Pixel Scroll 9/10/20 The Pixelways Will Scroll

(1) SOUNDING OFF. John Scalzi’s new novella in The Dispatcher series debuted today as an audiobook narrated by Zachary Quinto. You can hear the two of them discuss it via Whatever: “Here’s Me and Zachary Quinto Interviewing Each Other About ‘Murder By Other Means’”.

(2) THE SOUND AND THE FURRY. Maria Poletta, in the Arizona Republic story “On Cameo, Joe Arpaio welcomed a furry convention to Arizona. Hours later, he learned what it was”, says that Sheriff Joe Arpaio (famously pardoned by President Trump) recorded a message on Cameo welcoming a furry convention to Arizona although it’s not clear he knew what furries were(he pronounced furry “fury.”)

It seems former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has found a new gig after another unsuccessful bid for public office.

Unsurprisingly, it’s in front of the camera. 

For $30.99, users of Cameo — an app where singers, actors and other public figures record custom video messages for a fee — can request a personalized clip of the divisive figure saying whatever they want.

And supporters and critics alike are seizing the opportunity. 

Most of Arpaio’s Cameo videos appear to be standard fare, such as birthday greetings, thank-you messages, congratulatory comments. But one that began circulating on social media on Tuesday evening, an encouraging message for the organizers of an upcoming event, raised eyebrows. 

“Hey, good luck organizing the Arizona Furry convention,” Arpaio begins, though he pronounces it “Fury,” suggesting he’s not totally certain what he’s been asked to talk about. It’s “for animal lovers,” he adds by way of explanation.

“I’ve always loved animals, fought those that abused animals and will continue to do so,” he continues. “In any event, have a great convention.”

…Many members of the subculture have defined it as one dedicated to artistic expression and helping people come out of their shells, but they’ve long had to endure jokes from people who mock “fur-suiting” as a sexual fetish. 

Judging by the requester listed on Arpaio’s Cameo, the person who ordered the video may be one of them. The username: Sir Yiffs A Lot.

“Yiff” refers to furry-related sexual content or activity, which made Arpaio’s sign-off all the more cringeworthy. 

“As far as what animal I would like to be, I’m kind of partial to dogs,” he says after a pause, as if responding to a question included in the video request. “But I love all animals. Thanks.”

(3) LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FOR MOSLEY. Walter Mosley will be presented the  National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, presented by Edwidge Danticat. Winners of the award receive $10,000 and a solid brass medal.

“Mosley is a master of craft and narrative, and through his incredibly vibrant and diverse body of work, our literary heritage has truly been enriched,” said David Steinberger, chair of the NBA board of directors, in the release. “From mysteries to literary fiction to nonfiction, Mosley’s talent and memorable characters have captivated readers everywhere, and the Foundation is proud to honor such an illustrious voice whose work will be enjoyed for years to come.”

(4) MORE ROCK THAN ROLL. “Lafawndah’s The Fifth Season by Lily Sperry” profiles an album that draws on N.K. Jemisin’s trilogy.

At first glance, what surprises about Lafawndah’s new album, The Fifth Season, is the absence of her image on the cover. Instead of the regal, sometimes confrontational gazes adorning past works, such as Ancestor Boy (2019) and “Tan” (2016), here the listener is greeted with the empty eyes of an amorphous stone figure, kneeling, palms extended, on what seems to be the edge of the Earth. It’s unclear if this character is meant to represent Lafawndah herself, or something else entirely—but upon listening to the album, it almost doesn’t matter. As an artist who self-identifies as a “creative orphan,” shapeshifting is written into Lafawndah’s DNA. It’s only appropriate that her latest release takes it as its central mode.

Its core subject, however, marks a decisive break from past projects. Rather than looking inward, Lafawndah instead extends outward, drawing on the emotionally charged myths of N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy to guide her. Set in a far-future Earth rife with conflict and periodic disasters (“Seasons”) that threaten to destroy all human life, Jemisin’s Afrofuturist series tells tales of heartbreak, strife, and conflict from the perspectives of three different women. It’s only at the end the reader realizes that each character is the same person, at different points in her life….

(5) SUGGESTIONS NEEDED. “So what should do I with a half dozen signed limited edition posters by Charles Vess? Can you think of a worthy fan cause?” Cat Eldridge looks to Filers for suggestions.

“No, I don’t know why he sent them.” says Cat. “I think they’re twenty years old now but they’re in excellent shape.”

(6) VIBRANT VAMPIRES. “There Are Real Vampires in Texas. We Interviewed Them.” Fodors has the story.

The best little vampire court in Texas.

Everything’s bigger in Texas—even the vampire scene. Television and film have catapulted vampires into the mainstream, cementing vampirism into pop culture. From the cult classic Interview with the Vampire to FXX series What We Do in the Shadows, there’s no shortage of fictional portrayals of vampire life and the people who crave to be like them. Life can be stranger than fiction, and real-life vampires exist. While they tend to have an affinity for the occult, they’ve sunk their fangs into philanthropy and social good during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Texas is one of many states that boasts of vibrant vampire communities, known as courts. Self-identifying vampires can apply for membership in their city. To an outsider, these vampire courts may sound eerie. For the vampires, the courts are a place they can find belonging….

(7) ON THE FRONT. Lauren Panepinto examines “Book Cover Trends Thru Time (Via Dune)” at Muddy Colors.

…One of my favorite ways to visualize how much book cover design has changed over the years is to track one classic book that tends to get redesigned every few years and see how the designs have evolved. Honestly the entire Penguin Classics imprint survives on this as an entire business model. There have been entire academic studies and books published on the design history of books like Lolita. But this is a SciFi Fantasy Art blog and it just so happens that the new Dune trailer finally came out today, so we’re going to be looking at the last few decades of book cover design through the lens of Dune by Frank Herbert….

PRE-BOOK HISTORY

The stories that would become Dune were first serialized in Analog Magazine starting in December 1963. John Schoenherr was commissioned on August 7, 1963 (great backstory on the blog kept by his son Ian Schoenherr here) to create images for the covers and interiors for “Dune World” 1, 2, and 3.

(8) PARDUE OBIT. Filker Naomi Pardue took her own life reports Tom Smith who said, “She had been very depressed for awhile now, after the death of a close friend.”

