Pixel Scroll 7/17/19 By The Time I Get To Pixel, She’ll Be Scrolling

(1) CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS. Christopher J. Garcia and Chuck Serface are co-editing an issue of The Drink Tank dedicated to science-fiction comics of the 1950s and 1960s! Any critical articles, fanfic, personal remembrances, artwork, and any media we can publish in a fanzine are welcome.

Chuck Serface says, “Consideration of materials from any comic publisher of the time is fair game: Atlas/Marvel, DC, Gold Key, Charlton, Warren, EC, ones I’m forgetting at the moment — all of them.”

The deadline’s October 14, 2019. They’ll have it out by the end of the calendar year. Send submissions to ceserface@gmail.com.  

(2) COLSON WHITEHEAD Q&A. His new book is not sff, but some of his answers are about genre in “Powell’s Interview: Colson Whitehead, Author of ‘The Nickel Boys’”.

Rhianna: You’ve mentioned in other interviews being an avid reader of horror, and your novel Zone One is a zombie horror story. You’re very skilled at depicting violence. I was wondering if the horror genre has stylistically influenced the way that you depict historical atrocities, like those in The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys.

Whitehead: Again, I think the story determines how you tell it. The violence in Zone One is gorier. It’s more flamboyant than some of the stuff in The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys. In those two books, I think the horrific brutality that they experience speaks for itself. They don’t have to be dramatized.

This kind of language, I borrowed from reading the slave narratives. You don’t have to dramatize or sell to the listener or the reader how terrible everything is that is happening because it speaks for itself. If the violence is speaking for itself, I can concentrate more on the characters and what they’re feeling.

(3) TOLD WITH CONVICTION. LAist tells how “This LA Writer Turned Comic-Con Into A Crime Story”.

San Diego’s Comic-Con International starts Wednesday night, which makes this the perfect time to talk about Bad Weekend, a noir set against the backdrop of a fictionalized version of the now famous comics convention.

Writer Ed Brubaker described the graphic novel — with art by Brubaker’s longtime collaborator Sean Phillips and colors by Phillips’ son Jacob — as a weird love letter to comics, being a fan, and the strangeness of the comic book industry.

Bad Weekend is the product of filing away stories he’s heard around the comic book industry for the past 20 to 30 years, according to Brubaker — stories of who screwed over whom, of success not bringing happiness, and of comic companies getting rich off their work with movies and TV shows without the creators sharing in that wealth.

(4) OP-EDS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] If, like me, you’ve been enjoying the New York Times’ series of science fictional op-eds, they’ve just created a landing page with all the articles in the series now organized in one place:  “Op-Eds From the Future”

It’s worth checking back every second Monday to see the latest installment, as they’ve been excellent so far. 

(5) FILER NAMED FGOH. Chris Barkley shared on Facebook: “I am pleased to report that I was asked and accepted to be the Fan GoH at the 2021 Astronomicon in Rochester, NY along with my good friend (and Identical twin) Robert J. Sawyer.”

(6) TRANSLATED NOVEL HUGO REDUX. Chris Barkley has also addressed criticism of the Best Translated Novel Hugo category in a Facebook post which begins —

I have taken this past week to ponder a response to Neil Clarke and Taiyo Fujii’s objections to the viability of a Hugo Award category for Best Translated Novel. And frankly, their objections puzzle me.

I ask this of Mr. Fujii and to Mr. Clarke; if the three Hugos awarded to translated works are the awakening of fandom to translated literature, why haven’t more of those works been nominated in their wake? In the past three years of nominations; only 2017’s Death’s End, by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu, has been included in the Best Novel category, all of the other nominees in the category have all been decidedly anglocentric.

The truth of the matter we think that the Worldcon and the Hugo Awards have been overwhelmingly perceived for quite a while as an English speakers only party since a majority of the conventions have been held in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Mr. Clarke and Mr. Fujii may see the proposed award as either unnecessary, pandering or condescending to authors and fans but all Ms. Cordasco, my co-sponsors and I only want to do is shine a spotlight to fervently call attention to and honor authors and their translators. Speaking for myself, had there been three, four or five nominees on the final ballot since those historic awards, I would not have contemplated initiating and offering this proposal for an open debate…

(7) JUDGE UNCONVINCED. “Marvel Finally Beats a Lawsuit Over the ‘Iron Man 3’ Poster”The Hollywood Reporter has the story. There does seem to be a family resemblance, just the same:

Horizon still could have gotten the case to trial, but it then needed to show an inference of copying through the similarity of the works. Specifically, Horizon argued the two works were “strikingly similar,” with reliance on an expert report discussing anatomical structures, faces and heads, and camera views.

The judge responds that the expert report is “equivocating” on some of the noteworthy similarities by addressing features on careful viewing and not going quite so far to rule out any reasonable possibility of independent creation. Plus, the judge adds, “there remain enough differences between the two works,” nodding to Marvel’s pointing out differences in pose, differing placement of blue lights, and significantly different overall coloring.

(8) SEE READERCON 30. Ellen Datlow has posted 89 photos taken at ReaderCon 30 in a Flickr album.

Catherynne M. Valente, Heath Miller, and Sebastian

(9) ARE YOU WHAT YOU CONSUME? Surprising no one, here’s where The Hollywood Reporter lands on the meaning of “fan” and “fandom” — “Among Fandoms, Marvel May Reign Supreme, Poll Finds”.

A nationally representative sample of 2,200 adults carried out between July 8 and 10 revealed that, when it comes to genre properties, Marvel is far and away the most successful, with 63 percent of those surveyed considering themselves fans. The next most popular property was Marvel’s Disney sibling, Star Wars, with a 60 percent fandom, and DC followed with 59 percent.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 17, 1955 — Disneyland Park opened in Anaheim, California.
  • July 17, 1987 Robocop premiered on this day.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 17, 1858 Florence Balcombe Stoker. She was the wife and literary executor of Bram Stoker. She’s best remembered for her extended legal dispute with the makers of Nosferatu, an unauthorized film blatantly based on her husband’s novel Dracula. (Died 1937.)
  • Born July 17, 1889 Erle Stanley Gardner. Though best known for the Perry Mason series of detective stories, he did write a handful of SF stories, all of which are collected in The Human Zero: The Science Fiction Stories of Erle Stanley Gardner. (Died 1970.)
  • Born July 17, 1944 Thomas A. Easton, 75. SF critic and author who wrote the book review column in Analog from 1979 – 2009. His Organic Future series is quite entertaining and I’m reasonably certain I read Sparrowhawk when it was serialized in Analog
  • Born July 17, 1952 Robert R. McCammon, 67. Horror writer whose Michael Gallatin books, The Wolf’s Hour and The Hunter from the Woods, Alllied WWII werewolf agent and his adventures, I strongly recommend. His “Nightcrawlers” short story was adapted into an episode of the Twilight Zone.
  • Born July 17, 1954 J. Michael Straczynski, 65. Best known rather obviously for creating and writing most of Babylon 5 and its short-lived sequel Crusade. He’s also responsible for as well as the Jeremiah and Sense8 series. On the commit sides, he’s written The Amazing Spider-Man, Thor and Fantastic Four. Over at DC, he did the Superman: Earth One trilogy of graphic novels, and has also written Superman, Wonder Woman, and Before Watchmen titles.
  • Born July 17, 1967 Kelly Robson, 52. I just got done reading her brilliant “Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach”.  Right now, it appears only this plus “A Human Stain” and “Waters of Versailles” are available on iBooks and Kindle for reading as she has no collection out yet. And no novel as far as I can tell. 
  • Born July 17, 1971 Cory Doctorow, 48. I’ll admit that I’ve mixed feelings about his work. I enjoyed Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, his first novel, and thought The Rapture of the Nerds had potential but really failed to live to that potential to great. Everything else is ‘Meh’. His activism is oft times that of an overeager puppy trying to get attention for himself. 
  • Born July 17, 1976 Brian K. Vaughan, 43. Wow. Author of  Ex Machina,  Pride of BaghdadRunawaysSagaY: The Last Man, and his newest affair, Paper Girls. And yes, he’s won Hugo Awards. You could spend an entire summer just reading those series. In his spare time, he was a writer, story editor and producer of the television series Lost during seasons three through five. And was the showrunner and executive producer of the Under the Dome series.

