Pixel Scroll 7/12/21 Your Pixel Will Be Transferred To The Next Available Scroll

(1) CADIGAN’S GOOD NEWS. Pat Cadigan put out two health updates in May. The first discussed her apprehension about her forthcoming usual blood test: “Guess What? You’re Scared!”

Life in Cancerland: no matter how well-adjusted you may think you are, you’re not. Pro tip: that’s okay. It’s not your job to be well-adjusted. Your job is to stay alive. Trust me; I‘m experienced.

The second was about the good report: “Okay. Okay. Okay, Yes, Okay!”

If you heard something you thought was a crazy banshee on party drugs, that was me.

The Macmillan Cancer Centre told me they were going to call me this afternoon. Instead, they called this morning and it’s taken me a while to calm down enough to type.

The level of cancer in my body has dropped a whole bunch of points. Everything else is okay, except I have to stop taking calcium supplements because I’ve got a little too much.

So I’m off calcium supplements and I don’t get another oncology appointment for another six months. Just as well. I need a couple of days to pull myself together after this one.

So now I know. Cancer is afraid of me. It should be.

(2) SCREEN TIME. James Davis Nicoll recommends “Five SF Stories About Raising the Children of the Future” at Tor.com. And his footnotes are not to be missed.

In the years following World War II, Americans celebrated the end of a global war and a recovery from a previous decade of economic crisis by producing an astounding number of children, with consequences that are still unrolling to this day. It was a veritable explosion in birthrates—someone should invent a snappy term for it. Maybe the Big Bang Theory?

This focus on children was reflected in the American science fiction of the day….

“The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury (1950)

Unlike Merril’s vision of the future, the America that Bradbury’s Hadley family calls home is a peaceful, prosperous nation. The parents use their impressive incomes to provide their children with the best of all possible childhoods in a fully automated Happylife Home.

Primitive Americans might have settled for plunking their kids down in front of ten-inch black-and-white TV sets showing Howdy Doody. Happylife Houses offer what we would probably call virtual reality suites. Every setting the children could possibly desire is available. The realism of the settings is astounding. Mr. and Mrs. Hadley are duly astounded…albeit very briefly….

(3) RECOVERY WORK. Erin Underwood says, “I finally wrote a blog post that should have been written 10 years ago about what it is like to be a new fan who is marginalized at a convention.” — “The Overpowering Power of Men at Conventions”.

…I was invisible. I was an obstacle that he pushed aside in order to have his more important conversation with Jack. I think about this now and I know that I am not the only person who has had something like this happen at a convention. Yes, it’s a small thing, but it is an example of how women have been treated in society for far too long, including convention society. The fact that it has taken me 10 years to publicly post about this also speaks to social issues of embarrassment and fear of condemnation by some members of our society….

(4) HOURGLASS. Abigail Nussbaum breaks down Black Widow at Asking the Wrong Questions. BEWARE SPOILERS.

… But the thing is, Natasha Romanoff is not James Bond. Her emotional reserve isn’t counteracted by the outsized place she takes in the world, and by the attention and obsequiousness of everyone she encounters. On the contrary, the character has always been defined by her ability to disappear into the crowd, to be whatever people need her to be without them ever stopping to wonder why that is. Her signature move—which is repeated in Black Widow, in the climactic showdown between Natasha and Dreykov—is to get overconfident men to spill the beans about their secret plans by pretending to be weaker and more vulnerable than she actually is. Scarlett Johansson’s genius in interpreting the role was in nevertheless finding hints of personality and humor in this reserved, centerless person. But Black Widow was an opportunity to peer beneath that façade, to let the person Natasha is when she isn’t performing for anyone take center stage (or, conversely, to grapple with what it means that that person doesn’t exist). Instead, it chooses to double down on its heroine’s chameleon quality, even in the presence of the people she considers family. The result is that Natasha might be her own film’s chief mover, but not its protagonist….

(5) THE SUSPENSE BEHIND THE CAMERA. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna, in a piece with a spoiler warning, interviews Black Widow director Cate Shortland and star David Harbour about the “family dinner” scene that has revelations about the family Natasha Romanoff grew up in. BEWARE SPOILERS. “How ‘Black Widow’ nailed its moving family dinner scene — where no action was involved”.

