Pixel Scroll 1/20/21 Along The Alpha Ralpha Boulevard Where You Live

(1) POET FOR TODAY. In the LA Times profile of inauguration poet Amanda Gorman she references the influence of an LA sff author — “Who is Amanda Gorman, Biden inauguration day poet from L.A.?”.

Amanda Gorman ’20, the first Youth Poet Laureate of the United States, is pictured at Harvard University. Poet Amanda Gorman, 22, read at President Joe Biden’s inauguration
(Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard University)

…Her relationship with poetry dates at least to the third grade, when her teacher read Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine”to the classShe can’t recall what metaphor caught her attention, but she remembers that it reverberated inside her….

…Gorman, all of 22, became the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles at age 16 in 2014 and the first national youth poet laureate three years later. On Wednesday, she became the youngest poet to write and recite a piece at a presidential inauguration, following in the considerably more experienced footsteps of Maya Angelou and Robert Frost

In Bradbury’s book, Zen in the Art of Writing, Bradbury recommended that everyone start off their morning by reading poetry.

(2) TIME TO EXHALE. Connie Willis shared “Some Thoughts On Inauguration Day” on Facebook:

…Seeing the Capitol with broken windows, smashed doors, blood streaked on statues, and feces smeared on the floors and walls was something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime, even having watched Trump in action for four years, so it’s no wonder I’ve been holding my breath ever since January sixth and especially watching the inauguration, afraid something even worse would happen.

When Biden finished taking the oath of office, I took my first easy breath in four years. I thought of John Adams in 1776 murmuring, “It’s done. It’s done,” after the Declaration of Independence was passed.

(3) NEW BEGINNING. N.K. Jemisin was momentarily surprised:

(4) IN HIS WAKE. John Scalzi lists the legacies of “The Unlamented Man” at Whatever.

…Not just bad, of course: In fact, the worst. A recitation of his moral failures and actual probable crimes would have us here all day, so let’s pick just one: 400,000 dead, so far, from COVID during his presidency. He is not responsible for the virus. He is responsible for denying its seriousness; for choosing to downplay it because he thought it would make him look bad; for making something as simple and useful as wearing a mask a political issue; for bungling a national response to it and then the distribution of medical supplies and, later, vaccines; for spreading misinformation and lies about it; for, fundamentally, not caring about his fellow Americans, and viewing the pandemic through the lens of him, not us. Hundreds of thousands of Americans who are now dead would be alive under a better president. Their deaths are on his hands, and he simply doesn’t care. He never will.

(5) TALKIN’ ABOUT MY REGENERATION. Radio Times speculates “Why the next Doctor could be a surprise”.

… While the BBC has yet to officially confirm Whittaker’s exit, the regeneration rumour mill has already begun, with all sorts of actors (Michaela Coel! Kris Marshall!) put forward by fans to succeed her ahead of any official recasting.

Assuming, of course, that the next Doctor is announced – because recently, we’ve been wondering. Could the next Doctor actually, for the first time in history, be a total surprise in Whittaker’s last episode, only revealed to viewers when he or she first appears?

… Sadly, production considerations have meant that this has never really been possible, with the new Doctor usually filming their first series publicly before the previous Doctor has moved on (and so making it nigh-impossible to keep secret). But this year, something’s a little different.

When Doctor Who kicked off series 13 filming in November 2020, many assumed that the 10-month shoot would debut in early 2022, giving the series plenty of postproduction time before it came to screens. But surprisingly, the BBC have instead confirmed that series 13 will kick off in late 2021 (presumably in October/November), giving quite a quick turnaround between the end of filming (estimated to be around August) and the airing.

With this in mind, assuming a new Doctor is revealed in Jodie Whittaker’s final episode it’s extremely unlikely that filming for the next series would have begun already. Filming on series 13 would have only wrapped a few months before and the production team would likely be on a break.

In other words, the next Doctor wouldn’t be at as much risk of discovery – and this could offer a golden opportunity.

(6) IS SCIENCE FICTON PLAID? Scotland’s Press and Journal calls 19th-century writer Robert Duncan Milne “The Victorian sci-fi pioneer who imagined our world then vanished in time”. I didn’t know he was the “father of American science fiction.” I’m not sure I know it now, but with some Milnes in my family tree I’m willing to listen.

Based in San Francisco at the height of his writing career, Milne has been hailed as the father of American science fiction and is now the subject of intensive research at Dundee University to restore his place in Scotland’s literary history and landscape – including republishing his stories.

“If he didn’t exist you would have to invent him because there is this kind of Milne-shaped gap between Scotland and the history of science fiction which he fits into absolutely perfectly,” said Dr Keith Williams, a Reader in English at Dundee University’s School of Humanities.

“Scotland appears to punch way below its weight in relation to early science fiction pioneering, yet in actual fact it has this really extraordinary and amazingly rich, lost presence who has just slipped through the cracks of the canon by a series of historical accidents.”

First and foremost was an actual accident. Milne, who had published most of his stories in San Francisco literary journal The Argonaut was on his way to a meeting to discuss bringing out his magazine works as a book.

“Then during one of his spectacular benders, because he was a heroic drunk, he was run over by one of San Francisco’s new electric street cars. He had this head-on collision with modernity himself.

“Ironically, that cut his career short and basically meant his work was never edited together into a single volume or even a selection of material in his lifetime.”

This tragedy meant Milne and his trailblazing work – he inspired not only the science fiction genre but some actual scientific advancements as well – was all but forgotten, while writers who came after him are still lauded to this day.

(7) CARBON COPIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the January 12 Financial Times, gaming columnist Tom Faber looks at how game developers deal with environmental issues.

Games have flirted with environmentalism over the years.  In 1990, a decade after Will Wright made the first Sims game, he incorporated global warming into Simearth, threatening players’ planets with rising temperatures that could melt ice caps and cause oceans to boil away.  The next year, in the first Civilisation, rising pollution levels could turn plains into deserts, a concept revisited in 2018’s Gathering Storm expansion for Civilisation VI.  A recent add-on for Minecraft introduced carbon dioxide to the game, which rises to dangerous levels if you smelt ore, but diminished when you plant trees.  Several new games set for release this year also tackle environmental themes:  We Are The Countdown tasks players with protecting huge animals in its Afrofuturist world, while Endling casts you as a mother fox protecting her cubs from threats such as climate change and pollution.

There are also games that prioritize environmental messaging over the fun of their gameplay.  These include Plasticity, an elegant platformer where you traverse a world drowning under plastic waste, and the work of Earth Games, a studio which releases educational projects with laboured titles such as  Soot Out At The O C Corral, in which you attempt to catch falling soot particles before they contaminate the snow.

(8) BEYOND STOP-MOTION AND GO-MOTION. A recent acquisition for the Academy Museum’s collection, a Jurassic Park T. rex Dinosaur Input Device will be on display inside “Invented Worlds & Characters,” a set of galleries dedicated to the history of animated films, special and visual effects: “Making Digital Dinosaurs: The Dinosaur Input Device”.

Few pieces of filmmaking technology encapsulate their particular moment as thoroughly as the Dinosaur Input Device. Developed for Steven Spielberg’s groundbreaking Jurassic Park (1993), the Dinosaur Input Device (or DID, pronounced dee eye dee) was an innovative answer to that film’s core creative problem: how to bring an array of prehistoric creatures to life on screen in a way that felt fresh and believable.

Jurassic Park’s DID provided a physical interface that allowed traditional stop-motion animators to produce the seeds of digital graphics. Like many innovations, the DID was born on the fly. With the film already underway, an interdisciplinary effects team created and used it to push the boundaries of then-established practice. Today, almost 30 years later, the DID continues to claim our attention, not only because of the awe-inspiring images it helped create, but also because it marked a paradigm shift in visual effects, bridging practical and digital techniques in a way few tools had before—or since….

(9) SAHLIN OBIT. Olle Sahlin (1956-2021), a Swedish translator, editor, graphic designer, and photographer died January 9. Regarded as a “nerd icon,” he was active in RPG, LARP, SCA, Forodrim (the Stockholm area Tolkien society), and fanzines. From 1986-1993 Sahlin worked at Target Games (Adventure Games) as editor. Over the years he was editor-in-chief of Sinkadus magazine, and later published the journals Centurion and Fëa Livia. His literary translations include Stephen Donaldson’s Mordant series, Philip Pullman’s The Dark Matter series, and nine of Terry Pratchett’s novels.

Hospitalized in a coma several years ago, Sahlin never fully recovered, and lost his life earlier this month. He is survived by his wife, Karolina, for whom a GoFundMe has been started:.

And for Karolina, these are difficult times. She has not only lost her lifelong partner, she is alone with all the practical things that must be taken care of, and a broken financial situation. Being freelancing translators is a challenge and income varies, and with Olle being ill for a long period, they have not been able to work as much as usual. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 20, 1884 A. Merritt. His first fantasy story was published in 1917, “Through the Dragon Glass” in the November 14 issue of All-Story Weekly. His SFF career would eventually consist of eight novels and fifteen (I think) short stories. I’m sure that I’ve read The Moon Pool, his novel, and much of that short fiction, but can’t recall the other novels as being read by me. In the digital release, Apple Books is clearly the better place to find his work as they’ve got everything he published whereas Kindle and Kobo are spotty. (Died 1943.) (CE)
  • Born January 20, 1920 DeForest Kelley. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy on the original Trek and a number of films that followed plus the animated series. Other genre appearances include voicing Viking 1 in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (his last acting work) and a 1955 episode of Science Fiction Theatre entitled “Y..O..R..D..” being his only ones as he didn’t do SF as he really preferred Westerns. (Died 1999.) (CE) 
  • Born January 20, 1926 Patricia Neal. Best known to genre buffs for her film role as World War II widow Helen Benson in The Day the Earth Stood Still. She also appeared in Stranger from Venus, your usual British made flying saucer film. She shows up in the Eighties in Ghost Story based off a Peter Straub novel, and she did an episode of The Ghost Story series which was later retitled Circle Of Fear in hopes of getting better ratings (it didn’t, it was cancelled).  If Kung Fu counts as genre, she did an appearance there.  (Died 2010) (CE)
  • Born January 20, 1934 Tom Baker, 87. The Fourth Doctor and my introduction to Doctor Who. My favorite story? The “Talons of Weng Chiang” with of course the delicious added delight of his companion Leela played by Lousie Jameson. Even the worse of the stories were redeemed by him and his jelly babies. He did have a turn before being the Fourth Doctor as Sherlock Holmes In “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, and though not genre, he turns up as Rasputin early in his career in “Nicholas and Alexandra”! Being a working actor, he shows up in a number of low-budget films early on such as The Vault of HorrorThe Golden Voyage of Sinbad, The MutationsThe Curse of King Tut’s Tomb and The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood. And weirdly enough, he’s Halvarth the Elf in a Czech made Dungeons & Dragons film which has a score of 10% on Rotten Tomatoes.  (CE)
  • Born January 20, 1948 Nancy Kress, 73. Best known for her Hugo and Nebula Award winning Beggars in Spain and its sequels. Her latest novel is If Tomorrow Comes: Book 2 in the Yesterday’s Kin trilogy. (CE)
  • Born January 20, 1958 Kij Johnson, 63. Writer and associate director of The Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas English Department which is I must say a cool genre thing to be doing indeed. If you’ve not read her Japanese mythology based The Fox Woman, do so now as it’s superb. The sequel, Fudoki, is just as interesting. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a novella taking a classic Lovecraftian tale and giving a nice twist. Finally I’ll recommend her short story collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories. She’s will stocked at the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born January 20, 1964 Francesca Buller, 57. Performer and wife of Ben Browder, yes that’s relevant as she’s been four different characters on Farscape, to wit she played the characters of Minister Ahkna, Raxil, ro-NA and M’Lee. Minister Ahkn is likely the one you remember her as being. Farscape is her entire genre acting career.  (CE)

(11) CREATOR BIOPIC. Moomin.com cheers because “Tove Jansson’s first biopic TOVE heading to US”.

The first ever bio-pic drama about Moomin creator Tove Jansson, TOVE, has been sold to over 50 territories across the world and is heading to the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom amongst others….

TOVE broke box office records in Finland in 2020 in spite of the pandemic, and now ranks as the highest grossing Swedish-language Finnish film in the last 40 years.

TOVE is also Finland’s official Academy Award entry and will be a part of the Nordic Competition at the 2021 online edition of Göteborg Film Festival.

(12) BYTE-SIZED COMICS POPULAR. Publishers Weekly reports “Tapas Sees Big Gains for Digital Comics”.

Digital comics delivered via mobile devices are starting to take significant creative and commercial steps forward. Last year Webtoon, owned by Korean tech giant Line, posted dramatic user and revenue growth, driven by large investments in attracting new customers. That was not a fluke: Tapas, a smaller U.S.-based mobile comics startup, has also announced impressive recent growth, along with plans to partner with traditional print publishers like Scholastic.

Founded in 2012, Tapas has grown a dedicated community of readers and creators through a popular mobile app, Tapas.io, which features “snackable” vertical-scroll episodic webcomics and stories. In the last year, the privately-held company announced it had reached 100 million episode-unlocks (paid content transactions) and saw total 2020 payments to Tapas creators rise to $14 million…. 

(13) NERDS OF A FEATHER. Cora Buhlert covers one of the top sff review sites in “Fanzine Spotlight: nerds of a feather, flock together”.

Who are the people behind your site or zine?

The site’s founder The G started the site in 2012 with co-editor Vance K, and we’ve added co-editors Joe Sherry and Adri Joy in the last few years. In addition to the editors, who also contribute content, our current team of writers includes Aidan Moher, Andrea Johnson, Chloe N. Clark, Dean E. S. Richard, Mikey, Paul Weimer, Phoebe, Sean Dowie, Shana DuBois, and Spacefaring Kitten.

Why did you decide to start your site or zine?

At the time, I was reading a lot of SF/F and – being an opinionated person – felt the need to blast those opinions out into the ether. But I also didn’t think running a blog on my own sounded like as much fun as running one with other people. So I asked Vance if he wanted to start one with me (it didn’t take him long to say yes). After that we gradually added more people – some we knew personally, and others we met online. — The G, founder

G and I were next door neighbors in Los Angeles for about three years — both transplants from places with robust and storied BBQ traditions. There was a lot of grilling in our shared courtyard as a result, and over the course of many beers and cooked meats, we talked a lot of sci-fi and fantasy. After we’d both moved to new spots, he got the idea for a blog, and I think the night he reached out about it, I had just watched a deeply odd French psychological horror movie, and I was like, “I know just what to write about.” — Vance K

(14) ACROSS THE CHANNEL. “Review: Lupin (Netflix)” at Camestros Felapton.

The obvious comparisons made about Netflix’s French language hit is with Sherlock: a modern day re-imagining of a turn-of-the-century character. The first episode suggests a slickness of form suggestive of Sherlock but Lupin as a show is less impressed with its own cleverness and more interested in the central character. The bold choice is that central character is not Arsène Lupin Gentleman Burglar but Assane Diop, the son of a Senegalese immigrant who has reshaped his life to emulate the famous (at least in France) character….

(15) NOISY RED PLANET. We’ll soon know “What Mars sounds like” says CNN.

Mars is about to be a very busy place when three separate missions arrive at the red planet in February.

One of those missions includes NASA’s Perseverance rover. When it lands, we’ll be able to hear the sounds of Mars for the first time, thanks to microphones riding on the rover.

new interactive experience shared by the agency will prepare our ears for a key difference in the sounds of Mars: the atmosphere. The thin Martian atmosphere has only 1% of the density that we experience of Earth’s atmosphere at the surface. It also has a different atmospheric composition. Mars is also much colder than Earth. All of these factors will affect sound on Mars, even though the differences may be subtle.

The NASA interactive compares sounds as we hear them on Earth versus how they may sound on Mars, like birds chirping or music. If you were speaking on Mars, your voice would sound more muffled and it would take longer for others to hear you.

So what will we be able to hear on Mars? The microphones are expected to pick up the sounds of the rover landing and working on Mars, as well as ambient noises like wind. One of the microphones is located on top of the rover’s mast, so it can pick up natural sounds and even activity by the rover — like when the rover’s laser zaps rock samples and turns them into plasma to learn more about their composition.

The NASA webpage about the “Sounds of Mars” has full details.

…The Perseverance rover carries two microphones, letting us directly record the sounds of Mars for the very first time. One, an experimental mic, may capture the landing itself. The other mic is for science. Both mics may even capture the sounds the rover makes.

Even though Earth and Mars are entirely different planets, it may be comforting to know that if you were on Mars, you might still sound pretty much like yourself. If you were standing on Mars, you’d hear a quieter, more muffled version of what you’d hear on Earth, and you’d wait slightly longer to hear it. On Mars, the atmosphere is entirely different. But, the biggest change to audio would be to high-pitch sounds, higher than most voices. Some sounds that we’re used to on Earth, like whistles, bells or bird songs, would almost be inaudible on Mars….

(16) BIG BONED. CNN says “Dinosaur fossils could belong to the world’s largest ever creature”.

…Paleontologists discovered the fossilized remains of a 98 million-year-old titanosaur in Neuquén Province in Argentina’s northwest Patagonia, in thick, sedimentary deposits known as the Candeleros Formation.

The 24 vertebrae of the tail and elements of the pelvic and pectoral girdle discovered are thought to belong to a titanosaur, a diverse group of sauropod dinosaurs, characterized by their large size, a long neck and tail, and four-legged stance.

In research published in the journal Cretaceous Research, experts say they believe the creature to be “one of the largest sauropods ever found” and could exceed the size of a Patagotitan, a species which lived 100 million to 95 million years ago and measured up to a staggering 37.2 meters (122 feet) long….

(17) BEHIND THE SCENES. Slate’s Riley Blackis surprisingly enthusiastic that “We Finally Know What a Dinosaur’s Butthole Looks Like”.

For the entirety of my career as a journalist covering paleontology, I’ve been wanting to know: What does a dinosaur’s butthole look like? When I wrote My Beloved Brontosaurus, a book about dinosaur biology, the chapter on reproduction required a lot of time imagining the nature of a Jurassic behind; one had yet to be found preserved. Even dinosaur models and sculptures often demur on the point of the dino butt, leaving the terrible lizards with terrible constipation.

Now I finally have a clearer view, thanks to a fossil of a horned dinosaur called Psittacosaurusdescribed in a paper online earlier this month…

Of course, Chuck Tingle was sure he knew already.

(18) TAKE AWAY. “Little Free Art Gallery in Seattle tells patrons to take a piece and leave one” – the Washington Post tells how it works.

Stacy Milrany probably runs the only art gallery in the country where visitors are encouraged to walk away with the art.

And as far as she knows, her Little Free Art Gallery in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood is likely the only museum where all of the works will fit neatly in a pocket.Milrany’s miniature gallery, which opened for public view on Dec. 13, sits five feet off the ground inside a white wooden box in front of her house.

The head curator and painter said she based her idea on the popular Little Free Libraries in neighborhoods coast to coast.

“The idea is pretty simple — anyone is welcome to leave a piece, take a piece or just have a look around and enjoy what’s inside,” said Milrany, a painter who runs a small, appointment-only gallery featuring her works. … Nearly 100 pieces have come and gone since the gallery opened last month, she said, with most small enough to be displayed on tiny shelves or seven-inch easels.

I’ve heard the name of this neighborhood before and wouldn’t be surprised if some fans live nearby.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/16/21 I Was Deleted You Won The War, Pixel Scroll, Promise To Read You Forevermore

(1) LE GUIN IN PERSPECTIVE. “It’s not Jung’s, it’s mine: Language-Magic” at the London Review of Books, Colin Burrow offers an overview of Ursula Le Guin’s career.

