plus two horror films, Motel Hell and The Midnight Hour. (Died 1995.) (CE)
  • Born January 21, 1939 Walter C. DeBill, Jr., 82. An author of horror and SF short stories and a contributor to the Cthulhu Mythos. Author of the Observers of the Unknown series about a Lovecraftian occult detective which is collected is two volumes, The Horror from Yith and The Changeling. They don’t appear to be in print currently. (CE) 
  • Born January 21, 1947 – Cherith Baldry, age 74.  Sixty novels, seventy shorter stories, for us, some under different names; a dozen other books; plays; essays, letters, reviews in Banana WingsFocusVector.  [JH]
  • Born January 21, 1956 Geena Davis, 65. Best remembered genre wise I’d say for being in Beetlejuice but she also appeared in Earth Girls Are Easy and Transylvania 6-5000. She’s done some one-offs on series including Knight RiderFantasy Island and The Exorcist. Yes, they turned The Exorcist into a series.  (CE)
  • Born January 21, 1956 Diana Pavlac Glyer, 65. Author whose work centers on C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the Inklings. She teaches in the Honors College at Azusa Pacific University in California. She has two excellent works out now, The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community and Bandersnatch: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings. (CE)
  •  Born January 21, 1972 –Tracy Falbe, age 49.  Ten novels.  Has read DraculaEmpire of the Summer MoonNineteen Eighty-FourParadise LostTwenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.  “I want to create someone you want to root for and then give him some disappointing traits.  I might infuriate a reader….  I’ll at least know that I provoked emotion.”  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) BAD FLASHBACK. Sam Besanti, in “What Is Marvel’s Heroes Reborn And Why Can’t We Shake This Feeling of Impending Doom?”  at AV Club, says Marvel Entertainment (the whole company, not just the movie or comic book divisions) sent out a Cryptic Tweet with a teaser announcing the birth of “Heroes Reborn” and speculators are speculating what Marvel means by this.

Today, Marvel Entertainment—that’s the whole company, covering the movies, the comics, and the games—posted a curious teaser that simply had the name Heroes Reborn and “whatever happened to Earth’s mightiest heroes?” underneath. We don’t know specifically what that means, but there is one obvious implication, and based on the… oh, let’s say mixed reaction that the post is getting on Twitter, a lot of Marvel fans are coming to the same conclusion….

(12) X-MEN. X-Men Legends #1 hits stand on February 17. The series “will dive into the rich history of the X-Men to tie up loose ends, resolve long-standing plot danglers, and reveal shocking truths that will change the past and future of the X-Men!” Take a first look at the interior artwork here.

X-Men history will be revisited and revealed when X-MEN LEGENDS #1 debuts next month. This first-of-its-kind series will feature the return of the franchise’s most influential creators—including Louise Simonson, Chris Claremont, and more— in all-new, in-continuity stories set during their groundbreaking runs. Starting things off will be Fabian Nicieza with a two-part tale that finally reveals the truth behind one of the most talked-about mutant mysteries: Adam-X and his startling connection to the Summers bloodline!

Introduced during Nicieza’s explosive work on the X-Men in their nineties heyday, the beginnings of this storyline can be traced back to 1993’s X-Men #23. Since then, X-Men fans have endlessly speculated, theorized, and debated what became known as the “third Summers brother” mystery. Now, all will be answered as one the most infamous comic book plot danglers of all time is resolved!

(13) BIG SHOT. [Item by JJ.] Arnold Schwarzenegger posted video of himself receiving his first dose of coronavirus vaccine at the Dodger Stadium mass vaccination site. He celebrated the moment by slipping in a line from his film — “Come with me if you want to live!”

(14) NARNIA IS NOT INERRANT. Joe R. Christopher has a short essay titled “Was Aslan Wrong about Jadis’s Plan of Attack?” published in Mythprint 57:4, Whole No. 395 (Winter 2020): 8-9 (for sale at the link.) The answer is “Yes, he was.”

(15) HE MUST BE GOING. Larry Correia says Facebook “banned me from my own group because of what I MIGHT say.” Correia has been temporarily banned from FB from time to time, but I’ve never before heard of a ban where a person can still post on his own wall, which is where Correia announced he’ll be curtailing his FB presence. Not actually ending it: “There’s a few groups I use here that I can’t get the equivalent resource anywhere else yet.” All that he told his FB followers has been turned into a post for Monster Hunter Nation: “A Farewell to Facebook” [Internet Archive link].

Jon Del Arroz in a new YouTube video said he is amused by this turn of affairs, because he claims Correia had long ago kicked him out of his group. 

…The post is kind of making the rounds that Larry Correia was banned from his own Facebook group after a couple of years. I’m kind of laughing about this, I’m not, going to lie, because Larry Correia actually ordered that I would be banned from his Facebook group a couple years ago for my quote wrong think or wrong meaning as it were this always happens with the libertarian crowd…

Truthfulness is not JDA’s strong suit, however, he’s banned here, so why not from Larry’s FB group, too?

(16) BIG AND GRAY. Satellite images may take over from aircraft when it comes to surveying this endangered population: “Elephants counted from space for conservation”.

…And all the laborious elephant counting is done via machine learning – a computer algorithm trained to identify elephants in a variety of backdrops.

“We just present examples to the algorithm and tell it, ‘This is an elephant, this is not an elephant,'” Dr Olga Isupova, from the University of Bath, said.

“By doing this, we can train the machine to recognise small details that we wouldn’t be able to pick up with the naked eye.”

The scientists looked first at South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park.

“It has a high density of elephants,” University of Oxford conservation scientist Dr Isla Duporge said.

“And it has areas of thickets and of open savannah.

“So it’s a great place to test our approach.

“While this is a proof of concept, it’s ready to go.