There are no pyrotechnic effects. The dramatic tension does not revolve around swooping aircraft or lethal hand-to-hand combat. Yet it is the most enlightening “Black Widow” scene — one that screenwriter Eric Pearson “had the most panic about.”…

 “That was our biggest scene — a megillah,” Pearson says by phone. In a Marvel movie packed with action, the dialogue-rich Family Dinner ran nine pages. Every exchange, every emotional beat had to deepen the film while explaining the personal stakes for each of these psychologically warped characters….

(6) SOUNDS FAMILIAR. Enjoy this short parody video on “How Women Are Written In Sci-Fi Movies”.

(7) FULL CIRCLE. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Not genre but worth noting. Well, they did occasionally delve into Thing Supernatural.“Bryant & May author Christopher Fowler: ‘Writing the end was really emotional’” in The Guardian.

… This month London Bridge Is Falling Down, Fowler’s 20th Bryant & May crime novel, will be published, bringing to a close a much-loved series that started in 2003 with Full Dark House. The books feature the unconventional detective duo Arthur Bryant and John May of London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit, who solve arcane murders whose occult significance baffles more traditional detectives. Crime fiction aficionados can amuse themselves by spotting references to classics of the golden age, whose plots and twists Fowler ingeniously projects on to the era of computers and mobile phones. Everyone else can enjoy the endlessly bantering and discursive dialogue between the pair as they break all procedural rules, and the uniquely droll narrative voice with its sharp-eyed slant on modern life.

…Of course London has moved on inexorably since Fowler began his writing career, and co-founded his film marketing company the Creative Partnership at the age of 26. Soho is not the international film hub it once was, in the heady days when the company was working on 15 films a month, including marketing campaigns for Reservoir Dogs and Trainspotting. One of Fowler’s claims to fame from the time is mentioned in Film Freak. “Asked to provide poster straplines for Alien, I wrote several pages of them, including ‘In space no one can hear you scream’. I assume I wasn’t the only person to think of this – it’s an obvious line,” he writes.

“Someone else laid claim to it this month, I noticed,” he says now. “I love it! But we worked on it first, because it was shooting in the UK. Ridley Scott came to see us and gave us a drawing of an egg and said: ‘That’s really all I can tell you – and it’s going to be very frightening.’ We used to get paid £20 per page of copylines and that was the one they went with.”

(8) SEASON’S READINGS. Former President Obama continues his tradition of sharing his summer reading list, which includes some genre works:

(9) ROCHA OBIT. DC Comics artist Robson Rocha has died. The announcement came two weeks after a colleague tweeted an appeal for blood donors because the artist was hospitalized with COVID-19.

CBR.com listed the highlights of Rocha’s career:

Rocha is known for his work on titles such as Birds of PreyBatman/SupermanBatman: Arkham KnightSuperboy and more. He has also provided cover art for Aquaman (in addition to being the series’ main artist), Supergirl and Teen Titans, among other major DC books. Rocha became a breakout star following DC Rebirth in 2016, though he had worked with the publisher before that on other projects.

