Pixel Scroll 10/25/21 I Am The Pontiff Of Pixel, Scroller Of All I Survey

(1) I’D LIKE TO MEET HIS TAILOR. James Davis Nicoll is “Asking the Tough Questions About Superheroes and Public Nudity” at Tor.com. Don’t tell me this hasn’t troubled you, too!

…If [the superhero is] prone to turning into living flame? Clothes go up in flame. Super-cold? Cloth turns brittle when frozen. Change size? Clothing shreds. Or a teeny-tiny size-changer can slip between the weave of the cloth. Then change back to normal human and oops, no clothes.

In the old days, the Comics Code Authority guaranteed a certain level of protection from power-induced nudity. The Hulk’s pants size might go from M to XXXXXXXL but somehow his trousers always stretched enough to provide him with shorts. Similarly, Doctor Phosphorus’ skin incinerated everything it touched, despite which he somehow always had enough of his trousers left to avoid being charged with indecent exposure (well, in addition to terrorism and murder)….

(2) RECLAMATION 2022 VENUE ANNOUNCEMENT. The Reclamation 2022 committee today announced that next year’s UK Eastercon venue will be the Radisson Hotel & Conference Centre London Heathrow. The con will run April 15-18, 2022.

The hotel, formerly known as the Park Inn, is a venue that will be familiar to regular science fiction convention goers and is easily accessed via various transport links. In addition to the hotel, there are local pubs and restaurants and central London is a tube ride away.

The committee would like to thank the community for their enormous patience. The current global situation made the process far more difficult than we’d hoped. It has taken over two years of searching to find a suitable venue for a convention of our size that will accommodate non-corporate gatherings.

We did want to announce the venue much earlier in the year. We had hoped to bring Eastercon to Brighton for 2022. Sadly, the venue required more extensive renovations than they, and we, first anticipated and it’s no longer available at this time. We hope to see an Eastercon there in the future.

To attend Reclamation, the 72nd Eastercon, you need to purchase membership for the convention. All information can be found on the website at https://reclamation2022.co.uk/membership/ . Membership can also be purchased at Eastercon fan tables, which can be found at various forthcoming fan conventions….

(3) MISSING CREDITS. The Irish Times’ John Connolly contends women writers of genre fiction are doubly ignored: “Pulp friction: Irish women’s place in genre writing should be rescued from ignominy”.

… The assault on genre writing in Ireland began as early as 1892, when Douglas Hyde, eventually to become the first president of the Irish Free State, gave a speech to the Irish National Literary Society in Dublin in which he urged his listeners to set their faces “sternly against penny dreadfuls, shilling shockers”. To Hyde, genre writing was not only “garbage” and “vulgar”, it was also “English”, which made it undesirable in the extreme. It had no relevance to his conception of Irishness, which was limited to everything “most smacking of the soil, most Gaelic”. If it was genre fiction, it wasn’t Irish literature. In fact, it probably wasn’t literature at all….

(4) PODCASTER Q&A. Cora Buhlert has posted a new “Fancast Spotlight” for Light On Light Through, a podcast by Paul Levinson: “Fancast Spotlight: Light On Light Through”.

 … Today, I’m pleased to feature Light On Light Through, a podcast run by Paul Levinson, who’s a science fiction author, singer/songwriter, media critic and professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University.

Paul Levinson is clearly a very busy man, so I’m thrilled to welcome him to my blog today to talk about Light On Light Through….

(5) SUBGENRE CHALLENGES. Cora Buhlert, who sent this link, notes she’s not the only one who’s interviewing semiprozine editors. Bobby Derie just interviewed Erica Ciko Campbell and Desmond Rhae Harris, editors of the new magazine of Starward Shadows Quarterly“Editor Spotlight: Interview with Erica Ciko Campbell and Desmond Rhae Harris of Starward Shadows Quarterly”.

“We’re interested in exploring the wicked, strange places that walk the line between reality and nightmare—the alien, the absurd, and above all else, the weird.” —Starward Shadows Quarterly Submissions page

Aside from Lovecraft, other thematic inspirations cited for Starward Shadows Quarterly include J. R. R. Tolkien and Robert E. Howard. How do you handle the historical racism and colonialist tropes inherent in fantasy and sword & sorcery?

DRH: This is a tricky topic. The best I can explain it is that we always look for ways to bring fresh, modern insight on those topics, and we deliberately seek out authors who provide that. If a story doesn’t have a new, enlightened viewpoint that shatters racism and colonialism and instead falls back on addressing those grief-ridden topics in the same, tired, old ways, then we simply won’t publish the story—no matter how good it is otherwise. It isn’t enough for something to be “not that problematic.” It needs to actively counteract the social impact that previous authors have had in these difficult areas in order for us to accept it….

(6) THE DUNES ARE ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF MUSIC. The New York Times tells “How Hans Zimmer Conjured the Otherworldly Sounds of ‘Dune’”.

…For “Dune,” by contrast, Zimmer wanted to conjure sounds that nobody had ever heard before.

“I felt like there was a freedom to get away from a Western orchestra,” he said recently, speaking in the Warner Bros. offices overlooking Hudson Yards in New York. “I can spend days making up sounds.”

The resulting soundtrack might be one of Zimmer’s most unorthodox and most provocative. Along with synthesizers, you can hear scraping metal, Indian bamboo flutes, Irish whistles, a juddering drum phrase that Zimmer calls an “anti-groove,” seismic rumbles of distorted guitar, a war horn that is actually a cello and singing that defies Western musical notation — just to name a few of its disparate elements.

The score combines the gigantic, chest-thumping sound of Zimmer’s best known work of the last decade with the spirit of radical sonic experimentation. The weirdness is entirely befitting the saga of a futuristic, intergalactic civilization whose denizens are stalked by giant sandworms and revere a hallucinogenic substance called spice….

(7) IT’S NOT JUST A SURPRISING IDEA – IT’S THE LAW! “Pablo Escobar’s Cocaine Hippos Are Legally People, Court Rules”Gizmodo has the story.

Pablo Escobar’s hippos have a lawyer. And a good one at that. In a U.S. first, a court recognized the animals as legal persons. That could be the hippos’ salvation in the ongoing fight about what to do with one of the world’s most rotund and dangerous invasive species.

… Now, there are up to 120 hippos roaming around Colombia, and they are considered one of the top invasive species in the world. Authorities have weighed a plan to kill the hippos off and on since 2009, and its recently gained steam.

Last July, Colombian attorney Luis Domingo Gómez Maldonado filed a lawsuit on the hippos’ behalf to save them from being euthanized. Instead, the case recommends sterilization. Colombian officials announced a plan to use a chemical contraceptive developed by the U.S. Agriculture Department to sterilize “the main group” of the hippos, and the region’s environmental agency Cornare began to implement the plan on Friday, darting 24 hippos. 

… “The Colombian legal system can’t compel someone in the U.S. to provide testimony or to produce documents, but we have this federal law that allows interested persons in Colombia to go to the U.S. and obtain that ability to obtain documents and testimony.” Christopher Berry, the attorney overseeing the U.S. case who also serves as managing director at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said. “So we applied for the hippos’ rights to compel their testimony in order to support the Colombian litigation, and now the [U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio] has granted that application, recognizing that the hippos are interested persons.”…

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1968 – Fifty-three years this evening on NBC, Star Trek’s “Spectre of the Gun” first aired. It was written by former producer Gene L. Coon (under the name of Lee Cronin) and directed by Vincent McEveety.  It had one of the larger guest casts — Ron Soble  as Wyatt Earp, Bonnie Beecher as  Sylvia,  Charles Maxwell  as Virgil Earp, Rex Holman as Morgan Earp,  Sam Gilman as Doc Holliday,  Charles Seel as Ed the bartender, Bill Zuckert  as Johnny Behan,  Abraham Sofaer as the Melkotian Voice and Ed McCready as Barber. You know the premise, so I won’t detail it here.  I will note that the budget wasn’t available to shoot on location on a full set, so instead a Western street of false building fronts and no sides was used. It’s considered one of the finest episodes of the original though Keith R.A. DeCandido of Tor.com inexplicably decided to criticize the episode for its historical inaccuracies. Huh? And I’ll note that the First Doctor had done an Old West story two years previously, “The Gunfighters” and the Eleventh Doctor will have his own such story as well, “A Town Called Mercy”.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 25, 1909 Whit Bissell. You most likely know him as Station Manager Lurry on “The Trouble With Tribbles”,  but his major contribution to the SFF genre was being in all thirty episodes of The Time Tunnel as Lt. Gen. Heywood Kirk. He also did one-offs on The InvadersI Dream of JeannieThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaScience Fiction TheaterThe Incredible Hulk and The Outer Limits. And yes, in the Time Machine film. (Died 1996.)
  • Born October 25, 1940 Janet Fox. Author whose stories appeared in countless genre zines and anthologies between the Seventies and mid-Nineties.  Her long fiction, mostly the Scorpio Rising series, was done as Alex McDonough. She’s also know for the Scavenger’s Newsletter which featured a number of noted writers during its long including Linda Sherman, Jeff VanderMeer and Jim Lee. (Died 2009.)
  • Born October 25, 1955 Gale Anne Hurd, 66. Her first genre work was as Corman’s production manager on Battle beyond the Stars. (A decent forty-two percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.) From there, we’ve such films as Æon Flux, the Terminator franchise, AliensAlien NationTremorsHulk and two of the Punisher films to name just some of her genre work. We’ll forgive her for the latter. 
  • Born October 25, 1955 Glynis Barber, 66. Soolin on Blake’s 7 for a series. She also appeared in The Hound of the Baskervilles (Ian Richard and Donald Churchill were Holmes and Watson) and a Sherlock Holmes series I didn’t know about, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson starring Geoffrey Whitehead and Donald Pickering. 
  • Born October 25, 1963 John Gregory Betancourt, 58. Writer best known most likely for his work In Zelazny’s Amber universe but who has written quite a bit of other franchise fiction including works in the Star TrekHerculesRobert Silverberg’s Time ToursDr. Bones and The New Adventures of Superman. Most of his original fiction was early in his career. He’s also edited in a number of magazines including Weird TalesAmazing StoriesH. P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of HorrorAdventure Tales and Cat Tales. He even co-edited with Anne McCaffrey, Serve It Forth: Cooking with Anne McCaffrey. His Wildpress Press has been nominated three times for World Fantasy Awards. 
  • Born October 25, 1971 Marko Kloos, 50. Author of two MilSF series, Frontlines and The Palladium Wards. His Lines of Departure was nominated for Hugo Award for Best Novel at Sasquan on a slate organized by the Sad Puppies. In reaction to this, Kloos withdrew the novel from consideration for the award. He was subsequently honored by George R. R. Martin for this decision. And that gets him Birthday Honors. Four of his books have been Dragon Awards nominees in the Best Military SF or Fantasy category.
  • Born October 25, 1971 Elif Safak, 50. Turkish writer not currently under arrest though considered an opponent of Recep Tayyip Erdogan as she’s lived in the U.K. for eight years. She’s got three genre novels, one written originally in Turkish (Mahrem), The Gaze in its English translation, and two written in English, The Architect’s Apprentice (which was translated into Turkish as Ustam ve Ben)  and 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World.
  • Born October 25, 1989 Mia Wasikowska, 32. She’s Alice in Tim Burton’s creepy Alice in Wonderland and equally creepy Alice Through the Looking Glass. Rotten Tomatoes gave the first a fifty-three percent rating and the second a twenty-nine percent rating.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mutts warns us about what can go wrong with your magic spells. (A re-run of an earlier strip, but fans of puns won’t mind seeing it again.)
  • Frank and Ernest find out the Tooth Fairy has issues.
  • Off the Mark shows a truly terrifying Halloween costume for dinosaurs.
  • Batch Rejection demonstrates an efficient pet’s name.
  • And for the record, the current Dick Tracy team did a sign-off strip, as in, the current creative team is (apparently) moving on.

(11) A LEGEND IN HER OWN TIME. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna has an appreciation of Ruthie Tompson, who met Walt Disney in 1918, worked for Disney animation for nearly 50 years, became a Disney Legend in 2000, and passed away recently at 111. “Ruthie Tompson, who died at age 111, was a Disney trailblazer in ‘a man’s world’”.

Ruthie Tompson, whose hand helped paint early Mickey Mouse, was the very picture of humility — even as she turned 110.

Tompson became an animation trailblazer in 1937, working among the scores of other young women in Disney’s famed Ink & Paint department — for long hours, relatively low pay and no screen credit — on the landmark feature “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”“We worked into the night, day after day, until we got it exactly right!” she told the Hollywood Reporter last year, from the Motion Picture and Television Fund’s retirement community in Woodland Hills, Calif., while enduring the second global pandemic of her lifetime….

(12) SOMETHING TO DREAD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses the lasting appeal of Nintendo’s sf game Metroid, whose 2021 extension, Metroid Dread, was recently released.

I can’t help thinking that perhaps in 2021, Metroid has been a victim of its own success.  Back in 1997, a game called Castlevania: Symphony of the Night borrowed elements from Super Metroid and set the mould for a genre unimaginatively dubbed the ‘metroidvania.’  These are titles united by their contiguous 2D maps and gameplay that juggles tense combat with exploration.  In recent years indie developers have followed in Metroid‘s footsteps to create modern classics such as the graceful Ori series, the haunting Hollow Knight, or the pixel art gauntlets of Dead Cells and Axiom Verge….

…These games have innovated to thoughtfully elevate Metroid‘s blueprint.  Hollow Knight and Ori And The Will Of The Wisps are among the most beautiful games I’ve played in years; Metroid Dread doesn’t quite deliver the same charm.  It’s certainly taut, engrossing, and slick, but I can’t help wondering if it might feel more revelatory if the original Metroid not been quite so influential in the first place.

(13) KEEPING UP WITH MILTON DAVIS. Oliver Brackenbury, whose podcast So I’m Writing a Novel… Cora Buhlert featured awhile ago, interviews Milton J. Davis in episode 20:  “Interview with Milton Davis about Sword & Soul”.

Milton J. Davis also has an interesting Kickstarter for an animated movie based on his Steamfunk novel From Here to Timbuktu“From Here to Timbuktu: A Steamfunk Action Adventure by MVmedia, LLC”.

… MVmedia has teamed up with Avaloy Studios to bring you this story as an animated series.  Milton Davis, the novel author, will write the script, with animation duties done by Avaloy Studios. The pledges from this Kickstarter will allow us to create the first five episodes of the series…. 

(14) GET AN EARFUL. The Cromcast posts its annual Halloween episode, where they discuss three vampire stories by Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and Bram Stoker: “A Weird Fiction Podcast: Cromtober 2021 – A Trio of Vampire Tales”.

Listen here as we discuss ‘Dracula’s Guest’ by Bram Stoker, ‘A Rendezvous in Averoigne’ by Clark Ashton Smith, and ‘The Horror from the Mound’ by Robert E. Howard!

(15) KITCHEN APPLIANCE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] First there is a credential, then there is no credential, then there is. The Schrödinger Drawer, or, the credential that walks through credenzas. (Via Steven J Vaughan-Nichol’s Facebook page.)

(16) WHAT’S UP D&DOC? Boing Boing reminds us “Bugs Bunny’s Official D&D Character Sheet Is A 15th-level Illusionist”.

Dragon Magazine #41 was published in April 1981. And it was in the pages of this official Dungeons & Dragons tome that the immortal deity known as Bugs Bunny was finally given its due as a playable character in the game, along with several other cartoon characters — or rather, “Saturday morning monsters.”…

(17) BLUE SKY. Space.com reports  “Blue Origin unveils plans to build a private space station called Orbital Reef by 2030”.

Blue Origin, Boeing, Sierra Space and several other partners announced today (Oct. 25) that they plan to build a commercial off-Earth outpost called Orbital Reef, which is scheduled to be up and running by the late 2020s.

Orbital Reef’s envisioned customers include national governments, private industry and space tourists, project team members said. The outpost will initially complement but eventually take the baton from the International Space Station (ISS), which is expected to be retired in the 2028 to 2030 timeframe….

(18) MONEY IS THE CUBE ROOT OF ALL EVIL. “Star Trek beams up 2021 advent calendar themed to iconic villains”Digital Spy tells where you can buy one.

Star Trek is assimilating its 2021 advent calendar.

The iconic sci-fi franchise is turning to the dark side this festive season for an advent calendar designed to look just like the Cube ship used by the Borg alien race.

Any Stark Trek fan knows that a Borg Cube on the radar means serious trouble for the Federation because the cybernetic alien race will stop at nothing to conquer and assimilate their enemies….

Digital Spy will also tell you where to buy the Doctor Who 2021 advent calendar shaped like the TARDIS.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] A guy who watched Star Trek IV too many times asks: Can you really fit two humpback whales on a Klingon ship? To answer that, first you have to deduce the size of a Bird of Prey.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Michael J. Lowrey, Cora Buhlert, Dan’l, Chris Barkley, Darrah Chavey, Rob Thornton, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 10/15/21 I Know What Pixel You Scrolled Last Summer

(1) ORAL HISTORY OF SMALLVILLE. “‘We Had Freedom to Change the Mythology:’ An Oral History of ‘Smallville’” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Here, the key players look back, with those sharing memories including Welling and the creators, as well as Michael Rosenbaum, Kristin Kreuk, John Schneider, Annette O’Toole, John Glover and Erica Durance.

GOUGH There weren’t any comics on [Clark Kent’s teen years]. It was a blank slate. Jenette Kahn, who was the publisher of DC Comics at the time, said, “Clark is who he is because of his parents. If he had landed in a different cornfield and been raised by different people, he would have been a different person.” That was something that really struck us.

MILLAR We had the freedom to change the mythology, to really make it our own, with Lex losing his hair in the meteor shower — even the meteor shower itself, which was a new development. Anyone approaching that similar story today would not be allowed the freedom that we had, because at that point no one cared….

ROSENBAUM  [Lex Luthor] The casting director is like, “Sit here,” and I go, “Naw, Lex wouldn’t do that.” And she’s like, “Well I have to relight,” and I go, “Would you mind?” And she relit the room and I had to wait outside. I came back in and kind of just took over the room. I go, “What are 700 other guys doing wrong that you are auditioning?” And they said, “Well, we want a sense of charisma, we want a sense of danger, we want a sense of comedic timing.” I only had three pages to work with. I circled, “I’ll be dangerous here, I’ll be funny here, I’ll be charming here.”

GOUGH Lex was the last role we cast. It was a week before we started shooting. Miles was in Vancouver with David Nutter and I was still in Los Angeles with some of the other producers. Michael came in in Los Angeles. We videotaped it and he was just fantastic. He literally hit all the right notes and he was perfect. I remember we somehow got it up to Miles and David in Vancouver.

ROSENBAUM My agent called. “They want to screen test you.” I said, “I’ll never have an audition as good as I just had. Tell them to rewind the tape.” So he goes, “You’re going to lose this role. You know that.” I don’t recommend this to any other actor, and I would never do it again, but I said, “Rewind the tape.”

WELLING “Lex Luthor does not come back for a second audition, OK?”

ROSENBAUM Exactly. He just wouldn’t do it. It’s out of character….

(2) WATCH THE AURORA AWARDS CEREMONY. The winners of the Aurora Awards will be revealed on Saturday, October 16 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern (4:00 p.m. Pacific.) Can*Con will be present awards in a virtual ceremony accessible via their YouTube channel here.

(3) INDIGENOUS FUTURISTS. On October 5 Apex Magazine released its Indigenous Futurists issue, a bonus issue featuring the work of Indigenous genre creators. The issue, guest-edited by Allison Mills, features the work of Pamela Rentz, Kevin Wabaunsee, Tiffany Morris, Sloane Leong, Rebecca Roanhorse, Norris Black, and Theodore Van Alst, Jr. Cover art by Megan Feheley. Read it at the link.

(4) THREE HEARTS. The Poul Anderson Facebook page posted a photo from the Anderson family motorcycle trip in Europe in the Fifties. See it at the link.