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

September 1990 — The 1991 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction Would go to Neil Gaiman’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” which was published thirty years ago this month in the nineteenth issue of Sandman. It features the beginning of Morpheus’ creative partnership with William Shakespeare, and is the only comic book to date to win a World Fantasy Award. It was drawn by Charles Vess and colored by Steve Oliff. The final issue of Sandman, number seventy five, “The Tempest”,  concerns the second of the two plays commissioned by Morpheus.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 10, 1860 – Margaret Armour.  Novelist, poet, translator.  Translated the Nibelungenlied into English prose (1887), then Wagner’s four Nibelungen operas The Rhine Gold and The ValkyrieSiegfried and Twilight of the Gods, illustrated by Arthur Rackham (1912); also Legerlotz’ Gudrun (1932).  Outside our field, tr. Heine with Leland and Brooksbank; and her own works. (Died 1943) [JH]
  • Born September 10, 1905 – Jay Jackson.  A hundred interiors for AmazingFantasticGolden FleeceWeird Tales.  Here is Robert Bloch’s “Secret of the Observatory”.  Here is “The Space Pirate”.  Here is “Planet of the Gods”.  Also outside our field: here is an image for World War II bonds.  He appears to have been the first black SF artist.  See this from the Chicago Defender.  (Died 1954) [JH]
  • Born September 10, 1911 – William Crawford.  Published and edited Fantasy Book (as Garret Ford; with wife Margaret Crawford), Marvel TalesUnusualSpaceway (i.e. not Harry Warner’s fanzine Spaceways).  Early LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) member.  Seven anthologies, some uncredited.  Started SF conventions.  Seen in Locus as late as 1981.  Helped many; received the Big Heart, our highest service award.  (Died 1984) [JH]
  • Born September 10, 1914 Robert Wise. Film director, producer, and editor. Among his accomplishments are directing The Curse of The Cat PeopleThe Day the Earth Stood StillThe HauntingThe Andromeda Strain and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Though not at all genre, he also directed West Side Story and edited Citizen Kane. (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born September 10, 1927 – Betty Levin, 93.  Ten novels for us; several others outside our field e.g. Starshine and Sunglow (“Grace and subtle humor” – Kirkus), Thorn (“Strongly lyrical writing, unusual & provocative themes” – Kirkus).  Judy Lopez Award, Hope Dean Award.  [JH]
  • Born September 10, 1952 Gerry Conway, 68. Writer who’s best known for co-creating with John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru the Punisher character and scripting the death of Gwen Stacy during his long run on The Amazing Spider-Man. I’m also fond of his work on Weird Western Tales at DC. (CE) 
  • Born September 10, 1953 Pat Cadigan, 67. Tea from an Empty Cup and Dervish is Digital are both amazing works. And I’m fascinated that she has co-written with Paul Dini, creator of Batman: The Animated Series, a DCU novel called Harley Quinn: Mad Love. (CE)
  • Born September 10, 1955 Victoria Strauss, 65. Author of the Burning Land trilogy, she should be praised unto high for being founder along with AC Crispin of the Committee on Writing Scams. She maintains the Writer Beware website and blog. (CE) 
  • Born September 10, 1959 Tara Ward, 61. She played Preston in the “Warriors of the Deep”, a Third Doctor story.  After Doctor Who, she shows up in one-offs in Star Cops and Dark Realm, the Eric Roberts as the Host with vampire teeth horror anthology series,beforehaving a very minor role in the Justice League film. (CE)
  • Born September 10, 1959 Nancy A. Collins, 61. Author of the Sonja Blue vampire novels, some of the best of that genre I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. She had a long run on Swamp Thing from issues #110 to #138, and it is generally considered a very good period in that narrative.  She also wrote Vampirella, the Forrest J Ackerman and Trina Robbins creation, for awhile. (CE)
  • Born September 10, 1964 – Chip Kidd, 56.  Some say he does 75 covers a year.  “Designing books is no laughing matter.  Okay, it is.”   Here is Jurassic Park.  Here is Was.  Here is The Elephant Vanishes.  Here is Loop.  Infinity Award for Design (Int’l Center of Photography), Nat’l Design Award for Communication, AIGA (Am. Inst. Graphic Arts) Medal.  “I’m very much against the idea that the cover will sell the book.  Marketing departments of publishing houses tend to latch onto this concept and they can’t let go.  But it’s about whether the book itself really connects with the public, and the cover is only a small part of that.”  [JH]
  • Born September 10, 1977 – Emily Snyder, 43.  Directed eleven Shakespeare plays, performed in twenty-five, including Brutus in Julius Caesar and Prospero in The Tempest.  Love and Death trilogy in blank verse Persephone Rises, The Seduction of Adonis and Cupid and Psyche.  Matter of Arthur plays The Table Round and The Siege Perilous.  Novels for us Niamh and the Hermit, Charming the Moon.  Feminist and Catholic.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) WONDERBEASTS. [Item by N.] Cartoon Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts premieres its third (three seasons in a single year!!) and as of this writing final season on October 12.

(13) CAN YOU DIG IT? An archeology-inspired adventure is the big idea at Whatever today: “The Big Idea: Dan Hanks”.

“It belongs in a museum.”

That’s the quote we all know and love, uttered as the bad guys try to steal the priceless artifact away from Indiana Jones. And when he says it, the audience is usually cheering him on. He’s the scientist with the archaeological smarts after all. He knows how much these artifacts could benefit the world, so he’s going to risk his life to give us the chance to see them. Pretty damn noble if you ask me.

Except.

That’s not really the whole story, is it? 

Captain Moxley and the Embers of the Empire, was always meant to be a fast, fun, action-packed adventure in the Indiana Jones style. An entertaining beach read (or, I guess, ‘pandemic read’ now). However, it was also important to me to address some serious archaeological issues, in particular the colonial elements of these types of stories. I wanted to pull that aspect into the torch light and inspect it properly (while hoping it didn’t set off a trap). 

The big idea here is that the famous “it belongs in a museum” line is only half complete. In a world where archaeologists and museums are being nudged to move beyond their colonial past, it deserves a follow-up: 

Whose?

(14) ANGER BENEATH THE WHIMSY. In an essay for the New York Times, James Traub contends “Doctor Dolittle’s Talking Animals Still Have Much to Say”.

…No one could say that the books have grown quaint or stale; just ask my third graders. Nor was Walpole indulging in hyperbole. Doctor Dolittle is a wonderful creation: a Victorian eccentric from the pages of Dickens; a perpetual bachelor who drives conventional humans from his life but is much loved by the poor and the marginal; a gentleman whose exquisite politesse never falters, even before sharks and pirates; a peace-loving naturalist prepared to wage war to defend his friends from evil depredations. Only by the standards of the world of grown-ups does he “do little.”

… Lofting really was a genius of children’s literature. But he was also a product of the British Empire. When Doctor Dolittle goes to Africa to cure the monkeys, he stumbles into the Kingdom of Jolliginki. Prince Bumpo, the heir to the throne, is a mooncalf who mistakes fairy tales for real life, speaks in Elizabethan periphrasis and murmurs to himself: “If only I were a white prince!” In the pencil sketches with which Lofting illustrates his texts, Prince Bumpo looks like the missing link between man and ape. Lofting’s biographer, Gary D. Schmidt, defensively notes that Doctor Dolittle himself rarely utters a bigoted word. But the doctor is only a character; the narrator and the illustrator are none other than our author. While Lofting never fails to give his Africans a measure of nobility, he is also quite certain of their savagery.

… The edition I read was probably published in 1950, three years after Lofting’s death. By the 1970s, he had gone into eclipse. Over the years, new editions appeared that attempted to address the racism, including one in 1988 from which all pictures of Prince Bumpo and his parents had been removed, along with all references to their skin color, not to mention their wish to change it. “If this verbal and visual caution occasionally seems almost craven,” a reviewer for The New York Times Book Review wrote, the blind spots for which it sought to compensate were real.

(15) SET DECORATION BY NATURE. Yeah, this is how San Francisco looked yesterday.

(16) BOOKS ON TAP. Baen Books authors will make two livestreaming appearances Publishers Weekly’s Books on Tap LIVE series in the coming months.  The authors will be interviewed with the opportunity to answer questions at the end of the segment.

The first, featuring Larry Correia, will air on Wednesday, September 23rd at 4:00 PM EDT. Larry Correia is the bestselling author of the Monster Hunter International urban fantasy series, the Grimnoir trilogy, and the Saga of the Forgotten Warrior military epic fantasy series with the latest novel Destroyer of Worlds, on sale September 1st.

David Weber & Jacob Holo will be teaming up for an event on Wednesday, October 7th at 4:00 PM EDT to celebrate the release of The Valkyrie Protocol, the second book in their Gordian Division time travel adventure series. David Weber is a multiple New York Times best-selling author, the creator of the Honor Harrington military science fiction series, as well as Path of the Fury, the Hell’s Gate multiverse series, the Dahak Saga, and many more. The Valkyrie Protocol is on sale October 6th.