SYFY Wire rounded up tributes from Rocha’s colleagues in social media: “Robson Rocha: Comics world mourns passing of DC Comics artist”.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 12, 1969 — Fifty-two years ago on this date, BBC 1 aired  the “Where No Man Has Gone Before” episode of Star Trek. It was the third episode of the first season and the second pilot shown. It was directed by James Goldstone and written by Samuel A. Peeples whose only other Trek script was for the pilot episode of the animated series, “Beyond the Farthest Star”.  (He would later write the scripts for the first six episodes for Jason of Star Command which was when James Doohan was involved.)  The primary guests were Gary Lockwood  as Lt. Cmdr. Gary Mitchell and Sally Kellerman as Dr. Elizabeth Dehner. It is notable for the absence of the series regulars of McCoy, Uhura , and Chekov.  Reception, now and then, was universally superb for the episode with it being considered one of the finest ones across all of the series.  The episode would be adapted into a short story by James Blish for his Star Trek 8 anthology, and it also became the second in Bantam’s Fotonovels series.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 12, 1895 — Buckminster Fuller. Genre adjacent and I don’t believe that he actually wrote any SF though one could argue that Tetrascroll: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, A Cosmic Fairy Tale is sort of genre. You will find his terminology used frequently in genre fiction. (Died 1983.)
  • Born July 12, 1923 — James Gunn. Writer, editor, scholar, anthologist. Hugo winner at ConStellation for Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction. He won another Hugo at MidAmeriCon for Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction. Not surprisingly, he won a First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. He’s extremely well stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 12, 1933 — Donald E. Westlake. Though he specialized in crime fiction, he did dip into the genre on occasion such as with Transylvania Station which you could think of as a Clue-style novel he wrote with his wife Abby. On the horror end of things was Anarchaos. And he wrote a lot of genre short fiction, some fifty pieces by my count. Meteor Strike: Science Fiction Triple Feature which has three of his SF stories is available from the usual suspects for ninety-nine cents. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 12, 1947 — Carl Lundgren, 74. He co-founded ASFA (Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists of America), and won 4 Chesleys, including Artistic Achievement. At the tender age of eighteen, he was co-chairman of the first media SF convention, The Detroit Triple Fan Fair which featured comics, movies and various things of a SF nature. At Chicon IV, he was nominated for Best Professional Artist but lost out to Michael Whelan.
  • Born July 12, 1961 — Scott Nimerfro. He had an impressive production list of genre films and series he did, to wit Tales From The CryptTrekkiesX-MenPerversions Of ScienceThe GatesPushing Daisies, and the Once Upon A Time series which he produced three seasons of. He has one genre acting credit in “Let the Punishment Fit the Crime” story of Tales From The Crypt in which he was Fouser. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 12, 1968 — Sara Griffiths, 53. She appeared as Ray in the Seventh Doctor story “Delta and the Bannermen”.  She was being considered as a companion to the Doctor, a role however taken by Sophie Aldred as Ace.
  • Born July 12, 1975 — Phil Lord, 46. Shared a Hugo for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse at Dublin 2019. With co-director Christopher Miller, he’ll be doing the sequel to it. They also co-produced The Last Man on Earth series, and he executive produced Solo: A Star War Story.
  • Born July 12, 1976– Gwenda Bond, 45. Writer, critic, editor. She’s written a prequel to the Stranger Things series, Suspicious Mind, and I’m very fond of the two novels (The Lost Legacy and The Sphinx’s Secret) so far in her Supernormal Sleuthing Service which she wrote with her husband Christopher Rowe.  And she penned the Dear Aunt Gwenda section of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet that Small Beer Press published in the early part of this millennium. 

(12) BRANDING. The Conversation details how “China is using mythology and sci-fi to sell its space programme to the world”.

…China’s construction of its own space station stems from the nation’s exclusion from the International Space Station, a result of US concerns over technology transfers that could enhance China’s military capabilities. Undeterred by this, China has forged ahead with its own space programmes and alliances. Since, the country has demonstrated that the Chinese “brand” of space technology is reputable and can hold its own in the international arena.

An impressive track record of remarkable space endeavours is not the only thing that distinguishes China’s space brand from other national players. The government and related organisations have made concerted efforts to establish a unique “Chinese space culture” alongside the country’s advances in space technology. While the target audience for many of these cultural creations remains domestic, China’s space ambitions are directed at global audiences in a variety of ways.

Legendary beginnings

Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the naming of these programmes after China’s traditional roots.

The name Tiangong translates as “Heavenly Palace”. This was the residence of the deity who holds supreme authority over the universe in Chinese mythology, the Celestial Ruler. The name is particularly fitting for a Chinese space station, which acts as a home in the heavens for the country’s taikonauts. The meaning of Shenzhou, the missions that take taikonauts to space, is “Divine Vessel”, which is also a homophone for an ancient name for China, “Divine Land”.

China’s lunar exploration missions, meanwhile, are named after the legendary Moon goddess Chang’e. The tale goes that Chang’e flew from Earth to the Moon after stealing the elixir of immortality from her husband, Hou Yi….

(13) ENCANTO. A trailer dropped for Disney’s Encanto. The movie will be out in November.