We’re going through an album of photos that Poul made in the late 1940s and into the late 1950s, and we’ll be sharing some images from it. For starters, here’s a picture of Poul’s brother, John Anderson, his mother, Astrid Anderson, and Poul, with the motorcycle and sidecar they toured Europe with in 1953. This was taken somewhere in Holland.

(5) NZ FIRE OFFICIAL WIZARD. [Item by Tom Whitmore.] I don’t recall seeing anything about this character around CoNZealand — how did we miss that the country had an official wizard? And doesn’t firing the wizard usually result in bad things for the kingdom? The Guardian reports “New Zealand council ends contract with wizard after two decades of service”.

… The Wizard is a well-known face to Christchurch residents, but in recent years, his presence has diminished, and sightings have become rare. He says that is because the council has made him invisible and would not respond to his suggestions to improve tourism.

“But when they cancelled this honorarium, everyone got furious, they have awakened a hornet’s nest here, it’s hilarious. The next few months are going to be real fun.”

The Wizard said he would keep up his regular appearances at Christchurch’s Arts Centre, chatting to tourists and locals. The centre is hosting an exhibition of his life this month, which is supported by the council.

When asked if he would curse the council over its decision, he said he preferred to give blessings.

“I give children happy dreams, general good health, and I want to make bureaucrats become more human.”

(6) AFRICAN LITERARY PRIZE SHORTLIST. South African author Mandisi Nkomo’s Should have Listened to Mother, a work of genre interest, is one of six shortlisted for the Toyin Falola Prize 2021.

The Toyin Fálolá Prize is an award from Nigerian-based Lunaris aimed at honouring distinguished African scholar and foremost historian, Prof Toyin Fálolá, whose contributions to the field of African history and culture have continued to place Africa on the map and accord it its deserved recognition. The prize honours his endeavours and contributions to the advancement of African cultures, peoples, myths, and histories. The first winner of the award set up in 2020 was Fayssal Bensalah.

The award organizers announced the 11-story longlist from the 495 eligible submissions, 11 stories on September 20.

(7) JUST ARRIVED.  [Item by Daniel Dern.] As seen in the updates from Bud Plant. I haven’t looked at this, I plan to see about getting it through my library. It’s a 2021 Locus Award winner.  The Art Of Nasa: The Illustrations That Sold the Missions.

By Piers Bizony. Art by Robert McCall, Ron Miller, Robert Watts, Paul Calle, David Hardy et al. From space suits to capsules, from landing modules to the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, and more recent concepts for space planes, 60 years of American space exploration in an unprecedented fashion. All the landmark early missions are represented in detail — Gemini, Mercury, Apollo — as are post-Space Race accomplishments, like the mission to Mars and other deep-space explorations….

From space suits to capsules, from landing modules to the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, and more recent concepts for space planes, 60 years of American space exploration in an unprecedented fashion. All the landmark early missions are represented in detail — Gemini, Mercury, Apollo — as are post-Space Race accomplishments, like the mission to Mars and other deep-space explorations.

Ultra-rare artworks illustrate a unique history of NASA hardware and missions from 1958 to today, giving readers an unprecedented look at how spacecraft, equipment, and missions evolved — and how they might have evolved. Formed in 1958, NASA has long maintained a department of visual artists to depict the concepts and technologies created in humankind’s quest to explore the final frontier. Culled from a carefully chosen reserve of approximately 3,000 files deep in the NASA archives, the 200 artworks presented in this large-format edition provide a glimpse of NASA history like no other.

(8) CONTRARY TO WHAT SCOTTY SAYS. James Davis Nicoll touts “Five Stories in Which Changing the Laws of Physics Leads to Bigger Problems” at Tor.com.

The laws of physics are forever confounding perfectly reasonable schemes. Whether riding gracefully on the running board of a racing car, adroitly handling semi-molten glass, or gliding lightly down from a roof to the embrace of the sidewalk whilst borne up by what intuition said was a sufficiently large bath towel, the laws of physics are forever barging in to insist that, no, things do not work that way.

What if the laws of physics were altered? …

One of James’ examples is —

A Wizard’s Henchman by Matthew Hughes (2016)

Troubleshooter Erm Kaslo specializes in solving the problems of the rich and powerful. There are enough of those, spread across the Spray’s ten thousand worlds, to keep Kaslo busy and affluent. All he asks of his clients is that they pay his fees promptly. If their demands are immoral or insane? No problem.

One of his rich clients believes that the world is about to transition from an era of technology and enlightenment to one of magic and chaos. Kaslo is willing to do as the client asks, even while he believes that the client is nuts. It’s a surprise when the client turns out to be right.

But a change in the basis of power, from technology and commerce to dark magical arts, means that there will still be powerful folks with problems. Problems Kaslo is happy to handle. The universe may have been upended, but Kaslo will prevail.

(9) SABLE REVIEW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews Sable, a new video game featuring nomads on a desert planet, which Faber says “Is drawn in a thrillingly unique style.”

‘Drawn’ is really the word. Playing Sable is like living in a graphic novel by Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud, the influential artist who pioneered a surrealistic sci-fi style.  From the opening vista we see scrap metal villages and wind-sculpted mesas drawn in fine black lines, their flat textures and minimal shading drawing attention to a stunning pastel colour palette–one of the most artful I’ve ever seen in a game–of tawny desert, powder-blue sky and distant mountains a muted lilac…

…The fable-like qualities of the narrative are lent depth and fragrance by Meg Jayanth, the writer behind the superb interactive novel 80 Days.  Language here bears the plain-spoken profiundity of myth.  A machinist asking you to repair a malfunctioning wind tower says, ‘Go there, mend what is broken or sooth what is hurt, and I will give you what you seek…a direction.’  This abstraction is undercut by precise character writing, particularly in Sable herself, who is far from a blank slate — she is anxious, spunky, and completely relatable.  Conversations with other nomads offer spare but evocative fragments to explain the history of the world, allowing players to fill in the gaps themselves.

(10) A SCARY PROFESSION. CrimeReads’ Celia Mattison looks at horror films about books: “Publishing Is a Nightmare: 31 Horror Films about Writing, Reading, and the Book Business”.

The business of writing and reading pops up all the time in horror films. Maybe it’s that screenwriters understand better than anyone the terror of creation. Maybe it’s that long, late hours spent alone in an office juxtaposes nicely on screen against glamorous events hosted by the literati. Or perhaps we’ve all just had a traumatic childhood experience in a library. Either way, here are 31 films guaranteed to give you an October that’s equal parts eerie and erudite….

(11) TAPPING INTO MEMORY. Strange Horizons presents an interview with Chandler Davis by Gautam Bhatia, “Across fracture lines”.

…Science fiction is not a monolith: even as racism, colonialism, and sexism played a dominant role in SF-production through the long 20th century, there were always writers and texts that questions, challenged, and subverted that dominant paradigm. The contrapuntal canon, or the hidden transcript, as it were.

At Strange Horizons, we see ourselves as committed to a plural and diverse vision of SFF, and therefore, as a continuation of this older – and sometimes submerged – tradition of against-the-grain writing. To know – and understand – more about our forebears, for this Fund Drive Special Issue, we decided to interview Chandler “Chan” Davis, one of the most outstanding exponents of the contrapuntal canon, at a time at which the dominant, regressive tendencies of science fiction were at their apogee: the 1940s and the 1950s.

…CD: One striking example of my writing responding to the preoccupations of the time is my responding to the threat of nuclear weapons. All of us in the science-fiction gang who learned of the Manhattan Project only in August 1945 felt at least a momentary joy of vindication: we had been saying this might happen, the general population didn’t know, and lo! we were in the right. But most of us soon realized, “Hey! this is a calamity, an atrocity” (and to think it was done in the name of the American people). Some of the authors sounded the alarm. I cite especially [Theodore] Sturgeon’s “Memorial”, my “The Nightmare”, and Sturgeon’s “Thunder and Roses”, but there were several others. We put it before our audience a rather large and international audience– that if your country is the target of nuclear attack, then it is up to you not to strike back but to do everything to RESTRAIN your country from striking back. We were right, but our message didn’t stick, in the USA or anywhere….

(12) AAHZ MARUCH (1967-2021). [Item by James Davis Nicoll.] Python programmer, whose fannish activities date back at least as far as classic USENET (alt.poly and other groups), died October 14 following several years of ill health. Survived by partner Steph Maruch.

Editor’s postscript: Alan Prince Winston earlier this year described him as “an unstoppable-seeming guy” who “became a contra and square dance caller and choreographer despite really severe hearing impairment.”

(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1954 – Sixty-seven years ago this day, the first Flash Gordon television series as distributed by the DuMont Television Network premiered in syndication.  Its cast was Steve Holland as Flash Gordon, Irene Champlin as Dale Arden and Joseph Nash as Hans Zarkov. It immediately ran into criticism from some reviewers and fans as, well, how dare they cast a Flash Gordon who wasn’t Buster Crabbe. However it was very popular with almost everyone else and continued to run in syndication into the Sixties despite running for only one season of thirty-nine episodes. Only fourteen episodes survive and are all in the public domain, so here’s the pilot.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 15, 1911 James H. Schmitz. Writer of short fiction in a space opera setting, sold primarily to Galaxy Science Fiction and Astounding Science-Fiction. His “Lion Loose” was nominated for a Short Fiction Hugo at Chicon III, and The Witches of Karres was nominated for Best Novel at NyCon 3. Sources laud him for his intelligent female characters. His collections and novels are available at the usual suspects. (Died 1981.)
  • Born October 15, 1919 E.C. Tubb. A writer of at least one hundred forty novels and two hundred twenty short stories and novellas, he’s best remembered I think for the Dumarest Saga. His other long-running series was the Cap Kennedy stories. And his short story “Little Girl Lost” which was originally published in New Worlds magazine became a story on Night Gallery. He novelized a number of the Space: 1999 episodes. Somewhat surprisingly he’s never been nominated for or won any awards. (Died 2010.)
  • Born October 15, 1924 Mark Lenard. Sarek, father of Spock in the Trek franchise, showing up in that role in “Journey to Babel”.  (The role got reprised in the animated series, as well as three films and two episodes of The Next Generation.) Surprisingly he also played a Klingon in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and a Romulan in an earlier episode of Star Trek. He also had one-offs on Mission ImpossibleWild Wild West, Otherworld, The Secret EmpireThe Increible Hulk, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. He had a recurring role on the Planet of The Apes as Urko. (Died 1996.)
  • Born October 15, 1923 Italo Calvino. Writer and Journalist who was born in Cuba, but grew up in Italy. His works range widely across the literary spectrum, across realism, surrealism, and absurdism. As a genre writer he is best known for his “cosmicomics”, linked stories which explore fantastical speculations about subjects such as mathematics, evolution, and human perception. At the time of his death in 1985, he was the most-translated Italian author, and he was recognized with a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1985.)
  • Born October 15, 1926 Ed McBain. Huh, I never knew he ventured beyond his mystery novels but he published approximately twenty-four genre stories and six SF novels between 1951 and 1971 under the names S. A. Lombino, Evan Hunter, Richard Marsten, D. A. Addams, and Ted Taine. ISFDB has a list and I can’t say I know any of them. Any of y’all read them? (Died 2005.)
  • Born October 15, 1953 Walter Jon Williams, 68. The last thing I read by him was his most excellent Dagmar Shaw series which I highly recommend, but Fleet Elements is in my TBR list.  I also like his Metropolitan novels, be they SF or fantasy, as well as his Hardwired series. I’m surprised how few awards that he’s won, just three with two being Nebulas, both for shorter works, “Daddy’s World” and “The Green Leopard Plaque”, plus a Sidewise Award for “Foreign Devils”.  Damn it, where is his Hugo? 
  • Born October 15, 1955 Tanya Roberts. Stacey Sutton in the fourteenth Bond film, A View to Kill. Quite the opposite of her role as Kiri in The Beastmaster. And let’s not forget her in the title role of Sheena: Queen of the Jungle. (Died 2021.)
  • Born October 15, 1969 Dominic West, 52. Jigsaw in that most dreadful Punisher film, Punisher: War Zone. His first SFF role was as Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream which is the same year he shows up as Jerus Jannick in The Phantom Menace, and he was Sab Than on the rather excellent John Carter. One of his recent latest SFF roles was as Lord Richard Croft in the Tomb Raider reboot.

(15) COMICS SECTION.

(16) MOVIE MEMORABILIA. Heritage Auction’s Hollywood & Entertainment Memorabilia Auction runs November 4-7. Some of the monster-themed items are on this page. The publicity poster is arresting, to say the least.

(17) MANIFESTATIONS. The Paris Review on what life might be like as a ghost: “All You Have to Do Is Die” by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan.

…I’ve never seen a soul move through the air. I am not sure that we are anything more than a skin-bag of electrical impulses. But ghosts are different from the other uncanny citizens. They are only one step away from the known. To become a ghost, you don’t have to be bitten by a vampire or receive a curse or encounter a mad scientist or fall under the spell of a full moon. All you have to do is die.

Still, I imagine the first days of ghosthood would be tricky. There are so many different hauntings, so many ways to do it. In a way, it reminds me of puberty. The unpredictable shifts….

(18) SIGN OF THE TIMES. “Portland removes ‘Merge Simpson’ sign from NW Portland freeway ramp” says The Oregonian.

Many Portlanders just thought it was neat, but city officials didn’t feel the same way about a “Merge Simpson” sign that appeared in Northwest Portland earlier this week. Transportation workers took the “Simpsons”-inspired sign down Thursday afternoon, citing driving safety concerns.

An anonymous artist put up a homemade sign near an on-ramp to Interstate 405 North. The artist covered up a pedestrian crosswalk sign with a sign reading “Merge Simpson,” and drew a portrait of TV cartoon mom Marge Simpson. The artist painted her face strategically below a tall, round column of foliage in place of her iconic beehive hairstyle….

(19) COOL STAR WARS PAINTINGS. For your viewing pleasure, Naci Caba’s Star Wars Paintings at the link.

The artist also does other genre subjects  (click “Paintings” on the sidebar).

(20) HOW SAFE WAS IT TO SQUASH SHATNER? CNN answers the question “How space researchers knew that 90-year-old William Shatner didn’t have to worry about his age”.

…A series of studies in the 2010s sought to answer such question. Researchers put people with pre-existing medical conditions, including elderly men with heart conditions, into a spinning centrifuge to simulate the g-forces the body is subjected to during a trip to space.

Subjects were strapped into a small capsule attached to a massive metal arm that can swing the capsule around in a circle. That faster it spins, the higher the g-forces pressing into the passenger grow, much like the carnival rides that pin passengers to the wall of a spinning circle by rotating the circle at high speeds. When the centrifuge is stopped, passengers inside could be said to be experiencing 1G, or normal gravity on Earth.

At 2G, they feel like they weigh twice their body weight. At 5G, a 200-pound person feels like they weigh 1,000 pounds.

Donoviel pointed to three specific studies that saw people — with a broad range of ages, physical conditions and ailments — endure up to 6G.

“They were fine, they were perfectly fine,” Donoviel said. “The only thing… that was of concern when they did those studies was really anxiety and definitely claustrophobia.”

… For its part, Blue Origin does put some limitations on who can fly aboard New Shepard, its suborbital space tourism rocket, including an age requirement that tourists be 18 years or older, be between 5’0″ and 6’4″ and 110 pounds and 223 pounds, and be in good enough physical shape to climb seven flights of stairs in a minute and a half.

The stair climb is no joke: Blue Origin passengers must rapidly climb what’s called the gantry, a tower that allows the crew to access their capsule as the 60-foot-tall rocket sits on the launch pad, brimming with fuel and ready to blast off.

Shatner quipped about scaling the tower after his flight, saying “good lord, just getting up the bloody gantry.”

(21) COSMIC HOME DELIVERY. “Meteorite Crashes Through Ceiling and Lands on Woman’s Bed” – the New York Times has the story.

Ruth Hamilton was fast asleep in her home in British Columbia when she awoke to the sound of her dog barking, followed by “an explosion.” She jumped up and turned on the light, only to see a hole in the ceiling. Her clock said 11:35 p.m.

At first, Ms. Hamilton, 66, thought that a tree had fallen on her house. But, no, all the trees were there. She called 911 and, while on the phone with an operator, noticed a large charcoal gray object between her two floral pillows.

“Oh, my gosh,” she recalled telling the operator, “there’s a rock in my bed.”

A meteorite, she later learned.

The 2.8-pound rock the size of a large man’s fist had barely missed Ms. Hamilton’s head, leaving “drywall debris all over my face,” she said. Her close encounter on the night of Oct. 3 left her rattled, but it captivated the internet and handed scientists an unusual chance to study a space rock that had crashed to Earth….

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Bohemian Catsody” a parody song of the Queen classic, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” this time, all about SJW credentials!

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Olav Rokne, Lise Andresen, Annalee Newitz, James Davis Nicoll, Bill, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cora Buhlert.]

William Shatner Back From Space

Crew members: Former Nasa engineer Chris Boshuizen, William Shatner, VP of Mission and Flight Operations, Audrey Powers, and healthcare entrepreneur Glen De Vries

Emerging from New Shepard’s crew capsule, 90-year-old actor William Shatner told his host Jeff Bezos how deeply moved he was by his flight to the edge of space:

“What you have given me is the most profound experience I can announce. I’m so filled with emotion about what just happened. I — I just — it’s extraordinary, extraordinary. I hope I never recover from this. I hope that I can maintain what I feel now. I – I don’t want to lose it. It’s so much larger than the me of life. It hasn’t got anything to do with the little green planet or the — it has to do with the enormity and the quickness and the suddenness of life and death…”

Jeff Bezos, the executive chairman of Amazon, is the founder of Blue Origin, the privately-owned orbital spaceflight technology business that developed New Shepard. Today was its second launch with human passengers. Shatner is best known for playing the spacefaring Captain Kirk in Star Trek on TV and in movies.

The AP story adds:

…Bezos is a huge “Star Trek” fan — the Amazon founder had a cameo as an alien in one of the later movies — and Shatner rode free as his invited guest.

As a favor to Bezos, Shatner took up into space some “Star Trek” tricorders and communicators — sort of the iPhones of the future — that Bezos made when he was a 9-year-old Trekkie. Bezos said his mother had saved them for 48 years….

Before the flight it was surprising that a 90-year-old could be expected to withstand the rigors of a rocket launch and return to earth, although the craft’s first crewed flight in July included 82-year-old aviator Wally Funk, one of the Mercury 13. Shatner said the return to Earth was more jolting than his training led him to expect and made him wonder whether he was going to make it back alive.

“Everything is much more powerful,” he said. “Bang, this thing hits. That wasn’t anything like the simulator. … Am I going to be able to survive the G-forces?”

Passengers are subjected to nearly 6 G’s, or six times the force of Earth’s gravity, as the capsule descends. Blue Origin said Shatner and the rest of the crew met all the medical and physical requirements, including the ability to hustle up and down several flights of steps at the launch tower.

  • NBC’s video of Shatner speaking after exiting the capsule
  • CNN’s video of the complete flight

All external – no inside views of the passengers. Includes great visuals of the rocket stage returning upright to the landing pad. Also shows the capsule parachuting back to earth.

Pixel Scroll 9/24/21 Scrolling Pixels Give You So Much More

(1) SUES WHATEVER A SPIDER CAN. The heirs of Steve Ditko filed to reclaim their rights to some well-known Marvel characters – now Marvel is suing to prevent them. The Hollywood Reporter looks over the filings in “Marvel Suing to Keep Rights to ‘Avengers’ Characters”.

Disney’s Marvel unit is suing to hold on to full control of Avengers characters including Iron Man, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Falcon, Thor and others.

The complaints, which The Hollywood Reporter has obtained, come against the heirs of some late comic book geniuses including Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and Gene Colan. The suits seek declaratory relief that these blockbuster characters are ineligible for copyright termination as works made for hire. If Marvel loses, Disney would have to share ownership of characters worth billions.