(12) IN THE BEGINNING. The San Diego Union-Tribune explores “50 Shades of Comic-Con: What we’ve gained and lost in five decades of pop culture celebrations”.

From its inception, Comic-Con had intergalactic ambitions.

The initial show, then called San Diego’ Golden State Comic Con, featured science fiction writers Ray Bradbury and A.E. Van Vogt; Jack Kirby, creator of Captain America, X-Men and other iconic superheroes; vintage films; an art auction; and dozens of dealers peddling mountains of new and used comics.

An unforgettable event — for the 300 attendees. Few others noticed and even they dismissed this as a juvenile jamboree. For instance:

On the show’s first day, Aug. 1, 1970, the author of “Fahrenheit 451″ and “The Martian Chronicles” granted an interview to The San Diego Union. Yet Bradbury’s spirited defense of comics was buried on page B-11, under articles about a flower show, the repainting of the White House East Room and a medical brief with the headline “Fat Men More Tipsy.”

… Neil Kendricks is a writer, filmmaker and teacher who recently led a San Diego State course on comics and sequential art. In the early 1980s, though, he was a high school student at his first Comic-Con. In the dealer’s room, he bumped into a white-haired gentleman flipping through the cardboard boxes full of used comics.

“Mr. Bradbury,” he stammered, “will you be here for awhile?”

When Ray Bradbury nodded yes, Kendricks dashed out of Golden Hall and ran the half-mile to Wahrenbrock’s Book House.

“I went upstairs to the science fiction section and bought as many of his books and I could find. Then I ran all the way back and he signed them. That,” Kendricks said, “could never happen now.”

(13) UP ON CHARGES. Trae Dorn reports at Nerd & Tie that a conrunner is being prosecuted in the Twin Cities: “How to React When a Member of Your Con Staff is Accused of Rape”. Documentation accompanies the post.

On Monday it came to light that long time staffer of Twin Cities based Anime Detour Stephen Gifford has been charged with third-degree sexual assault in Hennepin County, Minnesota. Gifford was head of Convention Communications for Anime Detour’s 2019 event earlier this year, and has previously served as the event’s convention chair.

… Now we’ve seen cons react to situations like this in many ways, but thankfully Anime Detour’s staff has taken the situation seriously.

(14) KNIT ONE, PEARL TWO. While they still can, WIRED lets readers decide for themselves what to think about this coming technology: “Here’s How Elon Musk Plans to Stitch a Computer into Your Brain”.  

…At a presentation at the California Academy of Sciences, hastily announced via Twitter and beginning a half hour late, Musk presented the first product from his company Neuralink. It’s a tiny computer chip attached to ultrafine, electrode-studded wires, stitched into living brains by a clever robot. And depending on which part of the two-hour presentation you caught, it’s either a state-of-the-art tool for understanding the brain, a clinical advance for people with neurological disorders, or the next step in human evolution.

The chip is custom-built to receive and process the electrical action potentials—“spikes”—that signal activity in the interconnected neurons that make up the brain. The wires embed into brain tissue and receive those spikes. And the robotic sewing machine places those wires with enviable precision, a “neural lace” straight out of science fiction that dodges the delicate blood vessels spreading across the brain’s surface like ivy.

…And, sure, there’s more. A public records request from WIRED in April 2019 found that Neuralink is licensed to have hundreds of rats and mice in its research facilities. In a seemingly unplanned moment at the Cal Academy, Musk also acknowledged that Neuralink’s research had progressed beyond rodents to non-human primates. It’s only because of a records request filed by Gizmodo that Neuralink’s affiliation with the primate research center at UC Davis is public knowledge. That affiliation has apparently progressed: “A monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain, just FYI,” Musk said during the Q and A after the presentation.

His team seemed as surprised and discombobulated by the announcement as the audience. “I didn’t know we were running that result today, but there it goes,” said Max Hodak, president of the company, on stage next to Musk. (Monkeys have controlled computers via BCIs before, though presumably this would be the first time one used Neuralink.)

(15) APOLLO 11 AT 50 CLIPPINGS.

One small holograph for man, one giant holograph for the Washington Monument.

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with a life-size projection of the Saturn V rocket on the Washington Monument on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The Saturn V rocket is now iconic for carrying the Apollo 11 crew to the moon in 1969. The projection-mapping artwork will occupy 363 of the monument’s 555 vertical feet.

As the 17th century’s most famous Italian astronomer surveyed the heavens, he likely never dreamed a rocket shooting fire would one day power people up among the stars he eyed through his telescope, or that his work would help guide a ship to the moon.

But Galileo Galilei’s observations would become a key link in the chain of scientific research and discovery fundamental to our understanding of the universe and our drive to explore it.

That scientific continuum is at the heart of a new Houghton Library exhibit connecting early celestial calculations to the Apollo 11 mission that put two American astronauts on the lunar surface 50 years ago this July. “Small Steps, Giant Leaps: Apollo 11 at Fifty” features gems from Harvard’s collection of rare books and manuscripts as well as NASA artifacts from an anonymous lender and Harvard alumnus, many of which were aboard the spaceship that left Earth’s orbit in 1969.

Not all of the equipment carried into space was cutting edge and expensive. Some of the more humble odds and ends even prevented disaster.

…25: Length of duct tape rolls carried to the Moon, in feet

If there’s one saviour time and again of American space missions over the past 50 years, it’s a roll of duct tape. During Apollo missions, it was used for everything from taping down switches and attaching equipment inside the spacecraft, to fixing a tear on a spacesuit and, during Apollo 17, a fender on the lunar rover.

One of the surviving crew members of the first manned mission to the Moon – Apollo 11 – has returned to the site where the mission set off 50 years ago.

Michael Collins, 88, visited Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday. He marked theprecise time – 09:32 (13:32 GMT) – when their rocket took off.

Mr Collins had stayed in lunar orbit while his colleagues Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon.

…Mr Collins described how he felt during take-off.

“The shockwave from the rocket power hits you,” he told Nasa TV. “Your whole body is shaking. This gives you an entirely… different concept of what power really means.”

Esquire was not expecting much from Neil Armstrong.

“While the space program is poised on the brink of a truly epoch-making triumph of engineering, it is also headed for a rhetorical train wreck,” the story said.

“The principal danger is not that we will lose the life of an astronaut on the Moon, but that the astronauts will murder English up there . . . . That they are likely to litter the intergalactic void with gibberish and twaddle.”

The smugness is rather remarkable, because despite the talent of the people it enlisted, Esquire got not a single decent line from any of them.

It got, in fact, a lot of gibberish and twaddle.

…With that as your benchmark, here’s a sampling of what Esquire’s best and brightest came up with:

John Kenneth Galbraith, the Harvard economist: “We will hafta pave the damn thing.”

Ayn Rand, libertarian thinker and novelist: “What hath man wrought!”

…Leonard Nimoy, the actor, then in his third season as Spock on the new TV series Star Trek: “I’d say to Earth, from here you are a peaceful, beautiful ball and I only wish everyone could see it with that perspective and unity.”

(16) BACK SEAT FLYING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Washington Post: “Airline tweets about where passengers are least likely to die in a crash”. The pic below is cribbed from the WaPo article. Apparently, they got ahold of a screenshot of the since-deleted tweet. The thought process of whoever sent this out must have been, well, let’s just call it astounding.

(17) A KING WILL BE CROWNED. Looper fills us in about The Most Anticipated Sci Fi Movies Of 2020.

2020 might feel far away, but Hollywood’s major studios are already planning ahead with some legit super hits on the horizon. And if you’re a fan of sci-fi flicks, then 2020’s looking like an especially good year for you. These are just a few of the most anticipated sci-fi blockbusters on their way to a big screen near you. Film fans will finally get the answer to an age-old question in 2020, when Godzilla and King Kong face off on the big screen. Director Adam Wingard has already assured fans that his take on the two monsters will crown a definitive winner, unlike the 1962 film that first pit the two characters against each other. This will be the fourth entry in Legendary’s MonsterVerse, first established in 2014’s Godzilla and further explored in Kong: Skull Island.

