Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #62

DECLASSIFIED! Seven Secret and Untold Stories From the Worldcon Press Office

By Chris M. Barkley:

Chris M. Barkley. Photo by Juli Marr

For many, many years, I have wanted to write a manual specifically to pass along my knowledge, feeling and opinions about working in and operating the Worldcon Press office.

For most people who attend any convention, they only see a fraction of what is going on behind the scenes, much like the tip of an iceberg. If those who complain about the things they see going wrong had any idea of the complex goings on that happens behind the scenes, it would certainly turn more than a few of their hairs white from shock.

And believe me, I’ve earned my share over the years but fortunately, I shave every other day so I’m not reminded of how I earned them.

From the 1983 Worldcon in Baltimore (ConStellation) to Kansas City in 2016 (MidAmericon II), I worked in the Press/Media Relation offices for the World Science Fiction convention a total of nineteen times; fourteen as a staff member, five as the head of the office — three of those times I was asked on a last minute, emergency basis.

After MidAmericon II in 2016, I loudly announced (and not for the first time, mind you) that I was permanently retiring from the position.

I might as well have been shouting into the winds of Arrakis because I seriously considered taking the Press Office position this year at DisCon III at the request of a senior concom member.

After discussions with the members of my MidAmericon II (whom, I might add, was the BEST team of con-workers I had ever assembled), I quickly found that none of them could attend the convention during the alternate date in December.

I declined the offer and felt some considerable remorse, since it would leave the convention without anyone to handle media relations. Conversely, seeing that there was still an enormous amount of time until the start of the convention, I realized that this would be an excellent opportunity to impart and pass along a considerable amount of my knowledge and wisdom and still help the convention. (In addition, I also offered my services as a consultant to whomever took the Press Office position.)

So, for the past five months I have been hard at work, remembering, compiling, writing and editing a concise manual that could be utilized for practically any convention, regardless of the genre or fan base.

In doing so, I also chronicled several incidents, humorous anecdotes and near apocalyptic stories that happened along the way. I have NEVER shared many of these stories publicly before due to the privacy issues and the delicate nature of some of these encounters. But, I feel as though enough time has passed that discussing them now will not cause too much embarrassment or shock to anyone in particular. Even so, in some cases, I have omitted the names of the participants for the sake of privacy.

The entire Press Relations manual, sans some of these stories, will be made available by Our Gracious Host on a separate link at the end of the column, and at the conrunner.net website in the very near future.

1) The One Where I Nearly Caused An INTERNATIONAL INCIDENT With the Soviet Union (ConStellation,1983)

ConStellation Hat. Photo by Craig Glassner/Pinterest/Hat of the Day

My career in the Press Office began at the 1983 Worldcon in Baltimore, ConStellation. YES, the very last Worldcon to hold a full dinner banquet with the Hugo Awards Ceremony. Here’s the late Steve Stiles take on the dinner: Beautiful Steamers at Fanac.org.

And somewhere, I STILL have my crab mallet from that evening. But, I digress…

It was my fifth Worldcon and I was bored. Up until then, I had been content with going to panels, shopping in hucksters room, perusing the Art Show and partying with my friends. The only other time I had volunteered at a Worldcon was a brief stint working a shift for a friend at the IguanaCon II Art Show in 1978.

So, midway through the first day of the convention, I made my way to the ConStellation Gopher Hole, filled out the appropriate paperwork and presented it to a woman at the desk.

I was rather perplexed when she asked where I would like to be stationed because I hadn’t really given it any thought. Then, she wisely asked what sort of background I had. I replied that I had been an English major in college, a reporter and film reviewer for my college newspaper and, until recently, had been a sf radio talk show host at a public access station.

“Well,” she said, “I’m going to send you down to the Press Office. They could use some help there.”

So, I reported to the Press Office, which was nearby. I have no recollection of who was in charge. But I do remember that one of my first assignments as a staff member was to escort several reporters to a special reception taking place later that day.

The future Academy Award winning film (and future Hugo nominee as well) The Right Stuff was premiering later that year. Fan writer Evelyn C. Leeper’s convention report noted:

Chuck Yeager (who flew the X-1) and Gordon Cooper (one of the original Mercury astronauts) were there to help Warner Brothers promote the film The Right Stuff (about the early space program), and they were both very interesting. (By the way, I recommend the book The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe.) There were also several other noted scientists and even a congressman to talk about the space program, etc.

I decided to hang out for a few minutes to watch the spectacle unfold before going back to the office. I was just about to leave when I noticed a tall, thin gentleman speaking with a distinctive accent I thought might have been Russian.

When I inquired who the man was, I was told by one of the hosts that he was one an envoy from the Russian Embassy who had driven up from D.C. to take in the convention for the day. He was standing about six feet away, laughing with another participant about something.

Laughing.

For a moment, my blood ran a little cold. Then I began to get angry.

Just two days before, Korean Air Lines Flight 007, a 747 aircraft headed to Seoul, South Korea with 246 passengers and a flight crew of 23, had been shot out of the sky by a Soviet interceptor. The crew committed a navigational error which resulted in the plane drifting too far off course to an area inside a restricted Soviet airspace, resulting in the destruction of the plane. There were no survivors. Among the dead was Lawrence P. McDonald, a conservative member of the US House of Representatives from Georgia.

At the time, very little information was available on exactly how and why this had happened. With the denials,suspicions, recriminations and military mobilizations occurring on an hourly basis between the Soviet and NATO forces, it was one of the most tense moments of the Cold War.

So, there I was, in the same room with a citizen of the Soviet Union.

Three feet away from me was a metal folding chair.

It would be a simple thing to grasp it in my hands, smoothly fold it together and smash it into the diplomat’s head.

So easy.

And if I did what I was thinking, I would probably have served a lengthy prison sentence and brought infamy and shame to my family, my newborn daughter, Laura, my friends and fandom.

So I turned my back to the Soviet diplomat and left the room.

In my heart of hearts, I hope someone expressed their displeasure with that fellow’s government and what happened just off the northern coast of Japan.

But that day, I knew it could not be me.

2) The One Where I Found Out Who Won The Hugo Awards For the First Time (LACon II,1984)

L.A.con II Hugo Award, (Photo from the Nippon 2007 Awards Design page)

I was VERY uneasy the very first time when I found out who was going to win the Hugo Awards in advance of the Ceremony. Usually, the Hugo Awards Ceremony Staff handles both the Hugo Awards results, nomination and voting statistics and the short press release that comes with them.

Needless to say, when I was working for the L.A.con II Press office in 1984, seeing the results of the Hugo Awards was not on my bingo card.

The convention was held at the incredibly impressive venue; the Anaheim Hilton and Convention Center, which were located right across street from Disneyland. My second tour of duty in the Press Office coincided with the largest attendance ever recorded at a Worldcon up until then, with almost 6400 members pre-registered in advance. With a strong marketing campaign by the convention committee, another 2000+ fans were walk ups.

Among the highlights (and by far biggest draw) was the first official showing of all three Star Wars films in an all-night marathon. (I was there and stayed awake through the middle of Empire Strikes Back and woke up in the middle of Return of the Jedi. I also remember staggering back to my hotel room as the sun peeked over the horizon to catch a few hours of sleep before I reported back at the Press Office.)

The biggest brouhaha I had to deal with came a few hours before; someone came in and said that a commercial LA radio station had announced that the Trilogy showing that evening was FREE to the public! I quickly got on the phone with the station and DEMANDED that whomever made that announcement should rescind immediately before the convention was overrun with people.

To this day I don’t know whether they did it or not. I do know that the showing was not mobbed, so there’s that.

Fast forward to the Hugo Awards Ceremony; that afternoon, manila envelopes the voting and nomination results were delivered to the Press Office. They were to be embargoed and kept in the office until after the Ceremony, when they would be distributed to the fannish and other news media outlets.

My boss, Fred Harris, looked in the envelope and noticed that the packet was missing a one-sheet press release with a summation of the winners. I remember that there were only three people on the team; Fred, myself and a woman I will call Linda for reasons of privacy (and I because I can’t remember her actual name).

Because Fred had to go to the auditorium and see to the seating of the press, Linda and I were charged with typing up a brief summation of the winners, xeroxing multiple copies and stuffing the envelopes.

Linda and I locked the door behind Fred and got to work. We looked, incredulously, at the winners in all of the categories and wrote up the summary in short order. Linda then went out, made the copies and returned to the office in short order.

When Linda and I finished, we sat down and just sat down and stared at each other. Beyond the Hugo Award administrators, we were the only people on the planet who knew who was going to win a Hugo that night. We were full of nervous energy and literally nowhere to go. Although Fred didn’t explicitly say so, we both felt as though we were going to be in the office until the end of the Ceremony.

After a while, I suggested we open the door for a little while so we wouldn’t feel so confined and Linda agreed.

The Press Office was located on one of the main hallways to the auditorium where the Hugo Ceremony. When I opened the door, there was a steady stream of people headed in that direction.

And then, something very improbable happened. As I was watching the crowd streaming by, I saw a very familiar face.

During the course of the convention, I made a lot of new friends, including one Glen David Brin, electrical engineer, astronomer and one of the emerging acclaimed authors of hard science fiction. His second novel in the Uplift series, Startide Rising, had already won the Nebula and Locus Awards for Best Novel and was heavily favored to win the Hugo as well.

Check that; it was GOING TO WIN THE HUGO AWARD that evening.

Once he saw Linda and I standing in the doorway, he made a beeline straight to us. Linda had never met him before and once he got close enough to read his con badge, her eyes got a bit wider and she looked as though she was going to go into shock.

“Hey Chris, good to see you! I’m on my way in right now. Are you guys coming too?”

I quickly explained that we had to watch the Press Office and that we might catch up with him later.

“That’s fantastic! Boy, I can’t tell you how excited I am about tonight. Wish me luck, huh?”

Both Linda and I sagely nodded and wished him well. With that, David Brin fairly bounded down the hall to his destiny.

When he was out of sight, both Linda and I looked at each other, went into the office and locked the door. We laughed hysterically for a minute just to throw off our nervousness. We stayed there until Fred came knocking on the door later.

So, your office may be asked to take custody of copies of the results before the Hugo Ceremony, to be embargoed and distributed to the press afterwards. Needless to say, it is vital that you, as the head of the Press Office, take full responsibility to keep the results safely under wraps.

They should be held strictly on a need-to-know basis: and you, personally, don’t need to know. As someone who has been privy to those results (on several RARE occasions) I cannot tell you how nerve-racking it is to walk around with that knowledge rattling around your noggin.

If you are offered the opportunity to know in advance, my advice to you is to try and avoid that situation or turn it down altogether.

DON’T DO IT! Enough Said…

3) The One Where I Took Over the Worldcon Press Office on Six Days Notice AND The Infamous Neil Gaiman and Rebecca Eckler Incidents (Torcon 3, 2003)

Another important thing to remember is that you cannot do this job alone. If you are lucky, as I have been over the many years, to have a number of trusted associates working closely with you at your convention, your chances of succeeding are quite good.

In 2003, the Toronto Worldcon (Torcon 3) faced a big crisis; it turned out that the person they had appointed to run their Press Relations office had done absolutely nothing regarding press contacts or registration in advance of the convention. Once I found out about the situation, I and my wife at the time, Naomi, volunteered to take over. I had headed up the Press Office previously at LoneStarCon II in 1997 on very short notice and I had a pretty good idea of how to set up an office in a hurry.

I immediately started calling and emailing all of the local media outlets to let them know that there would be a Press Office to help them with any of their inquiries. I also put a call out for volunteers on the Torcon 3 website and asked a few people in fandom I knew who could handle the job.

By the time we arrived in Toronto, I had done as much preparation as I could and hoped for the best.

One of the best examples of having the right person at exactly the right time came on the very first morning of the convention.

Anne Pinzow was a walk-on to the Press Office. She was (and still is, to the best of my knowledge) a writer and editor for a local New England newspaper and volunteered to help out at the convention as a change of pace. Needless to say, her skills and experience were put to the test almost immediately…

On the morning of the second day of Torcon III, our morning staff meeting was rocked by a headline in the Arts Section of the Toronto Star. Hugo Award Winning Fan Writer and Fan Editor Cheryl Morgan (who also served on the Press Room staff) chronicled what happened next and published her account in her fanzine, Emerald City (http://www.emcit.com/emcit097.shtml#Wheels):

The first major embarrassment that we suffered was on Thursday morning when an article appeared in The Star, a local newspaper, announcing that Neil Gaiman had won a Hugo for “Coraline”. This sounded terribly like a leak from the convention, but although we often give out the results under an embargo just before the ceremony, there was no way that the paper could have gotten word of the results that early. So we phoned them.

Here I must give credit to my colleague, Anne Pinzow, who handled the call, firstly for her patience in working through The Star’s automated call handling system, and secondly for the magnificent way in which she laid the law down. A Hugo, she explained, can make or break an author’s career. Winning it can be worth millions of dollars. And by suggesting that the results were known beforehand The Star was casting doubt on the validity and integrity of the voting process, and therefore on the awards themselves. It was a wonderful performance.

As it turned out, however, the editor in question was already duly contrite. Murray Whyte, the journalist who had interviewed Neil and written the piece in question had already phoned up and complained bitterly about his article being butchered. It turned out that what had happened was that an enthusiastic sub-editor had not understood the difference between being nominated and winning, and had “sexed-up” the article to make it sound better. There were red faces all round at The Star. They printed an apology on page 2 on Friday, and on Sunday they devoted half of page 2 to a report of the Hugos.

So, an utter disaster was averted, but just barely. And thankfully, Neil Gaiman, being a prince among writers, was a good sport about the imbroglio and did not hold up the scurrilous headline above his head as Harry Truman had infamously done back in 1948 (“DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN”) after winning the Hugo award for Coraline.

On the day of the Hugo Awards Ceremonies, I received a phone call from a reporter named Rebecca Eckler, a “lifestyle” writer from the National Post. She wanted a press pass plus one to attend the Hugo Awards. When I asked for the name of the other person she replied “Gollum” (which should have set off an alarm bell right then and there).

I told her that I would be in the press office with the badges and gave her instructions on how to find me. I had decided to skip going to the Hugo Awards and stay in the office to distribute the results of the Hugo Awards (with the stipulation that they were to be embargoed until the end of the ceremony) via individual email to newspapers and other media outlets. I released the staff to attend without any instructions other than seeing that any journalists were properly seated in a designated area.

In hindsight, those were not the best decisions. Here’s why:

Rebecca Eckler never showed up at the Press Office as she had promised. She and her companion turned up at the Hugo Awards pre-ceremony reception unannounced and were refused entry. Ms. Eckler, who was well along in her pregnancy at the time, decided to make a fuss at the entrance of reception, citing that she was a journalist and entitled to be admitted. None of my staff were there to ameliorate the situation or to alert me to Ms. Eckler’s presence.

When it came time for the nominees and their guests to be escorted into the hall at the beginning of the Hugo Ceremony, Ms. Eckler and her companion joined the line and were seated with the nominees! According to reports I heard afterwards (and her account that was eventually published in the National Post the next day), she eventually became bored and the two of them left before the end of the ceremonies.

The bottom line is that I, or someone on my staff, should have been present at the reception and at the Hugo Awards ceremony to mitigate what happened. While there was a high likelihood that a negative story about Torcon III could have been prevented, some prompt action could have stopped her disruptive behavior.

As a reminder of what happened, I kept Ms. Eckler’s press pass after all this time, pictured below:

Torcon 3 press badge. Photo by Chris M. Barkley.

There are several things that you, as the head of the press relations for your convention, should remember:

  • You are responsible for what happens on your watch, whether it’s your fault or not.
  • Someone with authority must be present at ALL of the important public events and functions of the convention.

4) The One Where I Won a Kentucky Derby Bet, ROYALLY PISSED OFF J. K. Rowling, Her Publisher and Solicitors, But Lived To Tell About It. Barely. (Interaction, 2005)

J. K. Rowling. Photo by TheLeakyCauldron.org

When I was attending Noreascon IV in Boston, I was asked by Vincent Docherty, one of the organizers of Interaction (the 63rd Worldcon) whether I would be interested in helping run the Interaction Press Office. Vincent, and apparently others on the convention committee, were very impressed with how I handled the office at Torcon III.

(Also, although my memory may be a bit fuzzy on the details; back in 1995, I had heard secondhand that that year’s Scottish Worldcon, Intersection, had no Press Office. And foolishly (if it’s true), had not allowed any reporters to cover the convention at all. Naturally, at the time, I assumed that they did not want a repeat of that situation. I tried to find any mention of this online but I was unable to confirm whether this actually happened or not. In any event, I am quite sure that someone reading this will either acknowledge as a fact or take great pleasure in correcting me at length that this is some sort of fever dream fairy tale. And so it goes.)

In any event, I accepted the position of being a deputy to a very nice fellow named David Stewart. Little did he know what sort of trouble I was going to cause for him…

One of the first things I did after accepting was to send in my paperwork for my first passport ever, which was issued out of the State Department’s New Orleans processing facility. (It holds a special place in my heart because I received it before Hurricane Katrina devastated the area in late August of that year. It has since expired but I still carry it with me as an alternate photo ID.)

But here’s how the 2005 Kentucky Derby factored into what happened:

That spring, I started making plans in earnest to make the trip to Scotland, which would have been my very first trip outside of North America. I was working a steady job back then but I wasn’t able to save up enough for airfare and expenses. But as March melded into April, I was still far short of what I needed to go.

