Pixel Scroll 10/16/21 Escape From Pixel Scroll

(1) SUPERMAN MOTTO CHANGED.  The motto associated with Forties radio Superman, and the George Reeves TV show, and sporadically used since then, has been swapped for something else. The Daily Beast has the story: “DC Comics Changes Superman Motto, Swaps ‘American Way’ With ‘Better Tomorrow’”. Normally one would say “something new”, except this sounds like it was lifted from old GE advertising.

After more than 50 years of upholding “truth, justice, and the American way,” Superman is changing his motto.

The superhero will now stand for “truth, justice, and a better tomorrow,” DC Comics announced during its DC FanDome event Saturday. In a press release, the company said the motto will “better reflect the global storylines that we are telling across DC.”

“Superman has long been a symbol of hope who inspires people from around the world, and it is that optimism and hope that powers him forward with this new mission statement,” Jim Lee, the company’s publisher and chief creative officer, said….

Hard as it is to believe, alt-right Bounding Into Comics does not yet have a post up about the change.

(2) HOLLYWOOD AGREEMENT AVERTS STRIKE. AP reports “Strike dodged with deal between film and TV crews, studios”. Details of the new contracts were not immediately revealed.

An 11th-hour deal was reached Saturday, averting a strike of film and television crews that would have seen some 60,000 behind-the-scenes workers walk off their jobs and would have frozen productions in Hollywood and across the U.S.

After days of marathon negotiations, representatives from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and from the studios and entertainment companies who employ them reached the three-year contract agreement before a Monday strike deadline, avoiding a serious setback for an industry that had just gotten back to work after long pandemic shutdowns.

Jarryd Gonzales, spokesman for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios and other entertainment companies in negotiations, confirmed the agreement to The Associated Press.

The union’s members still must vote to approve the tentative agreement….

(3) THE JURY IS IN. In the “2021 Hugo Short Story Panel of Awesomeness”, Hugos There podcaster Seth Heasley is joined by Cora Buhlert, Ivor Watkins, Alan Bailey, Lise Andreasen, Sarah Elkins, JW Wartick, Lori Anderson, Haley Zapal, and Amy Salley to discuss the 2021 nominees for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story. (The podcast version is here.)

(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to join the marvelous Sam Maggs for drinks on episode 156 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Sam Maggs

This time around, you’ll get to eavesdrop on my chat with Sam Maggs, a writer with whom I share an artistic bond, even though we’re from entirely different generations of comic book creators.

That’s because Sam wrote the adventures of the she/her Captain Marvel in 2019 — 42 years after I wrote about he/him Captain Marvel in 1977. She’s also written comics about Jem and the HologramsRick & MortyMy Little PonyTransformers, and Invader Zim. She’s published pure prose as well, including her first book The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the young adult novel The Unstoppable Wasp: Built on Hope. Her games writing includes Spider-Man: The City that Never Sleeps, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and many others.

We discussed the Stargate SG-1 convention that was her gateway drug for fandom, why her debut comic book story turned out to be a Star Trek tale, the way the arcs of our careers ran in completely opposite directions, what it was like releasing six books during a pandemic, how The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy was born though complete serendipity, the audition that got her the gig to write an Unstoppable Wasp novel, how she dreamed up her pitch for Captain Marvel, and much more.

(5) OFFICE IN THE OBSERVATORY. Brother Guy Consolmagno appears this week in Nature’s “Where I work” feature, including a photo of him peering through an antique telescope.

SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie sent the link, proud to remember Brother Guy is someone with whom he’d in the past (years ago) appeared with on a Worldcon panel:

Paul McAuley, Jonathan Cowie, Br. Guy Consolmagno

(6) RUN THE NEBULA CONFERENCE. SFWA says “We Need You! SFWA is Hiring a Nebula Conference Manager!”. Full guidelines at the link.

The SFWA Nebula CPM would be responsible for all project management activities associated with the annual SFWA Nebula Conference. In 2022, the organization will be offering a hybrid model of the conference, with both an online component and in-person event. The CPM would be leading the entire 2022 Conference, supervising and working closely with the online conference project manager. 

(7) NO HOLDING BACK. Tim Kirk shared Harlan Ellison’s special coffee recipe in a public post on the Harlan Ellison Facebook Fan Club page.

Back in the 1970s I made numerous trips up to Ellison Wonderland. Harlan had asked me to illustrate “The Last Dangerous Visions,” and I spent many Saturdays reading manuscripts in his living room; and I drank many cups of a delicious coffee mixture Harlan had concocted himself: “Cafe’ Ellison Diabolique.” This recipe was published in Anne McCaffrey’s very entertaining collection of recipes by SF and fantasy authors, “Cooking Out of This World” (Ballantine Books 1973). Harlan left out one Mystery Ingredient, which he later revealed to me: Ovaltine. Pictured here is the official Little Orphan Annie Ovaltine Mug that Harlan gave me….

(8) SPEAKEASY. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik says that AI has advanced to the point that instantaneous translation of films is possible leading to a future without dubbing and subtitles. “Every movie and TV show could soon be dubbed into any language you want”.

… Traditional dubbing often works like this. A studio or local distributor, having decided it wants a local-language release, pays to translate a script, hire a set of voice actors to play the characters, rent out engineering equipment, put the actors through numerous voice takes, record them and then splice their readings back into the original video — a mighty grapple to achieve a smooth final product. The whole process can take months.

Auto-dubbing can work like this. The original actor records five minutes of random text in their own language. Then the machines take over: A neural network learns the actor’s voice, a program digests that vocal information and applies it to a digital translation of the script, then the AI spits out perfectly timed lines from the film in the foreign language and drops them into the action. The whole process could take weeks…

(9) RECLASSIFIED? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The first argument I’ve seen that Dhalgren is a horror novel. Andy Marino in “Under Your Skin: The Horror of the Inexplicable” on CrimeReads.

Consider the moment you wake from a nap into disorientation so pure, the first thing you see when you open your eyes—a lamp, a windowsill—is distorted and unfamiliar. You glitch. Draw a blank.

Imagine a distillation of this perception as an elusive high. I’d argue that the kind of fiction that bottles up this feeling and pours it down your throat is more terrifying than any haunted house, vengeful ghost, or Little Kid Who Sees Things.

That’s not to say that the time-honored elements of horror can’t be used to great and satisfying effect, or reconfigured into something wholly fresh. I’m not one to mess with the staples that make up so much of the horror I love. But it’s the off-kilter portrayal of the mundane, where reality comes unstitched in a vaguely sickening way, that really gets under your fingernails and lays its quivering eggs….

(10) MOUDRY OBIT. Southern fan Joe Moudry died October 15 reports Guy H. Lillian III. Moudry was a member of many amateur press associations (apas) over the years – the Southern Fandom Press Alliance (SFPA, where he once served as Official Editor), PAAPA, the Hyborian Legion, PEAPS, and was a member of the Esoteric Order of Dagon and its Official Editor in 1981.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1950 – Seventy-one years on this day, C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was  first published in the United Kingdom by Geoffrey Bles who would publish the first five of this series.  It is the first published and best known of seven novels in The Chronicles of Narnia. Among all the author’s books, it is also the most widely held in American and British libraries. It would be illustrated by Pauline Baynes who would later do the artwork for some of Tolkien’s work.  It was extremely popular, despite the fears of the publisher that it wouldn’t be, from the moment it was published, and has remained so to this day. The movie of sixteen years vintage also enjoys an equally popular reception with a box office just behind Revenge of the Sith, and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently giving it an eighty percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 16, 1854 Oscar Wilde. Writer, Journalist, Playwright, and Poet from Ireland whose only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, has been translated into more than a dozen languages, made into countless radio plays, musicals, TV films and movies — the 1945 version of which was awarded a Retro Hugo at CoNZealand — and had enduring influence on modern popular culture as an examination of morality. His long list of short fiction credits includes some fairy tales and genre stories, of which the best known is “The Canterville Ghost”, which has likewise undergone a copious number of translations and adaptations into various media. (Died 1900.)
  • Born October 16, 1925 Dame Angela Brigid Lansbury, 96. She first shows up in a genre work as Sibyl Vane in The Picture of Dorian Gray. A few years later, she’s Queen Anne of France in The Three Musketeers. Somewhat later, she’s Miss Eglantine Price in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. She voices Mommy Fortuna in The Last Unicorn, and is Granny in A Company of Wolves which won the  BSFA Award for Best Film and it’s based off Angela Carter’s A Company of Wolves. And yes she’s in Mary Poppins Returns as The Balloon Lady. And I’ll toss in the stage production of The King and I where she was Anna Leonowens as that was at least genre adjacent.
  • Born October 16, 1940 Barry Corbin, 81. Actor whose face will be familiar from his many character roles — frequently as gruff military officers or crusty eccentrics — including those in genre movies WarGamesMy Science ProjectGhost DadRace to SpaceDawn of the Crescent Moon, Curdled, Critters 2, and Timequest, which appears to be an uncredited version of Greg Benford’s Timescape (which provided the name for the Pocket Books line of science fiction novels helmed by David G. Hartwell in the early 1980s). He narrated Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America’s Race to the Moon, based on the book by Mercury Seven astronaut Alan Shepard.
  • Born October 16, 1956 Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, 65. Aside from appearing on Xena: Warrior PrincessStar Trek: Voyager, and Quantum Leap, she’s lent her voice acting to The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest HeroesGhost in the Shell: Stand Alone ComplexNarutoX-Men, and Bleach to name but a few of her roles. She was a Guest of Honor at Anime Expo 2007, Long Beach.
  • Born October 16, 1963 Glenn Glazer, 58. Conrunner and Fan who has been on the concoms for many Worldcons and regional conventions, chaired a Smofcon and a Westercon, and was one of three vice-chairs for Sasquan, the 2015 Worldcon. He has been involved in a number of APAs, including SWAPA, Mutations, The Calling, LASFAPA, APA-69, and APA-FNORD.
  • Born October 16, 1971 Lawrence Schimel, 50. Writer, Editor, Poet, and Translator. He is a founding member of The Publishing Triangle, an organization promoting fiction by LGBTQ authors and/or with LGBTQ themes, which inform many of his short fiction works. He has edited, mostly in collaboration with Martin H. Greenberg, at least 10 anthologies. His solo anthology, Things Invisible to See, and one of his short fiction collections were both recognized with Lambda Award nominations, and his speculative poetry has garnered a Rhysling Award nomination and a win. 
  • Born October 16, 1917 Claire Necker. This might be going a little astray from genre birthdays but I think not, given most of us have SJW creds. A librarian by trade, she wrote a number of feline related academic works including The Natural History of CatsSupernatural Cats: An Anthology which includes writers such as Fritz Lieber and H.P. Lovecraft , Four Centuries of Cat Books and Cat’s Got Our Tongue which is are feline cantered proverbs. She unfortunately has not made into the digital realm. (Died 2010.)
  • Born October 16, 1973 Eva Röse, 48. Most likely best known for her role as the android Niska in Season 1 of the Swedish Äkta människor  (Real Humans) upon which AMC’s Humans was based. She also was one of the voice cast for the animated Creepschool series, and was Jasmie on The Befallen, a supernatural series that lasted one season there. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump shows a famous monster with a terrible problem.

(14) GACHAPON. “A Tiny Gas Meter? The More Mundane the Better for Japan’s Capsule Toys” says the New York Times.

… Isolated in their plastic spheres, the tiny reproductions feel like a metaphor for Covid-era life. On social media, users — as gachapon designers insist on calling their customers — arrange their purchases in wistful tableaus of life outside the bubble, Zen rock gardens for the 21st century. Some have faithfully recreated drab offices, outfitted with whiteboards and paper shredders, others business hotel rooms complete with a pants press.

For Mr. Yamanishi, whose company, Toys Cabin, is based in Shizuoka, not far from Tokyo, success is “not about whether it sells or not.”

“You want people to ask themselves, ‘Who in the world would buy this?’” he said.

It’s a rhetorical question, but in recent years, the answer is young women. They make up more than 70 percent of the market, and have been especially active in promoting the toys on social media, said Katsuhiko Onoo, head of the Japan Gachagacha Association. (Gachagacha is an alternative term for the toys.)…

The products are not particularly profitable for most makers, but they offer designers a creative outlet and find a ready customer base in a country that has always had a taste for whimsy, said Hiroaki Omatsu, who writes a weekly column about the toys for a website run by the Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper.

“Creating gachapon for adults is all about devoting yourself to making something that’s worthless,” he said. “‘This is ridiculous’ is the highest form of praise.”

(15) TODAY’S TIME TRAVEL FAQ. Courtesy of Keaton Patti.

I was going to have to revoke the previous joke til I confirmed he wasn’t talking about Gene Wolfe in this tweet —

(16) ZERO SUM GAME. Eater reports on how a “Robot Cafe Considers Itself Pro-Worker by Not Hiring Any Workers”.

Despite fully automated luxury communism sounding pretty sweet, Western workers have mostly felt haunted the specter of our jobs being taken by robots. Take RC Coffee, Canada’s first “robotic cafe,” aka an “unattended espresso machine,” which is basically a glorified version of whatever spat sludge and foam into a cup for five quarters in your college dorm’s lounge. But it is probably aware of that association, and the fear that kiosks like it could actually replace a barista, so it’s trying a new tactic; robots as pro-worker….

(17) FESS UP. They’d still like to get it back. “Rock. Paper. Pranksters.” At University of Oregon’s “Around the O.”

OK, mystery pranksters. It’s been 43 years since the Great Halloween Meteorite Caper of ’78. Your identities have never become widely known. Time to come forward.