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

Best Translated Novel
Hugo Category Proposed

Chris M. Barkley, Juli Marr, and Mark Richards have submitted an motion to create a new Hugo Awards category for Best Translated Novel. It will soon be listed on Dublin 2019’s New Business Agenda. (Update Barkley says this is the text they submitted, but some minor tweaks will be made to the language before it is posted online.)

D.1 Short Title: Best Translated Novel

Moved, to amend the WSFS Constitution for the purpose of creating a new Hugo Award category for Best Translated Novel, by inserting a new subsection after existing Section 3.3.4 and revising sections 3.2.5 and 3.2.6 as follows:

3.3.4: A science fiction or fantasy story of forty thousand (40,000) words or more that was translated and published into English for the first time within the previous calendar year. The Award will be given both to the writer(s) of the work and the credited translator(s) of the novel.

3.2.5: In the story categories (3.3.1-3.3.56 and 3.3.78), an author may withdraw a version of a work from consideration if the author feels that the version is not representative of what that author wrote.

3.2.6: The categories of Best Novel, Novella, Novelette, and Short Story, and Best Translation shall be open to works in which the text is the primary form of communication, regardless of the publication medium, including but not limited to physical print, audiobook, and ebook.

Provided that unless this amendment is re-ratified by the 2022 Business Meeting, this Section shall be repealed and; and

Provided further that the question of re-ratification shall automatically be placed on the agenda of the 2022 Business Meeting.

  • Proposed by: Mark Richards (Attending Member), Juli Marr (Attending Member) and Chris M. Barkley (Attending Member).  

Commentary by Chris M. Barkley and Rachel Cordasco:

Eighty years ago, in July 1939, NYCon 1, the very first World Science Fiction Convention was held in New York City.

The title “World Science Fiction Convention” was a bit of a misnomer; it was about as accurate and plausible as baseball’s championship title “World Series” is today. It was named as such in honor of the World’s Fair exhibition being held nearby in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

We have no doubt that while many of the convention’s participants (and those who were excluded for political reasons) imagined science fiction and fantasy literature had a future, at the time the only thing they could be sure of at that time was that war was on the immediate horizon.

As the decades passed, sf and fantasy literature not only took hold in North American and England, it became a worldwide cultural phenomenon.

And as the Hugo Award grew in stature, so did its reputation outside the confines of the English speaking nations where it was born and nurtured.

Until recently, a majority of the nominated writers in the fiction categories have been dominated by English language authors. In 2015, Cixin Liu’ s The Three Body Problem (translated by Ken Liu) became the first novel translated from another language to win the Hugo Award.

Since then there have been very few non-English language nominees in the fiction categories although there have been two winners in the short fiction categories (Hao Jingfang, also from China and Thomas Olde Heuvelt of the Netherlands).

We feel that it is high time that the World Science Fiction Society honor writers from around the world with one of literature’s highest honors.

Each year, US/UK/Australian publishers are giving us more SF in translation (SFT) to read from countries like France, Iraq, Argentina, Japan, Finland, Israel, and many others. In recent years, the number of translated speculative novels has risen to 60-70. After several decades of speculative fiction flowing mostly from the US and UK into other countries, the tide seems to be turning and people who grew up reading translations of Anglophone science fiction or fantasy have been inspired to become translators themselves. Plus, more presses and magazines are open to SFT, and we now have two online publications that actually specialize in international speculative fiction (Samovar Magazine and Future Science Fiction Digest).

The Hugo Award, like the annual Worldcons, are sponsored by the World Science Fiction Society, and it is this inclusion of the word “world” that is at issue when discussions of a “Best Translated Novel” come up. As Donald Wollheim once wrote, “We science fiction readers whose native language happens to be English-…tend to a curious sort of provincialism in our thinking regarding the boundaries of science fiction. We tend to think that all that is worth reading and all that is worth noticing is naturally written in English. In our conventions and our awards and our discussions we slip into the habit of referring to our favorites as the world’s best this and the “world’s best that.” 

Shouldn’t the Hugo Awards recognize more than just those texts originally written in English? SFT is more popular than some people think, and if given the opportunity to recognize a non-Anglophone novel, SFT readers would probably jump at the chance. It’s time to shrug off our Anglocentric perspective, especially in relation to a genre that encourages us to look beyond our immediate environs and learn about those who are sometimes radically different from us.

Simply put, if the Best Novel Category is the equivalent of the Academy Award for Best Picture, the Best Translated novel can serve as our Best Foreign Film. If France, Spain, Israel, China, and other countries can successfully include a “Best Translated Novel” category in their SF awards, so can the US/UK-dominated Hugos.

As the noted philosopher and American football coach George Allen once sagely noted, “The Future is NOW.”

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #41

Chernobyl: A Review

By Chris M. Barkley:

Chernobyl (****, 2019, 200 minutes) with Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, Paul Ritter, Jessie Buckley, Adam Nagaitis, Con O’Neill, Adrian Rawlins,Sam Troughton, Robert Emms,Emily Watson, David Dencik, Mark Lewis Jones, Alan Williams, Alex Ferns, Ralph Ineson, Barry Keoghan, Fares Fares and Michael McElhatton. Written by Craig Mazin, Directed by Johan Renck.  

Bechdel Test: Passes (In Spades)

Yeah

I can’t believe the news today
Oh, I can’t close my eyes
And make it go away
How long?
How long must we sing this song?
How long, how long?
‘Cause tonight, we can be as one
Tonight

Broken bottles under children’s feet
Bodies strewn across the dead end street
But I won’t heed the battle call
It puts my back up
Puts my back up against the wall

Sunday, Bloody Sunday…

The opening lyrics of U2’s political horror anthem “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” released in March 1983, three years and one month before the Chernobyl disaster…

In Episode Four of HBO’s historical drama series Chernobyl, entitled “The Happiness of All Mankind,” a Soviet soldier encounters an old woman milking a cow in a barn. This soldier is strict under orders to evacuate every civilian from an ever-widening exclusion zone around the city of Pripyat, the site of the shattered and dangerously radioactive Chernobyl nuclear reactor plant.

As the old woman milks the cow, she calmly maintains that she has seen waves of young men with guns, bolsheviks, revolutionaries, thieves and Germans alike, family and friends murdered or disappeared and she has stayed here on her family farm. And she has no intention of leaving now. Nervous and agitated, the soldier snatches the half-filled container of milk from beneath the cow and unceremoniously dumps it outside. Returning, he finds the old woman has resumed her milking with a different bucket. Angry, he draws his service pistol from his holster, cocks it and forcefully says, “It’s time to leave!” The old woman ignores him.

What happens next shocked me to my core and is one of the most brilliantly disturbing moments in this moving, caustic and infuriating docudrama, and in my opinion, one of the best dramas ever made for television.

Nothing can prepare you for some of the shocking images Chernobyl serves up:

  • The meeting of the city’s party bosses, who decide to conceal the truth from the citizens and cut off communications from the outside world to contain the bad news.
  • The face of a plant engineer, who is ordered, under the threat of force, to go to the roof the shattered reactor building to report on the state of the exploded core, knowing all too well that he will have days to live after peering over the edge into the inferno.
  • A fireman, unknowingly picking up a piece of graphite from the core of the reactor, is on the ground minutes later, holding up a blistered and bloody hand.
  • The irradiated bodies of barely alive first responders, whose flesh is literally melting off of their bodies.  

In the middle of watching Chernobyl, I wrote the following post on my Facebook wall:

After seeing three of Chernobyl’s five episodes, I have no doubt WHATSOEVER that it is one of the most excruciating, shocking, sorrowful dramas in the history of television. It is brilliantly acted through an astonishing ensemble and I have yet to detect a false note in its script or direction.

People, I’ve seen a TON of television in my life and I say this from the heart, you may never see a finer drama in your lifetime than HBO’s Chernobyl. SEE IT!

Over the past few weeks, I have also seen a lot of negative reviews in print and online, maligning Chernobyl as being sensationalistic, overwrought, scientifically and historically inaccurate and generally slanders the former Soviet Union, the people who lived in the city of Pripyat and those who heroically dealt with the crisis.