“And conservation organisations are already interested in using this to replace surveys using aircraft.”

Conservationists will have to pay for access to commercial satellites and the images they capture.

But this approach could vastly improve the monitoring of threatened elephant populations in habitats that span international borders, where it can be difficult to obtain permission for aircraft surveys.

(17) A ROSE WAR BY ANY OTHER NAME. The Folger Shakespeare Library podcast Shakespeare Unlimited brings us “Shakespeare and ‘Game of Thrones’”.

Based on his knowledge of Shakespeare’s Henry VI plays, Harvard’s Dr. Jeffrey R. Wilson knew just how HBO’s Game of Thrones would play out. Jon Snow, the illegitimate son, was a Richard III type, who would win the crown (and our hearts, in a love-to-hate-him kind of way). But Daenerys Targaryen, as a kind of Henry VII, would defeat him in battle and win it back, restoring peace and order. Turns out he was wrong about all of that.

But as Wilson kept watching, he began to appreciate the other ways Game of Thrones is similar to Shakespeare—like the way that both Shakespeare and George R.R. Martin’s stories translate the history of the Wars of the Roses into other popular genres….

(18) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter witnessed another stumper on tonight’s Jeopardy!

Final Jeopardy: British Writers

Answer: When Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days in 1926, this British fellow writer tried to find her with the help of a spiritual medium.

Wrong questions: Who is George Orwell? and Who is George Bernard Shaw?

Correct question (only 1 contestant got it right): Who is Arthur Conan Doyle?

(19) A MISSION. Pierre Pettinger, the well-known costumer who along with his wife Sandy received the International Costumers Guild’s 2000 Lifetime Achievement Award, published a new space opera in October, The Road From Antioch.

The pilgrim ship Antioch is destroyed just short of the New Vatican. Someone is stealing critical shipments in the Chemosh Empire. Two worlds of the Laanyr Clan Heer have been attacked. Small vessels are buzzing the Rivnyera World Ships.

Who is behind these incidents? Terrorists? Rebels? The mysterious Cherek? Or someone else entirely? The nations of the Orion Arm must join forces and find the culprits.
The investigation ranges from the space around the planet Ans to the fields of Inohr Dan Nool to the supposedly primitive planet of Cordwainer. Join an Admiral, a Catholic Sister, a Knight Militant, an Ensign, a Great Mind, an Inspector and a Herdmaster as they seek out the perpetrators of these odd occurrences.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Jimmy Kimmel Live aired this wild animation last night – “Goodbye Donald Trump”.

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

Motion to Extend Hugo Eligibility of Prospect

By Olav Rokne: Recently, JJ, Chris Barkley, and Kevin Standee helped me refine a motion that I intend to present at the next WSFS business meeting. The motion is in support of extending the eligibility of the movie Prospect, which was eligible for the 2019 nomination season, but was largely unavailable to most viewers until just over a month ago. It’s a low-budget SFF movie that I think really deserves attention from the fandom community. Getting this a Hugo nod would help it reach the wider audience that it thoroughly deserves. 

Here’s the motion: 


Short Title: Hugo Eligibility Extension for Prospect

Moved, to extend for one year the eligibility of the movie Prospect, based on limited availability, as authorized by Section 3.4.3 of the WSFS Constitution.

Proposed by: Olav Rokne, Marshall Boyd, Amanda Wakaruk, Chris M. Barkley

Commentary: The American film Prospect had its global premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas on March 5, 2018. There were a very limited number of theatrical screenings in large American cities in November of 2018.

Prospect was released on video-on-demand and home media on March 8, 2019.

Due to its limited release in 2018 and early 2019, very few members of Worldcon 76 or Dublin 2019 had the opportunity to view the film before the deadline for nominating the 2019 Hugo Awards.


Hugo Awards Study Committee Report Online

The final Hugo Awards Study Committee Report is now online at the Worldcon 76 WSFS Business Meeting page along with the draft agenda for this year’s Business Meeting.

Committee chair Vincent Docherty says:

The committee got going much later than planned (entirely due to my own lack of time due to other commitments) but once we got started there was very energetic participation by the 20+ committee members. The report summarises the discussion and makes a number of recommendations, including four specific proposals which are on this year’s Business Meeting agenda (three updates to categories and continuation of the committee), as well as a number of topics for further discussion next year, assuming the committee is continued.

The committee welcomes feedback from interested fans. We’re aware of some online reaction to the specific proposals already, which might result in adjustments to the proposals when we get to the Business Meeting.

My thanks to the committee members for their work this year.

Direct link to the report: “2018 Report of the Hugo Awards Study Committee”

An excerpt from the overview of their recommendations —

…Understanding that the overall operation of the categories works well, the Committee found several places for improvement:

The Committee found that the present definitions in the Fan Artist/Professional Artist category were potentially problematic. The Fan Artist category was initially designed in 1967, seeking to honor those offering their artistic talents to the broader community of fandom for little or no compensation. Such contributions were often in the form of illustrations for fanzines and convention programs. In the last fifty years, however, the form that fandom has taken has changed, and the result is that the definition of Fan Artist was found to be outdated. This was given an extensive examination. The Committee also acknowledges that some further examination of the other fan/professional categories may be in order, and has proposed to carry forward at least one further change in this area.

The Committee found the term “Graphic Story” problematic. Just as “comic book” has come to be taken as including work not literally comic, “graphic story” has come to be taken as excluding work appearing in comic books or comic strips. The Committee proposes re-titling to “Best Graphic Story or Comic.”

The Committee feels that altering “Best Fancast” into a “Best Podcast” category and removing the restriction on eligible productions receiving money is desirable. Many podcasts generate income from either limited advertisements, tip jars, or other small streams of income. While these are often not sufficient to support someone making a living, the income can still be substantial. As also discussed in the context of the Fan/Professional Artist categories, the use of fixed income thresholds was also found to be problematic.