When the first of May rolled around, I had a crazy idea; I could get enough cash for the trip by achieving a big win at the Kentucky Derby. It was a family affair; my then wife, my daughter, Laura and I ambled over the Lebanon Raceway just east of where we were living to enjoy the day.

About a half an hour before the race, we started making our selections. Naomi and Laura made several relatively small bets on the three of the favorites, Alex Afleet, Wilko and Bellamy Road. I had allocated fifty dollars for myself and spread out most of it on other horses. When I was down to my last ten dollars, my gaze fell upon a 50-1 shot, a horse named Giacamo. (And, unbeknownst to me at the time, had finished fourth in the Santa Anita Derby in his previous start.) I sighed, went with my gut and placed the bet. 

You can imagine dead reader, my utter astonishment when Giacamo, in 18th place after three-quarters of a mile, made a jaw dropping move to make up ground while moving six wide around the backstretch turn. He then turned up the jets, closed on and muscled past the leaders and WON by half a length!

I was speechless! I now had at least enough for my airfare and all I had to worry about was saving up for food, transport and lodging. Things were finally looking up. What could possibly go wrong now?

Until, that is, things went terribly wrong.

About a week or so before the Derby, I was feeling a little perturbed towards J. K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was due to be published in July of that year. At that point in time, Ms. Rowling, who won a 2001 Hugo Award for Best Novel for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, had NEVER publicly acknowledged winning it. I couldn’t even find it even mentioned on any US copy of the paperback edition.

So, being the volatile, hotheaded type fan that I was back then, I was determined to do something about it.

Since this was before the advent of Twitter and Facebook, I wrote an actual, physical letter to Ms. Rowling, lamenting the fact that there was no mention of the Hugo Award on The Goblet of Fire. I also pointed out that the World Science Fiction Convention was being held in Glasgow, just a stone throw away (relatively speaking) from Edinburgh and it would be awfully nice if she were to send the convention some sort of greeting.

Somewhere, there is a copy of that letter sitting in the files of Scholastic Books.

And at Bloomsbury’s headquarters in the United Kingdom.

And her solicitors in London.

And her literary agent in London.

Because I wanted to be SURE that my letter would make it past her gatekeepers, mind you.

Well, kids, my message got through all right. And the gatekeepers were not pleased.

NOT.ONE. BIT.

So a week or so after my triumph at Lebanon Raceway, I received several anxious emails from David Stewart and members of the convention committee, demanding an explanation of my actions.

You see, dear reader, I sent those letters signed with my name along with my official designation as the Deputy Head of the Intersection Press Office, a HUGE faux pas that tied my perceived diatribe with the convention itself!

Needless to say the letter made everyone angry (especially the solicitors, I was told) that some cheeky Yank was telling them what they ought to do.

Once I gauged the gravity of what was going on, I felt I had no choice whatsoever but to offer my resignation from the Press Office. My would-be boss David had a different and slightly sardonic reaction. He still wanted me to work in the office. Because, as I remember him writing in an email, “You mean he doesn’t have to work but I still have to deal with this? That’s not very fair, is it?” (I am sorry to report that David Stewart and I never had a chance to meet in person; he died after a short illness in 2006. I definitely owed him a pint or two. Ad Astra, David…)

Alas, things also unraveled at home as well; I was laid off from my job, my wife moved out to go the graduate school at the University of Dayton and the five hundred dollars was quickly consumed by bills. So I had to stay home that summer, much to my chagrin.

During all of this turmoil, I never heard (either directly or indirectly) about any reaction from Ms. Rowling herself. And yes, In hindsight, I think everyone would have been better off if I had just signed my name but I doubt that it would have had the same impact if I had not.

Because two things happened in the wake of this international incident; in July, J.K. Rowling did issue a brief statement welcoming the World Science Fiction convention to Glasgow and the next year, the designation “Hugo Award Winning Novel” started appearing on the paperback edition of The Goblet of Fire.

So, for what it’s worth, I am quite satisfied with that…

5) The One With Michael Chabon (Denvention 3, 2008)

Michael Chabon, circa 2008. Photo via Getty Images for Esquire

In 2008, I was back in the Captain’s chair of the Press Office and I was hoping for a nice, quiet convention with very few annoyances or controversies.

And for a majority of the Denvention, my wish was granted.

On the day before the Hugo Awards Ceremony, I received a call from a producer from National Public Radio’s Weekend All Things Considered (whose name is lost to history). He wanted to know if I could arrange an interview with the winner of the Best Novel category with their then current host, Andrea Seabrook.

Checking the programming schedule, I told the producer that four of the five nominees for Best Novel, John Scalzi (The Last Colony), Ian MacDonald (Brasyl), Charles Stross (Halting State) and Robert J. Sawyer (Rollback) were there. The ONLY author who was absent was Michael Chabon, whose World War II alternate history epic, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, was a heavy favorite to win. (Historical note: by the time of Denvention 3, it had already won the Nebula Award, the Locus Award, the Sidewise Award and the California Book Award Gold Medal AND had been shortlisted for the Edgar (from the Mystery Writers of America) and the British Science Fiction Association award. 

I told the producer that I would contact all of the nominees, including Michael Chabon, and have them contact NPR directly after the Hugo Awards Ceremony.

Consulting the sprocket program, I spent some time out of the office Friday afternoon tracking down Scalzi, Sawyer and MacDonald and they all readily agreed to be on the air if (or when) they won.

Charlie Stross was the only one I couldn’t find that day. I looked up any contact information I could scrounge up on Chabon’s whereabouts online but I came up empty. I left several messages with HarperCollins in New York and sent an email to his agent and hoped someone would get the message by the next day.

I was feeling quite chuffed that NPR, a network that I had been an ardent fanboy of since 1973 was taking some serious interest in the Worldcon. I told any friend or acquaintance who wandered by the office that I was setting up this fabulous interview with NPR that day.

That evening, I was at a bid party, minding my own business and enjoying myself when a very good friend (who shall remain nameless for reasons that will become very obvious) came in, spotted me, grabbed me by the arm and literally dragged me into a nearby vacant bathroom and closed and locked the door.

When I asked them what that was all about, they explained in a very excited tone that they had heard about the impending NPR interview and wanted to help. And before I could ask what sort of help, they blurted out that Michael Chabon was going to win Best Novel!

Now at that point in time I was a little crestfallen because I fervently try NOT to know who will win any of the Hugo Awards in advance but it seems as though every time I have tried to evade knowing, I’m cursed to find out. (I am truly grateful that they didn’t spill the beans about the rest of the rest of the categories, though.)

I thanked my “confidential source” and we returned to the party before anyone ( I had hoped) noticed that the two of us were conferring in a locked bathroom. 

So now, even though I knew who was going to win Best Novel, I still had to contact Charlie Stross and Michael Chabon, just in case any of the nominees caught up with each other and compared notes at some later date.

I finally caught up with Mr. Stross Saturday morning and imparted NPR’s request, feeling very badly about playing my part in this elaborate charade. That afternoon I finally heard back from Michael Chabon’s publicist, who informed me that he and his family were vacationing in Maine that weekend. I gave him the NPR producer’s contact information and told him to expect an announcement on who won later that evening.

After the ceremony, I sent the publicist an email with an official list of the Hugo Award results and hoped for the best.

I needn’t have worried so much. And the Sunday Weekend Edition featured the following interview with Michael Chabon: “Science Fiction Writing’s ‘Pulitzers’ Handed Out”

Here is the most pertinent slice of this interview:

SEABROOK: Can I ask you, what do you think of other work that’s going on in science fiction right now? Do you read science fiction?

Mr. CHABON: Yes I do. I still read science fiction, and I see all kinds of diversity. I think – I find a very intense ongoing kind of intellectual and aesthetic debate in the world of science fiction. The people who are reading it and the people who are writing it seem to me to be engaged in an ongoing conversation about the fiction that they love on a level that I think is enviable, that would be a credit to the world of mainstream fiction.

6) The One About George R.R. Martin (Chicon 7, 2012)

George R.R. Martin circa 2012, Photo by Nick Briggs/HBO

Chicon 7 was decidedly challenging for Juli and I on many fronts. For one, the Press Office was nowhere near the Information Desk or Registration; it was located near one of the main auditorium stages and a cluster of meeting rooms being used for panels. I had requested a meeting room for office space but was really disappointed when I found out that the “office” was actually a coat check booth. Fortunately, there was a small furnished room adjacent to the booth that was more than adequate to serve as the main interview room.

My partner Juli and I arrived without anyone else set to staff the office so we were trusting that we were going to attract some good volunteers out of the Gopher Hole. We were rewarded twice over when local Chicago fans Belma Torres and Dan Berger reported for duty. They were fantastic in the office and handled themselves very well during the convention. (Belma eventually moved to Australia a few years ago and subsequently got married there, Dan, his wife Terry and his two sons Alec and Ryan remain good friends with us to this day.)

We made do with the coat room as a base of operations and the Information Desk sent us a steady stream of registered and walk up journalists to cover Chicon 7.

Our one big hiccup occurred on the first day when several people from Logistics came by with several hand carts and requested that we surrender all the furniture in our interview room so it could be used on stage for several bits that had been planned for Opening Ceremonies.

Since the stage was not very far away from the office, I readily agreed. But I made them swear on a stack of fanzines that they would return the large couch and the three easy chairs as soon as the event was over because we needed it for several big interviews, among them a sit down with George R.R. Martin that was scheduled for the next day.

As the day progressed and Opening Ceremonies started, I began to feel a little uneasy about the arrangement. At one point I strolled over to the hall where it was under way and saw people lounging and having a good time with the audience. That was the last time I would see our furniture for the next 20 hours.

Because two hours after the Opening Ceremonies, our furniture had not been returned to us. I sent Dan Berger out to the Logistics to find out what happened. He returned a short while later and reported that no one in Logistics had any idea of what he was talking about.

Livid, I went to Logistics and demanded, in an usually loud voice, that we REALLY needed to find our goddamn furniture, immediately! The poor woman manning the desk promised to look into it and I fumed all the way back to the Press Room.

By the end of the day, the furniture had not been returned.

When we opened the office the next morning, there was STILL no furniture.

That’s when I decided we were going full vigilante on this situation.

Leaving Dan in charge of the office, Juli, I and another volunteer went to Logistics, borrowed several handcarts and started canvassing the convention hall rooms and hallways to find our furniture. We didn’t have to search long.

After checking the hallways and the Exhibits display, Juli spotted our couch in the Fan Lounge. Very quickly afterwards, we found the other lounge chairs nearby. We quickly loaded everything up and trucked it all back to the Press Office, just an hour before the start of George R.R. Martin’s interview.

The moral of the story is quite clear; if you loan out ANYTHING at a Worldcon, get it in writing and keep close track of it until it’s returned.

By the way, the Press Office staff returned the hand carts promptly to Logistics, because that’s how we roll…

7) The One With The VERY SAD Puppy (Sasquan, 2015)

Brad Foster’s Sasquan logo.

Sasquan was a very strange, tense and ultimately uplifting affair from start to finish.

The original co-Chair of the convention, Bobbie DuFault, died suddenly on the morning of September 14, 2013. Sally Woehrle, the other co-chair, took over in her stead. In hindsight, it was a portent of the terrible events that followed in the wake of this terrible news…

An arch conservative author, Lou Antonelli, made a scurrilous and false police report to the Spokane Police Department, claiming that Author Guest of Honor and Hugo Award Ceremony co-host David Gerrold was “insane and a public danger and needs to be watched when the convention is going on”.

On August 11th, 2015, the following message was posted on the Sasquan Facebook Page:

“The Executive Committee of Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention, would like to address the matter of actions taken by Mr. Lou Antonelli with regards to one of our Guests of Honor, Mr. David Gerrold. On August 1st, Mr. Antonelli participated in a podcast in which he stated that he had written a letter to the Spokane Police Department, in which he stated to them that Mr. Gerrold was “insane and a public danger and needs to be watched when the convention is going on”.

Normally, online communications between members is not something in Sasquan’s purview to referee.  However, Mr. Antonelli’s letter, which requested police action against Mr. Gerrold during the time of the convention, is within our purview. As such, we found that there was a strong possibility this act was a violation of our posted harassment policy[1], particularly if the letter had, in fact, been sent.’

Well, a long story shortened…

‘However, after the recommendation was made, Mr. Gerrold, as the aggrieved party, specifically requested that the Executive Committee set aside this recommendation on the grounds that Mr. Antonelli did apologize, is sending a retraction to the Spokane Police Department and because, as a Hugo Nominee, he deserves to attend the ceremony.

The Executive Committee has chosen to accept Mr. Gerrold’s request, and considers the matter closed as of this time. Ms. Bourget has spoken and corresponded with the Spokane Police Department, and they also consider the matter closed. We would like to thank Ms. Bourget for the calm professionalism she lent to the proceedings, and Mr. Antonelli and Mr. Gerrold for coming to a settlement that benefits not just them, but the Worldcon and its members.”

There were lots of right wing, racist and sexist authors who had themselves slated onto the nomination ballot and a majority of fans who regularly vote on and or attend the Worldcon were in no mood for such shenanigans. In response to the Puppies chicanery, an incredible number of people joined the convention; an astounding 5,748 fans bought Supporting memberships (ostensibly to outvote the Puppy coalition), bringing the total number to a whopping 10,350 total members.

But now, small, brief, editorial aside:

(RANT/ON)

Here’s the thing, as far as I’m concerned; the Sad/Angry/Rabid Puppy affair accomplished nothing for the usurpers who wanted to disrupt and/or destroy the Hugo Awards. Looking back over the past eight years it is quite evident that they utterly failed in style, substance and in an overall way, had very little significant societal impact. There has always been some generational tension between fans, editors, writers and artists in fandom. But in the days before social media, it played out more like a slow motion riot with the participants trading shots through frequently published fanzines or in person at conventions (with and without fisticuffs in some cases).

These reactionaries wanted to stop something that has always been inevitable in literature, change. When these elements of the so-called conservative end of sf fandom thought that their brand of warping spaceships, alien wars and far flung empires were being ignored by the Hugo Awards electorate, they decided to cheat by nominating slates with their own nominees. But by doing so, they just mobilized and galvanized what was already happening, that women, people of color, indigeonous peoples from all of the world and the LGBTAQ community and other marginalized folks were becoming the emerging voices of this generation. The Puppies were driven by the fear of being replaced or, even worse, erased from our collective history. Their fears were expressed in some very unflattering ways; racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia and a decided lack of empathy for people who pushed back against their narrative.

Those of us who were actively opposing them, were portrayed as being out of control radicals, unpatriotic, socialists and traitors. It became so turbulent that even the mere mention or promotion of a disenfranchised person was labeled as racist by them. And while they promoted themselves with a great amount of hubris as the tree and roots of modern sf fandom and literature, in fact they are just merely a branch of a much larger tree. To this day, they remain so dogmatic about their own importance, their false sense of privilege and so devoted to their own myopic point of view that they still don’t realize that they have done themselves and fandom as a whole, a great disservice by acting like an unruly mob without any sense decency or of cognitive dissonance. And yes, they did manage to make a big fuss and draw some attention to themselves but in the long run, their actions will be judged by history to be abhorrent.

If anyone wants to read a fairly comprehensive history of what went down may do so here: The Puppy Kerfuffle Timeline at Camestros Felapton.

(RANT/OFF)

And, if that weren’t enough, a series of forest fires completely surrounded the city, enshrouding the entire region in a haze of smoke and ash and casting the convention into something akin to a hellish, eco-disaster film.

Juli and I were called in to head up the Press Office in emergency mode (again) because the convention’s original choice had to drop out for personal reasons. Although this time, unlike many of the other times, we had a full six weeks notice to get the office up and operational.

In addition to all of this, I got personally involved. I stepped up and volunteered to be a Hugo Award acceptor for Analog author Rajnar Vajra whose slyly aware John W. Campbell-ish pastiche, “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” (published in Analog, 07/08-2014), had been slated onto the Hugo ballot by both the Sad and Rabid Puppy groups..

I made Mr. Vajar’s acquaintance in April 2015, right after the nominations were announced. He had posted on sf/horror writer Adam-Troy Castro’s Facebook page, vehemently condemning both camps and I quoted him (with his permission) in a File 770 column. I also offhandedly offered to pick up his Hugo and deliver his acceptance speech, too.

You can imagine how flabbergasted I was when Mr. Vajra emailed me in July asking if I would do exactly that. In a File 770 post soon after, I wrote:

Several months ago, after the nominations came out, I made the acquaintance of Rajnar Vajra, author of the Hugo nominated novelette, The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Story. Although nominated on the Sad/Rabid Puppy slate, he has vehemently disassociated himself from them. When other nominees dropped out of the Hugo Awards race, he bravely stayed in, because he believed in his story and vacating the nomination slot may have given the ballot yet another puppy candidate.  

I half jokingly told Rajnar that I would be happy to accept the Hugo Award on his behalf if it became necessary. He laughed it off at the time but a month ago, he found out that he could not attend. I was slightly aghast when he emailed me but I accepted because I knew what he had in mind.

I believe that Rajnar’s only loyalty is to his craft and to his readers. In his absence, he chose a person of color to represent him at the Hugo Ceremony as a pointed reminder of fandom’s diversity. Mr. Vajra has emailed his eloquent acceptance speech and if needed, I will proudly deliver it verbatim.

When Juli and I arrived at the Press Office, we were ably assisted by a well known Seattle fan, Margaret Organ-Kean, who agreed to serve as the Deputy Press Officer. I cannot begin to tell you how gracious and helpful she was in the office, especially during my prolonged absences because of my obligations to attend the Business Meeting and the Hugo Award Ceremonies.