In August, the administrator of Ditko’s estate filed a notice of termination on Spider-Man, which first appeared in comic book form in 1962. Under the termination provisions of copyright law, authors or their heirs can reclaim rights once granted to publishers after waiting a statutory set period of time. According to the termination notice, Marvel would have to give up Ditko’s rights to its iconic character in June 2023….

If the plaintiffs win, Disney expects to at least hold on to at least a share of character rights as co-owners. The studio would have to share profits with the others. Additionally, the termination provisions of copyright law only apply in the United States, allowing Disney to continue to control and profit from foreign exploitation.

(2) LIKE PEANUT BUTTER AND CHOCOLATE. Lincoln Michel on why noir blends well with sf, at CrimeReads: “Why Noir and Science Fiction Are Still a Perfect Pairing”.

… I think the answer lies first in the fact that both genres have an inherent critique of the social order. They question the state of the world, refusing to just accept the corruption, inequality, and destruction as “the way things are.” Or at least saying, sure, it’s the way things are, but it’s still screwed up.

While other crime genres are often fundamentally a defense of the status quo—police procedurals focus on petty criminals and heroic cops, spy thrillers defeat threats to the established global order—noir presents the established order as crime. It is the rich and the powerful, and the institutions that serve them, that are the true villains. (Of course this isn’t true of every single noir work, but it is of the ones that influenced SF subgenres like cyberpunk.) Take Dashiell Hammett’s masterpiece Red Harvest, in which a rich man and a corrupt police force collaborate with gangs to crush poor workers. Or Chinatown, in which a business tycoon controls government institutions to choke off water supplies. This critique of the social order is why the prototypical hardboiled (anti)hero exists outside of the official law enforcement structure. They’re not a police officer, FBI agent, or government spy. They’re a private investigator, and sometimes even unlicensed as in the case of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins, and realize that the legal system is as corrupt as the organized crime it is fighting…and often in bed with.

(3) RAUM, THE FINAL FRONTIER. Cora Buhlert describes West German TV’s new (in 1966) space adventure show: “[September 24, 1966] Science Fiction TV from West Germany: Space Patrol: The Fantastic Adventures of the Spaceship Orion: Episode 1: Attack From Space” at Galactic Journey.

…The series has the unwieldy title Raumpatrouille – Die Phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffs Orion (Space Patrol – The Fantastic Adventures of the Spaceship Orion), which viewers have already shortened to Raumpatrouille Orion or just plain Orion.

Like the new US series Star TrekSpace Patrol Orion starts with an opening narration, courtesy of veteran actor Claus Biederstaedt, which promises us a fairy tale from the future. In the year 3000 AD, nation states have been abolished. Humanity has settled the ocean floor and colonised far-flung worlds. Starships, including the titular Orion, hurtle through space at unimaginable speeds.

An impressive title sequence and a spacy and very groovy theme tune follow, courtesy of Peter Thomas, who also supplies the music for the Edgar Wallace and Jerry Cotton movies….

(4) TANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. By George, Steve Davidson makes a good point: “Space Force Uniform Controversy” at Amazing Stories.

The Space Force, America’s latest (and completely unnecessary) military branch unveiled its proposed service uniform.

A lot of fans (and fan-adjacent television watchers) have remarked that the proposed dress uniform greatly resembles those created for the entirely fictional space navy depicted in Battlestar Galactica (the completely unnecessary re-boot, to be precise).

Yes, yes it does.  However, those more familiar with real military history would probably be more inclined to think that the new digs for Space Force look more like General George S. Patton’s tanker’s uniform that the general proposed between world wars one and two; about the only difference between uniforms then and uniforms now is Patton’s addition of a football helmet, while it is very unlikely that Space Force will adopt the recommended propeller beanie….

Comparative photos at the link.

(5) COVER SCORES. The public’s choices for best covers in the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition have been announced – and the outcome was a lot close than expected.

(6) JO WALTON KICKSTARTER. A funding appeal launched at Kickstarter aims to produce a Lifelode Audiobook by Jo Walton.

Lifelode is a Mythopoeic Award winning fantasy novel by Jo Walton that has never had an audiobook. Jack Larsen is a young man from New Zealand who has a wonderful voice for reading aloud and wants to become an audiobook reader. Together, they could be amazing…

Jo Walton writes:

The main point of this is to try to kickstart the audiobook reading career of young New Zealand fan Jack Larsen, whose wonderful reading voice has been a mainstay of the Scintillation community through the pandemic.

They will have Jack read the book in a professional studio and have it professionally edited (which is the part which costs all the money) and then sell it where all good audiobooks are sold. 

At the Kickstarter site you can listen to Jack read the first chapter — click on the video there (which is just audio). Bear in mind, Jack did this demo on his phone.

As of today’s writing the appeal has raised $2,457 of its $7,891 goal.

(7) FOUNDATION LAYS ITS CORNERSTONE. Camestros Felapton supplies detailed comments about the beginning of the new series: “Review: Foundation Episode 1 (Apple TV)”.

2021 for all its faults, is offering fans of classic science fiction two (potential) treats: a new movie version of Dune and a TV adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. It’s interesting that of these two highly influential stories that with first you can make a good guess about what specific scenes will appear and in the second I’ve no idea what we will be getting….

Warning, it’s spoilers all the way down from there.

(8) PARTS IS PARTS. In contrast, Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall isn’t a believer. “New Formula for ‘Foundation’ Doesn’t Add Up”.

…Like psycho-history itself, all of these changes make sense in theory. But none of them quite accomplish what the show’s creative team needs them to. This Foundation is, like the clones’ palace on the capitol planet of Trantor, stunning to look at(*) but ultimately cold and sterile. Despite the cast and crew’s best efforts — and what appears to be an unlimited budget, even by Apple’s lavish standards — this Foundation remains an assemblage of concepts in search of a compelling TV show….

(9) LANGDON JONES (1942-2021). Author, editor and musician Langdon Jones, whose short fiction primarily appeared in New Worlds, beginning with “Storm Water Tunnel” in 1964, has died, Michael Moorcock reported on Facebook.

One of my closest, longest and best friendships was with Lang Jones, a talented composer, editor and writer, one of the most modest people I have ever known, with the sweetest nature of almost any human being I’ve met. He was Assistant Editor of New Worlds. He restored Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake to the edition you probably read and wrote the music for The Rhyme of the Flying Bomb.  You can hear his lively piano on The Entropy Tango.  His own collection of stories The Great Clock, remains his only published fiction.  I last saw him about two years ago, at the wonderful wedding of his daughter Isobel to Jason Nickolds, for whom he was extremely happy, and he said he had stopped writing and composing and had never felt better.  He leaves a son, Damon, as well as his daughter.  One of the few people of whom it’s possible to write: Loved by all.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1964 – Fifty-seven years ago, Mary Poppins had its New York City premiere. (Yes, it’s genre as a flying nanny is surely within our realm.) It was directed by Robert Stevenson from the screenplay by Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi as based off P. L. Travers’s Mary Poppins series. It was produced by Walt Disney and starred Julie Andrews in her first screen acting role. Principal other cast were Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson and Glynis Johns. The film was shot entirely at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, using painted London background scenes.  

It won’t surprise you that the film received universal acclaim from film critics, and that Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke got lavish praise. Box office wise, it earned some forty five million dollars on an estimated budget of four or so million dollars (Disney never released the budget officially) and it’s had at least another hundred million in box office rentals as well since then.

Audience reviewers currently at Rotten Tomatoes give it an excellent eighty-eight percent rating. A sequel, Mary Poppins Returns, was recently released and it too rates high among audience reviewers currently at Rotten Tomatoes with a sixty five percent rating. Dick Van Dyke has a new role in it. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 24, 1922 — Bert Gordon, 99. Film director most remembered for such SF and horror films as The Amazing Colossal ManVillage of the Giants and The Food of the Gods (based of course on the H.G. Wells’ novel The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth).  His nickname “Mister B.I.G.” was a reference both to his initials and to his preference for directing movies featuring super-sized creatures. 
  • Born September 24, 1934 — John Brunner. My favorite works by him? The Shockwave RiderStand on Zanzibar which won a Hugo at St. Louiscon and The Sheep Look Up. I’m also fond of The Squares of The City which was nominated for a Hugo at Tricon. That was easy. What’s your favorite works by him? (Died 1995.)
  • Born September 24, 1936 — Jim Henson. As much as I love The Muppet Show, and I’ve watched every show at least twice, I think The Storyteller is his best work. That’s not to overlook Labyrinth, The Witches and The Dark Crystal and the first two Muppets films which are also excellent. Warning note: the three newest takes done on The Muppets suck beyond belief. Disney should be ashamed. (Died 1990.)
  • Born September 24, 1945 — David Drake, 76. Writer with his best-known solo work being the Hammer’s Slammers series of military science fiction which are space operas inspired by the Aubrey–Maturin novels. He has also drafted story ideas that were then finished off by co-authors such as Karl Edward Wagner, S.M. Stirling, and Eric Flint. He’s very, very well stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born September 24, 1945 — Ian Stewart, 76. Mathematician and  writer. He makes the Birthday Honors for the four volumes in The Science of Discworld series he wrote with Jack Cohen and Terry Pratchett. It was nominated for a Hugo at Chicon 2000. Each of the books alternates between the usually absurd Discworld story and serious scientific exposition. (All four volumes are available from the usual suspects.) He would write a number of genre novels, none of which I’m familiar with. Anybody here read his works? 
  • Born September 24, 1951 — David Banks, 70. During the Eighties, he was the Cyberleader on Doctor Who in all the stories featuring the Cybermen — Earthshock (Fifth Doctor story), The Five DoctorsAttack of the Cybermen (Sixth Doctor story), and Silver Nemesis (Seventh Doctor story). In 1989, he played the part of Karl the Mercenary in the Doctor Who: The Ultimate Adventure stage play. There were two performances where he appeared as The Doctor as he replaced Jon Pertwee who had fallen ill.
  • Born September 24, 1957 — Brad Bird, 64. Animator, director, screenwriter, producer, and occasionally even a voice actor whom I’m going to praise for directing The Iron Giant (nominated for a Hugo at Chicon 2000), The Incredibles (winner of Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form at Interaction), Incredibles 2 and Tomorrowland. He’s the voice of Edna Mode in both the Incredibles films. 
  • Born September 24, 1965 — Richard K. Morgan, 56. The Takeshi Kovacs novels are an awesome series  which are why I haven’t watched the Netflix series. His fantasy series, A Land Fit For Heroes, is on my TBR, well my To Be Listened To pile now. And yes I read Thin Air, the sequel first and it’s quite excellent. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

A meeting with the shrink is the subject of today’s Wulffmorgenthaler-239 at Politiken. Lise Andreasen supplies the translation from Danish:

So … You left him, you killed his aunt and uncle, you blew up his sister’s planet, you chopped his hand off … and NOW you want him to consider you a father figure and join you “on the dark side”. How do you think Luke feels about it?

(13) TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES. Or both… Shat might be on his way to space after all these years — “Beam me up? TMZ says William Shatner will take Blue Origin suborbital space trip”.

The next crewed suborbital spaceflight planned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture — which could launch as early as next month — is due to carry Star Trek captain William Shatner, according to the TMZ celebrity news site.

If the report based on unnamed sources is true, that would make Shatner the oldest person to fly in space at the age of 90, besting the record set by 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk during the first crewed flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital spacecraft in July….

(14) THE WARMED-UP EQUATIONS. “’Astronauts check our scripts!’: inside the new age of sumptuous sci-fi TV”. The Guardian tells how we got here.

…The current renaissance can be traced to Moore’s groundbreaking 2004 reimagining of hokey 70s space odyssey Battlestar Galactica. Updating the premise for a post-9/11 TV landscape, he turned a niche sci-fi story into mainstream watercooler TV. “Whether you liked sci-fi or not, you found yourself binging all these seasons,” says Ben Nedivi, one of Moore’s co-creators on For All Mankind. 

While Star Trek, too, is thriving in the current sci-fi landscape, with no less than five series currently in production, it seems unlikely to cross the final frontier into the halls of prestige sci-fi. For Nunn, this comes down to one thing: aliens. 

While the golden age shows of the 90s relied heavily on prosthetics – and, in the case of Farscape, puppets – to present characters from other worlds, today’s sombre offerings dwell solely on human problems. “With Battlestar Galactica, you’ve got robots, but you haven’t got aliens,” Nunn points out. “And The Expanse is similar. So they can be read as science fiction but also dystopias, whereas Star Trek and Babylon 5 and Farscape, even Stargate, all had alien life-forms at their core.”…

… For Shankar, a great strength of The Expanse is that it uses space as more than just a backdrop. “This is a show that turns space into a character,” he says. With a PhD in applied physics, he served as Next Generation’s official science adviser. “On Star Trek it was really about maintaining continuity with the fake science, making sure you used the phasers when you were supposed to, and not the photon torpedoes,” he says. “The technical manual [for the Enterprise] was quite detailed, but it wasn’t real. In The Expanse we use real physics to create drama. There’s a sequence in the first season where the ships are turning their engines on and off so you’re shifting from having weight to weightlessness. Two characters suddenly lose gravity and can’t get back to where they need to be, and the solution is conservation of momentum.”

This absolute commitment to accuracy is shared by the team behind For All Mankind. “We have an astronaut who reads our scripts,” explains co-creator Matt Wolpert. “He’ll tell us when we come up with ideas that are against the laws of physics.”…

(15) TED TALK. Ted White has two books out – one fiction, one non-…. Both were designed by John D. Berry, and published with the assistance of Michal Dobson’s Dobson Books. White is former editor of Amazing® and Heavy Metal® magazines and a past Best Fan Writer Hugo winner.

He’d been set up. Someone (and “independent consultant” Ray Phoenix was pretty sure who) had filed a phony stolen car report. When a freak bus accident allows him to escape into the woods, Ray lands in an entirely new world of trouble – small-town cocaine dealing, counterfeit money, and a web of strange and violent relationships that will take all of Ray’s considerable skills to unravel.

In 1986, legendary science fiction writer and editor Ted White went to jail for possession and sale of marijuana. A prolific correspondent, Ted kept up a steady stream of letters during his confinement that vividly and powerfully detail everyday life behind bars, from relationships with other prisoners and guards to living in cells and common rooms – not to mention the fine jailhouse cuisine. (Seriously, don’t mention it.) Ted White’s letters make you feel like you’re really in jail…and really glad you’re not.

(16) DISCONTENT. [Item by David Doering.] I caught this piece on TechDirt today. It appears that Sony’s art department enjoyed this fan artist’s rendering of She-Venom so much they included it in their official poster. Too bad they didn’t acknowledge that or offer to pay for it.  I certainly see more than just coincidence here. Even if Sony/others have the rights to the character, the similarities are too striking to not say the Sony version owes something to the fan artist. The comments debate both sides. “Sony Pictures, Defenders Of The Creative Industry, Appears To Be Using Fan Art Without Giving Credit”

… You can say the images don’t match up precisely if you like, but they’re certainly very damned close. As mentioned about similar past cases, this likely isn’t a copyright infringement issue; the fan artist doesn’t own any rights to the character he drew. But, again, if the copyright industries are going to do their maximalist routine under the guise of protecting those that create content, well, fan art is content…. 

(17) EVADING THE SURVEILLANCE SOCIETY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4’s The Digital Human episode “Faceless” notes that it’s becoming harder to hide from facial recognition technology and asks what does this means for people who protest against political systems … So we are SF fans and know all about Orwell’s 1984, William Gibson’s novels etc.  Or do we?  It looks like things are getting worse, but there are ways to fight back…. Digital Human looks at the issues with examples from a non-political English teacher becoming a wanted terrorist on the run in 12 days, to counter-measures.

Johnathan Hirshon works in PR and marketing and describes himself as ‘The Faceless man’ because he’s managed to keep his face off the internet for over twenty years. This may seem extreme but Neda Soltani explains how one online photo of her face, meant she had to leave her family, country and profession. Artist and curator, Bogomir Doringer whose archived and curated thousands of faceless images off the internet talks about how technology is not only choreographing the way we use our faces but persuading us to hand over our biometric data with our use of apps that change the way we look. .

Artist Zach Blas is interested in queer culture and has created masks using biometric data from minority groups, to push back on the possibility of people being categorised by biometrics. Zach uses masks to show that facial recognition technology can be disrupted. Stephen has been trying to do just that. Stephen is from Hong Kong and spent the summer protesting against the Extradition bill. He and his fellow protesters wore masks to evade identification from the police and Hong Kong’s smart lamp posts. The remit of the protest grew when the wearing of masks by protesters was banned. Stephen believes that by using facial recognition technology on the streets of Hong Kong the authorities in Hong Kong and China are creating a sense of ‘white terror’. Stephen is now protesting in the UK but still feels this ‘white terror’. While protesting people from mainland China have been taking photos of him and other protesters. He knows that photos can go global and by using facial recognition tech he could be easily identified. Is it becoming impossible to escape recognition even when we would like to hide?

(18) HE BLABBED. Tom Hiddleston tells Loki stories: Untold: Tom Hiddleston.

(19) AN ADVENTURE WITH COMPANIONS. Yes! Another excuse to watch David Tennant! “Around the World in 80 Days” will air on PBS.

David Tennant stars as literature’s greatest explorer Phileas Fogg in a thrilling new adaptation of Jules Verne’s classic adventure novel coming to MASTERPIECE on PBS. (Air date to be announced.)

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Lise Andreasen, David Doering, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 7/30/21 I Never Could Get The Hang Of Scrolldays

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC CELEBRATES EPISODE 150. Scott Edelman encourages listeners to binge on the Balkans with Eisner Award-winning comics writer Tom King in episode 150 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Tom King

Tom started out in comics by interning for both DC and Marvel, where he was an assistant to X-Men writer Chris Claremont. After his comics-inspired debut novel A Once Crowded Sky was published in 2013, and after a stint in the CIA, he went on to write Batman and Mister Miracle for DC, The Vision for Marvel, and many other projects, which won him an Eisner Award in 2018 for Best Writer. Plus — and I only realized this while taking note of comic artist Joe Giella’s recent 93rd birthday — we’ve both written Supergirl stories — 43 years apart! But that’s not the only commonality to our comics careers, as you’ll soon hear.

We discussed the two questions no one in comics can answer, his attempt at age 11 to get a job at Archie Comics, how he goes back to the beginning when writing a classic character such as Supergirl, whether Alan Moore would have had the impetus to create Watchmen in today’s environment, our dealings with comic book censorship, the weird way Monica Lewinsky caused him not to get hired by MAD magazine, the differences we discovered early on between Marvel and DC, what he learned as an intern to the legendary Chris Claremont, the Black Knight pitch he got paid for which was never published, the way comic book people are like circus folk, why the current state of Krypto proves I could never go back to writing comics, and much more.

(2) WORDPLAY IN ANNIE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Historically, the bad guys in the Annie comics have had names ranging from more-or-less backwards, to descriptive ones. (Sorry, can’t think of or find examples off the top of my head nor thru brief web search, no time to walk over to L/O/A books in bedroom bookshelf…) (The names in Dick Tracy are no slouch, neither.) Currently Annie features a villain called “Bandy Dessinay”… and if that sounds familiar:

Bandes dessinées (singular bande dessinée; literally ‘drawn strips’), abbreviated BDs and also referred to as Franco-Belgian comics (BD franco-belge), are comics that are usually originally in the French language and created for readership in France and Belgium.

As for why I recognized the rephoneticized term, it’s mostly from the year or three that I was subscribing to ComiXology Unlimited (their streaming digital comic book offering), where Bandes Dessinées was often one of the group/type categories along with (something like, IIRC) issues, series, collections.

Interestingly (at least, I think so), “Annie has appeared in the Dick Tracy comic strip after Little Orphan Annie was discontinued.” according to the Pigtails in Paint article on “Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie”.

Pogo fans will, of course, remember Albert Alligator and Beauregard Frontenac Bugleboy III (“The Faithful Dog”) (or perhaps Ponce de Leon Montgomery County Alabama Georgia Beauregard Possum, per a different web site) periodically gearing up as “Little Arfin’ Lulu,” with (his) eyes “all blunked out” and Sandy.