…But in the hands of an author like Ursula Le Guin, science fiction ‘isn’t really about the future’, as she put it in The Last Interview. ‘It’s about the present.’ It changes one or two structuring facts about the world as it is and asks: ‘What would humans do if this and this were true?’ The questions Le Guin asked were big, and her answers to them were subtle. Half a century ago she wondered: ‘What if people were gender-neutral most of the time, but changed between male and female at random when they came on heat, so that you could write sentences like “The King was pregnant”?’ (as in her Left Hand of Darkness). Or, ‘what if a capitalist planet had a moon on which there was a society with no laws and no private ownership?’ (as in her Dispossessed). Alongside these large questions her fiction also poses less visible challenges to its readers. Are you so unconsciously racist that you didn’t notice this woman or this wizard was brown-skinned? Didn’t you realise that the person you thought was an alien is actually from Earth?

For Le Guin these questions almost always led back to one core idea about people. They get stuff wrong even when they want to get it right, and the more they think they’re in control the worse the mistakes they’re likely to make. In The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction (first published in 1988 and now reissued with a thoughtful introduction by Donna Haraway), she described her writing as a ‘great heavy sack of stuff, my carrier bag full of wimps and klutzes … full of beginnings without ends … full of space ships that get stuck, missions that fail and people who don’t understand’. Her modesty downplays how deeply her fiction gets inside the darker parts of the human mind….

(2) CLASS ACTION. “Amazon.com and ‘Big Five’ publishers accused of ebook price-fixing” in a recently-filed class action lawsuit reports The Guardian.

Amazon.com and the “Big Five” publishers – Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster – have been accused of colluding to fix ebook prices, in a class action filed by the law firm that successfully sued Apple and the Big Five on the same charge 10 years ago.

The lawsuit, filed in district court in New York on Thursday by Seattle firm Hagens Berman, on behalf of consumers in several US states, names the retail giant as the sole defendant but labels the publishers “co-conspirators”. It alleges Amazon and the publishers use a clause known as “Most Favored Nations” (MFN) to keep ebook prices artificially high, by agreeing to price restraints that force consumers to pay more for ebooks purchased on retail platforms that are not Amazon.com.

The lawsuit claims that almost 90% of all ebooks sold in the US are sold on Amazon, in addition to over 50% of all print books. The suit alleges that ebook prices dropped in 2013 and 2014 after Apple and major publishers were successfully sued for conspiring to set ebook prices, but rose again after Amazon renegotiated their contracts in 2015….

(3) URSA MAJOR AWARDS. [Item by N.] The furries are at it again. No virus can hold them down. I mean this as a positive. Nominations for the 2020 Ursa Major Awards have opened and will continue until February 13. Click here to participate.

What’s eligible? Consult the Recommended Anthropomorphics List.

(4) A DISH NAMED WANDA. Camestros Felapton screens the latest Disney+ offering: “Review: WandaVision Ep 1 & 2”

…We are primed for an genre mash-up of superheroes, sit-com pastiche and surreal horror. On the one hand, that is a bold move and on the other hand what we have is essentially a kind of “holodeck episode” in which familiar characters are placed in a contrasting genre for sci-fi or fantasy reasons. Your tolerance for holodeck episodes may vary but they can be fun — the bold choice here is making it the premise of the series and centring two characters who have limited time to develop their characters in the movie…

(5) ROLE YOUR OWN. StryderHD presents Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown as Princess Leia in this #Deepfake video.

At some point in time we are going to either recast or totally CGI parts of actors if you ever want to see them younger or a prequel of a movie they were in or unfortunately great actors we have lost, maybe to ever see them again. In this specific video everyone voted to see who would play a good Princess Leia Organa in a possibly TV series/prequel in the Star Wars universe and you all picked Millie Bobby Brown from “Stranger Things” fame as well as being in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” and other things. What do you all think of her as playing the part?

(6) DIE BY THE DICE. SYFY Wire says to expect a “Dungeons & Dragons live-action TV series by John Wick creator Derek Kolstad”.

Tread carefully with torch in hand, because there’s a new Dungeons & Dragons TV series reportedly around the corner — and it’s coming from a creative mind with a whiplash action pedigree.

John Wick creator and screenwriter Derek Kolstad is reportedly rolling the 20-sided dice as the newly-recruited writer for a live-action D&D series from Hasbro & eOne, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Kolstad, who helped propel Keanu Reeves to new levels of action stardom as the mind behind John Wick’s fast-paced brand of slick secret-society infighting, will reportedly write and develop a pitch for the as-yet unnamed D&D series.

(7) MISSING INGREDIENT. Don’t hold your breath expecting it to happen, but Tim Allen would still like to do the film. “Tim Allen Offers Update on Galaxy Quest 2” at ComicBook.com.

…”It’s a fabulous script,” Allen said in an interview with EW, “but it had a hiccup because the wonderful Alan Rickman passed. So it all got very sad and dark because [the script] was all about [Lazrus] and Taggart. It was all about their story. It doesn’t mean they can’t reboot the idea, and the underlying story was hysterical and fun….I haven’t reached out to anybody in the last week, but we talk about it all the time. There is constantly a little flicker of a butane torch that we could reboot it with. Without giving too much away, a member of Alan’s Galaxy Quest family could step in and the idea would still work.”

Allen also maintained that the years between the film and now, or five years from now, wouldn’t have any huge effect on their ability to make the sequel either, adding: “[The sequel] could happen now or in five years and it doesn’t matter at all because when you travel at light speed, when you come back it can be like only 20 minutes, but 20 years have passed, right? That part is wonderful for the sci-fi freak in me. But right now it’s in a holding pattern.”

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2001 — Twenty years ago, Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Radio wins the Nebula Award and would also win the Endeavour Award. It was nominated for the Locus and Campbell Awards as well the same year. It was followed by a sequel, Darwin’s Children which would receive nominations for the Arthur C. Clarke, Locus, and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • January 16, 1895 – Nat Schachner.  Chemist, lawyer, author.  President of American Rocket Society.  Director of public relations, Nat’l Council of Jewish Women.  History and historical fiction e.g. The Mediaeval Universities, biographies of Burr, Hamilton, Jefferson, The Wanderer about Dante and Beatrice.  For us two novels, a hundred shorter stories.  (Died 1955) [JH]
  • Born January 16, 1905 Festus Pragnell. Ok, he’s here not because he had all that a distinguished a career as a writer or illustrator, but because of the charming story one fan left us of his encounter with him which you can read here. Festus himself wrote but three novels (The Green Man of KilsonaThe Green Man of Graypec, and The Terror from Timorkal), plus he wrote a series of stories about Don Hargreaves’ adventures on Mars. Be prepared to pay dearly if you want to read him as he’s not made it into the digital age and exists mostly in the original Amazing Stories only. (Died 1977.) (CE) 
  • Born January 16, 1943 Michael Atwell. He appeared in Doctor Who twice, first in a Second Doctor story, “The Ice Warriors”, and later in the in the Sixth Doctor story, “Attack of the Cybermen.” He also voiced Goblin in the Labyrinth film, and had a recurring role in Dinotopia. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born January 16, 1945 – Russell Letson, age 76.  Journalist and technical writer.  Plays acoustic guitar, wrote about Hawaiian slack-key (Aloha Guitar, 2014).  Taught English awhile.  Book reviewer for Locus since 1990.  Introduced the Gregg Press edition of Leiber’s Wanderer.  Filer.  [JH]
  • Born January 16, 1948 John Carpenter, 73.  My favorite films by him? Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York.  His gems include the Halloween franchise, The ThingStarman (simply wonderful), The Philadelphia ExperimentGhosts of Mars and many other films. What do you consider him to done that you like, or don’t like for that matter? I’m not fond of Escape from L.A. as I keep comparing to the stellar popcorn film that the previous Escape film is. (CE)
  • Born January 16, 1952 – Cy Chauvin, age 69.  Fan Guest of Honor at Fan Fair III, at Lunacon 27, see here.  Edited the Wayne Third Foundation’s clubzine.  Co-founded MISHAP.  Stippler.  Reviewed for Amazing.  Anthologies A Multitude of Visions (criticism), The Tale That Wags the God (Blish’s only).  Letters, essays, fanart, in AlgolJanusMatrixNY Rev SFRiverside QuarterlySF CommentaryVector.  [JH]
  • Born January 16, 1958 – Marla Frazee, age 63.  Illustrated It Takes a Village, three dozen more including eight Borrowers, wrote some of them.  Two Caldecott Honors, Boston Globe – Horn Book Award.  “Study the genre and the best books of the time.  Read all the time.  Read everything you can.  Be passionate and honest about what you are doing and why you are doing it.”  Has a little Free Library in her front yard.  Here is The Planetoid of Amazement.  Here is Bed-Knob and Broomstick.  Here is The Farmer and the Monkey.  [JH]
  • Born January 16, 1961 – Karen McQuestion, age 60.  Eight novels for us, a dozen others, sold a million copies.  “I believe in almost everything, which makes the world seem both miraculous & terrifying.”  Her home-office has a mahogany desk, a recliner, bookcases, framed prints from one of her illustrators, and an electric fireplace “which some of my family think is tacky, but I don’t care.”  [JH]
  • Born January 16, 1968 – Rebecca Stead, age 53.  Lawyer, married another; spent a few years as a public defender.  Vassar woman (as was my grandmother).  Newbery Medal; The Guardian prize (first winner outside the Commonwealth).  For us, four novels including both of those prizewinners, one shorter story.  [JH]
  • Born January 16, 1970 Garth Ennis, 51. Comic writer who’s no doubt best known for  Preacher which he did with illustrator Steve Dillon, and his stellar nine-year run on the Punisher franchise. I’m very fond of his work on Judge Dredd which is extensive, and his time spent scripting Etrigan the Demon For DC back in the mid Nineties. What by him should I be reading?  (CE) 
  • Born January 16, 1974 Kate Moss, 47. Yes, she’s done SF. To be precise Black Adder which we discussed a bit earlier. She played Maid Marian in “Blackadder Back & Forth” in which as IMDB puts it “At a New Millennium Eve party, Blackadder and Baldrick test their new time machine and ping pong through history encountering famous characters and changing events rather alarmingly.” You can watch it here. (CE)
  • Born January 16, 1976 Eva Habermann, 45. She is best known for playing the role of Zev Bellringer on Lexx. She was succeeded in her role by Xenia Seeberg. Ok, I’ll confess that I’ve never seen the series which I know exists in both R and not so R versions. Who here has seen it in either form? She was also Ens. Johanna Pressler in Star Command, a pilot that wasn’t to be a series that was written by Melinda Snodgrass. And she had a role in the Code Name: Eternity series as Dr. Rosalind Steiner. (CE) 

(10) HOT SHOT. “Don’t Miss the Hot Fire Test for NASA’s Artemis Moon Missions” – Well, it already happened this afternoon, but the video will be replayed today at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on NASA Television. Which is probably just minutes away by the time the Scroll will be posted.

Editor’s note: This advisory was updated Jan. 16 to update the window for the hot fire test, as well as start time for NASA TV coverage. Because test preparation is running ahead of schedule, NASA TV coverage will begin at 3:20 p.m. EST for a test start time of 4 p.m.

NASA is targeting a two-hour test window that opens at 4 p.m. EST Saturday, Jan. 16, for the hot fire test of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage at the agency’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Live coverage will begin at 3:20 p.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website, followed by a post-test briefing approximately two hours after the test concludes.

(11) JEOPARDY! John King Tarpinian proudly snapped this while watching Jeopardy! on Friday night.

(12) LOCAL CHOW. BBC Sounds has audio of The Food Chain episode “The arctic eating adventure”.  Andrew Porter urges everyone to listen to the show and watch the linked video.

When the only road into her town was blocked by a landslide, documentary filmmaker Suzanne Crocker was shocked by how quickly supermarket shelves went bare. It set her mind racing; would her remote Canadian town – just 300km from the Arctic circle – be capable of sustaining itself? She decided to undertake a radical experiment: an entire year of eating 100% local. 

Emily Thomas hears how she grew, hunted, foraged and negotiated her way through the seasons with a cupboard bare of salt, sugar and caffeine. How did she persuade three hungry teenagers to come on board, and what did a year of eating local do to family dynamics? 

Suzanne’s film about the experience is available on FirstWeEat.ca until February 1.

(13) THE PROGNOSTICATORS LOOK UP. At Literary Hub, Rob Wolf  interviews the author to find out “Why Kim Stanley Robinson Wrote a New Cli-Fi Novel… in Which Things Actually Get Better”.

Rob Wolf: The book opens with a heat wave in the Indian province of Uttar Pradesh. We see it unfold through the eyes of a Western aid worker, Frank May. Could you talk about what happens, what this disaster is and how it sets the story in motion?

Kim Stanley Robinson: I began to read about wet-bulb temperatures, which is a heat index that combines heat and humidity. Everybody who watches weather channels is already familiar with heat indexes, and everybody who lives in humid areas knows about the heat and humidity in combination. There’s been discussion amongst a certain portion of the people trying to think about climate change that maybe we just have to adapt to higher global average temperatures. They aren’t so worried about crossing the 2-degree centigrade Celsius rise in global average temperature and all that. We’ll go to three. We’ll go to four. We’ll just adapt.

But the problem is this wet-bulb 35 is only about 95 degrees Fahrenheit, plus 100 percent humidity, and human bodies can’t deal. They die. You would have to be in air conditioning. And in heat waves like that, power systems and grids often fail, in which case there would be mass deaths. There’s been a wet-bulb 34s all over the tropics and even in the Chicago area, and a few wet-bulb 35s have already been seen for an hour or two across the globe. They’re going to be more and more common.

What it suggested to me was that we can’t actually adapt to a three- or four-degree average rise because we’ll be getting these heat waves that will be deadly and power grids will fail and millions will die. So I thought, well, okay, let’s follow that thought into a novel where one of these happens and everything gets radicalized, everything goes crazy. What would that look like? And can I start from that and actually thirty years later come to a better place?

(14) TROLL BRIDGE ‘CAUSE WE’RE COMIN’ TO A TOWN. Snowgum Films has posted their 2019 Pratchett tribute Troll Bridge: The Moving Picture on YouTube.

Cohen the Barbarian was angry. Angry that he never died in battle, angry that the world had forgotten him, and angry that his knees were starting to play up in the cold. He was also angry that his faithful mount had been gifted the ability of magical speech. The horse was insisting that they had made a wrong turn back at Slice. He was also angry that the horse was probably right. This was not how it was supposed to end for the barbarian. This was not how the Discworld’s greatest hero imagined it at all.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Godzilla–The Soul of Japan” on YouTube, Kaptain Kristian says the original Japanese version of Godzilla was a powerful anti-nuclear allegory (Godzilla’s head is shaped like a mushroom cloud, and he has no scales so his skin looks like radiation burns) but the film was re-shot and censored for its substantially different American release.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, N., Danny Sichel, Nina Shepardson, John Hertz, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 1/11/21 The
Muppet Pastors

(1) LIGHTS OUT AT PARLER. When Twitter banned President Trump and purged thousands of QAnon-linked accounts that fell under the company’s “coordinated harmful activity” ban (due to concerns about online incitement leading to violence), Parler was one of the alternative social media sites expecting to offer a new home to the traffic — until its tech host, Amazon, pulled the plug: “Parler sues Amazon after pro-Trump site goes dark” in the Washington Post.

Parler filed a lawsuit against Amazon Web Services on Monday, just hours after the social media network was taken offline when Amazon pulled support.

Parler filed the suit against Amazon on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The company alleges in the suit that Amazon breached its contract by not giving it 30 days’ notice before dropping service. Parler also argued that Amazon was being hypocritical by not taking similar action against Twitter, where violent posts can also appear.Big Tech abandoned the social media site, known for allowing unfettered speech on its platform, over the weekend after expressing concern that the site was not properly moderating posts that could incite violence. Google and Apple removed Parler from its app stores, while Amazon — which was hosting the site on its cloud — decided to stop working with it, effectively removing it from the Internet.

…Even after Apple warned Parler that it needed to implement a more thorough content moderation plan or be kicked off the App Store, the social media network spurned the idea.

(2) HOYT. Sarah Hoyt, in “…Book Promo And Some Blather By Sarah” [Internet Archive link], urged people not to make her Amazon sales collateral damage in their reaction to its treatment of Parler.

A lot of you are furious at Amazon for joining the unconscionable censorship of Parler, which btw is still relatively small and all innocuous, other than, you know, allowing Trump a platform (Because as invaders, the left can’t let the president of the US address the nation, of course.) Look, so am I. I’m even more furious because I have no way out of the trap.

Yes, a lot of you — yes, I’m looking at you — have raged at Amazon for years and told us it would come for us and that we should get out now. This was not only misguided (I’ll explain why) but also it’s kind of the equivalent of poking a chained prisoner and saying “run.” He really wants to, but all you’re actually doing is torturing and wounding him.

However, since last night, this has TRULY become an emergency, not because of what Amazon will do or won’t do to ebook fiction (more on that) but because a core of my readers will now refuse to buy from Amazon under any circumstances, which means that I’m going to lose a lot of my income (and Amazon won’t give a flying fig. But I get your outrage, I understand, and yet you’ll only hurt the writers, UNTIL WE HAVE AN ALTERNATIVE.)

(3) CORREIA. Larry Correia’s post “Bow Before Appgooglezon” [Internet Archive link] at Monster Hunter Nation mentions neither Parler nor Amazon, but everyone in comments knows what’s being discussed, and they do name them.

(4) PUNDITRY. Camestros Felapton finds the two prior authors a source of inspiration for his own commentary. Quoted here are the final lines of a pair of his latest posts.

…So there you go, not one red cent apart from any red cents where a proportion of the red cent might go to Sarah Hoyt.

…It is a bit late in the day for Larry to discover that Elizabeth Warren had a point but it is noticeable that the step big tech took that tipped Larry over the edge was them clamping down on speech aimed at inciting violence to over throw an election.

(5) SCALZI. John Scalzi has written several posts on recent developments, beginning with “Thoughts on Coups and Sedition, 1/8/21”. (His comment on Trump’s Twitter ban is comparatively laconic: “Huh”.)  

Fine. First question: Was what happened on Wednesday an actual coup attempt?

What makes you think that it wasn’t?

I don’t know, I guess maybe I thought a real coup wouldn’t include a guy who looked like a Jamiroquai cosplayer at a Nazi bar karaoke night.

Just because it was a stupid coup attempt doesn’t mean it wasn’t a real coup attempt. Trump plumped for the thing to happen in his nodding and winking way on Twitter, and he incited it and encouraged it in person. The attendees came expecting to take part in one, and had planned their strategy, such as it was, on Parler and other not-exactly-savory portions of the internet. They brought weapons and zip ties. They went looking for congresspeople. They weren’t just there to hang out on the mall, wave their Trump flags, get a churro and go home. They meant business. Fortunately like all Trump business, it went belly up in record time. But that’s neither here nor there for the intent….

(6) JEMISIN. N.K. Jemisin identifies some historical myopia in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s video (linked in yesterday’s Scroll) but adds “I’m mostly fine with Arnold’s message, BTW.”

(7) WATCHING BB. Buckaroo Banzai is the theme of the World Watch One Newsletter for January 10 [PDF file] which contains Steven H Silver’s “The Buckaroo Barrier” (pp. 15-16) where he explains, “I’ve been a fan of the film Buckaroo Banzai ever since I saw it in the theatres. A few years ago, I realized that for a lot of people, the first viewing of the film left them confused and disliking the film. I discuss why a second viewing may be necessary to appreciate it.”

(8) FIVE YEARS. Wil Wheaton shared his sobriety anniversary on Facebook His testimony begins:

Yesterday, I marked the fifth anniversary of my decision to quit drinking alcohol. It was the most consequential choice I have ever made in my life, and I am able to stand before you today only because I made it.

I was slowly and steadily killing myself with booze. I was getting drunk every night, because I couldn’t face the incredible pain and PTSD I had from my childhood, at the hands of my abusive father and manipulative mother.