Halloween night that year, a group calling itself the Meteorite Cleaning Service staged a distraction at Prince Lucien Campbell Hall. “A strangling man appeared to be hanging from a window of PLC. Campus security went to investigate only to discover the man was in fact a balloon, a shirt, and some pants,” student reporter Jock Hatfield wrote in the Oregon Daily Emerald.

While campus security responded to PLC, the pranksters headed to the Museum of Natural History, then located in what is now Pacific Hall. Their target was on display out front: a life-size, plaster-and-chicken-wire replica of the sixth-largest meteorite found on Earth, the Willamette Meteorite or “Tomanowos,” as named by the Clackamas people.

The next day, “it was immediately evident the meteorite replica was gone,” remembers Alice Parman, then the museum director. Eight hundred pounds of mock rock, 12 feet wide and 6 feet tall, gone, leaving nothing but questions: Why? How? And who?…

(18) CHINA SENDS CREW TO THEIR SPACE STATION. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] “China launches 6-month crewed mission as it cements position as global space power” reports CNN. Crew includes Wang Yaping, first female taikonaut on the station and first scheduled to do a spacewalk.

China launched a three-person crew into space in the early hours of Saturday — a major step for the country’s young space program, which is rapidly becoming one of the world’s most advanced.

The three astronauts lifted off on the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft just past midnight local time, launched by a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert, located in Inner Mongolia.

They will dock at China’s new space station, Tiangong (which means Heavenly Palace), six and a half hours after launch. They will live and work at the station for 183 days, or just about six months — the country’s longest mission yet….

(19) WOOF, WOOF, BANG, BANG. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] While they look like cousins, don’t confuse this robodog with Boston Dynamics’ Spot. The much-less-aptly-named canid-like bot Vision 60 is made by Ghost Robotics out of Philly. A version of Vision has been demonstrated carrying a sniper rifle, albeit one that is aimed and fired by a remote operator. Unarmed versions of Vision 60 have been used in military exercises. The article doesn’t address whether Ghost Robotics has any customers for the armed version. “Welp, Now We Have Robo-Dogs With Sniper Rifles” at Popular Mechanics.

Science fiction has seeped into science reality this week, as a robotics company showed off its sniper rifle-equipped robo-dog at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual convention in Washington, D.C.

Sure, the quadruped robot might resemble a good boy, but it’s packing a built-in sniper rifle capable of engaging targets from three-quarters of a mile away. The service could operate this robotic weapon system remotely. Importantly, it would only engage targets with permission from a human being….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Extent” is an sff short film distributed by DUST.

Time stands still as two old friends attempt to grapple with a question that defines their very existence. If you could live forever, would you?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Rich Lynch, Cora Buhlert, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Jeffrey Smith, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 9/17/21 I Want To Scroll What The Pixel On The Table Number 5 Is Scrolling

(1) STATUES OF LIMITATIONS. After much consideration, Constance Grady says overthinking the book was a mistake: “The meditative empathy of Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi” at Vox.

…The first time I read Piranesi, I scribbled notes about each statue. The minotaurs by the entrance to the House evoke the myth of the labyrinth, which is what the wicked Laurence Arne-Sayles calls the House. An elephant carrying a castle puns on the famous Elephant and Castle inn in London. A woman carrying a beehive — well, certainly that could be a reference to any number of classical myths, which tend to feature bees as a chthonic symbol for life, death, and the soul.

But early on, Clarke makes a point of aiming her readers away from such mechanical, goal-oriented reading.

Piranesi knows of only one other living human, a man he calls the Other who visits the House every so often. The Other believes that the House contains the key to some secret Knowledge that mankind used to possess but has now lost. Once he gets it back, the Other believes, he’ll have the power of flight, immortality, and control over weaker souls.

Piranesi dutifully searches the House for the Knowledge the Other is seeking, but without all that much interest. Eventually, he is struck by an epiphany: The Knowledge, he realizes, is not the point of the House….

(2) LET’S HEAR FROM A PICKER OF LOW-HANGING FRUIT. The Atlantic’s Ian Bogost demands to know “Why Are Ebooks So Terrible?”

…If you hate ebooks like I do, that loathing might attach to their dim screens, their wonky typography, their weird pagination, their unnerving ephemerality, or the prison house of a proprietary ecosystem. If you love ebooks, it might be because they are portable, and legible enough, and capable of delivering streams of words, fiction and nonfiction, into your eyes and brain with relative ease. Perhaps you like being able to carry a never-ending stack of books with you wherever you go, without having to actually lug them around. Whether you love or hate ebooks is probably a function of what books mean to you, and why…

(3) FOUNDATION BUILDERS. ComingSoon introduces a short video with quotes from the showrunner David Goyer:“Foundation Featurette: Apple Brings the Sci-Fi Masterpiece to the Screen”

…The Foundation featurette highlights the massive influence it had on other popular sci-fi stories including Dune and Star Wars. They also talked about the process of finally adapting the novel to the screen after several decades since it was first published. They also went on to tease the series’ epic scale in terms of storytelling, ambitious story, characters, and world-building….

(4) HEADLEY’S BEOWULF TRANSLATION WINS AWARD. The Academy of American Poets announced that Maria Dahvana Headley’s Beowulf: A New Translation has won the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award, a $1,000 prize recognizing a published translation of poetry from any language into English that shows literary excellence. Indran Amirthanayagam judged.

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman posted a bonus episode of Eating the Fantastic podcast to let you listen to four comic book cognoscenti celebrate Steve Ditko.

Javier Hernandez, Zack Kruse, Carl Potts, and Arlen Schumer 

Last Saturday, something magical happened at the Bottle Works Ethnic Arts Center in Johnstown Pennsylvania — a one-day mini-convention was held to honor a hometown hero, the legendary Steve Ditko. And because the event was organized with the cooperation of his family, I was not only able to spend time with other comic fans and creators, but was privileged with the presence of Ditko’s nephews and brother as well.

Since you couldn’t be there with me, I decided to get some of the mini-con’s special guests to share their stories here about Steve Ditko’s life and legacy. Because this is a podcast which uses food to loosen the tongues of its guests, and since there was no time during the short one-day event to head out for lunch or dinner, I brought along a Spider-Man PEZ dispenser so I could offer my guests candy. Plus I ran over to Coney Island Johnstown — in business for more than a century — and picked up some gobs — think of them as a regional variation of whoopee pies — which I handed out to some of my guests before we began chatting.

As I wandered the exhibitors area, I was able to grab time with four guests — Javier Hernandez, Zack Kruse, Carl Potts, and Arlen Schumer — all of whom had taken part earlier that day on a panel about Steve Ditko.

(6) BOOK REVIEW OF VERY OLD RIDDLES. Paywalled at the New York Times, “What Has One Eye and 1,200 Heads? An Old English Riddle, That’s What!”, reviewing) The Old English And Anglo-Latin Riddle Tradition (Harvard University, $35), a comprehensive new collection beautifully edited by the Oxford professor Andy Orchard, demonstrates, everything you need to know about crosswords you can learn from Anglo-Saxon riddles: Riddles are the ür-crossword puzzles.

Daniel Dern sent the link with these notes:

While probably most anybody these days, fan or otherwise, is familiar with the Bilbo/Gollum “Riddle” chapter in THE HOBBIT, ditto more generally with Batman’s riddlemanic foe “The Riddler,” how many fans instantly flash on (or more to the point, what’s the rough age threshhold below which fans don’t) the (sf) book citation for “What city has two names twice?”), or simply “Do you like riddles? Raetseln?” [Dutch, spelling here from memory, but that I could look up in my copy of the book if need be ]

Answer (rot13’d)

“Rneguzna, Pbzr Ubzr” — Ibyhzr 3 bs Wnzrf Oyvfu’f PVGVRF VA SYVTUG grgenybtl

That said, the essay/review itself is somewhat dry — it doesn’t even offer a sample riddle until at least halfway through. Probably worth at least library-borrowing, though.

(7) FIYAHCON 2021. The online con is in full swing and the committee is making available videos of some of its panels here.

(8) BASEDCON. Rob Kroese’s BasedCon starts today.

Well, the cons I’m familiar with, if they hadn’t stayed in the black the first year there’d have been no second year. Surprising to hear there’s another kind.

(9) EARLY TREKZINES. The Internet Archive includes a “Media Fanzine Collection”. Skipping past the intro, I was intrigued to see some of the well-known early Trek fanzines displayed, such as Spockanalia. The cover on the example here boasts “Third Printing.” Holy cow – a fanzine with a demand that took multiple editions to satisfy! I blush to admit I still haven’t unloaded all the copies of the early mimeo issues of File 770.

The practice of making media print zines began in the late 1960s via science fiction fandom where fanzines had been a popular fan activity since the 1930s. However, the content of science fiction zines is very different, consisting mostly of non-fiction and discussion about a variety of fannish topics, whereas media fanzines include, or consist solely of, fanfiction, art, poetry, as well as discussion, usually about television shows, films, and books. 

(10) EMMY BRACKETS. JustWatch.com, the streaming guide, sent along this set of Emmy nominee brackets, based on the audience approval scores their users have given them. Unfortunately, the only genre show that doesn’t get its ass kicked is The Underground Railroad. Even a phenomenonally popular show like The Mandalorian can’t get out of the first round. It is to weep. [Click for larger image.]

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1964– Fifty-seven years ago this evening on ABC, a certain witch charmed her way into American homes as Bewitched first aired. It was created by Sol Saks who had done nothing notable before this and departed the show after the pilot was shot. It starred Elizabeth Montgomery as the good witch Samantha Stephens and two different men as her husband, Dick York for the first five before he became very ill, and Dick Sargent for the final three seasons. It did phenomenally well in the ratings early on but sagged later and eventually was cancelled. Hanna-Barbera produced the opening animation credits which you can see here.

It got remade as a film with Nicole Kidman which was not at all beloved by the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes who currently give it a twenty five percent rating and it faired quite poorly at the box office, not breaking even. Oh, and there was a Seventies spin-off involving her daughter called Tabitha that had two pilots (the first tested quite badly) and lasted just eleven episodes.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 17, 1885 — George Cleveland. Actor who filmed scenes as Professor Hensley in a pair of Thirties Flash Gordon serials, Flash Gordon and Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (the latter saw his scenes get deleted). He later shows up as in the Drums of Fu Manchu serial as Dr. James Parker. (Died 1957.)
  • Born September 17, 1908 — John Creasey. English crime and SF writer who wrote well over than six hundred novels using twenty-eight different names. His SF writings were mostly in the Dr. Palfrey series, a British secret service agent named Dr. Stanislaus Alexander Palfrey, who forms Z5, which definitely has elements of SF. (Died 1973.)
  • Born September 17, 1917 — Art Widner. Editor of three well-known fanzines (Fanfare, Bonfire and YHOS). He’d eventually publish some one hundred sixty zines. He was one of the founding members of The Stranger Club, the pioneers of Boston fandom. He chaired Boskone I and Boskone II, the first two Boston SF conventions. He would be nominated for four Retro Hugos, and become a First Fandom Hall of Fame member. (Died 2015.)
  • Born September 17, 1920 — Dinah Sheridan. She was Chancellor Flavia in “The Five Doctors”, a Doctor Who story that brought together the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Doctors. Richard Hurndall portrayed the First Doctor, as the character’s original actor, William Hartnell, had died. If we accept Gilbert & Sullivan as genre adjacent, she was Grace Marston in The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan. (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 17, 1928 — Roddy McDowall. He is best known for portraying Cornelius and Caesar in the original Planet of the Apes film franchise, as well as Galen in the television series. He’s Sam Conrad in The Twilight Zone episode “People Are Alike All Over” and he superbly voices Jervis Tetch / The Mad Hatter in Batman: The Animated Series. And for your viewing interest, a clip from the Carol Burnett Show with Roddy McDowall wearing Planet of the Apes makeup here. (Died 1998.)
  • Born September 17, 1939 — Sandra Lee Gimpel, 82. In Trek’s “The Cage”, she played a Talosian. That led her to being cast as the M-113 creature in “The Man Trap”, another first season episode. She actually had a much larger work history as stunt double, though uncredited, showing up in sixty-eight episodes of Lost in Space and fifty-seven of The Bionic Woman plus myriad genre work elsewhere including They Come from Outer Space where she was the stunt coordinator.  
  • Born September 17, 1951 — Cassandra Peterson, 70. Yes, she’s Elvira, Mistress of The Dark, a character she’s played on TV and in movies before becoming the host of  Elvira’s Movie Macabre, a weekly horror movie presentation show in LA forty years ago. She’s a showgirl in Diamonds Are Forever which was her debut film, and is Sorais in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold. 
  • Born September 17, 1996 — Ella Purnell, 25. An English actress best remembered  as Emma in the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children film. She’s also in Kick-Ass 2 as Dolce, she’s Natalie the UFO film that stars Gillian Anderson, and she was the body double for the young Jane Porter in The Legend of Tarzan. In a genre adjacent role, she was Hester Argyll in Agatha Christie’s Ordeal by Innocence.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) WARP DRIVER. Laughing Squid draws attention to “A Campy Mercedes-Benz Ad That Inserts Their New 2021 Electric Vehicle Into a 1979 Science Fiction Film”. And remember – you can never have too many tentacles.

“Mercedes-Benz “Future 2021” is a wonderfully campy ad by Nina Holmgren that inserts their new Mercedes-Benz electric G-Wagen vehicle for 2021 into a very over-the-top science fiction film of the late 1970s. This future, which could ever only be dreamed of back in 1979, has finally come true today.