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Encanto,” is the tale of an extraordinary family, the Madrigals, who live hidden in the mountains of Colombia in a magical house, in a vibrant town, in a wondrous, charmed place called an Encanto. The all-new original film features the voice of Stephanie Beatriz as Mirabel, an ordinary 15-year-old who’s struggling to find her place in her family.

(14) HELLO, DOLLIES. “It’s Hollywood Barbie’s Moment (and She’s Bringing Her Friends)” reports the New York Times.

[In addition to BARBIE, in which Margot (Harley Quinn) Robbie was recently announced as starring in,] The dozen other films in Mattel’s pipeline include a live-action Hot Wheels spectacle; a horror film based on the fortunetelling Magic 8 Ball; a wide-audience Thomas the Tank Engine movie that combines animation and live action; and, in partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment, a big-screen Masters of the Universe adventure about the cosmos that includes He-Man and his superheroic sister, She-Ra.

Mattel, Universal and Vin Diesel are collaborating on a live-action movie based on Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots, a tabletop game introduced in 1966. Lena Dunham (HBO’s “Girls”) is directing and writing a live-action family comedy based on Mattel’s Polly Pocket line of micro-dolls. Lily Collins (“Emily in Paris”) will play the title role and produce; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is the distribution and financing partner.

Mattel has also announced movies based on View-Master, American Girl and Uno, the ubiquitous card game. (If you think an Uno movie sounds like a satirical headline from The Onion, consider this: There are non-Mattel movies in development in Hollywood that are based on Play-Doh and Peeps, the Easter candy.)

(15) IT’S A MYSTERY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the spoiler-filled ‘Black Widow Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant Ryan George reminds us the reason Black Widow came out now instead of several years ago was a comment (made before Wonder Woman) by deposed Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter that “superhero movies starring women don’t make money.”  But who is the mysterious character who shows up at the end credits and tells everyone to subscribe to Disney Plus?

(16) QUOTES AND SOCIAL MEDIA. This version of Groucho Marx’s quote is the best known:

I find television very educational. Every time someone switches it on, I go into the other room and read a book.

Somebody sent it to File 770 today and lest any commenter prove it really originated with Abraham Lincoln, Voltaire, or some other TV watcher, I ran a Google search. Quote Investigator assures us Groucho said it first – phrased as follows:

I must say I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go into the library and read a good book.

That’s a pretty cynical attitude for “the leer”—that’s me, Groucho—and now that I’m a part of television, or “TV” as we say out here on the Coast, I don’t mean a word of it.

It was in a short article he wrote to promote his own soon-to-debut TV show.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This video, written by Ryan George, features Brandon Calder as Donald McDonald, Professional Audio Movie Consultant, who explains that he used to capture sounds in movies by actually duplicating scenes in movies but after breaking his ankles to provide the sound for that scene in Misery he found it safer to create sound effects! “THE Sound Effects Tutorial — Pro Tips By Pitch Meeting”.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/12/21 Our Operators Are Standing By. On Three Legs

(1) 55 ISN’T JUST A GOOD IDEA. Cora Buhlert, in her new series “Fanzine Spotlight,” interviews Hugo eligible fanzines and fansites and the people behind them. The first post features Gideon Marcus discussing one of my favorites: “Fanzine Spotlight: Galactic Journey”.

Tell us about your site or zine.

Galactic Journey is more than a site or a zine. It’s a time machine.

The 20+ writers for the Journey produce an article every other day from the context of SF fans (and professionals) living exactly 55 years ago.  Thus, when it turned January 1, 2021 in your world, we rang in the new year of 1966.

When we started eight years ago, in “1958”, we were just covering the three big American SF mags: Fantasy and Science FictionGalaxy, and Analog, as well as the space shots — Pioneer 1 had just gone halfway to the moon.  Very quickly, as more people became associated with the Journey, we expanded our coverage to all the SF mags, current SF movies and TV shows (we’ve reviewed every episode of Twilight Zone, the Outer Limits, and Doctor Who), comicsfashionartmusic, politics, counter-culture…you name it!

(2) SWORD AND ADVOCACY. In “Bran Mak Morn: Social Justice Warrior” at Black Gate, Jason Ray Carney contends Robert E. Howard’s character was an SJW long before the phrase was invented.