The authors are known for lively dialogue, interesting backstories, and enjoying interaction with guests.  These events are free to the public.  To sign up for these special events go here September 23rd at 4:00 for Larry Correia; and a link will be forthcoming for the event on October 7th at 4:00 for David Weber and Jacob Holo.

(17) MALTIN ON MOVIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to a 2019 podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

Lord and Miller met at Dartmouth, where they wrote a comic strip about a chain-smoking squirrel that was turned into a feature in the Dartmouth alumni magazine.  That magazine ended up on Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s corporate jet, which led to a phone call the undergraduates got asking them to come to Hollywood and take a meeting, which they declined because they were doing mid-term exams. 

After they were graduated, Disney hired them but their first great success came with the MTV series “Clone High,” which was banned in India because Gandhi was one of the clones.  Most of the podcast includes discussion of the Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs movies and The Lego Movie.  The podcast was produced before The Lego Movie 2 came out.  There is much discussion about why it’s so much harder to come up with a good script for an animated film than for a feature film, with Leonard Maltin noting that Walt Disney threw out six months’ work on Pinocchio.

There was one question about SOLO, the Star Wars project that Lord and Miller were sacked from.

(18) RICK AND MORTY CUISINE. “Pringles Has Brought Back Its Pickle Rick Chips, and Launched Two New ‘Rick and Morty’ Flavors” – let Yahoo! Life tell you all about it.

Earlier this year, we were introduced to the Pringles and Rick and Morty collaboration that resulted in Pickle Rick pickle-flavored chips. Not only are the chips — which were released in honor of the Super Bowl — available again, but there are two new varieties that were inspired by the Adult Swim series.

The special-edition Pickle Rick flavor is joined by Honey Mustard Morty and Look at Me! I’m Cheddar & Sour Cream. While the flavors are self-explanatory (hello, honey mustard-flavored and cheddar-and-sour-cream-flavored chips!), there’s a reason these three were chosen. Stacking Pringles flavors, which fit so perfectly together, has been gaining popularity over the past couple of years, according to the brand. The idea here is that you take one of each chip and eat them together for an insane flavor combination….

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

Media Birthday Bonus for September 4

By Cat Eldridge:

THE SHADOW’S “BLACK BUDDHA”

  • On this evening in 1938, The Shadow’s “Black Buddha” first aired on Mutual Radio. It starred Orson Welles as The Shadow (Lamont Cranston) and Margot Stevenson as Margot Lane. “A shop owner will kill anyone to regain a statue from the Far East, beginning with the lawyer to whom the statue was sold by mistake.” It was sponsored by BF Goodrich Tires. You can listen to it here.

X MINUS ONE’S TUNNEL UNDER THE WORLD

  • On this date in 1956, X Minus One’s “Tunnel Under the World” first aired. It’s based on the short story by Frederik Pohl that was first published in the January 1955 issue of Galaxy. The story is that June 15th keeps repeating each day with a very slight change each day. George Lefferts wrote the script.  Cast was Norman Rose, Dean L. Olmquist, Amy Sedell,  Elaine Ross, Bob Hastings, Ken Raffitte and Larry Haines. You can listen to the broadcast here.

ROLLERBALL

  • On this date in 1975, Rollerball premiered in the United Kingdom. It was directed and produced by Norman Jewison. The screenplay was written by William Harrison from his “Roller Ball Murder” story which had first been published  in the September 1973 issue of Esquire. It stars James Caan, John Houseman, Maud Adams, John Beck, Moses Gunn and Ralph Richardson. Critics on the whole were unimpressed but it did well at box office, and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an excellent 67% which is decidedly better than the 14% rating the twenty-five-year-later remake receives. 

XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS

  • On this date in 1995, Xena: Warrior Princess first aired in first-run syndication. It was created by John Schulian and Robert Tapert with development work by R.J. Stewart and Sam Raimi.  It was executive produced by Robert Tapert and Sam Raimi. It starred Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Connor. It would run for six seasons and one hundred and thirty-four episodes. An animated film, Hercules and Xena – The Animated Movie: The Battle for Mount Olympus, myriad novels and even comics followed. The late Josepha Sherman ghost wrote XENA: All I Need to Know I Learned From the Warrior Princess. A reboot was planned five years ago but canceled. 

Book Anniversary: The Year’s Best Fantasy First Annual Collection

By Cat Eldridge: In honor of Ellen Datlow sharing the cover for Best Horror of the Year, Volume Twelve, let’s note that the first volume in what would be the long-running award-winning Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror anthology series was published in August of 1988. It wasn’t called that but was titled The Year’s Best Fantasy: First Annual Collection. Cover art here as it was for all twenty-one volumes is by Tom Canty.  It was edited by her and Terri Windling as it would be for the next sixteen years until Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link would take over for Windling for the last five volumes. 

As a reviewer would note of a later volume, “…the essays at the beginning are fascinating: Summation of Fantasy 1993 by Windling; Summation of Horror 1993 by Datlow; Comics by Will Shetterly and Emma Bull; Horror and Fantasy in the Media by Edward Bryant.” I don’t remember if the first volume had the summations but I’ll ask Ellen. (Some hours later and after a long email conversation of fiction, living spaces and dark chocolate.) Yes, she says that they’ve always had the summations. 

Oh, the authors you ask. Just look at the cover below. It’s a fair representation of the writers found in the series but I couldn’t summarize the diversity of those whose writings are here as Datlow and Windling over their sixteen volumes would find writers and  fiction of an amazing breadth, often delving into literary publications for these works  that were delightfully obscure. Harlan Ellison and Jane Yolen are here, but so are Natalie Babbit, author of Tuck Everlasting, and Kathryn Ptacek, later winner of two Stokers, who I’d never heard at that point but who turned out to be delightful writers. Did I mention there’s a Alan Moore Liavek novella here?

The first volume won a World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology and the series would eventually win a total of three World Fantasy Awards and a Stoker. You won’t find them being offered up in digital form as the packager has said in an email to me when I asked if that was planned that they didn’t secure digital rights when the original author contracts were done. 

A hallowed series was off to a very fine start. If you’ve not read it, the trade paper edition can be had rather reasonably.

Pixel Scroll 8/15/20 To Clickfinity And Beyond!

(1) RECONVENE REPORT. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] ReCONvene, the one-day virtual con of NESFA, was this afternoon, so I paid my ten dollars and attended via Zoom. 

It was worth devoting much of the afternoon to it for just one conversation, the Worldbuilding in Speculative Fiction panel which had Ellen Kushner as moderator with P. Djèlí Clark, Cerece Rennie Murphy, Carlos Hernandez and, to my utter delight, Aliette de Bodard. I learned much about the writers and their worlds that I didn’t know. Like all items it allowed conversations among the fans as a text feed — I didn’t listen in too very much of that but they were getting a lot of participation. 

Earlier on, Modernizing Fairy Tales and Myths with Adam Stemple as moderator had Victor Lavalle, Seanan McGuire, Catherynne Valente and Rebecca Roanhorse as panelists. Like the other Zoom groups I listened to, it was flawless in its sound and video. Lots of personal ethnic background here as basis for storytelling — most excellent.

The panels were good and they used Discord for follow up chats which I’ll admit I skipped. There was a tour of the art show which is less interesting than being there, but the writers were the reason to be there and they even did Kaffeeklatsches, solo conversations with authors, so I listened to Justina Ireland who I was hearing of for the first time and turned out to be fascinating.

All in all, it was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. If Boskone is virtual next February (and I wouldn’t count against it being so), I’ll certainly pay for a virtual membership based on his trial run which was organized well and easy to use.  