This, of course, is all bullshit.

Chernobyl’s writer, Craig Mazin and director Johan Renck were very upfront in stating that this production was not a documentary but a fictionalized version of events. In other words, Chernobyl is about as accurate as other historical dramas such as the film adaptations of The Right Stuff, All the President’s Men, Hidden Figures, Chariots of Fire, Selma and Moneyball. These works don’t tell the LITERAL truth of their stories but the ESSENTIAL truth of what happened. In an interview with Forbes Magazine, Mazin said that “The lesson of Chernobyl isn’t that modern nuclear power is dangerous. The lesson is that lying, arrogance, and suppression of criticism are dangerous”.

And while no docudrama or historical fiction is above criticism or reproach because there have been plenty of ham-fisted and wrongheaded productions that have been produced over the decades. But I get a little annoyed when a remarkable work such as Chernobyl is treated as though it must live up to an impossible standard, when in fact it has made no pretense about being a dramatization, an amalgamation of the true facts mixed with drama. And while drama, mythmaking and truth may not be the same thing but their paths lead in the same direction with a common destination: Illumination.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that the mini-series’ emotional heart is anchored by a trio of brilliant, powerhouse performances; veteran character actor Jared Harris portrays Valery Legasov, one of the real scientists who was recruited to help manage the crisis, Stellan Skarsgård as his boss, Boris Shcherbina, a Council of Ministers’ deputy chairman who quickly finds out that all of the political power he wields is no match for the forces of nature he has been commanded by the State to stop; and Emily Watson as Ulana Khomyuk, a composite character created to stand in for the scores of scientists who persistently  defied the Soviet bureaucracy in order to learn exactly what went wrong with the reactor design and how the accident happened. 

I offer a vivid validation in this review I found on the public comments page of Chernobyl’s IMDB entry, from an actual eyewitness::

They got it right

24 May 2019 | by curiosityonmars

“I was born in Pripyat. I was four years old when the accident happened. Watching it is more horrifying than living through it. We didn’t know what we were dealing with. It’s not like a hurricane or an earthquake that takes you by surprise and causes massive destruction. Here everything looked normal, that day was just like any other day and yet you were told to abandon everything and just leave. The immediate casualties of the accident were not huge, but it had an enormous impact on lives of hundreds of thousands of people. I often think what my life would be like if this didn’t happen.

This mini series is a masterpiece, perfect in every way. Some people are complaining here that the actors don’t speak Russian. I’m a native speaker of Russian and Ukrainian, I don’t want the actors to speak Russian. You get so consumed by this show you stop noticing what language they speak.

It’s not a documentary, so not each and every detail is accurate, yet I would still call it authentic. The creators got the important stuff right… Both of my parents worked at Chernobyl plant, I grew up hearing stories and versions of what happened. I think this show is the best depiction of the Chernobyl disaster and the stories of its victims. This show is to remind all of us of the cost of lies.”

In the weeks that have passed since I saw Chernobyl, I have been thinking about next year’s Hugo Awards ballot and what I might be nominating in the Best Dramatic Presentation-Long Form category. And, as much as I loved Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame, Star Trek Discovery, Black Mirror, The Umbrella Academy and probably the upcoming season of Stranger Things, I cannot bring myself to nominate any of them next year. What U2 sang about the terrorism, riots, bloody countermeasures and lies told in Northern Ireland in the 1970’s, easily applies to the leaders and policies of Soviet Union in the 1980’s and, more significantly, today’s brutally toxic political landscape.

I think that Chernobyl will cast a long shadow for the next generation of visual artists, as the high bar for what can be dramatized and how it should be done. In my opinion, efforts like this should not be ignored nor go unrewarded by the fannish community.

Chernobyl will be the lone entry on my ballot in the BDP-Long Form category next year.

And it’s true we are immune
When fact is fiction and TV reality
And today the millions cry
We eat and drink while tomorrow they die

the real battle just begun
(Sunday, Bloody Sunday) to claim the victory Jesus won

On
Sunday Bloody Sunday, yeah
Sunday Bloody Sunday

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #40

The Avengers: Endgame, A (SPOILER FREE) Review.  

By Chris M. Barkley:

The Avengers: Endgame (2019, ****, 181 minutes) with Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Bradley Cooper and Josh Brolin. Screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely based on The Avengers by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo.


When we last left The Avengers, catastrophe had struck; the mad titan Thanos had managed to collect all of the Infinity Stones for his Gauntlet and obliterated half of ALL lifeforms in in the galaxy.

That included a significant number of Earth protectors, leaving only the original members, Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Helmsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), the Iron Patriot (Don Cheadle) and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) of the Guardians left to pick up the pieces.

Life on a decimated Earth is hard and most of society is traumatized and mournful. Even the rescue of Tony Stark and Nebula (Karen Gillian) from deep space and the arrival of Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) who was summoned by Nick Fury in the final moments of Infinity War, brings them any hope or a promise of moving on. They CAN’T move on; they’re The Avengers.

And just as things look as bleak as possible, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) (who was last seen trapped in the Quantum Realm in The Ant-Man and The Wasp), shows up at the Avenger’s front doorstep with a fantastic story and an even more incredible theory about to try to restore the Universe from Thanos’ deadly snap…

When you have a movie this that is so widely anticipated, with such a large cast and a running time of just over three hours, even a seasoned film reviewer such as myself had to wonder in the furthest reaches of my mind, can they pull this off?

Well…

Not only did screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and directors Anthony and Joe Russo pull it off, they did it in a monumental, jaw dropping and dare I say, EPIC manner.

In the space of 181 minutes, you experience more callouts, call backs, call ups, fabulous cameos, easter eggs, and some of the most satisfying character arcs and revelations than you can possibly stand.

At the the sold out, first showing audience I attended with I head audible gasps, raucous laughter, and in the most unexpected places, sobs and a lot of tears. Some of them were happy and some were sad. Because sometimes, heroism is great to witness but it comes with steep price to pay.

But it was as satisfying a movie experience, in an actual theater, that I have had in quite a while.

The Avengers: Endgame is a bittersweet and beautiful film to behold, a bold and impressive end to this long and monumental story which began eleven years ago with the first Iron Man film. I don’t know what Marvel Studios has in mind next (besides Spider-Man: Far From Home in July), but my only piece of advice I have to offer them is NOT to try and top this emotional and fulfilling movie.

Because it CAN’T be done!

EXCELSIOR!!!!!

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #39

A Speculative Future of the Sport of Baseball

By Chris M. Barkley: As I write these musings on the day before the opening of the 2019 Baseball Season, there seems to be a great deal of concern about whether or not the venerable sport has any future at all.

Attendance at games have seen a significant decline in the past five years and the games seem to be just as long as ever. In this fast-paced world of short attention spans and increasing competition from all sorts media and other activities, team owners and baseball executives are certainly right to be worried that baseball may be on the verge of a real decline of interest from fans.

Their solution? Speed up the sport to make it more interesting and the games more compelling. The most recent proposals include, introducing the designated hitter to the National League enforcing a 20 second count between pitches and placing a runner on second base at the beginning of extra innings to help settle games faster.

BUT, what if more radical changes were introduced to make the games faster, but MORE compelling for all of the teams playing? And in doing so, make EVERY SINGLE GAME COUNT in the standings not matter which team was playing?

Applying what I have learned over a lifetime as an avid baseball, over forty years in fandom and the past twenty years of WSFS Business Meetings, incessant tweeting, fannish flame wars and Facebook postings, I have come up with a series of provocative, yet thoughtful insights on what Major League Baseball should do to thrive in the Twenty-First Century…

Proposal One: Make the game shorter by two innings, seven, with a maximum of two extra innings. If the game is still tied after the end of the ninth, the game ends in a tie. What, a tie? What the hell, you might ask? I’ll explain this further along down the line…

Proposal Two: Another problem baseball has had is the extended at bat for any player who is skilled enough to foul off pitches. More often than not, this tires out the pitcher and bores whomever is viewing the game. Having played in slow pitch softball leagues with a limited number of fields and the time to play on them, the most recent league I played with had a rule variation where the second foul after a two strikes count was an out on the batter. This forces both the batter and the pitcher to either put the ball in play or force a walk. And the game moves along nicely as well.