In addition to the Artist categories, the Committee gave some consideration to cases of category overlap and/or gaps in categories in general, and would propose to continue examining this both in the context of current and proposed awards. This arose, in particular, in discussions surrounding the future of Best Novel and the proposed Best Translated category.

The Committee also briefly considered several other questions, including how well the Hugo Awards have handled the digital/print divide and differences between how terms are used in an “industry” context in non-industry discourse (e.g. by Worldcon attendees/WSFS members who are giving the awards) and in the Hugo Award definitions themselves. Consideration of various such questions fed into the discussions on specific proposals.

The second question, ‘How well do the categories honor what we wish to honor?’, generated more questions for examination. Given the interaction of this question and the question of how many Hugo Awards should be awarded, most of these questions have been recommended for passage forward for further consideration in the next year. In particular:

A Best Translated category was proposed relatively late in the Committee’s deliberations. As a result, the Committee did not have the time to study this potential award in sufficient depth alongside the rest of its workload, and there were multiple ideas as to what form this category should take (e.g. whether it should be limited to novels, cover all written works) and, if recommended, whether the award in question should be a Hugo or a non-Hugo award given by Worldcons. In particular, the Committee proposes to examine whether such an award is presently feasible.

A potential reorganization of the Best Dramatic Presentation categories was considered, and has been proposed to be passed forward should the committee be continued. Multiple alternatives, including a possible addition of one (or more) categories and redefining the Long/Short division into a TV/Movie division, would be given consideration if the committee is reauthorized.

A readjustment of the Best Semiprozine and Best Editor categories has been proposed and will be considered if the Committee is reauthorized. In particular, the Committee feels that the nature of the internet may have reduced the advantage that professional magazines have over non-professional productions, and that allowing professional publications to compete in a “Best Magazine” category would allow them to once again be honored. The Committee also noted various complications with the Best Editor categories; several proposals, including a possible realignment into “Best Anthology” and “Best Imprint,” will be evaluated if we are authorized to do so….

The report advances three proposed changes, and recommends further study of four more:

Part II: Specific Proposals

(1) Proposed continuation of the Hugo Study Committee

(2) Proposed Changes to the Fancast Hugo Category (with slight changes to the Semiprozine and Fanzine categories to maintain consistency)

(3) Proposed Changes to the Professional Artist and Fan Artist Hugo Categories

(4) Proposed Changes to the Best Graphic Story Hugo Category

(5) Proposal Recommended for Further Study: Addition of a Best Translated Work Hugo Category

(6) Proposal Recommended for Further Study: Replacement of Semiprozine and Best Editor Hugo Categories with Professional Magazine, Anthology/Collection, and Publisher/Imprint

(7) Proposal Recommended for Further Study: Potential Alterations to Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo Categories

(8) Proposal Recommended for Further Study: Best Art Book and Alterations to Best Related Work

(9) Proposal Not Recommended for Further Consideration: Best Novel Split

[Thanks to Vincent Docherty for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 6/9/18 Scroll-The-Pooh Filed In A WordPress All By Himself Under The Name Of Pixel

(1) DAMES AND KNIGHTS. The Queen’s birthday honours list is out. The Guardian has the highlights likely to be of interest to Filers (although it does not cite any of the recipients’ genre credits).

The Queen’s birthday honours list, in which actor Emma Thompson was made a dame,…

Thompson, who is one of Britain’s best loved actors, has been made a dame, adding to a long list of awards including Oscars, Baftas, Golden Globes and Emmys.

…The damehood awarded to the classicist Mary Beard is likely to prove more popular. The Cambridge professor, author and TV presenter described it as a “smashing honour” and attributed it to growing interest in her field of work.

“I feel especially pleased that someone working on the ancient classical world gets honoured in this way,” she said. “I’d like to treat it as a bit of a tribute to the Greeks and Romans themselves, as well as to all my wonderful academic colleagues who also do so much for the study of antiquity.”

The actors Keira Knightley and Tom Hardy are awarded an OBE and CBE respectively.

The author Kazuo Ishiguro, whose works include The Remains of the Day, the film adaptation of which starred Thompson, is knighted for his services to literature. He said he was “deeply touched to receive this honour from the nation that welcomed me as a small foreign boy”.

(2) EPISODE HATE. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert concocted a hilarious “’Stars Wars’ Trailer To Piss Off Hateful Fanboys.” Starts around 2:20 of this video.

There’s a special new ‘Star Wars’ movie for all the angry fans whose racist, misogyny led ‘Last Jedi’ actress Kelly Marie Tran to leave Instagram.

 

(3) DRAGON CON TURNOVER. Early this month bloggers Francis Turner and Jon Del Arroz celebrated a Dragon Con staff firing, however, those searching for an objective explanation of what transpired had nowhere to turn until this week when Richard “Fife” Blaylock published two resignation statements on his blog, one by former Dragon Con Fantasy Literature Track director Charlotte Moore, and his own.

Moore committed what she terms “an error in judgment” in telling a ConCarolinas supporter and regular Dragon Con panelist his support of that convention made him “less welcome” by the Fantasy Literature Track. Dragon Con leadership considered that beyond her authority and a misrepresentation of the convention’s commitment to political neutrality. Almost concurrently,  Moore tweeted in support of a friend she saw being harassed in social media. Dragon Con leadership ultimately told Moore the appearance of the con’s neutrality was more important than these acts of conscience, and she was fired.

Moore initially put a farewell post on the Fantasy Literature at Dragon Con Facebook page, which was taken down by Facebook. It has been reposted to Blaylock’s blog. Here is an excerpt:

Hi, everyone. It’s Charlotte.

