Pixel Scroll 11/19/20 1,001 Pixel Scroll Nights

(1) PLAYING HARD TO GET. Comicbook.com introduces “Star Trek Actors Brent Spiner and LeVar Burton Feud in Hilarious Omeleto Video”. It really is a hoot.

Star Trek: The Next Generation stars LeVar Burton and Brent Spiner have come together in a new video aimed at poking fun of their public personas and pitting the two against one another in a feud that overruns a fundraiser and causes havoc at an awards show. The short comes from Omeleto, home to a wide variety of different kinds of short films. Spiner takes the central role, lampooning himself as a shallow, pretentious jerk who begins and ends the short with musical numbers that would probably stand on their own as short-short films, given the YouTube (and Star Trek) ecosphere.

The short, titled “Brentwood,” sees Spiner vacillating between wanting to distance himself from his genre past, and wanting the material success and praise that comes with that success….

(2) CONVERSATION ABOUT OCTAVIA BUTLER. Last night journalist Lynell George, author of A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky, was online in dialog with LA Times reporter Julia Wick about the legacy and prolific writing of science fiction legend Octavia E. Butler. Watch the video here on Facebook.

(3) ROLE MODEL. Sarah Gailey wrote this entry in the series on their blog: “Personal Canons: All the Birds in the Sky”.

…If you haven’t already read this book, you absolutely should. It is in many ways a love letter to both science fiction and fantasy; it simultaneously contains a tender critique of the foibles of each. Through two narratives, the novel weaves the two supposedly-distinct genres together into a truly masterful accomplishment of a story.

Reading All the Birds in the Sky was a revelation. I’d never read anything like it before. It engaged with tropes and conventions in ways that revealed a rich understanding of genre, without ever falling into cliché. The narrative was simultaneously sincere and playful, honest and elusive, sly and heartfelt.

Before I lost myself in All the Birds in the Sky, most of my understanding of and enjoyment of contemporary genre fiction and media was defined by brittleness and snark. This isn’t to say that sincere sentiments weren’t out there — but sincere sentiments weren’t what I understood to be successful. They weren’t what I understood to be the mode of the day.

The goal, as I saw it, was to refute the notion that genre fiction was unselfaware. The goal was to be cool and aloof and maybe a little mean to fans. To narratively acknowledge a trope was, by necessity, to make fun of the trope. It was a bullyproofing mechanism: nobody could make fun of us if we made fun of ourselves, first.

As I recall, there was a good amount of this in the first draft of River of Teeth. But as I read All the Birds in the Sky — and as I revised the weird little novella I’d decided to write — something shifted….

(4) MORE MYTHOPEIA. Alison Flood, in “Unseen JRR Tolkien essays on Middle-earth coming in 2021” in The Guardian says The Nature Of Middle-Earth, edited by Carl F. Hostetter, will be published next year.

…The new collection, which is authorised by the Tolkien estate, will be called The Nature of Middle-earth, and will be published in June by HarperCollins, which promised it would “transport readers back to the world of The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales and The Lord of the Rings”. 

…Topics include Elvish immortality and reincarnation; the nature of the Valar, the god-like spirits of Middle-earth; the lands and beasts of Númenor; the geography of the kingdom of Gondor; and even who had beards. Whether elves, hobbits and even dwarven women could grow beards has long been subject of debate among fans.

The writings will be edited by Carl F Hostetter, a Tolkien expert and head of the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship who has been a computer engineer at Nasa since 1985. Hostetter previously worked with Tolkien’s youngest son Christopher, who curated the author’s posthumous output until his death in January, aged 95.

(5) SLIPPED DISC PROVES TERMINAL. Sadly, “NSF to decommission Arecibo radio telescope” reports Space News.

The National Science Foundation announced Nov. 19 it will perform a “controlled decommissioning” of the giant radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, citing recent damage that made it unsafe to operate or even repair.

In a call with reporters, NSF officials said two broken cables used to support a 900-ton platform suspended over the telescope’s 305-meter main dish put the entire structure at risk of collapse. One cable slipped out of its socket in August, falling to the dish below and damaging it, while the second broke Nov. 6

Both cables are attached to the same tower, one of three surrounding the main dish. “The engineers have advised us that the break of one more cable will result in an uncontrolled collapse of the structure,” said Ralph Gaume, director of the NSF’s Division of Astronomical Sciences, referring to cables attached to that same tower. That would result in the platform crashing down to the main dish and potentially toppling one or more of the towers.

… Engineers are working on a plan to carry out that controlled decommissioning, which will take several weeks to complete. “The execution of that controlled decommissioning is unknown at this point,” Gaume said. It could be done “very rapidly” if explosives are used to bring down telescope structures, he speculated….

(6) THIS TABLET IS HARD TO SWALLOW. The Pittsburgh Current calls it — “Fahrenheit 412: New Rule Bans Allegheny County Jail Inmates From Receiving Books; Reading Limited To 214 Select E-Books”

Christopher West, aka Brother Hush, has been in the Allegheny County Jail for three months To help pass the time, he immersed himself into one of his favorite hobbies, reading.

The jail had a policy, though, that inmates could only receive books directly from Barnes and Noble or the Christian Book Store. Hush took advantage of the policy and has tried to pass his time until trial (for more info on this, read Hush’s story here). But on Nov. 16, things changed.

“Yesterday I woke up in Fahrenheit 451,” says Hush, a musical artist, and activist, by phone Nov. 17 from the Allegheny County Jail. His reference was to the 1953 Ray Bradbury Novel that tells the story about a dystopian future where books are banned and burned.

On Monday, Nov. 16, the ACJ’s incarcerated population received a memo from warden Orlando Harper that read: “Effective Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, the Allegheny County Jail shall no longer accept books from Barnesandnoble.com and Christianbooks.com. Inmates living in our facility now have the ability to read over 214 free books and 49 free religious books through our tablet program. Inmates…also have access to a wide variety of books through the leisure library on each pod.”

The ACJ’s “tablet program” began earlier this year after the county inked a new contract with Global Tel*Link. The new deal provided inmate with tablets that they could use for entertainment purposes, to photos and videos from their families and to have video visits. The problem is, each of these services costs money out of an inmate’s pocket and baked on those fee, Allegheny County receives kickbacks from the telecom company of more than $4 million. Inmates do get roughly an hour-and-a-half of free credits. But after that they are charged anywhere from three-to-five cents per minute….

“I love to read,” Hush says. “I’ve got a box full of books in here. But, now I’m being limited to only certain titles and if I want to read longer than my free credits allow, then I have to pay. With a book, I’m not charged by the minute.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • November 19, 1931 Frankenstein debuted in Detroit, Michigan.  James Whale directed the motion picture not from an adaptation of the Mary Shelley novel but rather from a 1927 play by Peggy Webling that was based on the novel. The Webling play was adapted by John L. Balderston and the screenplay written by Francis Edward Faragoh and Garrett Fort. The  cast included  Frederick Kerr as Baron Frankenstein, Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein , Mae Clarke as Elizabeth Lavenza, and Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s Monster. Critics generally loved it and it’s considered one of the best horror films of all time. It currently holds an ever so hundred percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 19, 1911 – Mary Counselman.  Five dozen short stories, two dozen poems.  “The Three Marked Pennies” may have been the second most popular in Weird Tales; readers kept mentioning it for years.  This cover for Half in Shadow is by Tim Kirk.  “The Hallowe’en scariness of the bumbling but kindly Wizard of Oz has always appealed to me more than the gruesome, morbid fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and those later authors who were influenced by their doom philosophies.  My eerie shades bubble with an irrepressible sense of humour, ready to laugh with (never at) those earth-bound mortals whose fears they once shared.”  First Fandom.  Phoenix Award.  More here.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born November 19, 1919 Alan Young. He was David Filby and James Filby in The Time Machine. He was Stanley Beamish, the original lead in the unaired pilot of the 1967 Mr. Terrific series. It’s not the DCU character as the latter will not be created until 1997. And he was the voice of Scrooge McDuck for over thirty years, first in the Mickey’s Christmas Carol short (1983) and in various other films, series and even video games up to his death. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born November 19, 1924 William Russell, 96. He played the role of companion Ian Chesterton in Doctor Who, from the show’s first episode in the end until the next to the last of the second season when the Companions change. Yes, I know the “Unearthly Child” was the unused original pilot.  He’s continued the role to the present at Big Finish. And yes, he’s in An Adventure in Space and Time. (CE)
  • Born November 19, 1936 – Wolfgang Jeschke.  Fan, author, editor.  Pioneer of the Science Fiction Club Deutschland (deliberately two-language name).  Guest of Honour at ConFiction the 48th Worldcon (hello, Kees van Toorn); on the Program Book cover he’s second from the top; more about the con here.  WJ’s fanzine Ad Astra.  Five novels, thirty shorter stories; essays, introductions, radio plays.  For the publisher Heyne, edited Science Fiction MagazinScience Fiction Jahresband (we’d say “yearbook”, although der Band isn’t really the same as “book”), Welten der Zukunft (“Worlds of the Future”), Internationale Science Fiction StoriesScience Fiction Story ReaderTitan (with Pohl, Silverberg, Bova), Das Science Fiction Jahr, a score more anthologies (including Der Tod des Dr. Island, (“The Death of Dr. Island” – but alas, so far as I know, not the rest of this).  Harrison Award.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born November 19, 1943 – Allan Cole.  A dozen novels with Chris Bunch (and other novels outside our field), two with Nick Perumov, five alone.  Two shorter stories that I know of.  Appreciation of Tom Kidd for SF Age (hello, Scott Edelman).  A hundred television episodes.  Newspaper reporter.  Learned Shakespeare and Socrates from a Greek on Cyprus.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born November 19, 1953 – Wendy Orr, 67.  Four novels and a shorter story for us; forty other books.  Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Younger Readers, 1995.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born November 19, 1953 Robert Beltran, 67. Best known for his role as Commander Chakotay on Voyager. Actually only known for that role. Like so many Trek actors, he’ll later get involved in Trek video fanfic but Paramount has gotten legalistic so it’s called Renegades and is set in the Confederation, not the Federation. And it’s shorn of anything that’s identify it as Trek related. (CE)
  • Born November 19, 1963 Terry Farrell, 56. She’s best known for her role as Jadzia Dax on Deep Space Nine. She too shows up as cast on Renegades video Trek fanfic that Beltran is listed as being part of. She’s got some other genre roles such as Joanne ‘Joey’ Summerskill in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, and Allison Saunders in Deep Core. Interestingly she played the character Cat in the American pilot of Red Dwarf. (CE)
  • Born November 19, 1965 Douglas Henshall, 55. Best known for his role as Professor Nick Cutter on Primeval. He played T.E. Lawrence in two stories of the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles series, and the lead in The Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle. He showed up on Sea of Souls, a BBC paranormal series. Finally, he had a recurring role as Taran MacQuarrie on Outlander. (CE) 
  • Born November 19, 1974 – Kuroboshi Kôhaku, 46.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Illustrator and character designer.  I’ll let you read here about Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online.  No, I mean it, go ahead.  [JH]
  • Born November 19, 1980 Katherine Kelly, 40. Miss Andrea Quill in Class, the spin-off from Doctor Who that lasted but eight episodes. (I’ve not seen it.) She’d reprise her role for the Big Audio dramas. Other an appearance in Life on Mars, that’s it for her genre work. (CE) 
  • Born November 19, 1983 –  Kallie George, 37.  Four novels, as many shorter stories, for us.  Others inspired by Anne of Green Gables (and who isn’t?).  Teaches reading with a dinosaur – a cute one – no, I mean it – on ice skates.  Website here.  [JH]

(9) STILL PLAYING CAT AND MOUSE. Warner Brothers dropped the Tom and Jerry official trailer, sharing some very amusing moments. Coming out next year.

(10) HUGO NIGHT REMINISCENCE. Battlestar Galactica script writer Anne Cofell Saunders confesses:

(11) GOING HORRIBLY, HILARIOUSLY WRONG. Paste Magazine enthuses “Hulu’s Rebooted Animaniacs Carries Forth the Zaniness and Charm of the Original”.

… It’s not an escape from reality, as the reboot leans into its political commentary, but it’s a much more colorful, joyful version of it, where nearly any problem can be solved with a giant hammer pulled out of one’s pocket. Animaniacs only wants one reaction from audiences of any age, and that’s laughs. It succeeds tremendously.

Hulu’s rebooted series maintains the same core of the original series, bringing back Steven Spielberg as a producer and many of the same voice actors, composers, and writers who created it. Each 24-minute episode block consists of three shorts of varying length, usually two starring the Warner brothers Yakko (Rob Paulsen) and Wakko (Jess Harnell), and the Warner sister, Dot (Tress MacNeille), with the middle segment going to Pinky (Paulsen) and the Brain (Laurice LaMarche). Without any narrative throughline, Animaniacs remains a show you can watch in any order and enjoy….

 (12) ISN’T THAT SPECIAL? Screen Rant decries “10 Recent Movies With Inexcusably Bad Special Effects”. Hey, I actually paid money to see two of these in a theater – and I had no complaints about Black Panther’s effects even if it is number 3 on this list.

For better or worse, special effects have become an increasingly prominent part of Hollywood moviemaking, and this is particularly true for movies in fantasy and science fiction. While some of these effects really do add to the storytelling, and while some of them are gorgeous to look at, it has to be said that quite a few of them are also more than a little ridiculous.

4. Gods Of Egypt (2016)

It’s a little hard to say what, exactly, the makers of this movie were thinking when they pushed it into production. It’s not as if movies set in antiquity, particularly in mythology, have been especially successful or popular. Most are at best decent (and almost always critically derided).

It’s also quite impossible to take this movie seriously, in large part because the special effects are so disastrously overdone and yet also incredibly cheesy. Somehow, one doubts that this was the effect they intended. It certainly doesn’t help that the movie engaged in some truly egregious white-washing.

(13) IMPRINT REVIVED. [Item by Steve Green.] British horror author and anthologist Johnny Mains has dusted off his publishing imprint Noose & Gibbet for next month’s release of Our Lady of Hate, the first collection of short stories by Catherine Lord (1845-1901). It’s a 338pp hardback, limited to 100 copies.

(14) GRITTY UNREALISM. [Item by Andrew Porter.] From “The Classic Novel That Robert Macfarlane Just Couldn’t Finish” in the New York Times Book Review section.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

Frank Herbert’s “Dune.” Wild landscapes, weird nature, science fiction — this really should be my jam. But no; the violence came to sicken me by halfway through, as did aspects of the politics. So I junked it.

But he does like M. John Harrison and N.K. Jemisin.

(15) NOW THAT DISNEY OWNS EVERYTHING. Here’s an unexpected way to phrase the new state of affairs —

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Lord Of The RIngs Expert Answers Tolkien Questions From Twitter” on YouTube is a video from WIRED in which Tolkien expert Corey Olsen explains why Sauron was neither a human or an elf and why Tolkien thought the plural of dwarf was “dwarfs” and not “dwarves.”

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, James Davis Nicoll, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Steve Green, Contrarius, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus (in collaboration with OGH).]

Pixel Scroll 8/10/20
Ancillary Mustache

(1) ADDING A HUGO CATEGORY. Speculative Fiction in Translation’s Rachel Cordasco renews her appeal that “major Anglophone SFF awards should include a separate translation category” in “SFT And The Awards”.

…Really, all of this comes down to a naming problem. If the Hugos are going to be a “World Award,” logically they should include works from around the world, in any language. Since that doesn’t seem likely any time soon, and Anglophone readers generally don’t learn multiple languages unless they have to, then the award should (again, logically) stop calling itself a “World Award” and start acknowledging that, from the very beginning, it has been and still is an award given to English-language SFF by English-language readers.

….And then there’s the whole set of general arguments opposing, or at least not immediately embracing, a separate translation category. I’ve listed a few below:

  • We already have too many award categories.
  • Not enough Anglophone readers read SFT so how could they vote on it?
  • Creating a separate translation category will send the message that SFT is inferior to Anglophone speculative fiction.
  • SFT can win and has won awards without any “help.”
  • But how can we determine if the translation is any good?
  • Changing award rules is too difficult.

