Pixel Scroll 11/26/20 A Hard Pixel’s Gonna Scroll

(1) WHOSE TABLE DO YOU WANT TO SIT AT? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Writing for SYFY Wire, Brian Silliman runs down a dozen genre families (loosely defined) you might like to visit at Thanksgiving. The surviving members of LotR’s Fellowship (supplemented a bit) is included as is the Devil himself. What family not included in Silliman’s list would you pick? “The 12 genre families we’d most want to spend Thanksgiving with”.

… In the world of genre storytelling, there are countless examples of families, tribes, clans, and groups who only manage to keep hope alive because they have each other. Some of these families have seriously been through it, and many losses have happened. They get through it, and if you have nowhere else to turn this holiday season, you may be inspired by their example. You may be comforted by spending some imaginary time with them. In some instances, you may just want to have a little fun. Remember fun? It’s a thing. It’ll be back. Bet on it, bet on it, bet on it, bet on it. 

The Fam (Doctor Who)

Any chance to go aboard the TARDIS is an instant yes, as is any chance to meet any Doctor that this show has featured. We’re currently skipping along with 13, Graham, Ryan, and Yaz, though… also known as “the fam.” They’re the ones with which our giving of thanks will be done with. 

This foursome would give fun and kindhearted good cheer to anyone, and we know that the TARDIS can use its time circuits to cook a turkey. The issue here is that we’d turn into the holiday guests who never leave — once we’re in that box, we’re there for life. Deal with it, Timeless Child! You already have three companions, what’s one more? We may even fall in love, but let’s not label anything right now. Pass those carrots, Yaz! 

(2) MALIK Q&A. Lightspeed Magazine features the Pakistani author in “Interview: Usman T. Malik”.

Nine Pakistani artists and designers were commissioned to illustrate your collection. Tell us a little about why you wanted to have each story illustrated.

When I was a child, some of my favorite books were illustrated editions of Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle. Sketch art and color plates by Arthur Rackham, Harry Clarke, Edward Gorey, and Gustave Doré would send my imagination soaring. This was much before I realized I was a colonial experiment—a middle-class mule with dreams and riches dangled before him as he trots along with a hundred million others. The mule’s been trained to dream a certain way, to crave the carrot and thrill at the whiplash until he thinks those are things he wants. Perhaps—or sometimes—we grow up and realize we want subversion but on our terms, not on the terms of masters past or present.

I wanted those stories illustrated my way. I wanted the Old and New Worlds to meet but at a crossroads of my choosing, at the terms of my people. That is also one reason I opted to bring out my debut collection in Pakistan rather than elsewhere.

(3) DUE DILIGENCE. Camestros Felapton is mulling over ways to decide what he should vote for in the Best Video Game Hugo category in 2021. Today he followed his opening salvo, “Video Game Hugo”, with more deep thoughts in “What is it like to be in a world”.

…Certainly a book or a film can have characters do the same but a video game is obliged to have a consistent behaviour for how this departure from reality works and also forces the player to get to grips with what it would be like to be in a world where such a thing was possible.

Given that, I should really consider the non-narrative SFF elements of a game. Doing so would mean that games without narrative elements should be considered potentially strong contenders….

(4) CHANGING GATE. Congratulations to Black Gate on a successful site migration – a lot of stuff they had to make work: Black Gate is Moving!”

…This wasn’t exactly an easy process (not according to the exhausted late-night calls we got from Support at our new service provider, anyway). It involved moving over 211,000 files, uncounted gigs of images, sound files (who uploaded sound files?), and strange databases apparently created by DAW Books in the 1970s. Our offices look like a Marvel Studios sound stage after a wrap party.

(5) READ SCIENCE FICTION COMMENTARY. Bruce Gillespie has produced another issue of his epic sercon fanzine Science Fiction Commentary – download issue #104 here at eFanzines.

A wide variety of material includes personal stuff (including lockdown pleasures) by Bruce Gillespie; a tribute to Phil Ware by Lync; and Edwina Harvey and Robert Day’s reports on the 2019 and 2020 Worldcons. William Breiding wanders the high cold deserts of USA. Jennifer Bryce, Robert Lichtman, and Guy Salvidge tell of past incidents and accidents in their lives. Michael Bishop, Jenny Blackford, and Tim Train contribute poems. And the ‘Criticanto’ section includes review-articles by Paul Di Filippo, Cy Chauvin, Henry Gasko, Murray MacLachlan, Ian Mond, and Michelle Worthington.

(6) BLACK FRIDAY. Tomorrow Blows Against The Empire: 50th Anniversary will be a SpecialRelease at Record Store Day. John A Arkansawyer sent the link with a comment, “I want it pretty bad. I’ve got the original cover (which this is) and the redo (which moves the title to the top for ease in finding in the bin). I’m hoping for a nice reprint of the booklet to go along with it all.”  The album was a Hugo nominee in 1971.

With most of the members of Jefferson Airplane missing in action, Paul Kantner and Grace Slick holed up in a San Francisco studio in 1970 alongside a cast of West Coast rock ‘n’ roll legends including Jerry Garcia, David Crosby and Mickey Hart to cut what would become Kantner’s finest solo work, his rock space-opera, Blows Against The Empire. This 180g 50th anniversary edition LP is pressed on green marble vinyl for RSD Black Friday.

Side A: “Mau Mau (Amerikon)”, “The Baby Tree”, “Let’s Go Together”, “A Child Is Coming”
Side B: “Sunrise,” “Hijack”, “Home”, “Have You Seen The Stars Tonite”, “X-M”, “Starship”