Proposal Three: No Designated Hitter: I realize that the game could be still played with a DH but, as a purist at heart, I have hated it with a passion since the American League instituted it in 1973. Pitchers should be FULLY involved in the game at every level. That includes going up to the plate and contributing. If pitchers can’t hit, they should LEARN how to hit, or to least bunt efficiently. Slackers…

Proposal Four: Abolish all regional divisions in favor of a two league table. Until 1969, each league was divided up this way and the top two teams meeting in the World Series. Divisions have fostered some fierce rivalries over the decades but the effect has been, in my humble opinion, diluted by the number of weak teams playing stronger teams in house AND the number inter-league games played each season. While my preference would be to not have ANY games between the two leagues until the World Series, they have been very popular with fans (and team owners) since 1997. So, if we are going to have inter-league games, why not make it more interesting; mandate that all of the teams, on an alternating basis each year, play a three game home and away series with half of the teams (15 at the moment) from each league every year. Each team should be no more than 45 inter-league games each season.

Proposal Five: Drop the number of regular season games to 145 (100 within the league, 45 inter-league games). Why? So glad you asked…

Proposal Six: The League Playoffs should consist of the top eight teams of each division. What would make a compelling pennant race in each league? A change in how the standings are scored.

Proposal Seven: Currently, besides wins and losses, the standing of a team is determined by its winning percentage. I propose that baseball adopt international football league standings; each win will be worth three points, a tie (remember, from Proposal One?) will be worth a point and a loss could be either nothing or, more interestingly, wait for it…minus THREE POINTS! So, suddenly, losing a game in August and September becomes a big freaking deal and some of the so called ‘weaker teams” have more incentive to throw a monkey wrench into the chances of “stronger teams”. In fact, this incentivizes all of the teams in the league to make each team better as the season progresses, possibly enough claw their way into an 8th place in the standings and into the playoffs. If there are any ties for the eighth place, a one game playoff will will determine who advances.

The playoffs would be structured as such: Top seeds play the low seeded number 8, number 2 plays number 7, number 3 plays number 6, and number 4 plays number 5.

The first round: the best 2 out of three games. Second Round: best 3 out of five games. World Series: the traditional best of seven games. A reduced number of regular season games from 162 to 145 can accommodate such a playoff schedule.

Proposal Eight: The All Star Game should be played AFTER the the conclusion of the World Series. Instead of a mid-season break, the game should be played as a celebration of the season that has just past and we have conclusive answers as to who are the BEST players are in each league. All of the season’s awards should surround the event as well, which will give baseball a nice, bright spotlight in the midst of the American football season.  

I am so lucky to call Cincinnati, Ohio my home. It is home of the very first openly all professional baseball team, the Red Stockings, who went 57-0 in their inaugural season of 1869. This upcoming season will mark the 150th season of the Cincinnati Reds. Our Opening Day Parade is world renown and the whole city celebrates as though it was Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years’ Eve all rolled into one day.

Over the past five years, if the Reds happen to be playing in town during our fan club’s annual convention, Midwestcon, in June, I try to organize a group of fans to catch a game at Great American Ballpark, which is right on the banks of the Ohio River.

Baseball is great game with a historic and revered past. If a few of the somewhat crazy ideas (or someone else’s crazy ideas) I’ve presented are implemented, I hope Baseball will somehow survive well into our future.

Marty Brennaman

(This column is dedicated to Marty Brennaman,  the Hall of Fame announcer of the Cincinnati Reds, who is retiring after this season after 46 years in the broadcast booth on radio and television. The fans across the country know and respect him but we, in the Cincinnati area, hold him in the highest regard. It is astounding to think that he has been involved nearly a third of all the games the Reds have played in their entire history. And we are so very lucky to have such an acerbic, thoughtful, knowledgeable and witty guide all those seasons. Thank You Marty and no matter what happens, THIS SEASON BELONGS TO YOU…)

Barkley – So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #38

Captain Marvel, A Review

By Chris M. Barkley:

Captain Marvel, (****, 2019) with Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg and Jude Law. Screenplay byAnna Boden, Ryan Fleck and Geneva Robertson-Dworet. Story byNicole Perlman, Meg LeFauve, Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck and Geneva Robertson-Dworet. Based on Captain Marvel by Stan Lee and Gene Colan; Carol Danvers by Roy Thomas. Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.

124 minutes. Bechtel Test: PASSES with flying colors


The anticipation for Captain Marvel has been incredibly high since Marvel Studios put the title on their production schedule in October of 2014. And when Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige announced that they would be introducing the Carol Danvers iteration into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that expanded into wondering who would play her AND how she would be integrated into the ongoing arc towards the inevitable conflict with the mad titan, Thanos.

With the casting of Academy Award-winning actor Brie Larson (for the 2015 drama, Room) and the intention of placing Captain Marvel directly in between the twin Avengers films pushed the speculation to hyperbolic overdrive. The closing credit scene of last year’s Avengers: Infinity War in which Nick Fury activates a relatively ancient pager to summon her, sealed the deal.

Over the past few years, films with strong women protagonists such as Mad Max: Fury Road, Wonder Woman and The Last Jedi have generated an enormous amount of cultural pushback from all sorts of critics. Misogynist trolls and conservative commentators have attacked everything regarding the film with an astounding amount of hateful verbiage. It got so bad that Rotten Tomatoes had to shut down the anticipated ratings section of their website due to the deluge of negative comments.  

The film begins in the midst of a dream fragment experienced by Vers (Brie Larson), a member of the Kree race’s security service, the Starforce. Her memories of her past life feel very mysterious and sparse but she is very dedicated to her work in eradicating their space faring rivals, the shapeshifting Skrulls.

When a mission to rescue a Kree spy trapped behind enemy lines goes awry, Vers finds herself stranded on Earth in 1995 and under the scrutiny of two future leaders of S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury and Phil Coulson (portrayed by the digitally enhanced Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg) and relentlessly pursued by the Skrulls led by their leader Talos (Ben Mendelsohn).

Vers eventually discovers that she isn’t a fully alien but a native of Earth and at the center of conspiracy that challenges everything she knows and loves…

In an age where you can hardly venture online or encounter any media outlet without being inundated with advertisements, cross promotions, product placements or spoilers, I prefer going to a film without an excess of information or hucksterism. The less I know, the better my pure gut reaction is served.

I am pleased to report that Marvel Studios have not lost their touch (yet); Captain Marvel is a  terrific action movie, a triumph of story, character and style. It’s an highly enjoyable and exciting origin story of Captain Marvel and Nick Fury that stands on its own and also serves as a necessary bridge to what happens in seven weeks when Avengers: Endgame hits the screens.

Writer-Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck  are to be commended for delivering a kinetic action film that also has uniformly good performances from its lead and supporting actors who show real chemistry with each other without detracting from the story.  

There are many Easter eggs buried in Captain Marvel; for instance sharp eyed viewers may want to note what the late Stan Lee in reading in his cameo, the cat Danvers adopts mid-film has a very special name and we finally find out why Nick Fury has such strong issues with trusting others.

As of this writing, Captain Marvel was on pace to gross over $155 million dollars its opening weekend and with a usually high repeat viewing by Marvel fans, it should easily clear a half a billion dollars in a few weeks.

It’s no surprise that Captain Marvel’s official release date coincided with the celebration of International Women’s Day. Vers journey to finding her true heritage as Carol Danvers and onward to her destiny as Captain Marvel is designed to entertain and to inspire anyone who feels downtrodden, depressed or abused.

Or, as the late coach Vince Lombardi once opined, “It does not matter how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get back up.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #37

Bill Higgins (left) and Steven H Silver (right), photo by Chris M. Barkley at Capricon 39, 16 February 2019

Capricon 39: Information PLEASE!

By Chris M. Barkley: When I was attending Worldcon 76 at San Jose, Chicago area fan writer and editor Steven H Silver approached me with an unusual proposition: would I be interested in participating in a fantasy and sf version of an old radio show Information Please.