(15) MAYBE HE WAS ASKING THE WRONG QUESTION? In The Hollywood Reporter “LeVar Burton Says He’s Over ‘Jeopardy!’ Debacle”. Now, he told the host of The Daily Show, he’s thinking of developing his own game.

…Through the host replacement mess, Burton admitted to [Trevor] Noah he discovered he was not that interested in the gig after all.

“The crazy thing is that when you set your sights on something, you know, they say be careful of what you wish for, because what I found out is that it wasn’t the thing that I wanted after all,” said Burton. “What I wanted was to compete. I mean, I wanted the job, but then when I didn’t get it, it was like, ‘Well, OK, what’s next?’ And so, the opportunities that have come my way as a result of not getting that gig, I couldn’t have dreamt it up. If you had given me a pen and paper and said, ‘Well, so what do you want this to really look like?’ If it doesn’t include Jeopardy! I wouldn’t have been this generous to myself.”

Not going into too much detail, Burton said he had something in the works he was sure his fans were going to enjoy, saying, “I never thought about hosting any other game show outside of Jeopardy! But now, they went in a different direction with their show, which is their right, and now I’m thinking, ‘Well, it does kind of make sense, let me see what I can do.’ So we’re trying to figure out what the right game show for LeVar Burton would be.”…

(16) CORRECTED EDITION. The NESFA Press is letting everyone know they put out a new edition of their ebook Ingathering by Zenna Henderson that fixes the problems mentioned in a Tony Lewis quote run in a recent Scroll.

We have updated the contents of the NESFA Press eBook of Ingathering by Zenna Henderson. This second edition was necessary due to several OCR issues. NESFA Press is committed to the highest quality in the content of our books and will aggressively address any typos or other problems with the text of our eBooks.

To purchase the new version of Ingathering, go to the NESFA Press online store: http://nesfapress.org/, and search for “Ingathering”. People who have purchase the previous version of Ingathering, can download the new version using the link they received. Please direct any problems or questions to the email address below.

(17) UNDER THE NAME OF SANDERS. Inside the Magic tells how “YOU Can Stay at Winnie the Pooh’s House in the Hundred Acre Wood”. Photo gallery at the link.

If you love Winnie the Pooh characters — and, really, who doesn’t adore A.A. Milne’s “Silly Ol’ Bear” and all of his friends? — you’re going to want to bounce like Tigger when you see Airbnb’s latest offering, designed especially for the 95th Anniversary of the Hundred Acre Wood pals….

(18) WHY AM I BACK? SYFY Wire introduces a “Robot Chicken clip with Seth MacFarlane as Palpatine”.

…Now into its 11th season, Adult Swim’s longest running series is currently airing new episodes daily at midnight ET/PT. Among all the madness, there’s a sketch that confronts that really confounding plot point in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker that finds Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) suddenly returning from The Return of the Jedi dead… just because. Ahead of its upcoming debut, SYFY WIRE has an exclusive look at the sketch, which features Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, The Orville) voicing the mechanically challenged Palps….

(19) HARRY POTTER’S FLAGSHIP. Is it a store? A theme park? It’s whatever you need it to be to separate you from your cash! The Drum takes us on a tour: “Inside Warner Bros’ spellbinding retail experience Harry Potter New York”.

…All of these elements create a retail experience that speak to consumers’ growing demands for experience-infused shopping, says Warner Bros’s vice president and general manager of retail experiences Karl Durrant. “There is no doubt that consumer behavior has changed. Digital retail was becoming popular even before the pandemic hit. It’s more important than ever to give consumers a reason to visit a store and to make it an event.”

And to bring the immersive feeling to another level, Warner Bros, in partnership with Dreamscape Immersive, developed two unique VR experiences that bring visitors into the action. In ‘Chaos at Hogwarts’, users join Dobby in an adventure around Hogwarts to immobilize and collect pixies that the house elf accidentally released. The second VR experience, ‘Wizards Take Flight’, invites users to zoom around the skies above London via broomstick, warding off evil Death Eaters alongside Hagrid….

(20) ROBOCOP, TAKE TWO. “Singapore has patrol robots now! This should be fine” says Mashable. I like to think they will be programmed to keep making mad R2-D2 chirps at smokers til they snuff those ciggies.

Some robots were made to be your best friend. Some to unload 1600 boxes an hour. Some to do backflipspaint masterpieces. Some to inspect crime scenes. Others will tell you to quit smoking in prohibited areas and stop riding your motorbike on the footpath.

Singapore has started testing patrol robots that survey pedestrian areas in the city-state, where surveillance is a top and often controversial priority….

Named Xavier, the mall-cop robots will be autonomously rolling through the Toa Payoh Central district for three weeks from Sept. 5, scanning for “undesirable social behaviours” according to a press release (via Engadget) from the government’s Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX)….

(21) SIXTEEN SCROLLS. “Tennessee Cora” Buhlert was inspired by the title of yesterday’s Scroll to drop an instant classic in the comments.

Sixteen Scrolls
(with apologies to Merle Travis and Tennessee Ernie Ford)

Some people say a man is made outta mud.
A Filer’s made outta books, cons and blood,
Books and blood and films and cons.
We may look weak, but our minds are strong

You read 16 scrolls, what do you get?
Another day older and more books unread.
St. Leibovitz, don’t call me ’cause I can’t go,
I owe my soul to the Mount Tsundoku.

I was born one morning when the sun didn’t shine
I picked up a novel and said, “This looks fine.”
I read 16 pixels of number nine scroll
and the straw puppy said, “Well, a-bless my soul”

You read 16 scrolls, what do you get?
Another day older and more books unread.
St. Leibovitz, don’t call me ’cause I can’t go,
I owe my soul to the Series Hugo.

I was born one mornin’, it was drizzlin’ rain.
Reading and writing are my middle name.
I was raised in the library by an old mama lion
and no rabid puppy will make me walk the line

You read 16 scrolls, what do you get?
Another day older and more books unread.
St. Leibovitz, don’t call me ’cause I can’t go,
I owe my soul to the Novel Hugo.

If you see us comin’, better step aside.
A lotta dogs didn’t, a lotta dogs cried.
One fist science fiction, the other fantasy.
If the right one don’t get you
Then the left one will.

You read 16 scrolls, what do you get?
Another day older and more books unread.
St. Leibovitz, don’t call me ’cause I can’t go,
I owe my soul to the Mount Tsundoku.

(22) WEBINAR WITH BROTHER GUY. Brother Guy Consolmagno will be doing a Zoom event on October 1. “Your God Is Too Small: Vatican Observatory Director to offer a cosmic point of view in upcoming webinar”. Register to receive the link and a reminder. [Via Susan Schwartz.]

Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ is speaking on the contrast between the world and the cosmos that is becoming blurred as we begin to learn of the vastness of the cosmos in an upcoming Zoom event.

The free webinar, “Your God is Too Small,” will be hosted by the Center for Advanced Study in Religion and Science (CASIRAS) and Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) on Friday, October 1, at 5 p.m. CDT. Those interested in attending can register here. Also the event will be livestreamed on LSTC’s Facebook page.

“We need to understand that all those other planets are real places, part of the same universe created by God and redeemed by the Incarnation,” writes Consolmagno. “And God is Creator not only of other places but other times, before and beyond the time when we exist here on Earth.”

His presentation will dive into the meaning of being redeemed by the risen Christ in light of the immensity of time and space.

Br. Guy received the 2014 Carl Sagan Medal for outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public from the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences. He is the author or co-author of four books exploring faith and science issues, including, Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? (with Paul Mueller), God’s Mechanics, Brother Astronomer, and The Way to the Dwelling of Light.

“It is rare to find someone so accomplished in science, theology, and philosophy, who can also communicate complex topics clearly to a general audience. Br. Guy is one of the best story-tellers I’ve ever known,” said Grace Wolf-Chase, senior scientist and senior education and communication specialist at the Planetary Science Institute.

(23) HONESTLY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Psychonauts 2” on YouTube, Fandom Games says this game features weird worlds, and characters whose heads weigh as much as their bodies.  But don’t expect any action, because ‘playing Psychonauts for the combat is like eating at Taco bell for the diarrhea.”

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

Pixel Scroll 6/6/21 The Wee Pun Shoppes Of Ishtar

(1) NETWORK EFFECT. Martha Wells commented about last night’s win in “Nebula Award!”

So a cool thing happened: Network Effect won the Nebula Award for Best Novel!

I was really shocked and floored. I really didn’t think it would win. We had invited some (vaccinated) friends over to watch the ceremony live on YouTube but I also had to be logged in to a zoom “green room” the whole time, so we spent a lot of Friday and Saturday housecleaning, getting party food at the store, and trying to reconfigure our internet to be robust enough to make this work. (Because of the way the live broadcast worked, if I got kicked out of the green room zoom because of a dropped connection, they wouldn’t be able to let me back in.) We ended up directly connecting my laptop to the router, which worked great. And the Tiramisu cake from the HEB bakery was both beautiful and delicious.

There was a Nebula Red Carpet tag on Twitter for outfits, and I wore a dress I’d actually bought for the Dublin WorldCon, but the back wasn’t sewn quite right, so wearing it for an online event was perfect.

(2) O’DONNELL AWARD. And Connie Willis, winner of The Kevin J. O’Donnell, Jr. Service to SFWA Award, posted her acceptance remarks on Facebook.

Thank you, Jim, for that great introduction and thanks to all of you for this lovely award.

I don’t really deserve it. In the first place, if the service was emceeing the Nebulas, that was really fun.

In the second place, if it was teaching at Clarion and Clarion West, I loved doing that, and I’ve been rewarded every day by the wonderful things my students have accomplished and the awards they’ve won. You Clarion people are great!…

(3) LIVE FROM THE VATICAN. Brother Guy is on the NPR’s “Weekend Edition”: “The Vatican’s Space Observatory Wants To See Stars And Faith Align”.

At a time of growing diffidence toward some new scientific discoveries, the one and only Vatican institution that does scientific research recently launched a campaign to promote dialogue between faith and science.

It’s the Vatican Observatory, located on the grounds of the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, a medieval town in Alban Hills 15 miles southeast of Rome.

The director, Brother Guy Consolmagno, is giving this reporter a guided tour of the grounds…. 

…A native of Detroit, Consolmagno studied physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, volunteered with the Peace Corps in Africa and taught physics before becoming a Jesuit brother in his 40s. He has been at the Observatory for three decades. His passion for astronomy started with a childhood love of science fiction.\

“I love the kind of science fiction that gives you that sense of wonder, that reminds you at the end of the day why we dream of being able to go into space,” Consolmagno says.

A passionate Star Wars fan, he tells this reporter proudly, “even Obi-Wan Kenobi came to visit” the Observatory, pointing to the signature of actor Alec Guinness, who played the role in the original movie trilogy, in a visitor’s book from 1958….

(4) THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. From writer/director/producer Lisa Joy (Westworld) comes Warner Bros. action picture Reminiscence, starring Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson and Thandiwe Newton. Scheduled for release on August 20.

Nick Bannister (Jackman), a private investigator of the mind, navigates the darkly alluring world of the past by helping his clients access lost memories. Living on the fringes of the sunken Miami coast, his life is forever changed when he takes on a new client, Mae (Ferguson). A simple matter of lost and found becomes a dangerous obsession. As Bannister fights to find the truth about Mae’s disappearance, he uncovers a violent conspiracy, and must ultimately answer the question: how far would you go to hold on to the ones you love?

(5) FOREIGN MARKETS. Fonda Lee comments on trad publishers’ varied handling of translated editions of books. Thread starts here.

(6) DEEPER DIVE INTO POE. In the Washington Post, Michael Dirda reviews The Reason for the Darkness of the Night by John Tresch, a book that shows that Edgar Allan Poe was well-informed about the science of his day and a look at how science played a role in Poe’s thought, including his fiction. “Is Poe the most influential American writer? A new book offers evidence”.

…That morose view of Poe, still widespread, isn’t precisely accurate. As Tresch reminds us, Edgar grew up coddled by the wealth and status of his Richmond stepparents, excelled in many of his courses at the University of Virginia and, during his time at West Point, was well liked by his fellow cadets (over half of whom helped underwrite a volume of his poems). While it’s hard to imagine him in any uniform but a severe black suit, Poe actually served in the Army for four years, rising to the rank of sergeant major.

…As a lifelong “Magazinist,” Poe could write anything: humorous squibs, book reviews, parodies, articles about the latest scientific discoveries, exposés of quackery (most notably of Maelzel’s chess-playing automaton), critical essays on “the philosophy of composition,” an almost unreadable cosmological prose-poem called “Eureka” and, of course, those unforgettable stories of self-justifying murderers and shrill psychopaths: “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.” . . . “True — nervous — very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?”

In “The Reason for the Darkness of the Night” (available June 15), Tresch emphasizes how much Poe infuses scientific discourse into his most fantastical imaginings. For example, in “A Descent Into the Maelstrom,” a sailor, whose boat has been sucked into a gigantic whirlpool, rather improbably saves himself by thinking like a physicist: He observes that cylindrical objects fell more slowly into the whirling vortex than other objects of the same size, so he quickly lashes himself to a barrel to escape from a watery grave. In another story, “The Man That Was Used Up,” Poe describes a highly decorated army officer who, because his body parts have been replaced by various prostheses, is actually a steampunk cyborg….

(7) KRAMER PAROLE VIOLATION ALLEGED. Seems like it’s barely news anymore when Ed Kramer gets arrested. Just found out this happened in January: “Ed Kramer — who was tied to Gwinnett courthouse computer trespassing drama — was arrested this week” – the Gwinnett (GA) Daily Post has the story.

Gwinnett County jail records show Ed Kramer was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on Wednesday and released the following day. The only charge was the probation violation, for which a judge set a $22,200 bond.