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • November 26, 1986 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home premiered. It was directed by Leonard Nimoy who wrote it with Harve Bennett. It was produced by Steve Meerson, Peter Krikes, Nicholas Meyer and Harve Bennett. It starred the entire original original Trek cast. It would lose out to Aliens at Conspiracy ’87. The film’s less than serious attitude and rather unconventional story were well liked by critics and fans of the original series along with the general public. It was also a box office success. And it has an exemplary eighty-three percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 26, 1909 – Berkeley Livingston.  One novel, five dozen shorter stories for Amazing and Fantastic under his own name and others, called fast-paced, imaginative, tightly-plotted, or parody that unfairly gave him a reputation as an author of bad work – you pay your money and you take your choice.  (Died 1975) [JH]
  • Born November 26, 1910 Cyril Cusack. Fireman Captain Beatty on the classic version of Fahrenheit 451. He’s Mr. Charrington, the shopkeeper in Nineteen Eighty-four, and several roles on Tales of the Unexpected rounds out his genre acting. Well and what looks like an absolutely awful Tam-Lin… (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born November 26, 1919 Frederik Pohl. Writer, editor, and fan who was active for more seventy five years from his first published work, the 1937 poem “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna” to his final novel All the Lives He Led. That he was great and that he was honoured for being great is beyond doubt — If I’m counting correctly, He won four Hugo and three Nebula Awards, and his 1979 novel Jem, Pohl won a U.S. National Book Award in the one-off category Science Fiction. SWFA madr him its 12th recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award in 1993 and he was inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1998. Ok, setting aside Awards which are fucking impressive, there’s the matter of him editing Galaxy Science Fiction and (and its UK sister edition), IfStar Science Fiction Magazine (which I’ve never heard of), Super Science Stories and well let’s just say the list goes on. I’m sure I’ve not listed something that y’all like here. As writer, he was amazing. My favorite was the Heechee series though I confess some novels were far better than others. Gateway won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, the 1978 Locus Award for Best Novel, the 1977 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and the 1978 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. Very impressive. Man Plus I think is phenomenal, the sequel less so. Your opinion of course will no doubt vary. The Space Merchants co-written with Cyril M. Kornbluth in 1952 is, I think, damn fun. He wrote a lot of short fiction, some I think brilliant and some not not but that was true of most SF writers of the time.  (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born November 26, 1939 Tina Turner, 81. She gets noted here if only for being the oh so over the top Aunty Entity in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome but let’s not forget her as The Acid Queen in Tommy as well and for appearing as The Mayor in The Last Action Hero which is at least genre adjacent. (CE) 
  • Born November 26, 1939 – Gaelyn Gordon.  Eight novels, as many shorter stories.  Quit teaching, went to writing, because “the people I teach … [I] often have a fairly good idea of what sort of adults they’ll be; I haven’t the faintest idea what the story I’m writing [will] turn out to be.”  At her death the New Zealand Children’s Literature Foundation established an award in her name for children’s books unheralded at the time of publication which stayed in print and proved popular with children.  In Several Things are Alive and Well and Living in Alfred Brown’s Head AB’s brain is taken over by aliens.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born November 26, 1945 Daniel Davis, 75. I’m singling him out for Birthday Honors for having his two excellent appearances as Professor Moriarty on Next Gen. He has one-offs on MacGyverGotham and Elementary. He played The Judge in The Prestige film. He also voiced several characters on the animated Men in Black series. (CE) 
  • Born November 26, 1949 – Victoria Poyser-Lisi, 71.  Two Hugos as Best Fanartist; also pro work.  Eighty covers, fifty interiors for us; more elsewhere (e.g. here is a plein air watercolor).  Guest of Honor at Windycon X; Kubla Khan 14 with Frank R. Paul Award.  Guest Artist at the 11th World Fantasy Con.  Here is The Harper Hall of Pern.   Here is Masters of Glass.  Here is The Eyes of the Overworld.   Here is the Sep 91 SF Chronicle.  [JH]
  • Born November 26, 1951 Van Ikin, 69. Australian editor and writer best known for his editorship of the long-running critical journal Science Fiction. He also edited Science Fiction: A Review of Speculative Literature, and has reviewed genre fiction for the The Sydney Morning Herald since 1984. It’s unfortunate that his twenty-year-old Strange Constellations: A History of Australian Science Fiction hasn’t been updated. He also edited a number of genre anthologies sometime back. (CE) 
  • Born November 26, 1955 – Tracy Hickman, 65.  Fifty novels with Margaret Weis, ten with T’s wife Laura Hickman, ten more.  Role-playing games.  Funded the Parsec Awards with Mur Lafferty and Michael Mennenga.  Guest of Honor at MisCon I, StellarCon XI, LepreCon 22,  CONduit 14.  T & L Toastmasters at 46th World Fantasy Con.  [JH]
  • Born November 26, 1973 – Peter Facinelli, 47.  Actor, director, producer, including SF e.g. SupergirlSupernovaTwilight & sequels.  One novel (with Robert DeFranco & Barry Lyga). [JH]
  • Born November 26, 1986 – Sarah Doebereiner, 34.  Five short stories for us, several others. “The work should speak for itself.  The author is just a conduit.”  [JH]
  • Born November 26, 1988 — Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, 32. He played Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane on the Game of Thrones for five seasons. That’s it for his genre acting, but he co-founded Icelandic Mountain Vodka whose primary product is a seven-time distilled Icelandic vodka. Surely something Filers can appreciate! (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) TWO WILD AND CRAZY GUYS. In the Washington Post, Donald Liebenson interviews Steve Martin, whose new book A Wealth Of Pigeons consists of over 130 cartoons by New Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss with Steve Martin providing the captions. “’A Wealth of Pigeons,’ by Steve Martin and Harry Bliss Q&A”.

Q: Cartoonists don’t have the luxury stand-up comedians have of honing a bit in front of an audience. One of the cartoons in the book shows Steve trying out a cartoon on his wife, his young daughter and, finally, his cat. How do you two know a cartoon is ready to go out into the world?

Martin: This is a medium where there is barely feedback. For the first time in my life, I’m going with, “Well, I think it’s funny.” Because when I do stand-up and I think it’s funny and the audience doesn’t, it’s out the next day. In a strange way, this is more fun, because you just kind of believe in it. Some days I go back to cartoons we’ve written, and I go, “I don’t get it anymore,” and some of them grow in their humor.

Bliss: Every Sunday is my syndicate deadline, so I have to come up with six cartoons, which isn’t a big deal, because outside of raking the leaves and piling firewood, there’s not much else I do. I think it’s instinctual. If something makes me laugh and then I send it to Steve and we both think it’s funny, it’s a go.

(11) TRAILER TIME. The technology that makes it easy to do promotional trailers intrigues me. I should do a File 770 trailer. Meanwhile —

Titan Comics and Guerrilla Games are proud to announce an all-new graphic novel set after the events of the critically acclaimed, award-winning video game Horizon Zero Dawn.

(12) TWO CHAIRS. In Episode 41 of the Two Chairs Talking podcast, titled “A series of perfect murders”, Perry Middlemiss discusses The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan, and David Grigg talks about The Survivors by Jane Harper, and he also raves about the work of Tana French plus several other books in the crime and mystery genres.

(13) A GLOWING SPOT. “A Boston Dynamics robot dog is going to Chernobyl” – and Mashable is following the story (at a safe distance.) Video at the link.

The four-legged robot ‘Spot’ is being pegged as a replacement for humans, who carry out routine, yet risky, measurements around the contaminated Chernobyl site. The long-term goal is to have the robots help take Chernobyl apart and have it safely decommissioned. 

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Stanley Kubrick:  A Life in Pictures” on YouTube is a 2001 documentary, narrated by Tom Cruise and directed by Jan Harlan, that gives a comprehensive overview of Kubrick’s life and career, including extensive segments about Dr Strangelove, 2001, A Clockwork Orange, and The Shining.  The film includes about five minutes of Arthur C. Clarke talking about 2001 and one brief interview of Brian W. Aldiss talking about A.I., which Steven Spielberg took over after Kubrick’s death.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/24/20 Do I Dare Disscroll The Pixelverse?