(3) PAPERBACK SHOW RETURNS. March 20, 2022 will be the date for the Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Collectors Show. The 42nd edition of the show (which had to skip 2021) will take place as usual at the Glendale Civic Auditorium, in Glendale, California.

(4) SHARPSON REVIEWED. [Item by Olav Rokne.] “The Future Refusing To Be Born” at The Hugo Book Club Blog. I keep thinking about the book, and how the author ties rejection of modernity (nostalgia) to authoritarianism. Definitely think that Sharpson will end up on my personal ballot for the Astounding Award based on this book. 

In Neil Sharpson’s debut novel When The Sparrow Falls, that place is The Caspian Republic: a country founded by expatriate American and Russian bioconservative activists, whose boundaries are roughly those of present-day Azerbaijan.

While the rest of the world has embraced an almost-singularitarian future of AI-guided mass prosperity, near immortality, and widespread expansive human rights, this Caspian Republic has hewed to a quasi-religious “Humanity First” doctrine and polices the use of technology.

…Sharpson’s prose is sparse, clear, and engaging. He ably paints a picture of a deeply flawed society, and one that is the all-too-believable result of nostalgia-driven politics and identity-driven ideology. Because the Caspian Republic’s technology is pretty much limited to what was common in North America in the 1980s, readers will be reminded of late-era Cold War spy stories….

(5) 100 YEARS OF LEM. The Viennese are participating in the Stanislaw Lem centenary reports Radio Poland: “Austrian capital honours Polish sci-fi great Lem”. See video of the dance on Facebook.

Lem’s centenary is being celebrated in Poland as the Year of Lem, and now Vienna, the writer’s home in the 1980s, has joined in, staging a series of musical events collectively dubbed the Lem Festival.

Poland’s Adam Mickiewicz Institute (IAM) is the driving force behind the project, in co-operation with the ImPuls Tanz festival and the Klangforum Wien ensemble.

During the events, which run through the end of July, dancers and musicians are expected to invite audiences “to reflect on the possibility of communication with ‘the Alien,'” according to the Polish institute.

This is because, a century after Lem was born, and following the NASA rover’s landing on Mars, this question has again become our civilisation’s most pressing problem, the organisers have said….

(6) THEY MADE IT. The Uncanny Kickstarter hit its initial funding goal – now they start work on the stretch goals.

(7) APEX AND ABOVE. Likewise, the Apex Magazine 2022 Kickstarter reached its basic goal and is rolling up its milestone rewards. First on the list, a story by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam – who does a Q&A with publisher Jason Sizemore in the linked update.

JASON SIZEMORE: Do you and Levar Burton hang out? Talk a little about the process of working with Mr. Burton and hearing your words narrated by Mr. Reading Rainbow?

BONNIE JO STUFFLEBEAM: What an experience! I got an unexpected email from Julia Smith, the producer of LeVar Burton Reads, inviting me to be LeVar’s featured writer at his live Dallas event for my story “In the City of Martyrs.” I had no idea that this was an email that one could get, so I was immediately ecstatic to both appear live and to have my story appear on the podcast. The night of the show, I got to meet Julia and LeVar, both amazing and talented professionals, then got to hear LeVar read my story to musical accompaniment. After the reading, we did a Q&A with LeVar and then with the audience.

What I remember most from the event was LeVar’s generosity; he offered to meet-and-greet the very large group of people who came to support me. Also, the audience questions for the Q&A were perceptive as hell. The audience was clearly full of serious readers, and I’m not sure there’s a better feeling than to be surrounded by people who share that passion. Then, of course, there was the magic of hearing my short story read by a man whose voice I grew up listening to. Normally, I can’t divorce the reading of my own stories from the fact that I wrote them, but hearing LeVar read my work with a balalaika setting the story’s mood throughout, I got goosebumps.

(8) DISNEY GETS ROUGH. As reported here earlier, Scarlett Johansson filed a high-stakes breach of contract lawsuit against Disney over the release of Black Widow, alleging Disney broke its contract with her by releasing her solo feature on streaming platform Disney+ on the same day as theaters. Disney’s reply drags their star through the mud: “Disney blasts Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Black Widow’ suit: ‘No merit whatsoever’”.

…However, Disney pushed back hard against Johansson’s arguments. In a statement issued to Yahoo Finance, the media giant said, “There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”…

Johansson’s representatives at CAA hit back: “Hollywood agent Bryan Lourd steps into Disney v Scarjo fight” in the Los Angeles Times.

“They have shamelessly and falsely accused Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic, in an attempt to make her appear to be someone they and I know she isn’t,” Lourd, co-chairman of Creative Artists Agency said in a statement. Lourd represents some of Hollywood’s biggest stars besides Johansson, such as Brad Pitt and George Clooney. Disney did not respond to requests for comment on Lourd’s statement….

“Scarlett has been Disney’s partner on nine movies, which have earned Disney and its shareholders billions,” Lourd said. “The company included her salary in their press statement in an attempt to weaponize her success as an artist and businesswoman, as if that were something she should be ashamed of.”

(9) BLUE ORIGIN TRIES TO REVIVE NASA’S INTEREST. Blue Origin says it’s willing to cover $2 billion of the cost for a second lunar lander contract, should NASA award one. In a July 26th letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos said his company is willing to waive up to $2 billion in payments over the current and next two government fiscal years in exchange for a fixed-priced contract. In April, NASA selected SpaceX as the recipient of its Human Landing System (HLS) contract, a decision that competitors Blue Origin and Dynetics protested shortly after. The full letter is at the link, here are some excerpts:

Blue Origin is committed to building a future where millions of people live and work in space to benefit the Earth….

This is why Blue Origin answered NASA’s urgent call to develop a Human Landing System. We built the National Team – with four major partners and more than 200 small and medium suppliers in 47 states – to focus on designing, building, and operating a flight system the nation could count on. NASA invested over half a billion dollars in the National Team in 2020-21, and we performed well. The team developed and risk-reduced a safe, mass-efficient design that could achieve a human landing in 2024. 

Our approach is designed to be sustainable for repeated lunar missions and, above all, to keep our astronauts safe. We created a 21st-century lunar landing system inspired by the well-characterized Apollo architecture — an architecture with many benefits. One of its important benefits is that it prioritizes safety. As NASA recognized, the National Team’s design offers a “comprehensive approach to aborts and contingencies [that] places a priority on crew safety throughout all mission phases.” 

Unlike Apollo, our approach is designed to be sustainable and to grow into permanent, affordable lunar operations. Our lander uses liquid hydrogen for fuel. Not only is hydrogen the highest-performing rocket fuel, but it can also be mined on the Moon. That feature will prove essential for sustained future operations on the Moon and beyond.

From the beginning, we designed our system to be capable of flying on multiple launch vehicles, including Falcon Heavy, SLS, Vulcan, and New Glenn. The value of being able to fly on many different launch vehicles cannot be over-stated…

Yet, in spite of these benefits and at the last minute, the Source Selection Official veered from the Agency’s oft-stated procurement strategy. Instead of investing in two competing lunar landers as originally intended, the Agency chose to confer a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar head start to SpaceX. That decision broke the mold of NASA’s successful commercial space programs by putting an end to meaningful competition for years to come…. 

(10) TED LEWIN (1935-2021). Illustrator and writer of children’s books Ted Lewin died July 28. Jane Yolen paid tribute on Facebook.

Heartbroken–this says it all. Ted and [his wife] Betsy were dear friends for many years and Ted illustrated David’s only children’s book (HIGH RIDGE GOBBLER) and a bunch of mine, Several of his originals for the books decorate my dining room. I see them everyday. Ted was a lovely, lovely man, a wonderful storyteller, who brought much beauty to the world.

Ted Lewin illustrated over 200 books, winning a 1994 Caldecott Honor for Peppe The Lamplighter. A number of these were done in collaboration with his wife, Betsy.

As a young man who wanted to go to art school at the Pratt Institute, he earned money to finance his education by taking a summer job as a professional wrestler – the beginning of a fifteen year part-time career that eventually inspired his autobiographical book I Was a Teenage Professional Wrestler.

Lewin’s professional honors also include a Silver Medal in the Society of Illustrators Annual Show (2007), and he and Betsy were inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 2015. [Click below for larger image.]

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1987  – In July of 1987, Emma Bull’s War for The Oaks was published by Ace Books. It would win a Locus Best First Novel Award and be nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. This urban fantasy would get its own trailer courtesy of Will Shetterly who financed it instead of running for Governor. You’ll no doubt recognize many of the performers here as some of them are from Minnesota fandom.  Decades later, it was scheduled to have a hardcover edition from Tor Books but it got canceled after the books were printed. (They were printed. I have a signed one here.) And the music in War for The Oaks would later be done by Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull and other members of fandom with lyrics by John Ford, Steven Brust and others. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 30, 1927 Victor Wong. I remember him best as the Chinese sorcerer Egg Shen in John Carpenter’s exemplary Big Trouble in Little China. He was also The Old Man in The Golden Child, Walter Chang in Tremors, Dr. Wong in the “China Moon” episode of the Beauty and the Beast series and Lee Tzin-Soong in the “Fox Spirit” episode of Poltergeist: The Legacy. (Died 2001.)
  • Born July 30, 1947 John E. Stith, 74. Winner of two HOMer Awards, given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Forum on CompuServe, for Redshift Rendezvous and Naught for Hire. The former would be nominated for a Nebula as well. The HOMer Awards ended in about 2000. 
  • Born July 30, 1947 Arnold Schwarzenegger, 74. Terminator franchise, of course, as well as Running ManConan the Barbarian and  Conan the DestroyerTales from the Crypt and True Lies. Apparently in sort of announced Conan and Terminator reboots. Though I think that’s more rumor than reality. 
  • Born July 30, 1948 Carel Struycken, 73. I remember him best as the gong ringing Mr. Holm on Next Gen, companion to Deanna Troi’s mother. He was also Lurch in The Addams FamilyAddams Family Values and the Addams Family Reunion. He’s listed as being Fidel in The Witches of Eastwick but I’ll be damned if I remembered his role in that film though I’ve seen it twice. And he’s in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor which I’ve never seen. 
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jess Nevins, 55. Author of the superlative Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victorian and the equally great Heroes & Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which is far better than the film ever could be. He’s also written the Fable Encyclopedia which is a most excellent look at Willingham series. I didn’t know he also wrote fiction ‘til now but he has two genre novels, The Road to Prester John and The Datong Incident
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jason Watkins, 55. His first genre role was William Herrick in Being Human. He’s also had a recurring role on Dirk Gentely as DI Gilks. And he voiced Captain Orchis on Watership Down.  Naturally, he’s been in Doctor Who, specifically as Webly in the Eleventh Doctor story, “Nightmare in Silver”.  He showed up in The Golden Compass as Bolvangar Official.
  • Born July 30, 1970 Christopher Nolan, 51. Writer, producer and often director as well of the latest Batman film franchise, The PrestigeInterstellarInception and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to name some of his work. His latest, Tenet, has been nominated for a Hugo this year. 
  • Born July 30, 1975 Cherie Priest, 46. Her Southern gothic Eden Moore series is kickass good and Clockwork Universe series isa refreshing take on steampunk which has been turned into full cast audiobooks by GraphicAudio. I’ve not read the Cheshire Red Reports novels so have no idea how good they are. Anyone read these?  She won an Endeavour Award for her Dreadnought novel.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest shows the judge throwing the book at an unexpected traffic offender.

(14) GET YOUR ANSWERS READY. Your hosts for Science Fiction 101 podcast are Phil Nichols of the Bradburymedia website, who is also known for the Bradbury 100 podcast and the Bradbury 101 YouTube channel; and Colin Kuskie of the Take Me To Your Reader podcast. Episode 7, “We Goes There”, features a sci-fi quiz.

(15) BASEDCON. *Rolls eyes* Thread starts here.

(16) HEAP OF GLORY. “Londoners Were Promised a Hill With a View. They Got a Pile of Scaffolding.” Linking to this New York Times item so you can appreciate the amusing comment which I’ve quoted below.

Advance publicity for the Marble Arch Mound — London’s newest visitor attraction — suggested that an Arcadian landscape would be created in the middle of the city, with spectacular views over Hyde Park.

A huge artificial hill, over 80 feet high, would rise at one end of Oxford Street, London’s busiest shopping district. Costing around 2 million pounds, or about $2.7 million, design renderings suggested that it would be covered in lush trees and that visitors would be able to climb to the top — and “feel a light breeze” against their skin.

The hill was part of a £150 million plan by Westminster Council to lure visitors back into the center of the city after the pandemic. In May, Time Out, London’s main listings magazine, described it as “visually arresting/bonkers.”

The reality has turned out to be somewhat different. Since opening on Monday, the mound has been widely mocked online as more of a folly than a dream — a pile of blocky scaffolding covered in patches of vegetation that look in danger of slipping off, and that it isn’t even high enough to look over the trees into Hyde Park….

 A commenter on the article said:

To be fair to Westminster City Council that spot has become increasingly difficult to manage, with the combination effect of a long record of unplanned and haphazard development accumulating to create serious problems. 

Obviously, the confluence of ley lines and faerie roads there lead to that being the natural place for the portal to Avalon, which in turn attracted the gate into Narnia. But, installing the secret entrance to Q branch’s main workshop so close to both the back door to the Ministry of Magic and unquiet spirits of Tyburn Tree was asking for trouble, and probably meant spatio-temporal subsidence would inevitably produce The Rift. 

Although finding a more plausible way to conceal the essential interdimensional-engineering work needed might have been better, it can be argued that attracting widespread ridicule with this hill has provided the sort of smokescreen that was wanted more cost-effectively. 

We probably shouldn’t rush to judgement, and wait for the official paperwork to be declassified and released under the 5,000-year rule.

(17) ROBODOG. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Is the game “Quick, spot the cop” or “Quick Spot, the cop”? Another publication has chimed in on whether robotic “dogs” are suitable for use by police. “Robotic Police Dogs: Useful Hounds or Dehumanizing Machines?” at U.S. News & World Report.

If you’re homeless and looking for temporary shelter in Hawaii’s capital, expect a visit from a robotic police dog that will scan your eye to make sure you don’t have a fever.

That’s just one of the ways public safety agencies are starting to use Spot, the best-known of a new commercial category of robots that trot around with animal-like agility.

The handful of police officials experimenting with the four-legged machines say they’re just another tool, like existing drones and simple wheeled robots, to keep emergency responders out of harm’s way as they scout for dangers. But privacy watchdogs — the human kind — warn that police are secretly rushing to buy the robots without setting safeguards against aggressive, invasive or dehumanizing uses.

In Honolulu, the police department spent about $150,000 in federal pandemic relief money to buy their Spot from robotics firm Boston Dynamics for use at a government-run tent city near the airport.

“Because these people are houseless it’s considered OK to do that,” said Jongwook Kim, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii. “At some point it will come out again for some different use after the pandemic is over.”…

(18) AI ASSESSES CATS. Meanwhile, a breakthrough in cat happiness technology has made the headlines: “Feline okay? The app that tells you if your cat’s happy” reports Reuters.

Cat owners who love to take pictures of their furry friends now have a new excuse to pull out their smartphones and take a snapshot: it may actually help the cat.

A Calgary, Alberta, animal health technology company, Sylvester.ai, has developed an app called Tably that uses the phone’s camera to tell whether a feline is feeling pain.

The app looks at ear and head position, eye-narrowing, muzzle tension, and how whiskers change, to detect distress. A 2019 study published in peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports found that the so-called ‘feline grimace scale,’ or FGS, is a valid and reliable tool for acute pain assessment in cats….

(19) GIVING THE GOVERNMENT THE DIGIT. If an AI can be trusted with your cat, surely their work should not go unrewarded! “Australian Court Rules That AI Can Be an Inventor”Gizmodo has the story.

In what can only be considered a triumph for all robot-kind, this week, a federal court has ruled that an artificially intelligent machine can, in fact, be an inventor—a decision that came after a year’s worth of legal battles across the globe.

The ruling came on the heels of a years-long quest by University of Surrey law professor Ryan Abbot, who started putting out patent applications in 17 different countries across the globe earlier this year. Abbot—whose work focuses on the intersection between AI and the law—first launched two international patent filings as part of The Artificial Inventor Project at the end of 2019. Both patents (one for an adjustable food container, and one for an emergency beacon) listed a creative neural system dubbed “DABUS” as the inventor.

The artificially intelligent inventor listed here, DABUS, was created by Dr. Stephen Thaler, who describes it as a “creativity engine” that’s capable of generating novel ideas (and inventions) based on communications between the trillions of computational neurons that it’s been outfitted with. Despite being an impressive piece of machinery, last year, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) ruled that an AI cannot be listed as the inventor in a patent application—specifically stating that under the country’s current patent laws, only “natural persons,” are allowed to be recognized. Not long after, Thaler sued the USPTO, and Abbott represented him in the suit….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol,” Fandom Games says this game will take you back to the ’90s (remember Scholastic book fairs?  All-denim outfits?) and will “tickle your nostalgia nose” but still frustrate you even though you’re not a teenager any more, but have kids and a mortgage.

(21) TINGLING BULLETINS AS THEY BREAK. Chuck Tingle told Facebook followers today that the music rights holders withdrew their complaints three days ago, but Twitter still hasn’t done doodly about restoring his account.

first off POWER OF LOVE IS STRONG with help of some true buckaroos behind scenes (who i will thank when this is all over and direct you to their websites and other ways) AND ALSO with help of all buckaroos on social media: SONY MUSIC and IFPI have decided to withdraw their copyright complaints and say ‘okay just take them down lets trot on you can have your account back’ which is HUGE DEAL. SO THANK YOU SO MUCH THIS PROVES LOVE IS REAL. also even though this situation is frustrating for chuck i must say sincere thank you to sony and ifpi this was a choice they made to do right thing by chuck in the name of the buckaroo lifestyle. so thank you everyone (with more thanks to come)

this happened THREE DAYS ago and twitter was notified. since then twitter has not responded to any methods of contact from chuck or sam rand or manager of chuck. chuck remains suspended with no way of contacting them that does not get automated response even though fact of the matter is:

THERE IS NO REASON FOR CHUCK TINGLE TWITTER TO BE SUSPENDED AT THIS POINT i do not have copyright infringement marks anymore or any other infractions. i have sent message to say ‘can you tell WHY my account is still suspended even after you said it would be better if i fixed these issues?’ and no response.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Paul Weimer, Olav Rokne, Michael J. Walsh, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 7/20/21 Sixteen Kzin And Whaddaya Get

(1) WE MADE IT. As you surely already know, “Jeff Bezos just went to space and back”CNN has the details.

Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, went to space and back Tuesday morning on an 11-minute, supersonic joy ride aboard the rocket and capsule system developed by his space company, Blue Origin.

Riding alongside the multibillionaire were Bezos’ brother, Mark Bezos; Wally Funk, an 82-year-old pilot and one of the “Mercury 13” women who trained to go to space in the 20th century but never got to fly; and an 18-year old recent high school graduate named Oliver Daemen who was Blue Origin’s first paying customer and whose father, an investor, purchased his ticket.

Funk and Daemen became the oldest and youngest people, respectively, ever to travel to space. And this flight marked the first-ever crewed mission for Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital space tourism rocket, which the company plans to use to take wealthy thrill seekers on high-flying joy rides in the months and years to come….

(2) THE REACTION. People found ways to have fun with today’s headline story.

  • Jennifer Hawthorne noted, “There’s a bunch of these on a similar theme on Twitter today.”

(3) NEED FOR SPEED. [Item by Dann.] Leave it to the Banana Jr. 6000 to finally find out where Calvin went when he grew up: see Berkeley Breathed’s Facebook page, That is not the most unusual thing I’ve typed this week.  But it’s close!

(4) HUGO VOTER PACKET. DisCon III notified members today they have made additions to the Hugo Voter Packet.