On that Saturday afternoon, a very peculiar thing happened.

I was standing near the entrance of the Press Office when a middle aged man entered the office. He was white, middle-aged and looked as though he might need some help.

“Hello, how can I help you?”, I said in a pleasant voice.

He just stared at me.

I waited. He kept staring.

After about 20 seconds, I gave up, went back to my desk and sat down to keep an eye on him.

My partner Juli, who is white, witnessed this and decided to make a run at him while I watched warily from a distance.

He immediately perked up and said that he was looking for a reporter to give an interview. When Juli inquired why, he said that he was a John W. Campbell Award nominee for Best New Writer. (I am not identifying the writer because I don’t want to give this person any more publicity than he deserves. His fifteen minutes in the limelight has expired.)

Since this fellow was definitely NOT Wesley Chu, it verified my gut feeling that this guy was part of the Puppy delegation.

In overhearing some of his remarks to Juli, it was fairly evident that while he knew the Campbell Award was somewhat prestigious, he had no fucking idea who he was, his place his in the history of sf literature or, most importantly, what he stood for politically or on social issues.

The most amusing part of the conversation happened when Juli asked him about “The Tiara”.

His eyes blinked with confusion. “Tiara? What about a Tiara? I don’t know anything about that.”

“Well,” Juli said with some enthusiasm, “if you win, you get to wear the Ceremonial Tiara that comes with the Campbell Award.”

(For those of you who may have forgotten, The Ceremonial JWC Tiara was created in 2005 by the late sf writer Jay Lake and author Elizabeth Bear and, until recently, was handed down from winner to winner. Among the distinguished alumni who have proudly worn it have been DisCon III Chair Mary Robinette Kowal, Caribbean-American fantasy author David Anthony Durham and one John Scalzi, a frequent target and perceived arch-enemy of the Puppy crowd.)

“Uh, are you kidding?”

“Oh no,it’s a real thing. And you have to wear it if you win.”

I swear, his face actually blanched when he heard that he might actually be required to wear such an item on his precious, masculine head.

“No, no, no, I can’t do THAT!” he insisted. Juli turned her head slightly and could see the look of approval on my face. I winked.

But, no matter what his own political views, I had no objection to helping him. Our role in the Press Office is to provide journalists the opportunity to talk to and write about what was happening at Sasquan and that included any Puppy who wanted to talk to the media.

He left soon afterwards after Juli took his name and cell phone number and had promised to call if any reporter wanted to talk to him. Eventually, we arranged for him to talk to someone. I think it was Wired magazine, but I could be misremembering exactly who did. In any event, it’s lost to the mists of history as far as I’m concerned.

At the Hugo Awards Ceremony, the Puppies slate of nominees went unrewarded (including, unfortunately, Mr. Vajra, who finished third behind No Award). The only tangential thing they could claim as a victory was the Best Dramatic Presentation-Long Form win for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which was a HUGE consensus winner among all of the voters.

There was some good news that evening; for the first time ever, translated fiction won Hugos: The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu) in the novel category and the novelette “The Day The World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (translated by Lia Belt). Marvel Comics’s first volume of Ms. Marvel (written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt), the feminist minded sf thriller Orphan Black (“By Means Which Have Never Been Tried” by Graeme Manson and John Fawcett) and the aforementioned Wesley Chu won the Campbell Award (which was recently re-christened the Astounding Award for Best New Writer).

The Hugo Award results were delivered to the office AFTER the Ceremony for distribution to the press at my expressed request.

The cherry on top of all of these proceedings came at Closing Ceremonies, where I was presented with a Hero of Sasquan medal for taking over the Press Office on short notice.

When I accepted before a standing room only crowd, I told them that I was not the only person in the Press Office; I was only as good as the team of people I was working with. I profusely thanked them for all of their hard work and dedication.

Then I praised the person I called the TRUE MVP of the Press Office, my partner Juli. I held up a black stainless steel ring she had given me for my birthday. The interior of the ring has an inscription that is a quote from Amy Pond (a Doctor Who companion) to her husband, Rory; “I Love Your Stupid Face”.

I told the crowd what the inscription said and they laughed and cheered. And then I shouted, “I LOVE YOU, JULI MARR!!!!!” and the crowd went crazy!

When I returned to my seat, I asked Juli whether or not she had gotten any pictures of my speech.

“I’m sorry’, she said, “I was too stunned to take any.” I smiled and gave her a kiss.

Mission Accomplished.

I STILL LOVE YOU JULI MARR!!!!!

Sasquan medal and ring. Photo by Chris M. Barkley.

Download Chris Barkley’s Fantasy & Science Fiction Media Relations – Press Room Guide here:

Pixel Scroll 5/3/21 The 770 File Cabinets Of Dr. Credential

(1) LEARNING ABOUT RUSSIAN SFF. Clarkesworld presents “A Brief History of Russian Science Fiction” by Alex Shvartsman.

It’s telling that the Russian term used to describe speculative fiction doesn’t distinguish between science fiction and fantasy. The word is fantastika —the literature of the fantastic. It is used equally to reference the Three Laws stories of Asimov and the Middle Earth tales of Tolkien. It is this lack of distinction—combined with Russia’s rich heritage of fairy tales and its rigorous education in mathematics and the sciences—that may be responsible for so many genre-bending tales penned by Russian-speaking authors, which have become classics of world literature. The history of Russian fantastika is inseparable from the history of Russia itself, and the political, economic, and social forces that have shaped it over the course of the twentieth century….

(2) WORLDCON FUNDAMENTALS. The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) – unincorporated – is the umbrella organization that awards the right to host Worldcons and sets the Hugo rules. Cheryl Morgan asks “Is WSFS Fit for Purpose?” at Salon Futura.

…The problem is that WSFS suffers from what we in the Diversity & Inclusion business called “Status Quo Bias”. When the existing system happens to favour one particular segment of a population over others, that system will be seen as grossly unfair. There will be pressure for change. And if change is impossible within the system, the aggrieved parties will look to leave that system for an alternative, or to destroy it.

The accepted wisdom is that if you want to change WSFS then you have to do so through the Business Meeting. But the way that works, with the time commitment and necessity of understanding Parliamentary Procedure, is itself a form of Status Quo Bias. Kevin [Standlee] can help people who want to create a new Hugo Award category, but I suspect that no amount of help will be enough for people who want to recraft the entire governance process of the Society.

Furthermore, mollifying upset fans is not the only reason why this should be done. We live in an increasingly corporate world. WSFS is not a corporate animal, and other corporations simply don’t know how to deal with it. Relatively simple things such as selling advertising in the souvenir book, or soliciting sponsorship, become much more complicated than they need to be because WSFS itself has no corporate existence, and external organisations have to deal with a different company each year. Being proudly unincorporated is all very well, but it makes it hard to do business….

Just one note before leaving this open to discussion – when the Worldcon is held in the U.S. the “different company each year” has for many years been a nonprofit corporation organized by the bidders under state corporation and federal tax laws.

(3) ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST. James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF panel take on Robert Bloch’s “That Hell-Bound Train.” And are young people impressed by this 1958 Hugo-winning short story? You’re kidding, aren’t you?

(4) STORY OF A LATE ADOPTER. Debarkle is Camestros Felapton’s work-in-progress chronicle of the history and consequences of the Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy Kerfuffle. He’s added a chapter that does a good job of capturing what I’ve tried to do with File 770 since issue #1: “Debarkle Chapter 29: Dramatis Personae — Mike Glyer & File 770”. For instance:

…The point is not that the fanzine was a paragon of feminism or even progressive politics but rather that a newszine had a responsibility to engage with issues of the day and in the process, the editor had to get to grips with those issues also….

(5) D & DEITY. James Davis Nicoll’s busy day continues with “Five Fantasy Novels Featuring Gods and Religious Sects” for Tor.com.

In the days of yore, if I wanted to buy a table-top roleplaying game, I had to travel to Toronto, the nearest major city. If I wanted inked dice, I had to hand-ink them myself. If I wanted fellow gamers, I had to shape mud into human form and breathe life into my golems (oops, no, I couldn’t do that, sometimes I just wished I could).

In those days, most TTRPGs treated gods as a sort of theological ConEd for wandering clerics. Gods had different names and superficial attributes, but otherwise their cults were much of a muchness, with no actual doctrinal differences.

One notable exception was Chaosium’s RuneQuest, particularly those supplements set in Greg Stafford’s gaming world of Glorantha….

(6) ABOUT THOSE FREE FANZINES. When David Langford learned that the N3F had started including copies of Ansible among the fanzines they were emailing to their distribution list it was news to him. And not welcome news, as Langford made clear:

Dear N3F President,

I’m told that the N3F is distributing PDF copies of Ansible in a bundle of “Free Fanzines from the N3F” without having asked my permission. Permission is not granted. You are welcome to circulate links to individual issues on the Ansible site at news.ansible.uk, but not to copy the issues themselves to others.

N3F President George Phillies wrote back an apology. That probably puts the matter to rest.

(7) JUNG OBIT. Actor Nathan Jung died April 24 at the age of 74. Deadline has the story —  

Jung began his acting career in 1969 with a role as Genghis Khan in “The Savage Curtain” episode of the original Star Trek.

In the 1990s, he had stints on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman…His other [genre] film credits include Big Trouble in Little China, Darkman, The Shadow….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 3, 1896 Dodie Smith. English children’s novelist and playwright, best remembered for The Hundred and One Dalmatians which of course became the animated film of the same name and thirty years later was remade by Disney as a live action film. (Saw the first a long time ago, never saw the latter.) Though The Starlight Barking, the sequel, was optioned, by Disney, neither sequel film (101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure and 102 Dalmatians) is based on it. Elizabeth Hand in her review column in F&SF praised it as one of the very best fantasies (“… Dodie Smith’s sophisticated canine society in The Hundred and One Dalmatians and The Starlight Barking…”) she had read. (Died 1990.) (CE) 
  • Born May 3, 1901 – John Collier.  Three novels, twoscore shorter stories for us; poetry; screenplays, teleplays; two dozen short stories adapted for television by others.  Collection Fancies and Goodnights won an Edgar and an Int’l Fantasy Award.  (Died 1980) [JH]
  • Born May 3, 1928 Jeanne Bal. In Trek’s “The Man Trap” episode, she played Nancy Crate, a former lover of Leonard McCoy,  who would be a victim of the lethal shape-shifting alien which craves salt. This was the episode that replaced “The Cage” episode which the Network really didn’t like. She also had one-offs in Thriller and I-Spy. (Died 1996.) (CE) 
  • Born May 3, 1939 Dennis O’Neil. Writer and editor, mostly for Marvel Comics and DC Comics from the Sixties through the Nineties, and was the Group Editor for the Batman family of titles until his retirement which makes him there when Ed Brubaker’s amazing Gotham Central came out. He himself has written Wonder Woman and Green Arrow in both cases introducing some rather controversial storytelling ideas. He also did a rather brilliant DC Comics Shadow series with Michael Kaluta as the artist. (Died 2020.) (CE) 
  • Born May 3, 1946 – Elizabeth Horrocks, age 75.  Three novels for us.  Won at the British television programme Mastermind, her subjects Shakespeare’s plays, works of Tolkien, works of Dorothy L. Sayers.  [JH]
  • Born May 3, 1951 – Tatyana Tolstaya, age 70.  One novel, three shorter stories for us available in English; for others outside our field, see here; hosted a Russian television-interview show a dozen years.  Great-grandniece of literary giant Leo Tolstoy.  [JH]
  • Born May 3, 1962 – Stephan Martiniere, age 59.  Two hundred seventy-five covers, fifty interiors.  Artbooks Quantum DreamsQuantumscapesVelocityTrajectory.  One Hugo, two Chesleys; two BSFA (British SF Ass’n) Awards.  Here is Heavy Planet.  Here is Dozois’ 22nd Year’s Best SF.  Here is Betrayer of Worlds.  Here is The Three-Body Problem.  Here is The Poet King.  [JH]
  • Born May 3, 1969 Daryl Mallett, 52. By now you know that I’ve a deep fascination with the nonfiction documentation of our community. This author has done a number of works doing just that including several I’d love to see including Reginald’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards: A Comprehensive Guide to the Awards and Their Winners written with Robert Reginald. He’s also written some short fiction including one story with Forrest J Ackerman that bears the charming title of “A Typical Terran’s Thought When Spoken to by an Alien from the Planet Quarn in Its Native Language“.  He’s even been an actor as well appearing in several Next Gen episodes (“Encounter at Farpoint” and “Hide and Q”) and The Undiscovered Country as well, all uncredited. He also appeared in Doctor Who and The Legends Of Time, a fan film which you can see here if you wish to. (CE) 
  • Born May 3, 1980 – Jessica Spotswood, age 41.  Three novels, one shorter story, one anthology (with Tess Sharpe) for us.  Works for Washington, D.C., Public Library.  Has read five Anne of Green Gables books, three by Jane Austen, The Strange History of the American QuadroonThe CrucibleWe Should All Be Feminists.  [JH]
  • Born May 3, 1982 Rebecca Hall, 39. Lots of genre work — her first role was as Sarah Borden in The Prestige followed by being Emily Wotton in Dorian Gray and then as Florence Cathcart in The Awakening which in turn led to her being Maya Hansen in Iron Man 3. Next up? Mary in Roald Dahl’s The BFG. Is she done yet? No as next up is the English dub of the voice of Mother of Mirai no Mirai.  She might’ve wanted to have stopped there as her most recent role was Dr. Grace Hart in Holmes & Watson which won an appalling four Golden Raspberries! (CE) 
  • Born May 3, 1984 – Ian Bristow, age 37.  Four novels, two shorter stories, a dozen covers.  Here is The Interspecies Poker Tournament.  Here is Contact.  Here is The Gaia Collection.  [JH]
  • Born May 3, 1985 Becky Chambers, 36. I’m currently listening to The Galaxy, And The Ground Within which is most excellent. Her Wayfarers series won the Best Series Hugo at Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon. (A Closed and Common Orbit was on the final list at WorldCon 75 for Best Novel but lost out to another exemplary novel, N. K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk GateRecord of a Spaceborn Few would be on the ballot at Dublin 2019 but lost out to yet another exemplary novel, Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars.) (A digression: The Wayfarers are the best series I’ve listened to in a long time.) “To Be Taught, if Fortunate” was a finalist at ConZealand in the Best Novella category but lost out to “This Is How You Lose the Time War” by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur follows an outfit that knows their truth is out there. Maybe.
  • Heathcliff doesn’t look very superheroic – that’s what makes him so dangerous.
  • Maximumble shows why not all AI want to be more like humans.

(10) FAMILY TIME. Get your tissues ready. “Marvel Studios Celebrates The Movies” on YouTube is something Marvel Studios put together (with words by Stan Lee) about the importance of seeing MCU movies in theatres, along with a list of forthcoming MCU releases for the next two years.

The world may change and evolve, but the one thing that will never change: we’re all part of one big family.

(11) THE FATES OF THREE GENRE SHOWS. SYFY Wire says don’t change that channel – unless you want to watch Pennyworth: “The CW renews Stargirl & Kung Fu; HBO Max eyes Pennyworth pick-up”.

Stargirl will continue to shine bright on The CW with a third season, the network announced Monday. The DC show’s renewal also came with the news that Christina M. Kim’s Kung Fu reboot has scored a second, butt-kicking season. Stargirl‘s sophomore season is scheduled to kick off this summer, while Kung Fu is in the middle of airing its debut batch of episodes (the premiere garnered over 3.5 million audience members when it first dropped in early April)….

“STARGIRL SEASON 3!!!” Brec Bassinger, Stargirl‘s leading lady, wrote on Twitter. “I get to go be with my star fam another year.”

“Thank you to everyone who has been tuning in to our little show,” tweeted Olivia Lang, who headlines Kung Fu. “We hope we’ve made your lives brighter and brought joy into your homes.”

Elsewhere, Epix’s Batman prequel, Pennyworth, could score a third outing of its own, but not on Epix. According to a new report from Deadline, HBO Max is mulling over a decision to pick up the DC-inspired series about a young British spy (Jack Bannon) who will one day become the butler of Wayne Manor…. 

(12) THE PAST THROUGH TOMORROW. Brett Molina reviews the updates Atari: “Remember Atari? We played its latest video game console, Atari VCS” at Yahoo!

It is 2021, and I’m not playing on an Xbox, PlayStation or Nintendo Switch. I’m playing Atari.

This isn’t an old Atari 2600 previously collecting dust in a closet or an emulator I found online. It’s a fresh home video game console: the Atari VCS.

Having spent some time playing Atari VCS, it’s easy to get trapped by the nostalgic feelings of popping in my “Asteroids” or “Missile Command” cartridges. However, the VCS delivers plenty of modern touches such as wireless, rechargeable controllers and Wi-Fi support for downloadable games.

The Atari VCS is available to preorder for $399.99 and includes the console, a wireless modern controller and a wireless classic joystick.

(13) REAL HANDWAVIUM. The New York Times reports “These Materials Could Make Science Fiction a Reality”.

Imagine operating a computer by moving your hands in the air as Tony Stark does in “Iron Man.” Or using a smartphone to magnify an object as does the device that Harrison Ford’s character uses in “Blade Runner.” Or a next-generation video meeting where augmented reality glasses make it possible to view 3-D avatars. Or a generation of autonomous vehicles capable of driving safely in city traffic.

These advances and a host of others on the horizon could happen because of metamaterials, making it possible to control beams of light with the same ease that computer chips control electricity.