“There was an alleged probation violation where it was alleged that Mr. Kramer texted an alleged image of an unclothed adolescent,” District Attorney Patsy Austin-Gatson said. “He has been released and the matter is pending investigation.”…

(8) GRAND OPENING. Deadline says the “2021-22 NBC Schedule” features a show that’ll go even deeper underground than LA’s Red Line.

TUESDAY

9-10 PM – LA BREA

LA BREA – An epic adventure begins when a massive sinkhole opens in the middle of Los Angeles, pulling hundreds of people and buildings into its depths. Those who fell in find themselves in a mysterious and dangerous primeval land, where they have no choice but to band together to survive. Meanwhile, the rest of the world desperately seeks to understand what happened. In the search for answers, one family torn apart by this disaster will have to unlock the secrets of this inexplicable event to find a way back to each other.

The cast includes Natalie Zea, Eoin Macken, Jon Seda, Nicholas Gonzalez, Chiké Okonkwo, Karina Logue, Zyra Gorecki, Jack Martin, Veronica St. Clair, Rohan Mirchandaney, Lily Santiago, Josh McKenzie and Chloe De Los Santos. Writer David Appelbaum executive produces with Avi Nir, Alon Shtruzman, Peter Traugott, Rachel Kaplan, Steven Lilien, Bryan Wynbrandt, Ken Woodruff, Arika Lisanne Mittman and Adam Davidson. “La Brea” is produced by Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group, in association with Keshet Studios.

(9) WILLIAMS III OBIT. Actor Clarence Williams III died June 4 of colon cancer at the age of 81. Best known for his work on Sixties police series The Mod Squad, his genre roles included three episodes of Twin Peaks (1990) as FBI Agent Roger Hardy, who informed Dale Cooper of his suspension from the FBI. He also was in TV episodes of Tales from the Crypt (1992), Star Trek: Deep Space 9 (1996), and Millennium (1997).

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

June 6, 1998 – On this date in 1998, The Truman Show premiered. It was directed by Peter Weir, and produced by Scott Rudin, Andrew Niccol, Edward S. Feldman, and Adam Schroeder. It was written by Andrew Niccol off the 198 The Twilight Zone episode “Special Service” (as written by J. Michael Straczynski). It starred Jim Carrey, Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich, Natascha McElhone, Holland Taylor and Ed Harris.  Critics loved it, it did great at the box office and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an eighty-nine percent rating. Did I mention it won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Aussiecon Three? 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 6, 1799 – Alexander Pushkin.  Sometimes after a surprise you re-examine and think “Oh.  Of course.”  When Ravi Shankar first visited Russia, people cried “Pushkin!  Pushkin!”  They loved Pushkin and there is a resemblance.  I’d like to call Mozart and Salieri a fantasy but, as my father used to say, not within the normal meaning of that term.  Anyway, we get Ruslan and Lyudmila and “The Queen of Spades” and The Bronze Horseman and “The Golden Cockerel” and The Stone Guest and “The Shot”.  Speaking of which –  (Died 1837) [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1918 — Richard Crane. In the Fifties, he would be cast in two of the series that largely defined the look and feel of televised SF for a decade. First, he was the dashing lead in Rocky Jones, Space Ranger which lasted for thirty-nine thrilling episodes; second, he’s Dick Preston in nine of the twelve episodes of the wonderfully-titled Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe. He was also the lead in the fifteen-chapter serial Mysterious Island which was a very loose adaption of the Jules Verne novel. (Died 1969.) (CE)
  • Born June 6, 1921 – Milton Charles.  Artist and art director in and out of our field; Art Director for Jaguar (New York), later for Pocket Books; five hundred awards from Amer. Inst. Graphic Arts (AIGA), Society of Illustrators, Amer. Book Publishers, and like that.  Here is his cover for Tucker’s Wild Talenthere is Vonnegut’s Mother Nighthere is a study of his V.C. Andrews covers.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1924 — Robert Abernathy. Writer during the 1940s and 1950s. He’s remembered mostly for his short stories which were published in many of the pulp magazines that existed during the Golden Age of Science Fiction such as Planet StoriesGalaxyF&SFAstounding and Fantastic Universe. He did around forty stories in total, and apparently wrote no novels that I can locate. There’s no collection of his works currently available in digital form but many of his stories are up at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1990.) (CE)
  • Born June 6, 1945 – Vivian French, age 76.  Libraries in the United Kingdom say she is borrowed – that’s a metaphor, folks – shall we call it a Thing Contained for the Container? – half a million times a year; the Tiara Club books have sold three million copies.  Three dozen novels for us, some shorter stories, not least “I Wish I Were an Alien” in which the extraterrestrial boy, for his part, wishes –  [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1947 — Robert Englund, 74. I think his best performance was as Blackie on the very short-lived Nightmare Cafe. Short-lived as in just six episodes. Of course most will remember him playing Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. He actually appeared in a couple of now forgotten horror films, Dead & Buried  and Galaxy of Terror, before landing that role. And he’s continued to do myriad horror films down to the years ranging from CHUD  to Strippers vs Werewolves. (Really. Truly.)  Versatile man, our Robert.  (CE) 
  • Born June 6, 1951 – Geraldine McCaughrean, age 70.  (Pronounced “muh-cork-run”.)  For us, a dozen novels, including the authorized sequel Peter Pan in Scarlet, retellings of The Odyssey and 1,001 Nights; as many shorter stories; recent collection, Sky Ship; a hundred seventy books all told; five dozen plays; two Carnegie Medals; Printz Award.  “Do not write about what you know, write about what you want to know.”  [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1957 – Max Bertolini, age 64.  Thirty covers, a few interiors; artbooks The Art of Max Bertolini and Revelations; comics.  Here is the Jun 04 Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Here is the Oct-Nov 08.  Here is the Apr 11 Fantasy.  Here is his Silver Surfer.  [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1964 — Jay Lake. Another one who died far too young. If you read nothing else by him, read his brilliant Mainspring Universe series. Though his Green Universe is also entertaining and I see Wiki, not necessarily known for its accuracy, claims an entire Sunspin Universe series is still forthcoming from him. Anyone know about these novels? (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born June 6, 1973 — Guy Haley, 48. British author of the Richards & Klein Investigations series, a cyberpunk noir series where the partners are an android and an AI. His regular pay check comes from his Warhammer 40,000 work where he’s written a baker’s dozen novels so far. Not surprisingly, he’s got a novel coming out in the their just announced Warhammer Crime imprint which, though I’ve read no other Warhammer 40.000 fiction, I’m interested in seeing how they do it. (CE)
  • Born June 6, 1973 — Patrick Rothfuss, 48. He is best known for the Kingkiller Chronicle series, which won him several awards, including the 2007 Quill Award for his first novel, The Name of the Wind. He also won the Gemmell Award for The Wise Man’s Fear. Before The Name of the Wind was released, an excerpt from the novel was released as a short story titled “The Road to Levinshir” and it won the Writers of the Future contest in 2002. (CE)
  • Born June 6, 1973 – Anne Ursu, age 48.  Teaches at Hamline, first university in Minnesota.  She’s given us eight novels, for children, adults, both.  The Lost Girl is told from the viewpoint of a crow.  In The Cronus Chronicles – three so far – two cousins find they’re in Greek myths; the first cousin we meet is Charlotte Mielswetzki, and if I say so myself it’s about time we did.  Breadcrumbs retells The Snow Queen; creatures from Hans Andersen’s tales keep showing up; and Jack, Hazel’s only friend in 5th Grade, may not want to be saved.   [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur comments on that advanced alien technology we’re always on the lookout for.
  • Heathcliff leaves something to the imagination – barely.
  • Comics Kingdom draws an unexpected parallel between Robin and the Seven Hoods and Star Wars.

(13) VOICE OF EXPERIENCE. Kameron Hurley says her career arc taught her to put things in perspective. Thread starts here.

(14) LISTEN TO MY STORY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Shipworm calls itself “the first feature-length audio movie” which means it s a 115-minute drama that has a script that reads more like a screenplay and less like a radio drama.  A doctor and Iraq War veteran wakes up and finds a voice in his head who calls herself “The Conductor” and tells him he has to do bad things or his wife and children will die.  I’m not going to explain what The Conductor is and what the shipworms are, but this story is borderline sf and slightly on the sf side of the border but only slightly..  It’s a professional production (SAG-AFTRA is acknowledged in the credits) and I listened to it and it’s OK, but the writers studied their screenwriting books too closely because the characters seem like plot cliches and not human beings.  I think this is Two Up Productions’s first entry into this sort of production, and I’d like to hear their fifth.  Shipworm is promising, but there’s room for improvement. Shipworm: Podcast”.

(15) STRANGE NEW EGGS. “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Star Teases Original Series Easter Eggs” at Comicbook.com.

,,, Rebecca Romijn plays Number One, the Enterprise‘s first officer, in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, alongside Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike and Ethan Peck as Mr. Spock. She tells Looper that production is now deep into the show’s first season.

“We are currently in production on the first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” Romijn said. “My lips are sealed, but I am in Toronto and we are on episode seven of 10 — and we are not allowed to say anything about what we’re doing. This is the story of the 10 years on the Enterprise — this is the 10 years leading up to Captain Kirk on the Enterprise. So, this is Captain Pike and Number One, and Spock is a science officer. We outrank him, which is really fun, because when does anybody ever outrank Spock?'”

While Romijn might not be spilling plot details, she did indicate that there will be references to Captain Kirk’s adventures charting the final frontier. “I can’t say anything else because there are so many Easter eggs on this show, but we are very, very, very excited to introduce this show,” she said. “It’s in keeping with the original series — they’re standalone episodes. It’s a little bit lighter. We are visiting planets. We are visiting colonies, and we are so proud of our work so far.”

(16) AND EGGS AGAIN. SYFY Wire took the tour: “The MCU Easter Eggs You Need to Look for at Avengers Campus”, a new attraction at Disney California Adventure. Here are the first two of 15 identified in the article.

Here are some of our favorites you can see in our exclusive slideshow below:

1) The Pym Menus boards are actually Scott and Hope’s phones, and if you watch the screens, you’ll see them get texts and messages from some of their famous friends like Tony Stark.

2) Near the front of the Stark Industries building (now WEB Workshop), there’s a special parking spot for a close friend of both Howard Stark and Peggy Carter.

(17) DOUBLE DRAGONS. There are now two Dragons at the ISS: “SpaceX Dragon docks at space station to deliver new solar arrays and tons of supplies”Space.com has the story.

SpaceX Dragon cargo ship arrived at the International Space Station today (June 5) to deliver new solar arrays along with tons of fresh research experiments and NASA supplies as part of the company’s 22nd cargo resupply mission.

The uncrewed Dragon autonomously linked up with the orbiting laboratory at 5:09 a.m. EDT (0909 GMT), parking at the zenith, or space-facing, side of the station’s Harmony module. Docking occurred approximately 40 hours after the Dragon’s launch on a Falcon 9 rocket Thursday (June 3) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. At the time of docking, both spacecraft were sailing about 258 miles (415  kilometers) over the South Pacific Ocean.  …

(18) STAND ON MANHATTAN. Jason Sacks reviews one of the famous Malthusian sf novels for Galactic Journey: “[June 6, 1966] The World is Ending (Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison)”.

In this world we follow police officer Andrew Rusch as he tries to track down the murderer of a rich man who lives in one of those spacious apartments. We watch Rusch fight through his wretched world to find the killer, find a new love, lose an old companion, and fight like hell to acquire even the most basic things he needs to survive. Even the source of food remains a mystery in this book. We never find out what the mysterious and prized substance soylent is made of, and that enigma is typical of the way Harrison creates his world. Harrison puts us in the well-worn shoes of his characters, forcing us to understand their privations and pain on a personal level….

“We never find out”? Of course we do in the movie, but what about in the book, which I read when it first came out? Unfortunately, I don’t remember for myself how Harrison left things – I’ll have to trust Jason on that.

(19) BUGS, MR. RICO! The “Cicadas Have Arrived” in Mister Scalzi’s neighborhood. Listen to them on his video at the link.

(20) IT’S A BIRD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This video from Accented Cinema’s Yang Zhang has as its premise that South Korea, with Parasite and Minari, is now a global power in films.  But to get there South Korean filmmakers turned out a lot of sci-fi and fantasy cheese.  Zhang shows us the cheese, including knockoff anime, knockoff Godzilla, knockoff Batman and Wonder Woman, and lots of other bits of cheesy goodness, including a knockoff King Kong (released in the U.S. as A*P*E that does something that Kong has thankfully never done.

(21) WISHES. Once again, a chance to watch The Genie (A Unicorn Production) made by LA fans in the 1950s. With Forry Ackerman, Fritz Leiber., Jr, and Bjo Trimble.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A sff short film “It’s Okay” presented by DUST.

In this Black Mirror-esque tale, a couple revisit key moments of their past, only for their memories to take an unexpected turn. … Cam and Alex are a simple couple living an un-extraordinary life, when strange things suddenly start happening to them. Will they uncover the truth before they lose one other?

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Paul Weimer, Nancy Collins, Lise Andreasen, Daniel Dern, 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 2/18/20 They Paved Alpha Ralpha Boulevard And Put Up A Parking Lot

(1) AREN’T THESE LOVELY? “Royal Mail: James Bond stamps released for new movie” – BBC has the story.

Some new stamps have been released by Royal Mail to mark the 25th, and latest, James Bond movie No Time To Die. They’ve all been inspired by the classic opening sequences and feature the six actors who’ve played 007

The Royal Mail is taking orders for the stamps and all kinds of cute Bond collectibles here. For example, the “James Bond Secret Dossier”, “A confidential dossier containing six missions linked to the Special Stamps.”