Effective immediately, I am no longer the Fantasy Literature Fan Track Director.

I apologize for the cryptic nature of what follows. I will, at my discretion and on a person-by-person basis, give details in private, or when plied by sufficient quantities of alcohol.

First:

I would like to thank Rachel Reeves and David Gordon for working with me to find an equitable resolution to some longstanding and, ultimately, insurmountable differences between my priorities and the convention’s.

I deeply regret that, in an effort to defend this community I love so much, I have, in moments of anger, occasionally overstepped my bounds, resorting to tactics that were unbecoming of me. My behavior has not consistently reflected the convention’s values—nor, in my better moments, mine.

While I do not regret, for one second, standing up to any person who, through their stories, statements, or behavior, threatens this community—or who, out of self-preservation, chooses not to see injustice and abuse—there are ways I might have done so without grabbing for low-hanging fruit.

Dragon Con strives to be apolitical. Perhaps that’s admirable (and perhaps it isn’t? I truly don’t know), but it strikes me that the most bombastic champions of this position are the ones most incensed by social justice, a phrase they sneer as a term of derision and ridicule.

I believe that Dragon Con’s heart is in the right place. I really do. They made it clear to me that they have no compunction with the fundamental nature of my values; that they welcome strong opinions among their track directors; and that they share a desire to create a diverse and safe environment.

They want everyone to have a seat at the table. Unfortunately, they also want everyone to have a seat at the table. And a table that seats abusers beside their abused is not, in fact, a table for all: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

So. The convention and I are at an impasse. And perhaps it is best if Dragon Con finds a less vociferous replacement for me, though I regret that this must happen so close to this year’s event….

—Charlotte, who will miss you all very much.

Richard Blaylock, likewise, has quit the convention as he explains in “My Resignation from Dragon Con” (full statement at the link.)

The below is my resignation as Director’s Second of Fantasy Literature at Dragon Con, as I sent it in. For some quick context:

  • The prior director had acted out of line and was due some form of censure, along the lines of public apology and a warning to chill.
  • Instead of a transparent process, she was fired without being allowed to defend herself, and before she was even informed that she was being fired, they were soliciting potential new directors.
  • The “greater crime” for which she was fired was that she was vocally expressing that she would not provide a platform for bigotry and hate in her programming.

So, without further adieu, and with the intent to allow this to be shared easily across social media platforms (I’d already shared it on Facebook), my letter of resignation to Dragon Con:

To: Director, Fantasy Literature
CC: Sr. Director, Fan Track Operations; Dragon Con Board of Directors
Thank you for the opportunity to stay on as Director’s Second for Fantasy Literature. After a long time mulling it over, I regret to inform you that I cannot, in good conscience, continue on in this position.

While I do not agree with all of Prior Director Charlotte Moore’s means and methods, and I do feel she stepped out of line in her interaction with [guest name redacted] in specific, I cannot countenance the actions that have been taken—actions taken both by means of punishing her and of the convention making a political statement in her firing and its choice for her replacement.

I can appreciate that the convention doesn’t want to become accused of being a political entity for both legal and social reasons. But there is a false equivalency and a tone deafness in the convention claiming that bigotry and harassment is “just politics.” It is the paradox of tolerance that those who try to uphold absolute tolerance invite the absolutely intolerant. A political difference is how to provide health care, entitlements, and the size and role of government. It is not debating the fundamental humanness of those who are not white, heteronormative men.

A “Safe Space” is also a paradox. It is a place where those accepting of differences, willing to admit that all people have a fundamental equality, are welcome. It is not, in truth, “safe” for everyone, because it should be absolutely unwelcoming of bigots. By their fundamental nature, bigots make others unsafe. Fantasy Literature has, in the five years I’ve worked for it, always been a Safe Space, and I thought this was not just because of the actions of the director and her volunteers, but because senior convention leadership saw the value in this as well.

However, in its actions, Dragon Con has made the declaration that hate and bigotry are acceptable behaviors, and that the deluge of snide micro-aggressions that people of color, the differently-abled, women, and the LGBT community will suffer is an acceptable price for convention leadership to pay so they don’t have an angry, vocal, and harassing minority emailing them…..

Dragon Con prides itself on “running like a business.” I am sure that the mentality is you don’t care that a few offended attendees won’t come because of this decision; the numbers are still going up overall. On the whole, the masses don’t care.

But the thing is, the masses don’t care. Dragon Con could do the right thing, take a stand against bigotry and refuse to give it a platform, and you will only lose a minor handful of other bigots.

The masses don’t care. So it becomes such a puzzlement when the only action taken is to turn a blind eye and allow the tyranny of one minority over another so you don’t have to make a decision.

I have made my decision. I hope that you and others will come to see that it was correct one day.

Richard “Fife” Blaylock
Formerly Director’s Second, Fantasy Literature, Dragon Con

(4) ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WALL. Galactic Journey imported Cora Buhlert to 1963 where she discusses “[June 8, 1963] The Future in a Divided Land (An Overview of Science Fiction in East and West Germany) Part 1”.

…I am fortunate enough to live in West Germany and therefore the main focus of this article will be on West German science fiction. However, I will also take a look at what is going on in East Germany.

In the US and UK, science fiction is very much a magazine genre, even if paperback novels are playing an increasingly bigger role. In West Germany, there are a couple of science fiction publishers, such as the Balowa and Pfriem, which specialise in hardcovers aimed at the library market, as well as the paperback science fiction lines of Heyne, Fischer and Goldmann. The three paperback publishers focus mainly on translations, whereas the library publishers offer a mix of translations and works by German authors. Though Goldmann has recently started publishing some German language authors such as the promising new Austrian voice Herbert W. Franke in its science fiction paperback line.