The term metamaterials refers to a broad class of manufactured materials composed of structures that are finer than the wavelength of visible light, radio waves and other types of electromagnetic radiation. Together, they are now giving engineers extraordinary control in designing new types of ultracheap sensors that range from a telescope lens to an infrared thermometer.

“We are entering the consumer phase for metamaterials,” said Alan Huang, the chief technology officer at Terabit Corporation, a Silicon Valley consulting firm, who did early research in optical computing during his 12 years at Bell Labs. “It will go way beyond cameras and projectors and lead to things we don’t expect. It’s really a field of dreams.”

The first consumer products to take advantage of inexpensive metamaterials will be smartphones, which will improve their performance, but the ability to control light waves in new ways will also soon enable products like augmented reality glasses that overlay computerized images on the real world….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Mortal Kombat (2021) Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, which has spoilers, the producer explains he’s heard of the Mortal Kombat video game because “you mash a lot of buttons and someone’s spine explodes.  Then you need a lot of therapy.”  Also one character’s laser eye powers are discovered “by arguing about egg rolls” with another character.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/17/21 He Was A File, She Was A Scroll, Can I Make It Any More Obvious?

(1) NICHOLAS WHYTE TAKES ON 2021 HUGO & SITE SELECTION DUTIES. DisCon III’s new WSFS Division Head is Nicholas Whyte, who announced on Facebook he is taking the place of Jared Dashoff, who resigned in response to the committee’s internal handling of some new Hugo policies that have since been revoked.

I have been appointed the new Division Head of the WSFS Division, which is the part of the Worldcon that admininsters the Hugo Awards, the Business Meeting which reviews the rules, and the Site Selection process for the 2023 Worldcon (currently contested between Chengdu, China and Memphis, Tennessee) – the three obligatory things that every Worldcon must do.

I was previously the Administrator of the Hugo Awards in 2017 and 2019, and one of the deputy administrators last year; and also Division Head for Promotions at the London Worldcon in 2014. I had not anticipated having any executive role this year, but life does not always work out as we expect.

The Hugos have had some reputational issues to deal with. Having fought off direct assault by ill-wishers in 2015 and 2016, some pretty significant mistakes were made more recently. Many of those were outside the immediate responsibility of the Hugo Administrators, including most notably the awful botching of last year’s Hugo ceremony and the Hugo Losers Party in 2019, and the hostile response from some in the community to the winners of the award for Best Related Work in both of those years (cases where I very much stand by the eligibility decisions that were made by teams that I was a part of).

I have made mistakes as well, and I hope that I have learned from them. In particular, it’s clear, not least from the problems that arose in the last few days, that the Hugos as a whole need to be less siloed and need to improve communication in both directions with the rest of the Worldcon and with the wider stakeholder community (as my work colleagues would put it). DisCon III had already started putting structures in place that would improve this side of things, and I look forward to working with those and building on them.

(2) OLDEST SFF BOOKSTORE. “At Bakka-Phoenix, the beloved sci-fi and fantasy bookstore, you can let your geek flag fly” in the Toronto Star.

In the summer of 1982, Margaret Atwood walked into Bakka Books looking for a copy of “The Hobbit.” Robert J. Sawyer, the celebrated Canadian science-fiction writer who was then working behind the counter, couldn’t believe his luck.

“It was pretty amazing — she knew all about the store and how we specialized in fantasy and science fiction,” Sawyer recalls of his encounter at the bookstore when it was in its first home on Queen Street near John Street.

Atwood’s visit to pick up some Tolkien was a testament to the role the bookstore (now named Bakka-Phoenix Science Fiction and Fantasy Bookstore) plays in the literary community — not just in Toronto but beyond city borders too. On the cusp of celebrating its 50th anniversary, Bakka-Phoenix is the oldest sci-fi and fantasy specialty bookstore in the world. It’s long been a hub for aficionados of a genre that is rarely awarded more than a couple of shelves at most big-box bookstores. It’s the kind of bookstore that’s for fans of space operas and dystopian fiction, for readers hungry for the latest William Gibson saga and for those on the prowl for a rare Harlan Ellison story collection. “Bakka has always been a mecca to me,” says Sawyer.

(3) CAPTAIN JACK. Deadline reports “’Torchwood’ Star John Barrowman Touches Fans With Ianto Shrine Visit”

Actor John Barrowman, who portrayed Captain Jack Harkness on Torchwood, has set off a Twitter frenzy with a post depicting a visit to a show landmark in Cardiff, Wales.

Barrowman posted a selfie in front of a shrine to the show’s Ianto Jones, who was Capt. Jack’s lover on the show and tragically died in his arms in a mini-series episode, Children of Earth.

On Friday, Barrowman paid an incognito visit to the impromptu shrine set up to honor the Ianto character in Cardiff, a site near where the series was filmed. The shrine is still very popular with fans 11 years after the television series death….

(4) EVERMORE PARK ALSO A COVID CASUALTY. [Item by David Doering.] As of yesterday, Evermore Park has cancelled any future performances at the park and has let the creative team go. Basically, the park will only be open for event rentals and strolling through. A sad loss due to Covid. Had it opened one year before or one year later, it might well have made it. “Evermore Park cancels winter production, dozens of employees laid off” at Yahoo!

Dozens of employees at Evermore Park in Pleasant Grove were laid off this week after it was decided there would be no winter-themed production, as well as other financial issues largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

(5) A REAL FANNISH TED TALK.FANAC.org will host a fannish TED talk on Saturday, January 23 when author, editor, and past Worldcon chair Ted White will be interviewed by John D. Berry via Zoom. Time: 4 pm EST. Participants are limited. To get the Zoom log-in, please RSVP to fanac@fanac.org .

Ted White will be talking about his long history in fandom and some of the interesting people he has encountered along the way. Ted is considered by many to be the current patriarch of fannish fandom. He has been active since the very early 1950s, both publishing fanzines and in clubs from Virginia to New York. We have more different fanzine titles of Ted’s on FANAC.org than any other faned. In addition to the many titles he edited on his own, he has published many collaborative fanzines going back to the 1950s.  

Ted has also chaired several conventions, including the 1967 Worldcon – the last Worldcon in New York. As a professional in the science fiction field, he has written stories, articles, and novels. He was the editor of Amazing Stories and Fantastic magazines, and has written extensively about the music industry.

John D. Berry has known and worked with Ted for over 50 years so he knows the questions to ask. And Ted has said that no topic is off the table.

(6) HORROR CELEBRITY. “’Glamour Ghoul’ reveals Vampira, Hollywood’s ‘original Goth’” – Scott Bradfield reviews her biography in the Los Angeles Times.

You didn’t need to be a pubescent boy (or his father) to fully appreciate the charms of Maila Nurmi — a.k.a. Vampira — when she first appeared on late-night KABC-TV in the spring of 1954. But it didn’t hurt. She was tall, beautiful and frightening and she screamed like a banshee, climaxing each howl with a lewd lick of her full lips, which even in black-and-white glistened bloodily. Her pale body was almost a caricature of an hourglass figure, like one of those inexplicably bountiful women featured in the pinups of Joaquin Alberto Vargas, for whom Nurmi had modeled only a few years earlier. But what made Vampira most memorable was the jokes she slyly delivered at machine-gun speed: pop, pop, pop. She came heavily armed with oodles of sexy, macabre puns and she wasn’t afraid to use them.

In the early days, Vampira was asked by a Los Angeles Tribune columnist to tell a little bit about herself.

“There isn’t much to tell,” she said. “I was born in Lapland. … I have an owl for a house pet. I have a 19-inch waist, 38-inch bust and 36-inch hips. My earliest recollection as a child is that I always wanted to play with mice. I’m very anti-social. I simply detest people. I don’t like snakes; they eat spiders, and I’m very fond of spiders.” Asked how she felt about children, she didn’t miss a beat: “Oh yes … delicious.”…

(7) BATWOMAN SPEAKS OUT. “New Batwoman Javicia Leslie always wanted to be a superhero” she tells the Washington Post.

Last year, Javicia Leslie was asked on a podcast what she wanted her next acting role to be.

“I said I wanted to be a superhero,” Leslie recalled recently toThe Washington Post.

In July, just two months after stating her desire, the star of “God Friended Me” and “The Family Business”answered the call to a bat-signal put up in the sky just for her — finding out she was the new star of the CW’s “Batwoman.” The announcement instantly made her the new face of the network’s successful tradition of televised superheroes….

One norm going away is the trademark black eye makeup that every on-screen bat-hero since Keaton has worn under the mask — Rose eventually parted with itand Leslie will also decline.

“Being a woman of color, it was important that we didn’t black out my eyes,” Leslie said. “We wanted to play with light instead of playing with darkness to help accentuate me being a black woman in playing this role.”

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Rod Serling wore Botany 500 brand suits.

— Source: Wikipedia

(9) BOB SURYAN OBIT. Bob Suryan died January 17. The Norwescon group made the announcement.

Bob Suryan has passed away today. He was very active in the Seattle Astronomical Society, and Norwescon (including chairing a couple of the conventions). He loved history and folks enjoyed chatting with him about all sorts of things. He had his ups and downs with health over the years and about a week and half ago was admitted to the hospital due to lots of pain. Sadly this turned out to be stage four lung cancer.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • January 17, 1992 Freejack premiered. It starred Emilio Estevez, Mick Jagger, Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins. The screenplay was written by Steven Pressfield, Ronald Shusett (who was also the producer) and Dan Gilroy. We consider it to be very loosely adapted from Robert Sheckley’s Immortality, Inc. (Great work. The serialised version as “Time Killer” in Galaxy was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel.) It was not at the time well-liked by either critics or reviewers, not is it currently liked among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes  as it is carrying a 25% rating and there’s a lot who have expressed an opinion — over fourteen thousand so far. (CE) 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • January 17, 1899 Nevil Shute. Nevil Shute. Author of On the Beach. It originally appeared as a four-part series, The Last Days on Earth, in the London weekly Sunday Graphic in April 1957. It was twice a film. He has other SF novels including An Old Captivity which involves time travel and No Highway which gets a review by Pohl in Super Science Stories, April 1949. There’s In the Wet and Vinland the Good as well. (Died 1960.) (CE)
  • Born January 17, 1923 – Alva Rogers.  Changing the name of the prozine Astounding to Analog has been applauded by some; AR wrote a Requiem.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon XV.  Co-chaired Baycon, the combined Westercon XXI and 26th Worldcon, famous in song and story.  Co-edited Rhodomagnetic Digest 62, its last issue; AR’s wife Sidonie wrote a profile of Al haLevy and AR drew one.  After SR died, AR married Andi Shechter, famous in song and story.  (Died 1982) [JH]
  • January 17, 1927 —  Eartha Kitt. Though you’ll have lots of folks remembering her as Catwoman from the original Batman, she appeared in but four episodes there. Genre wise, she was in such series as I-SpyMission: ImpossibleMatrix, the animated Space Ghost Coast to Coast and the animated My Life as a Teenage Robot. Film wise, she played Freya in Erik the Viking, voiced Bagheera in The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story and was Madame Zeroni In Holes. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born January 17, 1930 – Dean Dickensheet.  Active in LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.) during Shangri L’Affaires days, was the Bartender in The Musquite Kid Rides Again.  Next door, edited Men and MaliceGreat Crimes of San Francisco.  His part in Coventry was a reminder of Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?  (Died 1983) [JH]
  • January 17, 1931 James Earl Jones, 90. His first SF appearance was in Dr. Strangelove as Lt. Lothar Zogg.  And I think I need not list all his appearances as Darth Vader here. Some genre appearances include  Exorcist II: The HereticThe Flight of DragonsConan the Barbarian as Thulsa Doom and I actually remember him in that role, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, did you know the 1995 Judge Dredd had a Narrator? Well he’s listed as doing it, and Fantasia 2000 as well. (CE)
  • January 17, 1935 Paul O. Williams. A poet who won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer for The Breaking of Northwall and The Ends of the Circle which are the first two novels of  his Pelbar Cycle. I’ve not read these, so be interested in your opinions, of course. (Died 2009.) (CE)
  • Born January 17, 1952 – Tom Deitz.  A score of novels.  Guest of Honor at Phoenixcon 8.  Gainesville State College faculty member of the year, 2008.  Phoenix Award.  Co-founded local SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) barony.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • January 17, 1962 Jim Carrey, 59. His first genre film is Once Bitten whose content is obvious from its name and which get a mere thirty-nine percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. The ‘dorable Earth Girls Are Easy was next followed up by Batman Forever in which he played a manic Riddler that I rather liked, then there’s the The Truman Show which was way cool. So may we not talk about How the Grinch Stole Christmas?  (SHUDDER!) We settled last year that we think that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is genre.  And I think that I’ll stop there this time. (CE)
  • Born January 17, 1967 – Wendy Mass, Litt.D., age 54.  Ray Bradbury volume for Authors Teens Love.  Of course I put that first, what Website do you think this is?  A score of novels for us, half as many others; nonfiction e.g. StonehengeJohn Cabot.  Schneider Award for A Mango-Shaped Space.  Has read The Phantom Tollbooth and The Secret Garden.  [JH]
  • January 17, 1970 —  Genndy Tartakovsky, 50. Like Romulan Ale, animation style is a matter of taste. So while I like his work on Samurai Jack and Star Wars: Clone Wars, I can understand why many SW fans don’t as it’s definitely an acquired taste.  He also is responsible for directing the animated  Hotel Transylvania franchise. (CE) 
  • Born January 17, 1971 – Nomi Burstein, age 50.  Technical writer, freelance editor.  Collects neologisms, e.g. jan howard finder’s “bytelock”.  Fanzine, Burstzine (with husband Michael Burstein).  Years of patiently fielding questions about Jewish observance.  Co-founder (with MB) of the Society for the Preservation of Pluto as a Planet.  [JH]
  • Born January 17, 1981 – Rachelle Rosenberg, age 40.  Color artist for Marvel, e.g. this and this and this.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) YOU SAY YOU WANT AN EVOLUTION. “How ‘WandaVision’ Star Elizabeth Olsen Transformed Her Performance For Every Genre-Bending Episode”, a Q&A at Yahoo! Entertainment.

What was the difference between what you did the ’50s, versus when you were in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s?

The ’70s women were allowed — it was almost like there is was a relaxation of women and social behavior, and so that would affect their voices and the tone that they can take. Instead of it being kind of a higher and level [like in the ’50s]. The ’70s, even though it’s this really strange “Brady Bunch” aspirational time in sitcom land, women were able to have a bit more control, something that grounded them a bit more in their voice. Then as we got into the ’80s, there were the teachable moments, and how sincere everything was, that was really funny. And then as we move into the arts and into the ’00s and the 2010s, the sitcom becomes really cynical. The humor, like “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Modern Family” becomes incredibly cynical. And that’s what we found comforting for whatever reason as a society.

It was fun when we were in this boot camp to not only chart the physical changes, as tools, but to also [discover] what comedy was for that time. “Rosemary’s Baby” is a film and “Brady Bunch” is on television, it doesn’t make any sense to me. But for whatever reason, that’s what that’s what the consumer was watching at home.

(14) UNDER THE LIGHTS. Cheryl  Morgan fills in Cora Buhlert’s readers about her online zine – “Fanzine Spotlight: Salon Futura”.

Why did you decide to start your site or zine?

When I set up Wizard’s Tower Press, one of the things I wanted to do was create a semiprozine for non-fiction. It turned out that there wasn’t a market for such a thing at the time, and it closed after 9 issues. Then last year I saw Nicholas Whyte bemoaning the lack of interest in the Fanzine category of the Hugos. I’d already come to the conclusion that I needed some form of discipline to ensure I made time to read and review books, so I decided to relaunch Salon Futura as a fanzine. Thus far it has worked in that I have read a lot more books. I figure that if I ever get on the Hugo ballot again there will be a flood of new people voting in that category to stop me winning, and that will be the other objective achieved.

(15) VINTAGE OPINIONS. Gilbert Seldes lectures on science fiction in this 1953 recording of a WNYC broadcast “Science fiction writing” from The NYPR Archive Collections.

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

Seldes discusses the science fiction genre. He opens with a story about a science fiction story about the atomic bomb preceding the actual bomb, and the government’s response.

He speaks of the symbolism of the extraterrestrial as a symbol for invaders from behind the Iron Curtain.

Seldes notes that there is a lot of science fiction that he does not deem to be of good quality, but does speak very highly of Ray Bradbury and H. G. Wells

(16) CHINESE SFF MOVIE. The Shimmer Program announced “Another Chinese science fiction film, ‘The Soul’ has been released on big screen! The thriller is adapted from Jiang Bo’s story ‘The Soul Transplanting Skill’ and directed by Cheng Wei-hao.” (The Soul is not to be confused with Pixar’s Soul).

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, John Hertz, JJ, David Doering, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Joe Siclari, Olav Rokne, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

SFF Rosetta Awards Created

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Rosetta Awards for works translated into English were unveiled today. The award will spotlight “the great but underrated efforts of translators and those who endeavor to make the translation works come true.”

The juried award will have three categories:

  • Long-form. 40K English words or above.
  • Short-form. Under 40K words.
  • A Special Service Award will be awarded to the author, editor, translator, activist or publisher who makes great contribution to promotion of non-English SFF internationally.

Cheryl Morgan, first chair of the awards jury, says SFFRA came about this way:

Earlier this year I was approached by the lovely people at the Future Affairs Administration in China. They were interested in starting up a new set of SF&F translation awards and they wanted me to be part of the jury. Gary Wolfe was also involved, and I still very much believe in having such awards, so I said yes.