It was unsustainable, and I knew it was unsustainable, but when you’re an addict, knowing something is unhealthy and choosing to do something about it are two very different things….

(9) SELF-PROPELLED TBR. Most have to go to the mountain, but his Mount TBR came to him, and James Davis Nicoll can even tell you the names of “Five of the Best Books I Never Meant to Read”.

While but a callow youth, I subscribed to the Science Fiction Book Club. The club, wise in the ways of procrastination, would send each month’s selection of books to subscribers UNLESS the subscribers had sent the club a card informing the SFBC that one did not want the books in question. All too often I planned to send the card off, only to realize (once again), when a box of books arrived, that intent is not at all the same thing as action.

Thus, I received books that I would not have chosen but, once in possession, I read and enjoyed them. All praise to the SFBC and the power of procrastination! Here are five of my favorite unintended reading experiences…

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

1991 — The Nebula Award for Best Novel went to Ursula K. Le Guin’s Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea, the fourth novel of the Earthsea sequence. It published by Atheneum in 1990. It had been twenty years since the last Earthsea novel was published. It would be not the last novel as The Other Wind would follow twenty years later.  It would also win the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 11, 1886 – Samuel Cahan.  Frequent Argosy interiors for us, e.g. Pirates of Venus and The Synthetic Men of Mars (Burroughs), “The Earth-Shaker” (Leinster).  Outside our field e.g. this fine drawing of Woodrow Wilson.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born January 11, 1906 – John Myers Myers.  A score of books, including historical fiction, nonfiction, poetry; for us marvelously Silverlock – get the NESFA Press edition with songs, a Reader’s Guide, commentary; as the folklorist George Melikis said about something else, “I love studying Macedonia because everybody lives there.”  (Died 1988) [JH]
  • Born January 11, 1923 Jerome Bixby. His “It’s a Good Life” story became the basis for an episode of the original Twilight Zone episode under the same name and which was included in Twilight Zone: The Movie. He also wrote four episodes for the original Star Trek series: “Mirror, Mirror”, “Day of the Dove”, “Requiem for Methuselah”, and “By Any Other Name”. With Otto Klement, he co-wrote the story upon which the Fantastic Voyage series and the Isaac Asimov novel were based. Bixby’s final produced or published work so far was the screenplay for The Man from Earth film. (Died 1998.) (CE) 
  • Born January 11, 1928 – Virgil Burnett.  Author, illustrator, sculptor, Professor of Fine Arts at Univ. Waterloo (Ontario, Canada).  A dozen short stories collected in Towers at the Edge of a World.  Here is a cover for The War of the Worlds.  Here is his frontispiece for Jurgen.  HereThe Rubâ‘îyat [pl. of rubâ‘î , a kind of quatrain] of Omar Khayyam.  Here is his cover for Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  Here is Alexander the Great.  See this note on a 2013 exhibit by his daughter at Haverford College.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born January 11, 1930 Rod Taylor. First SFF role would be as Israel Hands in Long John Silver. He would follow that up with World Without End (which you probably heard of), the Hugo nominated The Time MachineColossus and the Amazon Queen (Taylor claims to have rewritten the script though there’s no proof of this), The Birds (I really don’t like it), Gulliver’s Travels, One Hundred and One Dalmatians and last, and certainly least, The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born January 11, 1931 – Mary Rodgers.  Her Freaky Friday and three sequels are ours; I’m unsure about her musical Once Upon a Mattress – is “The Princess and the Pea” fantasy?  She did music and lyrics for Davy Jones’ Locker with the Bill Baird marionettes, also music for a Pinocchio with them.  Daughter of Richard Rodgers.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born January 11, 1937 Felix Silla, 84. He played Cousin Itt (sic) on The Addams Family in a role invented for the show. The voice was not done by him but rather provided by sound engineer Tony Magro in post-production. He was also responsible for the physical performance of Twiki on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century though the voice was supplied by Mel Blanc or Bob Elyea. And he played an unnamed Ewok on Return of the Jedi. (CE)
  • Born January 11, 1961 Jasper Fforde, 60. I read and thoroughly enjoyed every one of his Thursday Next novels with their delightfully twisted word play as I did his Nursery Crimes series. I thought last year when I wrote Birthday note up that I had not read his Shades of Grey books and I was right — I now know that I read the first few chapters of the first one and wasn’t impressed enough to finish it. I do know I’ve not read the Dragonslayer series though I’ve heard Good Things about them. (CE) 
  • Born January 11, 1963 Jason Connery, 58. Son of Sir Sean Connery. He’s best known for appearing in the third series of Robin of Sherwood, a series I loved dearly, including the music done by Clannad which I’ve got live boots of. He also played Jondar in the Vengeance on Varosstory on Doctor Who during the Sixth Doctor era (much least favorite Doctors). He was Ian Fleming in Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming. And he was a young Merlin in Merlin: The Quest Begins. (CE)
  • Born January 11, 1972 Tom Ward, 39. He’s Captain Latimer in the Eleventh Doctor’s Christmas Special, “The Snowmen”.  He played H.G. Wells in Hallmark’s The Infinite Worlds of H. G. Wells series, and he’s Edward Goodwin in Harry Price: Ghost Hunter. His latest genre role was as Sir Robert Peel in The Frankenstein Chronicles. (CE) 
  • Born January 11, 1976 – Alethea Kontis, age 45.  A dozen novels for us, four dozen shorter stories.  NY Times and USA Today best-seller.  Keynote address at Lewis Carroll Society’s Alice150 Conference.  “Alethea means truth in Greek, but I was named after an episode from the first season of Kung Fu where Jodie Foster played a little girl named Alethea Ingram….  Our last name was originally Kontaridis, but my grandfather shortened it.”  Makes good baklava, plays bad acoustic guitar.  [JH]
  • Born January 11, 1987 – Wesley King, age 34.  A dozen novels, including two with Kobe Bryant and the possibly well-titled Incredible Space Rangers from Space.  NY Times best-seller.  Has read “Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, The Time Machine, four Shakespeare plays, War and PeaceWhere the Wild Things Are.  Lives in Nova Scotia and on a 1967 sailboat.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) BUT ON THE EIGHTH LEG. Literary Hub podcast Otherppl with Brad Listi brings us “George Saunders on How You Know When the Talking Spider Belongs in the Story”.

…For me, my intention is I really want all my stories to speak to those moments in our lives when the scrim drops away and we’re confronted with the brutality of this life that we’re living in. And also the beauty. But I want my stories to be comforting in the sense that they won’t be full of shit if you read them at a low moment. That means that I don’t want anything in a story that doesn’t serve that purpose, or another way of saying it is I don’t want anything weird to happen until it’s going to do that kind of emotional work. So my default is there’s no weird shit allowed. I’m basically a realist at heart. But every so often you get to a place where a story is saying, “If you will just let me have the talking spider, I will be more profound.” Or often what it does is it says, “There’s a question that I have to ask here in this story, but I can’t do it without the talking spider. Would you allow it?”

(14) CLASHING SYMBOLS. Mental Floss says the public can “Help Massachusetts Choose a Possible State Dinosaur”.

Massachusetts residents have no shortage of state symbols through which to celebrate their regional devotion….

Now, Massachusetts state legislator Jack Patrick Lewis is lobbying for another one: state dinosaur. As Boston.com reports, Lewis has fostered a passion for prehistoric creatures ever since seeing The Land Before Time (1988) in his youth, and he’s hoping an official state dinosaur will help fellow Bay Staters learn about the area’s early history.

Lewis has chosen two species to consider for the designation. The Podokesaurus holyokensis is a 3-to-6-foot carnivore whose fossils were unearthed around Mount Holyoke in 1910. Mignon Talbot, the woman who made the discovery, was the first woman to ever name a newfound dinosaur. The Podokesaurus’s competition is the Anchisaurus polyzelus, a slightly larger herbivore whose bones were located in Springfield, Massachusetts, more than half a century earlier….

Twelve states and the District of Columbia already have state dinosaurs – and there’s a separate category for state fossils.

(15) DINO NEST. At the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, “Researchers Announce World’s First Dinosaur Preserved Sitting on Nest of Eggs with Fossilized Babies”.

…“This kind of discovery—in essence, fossilized behavior—is the rarest of the rare in dinosaurs,” explains Dr. Lamanna. “Though a few adult oviraptorids have been found on nests of their eggs before, no embryos have ever been found inside those eggs. In the new specimen, the babies were almost ready to hatch, which tells us beyond a doubt that this oviraptorid had tended its nest for quite a long time. This dinosaur was a caring parent that ultimately gave its life while nurturing its young.”
 
The team also conducted oxygen isotope analyses that indicate that the eggs were incubated at high, bird-like temperatures, adding further support to the hypothesis that the adult perished in the act of brooding its nest. Moreover, although all embryos were well-developed, some appear to have been more mature than others, which in turn suggests that oviraptorid eggs in the same clutch might have hatched at slightly different times. This characteristic, known as asynchronous hatching, appears to have evolved independently in oviraptorids and some modern birds.

(16) SHARING EXPERIENCE. The Odyssey Writing Workshop Blog presents “Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Gregory Ashe”.

You’ve published six books in your Hazard and Somerset mysteries. Do you tend to outline your books and series ahead of time, or do you tend to figure things out as you go along? When you started the series, did you know how many books you would write and where your characters would end up?

Although I have become more and more of an outliner, there is still an element of excavation and discovery in each book I write. One challenge I’ve faced as a writer is that I tend to write long books—and if I’m not careful, they become massive. Outlining helps me control the size of the story, as well as ensuring that I hit the right beats and turns when and where I want to. The excavatory and exploratory side of storytelling tends to happen, for me, between those major plot points. I have written quite a few books without an outline at all, but that is less and less the case. The same is true for series. The Hazard and Somerset series essentially took shape as two parts: the first four books, and then the last two. I learned from that, and when I wrote ‘season two,’ Hazard and Somerset: A Union of Swords, I had a fairly comprehensive outline for the five-book series. I now tend to write all of my series this way, with an outline to guide the pacing of the series as well as the individual books.

(17) CAT SCAN. In a video at A.V. Club, “Take a model train tour through a world ruled by giant cats”.

Jonathan Lawton is a visionary artist. His work may seem humble—the West Yorkshire man builds model railways, set in blue-skied little villages, just like so many other people looking for a productive reprieve from their daily lives. But, Lawton’s work extends beyond its genre and into the realm of speculative fiction thanks to his collaborator, a cat named Mittens that towers like a benevolent god in a showcase of his creation….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Power Rangers Pitch Meeting” on YouTube, Ryan George explains that people who see the Power Rangers remake will not enjoy Bryan Cranston’s performance as a 65-million-year-old blue guy or that there’s no Power Rangers action until 90 minutes into the movie.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/4/21 She’s Got
A Pixel To Scroll, And She Don’t Care

(1) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB virtual reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Lauren Beukes and Usman T. Malik on Wednesday, January 20 at 7 p.m. Eastern. Check back at their website or social media to get the link when it drops.

Lauren Beukes


Lauren Beukes is a South African novelist, ex-journalist and sometime documentary maker who has written five novels, a pop history, a short story collection and New York Times best-selling comics. Her novel Zoo City won the Arthur C Clarke Award, The Shining Girls is soon to be a tv show for Apple with Elisabeth Moss, and won the University of Johannesburg Prize and the Strands Critics Choice Award among others. Her new book Afterland, about a world (almost) without men, is currently in development. She lives in Cape Town with her daughter.

Usman T. Malik
 

Usman T. Malik is a Pakistani-American writer and doctor. His fiction has been reprinted in several year’s best anthologies, including The Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy series, and has won the Bram Stoker Award and the British Fantasy Award. Usman’s debut collection, Midnight Doorways: Fables from Pakistan, will be out in early 2021.

(2) COULD HAVE BEEN A CONTENDER. In search of prospects to nominate for the video game Hugo, Camestros Felapton explores another game he hopes will meet his criteria of “look[ing] like they might be interesting/notable from the perspective of science fiction & fantasy as a broad genre” — “Review: Spiritfarer (Nintendo Switch)”.

…However, the game I will nominate in this category isn’t Hades but a game set in a quite different afterlife: Spiritfarer. The two games couldn’t be more different and yet both borrow Charon the Ferryman and Hades as characters from Greek mythology and both use (different) genres of game play to lead you to interact with a series of characters from whom you learn about their lives (and deaths) and your own characters back story. Spiritfarer has fewer murderous, laser firing crystal things though.

The genre of gameplay is resource management and exploration. You have a ship with a small number of passengers and you sail between islands collecting resources and improving your ship. It’s all presented as 2D animation largely moving horizontally.

(3) ELDRITCH FOR MILLIONS. IGN Southeast Asia tells “How Cosmic Horror Went Mainstream”. (You didn’t know that, did you?)

…Alternately called cosmic horror or Lovecraftian horror, this brand of story is focused on unknowable and ancient terrors. While the genre’s most iconic monster, Cthulhu, slumbers in a lost underwater city, cosmic horror just as often directly lives up to its name and comes from the cold of space or is lurking in isolated areas like Antarctica. The genre has few real heroes, mostly focusing on people who are already deeply flawed or struggling before they confront these horrors. While they may be killed, the protagonists are just as likely to be rendered insane or somehow fundamentally transformed into something as equally unknowable and terrible as the unspeakable creatures they have encountered.

But how did cosmic horror seep into the mainstream of movies, TV, and games? Let’s trace that history from D&D to True Detective to Nicolas Cage and beyond…

(4) ELLISON REFERENCE. In the discussion of other things,Scientific American’s “Hellscapes” column “A Quick Look at Underpaid Female Docs, Unethical Ethicists and Frogs with Intestinal Fortitude” ends with the following:

Speaking of hell, a study in the August 3 issue of the journal Current Biology revealed that the vast majority of members of a species of beetle, Regimbartia attenuata, perform a literally death-defying feat after being swallowed by various species of frogs. The beetle apparently swims its little heart out till it pops out of the frog’s derriere. Because, as another axiom has it, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

To find out whether the insect’s passage was active or passive, researchers immobilized some beetles by coating them with wax before going into the mouth of hell, or rather, frog. None of these beetles survived. To paraphrase science-fiction legend Harlan Ellison (who definitely would have come up with this experimental protocol if he’d lived long enough): they really don’t want to open their mouths, and they must scream.

(5) NO FORWARDING ADDRESS. “Is anybody out there? All the intelligent aliens in our galaxy could be dead…”SYFY Wire distills a scientific article about the chances.

…The Milky Way has been around for billions of years. In that time, life has not only had had plenty of time to evolve to an advanced level and achieve heights of technology even our wildest sci-fi dreams couldn’t fathom, but also to destroy itself.

“We found [self-annihilation of complex life] to be the most influential parameter determining the quantity and age of galactic intelligent life,” the physicists said in a study recently published in Astrophysics of Galaxies.

There were three types of limitations for the existence of aliens that the team studied. They considered the possibilities of abiogenesis, how long it might have taken (or be taking) for an intelligent civilization to evolve, and chances of such a civilization crushing itself. Abiogenesis is the idea of life spawning from things that are definitely not alive. 

(6) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Here’s someone who’s theorizing is not discouraged by the preceding study: “Harvard Professor Says Alien Technology Visited Earth in 2017”Yahoo! has the story.

…Loeb says there are two big details that suggest Oumuamua wasn’t just a comet, but rather a piece of alien technology. The first detail is the object’s dimensions, as it was determined to be “five to 10 times longer than it was wide.” Loeb argues the cigar-like shape isn’t typical for a natural space object.

But the theoretical physicist says the biggest detail that supports his theory is Oumuamua’s movement.

“The excess push away from the sun, that was the thing that broke the camel’s back,” he said.

Loeb explains that the sun’s gravitational force would cause a natural object to move faster as it approaches, and eventually push the object back, causing it to move slower as it moves away. Loeb points out that this didn’t occur with Oumuamua, which accelerated “slightly, but to a highly statistically significant extent” as it moved further and further away.

“If we are not alone, are we the smartest kids on the block?” Loeb asked. “If there was a species that eliminated itself through war or changing the climate, we can get our act together and behave better. Instead, we are wasting a lot of resources on Earth fighting each other and other negative things that are a big waste.”

(7) HEADLONG RETREAT. R.S. Benedict has posted a new episode of the Rite Gud podcast.”I talk to writer/artist Sloane Leong about SFF’s retreat into childhood nostalgia, and the beauty of mature fiction.” Listen here.

As the world looks grimmer and grimmer, Millennials and Gen Xers retreat deeper and deeper into childhood nostalgia. Adults dominate fandoms meant for children, like Steven Universe, Young Adult fiction, and My Little Pony. Within SFF, many writers, readers and editors have begun to treat all media as though it were meant for children: It must be didactic and escapist and safe. But there are still some of us who want art to treat us like adults.

In this episode, writer and artist Sloane Leong joins us to talk about the power of embracing your inner grownup.

(8) ROBERTS STILL ALIVE. People sent links to articles reporting the actress death, however, actress Tanya Roberts is still alive at this writing according to TMZ.

(9) JAEL OBIT. Artist Jael died November 17 reports Locus Online Jael (1937-2020). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says Jael did covers for Baen and DAW, as well as magazines. Jael’s work received eight Chesley Award nominations between 1995 and 2002.

(10) SHELLEY OBIT. Hammer Films star Barbara Shelley has died at the age of 88 according to The Sun: ”’Queen of Hammer’ who starred in horror films and Doctor Who dies after surviving Covid”.

She also appeared in the Doctor Who episode Planet Of Fire, starring Peter Davison as the fifth Doctor.

Her agent, Thomas Bowington, said: “She really was Hammer’s number one leading lady and the technicolour queen of Hammer.

…Shelley was also known for TV roles in series including The Saint, The Avengers, The Borgias, Blake’s 7 and Crown Court, and later played Hester Samuels in EastEnders.

Robert J. Sawyer praised Shelley’s performance in Quatermass and the Pit (1967) on Facebook in which she”played a completely professional scientist, paleontologist Barbara Judd, the female lead, in one of the best science-fiction films ever made.”He also posted a great quote from Shelly:

“I adored science fiction. When I was a very little girl my father used to have all these science fiction magazines and we used to go through them together. My mind had been opened up to science fiction by my father so when I got these scripts it wasn’t `What’s this rubbish?’ It was ‘that’s interesting.'”

(11) MEMORY LANE.