I’m going to address each of these points separately, making sure that I reiterate that I am not involved in any of these awards at the executive level, though I did participate in the most recent Locus Awards voting and was able to bring my knowledge of current SFT to the discussion, which I truly appreciated.

You may also know that I started a “Favorite SFT” poll in 2018, which is open to anyone who would like to vote (once!). This approach has its flaws but it’s the best I can do with the resources I have. Just the fact that the poll exists makes me think that more people are becoming aware that SFT does exist.

To the first point that “we already have too many award categories”: so what? And also, is a translated category somehow less important than the “Young Adult” or “First Novel” category? And to the subpoint that some translated work might win in two categories, can’t that happen with other categories? And aren’t there ways to get around that? I freely admit that I’m not cut out for business meetings and deciding rules about rules- which is one of the reasons why I’m not on these committees. This is just me on a website putting forth my opinions, against which everyone is free to argue. (Just be respectful when you rip me to shreds, ok?)….

(2) DAY AFTER DAY. SYFY Wire explores “The Unending Appeal Of Time Loops”. But only once.

…But outside of a stay-at-home crisis, time loops have gained traction in their appeal due to the same themes that made Groundhog Day so popular to begin with. Like the drunken locals that Phil Conners laments to in Punxsutawney, or the fellow wedding guest in the Palm Springs hotel pool talking to Samberg’s Nyles, those existing outside the loop can relate on a visceral level to the experience of feeling like today is the same as yesterday and tomorrow. For Bill Murray, the appeal of Groundhog Day as a script was its representation of people’s fear of change, and how we choose to repeat our daily lives to avoid it. These themes echoed in Russian Doll, which as a bingeable streaming series really allowed audiences to inhabit the repetitive nature of the loops, ironically utilizing the same technologies that have sped our lives up and caused them to feel even more cyclical.

(3) FIYAHCON. I signed up for FIYAHCON (October 17-18) news in time to receive its August Update naming three more guests:

FIYAHCON tweeted additional information: Rebecca Roanhorse: “We suspect you know @RoanhorseBex from all of that constant award-winning she does as a Black + Indigenous writer of many brilliant things.”; Cassie Hart: “is a Maori writer who’s been working intensely behind the scenes to shine a light on SFF from Aotearoa while grinding out an impressive number of works herself.”; Yasser Bahjatt: “chaired the Worldcon bid for Saudi Arabia. And while that didn’t land, we are thrilled to hear more from him about Arabian SFF and other ways we can uplift and celebrate the spec community there.”

The three newcomers join FIYAHCON’s previously announced guests:

There’s also an educational FIYAH Definition T-Shirt that’s new.

(4) THE NEXT MARTIAN. io9 points to today’s trailer drop: “Hilary Swank Is on a Mission to Mars in the Emotional First Trailer for Netflix’s Away.

She’s boldly going where no one has gone before, but doing so means leaving the people she loves the most. We’ve got the first trailer for Netflix’s Away, a new series that sees Hilary Swank joining the first manned mission to Mars—a three-year journey that will test the limits of its crew, as well as the patience of those who were left behind….

(5) JUST SAYIN’. Jay Blanc tweeted his ideas for improving Hugo administration. Thread starts here. Whether or not he has the solution (and CoNZealand Deputy Hugo Administrator Nicholas Whyte responded skeptically in the thread), I had to agree with Blanc’s last tweet about what one of the problems is.

He’s not alone in marveling at how many times in the past decade the Hugos have been hamstrung because someone was writing code from scratch. That doesn’t always happen for the same reason. We didn’t always need or want, in the past, a system that integrates all aspects of a member’s digital interaction with the convention. That’s what they’re moving toward, therefore it would make sense for that software to be created and stabilized. Funding it, having the work done and vetted, and working out licensing to the committees (which are entities of their own) would all be part of the mission.

(6) THE EYES HAVE IT. “Looking Forward on Looking Backwards” at The Hugo Book Club Blog.

… Because they are voted on primarily by people who were born decades after the original publication dates, the Retro Hugos are less likely to recognize work that has not been reprinted. This means that the average Retro Hugo voter inevitably experiences the works they’re voting on through a filter created by the intervening generations. Other than Erle KorshakCora Buhlert, and Gideon Marcus, we’d be hard-pressed to name a Hugo voter who is likely to have read a 1945-era pulp magazine cover-to-cover and experienced the works in something like their original context….

No need to be so “hard-pressed.” You have not because you ask not.

…For the Retro Hugos to be relevant and worthwhile awards, we as members of the World Science Fiction Society need to wrestle with why the awards need to exist. Is their intent to reproduce the racist tastes of the past or can they help focus a critical lens on the history of the genre and help us discover works that might have been overlooked?

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 10, 1951 Tales Of Tomorrow first broadcast the “Blunder” in which a scientist is warned his experiment with nuclear fission could destroy the earth. Written by Philip Wylie who wrote the screenplay for When Worlds Collide.  The primary cast is Robert Allen and Ann Loring. It was directed by Leonard Valenta who otherwise did soap,operas. The original commercials are here as well.  You can watch it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 10, 1902 Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in the horror and sf films for The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain, the latter  from his own novel. ISFDB notes the latter was part of his Dr. Patrick Cory series, and he wrote quite a few other genre novels as well. Donovan’s Brain and just a few other works are available in digital form. (Died 2000.) (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1903 Ward Moore. Author of Bring the Jubilee which everyone knows about as it’s often added to that mythical genre canon and several more that I’m fairly sure almost no one knows of. More interestingly to me was that he was a keen writer of recipes of which ISFDB documents that four of his appeared in Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking Out of This World: “Kidneys — Like Father Used to Make” and “Pea Soup — Potage Ste. Germaine“ being two of them. (Died 1978.) (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1913 Noah Beery Jr. Genre-wise, he’s best remembered as Maj. William Corrigan on the Fifties classic SF film Rocketship X-M, but he showed up in other genre undertakings as well such as 7 Faces of Dr. LaoThe Six Million Dollar ManFantasy IslandBeyond Witch MountainThe Ghost of Cypress Swamp and The Cat Creeps. I think he appeared in one of the earliest Zorro films made where he’s credited just as a boy, he’d be seven then, The Mark of Zorro which had Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and his father, Noah Beery Sr. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1931 – Alexis Gilliland, 89.  Seven novels, six shorter stories and a Feghoot; Campbell (as it then was) for Best New Writer.  Chaired six Disclaves.  WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) met at his house for decades.  One of our finest fanartists.  Four Hugos, three FAAn (FAn Activity Achievement) Awards, Rotsler.  Letters, perhaps three hundred cartoons in AlexiadAlgolAmazingAnalogAsimov’sChungaFantasy ReviewFlagJanusLocusMimosaPulphouseSF EyeSF CommentarySF ReviewSFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) BulletinStar*Line, Worldcon Souvenir Books.  Here is a cover for SF Review.  See hereherehere.  Makes good deviled eggs.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1944 Barbara Erskine, 76. I’m including her because I’ve got a bit of a mystery. ISFDB lists her as writing over a dozen genre novels and her wiki page says she has a fascination with the supernatural but neither indicates what manner of genre fiction she wrote. I’m guessing romance or gothic tinged with the supernatural based on the covers but that’s just a guess. What do y’all know about her? (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1955 Eddie Campbell, 65. Best-known as the illustrator and publisher of From Hell (written by Alan Moore), and Bacchus, a most excellent series about the few Greek gods who have made to the present day. Though not genre in the slightest way, I highly recommend The Black Diamond Detective Agency which he did. It’s an adaptation of an as-yet unmade screenplay by C. Gaby Mitchell. (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1955 – Tom Kidd, 65.  Eight Chesleys.  Artbooks KiddographyOtherWorldsHow to Draw & Paint Dragons.  Three hundred eighty covers, a hundred forty interiors.  Here is Not This August.  Here is the Oct 83 Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Here is Songs of the Dying Earth.  Here is Overruled.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1962 – Horia Gâbea, Sc.D., 58.  Romanian playwright, poet, essayist, novelist, engineer, popularizer of contract bridge.  University of Bilbao prize for poetry.  The Serpent performed by the British Royal Court Theatre.  Translator of Chekhov, Corneille, John D. MacDonald, Machiavelli.  Accused of being “gratuitously bookish…. a pun more important than a murder…. thin and edgy like a razor…. forgives no one no thing.” Worlds and Beings anthology in English.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1965 Claudia Christian, 55. Best-known role is Commander Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5, but she has done other genre roles such as being Brenda Lee Van Buren in The Hidden, Katherine Shelley in Lancelot: Guardian of Time, Quinn in Arena, Lucy in The Haunting of Hell House and Kate Dematti in Meteor Apocalypse. She’s had one-offs on Space RangersHighlanderQuantum LeapRelic Hunter and Grimm. She’s Captain Belinda Blowhard on Starhyke, a six-episode series shot in ‘05 you can on Amazon Prime.  (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1971 – Lara Morgan, 49.  Six novels for us.  “Her mission is to rid the world of tea, one cup at a time.  This is going quite well.”  She liked All Our Yesterdays, alas for me not Harry Warner’s but Cristin Terrill’s; ranked Ender’s Game about the same as Lilith’s Brood.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1985 – Andrew Drilon, 35.  A dozen short stories; Philippine Speculative Fiction 9 with Charles Tan; four covers, three dozen interiors; comics.  Here is Heroes, Villains, and Other Women.  Here is WonderLust.  Here is a sequence from his own Whapak! [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) DOUBLE-OH BRACKETS. Morgan Jeffery, in “Sean Connery named the best James Bond as thousands of 007 fans vote in our poll” in Radio Times, says that 14,000 James Bond fans voted to see who the best Bond of all time was, with Sir Sean Connery first, Timothy Dalton second, and Pierce Brosnan third.  Sam Heughan from Outlander was named the #1 choice to be the new Bond in the survey,

…Round 1 saw Connery knock out current 007 actor Daniel Craig, coming out on top with 56 per cent of the vote compared to Craig’s 43 per cent, while Pierce Brosnan winning Round 2 with 76 per cent against his opponent George Lazenby’s 24 per cent.

Round 3 saw perhaps the most surprising result yet, as Roger Moore was knocked out of the competition – with 41 per cent of the vote, he lost out to his immediate successor Timothy Dalton, who scored 49 per cent of the vote.

(11) TOP TEN. ScreenRant lists “Star Trek: The 10 Weirdest Official Merch You Can Buy”. After all, nobody wants to buy just plain old Trek merchandise. And one item meets a need of Filers who never have enough of these —

4. Next Generation Spoons

At some point, someone decided that Star Trek fans were fanatical about cutlery and all things fine dining, hence the creations of a series of elegant Next Generation spoons.

The high-quality spoons feature the faces of fan-favorite characters such as Captain Picard and Data on the handle of each implement. While nice its almost impossible to imagine anyone actually using these spoons to eat with and the illogical decisions that led to their creation would no doubt befuddle Spock.

(12) APOLLO 1 INVESTIGATION. Dwayne Day continues his exploration of space history with new details about the Apollo 1 fire of 1967 in The Space Review: “After the fire: a long-lost transcript from the Apollo 1 fire investigation”.

As long as there has been spaceflight, there have been conspiracy theories. There were conspiracy theories about Sputnik in the late 1950s (“their Germans are better than our Germans”) and dead cosmonauts in the early 1960s. Even before some people claimed—on the very day that it happened—that the Moon landing was faked, Apollo had its own conspiracy theories. In those days it was difficult for them to propagate and reach a wide audience, unlike today, when they can spread around the world at the speed of light. One of those Apollo conspiracy theories was about a whistleblower named Thomas Baron, who later died under mysterious circumstances.

Baron worked on the Apollo program in Florida for one of the key contractors. After the Apollo 1 fire in early 1967, Baron testified before a congressional fact-finding delegation that went to Florida. He later died under what some people considered to be mysterious circumstances, fueling speculation that he was killed to shut him up. The transcript of his testimony also could not be found by later researchers, which fueled the speculation that somebody was covering up damaging information.

In 1999, in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, radio station WAMU in Washington, DC, aired a program about the role of Washington politics in the lunar landing. “Washington Goes to the Moon” was written and produced by Richard Paul and featured interviews with a number of key figures in the story. Paul had decided that the Apollo 1 fire and the subsequent investigations into its cause would be a key focus of the program. In the course of researching the fire, he stumbled upon a document that many believed was long-lost: a transcript of an interview with Thomas Baron, who alleged that there were numerous improper actions taken by his employer, North American Aviation, which was building the spacecraft.

(13) THAT WAS A CLOSE ONE. “The nuclear mistakes that nearly caused World War Three” – BBC kept count.

From invading animals to a faulty computer chip worth less than a dollar, the alarmingly long list of close calls shows just how easily nuclear war could happen by mistake.

…All told, there have been at least 22 alarmingly narrow misses since nuclear weapons were discovered. So far, we’ve been pushed to the brink of nuclear war by such innocuous events as a group of flying swans, the Moon, minor computer problems and unusual space weather. In 1958, a plane accidentally dropped a nuclear bomb in a family’s back garden; miraculously, no one was killed, though their free-range chickens were vaporised. Mishaps have occurred as recently as 2010, when the United States Air Force temporarily lost the ability to communicate with 50 nuclear missiles, meaning there would have been no way to detect and stop an automatic launch.

(14) BLOCKHOUSE FOR BLOCKHEADS? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Isaac Schultz, in “For Sale: A Cold War Bunker and Missile Silo in North Dakota” on Atlas Obscura, says that tomorrow auctioneers will sell a 50-acre site in North Dakota that housed a missile base loaded with Sprint missiles that were supposed to be the last line of defense against Soviet ICBM’s.  The missiles are gone but the buildings are still there, and it’s perfect for a slan shack or future Worldcon bid, or would be an ideal place to conduct fan feuds.  What better place to launch verbal missiles than a place that housed real missiles? Plus all the former missile silos are guaranteed to be socially distant from each other!

HALF AN HOUR SOUTH OF the Canadian border, in Fairdale, North Dakota, a hulking concrete structure rises up from the flat fields that surround it. The beige buildings are so prominent on an otherwise pastoral landscape that they could be mistaken for a 20th-century Stonehenge.

It’s a Cold War missile site, and it’s for sale.

(15) I WALK TO THE TREES. In “The Lord of The Rings:  The Two Towers Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George promises a film with “a whole lot of walking.  Even the trees walk.”

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

Pixel Scroll 8/2/20 Lemonade Stand On Zanzibar

(1) READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP. On the last day of CoNZealand, Jenny Hammond posted to Discord a verse about attending the first virtual Worldcon.

Five days of insanity
Oh the humanity
I click on a room
It refuses to Zoom
I say words of depravity!

(2) CONZEALAND MEMBERSHIP STAT. Interesting revelation.

(3) INSIDE THE HUGO CEREMONY. Erin Underwood, who presented the Best Fan Writer Hugo, told Facebook readers some specifics about the lack of support she received, and offered these general comments —

A few more thoughts, the ConZealand Hugo Awards Ceremony production team owned the production of the event (edited to be clear). It was their show. What we saw was what they created. George owns his words and choices, but they own the decision of using those videos. They produced the show that we saw.

… It is hard to push back against an iconic guest and to provide critical guidance for improved performance, but that was their job. ConZealand owned that Hugo Ceremony from start to finish. As con runners and volunteers, it’s our job to make sure that our speakers and guests are well-prepared and know exactly what’s expected of them, and if they fail, we fail.

Nicholas Whyte, Deputy Hugo Administrator added this comment:

CoNZealand Hugo administrators were as much in the dark about what was going on as you were. Probably more so in that we had no input at all, whereas at least you recorded a video.

Edited to add: practically the first thing we did with finalists was to ask the correct pronunciation of their names.

(4) AVOID FRIENDLY FIRE. Michi Trota is concerned about collateral damage from the social media response to the troubled Hugo Awards ceremony.