Morgan and Wolfe previously worked on the Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards last given in 2013.

Some of the key eligibility requirements for the new SFFRA award are:

  • Must be a translation from Non-English to English, and published either in print or electronically through publisher/magazine. The eligibility is based on the year the translation is published, not the year the work was published in its original language.
  • Self-published work posted on the web or social media will not be considered.
  • Self-translated work will not be considered.

The inaugural jury will be: Chairperson: Cheryl Morgan (Wales, UK); Deputy chairperson Gary K. Wolfe (US); Jurors: Alex Shvartsman (US), Ana Rüsche (Brazil), Artiom Zheltov (Russia), Yingying Wu (China), and Alex “SFRabbit” Li (China)

The SFFRA website ends its introduction with this invitation:

It won’t be easy, for this new Awards, to grow and mature and keep alive for years and years. This Awards welcomes all supports in any direct or indirect way possible. Together, we contribute to the global SFF communism and to make this world a little more understandable.

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 10/15/20 The People All Said Sit Down, You’re Rocking The Fabulous Riverboat

(1) BELTERS AND SUSPENDERS. Amazon Prime dropped The Expanse – Season 5 Official Trailer

The future of The Belt has begun as Marco Inaros wages Armageddon against the Inners for a lifetime of oppression and injustice.

(2) NEW MOON TREATIES. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport says that the U.S. and seven other countries have signed the Artemis Accords which regulate conduct on the Moon including the role private businesses can play in mining and other enterprises: “Seven nations join the U.S. in signing the Artemis Accords, creating a legal framework for behavior in space”.

NASA announced Tuesday that seven nations have joined the United States in signing the Artemis Accords, a series of bilateral agreements that would establish rules for the peaceful use of outer space and govern behavior on the surface of the moon.

The rules would allow private companies to extract lunar resources, create safety zones to prevent conflict and ensure that countries act transparently about their plans in space and share their scientific discoveries.

… By law, the United States is effectively barred from cooperating with China in space. But NASA officials said that even if Russia and China are not signatories, the accords would be successful because they would create a baseline for the world to follow.

“Precedent is important,” said Mike Gold, NASA’s acting associate administrator for the office of international and interagency relations. “By embracing our values, along with our partners, we’re creating a track record, a norm of behavior that will influence the entire world to proceed with the transparent, peaceful and safe exploration of space.”

Signatories would agree, for example, to help provide emergency assistance in the case of an injured astronaut. They would also agree to protect historic sites, such as the Apollo 11 landing area. They would also agree to be transparent about their plans for space and share scientific data.

The accords would allow countries or companies to create “safety zones” so they could work to extract resources. NASA and China are both interested in going to the South Pole of the moon, where there is water in the form of ice in the shadows of craters.

Being able to operate there safely, without interference, will be critical if multiple nations are vying for the same resource in the same place, he said.

“The most valuable resource that I think any nation is going to be interested in is the water ice at the South Pole,” he said. “So if we get to a position where there is a competition for that resource that’s an area that we’re going to have to deal with.”

(3) TIME TO CAPITALIZE. DisCon III, the 79th Worldcon, officially began taking applications for the Capitalize! fan fund today — application forms are available here. The fund’s purpose is to “financially support fans, staff, and program participants from marginalized communities in an effort to lift voices across science fiction, fantasy, and fandom who have not been recognized in the past.” (More details in this post: “2021 Worldcon Launches Capitalize! The DisCon III Fan Fund”.)

Donations are requested so they can increase their outreach. Jared Dashoff says, “The Worldcon community can only gain by opening its doors and growing. Diversity benefits us all.”

(4) HEAR CORA’S STORY. Cora Buhlert’s short story, “Patient X-5” is now online in the latest episode of the podcast Simultaneous Times: “Space Cowboy Books Presents: Simultaneous Times Ep.32 – Cora Buhlert & Andy Dibble”. She says, “They did a great job with the production. There’s even incidental music and sound effects.”

(5) WHERE BRITISH TOWNSPEOPLE WANT TO SAVE A DALEK. Atlas Obscura looked on in fascination: “When Town Council and a Sci-fi Museum Went to War Over a Dalek”.

IT WAS A COLD JANUARY morning in 2019 when an unfamiliar car rolled into Allendale, a small village nestled within the North Pennines in Northumberland County, England. This wasn’t unusual; in the prior three months the village had seen a fresh influx of visitors, ever since the grand opening of “Neil Cole’s Adventures in Science Fiction: Museum of Sci-fi.” The family-run business, with a menagerie of pop-culture intergalactic friends and foes in an impressive array of classic movie and television props, costumes, and original artwork, wasn’t so much a museum as it was a loving ode to the genre. As odd a choice as the quiet, historically rich Allendale seemed for such a contemporary collection, locals had whole-heartedly embraced the attraction and welcomed the tourism it brought.

The passengers in the vehicle, however, had not come as tourists. “Three huge guys were banging on our door every 15 minutes,” recalls Neil Cole, the eponymous owner, whose personal collection of memorabilia populates the museum. “There was a car watching from across the street. This was the [Northumberland County] Council; it was the first we’d heard from them.” The men, officers from Highways Enforcement, had been sent by the Council to follow up on a complaint that had been lodged against the museum by a single Allendale resident.

Cole and his wife, Lisa, had been accused of defiling their historically listed property by installing a modern timber shed outside it, along the street, without planning permission. They were given 14 days to remove it. This was no ordinary shed: It was home to a life-size Dalek.

Bureaucratic wrangling countered by popular support have put matters on pause while the next round of drama is prepared.

… “The Council was meant to work with me to come up with a solution and build something else,” Cole says. “But when we contacted them, they just wouldn’t.” In early August 2020, the Coles finally dismantled the shed. The loss comes with a silver lining, as the shed will be donated to the village preschool, where it will live on as a play area for children. A weather-resistant steel Dalek is currently being built to take the place of its predecessor as the new museum sentinel, Council be damned.

(6) HANDLE WITH CARE. When picking up some old volumes, collectors might be taking their lives in their hands: “Poison Book Project”.

The Winterthur Poison Book Project is an ongoing investigation initiated in April 2019 to identify potentially toxic pigments coloring Victorian-era bookcloth.

Analysis of decorated, cloth-case, publisher’s bindings at Winterthur Library revealed starch-coated bookcloth colored with “emerald green,” or copper acetoarsenite, an inorganic pigment known to be extremely toxic. This pigment’s popularity in England and the United States during the Victorian era is well documented. While the colorant was known to be widely used in textiles for home decoration and apparel, wallpaper, and toys, its use specifically in bookcloth has not been formally explored. Successful bookcloths were a closely guarded trade secret during the nineteenth century, limiting our current understanding of their materiality and manufacture. Conservation staff and interns at Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library conducted a survey of bookcloth pigments in order to correlate the presence of emerald green and other potentially toxic pigments with specific publishers and date ranges. The project initially focused on the library’s circulating collection, which poses a greater potential risk to patrons, and then expanded to include the rare book collection.

In December 2019, the Winterthur Library data set was further expanded in cooperation with The Library Company of Philadelphia, which has significant holdings of cloth-case publisher’s bindings.

What differentiates this research project from others centered around arsenic-based pigments in library collections is threefold: first, the toxic pigment permeates the outer covering of Victorian-era, cloth-case publisher’s bindings; second, the large quantity of arsenic-based pigment present in bookcloth; and third, such mass-produced bindings may be commonly found in both special and circulating library collections across the United States and the United Kingdom….

(7) YOUTH MOVEMENT. In “Kids And Thrillers And Their Freaky Powers” on CrimeReads, C.J. Tudor recommends novels by Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Justin Cronin if you want to read books about kids with paranormal powers.

A Cosmology of Monsters by Sean Hamill

Noah Turner sees monsters.

So did his dad. In fact, he built a shrine to them, The Wandering Dark, a horror experience that the whole family operates every Halloween.

His mother denies her own glimpses of terror to keep the family from falling apart. But terrible things keep happening, including the death of Noah’s dad, the sudden disappearance of his oldest sister, Sydney, and his sister Eunice’s mental illness, not to mention the missing children from the town.

Then a huge supernatural creature that turns up on Noah’s doorstep one night . . . and Noah lets his monster in. 

(8) GIVE FEEDBACK TO THE WFC BOARD. Cheryl Morgan writes it off as “Another Year, Another World Fantasy Debacle”, however, she hasn’t ruled out participating on the program.  

…As it happens, although I thought I had confirmed my willingness to be on panel, no one from WFC has been in touch to explain about the change of panel description. So now I am not entirely sure whether I am still on panel. In any case, I am considering my position.

But Morgan does advise –

…This is your chance, fandom. You keep complaining that “They” should fix Worldcon, even though you know that there is no “They” with the power to do it, at least not in the short term. “They” should fix World Fantasy too, and in this case They exist. Here they are. They even have a convenient email address for you to write to….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1966 — Frank Herbert’s Dune shared the Best Novel Hugo with  …And Call Me Conrad by Roger Zelazny. It would also win the Nebula that year as well, and a decade later Locus would pick it as the Best All-Time SF Novel. (Runner-ups for the Hugo were John Brunner‘s The Squares of the City, Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Skylark DuQuesne.) The first appearance of “Dune” in print, began in Analog with “Dune World”, December 1963 – February 1964 and then “The Prophet of Dune”, January – May 1965. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 15, 1919 E.C. Tubb. A writer of at least 140 novels and 230 short stories and novellas, he’s best remembered I think for the Dumarest Saga. His other long running series was the Cap Kennedy stories. And his short story “Little Girl Lost” which was originally published in New Worlds magazine became a story on Night Gallery. He novelized a number of the Space: 1999 episodes. (Died 2010.) (CE) 
  • Born October 15, 1924 Mark Lenard. Sarek, father of Spock, in the Trek franchise for showing up in that role in “Journey to Babel”.  Surprisingly he also played a Klingon in Star Trek The Motion Picture, and a Romulan in an earlier episode of Star Trek. He also had one-offs on Mission ImpossibleWild Wild West,  Otherworld and Planet of The Apes. (Died 1996.) (CE)
  • Born October 15, 1926 Ed McBain. Huh, I never knew he ventured beyond his mystery novels but he published approximately twenty-four genre stories and six SF novels between 1951 and 1971 under the names S. A. Lombino, Evan Hunter, Richard Marsten, D. A. Addams, and Ted Taine. ISFDB has a list and I can’t say I know any of them. Any of y’all read them? (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born October 15, 1954 Jere Burns, 66. I’m giving him a birthday write-up for being on the so excellent Max Headroom as Breughel the organlegger who seizes the unconscious  Edison Carter after his accident. He also had one-offs on Fantasy IslandThe Outer LimitsSabrina the Teenage WitchFrom Dusk to DawnThe X-Files and Lucifer. (CE) 
  • Born October 15, 1955 Tanya Roberts, 65. Stacey Sutton in the fourteenth Bond film, A View to Kill. Quite the opposite of her role as Kiri in The Beastmaster. And let’s not forget her in the title role of Sheena: Queen of the Jungle. (CE)
  • Born October 15, 1969 Dominic West, 51. Jigsaw in the dreadful Punisher film, Punisher: War Zone. His first SFF role was as Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream which is the same year he shows up as Jerus Jannick in The Phantom Menace, and he was Sab Than on the rather excellent John Carter.  One of his recent latest SFF roles was as Lord Richard Croft in the Tomb Raider reboot. (CE) 
  • Born October 15, 1911 – James H. Schmitz.  Eight novels, fifty shorter stories; most and deservedly famous for The Witches of Karres; also Telzey Amberdon and the Hub.  He’s in Anne McCaffrey’s cookbook.  The Best of JHS was the first NESFA’s Choice (New England SF Ass’n) book, hello Mark Olson.  Independent and colorful, he never cared whether he was revolutionary or challenging, so naturally –  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born October 15, 1912 – Chester Cuthbert.  Six decades ago organized the Winnipeg SF Society.  Fiction in Gernsback’s February 1934 and July 1934 Wonder Stories.  Gave his collection to Univ. Alberta just before his death, two thousand boxes weighing 45 tons.  Even wrote letters of comment to me.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born October 15, 1938 – Don Simpson, 82.  Building, carving, drawing, singing, marvelously and modestly strange.  Official Artist at Boskone 9.  Proud possessor of a purchase order from the Smithsonian Institution for “One (1) alien artifact”, which he designed for the Air & Space Museum.  Here is “Against the Battlemoon”.  Here is a star probe.  Here are a name badge and a calling  card (which, as you may know, is just the half of it).  Here is a sculpted garden.  Here is his design for three-sided dice.  [JH]
  • Born October 15, 1942 – Beatrice Gormley, 78.  Six novels for us, biography of C.S. Lewis; a score of other fiction and nonfiction books, including biographies of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Laura Bush, Marie Curie and Maria Mitchell.  After BG visited a Massachusetts school, a parent commenting on what impressed children observed “Wow!  A real writer who is paid real money has to rewrite!”  [JH]
  • Born October 15, 1955 – Emma Chichester Clark, 65.  A score of covers, a dozen interiors for us, maybe more depending how you count; what about a blue kangaroo?  ECC’s illustrations for Laura Cecil’s Listen to This won a Mother Goose Award.  Here is her cover for “The Wizard of Oz” as Told by the Dog (who naturally considers the real title is Toto).  Here is an illustration from her Alice in Wonderland.  Here is the cover for her Through the Looking-Glass.  Here she is with her companion Plumdog.  [JH]
  • Born October 15, 1971 – Guy Hasson, 49.  Short stories in English, plays and cinema in Hebrew, mostly.  Two Geffen Awards.  A dozen stories in English available here.  Journal (in English) of his three-actor two-location film The Indestructibles here.  Tickling Butterflies made from 128 fairy tales here.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SOUL. Disney dropped a new trailer for Soul.

What is it that makes you…YOU? This Christmas only on Disney+, Pixar Animation Studios’ all-new feature film “Soul” introduces Joe Gardner (voice of Jamie Foxx) – a middle-school band teacher who gets the chance of a lifetime to play at the best jazz club in town. But one small misstep takes him from the streets of New York City to The Great Before – a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks and interests before they go to Earth. Determined to return to his life, Joe teams up with a precocious soul, 22 (voice of Tina Fey), who has never understood the appeal of the human experience. As Joe desperately tries to show 22 what’s great about living, he may just discover the answers to some of life’s most important questions.

(13) CREDENTIAL IN SPACE. “The Newest Star Of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Is A Cat Named Grudge” reports TrekMovie.com.

…Grudge is a pet of Cleveland “Book” Booker, a new character for Discovery season 3 played by David Ajala. During the Star Trek Day Disco panel Ajala gave a description of Book’s cat:

“I can say the Grudge is a queen. She is feisty. She is cynical, cautious, and wary of people. But when she embraces you and it takes you in, she takes you in. It’s tough love! I’ve had to work my way up the ladder.”

Leeu’s handlers say the 2-year-old Maine Coon has taken to his new role, calling him a “one-take wonder.” His new castmates also praised their new feline costar during the Discovery Star Trek Day preview.

The official Star Trek Twitter account made the announcement today along with this very cute behind the scenes video:

(14) SPACE OPERA, BLIP BY BLIP. The serial Only You Will Recognize the Signal begins October 29.

Experience Only You Will Recognize the Signal, a serial space opera from the creators of the world’s first Zoom opera All Decisions Will Be Made By Consensus and the digital surveillance opera Looking at You. The series will release weekly 10-minute episodes as part of #stillHERE:ONLINE, culminating in a final 70-minute viewing experience.

…The travelers aboard the Grand Crew, a very massive luxury emigrant craft, expected to remain in therapeutic hypothermia until arrival at their new home planet. Unfortunately, the technology has been compromised. Isolated in their pods, the unfrozen migrants find themselves entangled in a shared phantasmagoria that smells like sour gummi worms. They are stuck in mid-transition between planet A and planet B, between the end of the old life and the beginning of the new life, between memory and amnesia. They can’t finish the job of erasing the past, and they can’t move into the tenebrous future. Don’t worry: the ship’s computer, Bob, has a plan.

…The team redefines the serial form with weekly 10 minute live revelations over 8 weeks culminating in a 80 minute world premiere increments each Friday October 29 – December 17, culminating in a full live stream showing on December 17 at 7pm as part of our HERE@Home Series. Formally, the eight-episode serial builds on the compositional flexibility, performer autonomy, and unexpected comedy for which the creators have been recognized.

(15) NON-GENRE MOMENT. But you might want to know. “Coffee Mate Is Making An M&M’s Creamer And It’s About To Make Your Coffee Better Than Dessert” claims Delish.

Coffee creamers are having a momentttt right now. We’ve gotten creamers that taste like everything from Funfetti to Cinnamon Toast Crunch to cookies & cocoa to…coffee itself! You can truly try a new one every week and never, ever get bored. But Coffee mate is here to let you know that they’re not done innovating. In fact, they clued us into one of their most exciting drops ever: M&M’s coffee creamer….

(16) HALLOWEEN DONUT. Whereas you might not want to know when “Dunkin’ Spices Up Halloween with New Ghost Pepper Donut” – but it has the word “ghost” in it, so it’s my contractual duty to report it.