However, the main medium for science fiction and indeed any kind of genre fiction in West Germany is still the so-called “Heftroman:” digest-sized 64-page fiction magazines that are sold at newsstands, gas stations, grocery stories and wherever magazines are sold. Whereas American and British science fiction magazines usually include several stories as well as articles, letter pages, etc…, a “Heftroman” contains only a single novel, technically a novella. “Heftromane” are the direct descendants of the American dime novel and the British penny dreadful – indeed, they are also referred to as “Groschenroman”, which is a literal translation of “dime novel”….

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 9, 1790 — The first copyright for a book was given to The Philadelphia Spelling Book by John Barry.
  • June 9, 1934 —  Donald Duck made his debut in the cartoon “The Wise Little Hen”.
  • June 9, 1978 The Cat From Outer Space premiered theatrically
  • June 9, 1989 Star Trek V: The Final Frontier debuted on this day

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 9, 1930 – Lin Carter
  • Born June 9, 1943 – Joe Haldeman
  • Born June 9, 1963 – David Koepp

(7) HUGO BALLOT PREVIEW. Nicholas Whyte groks “The 2018 Hugo finalists for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form”. At the top of his ballot —

1) Doctor Who: “Twice Upon a Time”

The Moffat era had its low points, but the return of the First Doctor for the Twelfth Doctor’s final story was not one of them. I actually thought that the 2018 season was Capaldi’s best in general, and would have rated a couple of the other episodes higher than this; but this one deserves its place on the ballot and gets my vote. Bonus points for having scenes set in Belgium.

(8) PIXAR PIONEER GOING. Yahoo! Entertainment says “Lasseter, Pixar co-founder, to step down at end of year”.

John Lasseter, the co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and the Walt Disney Co.’s animation chief, will step down at the end of the year after acknowledging “missteps” in his behavior with staff members.

Disney announced Friday that Lasseter — one of the most illustrious and powerful figures in animation — will stay on through the end of 2018 as a consultant. After that he will depart Disney permanently.

Lasseter in November took what he called a six-month “sabbatical.” He apologized “to anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted hug” or any other gesture that made them feel “disrespected or uncomfortable.” At the time, Lasseter signaled that he hoped to then return to Disney. Many in Hollywood were skeptical that was possible.

“The last six months have provided an opportunity to reflect on my life, career and personal priorities,” Lasseter said in a statement. “While I remain dedicated to the art of animation and inspired by the creative talent at Pixar and Disney, I have decided the end of this year is the right time to begin focusing on new creative challenges.”

(9) JUNOT DIAZ. Boston Review’s decision to keep Junot Diaz as an editor has driven three other editors to quit reports the Boston Globe “Boston Review editors resigning in protest of decision to retain Junot Diaz”.

The decision by Boston Review to retain Junot Diaz as an editor despite recent sexual misconduct allegations isn’t sitting well with some members of the magazine’s staff.

Three poetry editors have announced they plan to resign effective July 1 because they disagree with the decision of Boston Review editor in chief Deborah Chasman to keep Diaz on as fiction editor, a position he’s held since 2003.

In a statement posted on the magazine’s website this week, Chasman and executive editor Joshua Cohen said they had done a “careful review of the public complaints” about Diaz, as well as their own inquiry, and determined that “the objectionable conduct described in the public reports does not have the kind of severity that animated the #MeToo movement.”

That prompted Boston Review poetry editors Timothy Donnelly, BK Fisher, and Stefania Heim to respond with a statement of their own.

“What most distresses us are the [Boston Review statement’s] apparent arbitration of what constitutes inclusion in the #MeToo movement and its lack of attentiveness to power dynamics in a star-driven media and publishing landscape,” the three editors wrote. “Though we raised these reservations to the executive editors and asked them repeatedly to rethink their position, they went forward as planned.”

The decision-makers explained why they did not remove Dias in “A Letter from Deborah Chasman and Joshua Cohen” at Boston Review.

Junot Díaz has been Boston Review’s fiction editor since 2003. Like many others, we were deeply moved by Junot’s recent essay in the New Yorker  describing his experience as a child victim of rape, and also struck by his acknowledgment in that essay that he had hurt people with his “lies and choices.” Also, like many others, we have been disturbed by recent reports from women who have come forward to describe the ways they were hurt by him. We have read their reports carefully, taken their complaints seriously, and thought hard about how we should respond.

On the basis of what we have learned, we have decided to continue our editorial relationship with Junot. We want to give a few words of explanation.

First, during his 15-year tenure as fiction editor, we have never received any complaints about Junot’s conduct, either from our staff or from writers.

If we were only an employer, that might be the end of the discussion. But issues of gender and race are at the heart of our mission. Because of Junot’s important public role, we cannot narrowly confine our attention to his role as our fiction editor.

Second, then, we do not think that any of the individual actions that have been reported are of the kind that requires us to end the editorial relationship. To be clear: we do not condone the objectionable behavior that they describe. Instead, we asked ourselves whether the conduct they report is of a kind that—given his role and our mission—requires us to end the editorial relationship. We do not think so. The objectionable conduct described in the public reports does not have the kind of severity that animated the #MeToo movement.

Third, we considered whether, as some have suggested, the complaints point to a larger pattern of abusing power—the kind of star power that has attached to Junot as a successful writer, editor, and public intellectual. On the basis of a careful review of the public complaints, we think not. The events they characterize—including several episodes of aggressiveness in public discussion—are dispersed over a long stretch of time, and do not, as we see it, show the characteristics, repetition, and severity required to establish such a pattern….

(10) THE WHO FAMILY. Don’t ask whether Doctor Who is the Doctor’s Daughter’s father or mother now. This isn’t that kind of project. Syfy Wire reports Doctor Who’s “daughter” is back In Universe, this time in a series of audio adventures: “The Doctor’s Daughter finally returns this week but it could have been much sooner”.

