Pixel Scroll 7/2/20 When There’s Evil On The Hat Rack, You Can Rest Knowing They Got Your Back

(1) AND INTRODUCING GUY FLEEGMAN. Looper chimes in about “Sci-fi shows ruined by terrible endings”. (Wait a minute – as far as I’m concerned ALF started out ruined!)

These sci-fi series are perfectly awful examples of this lamentable phenomenon. For some, the finale retcons fans’ understanding of everything the show did up until that point. For others, the finale serves as a sad reminder of what could have been, had the show been given another chance. Some leave dozens of loose ends dangling. Some attempt to wrap things up too neatly. Some are tonally inconsistent. All of them are disappointing — and all of them loom large in fans’ understanding of the show as a whole. We’re here to examine the worst finales in sci-fi television, no matter how much it makes us shudder. Spoiler warning: We’re going to reveal every last detail of these shows’ endings, in an effort to fully explain why they’re so darn detestable.

Here’s one of the shows they named:

Quantum Leap leaves Sam in limbo

… Despite its poor time slots, Quantum Leap’s blend of humor and social commentary garnered a fanbase. But due to declining viewership, it ended after five seasons. In the series finale, “Mirror Image,” we learn that Sam can return home if he chooses — but instead, he decides to go back in time and save his friend Al’s marriage. In doing so, Sam willingly makes it so he and Al never met, trapping himself in a paradox and giving up the life he so desperately wished to return to throughout the duration of the series. Sam’s fate is finally revealed in the show’s last frame: “Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home.” 

This ending changes the mood of the show entirely. Instead of being wacky misadventures, each episode is reframed as one man’s fruitless quest to return home. He will, apparently, just keep going through these motions… forever. That’s not just bleak — it’s horrifying.

(2) FLESHLESS THINGS. NPR’s Jessica P. Wick reports that a fellow NPR contributor’s “Pitch-Perfect ‘Mexican Gothic’ Ratchets Up The Dread”.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic is a thoroughly enjoyable, thought-provoking novel. I want to discuss it around tea, preferably while in the mountains, preferably somewhere well-lit. I remember placing my bookmark in the book and thinking, I should not have read this before bed.

I was afraid of what I might dream.

Noémi’s cousin Catalina writes a strange letter begging for help. She claims her new husband Virgil Doyle is poisoning her, that “fleshless things” and ghosts trouble her, that “they will not let me go.” Noémi — self-assured, chic and stubborn — leaves the glamor of 1950s Mexico City for the countryside, still depressed after a mining bust and fecund with secrets, to determine whether Catalina needs rescue.

Reader, she does. The situation is more complicated and sinister than the initial fear of just a con artist husband isolating his new wife and convincing the world she’s mad so he can steal her money.

(3) REPRESENTATION IN GAMING. BBC follows as a “Trailblazing Muslim superhero goes gaming”.

“It’s the representation in gaming I’ve waited for my whole life.”

Marvel’s Avengers are assembling once again, not on the big screen, but for a blockbuster video game.

It features many of the superheroes you might expect, including Iron Man, Hulk and Captain America. But they are joined by a new addition: Kamala Khan.

The Muslim-American teenager of Pakistani heritage, who has shape-shifting abilities, is the latest character to adopt the Ms Marvel moniker.

When the game’s publisher Square Enix announced that Marvel Avengers would include Kamala Khan as one of its main playable characters and make her central to the plot, it garnered praise from both fans and industry insiders.

“I first heard of Ms Marvel from the comics a few years ago,” says Maria Afsar, a 25-year-old gamer.

“I immediately thought it was so cool when read her background was like mine, being Pakistani, Muslim and a girl.

“When I saw the announcement she is going to be in the game and one of the main characters, I just thought I’ve literally been waiting for something like this my whole life. I saw nothing like this when I was younger.”

(4) CONZEALAND INITIATIVE. The 2020 Worldcon boosted the signal for the “CoNZealand Chairs’ Colonised, Marginalised and Historically Underrepresented People Inclusion Initiative”.

The Chairs of CoNZealand are pleased to be able to offer a Membership upgrade initiative to support inclusion of colonised, marginalised and historically underrepresented people in at Worldcon.

With the pandemic affecting job security, the financial ability to participate in conventions and the fan community is becoming increasingly difficult for many fans. 

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

…The initiative upgrades eligible members from supporting to attending memberships. There Is no requirement for the supporting membership to be purchased before grantees are notified. 

Eligible members who are already fully paid, but would like some income relief are also invited to apply. 

In return, we ask that successful applicants willingly participate in our community. Whether that be through programme, art show, or volunteering is up to the individual and how they enjoy participating in this community. 

Applications can be made on this google form: https://forms.gle/4odYVgwvuvL8naLy5

Grantees will be chosen by the chairs. As long as there is a good plan for participation, we expect to grant applications. The grantees will be notified as soon as practical, and we will continue to announce grantees at least weekly as long as upgrades last.

Questions about this initiative can be mailed to inclusion@conzealand.nz.

(5) GLASS BELL. The winner of Goldsboro Books 2020 Glass Bell Award was not one of the genre works on the shortlist, but the tale of a fictional ’70s rock band, Daisy Jones and the Six.

(6) DOOMED. Here’s a promising subject – James Davis Nicoll lists “Five Doomed Armies in Science Fiction” at Tor.com.

…Armies sacrificed for no obvious purpose and meaningless wars are not entirely unknown in speculative fiction. Here are five examples from that golden age of such stories, the Vietnam War era, and its literary aftermath.

(7) LIBERTARIAN FUTURIST SOCIETY AT NASFIC AND WORLDCON. The LFS told members about their plans to participate in two of the summer’s virtual sff cons.

Their scheduled presence at the Columbus 2020 North American Science Fiction Convention will migrate online with the rest of the virtual con. There will be a back-to-back Prometheus Awards ceremony and Prometheus-Awards-themed panel discussion, free and widely available to watch live.

Novelist F. Paul Wilson, previously confirmed by NASFiC as their and LFS’ Prometheus Awards Guest of Honor, will participate in the awards ceremony by presenting the Best Novel category, which Wilson was the first author to win in 1979. Wilson also will be a panelist in a “Visions of SF, Liberty, Human Rights: The Prometheus Awards Over Four Decades, from F. Paul Wilson and Robert Heinlein to Today”. So will Sarah Hoyt, the 2011 Prometheus Award Best Novel winner for Darkship Thieves, LFS co-founder Michael Grossberg and newspaper journalist Tom Jackson.

During CoNZeland’s virtual convention, LFS will put on a panel “Freedom in Science Fiction: Four Decades of the Prometheus Awards, From F. Paul Wilson and Robert Heinlein to Ursula LeGuin, Vernor Vinge, Cory Doctorow, Neal Stephenson and Today.” Tom Jackson will moderate, joined by F. Paul Wilson and others to be announced. The Worldcon online program will initially be accessible that weekend for viewing only by registered Worldcon members.

(8) HISTORY OF SF. It’s Quilette, and if that doesn’t tell you what to expect, the first paragraph of “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction,” by Jordan Alexander Hill will make everything clear.

When mainstream authors like Eric Flint complain that the science fiction establishment, and its gatekeeper the Hugo Awards, has “drift[ed] away from the opinions and tastes of… mass audience[s],” prioritizing progressive messaging over plot development, the response from the Left is uniform: Science fiction is by its very nature progressive. It’s baked into the cake, they say. This is a superficially plausible claim. With its focus on the future, its embrace of the unfamiliar and other-worldly, and its openness to alternative ways of living, it is hard to see how the genre could be anything but progressive. In fact, studies indicate that interest in SF books and movies is strongly correlated with a Big Five personality trait called openness to experience, which psychologists say is highly predictive of liberal values.