(2) JOHN SCALZI’S LAST (EMPEROX) TOUR. From coast to coast – and in the middle, too, John Scalzi will be promoting The Last Emperox. Find out when and where: “Tour Dates! Tour Dates! Tour Dates!”.

(3) BANDERSNATCH. Phillip Berry recommends “Surround Yourself With Resonators”. He learned it from a book —

…i recently finished a book called Bandernatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings that struck me with a surprising insight into peak performance. The book is about the creative collaboration among a group of exceptional English writers in the 1930’s and 1940’s and its amazing results. If you are a Tolkien or Lewis geek like me, you’ll love the book for its insights into the story behind the story of their writing. For purposes of today’s post, I want to focus on a particular concept introduced to me by author Diana Glyer: the resonator.

The resonator is “…anyone who acts as a friendly, interested, supportive audience … they show interest, give feedback, express praise, offer encouragement, contribute practical help, and promote the work to others. … they are enthusiastic about the project, they believe it is worth doing, and they are eager to see it brought to completion. But more importantly, they show interest in the writer — they express confidence in the writer’s talents and show faith in his or her ability to succeed. They understand what the writer is attempting. They catch the vision and then do all they can. Resonators help innovators to make the leap from where they are to where they need to be.”

Of course, right? How else would anyone get anything amazing accomplished? We like to talk a big collaboration game but few of us do it and fewer still are good at it. Peak performance in our world is the lone athlete doing the impossible. The brilliant scientist with a break through in the dark, lonely hours of the night. The deft surgeon making all of the right decisions, and incisions, in the OR. The inspired novelist typing away in insolation as she produces a story that touches everyone. We see our best coming in isolation and, like much of the rest of our lives, we approach our best life, best self, and best performance with a lottery ticket mentality: buy the ticket and hope for the best.

(4) A SIMPLE TEST YOU CAN DO AT HOME. Aidan Moher did the math and was stunned by the answer.

(5) WEIRD TALES COLLECTIBLES. Doug Ellis calls attention to the Robert Weinberg Estate Auction scheduled for April:

Weird Tales was Bob Weinberg’s favorite pulp and besides the pulp itself, he loved to collect ephemera related to it. Among the items that will be in the Robert Weinberg Estate Auction being held at the 2020 Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention (April 17-19, 2020 at the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center) are not only many issues of Weird Tales, but some related items as well. The auction will be held on the evening of Friday, April 17, 2020.

Bob collected many letters from Weird Tales’ editor Farnsworth Wright over the years, including several from the estate of author Greye la Spina. She was one of the pioneering female writers of horror and fantasy for the pulps.

(6) PICARD. Una McCormack is the author of The Last Best Hope, the first novel associated with the Star Trek: Picard television series. It embraces both a big idea and a big ideal: “The Big Idea: Una McCormack”.

…In Star Trek: Picard, we are presented with a future where the powers that be are no longer committed to these great ambitions. Starfleet, it seems, withdrew from the great challenge of its age, the humanitarian project to save the Romulan people from the effects of their sun going supernova, making a distinction between ‘lives’ and ‘Romulan lives’. We see a man whose values are no longer shared by the institutions to which he devoted his whole life, and who is struggling with this misalignment….

(7) DON’T GET RIPPED OFF. Writer Beware poses the question, “Should You Pay To Display Your Book At BookExpo? (Short Answer: No)”.

Solicitations Your May Encounter

1. You may already have received an email from the Combined Book Exhibit’s New Title Showcase. The CBE, an area of standing bookshelves outside the entrance to the BEA display floor, offers display packages for a few hundred dollars. For a few hundred more, you can buy an ad in its catalog; for many hundreds more, you can buy an autographing session.

Your book will be placed on a shelf with hundreds of others, in no particular order: there are no separate areas for genres, for instance. I’ve attended BEA many times, and the CBE is often completely deserted, with not a customer or a staff person in sight. I’ve never seen more than a handful of people browsing it at any one time. There is definitely no handselling involved.

A number of predatory marketing companies re-sell CBE services for enormous markups. The CBE is aware of this, and has posted a warning on its website (it’s no coincidence that all the companies named in the warning appear on the scam list in the sidebar of this blog).

(8) COYNE OBIT. The Rev. George V. Coyne, a Jesuit astrophysicist and the longtime director of the Vatican Observatory, who defended Galileo and Darwin against doctrinaire Roman Catholics, and also challenged atheists by insisting that science and religion could coexist, died on February 18 at the age of 87 The New York Times tribute is here.

…Recognized among astronomers for his research into the birth of stars and his studies of the lunar surface (an asteroid is named after him), Father Coyne was also well known for seeking to reconcile science and religion.

…Brother Guy Consolmagno, the current director of the Vatican Observatory, said in an email that Father Coyne “was notable for publicly engaging with a number of prominent and aggressive opponents of the church who wished to use science as a tool against religion.”

Among those he engaged on the debate stage and in print were Richard Dawkins, the English evolutionary biologist and atheist, and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, who, in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times in 2005, defended the concept that evolution could not have occurred without divine intervention.

During Father Coyne’s tenure, the Vatican publicly acknowledged that Galileo and Darwin might have been correct. Brother Consolmagno said it would be fair to say that Father Coyne had played a role in shifting the Vatican’s position….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 18, 1908 Angelo Rossitto. A dwarf actor and voice artist with his first genre role being in 1929’s The Mysterious Island as an uncredited Underwater Creature. His last major role was as The Master in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. He showed up in Galaxina, The Incredible Hulk, Jason of Star Command, Bakshi’s Lord of The Rings, Adult Fairytales, Clones, Dracula v. Frankenstein and a lot more. (Died 1991.)
  • Born February 18, 1919 Jack Palance. His first SF film is H. G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come which bears little resemblance to that novel. (He plays Omus.) Next up he’s Voltan in Hawk the Slayer followed by being Xenos in two Gor films. (Oh, the horror!) He played Carl Grissom in Burton’s Batman, and Travis in Solar Crisis along with being Mercy in Cyborg 2. ABC in the Sixties did The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in which he played the lead dual roles, and he had a nice turn as Louis Strago in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which is worth seeing. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 18, 1929 Len Deighton, 91. Author of possibly the most brilliant alternative novels in which Germany won the Second World War, SS-GB. Itdeals with the occupation of Britain. A BBC One series was broadcast several years back.
  • Born February 18, 1930 Gahan Wilson. Author, cartoonist and illustrator known for his cartoons depicting horror-fantasy situations. Though the world at large might know him for his Playboy illustrations, I’m going to single him out for his brilliant and possibly insane work with Zelazny on A Night in the Lonesome October which is their delightful take on All Hallows’ Eve. (Died 2019.)
  • Born February 18, 1954 John Travolta, 66. Ahhhh, Battlefield Earth. Travolta, a Scientologist, had sought for years to make a film of the novel by Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. Given it is now generally considered one of the worst SF films ever, I do wonder what he thinks of it now. I can almost forgive him for it as he went on to become involved in Chicago which is one of the finest musicals ever filmed. 
  • Born February 18, 1968 Molly Ringwald, 52. One of her was first acting roles was Nikki in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. She’ll later have the lead role of Frannie Goldsmith in Stephen King’ The Stand series. And does the Riverdale series count at least as genre adjacent? If so, she’s got the recurring role of Mary Andrews there. 

(10) IT’S NOT EASY BEING GREEN. In “Love and Loss in the Time of Swamp Monsters” on CrimeReads, Andy Davidson recalls his three favorite Swamp Thing stories, and explains Swamp Thing’s romantic problems because “it can’t be easy falling in love with a vegetable.”

From his first appearance in 1971 in DC’s House of Secrets #92, Len Wein and Berni Wrightson’s Swamp Thing seemed doomed to be the monster lurking beyond the darkened pane.

By the time Swamp Thing #1 hit spinner racks a year later, Wein and Wrightson’s series had revamped and fleshed out the story of Dr. Alec Holland, a research scientist murdered, along with his wife, for his “bio-restorative formula.” Horribly burned in an explosion that destroys his lab, Holland flees into the swamp, where he succumbs to his injuries, only to be miraculously reborn from the bog, “a muck-encrusted, shambling mockery of life.”

(11) WHO SAYS YOU CAN’T PICK YOUR PARENTS? Takayuki Tatsumi, a Keio University English professor and an expert on cyberpunk who has been a frequent panelist at Worldcons, was interviewed by Elif Batuman in a piece that appeared in the April 30, 2018 New Yorker on the Japanese practice of “rental relatives,” where companies rent out actors who pretend to be a client’s spouse, children, or parents. “Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry”

Rental relatives have inspired a substantial literary corpus.  In Tokyo, I met with the critic Takayuki Tatsumi, who, in the nineties, wrote a survey of the genre.  He explained that postmodern and queer novelists had used rental relatives to represent the ‘virtual family,’ an idea he traced back to the -ie- of the Meiji period, where adoption of family members was common and biological lineage was subordinated to the integrity of the household.  ‘According to Foucault, everything is constructed, not essentially determined,’ Tatsumi said.  ‘What matters is the function.’

(12) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was perched in front of the TV tonight when all the contestants whiffled on this Jeopardy! answer:

Category: Speaking Volumes.

Answer: Here’s a revelation — it’s the seventh and “last” book in the Narnia series.

No one got, “What is ‘The Last Battle’?”

(13) MAN’S BEST FRIEND. Brad Torgersen recently was a convention GoH. Guess which of his good friends praised the choice in these terms:

The very best part of Brad being GoH however was that it caused several of the Shrieking Harpies of Tolerance to throw a temper tantrum and declare that they were going to boycott the event (and they did, yet absolutely nobody missed them). Upon hearing that I asked if they could make Brad emeritus GoH every year forever, because that’s like putting a tick collar on a dog.

To think he used to be the Sad Puppies’ lead dog. Now he’s just the collar.

(14) MISSED MANNERS. The Genre Traveler calls your attention to “10 Things Not to Do at a Science Fiction Convention”. Uh, yeah?

6. Take flirtation too seriously.

Con-goers flirt a lot, it is part of the fun of the event … and is really meant to be light-hearted, not a promise of a serious relationship.

5. Point and stare at people in costume…

…even if you’re one of them. It may look exotic and strange to you, but for a con, costumes are quite common at science fiction conventions. That said, if you like someone’s costume, you can always compliment. Just be sure it is a costume…

(15) PRACTICING? In the Washington Post, Rick Noack and Stefano Petrilli discuss how the spread of the corona virus has increased interest in plague-related video games, with “Plague Inc.” and “Pandemic” racking up sales around the world. “Virus games are going viral as the coronavirus spreads”.

The popularity of games centered on the proliferation of pathogens has surged in recent weeks.

As officials and experts worked to stem the global spread of the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, and has left more than 1,500 people dead, gamers have turned their attention to parallel, imaginary struggles.Foremost among them: Plague Inc., a strategy game that rose to the top of Apple Store charts in China, the United States, and elsewhere as coronavirus fears mounted. First released by U.K.-based studio Ndemic Creations in 2012, the game, of which there are a handful of variants, asks players to take the part of a pathogen, helping it evolve to wipe out humanity.

The popularity of such games makes sense amid efforts to cope with the coronavirus and the fears it has sown, researchers and game developers said.

(16) EX-TERMINATE! Fabrice Mathieu’s new mashup is Terminators:

Several T-800 are sent back in time by Skynet. But their mission is scrambled. And now they are all targeting each other!

(17) DEM BONES. In Iraq, “Neanderthal ‘skeleton’ is first found in a decade”.

Researchers have described the first “articulated” remains of a Neanderthal to be discovered in a decade.

An articulated skeleton is one where the bones are still arranged in their original positions.

The new specimen was uncovered at Shanidar Cave in Iraq and consists of the upper torso and crushed skull of a middle-aged to older adult.

Excavations at Shanidar in the 1950s and 60s unearthed partial remains of 10 Neanderthal men, women and children.

During these earlier excavations, archaeologists found that some of the burials were clustered together, with clumps of pollen surrounding one of the skeletons.

The researcher who led those original investigations, Ralph Solecki from Columbia University in New York, claimed it was evidence that Neanderthals had buried their dead with flowers.

This “flower burial” captured the imagination of the public and kicked off a decades-long controversy. The floral interpretation suggested our evolutionary relatives were capable of cultural sophistication, challenging the view – prevalent at the time – that Neanderthals were unintelligent and animalistic.

(18) FRENCH VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Dans La Nuit” by Agathe Simoulin on Vimeo is a creepy story about ghosts in a graveyard adapted from a story by Guy de Maupassant.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/25/17 When All Of A Sudden There Arose Such a Pixel

(1) STAR EXPLAINER. The New York Times profiles sf fan favorite Brother Guy Consolmagno in “Searching for the (Star) Light at the Vatican Observatory”.

Some 2,000 years ago, a celestial phenomenon is believed to have lit up the sky. Guiding the wise men of New Testament lore to the birthplace of Jesus, the star of Bethlehem has since become a planetarium and Christmas carol favorite.

What that star might have been — a comet, supernova, or the conjunction of planets, let alone whether it ever existed — is one of the recurring questions that Brother Guy Consolmagno is called on to answer even though, he noted dryly, “it has nothing to do with our work as scientists at the Vatican Observatory.”

“Too often people get distracted by the Star and forget to look at the Child! And yet I also have to admit I feel a certain joy in the story, and a joy that this story has been so popular for so many people over the centuries,” said Brother Consolmagno, since 2015, the director of La Specola Vaticana (which translates as Vatican Observatory). “Of course, we have no idea what Matthew was writing about. It doesn’t matter!”