(2) THE ANSWER. Robert J. Sawyer has a piece in The Star today: “Robert J. Sawyer: We’re all living in a science-fiction novel now”.

As soon as Toronto let customers eat on restaurant patios again, I made a beeline for Orwell’s Pub — best dang chicken wings in the city. The indoor restaurant was closed, and Chris, the guy who usually tends bar, was serving. When he came by my table, he quipped, “Seems like we’re all living in a Robert J. Sawyer novel now.”

I was surprised he knew who I was. Despite Orwell’s being a cosy “Cheers”-style “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” place, as a non-drinker, I’m usually invisible to bartenders. But Chris was right: we are living in a science-fiction novel now, and a dystopian one at that.

Since my latest novel, “The Oppenheimer Alternative,” is about the Manhattan Project, I often get asked what should be the next big-science undertaking with an all-but-unlimited budget bringing together our brightest minds.

My answer: developing a general antiviral technique, rather than an endless succession of vaccines targeting one, and only one, specific virus. The old method is why our annual flu shots are sometimes ineffective; we’d guessed wrong about which strain of flu would become prevalent. It’s also why we’ve never had a vaccine against the common cold, which is caused by a vast, ever-mutating range of coronaviruses.

Viruses aren’t even alive. They’re just bits of genetic code encased in a protein shell, sometimes (as with the novel coronavirus plaguing us now) slicked down with a fatty coating. And that’s it.

(3) FREEDOM AT MIDNGHT. Somtow Sucharitkul will give away free eBook versions of three of his YA novels from August 17-19, starting at midnight Pacific time.

(4) FUTURE FREE READS. Ellen Datlow told HWA today about the dark fantasy reading coming out for free on the Tor.com website in the next few weeks:

  • “Wait for Night” by Stephen Graham Jones, a horror story -September 2 (which is when his novella Night Of The Mannequins will also be out).
  • “The Little Witch” by M. Rickert, a dark fantasy novelette-October 28
  • “On Safari in R’lyeh and Carcosa with Gun and Camera” by Elizabeth Bear, a dark fantasy novelette-November 18

(5) THE REINVENTED COUNTRY. “HBO’s ‘Lovecraft Country’ Brings Viewers To A World Of Monsters, Magic and Racism” – an NPR Morning Edition transcript.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Here’s the thing about being a Black nerd who loves science fiction, fantasy and superhero stories. Often, you wind up admiring work created to glorify people who are the exact opposite of you. That’s something the aptly-named bookworm Atticus Freeman tries to explain while telling a female friend about the latest novel he was reading on a long bus ride, the 1912 book “A Princess Of Mars” and its star, planet-jumping hero John Carter.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “LOVECRAFT COUNTRY”)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) You said the hero was a Confederate officer.

JONATHAN MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Ex-Confederate.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) He fought for slavery. You don’t get to put a ex in front of that.

MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Stories are like people. Loving them doesn’t make them perfect. You just try to cherish them and overlook their flaws.

DEGGANS: That could be something of a mission statement for the “Lovecraft Country,” a series based on the recent novel of the same name. The book and series reference the work of renowned horror novelist H.P. Lovecraft, known to have racist views about African Americans. The show compares the work of Lovecraftian (ph) supernatural beings which could have sprung from his books to the racism Black people faced in 1950s-era America.

Atticus Freeman, played by “Da 5 Bloods” costar Jonathan Majors, is a Korean War veteran who returns home to find his missing father. Before long, he’s enlisted help from his Uncle George, played by Courtney B. Vance, and his friend Letitia, played by Jurnee Smollett. They must travel across the country from Chicago to follow a clue. And along the way, they run into a not-too-helpful police officer who informs them Black people aren’t allowed in the area after dark.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “LOVECRAFT COUNTRY”)

JAMIE HARRIS: (As Sheriff Eustace Hunt) Any of y’all know what a sundown town is?

MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Yes, sir. We do.

HARRIS: (As Sheriff Eustace Hunt) Well, this is a sundown county. If I’d have found you after dark, it would have been my sworn duty to hang every single one of you from them trees.

MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) It’s not sundown yet.

DEGGANS: But when the police officer and his buddies try to lynch the trio, everyone is attacked by huge, teethy, flesh-eating monsters who chase them into a cabin. Uncle George, who’s just as much of a bookworm as Atticus, has an idea of what they might be facing.

…At a time when the world is still reeling from seeing a Black man die with a white policeman’s knee on his neck, there is no better moment for HBO’s gripping “Lovecraft Country” to reinvent a supernatural tale.

(6) FLOURISHNG MAGIC. Rebecca Roanhorse tells the New York Times: “‘We’ve Already Survived an Apocalypse’: Indigenous Writers Are Changing Sci-Fi”. Tagline: “Long underrepresented in genre fiction, Native American and First Nations authors are reshaping its otherworldly (but still often Eurocentric) worlds.”

When Cherie Dimaline was growing up near Penetanguishene, a small town on the Georgian Bay in Ontario, her grandmother and great-aunts told her stories about a werewolf-like monster called the rogarou. It wasn’t spoken of as a mythical creature but as an actual threat, the embodiment of danger in a place where Indigenous women face heightened risk of violence.

“This wasn’t like, here’s a metaphor,” she said. “They would say, ‘The rogarou’s out, and he’s really hungry.’”

Decades later, Dimaline, a member of the Métis Nation in Canada, was working on a novel about a woman whose missing husband reappears with no memory of her, seemingly under a spell. She needed a charismatic villain, and when the rogarou — a wily trickster figure in Métis oral traditions — popped into her head, she realized the creature had never been given its due in popular culture.

That flash of inspiration turned into “Empire of Wild,” a genre-bending novel whose modern Indigenous characters confront environmental degradation, discrimination and the threat of cultural erasure, all while battling a devious monster….

(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman hopes you all will accept his invitation to polish off prawn pizza with Stephen Dedman on Episode 125 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

This episode I have breakfast while Australian writer Stephen Dedman has dinner 12 hours in my future.

Stephen has published more than 100 short stories, some of which I was privileged to publish back when I was editing Science Fiction Age magazine. You can find many of those stories in his collections The Lady of Situations (1999) and Never Seen by Waking Eyes (2005). His novels, which include The Art of Arrow Cutting (1997), Foreign Bodies (1999), Shadows Bite (2001), and others, have been Bram Stoker, Aurealis, William L. Crawford, and Ditmar Award nominees. He’s also written role-playing games, stageplays, erotica, and westerns. And he at one time worked as a “used dinosaur parts salesman,” a job which had me extremely curious — and as you listen to us chat and chew, you’ll find out all about it.

We discussed how the Apollo 11 moon landing introduced him to science fiction, what his father told him which changed his plan to become a cartoonist, the huge difference the Internet made in the lives of Australian writers, his creative trick for getting his first poem published, what acting taught him about being funny in the midst of tragedy, his former job as a used dinosaur parts salesman, the way page one tells him whether he’s got a short story or novel idea, how Harlan Ellison became the first American editor to buy one of his stories, and much more.

(8) MIND’S EYE. At LitHub, Kathleen Rooney discusses “How Fiction Allows Us to Inhabit Animal Consciousness”.

For centuries, human thinking—at least in the West—has been dominated by the notion, said to have originated with Aristotle, of the Scala Naturae, or the Ladder of Life. Also known as the Great Chain of Being, this concept establishes a hierarchy in which all life forms can be arranged in ascending degrees of perfection with humans, conveniently, at the topmost rung. Even after Darwin came along and replaced this model with his considerably less vertical Tree of Life, the idea of the human mind as the apex of biological consciousness has persisted.