(1) GRATING EXPECTATIONS. Piper J. Drake analyzes readers’ reactions based on default views of history in “Marginalized people living varied and fulfilled lives in genre fiction is historically accurate” at the SFWA Blog.

Earlier this year, an author of color announced the acquisition of her new historical romance series. In direct reply to her tweet, someone publicly questioned the historical accuracy of the series. The author of color was prepared because she knew she would be challenged about “historical accuracy” and she provided an organized response. The challenger deleted her tweet but doubled down on her right to question the author and circled back to her own feed to gain sympathizer support for the attitude she was getting from the author of color because she “just asked a question.” For those sympathizers, I broke down the original challenge to demonstrate why it wasn’t just a question but, in reality, an insidious attack.

Let’s unpack this, because one might wonder why we’re even discussing historical accuracy in science fiction and fantasy. After all, these genres are fiction. Accuracy doesn’t need to come into play.

But here’s the thing: when the question of historical accuracy is raised regarding fiction, it’s rarely — if ever — actually about facts or history. 

It’s about the default, the norm.

It’s about what some people consider to be true simply because they’ve never questioned those assumptions, and the reality they default to is often wrong…. 

(2) SERPELL ON AFROFUTURISM. The Huntington has posted “Black Matter”, in which Namwali Serpell, professor of literature at Harvard, author of The Old Drift, and recent recipient of the Arthur C. Clarke award for the best science fiction novel published in the UK, discusses the origins of afrofuturism. This is the Ridge Lecture for Literature

(3) PICKING UP AFTER PICARD. Abigail Nussbaum copes with Trek-induced anxieties in “One More Adventure: Thoughts on Star Trek: Picard, which she says ends up wasting its beloved titled character.

I watched the first few episodes of Star Trek: Picard this spring, and then stopped. I could blame a lack of time, too many shows on my schedule and not enough hours to keep up with all of them (this was the reason that I similarly ended up dropping the most recent season of Legends of Tomorrow, which I wrote up on my tumblr last week). But really, the reason was that Picard made me anxious. All new Star Trek does. I find it impossible to watch these shows without the constant awareness that the people who are the franchise’s current stewards have, at best, a teaspoon’s-depth understanding of what it is and why it works, and I end up feeling constantly on guard against the next travesty they’re sure to commit. Which also makes me kind of sick of myself, for watching like that, being unable to let go, unable to trust the story to take me where it wants to go—even if that distrust is well earned. It’s for this reason, I think, that I found this summer’s new animated foray into the franchise, Lower Decks, so relaxing. The show is wall-to-wall fanservice, with absolutely no pretension of doing anything new with its material. So while the result is, inevitably, uninvolving, it’s also easier to trust.

Picard, in contrast, seems designed to agitate my NuTrek anxieties….

(4) CRITICS’ CHOICE. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar line up their picks of the year: “2020 books: Best science fiction, fantasy and horror” in the Washington Post. The list of five opens with —

The Only Good Indians

By Stephen Graham Jones

Jones, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, conjures a revenge story involving friends who are haunted by a supernatural entity. The tale calls to mind classics such as “It” and “Ghost Story.” Jones’s take is a fresh and enticing tale — and features a memorable foe.

(5) ‘TIS THE SEASON. Journey Press hopes you’ll do some gift shopping off their booklist — “Received from Galactic Journey, reposted with permission”, signal boosted by James Davis Nicoll.

As you may know, the book business has been hit inordinately hard by COVID. Printing and shipping have been disrupted, but more importantly, bookstores have been locked down. Those that are open have lower foot traffic for obvious and good reasons.

For presses like mine , which have prioritized brick and mortar shops over Amazon, it’s been a rough time.

With the holiday season coming up, I wonder if you might consider one or more of our books as gift possibilities — for others…and yourself. Not only would you be getting some great reading material, you’d be helping me and Journey Press out at a time when we could really use some good news. I guarantee you will enjoy all of these, as will anyone you give them to:

(6) BE EARLY BIRDS. The annual “H.G. Wells Short Story Competition” offers a £500 Senior and £1,000 Junior prize and free publication of all shortlisted entries in a quality, professionally published paperback anthology.

The theme for the 2021 HG Wells Short Story Competition will be “Mask”. The competition will open in early 2021, and close in July 2021.

Get started now while we wait for them to start taking submissions.

(7) RIPPLES ON THE POND. Engadget delivered the news — “The Hugo Awards will have a video game category in 2021” with a link in the last sentence to the post here – presumably the strong case was made in the comments, or the linked article by Ira Alexandre.

…As things stand, video games won’t be an ongoing fixture at the Hugo Awards. That’s not unusual. The awards have consistently experimented with categories. In 2002 and 2005, for instance, it gave out awards to the best websites, but hasn’t done so since. The good news is that the Hugo Study Committee will consider adding a permanent Best Game or Interactive Experience category, and there’s a strong case to be made for their inclusion.  

On the other hand, PC Gamer is condescending in its coverage: “The Hugo Awards are getting a videogame category—but only for 2021”.

…Hold on, I hear you say, haven’t games been meaningful prior to early 2020? Isn’t the continued growth of the gaming industry a pretty strong signifier of how many people spend a large amount of time gaming, pandemic or no? 