(5) ASPIRATION PLUS PERSPIRATION. Cheryl Morgan analyzes some of the challenges of managing Worldcons in “Why Worldcons Go Wrong” and says in conclusion:

…There’s a tendency in certain quarters to sneer when people say that running Worldcon is hard, but it is, and unless you have actually done it you probably don’t understand just how hard it is. Which is not to say that people don’t make terrible mistakes, and should not be called to account for them. I can assure you that I have done that often enough in my time (ask people about TorCon 3 if you don’t believe me). However, I have always tried to do so in the hope that we can learn from our mistakes and make Worldcon better. I hope you can see from the above that fixing things, or creating an alternative, is not simply a matter of vowing to “do better”.

(6) CLOSED CAPSHUNNING. The AI still needs some work.

(7) CHANGE THE CHANNEL. Heroes & Icons tickles your memory about these “15 Forgotten Science-Fiction TV Shows Of The 1980s”.

The Eighties were a golden era for science-fiction. Cineplexes were chockablock with blockbusters like The Empire Strikes BackBack to the FutureAliens and The Terminator. On the small screen, you could get your space fix with Star Trek: The Next Generation. Sitcoms had aliens and androids as their stars in ALF and Small Wonder. Even the cars could talk on Knight Rider.

Of course, not everything was a hit. For every smash, there were scores of knock-offs. Every network attempted to launch its own time travel adventure, it seems. While these shows rarely made it to a second season, they remain cult favorites of those who watched them. They might have thrived today, in our geek culture of a thousand options…

13. THE POWERS OF MATTHEW STAR (1982–83)

Peter Barton starred alongside Lou Gossett, Jr., in this 1982 superhero series. Production began in 1981, though was put on hold after Barton fell onto a pyrotechnics flare, suffering severe third degree burns. Production was shut down, as the actor healed for several months in a hospital. Barton had edged Tom Cruise for the lead role, an alien prince hiding out in high school on earth. Star Trek fans take note: Leonard Nimoy directed an episode, and Walter Koenig wrote one.

(8) YOUR NAME HERE. The New York Times’ John Schwartz has been “Tuckerized” – in fact, he even uses that word in his article “Boldly Writing What I Hadn’t Written Before: Science Fiction”.

I’m a character!

I mean, in a novel. OK, a minor character, more like a cameo, but still — my name is the first that you see in the first chapter of “The Relentless Moon,” the new novel in Mary Robinette Kowal’s “Lady Astronaut” science fiction series. The novels are set in an alternate timeline that has the world, after a devastating meteorite strike and the resulting runaway global warming, greatly accelerating its space program to get humans off the doomed planet.

HALFWAY TO MARS
John Schwartz, Special to the National Times
KANSAS CITY, March 28, 1963 — If all goes as it should — and in space, that is no sure thing — then sometime today, thirteen brave voyagers will cross a Rubicon that no man ever has: the halfway point between our home planet and Mars.

Ms. Kowal, who has won Hugo and Nebula awards and who is president of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, makes her novels something of a group project by relying on the expertise of others for thorny passages: She gets help with orbital mechanics and spacecraft piloting, for example, from actual astronauts. She puts the names of real people into her work, including astronauts.

But she tucks in other names, as well….

(9) DON COMES UP LIKE THUNDER. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Last night I heard a 2019 podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Don Hahn.  Hahn began his career at Disney in the mid-1970s, back when an animator who asked to “see a scene” could have an intern go to the storage area where the original cels were stored.  Hahn’s been associated with Disney ever since, surviving the first attempt to revive the animation decision in the early 1980s and the second one when Disney shifted to musicals with The Little Mermaid.  He was the producer of the first versions of Beauty and The Beast and The Lion King, and tells many stories about the era, including how The Lion King was nearly scored by ABBA. He’s also proud of spotting talent early, including seeing the potential in composer Hans Zimmer and director Tim Burton, and says Burton became a success because of “an incredible work ethic.”

Hahn also writes books, including books about animation and an edited version of Walt Disney’s memos about animators.  He paints and published a collection of his art called Hahn Solo.

Hahn also directs documentaries about Disney.  His most recent one is Howard, about Howard Ashman, who revived the American musical with his lyrics for The Little Mermaid  and Beauty and The Beast  but whose career was tragically cut short after he died of AIDS in the early 1990s. Howard is dropping on Disney+ on August 7, 

Hahn was going to come to a movie convention Maltin held last year, and promised he would sign a book any way a customer wanted “as long as it was legal according to the laws of the state of California.”

Hahn’s website is donhahn.com.

(10) IN (LONDON) TIMES TO COME. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Behind a paywall at The (London) Times: “Why the future looks bright for science fiction” by Bryan Appleyard.

John Clute, the co-editor of the six million-word Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, is pleading with me.

“Please don’t use it, it is deeply vulgar and very stupid. It’s really kind of reprehensible . . . I shouldn’t have mentioned it at all, and I didn’t.” But, John, it’s out there, it’s in your book. I really have no choice.

The term he loathes is “cli-fi”. It means climate-change fiction — stories about the world after a climate catastrophe, stories that used to be called science fiction. The purpose cli-fi serves is not noble, it is pure snobbery. It is, as the entry says, a way of “distancing from the perceived downmarket nature or Pulp roots of Genre SF”. “Speculative fiction” is another class-ridden term used by authors who don’t like to be seen slumming it. Even “sci-fi” is not welcome — in TV listings and the like it describes superhero nonsense.

Yet calling it SF will not, for many readers, drag it out of the lower ranks of the literary league table. Jessica Harrison, the editor of the new SF series from Penguin Modern Classics, admits that for her the term at first evoked book or magazine covers with “half-naked girls and purple planets”. Neither is present on the austere white covers of her list…

… Now, and here comes the optimism, SF has gone global, with new waves of Asian and African writers. One Chinese author in particular has to be mentioned, Liu Cixin. I’ve just started reading his book The Three-Body Problem — it is different from anything else and beautifully written. It is also brave, in that it starts with a vivid description of the horrors of Mao’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. Barack Obama loved the book, not least because it made his “day-to-day problems with Congress seem fairly petty”. That, of course, is exactly what SF should do.

SF will survive even as technological progress seems to race ahead of some of its wildest imaginings. It will survive because it is a way of seeing — not aliens, time warps, superluminal travels and so on, but ourselves. Dr Snaut nailed it in the greatest of all SF movies, Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972).

“We don’t want other worlds; we want a mirror. We seek contact and will never achieve it. We are in the foolish position of a man striving for a goal he fears and doesn’t want. Man needs man!”

(11) BRIMLEY OBIT. Actor Wilford Brimley, who appeared in Cocoon and its sequel, died August 1 at the age of 85. He was also in The Thing (1982), the Ewoks: Battle for Endor TV movie, Progeny, and in the genre-adjacent Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985) as the head of C.U.R.E.

(12) BELATED MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • In July 1997, Donnerjack was published by the Easton Press. This was the true first edition as the Avon Books hardcover edition wouldn’t be out for another month. Though it was started by Roger Zelazny, this novel was largely completed by Jane Lindskold. He completed a few hundred pages of the first draft and left detailed notes for its remainder. The outline Zelazny did was entitled ”Donnerjack, of Virtù: A Fable for the Machine Age“. It was to be the first novel in a trilogy but as Zelazny said in his Hugo Award winning “24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by by Hokusai“ novelette, “I know, too, that death is the only god who comes when you call.” (CE)

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 2, 1916 Elizabeth Russell. She’s best remembered as the Cat Woman (though the voice was dubbed by Simone Simon) in The Cat People. And she was Barbara Farren In The Curse of the Cat People — some of the same characters, not a sequel.  She was also Countess Lorenz in The Corpse Vanishes where her co-star was Bela Lugosi. Lastly she was Dean of Women Grace Gunnison in Weird Women which was sort of based off Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife. (Died 2002.) (CE)
  • Born August 2, 1920 Theodore Marcuse. He was Korob in “Catspaw”, a second-season Trek episode that aired just before Halloween aptly enough. He had appearances in The Twilight Zone (“The Trade-Ins” and “To Serve Man”), Time TunnelVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaWild, Wild West and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in the episodes “The Re-collectors Affair”,  “The Minus-X Affair”,  and “The Pieces of Fate Affair”.  (Died 1967.) (CE)
  • Born August 2, 1942 – Isabel Allende, 78.  Adventures in and beside literature include ten novels for us, a score of shorter stories, translated into Dutch, French, German, Portuguese; many others (one of which, Chip Hitchcock, is Zorro).  Fan of Shakespeare.  Translator of romance novels into Spanish, fired for altering dialogue to show the heroines smarter, plots to show them more independent.  First woman to receive the Gabriela Mistral Order of Merit.  Harvard Litt.D. (Latin, Litterarum Doctor “doctor of letters”, in her case honoris causa “for the sake of the honor” i.e. honorary degree).  Memoir, The Sum of Our Days.  American Academy of Arts & Letters.  Chilean Literature Prize.  Gish Prize.  US Medal of Freedom.  [JH]
  • Born August 2, 1945 Joanna Cassidy, 75. She is known for being the replicant Zhora Salome in Blade Runner and Dolores in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, two of my favorite films. She also did really bad horror films that don’t bear thinking about. I mean really bad horror. (CE)
  • Born August 2, 1948 Robert Holdstock. Another one who died far too young. His Ryhope Wood series is simply amazing with Lavondyss being my favorite volume. And let’s not overlook his Merlin Codex series which is one of the more original takes on that character I’ve read. The Ragthorn, co-written with Garry Kilworth, is interesting as well. (Died 2009.) (CE)
  • Born August 2, 1949 Craig Shaw Gardner, 71. Comic fantasy author whose work is, depending on your viewpoint, very good or very bad. For me, he’s always great.  I adore his Ballad of Wuntvor sequence and highly recommend all three novels, A Difficulty with DwarvesAn Excess of Enchantments  and A Disagreement with Death. Likewise his pun-filled Arabian Nights sequence will either be to your liking or really not. I think it’s worth it just for Scheherazade’s Night Out. (CE)
  • Born August 2, 1949 – Joe Siclari, F.N., 71.  Collector, fanhistorian, active in cons and fanzines.  New Yorker and Floridian.  Chair of MagiCon the 50th Worldcon.  Co-founded SMOFcon (“Secret Master Of Fandom”, as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke) and FanHistoriCon.  Published The Complete “Quandry” (being Lee Hoffman’s fanzine; note spelling), The Enchantment (Walt Willis), A Wealth of Fable (Harry Warner’s fanhistory of the 1950s); edited a photo-illustrated ed’n of All Our Yesterdays (HW fanhistory of the 1940s).  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award).  Chairman of FANAC (fanac has long been short for fan activity; in this case, the Florida Ass’n for Nucleation And Conventions) which sponsored MagiCon and now sponsors Fancyclopedia 3 and the FANAC Fan History Project.  Fan Guest of Honor at MiniCon 31 (with wife Edie Stern), DeepSouthCon 34, Loscon XXVI, Lunacon 51.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate (with Stern).  Big Heart (our highest service award; with Stern).  FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement Award) for Best Online Archive or Resource (i.e. the FANAC Fan History Pjt; with Stern).  Named Fan Guest of Honor (with Stern) for Chicon 8 the scheduled 80th Worldcon.  [JH]
  • Born August 2, 1952 – Hope Leibowitz, 68.  Only person to have attended every Ditto (fanziners’ con; named for a brand of copying machine).  Has lived in Toronto longer than New York (38 yrs, 30 yrs).  Contributor to FLAP (Fannish Little Amateur Press, an apa).  Sent a birthday card to Bob Madle (see here and here).  Likes the cover for Mike Resnick’s Paradise – but I forgot to ask if she meant this one (Whelan) or maybe this one (Gauckler).  [JH]
  • Born August 2, 1954 Ken MacLeod, 66. Sometimes I don’t realize until I do a Birthday note just how much I’ve read a certain author. And so it was of MacLeod. I’ve read the entire Fall Revolution series, not quite all of the Engines of Light Trilogy, all of The Fall Revolution, just the first two of the Corporation Wars and every one of his one-off novels save Descent. I should go find his Giant Lizards from Another Star collection as I’ve not read his short fiction. Damn it’s not available digitally! (CE)
  • Born August 2, 1973 – Prapda Yun, 47.  Writer, filmmaker, graphic designer.  S.E.A. Write Award for Probability (short stories); The Sad Part Was, mostly therefrom, seems the first translation of Thai fiction published in the UK.  PY himself has translated Lolita and PninA Clockwork OrangeR.U.R.  Songs and other music for Buahima and the Typhoon Band.  [JH]
  • Born August 2, 1976 – Emma Newman, 44.  Eleven novels, as many shorter stories (one for Wild Cards).  Collection, From Dark Places.  Audiobooks.  “How LARP [Live-Action Role Playing] Changed My Life” here.  Best-Fancast Hugo for Tea and Jeopardy (with husband Peter), see here.  [JH]
  • Born August 2, 1994 – Dawson Vosburg, 16.  Three novels. “I love my imagination.  It’s the one thing I’m thankful for every day.”  Here’s Chapter 2 of Incognito.  [JH]

(14) DAYS OF OUR LIVES. The sand ran out?

(15) WASCALLY FOREVER. John King Tarpinian has received his Bugs Bunny stamps.

(16) UNDER THE LID. Where does Alasdair Stuart find the time? Here’s what he covers this week in The Full Lid for 31st July 2020:  

This week in The Full Lid! With the movie riding high I dig into the second volume of the original Old Guard comic series. Force Multiplied changes the game for the immortals in some big ways and is both a good read and a great basis for the almost certain sequel. 

Elsewhere this issue I take a look at Fredrica and Stefon Bristol’s audacious and smart time travel movie See You Yesterday which is one of those films that will stay with you after viewing. Finally, I take a look at the first issue of Bleed Them Dry, a vampire/cyberpunk/murder mystery from Vault Comics and the team of Hiroshi Kuzumi, Elliot Rahal, Dike Ruan, Tim Daniel and Miquel Muerto. Our interstitials this week are remixes of classic Calvin and Hobbes strips by the Blindspotting team of Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs.

The Full Lid is weekly, free and published every Friday at 5 p.m. BST. You can find an archive and a subscription link at the top of this week’s issue.

(17) ROCKET SCIENCE. Here is how Siobhan Carroll would improve the Retro-Hugos:

 …my suggestions would be to focus on the award’s goal of introducing fans to lesser-known works and teaching us something about SF history. I’d suggest the following format changes:
1) make it a juried award, with the jury consisting of academics and critics who’ve done historical recovery work; 
2) reduce the slate from 12 or so awards to 1 or 2, which would allow for more fan engagement with the work(s) in question; 
3) make its guiding question not, ‘what works might have won in a given year’ but  ‘Which lesser-known SF works from the years of eligibility most speak to the genre and the SF community in 2022?’”

(18) READ FASTER. Review site BookNest.eu will turbocharge the growth of your Mt. TBR with their list of favorites from the 21st century:“Fantasy List: Top 100 Fantasy Books Of Our Century”.

We at BookNest.eu are incredibly excited to announce that we have reached the extraordinary milestone of TWO THOUSAND reviews! That’s an incredible number, considering all of the hours that go into crafting even a single review. We are proud of our reviewers, who have worked for years with passion and dedication to deliver our reviews to the fantasy community in the hopes of increasing awareness of authors and titles we are excited about.

In celebration of this occasion, our reviewers have compiled a list of our picks for the top one hundred fantasy novels that have been published this century. This list is, of course, subjective, so if your favourite book is missing, we apologize in advance. We have not read every book in the world, and the taste of our reviewers may not reflect your own.

(19) PRETTY COLORS. Goobergunch is definitely showing something here. Excuse me a minute while I go learn from the Wikipedia what it is….

(20) THEY MADE IT! “Splashdown! SpaceX And NASA Astronauts Make History”NPR has the story.

Two NASA astronauts are back on Earth after their space capsule splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Pensacola, Florida.

The last time any NASA astronauts came home by splashing down was in 1975—and back then, they were in an Apollo space vehicle. This time, the astronauts were in a white, bell-shaped capsule owned by SpaceX.