But openness to experience also correlates with libertarianism and libertarian themes and ideas have exercised far greater influence than progressivism over SF since the genre’s inception. From conservatarian voices like Robert Heinlein, Larry Niven, Vernor Vinge, Poul Anderson, and F. Paul Wilson to those of a more flexible classical liberal bent like Ray Bradbury, David Brin, Charles Stross, Ken McLeod, and Terry Pratchett, libertarian-leaning authors have had an outsized, lasting influence on the field. So much so that The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has deemed “Libertarian SF” its own stand alone “branch,” admitting that “many of libertarianism’s most influential texts have been by SF writers.”

…Although he began his career as a utopian socialist working for Upton Sinclair’s 1934 gubernatorial campaign, Heinlein underwent a political transformation and became known for the rest of his career as a libertarian “guru” of sorts. Scott Timberg at the LA Times describes him as a “nudist with a military-hardware fetish” who “dominated the pulps… and became the first science fictionist to land on the New York Times bestseller list.” A four-time Hugo Award winner, Heinlein is credited with helping to elevate SF from its ray-blaster and tentacled space-monster phase to a more serious, respectable prominence, penning such classics as Stranger in a Strange Land and, Milton Friedman’s favorite, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, a book that reads like an anarcho-capitalist blueprint for revolutionary uprising. Friedman even named his 1975 public policy book after the novel’s slogan TANSTAAFL (“There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch”).

…Perhaps this is why so much of SF expresses itself as dystopian fiction, a genre which, by its very nature, cannot but take on a libertarian flavor. Totalitarianism, war, and wide-scale oppression is almost always carried out by state force. Liberation, accordingly, must come in the form of negative rights—that is, “freedom from”—and voluntarism: “[I]n writing your constitution,” Professor de la Paz instructs, “let me invite attention to the wonderful virtues of the negative! Accentuate the negative! Let your document be studded with things the government is forever forbidden to do.”

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

July 2 UFO Day. And “Has E.T. Gone Home?” asks Statista.

There is some controversy as to whether World UFO Day falls on June 26 or July 02 with people seemingly celebrating it on both days. The occasion is an awareness day for UFOs coinciding with the Roswell incident’s anniversary. It is getting increasingly popular as UFOs have been making headlines again lately, notably due to the “Storm Area 51” event which went viral last year. That’s on top of The New York Times running an interesting article about several U.S. Navy fighter pilots encountering mysterious objects near the southeastern coast of the United States. The high-profile story remains unexplained and so do plenty of other UFO sightings reported by members of the public every year like strange lights crossing the night sky or orange disks hovering in the distance.

The National UFO Reporting Center which is based in the U.S. maintains statistics about global UFO sightings. Notably, they are ticking up again….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 2, 1877 – Hermann Hesse.  You’ll expect me to celebrate The Glass Bead Game (also published as Magister Ludi), and I do, subtle, profound, satirical, moving, the first Nobel Prize SF novel, to my surprise and delight reaching the Retrospective Hugo ballot.  Other books of his in or near SF and more in line with the Hesse fad are SteppenwolfSiddharthaJourney to the East.  (Died 1962) [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1908 Rip Van Ronkel. Screenwriter who won a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Millenium Philcon for Destination Moon. He also produced the earlier Destination Space movie for television, andwrote the screenplay for The Bamboo Saucer. (Died 1965.) (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1914 – Hannes Bok.  Under this name (from Johann S. Bach) and in a short life he was one of our masters.  First Hugo for Best Cover Artist, shared with Emsh (Ed Emshwiller).  A hundred covers, his many monochromes maybe even better.  See how well he could work when he wanted to do without his famous weirdness (he turned down hundreds of commissions he didn’t want): Lest Darkness Fall; the Nolacon I Program Book (9th Worldcon); F & SF under Davidson (yes, I know those are covers).  Author too, novels, two dozen shorter stories, poems published posthumously as Spinner of Silver and Thistle.  See Petaja’s biography and flights of angels, and Ned Brooks’ index.  (Died 1964) [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1935 – Doug Hoylman, Ph.D.  I hope I know when Our Gracious Host has done better than I can.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1946 – Arnie Katz, 74.  He’s done much.  Fundamentally a fanziner, he’s contributed to clubs and cons.  I might not be luxuriating in APA-L (alas, this Fancy 3 article has not caught up with Fred Patten) if AK hadn’t been a forerunner with APA-F.  He owes me a chicken dinner, but he’s quite fair about what I must do to collect.  Anyway, I pray for his prosperity.  And see here.  [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1948 – Larry Tucker.  How bodacious July 2nd has been for the birth of nearly unbelievable brothers (sisters too! it just happens I’ve come to another brother).  This Titan took fanzines to video  – took fanzines to video early on, while the tech was still truculentUncle Albert’s Video Fanzine (he had in mind this Uncle Albert; alas, I never asked if he also thought of, less directly or even less fairly, this one (but look who has the cigar).  LT co-founded the Ann Arbor SF Ass’n and the SF Oral History Ass’n; he didn’t start, but always inspired, the Stilyagi Air Corps and the well-named ConFusion.  The photo here is by Mark Olson; speaking of Leah Zeldes Smith (see no. 8 here), I’ve just recommended one of her stories.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1948 Saul Rubinek, 72. Primarily of interest for being on Warehouse 13  as Artie Nielsen, though he does show rather often on genre series and films including EurekaMasters of HorrorPerson of InterestBeauty & the BeastStargate SG-1The Outer Limits and Star Trek: The Next GenerationMemory Run and Death Ship seem to be his only only genre films. His latest genre role is in For all Mankind as Rep. Charles Sandman in their “He Built the Saturn V“ episode. (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1949 Craig Shaw Gardner, 71. Comic fantasy author whose work is, depending on your viewpoint, very good or very bad. For me, he’s always great.  I adore his Ballad of Wuntvor sequence and highly recommend all three novels, A Difficulty with DwarvesAn Excess of Enchantments and A Disagreement with Death. Likewise, his pun filled Arabian Nights sequence will either be to your liking or really not. I think it’s worth it just for Scheherazade’s Night Out. (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1950 –Stephen R. Lawhead, 70. I personally think that The Pendragon Cycle is by far his best work though the King Raven Trilogy with its revisionist take on Robin Hood is intriguing. And I read the first two of the Bright Empires series which are also very much worth reading. (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1956 Kay Kenyon, 64. Writer of the truly awesome The Entire and the Rose series which I enjoyed immensely as a listening experience a few years back. I’ve not read his Dark Talents series, so opinions please. (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1962 – Laura Benedict, 58.  Nine novels, a few shorter stories; anthologies.  “You don’t look like a person who writes scary stories.  I hear those words often and it makes me laugh every time.”  She put them next to this photo for good reason.  Three anthologies (with Pinckney Benedict, who – never mind, it’s not his birthday notice) are called Surreal South, for good reason.  [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1970 Yancy Butler, 50. Detective Sara Pezzini on the  Witchblade series which would’ve been awesome with current CGI. She was later Avedon Hammond in Ravager, Captain Kate Roebuck in Doomsday Man, Angie D’Amico in Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, Reba in Lake Placid 3 and Lake Placid: The Final Chapter, Officer Hart in Hansel & Gretel Get Baked (also known as Black Forest: Hansel and Gretel and the 420 Witch) (given the latter, a career low for her) and Alexis Hamilton in Death Race 2050. Series work other than Witchblade wasa recurring role as Sgt. Eve Edison in Mann & Machine inher first genre role. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe answers a history quiz. Spectacularly wrongly.
  • Two Incidental Comics by Grant Snider.