…Weird Tales, November 1933, containing “Worms of the Earth”
by Robert E. Howard. Cover by J. Allen St. John

Despite Howard’s pulpster credentials, the young writer demonstrates intellectual ambition in this story. Readers are introduced to a historical framework philosophically anchored in the ideas of “Rome” and “Pictdom,” i.e. “civilization” and “barbarism.” Make no mistake: philosophy aside, this is a fantasy story, a sword and sorcery tale delicately painted with a gossamer-thin layer of history. Howard’s Picts are not the historical Picts, and Howard’s Romans are not the historical Romans. Without question, both tribes are unreal, fictionalized in this story, and fictionalized tendentiously: the Romans are rendered as irredeemable oppressors and the Picts are rendered as the brutally oppressed victims. Artful and strategic distortions allow Howard to bring into focus his troubling theme: the hatred of an oppressed race for their brutal oppressors and the evil consequences of that hatred.

Despite the story’s fantastic nature, it nevertheless engages with the actual, with real oppression, oppressors, and oppressed. Real racism was prevalent in the early 1930s in Howard’s rural Texas, a racially-mixed frontier where the elderly and the descendants of settlers and displaced first tribes remembered (and witnessed) the bloody battle, civil war, banditry, and rapine that characterized what has been mythologized as “the wild west.” Indeed, this earnest engagement with actual racism can be gleaned by contextualizing the “Worms of the Earth” with Howard’s correspondence…

(3) A WRITER’S RELICS. You might also be interested in a guided “Tour of the Robert E. Howard Home” in Cross Plains, Texas conducted by Howard scholar Rusty Burke. Includes a chart based on a map by Catherine Crook de Camp!

(4) HUGOS THERE. John Picacio is among those who posted a very favorable response to DisCon III’s U-turn (see “DisCon III Abandons Previously Announced Hugo Policy”) —

(5) WAREHOUSE £2. Is there anything not wrong with this coin? The Guardian reports “War of the words: HG Wells coin also features false quote”.

…Intended to mark 75 years since the death of the author, the coin has already been criticised for depicting the “monstrous tripod” featured in The War of the Worlds with a fourth leg, and for giving his Invisible Man a top hat, which the character never wore. Then the Wells expert Prof Simon James spotted the quote chosen for the edge of the coin: “Good books are warehouses of ideas.” James and his fellow academic Adam Roberts, a vice-president of the Wells Society, could source no such quote in Wells’s writing – although it is credited to him on various inspirational quote websites.

…Author Eleanor Fitzsimons solved the mystery. She tried searching Wells’s writing for a quote with “warehouses” in it, and found an approximation in his obscure work Select Conversations With an Uncle (Now Extinct) and Two Other Reminiscences. That quote, however, is not what appears on the coin: it reads, “Good books are the warehouses of ideals.”

(6) INFINITE WORLDS. [Item by rcade.] There’s a full-page ad in the new issue of the Previews catalog for Infinite Worlds magazine, a science fiction magazine that has its seventh issue coming out in March.

The magazine is published by Winston Ward and was launched by a Kickstarter campaign that raised around $3,500. Infinite Worlds is described as an “independent magazine” and does not take any advertising.

Issue 7 has stories by Adele Gardner, Daniel Kozuh and Emily Martha Sorensen and an interview with Stu Mackenzie of the Australian rock band King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard.

Infinite Worlds has an Instagram audience of 105,000 followers featuring illustration-heavy posts such as this collection of the first six covers.

(7) IT WOULD BE CRIMINAL NOT TO LAUGH. In ‘”Funny, How?’ Why Comedy is Crucial in Crime Writing” on CrimeReads, Christopher Fowler (who also writes fantasy and sf) discusses why comedy is important in his Bryant and May mysteries.

…Creating a funny character is one thing, but consciously setting out to write a witty crime novel is another matter altogether. Humour must emerge organically; you can’t simply parachute characters into a funny situation. It also requires a moral viewpoint, if only so that morality can then be flung aside. The tragedy of sudden death and its investigation needs to be treated with gravity, the humour confined to those who have no idea that they’re amusing. People are at their most ridiculous when they’re desperately serious.