The success of their test flight, to the International Space Station and back, is a milestone for SpaceX, the first private company to send people to the outpost.

The company has been taking cargo to and from the station for years. This flight with people on board was the final test for SpaceX’s crew system to be certified by NASA as ‘operational’ for future astronaut missions.

That means the U. S. once again has its own ability to put people in orbit and return them safely. Since retiring its space shuttles in 2011, NASA has had to buy seats for its astronauts on Russian spaceships.

NASA can now rely on an American space taxi that takes off from Florida, and it’s already assigning astronauts to future SpaceX missions–including Megan McArthur, who happens to be married to one of the just-returned astronauts, Bob Behnken.

The BBC also has a movie of the parachute deployment and descent (splashdown at 1:18) and one of the crew checking out of the ISS.

(21) SOCIALLY DISTANCED MAGIC. [Item by N.]

If you wanna watch, it’s live right now on Twitch.

(22) A HORSE, OF COURSE. Adam Thirwell says Bojack Horseman reminds him of everything from Don Quixote to Ibsen in “A Horse’s Remorse” at The New York Review of Books.

…I’m in no way an avid watcher of cartoons but, to risk a sense of disproportion, I began to feel something similar as the animated series BoJack Horseman unfolded on Netflix over six seasons and seventy-seven episodes, beginning in 2014 and ending early this year. “It’s not Ibsen,” went a repeated refrain in the show, which was funny not just because it was a form of immediate self-deprecation about the show itself—a cartoon comedy whose supporting cast includes a news anchor who’s an irascible blue whale and a film studio renamed Warbler Brothers—but also because this show was Ibsen in a way, just an opioid version: a wild investigation of self-deception and failure. Or rather, that’s what I concluded by the end. At first it was simply zany and delightful, this series about a talking horse who’s the washed-up star of a now-forgotten 1990s hit sitcom, Horsin’ Around, a saccharine confection about a horse who adopts three human orphans. But by the time it finished, it had become something much grander and more terrible. Exactly what, however, and exactly how, are conundrums that have preoccupied me….

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

Group Sends Letter of Concern To CoNZealand Programming

Alasdair Stuart has published a “Statement of 2020 Hugo Finalists re: Worldcon Programming” on behalf of a group of CoNZealand program participants and award finalists. Stuart, co-owner of Escape Artists podcasts and a 2020 Best Fan Writer Hugo finalist, outlined the issues in a Twitter thread starting here.

Stuart told File 770, “The letter was workshopped by the entire group, and wasn’t published before they gave express approval so it very much is a group of co-signees.”

The group includes: Charles Payseur, Benjamin C. Kinney, Jennifer Mace, SL Huang, Shiv Ramdas, SB Divya, Jenn Lyons, Sarah Gailey, Paul Weimer, Sarah Pinsker, Claire Rousseau, Maria Haskins, Tasha Suri, Marguerite Kenner, Alasdair Stuart, Jonathan Strahan, Pablo Defendini, Elsa Sjunneson, Brent Lambert, Freya Marske, Julia Rios, Alix Harrow, Gideon Marcus, Janice Marcus, Lorelei Marcus, James Davis Nicoll, Neil Clarke, Cora Buhlert, Charlie Jane Anders, Brandon O’Brien, Erica Frank, Jen Zink, Adri Joy, Fran Wilde, Suzanne Walker, Chimedum Ohaegbu, Navah Wolfe, John Picacio, and Max Gladstone.

The letter says:

We applaud the courage and conviction of the CoNZealand organisers in pivoting to a virtual Worldcon during an unprecedented global event. Their work has been admirable and — in many aspects — both innovative and successful.

We are a group of Hugo Award finalists who identified concerns with our programming when we received our “final schedules” this week, and came together to help CoNZealand recognize and address these issues.

In brief, our key concerns are:

  • Many Hugo finalists have not been offered programming and panels relevant to their nomination.
  • We believe that many of our panels cannot be adequately performed without more diverse participants and/or a reframing of the topic.
  • Communication with Hugo finalists about the financial requirements for participation has been inconsistent or absent, with contradictory information on whether or not we were able to participate in programming without a full attending membership. This issue particularly impacted Black, Indigenous and people of color (“BIPOC”), leaving them more likely than other finalists to receive no programming.

We present our concerns in the hope that these issues represent not intentional choices on the convention’s part but the unavoidable consequences of Worldcon’s discontinuous structure, and the necessary prioritization CoNZealand has had to undertake in order to pivot successfully to a virtual event. 

We have tried to be brief and targeted in our recommendations so as to remain sensitive to the time pressure CoNZealand is under. Accompanying this letter is a spreadsheet containing specific examples of the issues above. We have listed (1) which panel topics we are missing; (2) which panels have problematic design or membership; (3) which panels we finalists want off or are willing to leave to create space; and (4) finalists that were deterred from participation due to lack of membership.

Our data are incomplete because we could only recruit a limited number of Hugo finalists to provide input without further delaying the process. Among our group of finalists, about 25% entirely lack relevant panels, and about 45% are dissatisfied with the fit of the programming they have.

We recognize there is a difficult balance to strike when raising concerns to an overtaxed team less than two weeks before an event, however many of us have repeatedly raised these issues or volunteered only to receive no response. We have intentionally not sought to assume ownership of programming items, but we are committed to assisting where possible and desired by CoNZealand. However, we emphasize that our bringing awareness to these issues does not obligate us to single-handedly resolve them.

As part of our offer to assist, we have begun identifying additional and replacement panelists who could add necessary diversity. If CoNZealand lacks sufficient BIPOC attendees, we hope you will provide free attendance to needed panelists who aren’t members. Moreover, there remain issues we cannot address on our own, especially (1) communicating with all finalists whether paid membership is required for programming; and (2) making sure all finalists with memberships are on relevant programming.

We are not united in what actions we intend to take if our concerns are not addressed. Many have already begun the process of asking to be removed from programming in its entirety, while others are actively working to locate replacements for the programming items they feel need improvement. Our focus at this stage remains taking action to make our concerns known, and to support CoNZealand addressing them in the combined spirit of fostering an environment for all to share in the celebration of our genre.

Although there are some echoes of the representation issues raised before the 2018 Worldcon (which a team led by Mary Robinette Kowal stepped in to address before the con), so far the efforts have been collaborative.

The CoNZealand’s Programming Division Head Jannie Shea emailed this reply to Stuart:

Thank you for sending us your concerns. We are addressing those we can. We encourage indigenous, marginalised and historically underrepresented fans to apply for our Inclusion Initiative, (https://conzealand.nz/blog/2020/07/03/conzealand-chairs-inclusion-initiative) which offers two types of opportunities to join CoNZealand. 

We appreciate your volunteerism in contacting all those people for us. As you know, due to privacy regulations, we cannot contact people more than once without a response from them. We hope they will get in touch with us directly and soon, to see if we can fit them in.

All the best,
Jannie

Shea points to CoNZealand’s inclusion initiative in answer to the letter’s question “whether paid membership is required for programming.” Typically, only people who have bought attending memberships become Worldcon program participants. The introduction to the  inclusion initiative explains what help is available:

Marginalised communities are overrepresented in the group suffering the greatest fallout from this pandemic, and as such, we want to ensure that our community does not suffer a loss of its hard-won diversity. We want to lower the barriers for participation for those from underrepresented communities. 

We want the convention to be a global one, where all communities and viewpoints are represented, and this fund is intended to help those who would otherwise not be able to participate fully in the activities of the Worldcon.

The initiative upgrades eligible members from supporting to attending memberships. …There are a small number of attending passes available.

CoNZealand is especially challenged in its efforts to answer these needs because, as a virtual convention, it isn’t limited to programming people who can afford to come to Wellington, as would have been the case before the pandemic — it could draw people from everywhere. But like most non-U.S. Worldcons it has a smaller membership base from which to draw the financial support needed to make its budget.  

Following the jump is a roundup of Twitter comments from participants.

Continue reading

2020 Arthur C. Clarke
Award Shortlist

The 34th shortlist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction literature was announced on June 18.

  • The City in the Middle of the Night – Charlie Jane Anders (Titan)
  • The Light Brigade – Kameron Hurley (Angry Robot)
  • A Memory Called Empire – Arkady Martine (Tor)
  • The Old Drift– Namwali Serpell (Hogarth)
  • Cage of Souls – Adrian Tchaikovsky (Head of Zeus)
  • The Last Astronaut – David Wellington (Orbit)

Clarke Award director Tom Hunter said:

Listening to the deliberations of our judges this year, I was reminded again of the depth of passion that can power and unite our science fiction community, and what shines through for me in the choices of this year’s panel is this sense of shared love for the sf genre.

There are familiar themes here, from first contact and colonisation to the ravages of war and the end of the world, but all retooled with eyes firmly fixed on science fiction’s future as well as its long history.

 Andrew M. Butler, Chair of Judges, added:

It felt as if we were actually inside an sf novel when we chose these half dozen books – it was our first virtual shortlist meeting. I think the judges have selected a wonderful set of novels. At this point any of the six could win.

The award judges are Stewart Hotston, British Science Fiction Association; Alasdair Stuart, British Science Fiction Association; Farah Mendlesohn, Science Fiction Foundation; Chris Pak, Science Fiction Foundation; and Rhian Drinkwater, SCI-FI-LONDON film festival.

The list of 122 eligible titles submitted for this year’s prize can be found on the award committee’s Medium blog here.

The winner will be revealed in September, date to be determined.

Pixel Scroll 5/15/20 Hey, Scrollers! Watch Me Pull a Pixel Out of My Hat!

(1) NEXT TREK. CBS All Access dropped a trailer for Star Trek:  Strange New Worlds, a spinoff from Star Trek; Discovery that stars Anson Mount and Rebecca Romijn.

Fans spoke, Star Trek listened, and a new series aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise is on the horizon! Watch stars Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, and Rebecca Romijn excitedly break the big news. Stay tuned for more information on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, coming soon to CBS All Access. In the meantime, stream full episodes of Star Trek: Discovery, exclusively in the U.S. on CBS All Access.

(2) NOT ENTIRELY A BAD THING. The Romance Writers of America have cancelled the annual gathering planned for San Francisco in August, another consequence of the pandemic. Attendance levels were already in doubt due to the upheaval and disaffection in the group this year, which led to this reaction from Courtney Milan —

(3) DEALING WITH A FAMILIAR MEDIA WEAPON. On Saturday, May 16, professionals in the field of influence operations (“Fake News”) will join Gadi Evron, Sounil Yu, Malka Older, and special guest David Weber to discuss how disinformation can be countered from an operational standpoint, as well as its effects on society and policy. “Countering ‘Fake News’: Professionals Speak” at Essence of Wonder. Registration required

Panel one will cover the effects of “Fake News” on society, and the shaping of policy around the topic. Panel two will dive deeply into methodologies, operational tools, and techniques, for countering “Fake News” attacks.

(4) THINKING ABOUT ADAPTATIONS. The World Fantasy Con 2020 blog featured one of their GoH’s in an “Interview with Charlaine Harris”.

WFC2020: The Sookie Stackhouse books were made into the series True Blood, which ran seven years. In the books Lafayette (the fry cook) doesn’t last long, but the actor, Nelsan Harris, was so popular his role was expanded in the series. What other changes were made to the books’ characters?

CH: I thought the character of Jessica (Deborah Wohl) was a fabulous addition to the storyline. Wished I had thought of her. The fae on screen turned out to be not at all what was in my head, but it worked for the purposes of the show. I loved the sets, which I saw several times: Sookie’s house, Jason’s house, Merlotte’s. And all the actors were amazing. Alan Ball is a genius at casting. Nelsan was wonderful!

(5) HEAR MORE FROM HARRIS. And on May 23, Essence of Wonder will present “Masters of Urban Fantasy: Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, Dana Cameron, and Toni L.P. Kelner”. (Registration required.)

Dana Cameron, Toni L.P. Kelner (a.k.a. Leigh Perry), Patricia Briggs, and Charlaine Harris will join us on Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron for geeky shenanigans in a panel discussion about Worldbuilding (and maybe pets). Before the panel, Charlaine will interview Patricia on her new Mercy Thompson book, “Smoke Bitten. Join us for this special show with The Leading Ladies of Urban Fantasy on Saturday (23 May).

(6) DON’T MISS OUT. Another WFC 2020 guest of honor, Steve Rasnic Tem, telling about “My First WFC”, includes this wisdom:

…My late friend Ed Bryant and I would sometimes read the glowing tributes to authors who had passed and Ed would say, “Well, I hope they told them these nice things while they were still alive.” Attending a World Fantasy Convention gives you a great opportunity to practice Ed’s advice. The sad fact is you may not have another chance.

(7) IN SPITE OF EVERYTHING. Tor.com is serializing “Never Say You Can’t Survive: How To Get Through Hard Times By Making Up Stories”:

Charlie Jane Anders is writing a nonfiction book—and Tor.com is publishing it as she does so. Never Say You Can’t Survive is a how-to book about the storytelling craft, but it’s also full of memoir, personal anecdote, and insight about how to flourish in the present emergency.

Below is the Introduction, followed by the first chapter, “How To Make Your Own Imaginary Friends”

New installments will appear every Tuesday at noon EST.

Here’s an excerpt –

….So I’m writing a series of essays called Never Say You Can’t Survive, all about how writing and making up stories can help you to survive a terrifying moment in history. (These essays came out of a talk that I gave at the Willamette Writers Conference and elsewhere. And their title is borrowed from the 1977 album of the same name by Curtis Mayfield, which is a piece of music that has given me so much strength and inspiration over the years.)

Stories of Darkness and Escapism

When I wrote “Don’t Press Charges And I Won’t Sue,” I was going to the darkest possible place I could go in a story, and putting my protagonist through the most dehumanizing treatment I could imagine. I needed to face up to the absolute worst that could happen, so I felt like I understood it a little better. I also needed to write about someone facing up to the most nightmarish scenario and still emerging in one piece, surviving, even though it’s a dark ending.

Writing a horrifying story on your own terms means that you can show how someone can survive, or even triumph. And meanwhile, you can cast a light on the injustice of oppressive systems. You can also choose the frame and eliminate some of the ambiguity in some situations, to make things more stark and more clear, or to make juxtapositions that illuminate how the problem started, and how it’ll be in the future.

When you’re telling the story, you get to draw all the lines….

(8) 1990’S GAME MAGAZINE. The Digital Antiquarian presents a bit of video game history in “The Shareware Scene, Part 3: The id Boys”.

…Thus he was receptive on the day in early 1990 when one of his most productive if headstrong programmers, a strapping young metalhead named John Romero, suggested that Softdisk start a new MS-DOS disk magazine, dedicated solely to games — the one place where, what with Apogee’s success being still in its early stages, shareware had not yet clearly cut into Softdisk’s business model. After some back-and-forth, the two agreed to a bi-monthly publication known as Gamer’s Edge, featuring at least one — preferably two — original games in each issue. To make it happen, Romero would be allowed to gather together a few others who were willing to work a staggering number of hours cranking out games at an insane pace with no resources beyond themselves for very little money at all. Who could possibly refuse an offer like that?

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

May 15, 1955X Minus One’s “Universe” first aired. It’s based off Heinlein’s Universe which was first published in Astounding Science Fiction’s May 1941 issue, and George Lefferts wrote the script. The cast includes Donald P. Buka, Peter Kapell, Bill Griffis, Abby Lewis, Edgar Stehli, Jason Seymour and Ian Martin. Untold generations of people traveling in a giant’s spaceship have lost track of who they are and what they set out to do. They think that their ship is the Universe. You can listen to it here.                    