1971 — Fifty years ago,  Larry Niven’s Ringworld would win the Hugo for Best Novel at Noreascon I over Poul Anderson’s Tau Zero, Robert Silverberg’s Tower of Glass, Wilson Tucker‘s The Year of the Quiet Sun and Hal Clement’s Star Light. It would also win the Locus, Nebula and Ditmar Awards, and Locus would later include it on its list of All-Time Best SF Novels before 1990.  It would spawn three sequel novels and a prequel series as well which was co-written with Edward M. Lerner. One film and three series have been announced down the decades but none to date have been produced.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 4, 1882 – P.J. Monahan.  Newspaper cartoonist, illustrator in the “pulp” days (when our and other magazines were printed on cheap pulp paper).  Thirty covers, twenty interiors.  Here is Semi Dual, the Occult Detector.  Here is Thuvia.  Here is the 26 Jun 20 All-Story Weekly – weekly!  How’d you like to be the editor of that?  To show PJM’s range, here is the 1 Sep 12 Leslie’s, and here is a portrait of Pope Pius X.  (Died 1931) [JH]
  • Born January 4, 1882 – Violet Van der Elst.  Twoscore short stories, half a dozen collections, for us.  Starting as a scullery maid, she developed cosmetics including the first brushless shaving cream – don’t say we’ve made no progress – and grew rich; fought against the death penalty, threw her money and her mind into it, lost both, barely lived to see it abolished.  (Died 1966) [JH]
  • Born January 4, 1890 Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. Creator of the modern comic book by publishing original material in the early Thirties instead of reprints of newspaper comic strips. Some years later, he founded Wheeler-Nicholson’s National Allied Publications which would eventually become DC Comics. (Died 1965.) (CE)
  • Born January 4, 1904 – Dale Ulrey.  Four covers, a dozen interiors.  Also a comic-strip artist, notably Apple Mary, famous during the Depression, still running today as Mary Worth.  Here is her Wizard of Oz.  Here is an interior for Jaglon and the Tiger Fairies.  (Died 1989) [JH]
  • Born January 4, 1927 Barbara Rush, 94. She won a Golden Globe Award as the most promising female newcomer for being Ellen Fields in It Came From Outer Space. She portrayed Nora Clavicle in Batman, and was found in other genre programs such as the revival version of Outer LimitsNight GalleryThe Bionic Woman and The Twilight Zone. (CE)
  • Born January 4, 1930 – Ruth Kyle.  Founding member of the Lunarians (New York club, famous in song and story).  Hard-working Secretary of NYCon II the 14th Worldcon; married its chairman Dave Kyle; his tale of their honeymoon flight to Loncon I the 15th is here.  Good cook, gracious hostess.  Part of an adventure I had with Dave, see here (bottom of three).  (Died 2011) [JH]  
  • Born January 4, 1933 – Phyllis Naylor, age 88.  A dozen novels for us; a hundred thirty all told; some 2,000 articles.  Newbery Medal.  Sequoyah Children’s Book Award.  Mark Twain Readers Award.  William Allen White Children’s Book Award.  Kerlan Award.  “What spare time?  If I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing.”  [JH]
  • Born January 4, 1946 Ramsey Campbell, 75. My favorite novel by him is without doubt The Darkest Part of the Woods which has a quietly building horror to it. I know he’s better known for his sprawling (pun full intended) Cthulhu mythology writings but I never got into those preferring his other novels such as his Solomon Kane movie novelization which is quite superb. (CE) 
  • Born January 4, 1958 Matt Frewer, 63. His greatest role has to be as Max Headroom on the short-lived series of the same name. Amazingly I think it still stands thirty-five years later as SF well crafted. Just a taste of his later series SF appearances include playing Jim Taggart, scientist and dog catcher on Eureka, Pestilence in Supernatural, Dr. Kirschner in 12 Monkeys and Carnage in Altered Carbon.  His film genre appearance list is just as impressive but I’ll single out Supergirl,  Honey, I Shrunk the KidsThe StandMonty Python’s The Meaning of Life (oh do guess where he is in it) and lastly Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, a series of films that I really like. (CE) 
  • Born January 4, 1960 Michael Stipe, 61. Lead singer of R.E.M. which has done a few songs that I could argue are genre adjacent such as “Losing My Religion”. But no, I’ve got him here for being involved in a delightful project called Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films. Lots of great songs given interesting new recordings. His contribution was “Little April Shower” from Bambi which he covered along with Natalie Merchant, Michael Stipe, Mark Bingham and The Roches. Fun stuff indeed! (CE)
  • Born January 4, 1981 – Sarah Crossan, age 40.  Two books for us, seven others.  Has read four each by Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf, two by George Eliot.  [JH]
  • Born January 4, 1985 Lenora Crichlow, 36. She played Cheen on “Gridlock”, a Tenth Doctor story. She also played Annie Sawyer on the BBC version of Being Human from 2009 to 2012, and she appeared as Victoria Skillane in the “White Bear” episode of Black Mirror. (CE)
  • Born January 4, 1985 – Lorenz Hideyoshi Ruwwe, age 36.  A dozen covers.  Here is Desert Stars.  Here is The Sentinel.  Here is Omni.  Here is his page at ArtStation.  [JH]

(13) THE SIGN OF THE Z. In the Washington Post, Michael Sragow notes the centennial of THE MARK OF ZORRO, the first Zorro movie.  He notes that both Batman creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger and Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster say that Zorro’s twin identity as the masked crimefighter and the foppish Don Diego as a precursor to Batman and Bruce Wayne and Superman and Clark Kent.  In addition, Sragow sees Zorro’s secret lair as a precursor of the Batcave and Lolita Pulido’s ditching Don Diego for Zorro as Lois Lane favoring Superman over Clark Kent. “On Zorro’s 100th birthday, the father of swashbucklers and superhero movies is still relevant”

…Like Tennyson’s Sir Galahad, Zorro has the strength of 10 because his heart is pure. He’s also irreverent and mischievous. His sparkle exudes hipness: He embraces the New World’s egalitarian ethos while his enemies defend the feudal past.

Zorro lifted spirits in the 1920s. In the 2020s, his ebullience can generate ecstatic highs.

During Fairbanks’s previous run as the parody hero of contemporary action comedies like “His Picture in the Papers,” fans came to think of him as “Doug,” a tribute to his offhand elegance — like Fred Astaire’s, a triumph of talent and willpower. Doug transports this knockabout grace into “The Mark of Zorro.” With his light heart and “can-do” demeanor — qualities the world embraced as quintessentially American — Zorro soon dominated action-film iconography. Cinema would never be the same.

(14) ZOOMIN’ DOWN THE ROAD. “Movin’ Right Along With Kermit The Frog and Fozzie Bear” on YouTube has Kermit and Fozzie welcoming the new year with dreams of a road trip and showing they know how to use Zoom.

(15) THANKS, MY GOOD COUNTRYMAN. James Davis Nicoll surveys “Canadians in SF as Written by Non-Canadians” at Tor.com. (Is that allowed?)

Canada! Perhaps best known to fans of British soap operas, for whom it serves as that mysterious land to the west to which characters vanish after their purpose on the show has been served. Of course, all that is needed to learn far more about Canada than you would ever need or want to know is to get trapped in a conversation with a Canadian, uninvited exposition concerning their homeland being as natural to the average Canadian as it is any given inhabitant of a fictional utopia confronted by a woken sleeper from the pre-utopian past.

One might reasonably expect that most SF touching on Canada was written by Canadians and the Canadian-adjacent. Perhaps it is. Quite a lot of it is not. Here are five examples of Canada and Canadians in science fiction, as seen by foreign eyes.

First on the list is Bob Shaw, who’s challenging because he lived and worked in Canada for a period.

(16) HOPE HE GETS HIS MD. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The first baby of 2021 in one Alabama town has a possibly-unique name, Anakyn Gene Strange. Yeah, they changed the spelling of the first name a bit, but wouldn’t it be lovely if the young lad went into medicine. Think of it  — Dr. Anakyn Strange. “‘The Force is Strong’ with Florence’s first baby in 2021”

Star Wars fans immediately know the reference when hearing the name Anakyn.

While it may not be spelled the same as it was in the series, Hope and Dusty Strange used the name on Florence’s first birth of 2021. Anakyn Gene Strange was born at 1:04 a.m. on January 1 at North Alabama Medical Center.

According to our news partners at the Times Daily, Anakyn was 5 pounds, 12 ounces and was 19 3/4 inches long with brown eyes and curly brown hair.

“There actually was a feeling of relief because 2020 was a horrible and challenging year,” she said. “It was the most pure way to start out the year.”…

(17) RAVENCON ANTHOLOGY KICKSTARTER. Michael D. Pederson, RavenCon 2022 chair, explains:

Being an April convention, we were forced to announce this year’s [2020] cancellation three weeks before the convention. Needless to say, after having spent 11 months buying supplies and paying fees for the con we didn’t have much (read: any) capital left after refunding the vendors. And we still needed to refund about a third of our attendees that wanted money. And now that we’ve had to cancel for 2021 as well, we’re really stuck for funds. So, we created an anthology, with story donations coming from many of our regular programming guests as well as a few of my old Nth Degree contributors. We’re using the anthology to raise funds through Kickstarter. We funded the entire project on our first day and hit our first stretch goal a week later. We’re working on a second stretch goal and expect to announce a third stretch goal later this week.

You can find the fundraiser at: CORVID-19 — Kickstarter. The stories in CORVID-19: A RavenCon Anthology are:

  • “Windows to the Soul” by Danielle Ackley-McPhail
  • “Raven’s Sacrifice” by Heather Ewings
  • “The Cruelest Team Will Win” by Mike Allen
  • “Jenny” by Debbie Manber Kupfer
  • “Daughter of the Birds” by Maya Preisler
  • “Kvetina and the Crows” by Rhys Schrock
  • “Corvus Monitus” by Cass Morris
  • “If the Moon is Real” by Samantha Bryant
  • “Life in a Moment” by James Maxey
  • “Crows’ Feet” by Diana Bastine
  • “A Warning of Crows” by Jennifer R. Povey
  • “Wet Birds” by Elizabeth Massie
  • “Heart Truth” by Jenna Hamrick
  • “Table for One” by Joan Wendland
  • “Dominion” by Margaret Karmazin
  • “The Gore-Crow” by Meryl Yourish
  • “The Song of the Raven” by Toi Thomas
  • “Fledging” by Kathryn Sullivan
  • “Feather Fall” by Kara Dennison

(18) ESCHEW SURPLUS CONSONANTS. A whole collection of tweets from people who seem qualified to join File 770’s crack proofreading staff: “People Who Don’t Know How to Spell ‘Cologne’ Are Hiralous” at Sad and Useless.

Who would have thought that “cologne” is such a complicated word to spell correctly? Or it just might be that many people really are enjoying the smell of large intestine…

(19) LONG PLAYING. And long ago. This interesting discovery is available at Archive.org – “A Child’s Introduction To Outer Space: Jim Timmens” (1959) – with songs performed by The Satellite Singers, and dramatic readings, and a credit on the album cover to Scientific Advisor Willy Ley who won one of the first Hugos in 1953.  

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Wonder Woman 1984 Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that the reasons why Steve Trevor appears in Wonder Woman 1984 have really creepy implications and that it’s highly unlikely that Wonder Woman could make an escape from the Smithsonian by stealing a fully fueled airplane from the Air and Space Museum.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/2/21 You Put The Mime In The Tesseract And Drink Them Both Together

(1) DAVID WEBER STATUS. Word of this alarming news went out last night:

After the Turtledove tweet was reposted to David Weber’s author page on Facebook, his wife, Sharon Rice-Weber commented:

He’s doing better right now. I’ll try and keep everyone updated

Best wishes for a full recovery.

(2) NEW YEAR’S WHO. Camestros Felapton combines the features of a review and a complete script rewrite in his analysis of yesterday’s special: “Review: Doctor Who – Revolution of the Daleks”. BEWARE SPOILERS! BEWARE IMPROVEMENTS!

The New Year’s special provides a hit of Doctor Who but that is about all. The episode is inoffensive, it plays around with one interesting idea about the theatre of policing and the aesthetics of fascism but doesn’t know what to do with that. Above all, it exemplifies the frustrating aspects of the Chibnall era. There is always a feeling of a better episode, that is almost exactly the same, lurking around the same pieces….

On the other hand, this fellow found one part of the special to be exceptionally thrilling —

(3) IN BAD TIMES TO COME. Future Tense presents “The Vastation” by Paul Theroux, “a new short story about a future pandemic that makes COVID-19 look simple.”

Steering to his assigned slot in the out-going convoy behind a bulky bomb-proof escort truck, Father said, “We’re going to Greenville,” and looked for my reaction to this surprising announcement. Surprising, not just because Greenville was far away, and where my Mother had been living, but also because I had never been taken outside the perimeter of Chicago….

There is a response essay to the story by physician Allison Bond: “In a pandemic, what do doctors owe, and to whom?”

…Today—as in this story—we fight a deadly contagious disease that has hit some communities much harder than others, and through which xenophobia and racism have been allowed to fester. In Theroux’s story, people are segregated into camps by nationality, into “island[s] of ethnicity, renewed country-of-origin pride and defiance in the enormous sea of rural America.” Perhaps these stemmed from viewing people who are different from oneself as the enemy, and then working to avoid them—something that is already increasingly prevalent in our society, in part thanks to social media.

(4) TRAVEL SAFETY PROPOSAL. “What are COVID-19 digital immunity passports?”Slate explains.

This week, the first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine were administered in the U.S.
With the FDA expected to approve Moderna’s vaccine imminently, people are already looking forward to a world where travel and gatherings are possible. But for those activities to be maximally safe, the country will either need to reach herd immunity—unlikely until mid-2021 at the earliest, assuming essentially flawless vaccine roll-out and widespread adoption—or to find ways to verify people’s negative tests or vaccination status in advance.

Some companies are looking to digital solutions. Airlines like JetBlue, United, and Virgin Atlantic have begun using CommonPass, an app developed by the Commons Project and the World Economic Forum that shows whether users have tested negative for COVID-19 for international travel. Ticketmaster, too, told Billboard that its “post-pandemic fan safety” plans include digital health passes that verify event-goers’ COVID-19 negative test results or vaccination status. While these digital health passes could become a prerequisite for some activities, widespread adoption of so-called immunity passports would require a level of coordination and organization uncharacteristic of the country’s response to COVID-19 so far….

(5) MEMORY WHOLE. The Guardian tries to answer its own question: “George Orwell is out of copyright. What happens now?” The situation resonates with Orwell’s pigs — some works are more out of copyright than others.

Much of the author’s work may have fallen into public ownership in the UK, but there are more restrictions on its use remaining than you might expect, explains his biographer.

George Orwell died at University College Hospital, London, on 21 January 1950 at the early age of 46. This means that unlike such long-lived contemporaries as Graham Greene (died 1991) or Anthony Powell (died 2000), the vast majority of his compendious output (21 volumes to date) is newly out of copyright as of 1 January. 

…As is so often the way of copyright cut-offs, none of this amounts to a free-for-all. Any US publisher other than Houghton Mifflin that itches to embark on an Orwell spree will have to wait until 2030, when Burmese Days, the first of Orwell’s books to be published in the US, breaks the 95-year barrier. And eager UK publishers will have to exercise a certain amount of care. The distinguished Orwell scholar Professor Peter Davison fathered new editions of the six novels back in the mid-1980s. No one can reproduce these as the copyright in them is currently held by Penguin Random House. Aspiring reissuers, including myself, have had to go back to the texts of the standard editions published in the late 1940s, or in the case of A Clergyman’s Daughter and Keep the Aspidistra Flying, both of which Orwell detested so much – he described the former as “bollox” – that he refused to have them reprinted in his lifetime, to the originals of, respectively, 1935 and 1936.

(6) STRANGER THAN FICTION. L. Jagi Lamplighter is interviewed by ManyBooks about her work with “A Magic School Like No Other”.

What inspired you to create the Roanoke Academy for the Sorcerous Arts?

The original game that the books are based upon took place at a popular magic school from another series. When I sat down to write this series, I had to invent a whole new magic school—and I had to make it something

My son, who was then about nine or ten, had come up with the idea that the colony on the Island of Roanoke had disappeared because the whole island vanished and that there was a school of magic upon it.

I loved this idea, but I didn’t really know much about the area of the country where Roanoke Island is. So I decided it was a floating island that could wander. Then I put it in the Hudson River, near Storm King Mountain, because that is a place I happen to love. I found out there was a small island in that spot that actually has a ruin of a castle on it. I made that island (Bannerman or Pollepel Island) the part of the island that was visible to the mundane world of the Unwary (us.)

I spent hours on the internet looking at photos of all sorts of places—forests, buildings—that I loved. Then I put those photos together to create the island and the school. So Roanoke Island has many things I think are beautiful, paper birch forests, boardwalks by a river, Oriental gardens.

Then I needed to design the school itself. I noted that there were series where the magic school is like a British boarding school and series where the school is like an American boarding school. I wanted something different. So I decided to model Roanoke Academy for the Sorcerous Arts after the college I attended. St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland is quite different from most other colleges. Students sit around one large table. They have core groups, other students who are in all your classes. They have tutors instead of professors. They have an unusual system of intramural sports—so strange that every time I put part of it in the book, my editor tags it as too extraordinary to be believable.

I took my experience at St. John’s and spun it into the world of the Hudson Highlands, creating a marvelous place that is delightful to write about and, God willing, a joy for the reader, too.

(7) PULLING CABLE. FirstShowing.net introduces the trailer for “Intriguing Gig Economy Quantum Sci-Fi Film ‘Lapsis’”.

… Struggling to support himself and his ailing younger brother, delivery man Ray takes a strange job as a “cabler” in a strange new realm of the gig economy. This film is set in an alternate reality where the quantum computing revolution has begun, but they need to hire people to connect the cables for miles between huge magnetic cubes. 

(8) BOLLING OBIT. Pianist, composer, and bandleader Claude Bolling died December 29. The Guardian’s tribute notes —

…He wrote music for over one hundred films …  such as The Hands of Orlac (1960), … The Passengers (1977) [released in the US as The Intruder, based on Dean Koontz’s 1973 novel Shattered], The Awakening, a 1980 British horror film [third film version of Bram Stoker’s 1903 novel The Jewel of Seven Stars]. Bolling also composed the music for the Lucky Luke animated features Daisy Town (1971) and La Ballade des Dalton (1978).

(9) DOMINGUEZ OBIT. “Disney Legend” Ron Dominguez died January 1 at 85.

In 1957, Dominguez became the assistant supervisor of Frontierland, moving up to the manager of Tomorrowland in 1962. He became the manager of the west side of Disneyland and in 1974, was named vice president of Disneyland and chairman of the park operating committee.

In 1990, Dominguez became Executive Vice President Walt Disney Attractions, West Coast.

(10) VOYAGER DOCUMENTARY ASKS FOR FUNDS. Comicbook.com gives fans a head’s up: “Star Trek: Voyager Documentary Announces Crowdfunding Campaign”.

The upcoming Star Trek: Voyager documentary is ready to begin crowdfunding. The new documentary would have commemorated Voyager‘s 25th anniversary in 2020, but the coronavirus dashed most of those celebration plans. David Zappone of 455 Studios, the production company behind previous Star Trek documentaries like For the Love of SpockChaos on the Bridge, and What We Left Behind, confirmed that filming for the documentary resumed in August. Now it seems the production has reached the point where it’s ready to raise funds from fans. As Voyager star Garrett Wang (Ensign Harry Kim) explains in the announcement video below, fans will be able to donate to the campaign and pre-order the documentary beginning on March 1st.

Click to see the “Special Announcement From Garrett Wang”.