Well, even though videogames do have a rather large audience overlap with science fiction novels, the people who actually nominate and vote for the awards may not be a prime gaming audience. These are the same people who just last year showed that when it comes to diversity, the Hugos still have some way to go, and who reference Pong in reply to their own gaming category announcement. Back in 2006, a newly-introduced videogames category to the Hugo Awards was dropped due to lack of interest.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • November 24, 1985 Ewoks: The Battle for Endor premiered on ABC. It was produced and written by George Lucas. Starring Wilford Brimley, Warwick Davis, Aubree Miller, Paul Gleason and Carel Struycken, the sequel to Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure was considered mostly harmless by critics. It is treated as canon by Lucas. It holds a 51% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 24, 1849 – Frances Hodgson Burnett.  Four novels for us including The Secret Garden, nine shorter stories; much other work outside our field including Little Lord Fauntleroy, first loved, then hated (“an awful prig”), perhaps due for re-examining.  John Clute, whom I love to agree with because it’s so seldom, says “The supernatural content of [SG] is slight … but the book as a whole, like the best fantasies, generates a sense of earned transformation….  ‘Behind the White Brick’ stands out…. has a swing and a drive … makes one regret that FHB did not write full-length fantasies.”  (Died 1924) [JH]
  • Born November 24, 1907 Evangeline Walton. Her best known work, the Mabinogion tetralogy, was written during the late 1930s and early 1940s, and her Theseus trilogy was produced during the late 1940s. It’s worth stressing Walton is best known for her four novels retelling the Welsh Mabinogi. She published her first volume in 1936 under the publisher’s title of The Virgin and the Swine which is inarguably a terrible title. Although receiving glowing praise from John Cowper Powys, the book sold quite awfully and none of the other novels in the series were published at that time. Granted a second chance by Ballantine’s Adult Fantasy series in 1970, it was reissued with a much better title of The Island of the Mighty. The other three volumes followed quickly. Witch House is an occult horror story set in New England and She Walks in Darkness which came out on Tachyon Press is genre as well. I think that is the extent of her genre work but I’d be delighted to be corrected.  She has won a number of awards including the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature, Best Novel along with The Fritz Leiber Fantasy Award,  World Fantasy Award, Convention Award and the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1996.) (CE) 
  • Born November 24, 1912 – Charles Schneeman.  Ten covers, three hundred interiors.  Here is the May 38 Astounding.  Here is the Jan 40.  Here is the Nov 52.  Here is the Aug 68 Riverside Quarterly.  This is for Gray Lensman.  This is for “The Scrambler”.  (Died 1972) [JH]
  • Born November 24, 1916 – Forrest J Ackerman.  (No punctuation after the J).  Pioneer and indeed a founder of fandom; collector (he was the Grand Acquisitor); editor, literary agent.  Famous for wordplay, he was known as 4e, 4sj, and much else.  At Nycon I the first Worldcon he and Morojo – an Esperanto nickname, they were both Esperantists – wore what he called futuristicostumes, pioneering that too.  Winning a Hugo for #1 Fan Personality, never given before or since, he walked off stage leaving it, saying it really should have gone to Ken Slater.  For years administered the Big Heart, our highest service award.  In one of his more inspired puns, called us the Imagi-Nation.  (Died 2008)
  • Born November 24, 1942 – Alicia Austin, 78.  Fan and pro artist.  Three dozen covers, four hundred eighty interiors.  Inkpot; one Hugo; World Fantasy Award; Guest of Honor at ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon; more.  This Program Book page shows her logograph for L.A.Con (in retrospect L.A.con I).  Artbook Alicia Austin’s Age of Dreams.  Here is The Last Castle.  Here is Solomon Leviathan’s Nine Hundred Thirty-First Trip Around the World.  Here is Bridging the Galaxies.  [JH]
  • Born November 24, 1948 Spider Robinson, 72. His first story “The Guy with the Eyes” was published in Analog February 1973. It was set in a bar called Callahan’s Place, a setting for much of his later fiction.  His first published novel, Telempath in 1976 was an expansion of his Hugo award-winning novella “By Any Other Name”. The Stardance trilogywas co-written with his wife, Jeanne Robinson.  In 2004, he began working on a seven-page 1955 novel outline by the late Heinlein to expand it into a novel. The resulting novel would be called Variable Star. Who’s read it? Oh, he’s certainly won Awards. More than be comfortably listed here. (CE) 
  • Born November 24, 1949 – Jim Warren, 71.  A hundred covers, two hundred twenty interiors.  Artbooks The Art of Jim WarrenPainted Worlds.  Here is All Flesh is Grass.  Here is Jimi Hendrix.  Here is a Disney-related image (JW is an official Disney artist).  He is self-taught.  [JH]
  • Born November 24, 1951 – Ruth Sanderson, 69.   Eight short stories, a score of covers, two dozen interiors for us; much other work outside our field.  Two Chesleys. World Fantasy Con 2011 Program Book.  Here is The Princess Bride.  Here is The Snow Princess.  Here is The Golden Key.  Here is The Twelve Dancing Princesses, in a grayscale coloring book for adults.  Here is her Little Engine That Could.  [JH]
  • Born November 24, 1957 John Zakour, 63. For sheer pulp pleasure, I wholeheartedly recommend his Zachary Nixon Johnson PI series which he co-wrote with Larry Ganem. Popcorn reading at its very best. It’s the only series of his I’ve read, anyone else read his other books? (CE) 
  • Born November 24, 1957 Denise Crosby, 63. Tasha Yar on Next Gen who got a meaningful death in “Yesterday’s Enterprise”. I other genre work, She was on The X-Files as a doctor who examined Agent Scully’s baby. And I really like it that she was in two Pink Panther films, Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther, as Denise, Bruno’s Moll. And she’s yet another Trek performer who’s popped doing what I call Trek video fanfic. She’s Dr. Jenna Yar in “ Blood and Fire: Part 2”, an episode of the only season of Star Trek: New Voyages. (CE)
  • Born November 24, 1957 Jeff Noon, 63. Novelist and playwright. Prior to his relocation in 2000 to Brighton, his stories reflected in some way his native though not birth city of Manchester. The Vurt sequence whose first novel won the Arthur C. Clarke Award is a very odd riff off Alice in Wonderland that Noon describes as a sequel to those works. Noon was the winner of the Astounding Award for the Best New Science Fiction Writer. (CE) 
  • Born November 24, 1965 Shirley Henderson, 55. She was Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. She was Ursula Blake in “Love & Monsters!”, a Tenth Doctor story, and played Susannah in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, a film that’s sf because of the metanarrative aspect. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio shows why you never got that flying saucer as a kid. 
  • Lio also prompts this note to self: Avoid horror movie pop-up books.
  • Pearls Before Swine discusses the challenges of writing during the lockdown.
  • Off the Mark has an X-ray vision of a Thanksgiving Day truth.

(11) DOCTOROW. Register at the link to watch Cory Doctorow’s talk on “How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism” — 2020 Beaverbrook Annual Lecture Part 2 on November 30 at 12:00 Eastern. A live Q&A session will follow.

His lecture, “How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism” will build from his recently published book of the same name, and will respond to the current state of surveillance capitalism through a critical analysis of technological and economic monopolies.

(12) CONTESTS OF NOTE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Haben Kelati has a piece about contests for kids.  She lists three of them and I thought two were pertinent.

The Geek Partnership Society has a contest for kids to write poetry, comic books, or short stories with sf or fantasy elements, with prizes being $50-75 gift cards: Writing Contest – Geek Partnership Society.

NASA has a contest where kids imagine who they’d bring on an expedition to the Moon’s south pole and one piece of technology they’d leave on the Moon to help future astronauts.  Three first prizes get trips to see an Artemis-1 launch and nine second prizes get tours of the Johnson Space Center. Future Engineers :: Moon Pod Essay Contest.

(13) HE WAS FIRST. “2020 National Book Festival Highlights: Gene Luen Yang” includes video of Yang’s presentation.