Increasingly, in the face of climate catastrophe, more humans are beginning to question their hubris. In the introduction to their 2017 book Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene, the editors note: “Some scientists argue that the rate of biological extinction is now several hundred times beyond its historical levels. We might lose a majority of all species by the end of the 21st century.” This, the arguable point of no return, affords a chance to examine the received belief in human exceptionalism. Science writing in particular and nonfiction in general have much to say regarding the similarities between human and non-human minds, but fiction offers opportunities to explore this interconnectedness as well. After all, if fiction has the power to show us another individual’s private and interior uniqueness, then why not depict animals possessing such interiority?

(9) YOU KNOW IT IN YOUR BONES. Skeleton Hour is a new monthly horror literature webinar series presented as an Horror Writers Association event in collaboration with The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles.

Each panel will be an hour long and bring together 3-5 authors to discuss a specific topic in horror with a moderator guiding the discussion. Panels will take place on Zoom, with the audience able to ask questions in the chat window. The series launches Friday, August 28th, with the first panel focused on 70s-90s throwback horror including authors of novellas from the Rewind or Die series published by Unnerving Press: Mackenzie Kiera, Stephen Graham Jones, Lisa Quigley, and Jessica Guess, as well as noted subject matter expert Grady Hendrix!

Register for the Zoom webinar here: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_2C6hfS-ARoGvvNontWmiqg. The event will also be live streamed by HWA on Facebook and YouTube.

(10) PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT. Be sure to consult NASA’s Guide to Near-light-speed Travel before blasting off.

So, you’ve just put the finishing touches on upgrades to your spaceship, and now it can fly at almost the speed of light. We’re not quite sure how you pulled it off, but congratulations! Before you fly off on your next vacation, however, watch this handy video to learn more about near-light-speed safety considerations, travel times, and distances between some popular destinations around the universe.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 15, 1984 The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension premiered. Directed by and produced by W.D. Richter (with co-production by Neil Canton), the screenplay was by Earl Mac Rauch who did nothing else of a genre nature. Primary cast was Peter Weller, Ellen Barkin, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Lloyd. Initial critical response was generally negative with a few claiming the script was unintelligible. More than one said it was too hip for its good. No, it didn’t do well at the box office but has since become a cult film, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give an excellent 70% rating. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 15, 1771 – Sir Walter Scott, Bt.  Lawyer, reviewer, antiquarian, poet, novelist; in the last three, fantastic elements recur; in the last two, by his doing; his reputation has soared, fallen, soared again.  He may yet prove timeless.  He wrote “Breathes there the man with soul so dead” and “Oh, what a tangled web we weave / When first we practice to deceive!”  RossiniDonizettiSchubertBeethoven set his words to music.  His baronetcy became extinct upon the death of his son.  (Died 1832) [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1858 E. Nesbit. She wrote or collaborated on more than sixty books of children’s literature including the Five Children Universe series. She was also a political activist and co-founded the Fabian Society, a socialist organization later affiliated to the Labour Party. (Died 1924.) (CE) 
  • Born August 15, 1907 – Jack Snow. Wrote Who’s Who in Oz (1954), rightly praised by Anthony Boucher (“Recommended Reading”, Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Mar 55).  By then JS had written two Oz novels of his own, five darker short stories for Weird Tales.  When Frank Baum, the first and arguably best Oztorian, died in 1919, JS offered to succeed him – age 12; he was turned down.  Matching or at least harmonizing with Baum’s style has been elusive ever since; Who’s Who which could neither treat at length nor argue is masterly, as Boucher noted.  (Died 1956) [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1917 John Joseph McGuire. Best remembered as a co-writer with H. Beam Piper of A Planet for TexansHunter PatrolCrisis in 2140 and The Return, all of which I’ve read. His solo fiction was a bare handful and I don’t think I’ve encountered it. The works with Piper are available from the usual digital suspects as is a novella of his called The Reason Prisoner. It’s listed as being public domain, so’s free there. (Died 1981.) (CE)
  • Born August 15, 1932 Robert L. Forward. Physicist and SF writer whose eleven novels I find are often quite great on ideas and quite thin on character development. Dragon’s Egg is fascinating as a first contact novel, and Saturn Rukh is another first contact novel that’s just as interesting. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born August 15, 1933 – Bjo Trimble, 86.  (There should be a circumflex over the j, an Esperantism indicating the pronunciation “bee-joe”, but the software won’t allow it.)  Omnifan preceding Bruce Pelz.  Her vitality and wit sparked LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) out of a slump, authored SF con Art Shows (for which she still refuses credit), led a letter-writing campaign that saved Star Trek from being scrapped (see On the Good Ship “Enterprise”), flourished in fanart, concocted cons and costumes.  Received the Big Heart (our highest service award) in 1964, possibly the youngest ever; Inkpot, 1974 (its first year); Fan Guest of Honor at Dragon*Con 1995 the 6th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas).  She and husband John have the Life Achievement Award from the Int’l Costumers Guild.  They were early Baroness and Baron in the Society for Creative Anachronism, where she has the Order of the Laurel (arts & sciences), both the Order of the Pelican (service).  Together co-chaired Westercon 23; were Fan Guests of Honor at ConJosé the 60th Worldcon.  [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1934 – Darrell K. Sweet.  Three hundred fifty covers for us, seventy-five interiors; perhaps 3,000 images all told.  Here is Space Cadet.  Here is Beyond the Blue Event Horizon.  Here is The Dictionary of SF Places.  Here is The Eye of the World.  Here is “The Gap Dragon and Princess Ivy”.  Artbook, Beyond Fantasy.  Graphic Artist Guest of Honor at Tuckercon the 9th NASFiC; World Fantasy Con 2010; LoneStarCon 3 the 71st Worldcon which had to celebrate him posthumously.  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1943 Barbara Bouchet, 77. Yes, I’ve a weakness for performers who’ve shown up on the original Trek. She plays Kelinda in “By Any Other Name”.  She also appeared in Casino Royale as Miss Moneypenny, a role always noting, and is Ava Vestok in Agent for H.A.R.M. which sounds like someone was rather unsuccessfully emulating The Man from U.N.C.L.E. It will be commented upon by Mystery Science Theater 3000. (CE)
  • Born August 15, 1945 Nigel Terry. His first role was John in A Lion in Winter which is at least genre adjacent, with his first genre role being King Arthur in Excalibur. Now there’s a bloody telling of the Arthurian myth.  He’s General Cobb in the Tenth Doctor story, “The Doctor’s Daughter”, and on the Highlander series as Gabriel Piton in the “Eye of the Beholder” episode. He even played Harold Latimer in “The Greek Interpreter” on Sherlock Holmes. (Did 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born August 15, 1952 – Louise Marley, 68.  A score of novels (some under other names) including both a Glass Harmonica and a Mozart’s Blood, as many shorter stories.  Interviewed in FantasyLocusStrange HorizonsTalebones.  Two Endeavour Awards (note spelling; named for Captain Cook’s ship).  Before authoring, sang with the Seattle Opera.  See this autobiographical note.  [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1958 Stephen Haffner,  62. Proprietor of Haffner Press which appears to be largely a mystery and genre reprint endeavor though he’s published such original anthologies as Edmond Hamilton & Leigh Brackett Day, October 16, 2010 and the non-fiction work Thirty-Five Years of the Jack Williamson Lectureship which he did with Patric Caldwell. (CE)
  • Born August 15, 1964 – Carla Sinclair, 56.  Editor of Net Chick.  Author of Signal to Noise.  Co-founder of bOING bOING.  [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1972 Matthew Wood, 48. He started out as, and still is, a sound engineer but he also became a voice actor with his best know role being that of General Grievous in The Revenge of the Sith and The Clone Wars. He often does both at the same time as on the  2013 Star Trek into Darkness where he was the surviving sound editor and provided the ever so vague additional voices. (CE)

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) SETTING DOWN THE S.H.I.E.L.D. “‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’: Behind the Scenes of the Emotional Series Finale” – a New York Times Q&A with showrunners Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon.