(12) UMM, ROBOT LITMUS TEST? This line occurred recently in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Coulson was trying to identify who on a bus might be a time-traveling robot from the future and he came out with this:

(13) THE MARCH OF FUR. Coming July 3, The Fandom is a feature length documentary about the furry community from its origins in sf and anime fandoms up to present day.

The Fandom explores the history of animation fans who brought anime to the western world in the 1970s, Disney animators who faced threats to their careers, sci-fi fans who started the first furry conventions, and why furries became early adopters of the 1980s internet. It contrasts that with the modern fandom covering how it became a haven for the LGBT community as well as a positive economic and artistic impact on major US cities.

The production earned praise from blogger Patch O’Furr: “The Fandom movie: Furry paws seize the media”.

…I keep an eye out for all media about furries, and often call the Furry 101 kind boring. The Fandom raises the bar by giving an intimate tour with quality and heart. It’s 95% positive celebration.

Documentaries can show more drama or criticism or bad sides than this really does. But how much negativity do you need in these times? Not to say that this documentary has no opinion — it’s strong advocacy.

(14) GRRMTM. George R.R. Martin told readers he’s working on his videos for the virtual Worldcon.

The toastmaster wears many hats at worldcon, but probably the single biggest part of the gig is hosting the Hugo Awards ceremony.   I am going to be doing that with a combination of live streaming and pre-recorded videos, which we will (I hope I pray) edit seamlessly together.   This week I have started recording some of those videos.   It has been fun, if a little surreal, to be reading off the names of this year’s Hugo finalists when voting has not actually started yet.   And trying to be amusing (one hopes) while talking into a camera without the feedback of laughter (or moans, boos, or soul-chilling silence) from an actual audience is challenging as well.   But so it goes.

…((And before anyone starts to panic, “oh my god he is making videos in place of writing,” OF COURSE I am still working on WINDS OF WINTER as well.   That really should go without saying, yet somehow I need to say it, or someone might make stupid assumptions.   I am also doing some editorial work on three new Wild Cards books, reading scripts and making notes on a couple of exciting Hollywood projects, texting with agents, editors, and friends about this and that, eating several meals a day, watching television, reading books, and from time to time using the toilet.   Just because I do not mention it in every Not A Blog does not mean it is not happening)).

(15) BE YOUR OWN CTHULHU. This bit of Lovecraftian solipsism has been making the rounds:

(16) ON HOLD. BBC reports “Perseverance launch pushed back again”.

The launch of Nasa’s Mars rover Perseverance has been pushed back again to 30 July at the earliest.

In an update, the US space agency said a technical issue needed to be investigated, prompting the delay.

The robot rover will search for signs of past life on the Red Planet and also carries a drone-like helicopter which will demonstrate powered flight in the Martian atmosphere.

It is scheduled to land in February 2021.

In its statement, Nasa said: “A liquid oxygen sensor line presented off-nominal data during the Wet Dress Rehearsal, and additional time is needed for the team to inspect and evaluate.”

The mission’s original launch window extended from 17 July to 11 August.

But the rover will now get more time to launch.

“Flight analysis teams have expanded the mission launch opportunities to August 15 and are examining if the launch period may be extended further into August,” Nasa said.

(17) EXCERPT. SYFY Wire invites fans to “Read An Excerpt Of Sam Maggs’ Debut, Con Quest!”

Sam Maggs is no stranger to SYFY FANGRRLS. She’s got her hands in some of our absolute favorite properties of all time, from Spider-Man to Star Trek, and we’re so thankful she’s there to represent our, well, fangirling. But now, Maggs is back with something brand new on her plate: original fiction! Her debut novel Con Quest! came out just last week. 

Con Quest! is a comics convention adventure for young readers about fandom, family, and finding your place in the world!

Cat and Alex are excited to be at the world’s most popular comics convention — and they’re even more excited to compete in the Quest, a huge scavenger hunt run by their favorite nerdy celebrity. The big prize: a chance to meet him!

(18) REALLY FAUX GAIMAN. “Neil Gaiman–Bad Gaiman Challenge–Wits” on YouTube is an excerpt from a 2014 episode of the public radio show Wits where Gaiman read the winners of the show’s “Bad Gaiman challenge.”

We asked you guys to submit their worst versions of a Neil Gaiman-style short story. Hundreds responded to the call. Here, read by Neil Gaiman himself, are the worst of the worst.

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

Columbus 2020 NASFiC Updates Cancellation Post

When the Columbus 2020 NASFiC cancelled its in-person event last month, some of the committee’s statements about the refund policy and publication plans triggered considerable criticism. There’s been a clarification posted at the NASFiC website.

Chair Lisa Garrison, Vice Chair Dale Mazzola, and Treasurer Kim Williams are minimizing any expectations about membership refunds:

Like so many conventions affected by Covid-19, NASFIC has been involved in some very challenging negotiations. Because Ohio is trying to open up its economy, we are likely to have some heavy cancellation fees imposed by our facilities. Therefore, we are unlikely to be able to offer any meaningful level of membership refunds.

There won’t be a printed Souvenir Book:

We originally felt that any small residual amount could be spent on a low-cost book celebrating our Guests or passed along to a future event to benefit fans in general. We were wrong. If we gave the impression that we were prioritizing the Souvenir book or pass-along funds over the needs of our members, even those in hardship, we’re sorry.

They apologized for some aspects of the original statement.

We were also wrong to make such an announcement on a likely outcome before the actual negotiations were finalized. We apologize for those misjudgments, as of now negotiations are still ongoing.

Their approach to refunds now is this:

If refunds can be offered, we will. We will also ask anyone who can waive a refund requests do so. We hope to give those most in [need] a more meaningful amount. As soon as we know the amount left over, we will post a refund process.

Although we will absolutely not produce a physical Souvenir / Program Book, we will look into an electronic publication instead.

We understand people will be disappointed by the news that we will probably not be able to make more substantial refunds. We are negotiating in good faith, with our other partners in town, to seek the best possible settlement. I wish I could be more optimistic, but I’m staying realistic and hoping for the best.

[Thanks to Rich Lynch for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 5/14/20 You Will Scroll Eternal, Shiny And Chrome

(1) MOOT COURT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from Robert Barnes’ Washington Post report of a Supreme Court hearing an argument about whether states have the right to punish “faithless electors” who cast a vote in the Electoral College other than the candidate who won a state’s electoral votes.

“What of the elector who decides after the election ‘I really like Frodo Baggins,’” asked Justice Clarence Thomas, referencing one of the principal protagonists of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings.  That person is free to vote his or her convictions, a lawyer challenging state restrictions said, but not for a hobbit; the candidate must be a real person.

(Link: “Supreme Court considers ‘faithless’ presidential electors and finds more questions than answers”.)

(2) US IN FLUX. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination launched the latest story in their Us in Flux project today, Tina Connolly’s “Skating Without Streetlights”, a story about virtual reality and friendship, with a bit of a YA spin.

On Monday, May 18 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have another virtual event on Zoom with Connolly in conversation with VR developer Dennis Bonilla.  

(3) WINDING DOWN NASFIC. Columbus 2020 NASFiC announced today it is cancelled. Their statement “We will not be offering any refunds but, that being said, we still plan on publishing a souvenir book for all attending and supporting members” received some pushback in a public Facebook conrunners’ group. Treasurer Kim Williams has responded with a supplementary statement:

We don’t know what our bills are going to be or what will be left over, And now unfortunately one person has escalated their unhappiness about no refund to PayPal and is encouraging her entire group of friends to do likewise.

So, why did NASFIC say no refunds?