(11) TODAY’S DAY.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • January 2, 1978 Blake’s 7 premiered on BBC. It was created by Terry Nation of Doctor Who fame, who also wrote the first series, and produced by David Maloney (series 1–3) and Vere Lorrimer (series 4), with  the script editor throughout its run being Chris Boucher. Terry has said Star Trek was one of his main inspirations. It would would run for a total of fifty-two episodes. Principal cast was Gareth Thomas, Michael Keating, Sally Knyvette, Paul Darrow and David Jackson. Critics at the times were decidedly mixed with their reaction which is not true of audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes who give an amazing ninety one percent rating! 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 2, 1814 – Luise Mühlbach.  A score of historical-fiction novels; you can read Old Fritz and the New Era here (Fritz is a nickname for Friedrich; she means Frederick II of Prussia); it has fantastic elements.  She says “To investigate and explain … is the task of historical romance….  poesy… illuminated by historic truth….  Show me from history that it could not be so; that it is not in accordance with the character of the persons represented … then have I … presented only a caricature, faulty as a work of art.”  (Died 1873) [JH]
  • Born January 2, 1871 – Nora Hopper.  Journalist and poet in the 1890s Irish literary movement; Yeats said her Ballads in Prose “haunted me as few books have ever haunted me, for it spoke in strange wayward stories and birdlike little verses of things and persons I remember or had dreamed of.”  There’s a 2017 Trieste reprint.  (Died 1906) [JH]
  • Born January 2, 1920 Isaac Asimov. I can’t possibly summarize him here so I won’t. My favorite novels by him are the original Foundation novels followed very closely by his Galactic Empire series and I, Robot. I know I’ve read a lot of his short fiction but I’ll be damn if I can recall any of it specifically right now. And I can’t possibly list all his Hugos here. (Died 1992.)  (CE) 
  • Born January 2, 1932 – Minagawa Hiroko, age 92.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Three of her stories are in English, two in Speculative Japan 3-4.  Shibata Prize.  More famous for detective fiction; Honkaku Award for The Resurrection Fireplace (in Japanese Hirakasete itadaki kôei desu, roughly “I am honored to open it”), set in 18th Century London; Mystery Writers of Japan Award, Japan Mystery Literature Award for lifetime achievement.  [JH]
  • Born January 2, 1948 Deborah Watling. Best known for her role as Victoria Waterfield, a companion of the Second Doctor. She was also in Downtime, playing the same character, a one-off sequel to a sequel to the Second Doctor stories, The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear. No Doctors were to be seen. If you’ve seen the English language dubbed version of Viaje al centro de la Tierra (Where Time Began, based off Verne’s Journey to the Center of The Earth), she’s doing the lines of Ivonne Sentis as Glauben. (Died 2017.) (CE) 
  • Born January 2, 1954 – Ertugrul Edirne, age 67.  Twoscore covers in German SF.  Here is Galactic Trade.  Here is On the Great River.  Here is Kushiel’s Dart (German title In den Händen der Feinde, “In the Hands of the Enemy”).  Here is Not From This World.  [JH]
  • Born January 2, 1959 – Patrick Nielsen Hayden, age 62.  Long-time fan, also guitarist (lead guitar in Whisperado).  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate with wife Teresa Nielsen Hayden, both wrote “TAFF in Thirteen Paragraphs”, fanzines e.g. IzzardTelos, Fan Guests of Honor at MidAmeriCon II the 74th Worldcon where at Closing Ceremonies PNH said “I can’t count the conversations I’ve had with total strangers”, see my con report (at the end, with a poem for each).  Meanwhile also active as a pro; now VP, Assoc. Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief at Tor.  [JH]
  • Born January 2, 1967 Tia Carrere, 54. Best remembered for her three season run as Sydney Fox, rogue archaeologist on Relic Hunter. She’s been in a number of one-offs on genre series including Quantum LeapHerculesTales from The Crypt, AirwolfFriday the 13th and played Agent Katie Logan for two episodes on Warehouse 13. (CE) 
  • Born January 2, 1971 Renée Elise Goldsberry, 50. Best known for appearing on Altered Carbon as Quellcrist Falconer. She also performed the Johnny Cash song “Ain’t No Grave” for the end credits in the final episode of that series. Genre wise, she’s had one-offs on EnterpriseLife on MarsEvil and voice work on DreamWorks Dragons: Rescue Riders, an all too cute series.  She was Selena Izard in The House with a Clock in Its Walls. And she appeared on Broadway in The Lion King as Nala.   (CE) 
  • Born January 2, 1979 Tobias S. Buckell, 42. I read and enjoyed a lot his Xenowealth series which he managed to wrap up rather nicely. The collection he edited, The Stories We Tell: Bermuda Anthology of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, is well worth reading, as is his own Tides from a New World collection. And his Tangled Lands collection which won the World Fantasy Award is amazing reading as well. (CE) 
  • Born January 2, 1982 – Aníbal J. Rosario Planas, age 39.  (In this Hispanic style two surnames are given, the father’s Rosario then the mother’s Planas.)  Drummer and author.  Here are a photo, a 150-word teaser from his story Pólvora y vapor (“powder and steam”; in Spanish), and links to his talk (in Spanish and English) about Steampunk Writers Around the World.  [JH]
  • Born January 2, 1983 Kate Bosworth, 38. She’s Barbara Barga in the SS-GB series done off the superb Len Deighton novel  which is definitely genre. She’s both a producer and a performer on The I-Land series where she’s KC, a decidedly not nice person. For a much more positive character, she portrayed Lois Lane in Superman Returns. (CE) 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna notes that Calvin and Hobbes’s last strip was on December 31, 1995, which gives him a chance to praise Bill Watterson and explain why his strip is timeless comedy.  In a sidebar, Cavna notes two other important comic strips ended in 1995:  Gary Larson’s “The Far Side” and Berkeley Breathed’s “Bloom County” spinoff “Outland.”  But he notes that Bill Watterson praised Richard Thompson’s “Cul de Sac” as showing that “the launch of great comics was still possible” and interviews Breathed, who revived “Bloom County” as an online venture in 2015. “’Calvin and Hobbes’ said goodbye 25 years ago. Here’s why Bill Watterson’s masterwork enchants us still.”

…Stephan Pastis, creator of “Pearls Before Swine,” views Calvin as an expression of pure childlike id, yet thinks there is a whole other dynamic that makes many of Calvin’s acts of imagination so appealing.

Watterson “accurately captured how put-upon you feel as a kid — how limited you are by your parents, by your babysitter, by [schoolteacher] Miss Wormwood. You’re really boxed in and all you have is individual expression,” says Pastis, who collaborated with the “Calvin and Hobbes” creator on a week of “Pearls” strips in 2014, marking Watterson’s only public return to the comics page since 1995.

“I think that’s why to this day, some people get [Calvin] tattooed on their bodies,” Pastis continues. “He stands for that rebellious spirit in the fact of a world that kind of holds you down. You get into adulthood, you get held down by your various responsibilities. Calvin rebels against that, therefore he always remains a hero.”

(16) FOR POETS. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) is taking nominations from members for two 2021 awards.

  • Rhysling Award Nominations: The 2021 Rhysling Chair is Alessandro Manzetti. Nominations are open until February 15 for the Rhysling Awards for the best poems published in 2020. Only SFPA members may nominate one short poem and/or one long poem for the award. Poets may not nominate their own work. All genres of speculative poetry are eligible. Short poems must be under 50 lines (no more than 500 words for prose poems); Long poems are 50+ lines, not including title or stanza breaks, and first published in 2020; include publication and issue, or press if from a book or anthology. Online nomination form here. Or nominate by mail to SFPA secretary: Brian Garrison, SFPA, PO Box 1563, Alameda CA 94501, USA.
  • Elgin Award Nominations: The 2021 Elgin Chair is Jordan Hirsch. Nominations due by May 15; more info will come by MailChimp. Send title, author, and publisher of speculative Star*Line 8 Winter 2021 poetry books and chapbooks published in 2019 or 2020 to elgin@sfpoetry.com or by mail to the SFPA secretary: Brian Garrison, SFPA, PO Box 1563, Alameda CA 94501, USA. Only SFPA members may nominate; there is no limit to nominations, but you may not nominate your own work.

(17) OFF THE MARKET. Such is the draw of iconic movie locations. The LA Times explains the attraction of “Jim Brandon’s South Pasadena home”.

Jim Brandon better get used to unexpected visitors. The writer-producer, whose credits include “Arrested Development” and “Mixed-ish,” just paid about $2.2 million for a South Pasadena home with a special place in “Back to the Future” lore.

The 1985 hit doubles as a tour of L.A. County in many ways, with landmarks such as Griffith Park and the Gamble House popping up throughout the film. Another pivotal scene is set in Brandon’s new yard, where Marty McFly stumbles upon his father being a peeping Tom in the tree out front.

According to the home’s previous owner, filmmaker John McDonald, fans of the movie regularly make the trek to South Pasadena to pay homage — and climb up the now-famous tree to re-create the scene….

(18) MEMORY LANE.

In 1953, the International Fantasy Award was given to Clifford M. Simak for City, his first Award. This collection is sometimes presented as a novel which it is decidedly not as it is a fix-up of the stories “City”, “Huddling Place”, “Census”, “Paradise”, “Hobbies”, “Aesop” and “Trouble with Ants …”. The other nominations were Takeoff by C. M. Kornbluth and Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.  A  Retro Hugo Award at CoNZealand in 2020 would be awarded to it as well. 

(19) NOTHING HAPPENING HERE, MOVE ALONG. In December someone pointed out that John C. Wright’s website was displaying an “Account Suspended” sign. My social media searches found no protests or grievances about this – or even that anyone else was aware of it. Wright subsequently explained the cause in “Account Not Suspended”.

My loyal webgoblin called the hosting company and reports that they said that the server was migrated this morning and that various changes are still propagating through their system. The “account suspended” message was a default one. The hosting company confirmed that there’s nothing wrong with the account and that the site hasn’t been pulled offline due to excessive bandwidth or any sort of legal action

(20) EXPANDING UNIVERSE. More Star Wars properties are on the way.

Star Wars: The Bad Batch is an all-new animated series from Lucasfilm Animation coming soon to Disney+.

In another new Disney+ series, Star Wars: Andor, Diego Luna will reprise his role as Cassian Andor.

(21) FUTURE FORSEEN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “What Will Future Homes Look Like?  Filmed In the 1960s” on YouTube is an episode of the CBS News show 21st Century (which ran between 1967-70) called “At Home, 2001” narrated by Walter Cronkite, which tried to predict from the viewpoint of 1967 what homes in the 21st century would look like.  Among the predictions:  3-D televisions twice as large as the largest current flat screen, plastic plates that would be molded for each use and then put into a vat to be printed again for the next use, and dinners that were programmed and cooked via computer.  The show also saw that computers at home could teach kids and enable people to work at home, and there’s a prediction of something like cable TV.  What they got wrong:  there is no internet or YouTube.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Michael Toman, John Hertz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Sam. And that came from Sam’s first-ever comment here!]

Pixel Scroll 12/31/20 It’s Shuffled Off Its Mortal Scroll, Run Down The Curtain And Joined The Bleedin’ File Invisible! This Is An Ex-Pixel!

The title is longer than today’s Scroll!

(1) REGRESS REPORT. Michael Dirda says his heaps are still sparking joy: “Clutter, says who? College essays, letters from Stephen King and Tucker Carlson: I’m keeping (almost) all of it” in the Washington Post.

As we close out the last week of turbulent 2020, there are 15 boxes stacked precariously on a couch in the small living room of this house. There are another 20 or so identical boxes crammed floor-to-ceiling in a dark corner of the basement. All of them contain what I refer to grandiosely as “my papers.”By that I mean a lifetime’s accumulation of letters, newspaper clippings, reporter’s notebooks, photocopied articles, three-ring binders, file folders, photographs, ID cards and driver’s licenses, magazines and journals (Gramophone, The Armchair Detective, Studies in Bibliography), drafts of short stories and poems — and even a few elementary school compositions and college essays. Everything has been stashed away higgledy-piggledy, a system that I’ve been known to rationalize by murmuring a line from poet Wallace Stevens: “A great disorder is an order.”

But I’m done with that. Having devoted chunks of this plague year to sorting and culling my books, I now face the more daunting task of weeding through all this memorabilia and paper clutter….

(2) REAL STINKERS. In The Guardian, columnist Louise Candlish has a particular character type in mind as she lists her “Top 10 most dislikable characters in fiction“ (literary fiction, that is). One genre work makes the cut for a group of characters (counted as a single entry for the author’s purpose)—Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. “Top 10 most dislikable characters in fiction”.

3. The other children in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
One way of signalling who your hero is in a children’s book is to make every other child deeply detestable. The Oompa Loompas explain far better than I can the vices of Charlie’s rivals: Veruca Salt is “the little brute”; Augustus Gloop is “unutterably vile”; and Violet Beauregarde is “some repulsive little bum”. Square-eyed Mike Teavee is the least offensive, so we’ll be kind and spare him.

(3) DOOM OBIT. “Rapper MF Doom dies at 49, wife says”. He styled himself after Doctor Doom and was a noted fan of comic books. The Chicago Tribune pays homage:

… Now calling himself MF Doom and wearing a metal mask inspired by the Marvel Comics villain Dr. Doom, Dumile released “Operation: Doomsday” in 1999. Produced by Dumile himself under the pseudonym Metal Fingers, the album couldn’t have been more out of step with hip-hop’s mainstream; featuring Dumile’s signature plainspoken flow and head-spinning volleys of intricate internal rhymes, off-the-wall cultural references and non-sequiturs, the album gained him a sizable cult following.

(4) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • December 31, 1987 — On this day in India, Superman premiered. It produced and directed by B. Gupta. The film stars Dharam Singh Deol more commonly known as Dharmendra, Puneet Issar, Sonia Sahni and Ranjeeta Kaur. Puneet Issar plays the role of Superman. It was not sanctioned by Warner Brothers., nor did they sue.  It was unbelievably bad according to the critics who reviewed it, and yes you can watch it here as Warner Brothers doesn’t seem to care.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 31, 1995: The last new Calvin and Hobbes cartoon strip was published.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 31, 1872 – Edith Olivier.  The first Lady Mayor of Wilton.  Decorated for her service during World War II.  A novel and three shorter stories for us, four other novels, nonfiction, memoirs, journals.  In a chapter “Things Past Explaining” she recounts waking one summer night to hear a thud on the floor by her bed – an oldfashioned tennis racket.  Her windows and door were closed.  “If it was an apport by a passing spirit, I can only say that the sense of humour of those in another world is very different from ours.”  (Died 1948) [JH]
  • Born December 31, 1890 – Joe Sewell.  Seventy interiors for “Riddles of Science” and “Scientific Mysteries” in Amazing.  Those also serve who only sit and draw.  (Died 1967) [JH]
  • Born December 31, 1931 – Bob Shaw.  One of the Wheels of IF i.e. Irish Fandom.  Two Hugos, three FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards, as Best Fanwriter.  Toastmaster at Seacon ’79 the 37th Worldcon and ConFederation the 44th.  Brought to Noreascon I the 29th Worldcon by the BoSh Fund; to Aussiecon Two the 43rd Worldcon by the Shaw Fund.  Co-author of The Enchanted Duplicator which you can see here.  You can also see “Fansmanship”.  Rebel Award – lived variously in the U.K. and U.S.  Doc Weir Award (U.K.; service).  In fact this is all BoSh as you can see.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born December 31, 1943 Ben Kingsley, 77. Speaking of Kipling, he voiced Bagherra in the live action adaptation that Disney did of The Jungle Book. He was also in Iron Man 3 as Trevor Slattery, a casting not well received. He’s The Hood in Thunderbirds (directed by Frakes btw), Charles Hatton in A Sound of Thunder and Merenkahre in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, the third of three great popcorn films. (CE) 
  • Born December 31, 1945 Connie Willis, 75. She has won eleven Hugo Awards and seven Nebula Awards for her work, a feat that impresses even me, someone who isn’t generally impressed as you know by Awards! Of her works, I’m most pleased by To Say Nothing of the Dog, Doomsday Book and Bellwether, an offbeat novel look at chaos theory. I’ve not read enough of her shorter work to give an informed opinion of it, so do tell me what’s good there. (CE)
  • Born December 31, 1949 Ellen Datlow, 71. Let’s get start this Birthday note by saying I own a complete set of The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror which yes , I know it was titled The Year’s Best Fantasy for the first year. And I still read stories for them from time to time.  If that was all she had done, she’d have been one of our all-time anthologists but she also, again with Terri Windling, did the Fairy Tale and Mythic Fiction series, both of which I highly recommend. On her own, she has the ongoing Best Horror of Year, now a decade old, and the Tor.com anthologies which I’ve not read but I assume collect the fiction from the site.  Speaking of Tor.com, she’s an editor there, something she’s also done at Nightmare MagazineOmni, the hard copy magazine and online, Sci Fiction webzineandSubterranean Magazine. (CE) 
  • Born December 31, 1949 – Susan Shwartz, Ph.D., age 71.  A score of novels, threescore shorter stories.  Half a dozen anthologies.  Essays, introductions and afterwords, letters, reviews in AnalogAresSF ReviewSFWA Bulletin (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America), Thrust.  Interviewed by Darrell Schweitzer and Lesley McBain.  Unable to resist writing “A Neopro’s Guide to Fandom and Con-Dom” for the Noreascon Three Souvenir Book (47th Worldcon) but made up for it with “Appreciating Esther Friesner” for Millennium Philcon the 59th, hello Susan.  [JH]
  • Born December 31, 1953 Jane Badler, 67. I first encountered her on the Australian-produced Mission Impossible where she played Shannon Reed for the two seasons of that superb series. She’s apparently best known as Diana, the main antagonist on V, but I never saw any of that series being overseas at the time. She shows up in the classic Fantasy IslandSir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, Bitch, Popcorn & Blood and Virtual Revolution. (CE)
  • Born December 31, 1958 Bebe Neuwirth, 62. Ok she’s had but one television SF credit to her name which is playing a character named Lanel in the “First Contact” episode of the Next Gen series during season four but I found a delightful genre credential for her. From April 2010 to December 2011, she was Morticia Addams in the Broadway production of The Addams Family musical! The show itself is apparently still ongoing. (CE)
  • Born December 31, 1959 Val Kilmer, 61. Lead role in Batman Forever where I thought he did a decent job, Madmartigan in Willow, Montgomery in The Island of Dr. Moreau, voiced both Moses and God in The Prince of Egypt, uncredited role as El Cabillo in George and the Dragon and voiced KITT in the not terribly well conceived reboot of Knight Rider. Best role? Ahhh that’d be Doc Holliday in Tombstone. (CE)
  • Born December 31, 1967 – Cynthia Leitich Smith, age 53.  This Muskogee Creek Nation author with a Univ. Michigan law degree was just given the first Katherine Paterson Chair at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and the Neustadt Prize.  A score of novels, young-adult, and children’s books, some comic, some fantastic (half a dozen for us), some realistic; essays, short stories, poetry, not to omit “A Real-Live Blonde Cherokee and His Equally Annoyed Soul Mate” in L. Carson ed., Moccasin Thunder.  [JH]
  • Born December 31, 1982 – Remus Simian.  (There should be, but the software won’t allow it, a cedilla under the of Simian, indicating a sound like in English sure.)  One story, and that passably strange, in Paradox, the magazine of the H.G. Wells SF Society of Timisoara (that should have a cedilla), Banat, Romania, twin club of the U.K. Phoenicians and thus of its successor the Northumberland Heath SF Group, all part of the Science Fact & Science Fiction Conctatenation – they use a superscript, I don’t know if they’d accept SF**2.  (Died 2004) [JH]

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Ziggy has a holiday traveler’s waking nightmare.

(8) TWENTY-TWENTY TV VISION. Thrillist calls these the “Best Fantasy & Sci-Fi TV Shows of 2020: Our Favorite Series This Year”. First on the list:

The Boys (Amazon Prime)

Season 2. 8 episodes.
The Boys, already the savviest show about the state of pop culture, went even darker and harder in its second season. Despite operating in the same genre as Marvel and DC, The Boys is less about world saving and more about greedy corporate entities that trade on public fears in order to sell their product—the product in this case being superheroes. This batch of episodes introduced You’re the Worst‘s Aya Cash as a no-bullshit feminist using the language of women’s rights for her own evil aims, a fucked up narrative not just there for shock value: It gets to the root of something genuinely insidious in the entertainment industry.—Esther Zuckerman

(9) IN A HURRY. “Long-distance quantum teleportation is now possible, meaning quantum internet” says SYFY Wire.

Raise your hand if you ever wanted to get beamed onto the transport deck of the USS Enterprise. Maybe we haven’t reached the point of teleporting entire human beings yet (sorry Scotty), but what we have achieved is a huge breakthrough towards quantum internet.

Led by Caltech, a collaborative team from Fermilab, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, Harvard University, the University of Calgary and AT&T have now successfully teleported qubits (basic units of quantum info) across almost 14 miles of fiber optic cables with 90 percent precision. This is because of quantum entanglement, the phenomenon in which quantum particles which are mysteriously “entangled” behave exactly the same even when far away from each other….