…The resulting series, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” went on to have a successful seven-season run on ABC, which ended Wednesday with a complex two-hour series finale. That didn’t seem especially likely after its rough debut in 2013. Some critics wanted flashier connections to Marvel cinema — where was Iron Man? — and the show had to operate in the shadow of the movies: The existence of magic couldn’t be acknowledged until it was first revealed by the 2016 film “Doctor Strange” first; “life-model decoys,” a kind of android, weren’t permissible until an android character appeared in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

But about halfway through its run, the show began reinventing itself, with characters ping-ponging through space, time and alternative realities. Once the writers freed themselves of the timeline and narrative restraints established by the movies (and even ignored a few), the series started to soar.

“We could just make up our own stories,” said Jed Whedon. “It was liberating.”

In the final season, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents hopped around different decades, with a pit stop in the 1980s that provided pure pop-geek joy. (Agent Coulson as Max Headroom? Check.)

But the show never lost its emotional core: the relationship between Agents Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), who crossed the galaxy more than once to be together, only to be repeatedly pulled apart. In the finale, they reunited, as Fitz helped the ragtag team save both S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Earth from a takeover by an alien android race.

(15) IT ONLY MAKES HIM MAD. “Bald Eagle Sends Government Drone Into Lake Michigan” reports the New York Times.

… A squabble in the sky over Lake Michigan left one bald eagle victorious and one government drone mangled and sunken.

Hunter King, a drone pilot at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, was surveying an area of the lake near the state’s Upper Peninsula last month when the drone started “twirling furiously” after it indicated that a propeller had been torn off.

“When he looked up, the drone was gone, and an eagle was flying away,” said the department, whose name is abbreviated E.G.L.E.

A couple who regularly spends time watching eagles go after sea gulls in the area witnessed the battle but were surprised when they learned that it was a drone that had been downed in the fight, the department said….

The department speculated that the eagle could have attacked because of a territorial dispute, because it was hungry “or maybe it did not like its name being misspelled.”

(16) THE WORM TURNS. NPR asks“Could Giving Kids A 50-Cent Pill Massively Boost Their Income Years Later?”

It’s one of the cheapest ways to help kids in extremely poor countries: Twice a year, give them a 50-cent pill to kill off nasty intestinal parasites. Now, a landmark study finds the benefits carry over long into adulthood — and the impact is massive. But dig deeper and the issue quickly becomes more complicated — and controversial.

To understand why, it helps to start at the beginning, when newly minted economist — and future Nobel prize winner — Michael Kremer says he stumbled into this study by lucky happenstance.

It was the mid-1990s and Kremer was visiting Kenya. “I mean I was on vacation. I wasn’t there for a research trip or something,” he recalls.

Kremer, who had spent a year after college teaching at a school in Kenya, decided to look up a friend from that project. And at their get-together, the friend mentioned to Kremer that he was about to start a new aid program to help elementary school children — including by giving them deworming pills.

The parasites aren’t just bad for kids’ health. They can make a child too listless to pay proper attention in school or so sick she misses many school days.

Kremer, who had recently gotten his doctorate in economics, says he was struck by an idea: “I suggested that if he chose twice as many schools and then they initially started working in half of them and then later expanded [the deworming to the other half], I could measure the impact of what they were doing.”

…The experiment, which involved about 32,000 children, also turned deworming into a popular form of aid. That’s because the first set of results, released in 2004 by Kremer and a collaborator, Edward Miguel of University of California, Berkeley, showed that giving the kids the pills reduced absenteeism and dropping out of elementary school by a fourth — from 28% to 21%.

(17) WE INTERRUPT THIS DESSERT. Serious Eats reminds people of “The History of Astronaut Ice Cream”.

There may be no novelty sweet more polarizing than astronaut ice cream. Those who adore it praise its light, crunchy texture, and a flavor that is still unmistakably creamy and sweet. Its detractors will say biting into it is akin to chomping down on a piece of chalk: powdery and unnatural. And for those who have never tried it, the entire concept of eating ice cream stripped of all liquid may seem downright bizarre. But even though so-called astronaut (or to be more precise, freeze-dried) ice cream isn’t the most popular of novelty treats, its longevity proves that it has found a small, but fiercely loyal fan base.

Even its creator has been a little surprised at the product’s staying power….

[Thanks to amk, Andrew “Eagle Eye” Porter, Somtow Sucharitkul, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, Michael Toman, Dan Bloch, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Media Birthday Party, 3/31

By Cat Eldridge.

  • March 31, 1995 Tank Girl premiered. Based on the British comic book created by Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett (who also illustrated it), the movie starred Lori Petty as Tank Girl along along with Naomi Watts, Ice-T and Malcolm McDowell. It was directed by Rachel Talalay who was responsible for Ghost in The Machine, and directed a lot of new era Doctor Who episodes.  Critics at the time used words like tiresome and amateurish to describe it though one found it funnier than Batman Forever. The audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it an excellent 63% rating. 
  • March 31, 1987 — The Max Headroom series premiered on ABC. This is the America version of Max Headroom as the British version was Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future which is essentially identical to the initial origin episode of the American series. Matt Frewer as Max Headroom and Edison Carter; Amanda Pays as Theora Jones; and W. Morgan Sheppard as Blank Reg, would reprise their characters from the British film. It ran from April of 1985 to March of 1987.  A spin-off series, a talk show featuring Max was recorded, The Original Max Talking Headroom Show, this time in New York. It aired on Cinemax between the two seasons and lasted six episodes. 
  • March 31, 2009 Dragonquest premiered. It was directed by Mark Atkins, and produced by David Michael, Latt David Rimawi and Paul Bales. It stars Marc Singer, best remembered for his roles in the Beastmaster film franchise, along with Jason Connery and Brian Thompson.   It bears absolutely no relation to either the novel of that name by Anne McCaffrey, nor to the Dragon Quest RPG series. On Rotten Tomatoes, the audience reviewers definitely do not like it as they give it a 6% rating. 
  • March 31, 1999 The Matrix premiered. It written and directed by the Wachowskis.  It starred Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano and Hugo Weaving. It was the first film in the Matrix franchise. It would finish second to Galaxy Quest in the Long Form Dramatic Presentation Hugo voting at Chicon 2000.  It’s considered one of the best SF films of all time, and it currently has a rating of 85% among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • March 31, 1987 Steel Dawn premiered. It was directed by Lance Hool. It starred Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niemi. The working title of the film, reflecting its mix of science fiction and western, was Desert Warrior. Doug Legler, best known as director of the Dragonheart sequel Dragonheart: A New Beginning, was the writer. Though made on a shoestring comparatively speaking, it still lost millions, and critics founds it boring. Currently it has a 34% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

Pixel Scroll 2/1/20 To Pixel beyond The Scroll-set

(1) NO NEED TO WATCH THE SUPER BOWL NOW. The most scientifically important commercial of the day is already on YouTube — “SodaStream Discovers Water On Mars: Fresh Sparkling Water in Seconds.”

(2) FEBRUARY MADE ME SHIVER. Andrew Liptak has released his latest book list on Polygon. You can find it here: “19 new science fiction and fantasy books to check out in February”.