I had been a radio talk show host myself, which was called Bad Moon Rising and was broadcast on a public access radio station from the summer of 1976 through the spring of 1983. As an aficionado of old-time radio shows, I knew about Information Please but I had never heard an episode. But I knew about the basic premise and format and was sufficiently intrigued to agree.

According to its Wikipedia entry:

Information Please was an American radio quiz show, created by Dan Golenpaul, which aired on NBC from May 17, 1938 to April 22, 1951. The title was the contemporary phrase used to request from telephone operators what was then called “information” but is now called “directory assistance”.

The series was moderated by Clifton Fadiman. A panel of experts would attempt to answer questions submitted by listeners. For the first few shows, a listener was paid $2 for a question that was used, and $5 more if the experts could not answer it correctly. When the show got its first sponsor (Canada Dry), the total amounts were increased to $5 and $10 respectively. A complete Encyclopædia Britannica was later added to the prize for questions that stumped the panel. The amounts went up to $10 and $25 when Lucky Strike took over sponsorship of the program.”

Mr. Silver’s idea was to present this show in a panel format at sf conventions on a regular basis. Steve Davidson, the current publisher of Amazing Stories, agreed to be the sponsor these contests and eventually offer prizes of subscriptions to winners who submitted questions that stumped the panel.

Since it was not widely publicized, there was a lack of audience material to work with and as a result, Mr. Silver wrote all of the questions himself.

Besides myself, Steven also invited Rich Horton and Bill Higgins of General Technics to participate as future hosts or participants.

There was no room on the 2018 Windycon programming schedule so it was mutually agreed that the pilot episode of “F&SF Information Please” would be held this weekend at Capricon 39.

Mr. Silver was our host and seated to his right were myself, Mr. Higgins, Chicago fan David Hirsch and Capricon 39 Author Guest of Honor Seanan MCGuire.

Unlike Jeopardy! or other quiz shows, you can’t really study for it; the questions are so arcanely phrased that you have to rely on all of the inherent knowledge you possess plus and improvisational comedy skills you can muster. And believe me, had there been an audio recording of the panel, you would have gotten an earful of both.

Mr. Silver began with a series of common knowledge questions regarding Hugo Award winners, Harry Potter characters and fan related items of interest. (I am being deliberately vague here because the questions that were used may turn up at future conventions.)

The questions became harder and more perplexing as the panel progressed, much to the delight of the 40 plus members of the audience attending. In fact, several members of the audience knew some of the tougher entries involving Disney movies, fantasy characters from novels, spaceship names and sf convention history.

At one remarkable point in the proceedings, we were all treated to the splendid singing voices of Ms. McGuire and Mr. Higgins, who both sang filk songs from memory.

I must say that I modestly held my own during the proceedings with a few swift answers and some snappy repartee. And I also also admit I laughed so hard that afterwards I thought that I had stressed my vocal chords.

Alas, all of this has been mostly lost to history because I did not think of setting up my smartphone to record the panel.

I think that this particular game show would be a welcome addition to local and regional conventions and I am urging everyone reading this to participate if and when this may show up on a programming schedule.

I can say with some certainty that Information Please will be performed at Windycon 47 this coming November (where, coincidentally, I am the Fan Guest of Honor.) I am hopeful that other venues around the country will be announced as well.

If you would like to participate and have a chance to win a subscription to Amazing Stories, please send your questions to Steven H. Silver at: infopleasesf@gmail.com 

Let the flow of knowledge, and hilarity, ensue!

Cats Sleep on SFF: The Martian Named Smith

Chris M. Barkley adds a volume to our feline library —

My cat, MissJackson, was named by my daughter Laura and given to me a newly weaned kitten more than ten years ago.

As you can see, she is a book hoarder and on the lookout for anyone trying to swipe her stash…


Photos of other cats resting on genre works are welcome. Send to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com

Pixel Scroll 11/17/18 You Can Hear The Pixels Scroll One Hundred Files

(1) THE NEXT DAY. That’s got to smart. No sooner did Arisia announce its move to the Boston Park than the strike that forced the change came to an end. Boston’s CBS affiliate reports “Marriott Hotel Workers In Boston Reach Deal To End Strike”.

The union representing them, Unite Here Local 26, confirmed Saturday they “reached a tentative agreement” on a new contract. A few hours later, a ratification vote at Hynes Convention Center officially ended the strike.

“We can confirm we have a tentative agreement. We look forward to welcoming our associates back to work,” a Marriott International spokesperson said in an e-mail.

(2) WFC 2019 FALLOUT. Adam-Troy Castro is arguing that critics of Robert Silverberg, in trouble for his disdainful remark about N.K. Jemisin’s Hugo acceptance speech, should pull their punches:

This is how much a racially charged statement can affect status: the World Fantasy Convention is making public apologies for, among other things, inviting Robert Silverberg. Close to seventy years a fixture of the field, hundreds of novels and nonfiction books and short stories, an influence and footprint that cannot be denied; really, a giant, or the word “giant” doesn’t mean anything and never has. (DYING INSIDE, alone.) And now he’s in danger of having this become his entire legacy in eyes of the next generation, and…damn.

I understand why people are mad at him. I really do. I believe they should be. I am, whether you believe me or not….

… I have given the only reply that makes sense to me: that someday, your splendid, woke, brilliantly sensitive perfect generation will have this happen to you too. The attitudes you think natural will seem neanderthalic to those who come after you. The icons of your current cultural starscape will someday be torn down, for missteps or beliefs central to their work. Maybe it should happen, but when it does happen, it will hurt and you will protest and you will be condemned for any affection you still possess for those figures.

However, in Marta Randall’s comment there (screencapped by rcade), she casts doubt on this being a one-time lapse.

(3) NOT SO BAD. Today’s the 40th anniversary of the airing of one of TV’s negative icons – but The Hollywood Reporter had nice things to say about it at the time: “‘The Star Wars Holiday Special’: THR’s 1978 Review”.

If the prospect of a two-hour Star Wars Holiday Special conjured up visions of “May the force be with you” repeated ad nauseam in your head, this show on CBS was a welcome surprise….

For the most part the special was [an] inventive diversion that stood on its own merits.

(4) INFO DUMPSTER FIRE. Slate’s Dan Kois isn’t nearly as forgiving of this movie’s flaws s other critics: “The New Fantastic Beasts Is So Bad It Actually Makes the Other Books and Movies Worse”.

…Instead of building upon the story, characters, and conflicts that Fantastic Beasts torturously established, The Crimes of Grindelwald layers on further exposition and introduces yet more new characters. Even a character I thought was safely dead is once again alive! Remember poor Credence (Ezra Miller), the moody teen who sometimes turns into a screaming cloud of smoke? I swear he got disintegrated in the New York City subway at the end of the previous movie, but now here he is moping around Paris rooftops, trying to find his mom. In my opinion he should chill out; he’s got cheekbones to die for and a hot girlfriend who’s also a huge snake, which seems like a scenario out of any goth teen’s dreams….

(5) NO WRITER, NO SERIES. Funny how that works. Knock-on effects of Chuck Wendig’s exit from Marvel are still happening. Gizmodo’s io9 says that “Marvel Comics Scraps New Darth Vader Series After Chuck Wendig’s Controversial Exit”.

Almost a month and a half after it was first announced at New York Comic-Con, Marvel has pulled the plug on its latest Star Wars miniseries, Shadow of Vader, bringing an awkward end to the saga the publisher created by booting writer Chuck Wendig from the book in the first place.

Wendig made waves last month when he explained in a lengthy series of tweets that he had been fired from the Shadow of Vader title—at that point mere days after the series had been publicly unveiled—with the writer pinning the reasoning as allegedly down to an editor citing Wendig’s coarse language on social media, combined with the writer’s discussion of U.S. politics online. When initially asked, a Marvel Comics representative would not confirm why Wendig was suddenly off the book. It was the latest in a line of recent incidents in the pop culture space over hollow calls for civil discourse in the wake of targeted campaigns of harassment.

(6) IN TIMES TO COME. Congratulations to WIndycon 2019’s guests!