(8) SUPER LIST. If superhero movies are your cup of tea, this list will tell you when all the tealeaves are scheduled for harvest: “Here’s the New Schedule For Every Superhero Movie Coming Out For the Foreseeable Future” at Yahoo!

…The rigmarole of last year really changed the shape of what Black Panther will look like moving forward. There’s also still quite a lag when it comes to seeing any iteration of Black Adam or a second Shazam film, but there is a lot of hope when it comes to films that were shelved last year. Black Widow? Still slated to come your way in May. The Eternals and Shang-Chi? Also making a 2021 debut. All of this is to say, while there’s still some bad news, there’s also a lot to look forward to in the coming year so get that bag of popcorn ready. We got some blockbusters on the horizon.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • January 12, 1966 — The Batman series premiered on ABC. It ran for three seasons and one hundred twenty twenty-five minute episodes.  Starring Adam West as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Burt Ward as Dick Grayson/Robin, Alan Napier was Alfred, Neil Hamilton was Commissioner James Gordon and Yvonne Craig was Barbara Gordon / Batgirl. Its villains were many and featured many a famous performer. It enjoys a 62 rating among audience members at Rotten Tomatoes.
A poster for the British release of Leslie H. Martinson’s 1966 superhero comedy, ‘Batman The Movie’, starring (left to right) Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether and Burgess Meredith. (Photo by Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images)
  • January 12, 1967 – Star Trek’s  “The Squire of Gothos” first aired on CBS. Starring William Campbell as Trelane, it was written by Paul Schneider, and directed by Don McDougall. Trelane Is considered by many Trekkies to be a possible Q. Critics loved it giving such comments as “one of TOS’s most deservedly iconic hours” and voting the William Campbell performance as Trelane, as the fifth best guest star of the Trek series. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 12, 1937 Shirley Eaton, 84. Bond Girl Jill Masterson in Goldfinger, and yes, she got painted gold in it. She was not nude as is thought but was wearing monokini. She also shows up as the title character in The Million Eyes of Sumuru, the Sax Rohmer based film we just discussed. Her other significant role would be as Dr. Margaret E. ‘Maggie’ Hanford in Around the World Under the Sea. She retired from acting in 1969. (CE)
  • Born January 12, 1937 – Joyce Jumper.  Just as David McDaniel and Ted Johnstone lived in the same body, likewise David’s wife Joyce McDaniel and Ted’s wife Lin Johnstone.  David, a pro author, published eight novels, three shorter stories; Ted was a leading Los Angeles fan.  I knew Ted but hardly saw David; I knew Joyce but hardly saw Lin.  When David and Ted died, Lin gafiated; after a while Joyce married L.A. fan George Jumper; following his death (2001) she grew less active.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born January 12, 1940 – Tomas Endrey.  Escaped from Hungary 1956.  Often attended Boskone, Lunacon.  Active in APA:NESFA.  Assistant editor of SF Chronicle.  See Andrew Porter’s appreciation here.  (Died 2017) [JH] 
  • Born January 12, 1952 Rockne S. O’Bannon, 69. He’s the genius behind the rejuvenated Twilight ZoneAmazing StoriesFarscapeSeaQuest 2032, the Alien Nation series and Defiance. Only the latter I couldn’t get interested in though I did try. (CE)
  • Born January 12, 1952 Walter Mosley, 69. An odd one as I  have read his most excellent Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins series but hadn’t  been aware that he wrote SF of which he has four novels to date, Blue LightFutureland: Nine Stories of an Imminent FutureThe Wave, and 47. There’s a Jack Kirby art book called Maximum Fantastic Four that was conceived of and orchestrated by him.  Interestingly enough, he’s got a writing credit for episode of Masters of Science Fiction called “Little Brother” where Stephen Hawking is the Host according to IMdB. (CE) 
  • Born January 12, 1954 – Seth Breidbart, Ph.D., age 67.  Chaired Lunacon 1988, 1999 (alas for pattern-lovers, not in 2000 or 2011).  Served a term as President of the Lunarians.  Guest of Honor at Albacon IV.  Often found in responsible positions at SF cons, e.g. he was House Manager in the Events Division of MidAmeriCon II the 74th Worldcon.  Annoyingly successful in fannish auctions and lotteries.  Two Harvard and two Yale degrees, which is like him.  [JH]
  • Born January 12, 1954 – Bill Higgins, age 67.  Radiation-safety physicist, thus seen here and elsewhere as Bill Higgins, Beam Jockey.  Plays baritone ukulele.  Guest of Honor at ConClave 15, Windycon XX, DucKon 2 & 22, Congenial 9, Capricon 10; Hal Clement Science Speaker at Boskone 51.  [JH]
  • Born January 12, 1954 – Paula Lieberman, age 67.  Thoughtful and vigorous in Boston fandom, e.g. at Noreascon 3 the 47th Worldcon she was Creative Consultant in the Program Division, in the Extravaganzas Division was part of the Brains Trust and ran the Anniversary Party.  Does some filking.  [JH]
  • Born January 12, 1964 Jeff Bezos, 57. He actually does have a genre credit for having played a Starfleet official on Star Trek Beyond. (CE) 
  • Born January 12, 1980 Kameron Hurley, 41. Winner of a Best Related Work Hugo at London 3 for We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative. Fiction wise, her most excellent God’s War won a BFA and a Kitschie, whereas her The Geek Feminist Revolution won her a BFA fir non-fiction. Very impressive indeed. Oh, and she won a Hugo for Best Fan Writer as well. Nice. (CE) 
  • Born January 12, 1980 – Ameriie, age 41.  Recording artist; three golds, one silver; two Soul Train Awards; Club Banger of the Year; one Rolling Stone Best Album of the Year.  Edited one anthology for us, a short story of her own in it.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SPOTLIGHT ON BLACK CREATORS. The Detroit Free Press features the story behind “Invisible Men, the Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books” by Michigan resident Ken Quattro in “Chronicling the forgotten Black artists of early comic book industry”.