…Launching today at participating locations nationwide, Dunkin’s new Spicy Ghost Pepper Donut is billed as “a classic yeast donut ring, topped with a strawberry flavored icing that features a bold blend of cayenne and ghost pepper, and finished with red sanding sugar for a sizzling look.” In case you need the clarification, the ghost pepper is a former record holder for world’s spiciest pepper, and is still insanely hot despite Guinness’s current title going to the Carolina Reaper. And good news for spice lovers: Though the “ghost” tie-in is clearly aimed at Halloween, this limited time only spicy donut is here to heat us up for the rest of the year, sticking around until December.

…But if you’re more about tricks than treats, Dunkin’ is fine with that, too. In fact, the brand is encouraging people to surprise their friends with a Spicy Ghost Pepper Donut and post the reactions on social media using the hashtag #DunkinSpicySide. 

(17) KILLER TOMATO SOUP. AndGood Housekeeping chimes in with a Halloween food report of its own: “Heinz launches Cream of Beanz soup for Halloween and it glows in the dark”.

In a throughly horrifying announcement, Heinz has revealed it has created a hybrid of the brand’s iconic baked beans and its classic tomato soup.

Cream of Beanz Tomato soup is described as: “The rich tomatoey taste of the classic Cream of Tomato Soup, and brimming with delicious Beanz.”

…Calling the hybrid a “Monster Mash-up”, the brand has embraced the scary sound of the combination; not only by releasing in time for Halloween, but also by making the cans glow in the dark.

(18) PAIR OF CHAIRS. In the latest episode of the Two Chairs Talking podcast, Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg have fun talking about BIG objects in science fiction, from flying cities to spheres totally enclosing stars. “Episode 38: Big, bigger, biggest, bigly!”

(19) IF YOU WANT TO KNOW. Larry Correia told his readers today he’s “Back In Facebook Jail” [Archive link].

…Officially, the reason Facebook banned me was for a post on Oct 2 where I said “I try not to comment on violence or crime until all the facts are in… But in this case, whoever sucker punched Rick Moranis should be slowly fed feet first into a wood chipper.” EXCEPT Facebook already banned me for that last week for “inciting violence”, I hit the protest button and Facebook REVERSED the ban a couple hours later. (because it is obviously a stupid joke)

But then yesterday, right after I posted a couple of links to the forbidden New York Post articles about Hunter Biden’s goofy misdeeds (and me being me, the posts were super active, with lots of comments and shares), Facebook banned me for the Rick Moranis post AGAIN. Only this time, I’m not allowed to protest….

(20) THIS AUCTION IS LIT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Let your childhood Christmas dreams take flight—along with the contents of your bank account. For a quarter mil or so you can give the Rudolph and Santa figures from the stop motion TV classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer a new home. And it’ll be just in time to save Santa from drowning as the last of the Arctic ice melts: “Rudolph and his nose-so-bright into auction will take flight”

Rudolph and his still-shiny nose are getting a new home, and it’s bound to be a lot nicer than the Island of Misfit Toys.

The soaring reindeer and Santa Claus figures who starred in in the perennially beloved stop-motion animation Christmas special “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” are going up for auction.

Auction house Profiles in History announced Thursday that a 6-inch-tall Rudolph and 11-inch-tall Santa used to animate the 1964 TV special are being sold together in the auction that starts Nov. 13 and are expected to fetch between $150,000 and $250,000.

Collector Peter Lutrario of Staten Island, New York, thought they might be the only items he would never sell, but when he recently turned 65 he thought about having something to leave for his children and grandchildren.

“I always said I would die with the dolls,” he told The Associated Press. “I’m just putting the family first.”

The figures were made by Japanese puppet maker Ichiro Komuro and used for the filming of the show at Tadaito Mochinaga’s MOM Productions in Tokyo.

They’re made of wood, wire, cloth and leather. Rudolph’s nose, after some minimal maintenance through the years, still lights up. The realistic bristles of Santa’s beard are made from yak hair.

(21) ANIMANIACS. John King Tarpinian says this is why people will want to subscribe to Hulu – all new episodes of Animaniacs starting November 20. They’re also bringing back Pinky and the Brain.

(22) HOLIDAY SPECIAL MULLIGAN. Yahoo! News promises a full pantheon of iconic Star Wars voices will be heard in this holiday special: “Kelly Marie Tran, Billy Dee Williams and Anthony Daniels to Reprise ‘Star Wars’ Roles for Disney Plus Lego Holiday Special”.

Kelly Marie Tran, Billy Dee Williams and Anthony Daniels are venturing back to a galaxy far, far away for “The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special.” The animated adventure will debut on Disney Plus on Nov. 17.

Tran (Rose Tico), Williams (Lando Calrissian) and Daniels (C-3PO) have joined the voice cast of “The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special” and will reprise their roles from the venerable film franchise. “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” actors Matt Lanter (Anakin Skywalker), Tom Kane (Yoda, Qui-Gon Jinn), James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), and Dee Bradley Baker (clone troopers) are also lending their voices for the special.

“The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special” sees Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie, Rose and the droids as they celebrate Life Day, a joyous celebration on Chewie’s home planet of Kashyyyk that was first introduced in the 1978 “Star Wars Holiday Special.” Set after the events of 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” the new 45-minute special follows Rey as she journeys with BB-8 to gain a deeper understanding of the Force. Along the way, she encounters characters from all nine Skywalker saga films, including Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Yoda and Obi-Wan. It’s unclear if Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe) or Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) are returning.

The upcoming Lego-fied version is loosely inspired by the universally panned special that aired on CBS over 40 years ago.

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Hades” on YouTube, Fandom Games calls the game “a retelling of Greek mythology that’s as awesome as it is totally unlike Greek mythology.”  Among the additions: machine guns!

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

Pixel Scroll 8/16/20 I Holler As I Overturn Mike’s BBQ And Turn The Pixel Of Scroll Into, Uh, Something Something

(1) THE POSTMAN RINGS FIRST. David Brin can be good at thinking things up – and he’s put his creative powers to work to support the US Postal Service: “Going Postal? And the ‘TOC’ you want… the book no one has read.”

Below, find the TOC you’ll want to tick… the Table of Contents of a book that might help…. but first… yes, there are countless times I’d prefer to be wrong!  Especially when it comes to the predictions made in THE POSTMAN!

TIME Magazines called EARTH one of “8 best predictive novels,” and there have been many other hits. But I always figured that my portrayal of lying-betraying-prepper “Holnists” in THE POSTMAN would prove to be artistic exaggeration — not a how-to manual for evil and treason.

Just as Adolf Hitler described his approach in Mein Kampf — and no one took him at his word — Nathan Holn is recalled having laid it all in the open… but Americans didn’t believe anyone would so baldly offer such a despicable program. The warning went unheeded till it was too late. 

Likewise, Donald Trump has said publicly that his attack on the U.S. Postal Service is intended directly to interfere in the election. Of course crashing USPS also undermines rural America, a major part of the GOP base. So how is this supposed to benefit Republicans? The answer is… it’s not. Chaos and dysfunction are the goal. To Trump’s puppeteers, it doesn’t matter if he loses, so long as America dissolves into bitterness and pain. 

Already it’s clear we need to start a mass movement akin to BLM to support Postal Workers!

(2) NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE COMIC-CON. Robert J. Sawyer challenges some assumptions about Canadian sff award voters in a Facebook post.

Yesterday, I attended the annual general meeting of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, which was held by Zoom, due to the COVID pandemic.

The first issue the chair raised was what he considered to be a precipitous drop in the number of voters over the years. Years ago, he said, the number was in the mid-two-hundreds and he cited year-by-year figures showing a steady decline down to the current tally of 140 or so. Much discussion ensued about how to beef up the number.

My feeling is two-fold. First, it’s NOT an Aurora-specific issue, and, second, it’s NOT even a problem….

When people talk about bringing in vast new swaths of fans to beef up Aurora voting numbers, they usually mean finding a way to get young fans involved. But young fans, by and large, AREN’T SF&F readers, and have their own fandom traditions — they expect, for instance, their events to be high-cost and run to professional standards (even if mostly staffed by volunteers).

These are the fine folk who enjoy the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo; Fan Expo in Toronto; Anime North, also in Toronto; OtakuThon in Montreal; and so-called “comic-cons” across the country. They want to see actors and comic-book artists. Politely, they don’t need us — AND WE DON’T NEED THEM.

If traditional fandom is shrinking — and it IS, mostly through attrition as people get old and finally go on to that great hucksters’ room in the sky — then so be it. But is that hurting the Aurora Awards?

I say no. I had no horse in the race this year — I was not even eligible in any category except for related work (for my bimonthly columns in GALAXY’S EDGE magazine) and wasn’t nominated. But I studied the ballot and, even more important for posterity, the actual winners this year, and my verdict is this: the Auroras are doing just fine.

… In the past, we’ve also seen ballots with conspicuous omissions and even more conspicuous inclusions. When a Canadian work is nominated for the Hugo, the Nebula, or the World Fantasy Award, it SHOULD raise eyebrows when it has been squeezed off the Aurora ballot by lesser creations.

This year, though, the best short-form Aurora went to the most-generally-lauded Canadian-authored (or, at least, co-authored) work on the ballot: THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, which had already won the Hugo AND the Nebula Awards.

In the past, we’ve seen huge numbers of votes of dubious pedigree: people who have no known connection to fandom but a personal connection to one of the nominees nominating and voting en masse, propelling dubious works onto the ballot and sometimes shamefully even winning the award.

Thankfully, those days of hustling seem to have fallen by the wayside….

(3) NASFIC 2020. The virtual Columbus 2020 NASFiC Opening Ceremonies start 3:00 p.m. on Friday, August 21. Here’s =“How To Attend”:

Attending the North American Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention will now be easy as everything will be online!

On the day the convention begins, the page you are viewing now will provide you with a virtual “log book”. When you have signed it, this website will provide you access to several more pages, with embedded chat channels and streaming video.

It will be free, but we will still accept donations.

(4) SFF AROUND THE GLOBE. FutureCon, a new virtual international sff convention, will launch September 17-20. Cheryl Morgan gives an overview in “Introducing FutureCon”. (See the schedule here.)

While we might all be stuck at home wishing that we could sit in a bar with our friends, one of the benefits of the new virtual world in which we find ourselves is that travel is instantaneous and free. This means that we can have conventions that are genuinely global, and very cheap or free to attend.

Into this space comes FutureCon. It is being organised primarily by folks in Brazil, but with a lot of help from Francesco Verso in Italy, and also a bunch more people around the world. It will take place from September 17th-20th, and will be free to all on YouTube. All of the programming will be in English. Confirmed guests include Ann Vandermeer, Aliette de Bodard, Chen Qiufan, Ian McDonald, Lavie Tidhar and Nisi Shawl. But more importantly there will be speakers from over 20 different countries including Argentina, Croatia, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey & Uganda.

… Francesco can read in many different langauges, and he said something today in a launch meeting for the event that really struck a chord. I’m paraphrasing slightly, but the gist was, “the quality of science fiction is evenly distributed around the world, but it is unevenly visible.” I hope that FutureCon can be an important step along the road to changing that.

(5) IN THE ZOOM WHERE IT HAPPENS. Cora Buhlert has written up everything else at CoNZealand that was not the Hugo ceremony: “Cora’s Adventures at CoNZealand, the Virtual 2020 Worldcon, and Some Thoughts on Virtual Conventions in General”.

… After the 1960s SF panel, I had only ten minutes to get to my next panel “Translation: The Key to Open Doors to Cultural Diversity in SFF”. I was moderating again and the panelists were Libia Benda from Mexico, Luis F. Silva from Portugal, Wataru Ishigame, speaking from the POV of a publisher publishing translated SFF in Japan, and Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld Magazine as the token American. Though that would be mean, because Neil Clarke has done more than pretty much any other magazine editor to bring translated SFF to English speaking readers.

Again, we had a lively e-mail debate before the panel and just as lively a debate during the panel, complete with an audio zoombombing by a Mexican street vendor. I had also asked all panelists to recommend some SFF books or stories from their country that had been translated into English (and Neil Clarke generally recommended SFF in translation), so there were book recommendations as well.

The translation panel also overran by almost half an hour, because once the Zoom recording  was stopped, the Zoom meeting just remained open. After ascertaining that the audience could still hear us, we just continued talking about SFF in translation for another twenty five minutes or so, until the Zoom host shut down the room.  Now that’s something that could never have happened at a physical con, unless you were the last panel of the day and the room wasn’t needed again…. 

(6) RUNNING THE NUMBERS. Steve Mollman studies the “No Award” tea leaves in “The 2020 Hugo Awards: Interesting Statistics” at Science’s Less Accurate Grandmother. Lots of graphs.

I called my post from last week “Results and Final Thoughts“… but after it went up, I had another thought. So that title was a lie! Many people out there analyze various aspects of the results, but I want to look at two things: how many people vote in each category, and how many people vote No Award.

… Voting No Award in first place usually means one of two things, I would claim. First, it could mean that you find the concept of the category invalid. Every year, I vote No Award for Best Series, Best Editor, and a couple other categories, for example, and leave the rest of my ballot blank. I have some fundamental disagreements with the premises of those categories, and do not think they should be awarded. (Very few Hugo voters agree with me, though, clearly.) It could also mean that you just found everything in that category subpar: this year I voted No Award for Best Short Story, but still ranked finalists below it.

How well does Mollman’s interpretation hold up? And what is there to learn in the voting pattern from Jeannette Ng’s acceptance speech for the 2019 Campbell Award?

(7) BEYOND THE GREEN BOOK. NPR’s Glen Weldon chimes in: “‘Lovecraft Country’: Facing Monsters—And A Monstrous History”.

Here is a list of things that the HBO series Lovecraft Country, premiering Sunday, August 16th, has in common with the 2018 film Green Book:

1. Setting: Jim Crow-era America

2. Acting: Subtle, nuanced performances (Viggo Mortenen’s dese-and-dose Green Book gangster notwithstanding).

3. Subject: Story features a road trip involving a travel guidebook written to inform Black people where they can safely eat and stay. (Green Book: Entire film; Lovecraft Country: Opening episodes only.)

And here is a brief, incomplete list of the things that Lovecraft Country prominently features that Green Book emphatically does not:

1. A story centered on the lives of Black characters.

2. Black characters with agency, absent any White Savior narrative

3. Shoggoths.

Shoggoths, of course, are creatures imagined by writer H.P. Lovecraft — blobs covered with eyes that continuously arise and dissolve back into their putrid, pulsating flesh. (The Shoggoths of Lovecraft Country are shaped more like Pit-bulls than protoplasm, though they’ve got that whole creepy-eyes thing covered.)

Lovecraft Country is only the latest in a series of movies, television series and novels to engage with America’s greatest moral, economic, social and psychological wound — the legacy of slavery — by way of the fantastic. Creators like Jordan Peele, Damon Lindelof, Toni Morrison and Colson Whitehead didn’t avail themselves of, respectively, body-swapping, superheroes, an angry ghost and an entirely literal subterranean mass-transit system as a means to distract from, or to trivialize, racial injustice. No: They knew that when grappling with a foundational truth so huge and ugly and painful, utilizing the metaphorical imagery of science-fiction and horror offered them a fresh way in — an opportunity to get their audiences to re-examine, to re-feel, the enduring impact of that evil.

…Though it’s sure to be compared to Watchmen, given both its prominent HBO Sunday night berth and its determination to view race in America through the prism of science fiction, Lovecraft Country is lighter in tone, and far pulpier in sensibility, than Lindelof’s comparatively grand, sweeping epic. It’s much more apt to go looser and loopier, sprinkling magic spells, sacred codexes, secret passages and the occasional light tomb-raiding into the mix. It’s also far more eager to serve up the satisfyingly grisly thrills of pulp horror — bad guys getting their bloody, cosmic comeuppance, for example.

But for every fun, if wildly anachronistic, element — needle-drops like Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money,” say, or abdominal muscles like Majors’ — Lovecraft Country is always careful to re-center itself on its characters, and their hemmed-in status as Black women and men in 1950s America. Between every narrow escape and exposition dump about “finding the missing pages from the forbidden tome” or whatever, it gives its characters and their relationships breathing room. Case in point: Letitia’s contentious bond with her sardonic, disapproving sister Ruby (the quietly astonishing Wunmi Mosaku, in a warm, deeply compelling performance) gets a chance to grow and complicate. And in a later episodes (only the first five were screened for press), Ruby happily manages to step off the sidelines and mix it up with the series’ deep, abiding weirdness.

(8) YS REVIEW. NPR’s Etelka Lehoczky offers “Feeling Deluged By News? Let ‘The Daughters Of Ys’ Wash Over You”.

Though M. T. Anderson couldn’t possibly have planned it, his new book The Daughters of Ys feels like it was created for just this moment. The story’s driving force and key image — a torrential flood of natural and unnatural origin that sweeps away a city — is the perfect symbol for our era. If you’ve felt your brimming anxiety about the coronavirus overflow as you’ve tried to keep up with the never-ending tide of news about it, you’ll sympathize with Anderson’s characters.

This book is an excellent read right now for other reasons, too. Trying to keep abreast of your daily news feed may have made you impatient of any pleasure reading that isn’t perfectly absorbing (OK, that’s the last flood pun, I swear). A graphic novel, The Daughters of Ys is fun and easy to read. Anderson’s story, a reinterpretation of a Breton folktale, is effortlessly page-turning and actually feels a bit like a young adult title — not surprisingly, considering YA is Anderson’s preferred genre. But like Anderson’s National Book Award-winning The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, this book is both accessible to a wide age range and rich with ideas that will intrigue adults. (Note, however, that due to dark themes, some gore and the fact that the characters have sex, it may be best kept away from immature readers.)