Since you’ve already downloaded some or all of the Hugo Awards Packet, we want to let you know that we have uploaded new or revised material in the following categories:

  • Best Novelette
  • Best Series
  • Best Editor, Short Form
  • Best Fancast
  • Best Video Game

Additionally, a portion of Sheila Williams’ packet materials in Best Editor, Short Form, was blank, and we have uploaded the corrected documents. We sincerely apologize to Sheila for our error.

(5) PRO TIP. Every writer has bad days. That’s Jane Yolen’s message today on Facebook:

One book turned down, four poems rejected. That is how my day has started. But movement is all. Those poems, that book can now go to it next round. That book editor can be sent a new mss. There is no real downside to this.

Reminder: A Wrinkle in Time was rejected by 29 editors.

It took 20 years to sell my book with grandaughter,: Nana Dances. Coming out this month.

To Think That I Saw It On Market Street was rejected over 30 times and Suess was about to self-publish when Bennett Cerf began Random House,

Owl Moon was turned down by 5 editors as too quiet.

Sleeping Ugly was dumped by 13.

Smile, move on, and have the last laugh and the last dance with the SMART editor!

(6) PROJECT HAIL MARY NARRATOR SPEAKS. AudioFile features the narrator of Project Hail Mary in their short video “Behind the Mic with Ray Porter”.

From his very own home studio located somewhere in outer space, narrator Ray Porter shares why he loved recording Project Hail Mary, the fantastical space opera from Andy Weir (The Martian). After listening to Ray’s narration, you might feel the same way he does—sad the audiobook is over.

(7) WHY SPY. At CrimeReads, sf writer Alma Katsu interviews Owen Mathews about his novel Red Traitor. “Alma Katsu and Owen Matthews on Ideal Spies, Historical Fiction, and the Russia-West Divide”.

Katsu: Was there something you felt was lacking in the genre that you wanted to correct? Something overlooked that deserved to be highlighted?

Matthews: Every writer needs his protagonist to have a secret, and for him to be hunted. And the world of spies gives you that plot structure on a plate—what greater secret is there than to be a spy, and what better chase is there than a spy hunt? As for wanting to correct a genre or highlight a point, I think every writer worth their salt writes because they think they can tell a story better, move movingly, more excitingly, than the next guy. I would add that most of the actual spies that I have known are actually far less interesting and lead much more boring lives than one would like to imagine, so that banal reality needs to be corrected with a heavy dose of fictional jeopardy. 

(8) MORE GOOD STUFF. [Item by JJ.] One of the stories in John Joseph Adams’ and Veronica Roth’s Best American Science Fiction And Fantasy 2021 anthology came from the Take Us To A Better Place: Stories anthology which is available as a free download in both English and Spanish. Features stories by: Madeline Ashby, Hannah Lillith Assadi, Calvin Baker, Frank Bill, Yoon Ha Lee, Karen Lord, Mike McClelland, Achy Obejas, David A. Robertson & Selena Goulding, and Martha Wells

Unfortunately, you have to have an account with either Amazon/Kindle, Apple/iBooks, or B&N/Nook to get the free ebook, but there is also a PDF available.

(9) GRRM HITS THE ROAD. George R.R. Martin told Not A Blog readers about his trip “Back to the Midwest” to receive his honorary doctorate at Northwestern University (see his Graduation Speech on YouTube) and enjoy some other adventures. He also gave an interview to a local PBS station (linked from his post). Hopefully he was well-rested by the time he got home because —

…Of course, during my ten days on the road and away from the internet, the email piled up, and I found some eight hundred letters waiting for me on my return.   Which may help explain why I am weeks late in making this post, but…

(10) SCARS OF A LIFETIME. At CBR.com, “Alan Moore’s Daughter Explains His Anger at the Entertainment Industry”.

Leah Moore, a writer and the daughter of comic book icon, Alan Moore, responded to the discussion of a recent Hollywood Reporter article about comic book writers not being fairly compensated financially for their work by noting that the things discussed in the article are part of the reason why her father is so angry at the entertainment industry.

Moore has been quite open over the years in defense of her famous father, as she dislikes the idea that his anger has been portrayed as though he is being unreasonable when she obviously feels that it is not, and articles like the Hollywood Reporter one let people in on just how messed up things can be for even the top comic book writers of the world like Alan Moore (for instance, the article cites complaints from Ed Brubaker and Ta-Nehisi Coates, two of the most successful comic book writers working today).

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • Between 1956 and 1967, Robert Heinlein would win four Hugos for Best Novel. His first win would be for Double Star at NyCon II followed four years at Pittcon for Starship Troopers. Two years later at Chicon III, he’d get his third for Stranger in a Strange Land.  His last of the four wins in the period, and indeed his last ever Hugo (not counting Retro Hugos of which he’d  later win seven), would be at NyCon 3 for The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 20, 1924 —  Lola Albright. Though she’s best remembered best known for playing the sultry singer Edie Hart, the girlfriend of private eye Peter Gunn, she did do some genre performances. She’s Cathy Barrett, one of the leads in the Fifties film The Monolith Monsters, and television was her home in the Fifties and Sixties. She was on Tales of Tomorrow as Carol Williams in the “The Miraculous Serum” episode, Nancy Metcalfe on Rocket Squad in “The System” episode, repeated appearances on the various Alfred Hitchcock series, and even on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in the episodes released as the feature length film The Helicopter Spies. She was Azalea. (Died 2017.)
  • Born July 20, 1930 Sally Ann Howes, 91. Best remembered as being Truly Scrumptious on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. She was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical  for her performance in Brigadoon. And I’ll note her playing Anna Leonowens In The King & I as Ricardo Montalbán played the lead role as that’s genre as well.
  • Born July 20, 1931 Donald Moffitt. Author of the Baroness thriller series, somewhat akin to Bond and Blaise, but not quite. Great popcorn literature. Some SF, two in his Mechanical Skyseries, Crescent in the Sky and A Gathering of Stars, another two in his Genesis Quest series, Genesis Quest and Second Genesis, plus several one-offs. (Died 2014.)
  • Born July 20, 1938 Diana Rigg, née Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg. Emma Peel of course in The Avengers beside Patrick Macnee as John Steed. Best pairing ever. Played Sonya Winter in The Assassination Bureau followed by being Contessa Teresa “Tracy” Draco di Vicenzo Bond on On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. By the Eighties, she’s doing lighter fare such as being Lady Holiday in The Great Muppet Caper and Miss Hardbroom in The Worst Witch, not to mention The Evil Queen, Snow White’s evil stepmother in Snow White. Next she would get a meaty role in Game of Thrones when she was Olenna Tyrell. Oh, and she showed up in Dr. Who during the Era of the Eleventh Doctor as Mrs. Winifred Gillyflower in the “The Crimson Horror” episode. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 20, 1942 Richard Delap. Canadain fanzine writer who wrote for Granfalloon and Yandro. He nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twice but lost to Harry Warner, Jr. at St.Louiscon, and Wilson Tucker at Heicon ‘70. He published Delap’s F&SF Review. He co-edited The Essential Harlan Ellison. He died of AIDS complications just after it was published. (Died 1987.) 
  • Born July 20, 1957 Michael ‘Mike’ Gilbert. A fan artist in the late ’60s in Locus and other fanzines as well as an author, and publishing professional. Locus notes his wife was the co-publisher of DAW Books, and Mike worked in both editorial and art capacities at DAW, and was one of their primary first readers. (Died 2000.)
  • Born July 20, 1959 Martha Soukup, 62. The 1994 short film Override, directed by Danny Glover, was based on her short story “Over the Long Haul”. It was his directorial debut. She has two collections, Collections Rosemary’s Brain: And Other Tales of Wonder and The Arbitrary Placement of Walls, both published in the Nineties.  She won a Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “A Defense of the Social Contracts”. “The Story So Far’ by her is available as the download sample at the usual suspects  in Schimel’s Things Invisible to See anthology if you’d liked to see how she is as a writer. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side has a genre-adjacent airborne calamity.
  • Lio knows who this call is for.

(14) CLOSING TIME? In “Exterminate! Exterminate! Why it’s time for Doctor Who to die”, The Guardian’s Martin Belam says Doctor Who looks tired.  

…As someone who loved Tom Baker as the Doctor in the 70s, I have found the success of the 2005 revival wonderful to watch. But while Doctor Who looks better than it ever has – the sequences of the Cybermen marching through their battle cruiser towards the end of the last season were worth the price of admission alone – everything around it feels tired.

The ability to travel anywhere in time and space makes Doctor Who a series that could potentially tell a million brilliant different stories, and Chibnall’s innovation of “the Timeless Child”, meaning there are potentially dozens of guest star Doctors Who we have never met before, opens it up to go in new directions.

But it doesn’t feel as if it is close to telling a million brilliant stories. It feels as if it is telling an increasingly self-absorbed meta-story about its own run, accompanied by a very vocal online fandom that isn’t quite sure what it wants, but knows it doesn’t want this.

Maybe the BBC needs to try something other than carrying on. A break. A feature film. A co-production deal. An anthology series featuring familiar characters from the Whoniverse who aren’t the Doctor. Anything other than slowly grinding out another couple of series formatted as if it were still 2005….

(15) GORN TOON. Here’s a piece by artist Jacob Paik (http://jpaikmedia.com/) of the Gorn captain from the Star Trek episode “Arena.” (Click on image to see it completely.) 

(16) RESISTANCE MAY BE THE POINT. Nature tells why “Massive DNA ‘Borg’ structures perplex scientists”.

The Borg have landed — or, at least, researchers have discovered their counterparts here on Earth. Scientists analysing samples from muddy sites in the western United States have found novel DNA structures that seem to scavenge and ‘assimilate’ genes from microorganisms in their environment, much like the fictional Star Trek ‘Borg’ aliens who assimilate the knowledge and technology of other species.

These extra-long DNA strands, which the scientists named in honour of the aliens, join a diverse collection of genetic structures — circular plasmids, for example — known as extrachromosomal elements (ECEs). Most microbes have one or two chromosomes that encode their primary genetic blueprint. But they can host, and often share between them, many distinct ECEs. These carry non-essential but useful genes, such as those for antibiotic resistance.

Borgs are a previously unknown, unique and “absolutely fascinating” type of ECE, says Jill Banfield, a geomicrobiologist at the University of California, Berkeley. She and her colleagues describe their discovery of the structures in a preprint posted to the server bioRxiv1. The work is yet to be peer-reviewed….

(17) VON WITTING’S FB ACCOUNT DIES THE DEATH. Well-known European fan Wolf von Witting (who wrote a guest post for us in March, “Inexplicable Phenomena and How To Approach Them”) announced to his mailing list that he has abandoned Facebook after the following experience:

On July 15th Facebook locked my account because of suspicious activity.

What I did, was trying to log in from Bucharest.

My Yahoo-mail service also noted an unexpected login and sent an alert to my other email accounts. I simply confirmed it was me by following the given instructions.

With Facebook it was not so smooth. Not even the link from my Yahoo account could open it. I read somebody’s story about how difficult it was for him to get his account back, once it had been locked. I refuse to follow Facebook’s complicated and intrusive demands to re-open my account.

Today I sent them my final message, which I doubt they will read. Same as all the other messages I sent. They have my email, so in theory they could be answering, were they not too big for their own good. The story of the other guy concluded with “They have all the power.”

I disagree. I have the power not to associate with such poor totalitarian service. They can literally stuff the account where the sun doesn’t shine. They have my blessing. I won’t be using it any further. Ever.

My final message to Fb was as follows:

“Why do you have this function? It fills no purpose. No one appears to be reading it. No one answers. Nothing happens. I might as well talk to a dead fish. Why would I want to have back such bad and unreliable service? I thought about it and decided to not waste any more time with you. I am most certainly not going to jump through any of your hoops. Keep it! And do continue to saw off the branch you are sitting on. See where it gets you. You have my blessing. And this concludes our relationship.”

(499 of 500 possible characters used)

In my opinion, Facebook is an evil entity. It is my duty to oppose a totalitarian attitude.

Their service has not only proven unreliable, but also damaging. An article in the next issue of CoClock will deal with my damage control measures.

In the end I only feel free of another oppressor, big brother (in the bad sense) and social vampire.

A huge thank you, to Yahoo mail, which has worked without problems for 25 years.

This is now the ONLY way to communicate with me.

(18) MUGGLE TECH. SYFY Wire introduces another season of a YouTube series aimed at film fans: “Could You Survive the Movies? Season 2 clip explores Harry Potter”. If you lose your magic but still have science, maybe.

Merlin’s pants! Could You Survive the Movies? is officially back for a second season and SYFY WIRE has an exclusive first look at the Harry Potter episode debuting later this week. Hosted by Vsauce3’s Jake Roper, the YouTube Original series is basically MythBusters for die-hard cinephiles. Each episode tries to answer whether or not movie lovers would be able to live through the events of Hollywood’s most iconic films.

In this week’s magical installment, Jake plays a version of Mr. Potter, who loses all of his magical powers to a feared, Voldemort-esque dark wizard….

(19) AI ASTAIRE. Imagine what AI powered machines will be able to do in the next 5-10 years. (Boston Dynamics machines flawlessly and soulfully dancing in rhythm, video first posted in 2020). 

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Black Widow” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say this film falls the familiar plot of “keeping important object X out of the hands of military leader Y by taking down massive airship Z.”  Plus Florence Pugh fans can see her morph from “the mischievous, braided-hair sister” in Little Women to the “mischievous, braided-hair sister in Little Women who has killed hundreds of people.”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Jennifer Hawthorne, Rich Lynch, Ben Bird Person, Wolf Von Witting, Dann, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 7/19/21 Like A Mouse Over Troubled Pixels, I Will Scroll The File

(1) KOWAL ON WALLY FUNK. The New York Times has run an essay by Lady Astronaut author (and DisCon III chair) Mary Robinette Kowal on Wally Funk. “Wally Funk’s Launch With Jeff Bezos Defies 60 Years of Exclusion From Space”. (Registration may be required.)

Ms. Funk’s trip to space with Jeff Bezos is reason to celebrate. But the launch this week, decades after she was denied the opportunity, also raises questions about whom space is for.

(2) APEX APPEAL. Apex Publications has launched a Kickstarter to fund Apex Magazine 2022. On the first day people have contributed $5,325 of its $10,000 goal. Editor-in-Chief Jason Sizemore says:

The last few years of Apex Magazine (including 2021), we’ve produced an incredible run of transformative and diverse fiction. We relaunched with Fargo Tbakhi’s “Root Rot,” a timely tale regarding colonization. “Mr. Death” by Alix E. Harrow threaded the needle between heartbreaking and hopefulness. Sam J. Miller celebrated the power of music in “A Love That Burns Hot Enough to Last: Deleted Scenes from a Documentary.”

We published back-to-back Hugo Award winners (2018 & 2019) in the category of Best Short Fiction (“Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™” by Rebecca Roanhorse and “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” by Alix E. Harrow, respectively) and the 2017 Hugo Award winner in the category of Best Novelette (“The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon). Fiction from Apex Magazine has also won the Nebula Award, Locus Award, and numerous others.

In addition to our phenomenal fiction, every issue of Apex Magazine offers evocative cover art, thought-provoking nonfiction, author and  artist interviews, and a professional-quality podcast produced by KT Bryski.

All these wonderful things would exist if not for the community of readers, creators, and staff—the extended Apex family. Thank you so much for your love and continued support!

The Apex Magazine 2022 Kickstarter also promises: “Should we fund, we will commission new original fiction from five writers who we think embodies the type of bold, diverse work we seek to publish.” Those writers are: Gabino Iglesias, Jennifer Marie Brissett, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Samit Basu, and Lavie Tidhar.

(3) THE OOPS DIRECTIVE. James Davis Nicoll makes you wonder if there would be a story if people followed the rules. There’s plenty where they don’t, as James shows in “Five SF Stories About Disobeying Non-Interference Directives” at Tor.com.

…For historical reasons—that throughout Earth history, first contact between dissimilar cultures was generally followed by vigorous efforts by whichever culture enjoyed a military advantage to strip-mine the other of goods and services—many science fiction authors (particularly during the mid-century period when various empires were winding down) gave their settings laws encouraging non-interference. One might call this a Prime Directive….

(4) HELP REQUESTED. The“Fundraiser by Adam-Troy Castro : In the Aftermath of Unexpected Death” is a GoFundMe brought on by the sudden death of his wife, Judi. It has raised $26,979 so far.

…She was also, through her own income, the chief support of our family. I am a writer and my money comes in irregularly, sometimes in decent sized chunks (like last week, but delayed for a year by COVID), sometimes in tiny little amounts. I am going to have to restructure my new life as a freshly minted widower, and I will, but in the interim our fragile climb back to solvency has been slammed back to the earth. I am in big, big trouble; destitute with debt still looming.

I damn the whims of fate.

I am not the kind of person who finds this easy. It hurts me to type these words, and I am intensely self-conscious about asking for help this soon after the last time. I can tell you that I did not want the prior worst period of my life to be followed so soon by another loss that is even more primal, even more destructive. I have had no time to think, just arranging the memorial — and I am sure that the bills for her time for the ICU, after insurance, will be coming, inevitable and unswayed by sentiment, even as we run late on bills that would have normally been her duty to pay. (She died in a distant city, in the home of a family we were pet-sitting for, so we are far from our records, from our mailing address, and…this is a pyramid, folks. It gets higher and higher.)

If you knew Judi at all, you loved her. If you know me at all, maybe you have some of that same feeling. I have to jettison pride. She has left me bereft. I will be deeply grateful for any help you can give,

(5) SPACE JAM RULES AT BOX OFFICE. Critical reviews did not keep Space Jam: A New Legacy from overtaking Black Widow in theater ticket sales last weekend.

The Hollywood Reporter starts the ball rolling:

Space Jam: A New Legacy, starring the basketball great [LeBron James], beat holdover Black Widow to top the chart with a better-than-expected domestic debut of $31.7 million from 3,956 theaters.

Marvel and Disney’s Black Widow fell to No. 2 in its second outing with $26.3 million. The superhero pic suffered a steep 67 percent decline, one of the biggest drops ever for a Marvel title, and the worst among the Marvel films released by Disney. The decline underscores that the box office recovery is far from over; also, the tentpole is available in the home via Disney+ Premier Access (piracy is another problem)….

Deadline notes that’s the steepest second-weekend drop ever for a Disney-distributed MCU title, beating Ant-Man and the Wasp (62 percent). They say piracy is a big problem: “’Black Widow’ Post Steep Box Office Drop For MCU Title; Disney Mum On PVOD”.

…Fact: Black Widow was the most-pirated movie last week on Torrent Freak, ahead of The Tomorrow War in the No. 2 spot. I understand from sources that have seen several piracy reports that apparently Black Widow might be the most-pirated title to date during the pandemic, ahead of Wonder Woman 1984.

Studios go to extra lengths to encrypt and watermark their movies before release. Pristine copies of a tentpole spell death at the box office, and they further spell death here on both the box office and Disney+ Premier side.

Many of these piracy sites dress themselves up with images from the film to make it look like they’re legit. One industry analytics source informed me over the weekend that in one study they did for a studio, it showed that these piracy sites were the No. 1 means for those at home to watch movies, not Disney+ or any other streamer….

The LA Times tries to account for this surprising showing: “’Space Jam’ sequel unseats ‘Black Widow’ at the top of the box office”:

…Not many expected “Space Jam: A New Legacy” to pull off this win. The poorly reviewed film was pegged for an opening in the $20-million range. But a sizable number of families and millennials who grew up with the original “Space Jam” left the house and went to a theater to see it, even though it’s currently streaming on HBO Max free for subscribers. Not only that, audiences also gave the film a promising A- CinemaScore, suggesting word of mouth could be strong….

(6) SPEAKING UP. In the Washington Post. Michael Cavna interviews Jeff Bergman, who voices Bugs Bunny in Space Jam, met Mel Blanc once, but only met LeBron James at the premiere when he shouted something to James in his Bugs voice. “’Space Jam: A New Legacy’: The Bugs Bunny voice actor has spent a lifetime perfecting the craft”.