…The idea for “Invisible Men” started 20 years ago, when Quattro was writing an article about Matt Baker, the Black artist who in 1945 created Voodah, a character that is considered the first Black hero in a comic book aimed at white audiences.

Quattro was having a hard time tracking down information about Baker until someone suggested he reach out to Samuel Joyner, an influential cartoonist, teacher and illustrator from Philadelphia who died last year at age 96. 

He wrote me a beautiful four-page letter about not only Matt Baker, but about all these other Black cartoonists, and it stunned me at the time,” recalls Quattro, who wasn’t familiar with the other names that were included.

Quattro began reading what he describes as thousands of past issues of publications written by and for African Americans. “There was nothing in the white media, in newspapers or magazines at all, about Black comic book artists. I started going to Black newspapers of the 1930s and ’40s and ’50s, and there was a lot of information on these guys.”

(13) GAME TIME. [Item by Cath.] I spent a couple of enjoyable hours recently playing the text game ”Stay?” It incorporates Groundhog Day-style loops. WARNING: The link as I entered shows spoilers for how to “get the good ending.”

Welcome to Elaia, a magical city nestled in a high valley. It’s the end of your first year at university & time to choose your major. 

Find yourself among potential friends or lovers– young people with secrets, dreams, fears, and tragedies. Learn about the history & breadth of Elaia’s world, and decide what kind of mark you want to leave on it. 

WHAT IS “STAY? ” ?

  • An interactive fiction story. 
  • A dating sim wrapped up in a fantasy adventure puzzle.
  • A quest to find your own happy ending in a world where you always get a second chance.

(14) DOING SCIENCE. Vox tells how “Citizen science is booming during the Covid-19 pandemic”.

… Early in the pandemic, a fire hose of data started gushing forth on citizen science platforms like Zooniverse and SciStarter, where scientists ask the public to analyze their data online. It’s a form of crowdsourcing that has the added bonus of giving volunteers a real sense of community; each project has a discussion forum where participants can pose questions to each other (and often to the scientists behind the projects) and forge friendly connections.

“There’s a wonderful project called Rainfall Rescue that’s transcribing historical weather records. It’s a climate change project to understand how weather has changed over the past few centuries,” Laura Trouille, vice president of citizen science at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago and co-lead of Zooniverse, told me. “They uploaded a dataset of 10,000 weather logs that needed transcribing — and that was completed in one day!”