1. We just got to the point of cancellation This Morning. It’s hard to be in the land of “who knows?” so we got the main piece of information out to everyone as soon as possible. We didn’t want people making travel plans and fighting to cancel those too. I treated you with the respect I would have hoped for.

2. We do not have all the information from the hotel or any of our other vendors on what we owe them. We don’t know what is going to be left! I’m negotiating with each vendor doing the best I can.

3. We have to say no refunds at this point because we can’t even begin to know what might be left over.

4. We really would like to do a Souvenir/Program Book because we want to do something for our guests. We put a lot of thought into our choice of guests and feel horrible about not having a convention for them.

5. One of the issues we discussed TODAY is what we should do if any funds are left after that. What we would like to do is participate in the “pass along” program, just like any other WSFS event even though we didn’t receive any.

But if this person continues her claim, it risks all of the above, She wants her refund before anyone else even has a chance.

So, now I really don’t know what is going to happen. .

(4) MORE CONVENTION CANCELLATIONS. Oxonmoot and KublaCon are two more of the many fannish events now off the calendar.

Oxonmoot 2020’s co-chairs Elena Davison and Mike Percival told members the Tolkien Society’s fall event is off for this year.

It is with great sadness that we have reached the decision that it will be impossible to hold a face-to-face Oxonmoot in 2020.

At all times, we have had in mind that we would only run Oxonmoot if we could do so in a way which was safe for our members.

Following the publication on Monday 11th May of the UK Government document “Our Plan to Rebuild”, describing their Covid-19 recovery strategy, it is clear that some level of social distancing will still be required in September, and this has a dramatic impact on the way the spaces in college can be used – for example the capacity of the Hall is reduced by almost 80%. This has led the college to advise that they do not feel able to accommodate our event. In addition, the proposed introduction of a 14-day self-isolation period for overseas travellers would make it difficult for overseas members to attend….

KublaCon’s Executive Producer Mike Eckert says the Oakland, CA gaming convention is cancelled.

…We know this will disappoint many of you, we are disappointed along with you.  We also know there will be questions as to what comes next.

Some of us on Staff, myself included, lost their day job amid this pandemic, many more staff are at home, quarantined; just like you. You may be wondering what happens to your badge fees, ticket fees or booth fees. We want to help answer all of that and we humbly ask for your help too….

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman is still “Social Distancing” – which means eating at home and withstanding the sharp cross-examination conducted by fans of his podcast, something the accomplished raconteur is thoroughly prepared to do,.

Two episodes ago, we sheltered in place together as I ate lunch and answered 33 questions from listeners and former guests of Eating the Fantastic. Since it’ll be awhile before the convention circuit starts up again and restaurants are back in business, I decided to once more invite you into my home to join me for a meal.

After all, my original call for questions had yielded 95 of them, and there was no way I was going to let that meat go to waste!

So after having roasted up a pork butt and assorted vegetables, I pulled together a plate and attempted to answer as many as I could while (metaphorically) breaking bread with you.

…I talked about my early days in the Marvel Comics Bullpen, the many things legendary editor Gardner Dozois and I shoved up our noses, when my food and fandom interests began to overlap, what I would have said to Harlan Ellison had he been in Barry Malzberg’s shoes, whether experiencing personal tragedy helps or harms a writer, the cognitive dissonance I feel about comics having taken over the world, which character caused me to start writing (hint: it was Conan the Barbarian), what I wishes I knew less about, who I was the most thrilled to have met in my life, whether I still get a kick out of my favorite childhood treats, what a terrible collaborator I am, and much, much more.

(6) NEWTON OBIT. Barry Newton, past President of the Washington Science Fiction Association (2014), died May 12 of cancer. He was 70. Barry was part of WSFA for nearly 50 years, having joined in June 1970.

He contributed items to the Scroll in years gone by.

He was retired from the National Institute of Standards & Technology.

His daughter, Meridel, said on Facebook  he will be cremated and inurned in Arlington National Cemetery whenever they resume burials. A celebration of life will be held when gatherings become possible again.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 14, 1996 Doctor Who aired on the Fox Television Network in the United States. Starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor, Daphne Ashbrook as Grace Holloway and Eric Roberts as The Master. It was directed by Geoffrey Sax off a script by Matthew Jacobs. It was intended as a pilot to American produced and based Who series but internal politics at BBC killed it off. Some critics loved, some hated it; the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes gave it a decent forty eight percent rating.  He has since reprised the role, briefly in video form and quite extensively in audio form for Big Finish. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 14, 1848 – Albert Robida.  French illustrator, etcher, lithographer, caricaturist, novelist.  Edited and published Caricature magazine 1880-1893; 520 illustrations for Pierre Giffard’s weekly serial The Infernal War (1908); 60,000 during AR’s life.  In The Twentieth Century (1882; set in 1952), War in the Twentieth Century (1887), Electric Life (1890), five more, imagined technological developments integrated with daily living, e.g. the telephonoscope, whose flat-screen display shows news, plays, conferences, 24 hours a day; here’s an aerial rotating house.  Books about Brittany, the Touraine, Normandy, Provence, Paris, The Old Towns of ItalyThe Old Towns of Spain, text, drawings, lithographs.  Illustrated Cyrano de Bergerac, Rabelais, Swift.  Clock of the CenturiesThe End of Books (with Octave Uzanne); The Long-Ago Is With Us TodayIn 1965.  (Died 1926) [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1852 – Henri Julien.  First full-time newspaper editorial cartoonist in Canada.  Interiors for Douglas Erskine’s novel A Bit of Atlantis (1900), reviewed by Everett Bleiler in Science Fiction, the Early Years (1991).  Here’s a flying canoe.  Louis-Philippe Hébert (1850-1917) called him the most original talent in the country.  Posthumous collection, Album Henri Julien (1916).  (Died 1908) [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1853 – Sir Hall Caine.  Novelist, dramatist, short-story writer, poet, critic.  Secretary to Dante Gabriel Rossetti; Recollections of Rossetti (rev. 1928).  Son of a Manxman, moved there, elected to its legislature; Bram Stoker dedicated Dracula to him in Manx.  The Christian, first novel in Britain to sell a million copies; The MahdiThe Eternal City (translated into thirteen languages), The ScapegoatThe White ProphetThe Prime Minister (play), fantasy; fifteen more novels, seventeen plays, four films (plus more made from his books); The Supernatural in Shakespere (HC’s spelling), The Supernatural Element in Poetry, eighteen more books of non-fiction; ten million books sold.  Went to Russia, Morocco, Iceland, Egypt.  Sixty thousand people at his funeral.  (Died 1931) [JH] 
  • Born May 14, 1929 – George Scithers.  His fanzine Amra 1959-1982 won two Hugos.  Chaired three Disclaves and the 21st Worldcon; Fan Guest of Honor at the 2nd NASFiC (N. Am. Science Fiction Convention, held when the Worldcon is overseas) and the 59th Worldcon; frequent chair of the annual WSFS (World SF Society) Business Meeting.  Served as President of WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) and Official Arbiter of The Cult (an apa – amateur press ass’n – famous in song and story).  First editor of Asimov’s; two Hugos as Best Professional Editor.  Perpetrated the Scithers SFL (Science Fiction League) Hoax.  Revived Weird Tales (with John Betancourt).  World Fantasy special award for Weird Tales (with Darrell Schweitzer), 1992.  World Fantasy lifetime-achievement award, 2002.  (Died 2010) [JH] 
  • Born May 14, 1933 – Ron Bennett.  British fanwriter, collector, publisher, used-book dealer, even while living in Singapore.  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate, 1958; trip report, Colonial Excursion.  Chaired the 13th Eastercon (United Kingdom natcon, i.e. nat’l convention), ran the Dealers’ Room at the 45th Worldcon.  Member variously of OMPA (Off-trails Magazine Publishers Ass’n, serving awhile as its Official Editor), FAPA (Fantasy Am. Press Ass’n), The Cult (see G. Scithers note); best-known fanzines, Skyrack (rhyming with “beer hack” because, as RB well knew, it meant shire oak, but what a name), Ploy.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1935 Peter J. Reed, 85. A Vonnegut specialist with a long history starting with Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: The Vonnegut Chronicles: Interviews and Essays that he wrote with Marc Leeds, and Kurt Vonnegut: Images and Representations with Leeds again. He also wrote a handful of essays such as “Hurting ’til It Laughs: The Painful-Comic Science Fiction Stories of Kurt Vonnegut“ and “Kurt Vonnegut’s Bitter Fool: Kilgore Trout”. (CE)
  • Born May 14, 1944 George Lucas, 76. For better and worse I suppose, he created the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. (Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade are fine. Several Star Wars films are.) And let’s not forget THX 1138. My fave works that he was involved in? LabyrinthRaiders of the Lost ArkThe Empire Strikes Back and Willow. Oh, and and The Young Indy Jones series. (CE)
  • Born May 14, 1947 Edward James, 73. Winner at Interaction of Best Related Non-Fiction Book for The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction which he did with Farah Mendlesohn. A companion volume, The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature, was also edited with Mendlesohn. He was the editor of Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction from 1986 to 2001. (CE)
  • Born May 14, 1952 – Kathleen Ann Goonan, 68.  Author, Montessori certified teacher, professor at Georgia Tech (Ga. Inst. of Technology).  Three Nebula nominations; John W. Campbell Memorial Award for In War Times; first novel Queen City Jazz, a N.Y. Times Notable Book; six more novels, forty shorter stories, translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish; cover art for her collection Angels and You Dogs.  Reviews in SF EyeN.Y. Rev. SF.  John Clute caught her allusion to Julio Cortázar (1914-1984) and said of her Nanotech Cycle (QC Jazz the first published) that its heavy plotting only partially coats over the intellectual ferment of the whole.  [JH] 
  • Born May 14, 1968 Greg Davies, 52. He played King Hydroflaxq In the Twelfth Doctor story, “The Husbands of River Song“. A man who’s just a head. Literally. He’s also the Balloon Man in Teen Titans Go! To the Movies. (CE)