It’s been a decade, but the Doctor’s daughter is finally back for a series of new Big Finish audio adventures out this week. However, if it had been up to Georgia Tennant, her Doctor Who character would have returned to the Whoniverse much sooner.

Thing is… she was never asked back.

“I’ve always been aware of what Doctor Who brings to it, and what you then carry on throughout your life,” explained the actress (who happens to be the daughter of Fifth Doctor Peter Davison and the wife of Tenth Doctor David Tennant) to Radio Times. “But because it was just one episode I thought ‘Oh…that’ll just come and go.’ But it hasn’t, and everyone’s so lovely. Everyone’s wanted me to do this, and at conventions everyone’s been like ‘Why don’t you come back and do something?’ And you know, obviously they never asked me on the TV show…”

(11) PREGAME RITUAL. HBO needs to find a way to keep the cash register ringing: “Game of Thrones: HBO orders spinoff prequel pilot”.

Game of Thrones could be getting a prequel series, HBO has announced, one of five potential spin-offs from the series.

Book author George RR Martin has created the new series alongside British screenwriter Jane Goldman.

HBO has ordered a pilot episode for the show, set thousands of years before the battles over the Iron Throne.

Executives say any spin-off will not be broadcast until after Game of Thrones’ final season in 2019.

If picked up, the prequel will chronicle “the world’s descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour”, HBO said in a statement.

“From the horrifying secrets of Westeros’ history to the true origin of the White Walkers, the mysteries of the East, to the Starks of legend… it’s not the story we think we know.”

Gosh!

(12) LIGHTLY FROSTED. David Pogue, in the Yahoo Entertainment story “How technology brings Broadway’s ‘Frozen’ musical to life”, looks at how the current theatrical adaptation of Frozen is a very high-tech production.

In “Frozen,” technology is behind most of it. Almost none of the effects in the Broadway show would have been technologically possible five years ago.

“I mean, scenery remains scenery, but the video and the lighting equipment is changing so fast. Even by the time we take the show to London, the video technology we use here will almost be obsolete. It moves that rapidly.”

According to stage manager Lisa Dawn Cave, that technology includes an enormous video screen that forms the back wall of the stage. “Our video wall weighs about 8,600 pounds and contains more than 7 million individual LEDs,” she says.

It’s complemented by 19 projectors — six over the stage, and 13 on the ceiling of the theater, on the balcony railing, and on the box seats. “They’re laser projectors — not lasers in the sense like you see laser beams in movies,” says show electrician Asher Robinson, “but they have a laser phosphor source, which means that we’re not changing the lamps in them, and they’re not making a lot of heat.”

(13) PLANTING SEASON. Elon Musk—in the guise of SpaceX—wants a major upgrade to Kennedy Space Center and has provided NASA with a plan laying out their vision. That plan includes a 133,000 sq.ft. hangar to process used SpaceX boosters and a 32,000 sq.ft., 300 ft. tall control tower with a retro-futuristic ovoid top. “NASA Publishes SpaceX Maps and Renderings from Its Proposed “Rocket Garden”Inverse has the story. Quoting the article:

The Kennedy Space Center might be getting a major upgrade and expansion soon if Elon Musk gets his way. NASA published a plan submitted by SpaceXthat dramatically reimagines the company’s presence at KSC in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The plans include everything from a control tower that resembles a flying saucer to a “rocket garden,” showcasing futuristic designs that will expand the space company’s footprint and potential influence within the US agency.

NASA published a draft environmental review for the proposed SpaceX Operations Area, as first reported by Florida Today on Friday. According to the document, SpaceX is seeking permission to build on a 67-acre patch of land about one mile north of KSC’s visitor center complex.

…The proposal justifies the expansion by arguing that the KSC’s current offerings won’t support the 54 launches that SpaceX plans of Falcon 9 or the 10 annual launches planned for Falcon Heavy. By obtaining the space and the green light to build, the proposal says, SpaceX will have the facilities it needs to build, repair, and launch more rockets each year.

SpaceX plans to reach 30 orbital launches in 2018, which is already a record number of missions for the United States. Considering the grandiose proportions presented in the current proposal, it’s clear that the company intends to reach even further with orbital launches in 2019.

[Thanks to Todd, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rick Moen.]

Pixel Scroll 5/28/18 Chapter 5 – Our Last, Best Hope For Pixels

(1) MORE ABOUT WISCON’S KILLABLE BODIES PANEL. One of the program participants, Nicasio Reed, put up “a quick mid-WisCon post”. This excerpt is about half of it.

So this morning I was on a 10AM panel at WisCon 42, and it was called The Desire for Killable Bodies in SFF. I’d been very much looking forward to the discussion, even though we’d had little pre-panel discussion about it. It’s a topic that deeply interests me, and that I strive to think deeply about while consuming and creating narratives and characters. The panel was staffed by myself, one other panelist, and a moderator. I was familiar with Molly Aplet, our moderator, who very appropriately made the call to act also a third panelist, because there were just the three of us. Lisa Freitag, my fellow panelist, I knew from one email before the start of the convention, and from a brief conversation in the Dealer’s Room on the Saturday before the panel, when we chatted about texts to bring up. My biggest fear before the panel started was not getting to bring up all the things I wanted to talk about, or not having intelligent responses to the inevitably brilliant audience questions.

Turns out I should be more creative with my fears! As was reported live via Twitter, and then on the WisCon blog, Lisa repeatedly made statements that expressed a desire to sympathize with both individual Nazis (in this context we would be talking about, I believe, Third Reich-era Nazis), and later also individual Confederate soldiers. That this happened once was confusing, surprising, and alarming. That this happened multiple times as the panel went on was flabbergasting, frightening, and finally just damaging.