…After the premiere, James was surrounded by layers of fans. What could Bergman do to get the NBA star’s attention despite the distance and din? “I yelled out from about 20 feet away and said in Bugs Bunny’s voice, ‘Hey, Doc, we really are family,'” Bergman said. “He heard and saw me.” Bergman was ushered through the throng to greet him.

“He was holding his daughter and we embraced and thanked each other,” Bergman said. Even amid the crowd, it felt like “a very private congratulatory moment.”

(7) VISION AND REVISION. “At times it’s hard to believe what you see” it says on the cover of Dragons Walk Among Us, source of “The Big Idea: Dan Rice” at Whatever.

Is there a world before our eyes that most people overlook? What are the ramifications for someone who can see the unseeable? This is the big idea behind my debut novel Dragons Walk Among Us.

I first became interested in the world that most people overlook through photography. For example, star trails illuminate landscapes that most people never experience except through photographs taken by others. What really started to fascinate me years ago are water droplets––on blades of grass, flower petals, leaves, windows, etc. Individual little worlds are scattered across the dewy grass, and most people never take the time to appreciate them. Sometimes I imagine each dewdrop is a microcosmos populated by strange creatures. I suppose on the infinitesimal scale of microbes, this is true….

(8) SALLY MILLER GEARHART (1931-2021). Author and academic Sally Miller Gearhart died July 14 at the age of 90. The Advocate has a profile about her activism and work as an educator: “Sally Gearhart, Veteran Activist and Academic, Dead at 90”.

…Gearhart, a Virginia native, taught for many years at San Francisco State University, where in 1973 she became the first out lesbian to be named to a tenure-track position (at the school and, apparently, in the nation). At SF State, she established one of the first women’s and gender studies programs in the nation. She was an author of feminist science fiction as well….

The Wikipedia entry synopsizes her sff career:

…In 1978, her most famous novel, The Wanderground, was published, exploring themes of ecofeminism and lesbian separatism. She wrote two books as part of the Earthkeep trilogy, The Kanshou, published in 2002, and The Magister, published in 2003. Both stories explore a dystopian world where women outnumber men, and humans are the only beings on the planet.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1976 – Forty-five years ago, Roger Zelazny’s “Home is The Hangman” novella wins the Hugo at MidAmeriCon. The other nominated works that year were “The Storms of Windhaven” by George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle, “ARM” by Larry Niven, “The Silent Eyes of Time” by Algis Budrys, and “The Custodians” by Richard Cowper. It would also win a Nebula Award. His Doorways in the Sand would be nominated for Best Novel that year, finishing second to Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 19, 1883 Max Fleischer. Animator, film director and producer. He brought such animated characters as Betty Boop, Popeye and Superman to the screen and was responsible for a number of technological innovations including the Rotoscope and Stereoptical Processes. You can see Betty’s first screen appearance here in the 1930 Cartoon, “Dizzy Dishes”. (Died 1972.)
  • Born July 19, 1924 Pat Hingle. He portrayed Jim Gordon in the Burton Batman film franchise. Genre wise, he had roles in Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Twilight ZoneCarol for Another ChristmasMission: ImpossibleThe InvadersTarantulas: The Deadly Cargo, Amazing Stories and The Land Before Time. He would reprise his Gordon role in the Batman OnStar commercials. (Died 2009.)
  • Born July 19, 1927 Richard E. Geis. I met him at least once when I was living out West. Interesting person.  He won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twice; and whose science fiction fanzine Science Fiction Review won Hugo Awards for Best Fanzine four times. The Alien Critic won the Best Fanzine Hugo once (in a tie with Algol), and once by himself. And yes, I enjoyed reading the Science Fiction Review. I’ve not any of his handful of genre novels, and certainly haven’t encountered his softcore porn of which there’s a lot. (Died 2013.)
  • Born July 19, 1938 Jayant Vishnu Narlikar, 82. He and Fred Hoyle developed the Hoyle–Narlikar theory, which Stephen Hawking would prove is incompatible with an expanding universe. He would write two genre novels, The Return of The Vaman (translated from Marathi) and The Message from Aristarchus. His autobiography is My Tale of Four Cities: An Autobiography.
  • Born July 19, 1957 John Pelan. Committed (more or less) the act of opening serial small publishing houses in succession with the first being Axolotl Press in the mid-Eighties where he’d published the likes of de Lint and Powers (before selling it to Pulphouse Publishing) followed by Darkside Press, Silver Salamander Press and finally co-founding Midnight House. All have been inactive for quite awhile now and he’d been editing such anthologies as Tales of Terror and Torment: Stories from the Pulps, Volume 1 for other presses though even that has not happened for some years as near as I can tell. As a writer, he had more than thirty published stories and he had won both a Stoker for The Darker Side: Generations of Horror anthology and an International Horror Guild Award for his Darkside: Horror for the Next Millennium anthology. (Died 2021.)
  • Born July 19, 1963 Garth Nix, 58. Writer of children’s and young adult fantasy novels, to wit the Keys to the KingdomOld Kingdom, and Seventh Tower series. The Ragwitch which I read quite some time ago is quite excellent and being a one-off can give you a good taste of him without committing to a series. 
  • Born July 19, 1969 Kelly Link, 52. First, let me note that along with Ellen Datlow, she and her husband Gavin Grant were responsible for the last five volumes of The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror. They all did a magnificent job. All of her collections, Pretty MonstersMagic for Beginners and Get in Trouble are astonishingly good. And she’s much honored having won a Hugo Award, three Nebula Awards, a World Fantasy Award, an Otherwise Award, a Sturgeon Award and received a MacArthur Genius Grant.
  • Born July 19, 1976 Benedict Cumberbatch, 45. Confession time: I really didn’t care for him in the Sherlock Holmes series as that series didn’t work for me, nor did I think his Khan In Star Trek Into Darkness was all that interesting but his Stephen Strange In Doctor Strange was quite excellent. He did do a superb job of voicing Smaug in The Hobbit, and his Grinch-voicing in the latter film was also superb. And yes, he’s the voice of Satan in Good Omens.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) GETTING PAID. The Hollywood Reporter discovers that “Marvel, DC Offer ‘Shut Up Money’ As Comic Creators Go Public”.

… Multiple comic creators have publicly stated that DC’s payments for adaptations, in general, is higher. Comic creator Jim Starlin turned heads in 2017 when he publicly noted that Warner Bros. paid him more for a minor character that appeared in DC’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice than he received for Marvel’s major Guardians of the Galaxy characters Thanos, Gamora and Drax combined. After Starlin’s airing of grievances, Disney renegotiated his deal for Thanos, the villain of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Those films went on to gross $4.83 billion globally, and Starlin, while not sharing details of his deal, walked away happy. “The cliche is that the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” Starlin tells The Hollywood Reporter. “The way these agreements are written up, Disney can be more generous if they want. It is written right there that they can change the terms to make it better.”

There’s no legal obligation to make additional payments for adaptations, with companies such as Marvel viewing these payments as thank-you gifts — and
a way to avoid the bad publicity of warring with a creator. “It’s ‘shut-up’ money,” as one Marvel creator who receives such payments, but also declined to share details of compensation, likes to call it. Even if companies have no legal obligation to compensate these writers and artists, paying more is akin to contract renegotiations with an actor. If a TV show or movie is a smash success, studios believe it makes sense to offer an actor more money for the sequel (or the next season of TV) to keep them happy. No one wants a bitter actor on set….

(13) THE SQUAD. DC dropped a Suicide Squad “In On The Action Featurette”. Comes to HBO Max on August 6.

Welcome to hell—a.k.a. Belle Reve, the prison with the highest mortality rate in the US of A. Where the worst Super-Villains are kept and where they will do anything to get out—even join the super-secret, super-shady Task Force X. Today’s do-or-die assignment? Assemble a collection of cons, including Bloodsport, Peacemaker, Captain Boomerang, Ratcatcher 2, Savant, King Shark, Blackguard, Javelin and everyone’s favorite psycho, Harley Quinn. Then arm them heavily and drop them (literally) on the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese. Trekking through a jungle teeming with militant adversaries and guerrilla forces at every turn, the Squad is on a search-and-destroy mission with only Colonel Rick Flag on the ground to make them behave…and Amanda Waller’s government techies in their ears, tracking their every movement. And as always, one wrong move and they’re dead (whether at the hands of their opponents, a teammate, or Waller herself). If anyone’s laying down bets, the smart money is against them—all of them.

(14) WILLIAM F. NOLAN & CO. At the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation website, a 1999 article about the many-named writing group Christopher Conlon likes to call the “Southern California Sorcerers”.

…Group member William F. Nolan, whose film credits include Burnt Offerings and Trilogy of Terror, explains: “We’d talk plot, read stories we’d finished for opinions, talk about markets and what was selling and who was buying, discuss character development and structure, and, yes, we’d argue, but in a constructive way. We all helped each other…and inter-connected on projects.”

“Sometimes, of an evening,” Ray Bradbury has written, “Richard Matheson would toss up there merest dustfleck of a notion, which would bounce off William F. Nolan, knock against George Clayton Johnson, glance off me, and land in [Charles Beaumont’s] lap. ..Sometimes we all loved an idea so much we had to assign it to the writer present who showed the widest grin, the brightest cheeks, the most fiery eyes.”

Direct collaborations between Group members were common. And no wonder. In those early days, most of them, particularly the “inner circle” of Nolan, Charles Beaumont, George Clayton Johnson, and novelist John Tomerlin, were men in their twenties who were just beginning their careers. They found strength, encouragement, and a sense of solidarity in the company of other struggling young writers. Because of the Group, says Nolan, “We were not alone; we had each other to fire us creatively, to bounce ideas around, to solve plot problems. It was the best kind of writing class that could ever be imagined.”…

(15) YOUTH MOVEMENT. In the Washington Post, Dalvin Brown says that Facebook has come up with new software that lets robots walk like toddlers, which might be a good first step in letting robots walk like human adults. Especially if it lets robots learn to do so without falling down all the time, for which they’re less prepared than toddlers. “Facebook reveals AI development to help robots move in uncharted territory”

Facebook developed what it calls a foundational “breakthrough” in the race to create more humanlike robots: software that enables machines to learn to walk like toddlers.

Humans are very efficient at maneuvering. As kids, we figure out how to adjust our stride and cadence to trek through mud, water, and up and down hills with ease. Through trial and error, we adapt, figuring out the best ways to move our feet according to real-time situations. And we can do this while toting a variety of objects, either in our hands or on our backs.It’s tough to program robots to make instantaneous adjustments to their legs and feet to accommodate such a variety of tasks, mainly because it’s hard to train themto deal with corner cases, or objects and environments they’ve never seen before….

(16) CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN. Sure, that’s easy for you to say. According to Gizmodo, “Neutron Stars Have Mountains That Are Less Than a Millimeter Tall” but that would be one big step even for Barlennan.

A team of astrophysicists recently used new models of neutron stars to map the mountains—tiny raised areas—on the stars’ otherwise perfectly spherical structures. They found that the greatest deviations were still extraordinarily small due to the intense gravitational pull, clocking in at less than a millimeter tall.

Neutron stars are the dead cores of once-huge stars that collapsed in on themselves. They are the densest objects in the Universe aside from black holes. They’re called neutron stars because their gravity is so intense that the electrons in their atoms collapse into the protons, forming neutrons. They’re so compact that they pack a mass greater than that of our Sun into a sphere no wider than a city.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival, Creature Features and La-La Land Entertainment present a virtual panel celebrating the 30th anniversary of Arachnophobia with director Frank Marshall and special guests.

Recorded in November 2020, moderator Mike Matessino hosts a lively and informative discussion with ARACHNOPHOBIA’s director / executive producer Frank Marshall, co-producer Richard Vane, actor Peter Jason, production designer James Bissell and entomologist Steve Kutcher.

No stranger to delighting audiences worldwide for decades, Mr. Marshall, producer of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, POLTERGEIST and JURASSIC WORLD, made his directorial debut with ARACHNOPHOBIA in 1990, bringing rapt audiences to the edge of their seats with laughter and shrieks in equal measure. The film has remained a beloved fan favorite to this day and its appreciation continues to grow as it connects with a new generation. Now, Mr. Marshall and special guests take you behind the film, its production, and its astounding spider effects and action!

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, Joel Zakem, James Davis Nicoll, David K.M. Klaus, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day David Shallcross.]

Pixel Scroll 7/2/21 Fun Fact. -40 Pixels Are The Same Amount Of Scrolls In Both Celsius And Fahrenheit

(1) BOOMING BOX OFFICE. The Hollywood Reporter marks the coming Fourth of July with a chronicle about the making of a blockbuster that was released 25 years ago on this holiday weekend: “’You Can’t Actually Blow Up the White House’: An Oral History of ‘Independence Day’”

…Director Roland Emmerich, writer Dean Devlin and stars Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Vivica A. Fox, Randy Quaid and more look back at the battle to cast Will Smith, concerns over that famous Super Bowl ad, and a last-minute reshoot to save the ending.

DEVLIN The one character we had in our mind from day one was Jeff Goldblum. As we were working on the script, I would do my Jeff Goldblum imitation. Then we were basing his father [Judd Hirsch’s Julius] off of my grandfather, who was also named Julius.

EMMERICH Ethan Hawke was on our list too, but I thought at that time he was too young. It was pretty clear it had to be Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. That was the combo we thought. The studio said, “No, we don’t like Will Smith. He’s unproven. He doesn’t work in international [markets].”

DEVLIN They said, “You cast a Black guy in this part, you’re going to kill foreign [box office].” Our argument was, “Well, the movie is about space aliens. It’s going to do fine foreign.” It was a big war, and Roland really stood up for [Smith] — and we ultimately won that war.

EMMERICH It was pretty shortly before the shoot and we still hadn’t locked in Will and Jeff. I put my foot down. “Universal people are calling every day, so give me these two actors or I move over there.” I don’t think it would have been a possibility [to actually move studios], but it was a great threat….

DEVLIN One of the things we had very early on was the idea of blowing up the White House in a TV ad. 

EMMERICH It was very controversial. I had this idea that the ad is: the second of July, you see the shadows; third of July, you have the fire coming through; Fourth of July, the White House explodes. It was such a simple concept, and Fox hated it.

DEVLIN “You can’t actually blow up the White House in a TV spot.” Roland said, “Why?” And [Fox] said, “Well, because what happened in Oklahoma [City, where on April 19, 1995, anti-government extremists detonated a bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing over 150]. It could be seen as insensitive.” And I said, “Yeah, but that wasn’t done by space aliens.”

EMMERICH I said, “We’ll test it: once with the White House, and once without.” [Fox exec] liked it so much when they saw the test result, they decided — in a very smart and clever move — that they would put this as the first commercial on the Super Bowl….

(2) NEW CHINA SF NEWS MONTHLY COMING. Regina Kanyu Wang signal-boosted plans to publish the “World Science Fiction Bulletin” in China, and called upon the science fiction community to help in “gathering clues about the latest news in world SF!”

Please fill in the Google Docs form to provide information:

This form is to gather information for “World Science Fiction Bulletin”, a monthly mini-magazine to introduce the latest science fiction news to Chinese readers. The mini-magazine will be published in Chinese in both paper and e-version, and will be compiled into an annual anthology at the end of a year.

It is a great chance to showcase what SF-related events happening in your own country/region, what are being published/broadcast, and what the fans love. It will serve as a window for the Chinese fans to learn about SF all over the world, as well as a platform for future communication and opportunities like publishing/visiting China.

We are looking for three kinds of information (which should happen in the year 2021):

1. Latest news in SF (conventions, awards, important publications, and etc.)

2. Important works (fictions/non-fictions, movies, TV series, comics, games, and etc.)

3. Regular information provider/writer (who would like to constantly join the project, communicate more with Chinese SF community, and even write articles for the project – the writing language should be in English and there will be payment.)

You may fill in the form multiple times. Thank you so much for your support and please feel free to spread the form as widely as possible!

(3) ALL ABOUT THE BOOKS. In “6 Books with Cat Rambo”, Paul Weimer takes the author through Nerds of a Feather’s standard questions, including –

 1. What book are you currently reading? 

I just started Devices and Desires by K.J. Parker, book one of a fantasy (ish) trilogy. I’m enjoying it because it talks about one of my favorite things, the economics of a world, and how trade and other market forces drive civilizations.  No magic whatsoever! But lots of lovely details and interesting characters, and a slow-burning epistolary romance. I love fantasy that thinks about the economics of things because it feels so much better thought out than some of the cartoonier books.

(4) THE ANSWER IS… Camestros Felapton, in “Debarkle Chapter 45 – The Reviews (April to July)”, provides an overview of the efforts to review the slated finalists on the 2015 Hugo ballot.

…As leader of the Sad Puppies 3 campaign, Brad Torgersen had appealed to critics of his slate to read the works nominated and evaluate them fairly. Proponents of the No Award Strategy argued that the impact of slate voting (particularly from the Rabid Puppy campaign) meant that even a reasonable works was compromised as a finalist by the Puppy slates. In those categories where there was a single non-slated finalist (such as Best Fan Writer and Best Novelette) even the non-slated finalist was competing against a field that many fans regarded as illegitimate.

A pertinent question then was whether the 2015 finalists were any good….

(5) THE INSIDE STORY. Sarah Chorn discusses “Writing with an Emotional Landscape” at Bookworm Blues.

The other day, my parents came to visit. My dad and I were talking and he asked, “What are your books known for?” I thought about it for a minute and then said, “I’m pretty sure I’m known for writing with emotional intensity.” My dad laughed and said, “You’ve always been pretty emotionally intense.”

I have been, I know that. I have often experienced and interpreted the world through a kaleidoscope of emotions. When I have a story idea, it’s not the situation that interests me as much as the emotions that get all tangled up in these moments. It’s that tangled emotional web I like to explore. I tend to think the character’s inner journey is just as important, if not more so, than the story itself. I’m one of those people who likes it when authors make me cry. That’s when the book stops being something I’m reading, and starts being something I am living….

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman hopes listeners will dig into dolmades with agent extraordinaire Joshua Bilmes on episode 148 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Joshua Bilmes

My guest this time around — for my first face-to-face-in-restaurant meal in 466 days — is agent Joshua Bilmes, and the reason we were able to get together is because I learned — back when we chatted before our panel on “Using Writing Prompts and Exercises Effectively” during the virtual Balticon — that he was going to be visiting nearby. We decided to meet for lunch at Rockville, Maryland’s Mykonos Grill, which Washington Post food writer Tom Sietsema included at the end of May, on his list of “7 Favorite Places to Eat Right Now.”

Joshua Bilmes is the President of JABberwocky Literary Agency, which he founded in 1994. He began his agenting career at the famed Scott Meredith Literary Agency in 1986. His best-selling clients include Brandon Sanderson (whose fantasy novels have sold more than 18 million copies), Charlaine Harris (one of the rare authors whose writing has inspired three different television shows), Peter V. Brett (whose Demon Cycle series has sold more than 3.5 million books), and many others. I’ve lost count of the number of convention panels Joshua has been on with me in addition to the one I mentioned earlier, everything from “There is No Finish Line: Momentum for Writers” to “How to Self-Edit That Lousy First Draft” to “How to Incorporate Critique” — further proof he definitely has a handle on the way the writing and publishing work.

We discussed how the COVID-19 lockdown impacted the publishing industry, what he learned by visiting 238 Borders bookstores, the offer he’s made to bookstore employees he’s surprised has never been taken up, how writing letters to Analog led to his career as an agent, what life was like at the famed Scott Meredith literary agency, the fact which had he but known he might not have gone out on his own as an agent, why he’s had to redefine what “pleasure” means, what he has to say to people who think they don’t need agents, the sixth sense he possesses which helps him choose new clients, and much more.

(7) NAMES TO RECKON WITH. Archaic Media poses “10 Questions for Jack Dann”.

Was the New Wave SF influential to you?