(11) SCALZI Q&A. It’s a good interview about a writer’s interaction with literature, but the New York Times’ headline has no relevance to any of his answers that I can see: “The Science Fiction Writer John Scalzi Readily Quits Reading”. (If I’m wrong, I’m sure you’ll let me know!)

Any comfort reads?

I reread James Clavell’s “Shogun” a lot when I travel; I tend to think of it as epic fantasy as I am unsure of its historical and cultural accuracy. Speaking of epic fantasy, Katherine Addison’s “The Goblin Emperor” is always a joy to reread; I leaned on it a lot when creating my own unready imperial ruler for the Interdependency series, the last book of which is out very soon now. And I always have at least one Susan Orlean book on my phone for when I’m stuck in the airport and in the mood for nonfiction; the current one I have at the ready is “The Library Book.” She writes books that are comforting and fascinating at the same time. That’s a good skill to have.

(12) TWO REVIEWS OF SNOWPIERCER. [Item by N.] I’m personally skeptical because the creators seemed to excise all the Bong Joon-ho-isms I enjoyed from the movie but it looks like they kept all the sociological critique. Will be interesting to see. 

The New York Times: “On Track for the Apocalypse, ‘Snowpiercer’ Comes to Television”.

… But the world that this “Snowpiercer” arrives in is one that has moved incrementally closer to the catastrophe that the series anticipates. Though the themes of the show may be more resonant now, the people who made “Snowpiercer” cannot be sure whether it will be more compelling or more terrifying to audiences as a result.The power of good science fiction, [Daveed] Diggs said, is a universality that extends beyond the moment in which it was created. “No matter what time we’re living in, it allows us to reflect on ourselves through a particular lens,” he said. “We certainly did not know that this would be the lens through which we’d be viewing our own show.”

“In TNT’s Series, Snowpiercer Is No Longer a Dark Prophesy but a Mirror”

… We are now coming up on two full months of quarantine here in the States, and though we are not exactly survivors aboard a 1,001-car high speed train careening around a frozen planet, it’s hard for dialogue like this not to resonate. Or for scenes depicting horrendous displays of classism to not gnaw at our collective conscience as we watch our ugly realities play out on a TV screen.

“Do you remember hugs? Do you remember leaving the house without a mask and gloves at the ready? Do you remember what it was like before?”

What happens when there is less to learn from the allegory than from reality itself? When simile becomes metaphor? It’s not that the society we live in is like the fictional world of Snowpiercer; it’s that the society we live in is Snowpiercer.

(13) LOOKING OVER YOUR SHOULDERS. The Boston Globe story “Brattle Book Shop is curating bookshelves for Zoom meetings and FaceTime hangouts” is probably paywalled, but this gives the essentials —

Friends and coworkers aren’t the only ones silently taking stock of what’s going on in the backgrounds of people’s daily virtual calls these days.

Staff at the Brattle Book Shop have also been scanning the scenes with a watchful eye. And as experts in the book trade, they’ve come to a conclusion: That shelf just beyond your upper torso? Yes, that one, with the torn edition of “Twilight” that’s next to the lilting fern. Perhaps it could use some touching up if it’s going to be on camera.

“Zoom calls: no one can see your legs,” store employees tweeted recently, “but everyone can see your apartment. We’re here to help, with the bookshelves at least.”

Like many businesses impacted by the spread of the coronavirus, Brattle Book Shop was forced to close its doors to walk-in customers back in early March. But to help fill the downtime while also staying connected to clientele both old and new, the downtown Boston business decided to tap into a niche market — one that’s been propelled by our newfound reliance on teleconferencing services like Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime.

In April, bookstore owner Ken Gloss and his team began offering to curate people’s shelves with hand-picked selections of books to display during video meetings. The service, staff says, can help add a pop of character to the otherwise disorganized backdrops being scrutinized by people on the other side of the computer screen.

To Gloss, having some aesthetically-pleasing spines perfectly arranged at eye level, or even a few well-known titles neatly stacked up for show, “offers a lot of prestige.”

“When you look at someone’s books, you can tell a lot about them,” he said. “Put back there the impression that you want to give.”

This concept of cleverly organizing backgrounds specifically for Zoom calls isn’t altogether novel, Gloss explained. It’s more of an inventive take on a familiar practice at the historic family-owned business.

For years, the bookstore has fielded requests from customers looking to decorate their shelves with carefully selected reading materials and antique-looking books, items that create a more homey atmosphere.

(14) GO BOOM FALL DOWN. “Spectacular demolition at German nuclear site” – BBC shares the video taken from multiple viewpoints.

Two cooling towers have been demolished in spectacular controlled explosions at a disused nuclear power plant in south-western Germany.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Alex and Mr Fluffkins” on Vimeo, Adeena Grubb and Andy Biddle discuss what happens to a man and his cat when the lockdown is finally over and they can go out.

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

Columbus 2020 NASFiC Cancelled

Lisa Garrison, Chair of the Columbus 2020 NASFiC, announced their con, too, has fallen victim to the coronavirus outbreak, but they intend to have a virtual event over the same weekend:

This is the statement I have been hoping we would not have to make, but it is with a heavy heart that I and the executive committee, in consultation with Hotel management and the local Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, announce that we have made the decision to  cancel the Columbus 2020 NASFiC.  Due to the uncertain health situation and the unreliable travel restrictions, it was decided by all that hosting the NASFiC at this time would be unwise.