When Gene Luen Yang was named the 2016-2018 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, the honor represented more than just recognition for his extraordinary work. It was also a profound acknowledgment of the importance of a genre that was once relegated to being mere comics.

Yang was the fifth National Ambassador, but the first graphic novelist to receive the honor.

The Library of Congress and the Children’s Book Council bestow the ambassadorship on a writer for his or her contributions to young people’s literature, the ability to relate to kids and teens, and a dedication to fostering children’s literacy.

In “Dragon Hoops” (First Second), Yang’s first nonfiction work, he turns the spotlight on his life, his family, basketball and the high school where he once taught. In “Superman Smashes the Klan” (DC Comics), a Chinese-American teenager awakens to find his house surrounded by the Klan of the Fiery Kross.

In the video Yang recorded exclusively for the Library, he speaks eloquently about the importance of libraries in disseminating stories: “Libraries are the keepers of stories. Stories define culture, right? Whether or not we have hopeful culture or a culture that’s mired in despair is completely up to the stories that we tell. It’s completely up to the stories that are taken care of by our libraries, that are collected and disseminated by our libraries.”

(14) WELCOME TO AARP. My fellow geezers, here’s a chance to play the video games of your youth without that Atari console you wouldn’t have anyway because if you did you’d have sold it by now. “Atari Video Games – Classics Available To Play Online”. Asteroids, Breakout, Centipede, Missile Command, and Pong.

(15) CALCULUS OR BUST. In the Washington Post, education columnist Jay Mathews says he is re-reading Have Space Suit, Will Travel and notes that Heinlein foresaw a dominance of “progressive education,” where students pick the courses of interest to them. “Progressive education hard to pin down because it’s everywhere”

…It is called progressive education. It took a beating in the 1950s, particularly from conservatives like Heinlein. In his novel, he describes a future time when humans are living on the moon and exploring the solar system, but the progressive commitment to student-centered learning in the United States has led to this class schedule described by the book’s hero, an ambitious high school sophomore:

“Social study, commercial arithmetic, applied English (the class had picked ‘slogan writing’ which was fun), handicrafts .?.?. and gym.” The school has no math classes beyond algebra and geometry, so the hero’s father persuades him to learn trigonometry and calculus on his own to pursue his dream of going to space.

…Heinlein died in 1988 at age 80.  He might be pleasantly surprised that in the real 21st century, even at a small-twon school like the one in his book, calculus is likely to be available, as well as college-level courses in chemistry and biology and reading of real literature.  My visits to schools often reveal that despite Heinlein’s doubts, progressive education has deepened learning with projects and topics relevant to students’ lives.

(16) IN DOUBTFUL TASTE. The New York Times wants to know “Why Were Canadians Warned Not to Let Moose Lick Their Cars?”

Visitors at a Canadian national park were greeted with a rather unusual digital road sign this weekend: “Do not let moose lick your car.”

The sign caught the imagination of the internet and led to questions like:

“What happens if a moose licks your car?”

“Is it really that big of a problem?”

And, perhaps most salient: “Exactly how would you stop them?”

As it turns out, the signs were put up by officials of Jasper National Park, in … Alberta, to try to stop moose from licking road salt off idling cars — a serious problem that can present dangers to the vehicles, the drivers and the moose.

Steve Young, a spokesman for the park, said … moose usually got their salt, a vital part of their diets, from salt licks… But the animals discovered that they could get the mineral from cars splashed with road salt. (It has begun snowing in Jasper, and salt can help melt ice on roads.) continues….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY.  In “Watch Dogs: Legion” on YouTube, Fandom Games says the future London portrayed in this series “is like now, only 20 percent more Elon Musk-ified.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Darah Chavey, James Davis Nicoll, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John A Arkansawyer.]

Pixel Scroll 11/23/20 Not One Of These Pixels Will Scry For Me

(1) YOU CONTROL THE HORIZONTAL, YOU CONTROL THE VERTICAL. Adam Whitehead has commentary on the newly announced 2021 Best Video Game Hugo in “Hugo Awards add a video game category for 2021” at The Wertzone. Includes a list of eligible prospects.

…Many, if not most, video games fall into the science fiction or fantasy. Seven years ago, I made a post about video games that engage with their SFF themes in a bit more detail (it’s probably about time I did a follow-up). With video games having been commercially available for forty-five years, and having been more popular than either the film or music mediums for more than twenty years, it is probably past time this move was made. I suspect far more people voting in the Hugos have played an eligible video game in any given year than have read a semiprozine or read a novelette, for example.

Assuming normal rules of eligibility, the following video games would be among those eligible for the award in 2021…

For the announcement, see File 770’s post “Ready Nominator One: Best Video Game Special Hugo Award Category Announced for 2021”.

(2) UNDERAPPRECIATED ARTWORK. Doug Ellis has launched a new series on the art of the Science Fiction Book Club’s bulletin Things to Comeat Black Gate: “The Art of Things to Come, Part 1: 1953-1957”.

… Like tens of thousands of science fiction fans before and after me, I was at one time a member of the Science Fiction Book Club (or SFBC for short). I joined just as I entered my teen years, in the fall of 1976, shortly after I discovered the wonder of science fiction digests.

I remember the bulletin of the SFBC, Things to Come, arriving in our mailbox every month, and eagerly perusing the offerings to see if I wanted grab any of the featured selections or alternates, or something from the backlist. The SFBC purchase I most vividly recall reading was the Isaac Asimov edited anthology, Before the Golden Age, which was filled with great stories as well as fascinating biographical material by Asimov on his early days as a fan. Other favorite volumes include Leigh Brackett’s The Book of Skaith, Damon Knight’s Science Fiction of the Thirties and The Futurians, Frederik Pohl’s The Early Pohl, Frank Herbert’s Duneseries and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars books, among many others. I remained a member through college before finally letting my membership lapse.

One of the benefits of being a member of the SFBC was receiving their bulletin, Things to Come. While the art inside sometimes just reproduced the dust jacket art, in many cases the art was created solely for the bulletin, and was not used in the book or anywhere else. Because one can never collect enough things, I gradually started collecting back issues of Things to Come for the art, particularly for the art of Virgil Finlay which began appearing in the bulletin in 1959. In 2005, I gathered those Finlay illos from the bulletins that I’d collected and published a small press booklet, Virgil Finlay: The Art of Things to Come.

(3) CONSENSUS 2019 HIGH FANTASY. [Item by Eric Wong.] Rocket Stack Rank has posted its annual Outstanding High Fantasy of 2019, with 35 stories that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.

Included are some observations obtained from highlighting specific recommenders and pivoting the table by publication, author, awards, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers.

As for RSR, we recommended 13 stories (2 award worthy), were neutral on 17 stories, and only recommended against 5 stories (view by RSR rating).