(10) SPARE THE CREDENTIAL. “A snake bit my cat. Clearing out my bank accounts to save him was an easy choice” in the Washington Post is a moving article by the author of The Fire Line: The Story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

…Rocky is a great hunter, and for years he brought us gifts: birds (dead and alive), rabbits (dead and alive), lizards (dead) and ground squirrels (alive, always, and so hard to catch). At 19 pounds, Rocky is big enough that a friend once mistook him for a bobcat. Such sightings are not uncommon where we live, on the edge of the Phoenix Mountains Preserve. The danger of that terrain jolted me on a recent Friday, when I got a text from a neighbor accompanied by a picture of a baby Western diamondback rattlesnake. “Rocky thinks this is a toy,” she wrote.

I raced out the door, calling his name, my heart thumping, fearful of losing him in a year already marked by too much loss. Rocky emerged from behind a creosote bush and rushed toward me. As I scanned his body, I saw puncture wounds behind his left digits.

We have human health insurance but not pet insurance. I didn’t hesitate to give my credit card number to the animal hospital’s desk attendant, who asked for it as a condition of admitting him that night, when his left paw was already swollen as big as the head of a golf club. Four doses of antivenin, several blood tests to check his clotting time, three nights at the hospital, plus who-knows-what-else-because-I-lost-track brought the total to $6,200….

(11) CATS AND ELIOT. Before there was music, there were words….

So Cats was a weird movie, huh? Join me, Maggie Mae Fish (and my alternate cat personality), as I explore the weird origins of Cats in the poetry (and warped mind) of TS Eliot.

(12) FIRE WHEN READY. “Amateur Batman Builds His Own Wrist Mounted Grappling Gun”Gizmodo will show it to you.

A childhood spent obsessing over Batman’s wonderful toys eventually transitions to a disappointing adulthood where you realize those gadgets just can’t exist in real life, even with a billion-dollar budget. That hasn’t stopped many from trying, and JT from YouTube’s Built IRL has come closer than most at recreating Batman’s grappling gun….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Camestros Felapton arrived in 2021 almost a whole day ahead of File 770. Not only has he survived the impact (so far), he sent his readers a video from the future:

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

Pixel Scroll 12/26/20 Wenn Ist Das Pixel Git Und Slotermayer? Nein! Beiherhund Die Oder Das Flipperwald Gescrollt!

(1) THE DEAD BODY PROBLEM. Lin Qi, producer of the upcoming Three-Body Problem adaptation, has died following an alleged poisoning by a colleague:  “Lin Qi, Yoozoo CEO and Producer on Netflix’s ‘Three-Body Problem,’ Dies at 39” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Lin Qi, the chairman and CEO of Yoozoo Group who was hospitalized after having been poisoned on Dec. 16, has died. The Chinese company confirmed that Lin died on Christmas Day. He was 39.

On Wednesday evening in China, the Shanghai Public Security Bureau had announced that Lin was receiving treatment after being poisoned and that a Yoozoo coworker of Lin’s, surnamed Xu, had been apprehended amid an investigation.

The statement read: “At 5 p.m. on Dec. 17, 2020, the police received a call from a hospital regarding a patient surnamed Lin. During the patient’s treatment, the hospital said it had determined that the patient had been poisoned. Following the call, the police began an investigation. According to investigations on site and further interviews, the police found that a suspect surnamed Xu, who is a coworker of the victim Lin, was the most likely the perpetrator. The suspect Xu has been arrested and investigations continue.”

The Hollywood Reporter reported that local media have said a dispute among the Chinese entertainment company’s executive ranks preceded the assault on Lin, which was allegedly carried out via a cup of poisoned pu-erh tea.

(2) A PIXAR FIRST. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Kemp Powers, a Black co-writer of Soul, who explains how his experiences helped ensure that the African-American experiences portrayed in the film were authentic. “Kemp Powers of ‘Soul’: His long journey to becoming Pixar’s first Black writer-director”.

The geniuses at Pixar had a problem, and this time, they would need to look beyond the walls of their esteemed studio for help.

The movie in question was “Soul,” a tuneful jazz tale that somehow didn’t quite swing. Rather ironically, the movie’s main character was lacking in texture and truth and, well, any depth of soul. What to do about a lead role that, in the words of Pixar chief and “Soul” director Pete Docter, “was kind of an empty shell”?The call went out to Kemp Powers, a rising playwright and “Star Trek: Discovery” TV writer who headed to Pixar’s Bay Area headquarters with much more than notes. He had a lifetime of relevant insights.

The character in question was Joe Gardner, Pixar’s first leading Black character and the heart of “Soul,” which will be released on Disney Plus on Christmas Day after bypassing domestic theaters because of the pandemic. Powers will compete against himself that day when the film adaptation of his play “One Night in Miami,” directed by Regina King, will land in theaters (ahead of its Jan. 15 release on Amazon Prime)….… And Daveed Diggs, who voices Joe’s trash-talking rival Paul, says Powers brought a humanity and a fearlessness to the tale. “There’s a strength and level of conviction in the storytelling,” says Diggs, no easy task because with its supernatural spaces and existential themes, “Soul” is “a weird movie.”

(3) CONTINUE CELEBRATING. Filer Cora Buhlert has assembled “A Holiday Story Bonanza” in her newly-released book A Christmas Collection. Full details and options to purchase in various formats at the link.

Romance, cozy fantasy, murder mysteries, pulp thrillers, science fiction, horror and humor – we have all that and more.

  • Watch young people find love in the pre-holiday shopping rush at Hickory Ridge Mall, at a Christmas tree lot, on the parking lot of a shuttered outlet mall and at the one bar in town that’s open on Christmas Eve.
  • Experience Christmas in Hallowind Cove, the permanently fog-shrouded seaside town, where strange things keep happening.
  • Watch as Santa’s various helpers unite to depose him.
  • Follow Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd and her team as they investigate the death of a robber dressed as Santa Claus as well as a wave of thefts at a Christmas market.
  • Meet Richard Blakemore, hardworking pulp author by day and the masked crimefighter known only as the Silencer by night, as he fights to save an orphanage from demolition in Depression era New York City.
  • Watch Alfred and Bertha, an ordinary married couple, as they decorate the Christmas tree and live their marvellous twenty-first century life.
  • Experience Christmas on the space colony of Iago Prime as well as after the end of the world.

Enjoy thirteen novellas, novelettes and short stories in six genres. This is a collection of 118000 words or approx. 390 print pages.

(4) AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME. [Item by Francis Hamit.] The CASE Act, the legislation creating a Copyright Small Claims Court, is becoming law as a part of that massive stimulus bill passed by Congress.  I am taking a victory lap on this one.  You may recall I was quite active in the early part of this century on Copyright matters, including prosecuting two lawsuits for infringements of magazine articles by database firms.  I spent thousands of dollars for filing and legal fees over four years and came out ahead, but dropped four other suits because they would cost more than the maximum possible cash reward.  There had to be a better way, I thought, and came up with the idea of a Copyright Small Claims Court, which was published in the September/October 2006 issue of The Columbia Journalism Review. [File 770 previously mentioned Hamit’s advocacy of the idea in 2011: “A Future for Small Copyright Claims?”] So it is done, and small individual creators have a path to legal recourse that wasn’t there before.  Very gratifying.  Those who would like to thank me can buy one of my books or stories on Amazon,com  (Reviews are appreciated too).  I have a stage play at Stageplays,com which I’m trying to get produced.  I may add others soon.  Donations are accepted on Paypal at francishamit@earthlink.net.  I’m not a crusader, just a businessman.  Support allows me to create new work.

(5) EYES ON THE PRIZE. At the risk of turning into a platform that mainly steers its audience to Camestros Felapton (oops, too late!), there are some good things there this weekend:

…Yet not unlike DC’s Shazam! film , WW84 form offers charm and its apparent naivety at least avoids the dourness of the Snyder films or broader cynicism…

(6) WWDC. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Wonder Woman 1984 director Patty Jenkins, who explains the reason the film is set in Washington in the 1980s is because it reflects Jenkins’s experiences.  For example, there are sequences at the Hirshhorn Museum because Jenkins was an art student there in 1987. “How Patty Jenkins turned ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ into a personal Washington story”.

“First of all, where would Diana go?” Jenkins says of the Amazonian warrior from the isle paradise of Themyscira, who headed to World War I’s European theater in “Wonder Woman.” “She would go to the heart and center of where power is.”

Once Jenkins and co-writer Geoff Johns were settled on setting, the director plunged deep into her own memories of Washington, where she often visited before moving to the area as a teenager in 1987, staying for a bit over a year.

“The style of D.C. is so wonderful” for Wonder Woman, says Jenkins, who shot numerous scenes on the Mall, in Georgetown and in Northern Virginia. “Having her live at the Watergate, the modernity of it, cut against the Reflecting Pool and the Hirshhorn — it just felt elegant and beautiful and intellectual and pop at the same time.”

(7) NPR’S BOOKS OF THE YEAR. [Item by Contrarius.] NPR’s Best Books Of 2020  is out. The sff included on the list are mostly the usual suspects for this year. Sadly, The Vanished Birds isn’t on it. Interestingly, the new translation of Beowulf is.

Click this link to go direct to the list’s Sci Fi, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction section.

(8) EVANS OBIT. 1632universe author Kevin H. Evans died on December 23 announced Eric Flint on Facebook. Evans often wrote in collaboration with his wife, Karen, who survives him.

Evans also was known as Sir Thorgeirr in the Society for Creative Anachronism.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • December 26, 1954 — On this day in 1954, the very last episode of The Shadow radio serial aired.  This was the program’s 665th installment and its twenty-first season. The serial first appeared on the air on Sept 26, 1937 with Orson Welles as Lamont Cranston and The Shadow and Agnes Moorehead as Margo Lane. It would end its run with Bret Morrison, who took over the lead roles from season twelve onward, and Gertrude Warner, who was Margo Lane from season thirteen onward. The final episode was “Murder by the Sea” which unfortunately is lost to us as the tape was not kept. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 26, 1842 – Laura Gonzenbach.  German-Swiss of Sicily.  Collected Sicilian fairy tales; her two volumes among few major collections by a woman. Beautiful Angiola (2004) has the title story and sixty more in English.  (Died 1878) [JH]
  • Born December 26, 1903 Elisha Cook Jr. On the Trek side, he shows up as playing lawyer Samuel T. Cogley in the “Court Martial” episode. Elsewhere he had long association with the genre starting with Voodoo Island and including House on a Haunted HillRosemary’s BabyWild Wild West, The Night Stalker and Twilight Zone. (Died 1995.) (CE) 

  • Born December 26, 1938 – John Kahionhes Fadden, age 82.  (Kahionhes “Long River” is his Mohawk name; he’s Turtle, his mother’s clan.)  Maintains the Six Nations Indian Museum (i.e. the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy; see e.g. the 2010 U.S. dollar coin; Haudenosaunee on it is “People of the Long House”, the Iroquois) started by his parents.  Four covers for us; here is Native American Animal Stories.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born December 26, 1942 – Catherine Coulter, age 78.  Six novels, four shorter stories for us; ninety books all told, many NY Times Best-Sellers.  Historical romances (“I love in particular Georgette Heyer, a British author who actually invented the Regency Romance – an extraordinary talent”), suspense thrillers (“at least six times as many loose ends that I have to keep searching out and tying up, and they always seem to multiply”).  Advice, “READ TO YOUR CHILDREN.”  [JH]
  • Born December 26, 1951 – Priscilla Olson, F.N., age 69.  Chaired Boskone 29, 38, 42, 48; introduced Featured Filker.  Ran Programming at Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Introductions & essays in NESFA Press books An Ornament to His ProfessionCybele, Rings (Charles Harness); Ingathering (Zenna Henderson); Far From This EarthFrom Other Shores (Chad Oliver); Once More With Footnotes (Sir Terry Pratchett); also “…And What We Think It Means”, ConJose Souvenir Book (60th Worldcon).  Fan Guest of Honor at Minicon 34, Windycon 33.  [JH]
  • Born December 26, 1953 T. Jefferson Parker, 67. Author of the rather excellent Charlie Hood mystery series which ISFDB claims is paranormal. Huh. He’s one of the very few writers to win three Edgars. (CE) 
  • Born December 26, 1953 Clayton Emery, 67. Somewhere there’s a bookstore that consists of nothing but the franchise novel and collections that exist within a given franchise. No original fiction what-so-ever. This author has novels in the Forgotten Realms, Shadow WorldThe Burning GoddessCity of Assassins, The Secret World of Alex MackMagic: The Gathering and Runesworld franchises, plus several genre works including surprisingly Tales of Robin Hood on Baen Books. Must not be your granddaddy’s Hood. (CE)
  • Born December 26, 1960 Temuera Morrison, 60. Ahhhh clones.  In Attack of the Clones, he plays Jango Fett and a whole bunch of his clone troopers, and in Revenge of the Sith, he came back in the guise of Commander Cody. He goes on to play him in the second season of The Mandalorian.  Crossing over, he plays Arthur Curry’s father Thomas in Aquaman. (CE) 
  • Born December 26, 1961 Tahnee Welch, 59. Yes, the daughter of that actress. She’s in both Cocoon films as well in Sleeping BeautyBlack Light and Johnny 2.0 which she’s in might qualify as genre in the way some horror does. She stopped acting twenty years ago. (CE)
  • Born December 26, 1968 – Julia Elliott, Ph.D., age 52.  Jaffe Foundation award.  Amazon Shared-Worlds Residency.  A novel (“loopy lyricism … whacked out paranoia … joyous farce”, NY Times Book Review) and a dozen shorter stories.  Teaches at Univ. S. Carolina (Columbia). [JH]
  • Born December 26, 1970 Danielle Cormack, 50. If it’s fantasy and it was produced in New Zealand, she might have been in it. She was in Xena and Hercules as Ephiny on recurring role, Hercules again as Lady Marie DeValle,in Jack of All Trades, one of Kage Baker’s favorite series because, well, Bruce Campbell was the lead. She was Raina in a recurring role, and Samsara on Xena in another one-off and Margaret Sparrow in Perfect Creature, an alternate universe horror film. (CE)
  • Born December 26, 1983 – Nicholas Smith, age 37.  Thirty novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  Ironman tri-athlete.  NY Times and USA Today Best-Seller.  Has read Custer Died for Your Sins and The Hobbit.  “I only leave positive reviews…. If I don’t like a book [and] don’t finish it … I don’t trash it because who knows what I missed.”  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close to Home shows how Santa anticipated the current surveillance society.

(12) PLAY IT AGAIN. Nerdist would like to convince you “Why LEGENDS OF TOMORROW Is Perfect for 2020 and 2021”.

…It’s not the writing, acting, special effects, or deus ex furby plot twists that make Legends worth a (re)watch these days. While the show found its niche in a careful balance of absurdity with genuine tension (case in point: season four, episode 13, which simultaneously featured an Indiana Jones-esque plot to keep a dragon egg away from Nazis, a book club gone wrong, and a surprise attendee at a romance novel convention; we cannot make this stuff up), it’s the surprising attention to character development and the ongoing themes of hopefulness, redemption, and growth in the face of trauma and loneliness that sets Legends apart.

(13) REVISITING LEMURIA. A news story I couldn’t link here because it’s member-locked turned out not to be all that new – except to me, and perhaps you, too. Here are three updates that appeared between 2015-2018.

Erin Ehmke on hibernation in the fat-tailed dwarf lemur:

It could be an internal genetic trigger for hibernation in the fat-tailed dwarf lemur. Since we share genetic code with the federal dwarf lemur, [the medical community is interested in understanding if] we have that same intrinsic trigger that could be tapped into for long term coma patients to prevent the cell breakdown – deep space travel, could we somehow trigger hibernation in astronauts to help get to deep space travel.

… Those lemurs could hold the key to faster recovery times from injuries and even deep space travel because of hundreds of species of primates, the fat-tailed dwarf lemur is the closest genetic cousin to humans that can hibernate.

“That suspended animation doesn’t occur in primates very often,” explained Duke Lemur Center veterinarian Bobby Schopler. “These are relatives of ours that do this, and it’s a fascinating aspect.”

Scientists have been studying the primates in their natural habitat for 48 years at the Duke Lemur Center. Duke researchers want to find out how some of the lemurs can regulate body temperature, store massive amounts of energy and sleep for 7 months at a time.

… Interest in suspended animation, the ability to set biological processes on hold, peaked in the 1950s as Nasa poured money into biological research. The hope was that sleeping your way to the stars would mean spacecraft could carry far less food, water and oxygen, making long-haul flights to distant planets more practical. It would also save astronauts from years of deep-space boredom.

Nasa’s interest died at the end of the space race, but Mr Vyazovskiy and his team of researchers at the University of Oxford are now exploring ways to put astronauts into stasis, using knowledge gained from mammals, including bears and dwarf lemurs.

(14) PRESERVED IN PUMICE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Archeologists have discovered a 2000-year-old street food stall in Pompeii, complete with illustrations of the food (or rather the animals that provide the food) on offer. I’m amazed how modern the whole thing looks. I can imagine this stall setting up shop at our annual autumn fair without raising any eyebrows: “Pompeii: Ancient snack stall uncovered by archaeologists” at CNN.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Contrarius, Francis Hamit, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, Steven H Silver, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Wright.]

Pixel Scroll 12/25/20 We Wish You A Merry Pixel And A Happy
Scroll File

(1) JEMISIN’S LATEST MILESTONE. [Item by Rob Thornton.] N.K. Jemisin received an interesting present for Christmas when she learned that The City We Became was chosen as a Book Of The Month.

(2) AWARDED SFF BY POC. [Item by Eric Wong.] Rocket Stack Rank’s  annual Outstanding SF/F by People of Color 2019, with 67 stories by 60 authors that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.

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

(3) CALL FOR REVIEWERS. If you’re interested in reviewing PDFs of either of these for File 770, contact me at mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com.

FIREFLY: THE ARTBOOK
An original glossy coffee table book bursting with brand new and exclusive art, includes over 120 pieces by professional artists, illustrators, concept artists, comics artists and graphic designers.

RIVERS OF LONDON BODY WORKS DELUXE WRITERS’ EDITION
CSI meets Harry Potter in this fantastic DELUXE WRITERS’ EDITION graphic novel from Ben Aaronovitch, writer of the bestselling Rivers of London supernatural police procedural crime novel series! Presents the full script of the graphic novel along with the unlettered, full-color artwork, allowing the reader to read the original script and see the artwork side-by-side.

(4) EXTRA SPACE FOR DOOHAN’S ASHES. [Item by Steven H Silver.] Richard Garriott smuggled James Doohan’s ashes onto the International Space Station during his 2012 and is revealing it now.“Ashes of Star Trek’s Scotty smuggled on to International Space Station” in The Times (UK).

As one of Star Trek’s most beloved characters, Montgomery “Scotty” Scott spent a lifetime exploring the galaxy on the USS Enterprise, boldly going beyond the final frontier.

Now it can be revealed that in death the actor who played the starship’s chief engineer has travelled nearly 1.7 billion miles through space, orbiting Earth more than 70,000 times, after his ashes were hidden secretly on the International Space Station.

A note.  In 2012, it was also announced that some of James Doohan’s ashes were being launched into space on a Falcon 9 flight that would put them in orbit for about two years.  That was known, but not the same as Richard Garriott carrying his ashes aboard a Soyuz to place them on the ISS, which was not previously known.

(5) WW84 REVIEW. Here’s Leonard Maltin’s take on “WW84 (WONDER WOMAN 1984)”  — BEWARE SPOILERS.

WW84 starts on a promising note, taking a page from the Superman playbook: Wonder Woman sweeps into a shopping mall and dispatches a gang of crooks while saving imperiled children, even sharing a knowing wink with one of them. It’s a moment of pure fun that leaves you with a smile on your face and shows our heroine actually enjoying her superpowers.

From that point on, the movie struggles to be relevant and serious, but in a superficial, cartoony way. It drones on for two and a half hours but it hasn’t got a lot to say, and sputters whenever it’s trying to convey a message. A prologue on Paradise Island only makes one wish they made more use of that setting and its strong female characters….