Windycon 46 will be held November 15-17 in Westin Lombard, IL. The guests are:

Author GoH: Elizabeth Moon
Artist GoH: Mitchell Bentley
Fan GoH: Chris Barkley
Toastmistress: Lee Martindale

Next year’s theme is “Space Opera”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 17, 1915 – Raymond F. Jones, Writer who is best remembered for his novel This Island Earth, which was made into a movie which was then skewered in Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Movie. However, he produced a significant number of science fiction novels and short stories which were published in magazines such as Thrilling Wonder Stories, Astounding Stories, and Galaxy, including “Rat Race” and “Correspondence Course”, which respectively earned Hugo and Retro Hugo nominations. (Died 1994.)
  • Born November 17, 1925 – Rock Hudson, Oscar-nominated Actor whose best-known genre role was in The Martian Chronicles miniseries; he also played the President in the alt-history miniseries World War III. Other roles included The Golden Blade, based on a One Thousand and One Nights folktale; Embryo, about artificial gestational chambers in a much less benign scenario than Bujold’s; and Seconds, about transplanting the minds of wealthy elderly people into fresh young bodies. (Died 1985.)
  • Born November 17, 1931 – Dennis McHaney, Writer and Critic. Pulp writers in particular seem to attract scholars, both amateur and professional. Robert E. Howard was not an exception. So I give you this individual who, between 1974 and 2008, published The Howard Review and The Robert E. Howard Newsletter. Oh, but that was hardly all he did, as he created reference works such as The Fiction of Robert E. Howard – A Pocket Checklist, Robert E. Howard in Oriental Stories, Magic Carpet and The Souk, and The Fiction of Robert E. Howard: A Quick Reference Guide. A listing of his essays and other works would take an entire page. It has intriguing entries such as Frazetta Trading Cards, The Short, Sweet Life and Slow Agonizing Death of a Fan’s Magazine, and The Films of Steve Reeves. Fascinating… (Died 2011.)
  • Born November 17, 1944 – Danny DeVito, 74, Oscar-nominated Actor, Director, and Producer whose best-known genre role was as The Penguin in Batman Returns (for which he received a Saturn nomination), but he also had roles in Matilda (which he directed, and which was based on the Roald Dahl novel of the same name), Mars Attacks!, Men in Black, Big Fish, Junior, and the black comedy cult film Death to Smoochy, about an anthropomorphic character actor, which JJ thought was hilarious. He provided the voice for the credential detective Whiskers in Last Action Hero, as well as for characters in Look Who’s Talking Now, Space Jam, the My Little Pony movie, Hercules, The Lorax, Animal Crackers, and the forthcoming Dumbo.
  • Born November 17, 1966 – Ed Brubaker, 52, Writer and Artist of comic boooks and graphic novels. Sandman Presents: Dead Boy Detectives, I’d consider his first genre work. Later work for DC and Marvel included The Authority, Batman, Captain America, Daredevil, Catwoman, and The Uncanny X-Men. If I may single out but one series, it’d be the one he did with writer Greg Rucka which was Gotham Central. It’s Gotham largely without Batman, but with the villains, so the Gotham Police Department has to deal with them by themselves; grim and well done. In 2016, he joined the writing staff for the Saturn-winning Westworld series, where he co-wrote the episode “Dissonance Theory” with Jonathan Nolan. He’s had numerous nominations and wins for Harvey and Eisner Awards, as well as a Stoker nomination for Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel.
  • Born November 17, 1971 – David Ramsey, 47, Actor and Martial Artist, who is best known for his role in the the Arrowverse (Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow) as John Diggle/Spartan, but he also had roles in The Nutty Professor and the pandemic film Fatal Contact, and has appeared in episodes of Ghost Whisperer, Space: Above and Beyond, Journeyman, and Charmed.
  • Born November 17, 1978 – Tom Ellis, 40, Actor from Wales who is currently playing Lucifer Morningstar in the Lucifer TV series based on the character from Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. It’s quite good. He’s also had roles in Doctor Who, Once Upon a Time, Messiah, The Strain, and Merlin.
  • Born November 17, 1978 – Rachel McAdams, 40, Oscar-nominated Actor from Canada who played the titular character in the The Time Traveler’s Wife, a film based on the Clarke- and Campbell-nominated novel of the same name, which she followed up genre-wise by earning Saturn nominations for playing Irene Adler in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films and the terrorists’ target in the creepy Red Eye. She also had lead roles in Dr. Strange, Midnight in Paris, and another time-travel movie, About Time. Her sole series work is apparently in an episode of Earth: Final Conflict, and she had a voice role as The Mother in an animated version of The Little Prince.
  • Born November 17, 1983 – Christopher Paolini, 35, Writer known for the Inheritance Cycle, which consists of the books Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance, the first of which was made into a Saturn-nominated film and a videogame of the same name. In December of this year, The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm, the first book in a series called Tales of Alagaësia, will be published.

(8) BY BIRTHDAY CANDLELIGHT. Rich Horton, in “Birthday Review: Stories of Raymond F. Jones”, gives reasons that name should not be forgotten.

Raymond F. Jones would have been 103 today. He’s not much remembered these days, but he was an interesting writer of the Golden Age of Science Fiction. His career continued into the 1970s — his last story appeared in Ted White’s Fantastic in 1978.  In his memory I’ve compiled this set of reviews of his stories, that I wrote based on reading several old magazines in my collection.

(9) TRIMBLES TAKE THE HIGH ROAD. Bjo and John Trimble responded on Facebook to Steve Davidson withdrawing Amazing Stories sponsorship of their GoH expenses at the 2019 NASFiC after they decided to continue as Arisia 2019 GoHs.

This is Steve Davidson’s reaction to our decision to attend Arisia. He makes some assumptions that we don’t agree with, but we’re not about to get into a “he said” “they said” conversation here. Suffice it to say that we feel strongly that Arisia is making an attempt to deal with their former transgressions, including offering space at the 2019 con to discuss this with people willing to do so. We look forward to that meeting. It may be a worthwhile contribution to something that has not yet been openly addressed in fandom.

(10) JOURNEY PLANET CALLING. Chuck Serface says the Journey Planet theme issue he’s working on is  looking for contributors:

A reminder to all that Christopher J Garcia and I are co-editing an issue of Journey Planet dedicated to Silicon Valley. We’re looking for articles, creative writing, and art based on anything related to this part of the world — technology, history, the arts, cultures, peoples, politics, stories, poetry, whatever strikes your interest. Our deadline for submissions is December 10, 2018, and we’ll get the issue out before the end of the calendar year. Send your entries to ceserface@gmail.com!

(11) ACE SEXTET. That’s what you get when Galactic Journey reviews three fresh-off-the-shelf (in 1963) Ace Doubles. In the first book, Leigh Brackett is on one side, and on the other –

Legend of Lost Earth, by G. McDonald Wallis

It’s common practice in SFF for women to initialize their first names (or flat-out take on male pseudonyms).  I have been told vociferously by one of my readers that this practice has nothing to do with any bias against women in the genre; nevertheless, it is puzzling that men don’t seem to do it.  In any event, the “G.” stands for Geraldine, and this is her second Ace Double, the first being The Light of Lilith, which I have not read.

(12) SUBSTANDARD COMPENSATION FOR SUBWAY ARTISTS. The ghost of Harlan Ellison was invoked by Toronto columnist Cliff Goldstein in “Drawing the line on a sketchy TTC ad campaign”.

I was on the subway recently, enjoying some of the lovely art created by local artists as part of the TTC’s Sketching The Line campaign. Curious to find out if the artists were paid for their contributions, I submitted a query through the artintransit.ca website listed on the posters and got a timely answer from Antonina MacDonald, sponsorships and events specialist for Pattison, the outdoor advertising giant.

“They are not compensated… in the form of money. It [compensation] is provided in the form of exposure on our subways and buses.”

This was not the answer I had expected from Canada’s largest outdoor advertising company that’s part of an international corporation with 39,000 employees worldwide and annual sales that have grown to $8.4 billion annually.

…One of my favourite authors, Harlan Ellison, said it best in the documentary Dreams With Sharp Teeth: there is no value in publicity for starving artists.

(13) WRITE MYSELF A LETTER. Cool idea — “Shrinking Swiss glacier hosts world’s largest postcard”.