A lot of people have checked in on me since the panel, making sure I was doing okay, and I appreciate all of you so much. However, I was absolutely not the most affected by what she said, and what she brought into that room. Most saliently, I’m not Jewish. I want to apologize to everyone who was there who was justly rattled, afraid, saddened, or made to feel unsafe. While I gathered myself enough to push back ideologically while on the panel, I didn’t take the step of directly turning to Lisa and saying, in however many words, “That was a fucked up thing to say, and it’s not okay.” The person who did eventually do that was an audience member, who I won’t name here without their permission. (Panelist and moderator names are, of course, public knowledge.) The onus for directly confronting those statements should absolutely not have fallen on the audience, particularly on those most directly and historically affected by the views expressed. That was my failure, and I am extremely sorry for it. So, again, to everyone in the audience who helped to push back, I’m sorry, and thank you….

The blogger Coffeeandink attended the panel and wrote a post detailing some of the discussion.

I don’t feel comfortable naming the panelist, though I wouldn’t say it was wrong to do so, either, and I do link to a post that names them. For this post, though, I’m just going to call them X.

I’m willing to answer questions about what happened. I am not willing to discuss the punishment or the con’s reaction with people who are not targeted by Nazis. If you are not Jewish, Roma, queer, disabled, or nonwhite/a person of color, please have that discussion elsewhere.

  • The discussion was focused on Nazis in Third Reich.
  • X did not express support for Nazi or Confederate ideology. What they did, repeatedly, was express sympathy for Nazi individuals and stress the need to “humanize” Nazis. They mentioned Confederates in support of this, appearing to think that saying that every soldier on both sides was “some mother’s son” was a convincing argument for extending compassion to Nazis. They argued that some Nazis were “good people”.
  • According to Wiscon’s post, X “appeared to posit that disabled or injured people sometimes ‘have to be sacrificed'”, but I was pretty distracted at the point when that came up and can’t confirm it.
  • The panel description focused on SFF “killable bodies” that are stand-ins for marginalized people, so I was not expecting the subject of Nazis as killable bodies rather than as killers to come up. It’s not innately problematic for a panel discussion to have a larger scope than its description, but I think a lot of people had this expectation and that it made the approach X took especially unexpected.
  • Multiple audience members, multiple times, objected to what X was saying. At the end of the panel, one audience member said bluntly, “There’s a difference between understanding Nazis and sympathizing with them.”
  • I remember the audience as being the ones who pushed back most assertively, but the moderator and panelist Nicasio Reed also argued with X after the audience broke the ice. I do not blame anyone for being too startled to respond firmly while in the room. I myself did not speak up.
  • It’s important to recognize and acknowledge the humanity of people who do terrible things. However, when doing so, it is a moral imperative to center the victims of those terrible things. X centered the emotions and conflicts of the perpetrators–directly in the face of survivors or people who would have been targeted, who repeatedly pointed out that this is what X was doing. I do not believe X did spoke out of malice, but this is a topic that requires great care. If X has considered the topic with that care, it was not apparent during the panel….

(2) THE LAST OF LE GUIN. David Naimon on working with a legend at Literary Hub: “Ursula K. Le Guin, Editing to the End”.

Ursula’s final words to me, her final edits on the manuscript of our collected conversations, were in pencil. We had talked in one of these conversations about technology, about how, in her mind, she was unfairly labeled a Luddite. That some of the most perfect tools—a pestle, a kitchen knife—were in fact perfected technologies. I had just received the manuscript from her days before, and the pencil on it reminded me of the aura of in-the-world magic this whole endeavor, bringing a book into the world together, had assumed.

The manuscript had traveled in the world as an object, one carried by foot and passed hand to hand. Our publisher, Tin House, located literally in a house of tin on the corner of a leafy boulevard in Northwest Portland, was just down the hill from Ursula’s home. And by a remarkable twist of fate, as if sharing the same street were not enough, Ursula’s own granddaughter worked as an intern there. It was often her or the book’s editor Tony who would walk up the hill to deliver the pages, or walk up the hill to walk them back down again. …

She could have published most if not all of her books at one of the big five publishers in New York. She could’ve economized and maximized her time by only granting interviews to the likes of Terry Gross, Bill Moyers, and Charlie Rose. And yet she continued to choose small presses, and often ones distant from the hierarchy of the publishing powers in NYC, whether an anarchist press from San Francisco or a feminist science fiction press from Seattle. Similarly, she never said no to her hometown community radio, KBOO, a station that is not Portland’s NPR affiliate, but whose mission statement is to give voice to the voiceless, with shows like Rose City Native Radio, Transpositive PDX, and Black Book Talk. By conventional metrics, KBOO is a small station, both in reach and listenership, and yet you wouldn’t get that impression when Ursula speaks of it…

(3) CALLING ALL HOLLYWOOD ACCOUNTANTS. We Got This Covered puts its flopologist to work: “Disney Responds To Solo: A Star Wars Story Flopping At The Box Office”.

Although the full four-day estimate won’t be released until later today, it’s probably safe to say that the Anthology pic won’t be gunning for the Memorial Day holiday weekend record anymore. As you’ve surely heard, the Ron Howard-directed space western hauled in $83.3 million in its opening weekend and will finish off Monday with about $110 million, nowhere even remotely near the current record holder, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End ($140M).

In a year that’s seen three releases enter the domestic top thirty for all-time opening weekends, Deadpool 2 ($125M), Black Panther ($202M) and Avengers: Infinity War ($257M), the box office failure of Solo: A Stars Wars Story is only amplified that much more.

(4) DANCING IN AND AROUND THE MAY POOL: At Featured Futures, Jason has compiled another month of choice reading to dip into with “Summation: May 2018”.