(6) ALWAYS TO CALL IT RESEARCH. Complex sets the scene in “Mark Hamill Clowns Space Force for Copying Marvel, ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Star Trek'”.

…Responding to a tweet from Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, Hamill laid out the full extent of the Space Force’s thievery.

(7) BIG GAME HUNTER. Camestros Felapton continues to assist Hugo voters with a new compilation of possible nominees: “Thirteen Notable Video Games of 2020 (maybe?)”

The other week I linked to a few “best of…” lists for 2020. On Twitter, Hampus also suggested another round-up source here https://www.cbr.com/best-video-games-2020/ I’ve since collated those lists along with the video games already listed on the Hugo Sheet of Doom. I’ll confess that I have taken a scattershot approach to deciding whether games are SFF or not. It isn’t always easy! Does a historical game count as alternate-history if you can reshape events (eg Crusader Kings III)? Is Call of Duty SFF because there is a zombie option? I don’t know! 

(8) GUNN OBIT. SFWA Grand Master James Gunn died December 23. Colleague Kij Johnson has a tribute: “With great sadness”.

This morning, James Gunn passed on at the age of 97. We’re not sure of what, but it probably was congestive heart failure. He went into the ER on Saturday morning, where they were not able to regulate his heartbeat. There will be official announcements and eventually a memorial.

One of many Gunn profiles is here at The Hollywood Reporter.

Gunn’s leadership in the field of sff studies at the University of Kansas is commemorated by the Center there that bears his name. His academic work included a series of filmed interviews with leading creators in 1970, including Rod Serling.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • In 1958 at Solacon held at South Gate, California, Fritz Leiber would win the first of ten Hugos that he would garner to date (counting Retros), for The Big TimeThe Big Time was published originally in Galaxy Magazine‘s March and April 1958 issues as illustrated by Virgil Finlay who has multiple Retro Hugos as an artist. In 2012, it was selected for inclusion in the Library of America’s two-volume American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 25, 1890 – Robert Ripley.  Dropping out of high school to help his family after his father’s death, he worked as a cartoonist, invented Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and became world-famous.  Said he documented everything.  Invited readers’ contributions, was read by eighty million, may have received more mail than the U.S. President.  Short cinema features, radio, television, visited 200 countries.  When R noted that in fact the U.S. had no national anthem, John Philip Sousa applauded “The Star-Spangled Banner” – which everyone had been singing – and it was finally adopted.  Also NY State handball champion.  Not in touch with us during his life (though he did interview Maud Baum) – he didn’t want fiction; the continuing R enterprise runs museums, publishes books: in RBI (R’s Bu. of Investigation) #2 The Dragon’s Teeth teen agents have special gifts.  (Died 1949) [JH]
  • Born December 25, 1915 – Dora Pantell.  Teacher, author of textbooks and manuals (many on English as a second language), she continued the Miss Pickerell books of Ellen MacGregor (1906-1954) about a New England spinster (as such were known until quite recently) with a good mind who takes technological adventures and applies science.  EM left copious notes, DP wrote a dozen Pickerell books (MP on the MoonMP and the Weather Satellite) and as many shorter stories.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born December 25, 1924 Rod Serling. Best remembered for the original and certainly superior Twilight Zone and Night Gallery with the former winning an impressive three Hugos. He’s also the screenwriter or a co-screenwriter for Seven Days in May, a very scary film indeed, as well as The New People series, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeA Town Has Turned to Dust, UFOs: Past, Present, and Future and Planet of the Apes. ISDB lists a lot of published scripts and stories by him. (Died 1975.) (CE) 
  • Born December 25, 1928 Dick Miller. He’s appeared in over a hundred films including every film directed by Joe Dante. You’ve seen him in both GremlinsThe Little Shop of HorrorsTerminatorThe HowlingSmall SoldiersTwilight Zone: The Movie, Amazon Women on the Moon, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm where he voiced the gravelly voiced Chuckie Sol and Oberon in the excellent  “The Ties That Bind” episode of Justice League Unlimited. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born December 25, 1939 Royce D. Applegate. His best known role was that of Chief Petty Officer Manilow Crocker on the first season of seaQuest DSV. He’s got appearances in Quantum LeapTwin Peaks (where he played Rev. Clarence Brocklehurst), Tales of the Unexpected  and Supertrain. (Died 2003.) (CE)
  • Born December 25, 1945 Rick Berman, 75. Loved and loathed in equal measures, he’s known for his work as the executive producer of Next GenDeep Space NineVoyager and Enterprise which he co-created with Brannon Braga. He’d be lead producer on the four Next Generation films: GenerationsFirst Contact (which I like), Insurrection  and Nemesis. (CE) 
  • Born December 25, 1947 – Bill Fesselmeyer.  Active U.S. Midwest fan, worked on MidAmeriCon I the 34th Worldcon, satirized our Worldcon Business Meetings – so hard that we don’t always do them well – in “How the Grinch Stole Worldcon”, as you can read here, thanks again to Leah Zeldes Smith.  Earned a barony in the Society for Creative Anachronism.  With wife Sherry, Fan Guests of Honor at BYOB-Con 7.  (Died 1984) [JH]
  • Born December 25, 1948 –Kathleen Meyer.  Chaired Windycon XI-XII and XV; Fan Guest of Honor at Capricon 8.  Ran Membership Services at Chicon IV the 40th Worldcon; chaired Chicon V the 49th; survived to run  Events at Chicon 2000 the 58th.  Twenty-five years Treasurer of parent ISFiC (Illinois SF in Chicago).  I knew her, Horatio.  (Died 2016) [JH] 
  • Born December 25, 1952 CCH Pounder, 68. She’s had one very juicy voice role running through the DC Universe from since Justice League Unlimited in 2006. If you’ve not heard her do this role, it worth seeing the animated Assault on Arkham Asylum which is far superior to the live action Suicide Squad film to hear her character. She also had a recurring role as Mrs. Irene Frederic on Warehouse 13 as well.  She’s also been in X-Files, Quantum Leap, White Dwarf (horrid series), GargoylesMillenniumHouse of Frankenstein and Outer Limits.  Film-wise, she shows up in Robocop 3Tales from the Crypt presents Demon KnightThe Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and several of the forthcoming Avatar films. (CE)
  • Born December 25, 1969 – Holly Phillips, age 51.  Reared in Trail and other small towns in British Columbia.  Sunburst Award for collection In the Palace of Repose.  Anthology Tesseracts 11 with Cory Doctorow.  Two novels, three dozen shorter stories, half a dozen poems.  “As weird as I try to make my fiction, it’s never as weird as the real world.”  [JH]
  • Born December 25, 1969 – Christopher Rowe, age 51.  Three novels, thirty shorter stories.  Co-author of Wild Cards 25, entitled Low Chicago.  Extended chapbook  Say…. into a small-press magazine for five years.  Has read The Last Great WalkLolita, two Jane Austen novels, one Dickens and one Dumas, The Hunt for “Red October”, one Shakespeare.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born December 25, 1984 Georgia Moffett, 36.  She’s  the daughter of actor Peter Davison, the man who was Fifth Doctor and she’s married to David Tennant who was the Tenth Doctor.  She played opposite the Tenth Doctor as Jenny in “The Doctor’s Daughter” and in she voiced ‘Cassie’ in the animated Doctor Who: Dreamland which is now on iTunes and Amazon. And yes she’s in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot as herself. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) UNDERSTANDING THE CRIMINAL MIND. Amanda Weaver finds the motive lacking for two recent newsmaking capers.

(13) GOLDEN GLOBES CHALLENGED. Although the specific film at issue is not genre, File 770 does follow the Golden Globes, and this eligibility question is of interest. “Golden Globes: What the HFPA Needs to Do to Fix the ‘Minari’ Debacle” in Variety.

The Hollywood Foreign Press has come under fire again for the rule that disallows “Minari,” the story of a Korean immigrant family struggling to build a better life in Arkansas, from competing in the Golden Globes race for best drama or musical/comedy. As the entertainment industry faces pressure to become more diverse and inclusive, both in the stories it tells and in terms of the actors and filmmakers it champions, the HFPA should have foreseen the outcry from Hollywood.

The rules around Golden Globes eligibility for best picture categories are outdated and need to be overhauled — fast.

“Minari,” which stars an American, is directed by an American and produced, financed, and distributed by U.S. companies, is ineligible in the best picture categories and must compete in the foreign language category. The problem was also faced by last year by “The Farewell,” Lulu Wang’s acclaimed dramedy, in 2019, which, like “Minari,” was forced into the foreign language race and excluded from competing for the Globes’ top prizes.

(14) SEEING VS. BELIEVING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the December 19 Financial Times, Raphael Abraham interviews Soul director Pete Docter about how the Pixar crew filming Soul discussed how to depict a soul.

Having consulted clinical psychologists for Inside Out, which made manifest a teenage girl’s emotional inner workings, this time Docter and his team turned to spiritual advisers for guidance  ‘We did a lot of research, talking with priests and rabbis, looking at Hinduism, Buddhism, all sorts of different traditions to see what they could teach about the nature of the soul,’ he says.  However, when it came to visual representation, they came to a dead end,  ‘Largely, it was not too helpful because it said they’re non-visible. And we thought:  well, great, but we’ve got to film something!’

Looking within themselves instead, the animators devised a solution that has the film flirting with abstraction as the action moves from the temporal world to the ethereal landscapes of ‘The Great Beyond,’ ‘The Great Before,’ and the ‘Counsellors’ who inhabit them.

Here they turned to art history for inspiration.  ‘We looked at a lot of modernist sculpture, Picasso wire sculptures, Alexander Calder.  We thought of the Counsellors as the universe dumbing itself down so that the humans and souls could understand it.’

(15) READ BEFORE YOU WRAP. Have you been influenced by any of these “20 Traditional Gift-Giving Superstitions” listed by Mental Floss?

5. CATS

In Sicily, it’s said you should never give a gift in the shape of a cat to someone who is engaged to be married, as this foretells sudden and violent death. However, in other cultures, if your partner gives you an actual cat as a present, it means you will never be parted.

(16) GHASTLY IMAGININGS OF THE SEASON. Dean Koontz’ holiday newsletter (available to subscribers) begins —

Tis the season to be jolly. That’s better than a season to be angry and mean. However, I find something unsettling about too much jolliness, especially when the jolly one is a snowman that has been brought to life by the magic in “an old black hat.” Whose hat was it? Huh? Did it belong to a serial killer, and did he die wearing it, and is his hideous, corrupted soul in that hat?

Frosty’s button nose is okay, but I’m creeped out by those two eyes made out of coal. We can often read other people’s intentions in their eyes, but NOT IN EYES MADE OUT OF COAL! The teeth in his grin are made of coal, too, and he’s always grinning, which suggests he’s psychotic…

(17) YESTERDAY’S MEDIA BIRTHDAY. This one is too good to skip. On December 24, 1916 the silent film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, directed and written by Stuart Paton, premiered. Starring Allen Holubar and Jane Gail, Carl Laemmle, later to be founder of what would become Universal Pictures, produced it. Paton used most of Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea novel and elements of Mysterious Island as well. Yes it’s in the National Film Registry as it should be. Indeed it was a box office success as it made eight million on a budget of two hundred thousand. You can watch it here.

(18) A DIY PROJECT FOR THOSE WHO HAVE A ZILLION DOLLAR LAB. Left over from Gizmodo’s 2019 “Fake Week” but news to me — “How to Make a Black Hole in a Science Lab”.

… “Black hole radiation is one of the perhaps most peculiar processes,” Weinfurtner told Gizmodo. Thanks to her experiment, “you can reproduce this process in the lab.”

More complex dumb holes followed; Weinfurtner eventually went on to lead her own group, now at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, which devised a black hole analog from a vortex produced by a draining, rotating fluid. The vortex amplified waves traveling over the liquid that bounced into it, and the experiment became a first observation of a process called superradiance in the lab—an analogy to the Penrose process, where spinning black holes turbocharge the particles in the space around them….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Polar Express Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George explains the premise of The Polar Express is that when a kid “gets into a stranger’s vehicle in the middle of the night, his life is going to change,” but don’t worry, the vehicle is The Polar Express, so this is supposed to be a fun Christmas movie, even if the motion-capture animation leads to “dead eye characters and uncanny valley vibes.”

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

Pixel Scroll 12/23/20 It Was The Alfred Bester Of Times, It Was The Bertie Wooster Of Times

Note: A bit light today because I’m off helping celebrate my brother’s birthday.

(1) OUT OF COURT. Mike Dunford of Questionable Authority makes some interesting comments on the decision against ComicMix (see “Dr. Seuss Enterprises Wins Appeal to Ninth Circuit; Seuss-Trek Mashup Violates Copyright”) and promises more on his next QuestAuthority at Twitch. Twitter thread starts here.

(2) A SCAM, BUT WHY? At Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss warns that a “Spooky Phishing Scam Targets Traditionally-Published Writers”.

…The phisher, or phishers, employ clever tactics like transposing letters in official-looking email addresses (like “penguinrandornhouse.com” instead of “penguinrandomhouse.com“) and masking the addresses so they only show when the recipient hits “Reply”. They know how publishing works and appear to have access to inside information, utilizing not just public sources like acquisition announcements in trade publications, but details that are harder to uncover: writers’ email addresses, their relationships with agents and editors, delivery and deadline dates, even details of the manuscripts themselves. 

And they are ramping up their operations. According to the Times, the scam began appearing “at least” three years ago, but in the past year “the volume of these emails has exploded in the United States.”

So what’s the endgame? Publishing people are stumped. Manuscripts by high-profile authors have been targeted, but also less obviously commercial works: debut novels by unknowns, short story collections, experimental fiction. The manuscripts don’t wind up on the black market, as far as anyone can tell, and don’t seem to be published online. There have been no ransom demands or other attempts at monetization. 

[From a New York Times article:] “One of the leading theories in the publishing world, which is rife with speculation over the thefts, is that they are the work of someone in the literary scouting community. Scouts arrange for the sale of book rights to international publishers as well as to film and television producers, and what their clients pay for is early access to information — so an unedited manuscript, for example, would have value to them.”

(3) A CAT WITH A DESK. Timothy the Talking Cat makes “Tim’s Last Minute Gift Suggestions” at Camestros Felapton.

… You worthless and ungrateful humans have probably left all your shopping to the last minute. Well let me help out. Here are some quick and easy gifts you can get together even on a tight budget.

…Surprises. Everybody loves surprises! Go out into the garden. Find a dead bird. Sniff it and maybe wack it about a bit with your paws. Bring it home and drop it somewhere surprising….

(4) LUKER OBIT. A phantom’s beloved and a garden ghost:“Rebecca Luker, a Broadway Star for Three Decades, Dies at 59” reports the New York Times.

Rebecca Luker, the actress and singer who in a lauded three-decade career on the New York stage embodied the essence of the Broadway musical ingénue in hit revivals of “Show Boat,” “The Sound of Music” and “The Music Man,” died on Wednesday in a hospital in Manhattan. She was 59. … she had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as A.L.S. or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

…Just five years after college, she was on the Broadway stage, assuming the lead female role in “The Phantom of the Opera”— Christine, the chorus girl who is the object of the phantom’s affections.

“Phantom” was her Broadway debut; she began as the understudy to the original star, Sarah Brightman; became an alternate; and took over as Christine in 1989. She remained with the show until 1991.

Ms. Luker moved on immediately to another Broadway show: She played a ghost, the little orphan girl’s dead Aunt Lily, in “The Secret Garden.” 

(5) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 23, 1963 — On this night in 1963, Twilight Zone’s “The Night of the Meek” first aired. This was a Christmas-themed story with Art Carney as a Santa Claus fired on Christmas Eve who finds a mysterious bag that gives an apparently unlimited stream of gifts. The script which was written by Rod Serling would be used over in the Eighties version of this series and on the radio program as well. Serling ended the original broadcast with the words, “And a Merry Christmas, to each and all”, but that phrase was deleted in the Eighties and would not be back until Netflix started streaming the series.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 23, 1896 Máiréad Ní Ghráda. She’s the author of Manannán, a 1940 novel which is regarded as the first such science fiction work in Irish. Several years previously, she translated Peter Pan into Irish, Tír na Deo, the first time it had been so done. (Died 1971.) (CE) 
  • Born December 23, 1927 – Chuch Harris.  (“Chuch” from ChucHarris.)  Englander who became an adjunct (at least) of Irish Fandom with a letter to Walt Willis of Slant beginning “Dear Mr. Ellis”.  CH submitted a story about a family of werewolves beginning “The family were changing for dinner”.  Persuaded to visit Vin¢ Clarke and Ken Bulmer at their flat the Epicentre (mistaking this for the center, or centre, of an earthquake, has a long history) he helped generate Sixth Fandom, was shot with a water-pistol by James White, wrote for Hyphen, and formed Tentacles Across the Sea with Dean Grennell.  Much later Spike published the Chuck Harris Appreciation Magazine, which only a Johnson fan like me would call the Great Cham, hello Spike.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born December 23, 1928 – George Heap.  Long-time secretary of the Philadelphia SF Society, filker, Tolkien fan before the paperback Lord of the Rings arrived, he moved to Rochester, joined The Cult, and died at the horrid age of 41 just before Noreascon I the 29th Worldcon.  You can see four 1960 issues of his SF Viewsletter here.  (Died 1971) [JH]
  • Born December 23, 1929 Peggy Fortnum. She’s an English illustrator beloved for illustrating Michael Bond‘s Paddington Bear series. She first illustrated him in A Bear Called Paddington. One of Fortnum’s Paddington illustrations is part of a series of stamps that was issued by the Royal Mail in 2006 celebrating animals from children’s literature. Somehow it seems appropriate on Christmas for me to share that stamp here. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born December 23, 1945 Raymond E. Feist, 75. Best known for the Riftwar series. The only novel I’ve read by him is was Faerie Tale, a dark fantasy set in the state of New York, which is one damn scary work. His only Award to date is a HOMer Award for Servant of the Empire which he co-wrote with Janny Wurts. (CE)
  • Born December 23, 1978 Estella Warren, 42. Deena on the Planet of The Apes. She also shows up in Ghost Whisper, the Beauty and the Beast film as Belle the Beauty, TaphephobiaFeel the Dead and Age of the Living Dead. (CE) 
  • Born December 23, 1954 – Susan Grant, age 66.  U.S. Air Force veteran, then commercial pilot; 18,000 hours flight time.  RITA Award – for Contact, an SF romance; there’s cross-genre action for you.  A score of novels, a few shorter stories, several Booklist and Library Journal Books of the Year.  [JH]
  • Born December 23, 1960 – Miyabe Miyuki, age 60.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Six novels, ten shorter stories so far available in English.  Yamamoto Shûgorô Prize, Naoki Prize, two Yoshikawa Eiji Prizes, Nihon SF Taishô Award.  Mystery Writers of Japan Award.  Batchelder Award for the English translation of her Brave Story.  Film, television, manga, video games.  All She Was Worth (English title) called a watershed in the history of women’s detective fiction.  [JH]
  • Born December 23, 1970 – Natalie Damschroder, age 50.  A dozen novels for us, thirty all told, many shorter stories.  Loves the New England Patriots more than anything except her family, writing, reading, and popcorn.  I omit what she thinks her teen fiction kicks.  [JH]
  • Born December 23, 1984 Alison Sudol, 36. She’s known for her role as Queenie Goldstein on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. I do so like those titles. She’s also has a recurring role as Kaya in Transparent, a series which is at least genre adjacent for its genre content and certainly SJW in content. (CE)
  • Born December 23, 1985 – Marta Dahlig, age 35.  Digital artist, mostly.  Here is the Jun 05 Revelation.  Here is The Shifter (German edition, translated as The Healer).  Here is Sloth.  In a different vein, here is Mimi and the Brave Magic.  [JH]
  • Born December 23, 1986 Noël Wells, 34. Voice actor on Star Trek: Below Decks where she voices the green-colored Ensign D’Vana Tendi. I so wanted to love this series but was actually repelled by it. I said a year ago that “It should a rather fun time.” Well I was wrong.  So what do y’all think of it? (CE) 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • “Shoe” might have this same reaction to some of the book lists I run.
  • “Get Fuzzy” doesn’t treat a famous mathematician with the gravity his deserves.