We will not be offering any refunds but, that being said, we still plan on publishing a souvenir book for all attending and supporting members. 

We may have a virtual event  on the weekend of August 20 -23.  We’ll update everyone on that later once we have some plans. 

We were very much looking forward to hosting the North American Science Fiction Convention this fall with you and regret that it cannot happen. 

2020 NASFiC Wants to Know Who’s Still Coming

The Columbus 2020 NASFiC’s Kim Williams asked File 770 to signal boost the message posted on their website yesterday:

We would like to announce that at this point in time, April 25th 2020, we are STILL planning for the NASFIC in Columbus OH, to occur – live – on the weekend of August 20 – 23, 2020. 

With various states lifting stay in place rules/orders/recommendations the hotel thinks that everything will be just fine.

What we (your NASFIC team) desperately need from you (our Members) is to know if you are still planning to attend. If you are NOT planning to attend, then please cancel your hotel reservation. It’s the only real way we have to know how to proceed.

Registration prices will stay at $100 until we welcome you to the Sheraton, then the at-the-door price will be $125.00.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at finance@columbus2020nasfic.org

Before comments begin: We have a Force Majeure clause. As we said in the post, the corporation is Marriott and they feel that unless the Governor Dewine keeps numerical limits on gatherings, it will be “just fine”. They are using GA (Dragon Con) as their evidence. 

Pixel Scroll 11/30/19 As Godstalk Is My Scrollness, I Thought Pixels Could Teleport

(1) ONE CRITIC’S CHOICE. Adam Roberts anoints the “Best science fiction and fantasy books of 2019” in the Guardian.

My pick for the book of the year, Tim Maughan’s Infinite Detail (MCD x FSG Originals), is a before-and-after tale of near-future social collapse after a coordinated attack takes the internet down. It’s hard to believe it is a debut, so assured and evocative is Maughan’s writing. As a portrait of the fragility of our current status quo it is as thought-provoking as it is terrifying; you won’t ever take your wifi for granted again.

(2) RESERVATIONS OPEN FOR 2020 NASFIC. The Columbus in 2020 NASFiC hotel room block is now open.

Marriott reservation link

Click on the above link to take you to the Hotel page to book your room for The Columbus NASFIC in 2020 at a cost of $129.00 per night. Room Nights will be available at the discounted rate from August 16th thru the 27th.

You can also go to our website http://columbus2020nasfic.org/our-facilities and click on the link to make your reservation.

Dennis Howard sent the link with this advisory:

I tried to book for 5 nights starting the Wednesday before the convention, but the hotel’s system said that there were no rooms available on Wednesday. So I booked for 4 nights starting Thursday and emailed the con about the issue. Within 24 hours they had added Wednesday to my reservation. So I’m happy. I was probably not the only person having issues because they have now added a note about booking problems on their facilities webpage. But they are obviously working on it.

The note on the Columbus website says —

Apparently there are people who are having issues making extended reservations.
If you are having these issues try and make the reservation for just the weekend of the convention. Until we can get this straightened out, Email the confirmation number to hotel@columbus2020nasfic.org with the dates you want to add and we’ll get them added.

(3) THESE ARE THE VOYAGES. “Star Trek TOS Captain Kirk Cat Polystone Statue” in shops December 18.

James T. Kirk Cat is the inaugural release in Chronicle Collectibles’ new line of the legendary original Star Trek crew, reimagined as cats. This adorable 1:9 scale James T. Kirk Cat comes with his official command chair so that he can direct the furry crew of the Enterprise. Just the right size for any office desk at 7.5 inches tall, you just know this is going to be the right conversation starter at work that combines your love of Star Trek and cats.

(4) TENTACULAR SPECTACULAR. Ursula Vernon weighed in on a question about Disney love interests. Thread starts here.

(5) NEW WORLDS AND OTHERS. Hannah Nussbaum finds forgotten literary connections in UK speculative fiction: “‘An inward looking outer space’: a brief history of Corridor.

What follows is an abridged excavation of the history of Corridor8, under which hides a dense archive of art and literary material reaching back to the 1960s.

The history of Corridor8 begins with Michael Butterworth, the Manchester-based writer, editor, and artist who originally conceived of a publication called Corridor in the early 1970s. This first issue of Corridor can be understood as one discrete point amid a trail of interrelated literary projects fomenting at the time. Before Corridor there was a broadsheet called Concentrate, and before (and during) Concentrate there was a thriving publication called New Worlds. These iterations were surrounded by a succession of other broadsheets and half-imagined projects consigned to the wastebaskets of avant-garde history. The resultant archive relays a history of experimental writing in the North of England, and leads us by way of papery trail to our present Corridor8 platform.

… With these aims (of creating slippages between reader, writer, and editor), Butterworth published the fourth issue Corridor later in 1972, with renewed commitment to destabilising and hybridising form. The teaser language on the cover of the issue shows the extent to which Corridor had evolved into a magazine dedicated to dissolving edges between text-art, criticism, and fiction. This new issue contained a new Jerry Cornelius story by Moorcock, a ‘word movie’ by John Riley, a long poem by Kevin Dixon-Jackson, ‘acid head fantasy’ by Chris Naylor, a review of William Burroughs written by Jay Jeff Jones, experimental work by Trevor Hoyle’s ‘the constant copywriter’ as well as a healthy smattering of letters to the editor. It was an issue that particularly reflected the post-industrial landscape of Manchester: Kevin Dixon-Jackson’s long poem evoked the strange, derelict geometry of Manchester’s city centre, alongside a photo series, also by Jackson, ringing with a palpable hauntology for lost Northern futures.

(6) THE INVISIBLE WOMAN. “Space ageing: where are the galactic grandmas?” According to Nature’s Sylvia Spruck Wrigley, “The lack of older women in sci-fi novels reflects and reifies ageism and sexism.”

As women get old, they gain a superpower: invisibility. And not only in real life. ‘Young adult’ fantasy and science-fiction hits such as Suzanne Collins’s novel series The Hunger Games and Stephenie Meyers’s Twilight series have been taken to task for doing away with mature women. In fantasy generally, older women mainly occupy supporting roles, such as fairy godmothers, wise crones and evil witches. The best are subversions — George R. R. Martin’s Queen of Thorns in A Song of Ice and Fire, for instance, or Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg in the Discworld series. All of them embrace old age with gusto. I expected better from science-fiction novels, where alternative worlds and alien nations explore what it means to be human. In 1976, after all, Ursula K. Le Guin argued in her essay ‘The Space Crone’ that post-menopausal women are best suited to representing the human race to alien species, because they are the most likely to have experienced all the changes of the human condition. And Robert A. Heinlein offers a fantastic galactic grandmother in The Rolling Stones (1952): Hazel Stone, engineer, lunar colonist and expert blackjack player irritated by the everyday misogyny of the Solar System.  

(7) CHANDLER AWARD. Nominations for Australia’s A. Bertram Chandler Award for Outstanding Achievement in Australian Science Fiction will open in December. A jury picks the winner.

Nominations for the A Bertram Chandler Award for Outstanding Achievement in Australian Science Fiction will open in December and close 1 February 2020. The Award was established in recognition of the contribution that science fiction writer A. Bertram Chandler made to Australian Science Fiction and to Australian fandom in general. It is Australia’s premier award for lifetime achievement in science fiction.

You are encouraged to nominate a person who fulfils the criteria on the nomination page here at ASFF.

Please read the guidelines carefully before making a nomination. The winner of the award will be announced at the 2020 Natcon — which is Swancon in Perth — over the Anzac Day weekend 2020.