(4) STATE OF THE ART. “Sci-fi’s Elizabeth Bear on Diversity, Mental Health, and Queers in Space” in a wide-ranging PopMatters interview.

…Bear is attentive to gender diversity in her work, incorporating not only female-identified protagonists but also gender fluid and non-binary characters. Given the fuss that contemporary politicians still make against efforts to render public discourse more inclusive in that respect, Bear’s efforts are especially useful in revealing how easy and natural the incorporation of non-binary pronouns and ideas can be. (See “Can a Bill Have a Gender? Feminine Wording Exposes a Rift”, by Christopher F. SchuetzeThe New York Times, 15 October 2020.)

“The first author who I ever consciously was aware of putting a non-gendered character into their books was Vonda McIntyre in Dreamsnake [1978]. Vonda did it by just never using pronouns for that character. I didn’t realize it until the third or fourth time I reread the book! I went like, ‘Wait a minute. Oh!’

“And then I started thinking about that. I have friends who identify as non-binary, I have trans friends, and it’s just common politeness. It’s like using somebody’s preferred form of their name. I mean obviously everybody makes mistakes, sometimes you don’t know what a person’s pronouns are. I’ve been trying to default to neutral pronouns until I know what the preferred ones are, which also offends some people, but you got to pick a hill to die on, I guess. Again, it’s a thing that just reflects the world as it is, rather than reflecting the world through a series of stereotypes that we’ve been told to expect as normal.

“I grew up in a queer family, steeped in the queer culture of the 1980s which was very gendered and not particularly trans-friendly, so I guess I started interrogating a lot of that at an earlier age than a lot of my peers. The first time I was consciously aware of having a friend who was trans was in my mid-twenties, I had a friend who transitioned. The thing happened that I think happens to everyone when a friend comes out to them–they realize that it’s not a big deal. I mean you can be a horrible bigot and make it a big deal, but that person is still your friend, or your relative, or your child, or your parent, or whatever it is that they are.

“What I realized at that point was that we as a culture were incredibly hung up on gender and enforcing gender stereotypes on people. This would have been in the mid-’90s, when everything was frickin’ pink and blue. In the ’70s and ’80s, when I was a kid, stuff was much less gendered. Everybody played with the same Legos and the same Lincoln Logs. There were some girl toys and some boy toys, but mostly there were just toys. By the time my friends were having kids, it was all either girl toys or boy toys. So that extreme gendering of things–it’s a natural reaction to push back against that.

“The real strength of my generation of science fiction writers, and the current generation of science fiction writers…is that we are much more diverse. And much more global. A lot of that is technology, obviously. I can text a friend in Paris, France and have an hour-long conversation with them for free and only pay for it by putting up with advertising, you know? So those connections are much stronger. That diversity of voices is incredibly, incredibly useful and is creating a much broader and more heterogeneous field than we previously had.”

(5) ALSO SPRACH UTAH. “Helicopter pilot finds ‘strange’ monolith in remote part of Utah”Yahoo! News has the story.

A mysterious monolith has been discovered in a remote part of Utah, after being spotted by state employees counting sheep from a helicopter.

The structure, estimated at between 10ft and 12ft high (about 3 metres), appeared to be planted in the ground. It was made from some sort of metal, its shine in sharp contrast to the enormous red rocks which surrounded it.

…Hutchings said the object looked manmade and appeared to have been firmly planted in the ground, not dropped from the sky.

“I’m assuming it’s some new wave artist or something or, you know, somebody that was a big 2001: A Space Odyssey fan,” Hutchings said.

(6) AI AI OH! [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the November 14 Financial Times, Tom Faber profiles multimedia artist Lawrence Lek, whose work includes sf tropes.

The first film in the (Sinofuturism) series was showing that night (in 2017) at Corsica Studios.  Made in 2016, Sinofuturism (1839-2046 AD) draws parallels between western stereotypes of Chinese culture (such as computing, copying, and cheap labour) and our anxieties about the rise of artificial intelligence.  Its 2017 follow-up, Geomancer, uses game-like digital simulation to spin a wilder narrative about a sentient weather satellite about a sentient weather satellite which longs to be an artist.