This month’s baker’s dozen of noted stories (four recommended) comes from the pool of ninety (of 440 Kwds) published between April 30 and May 28. The print zines were individually strongest with Analog and F&SF each contributing multiple tales but the web combined to contribute seven.

While not applicable to the monthly recommendations, I did review a collection this month which had eight reprints (three recommended) that I especially liked.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY REDWOMBAT

  • Born May 28, 1977 – Ursula Vernon

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY SPOOK

  • Born May 28, 1908 – Ian Fleming. Happy Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) WORD TO THE WIS(E)CON. I wish I could transplant this axiom to the comment section here. Beware the free-floating harshers of squee.

(9) HARDLY A MARVEL. Nicholas Whyte chimes in with his preferences for “The 2018 Hugo finalists for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form”. Landing well below No Award is —

7) Thor: Ragnarok

This is the fourth Marvel Universe film I have seen, but only the third in chronological order – the others were the first Iron Man, which didn’t impress me much, and nor did Captain America: The First Avenger, which I also ranked below No Award. On the other hand there is also Black Panther, made after Thor: Ragnarok but which I saw earlier this year, and loved. I’m afraid Thor: Ragnarok is back to the usual form for me. Not being terribly invested in the characters of the Marvel Universe, let alone the Thor storyline, I could see that the whole thing was trying to be funny but it wasn’t really my fandom. At least Jeff Goldblum was treating it with the approriate level of seriousness. I am sure it will do better than seventh place in the overall vote.

(10) DINING (WAY) OUT. NPR reports “Great White Sharks Have A Secret ‘Cafe,’ And They Led Scientists Right To It”.

“We expected it to be the desert that the textbooks sort of advertised it would be,” said Bruce Robison, a senior scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

But this was no desert.

A layer of nutrient-rich plant life exists deeper under the ocean than satellites could detect. Tiny creatures feed on it, and larger creatures feed on them. And up and up. It represents “a complete food chain, a ladder of consumption, that made us believe that there was an adequate food supply out here for big animals like tunas and the sharks,” Robison said.

(11) LET’S ALL TWEET LIKE THE ROBOTS DO. Too sensitive: “Bulgarians tweeting in Cyrillic confused for Russian bots”. Twitter has several criteria, ANY of which can cause a tweet or account to be suppressed; using Cyrillic is one of them, despite it being used in 11 countries beside Russia.

Speaking at a United States Senate Committee inquiry into extremist content and Russian disinformation online, Twitter’s acting general counsel Sean Edgett shed some light on why this might be happening.

He said in October 2017 that Twitter’s tools “do not attempt to differentiate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ automation,” when looking for Russian-linked accounts.

“They rely on objective, measurable signals, such as the timing of tweets and engagements to classify a given action as automated.”

What can qualify as a Russian-linked Twitter account?

  • Created in Russia
  • Registered with a Russian phone carrier or email address
  • User’s display name contains Cyrillic characters
  • Tweets are frequently in the Russian language
  • Logged in to Twitter via a Russian IP address even once

“We considered an account to be Russian-linked if it had even one of the relevant criteria,” said Mr Edgett.

(12) DINO DANDER. Might be evidence of the first step towards birds: “Dinosaur dandruff reveals first evidence of skin shedding”

An analysis of fossilised dandruff fragments has given scientists their first evidence of how dinosaurs and early birds shed their skin.

Found among the plumage of these ancient creatures, the 125-million-year-old flakes are almost identical to those found in modern birds.

It shows that these dinosaurs shed their skins in small pieces, and not all at once like many modern reptiles.

It’s more evidence that early birds had limited flying skills, the authors say.

(13) FUN FOR ALL. Here’s video of the Anime North 2018 religious protesters. (There’s several posts about them in Reddit’s Anime North thread.)

These guys show up every year. The congoers also do this every year [play songs on a loudspeaker].

 

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Brian Z., Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Who’s on First – Every Year

Dale L. Skran Jr. declares in his guest editorial for The MT Void #1720 that it’s time to end Doctor Who’s dominance of the Best Dramatic – Short Form Hugo:

The 2012 Hugo awards have just been announced, and the DOCTOR WHO Episode “The Doctor’s Wife” won Best DOCTOR WHO Episode of the Year. The 2nd place was taken by “The Girl Who Waited,” and the 3rd place by “A Good Man Goes to War,” also a DOCTOR WHO episodes. This Hugo was once given to non-DOCTOR WHO dramatic presentations, but since this has not happened in a while, the term “Short Form Hugo” will no longer be used, and instead was replaced by “Best DOCTOR WHO Episode of the Year.” …

It is too painful to continue. I submit to you that DOCTOR WHO was *not* the best SF TV show during the entire period from 2006 to 2012 with the exception of one program produced by this Whedon, who has the unfair advantage of being very talented and inventive.

Mark Leeper counters with some interesting points in his follow-up editorial:

You cannot determine quality democratically. You can only determine popularity by a vote. It is a misinterpretation of the Hugo to assume that the voting picks the best nominee. It chooses which nominee has delivered the most pleasure. And in theory that really can be DOCTOR WHO year after year.

Skran wants to redefine the category to cover series instead of individual episodes: at least that way Doctor Who can’t take up more than one slot on the ballot.

This Time BDP Voters
Dodge the Bullet

Rotten Tomatoes has picked the 100 worst movies of the current decade, according to critics’ ratings. At the very bottom is Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002), named the worst movie of the past 10 years.

So congratulations Hugo voters! Not a single movie on the list of 100 made the final ballot as a Best Dramatic Presentation nominee.

That’s better than fandom did the previous decade. Alternative Reel’s list of 50 worst movies of the Nineties ranked 1993 Hugo nominee Bram Stoker’s Dracula as #8.

Did the fans or mundanes call that one right? Think Keanu Reeves in blue granny glasses and there’s your answer.