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 15, 1856 – L. Frank Baum. His Wizard of Oz has been translated into 50 languages, selling 3 million copies by the time it entered the public domain in 1956, applauded by the Library of Congress in 2000; 13 more Ozbooks, 28 others, 83 shorter stories, 200 poems, at least 42 scripts, under his own and half a dozen pen names.  While living in the Dakota Territory, he was Secretary of the Aberdeen Woman’s Suffrage Club, and hosted Susan B. Anthony (Aberdeen is now a city in the State of South Dakota).  He knew French, German, Italian. He said at the start that Wizardaspired to fantasy “in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heart-aches and nightmares are left out,” at which he succeeded. Last words, to his wife, “Now we can cross the Shifting Sands.”  (Died 1919) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1848 – Viktor Vasnetsov.  Co-founder of Russian folklorist and romantic-nationalist panting, key figure in Russian Revivalist movement.  Designed churches, mosaics, a revenue stamp, the façade of the Tretyakov Gallery.  Worked on stage designs and costumes for Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Snow Maiden.  V’s fantasy and epics irritated radicals, who said he undermined realist principles.  Here is a flying carpet.  (Died 1926) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1891 – Mikhail Bulgakov.  Had he only written The Master and Margarita, that would have sufficed us; an elaborate strange masterpiece; Margarita, not the Master, allies herself with the Devil – maybe; I talk a little about it here; in fact not published until decades after his death, too dangerous.  Mick Jagger said it inspired “Sympathy for the Devil”.  Try this Website.  See also DiaboliadThe Fatal EggsHeart of a Dog.  Two rival museums in Moscow – in the same building; one in Kiev.  (Died 1940) [JH]
  • Born May 15. 1906 – Ellen MacGregor.  Librarian, cataloguer, researcher, editrix of the Illinois Women’s Press Ass’n monthly bulletin Pen Points; also worked in Florida and Hawaii.  For children’s fantasy with accurate science she wrote Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars and Goes UnderseaGoes to the Arctic published after her death; then 13 more, 16 shorter stories, by Dora Pantell.  Lavinia Pickerell, prim, angular, and devoted to her pet cow, is an inadvertent stowaway on a rocket to Mars in her first adventure, but she is unflappable.  (Died 1954) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1932Jack Cady. He won the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Bram Stoker Award, an impressive feat indeed. McDowell’s Ghost gives a fresh spin on the trope of seeing seeing a War Between The States ghost, and The Night We Buried Road Dog is another ghost story set in early Sixties Montana and is quite horrid. Underland Press printed all of his superb short fiction into two volumes, Phantoms: Collected Writings, Volume 1 and Fathoms: Collected Writings, Volume 2. (Died 2004.) (CE)
  • Born May 15, 1948 Brian Eno, 72. Worth noting if only for A Multimedia Album Based on the Complete Text of Robert Sheckley’s In a Land of Clear Colors, though all of his albums have a vague SF feeling  to them such as Music for Civic Recovery CentreJanuary 07003: Bell Studies for the Clock of  The Long Now and Everything That Happens Will Happen Today which could the name of Culture mind ships. Huh. I wonder if his music will show up in the forthcoming Culture series? (CE)
  • Born May 15, 1955 Nina Kiriki Hoffman, 55. Her book The Thread That Binds the Bones, won the Bram Stoker Award for first novel. In addition, her short story “Trophy Wives” won a Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Other novels include The Silent Strength of Stones (a sequel to Thread), A Fistful of Sky, and A Stir of Bones. All are excellent. Most of her work has a strong sense of regionalism being set In California or the Pacific Northwest. (CE)
  • Born May 15, 1955 – Takayuki Tatsumi.  Professor at Keiô University, chair of K.U. SF Study Group; editor, essayist, interviewer, theoretician; 21st Nihon SF Taishô (Grand Prize) from Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of Japan.  President, American Literature Society of Japan 2014-2017, Poe Society of Japan 2009-  ; editorial boards of ParadoxaMark Twain StudiesJournal of Transnat’l American Studies.  In English, for SF ChronicleSF EyeN.Y. Review of SFSF Studies, the 65th and 72nd Worldcons’ Souvenir Books; The Liverpool Companion to World SF Film (2014); The Cambridge History of Postmodern Literature (2016).  [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1974 – Ahmet Zappa.  Brother of Dweezil, Moon Unit, and Diva; wrote song “Frogs with Dirty Little Lips” with his father Frank.  Debut novel (and interiors), The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless; debut film, The Odd Life of Timothy Green; television, three-season host of Robotica; co-author with wife Shana Muldoon Zappa, Sage and the Journey to Wishworld and 14 more Star Darlings books.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME. Polygon’s Alan Kistler asserts “Superheroes are scrapping their secret identities, and it’s for the best”. This might sound a little counterintuitive at a time when we’re all supposed to be wearing masks.

In the beginning, nearly every superhero had a secret identity. It protected them from villainous revenge, and created a delicious dramatic tension while interacting with loved ones who had no inkling of their other life. But the strict secret identity is fast becoming an anachronism.

Most heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe operate in the open, while other caped cinema stars, like Supergirl, are perfectly willing to trust close allies with their name. In comics, the X-Men no longer hide who they are or where they live. Even Superman’s identity has been revealed to the entire world twice in the last decade.

And all of this is for the better, delivering not only greater dramatic possibilities, but also a healthier idea of heroism….

(13) FANTASTIC FOUR COMICS. Marvel’s tells fans that Fantastic Four: Antithesis is coming in August, the first full-length Fantastic Four story ever illustrated by industry legend Neal Adams.

Adams is joined by Eisner Award-winning writer Mark Waid (Daredevil, Captain America, Fantastic Four), who jam-packs this tale with a fan-favorite roster of Fantastic Four heroes and villains! Together, this celebrated creative team create a new nemesis for the Fantastic Four guaranteed to send shockwaves throughout all of fandom.  

 …Adams shares [Waid’s] enthusiasm about the project. “I have always had the sense of missing the chance to draw the Fantastic Four. It was a quiet sense, since I’ve had every opportunity to do my favorites. More, I felt Kirby and Buscema had done it all, hadn’t they…?” he begins. “When Marvel’s Tom Brevoort asked if I’d like to do the Fantastic Four, I knew I had to ask for Galactus and the Silver Surfer as well. I am humbled and thankful to Tom for the opportunity.”

Who or what is the Antithesis, and will the combined might of the Fantastic Four, the Silver Surfer, and Galactus himself be enough to defeat it?

(14) DC COMICS ARE BIG HITS TOO. The Hollywood Reporter has the numbers: “DC Universe Readership Jumps 35 Percent During Shutdown”.

Two ‘Batman’ titles were atop the most-read list.

With comic book stores closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was an open question just what fans would do to get their fix. New figures released from digital service DC Universe suggest that the answer was, simply, “go online.”

(15) ON THE WILDSIDE. John Betancourt has launched a Kickstarter appeal to produce “Staying In Place”, an “anthology of stories to pass the time.” Various support levels also bring additional rewards in the form of reading material.

With so many people staying at home right now, we at Wildside Press and the Black Cat Mystery & Science Fiction Ebook Club are putting together a mammoth anthology of amazing stories for you to read and enjoy. The anthology will feature 20 novels and short stories by iconic authors such as John Gregory Betancourt,  Paul di Filippo, John W. Campbell Jr., Robert E. Howard, G.D. Falksen, and many more to be announced.  But we need your help to make this happen. We are coming to Kickstarter to fund the anthology. In return for your support, you get the anthology itself, some of our fantastic ebooks, and even a subscription to the Black Cat which gives subscribers 7+ free ebooks every week, including new releases of all of the great Wildside Press magazines (WeirdbookBlack Cat Mystery MagazineSherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, and even the upcoming revival of Startling Stories, the famous pulp magazine).

(16) BORN TO BE DUMPED. “‘Men of Middle-earth as Bad Ex-Boyfriends’ Thread Is Absolutely Perfect” – so says The Mary Sue.

Every now and then, a Twitter act of creation reminds us that good things can still emerge from our hellish Internet stomping grounds. Such is the case with a viral thread from writer Alex Arrelia, in which Arrelia painstakingly—and hilariously—takes on J.R.R. Tolkien’s characters under the heading of “Men of Middle Earth as bad ex boyfriends who ruined your life.”

Thread starts here. Some examples —

(17) THIS CLOSE! And don’t forget Tolkien’s ultimate Bad Boy — “The Lord Of The Rings: 10 Ways Sauron Could Have Won” at ScreenRant.

10. He Could Have Set A Guard On Mount Doom

Most obviously, Sauron could have prevented the destruction of the One Ring–and thus the unraveling of his power–if he’d only done a little more to make sure that Mount Doom was protected from approach and infiltration. Indeed, it is precisely the fact that it is so unguarded–because Sauron couldn’t imagine that anyone would want to destroy the Ring rather than use it – that allows Frodo and Sam to sneak up on it. Sauron is defeated by his own inability to think outside of himself. 

(18) SHE-RA ARRIVES. NPR’s Victoria Whitley-Berry reviews a reboot: “In She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power, True Strength Is In Being Yourself”.

Showrunner Noelle Stevenson has always been a fan of science fiction and fantasy. As a kid, she loved it all: the epic space battles, the magic, the quests that seemed larger than life.

But there was a problem with her favorite childhood stories, like Star Wars and The Lord of The Rings series. “I never quite saw myself reflected in them” Stevenson says, “certainly not at the heart of the story.”

There weren’t a lot of women.

Of course, there’s interstellar rebel Princess Leia and Nazgûl-slaying Éowyn. But Stevenson wanted a female version of Luke Skywalker and a terror-inducing femme Lord Sauron.

So when she started writing stories of her own, she made sure kids like her felt seen, in more ways than one.

…When Netflix and DreamWorks wanted to reboot She-Ra: Princess of Power — an epic showdown between magical princesses and an evil alien invader — Stevenson was all in.

She kept much of the original show’s action and adventure — like the original, the rebooted show takes place on the planet Etheria, and one of the princesses who is trying to stop the evil Horde army from taking over is named Adora.

…Stevenson did make one small but important change to the show: Its name. The Netflix and DreamWorks version is She-Ra and the PRINCESSES of Power. All the princesses are important.

She also gathered an all-female writing staff to update this team of powerful women. In the original show, the princesses are white, skinny and presumably straight. The new rebellion includes women of color. They’re women in all different shapes and sizes. And there are women who love other women.

Princess Weekes is an assistant editor at The Mary Sue, a website that covers the intersection of women and fandom. She’s been writing about the She-Ra reboot since the beginning.

Weekes says that because the team behind She-Ra is made up of LGBTQ people, the stories on the show give genuine representation of queer life for kids.

“You allow queerness for young kids to be just normalized in general,” Weekes says. “What I think Noelle Stevenson and the entire She-Ra team has done is create a society and place where characters can exist, but their biggest problem isn’t that they’re gay.”

(19) THAWED. “Disney Closes ‘Frozen’ on Broadway, Citing Pandemic” – the New York Times has the story.

Even Queen Elsa’s magic is no match for the coronavirus pandemic.

Disney Theatrical Productions said Thursday that its stage adaptation of “Frozen” will not reopen on Broadway once the pandemic eases, making the musical the first to be felled by the current crisis.

“Frozen” had been the weakest of the three Disney musicals that had been running on Broadway — the others were “The Lion King” and “Aladdin” — and the company made it clear that it does not believe audiences will return in substantial enough numbers to sustain all of those shows.

“This difficult decision was made for several reasons but primarily because we believe that three Disney productions will be one too many titles to run successfully in Broadway’s new landscape,” Thomas Schumacher, the president of Disney Theatrical Productions, said in a letter to his staff….

(20) LET THE SUN SHINE IN. WIRED found something the military would let them talk about for “A Secret Space Plane is Carrying a Solar Experiment to Orbit”, and it has a connection to the Golden Age of SF.

On Saturday, the US Air Force is expected to launch its secret space plane, X-37B, for a long-duration mission in low Earth orbit. The robotic orbiter looks like a smaller version of the space shuttle and has spent nearly eight of the past 10 years in space conducting classified experiments for the military. Almost nothing is known about what X-37B does up there, but ahead of its sixth launch the Air Force gave some rare details about its cargo.

…[The] real star of the show is a small solar panel developed by the physicists at the Naval Research Lab that will be used to conduct the first orbital experiment with space-based solar power.

“This is a major step forward,” says Paul Jaffe, an electronics engineer at the Naval Research Lab and lead researcher on the project. “This is the first time that any component geared towards a solar-powered satellite system has ever been tested in orbit.”

Space-based solar power is all about getting solar power to Earth no matter the weather or the time of day. The basic idea is to convert the sun’s energy into microwaves and beam it down. Unlike terrestrial solar panels, satellites in a sufficiently high orbit might only experience darkness for a few minutes per day. If this energy could be captured, it could provide an inexhaustible source of power no matter where you are on the planet.

It’s an idea that was cooked up by the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in the 1940s; since then, beamed power experiments have been successfully tested several times on Earth. But the experiment on X-37B will be the first time the core technologies behind microwave solar power will be tested in orbit.

(21) TIPTOE THROUGH THE TULIPS. Not genre, but one stunning upside to the pandemic: “The Most Beautiful Flower Garden In The World Has No Visitors For The First Time In 71 Years And I Got To Capture It (31 Pics)” at Bored Panda.

Most of you probably know the world-famous Keukenhof, the most beautiful tulip garden in the world. Every year millions of tourists visit this garden. That’s a huge lot considering the garden is only open in spring! Every year, a hard-working crew makes sure the garden looks as good as ever, including this year!

This year is ‘special’. Keukenhof is closed, for the first time in 71 years. But that doesn’t mean there are no flowers. On the contrary; the flowers look incredible and get as much attention and care as always. All the passionate gardeners do their work as they’re used to. Because even without people, nature and the show of the garden goes on….

(22) UPDATE. Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer’s separation was reported in a recent Pixel Scroll. Gaiman has now made a blog entry about it, which includes an open letter to the world that the couple collaborated on: “Where I Am, What I’m Doing, How I’m Doing And How I Got Here”. Gaiman’s intro says in part —

…Once the world opens up and travel gets easier Amanda and Ash and I are looking forward to being together again in Woodstock. (Yes, I’ve seen the newsfeed headlines saying I’ve moved to the UK, and even that we’re divorcing. No, I haven’t moved the UK, and yes, Amanda and I are still very much together, even with half a world between us.) 

Thank you to everyone who’s been kind and nice and helpful, while Amanda and my problems got rather more public than either of us is comfortable with. We love each other, and we love Ash, and we will sort ourselves out, in private, which is much the best place for things like this….

And the couple’s joint letter follows.

(23) NOT THAT SUBTLE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Kyle Mizokami, in “The Space Force Receives Its ‘Kobayashi Maru’ Space-Tracking System” in Popular Mechanics says it’s no coincidence that Space Force’s warning system is a Star Trek reference; the Space Force also has a Kessel Run, and Mizokami thinks it’s no coincidence that the acronym for the force’s Space Operations Center is SPOC.

The U.S. Space Force announced the development of a brand new software package designed to track and monitor objects in space. Dubbed “Kobayashi Maru,” the cloud-based program was designed to modernize the way the U.S. Air Force—and now the U.S. Space Force—interoperates in space but with its allies in the “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing alliance.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Cliff Ramshaw, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, JJ, David Goldfarb, Paul Di Filippo, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 4/29/20 The Voyage Of The Space Pixel

(1) RECOGNIZING THE TROUBLE. Yoon Ha Lee’s Phoenix Extravagant is set for an October release. Learn more about the author’s experience writing it in “Comma-Shaped Jades And Other Curiosities: An Article By Yoon Ha Lee” at SciFiNow.uk.

One of the things people warned me about when it comes to writing novels is that no matter how smoothly novel N goes, there’s no guarantee that novel N+1 will also go smoothly. I learned this the hard way in writing Phoenix Extravagant.

I thought I had the plot all planned out, and I knew my protagonist was going to be a painter, and that there would be a mecha dragon. As for the worldbuilding, well, I’d make that up on the fly.  That’s what I did with the hexarchate and it more or less worked then; why not now?

You’re probably thinking that making things up on the fly is where I went wrong, and that’s not quite true. If I try to linearize worldbuilding down a checklist, it kills the world flat dead for me. No: the issue was a bigger one. I picked the wrong setting….