The observatory is the only Vatican institution that does scientific research, and Brother Consolmagno, a former physics professor and later-in-life Jesuit, is the public face of an institution whose work “is to show the world that the church supports science.”

(2) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. And here’s what you can look forward to if you keep watching the skies – “Astronomy Calendar For 2018”

(3) TRACKING SANTA. It wasn’t an unlisted number after this happened: “NORAD’s Santa Tracker Began With A Typo And A Good Sport”.

This Christmas Eve people all over the world will log on to the official Santa Tracker to follow his progress through U.S. military radar. This all started in 1955, with a misprint in a Colorado Springs newspaper and a call to Col. Harry Shoup’s secret hotline at the Continental Air Defense Command, now known as NORAD.

Shoup’s children, Terri Van Keuren, 65, Rick Shoup, 59, and Pam Farrell, 70, recently visited StoryCorps to talk about how the tradition began.

Terri remembers her dad had two phones on his desk, including a red one. “Only a four-star general at the Pentagon and my dad had the number,” she says.

“This was the ’50s, this was the Cold War, and he would have been the first one to know if there was an attack on the United States,” Rick says.

The red phone rang one day in December 1955, and Shoup answered it, Pam says. “And then there was a small voice that just asked, ‘Is this Santa Claus?’ ”

His children remember Shoup as straight-laced and disciplined, and he was annoyed and upset by the call and thought it was a joke — but then, Terri says, the little voice started crying.

“And Dad realized that it wasn’t a joke,” her sister says. “So he talked to him, ho-ho-ho’d and asked if he had been a good boy and, ‘May I talk to your mother?’ And the mother got on and said, ‘You haven’t seen the paper yet? There’s a phone number to call Santa. It’s in the Sears ad.’ Dad looked it up, and there it was, his red phone number. And they had children calling one after another, so he put a couple of airmen on the phones to act like Santa Claus.”

(4) DIAGNOSIS GRINCH. The Washington Post’s Susan Svrluga, in “The Grinch needs a good cardiologist, and other holiday stories explained by scientists”, interviews area scientists who answer scientific questions posed by fictional works, such as why Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’s nose glows.  (It could be because Santa’s sleigh crash-landed into the Red Sea and Rudolph got doused in glowing coral.)  Among the scientists interviewed was Johns Hopkins medical school cardiologist Dr. David Kass, who argues the reason why the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes in a day after he pigs out on Whoville food is that the Grinch is a snake and snake’s hearts expand after big meals.

(5) THE PERMANENT CAMPAIGN. Charles Stross, jockeying to keep his series eligible for a future year where he thinks there will be more UK voters to back him, asks —

Please do not nominate the Laundry Files for the best series Hugo award in 2018.

(Explanation below the cut.)

The rules for the best series Hugo award stipulate:

Previous losing finalists in the Best Series category shall beeligible only upon the publication of at least two (2) additional installments consisting in total of at least 240,000 words after they qualified for their last appearance on the final ballot and by the close of the previous calendar year.

This means that if series X is shortlisted in 2018 and loses, it won’t be eligible again until two more installments amounting to 240,000 words have been published in a subsequent year.

There is a significantly better chance of either series winning the award at a British—or Irish—worldcon, such as the one in Dublin in 2019, simply because the worldcon attendees will include more of my UK readers. However, a nomination in 2018 would probably lose (there are plenty of very good series works by American authors: consider Max Gladstone or Seanan McGuire, for example) and thereby disqualify me from eligibility in 2019.

(6) NOT TOO LATE. If you didn’t already get the gift you wanted this holiday season, maybe you can fill the void with the “Star Wars R2-D2 Coffee Press”. Or not – I keep visualizing giving R2 a sinus headache every time…

(7) OBITUARY.  Heather Menzies-Urich (1949-2017), best known for portraying Louisa von Trapp in the 1965 film The Sound of Music, died December 24 at the age of 68. Her main genre credit was starring as Jessica 6 in the TV series Logan’s Run (1977-78). She had an uncredited role in The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969); other genre appearances include Sssssss (1973), The Six Million Dollar Man (one episode, 1977), Piranha (1978), Captain America (1979), Endangered Species (1982).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 25, 1980 Altered States first premiered in theatres.
  • December 25, 1999 Galaxy Quest opened.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • December 25, 1924 – Rod Serling

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) NAUGHTY. The Guardian’s research shows Home Alone atop the pyramid — “Data sketch: the most pirated Christmas movies”. It’s A Wonderful Life is listed, too – I thought it was in public domain now?

(12) CHIANG OP-ED REBUTTED. Tech Crunch’s Jon Evans mounts a defense: “Ted Chiang is a genius, but he’s wrong about Silicon Valley”.

Ted Chiang isn’t just one of the greatest science-fiction writers alive — he’s one of the greatest writers alive full stop. Which is why I was so saddened and disappointed by his recent excoriation of Silicon Valley in BuzzFeed. As the tech industry grows ever more powerful, we need brilliant minds critiquing and dissecting its many flaws. Instead we got a trenchant takedown of a Valley that only exists in the minds of especially shallow journalists.

To be clear, his larger point is dead on: that being that the worry about an AI which maximizes for the wrong thing, most famously one which is told to make paperclips and responds by turning the entire planet into paperclips, is a worry which applies perfectly and exactly to capitalism itself.

…But the thing Chiang doesn’t get is: Silicon Valley is actually not a home of paperclip capitalism. That’s Wall Street. That’s Confessions of an Economic Hit Man-style neoliberal globalization. That’s not the tech industry. The Valley is a flawed and sometimes terrible place, true, but it’s a nuanced sometimes flawed and terrible place.

(13) WATER IS COMING. I don’t know if it would melt the Wall, but it wouldn’t do any good to the rest of the world — “This is what global warming would do to the ‘Game of Thrones’ planet”.

The warring inhabitants of Westeros — one of the four known continents in the Game of Thrones world — dread the planet’s long, unforgiving winters. But a global warming event there, stoked by an influx of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, would likely be even more dire.

Earlier this week, University of Bristol climate scientist Dan Lunt published a study that modeled the doubling of carbon dioxide on the Game of Thrones fantasy world. His results show that if these levels doubled over the course of a century, the average temperature on the planet would warm by over 2 degrees Celsius, or about 3.5 Fahrenheit. This climatic shift would make some areas nearly uninhabitable and unleash devastating natural disasters.

(14) A TOM LEHRER HOLIDAY. Mr. Sci-Fi renders the Science Fiction Christmas Song (recorded in 2014.)

Sci-Fi Ubergeek Marc Zicree sings Tom Lehrer’s Christmas song as great science fiction Christmas images from 1950s Galaxy Magazine and other sources flash by. Marc just recorded this song for Coast to Coast AM’s Christmas Album, with proceeds going to charity.

 

(15) THE DARTH VADER YULE LOG. A seasonal tradition (since 2015).

Gather the younglings for a centuries old family tradition the Darth Vader Yule Log. Sith Lords will be roasting on an open fire, as you sit back an enjoy some holiday classics.

 

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, JJ, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, and Steve Green for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 6/6/17 Scrolltime For Pixels

(1) RABID DRAGONS. Vox Day has posted his picks for “Dragon Awards 2017”. Castalia House and John C. Wright are well represented, along with other things he likes. But poor Declan Finn — he’s not on the list.

(2) BOOZY BARBARIANS. Fritz Hahn, in a Washington Post piece called “A ‘Game of Thrones’ pop-up bar where you can drink Dothraquiris on the Iron Throne”, reviews the Game of Thrones Pop-Up Bar, which will be open throughout the summer and where you can drink The North Remembers from a horn as well as all the Ommegang Game of Thrones beers. But don’t take any broadswords there or the bouncers will confiscate them!

After pop-up bars dedicated to Christmas, “Stranger Things,” cherry blossoms and Super Mario, the Drink Company team is turning the former Mockingbird Hill, Southern Efficiency and Eat the Rich spaces into five settings evoking George R.R. Martin’s novels. (Doors open June 21, just a few weeks before Season 7 premieres on HBO.) Immersive rooms include the House of Black and White (where you’ll find a Wall of Faces made of molds of employees and friends of the bar) and the Red Keep, where you can pose for a photo as House Bolton’s flayed man. There will be dragons and house banners, of course, though the real centerpiece will most likely be a full-size replica of the Iron Throne, which co-founder Derek Brown says “is going to be totally ridiculous.”

(3) OCTAVIA BUTLER SET TO MUSIC. A theatrical concert based on Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower is coming to Chapel Hill, NC in November.

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Toshi Reagon is a celebration of all that’s progressive and uplifting in American music. Written by Toshi in collaboration with her mother — iconic singer, scholar and activist Bernice Johnson Reagon — this powerful theatrical concert brings together 200 years of African American song traditions to give life to Octavia E. Butler’s acclaimed science fiction novel, with revealing insights on gender, race and the future of human civilization.

 

(4) SPECIAL NASFIC OBSERVATORY TRIP. NorthAmeriCon ‘17 members have a chance to join guest of honor Brother Guy Consolmagno, the “Pope’s Astronomer,” on a special tour of the Arecibo Observatory. Find out how at the link.

There are 25 spaces available for the VIP tour, which includes the visitor’s center as well as a 30-minute behind-the-scenes tour in small groups. Since we anticipate that demand for the VIP tour may exceed supply, we are creating a lottery to allocate these spaces. An additional 25 spaces will be available on the bus for the Visitor’s Center only.

The lottery will close at 10 pm ET on Monday, June 12. So as long as you request a spot by then you have an equal opportunity to be picked.

Also, the convention room rate for the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino ends on June 12. Reserve your rooms at the this link.

(5) WHETHER OR NOT YOU WISH. “This is really a neat piece, about the universe where a fantasy princess became a warrior general,” notes JJ, quite rightly. Princess Buttercup Became the Warrior General Who Trained Wonder Woman, All Dreams Are Now Viable by Tor.com’s Emily Asher-Perrin.

Spoilers ahead for the Wonder Woman film.

Those who know the secrets of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride know that he started writing the story for his daughters, one who wanted a story about a bride and the other who wanted a story about a princess. He merged those concepts and wound up with a tale that didn’t focus overmuch on his princess bride, instead bound up in the adventures of a farmboy-turned-pirate, a master swordsman in need of revenge, a giant with a heart of gold, and a war-hungry Prince looking for an excuse to start a terrible conflict. It was turned into a delightful movie directed by Rob Reiner in 1987.

The princess bride in question was played by a twenty-year-old Robin Wright….

(6) HENRY HIGGINS ASKS. In “Why Can’t Wonder Woman Be Wonder Woman?” on National Review Online, editor Rich Lowry says that conservatives will find much to like in the new Wonder Woman movie. He also addresses the mighty controversy about whether the film is feminist because Gal Gadot has no armpit hair in the movie…

(7) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB READING SERIES. On June 21, hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Catherynne M. Valente & Sunny Moraine. The event begins 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar.

Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne M. Valente is the New York Times bestselling author of over 30 books of fiction and poetry, including Palimpsest, the Orphan’s Tales series, Deathless, Radiance, The Refrigerator Monologues, and the crowdfunded phenomenon The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Own Making (and the four books that followed it). She is the winner of the Andre Norton, Tiptree, Prix Imaginales, Eugie Foster Memorial, Mythopoeic, Rhysling, Lambda, Locus, Romantic Times and Hugo awards. She has been a finalist for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. She lives on an island off the coast of Maine with her partner, two dogs, three cats, six chickens, and a small army of tulips.

Sunny Moraine

Sunny Moraine’s short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Tor.com, Nightmare, Lightspeed, and multiple Year’s Best anthologies, among other places. They are also responsible for the Root Code and Casting the Bones trilogies and their debut short fiction collection Singing With All My Skin and Bone is available from Undertow Publications. In addition to time spent authoring, Sunny is a doctoral candidate in sociology and a sometime college instructor. They unfortunately live just outside Washington, DC, in a creepy house with two cats and a very long-suffering husband.

KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.). Remember to donate to their Kickstarter. Readings are always free.

(8) THE FIELD OF MARS. Esquire explains “Why Wonder Woman Has the Most Powerful Opening Scene In Comic Movie History”.

The opening scene in Wonder Woman is a stunning statement: On the enchanted island, the Amazonian women prepare for the day the god of war Ares finds them and tries to wipe them out. To prepare for the god of war is to prepare for war. The camera swoops through the training ground, capturing the Amazonian warriors as they practice wrestling, hand-to-hand combat, archery, and horsemanship. They clash, fists to skin, on a lofted pedestal. They flip from their horses in slow motion, and they smash each other to the ground, all gleaming armor and sinewy muscle as they whirl through the air, braids whipping and breastplates glinting.

It’s a purely physical display of beauty and strength. In a brief minute of film, these women redefine what it means to be a fighter, setting the tone for the rest of the movie: This is going to be two hours of a woman who was raised by women charging straight into the bloody fray of war. You just don’t ever see this bodily type of combat training with women in a movie, and it is enough to make you giddy with anticipation of whatever graceful punishment the Amazonian women will dish out against a real enemy.

(9) BLUE MAN GROUP. I guess they are not playing around. “21st Century Fox’s FoxNext Acquires Mobile Game Studio Group Developing ‘Avatar’ Title”Variety has the story.

FoxNext, the recently formed gaming, virtual reality and theme parks division of 21st Century Fox, is sinking its teeth into the $40 billion mobile games market.

FoxNext has acquired mobile-game developer Aftershock, the entity spun off from Kabam after South Korean gaming company NetMarble acquired Kabam’s Vancouver studio and other assets last December in a deal reportedly worth up to $800 million.