Mazes of Power by Juliette Wade

In this debut fantasy novel, Wade writes of Pelismara, a city within a deep cave, occupied by 12 ruling families that form a rigid class system. The city has been in decline, and when an epidemic sweeps over the city and kills their ruler, 17-year-old Tagaret is forced to represent his family to compete to become the heir to the throne. He has to contend with other rivals to the throne, including his sociopathic younger brother Nekantor, who threatens everything that he’s worked for.

Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review and says that the novel has an “impressively winding plot, layered worldbuilding, and psychologically acute characterizations are sure to hold readers’ attention.”

Read an excerpt….

Picard: The Last Best Hope by Una McCormack

CBS All Access debuted its new Star Trek series Picard just a couple of days ago, and to commemorate the occasion, it’s releasing a tie-in novel that sets up the events of the series, written by Una McCormack. The novel will provide some backstory to some of the show’s newest characters.

(3) CLASSIC TREK RELICS. The Skirball Center in Los Angeles will host the “Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds” exhibit from April 30-September 6. Comicbook.com has details of what visitors will be able to see

The exhibition will display an array of rare artifacts, set pieces, and props from the television series, spinoffs, and films, some of which have never been on display in Los Angeles. Highlights include:

  • Set pieces from Star Trek: The Original Series, including Captain Kirk’s command chair and the navigation console.
  • More than 100 artifacts and props from the various Star Trek TV series and films, including an original series’ tricorder, communicator, and phaser; a Borg cube from the film Star Trek: First Contact; a Klingon disruptor pistol from Star Trek: The Next Generation; and tribbles from Star Trek: The Original Series.
  • Spock’s tunic worn by Leonard Nimoy; Lt. Uhura’s dress worn by Nichelle Nichols; Khan garments past and present, including the open-chest tunic worn by Ricardo Montalban and the costume worn by Benedict Cumberbatch in the 2013 reboot; Captain Picard’s uniform worn by Patrick Stewart; plus, a Borg costume, the alien Gorn, and more.
  • Original scripts, concept art, storyboards, and production drawings.
  • Spaceship filming models of the U.S.S. Enterprise, U.S.S. Excelsior, U.S.S. Phoenix, and Deep Space Nine space station.
  • Objects that illustrate how Star Trek has become deeply embedded in popular culture and has even inspired real-world technological innovations, such as a prototype of an actual medical tricorder, Star Trek-themed beer, Boston Red Sox “Star Trek Night” foam finger in the shape of the Vulcan salute, a “Picardigan” sweater, a listening station with songs by Star Trek tribute bands, US postal stamps featuring the U.S.S. Enterprise, and much more.

(4) ANTIQUE BEAUTIES. The Public Domain Review includes some genre works in “The Art of Book Covers (1820–1914)”.

No one has nominated us yet for the book cover challenge so we thought we’d take matters into our own hands and publish some of our favourites from the first hundred years of the book cover (as we commonly understand it today) — though we’ve not the restraint for seven spread over seven days, so here’s a massive splurge of thirty-two in one.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 1, 1984The Invisible Strangler premiered. (You might have seen it under the names of The Astral Factor or The Astral Fiend.) It was directed by John Florea. It starred Robert Foxworth, Stefanie Powers and Elke Sommer. Arthur C. Pierce both wrote the screenplay and co-directed the film though was uncredited in the latter.  You can see it here.
  • February 1, 1998 The Lake premiered on NBC. Scripted by Alan Brennert off the novel by  J.D. Fiegelson, it starred Yasmine Bleeth, Linden Ashby, Haley Joel, Osment Susanna, Thompson and Stanley Anderson. It is made not enough of a ripple for there to any critical reviews online, nor foes it get any ratings at Rotten  Tomatoes.  IMDB reviewers obsess on Yasmine Bleeth of Baywatch fame in her red bathing suit here when reviewing the film which should tell all you need to know. 

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 1, 1884 Yevgeny Zamyatin. Author of We, a dystopian novel. He also translated into into Russian a number of H.G. Wells works and some critics think We is at least part a polemic against the overly optimistic scientific socialism of Wells. The Wiki writer for the Yevgeny Zamyatin page claims that We directly inspired Nineteen Eighty-FourThe Dispossessed and Brave New World. (Died 1937.)
  • Born February 1, 1908 George Pal. Let’s see… Producer of Destination Moon, When Worlds CollideThe War of the Worlds (which I love), Conquest of Space (anyone heard of this one?), The Time MachineAtlantis, the Lost ContinentTom ThumbThe Time MachineAtlantis, the Lost ContinentThe Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm7 Faces of Dr. Lao (another I love)and his last film being Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze which is not so great. Can we hold a George Pal film fest, pretty please? (Died 1980.)
  • Born February 1, 1926 Nancy Gates. Though just genre adjacent, I’m including The Atomic City with her as Ellen Haskell as her first SFF appearance, though World Without End in which she’s Garnet is pure SF and that follows that film, so you choose. She was Renza Hale in the “First Woman on the Moon” episode of Men Into Space, and she’s Lois Strand in the “Marked Danger” episode of Science Fiction Theater. (Died 2019.)
  • Born February 1, 1942 Bibi Besch. Best remembered for her portrayal of Dr. Carol Marcus on The Wrath of Khan. Genre wise, she’s also been in The Pack (horror), Meteor (SF), The Beast Within (more horror), Date with an Angel (romantic fantasy) and Tremors (SF).  (Died 1996.)
  • Born February 1, 1942 Terry Jones. Member of Monty Python who was considered largely responsible for the program’s structure, in which sketches flowed from one to the next without the use of punchlines. He made his directorial debut with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which he co-directed with Gilliam, and also directed Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life. He also wrote an early draft of Jim Henson’s 1986 film Labyrinth, though little of that draft remains in the final version. (Died 2020.)
  • Born February 1, 1946 Elisabeth Sladen. Certainly best known for her role as Sarah Jane Smith on Doctor Who. She was a regular cast member from 1973 to 1976, alongside the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker), and reprised her role down the years, both on the series and on its spin-offs, K-9 and Company (truly awfully done including K-9 himself) and The Sarah Jane Adventures (not bad at all). It’s not her actual first SF appearance, that honor goes to her being a character called  Sarah Collins in an episode of the Doomwatch series called “Say Knife, Fat Man”. The creators behind this series had created the cybermen concept for Doctor Who. (Died 2011.)
  • Born February 1, 1954 Bill Mumy, 66. Well I’ll be damned. He’s had a much longer career in the genre than even I knew. His first genre were at age seven on Twilight Zone, two episodes in the same season (Billy Bayles In “Long Distance Call” and Anthony Fremont in “Its A Good Life”). He made it a trifecta appearing a few years later again as Young Pip Phillips in “In Praise of Pip”. Witches are next for him. First he plays an orphaned boy in an episode of Bewitched called “A Vision of Sugar Plums” and then it’s Custer In “Whatever Became of Baby Custer?” on I Dream of Jeannie, a show he shows he revisits a few years as Darrin the Boy  in “Junior Executive”. Ahhh, his most famous role is up next as Will Robinson in Lost in Space. It’s got to be thirty years since I’ve seen it but I still remember and like it quite a bit. He manages to show up next on The Munsters as Googie Miller in “Come Back Little Googie” and in Twilight Zone: The Movie In one of the bits as Tim. I saw the film but don’t remember him. He’s got a bunch of DC Comics roles as well — Young General Fleming in Captain America, Roger Braintree on The Flash series and Tommy Puck on Superboy.  Ahhh Lennier. One of the most fascinating and annoying characters in all of the Babylon 5 Universe. Enough said. I hadn’t realized it it but he showed up on Deep Space Nine as Kellin in the “The Siege of AR-558” episode. Lastly, and before Our Gracious Host starts grinding his teeth at the length of this Birthday entry, I see he’s got a cameo as Dr. Z. Smith in the new Lost in Space series. 
  • Born February 1, 1965 Brandon Lee. Lee started his career with a supporting role in  Kung Fu: The Movie, but is obviously known for his breakthrough and fatal acting role as Eric Draven in The Crow, based on James O’Barr’s series. Y’ll know what happened to him so I’ll not go into that here. (Died 1993.)
  • Born February 1, 1965 Sherilyn Fenn, 55. Best known for playing as Audrey Horne on Twin Peaks. Her first genre work was in The Wraith as Keri Johnson followed by being Suzi in Zombie High (also known charmingly not as The School That Ate My Brain).  Her latest work is Etta in The Magicians series.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) REMEMBERING KAGE BAKER. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] She passed ten years ago last night. We had a long, interesting conversation via email with the occasional phone call about her fiction, and I sent her chocolate and the odd music CD from time to time. We almost put together a Concordance on The Company novels in which I would have interviews with each of the major cyborgs. She was particularly interested in having them express their opinions on chocolate. 