Well, I would have to give that question an emphatic ‘yes’, especially as I was fortunate enough to be a part of the movement, although, along with writers such as Gardner Dozois, George Alec Effinger, Michael Bishop, Ed Bryant, John Shirley, A. A. Attanasio, I came in towards the end. Writers such as J. G. Ballard, Joanna Russ, Brian Aldiss, Samuel Delany, Bob Silverberg, Kate Wilhelm, Carol Emshwiller, Harlan, Tom Disch, Roger Zelazny, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Michael Moorcock, to name but a few off the top of my head, influenced my writing.

I began publishing in Bob Silverberg’s New Dimensions series, Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds, and Damon Knight’s Orbit series. I sold a story to Harlan’s ill-fated Last Dangerous Visions, met other writers at Damon and Kate’s continuous New Wave literary soiree at their old mansion called The Anchorage in Milford, Pennsylvania; and remember with joy and nostalgia what it felt like to be part of a literary zeitgeist.

(8) HWA PRIDE. An “Interview with Norman Prentiss” is the latest “Point of Pride” from the Horror Writers Association Blog.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

Horror stories always struck me as sardonic fun, and a good fit for my morbid sense of humor. The genre offers a great introduction to storytelling, since pace and atmosphere are so important, and the surprise endings of so many Twilight Zone or EC Comics-style stories made me think like a writer, trying to guess where a story was headed.

Later in life I realized my youthful attraction to horror also connected to my awkward, mostly-repressed queer identity. The protagonists of horror stories might be bookish nerds, loners, outsiders. And the monsters, too (well, maybe not the bookish part, except for Shelley’s creature). That idea of otherness resonates with a lot of gay youth, I think, especially when I was growing up.

(9) TINGLE TALK. The Vox article about Isabel Fall’s story prompted Chuck Tingle to make extended comments on Twitter. Thread starts here.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • July 2, 1939 – On this day in 1939, the first Worldcon convenes in New York, and continues through July 4. Attendance was reported at being around two hundred. It was held in the Caravan Hall in New York at the same time as the New York World’s Fair was going on and the latter was themed as The World of Tomorrow. The Guest of Honor was Frank R. Paul and the con was chaired by Sam Moskowitz. It called itself the World Science Fiction Convention, and has subsequently been called Nycon I and the 1939 Worldcon.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 2, 1908 — Rip Van Ronkel. Screenwriter who won a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at The Millennium Philcon for Destination Moon. He also produced the earlier Destination Space movie for television, andwrote the screenplay for The Bamboo Saucer. And no, I’ve no idea what the latter is. (Died 1965.)
  • Born July 2, 1914 — Hannes Bok. He’s a writer, artist and illustrator created nearly one hundred fifty covers for various detective, fantasy and sf fiction magazines. He shared one of the inaugural 1953 Hugo Awards for science fiction achievement for Best Cover Artist with Ed Emshwiller.  He also wrote a handful of novels, the best known being The Sorcerer’s Ship, The Blue Flamingo and Beyond the Golden Stair. (Died 1964.)
  • Born July 2, 1927 — Brock Peters. His first genre role is in Soylent Green as Lieutenant Hatcher, and he’ll follow that up by being in The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country as Fleet Admiral Cartwright, and notably he voiced Lucius Fox in Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 2005.)
  • Born July 2, 1931 — Robert Ito, 90. Though you’ll best remember him as being in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as Professor Hikita, his first genre role was actually an uncredited role in Get Smart!, the first of a lot of genre roles including, but not limited to,  Women of the Prehistoric PlanetSoylent GreenRoller BallThe Terminal ManStar Trek: The Next GenerationStar Trek: The Next Generation and more voice work than I can possibly list here though he had a long recurring role as The Mandarin on Iron Man.
  • Born July 2, 1948 — Saul Rubinek, 73. Primarily of interest for being on Warehouse 13  as Artie Nielsen, though he has worked rather often on genre series and films including EurekaMasters of HorrorPerson of InterestBeauty & the BeastStargate SG-1The Outer Limits and Star Trek: The Next GenerationMemory Run and Death Ship seem to be his only genre films. His latest genre role is in For all Mankind as Rep. Charles Sandman in their “He Built the Saturn V“ episode. 
  • Born July 2, 1950 — Stephen R. Lawhead, 71. I personally think that The Pendragon Cycle is by far his best work though the King Raven Trilogy with its revisionist take on Robin Hood is intriguing. And I read the first two books in the Bright Empires series which are also very much worth reading. 
  • Born July 2, 1956 — Kay Kenyon, 63. Writer of the truly awesome The Entire and the Rose series which I enjoyed immensely as a listening experience a few years back. I’ve not read her Dark Talents series, so opinions please. And she was nominated for three Endeavour Awards which is very impressive. 
  • Born July 2, 1970 — Yancy Butler, 51. Detective Sara Pezzini on the  Witchblade series which would’ve been awesome with current CGI. She was later Avedon Hammond in Ravager, Captain Kate Roebuck in Doomsday Man, Angie D’Amico in Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, Reba in Lake Placid 3 and Lake Placid: The Final Chapter, Officer Hart in Hansel & Gretel Get Baked (also known as Black Forest: Hansel and Gretel and the 420 Witch) (given the latter, a career low for her) and Alexis Hamilton in Death Race 2050. Series work other than Witchblade wasa recurring role as Sgt. Eve Edison in Mann & Machine inher first genre role. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SURVIVOR. Elizabeth Bear has posted the video of “AHSS Presents a conversation with Elizabeth Bear ‘How to Survive a Literary Life’” on YouTube.

There’s a lot of information out there on how to perfect your work and seek publication. There’s not as much about how to deal with the stresses of writing for a living—inconsistent income streams, uncertainty, arbitrariness of the market, mental health issues, public exposure, professional jealousy, exploitative contracts, and more.

(14) CAN THIS BE PLAYED FOR MONEY? BBC World Service’s Business Daily asks “How would we trade with aliens?” – audio at BBC Sounds.

A US government report on UFOs has said there was no clear explanation for the unidentified aircraft, but did not rule out extra-terrestrial origin. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested into searching for signs of alien intelligence. 

Ed Butler speaks to Lisa Kaltenegger, an astronomer at Cornell University, who has analysed the closest, most likely planets to support alien life. If, or when, we do make contact what could we trade with our new neighbours? 

David Brin, a science fiction writer and astro-physicist says our culture would be the most easily exchanged aspect of our civilisation. 

And what about making money on Earth from the continued interest in aliens? Juanita Jennings is the public affairs director for the town of Roswell, New Mexico, site of the most famous UFO sighting. 

(15) GAMES THAT ARE GOOD FOR YOU. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the June 30 Financial Times, Tom Faber, reports from the E3 trade show about Wholesome Games, which creator Matthew Taylor says specializes in “Uplifting and thoughtful” games.

‘Wholesome’ refers to a tone rather than a gameplay genre.  Most examples are brightly colored with charming characters and storylines that eschew saving the world in favour of more mundane goals:  cooking, farming, hiking, fishing, looking after a pet.  Instead of gamifying lust and punishing failure, wholesome games often elicit empathy and kindness via a more positive mechanic sometimes known as ‘friend and befriend.’

A sample from this year’s Wholesome Direct showcase includes games where you can play a farming cat, a skateboarding pigeon, or, approaching wholesomeness terminal velocity, a cafe owner brewing artisan tea–for cats.

(16) FOLLOW THE MONEY. “The ‘Metaverse’ is growing. And now you can directly invest in it” reports the Washington Post.

… “Like the mobile Internet and the fixed-line Internet before it, the Metaverse will transform nearly every industry and involve the creation of countless new businesses,” said Matthew Ball, managing partner of venture firm EpyllionCo. Ball, along with his group, created the index and has written influential essays on the ongoing evolution of the Metaverse.

Joining Ball on the ETF’s council are: Jerry Heinz, former head of enterprise cloud services at Nvidia; Jacob Navok, co-founder and chief executive of Genvid Technologies; Jesse Walden, managing partner of Variant Fund; Jonathan Glick, former New York Times senior vice president of product and technology; Anna Sweet, chief executive of Bad Robot Games; and Imran Sarwar, formerly from Rockstar North where, among other projects, he worked as co-producer and designer of “Red Dead Redemption 2” and “Grand Theft Auto Online,” the most profitable entertainment product ever made.

… But the Metaverse is more than just a game that incorporates other companies’ intellectual property. Instead, it’s an Internet where people will more tangibly replicate many common aspects of real world life, including socialization, commerce and entertainment.

Ball has written several essays in recent years that popularized observations on the Metaverse. As part of the fund, Ball is writing an additional series of essays that establish the framework of the Metaverse, and how to think of it.

Just as the iPhone or Facebook can’t be called the Internet, neither can one video game — whether it’s “Fortnite” or “Roblox” — can be referred to as the Metaverse, Ball said. But video games help widespread acclimation and understanding of how a Metaverse can operate. Ball writes in his essay detailing the slow but steady industrial adoption of electricity, and compared it to the rise of the mobile Internet and the factors that led to the groundbreaking invention of the iPhone….

(17) BLUE YONDER. In the Washington Post, Taylor Telford profiles Wally Funk, 82, who was one of 13 women selected for the Mercury program but will go to space for the first time on Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin rocket along with Bezons, Mark Bezos, and one lucky raffle winner. “Wally Funk was supposed to go to space 60 years ago. Now she’s going with Jeff Bezos.”

.. Blue Origin has said travelers must be able to endure three times the force of gravity for two minutes on ascent and 5½ times the force of gravity for a few seconds on the way down. Participants must be between 5 feet and 6-feet-4-inches tall and weigh between 110 and 223 pounds. As a young girl, Funk used to jump off the roof of her parents’ barn in a Superman cape, pretending to fly. She loved to build model planes and ships, became an “expert marksman” at 14 and skied competitively for the United States in slalom and downhill races. She has been flying since 1957. She is also an antique car enthusiast and “avid zipliner,” according to her website.

When NASA finally opened its programs to women in 1976, Funk applied three times and received three rejections. But she has never been the type to let anything stand in her way, she says in the video.

“I like to do things that nobody has ever done,” Funk said….

(18) TRIVIAL TRIVIA COURTESY OF PHIL NICHOLS. [Item by John King Tarpinian.] A  frame from Truffaut’s 1968 film Stolen Kisses (Baisers volés). Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) returns to his apartment, and the first thing he does is take down this red toy car emblazoned with the salamander logo from Fahrenheit 451. One of many cross-references between Truffaut films!

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Merman meets mustached characters – and more! Honest Trailers’ fills you in about Pixar’s Luca.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/7/21 Scroll Up The Usual Pixels

(1) THE PLAY’S THE THING. “’Game of Thrones’ Broadway show to be written by George R.R. Martin”CNBC has the story. I know there’s an obligatory comment expected here, but personally I’m glad there are things he wants to write.

The author behind the mega-hit “A Song of Ice and Fire” book series, which was the basis for HBO’s Emmy Award-winning series “Game of Thrones,” is now writing a script for a play based in the fantasy world of Westeros.

The Hollywood Reporter said Tuesday that the play will center around the Great Tourney at Harrenhal and debut in New York, London and Australia in 2023. Martin will work with playwright Duncan Macmillan (“1984”) and theater director Dominic Cooke on the project.

The Great Tourney at Harrenhal is an important historical event in the world of Westeros. Occurring 16 years before the events of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” the contest took place over 10 days and included tournaments of jousting, archery and combat. It is also the place where Prince Rhaegar Targaryen created a nationwide scandal for dedicating his victory to Lyanna Stark instead of his wife. This decision led to Robert’s Rebellion and the Targaryens being overthrown….

(2) AUSTRALASIAN HORROR Q&A. The Redback Room is an initiative of the Australasian Horror Writers Association. Every two months, host Kyla Lee Ward will interview two horror writers from Australasia – emerging or established. In Redback Room Episode 1, Kyla talks to Australia’s most awarded horror writer, Kaaron Warren, and award-winning writer and president of the AHWA, Alan Baxter.

(3) POPULAR CREATED LANGUAGES. “League of languages” helps attract attention to what is probably a marketing site for language tutoring with its articles and statistics about fictional languages – for example, Elvish and Klingon:

For decades, fantasy and sci-fi have dominated our screens and books. To fully immerse a viewer into a fictional world, language is one of the commonly used tricks to give a sense of realness.

Typically, most films and TV shows will speak gibberish or simply create just a few words or phrases that are featured in a scene. However, some of these fictional languages have evolved into fully developed languages that can be learnt and used during coherent conversations.

We analysed the top 5 most popular fictional languages and compared speakers, learners, inspirations and word count to find out which fantasy world has the best made-up language.

So whether you’re looking for a new hobby, to feel part of a fandom or simply want to know more about linguistics from your favourite film or TV show, read our guide on the most popular fictional languages.

I wondered if this is really true, though:

Key Facts:

  • More people speak Elvish than Irish.

(4) TRADPUB HORROR. Entertainment Weekly has a conversation with “Zakiya Dalila Harris on her novel The Other Black Girl”.

Three years ago, Zakiya Dalila Harris was an assistant editor at Knopf Doubleday Publishing. Now, she’s the author of a novel that garnered a seven-figure book contract (after a 14-bidder auction) and an adaptation deal at Hulu. The Other Black Girl is best described as The Devil Wears Prada meets Get Out, with a little bit of Black Mirror thrown in. It follows Nella, a book-publishing assistant who clashes with the only other Black employee in her department. As things escalate (like anonymous threatening notes left on Nella’s desk), she begins to suspect there’s something more sinister behind their professional competition. Here, Harris, 28, offers up her process — and it’s anything but beginner’s luck.

Did you feel pressure to write a happy ending?

I definitely didn’t want a happy ending. I was really inspired by Night of the Living Dead; I love endings that are frustrating or nerve-racking. I think I subconsciously wanted to drive home the pressures that Black people are under in corporate America — I didn’t want any of the characters to be able to get out of their situations easily, because that would just reinforce the notion that it’s on Black folks to resist the system, instead of on white folks to change the system.

(5) BOXING MATCH. Io9 is shocked, I tell you, by news of “Loki Charms: Marvel’s Limited Edition Cereal Disney+ Tie-In”.

Loki has done some horrible things in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including murdering Phil Coulson and leading an alien invasion of Earth in which countless people died. But now the Norse god of mischief has gained control of Lucky Charms cereal, and this crime is beyond the pale….

(6) DON’T DO THE CRIME IF YOU CAN’T DO THE TIME. Meanwhile, let Vanity Fair tell you everything they know about the series: “’Loki’: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Marvel’s New Show”.

Where Is Loki? This is where things get a little complicated but also pretty fun. The Loki series is set inside the world of something called the TVA, or Time Variance Authority. Don’t worry even a little bit if you feel confused here; the Loki premiere spends plenty of time explaining the rules and regulations of this place.

Here, though, are the basics: The TVA is a futuristic bureaucratic organization tasked with cleaning up messy timeline shenanigans due to the aforementioned time travel. In the MCU, when a timeline is messed with, that timeline splits off into its own reality. As you might imagine, this makes things complicated. Loki escaping from a 2012 film a full six years before his date with death in 2018? Messy. In other words, Loki enters the show, and the TVA, as a time criminal. (Fun, right?) The TVA was created in the future, but it exists outside of time. But I’m not sure you really need to worry about that yet. 

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1974 — At DisCon II where the Toastmaster was andrew j. offutt,  Arthur C. Clarke wins a Hugo for Rendezvous With Rama. (It also won a Campbell, Locus and Nebula.) It was published first in Galaxy (the September/ October 1973 issue) and had its first hardcover printing by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973.  Other nominated works that year were Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein, Protector by Larry Niven, The People of the Wind by Poul Anderson and The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 7, 1844 – Robert Milne.  Rediscovered by Sam Moskowitz, who helped collect RM’s stories for Into the Sun.  Eleven there; fifty more not yet reprinted, e.g. “The Great Electric Diaphragm”, “A Dip into the Doings of the Four-Dimensional World”, “What the Great Instrument in the Lick Observatory Observed”.  Even I found the Into the Sun stories and four more here.  (Died 1899) [JH]
  • Born June 7, 1932 – Kit Reed.  Sixteen novels for us, a hundred forty shorter stories; fourteen other novels.  First published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction under Boucher.  Guggenheim Fellow.  Called herself a trans-genred writer.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born June 7, 1946 – Jon White.  Fanziner and bookseller.  Revived Inside in 1962, brought in Leland Sapiro who renamed it Riverside Quarterly (after a famous dwelling in New York).  Here is the front cover by Atom (Arthur Thomson) for vol. 1 no. 2.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • Born June 7, 1949 – Real Musgrave, age 72.  Graphic artist who has maintained a fannish connection.  Artist Guest of Honor at Westercon XLI (here (PDF) is its Program Book); exhibited at Magicon the 50th Worldcon.  Here is a cover for Fantasy Review.  Pocket Dragons, done as drawings, figurines, animated television series.  Brother of astronaut Story Musgrave.  [JH]
  • Born June 7, 1952 — Liam Neeson, 69. He first shows up in genre films as Gawain in Excalibur and as Kegan in Krull. He plays Martin Brogan In High Spirits, a film I enjoy immensely. Next up is the title role in Darkman, a film I’ve watched myriad times. He’s Dr. David Marrow In The Haunting which I’d contend is loosely off of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Now we get him as Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace. Followed unfortunately by his horrid take as Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins and as a cameo in the The Dark Knight RisesNow he voiced Aslan with amazing dignity in The Chronicles of Narnia franchise and I hope voiced Zeus as well in the Titans franchise. (CE) 
  • Born June 7, 1954 – Louise Erdrich, age 67.  In the first class of women admitted to Dartmouth (A.B., English; later, honorary Litt. D. and Commencement speaker).  Member of Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians; her grandfather was tribal chief.  Nat’l Book Award for Fiction, Lib. Cong. Prize for Amer. Fiction, Amer. Acad. Poets Prize, Pushcart Prize.  Love Medicine, only début novel to win the Nat’l Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.  Children’s books; Scott O’Dell Award for The Game of Silence.  World Fantasy Award for The Antelope Wife; three more novels in our field; interviewed in Lightspeed.  [JH]
  • Born June 7, 1968 — Sarah Parish, 53, In “The Runaway Bride“, a Tenth Doctor story, she got to play, with the assistance of extensive CGI, one of the nastiest Who villains to date, The Empress of the Racnoss, an oversized vicious spider with a human face. Great episode. It’s our introduction to Donna Noble, his Companion for quite some time to come. In a much lighter role, she played Pasiphaë on BBC’s Atlantis series. (CE)
  • Born June 7, 1969 — Anthony Simcoe, 52, Ka D’Argo in  Farscape, one of the best SF series ever done. If you don’t watch anything else, just watch the finale, The Peacekeeper Wars as it’s reasonably self-contained. Farscape is the only SF he did. If you can find a copy, Matt Bacon’s No Strings Attached: The Inside Story of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, it is a wonderful look at the creation of the creatures on the show including D’Argo facial appendages. (CE) 
  • Born June 7, 1972 — Karl Urban, 49. He’s in the second and third installments of The Lord of the Rings trilogy as Éomer. He has was McCoy in the Trek reboot franchise, Cupid on Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, John Kennex on Almost Human, Vaako in the Riddick film franchise, and Judge Dredd in Dredd. For the record, I liked both Dredd films for different reasons. (CE) 
  • Born June 7, 1974 — David Filoni, 47. Creator and an executive producer on Star Wars Rebels, a most awesome series, for all four seasons, and was supervising director and a writer on another excellent series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. (I like the animated series far better than the live action films.) He makes his live acting debut in The Mandalorian playing Trapper Wolf, an X-Wing pilot, in “The Prisoner” episode. It’s also worth noting that he his first job was directing episodes during the first season of animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender (CE)  
  • Born June 7, 1979 — Anna Torv, 42. She’s best known for her role as FBI agent Olivia Dunham on Fringe. She also played an ITU nurse in Frankenstein, a modern adaptation of that novel. She voiced the lead of Nariko in the animated Heavenly Sword film based off the game of the same name. (CE) 
  • Born June 7, 1990 – Adam Silvera, age 31. Four novels for us, a shorter story; three other novels.  Two NY Times Best-Sellers.  Has read While Mortals SleepAnimal FarmKnow the Past, Find the Future (NY Public Lib’y centennial); The Little PrinceThe Magic Shop (Wells); The Phantom TollboothFahrenheit 451.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Grant Snider of Incidental Comics depicts his inner critic.