(2) WHERE’S THE BEEF? What’s the first thing New Zealanders wanted to do when the government eased lockdown restrictions from level four to level three? Not what I’d guess. “New Zealanders are so eager to eat burgers after the coronavirus lockdown that police are having to enforce crowd control”.

Police in New Zealand have been required to enforce crowd control measures at a popular fast food outlet after large numbers of people rushed to buy burgers following a relaxing of the country’s lockdown measures on Tuesday.

New Zealand, which has reported 1,474 confirmed and probable coronavirus cases and 19 deaths, spent almost five weeks under a strict, level four lockdown. The country eased into level three restrictions on Tuesday, meaning some children could go back to school and 400,000 people were able to go back to work.

But for many, it was a chance to finally eat the fast food they had been craving. Under level three restrictions, a limited number of restaurants and cafes have been permitted to reopen. According to TVNZ, that resulted in long queues of cars at KFC and McDonald’s drive-thrus outlets throughout Auckland, the country’s biggest city.

(3) ROBOT CENTENARY NEARS.  Jaroslav Olsa Jr. has a plan for celebrating Capek’s famous robot story when its hundredth birthday rolls around. If you can help, email him at olsa-jr (at) post (dot) cz

One hundred years ago, in November 1920, drama “R. U. R. Rossum´s Universal Robots” by Czech writer Karel Capek (1890-1938) saw its first edition. Story about a rebellion of artificial people ending with an extinction of humanity saw the first use of the word “robot”.

Though Isaac Asimov didn´t like the play, he rightly commented that R. U. R. is “immortal for that one word. It contributed the word ‘robot’ not only to English but, through English, to all the languages in which science fiction is now written.”

This year we will have an anthology of original science fiction stories set and connected to Capek´s world of R.U.R. But we are also thinking about an international anthology of the best robotic stories from all over the world… as another homage to maybe the most famous Czech – ROBOT. If you know such excellent piece from the East or West, South or North, send me a copy of the story…

(4) PRATCHETT’S FUTURE ON THE SMALL SCREEN. Media adaptations of favorite writers’ work can be chancy, but Variety makes this sound like a great idea: “Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ Series to Be Adapted by Endeavor Content, Motive Pictures”.

Narrativia, the production company launched by Pratchett in 2012, has struck an exclusive development deal with Motive Pictures and Endeavor Content for a series of TV adaptations. It is not yet known which of the “Discworld” books will be adapted initially….

Rhianna Pratchett, co-director of Narrativia and Pratchett’s daughter, said: “Discworld teems with unique characters, witty narrative and incredible literary tropes, and we feel these should be realised on screen in a form that my father would be proud of. It’s wonderful to embark on this journey with Motive and Endeavor Content, who both perfectly share our vision to make this a reality.”

Rob Wilkins, managing director of Narrativia, added: “The Discworld books are a huge source of joy to millions of readers, and rightly so; every paragraph, phrase and footnote was crafted with brilliance and flair and we are committed to bringing Terry’s world to the screen with the respect and care it deserves. With this partnership, we are delighted to say that Discworld has finally found its home.”

(5) FLYING SOLO. Cinema’s hottest pilot is in trouble again. “Harrison Ford plane incident under investigation by FAA” reports PageSix. He did the Kessel run in thirteen parsecs, but he screws up crossing a runway at a Southern California airport.

Harrison Ford says an airport runway incident now under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration came about because he “misheard a radio instruction.”

The 77-year-old star, who is an avid pilot, was operating a plane at California’s Hawthorne Airport on April 24 when he crossed a runway while another aircraft was landing.

“Mr. Ford crossed the airport’s only runway in his aircraft after he misheard a radio instruction from [air traffic control],” Ford’s rep told Page Six in a statement Wednesday. “He immediately acknowledged the mistake and apologized to ATC for the error. The purpose of the flight was to maintain currency and proficiency in the aircraft.”

His rep added that no one was injured in the incident and “there was never any danger of a collision.”

The FAA confirmed that the two aircraft were approximately 3,600 feet away from each other at the time….

(6) WRITE IF YOU GET WORK. The good news is — “Harrison Ford Reportedly Being Eyed For Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 Role”. Let WeGotThisCovered tell you all about it.

…According to our sources – the same ones who told us that the Guardians will cameo in Thor: Love and Thunder and Now You See Me 3 is in development, both of which have since been confirmed – Harrison Ford is reportedly wanted for a villainous part in the film. It’s unclear exactly which one it could be at the moment, but one possibility is the High Evolutionary, a role that his former Star Wars co-star Mark Hamill has been linked to in the past. In certain canon, the character has a hand in the creation and subsequent experiments on Rocket, which ties into the vague plot details that we know so far.

(7) ANDERS INTERVIEW. At Black Gate, Brandon Crilly introduces his “Interview with Charlie Jane Anders, Recorded Live at Can*Con 2019”.

At Can*Con 2019 in Ottawa, Ontario, Author Guest of Honour Charlie Jane Anders sits down for a one-on-one with programming lead and author Brandon Crilly, discussing her latest novels, short fiction, and her work in fandom and the SFF community.

Which made me curious what’s the latest subject Charlie Jane Anders and Annalee Newitz are discussing on the Our Opinions Are Correct podcast. The answer — “Episode 55: 9 New Shows You Should Be Watching Right Now”.

In these tough times, we need great TV shows more than ever. We have lots of opinions about nine new series that are making us happy because they’re smart, fun, and — best of all — colorful! Plus, we’ve got recommendations for over a dozen more not-so-new shows that are worth digging up from last year, or last century. Stay safe at home and plunge your mind into dazzling new worlds. 

(8) OSCARS AFFECTED. NPR publicizes a “Academy Awards Eligibility Rules Change Due To COVID-19”.

With movie theaters shuttered and film festivals canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, films once slated for the big screen are now premiering in people’s homes, streaming on digital platforms or showing as video on demand. In an unprecedented move, the board governing the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will allow movies that originally had theatrical release dates but are now being screened online to be eligible to be considered for awards.

“The historically tragic COVID-19 pandemic necessitates this temporary exception to our awards eligibility rules,” Academy president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson wrote in a statement. Until now, to qualify for awards, a film had to run at least seven consecutive days in a commercial theater in Los Angeles County. Under the new rules, when theaters reopen, films may qualify for awards if they have theatrical runs in L.A., New York, California’s Bay Area, Chicago, Miami or Atlanta.

(9) WHERE TO HEAR FROM DOCTOROW. The Essence of Wonder livestream will offer “Cory Doctorow Being Civil With Security Experts” on May 9.

Cory Doctorow will join Gadi [Evron] on Saturday (9 May) to talk on DRM, Right to Repair, and COVID-19/Med-Tech, read from “Unauthorized Bread”, and moderate a panel discussion featuring Steve Crocker, Martin Roesch, Keren Elazari, Ron Gula, Dmitri Alperovich, and Caleb Sima, discussing the challenges of digital policy when facing security and privacy realities.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 29, 1950 Dimension X’s “No Contact” aired. The copy at the time described the episode such, “It was in the year 1982 that space men first discovered the great galactic barrier… 5 exploratory ships went out and none came back each disappearing mysteriously at the same vanishing point an invisible wall somewhere in the vast outer reaches that became known as the wrecker of spaceships.” Mel Brandt as usual was the announcer and  with George Lefferts being the writer, and the cast being Donald Buka, Matt Crowley and  Cameron Prudhomme. You can hear it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 29, 1887 H. Bedford-Jones. Pulp writer of whom only maybe ten percent of his twelve hundred stories could be considered genre, but some such as the Jack Solomon novels, say John Solomon, Argonaut and John Solomon’s Biggest Gam,e are definitely genre. Like many of the early pulp writers, he used a number of pen names, to wit Michael Gallister, Allan Hawkwood, Gordon Keyne, H. E. Twinells and L. B. Williams. Wildside Press published in 2006 a collection of his short stories, The House of Skulls and Other Tales from the Pulps. (Died 1949.)
  • Born April 29, 1908 Jack Williamson. I’ll frankly admit that he’s one of those authors that I know I’ve read a fair amount by can’t recall any specific titles as I didn’t collect him. A quick research study suggests the Legion of Space series was what I liked best. What did y’all like by him? (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 29, 1923 Irvin Kershner. Director and producer of such genre works as the Amazing Stories and seaQuest DSV series, Never Say Never Again, RoboCop 2 and The Empire Strikes Back. By the way several of the sources I used in compiling this Birthday claimed that was the best Star Wars film. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 29, 1943 Russell M. Griffin. Author of but four novels as he died far too young of a heart attack. The Makeshift God, his first novel, I remember as being a rather decent dystopian affair, and Century’s End was even bleaker. He wrote but nine stories. He alas has not made it into the digital realm yet. (Died 1986.)
  • Born April 29, 1946 Humphrey Carpenter. Biographer whose notable output of biographies includes J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography; he also edited The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. He is responsible for The Inklings: CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Charles Williams and their Friends. He also wrote the engaging Mr. Majeika children’s series which was decidedly genre. (Died 2005.)
  • Born April 29, 1960 Robert J. Sawyer, 60. Hominids won the Hugo for Best Novel at Torcon 3, and The Terminal Experiment won a Nebula as well. Completing a hat trick, he won a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Mindscan too. Very impressive.  And then there’s the FlashForward series which lasted for thirteen episodes that was based on his novel of that name.  Interesting series that ended far too soon. 
  • Born April 29, 1958 Michelle Pfeiffer, 62. Selina Kyle aka Catwoman in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. She was also in the much better The Witches of Eastwick as Sukie Ridgemont and was Brenda Landers in the “Hospital” segment of Amazon Women on the Moon. She played Laura Alden in Wolf, voiced Tsipp?r?hin The Prince of Egypt, was Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, voiced Eris in Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, was Lamia in Stardust and is playing The Wasp (Janet van Dyne) in Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Born April 29, 1970 Uma Thurman, 50. Venus / Rose in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Kage’s favorite film), Maid Marian in the Robin Hood starring Patrick Bergin which I highly recommend, Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin (bad, bad film) which she will follow by being Emma Peel in The Avengers, an even worse stinker of a film. 

(12) MORE ABOUT KERSHNER. [Item by John King Tarpinian.] Today being Irvin Kershner’s celebration of what would have been his 97th birthday, here is a little photo and story. “Kersh” is the older gentleman in the blue shirt and black jacket holding court with the line, (The hat in the lower right belongs to George Clayton Johnson.)  This was the premiere of Roger Lay Jr’s graduate thesis film, Chrysalis, based on Ray Bradbury’s story. Ray was sitting to George’s left, out of picture.  They held court before the screening.

Kersh kind of snuck into the theater, unbeknownst to Roger, so he was not introduced.  Once the screening was over and thank yous expressed people in attendance were getting up and heading for the door or giving a final good-bye to Ray.  I realized that most of the people in the audience were “future” directors.  I shouted out how many liked The Empire Strikes Back?  All hands were raised.  I pointed out Kersh, introduced him and the fact that he directed it.  A line quickly formed.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range depends on a little inside joke. Robert Bloch would have understood it.
  • The Argyle Sweater returns with another batch of “not-so-famous second careers” – three are genre.

(14) A PAIR TO DRAW TO. Two Chairs Talking, the podcast where past Australian Worldcon chairs Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg “talk about books, movies and other stuff,” is celebrating its one-year anniversary! Grigg says Episode-26: “Now We Are One” is “a special episode in which Perry and I each pick our five favourite books/series of all time and explain why we love them so much.”

For the record, the books discussed are: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, The Tango Briefing by Adam Hall, The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett, Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough, and The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles, and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

(15) CATCHING UP. Wil Wheaton admits it was news to him — “Radio Free Burrito Presents: A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift”. Hear him read it on Soundcloud.

A Modest Proposal is brilliant, biting, hilarious satire, that is as horrifyingly relevant in 2020 as it was in 1729. This reads like one of those brilliant editorials from The Onion, or a Hannity monologue.

… By the time I was in middle school, I was struggling to deal with my abusive father, and I just did what I had to in school to keep my grades up and not fail. My teachers were fantastic, but the curriculum was very narrow, and there was little appreciation for art and literature in it. When I got into high school, I was working full time on Star Trek. I had a magnificent on-set tutor who took me all the way from grade 9 to grade 12, who encouraged me to do all the things my previous educators had not, but by that time it was just too late for me. I have regretted all of this, from the moment I became aware of it in my 30s, and I’ve been working hard to educate myself in the middle of my life, since I was not educated fully at the beginning of my life.

I am so embarrassed and disappointed that my education is a mile wide and half an inch deep. I realized this years ago, and I’ve been doing what I can to educate myself, using college lectures that are online, and by reading as much as I can, to expose myself to the great works of art and literature that my parents didn’t care about, and my educators didn’t teach me about….

(16) PROMISE MORE THAN FULFILLED. Tsana Dolichva reviews The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz”:

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz is a time-travelling science fiction novel. I picked it up based on the promise that there would be both time travel and lesbians, though it turned out to be more diverse than just that description implies….

…But the overarching story is about fighting for rights and the methods by which history is made/changed. An ongoing debate in the book concerns the efficacy of collective action vs the Great Man theory; whether history can be changed incrementally and/or whether killing Hitler actually does anyone any good. But this is more a book about the characters, mostly women, looking out for each other, no matter the time period. If that’s your jam, then this may well be the book for you.

(17) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter says tonight a Jeopardy! contestant’s genre answer was mistaken.

The category: 19th Century novels.

The answer: “It’s first line ends, ‘the period was so far like the present period…for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.'”

Wrong question: “What is ‘The Time Machine’?”

Correct question: “What is ‘A Tale of Two Cities’?”

(18) LIKE FANTASIA’S HIPPOS. BBC reports“Dancing gargantuan black holes perform on cue”.

Astronomers have been able to test key consequences of Einstein’s theories by studying the way a couple of black holes move around each other.

One of these objects is a true colossus – a hole weighing 18 billion times the mass of our Sun; the other not quite so big at “only” 150 million Sun masses.

Scientists managed to predict their interactions very precisely.

They did so by including their warping effects on space-time and by assuming the larger hole had a smooth “surface”.

The black hole pairing, known as OJ 287, exists about 3.5 billion light-years from Earth.

Scientists have long recognised a sudden brightening from this system that occurs twice every 12 years. The outburst of energy is equivalent to a trillion suns turning on at once in the holes’ host galaxy.

The best explanation for this extraordinary behaviour is that the smaller object is routinely crashing through a disc of gas and dust that’s accreting on to its larger companion, heating the inspiraling material to extremely high temperatures in the process.

But this flaring is somewhat irregular. Sometimes the brightening episodes in the 12-year period occur as little as one year apart; other times, as much as 10 years apart.

It speaks to the complexity of the path the small hole takes around its partner – a complexity the research team has now built into a highly sophisticated model.

(19) NO PET ROCKS. The court extends a fannish rule: “AI cannot be recognised as an inventor, US rules”.

An artificial intelligence system has been refused the right to two patents in the US, after a ruling only “natural persons” could be inventors.

The US Patent and Trademark Office rejected two patents where the AI system Dabus was listed as the inventor, in a ruling on Monday.

US patent law had previously only specified eligible inventors had to be “individuals”.

It follows a similar ruling from the UK Intellectual Property Office.

(20) CHECKING UP ON THE OTHER DOCTOR. “Dr Chuck Tingle is the glue holding this fragile and crumbling existence together,” says Jake Dowzell. The current crisis has inspired these two topical tinglers.

Meanwhile, a Tingle fan has found a way to show love through Animal Crossing.

(21) SEEDING TIME. Nothing to do with sff, but I found it a relaxing report.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/23/19 The Little Green Man Was Very Sad, One Pixel Was All He Had

(1) WEAR FOR ART THOU. The Geek’s Guide to Ugly Christmas Sweaters promises their Star Wars Christmas sweaters “will keep you warmer than the inside of a tauntaun (and smell better, too!)” They also offer designs from Marvel, DC, and Disney film franchises, as well as Game of Thrones and Harry Potter.

(2) #FLYINGWHILEDISABLED. Mari Ness has battled Aer Lingus for repairs to her broken wheelchair. Thread starts here.