Some Zooniverse projects, like Snapshot Safari, ask participants to classify animals in images from wildlife cameras. That project saw daily classifications go from 25,000 to 200,000 per day in the initial days of lockdown. And across all its projects, Zooniverse reported that 200,000 participants contributed more than 5 million classifications of images in one week alone — the equivalent of 48 years of research. Although participation has slowed a bit since the spring, it’s still four times what it was pre-pandemic….

(15) THE SUN IS ALWAYS RISING. Not well done, not medium, but a “Rare Planet With Three Suns Has a Super Weird Orbit” is chronicled at Gizmodo.

… KOI-5Ab is likely a gas giant, similar to Neptune in terms of its size. It resides within a triple-star system, and while its orbit is a bit strange, it’s overall environment is less chaotic than it may sound.

Despite having three stellar companions, KOI-5Ab orbits a single star, KOI-5A, once every five days. This host star is caught in a mutual orbit with a nearby star called KOI-5B, and the two twirl around each other once every 30 years. A more distant star, KOI-5C orbits this pair once every 400 years.

(16) THE HYDROPONICS THAT FALL ON YOU FROM NOWHERE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Washington Post today had a piece about CES.  The gadget that seemed pretty futuristic to me is “Gardyn,” a portable hydroponic garden that’s about five feet tall.  Seeds are inserted via pods like coffee pods.  All you do is add water occasionally and the device says it grows enough veggies to feed a family of four. Video at the link: “Gardyn, the AI-driven indoor, leafy green growing machine”.

(17) NEANDERTHALS. BBC Future takes a long look at “How did the last Neanderthals live?”

…There is even evidence they caught birds of prey, including golden eagles and vultures. We don’t know if they laid out meat and then waited for the right opportunity to go in for the kill, or whether they actively hunted birds, a much more difficult task.  What we do know is that they didn’t necessarily eat all the birds they were hunting, especially not the birds of prey like vultures – which are full of acid.

“Most of the cut marks are on the wing bones with little flesh. It seems they were catching these to wear the feathers,” says Clive Finlayson. They seem to have preferred birds with black feathers. This indicates they may have used them for decorative purposes such as jewellery.

To show me exactly what he meant, Clive and his team reconstructed some intriguing Neanderthal habits. A dead vulture, carefully kept frozen, was brought out and dissected in front of me, to show how Neanderthals might have done so thousands of years earlier.

They carefully removed the bird’s body tissue. What was left appeared to be a stunning and elaborate black-feathered decorative cape, extending, of course, the length of the vulture’s wing span. They may have wrapped this around their shoulders, Clive says.

This all points to one thing: that Neanderthals had a sophisticated understanding and appreciation of cultural symbols.The fact that Neanderthals could, and would, take these steps – including the creativity and abstract reasoning required to turn a flying animal into a decorative cape – shows that their cognitive skills could have been on par with ours. And regardless of exactly how intelligent they were, their creation of these kinds of cultural artefacts is one of the defining traits of humanity.

(18) THE MOUSE NEVER PREDICTED THIS. “Disneyland to Become Covid-19 Mass-Vaccination Site”Deadline has the story.

Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, the bulk of which has been closed since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March, will serve as the first super Point-of-Dispensing (POD) site for Covid-19 vaccines in Orange County.

The site is expected to become operational later this week, county officials announced Monday. Also on Monday, Los Angeles County announced that its mass Covid-19 testing operation at Dodger Stadium will be phased out this week so the sports arena can be turned into a large-scale vaccination location….

(19) BEHIND THE LITTLE GREEN DOOR. “U.S. Intelligence Agencies to Share Everything They Know About UFOs” notes Mental Floss.

…According to Snopes, the Office for the Director of National Intelligence has confirmed that the omnibus bill includes a 180-day window for the U.S. director of national intelligence and the secretary of defense to prepare a report for senators and armed services committees on the potential existence of UFOs and any potential they may have to pose a threat.

The data would be sourced from FBI reports as well as the Office of Naval Intelligence and the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force. The language comes from the bill’s Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers:  Wonder Woman 1984” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say that the story arc of Steve Trevor in this movie make WONDER WOMAN 1984 “more problematic than a Rob Schneider movie” and the film explains you “shouldn’t cat-call women because they’ll turn into a cat and fight you!”

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