(10) STOP THE PRESSES! Or at least slow them down a little: “’Paddington 2’ Loses Top Movie Honor Due to New Bad Review” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but Paddington 2 has lost its recently obtained honor as the best movie of all time according to Rotten Tomatoes’ freshness ratings.

You’ll recall the headlines last month when Citizen Kane lost its decades-long 100 percent rating on the critic aggregation site due to a newly discovered negative review from 1941. The disruption caused fans to declare 2018’s much-beloved Paddington 2 as the new best film since it now had the most reviews of any title that also had a 100 percent rating.

Now, there’s been another update that changes all that.

A new review has knocked Paddington down a branch — to a 99 percent scoreThe review was from Film Authority and critic Eddie Harrison, who seemed to know precisely what he was doing, somewhat defensively noting, “I reviewed Paddington 2 negatively for BBC radio on release in 2017, and on multiple occasions after that, and I stand by every word of my criticism.”

(11) CATCHING HELL. Calgary author Marc Watson, who has been published on flash fiction site www.101words.org, as well as comedy site www.thecorrectness.com, begins a new fantasy series with Catching Hell Part 1: Journey.

In the distant future, two young men are thrust into unknown worlds—worlds they were raised to fear.

Aryu, the Boy with Wings, enters a realm where magic rules. Guided by the conflicted phoenix Nixon Ash, a creature sent to kill him, Aryu must confront the powerful, immortal Embracers and the balance of Everything and Nothing they inhabit. Meanwhile, Johan navigates a futuristic world, seeking a means to defeat the robotic Army of the Old destructively marching across their homeland, and reunite with his best friend.

(12) WHEN IN ROME. This vending machine will turn out a pizza in the time it takes to soft-boil an egg:

It is barely a few square meters large, just enough space for three vending machines side by side. In via Catania 2, in Rome, the first store for automatic express pizza was opened. Four flavors to select from: margherita, spicy salami, bacon and four cheeses; three minutes of waiting, which can be [whiled away] by following the different stages of preparation, and that’s it.

(13) LIQUID REFRESHMENT. What could sound more out of this world than a drink called Unicorn Tears– MAD TASTY – and for $30 for a six-pack, it’ll have to do a lot to live up to that name.

Unicorn Tears is an exotic and mysterious blend of natural fruit flavors that is delightful on the nose and refreshing for the brain. Expand your bandwidth to conquer your day with this magical elixir.

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(14) JDA STAGES TRIUMPHAL PARADE ON THE INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY. Jon Del Arroz threw up a couple more videos today, one of them featuring comments by his lawyer Peter Sean Bradley. He had 42 viewers at peak — that was it. 

If somebody else’s blog was involved it would have been funny, So much of his screentime was meaninglessly devoted to displaying my post about the Nebula winners while he blathered in audio, then lovingly reviewed 770’s comments about his settlement. How did his lawyer get a word in edgewise?

Richard Fox also dropped in to demonstrate his solidarity with JDA’s ideas about racism:

And to horn in on JDA’s publicity by repeating his own lies about this blog (see “Perjury, Not Piracy Is The Problem”).

(15) BEZOS in SPAAAAAAAACE!The Washington Post reports “Jeff Bezos is going to space on Blue Origin’s first crewed spaceflight in July”.

A couple of weeks after Jeff Bezos officially steps down as CEO of Amazon, he’ll leap into something more mythic: riding to the edge ofspace aboard one of his own rockets, alongside his brother, in a flight that would fulfill a lifelong dream.

The plan is that Bezos, his brother, Mark, and the winner of an online auction for Blue Origin’s nonprofit foundation will be on the New Shepard on July 20 when it lifts off for a suborbital flight, the first time the spacecraft will carry passengers. The date is the anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.The flight will mark a significant milestone for Blue Origin, which lags behind Elon Musk’s SpaceX in the competition for billions of dollars in NASA and Pentagon contracts and which flies a more powerful rocket capable of taking people and supplies into orbit….

Daniel Dern comments:

One wonders whether nobody in this loop has read the last (third?) of Heinlein’s The Man Who Sold The Moon (and/or the shorter followup, Requiem), where Delos D Harriman is prohibited from flying, due to a mix of health, insurance, (avoiding bad) publicity, etc.

One wonders whether his life insurance premiums are taking a brief spike. Yeah, he can afford them.

If nothing else, I’d love to see him at the launch site buying flight insurance. (I’m sure somebody will do, or already has, a video of this.)

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean shows that, like other fourth films in franchises, the film practices “self-plagiarism, where the film goes through moments” people liked in the first three movies.  There’s also “hyper-specific magic with very vague backgrounds,” so there’s a great deal about the power of fresh mermaids’ tears (old ones won’t work) just to bring mermaids into the movie.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/30/20 A File And Scroll Reunion Is Only A Pixel Away

(1) CATS TRIUMPHANT. Naomi Kritzer has had a big week. Her YA novel Catfishing on Catnet won an Edgar Award today, and won a  Minnesota Book Award on Tuesday. Here’s an excerpt of the Q&A she did for the St. Paul Library:

How does it feel to be a Minnesota Book Award finalist?

It is a huge honor and feels amazing!

Tell us something about your finalist book that you want readers to know?

It is loosely based on my (Hugo Award-winning) short story Cat Pictures Please, which you can still find online:

Share something about your writing process and preferences. For instance, where is your favorite place to write?

When I’m outlining or brainstorming, I use a notebook of unlined paper, like a sketch diary. I like to write in my sunny living room but discovered at some point that the ergonomics of a couch, hassock, and lap desk will lead quickly to back problems, so I usually write at a desk in my home office.

(2) BOOKSTORE LOVE. LitHub tells the world “Now you can use your favorite indie bookstore as your Zoom background.” Like this shot of Vroman’s – where John King Tarpinian and I got John Scalzi to sign our copies of The Collapsing Empire a few years ago. The complete list of bookstores with notes on each one can be found on the Lookout + Ecotone blog.

(3) INGENIOUS. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand blog gives a good rundown of Alison Scott’s plans for “The Virtual GUFF Tour”, since she can’t travel there in person this year. It’s an effort completely worthy of a former editor of the fanzine Plokta, “The journal of superfluous technology.” 

Alison Scott is the recently elected European GUFF delegate. The plan was for the winning delegate to travel down under to meet local fans and addend the 2020 Worldcon – CoNZealand. Of course because of you-know-what the borders are closed and CoNZealand has gone virtual. But Alison appears undaunted – she now plans to take a virtual tour of Australasia visiting Australian and New Zealand places and fans before attending the virtual worldcon. There will be a proper itinerary mimicking a physical journey and Alison even plans to adhere to the local timezones (yay jetlag!). You can read more about her plans and follow her progress over on the facebook group dedicated to the trip.

(4) RAMPING UP TO THE APOCALYPSE. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society has completed the ADA compliant ramp in front of their building. The January 20 Pixel Scroll ran details about the permits coming through. Club President Dale S. Arnold said today –

Although the COVID-19 emergency and related closures caused some delays, eventually the weather and logistics worked to allow completion. Many years ago when the plan for renovations to the BSFS Building was announced the author Jack Chalker commented that if a bunch of SF Fans were able to pull off that complex of a plan it would be a sign of the coming apocalypse.  With the completion of this ramp (except final painting the door which was altered in the ramp design) we have now realized the dream from 1991 having completed everything planned when we bought the building.

And BSFS didn’t finish a moment too soon, because the apocalypse appears to be just around the corner.

(5) NOT GENTEEL. Errolwi points out how well today’s Merriam-Webster tweet complements James Davis Nicoll’s famous quote about the English language:

(6) AIMLESS, IF NOT LOST, IN SPACE. And by no coincidence whatsoever, the next item is about James Davis Nicoll’s latest Tor.com post, “Far From Any Star: Five Stories About Rogue Worlds”.

It’s been weeks since you last socialized (in the flesh) with anyone outside your household…or with anyone, if you live alone. Loneliness is tough. But things could be worse: you could be a rogue world, ejected from your home system billions of years ago. You could be a pitiful world formed far from any star. Such worlds are commonplace in our galaxy. They are not quite so common in science fiction. Still, a few of them feature in books that you may have read…

(7) JEMISIN AND GAIMAN. The Fisher Center will present “UPSTREAMING: Neil Gaiman in Conversation with N. K. Jemisin” on May 2 at 7:30 p.m. EST. However, the website says, “Tickets are not currently on sale. Call the box office for more information, 845-758-7900.” So if you’re interested, call.

Join Professor in the Arts Neil Gaiman for a remote, live streamed conversation with Hugo Award-winning author N. K. Jemisin (Broken Earth trilogy), whose new work The City We Became was released in March to great acclaim. The conversation is part of an ongoing Fisher Center series in which Gaiman discusses the creative process with another artist.

(8) LE GUIN IN ’75. Fanac.org has posted a video recording of an Aussiecon (1975) Worldcon panel with Ursula K. Le Guin, Susan Wood and others, “Worlds I Have Discovered.”

AussieCon, the 33rd Worldcon, was held in Melbourne, Australia in 1975. This panel centers on questions to Guest of Honor Ursula Le Guin’s on her writing for young adults (or at least classified as for young adults). The panelists, moderated by Fan Guest of Honor Susan Wood, are Ursula herself, Stella Leeds, Peter Nicholls, Anna Shepherd, and Ann Sydhom. The video quality leaves a lot to be desired, but the discussion on Le Guin’s process of writing, the panel’s views on children’s literature, and children’s literature as a literary ghetto remain interesting and very pertinent. Remember, this was decades before the phenomena of Harry Potter.

Andrew Porter sent the link with this reminder that the same year his Algol Press published Dreams Must Explain Themselves, a 36-page chapbook whose title essay is about how Le Guin got ideas for books.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 30, 1955  — Science Fiction Theatre’s Y.O.R.D. episode first aired. Directed by Leon Benson from a screenplay by him and George Van Marter as based on a story written by Marter and Ivan Tors. Truman Bradley Was The Host and the cast included Walter Kingsford, Edna Miner Louis,  Jean Heydt and DeForest Kelley. The latter would be playing Captain Hall, M.D.  You can watch it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge. Bonus typos provided by OGH.]

  • Born April 30, 1913 Jane Rice. Her first story “The Dream” was published  in the July 1940 issue of Unknown. Amazingly, she’d publish ten stories there during the War. Her only novel Lucy remains lost due to somewhat mysterious circumstances. Much of her short stories are collected in The Idol of the Flies and Other Stories which is not available in digital form. (Died 2003.)
  • Born April 30, 1920 E. F. Bleiler. An editor, bibliographer and scholar of both sff and detective fiction. He’s responsible in the Forties for co-editing the Best SF Stories with T.E. Dikty. They later edited Best Science-Fiction Stories. He also did such valuable reference guides like The Checklist of Fantastic Literature and The Guide to Supernatural Fiction. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 30, 1926 Edmund Cooper. Pulpish writer of space opera not for the easily offended. His The Uncertain Midnight has an interesting take on androids but most of his work is frankly misogynistic. And he was quite prolific with over twenty-four novels and a dozen story collections. A lot of his work is available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1982.)
  • Born April 30, 1934 William Baird Searles. Author and critic. He‘s best remembered  for his long running review work for Asimov’s  where he reviewed books, and Amazing Stories and F&SF where he did film and tv reviews. I’m not familiar with his writings but I’d be interested to know who here has read Reader’s Guide to Science Fiction and Reader’s Guide to Fantasy which he did, as they might be useful to own. (Died 1993.)
  • Born April 30, 1938 Larry Niven, 82. One of my favorite authors to read, be it Ringworld, The Mote in God’s Eye with Jerry Pournelle, or the Rainbow Mars stories which I love in the audiobook version. What’s your favorite Niven story? And yes, I did look up his Hugos. “Neutron Star” was his first at NyCon 3 followed by Ringworld at Noreascon 1 followed by “Inconstant Moon” (lovely story) the following year at L.A. Con I,  “The Hole Man” (which I don’t remember reading) at Aussiecon 1 and finally “The Borderland of Sol” novelette at MidAmericaCon. He’s not won a Hugo since 1976. 
  • Born April 30, 1973 Naomi Novik, 47. She wrote the Temeraire series which runs to nine novels so far. Her first book, His Majesty’s Dragon, won the Astounding Award. She most deservedly won the Nebula Award for Best Novel for Uprooted which is a most excellent read. I’ve not yet her Spinning Silver, so opinions are welcome.
  • Born April 30, Gal Gadot, 34. Wonder Woman of course in the DC film universe. Other genre work, well, other than voicing Shank on Ralph Breaks the Internet, there really isn’t any. She did play Linnet Ridgeway Doyle in the Kenneth Branagh production of Murder on the Orient Express which is quite lovely but hardly genre or even genre adjacent. 

(11) SOUNDTRACK. Steve Vertlieb would like to introduce the world to French film composer, Thibaut Vuillermet.

(12) REVENGE OF THE GRINDHOUSE. SYFY Wire reports ”Trolls World Tour Rocks $100 Million On Vod”.

The decision to skip a theatrical release in the age of coronavirus was a wise move that led to big returns for DreamWorks’ Trolls World Tour

According to The Wall Street Journal, the animated movie has racked up nearly $100 million in the three short weeks since it arrived on VOD and digital platforms Friday, April 10. With approximately 5 million rentals at $19.99 a pop, Universal has generated over $77 million from a digital release model that allows studios to keep an estimated 80 percent of profits. Since the traditional theatrical model relies on a 50-50 kind of split, a film playing in a physical venue has to make a lot more money in order for a studio to turn a profit. 

The real point here is that Trolls Would Tour has brought in more tangible revenue during its first 19 days on demand than the first movie did during five months in theaters.

However, one theater chain intends to punish Universal for their plans to reproduce the success by simultaneously releasing movies in theaters and through video-on-demand, presumably trimming their revenue. The Hollywood Reporter covered the announcement: “AMC Theatres Refuses to Play Universal Films in Wake of ‘Trolls: World Tour'”.

AMC Theatres on Tuesday delivered a blistering message to Universal Pictures, saying the world’s largest cinema chain will no longer play any of the studio’s films in the wake of comments made by NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell regarding the on-demand success of Trolls World Tour and what it means for the future of moviegoing post-coronavirus pandemic….

“The results for Trolls World Tour have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD,” Shell told The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the numbers. “As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.”

In a strongly worded letter to Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley, AMC Theatres chairman and-CEO Adam Aron said Shell’s comments were unacceptable. AMC is the largest circuit in the world.

“It is disappointing to us, but Jeff’s comments as to Universal’s unilateral actions and intentions have left us with no choice. Therefore, effectively immediately AMC will no longer play any Universal movies in any of our theaters in the United States, Europe or the Middle East,” Aron wrote.

“This policy affects any and all Universal movies per se, goes into effect today and as our theaters reopen, and is not some hollow or ill-considered threat,” he continued. “Incidentally, this policy is not aimed solely at Universal out of pique or to be punitive in any way, it also extends to any movie maker who unilaterally abandons current windowing practices absent good faith negotiations between us, so that they as distributor and we as exhibitor both benefit and neither are hurt from such changes….” 

(13) CHICKEN EATER OF THE SEA. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] From the Harvard Gazette: “Water Beast: New paper argues the Spinosaurus was aquatic, and powered by predatory tail”.

New paper argues the Spinosaurus was aquatic, and powered by predatory tail

Back in the Cretaceous period, 145 to 66 million years ago, dinosaurs dominated the land and sky. They also, a new paper argues, terrorized the aquatic realm. Recent fossil evidence has revealed that Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, among the largest of all known carnivorous dinosaurs, was a creature of the water, with a center of gravity and a giant tail fin perfect for swimming. The same paper shares robotic modeling by two Harvard scientists that shows how that large, flexible tail fin — unique among dinosaurs — would have given the giant predator a deadly propulsive thrust in the water, similar to a salamander or crocodile tail.

The paper, “Tail-Propelled Aquatic Propulsion in a Theropod Dinosaur,” in the April 29 issue of Nature, uses new fossil evidence and robotically controlled models created by Harvard co-authors Stephanie E. Pierce and George V. Lauder, professors of organismic and evolutionary biology, to show its power.

Pierce said the new fossils were necessary to make their argument, as much of the fossil evidence of Spinosaurus, unearthed by German paleontologist Ernst Stromer, had been destroyed in World War II. University of Detroit paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim, the Nature paper’s lead author, had located more traces of the dinosaur in Morocco in 2014, and in 2018 he went back, successfully excavating extensive Spinosaurus remains. The fossils included tail vertebrae with meter-long spines that seemed to form an expanded paddle, raising questions as to what the tail was used for.

“The working hypothesis was that Spinosaurus used its tail to swim through water,” said Pierce, Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. Ibrahim and his team reached out to Pierce, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, to test their idea. She was immediately intrigued by the 5-plus-meter-long tail.

Yes, Dave, “Predatory Tail” would be a great name for a band.

(14) YOUR MISSION… “Nasa names companies to develop Moon landers for human missions”

Nasa has chosen the companies that will develop landers to send astronauts to the Moon’s surface in the 2020s.

The White House wants to send the next man and the first woman to the Moon in 2024, to be followed by other missions.

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Alabama-based Dynetics were selected to work on landers under the space agency’s Artemis programme.

The 2024 mission will see astronauts walk on the Moon’s surface for the first time since 1972.

Combined, the contracts are worth $967m (£763m; €877m) and will run for a “base period” of 10 months.

“With these contract awards, America is moving forward with the final step needed to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, including the incredible moment when we will see the first woman set foot on the lunar surface,” said Nasa’s administrator Jim Bridenstine.

“This is the first time since the Apollo era that Nasa has direct funding for a human landing system, and now we have companies on contract to do the work for the Artemis programme.”

(15) RECIPES WITH CHARACTERS. “Need new recipes for quarantine? Pixar’s YouTube channel is here to help”. Entertainment Weekly shares some examples.

As Pixar taught us, anyone can cook… and now the animation studio is giving you something to cook.

The Pixar YouTube channel features a series called “Cooking With Pixar,” a collection of recipes inspired by the studio’s films. At the moment, the series only has three videos, but they should provide some inspiration if you’re in need of something new to cook — which, it’s fair to say, most of us probably are at this point.

(16) YOU’RE MELTING! “Nasa space lasers track melting of Earth’s ice sheets” – BBC has the story.

Scientists have released a new analysis of how the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have changed, from 2003 to 2019.

The study shows that ice losses from melting have outpaced increases in snowfall, resulting in a 14mm rise in global sea-levels over the period.

We’ve had a number of very similar reports to this recently.

What makes this one of interest is that it uses data from the highest-resolution satellite system dedicated to studying the poles – IceSat.

This system flies space lasers over glaciers and other ice fields to track their constantly shifting shape.

The US space agency (Nasa) has now launched two of these altimeter instruments.

The first, IceSat, operated between 2003 and 2009; the second, IceSat-2, was put up in 2018.

Thursday’s report is a first attempt to tie both satellites’ observations together.

(17) BROTHER GUY’S AIR. “Antarctic meteorites yield global bombardment rate”

A team of UK scientists has provided a new estimate for the amount of space rock falling to Earth each year.

It’s in excess of 16,000kg. This is for meteorite material above 50g in mass.

It doesn’t take account of the dust that’s continuously settling on the planet, and of course just occasionally we’ll be hit by a real whopper of an asteroid that will skew the numbers.

But the estimate is said to give a good sense of the general quantity of rocky debris raining down from space.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Horizon on Vimeo is a short film by Armond Dijcks based on images taken by the International Space Station.

[Thanks to Joyce Scrivner, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Errolwi, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]