(3) SFF AT NATIONAL BOOK FESTIVAL. [Item by Rob Thornton.] The Library of Congress taped the presentations made at this year’s National Book Festival and they are available at the Library’s website. Here are four of the presentations that were related to SF/F:

(4) THE BEST IN ADVERTISING. The marketing campaign for Captain Marvel got nominated. Yes, the marketing campaign. “‘Captain Marvel,’ ‘Lion King,’ ‘Irishman’ Marketing Campaigns Nominated for Clio Entertainment Awards”The Hollywood Reporter has the highlights. The complete Clio shortlist is here.

Marketing campaigns for Captain Marvel, The Lion King and The Irishman are among the theatrical nominees for the 2019 Clio Entertainment Awards.

On the television side, Killing Eve, The Twilight Zone, Leaving Neverland, When They See Us and Fosse/Verdon made the shortlist for the awards, which will be handed out Nov. 21 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

Craig Robinson is set to host the show, where the bronze, silver, gold and grand award winners also will be revealed.

Other theatrical nominees include campaigns for the upcoming Top Gun sequel, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum.

Nominees also were announced in several other categories, including games and home entertainment.

(5) YOU’RE DARN TOOTIN’ IT’S CINEMA. Is anyone surprised to read that Disney CEO Bob Iger has leaped into the fray? Yahoo! Entertainment reports “Bob Iger Compares ‘Black Panther’ to Scorsese and Coppola Films in Defense of Marvel Movies”.

“When Francis [Ford Coppola] uses the words ‘those films are despicable,’ to whom is he talking? Is he talking to Kevin Feige who runs Marvel, or Taika Waititi who directs or Ryan Coogler who directs for us or Scarlett Johansson,” Iger said. “I don’t get what they’re criticizing us for when we’re making films that people are obviously enjoying going to because they’re doing so by the millions.”

(6) SUPERHERO MOVIES AS A RORSCHACH TEST. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Perhaps you can see what you want to see in your average superhero origin story. Writing in the Guardian, Steve Rose wades into the feud between auteur directors like Martin Scorsese and fans of superhero movies. Without taking a side in the debate, Rose offers a nuanced exploration of superhero stories, superhero fatigue, and fandom. “Auteurs assemble! What caused the superhero backlash?”  

“People who wear masks are driven by trauma,” says Smart’s FBI agent in the new Watchmen. “They’re obsessed with justice because of some injustice they’ve suffered.” Maybe that’s been happening on a global level. Maybe still we need more of it. There are always arguments for and against processing reality through genre escapism and there are always “healthy” and “unhealthy” examples of it.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 23, 1959. “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine” featured Ida Lupino (1918 – 1995) who was the only person to have worked as both actress and though uncredited at the time as a director in the same episode of The Twilight Zone.  She will be credited with directing “The Masks”. She was also the only woman to direct an episode of The Twilight Zone
  • October 23, 1998 T-Rex: Back To The Cretaceous premiered. It was shot for the IMAX 3D format. It starred Liz Stauber, Peter Horton and Kari Coleman. It did very well at the box office and it had a stellar 70% rating at Rotten Tomatoe

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 23, 1880 Una O’Connor. Jenny Hall in the classic Invisible Man. She’d be Minnie in The Bride of Frankenstein, and Mrs. Umney in the Cantervillie Ghost. (Died 1959.)
  • Born October 23, 1918 James Daly. He was Mr. Flint in Trek‘s “Requiem for Methuselah” episode. He also showed up on The Twilight Zone, Mission:Impossible and The Invaders. He was Honorious in The Planet of The Apes, and Dr. Redding in The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler. (Died 1978.)
  • Born October 23, 1953 Ira Steven Behr, 66. Producer and screenwriter responsible for the best of the TreksDeep Space Nine.  He went on to work on Dark Angel, The Twilight Zone, The 4400, Alphas, and Outlander. An impressive tally indeed.
  • Born October 23, 1955 Graeme Revell, 64. New Zealand composer responsible for such genre soundtracks as The Crow, From Dusk Till DawnThe Saint (1997), Titan A.E., Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Daredevil and Sin City.
  • Born October 23, 1959 Sam Raimi, 60. Responsible for, and this is not a complete listing, the Darkman franchise , M.A.N.T.I.S., the Jack of All Trades series that Kage loved, the Cleopatra 2525 series, the Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess series and the Spider-Man trilogy.
  • Born October 23, 1976 Ryan Reynolds, 43. Lead in that Green Lantern film. He was Hannibal King in Blade: Trinity, and Seth in Sabrina the Teenage Witch. He portrayed Wade Wilson / Weapon XI in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. And he’s Deadpool. 
  • Born October 23, 1986 Emilia Clarke, 33. She’ll be most remembered as Daenerys Targaryen on the Game of Thrones. Her genre film roles include Sarah Connor in Terminator Genisys and Kira in Solo: A Star Wars Story. She was also Verena in Voice from the Stone, a horror film. Not to mention Savannah Roundtree in Triassic Attack, a network film clearly ripping off Jurrasic Park.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) A REAL CREDENTIAL. Andrew Porter tells me that in Iceland all hotel personnel get Photo IDs —

(11) SUPE’S AN IMMIGRANT, TOO. Polygon’s Susana Polo alerts readers that “The Superman story that set the Ku Klux Klan back years is now a comic” in an interview with artist Gene Luen Yang.

Superman Smashes the Klan is a three-part graphic novel about a young Superman battling racists, helping an immigrant family, and wrestling with his own status as an alien outsider. It’s extremely charming.

The book comes from the award-winning cartooning team of Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru, who were inspired by the 1946 Superman story “Clan of the Fiery Cross.” That story wasn’t a comic, but rather an arc of the immensely popular Adventures of Superman radio serial. In the audio adventure, Superman battled the racist machinations of the Ku Klux Klan. Excoriated and embarrassed by one of the country’s most popular radio shows, the white supremacist group actually saw a drop in membership.

Superman Smashes the Klan is the first time “Clan of the Fiery Cross” has been adapted to comics…

(12) BICYCLE BUILT FOR BOO. UPI is there when “11,000 zombies go for bike ride in Florida”.

About 11,000 people donned costumes and got on their bicycles for the Zombie Bike Ride, organizers of the annual Fantasy Fest event in Key West, Fla., said.

(13) NO EXCUSE. [Item by Todd Mason.] An excerpt from Peter Orner’s  “A Refusal to Defend or Even Stick Up for the Art of the Short Story” in The Paris Review. Slight, but perhaps useful…and brief, and with some “strong” language…an excerpt:

…I refuse to grovel, to attempt to put into words what will always be unsayable, which is to say that what makes certain stories reach into your chest cavity and rip out what is left of your heart needs not be discussed. It is itself all the justification a story will ever need. The best offense being no defense at all. And so: none offered. And you, my friend, recently said to me, “You’re lucky you write stories. I mean the form is an ideal forum for today’s uber-distracted society. Don’t you think?” And because I love and respect you, in spite of the pain in my soul the question inflicted, here I am answering by not answering which has been my MO for much of life. No I do not think. Ah, screw it: the short story is, with the glorious exception of poetry, absolutely the least ideal mode of expression for our distracted society because it takes a certain kind of intense concentration. Compassionate concentration? To appreciate. To grasp. To love. I’m talking about a reading a story, a good story. What’s a good story? How am I defining—

You tell me. Because you know. This is personal. To you and to me.

(14) EXTRAORDINARY CLAIM. “Haunted house requires 40-page waiver, physical exam” — UPI interviews the host.

A Tennessee haunted house billed as the scariest in the world requires visits to sign a 40-page waiver, pass a physical and undergo a background check — and no one has ever finished the attraction.

Russ McKamey, owner of McKamey Manor in Summertown, said the price of admission is only a bag of food for his five dogs, and the prize for finishing is $20,000, but no one has ever collected the prize money.

… The visitors must then watch a 2-hour video called And Then There Were None, which features footage of every visitor from July 2017 and August 2019 quitting before the end of the experience. Visitors leave by uttering the code phrase, “You really don’t want to do this.”

(15) INSURANCE CLAIM. The house in this commercial is a little creepy, nothing that would make you forget what they’re selling, however.

The gecko helps a new homeowner search through the attic of his home, and makes some creepy discoveries.

(16) CUBESATS PREVAIL. “Itty-Bitty Satellites Take On Big-Time Science Missions”.

Tiny satellites are taking on a big-time role in space exploration.

CubeSats are small, only about twice the size of a Rubik’s Cube. As the name suggests, they’re cube-shaped, 4 inches on each side, and weigh in at about 3 pounds. But with the miniaturization of electronics, it’s become possible to pack a sophisticated mission into a tiny package.

…”I saw a flyer on a bus stop that said, ‘Want to build a satellite?’ ” says Hannah Goldberg. At the time, in 1999, she was an undergraduate engineering major at the University of Michigan. The flyer caught her attention, and she decided that building satellites was exactly what she wanted to do.

Today, Goldberg works at GomSpace, a Danish satellite company making CubeSats for the European Space Agency.

“In the beginning, in the early days of CubeSats, they kind of had a bad reputation,” Goldberg says. “People didn’t think you could do much science or much engineering benefit with them.”

…But with the advent of smartphones, Goldberg says, engineers started getting really good at packing a bunch of electronics into a small space. CubeSats started getting more sophisticated, and the cost of electronics that could be used in space came down. Scientists started to take notice.

(17) QUANTUM LEAP? “Google claims ‘quantum supremacy’ for computer”.

Google says an advanced computer has achieved “quantum supremacy” for the first time, surpassing the performance of conventional devices.

The technology giant’s Sycamore quantum processor was able to perform a specific task in 200 seconds that would take the world’s best supercomputers 10,000 years to complete.

Scientists have been working on quantum computers for decades because they promise much faster speeds.

In their Nature paper, John Martinis of Google, in Mountain View, and colleagues set the processor a random sampling problem – where it checks a set of numbers that has a truly random distribution.

Sycamore was able to complete the task in three minutes and 20 seconds. By contrast, the researchers claim in their paper that Summit, the world’s best supercomputer, would take 10,000 years to complete the task.

(18) THE DAY OF THEIR RETURN. The BBC pleads “Terminator Dark Fate: Please terminate this franchise”

Original stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton are reunited in this latest instalment of the cyborg franchise – but otherwise it’s pointless, writes Nicholas Barber.

Well, he did say he’d be back. Arnold Schwarzenegger made that promise in The Terminator in 1984, little realising that “I’ll be back” would become his most famous line of dialogue, or that the homicidal cyborg he was playing would become his defining role. True to his word, he was back for Terminator 2: Judgment Day in 1991, along with the original film’s writer-director, James Cameron, and its co-star, Linda Hamilton. After that, Schwarzenegger was back for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in 2003, Terminator Salvation in 2009, and Terminator Genisys in 2015, but they wandered further and further from the lean, mean high-concept thrills of the 1984 classic. And now he is back again in Terminator Dark Fate.

…[Most] viewers will be waiting for Arnie and Linda to show up – and when they eventually do, it’s worth the wait. Much like Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode in last year’s Halloween – another exercise in course-correcting a franchise by pretending several of the sequels didn’t happen – Hamilton’s Sarah Connor is now silver-haired, surly, armed to the teeth, and with a voice so low and harsh that it sounds as if her cigarette intake will kill her before any robots manage to. She is an icon from the moment she strides out of her car carrying a gun the size of a fully grown Christmas tree. Schwarzenegger’s arrival is even more welcome. That stillness… that deadpan line-delivery… that physical resemblance to one of Stonehenge’s standing stones… even at the age of 72, he is better than anyone at playing an unstoppable cyborg (Luna just doesn’t have the requisite menace). And he is quite touching, too, as a killing machine who has reformed and settled down as a grey-bearded family man.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Robot Chicken’s “O Great Pumpkin” parody.

[Thanks John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Todd Mason, Mike Kennedy, Olav Rokne, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Russell Letson.]

Pixel Scroll 9/9/19 How Odd. It Wasn’t Science Fiction At All

(1) COSPLAY ON THE HOOF. Andrew Liptak’s latest Wordplay starts off with a parade — “Reading List: The Cosplayers of Dragon Con”

…For someone familiar with the world of cosplayers and conventions, it’s an overwhelming affair. For those unfamiliar, it’s an alien world; a new, bizarre mashup of everything pop culture. It’s not quite as big — around 85,000 people attended this year — half that of what the San Diego con typically draws. And while its bigger cousins attract plenty of cosplayers, Dragon Con is a mecca for them. Everywhere you turn, you see your typical superheroes: Spider-man is big this year, as are variations of Marvel’s Tony Stark, depressed Thor from Avengers: Endgame, Valkyrie, Black Widow, Captain Marvel, Deadpool, Superman and Superwoman, and of course Batman.

There are plenty of other properties represented in the crowds. Zelda and Link from various Legends of Zelda mingle with Master Chief and his fellow Spartans from the Halo games. Humanized versions of Pokémon march behind characters from Witcher. There are characters from webcomics, Aziraphale and Crowley from Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens, members of Star Trek’s Starfleet Command, of the Night Watch from Game of Thrones, a long column of Spartans from Frank Miller’s 300, spaceship crew members and soldiers from The Expanse, and members of the 501st and Rebel Legions…

(2) SEE AND HEAR SF HISTORY. Fanac.org has posted a video of Rusty Hevelin interviewing Jack Williamson at MagiCon, the 1992 Worldcon.

MagiCon, the 50th Worldcon, was held in Orlando, Florida in 1992. In this video, Rusty Hevelin interviews author Jack Williamson. Jack talks candidly about his life and career, from his experiences with psychoanalysis to his apprenticeship with (early SF writer) Miles J. Breuer to how he changed with the market over 50 years. WARNING: You have to listen closely as Jack speaks softly, and the interview is very slow till about midway. There’s a lot of “I don’t recall” early on. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with insights into one of the field’s most important early writers.

(3) NOT A DRY SUBJECT. Timothy the Talking Cat inaugurates a new feature at Camestros Felapton: “Timothy Reads: The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin”.

…Of course I immediately dropped the book on discovering it had politics in it. I will not abide politics in my science fiction. Science fiction should be apolitical and concern itself with mighty space empires and their impressive armies colonising new worlds and fighting evil aliens who want to destroy our liberties and steal my guns just like Venezuela and don’t get me started on California.

Anyway, not long after Camestros was shouting “Timothy did you put my book in the toilet!” And he was really angry but it wasn’t me and I don’t know how it got there but he still blamed me even though he didn’t see me do it and whatever happened until innocent until proven guilty? I am most unjustly persecuted….

(4) TV ADAPTATION OF ANDERS BOOK. ScienceFiction.com’s report “Sony Is Bringing Charlie Jane Anders’ ‘The City In The Middle Of The Night’ To The Small Screen” might be a little bit of the news that could not yet be revealed in Carl Slaughter’s recent interview with the author:

Fans of Charlie Jane Anders’ work have something to look forward to as she has struck a deal with Sony Pictures Television to bring ‘The City In The Middle Of The Night’ to the small screen! Sharon Hall (‘The Expanse‘,’Utopia’) is serving as an executive producer and is helping bring the series to life through her Mom de Guerre Productions. Hall’s company has a first-look deal with Sony, and it appears the studios agree that this one is going to be a hit! Nate Miller and Dan Halsted are also slated to be executive producers through Manage-ment who reps Anders.