(8) THAT BITES. Andrew Porter was in front of his TV when another group of Jeopardy! contestants plotzed on a genre answer.

Category: Classic British Novels.

Answer: “The title character of this novel says of his home, ‘The wind breathes cold through the broken battlements and casements.'”

Wrong questions:

“What is The Hunchback of Notre Dame?’

“What is Tristam Shandy?”

Correct question (which no one got): “What is Dracula?”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 30, 1959 – On UK screens, The Man Who Could Cheat Death premiered. Starring Anton Diffring and Christopher Lee, Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films says  the film “suffers from an excess of dialogue and a lack of action.” Not surprisingly, it gets only 37% at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 30, 1835 Mark Twain. It’s been decades since I read it but I still know I loved A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court when I read it. His other genre work is The Mysterious Stranger In which Satan might be visiting us went unpublished in his lifetime and it’s only relatively recently with the University of California Press editions of all his completed and uncompleted versions in one volume that a reader can see what he intended. (Died 1910.)
  • Born November 30, 1906 John Dickson Carr. Author of the Gideon Fell detective stories, some of which were decidedly genre adjacent. The Burning Court with Fell is on this list as is his vampire mythos backstoried novels, Three Coffins and He Who Whispers. And I really should note his Sir Henry Merrivale character has at one genre outing in Reader is Warned. (Died 1977.)
  • Born November 30, 1937 Ridley Scott, 82. Alien: Covenant, which did surprisingly well at the box office, is his most recent genre work of note but he’s got a long and distinguished list that includes Blade Runner, Alien, the 1984 Apple advert, Exodus: Gods and Kings , Legend,  Alien: Covenant,  Prometheus and Robin Hood. I’ve watched Blade Runner sans the narration and I’ll say I prefer the original version. 
  • Born November 30, 1945 Billy Drago. Best remembered, I think, as the evil John Bly in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.  He was certainly booked in a lot of genre roles as he has appearances in Cyborg 2,  Sci-Fighters,  Supernatural and X-Files. He also played the demon Barbas in the original Charmed series. He also was in Tremors 4: The Legend Begins, a film I’m sure no one was begging for. He was in the Masters of Horror “Imprint” episode, which Showtime pulled due to “disturbing content” which you can read about here. (Died 2019.)
  • Born November 30, 1950 Chris Claremont, 69. Writer in the comic realm. Best known for his astounding twenty year run on the Uncanny X-Men starting in 1976. During his tenure at Marvel, he co-created at least forty characters. Looking at his bibliography, I see that he did Sovereign Seven as a creator own series with DC publishing it.  And then there’s the matter of Lucas providing the notes for The Chronicles of the Shadow War trilogy to follow the Willow film and then contracting our writer to make them exist.  Anyone ever encountered these?
  • Born November 30, 1955 Andy Robertson. A fan and editor who worked as an assistant editor on Interzone and contributed myriad  reviews and interviews. He published some fiction and edited two anthologies based on the works of William Hope Hodgson’s Night Lands, Volume 1: Eternal Love, featuring tales set in Hodgson’s world, and William Hope Hodgson’s Night Lands Volume 2: Nightmares of the Fall. Alas, they never made into digital editions. (Died 2014.)
  • Born November 30, 1955 Kevin Conroy, 64. Without doubt, best known for voicing Batman on Batman: The Animated Series. Justice League Action which just just had its twofirst seasons on the Carton Network saw him reprise that role with the other characters often noting his stoic personality.  I’ve not seen it, but on  Batwoman, he plays  Bruce Wayne in the “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Two” episode. 
  • Born November 30, 1957 Martin Morse Wooster, 62. He discovered fandom in 1974 when he heard about “a big sci-fi con” in downtown Washington where admission was $10 at the door.  He had ten bucks, and so attended Discon II at 16.  A year later, he discovered fanzines through Don Miller, and discovered he liked writing book reviews.  He has been turning them out ever since.  In 1975, he was one of twelve founders of the Potomac River Science Fiction Society, which split from the Washington Science Fiction Association, and regularly attends PRSFS meetings to discuss books.  He has contributed to File 770 since 1978.
  • Born November 30, 1965 Andrew Tiernan, 54. British actor who, yes, did show up on Doctor Who playing Purcell in “Night Calls”, an Eleventh Doctor story. He’s also played Banquo in MacBeth on The Estate, was a Paris vampire in Interview with the Vampire and, skipping several decades worth of performances, is The Manager in Autómata, a neat sounding Spanish-Bulgarian SF film.

(11) TEN BEST. CBR.com celebrates a famous creator in “Osamu Tezuka: 10 Best Works That Aren’t Astro Boy, Ranked”.

Osamu Tezuka is well known for being “the father of manga”, and for good reason. His prolific and pioneering works, and the way he redefined genres has rightfully earned him that title. It was Tezuka who developed and shaped the modern style of manga that we know today. Many considered him the Japanese equivalent of Walt Disney. Tezuka’s most famous work is arguably Astro Boy, which tells the story of an android with human emotions who is created by Umataro Tenma after the death of his son. But what about Tezuka’s other works? They deserve some love, too. So, here’s Osamu Tezuka’s ten best works that aren’t Astro Boy, ranked.

10. Kimba the White Lion

Kimba the White Lion tells the story of a young cub whose family is killed en route to a zoo before being shipwrecked on the Arabian Peninsula. After the stars form the face of his mother, Kimba must journey back to his home in Africa to become his father’s successor.

Kimba was written early in Tezuka’s career and he drew inspiration from post-WW2 Japan and the hardships and struggles they were facing. Kimba’s story is an emotional tale about self discovery and overcoming adversity, serving as a touching metaphor for Japan’s journey toward prosperity following World War II.

(12) ONE LAST LANDING. “The best holiday displays in NYC, mapped” at Curbed New York helps everyone navigate their way to the showiest decorations around town. Some are genre —

3. Bloomingdale’s

Bloomingdale’s is looking to the stars for its holiday windows this year. Inspired by the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing, the store pays tribute to space travel with “An Out of This World Holiday Windows.” The first diorama begins the journey with a silver flying saucer beaming up beings dressed in futuristic fashions followed by a series of extraterrestrial holiday scenes….

(13) BACK IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. The LA Times’ Amy Kaufman writes “How befriending Mister Rogers’ widow allowed me to learn the true meaning of his legacy”, her profile of Sarah Joanne Byrd Rogers.

…On the flight home, I became oddly emotional thinking about Fred and Joanne — about how much they’d affected so many simply by expressing genuine care and kindness toward their neighbors. As she told the moviemakers, Fred wasn’t a saint. Since his death, she feels as if he’s been placed on an even higher pedestal. And she doesn’t like it.

“He’s out there now as somebody who’s somehow way above all the rest of us,” she said. “People invariably say, ‘Well, I can’t do that, but I sure do admire him. I would love to do it.’ Well, you can do it. I’m convinced there are lots of Fred Rogerses out there.”

(14) PULP IN NEW JERSEY. Gary Lovisi and Paperback Parade takes a tour of the “Bold Venture” Annual Pulp Fest in Bordentown NJ.

(15) DC PULLS POSTER. “DC Comics Comes Under Fire for Deleting Batman Poster That Sparked Chinese Backlash”Variety has the story.

DC Comics has yanked a poster for a new Batman title from its social media accounts after the image drew criticism from Chinese commenters who said it appeared to support the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

The artwork depicts Batman throwing a Molotov cocktail against a backdrop of hot-pink words spelling out the new comic book’s tagline, “the future is young.” It was posted on DC Comics’ Twitter and Instagram accounts; both platforms are blocked in mainland China. The poster was meant to promote a forthcoming DC Black Label comic called “Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child,” due to hit shelves Dec. 11. DC Black Label is an imprint that seeks to appeal to an older-skewing readership through reprints and original limited series.