With his newest work AIDOL (a play on “AI” and “Idol”) which debuted at Gallery Sadie Coles HQ last year, Lek sets his sights on the music industry.  The year is 2065, and in Malaysia waning pop star Diva enlists an AI ghostwriter to help her mount a comeback show at the eSports video game Olympics.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • November 23, 1963 Doctor Who premiered with “An Unearthly Child”.  Starring William Hartnell as the First Doctor plus His Companions played by Carole Ann Ford as Susan Foreman, Jacqueline Hill as Barbara Wright and William Russell as Ian Chesterton. It was directed by Waris Hussein, with Verity Lambert and Mervyn Pinfield as producers. The story was written by Anthony Coburn and C. E. Webber. Most contemporary critics were pleased by “An Unearthly Child” but Variety oddly thought it had to be more realistic.  It has a respectable seventy percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 23, 1863 – Katharine Pyle.  Author, illustrator, poet.  A dozen books for us; at least fifty in all, some children’s.  Collected and retold fairy tales.  Poems and drawings for The Wonder Clock by her brother Howard.  Local history for children, Once Upon a Time in Delaware.  Here is The Counterpane Fairy.  This is for Granny’s Wonderful Chair.  This is for As the Goose Flies.  For Tales from Norse Mythology see here.  (Died 1938) [JH]
  • Born November 23, 1908 – Nelson Bond.  Four novels, a hundred fifty shorter stories – at which he was masterly: not least Lancelot Biggs, Spaceman; Meg, the priestess who rebelled; Pat Pending, who – yes.  Also radio & television.  Philatelist.  Rare-book dealer.  Correspondent of James Branch Cabell(“Tell the rabble my name is Cabell”).  Nebula Author Emeritus.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born November 23, 1914 – Wilson “Bob” Tucker.  Mostly Wilson to the world – two dozen novels, as many shorter stories – mostly Bob to us.  Among our great fanwriters.  Le Zombie (so named after several Tucker Death Hoaxes) and then e-Zombie ran fifty years.  Fan Guest of Honor at Torcon I the 6th Worldcon and NyCon 3 the 25th.  A Hugo and a Retrospective Hugo as Best Fanwriter.  Often a toastmaster.  Coined “space opera”.  Tuckerization, putting into fiction the names (or nearly, like “Mike Glider”) or descriptions of people the author knows, or who won the privilege in some fannish fund-raiser, is named for him.  You can see four editions of his Neo-Fan’s Guide here, including one Our Gracious Host helped produce.  SF Commentary 43 (PDF) is the Tucker Issue; No. 79 (PDF) is the Tucker Issue, Second Edition; No. 80 (PDF) has many appreciations including mine.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born November 23, 1916 Michael Gough. Best known for his roles in the Hammer Horror Films from the late Fifties and for his recurring role as Alfred Pennyworth in all four films of the Tim Burton / Joel Schumacher Batman series. His Hammer Horror Films saw him cast usually as the evil, and I mean EVIL! Not to mention SLIMY, villain in such films as Horrors of the Black MuseumThe Phantom of the OperaThe Corpse and Horror Hospital, not to overlook Satan’s Slave. In Doctor Who, Gough appeared as the villain in “The Celestial Toymaker” (1966) and then again as Councilor Hedin in “Arc of Infinity” (1983). He also played Dr. Armstrong in “The Cybernauts” in The Avengers (1965) returning the very next season as the Russian spymaster Nutski in “The Correct Way to Kill”. Gough worked for Tim Burton again in 1999’s Sleepy Hollow and later voice Elder Gutknecht in Corpse Bride. He would mostly retire that year from performing though he would voice later that Corpse Bride role and the Dodo in Burton’s Alice in Winderland. (Died 2011.) (CE) 
  • Born November 23, 1927 – Guy Davenport, Ph.D.  His being given the Introduction to Davidson’s unparalleled “Or All the Seas With Oysters” in The Avram Davidson Treasury will give you a clue.  His dissertation, on Ezra Pound – there’s a complicated man – was published as Cities on Hills.  While a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, studied Old English under Tolkien.  Translated Heraclitus, Diogenes, Sappho, Anacreon.  About his collection Tatlin! (which he illustrated; no, not gossip, this one) see here.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born November 23, 1951 David Rappaport. I remember him best as Randall, the leader of the gang of comically inept dwarves in Time Bandits who steal the map to Universe. I’m reasonably sure that it’s the only thing he’ll be remembered for of a genre nature having looked up his other works and found them to be decidedly minor in nature. Most of them such as The Bride, a low budget horror film, were artistic and commercial disasters. It is said that his death by suicide in 1990 is one of the reasons cited by Gilliam for there not being a sequel to Time Bandits. (Died 1990.) (CE) 
  • Born November 23, 1955 Steven Brust, 65. Of Hungarian descendant, something that figures into his fiction which he says is neither fantasy nor SF. He is perhaps best known for his novels about the assassin Vlad Taltos, one of a scorned group of humans living on a world called Dragaera. All are great reads.  His recent novels also include The Incrementalists and its sequel The Skill of Our Hands, with co-author Skyler White. Both are superb. His finest novel? Brokedown Palace. Oh, just go read it. It’s amazing. And no, I don’t love everything he’s done. I wrote a scathing scathing reviewing of Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille and he told us at Green Man that he might be the only person who liked the novel. Freedom & Necessity with Emma Bull is decidedly different but good none the less and his Firefly novel, My Own Kind of Freedom, stays true to that series. He’s quite the musician too with two albums with Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull, Jane Yolen (lyrics) and others. The band in turn shows up in Marvel comics. A Rose For Iconoclastes is his solo album and “The title, for those who don’t know, is a play off the brilliant story by Roger Zelazny, “A Rose For Ecclesiastes,” which you should read if you haven’t yet. Quoting him again, “’Songs From The Gypsy’ is the recording of a cycle of songs I wrote with ex-Boiled-in-Lead guitarist Adam Stemple, which cycle turned into a novel I wrote with Megan Lindholm, one of my favorite writers.” The album and book are quite amazing! (CE) 
  • Born November 23, 1960 – John Bunnell, 60.  Nine short stories.  Book reviews in three incarnations of Amazing; also Dragon.  When the English translation of The Name of the Rose came out, he told role-playing gamers “For all its erudite trappings and intimidating size… a tension-filled tale of precisely the sort that referees are so fond of weaving into gaming campaigns.”  True.  [JH]
  • Born November 23, 1966 Michelle Gomez, 54. Best known genre role is as playing Missy, a female version of The Master on Doctor Who from 2014 to 2017, for which she was nominated for the 2016 BAFTA TV Award for Best Supporting Actress. I admit having grown up with Roger Delgado as The Master so later performers playing this role took a bit of getting used to but she made a fine one.  She is also Mary Wardwell in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and she plays Talia Bauerin in Highlander: The Raven which apparently is a very short-live spinoff from the Highlander series. Finally, she shows up in the Gotham series for two episodes simply as The Lady. (CE) 
  • Born November 23, 1967 Salli Richardson-Whitfield, 53. Best known genre role is as Dr. Allison Blake on Eureka which apparently in syndication is now called A Town Called Eureka. H’h? I’m reasonably sure her first genre role was as Fenna / Nidell in the “Second Sight” of Deep Space Nine but charmingly voiced Eliza Mazda,  the main human character, on the Gargoyles series!  She’s shows up as character named Dray’auc in “Bloodlines” on Stargate Sg-1 and had a role on a series called Secret Agent Man that may or may have existed. She’s was Maggie Baptiste in Stitchers, a series that lasted longer than I expected it would. (CE)
  • Born November 23, 1970 Oded Fehr, 50. Actor from Israel whose most well-known genre roles are as the mysterious warrior Ardeth Bay in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, and as Carlos Oliveira (or his clone) in three of the Resident Evil films: ApocalypseExtinction, and Retribution. (His Mummy roles no doubt led to his casting in voice roles in Scooby-Doo in Where’s My Mummy? and as The Living Mummy in the animated Ultimate Spider-Man and Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.) On Charmed, he played the demon Zankou, the main villain of the show’s seventh season. He’s had an impressively long list of appearances on TV series, including recurring roles on Once Upon A Time, StitchersV, and The First, a series about the first mission to Mars. He has also voiced characters on numerous other animated features and series. (CE) 
  • Born November 23, 1979 – Rachel Hawkins, 41.  Nine novels, two shorter stories.  “Taught high school English for three years, and … still capable of teaching you The Canterbury Tales if you’re into that kind of thing.”  Married to a geologist.  [JH]

(9) SOME FREE READS. Marvel is ramping up to a December release — encouraging some pre-reading by making it free reading.

Starting today, Marvel Unlimited, Marvel’s award-winning digital comics subscription service, is preparing for the King In Black! To celebrate the highly anticipated arrival of Marvel’s next epic comic event in December, Marvel Unlimited is unlocking access to the first five issues of Venom and the first two issues of Absolute Carnage – all FREE for fans everywhere, no subscription required.

To read these free issues, fans only need to download the Marvel Unlimited app, available on iPhone®iPad® and select Android™ devices, and dive right in. Venom #1-5 (2018) and Absolute Carnage #1-2 (2019) will be available today through December 14. Download the app and enjoy these issues today!