(5) CREAM OF CONDENSED PANEL. For those who couldn’t make it to her Dublin 2019 panel, Sara L. Uckelman shared the gist of it on the Worldcon’s Facebook page:

Here’s a link to the slides from my talk (the first one in the academic track!) on “Names: Form and Function in Worldbuilding and Conlangs”

And for more background and detail that I didn’t have time to get to in the talk, see these three blog posts:

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 9, 1900 James Hilton. Author of the novel Lost Horizon which was  turned into a film, also called Lost Horizon by director Frank Capra. It is best remembered as the origin of Shangri-La. (Died 1954.)
  • Born September 9, 1915 Richard Webb. Captain Midnight on the Captain Midnight series in the Fifties on CBS. Called Jet Jackson, Flying Commando when it was syndicated. He play Lieutenant Commander Ben Finney in “Court Martial” of Star Trek. And in the Fifties, he was Lane Carson, the lead investigator in The Invisible Monster. (Died 1993.)
  • Born September 9, 1922 Pauline Baynes. She was the first illustrator of some of J. R. R. Tolkien’s lesser known works such as Farmer Giles of Ham and Smith of Wootton Major and of C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. With the help of cartographers from the Bordon military camp in Hampshire, Baynes created a map that Allen & Unwin published as a poster in 1970. Tolkien was generally pleased with it, though he didn’t particularly like her creatures especially her spider. (Died 2008.)
  • Born September 9, 1929 Joseph Wrzos, 90. He edited Amazing Stories and Fantastic under the name Joseph Ross from August 1965 through early 1967. He was responsible for their move to mostly reprints and a bimonthly schedule while the publisher refused to pay authors for the reprints saying he held the rights to them without needing pay additional renumeration and leading to severe conflict with SFWA. With Hannes Bok, he edited in 2012, Hannes Bok: A Life in Illustration.
  • Born September 9, 1943 Tom Shippey, 76. Largely known as a Tolkien expert, though I see he wrote a scholarly 21-page introduction to Flights of Eagles, a collection of James Blish work, and under the pseudonym of John Holm, he is also the co-author, with Harry Harrison, of The Hammer and the Cross trilogy of alternate history novels. And early on, he did a lot of SF related non-fiction tomes such as Fiction 2000: Cyberpunk and the Future of Narrative (edited with George Slusser). 
  • Born September 9, 1949 Jason Van Hollander, 69. A book designer, illustrator, and occasional author. His stories and collaborations with Darrell Schweitzer earned a World Fantasy Award nomination. It was in the Collection category, for Necromancies and Netherworlds: Uncanny Stories. I’m fairly sure he’s done a lot of work for Cemetery Dance which make sense as he’d fit their house style.
  • Born September 9, 1952 Angela Cartwright, 67. Fondly remembered as Penny Robinson on the original Lost in Space. She, like several of her fellow cast members, made an appearance in the Lost in Space film. She appeared in the Logan’s Run series in “The Collectors” episode as Karen, and in Airwolf as Mrs. Cranovich in the “Eruption” episode. 
  • Born September 9, 1952 Tony Magistrale, 67. There’s a particular type of academic mania you sometimes encounter when a professor dives deep into a genre writer. Here we have such when one encounters Stephen King. Between 1988 and 2011, he wrote ten tomes on King and his work ranging from Landscape of Fear: Stephen King’s American Gothic to The Films of Stephen King: From Carrie to The Mist with I think my favorite being The Dark Descent: Essays Defining Stephen King’s Horrorscape. He’s a poet too with such scintillating titles as “Ode for a Dead Werewolf” and “To Edgar Poe on Father’s Day”.
  • Born September 9, 1954 Jeffrey Combs, 65. Though no doubt his best known genre role was as Weyoun, a Vorta, on Deep Space Nine. However, his genre portfolio is really, really long. it starts with Frightmare, a horror film in the early Eighties and encompasses some forty films, twenty-six series and ten genre games. He’s appeared on Babylon 5, plus three Trek series, Voyager and Enterprise being the other two, the Enterprise appearance being the only time an actor played two distinct roles in the same episode.  He’s played H.P. Lovecraft and Herbert West, a character by that author. Each multiple times. 
  • Born September 9, 1955 Janet Fielding,  64. Tegan Jovanka, companion to the Fifth Doctor. The actress had a rather short performing career starting with the Hammer House of Horror series in 1980 where she was Secretary Mandy on the “Charlie Boy” episode” before landing the the Doctor Who gig through 1984 before her career ending in the early Nineties. She was part of the 2013 50th Anniversary The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born September 9, 1960 Hugh Grant, 59. He appeared in The Lair of the White Worm as Lord James D’Ampton and in the remake of The Man from U.N.C.L.E as Mr. Waverly. And he was the Handsome Doctor in Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, the 1999 Doctor Who special made for the Red Nose Day charity telethon. 
  • Born September 9, 1971 Henry Thomas, 48. Elliot in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Let’s just say that he’s had a busy if mostly undistinguished post-E.T. acting career, though I will single him out for his rather good work in Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King and The Haunting of Hill House series. He’s playing Doctor Mid-Nite in the forthcoming Stargirl series on the DCU streaming service. 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) PINEWOOD’S NEW TENANT. BBC ponders “What does Disney’s Pinewood deal mean for Marvel, Bond and British film?”

Disney is to make more blockbusters at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire after signing a deal to take over most of the complex for at least a decade.

The film and TV giant behind the Star Wars, Marvel and Avatar movies will lease 20 stages plus other facilities.

Pinewood is famously the home of James Bond, not a Disney franchise – throwing 007’s future at the site into question.

The deal comes two months after Netflix announced it had taken a long-term lease at Pinewood’s Shepperton Studios.

…From next year, it will have near-exclusive use of the UK’s most famous studio complex. In fact, it will have the whole site except three TV studios and an underwater stage.

Disney hasn’t commented on the deal. But with studio space at a premium, this gives them the security of a long-term dedicated UK base capable of handling their biggest films.

…Which films will be made there?

Disney won’t confirm, but it will continue to be the home of Star Wars movies, three of which are scheduled for the next seven years.

The company is planning four Avatar sequels, a fifth Indiana Jones film and numerous other live action flicks. Many of those can be expected to come to Pinewood….

(9) A FORMER JAMES SAYS HE’S READY FOR JANE BOND. “Next 007 should be a woman says Bond star Pierce Brosnan” – BBC has the story.

The Goldeneye actor, who played the role in four films, told the Hollywood Reporter he believes it would be “exhilarating” and “exciting” to see a female Bond.

“I think we’ve watched the guys do it for the last 40 years,” said the 66-year-old.

“Get out of the way guys and put a woman up there!” he added.

…There have been reports British actress Lashana Lynch will take over Bond’s famous codename after his character leaves MI6 in the new film, but she will not be the next Bond.

(10) SHRINKAGE. “Book Expo attendance is now smaller than some Worldcons,” says Andrew Porter. “I remember when it had 45,000 attendees.” Publishers Weekly reports, “Amid Changes, BookExpo Limits Exhibit Hours to Two Days”.

After experimenting with different time frames for BookExpo, Reed Exhibitions has decided to return to an event that features two days of exhibits preceded by a full day of educational programming.

In a letter sent to industry members, event manager Jenny Martin said that, after analyzing customer feedback, the consensus was that the three-day 2019 show proved “challenging and costly” for many. As a result, BookExpo 2020 will open Wednesday, May 27, with a day dedicated exclusively to educational programming. That day will be followed by two days of exhibits. BookCon will be held immediately after BookExpo, running May 30-31. Exhibitors will once again have the option of exhibiting at both shows, or at just one.

 (11) IT’S THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] At Worldcon in Dublin at the Memphis 2023 bid party of all things, I not only ran into the assembled German SMOFdom, but also into Alex Weidemann, a reporter of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of Germany’s most prestigious newspapers. Though the FAZ is a quality newspaper they are surprisingly genre friendly. Alex Weidemann’s article about WorldCon is now online, though most of it is sadly behind a paywall: “Sie kommen in Frieden”.

(12) WITH MALLARDS TOWARDS 87,000+ The Outline profiles “A Good Place: The fake town where everybody knows your name”.

…Strange, new places do take some getting used to and it might take you a few minutes to get the hang of subreddit r/HaveWeMet’s premise, where users roleplay as longtime neighbors in a non-existent town called “Lower Duck Pond.” The joke’s attracted over 87,000 users since the community started two years ago, making it the fastest-growing open-source fictional town on Earth. While the residents, streets, and buildings are fake, the absurdity, purity, and sense of community for its daily users has become very real.

Reddit user u/Devuluh, who’s really a sophomore computer science major named David (he declined to share his last name), started r/HaveWeMet in early 2017 when he was still in high school. The idea was to create an online space where everyone pretends to know each other….

(13) HIGH & TIGHT OR LOW & AWAY? Tagline: “Get yourself a heat shield, and throw the parcel really hard—backward.” An excerpt from Randall Munroe’s latest book, How To, appeared online at WIRED. Before you click, note that there’s a partial paywall, limiting you to just a few free Wired articles each month. 

Based on the 2001–2018 average, 1 out of every 1.5 billion humans is in space at any given time, most of them on board the International Space Station.

ISS crew members ferry packages down from the station by putting them in the spacecraft carrying crew back to Earth. But if there’s no planned departure for Earth any time soon—or if NASA gets sick of delivering your internet shopping returns—you might have to take matters into your own hands.

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

Charlie Jane Anders Interviewed by Carl Slaughter

Charlie Jane Anders’ “The Minnesota Diet” is one of 14 stories in Future Tense Fiction: Stories of Tomorrow, to be published by Unnamed Press October 2.

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America and Arizona State University that explores emerging technologies, public policy, and society. Beginning in 2016, Future Tense commissioned a series of stories from leading writers that imagined what life might be like in a variety of possible futures. Future Tense is a selection of those pieces.

Preorder your copy now from Amazon or Unnamed Press.

Carl Slaughter had sent Charlie Jane Anders these interview questions a couple of weeks before he died in an automobile accident on August 11 (see Carl’s obituary here). We are very grateful to the author for helping Carl complete his final project.


Charlie Jane Anders at the 2017 Worldcon in Helsinki. Photo by Daniel Dern.

CARL SLAUGHTER: Let’s start with a recap of io9.  What was the vision?  Did it achieve its goals?  What was the attraction?  What was your contribution?

CHARLIE JANE ANDERS: io9 feels like a very long time ago for me now. I can’t really speak to the vision behind it, because that was all Annalee Newitz, and they were the real founder. I was incredibly grateful to be brought on board to help bring their vision to life. I think the most exciting thing about io9 was that we were combining science and science fiction, and we were trying really hard to have credible science coverage alongside geeking out about movies, books, television, comics, etc. We talked a lot about finding ways to explore the idea that science fiction had become mainstream culture, because we were living in a science-fictional time. For me, the most fun part was getting paid to obsess about storytelling by interviewing creators, writing reviews and critical essays, and doing stuff like my writing “how to” articles. This felt like I was getting paid to go to grad school, and I’m still intensely grateful for the opportunity.

CS: Is your work these days primarily fiction or nonfiction?

CJA: I’m mostly doing fiction lately, which is the luckiest thing ever. I can’t believe I get to make up stuff for a living. I still do the occasional feature or piece of criticism here and there, and of course Annalee and I are doing our podcast, Our Opinions Are Correct. But I’ve been fortunate enough to get into a position where I’m getting to soak my brain in made-up worlds and weird stories.

CS: I’m quoting Wikipedia:  “…but it was not until her science fiction novelette “Six Months, Three Days” won her a Hugo, that she realized what readers were after…”  What are readers after?

CJA: Wow… I wish I knew. I think what that’s referring to is maybe that “Six Months, Three Days” was a legit creative turning point for me. It was the first time I felt like I got really close to capturing actual emotion and the complexities of relationships in my fiction. I had written a lot of stuff along those lines before, but always felt like I was just kind of poking at the surface of the emotional stuff, instead of really inhabiting it. “Six Months” was something that very easily could have been a cerebral puzzle box, about two different kinds of clairvoyance. I felt like I had a “whoa” moment where I somehow coaxed myself to burrow into the emotional substrate a bit more, and I was overjoyed when the story got such a positive response. It did feel as though I had unlocked another level, or something. But then of course, the next time you try to repeat that or access that level of emotion in the next story, it’s always harder than you expect — writing is often a matter of starting from scratch and trying to rediscover something that you previously got at.

CS: What’s your strategy for character development?

CJA: I think that for me, as a writer, I need to be curious about a character. It’s not that different from being a reader, honestly. I need to find something about a character that makes me interested in them and want to know more about them, and I have to be invested in what happens next for them. It’s all about connecting emotionally with the character. I also think that a lot of writing is actually acting. You have to “get into character” when you’re writing about someone, and you have to try to imagine how it feels to be them, and what’s going through their head as they go through a particular situation. I also think a lot of what I wrote in this io9 essay still applies.

CS: Describe your story for Future Tense.

CJA: In “The Minnesota Diet,” New Lincoln is a brand new smart city that is entirely green and high-tech, with a lot of shiny virtual spaces and vertical farms and stuff. And New Lincoln’s residents aren’t even aware of how dependent they are on external food sources, to the point where the city begins to starve pretty quickly when the self-driving trucks stop showing up. I came up with this idea because I was obsessing a lot about famine, as both a present and future problem. There are huge food crises happening in East Africa, Yemen and Sudan right now, and unlike in the 1980s with Ethiopia, it’s really difficult to get people in the United States to pay attention. So I thought it might be helpful to depict famine and food-insecurity happening to middle-class professionals in an advanced metropolis. Once I started researching the story, and especially after I heard from ASU’s Christopher Wharton, I started to realize this story’s scenario was even closer to reality than I had imagined. 

CS: What’s your approach at Our Opinions are Correct?

CJA: I’m so incredibly lucky to be working on this podcast with Annalee, and so grateful to everyone who’s listened to the podcast and supported us. We do a ton of prep before every episode, assembling a whole list of books and other works that are relevant to the episode topic, and making audio clips that we can feature in each episode. We seldom get to talk about everything on our list, but it’s good to know what the important works are, so we don’t inadvertently skip over something really huge. We try to keep the episodes very conversational and unscripted, but between the reading lists and the clips we know we’re going to include, there’s always some built-in structure. The fun part is that we often think of stuff as we’re talking, and the episodes are usually more spontaneous than what we’ve prepared for, because it’s such a fun conversation. 

CS: What projects are you actively involved in?

CJA: I have a bunch of stuff going on right now, but the most important thing by far is the untitled young-adult space opera trilogy that I sold to Tor a while back. This is one of the most complex projects I’ve ever done, in part because there’s a whole bunch of alien races and a whole layered backstory to keep track of, and in part because I have to make sure all three volumes form a satisfying adventure story that goes somewhere. The good news is, the first book of the trilogy is finished and has already gone through a lot of editing, and I’m about halfway through writing the second volume. It’s a lot of fun, and unlike anything I’ve ever written before.

CS: What projects are in the works?

CJA: I’m turning one of the unpublished novels that I wrote and shopped around before All the Birds in the Sky into a novella right now. That worked out quite well for Rock Manning Goes For Broke, which was originally a novel I tried to publish in around 2009ish, and then got cut down to around 23,000 words. I find some of these older novels of mine suddenly seem a lot stronger when they’ve lost all of their extraneous subplots and meandering middle sections. This time around, my unpublished novel (an urban fantasy in the mold of Richard Kadrey or Jim Butcher) is requiring a lot of revision to fix some structural problems that became apparent once I stripped away some of the extra junk. But I think it’s going to be super fun when it’s finished.

CS: Any feelers from Hollywood?

CJA: Absolutely, but nothing I can talk about right now. There’s definitely some interest in adapting some of my stuff for the screen, but most of the time I try to stay chill about it. The best part of having something optioned is that you get to go back and rethink something you wrote ages ago, in conversations with some really smart, experience writers and producers, and it’s fun to visualize how the story could be told in a different way. If anything actually gets made, THEN I’ll freak out about it. 

CS: Are you on the convention circuit?

CJA: Sort of… I do Worldcon and Wiscon every year, and then I seem to get invited to be guest of honor at the occasional con as well. I seem to do Comic-Con every other year these days, which is just about perfect for that exercise in sensory overload. I’m  discovering that smaller local conventions are often the most fun, because you can actually hang out with people and have real conversations. I miss Dragon*Con, and really want to get back there.

CS: What does the future hold for Charlie Jane Anders?

CJA: Hopefully? Uploading my brain into a giant mecha and building a space elevator to a LaGrange point where we can have outrageous spoken word events and parties all the time.