Aftershock — which has studios in L.A. and San Francisco — currently has three titles in development. The only one that’s been publicly announced is a massively multiplayer mobile strategy game for James Cameron’s “Avatar” franchise, in partnership with Lightstorm Entertainment and 20th Century Fox.

(10) WHEN HE’S WRONG. ComicMix’s John Ostrander has a bone to pick with Bill Maher. (And it’s not the one I expected.)

Maher is very attack orientated and each week he winds up his hour with a rant on a given topic., Usually, I find him really funny and incisive but Maher does have his blind spots. He is anti-religion — Islam in particular. He thinks the majority of American voters to be morons and says so, which I find to be a broad generalization, counter-productive and not true.

His past two shows featured rants that gored a pair of my oxen. One was on space exploration, such as terraforming and colonizing Mars, and the other was a screed against super-hero movies.

Maher argued (ranted) that we should not be exploring space or even think of colonizing Mars so long as we have so many problems here at home. Neal DeGrasse Tyson rebutted Bill the following week when he pointed out that any technology that could terraform Mars could also terraform the Earth and restore what has been ravaged. I would add that a lot of our technological advances are a result of space exploration. That computer you carry in your pocket? That’s a result of the need to reduce the size of computers while making them faster and stronger to be of use to astronauts in space. Sorry, Bill, you didn’t think this through.

Then on his most recent show, Maher was quite disdainful about superhero movies in general.

He said there were too many superhero shows on TV and too many superhero movies at the cineplex and blamed the genre for the rise of Donald Trump. He said they “promote the mindset that we are not masters of our own destiny and the best we can do is sit back and wait for Star-Lord and a f*cking raccoon to sweep in and save our sorry asses. Forget hard work, government institutions, diplomacy, investments — we just need a hero to rise, so we put out the Bat Signal for one man who can step in and solve all of our problems.”

(11) BEESE OBIT. Conrunner Bob Beese suffered an aortic aneurysm and passed away on Friday, June 2. He is survived by his wife Pat “PJ” Beese. Both were past Marcon guests of honor.

Bob Beese worked on Chicon IV (1982) and other Chicago cons.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 6, 1933 — The first drive-in movie theater of the United States opened in New Jersey.
  • June 6, 1949 — George Orwell’s novel of a dystopian future, Nineteen Eighty-four, is published. I may have to run this again in two days — many sources, including the Wikipedia, say it was published on June 8. The correct date has probably been lost down the Memory Hole.

(13) NEW MIDDLE GRADE FICTION PRIZE. Joan Aiken’s estate and the A.M. Heath Literary Agency have announced the creation of the Joan Aiken Future Classics Prize.

A.M. Heath and Lizza Aiken, Joan’s daughter, are launching a competition to find a standout new voice in middle grade children’s fiction.

Joan Aiken was the prizewinning writer of over a hundred books for young readers and adults and is recognized as one of the classic authors of the twentieth century. Her best-known series was ‘The Wolves Chronicles’, of which the first book The Wolves of Willoughby Chase was awarded the Lewis Carroll prize. On its publication TIME magazine called it: ‘One genuine small masterpiece.’€¯ Both that and Black Hearts in Battersea have been made into films. Joan’s books are internationally acclaimed and she received the Edgar Allan Poe Award in the United States as well as the Guardian Award for Fiction in the UK for The Whispering Mountain. Joan Aiken was decorated with an MBE for her services to children’s books.

The Prize will be judged by Julia Churchill, children’s book agent at A.M. Heath, and Lizza Aiken, daughter of Joan Aiken and curator of her Estate. The winner will receive £1,000 and a full set of ‘The Wolves Chronicles’.

A shortlist of five will be announced on August 28, and the winner will be announced on September 14. [Via Locus Online and SF Site News. See guys, giving a hat tip doesn’t hurt at all!]

(14) SMALL BALTICON REPORT. Investigative fan journalist Martin Morse Wooster gives File 770 readers the benefit of his latest discovery:

I learned from the Balticon fan lounge that there was Mythbusters slash fiction. No one knew, though, whether in these stories Jamie and Adam did it before, after, or during the explosions (because as we all know, the four best words in Mythbusters are “Fire in the hole!”

I’ll probably have to forfeit one of my Hugos for reporting that.

(15) STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN. Mark Kaedrin takes a stylistic cue from his subject — “Hugo Awards: Too Like the Lightning”.

You will criticize me, reader, for writing this review of Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning in the style that the book itself notes is six hundred years removed from the events it describes (though only two hundred years removed for myself). But it is the style of the Enlightenment and this book tells the story of a world shaped by those ideals.

I must apologize, reader, for I am about to commit the sin of a plot summary, but I beg you to give me your trust for just a few paragraphs longer. There are two main threads to this novel. One concerns a young boy named Bridger who has the ability to make inanimate objects come to life. Being young and having a few wise adult supervisors, he practices these miracles mostly on toys. Such is the way they try to understand his powers while hiding from the authorities, who would surely attempt to exploit the young child ruthlessly.

(16) INNATE OR OUTATE. Shelf Awareness interviews John Kessel about “Sex (and Pianos) on the Moon.”

John Kessel is the author of the novels Good News from Outer Space and Corrupting Dr. Nice and the story collections Meeting in Infinity, The Pure Product and The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories. His fiction has received the Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and the James Tiptree Jr. Award for fiction dealing with gender issues. He teaches American literature and fiction writing at North Carolina State University. He lives in Raleigh with his wife, the novelist Therese Anne Fowler. Kessel’s new novel, The Moon and the Other (reviewed below), recently published by Saga Press, is set on the moon in the 22nd century and tells two love stories, in two politically opposed lunar colonies–the patriarchal Persepolis and the matriarchal Society of Cousins.

What was the genesis of The Moon and the Other?

When my daughter was little, I’d take her to daycare and watch her on the playground with other kids. There was a difference in the way that the girls and the boys played. The boys would run around, often doing solitary things. The girls would sit in a sandbox doing things together. So I began to wonder: To what degree is gendered behavior innate, and to what degree is it learned? I read up about primate behavior, including chimpanzees and bonobos, both related to human beings, but with different cultures. That started me wondering whether there are other ways society could be organized. I didn’t see myself as advocating anything, but I did consider how the world might be organized differently.

(17) THE SHARKES CONTINUING DELIBERATIONS. The Shadow Clarke Jury keeps its reviews coming.

Of the six novels on my personal shortlist, Emma Geen’s The Many Selves of Katherine North is the one that disappointed me most when I came to read it. I originally picked it partly because there was a slight buzz about it online, and I am always curious about novels that provoke online chatter. I chose it too because I’d gained an impression, mostly erroneous as it turned out, that the main character would spend a considerable amount of her time as a fox (and indeed, the novel’s cover art rather implies that this will be the main thrust of the novel), and I’m oddly fascinated by the human preoccupation with vulpine transformations (also, I happen to like foxes a good deal). When I initially wrote about my choices, I invoked David Garnett’s odd little novel of transformation, Lady Into Fox, but having read Many Selves and reread Lady Into Fox, I can see now that I was wrong, except perhaps for one thing, which I’ll come to in due course. Instead, as I read on I found myself thinking more about T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone. Again, I’ll come back to that shortly.

Even before it was published, The Underground Railroad enjoyed a spectacular amount of pre-buzz. I came to it with a certain amount of apprehension — could any book possibly survive the weight of so much hype? — but expecting to admire it nonetheless. Colson Whitehead is a writer with a notable track record in literary innovation — he gave the zombie novel the full Franzen, after all — and has always been a better-than-solid craftsman. Yet in spite of judging it a perfectly decent book — it’s a thoroughly professional, smoothly executed, highly readable novel on an important subject — I found myself distinctly underwhelmed. Where The Underground Railroad is concerned and in spite of wishing I liked it better than I do, I remain in a condition of some bemusement: I simply cannot see what all the fuss is about.

It is hard to think of a work that does a better job of articulating the artistic tensions at work within contemporary literary science fiction than Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit. Set in the same universe as many of the shorter works that Lee has produced since first entering the field in 1999, his first novel speaks to what science fiction must become whilst paying excessive lip-service to what some would have it remain.

Some thoughts. If anyone has ever read my blog they will, I hope, see that most of the implicit criticism is aimed at myself, though obviously some of what follows touches on various discussions on the Shadow Clarke board.

Subjective taste and critical practise depend on so many factors, thus any reading will privilege certain aspects — close reading, theoretical base, genre knowledge, life experiences, political orientation. Once you remind yourself of that basic idea, it becomes almost impossible to defend the rhetoric and moralism that goes into a special pleading for this book or that. I like a bit of rhetoric and I like a bit of hyperbole — it’s fun. BUT my head would not have exploded if The Power had won this year now would it? It will be hard to stop but I probably should. Moreover, I CAN understand why Priest, Mieville, MacInnes, Kavenna or ANY novel didn’t make it on to the shortlist. The idea that there is some objective truth or taste out there that says differently now seems to me entirely bogus. Even amongst those with a depth and breadth of knowledge about the SF megatext there is no agreement or consensus about the books this year or any year.

There is legitimate concern that by labeling The Underground Railroad as science fiction, readers might dismiss the horrors presented in this geographically and chronologically distorted history, thus relegating it all to whimsical fiction. Yet the SFnal device is there for a reason, and Whitehead’s manipulations of time and space are critical to that purpose: as unnerving as The Handmaid’s Tale, as destabilizing as The Man in the High Castle, as cognitively demonstrative as Viriconium, and as psychologically resonant as The Dark Tower€”all works that utilize alt universe devices to bring sociopolitical and literary concerns into powerful, stark relief. Whitehead’s use of this device is complex and brilliant, although I was unable to grasp just how complex and brilliant it is until this project, which has forced me into the tedious and meaningless position of having to argue for its place in science fiction.

But here we are.

(18) PERN RECOVERED. Book Riot reports: “Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern Trilogy Gets New Covers”.

Del Rey Books is celebrating its 40th anniversary as a publisher of quality science fiction and fantasy novels. Among those titles are the three books that make up Anne McCaffrey’s original Dragonriders of Pern trilogy and the more than 20 novels that have come since. And now, they’re getting a new look.

After August 1, readers will be able to purchase the trilogy, Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon, with shiny new covers.

Images of the covers appear at the post.

(19) SUNSTROKED. The BBC knows about “A planet ‘hotter than most stars'”.

Scientists have found a hellish world where the “surface” of the planet is over 4,000C – almost as hot as our Sun.

In part, that’s because KELT-9b’s host star is itself very hot, but also because this alien world resides so close to the furnace.

KELT-9b takes just two days to complete one orbit of the star.

Being so close means the planet cannot exist for very long – the gases in its atmosphere are being blasted with radiation and lost to space.

Researchers say it may look a little like a comet as it circles the star from pole to pole – another strange aspect of this discovery.

(20) STORYTELLING. It’s great to listen to authors reading — if they’re any good at it. Book View Cafe’s Madeleine E. Robins advises how to do it well in “Modulation: The Art of Reading to an Audience”.

You’re telling a story. When you’re among friends telling the anecdote about that time in Marrakesh with the nun, the waffles, and the chicken, do you tell it in a monotone? Not so much. Reading in a monotone does not give your material dignity–it flattens it. So read as if you’re talking to your friends. On the other hand, unless you’re a really gifted actor, you don’t have to act it out. No, really.

And dialogue? Speak it as you hear it in your head, as if your characters were saying it. Use the emphases you hear them using. Pause when they do. (Maybe I’m overselling this, but when I write I hear the dialogue, so that’s how I read it. Your mileage may vary.)

(21) THE PHOTON OF YOUTH. Golden Oldies on Vimeo starts at a Fifties sock hop, then explains the horrible things that happen when the music stops!

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Lurkertype, Andrew Porter, Alan Maurer, Mark-kitteh, Ellen Datlow, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall, who may not have realized what he was doing at the time.]

Pixel Scroll 5/14/17 Ain’t Any Ivory Soap Deal

(1) TOMORROW’S NEWS TODAY: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction will be Wikipedia’s featured article of the day on May 15. Thanks to Gordon Van Gelder for the hot tip.

And if you’d like to amaze your friends by predicting what the featured articles will be for some number of days into the future — just change the digits in the URL….

(2) VOICE OF EXPERIENCE. Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist completes its questioning in “Tad Williams Interview, part 2”.

With your wife Deborah, you have an in-house editor perusing everything you write. Then, at Daw Books you have Betsy Wollheim and Sheila Gilbert editing your novels. With that many editors having you under the microscope (and I reckon that your British editor also has something to say before anything goes into print), some would think that it could become a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. And yet, this approach obviously works well for you. Why is that?

Well, for one thing, I’m stubborn. As much as I love and respect all those folks, including my overseas editors, ultimately the complaints and/or suggestions have to make sense to me before I’ll make any large changes. I’ve been doing this writing gig for quite a while now and I don’t think you get to the point I have — making a living at it for decades — without trusting your own instincts. So if one person says they don’t like something, I’ll look at it and consider it but won’t necessarily change it unless the complaint strikes a chord for me. However, if all or at least several of them say that such and such a section is boring or confusing or whatever — well, I’m not stupid. On the other hand, because I have intelligent, skilled readers and editors like the three you mentioned, I also feel I can try new and unusual things and they are all clever enough to understand what I’m trying to do, which gives me a certain sense of freedom combined with the reassuring feeling that if I screw up too badly, they have my back and will help me fix it.