(8) HIGH CALIBER CANON. Sff gets a fillip of genre recognition in The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story edited by John Freeman, to be released May 4, 2021.

…Beginning in 1970, it culls together a half century of powerful American short stories from all genres, including–for the first time in a literary anthology–science fiction, horror, and fantasy, placing writers such as Usula Le Guin, Ken Liu and Stephen King next to some of the often-taught geniuses of the form–Grace Paley, Toni Cade Bambara, Sandra Cisneros, and Denis Johnson. Culling widely, Freeman, the former editor of Granta and now of his own literary annual, brings forward some astonishing work to be regarded in a new light. Often overlooked tales by Dorothy Allison, Charles Johnson, and Toni Morrison will recast the shape and texture of today’s enlarging atmosphere of literary dialogue.

(9) BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES. Jason Scott retells a story he says happened in the 1990s. Thread starts here.

(10) REGIME CHANGE. The Washington Posts’s Alexandra Petri finds another leader who has their own reality:“I, the White Witch, am disgusted by anyone who would try to make it always winter and never Christmas” .

Here in Narnia, it is so, so important that we have seasons, as I, the White Witch, have always been the absolute first to say. Lots of seasons, one leading to the next, leading to Christmas. I have always cared the most about seasons, and the second most about being absolutely sure that there will be Christmas. “More Seasons for Narnia!” was actually my slogan, although it was on a bumper sticker covered in ice crystals and hidden on my sledge under a big heap of Turkish delight. But I knew that it was there….

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

Pixel Scroll 12/17/20 For He To-Day That Scrolls His Pixel With Me, Shall Be My Sibling; Be He Ne’er So File

(1) INSIDE STORY. In “Why I Write”: Samuel R. Delany scrolls through the reasons. This conversation appears in the Winter 2020 print issue of The Yale Review.

… I remember sitting on the steps of the embalming room at the back of the chapel in my father’s Harlem funeral parlor, watching Freddy, my father’s embalmer, working on the corpse of a tan woman with reddish hair stretched on her back on the white enamel surgical table with its drain and clamps…

“How old is she?” I asked.

“Twenty-­five,” Freddy told me, at work in his rubber gloves with the bottles of pink embalming fluid.

“What did she die from?” I asked.

Freddy picked up the tag on the woman’s wrist. “Sugar diabetes is what it says here.”

“Does everybody have to die?” I asked.

“Eventually.” Freddy smiled. “But you won’t have to worry about that for a long time…”

“But I will have to die, won’t I?”

Freddy laughed. “Not for a long, long time…”

I think his firmness was supposed to be reassuring, but suddenly I felt a dizzying chill. I didn’t know what to say or do, but I stood up and said softly, “I’m going upstairs.” Halfway through the funeral chapel, I began to move quickly, and at the stairwell up to the first floor where we lived, I started running. My mother was in the bathroom, scrubbing the floor. “I’m gonna die!” I burst in, screaming, and threw myself into her arms. “I’m gonna die, Mommy! I’m gonna die!” I think she was bewildered.

“You’re not gonna die,” she said.

“No! No! Not now. But I’m gonna die…!”

She pooh-­poohed my terror, and for almost forty minutes while I screamed and thrashed and hugged her and sobbed, she tried to find out what was wrong. She couldn’t quite believe that, really, this was all it was. I had seen dozens of corpses before, but it never occurred to me to tell her that it was the reality of a dead body that had initiated my panic….

(2) LODESTAR 2020. Naomi Kritzer tweeted a photo of her Lodestar Award trophy.

(3) A SAUCER WITHOUT CREAM. Timothy the Talking Cat says what needs to be said – then, characteristically, keeps on talking: “Tim’s Hot Take: Discworld is Terrible” at Camestros Felapton.

Good evening everybody, it is I, your favourite feline provocateur, raconteur and secateur aka Timothy the Talking Cat. In every community there must be somebody who is brave enough, far-sighted enough and clever enough to speak to mindless herds and lay down the cold, hard truth about their clumsy sheep-like opinions…

(4) SOUND ADVICE. The creation of the Mexican Gothic audiobook is discussed in the AudioFile Magazine’s “Behind the Mic” podcast: “In Conversation with Narrator Frankie Corzo”. There’s also a partial transcript:

Jo Reed: I’m curious, and we can use MEXICAN GOTHIC as an example, because there’s quite a range of characters, I’m curious about what’s your process for determining the voice for any given character?

Frankie Corzo: You know, I think, very early on when I started doing audiobooks, I learned that there were the kind of giants among us who have a preternatural ability, supernatural ability, at being able to make these really distinct, crazy character voices, and I was like, “Okay.  If I go that way, it’s going to feel like a caricature,” and I never wanted anything, even when I do a children’s book, I don’t want it to feel performative. As much as it is a performance, you want it to feel as grounded and as relatable and as in the skin of these people as possible, so with every character, I always go from the entryway of their characteristics.  How are they described as how they carry themselves? 

You know, once we get past accents, once we get past anything that is really concrete that the author has informed us about, what are the characters saying about them, and what do they say about themselves, and how do they carry themselves in the world, and how does that affect their voice? I think going that route for me personally allows me more to play with when we’re in different acts of the book, when we’re in different places in their journey. You know, especially with a younger protagonist, or a lot of the books that I’ve gotten to do this year, like Natalia Sylvester’s RUNNING, our protagonist begins not really sure of her voice yet and figuring out all of these things, and at the end she’s like this revolutionary, and how does that affect your voice? So I always try to go in from the route of character as far as personality and physicality more than I go from a place of purely what they would sound like.

(5) KIND OF LIKE THE OPENING CHALLENGE OF BEAT BOBBY FLAY. What do you do with that odd ingredient? Sarah Gailey assembles the recipes they published earlier in the year to help readers cope with pandemic-limited cupboards: “Year In Review: Stone Soup” at Here’s the Thing.

…In the end, from March all the way through July, I wrote thirty-seven recipes. Some of them are kind of bonkers, because they’re designed to use a particular tricky ingredient. Some of them are pretty straightforward. All of them were written with the express intention of helping people weather a really fucked-up time in their lives, and for that, I’m proud of them.

Here’s the full list:

#1 – Comfort Broccoli
Recipe: Flavorful Roasted Broccoli
What do you do with the vegetables you’d normally cook as a Virtuous Side Dish, when all you want to eat is a really shitty burger? I don’t care how much you love fresh produce: when the thing you want is some garbage-food that’s designed in a lab to please your monkey-brain, broccoli feels like a thing to be endured. That ends today.

(6) SCALING DOWN. Former HWA President Lisa Morton joins in a discussion about Close Encounters Of The Third Kind miniature effects.

David Jones, Greg Jein, Mark Stetson, and Lisa Morton talk about the miniatures made for the original film, and the special edition. Extended segment from my Sense of Scale documentary.

From the transcript:

And you know there was the usual uh dropping stuff on the floor and things breaking little small pieces and and it was always at the most crucial time. I remember requesting that they put carpeting on the floor in our model shop because I think I was prone to dropping stuff a lot

(7) BULLOCH OBIT. “Jeremy Bulloch Dead: Boba Fett Actor in Star Wars Dies at 75”Variety profiled him.

Jeremy Bulloch, the British actor who starred as bounty hunter Boba Fett in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, died on Thursday in London of complications from Parkinson’s disease, according to his representatives. He was 75.

… Bulloch took on the role of Boba Fett in 1978 while he was starring in the television comedy series “Agony.” He had previously starred in the BBC soap opera “The Newcomers.” Other credits included the James Bond movie “Octopussy” and the TV series “Doctor Who” and “Robin of Sherwood.” He also had a cameo in 2005’s “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.”

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

In Season 3 Episode 4 of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale a tribute is given to Ray Bradbury — at around 41 minutes one of the Handmaids exits a house with the address of 451.

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

December 17 – Wright Brothers Day

Wright Brothers Day on December 17 recognizes the first time Orville and Wilbur Wright successfully flew their heavier-than-air, mechanically propelled aircraft in 1903.

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1999 — In 1999, the very first Endeavour Award for Distinguished Novel or Collection would go to Greg Bear for Dinosaur Summer. The Award is given annually at OryCon for a work written by a Northwest author or authors published in the previous year. Runner-ups that year were John Varley’s The Golden Globe, Kate Wilhelm‘s The Good Children, Steve Barnes’ Iron Shadows and Robin Hobb’s Ship of Magic. He would win the same Award the next year with Darwin’s Radio. Oddly enough that would be the last Endeavour Award that he would win. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 17, 1702 – Marie-Madeleine de Lubert.  Author of folk tales, or perhaps we should say stories in the style of folk tales, much admired; many fantastic.  Corresponded with Voltaire.  A novella and three shorter stories in Princess Camion (2018, i.e. in English); Cornichon et Toupette tr. as “A Fairy’s Blunder” in The Grey Fairy Book.  (Died 1785) [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1873 – Ford Madox Ford.  Among much else, a children’s fantasy The Brown Owl, science fiction co-authored with Joseph Conrad The Inheritors, five more novels and three shorter stories for us.  Ladies Whose Bright Eyes, which FMF said was “what would really happen”, has been called a reverse of Twain’s Connecticut Yankee – but not by me.  (Died 1939) [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1884 – Alison Uttley, D.Litt.  More than a hundred books.  For us A Traveller in Time, later made a BBC TV series; a score of tales collected in Moonshine and Madness; four more magical collections; stories about a fox (half a dozen), a mouse (a dozen), rabbits (twoscore), a pig (a dozen; the pig is named Sam).  Honorary Doctor of Letters from Univ. Manchester.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1929 Jacqueline Hill. As the history teacher of Susan Foreman, the Doctor’s granddaughter, she as Barbara Wright was the first Doctor Who companion to appear on-screen in 1963, with her speaking the series’ first lines. (No, I don’t know what they are.) Hill returned in a Fourth Doctor story, “Meglos” as the Tigellan priestess Lexa. She also appeared on two genre anthologies, Out of This World and Tales of The Unexpected. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born December 17, 1930 Bob Guccione. The publisher of Penthouse, the much more adult version of Playboy, but also of Omni magazine, the SF zine which had a print version between 1978 and 1995.  A number of now classic stories first ran there such as Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” and “Johnny Mnemonic”, as well as Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata” and even Harlan Ellison’s novella, Mephisto in Onyx which was on the Hugo ballot at ConAdian but finished sixth in voting. The first Omni digital version was published on CompuServe in 1986 and the magazine switched to a purely online presence in 1996.  It ceased publication abruptly in late 1997, following the death of co-founder Kathy Keeton. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born December 17, 1944 Jack L. Chalker. I really, really enjoyed a lot of his Well World series, and I remember reading quite a bit of his other fiction down the years and I’d loved his short story collection, Dance Band on the Titanic. Which of his other myriad series have you read and enjoyed?  I find it really impressive that he attended every WorldCon except one from 1965 until 2004. One of our truly great members of the SF community as was a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association and was involved in the founding of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born December 17, 1945 Ernie Hudson, 74. Best known for his roles as Winston Zeddemore in the original Ghostbusters films, and as Sergeant Darryl Albrecht in The Crow. I’m reasonably sure his first SF role was as Washington in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, a few years before the first Ghostbusters film.  Depending on how flexible your definition of genre is, he’s been in a fair number of genre films including LeviathanShark AttackHood of HorrorDragonball Evolution, voice work in Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial, and, look there’s a DC animated movie in his resume! as he voiced Lucius Fox in the superb Batman: Bad Blood. He’s in the forthcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife. (CE) 
  • Born December 17, 1950 – J.R. “Mad Dog” Madden, age 70.  Chemical engineer and Red Cross volunteer.  Hosted Swampcon II at his house.  Letters, con reports in SF ChronicleSF Review, and even File 770 which, who knows, might appear on paper again.  Fan Guest of Honor at Coastcon ’81 and IX, DeepSouthCon 35.  Rebel Award.  [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1973 – Rian Johnson, age 47.  Wrote and directed Looper and The Last Jedi.  “A Paragraph on PKD” in Journey Planet.  Introduction to The Time Traveller’s Almanac.  Plays banjo.  [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1973 Rian Johnson, 47. Director responsible for the superb Hugo nominated Looper, also Star Wars: The Last Jedi which was Hugo nominated and Knives Out. I know, it’s not even genre adjacent. It’s just, well, I liked Gosford Park, so what can I say about another film similar to it? He has a cameo as an Imperial Technician in Rogue One, and he voices Bryan in BoJack Horseman which is definitely genre. (CE)
  • Born December 17, 1975 Milla Jovovich, 45. First SFF appearance was as Leeloo de Sabat in The Fifth Element, a film which still gets a very pleasant WTF? from me whenever I watch it. (It has a superb seventy rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.) She was also Alice in the Resident Evil franchise which is six films strong and running so far. I see she shows up as Milady de Winter in a Three Musketeers I never heard of which is odd is it’s a hobby of mind to keep track of those films, and plays Nimue, The Blood Queen in the rebooted Hellboy which I’ve no interest in seeing.(CE)
  • Born December 17, 1985 – Greg James, age 35.  With Chris Smith, three Kid Normal novels and a shorter story; a short story in The Time Collection.  Radio, television; presented I Survived a Zombie Apocalypse.  Cricket and rugby fan.  Powerful charity fund-raiser cycling, climbing mountains, lip-synching “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Duplex shows why bean-counters and Seuss don’t mix.

(13) NEXT BATMAN. “DC Comics Sets The Stage For The First Black Batman” reports Black Information Network.

DC Comics set the stage for a groundbreaking development in their iconic Batman series. This week, the character of Tim “Jace” Fox took on the role of Batman. By doing so, he becomes the first Black character to hold the title.

“Even before the announcement of DC Future State and Future State: The Next Batman by John RidleyNick Derington and Laura Braga, the news that a person of color could be the next to don the cape and cowl as Gotham City’s protector sent tongues wagging inside and outside the comic book community about who it could possibly be,” DC Comics wrote.

Gizmodo has more: “DC Comics Reveals New, Black Batman Tim Fox for Future State”

After teasing that the upcoming Future State event would bring some bold, sweeping changes to a new generation of its legacy heroes, DC has confirmed the identity of the event’s Batman: Tim Fox, the estranged son of longtime Batman ally Lucius Fox, and brother of Batwing himself, Luke.

Tim has had a long, if relatively quiet, history out of the cowl in DC’s Batfamily books, first appearing back in 1979 during a terse dinnertable discussion between him and Lucius over his college grades in the pages of Batman #313. More recently, talk of what he’s been up to has been woven in and out of the Joker War arc in the pages of the Batman ongoing. Meanwhile, the Fox family had been brought “in-house” to help Bruce Wayne through FoxTech—with Lucius deciding that now is the time to attempt to reconnect with his distant son.

(14) SOMETIMES IN GOOD TASTE. But often not. Jennifer Szalai reviews Reid Mitenbuler’s Wild Minds: The Artists and Rivalries That Inspired the Golden Age of Animation for the New York Times: “‘Fantasia,’ ‘Snow White,’ Betty Boop, Popeye and the First Golden Age of Animation”.

By the time Walt Disney’s “Fantasia” premiered at Manhattan’s Broadway Theater on Nov. 13, 1940, what had started out as an animated short to revive Mickey Mouse’s flagging career had become a feature-length extravaganza. Images in the movie channeled evolutionary theory and abstract art, depicting roaring dinosaurs, vibrating shapes and dancing brooms. Everything was set to classical music and blasted over the new Fantasound system, whose volume could apparently reach 165 decibels — enough, The New Yorker reported at the time, to “kill many elderly members of the audience, knock the others cold and deafen the survivors for life.” The magazine continued: “Don’t worry about it, though. You’re safe with Walt Disney.”

The combination perfectly encapsulated what Disney Studios was becoming: a determined wielder of awesome power, leavened by Disney’s assurances that he was a really nice guy. (This happened to mirror the self-image of the country at large, which assiduously coupled its impending dominance on the world stage with repeated avowals of benign intentions.) According to “Wild Minds,” Reid Mitenbuler’s lively history of the first half-century of animation, “Fantasia” marked a turning point in American culture, an attempt to reconcile the refinement of artistic ambition with the demands of mass consumption. To work on the project, Disney had tapped the conductor Leopold Stokowski, who was so proudly pretentious that the studio’s cartoonists wanted to call the movie “Highbrowski by Stokowski.”….

(15) REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS RIGHT NOW. “Stephen Colbert Answers a Series of Revealing Questions (While Drinking Whiskey)” to answer Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire. (Plenty of genre references in his answers to #27 and #28.)

Through its origins as a parlor game made popular by Marcel Proust, the 35 questions are designed to reveal the nature of Stephen’s true self. What is his idea of perfect happiness? Who are his favorite writers? What is his biggest regret?

(16) VANISHED WORLD. In his “Graphic Content” column “Into the Crime-Riddled 1980’s Los Angeles of Ethan Reckless” on CrimeReads, Alex Segura interviews Ed Brubaker about his new graphic novel Reckless illustrated by Sean Phillips and “set in the wild world of 1980s Los Angeles.”

[Brubaker] .. The crazy part was realizing that because we had so much lead time, we could put out three of these books in one year. I was reading about how the first three Travis McGee books came out just a few months apart from each other, and I thought… we could do that. Since we’re switching away from monthly comics to graphic novels, lets try and keep them on a tight schedule, so our readers don’t have to wait a year for the next one. So far we’re on track and it hasn’t killed us, but we’re both back in lockdown where we live, so that’s been good for productivity, I guess.

(17) FASTING. “Faster Than Light? How About Faster Than Thought?—a Film Review” at Mind Matters.

Anyhow, here’s a short film about it, “Hyperlight” by Adam Stern: “FTL”: “A lone astronaut testing the first faster-than-light spacecraft travels farther than he imagined possible,” attempting to establish communications with a colony on Mars:

(18) JEOPARDY! Say, those Jeopardy! sff questions are getting tougher! Here’s what Andrew Porter witnessed in tonight’s episode.

Category: First Words

Answer: “A screaming comes across the sky”, begins this 1973 Thomas Pynchon novel.

Wrong question: What is “The Crying of Lot 49”?

Correct question: What is “Gravity’s Rainbow”?

(19) CHARTING THE MUPPETS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the December 12 Financial Times, Helen Brown discusses the Muppets song “Mah-Na Mah-Na,” which was originally written by “prolific Tuscan jazz composer Piero Umiliani” for “an Italian soft-core exploitation film, Sweden:  Heaven And Hell.”

The puppets first performed the song on the show (Sesame Street) on November 27, 1969, sung by two wool-plated Muppets (voiced by Frank Oz and Loretta Long) and beatnik character Bip Biuppadotta, voiced by (Jim) Henson himself.  The loveable comedy of the scat lay in the way Henson often began his scats with enthusiasm, only to lose his thread.  A follow-up performance on the primetime -The Ed Sullivan Show- took it mainstream.  The female back-up singers were reimagined  as fluorescent twin monsters with massive  eyelashes called Snowths:  a combination of snout and mouth.  The beatnik’s scat odysseys grew increasingly deranged until he literally broke the fourth wall by running into the camera and smashing it…

…The Snowths and Bip Bippadotta performed the song in a 1976 episode of -The Muppet Show-, intoducing it to a new audience.  In 1977, it was released as a single (“Mahna Mahna”) which peaked at number eight in the UK charts, while -The Muppet Show- soundtrack album on which it appeared knocked The Beatles’s -Live At Hollywood Bowl- from the top of the charts.

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