Best of all, Daughters of Ys is a terrific respite for eyes weary of scanning headlines. Artist Jo Rioux isn’t as well-known as her coauthor — as is often the fate of illustrators who focus on children’s books — but she should be. Her drawings here aren’t just beautiful, with their deep, layered colors and elegant compositions; they’re also smart. Nodding to the original tale’s 5th-century setting, Rioux uses the style and motifs of Anglo-Saxon art (think of the Bayeux Tapestry and the metalwork of Sutton Hoo). But she doesn’t just replicate the style, she uses it to explore the evocative possibilities of minimalist cartooning. The characters’ faces have flat-looking eyes and minimal features, but they express intense, ambiguous emotions. Rioux also borrows the glowing lights and velvety shadows of Maxfield Parrish’s work for certain scenes, including a wonderful interlude set inside a circle of standing stones. The reader is encouraged to recall Parrish’s turn-of-the-20th-century America, when astonishing and alarming technological advances triggered a yearning for the romantic past, and to compare it with our own time.

(9) CHECK OUT COUNTER. WorldCat’s Library100 – I’ve read 41 of these.

What makes a novel “great”? At OCLC, we believe literary greatness can be measured by how many libraries have a copy on their shelves.

Yes, libraries offer access to trendy and popular books. But, they don’t keep them on the shelf if they’re not repeatedly requested by their communities over the years. We’ve identified 100 timeless, top novels—those found in thousands of libraries around the world—using WorldCat, the world’s largest database of library materials.

So, check out The Library 100, head to your nearest library, and enjoy the read!

(10) GOLDENBERG OBIT. American music composer, conductor and arranger Billy Goldenberg (William Leon Goldenberg) died on August 3, aged 84 reports Stephen Jones.

His many credits include Fear No Evil, Silent Night Lonely Night, Ritual Of Evil, Steven Spielberg’s Duel, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark (1973), The Legend Of Lizzie Borden, The Ufo Incident, Metamorphoses, This House Possessed, Massarati And The Brain, Prototype, Frankenstein (1986), 18 Again! and Sherlock Holmes And The Leading Lady. On TV Goldenberg composed music for the pilots of Night Gallery (again for Spielberg), Future Cop and Gemini Man, plus episodes of The Name Of The Game (Spielberg’s ‘LA 2017’), The Sixth Sense and Circle Of Fear (along with the theme music for both shows), Amazing Stories and the 1989 mini-series Around The World In 80 Days. He also composed one of the themes to the Universal logo.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 16, 1951 Dimension X’s “The Vital Factor” was first broadcast. The story is that a ruthless millionaire is determined to be the first man to conquer space…no matter what the cost. The script was used later on X Minus One. It was written by Nelson Bond who is the holder of a Nebula Author Emeritus award for lifetime achievement. He’s also the recipient of First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. His Meg the Priestess stories gave us one of the first powerful female characters in the genre. Daniel Ocko and Guy Repp are the actors here.  You can listen to it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 16, 1884 Hugo Gernsback. Publisher of the first SF magazines, Amazing Stories in 1926, and Wonder Stories in 1929. He  also played a key role in creating fandom through the Science Fiction League. Writer of the Ralph 124C 41+ novel which most critics think is utterly dreadful but Westfahl considers “essential text for all studies of science fiction.” And of course he’s who the Hugos were named after back in 1953. (Died 1967.) (CE) 
  • Born August 16, 1913 – Will Sykora.  Active at least as early as Jan 30 letter in Science Wonder Stories.  With Sam Moskowitz, thought the true fannish spirit meant promotion of science.  President of ISA (Int’l Scientific Ass’n) which sought to include amateur scientists, maybe the first fan club, unless disqualified in retrospect for insufficient frivolity – or insufficient leftism, which the Futurians were charged with excess of.  Charter member of FAPA (Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n).  (Died 1994) [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1930 – Paul Lehr.  Three hundred covers, fifty interiors.  Here is his beginning, Satellite E One.  Here is his famous Nineteen Eighty-four (no mustache on Big Brother!).  Here is Spectrum 4.  Here is The Ringworld Engineers.  Here is the Mar 81 Analog.  Here is the Aug 96 Tomorrow.  What a giant.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1930 Robert Culp. He’d make the Birthday Honors solely for being the lead in the Outer Limits episode “Demon with a Glass Hand” which Ellison wrote specifically with him in mind. He would do two more appearances on the show, “Corpus Earthling” and “The Architects of Fear”. Around this time, he makes one-offs on Get Smart! and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. before being Special FBI Agent Bill Maxwell in The Greatest American Hero. Did you know there was a Conan the Adventurer series in the Nineties in which he was King Vog in one episode?  (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born August 16, 1931 – Walt Lee.  Monumental if only for his 20,000-entry Reference Guide to Fantastic Films (with Bill Warren) – which, allowing for differences in scale, is like saying Cheops (or Khnum Khufu if you prefer) is monumental if only for the Great Pyramid of Giza.  OGH’s appreciation here.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1933 Julie Newmar, 87. Catwoman in Batman. Her recent voice work includes the animated Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face, both done in the style of the Sixties show. They feature the last voice work by Adam West. Shatner btw plays Harvey Dent aka Two Face.  She was on the original Trek in the “Friday’s Child” episode as Eileen. She also has one-offs on Get Smart!Twilight ZoneFantasy IslandBionic WomanBuck Rogers in the 25th CenturyBewitched and Monster Squad. (CE) 
  • Born August 16, 1934 Andrew J. Offutt. I know him through his work in the Thieves’ World anthologies though I also enjoyed the Swords Against Darkness anthologies that he edited. I don’t think I’ve read any of his novels. And I’m not Robert E. Howard fan so I’ve not read any of his Cormac mac Art or Conan novels but his short fiction is superb. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born August 16, 1934 Diana Wynne Jones. If there’s essential reading for her, it’d be The Tough Guide to Fantasyland with a playful look at the genre. Then I’d toss in Deep Secret for its setting, and Fire and Hemlock for her artful merging of the Scottish ballads Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer. Now what’s the name of the exemplary short story collection she did late in life? Ahhh it was Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories with the great cover by artist Dan Craig. (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born August 16, 1952 – Edie Stern, F.N., 68. “Andre Norton’s Diamond Celebration” (with husband Joe Siclari) in Fantasy Review.  “Fancy Jack” (Jack Speer; with Siclari) in Noreascon 4 Souvenir Book, hello Guy Lillian III (62nd Worldcon).  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award).  Introduction (with Siclari) to Virgil Finlay Centennial book for 2014 World Fantasy Convention.  “LeeH” (Lee Hoffman, or for some of us, Hoffwoman), Journey Planet 27.  “Wheels of IF” (Irish fandom; with Siclari) for 77th Worldcon Souvenir Book.  Noted SF art collector (with Siclari), very helpful with SF con Art Shows.  Fan Guest of Honor, Loscon 46.  Big Heart (our highest service award; with Siclari).  Since 2016, Webmaster of the FANAC Fanhistory Project (fanac = fan activity; Florida Ass’n for Nucleation And Conventions was originally formed for MagiCon the 50th Worldcon, Orlando).  [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1958 Rachael Talalay, 62. She made her directorial debut with Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, and she also worked on the first four of the Nightmare on Elm Street films. Moving from horror to SF, she directed Tank Girl next. A long time Who fan, she directed all three of Twelfth Doctor’s series finales: series 8’s “Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven”,  along with series 9’s “Heaven Sent” and “Hell Bent” before directing series 10’s “World Enough and Time” and “The Doctor Falls”. She capped who Who work with “Twice Upon a Time”, the last Twelfth Doctor story. (CE) 
  • Born August 16, 1967 – Betsy Dornbusch, 53. Five novels, fifteen shorter stories. Co-editor Electric Spec 2006-2015.  Essays & interviews there.  Likes writing, reading, snowboarding, punk rock, the Denver Broncos, and how are you, Mr. Wilson?  [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1969 – Michael Buckley, 51.  A score of novels, some about the Nat’l Espionage, Rescue, & Defense Society (which spells –  ), NY Times Best Sellers; some about the Sisters Grimm (yes).  Robotomy for the Cartoon Network.  Finn and the Intergalactic Lunchbox just released (April).  Used to be in a punk rock band called Danger, Will Robinson.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) MALTINS TALK ANIMATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Leonard and Jessie Maltin’s latest Maltin on Movies podcast, which dropped on the 14th, is with animation expert Jerry Beck

Beck runs two websites: animationscoop.com for news and cartoonresearch.com for longer articles.  One recent article on cartoonresearch.com by Keith Scott lists all the voice actors on Tex Avery’s cartoons, which did not give credits for voice work.

Beck in the interview discusses many aspects of his career, including his providing the commentary for DVDs of Fritz Freleng cartoons to running a popular panel at Comic-Con called “Worst Cartoons Ever” so that fans can howl at a smorgasbord of stinkers.  Beck also has written several histories of animation.  But he was also one of the first Americans to understand the importance of anime.  He recalled that when Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was released in the mid-1980s, Roger Corman controlled the rights and released it in a heavily-cut, badly dubbed version.  Beck realized Miyazaki’s importance and was the first to distribute Miyazaki’s films uncut to theaters.

As part of his anime distribution, Beck talked to the producers of Akira, who explained that they were shutting down their studio and offered Beck the contents.  Eight months later, Beck got a call from the Port of Los Angeles (“and I’ve never gotten a call from a port before”) with eight giant containers of cels and other stuff, which Beck sold to the delight of serious collectors.

Also in the podcast, Maltin revealed that he learned Roman numerals from Popeye cartoons, which taught him that MCMXXXVI meant “1936”.

(14) BRING ME THE HEAD OF ADMIRAL ACKBAR. Coming right up! The Nerdist says it will be one of the lots available for bid in a Star Wars prop auction happening August 26-27.

For sci-fi movie prop collectors, items from the Star Wars saga are the Holy Grail. Now, fans who have wanted to get their hands on authentic items from a galaxy far, far away are in for a treat. Several props and costumes from the saga are going up for auction by The Prop Store of Los Angeles and London. Some very coveted pieces are among the items, including a full Darth Vader costume from 1977.

These Star Wars items are part of a much larger sci-fi/horror movie auction, being held on August 26th and 27th. One lucky fan will have a chance to get their hands on one of the great heroes of the Rebel Alliance: this Admiral Ackbar sculpt. Made after Return of the Jedi, from the original mold, it will set you back at least $3,000 to $5,000.

(15) BLESSED EVENT. Queen Elizabeth II has revealed her favourite film and it’s an SF movie, namely the 1980 Flash Gordon – The Guardian has the story: “Brian Blessed: Flash Gordon is the Queen’s favourite film”.

Brian Blessed has claimed that the Queen revealed to him that her favourite film is Flash Gordon, the 1980 sci-fi in which he stars as Prince Vultan.

Speaking about the film’s 40th anniversary to Edith Bowman on Yahoo Movies, the actor said that whenever he goes, people demand he recite his character’s catchphrase.

“Everywhere I go, they all want me to say ‘Gordon’s alive!’,” said Blessed. “The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, horses and queens, and prime ministers, they all want me to say ‘Gordon’s alive!’, it’s their favourite film.”

He continued: “The Queen, it’s her favourite film, she watches it with her grandchildren every Christmas.”

The actor then assumed the Queen’s accent, quoting her as saying: “You know, we watch Flash Gordon all the time, me and the grandchildren. And if you don’t mind, I’ve got the grandchildren here, would you mind saying ‘Gordon’s alive’?”

(16) STAR TREK, THE NEXT GAG. ScreenRant is sure they know: “The 10 Funniest Star Trek Episodes, Ranked”.

6. TNG: Qpid

From this fourth season episode of The Next Generation comes one of Worf’s most famous quotes. Transported to Sherwood Forest by Q and adorned in the costume of Will Scarlett, one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men,  Worf exclaims, “I am not a merry man.”

“Qpid” has one of the series lightest touches, to the point it feels like an old Errol Flynn film. While Picard plays Robin Hood, the rest of his Merry Men try to get used to their temporary roles. One of the funniest parts is during the fight between Robin’s friends and Nottingham’s guards. Both Doctor Crusher and Counselor Troi knock two of the bad guys out by bashing large vases over their heads.

(17) STOP-AND-POP. Ethan Alter, in “How Netflix’s new Black superhero movie ‘Project Power’ addresses real-life policing and ‘how police should be held accountable'” on Yahoo! Entertainment, interviews writer Matthew Tomlin (whose next project is co-writer of The Batman) and co-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt about Project Power, which dropped on Netflix this week.

When screenwriter Mattson Tomlin sat down to write Project Power in 2016, he knew that he wanted to create a superhero universe that put Black heroes front and center. The film that arrives on Netflix on Aug. 14 stays true to that vision, with Jamie Foxx and Dominique Fishback portraying the dynamic duo of Art and Robin, who take on a top-secret government agency that’s dispensing ability-enhancing pills on the streets of New Orleans. But there’s also a third superhero in the mix: a white police officer named Frank (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is the kind of “plays by his own rules” cop that’s been a popular Hollywood protagonist for decades.

As the film begins, Frank’s personal rules include popping those contraband pills to get a super-powered boost for daring busts. But after Art and Robin awaken him to the sordid story behind those drugs — a story that includes the exploitation of Black research subjects — he opts to join their cause. “Ultimately, the character goes through the movie trying to do the right thing,” Tomlin says. “Sometimes he goes about it in a messy way, but that’s where his heart is.”

(18) ROBOTIC VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. “Robot boat completes three-week Atlantic mission”.

A UK boat has just provided an impressive demonstration of the future of robotic maritime operations.

The 12m Uncrewed Surface Vessel (USV) Maxlimer has completed a 22-day-long mission to map an area of seafloor in the Atlantic.

SEA-KIT International, which developed the craft, “skippered” the entire outing via satellite from its base in Tollesbury in eastern England.

The mission was part-funded by the European Space Agency.

Robot boats promise a dramatic change in the way we work at sea.

Already, many of the big survey companies that run traditional crewed vessels have started to invest heavily in the new, remotely operated technologies. Freight companies are also acknowledging the cost advantages that will come from running robot ships.

But “over-the-horizon” control has to show it’s practical and safe if it’s to gain wide acceptance. Hence, the demonstration from Maxlimer.

(19) LIKE YOU DO. “How Do You Solve a Moon Mystery? Fire a Laser at It” – the New York Times explains. Tagline: “Researchers have used reflective prisms left on the moon’s surface for decades, but had increasingly seen problems with their effectiveness.”

…One obvious culprit is lunar dust that has built up on the retroreflectors. Dust can be kicked up by meteorites striking the moon’s surface. It coated the astronauts’ moon suits during their visits, and it is expected to be a significant problem if humans ever colonize the moon.

While it has been nearly 50 years since a retroreflector was placed on the moon’s surface, a NASA spacecraft launched in 2009 carries a retroreflector roughly the size of a paperback book. That spacecraft, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, circles the moon once every two hours, and it has beamed home millions of high-resolution images of the lunar surface.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter “provides a pristine target,” said Erwan Mazarico, a planetary scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center who, along with his colleagues, tested the hypothesis that lunar dust might be affecting the moon’s retroreflectors.

(20) MARGE SIMPSON FIRES BACK. The New York Daily News urges you to “SEE IT: Marge Simpson ‘p—ed off’ at Kamala Harris comparison”.

On Wednesday, senior Trump adviser Jenna Ellis compared Democratic vice presidential contender Kamala Harris to Marge Simpson, who’s voiced by actress Julie Kavner.

“Kamala sounds like Marge Simpson,” [Ellis] tweeted.

Marge responded on “The Simpsons” Twitter account with a 27-second clip in which she says the matter makes her uncomfortable.

“I usually don’t get into politics,” Marge said Friday, adding that her show-daughter Lisa informed her the comparison wasn’t meant as a compliment to either woman.

“As an ordinary suburban housewife I’m starting to feel a little disrespected,” the cartoon mom said. “I teach my children not to name-call, Jenna.”

? [Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, JJ, Cora Buhlert, Cheryl Morgan, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Nicholas Whyte, Michael Toman, Daniel Dern, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jake.]

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.]

CoNZealand Fringe Schedule

CoNZealand Fringe organizers Claire Rousseau, Adri Joy, Alasdair Stuart and Marguerite Kenner, Cheryl Morgan and Cassie Hart have assembled “a series of complementary genre fiction programming at European-friendly times.”

In the tradition of Edinburgh Fringe and other international collateral events, CoNZealand Fringe has been created as a complementary programming series to the annual science fiction convention Worldcon. All our livestreams take place outside core CoNZealand programming hours and are not official CoNZealand programming items. CoNZealand Fringe is not endorsed by CoNZealand.

File 770 contacted the CoNZealand chairs about whether the Fringe had permission to use the convention’s name. David Gallaher, Vice-Chair, Business for CoNZealand replied, “They do not have our permission to use the CoNZealand name. And they don’t need our permission to do what they are doing.”

The following two completed items, and one in progress at this writing, are available on YouTube.

Clarkesworld Removes
Isabel Fall’s Story

Isabel Fall’s short story “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” in the January Clarkesworld, the subject of intense discussion on Twitter this week, was removed from the magazine’s website today at the author’s request.

Editor Neil Clarke tweeted:

The story remains available to read at the Wayback Machine.

This roundup illustrates the sources of the discussion within the sff community, and points to some of the more frequently cross-referenced conversations.

IS THE STORY TRANSPHOBIC?

D Franklin challenges numerous passages as transphobic. Thread starts here.

D Franklin agrees the story should have been pulled. Thread starts here.