… A threat years in the making, Knull’s death march across the galaxy finally hits Earth in KING IN BLACK—with an army of thousands of symbiote dragons at his beck and call. Eddie Brock, AKA Venom, has seen firsthand the chaos that even one of Knull’s symbiotic monsters can wreak—will he survive an encounter with the God of the Abyss himself?

(10) FOSTER, A FURRY INSPIRATION. Patch O’Furr looks into a special corner of the big story — furry fan ties with Alan Dean Foster’s loved original series Spellsinger, and how it was optioned for a movie: “#DisneyMustPay Alan Dean Foster — A fight with furry fandom influence” at Dogpatch Press.

First published in 1983-1987, Alan Dean Foster’s Spellsinger fantasy series struck a chord for a burgeoning fandom. It features a law student, Jon-Tom, with janitor work and rock and roll dreams. He wakes up in a strange land after smoking something weird to escape mundanity, where he meets a rabble-rousing otter (Mudge) and turtle wizard (Clothahump). His new talking-animal world sets a stage for learning to channel magic with music… but only once per song. Playing Pink Floyd’s Money on his “Duar” guitar can solve a problem once… if he even gets it right.

Loaded with epic fantasy, humor, cartoonish characters, and even moments to make an imaginative reader read extra hard (hot tiger-women and gay unicorns!) — It was the right kind of story that reached the right fans at the right time. The animals weren’t just for kids; they drank, stabbed, screwed, and swore! It made me a 90’s furry before I knew there was a fandom for it.

Foster’s writing was pure fun, spiked with a threat of apocalyptic invasion and a race to defeat it in classic quest mode. I’d assume this was mid-list bookstore fare; not bestselling but solid original work for a productive author. Bigger pay would come with franchise adaptations — his novels for Star Wars, the Aliens movies, and Star Trek.

Making canon work for such big properties should earn secure income for a challenging career of genre writing. That is, if Disney would honor what Lucasfilm agreed to owe, after they acquired the company in 2012 for several billion dollars….

(11) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. “Bruce” the fiberglass shark from Jaws is now a museum exhibit – although floating on air he looks more like a tribute to Sharknado.

 The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures completed installation of one of the most iconic objects from its permanent collection, the only surviving full scale shark model from the 1975 Oscar®-winning film Jaws. This moment signals exciting momentum toward the Academy Museum’s much-anticipated opening on April 30,2021, where the 25-foot model (nicknamed “Bruce the Shark”) will be on view, free to the public. Jaws, directed by Steven Spielberg, won Oscars® for Film Editing, Sound and Original Score, and was nominated for Best Picture at the 48th Academy Awards® in 1976. 

… The monumental model is the fourth, final, and only surviving version of the shark model derived from the original Jaws mold. The creation of the infamous mechanical shark—which Spielberg is rumored to have named “Bruce” after his lawyer—was tasked to art director Joe Alves, whose original schematics depict the 25-foot long body, 400-pound head, and jaws nearly five feet wide. The three screen-used production molds cast in latex and rubber rotted and were destroyed. The Academy Museum’s version, cast in fiberglass for photo opportunities at Universal Studios Hollywood surrounding the film’s 1975 release, survived at Universal until 1990 when it found its way to Nathan Adlen’s family’s junkyard business in Sun Valley, California. In 2010, it was authenticated by Roy Arbogast, a member of the original Jaws film’s special effects crew, and in 2016, the Academy Museum acquired the shark model through a contribution by Nathan Adlen. The museum worked with special effects and make-up artist Greg Nicotero, co-founder of KNB EFX, to meticulously restore the fiberglass shark which had deteriorated from being outdoors for 25 years. 

(12) BUT LEADING UP TO WHAT? “Trader Joe’s Is Selling an Advent Calendar for Cats This Year”Taste of Home is sure this product will give your cat a religious experience.

…You will find 25 soft treats for your feline friend. The snacks are made of antibiotic-free Atlantic salmon and dried seaweed, according to the packaging. You can rest assured knowing that your cat will be enjoying high-quality ingredients. Plus, the drawings on the front of the calendar are just too cute.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Back To The Future Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George says this is a special episode because his whole idea for pitch meetings happened because of a sketch by John Mulaney about how wild a pitch meeting for Back To The Future would be.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Doug Ellis, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Patch O’Furr, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Ready Nominator One: Best Video Game Special Hugo Award Category Announced for 2021

DisCon III, the 79th Worldcon, announced today that a special Hugo Award category for “Best Video Game” will be included in the 2021 Hugo Awards.

The Hugo Awards — the oldest and most prestigious awards in speculative fiction, presented first in 1953 and annually since 1955 — honor the field’s literature and media as well as the genre’s fans. The awards are voted on by members of each year’s Worldcon.

“Since early 2020, many of us have spent more time gaming than we ever expected. This award will offer fans an opportunity to celebrate the games that have been meaningful, joyful, and exceptional over this past year,” DisCon III co-chair Colette Fozard said. “Video games draw from the same deeply creative well that has fed science fiction and fantasy writing and art for so many years. This innovative and interactive genre has brought us new ways of story-telling as well as new stories to tell and we are glad to honor them.”

There is no permanent Hugo Award category to recognize this interactive form of storytelling with which so many fans of the genre create and engage. A trial Best Interactive Video Game Hugo Award was attempted in 2006. Since that time, science fiction and fantasy video games have continued to evolve and generate intense interest from both reviewers and the wider fan community.

The DisCon III committee has chosen to create this special category for 2021 only, as provided for by the rules of the World Science Fiction Society. The Hugo Study Committee is also considering Best Game or Interactive Experience as a potential permanent category.

An eligible work for the 2021 special Hugo award is any game or substantial modification of a game first released to the public on a major gaming platform in the previous calendar year in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects. 

For these purposes, a game is defined as a work wherein player choice, interaction, or participation significantly impacts the narrative, play, meaning, or experience. A major gaming platform means that the game is available on personal computers such as Windows, Mac, or Linux computers (including, but not limited to, via Steam, Epic, itch.io, browser, or direct download), iOS, Android, Switch, PlayStation, and/or Xbox systems. This definition will be provided as part of the nominating and voting ballots. 

The DisCon III committee expressed appreciation to Ira Alexandre and the Games Hugo Subcommittee of the Hugo Study Committee for their work in gathering the necessary data and evidence to support the creation of this special award. (An earlier version of Alexandre’s idea was discussed in their 2019 File 770 post “A Hugo Award for Best Game or Interactive Experience”.)

Members of CoNZealand and DisCon III as of December 31, 2020 are eligible to nominate works for the 2021 Hugo Awards, including for the special category Best Video Game. Nominations open in early 2021. Only members of DisCon III are eligible to vote on the final ballot. More information on the Hugo Awards is available at The Hugo Awards official site.

Register for DisCon III here. Follow the con on Twitter at @worldcon2021.

[Based on a press release.]