Laid out on the shrinking Aletsch Glacier, this huge mosaic is actually made from 125,000 drawings and messages about climate change.

They measure 2,500 sq m (26,910 sq ft), and were created by children from all over the world.

“WE ARE THE FUTURE GIVE US A CHANCE,” urged one poster, standing out against the snow.

Seen from above, the whole picture read: “STOP GLOBAL WARMING #1.5 DEGREES C”

(14) HWA YA. The Horror Writers Association announced the Table of Contents for its next anthology for young readers, New Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark edited by Jonathan Maberry

Contents:
1. “The Funeral Portrait” by Laurent Linn
2. “The Carved Bear” by Brendan Reichs
3. “Don’t You See the Cat?” by Gaby Triana
4. “The Golden Peacock” by Alethea Kontis
5. “Strange Music” by Joanna Parypinski
6. “Copy and Paste Kill” by Barry Lyga
7. “The House on the Hill” by Micol Ostow
8. “Jingle Jangle: by Kim Ventrella
9. “The Knock-Knock Man” by Brenna Yovanoff
10. “The Weeping Woman” by Courtney Alameda
11. “The Neighbor” by Amy Lukavics
12. “Tag, You’re It” by Nancy Lambert
13. “The Painted Skin” by Jamie Ford
14. “Lost to the World” by John Dixon
15. “The Bargain” by Aric Cushing
16. “Lint Trap” by Jonathan Auxier
17. “Cries of the Cat” by Josh Malerman
18. “The Open Window” by Christopher Golden
19. “The Skelly Horse by Trisha Wooldridge
20. “The Umbrella Man by Gary N. Braunbeck
21. “The Green Grabber” by D.J. MacHale
22. “Brain Spiders” by Luis Alberto Urrea and Rosario Urrea
23. “Hachishakusama” by Catherine Jordan
24. “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board” by Margaret Stohl
25. “In Stitches” by Michael Northrop
26. “The Bottle Tree” by Kami Garcia
27. “The Ghost in Sam’s Closet: by R. L. Stine
28. “Rap Tap” by Sherrilyn Kenyon
29. “The Garage” by Tananarive Due
30. “Don’t Go into the Pumpkin Patch at Night” by Sheri White
31. “Pretty Girls Make Graves” by Tonya Hurley
32. “Whistle Past the Graveyard” by Zac Brewer
33. Title TBD by James A. Moore
34. “Mud” by Linda Addison
35. “The Tall Ones” by Madeleine Roux

(15) CALLING SANTA. Congratulations to Juniper Books for finding a way to make Harry Potter even more expensive to buy! These Harry Potter Sets in a luxurious traveling case sell for $275.

(16) A KIND OF SHREK QUILT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Movie remakes, right? Gotta love ‘em, right? (Or maybe I was looking for a different word.) Well, apparently someone loves them; about 200 someones in the case of Shrek Retold—a retelling of the first movie by a large group of artists, each using her or his own style. The Verge ( “Over 200 artists got together to remake Shrek”) has the story and the Retold trailer. The release is coming 29 November on on the 3GI website.

The internet’s favorite ogre may already be headed for another Hollywood-backed installment, but fans of the fantasy parody aren’t waiting around for its release. Instead, hundreds of artists have collaborated on their own scene-by-scene retelling of the first Shrek movie. Produced by Wisconsin comedy group 3GI, each artist brings their own style into the mix, meaning there’s everything from live-action bits to CGI and pixel art thrown into the same film. The project looks absurd in the best possible way, like a viral eBaum’s World video for 2018.

(17) HISTORIC PARK MAKES RECOVERY PLAN. These sets were on National Park land, and new ones may take their place: “Paramount Ranch, Western Town, will rise from the Woolsey fire’s ashes, officials vow”Daily News has the story.

Friday’s media event also announced the launch of The Paramount Project to rebuild the ranch’s Western Town. The 24-month projected rebuilding effort is organized by the Park Service’s nonprofit partner the Santa Monica Mountains Fund. You can get more information on the Project and contribute at www.samofund.org/2018/11/15/the-paramount-project/.

“This was a very emotional, iconic place, it captured history of the area and of Los Angeles,” Fund board president Sara Horner noted. “It’s globally significant, it is locally significant and culturally significant.

“Park Services, as you can imagine, is reeling from the losses,” she added. “So they will put together an assessment of their losses, and then we will refine the direction of the plan in place – which will probably change. But there is a plan of what we would like and a schedule for how it will get built, and the Santa Monica Mountains Fund will spearhead the fundraising for that.”

Horner said several movie studios have already called the fund inquiring about how they can help. Her organization is also planning meetings with location managers and other industry professionals to do informal surveys of what they would like to see in the rebuilt Western Town. Due to rigorous Park Service guidelines on what can and cannot be built on their land, she can’t say exactly, but Horner expects a combination of the setting looking somewhat like it did before the fire and new facilities to help the film industry to be up two years from now

LAist has a gallery of photos of the fire damage.

Today, the National Parks Service gave LAist a tour of the ranch post-fire. Little except smoldering piles of wood and cleared land remained of what was once a backdrop to legendary TV shows like The Cisco Kid and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.

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

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #36

Election Day 2018 : A New Hope

By Chris M. Barkley:

Tuesday, 6 November 2018, was a beautiful day.

The forecast had called for rain but in the mid-afternoon, the temperature was in the low 60’s a scattering of wispy cumulus clouds dotted the skies of southwest Ohio.

I was in a neighborhood park with my nearly three-year-old granddaughter Lily, watching her madly dash around the playground in an effort to tucker her out and be more amenable to an afternoon nap.

Lily has been the main focus of my world for the better part of the past two years. She is beautiful, ebullient, smart, assertive, curious, opinionated and fearless almost to a fault.

She also has a quality I rarely see in children her age. When she was playing and sliding on the artificial hillside, she became very concerned when an older boy and girl were tumbling together down and into a heap at the bottom. Even though they were laughing, Lily turned to me and expressed her worries by saying , “They gonna hurt Papa, hurt,” she said in a concerned tone.

Lily’s show of empathy is quite remarkable for a child as young as she is. Just knowing there are children like Lily out there, being raised by responsible, loving parents and caregivers, gives me hope that America, and the world, can survive our current travails.

My mood last week was cautiously optimistic. News outlets were reporting a record turnout for the mid-term elections and Hamilton County was no exception. I voted in person at the Board of Elections with my partner Juli more than a week and a half earlier. There was steady stream of people present to cast an early ballot.

Traffic control was necessary due to the large number of people crossing the street from the parking lot. I witnessed one telling incident; a car driven by a middle-aged white man was approached by several black women who shouted at him to encourage him to stop in and vote early. The man visibly recoiled from these loud, but friendly entreaties and looked relieved when he was permitted to proceed by the police.

My county has been seen as a growing Democratic stronghold the past few election cycles and a quarter of the people in line were holding lists of party candidates. But my hope had been tempered by the fact that southwest Ohio has been gerrymandered in favor of the Republican Party for the past eighteen years. Still, I was feeling hopeful as I filled out my ballot.

As it turned out the Republican incumbent won his house seat again, but only by five and a half points. And most of the statehouse will be red as well, but, paradoxically, our current Democratic Senator held onto his seat.

Across the nation, more than one hundred million people voted in the mid-term elections, the largest turnout in a non-presidential election year. The House of Representatives changed hands and the Senate (as of today) may end up being a 50-50 tie.

The results of this election cycle is sent a clear message from voters that our current dystopia was unacceptable and that at least a modicum of oversight was in order.

That folks, is hope. And that, coincidentally, is the message that the best imaginative literature offer as well. And when our children read, listen to, watch imaginative literature and stories, we produce better and more aware children.

Well, at least that’s what I think. Which brings me back to the young adults who are coming of age today and all of the other children who will come after them, including Lily.

The future of our country, and our world, is going to eventually rest on their shoulders.

The most apt piece of advice I can give them came in the form of a very inspirational (and viral) Facebook meme posted by (but not authored by) a fan named Michael Annis on November 1st:

To which I reply, “SO SAY WE ALL!”

Excelsior!

(Dedicated with Much Love & Gratitude to the memory of Stan Lee)