Another critic of the story as transphobic makes a detailed case for that viewpoint here.

https://twitter.com/EffInvictus/status/1215994150094626816

Lynn E. O’Connacht communicates that “there’s a pretty big difference between “this story makes me uncomfortable’ and ‘this story caused me harm’”. Thread starts here.

WIDER CONTEXT.

Bogi Takács sheds light on some matters that drive the reception of this story and works by and about other minorities.

First thread starts here.

Second thread starts here.

POSITIVE RESPONSES TO STORY.

Phoebe North supports the story and author in “An Open Letter” at Medium, an autobiographical essay that concludes:

Whatever you decide to do with your story, Isabel, thank you for writing your story. Thank you for making me feel seen and heard. We don’t get a lot of ourselves in fiction. We often only get scraps. This was more than that. A mirror.

Alex Acks says North’s essay “articulates a lot of my own difficult to verbalize feelings” about the story.

Berry Grass believes the story has shortcomings, but aligns more with those who consider it to be thought-provoking. Thread starts here.

CONTROVERSIAL ART.

Carmen Maria Machado wrote a long, thoughtful thread about provocative stories in the context of art and literature, but while I was editing this together she locked her tweets to all but followers so those are not available to quote.

Malcolm F. Cross criticizes the story as having shortcomings as MilSF, too, but marks out more territory on the art vs. harm map. Thread starts here.

Warren Adams-Ockrassa’s thread seems to say that whatever the writer’s goal was, they should have handled it differently. Starts here.

PULLING THE STORY.

Cat Rambo is sorry the story was pulled. Thread starts here.

One of several eye-opening comments on Rambo’s thread:

ROLE OF AN EDITOR.

Setsu U finds the discussion about the story connects with many questions and concerns they are responsible for as an editor. Thread starts here.

ENDNOTES.

Several people have been circulating screenshots of a statement that’s represented as giving background about the story and author. I have neither found the source of the original post, nor confirmation that it is from a Clarkesworld spokesperson, so I am not posting these but you can find a copy here.

Alexandra Erin on why she won’t read the story. Thread starts here.

Cheryl Morgan says she hasn’t read the story, however, offered advice for holding the discussion. Thread starts here. Some of her points are —

There’s extended discussion at Metafilter. As a whole, I thought I learned more just by searching “Clarkesworld” on Twitter.   

Pixel Scroll 10/5/19 I Don’t Want A Pixel, I Just Wanna File On My Scrollercixel

(1) THE EXPANSE. The Season 4 trailer debuted today at New York Comic Con.

The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds. Behold what awaits the pioneers of Ilus. Full Season Coming December 13, 2019.

(2) LOST ON THE GROUND, TOO. Netflix also dropped the trailer for the second season of Lost in Space.

Have you seen our Robot? Lost in Space Season 2 returns December 24th. Only on Netflix.

(3) BOOK TARIFFS. Shelf Awareness surveys the damage to various markets in “Newest Tariffs, on the E.U., to Include Books”.

The newest tariffs to be imposed by the Trump administration, against the European Union and amounting to $7.5 billion on a range of goods, will include books, the Bookseller reported.

…Last year, the Bookseller wrote, U.K. publishers exported printed books worth £128 million ($158 million) in invoiced value to North America.

The new tariffs follow the World Trade Organization’s decision on Wednesday that the U.S. could tax $7.5 billion of E.U. goods to recoup damages after the WTO had determined in May that the E.U. illegally subsidized Airbus. The tariffs cover all kinds of goods, which the New York Times described as, in part, “a gourmet shopping list, with the administration planning to place a 25% tax on imports of Parmesan cheese, mussels, coffee, single malt whiskeys and other agricultural goods from Europe.” Oddly the tariff on airplanes will be only 10%.

The Times noted that the WTO is considering a parallel case brought by the E.U. against the U.S. for subsidizing Boeing, for which the E.U. has a list of $20 billion of U.S. products it might impose tariffs on. That case should be decided early next year.

(4) TRADEMARK TROUBLE NORTH OF THE BORDER. “CN Tower’s management company claims that any picture of the landmark building is a trademark violation” – let Boing Boing tell you how not impressed they are with the argument.

…James Bow is a Canadian fantasy writer whose small-press fantasy novel The Night Girl features a cover-art collage that includes a Creative Commons-licensed image of the CN Tower. Bow was getting ready for his book launch when the CN Tower’s management company wrote to him to insist that he not publish the book with the cover, on the grounds that people who encountered his novel might mistakenly believe that it was commercially affiliated with the CN Tower.

The Canadian Parliament has actually taken up the question of whether the owners of buildings can control the reproduction of their likenesses: Section 32.2(1) of the Copyright Act states that “It is not an infringement of copyright… for any person to reproduce, in a painting, drawing, engraving, photograph or cinematographic work…an architectural work, provided the copy is not in the nature of an architectural drawing or plan.”

In other words, you can’t stop people from reproducing the likeness of your building.

The CN Tower’s management clearly knew about this, so their threat to Bow invoked trademark law, advancing the bizarre theory that any commercial reproduction of the Tower’s likeness is intrinsically deceptive, since anyone who sees such a reproduction would automatically assume that the CN Tower endorsed the product that bore the reproduction (that is, people who encountered Bow’s book would immediately leap to the conclusion that the CN Tower had launched a line of fantasy novels).

(5) TREK VINO VERITAS. Never mind pictures of the bottles, how does the wine actually taste? Ars Technica says “Definitely better than synthehol.” “Boldly going where no palate has gone before: A Star Trek wine tasting”.

But arguably the most anticipated Trek happening of 2019 involved the announcement of a new series—Star Trek: Picard. Slated to debut in early 2020, the show picks up with the beloved captain retired to his vineyards before life intervenes. So naturally, in honor of the series and Picard’s true passion, we now have Star Trek Wines, a collaboration between CBS Consumer Products and Wines That Rock.

Obviously, Ars had to sample these wines—for you, our readers, because we’re selfless like that. We recently ordered a bottle each of the two featured wines, even snagging the last of the sold-out limited edition Collector’s Pack. From there, we put out some cheeses and charcuterie, and the Los Angeles-based Ars Technica contingent set about putting our palates to work.

(6) NEW PULLMAN FANTASY. NPR’s Jessica P. Wick’s review tells how “Philip Pullman Pushes The Limits Of His World In ‘The Secret Commonwealth'”.

Philip Pullman’s The Secret Commonwealth is a big novel full of big ideas, big characters and big sorrows. It is a tale of spies and philosophies and wit, of factions vying for control of the truth — or the public’s opinion of the truth. It’s an adventure, global in scope and epic in shape, but it’s also a story about being unsettled in one’s life, about living with consequences, of what happens to us when we are estranged from ourselves. I was fascinated, occasionally contemptuous as the story had me siding with one character over another, and always curious to know more about the world and what would happen and always in awe of Pullman. This book feels like a response to the darkness in our time as Lord of the Rings feels like a response to the darkness in J. R. R. Tolkien’s. (Though Pullman might find that comparison paltry.)

Yes, the story is big. But The Secret Commonwealth’s greatest strength is the care it takes to center the story in the individual; the importance it grants to what’s in our heroes’ hearts….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 5, 1990 Super Force debuted. Intended it was designed to be a companion series to Superboy, it ran for two seasons. It featured G. Gordon Liddy as villain and had Timothy Leary and former porn stars Traci Lords and Ginger Lynn as guest stars. 
  • October 5, 2002 — In Japan, Mobile Suit Gundam Seed aired “False Peace”, the first episode of this anime. It ran for five years and fifty episodes.  The series spawned three compilations films and was adapted into a manga as well as light novels. A sequel series, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny followed in 2004. It later was released in an English dubbed version. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 5, 1902 Larry Fine. Yes, he’s known as a member of the comedy act The Three Stooges. And they did a lot of genre films including Have Rocket – Will Travel, a 1959 film in which the Stooges, including him, are janitors working at a space center who accidentally blast off to Venus. (Died 1975.)
  • Born October 5, 1905 John Hoyt. He was cast as Dr. Philip Boyce in the original pilot episode of Star Trek (“The Cage”) and he appeared twice during the second season of The Twilight Zone in the episodes “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” and “The Lateness of the Hour”.  He would also be the KAOS agent Conrad Bunny in the Get Smart episode “Our Man in Toyland”, and show up as General Beeker in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’s episode “Hail to the Chief,” (Died 1991.)
  • Born October 5, 1919 Donald Pleasence. He was Doctor Samuel Loomis in the Halloween franchise and the President in Escape from New York. He also had a plethora of parts in other genre properties, a few of which include the main role in the movie Fantastic Voyage which was novelized by Isaac Asimov, roles in episodes of the The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and The Ray Bradbury Theater, a part in George Lucas’ first foray into filmmaking, THX 1138, John Carpenter’s The Prince of Darkness, and the role of Merlin in the TV movie Guinivere. My favourite film title for a work he was in? Frankenstein’s Great Aunt Tillie in which he played the dual roles of Victor Frankenstein  and Old Baron Frankenstein.  (Died 1995.)
  • Born October 5, 1930 Skip Homeier. He appeared on Trek twice, once as Melakon in “Patterns of Force”, and as Dr. Sevrin in “The Way to Eden”.  I’ll single out two other genre roles, the first being his Dr. Clinton role in The Outer Limits episode “Expanding Human”; the other being of his last roles which was a one-liner in The Wild Wild West Revisited as a senior Secret Service official. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 5, 1949 Peter Ackroyd, 70. His best known genre work is likely Hawksmoor which tells the tale of a London architect building a church and a contemporary detective investigating horrific murderers involving that church. Highly recommended. The House of Doctor Dee is genre fiction as is The Limehouse Golem and The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein.  I thought Hawksmoor had been turned into a film but it has not but he has a credit for The Limehouse Golem which is his film work. 
  • Born October 5, 1952 Karen Allen, 67. She’s best known for being Marion Ravenwood in Raiders of the Lost Ark, a role she reprised for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. She also co-starred in Starman and Scrooged. She shows on Alfred Hitchcock Presents as Jackie in “The Creeper” episode. 
  • Born October 5, 1952 Clive Barker, 67. Horror writer, series include the Hellraiser and the Book of Art which isnot to overlook The Abarat Quintet which is quite superb. Though not recent, The Essential Clive Barker: Selected Fiction published some twenty years ago contains more than seventy excerpts from novels and plays and four full-length short stories. His Imaginer series collects his decidedly strange art.  There has been a multitude of comic books, both by him and by others based on his his ideas.  My personal fave work by him is the Weaveworld novel.
  • Born October 5, 1959 Rich Horton, 60. Editor of three anthology series — Fantasy: Best of The Year and Science Fiction: Best of The Year both now longer being published, and The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy which is ongoing since 2009. He has been a reviewer for Locus for over a decade.
  • Born October 5, 1975 Marshall Lancaster, 44. He‘s best known for playing DC Chris Skelton in the superb BBC time-travel police series, Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes. He played Buzzer in “The Rebel Flesh” and “The Almost People”, both Eleventh Doctor stories. 
  • Born October 5, 1975 Kate Winslet, 44. A longer and deeper genre record than I thought starting with being Prince Sarah in A Kid in King Arthur’s Court before playing Ophelia in Branagh’s Hamlet a few years later. She shows next as Clementine Kruczynski in the superb Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and was Sylvia Llewelyn Davies in the equally superb Finding Neverland. She’s Jeanine Matthewsin Divergent and Insurgent, and is slated to be Ronal in the forthcoming Avatar 2. She’s the voice of Miss Fillyjonk in the English dub of the Swedish Moominvalley series. Finally I’d like to note she narrated the audiobook version of Roald Dahl’s Matilda.

(9) TROPE TIME. James Davis Nicoll knows all the “SF Stories in Which Earth Is Liberated by an Alien Empire” but is willing to confine himself to the best at Tor.com.

In fact, I find myself wondering if it isn’t suspicious that Borisov is so remarkably unremarkable. How likely is it that one of the objects spotted tumbling in from deepest space would be arriving more or less where we’d expect it, with more or less the composition we would expect of a natural object? Isn’t that exactly how some inquisitive galactic civilization would cloak a probe, so as not to attract undue attention from locals? Perhaps the reason we’re suddenly seeing what seem to be mere space-rocks, comets, whatever, is not thanks to tech improvements on our side, but is because something is carefully looking us over.

(10) THE UNCONSIDERED SLIGHT. Nerdist observes that Disney is giving Avengers: Endgame a big “for your consideration” push in 13 different categories, including Best Picture and Best Director, while surprisingly skipping fan favorites:

The biggest shock here is that they aren’t putting forward any of the cast for acting nods. Audiences were sure that Robert Downey Jr. and possibly Chris Evans would be in the running for Best Actor at next year’s competition. From this line-up, it’s clear that Disney is more focused on technical awards.

(11) THE BIG BANG OF CRIME. Engadget adds it to the calendar: “‘Harley Quinn’ series debuts on DC Universe November 29th”.

The Harley Quinn animated series DC promised way back in 2017 finally has a premiere date for DC Universe — as the character said in the show’s trailer, “Unlike that Deadpool cartoon, it’s actually coming out.” Harley Quinn will land on DC’s streaming service on November 29th, the comic book giant has announced at New York Comic Con. The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco will voice the newly single “criminal Queenpin,” who’s out to make it on her own in Gotham City.

(12) LUNCH AT MR. FOX. Scott Edelman lunches in Dublin with Cheryl Morgan in Episode 106 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Cheryl Morgan

This time around, you’re invited to lunch with Cheryl Morgan, who’s a four-time Hugo Award-winning science fiction critic and publisher — first as the editor of Emerald City, which won for Best Fanzine in 2004, followed by another for Best Fan Writer in 2009. She has also been the non-fiction editor of Clarkesworld magazine, for which she won her third and fourth Hugo Awards in 2010 and 2011. She is a director of San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions Inc., and a founder of the short-lived Association for the Recognition of Excellence in SF & F Translation. She is a co-chair of Out Stories Bristol and lectures regularly on both trans history and science fiction and fantasy literature. She’s also a Director of The Diversity Trust for whom she run trans awareness courses. She’s the owner of Wizard’s Tower Press.

(13) CUT AND PASTE. NPR learns the way “Ancient Greek Scroll’s Hidden Contents Revealed Through Infrared Imaging”.

More than 200 years ago, scholars glued the remains of an ancient papyrus scroll onto cardboard to preserve it. But the scroll, a history of Plato’s Academy, also had writing on the back. Now scholars have deployed imaging technology to read what’s been concealed.

This scroll came from a library in Herculaneum, near Mount Vesuvius. And it was caught in the famous eruption of that volcano nearly 2,000 years ago — the same eruption that buried the city of Pompeii.

The scroll doesn’t look like much now. It’s blackened and in tatters. In fact, it looks like what you’d find at the bottom of your barbecue.

But the same processes that charred the scroll and the rest of that library also preserved it, according to papyrus scholar Graziano Ranocchia from the Italian National Research Council.

…Ranocchia said the huge spectrum range allowed them to penetrate the layers of the papyrus. “So with a huge penetration capacity, this is why we are able to read what our predecessors weren’t able to read through conventional multispectral imaging or infrared photography.”

What they found are bits of text that Philodemus wanted to insert into his book, such as quotes from other sources he was considering using in the history. Classicist Kilian Fleischer from the University of Würzburg, who is putting together a new edition of Philodemus’ history using these images, says it provides a unique view of an ancient philosopher’s writing process.

“We have here more or less the only case where we can really see how an ancient author worked and composed his book,” Fleischer says.

(14) SOMEONE IS WRONG ON THE INTERNET. BBC knows the reason why “China and Taiwan clash over Wikipedia edits”.

Ask Google or Siri: “What is Taiwan?”

“A state”, they will answer, “in East Asia”.

But earlier in September, it would have been a “province in the People’s Republic of China”.

For questions of fact, many search engines, digital assistants and phones all point to one place: Wikipedia. And Wikipedia had suddenly changed.

The edit was reversed, but soon made again. And again. It became an editorial tug of war that – as far as the encyclopedia was concerned – caused the state of Taiwan to constantly blink in and out of existence over the course of a single day.

“This year is a very crazy year,” sighed Jamie Lin, a board member of Wikimedia Taiwan.

“A lot of Taiwanese Wikipedians have been attacked.”

(15) THEY’RE STILL HERE. And so are we… “Pagers, faxes and cheques: Things that might seem obsolete, but aren’t”.

The roughly one thousand people who still used pagers in Japan might have shed a tear this week when they were finally discontinued. Wait, you may say… pagers are still a thing?

Even though you won’t find them in Japan any more, pagers are still used elsewhere. And they’re not the only “outdated” item still being employed around the world.

(16) DRESS FOR EXCESS. Isaac Arthur’s latest is on “Spacesuits & Extreme Environment Gear.”

There’s many dangerous places on Earth, and everywhere off Earth is downright lethal, from the emptiness of space to the airless and radiation soaked Moon to the smoldering inferno of Venus, humanity can’t visit them without protection. We’ll see what options for spacesuits are under works and what options might emerge for even better ones in the distant future.

(17) BAR FIGHT. Yahoo! News is handy with a link as “Regular Clowns Fight Joker And Pennywise In Brutally Funny Bozo Brawl With James Corden”.

… The bozos take their beef outside, into the streets. One regular clown (James Corden) threatens to shove his size 38 shoe up Joker’s rear end. Another (Cedric the Entertainer) tells the evil clowns: “Are you a scary clown or just a scared clown?”

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]