(3) OCTAVIA BUTLER EXHIBIT AT THE HUNTINGTON. It would be commonplace to start an item like this, “I wonder if Octavia Butler would have been surprised to hear that one day she’d be the subject of an exhibit at the Huntington Library?” But after viewing some of the ambitious notes to herself shown in this article, I don’t think it would have surprised her that much. “At the Huntington, see the inspirational note black sci-fi writer Octavia Butler wrote to herself” in the LA Times.

Octavia E. Butler was a powerful and pioneering voice in science-fiction. The first black woman acclaimed as a master of the genre, she was known for vivid, expertly crafted tales that upended conventional ideas about race, gender and humanity.

Although her creations were bold, Butler, who grew up poor in Pasadena, was “a private, reflective person who struggled with shyness and self-doubt,” said Natalie Russell, curator of a new exhibition at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino.

How such struggles influenced her life and art is one of the themes explored in “Octavia E. Butler: Telling My Stories.” Russell said the show uses an invaluable resource — the author’s archive — to examine both her published work and “who she was as told through her personal papers.”

(4) CASE STUDY. Paul Linebarger may have written the military classic Psychological Warfare, but don’t assume he didn’t need some shrinkage himself — “Remembering Cordwainer Smith: Full-Time Sci-Fi Author, Part-Time Earthling” in The Atlantic.

One hot June day, probably in the late 1940s or early 1950s, psychoanalyst Dr. Robert Lindner received a phone call from a physician who wanted to refer a troubling case to him for treatment: “The fellow I’m calling you about is a man in his 30s, a research physicist with us out here. As far as I can tell, he’s perfectly normal in every way except for a lot of crazy ideas about living part of the time in another world—on another planet.”

This famous case study, which Lindner shared in his 1955 book The Fifty-Minute Hour, is now believed by some to be a real-life account of Paul Linebarger (1913-1966)—better known to science-fiction fans under the name of Cordwainer Smith, a writer who still retains a strong cult following in this year of his centenary. The accumulated evidence suggests that Smith, who published more than two dozen short stories and a single sci-fi novel during the 1950s and 1960s, may have drawn on his personal experiences, broadly defined, in crafting his peculiar and visionary tales of intergalactic life. Brian Aldiss first reported the possible linkage between Smith and Kirk Allen—the name used by Lindner for his patient—in 1973, and subsequent research by Alan Elms and Lee Weinstein has tended to substantiate, although not definitely prove, the connection.

(5) WONDER WOMAN HEALTH FOOD. Forget those protein bars —

Ahead of the release of the new Wonder Woman movie, Cold Stone Creamery is releasing a fierce new flavor. The promotional flavor is called Dark Chocolate Triple Berry Ice Cream, and the new Creation is called the Wonder Woman Berry Bold, which has the Dark Chocolate Triple Berry Ice Cream plus chocolate shavings, raspberries, and gold glitter. And that’s not all. The ice cream shop is also releasing a new cupcake called Triple Berry Wonder, which has layers of moist Red Velvet Cake and Dark Chocolate Triple Berry Ice Cream, topped with chocolate frosting, gold glitter, and a Wonder Woman logoed Chocolate Medallion.

(6) FAN MAIL. Be part of Worldcon 75’s postcard exhibit –

(7) GOLDEN AGE. “Science fiction’s new golden age in China, what it says about social evolution and the future, and the stories writers want world to see” in the South China Morning Post.

…Some 104 original sci-fi titles were published in China in 2016, compared to 75 the previous year, and 461 novelettes were released last year.

Author Regina Wang Kanyu, 27, a long-time sci-fi fan, has witnessed its growth in recent years. “It’s the golden age of Chinese science fiction,” she says.

Wang is a co-founder of AppleCore, a group of mostly university students who get together in Shanghai to read science fiction. It grew from an alliance of several university clubs into a community, and organises film screenings, visits to virtual reality labs and annual festivals.

She now works full time in the science fiction field – as a public relations manager for start-up Storycom by day and a sci-fi writer by night. Storycom purchases and publishes works by Chinese authors, and Wang’s task is to promote them in foreign markets. “We are not simply marketing the works owned by our company, but the entire genre of Chinese science fiction. We would like to increase its influence, outside China and especially beyond the field of literature, into arts and tourism.”

Last month, writers Regina Wang, Wang Yao and Hao Jingfang attended Melon Hong Kong, the city’s first science-fiction conference to bring together Chinese and Western writers….

Note that Wang Yao writes as “Xia Jia”. Regina Wang Kanyu is a contributor to Amazing Stories.

(8) TIME TRAVEL. A zoomable copy of Berenice Abbot’s photo “Newsstand, Southwest Corner of 32nd Street and Third Avenue, November 19, 1935” can be viewed at the Heritage Auctions site.

Travel back in time to the pulp era, when you could have bought a copy of Weird Tales Nov 1935, with a Conan story by R. E. Howard and a letter by Forrest Ackerman, for the original price!

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

(10) THE VIEW FROM ECBATAN. Rich Horton carries on with “Hugo Ballot Reviews: Short Story”.

My ballot will look like this:

1) “That Game We Played During the War“, by Carrie Vaughn

Easy pick for me. It was the only story on my nomination list to make the final ballot. (As I’ve noted before, that’s not unusual.) And it’s SF. More importantly, it’s really good. From my Locus review: “”That Game We Played During the War” is a moving piece about Calla, a woman who was a nurse for Enith during their war with the telepathic Gaant people. The war is over, and Calla is visiting Gaant, trying to meet and continue a game of chess she had been playing with Major Valk, whom she had encountered both in Enith and later after she was captured, in Gaant. This version of chess is unusual — because of the Gaantish telepathy — and it’s not so much the point — the point, of course, is how enemies can come to a peaceful meeting (and, too, how telepathy complicates that!)” So — a core SF idea used very well in service of a worthwhile moral point. With good writing and good characters. Works for me.

(11) BLASPHEMY. That’s what John King Tarpinian said when he spotted this LA Times headline: “So many books to help you get rid of stuff (like too many books)”. The related article, at least, does not single out books as targets of the de-cluttering process.

That stuff-to-happiness equation is at the heart of one of the hottest trends in publishing for the last few years. Publishers have been pumping out book after book celebrating the rewards of getting rid of stuff. Japanese author Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and “Spark Joy” have sold over 7 million copies worldwide, and she’s got another coming next month: “The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story” a graphic novel which casts Kondo as a kind of joy-sparking Sailor Moon who helps a disorganized young woman get her life in order.

(12)  OLD BLUE EYES. He passed away 19 years ago today. Read Steve Vertlieb’s “Sinatra All The Way” tribute at The Gull Cottage.

On the night of Thursday May 14th, 1998, America and the world lost the most iconic, beloved entertainer of the twentieth century. Sadly, it has been nineteen years since the passing of The Chairman Of The Board. William B. Williams assigned that name to Francis Albert Sinatra on his WNEW Radio program a half century ago, and it stuck. No performer either before or since has had the cultural impact of Sinatra. Singer, Actor, Director, Dancer, Painter, Producer, and Social Activist, Frank Sinatra remains the single most influential multi media artist in show business history. On the anniversary of his passage into both history and legend, we take a look back at his remarkable career and commemorate more than one hundred years, as well as one of The Greatest Stories Ever Told, with this retrospective and one hundredth birthday celebration of the life and times of Frank Sinatra.

(13) BROTHER GUY IN THE NEWS. Fan favorite Brother Guy Consolmagno got some ink this week — “The Vatican Is Looking for God in the Stars”.

If you think faith and science can’t share common ground, think again. Experts in both realms met last week at the Vatican Observatory to prove their theory that you can’t have one without the other. “If you have no faith in your faith, that is when you will fear science,” said Brother Guy Consolmagno the Vatican’s chief astronomer, whose works include such titles as “Would you Baptize an Extraterrestrial?

Brother Consolmagno led the three-day conference called Black Holes, Gravitational Waves and Spacetime Singularities at the Vatican Observatory’s Castel Gandolfo labs outside of Rome, the former papal summer residence that is remote enough to allow for clear stargazing with minimal light pollution.

He challenged astronomers, cosmologists. and other experts in the field who also believe in God to “come out” and talk about the intersection of faith and fact. What he ended up with are talks like, “The Internal Structure of Spinning Black Holes” and “The Big Bang and its Dark-Matter Content: Whence, Whither, and Wherefore.” Not once in the whole program does the word “God” or “religion” even appear, which is rare for a conference sponsored by the Vatican.

(14) A SCRIBE IN KALAMAZOO. Heather Rose Jones has posted her extensive and fascinating notes about the paper sessions she attended at the Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo. For example –

What Did it Mean to Be a Magician in al-Baqillani’s Baghdad? The Social Implications of the Discourse on Magic – Mushegh Asatryan, Univ. of Calgary

(could not be present due to immigration status concerns, but sent paper to be read)

11th c Baghdad, implications of magical practice. Book concerns difference between saintly miracles, tirckery, soothsaying, magic, and ??.  Works to distinguish and offers examples. Clear case where theological speculation is informed by social context of author. Life experiences that led the author to compose the work. “Prophetic miracles” (only prophets can perform) vs. “saintly miracles”.

Miracles: something only God can perform, and not others including supernatural creatures. Breaks the usual custom of events. E.g., flying through the air, moving mountains. One test is claim of prophecy. If someone claims to be a prophet and can still perform the action, it’s a miracle not a trick/magic.

Tricks are manipulation of people’s perceptions.

Magic is considered to be real, and is otherwise similar to miracles in breaking the usual course of events.

The author considers these categories in the context of determinism and atomism. Things are considered magic/miracles only because their break the apparent habit of what God wills, but they are still in alignment with God’s will. A magician cannot effect change in an object but any change is due to God’s action. So a magician can’t prove his actions to be proof of prophecy., as God won’t coincidentally break his habits to create the appearance of the effectiveness of his actions. Unless he’s a prophet and they are actual miracles. So if a magician makes a false claim of prophecy, either he must be punished, or the apparent miracle must be made into a natural law (i.e., a habit of God).

While the author condemns Muslim magicians for this reason, he does not do so for Christian or Jewish magicians,. They post no threat to the Islamic power structure of Baghdad, while Muslim magicians did. Internal political conflicts may have been relevant, e.g., Shi’ites were associated with claims of magical powers. (There is discussion of the authority structure with regard to scriptural interpretation.) The author defends the concept/acceptability of magic in order to counter Shi’a magical claims.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Gordon Van Gelder, Bill Mullins, Cat Eldridge, Steve Vertlieb, John King Tarpinian, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor Raymond Chandler, with an assist from John A Arkansawyer.]

Brother Guy Consolmagno Appointed Director of Vatican Observatory

Pope Francis addresses participants in a Vatican Observatory symposium.

Pope Francis addresses participants in a Vatican Observatory symposium.

Pope Francis has named Brother Guy Consolmagno the new director of the Vatican Observatory.

The same day that the Vatican announced Brother Consolmagno’s appointment, Pope Francis met with the observatory staff and guests who were taking part in a special symposium sponsored by the papal astronomers.

“The church urgently needs religious who dedicate their lives to being on the very frontiers between faith and human knowledge, faith and modern science,” the pope told the group.

He also recognized the importance of communicating with the rest of the world how the church and its priests “embrace, encourage and promote authentic science,” adding that it was “very important” his papal astronomers keep sharing their scientific knowledge with others, “freely giving that which you freely have received.”

Brother Guy was a program participant at Sasquan –

At Sasquan he delivered his acceptance talk for the 2014 Carl Sagan Medal for outstanding communication by an active planetary scientists to the general public, as recognized by the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences.

He also has been a guest of honor at several science fiction conventions, including DucKon in 2000, ConFusion in 2002, Boskone in 2007, and ConClave in 2009.

[Via SF Site News.]

Consolmagno To Give Sagan Acceptance Speech at Sasquan

Brother Guy J. Consolmagno

Brother Guy J. Consolmagno

Brother Guy Consolmagno, an astronomer at the Vatican Observatory, will give an acceptance speech for the Carl Sagan Medal at Sasquan, the 2015 Worldcon. The award is given annually by the American Astronomical Society.

Brother Guy, an active fan and a member of the MIT Science Fiction Society, will give this speech at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday evening of the convention.

Brother Guy will also be interviewing Guest of Honor Leslie Turek, also a MITSFS member, later in the convention.

The full press release follows the jump.

Continue reading

Brother Guy Wins Sagan Medal

Guy J ConsolmagnoBrother Guy Consolmagno, the Vatican astronomer with many links to fandom, has been named by the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences as the 2014 winner of the Carl Sagan Medal for outstanding communication by an active planetary scientists to the general public.

The citation reads:

Br. Guy Consolmagno has a decades-long track record of communicating planetary science to the public while maintaining an active science career. In addition, he occupies a unique position within our profession as a credible spokesperson for scientific honesty within the context of religious belief. Br. Guy uses multiple media to reach his audience. He has authored or edited six books, with “Turn Right at Orion” in its fourth edition of publication. This book alone has had an enormous impact on the amateur astronomy community, engendering public support for astronomy. In addition to writing books, he is a dynamic popular speaker, giving 40 to 50 public lectures every year across both Europe and the United States, reaching thousands of people. He regularly gives interviews on BBC radio shows on planetary science topics and hosted his own BBC radio show discussing the origins of the universe (“A Brief History of the End of Everything”). These appearances address both pure science subjects and science-with-religion subjects. As a Jesuit Brother, Guy has become the voice of the juxtaposition of planetary science and astronomy with Christian belief, a rational spokesperson who can convey exceptionally well how religion and science can co-exist for believers.

Brother Guy has been a guest of honor at several science fiction conventions, including DucKon in 2000, ConFusion in 2002, Boskone in 2007, and ConClave in 2009.

[Via SF Site News.]