But the poster came under fire from Chinese internet users who contended that it contained coded messages in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. They said that the Molotov cocktail alluded to young Hong Kong protesters’ more violent tactics, that the “dark knight’s” choice of black attire referred to the black-clad Hong Kong protesters, and that the “golden child” of the book’s title was a veiled reference to the color yellow, which was taken up by previous pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong five years ago….

(16) CAN YOU DIG IT. NPR has learned that “A ‘Mole’ Isn’t Digging Mars: NASA Engineers Are Trying To Find Out Why”.

There’s a mole on Mars that’s making NASA engineers tear their hair out.

No, they haven’t discovered a small, insectivorous mammal on the red planet.

The mole vexing engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena is a scientific instrument known as the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, or HP3 — or just “the mole” — carried on NASA’s InSight probe that landed on Mars a year ago.

“The mole is designed to measure heat flow coming out of the interior of Mars,” says Troy Hudson, InSight’s instrument system engineer.

Scientists are interested to know how much heat is still being generated inside the core of the once geologically active Mars. To do that, the mole has to bury itself about 16 feet below the Martian surface so it won’t be affected by daily temperature fluctuations.

The mole is basically a tube about 16 inches long and an inch in diameter. It has a pointy tip and an internal hammer that works like a kind of pile driver to pound the instrument into the ground.

The frustrations began last February when the digging started. Instead of going down to 16 feet, it got stuck after just 14 inches.

Maybe they need to send for the crew from Armageddon?

(17) FROM GO TO GONE. Yonhap reports: “Go master Lee says he quits unable to win over AI Go players”

South Korean Go master Lee Se-dol, who retired from professional Go competition last week after gaining worldwide fame in 2016 as the only human to defeat the artificial intelligence (AI) Go player AlphaGo, said his retirement was primarily motivated by the invincibility of AI Go programs.

“With the debut of AI in Go games, I’ve realized that I’m not at the top even if I become the number one through frantic efforts,” said Lee.

“Even if I become the number one, there is an entity that cannot be defeated,” he said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency in Seoul on Monday.

AlphaGo, built by Google’s DeepMind Technologies, won four of its five matches against Lee in March 2016, but Lee’s sole win in Game 4 remains the only time a human has beaten the AI player.

A documentary about the epic match was released in 2017.

With more board configurations than there are atoms in the universe, the ancient Chinese game of Go has long been considered a grand challenge for artificial intelligence. On March 9, 2016, the worlds of Go and artificial intelligence collided in South Korea for an extraordinary best-of-five-game competition, coined The DeepMind Challenge Match. Hundreds of millions of people around the world watched as a legendary Go master took on an unproven AI challenger for the first time in history.

Directed by Greg Kohs with an original score by Academy Award nominee, Hauschka, AlphaGo chronicles a journey from the halls of Oxford, through the backstreets of Bordeaux, past the coding terminals of Google DeepMind in London, and ultimately, to the seven-day tournament in Seoul. As the drama unfolds, more questions emerge: What can artificial intelligence reveal about a 3000-year-old game? What can it teach us about humanity?

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

NASFiC 2020, Westercon 74 Site Selection Voting Statistics

NASFiC 2020: Ben Yalow, Spikecon Site Selection Area Head, reported the results of the 2020 NASFiC site selection voting held at the joint NASFiC/Westercon.

The information was shared as a courtesy at the Westercon business meeting on July 6, there being no WSFS business meeting at a NASFiC. The complete Westercon 72 Business Meeting minutes are posted here.

Columbus ran unopposed. Yalow said 100 votes were cast.

Candidate Mail Thu Fri Total
Columbus, OH 7 46 34 87
Grantville, WV 1 1   2
Tonopah, NV     2 2
OVFF 1     1
Arcosanti 1     1
Minneapolis in ‘73   1   1
Peggy Rae’s House   1   1
None of the Above     1 1
Total With Preference 10 49 37 96
No preference   1 1 2
Invalid 2     2
Total votes cast       100

With 87 votes, Yalow declared that Columbus had won the 2020 NASFiC.

2021 Westercon Site Selection: Ben Yalow also presented the results of the Site Selection for Westercon 74. With 140 votes cast, 68 votes were required to declare a winner.

Candidate Mail Thu Fri Total
Phoenix, AZ 3 11 37 51
Tonopah, NV 9 32 41 82
Both     1 1
None of the Above       0
Total With Preference       134
Needed to Elect (Majority)       68
No preference     6 6
Total votes cast       140

With 82 votes, Tonopah was declared the winner of the 2021 Westercon.

A video of the Westercon business meeting is available:

[Thanks to Kevin Standlee for the story.]

Columbus Confirmed as 2020 NASFiC Host

The unopposed Columbus in 2020 NASFiC bid has been confirmed by site selection voters. Next year’s NASFiC will take place August 20-23 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.

A North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC) is authorized by WSFS rules to be held whenever the Worldcon is outside North America. With consecutive Worldcons occurring in Ireland and New Zealand, the 2020 site selection vote was administered by the 2019 NASFiC, Spikecon, going on this weekend in Utah.

Columbus chair Lisa Garrison (Ragsdale) announced the result. The vote count has not yet appeared on the bid’s Facebook or Twitter accounts. However, the 2020 NASFiC guests of honor have been named:

  • Author Guests of Honor are Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.
  • Artist Guest of Honor is Stephanie Law.
Stephanie Law
  • Editor Guest of Honor is Christopher J. Garcia.
Christopher J. Garcia
  • Science Guest of Honor is NASA Scientist, Marc Millis.
Marc Millis
  • Fan Guests of Honor are Sue and Steve Francis.
Sue and Steve Francis
  • 1632 Minicon Guest is Eric Flint.  
Eric Flint

2020 NASFiC Voting Opens

Voting to select the site of the 2020 North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC) has started.

The Columbus for 2020 NASFiC bid is the only one on the ballot. They propose to hold the con August 20-23, 2020 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and Convention Center, in Columbus, Ohio. Lisa Garrison is the bid chair, and the committee includes Dale Mazzola and Kim Williams.  

Members of SpikeCon, the 2019 NASFiC in Layton, Utah, are eligible to vote on the site of the 2020 NASFiC upon payment of a $35 Advance Supporting Membership (“Voting”) Fee.

Voting in advance closes June 29, 2019. SpikeCon/NASFiC 2019 must receive your ballot by that date. (Postmark date does not count.) Voting at the convention opens on the afternoon of Thursday, July 4, 2019 and closes on the evening of Friday, July 5, 2019.

The rules allow for write-in votes and votes for “None of the Above.”

For full information see Kevin Standlee’s post on the NASFiC website.

Future Worldcon and NASFiC Bidder Questionnaires

A panel featuring bidders for Worldcons and NASFiC in years to come will be held at Worldcon 76 on August 17.

And Worldcon 76 has posted questionnaires completed by future bid committees.

Note that a NASFiC is held in North America only if the Worldcon goes off-continent. The Utah in 2019 bid will be voted on at Worldcon 76 (the Dublin 2019 con already having been chosen). If the New Zealand Worldcon bid wins, the Columbus in 2020 bid will be voted on at the 2019 NASFiC (not the Worldcon). ‘Tis clear as is the summer sun!

Seated Worldcon

2019 NASFiC Bid

2020 Worldcon Bids

2020 NASFiC Bid

2021 Worldcon Bid

2022 and Beyond Worldcon Bids