She loved her sister Kathleen who maintains a blog, Kathleen, Kage, and The Company which has thoughts on her passing yesterday: “Oh, My Breaking Heart”.

She, above all, had a great heart and a wicked sense of humor. I’m convinced that she really did believe that Harry, her parrot, really was a space raptor.

(9) BROTHER GUY’S AIR. “Could you handle the most remote campsite on earth?” – BBC video.

In order to gain a clearer understanding of how sea levels can rise worldwide, scientists are camping out in Antarctica.

Everything is a chilly struggle, from keeping your feet warm to using the toilet.

It’s one of the most remote places on Earth so the BBC’s Environmental Correspondent Justin Rowlatt went to find out what it’s like.

(10) NOT INVENTED HERE. “MEPs vote for universal charging cable for mobiles” – BBC has the story.

Members of the European Parliament have voted in favour of introducing a single universal charging method for mobile phones, which Apple had argued against.

The resolution passed with 582 votes in favour to 40 against. MEPs will now urge the European Commission (EC) to adopt the new rules.

Many Android phones have a USB-C port while iPhones use a Lightning cable.

Apple has said that a common standard would stifle innovation and create e-waste.

European politicians have been campaigning for a common standard for the past decade, with the EC estimating that obsolete cables generate more than 51,000 tonnes of waste per year.

In 2009 there were more than 30 different chargers on the market, compared to three currently.

(11) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter witnessed this on Friday night’s episode of Jeopardy!

Category: 14-letter words.

Answer: Adjective for a space probe designed to travel between Earth & Jupiter, for example.

Wrong questions: What is transplanetary? and What is a satellite?

Correct question: What is interplanetary?

(12) DUNE. CinemaBlend has a rundown of who’s appearing: “Dune Movie: All The Key Characters And The Cast Members Who Play Them”.

For the first time since 2014, zero Star Wars movies are slated to come out this year. But, that doesn’t mean some badass sci-fi action isn’t coming our way. The visionary filmmaker behind Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 is adapting Frank Herbert’s Dune for the big screen this December. Denis Villeneuve’s feature adaptation of the 1965 classic novel is not only an incredibly highly-anticipated 2020 movie, it’s packed with an absurdly-talented cast. Check them out and read up on the Dune characters they’ll be portraying here:

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Liptak, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Dan Bloch, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Media Birthday: Twilight Zone’s “The Hitch-Hiker”

By Cat Eldridge: On this day in 1960, “The Hitch-Hiker” aired as the sixteenth episode of The Twilight Zone’s first season.  It is based on Lucille Fletcher’s “The Hitch-Hiker” radio play.  It is frequently listed among the series’ greatest episodes by fans and critics alike.

Its opening narration is:

Her name is Nan Adams. She’s twenty-seven years old. Her occupation: buyer at a New York department store. At present on vacation, driving cross-country to Los Angeles, California from Manhattan…Minor incident on Highway 11 in Pennsylvania. Perhaps, to be filed away under ‘accidents you walk away from.’ But from this moment on, Nan Adams’ companion on a trip to California will be terror. Her route: fear. Her destination: quite unknown.

The primary cast is Inger Stevens as Nan Adams and Leonard Strong as The Hitch-Hiker with a number of others in supporting roles. In the original radio play by Fletcher, the character of Nan was a man named Ronald Adams. Orson Welles would play that character in on The Orson Welles Show, Philip Morris Playhouse, Suspense and The Mercury Summer Theater, all of which aired in the early Forties. Hitch-hikers, of all persuasions, have a long tradition in SFF with one of our favorite ones being Rose Marshall of the Sparrow Hill Road duology. 

Superman Comic Strip Debuted

By Cat Eldridge: On this day in 1939, the Superman comic strip appeared for readers for the very first time.  Let me tell about it as it’s a fascinating story. It began on this date, and a separate Sunday strip was added on November 5, 1939. Both of the strips ran continuously without an interruption until May 1966. In 1941, the McClure Syndicate which controlled its distribution had placed the strip in hundreds of newspapers. The Syndicate says that some three hundred papers with twenty million readers had access to the strip at its peak.

Setting aside the numbers, let’s turn to who created it. Joe Shuster was the initial artist but within a few years, he had turned over those duties to his bullpen including Paul Cassidy, Leo Neowik and Jerry Siegel who were among the first and Bill Finger would be the last to do it before it ceased in the Sixties. 

Siegel wrote them before he was drafted in 1943. Whitney Ellsworth, who had begun working on the strip in 1941, did them for four years. Jack Schiff began his writing on the strip in 1942 and worked on the strip off and on until 1962. Alvin Schwartz first started writing on it in 1944, and he continued on the strip more or less until 1958. Finger and Sebel finished off writing it in the last several years.

The strip had a number of firsts including the telephone booth costume change, the appearance of a bald Lex Luthor, and the appearance of Mr. Mxyzptlk. 

Superman: The Complete Comic Strips 1939-1966 is an unofficial name for the strips now in exquisite hardcover collections published by The Library of American Comics. 

An Auspicious Date
in Comics History

Compiled by Cat Eldridge: I’ve no idea why three newspaper comic strips were first published on this date. Before you think that can’t be possible, I’ve double-checked and yes, they were. I think it has to do with traditional Christmas holidays at that time in American history, so they’d be launched after those holidays.

January 7, 1929 — The Buck Rogers in the 25th Century A.D. comic strip premiered. Philip Francis Nowlan Was the writer for the first decade with Dick Calkins and Russell Keaton being the artists for the first three years. At its peak in 1934, Buck Rogers appeared in 287 U.S. newspapers. Like many other popular comic strips of that day, Buck Rogers was reprinted in Big Little Books in a reformatted form. 

January 7, 1929  — The Tarzan of the Apes strip was first published.  It was drawn by Hal Foster (the first decade of strips) and Rex Mason (nearly twenty years’ worth) with Don Kraar adapting  Edgar Rice Burroughs story.  A full-page Sunday strip began on March 15, 1931, with artwork by Rex Maxon. A dozen artists would draw the strip including Gil Kane and Mike Grell in its waning years. Russ Manning’s portrayal of Tarzan Is considered by many to be the definitive one. We’ve included two strips here, one with him as artist, the first with Hal Foster. 

January 7, 1934 — First published on this date, the Flash Gordon comic strip was inspired by the success of, and created rather obviously to compete with, the already established Buck Rogers strip. The story goes that King Features tried to purchase the rights to John Carter of Mars from Burroughs who refused, so King Features then turned to Alex Raymond, one of their staff artists, to create a similar story. The rest is history. Raymond’s strip would run until 1943 with the various artists and strips continuing for decades.