Pixel Scroll 9/1/20 Senpai
Noticed Me!

(1) GAME OF THRONGS. Netflix has ordered a series covering all three books in Liu Cixin’s trilogy — The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End — reports Variety: “‘Three-Body Problem’ Series From David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Alexander Woo Set at Netflix”.

There seem to be a lot of cooks hovering over the broth:

Benioff and Weiss executive produce under their Bighead Littlehead banner along with the company’s newly installed president, Bernadette Caulfield. [Rian] Johnson, Ram Bergman, and Nena Rodrigue executive produce via T Street Productions. [Brad] Pitt executive produces with along with Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner for Plan B Entertainment. [Rosamund] Pike and Robie Uniacke executive produce for Primitive Streak. Lin Qi, chairman of Yoozoo Group and The Three-Body Universe, and Zhao Jilong, vice president of The Three-Body Universe, also executive produce.

…Author Liu Cixin and accomplished sci-fi writer Ken Liu, who translated the English versions of the first and third books, serve as consulting producers.

The article quotes Liu Cixin:

“I have the greatest respect for and faith in the creative team adapting ‘The Three-Body Problem’ for television audiences,” said Cixin. “I set out to tell a story that transcends time and the confines of nations, cultures and races; one that compels us to consider the fate of humankind as a whole. It is a great honor as an author to see this unique sci-fi concept travel and gain fandom across the globe and I am excited for new and existing fans all over the world to discover the story on Netflix.”

(2) INTERNET ARCHIVE SUIT TRIAL SCHEDULED. Publishers Weekly is a fly on the courtroom wall when “Judge Sets Tentative Schedule for Internet Archive Copyright Case”. All the benchmark dates are at the link.

…The parties, barring a motion that would moot the schedule, are to be ready for trial on 48 hours notice on or after November 12, 2021.

…The copyright infringement lawsuit against the Internet Archive’s scanning and lending program was first filed on June 1 in the Southern District of New York by Hachette, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, and Penguin Random House, and is being coordinated by the Association of American Publishers.

(3) VOTERS BY THE YARD. “Biden campaign launches official Animal Crossing: New Horizons yard signs” reports The Verge.

…Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in the US earlier this year, campaigns like Biden’s have been forced to entirely rethink how they organize voters. Instead of in-person rallies, Biden’s team has opted for live-streamed events and fundraisers along with socially distanced productions and interviews. The entire Democratic National Convention was held virtually earlier this month, with most guests streaming in over video software like Zoom to deliver speeches.

The Biden-Harris campaign released four sign designs for players to download, featuring the official Biden-Harris logo, Team Joe logo, the “Joe” Pride logo, and an image of aviator sunglasses shaded in red, white, and blue. Players will be able to access the designs in-game by scanning the design QR codes through the Nintendo Switch Online app.

Millions of people have picked up Animal Crossing: New Horizons since its initial release in March, and the Biden campaign is hoping to engage that large base with their new merch. “Animal Crossing is a dynamic, diverse, and powerful platform that brings communities together from across the world. It is an exciting new opportunity for our campaign to engage and connect Biden-Harris supporters as they build and decorate their islands,” Christian Tom, director of digital partnerships for the Biden campaign, said in a statement to The Verge. “As we enter the final campaign stretch towards November, this is one way we are finding new creative and innovative ways to meet voters where they are and bring our supporters together.”

(4) ZOOM IN BLOOM. Cora Buhlert wrote a NASFiC conreport and an overview of the growing phenomenon of virtual sff events: “Cora’s Adventures at the Virtual 2020 NASFiC and More Thoughts on Virtual Conventions”.

…The first panel I watched was “Fantasy for YA vs. Adults”, featuring Alma Alexander, Farah Mendlesohn, Sherwood Smith and Kathryn Sullivan. I picked this panel over the horror panel going on at the same time, because I knew and liked the panelists. There was some concern in the chat that the panelists were all white. And indeed, more diversity would have been nice, especially considering what a diverse field fantasy in general and YA in particular is.

Talking of the chat, unlike other recent virtual conventions, NASFiC opted not to use the Zoom chat, but have the Discord chat side by side with the panel. From the POV of an audience member, this was a lot better than having to switch between Discord and Zoom in different tabs/windows. Though I’m not sure how it was from the POV of a panelist, since panelists and moderators can more easily see questions, when they are asked in the Zoom chat…

(5) MASTERING DUALITY. Sarah Gailey’s Personal Canons series continues with “Abhorsen”.

…When I first read the Abhorsen books, I was very young, and I was just starting to grapple with questions of identity, duality, and choice. Bound up in those questions was a larger, overarching question of worth. I felt certain that if I didn’t answer those questions about myself correctly, I’d lose some degree of goodness. Bit by bit, parts of me would tarnish; I’d become Bad, and there would be no place in the world for me. That feeling was too much. I couldn’t face it.

But in Garth Nix’s books, I saw that perhaps the answers could be more complicated than I realized. In Sabriel, I saw that feeling afraid and unprepared didn’t have to mean surrender, so long as I could be resourceful and stubborn. In Lirael, I saw that it’s possible to survive the crushing feeling that life is unsurvivable.

(6) NYRSF 30TH SEASON. The New York Review of SF Readings Series, hosted by Jim Freund, kicks off its new season virtually on September 8 with a reading by Michael Swanwick. More info at the link: “NYRSF Readings: Swanwick/Dozois ‘The City Under the Stars’”

This reading marks the beginning of our 30th Season! Sadly, we cannot all join together for a fete, but over the course of time, we’ll figure something out. We wish to experiment with simulcasting the reading on our traditional home here on Facebook, but also try simulcasting it on YouTube. We’ll be testing this through the week so be sure to check back here to find out where to log in.

On Tor.com, Michael Swanwick wrote:
“Almost a quarter century ago, Gardner Dozois and I published “The City of God,” now the first half of this novel. It ended with a slam, seemingly precluding any sequels. But over the decades Gardner and I talked over what might come next. We planned to write two more novellas, “The City of Angels” and “The City of Men,” which would tell one long, complete story. One with a happy ending.

Don’t laugh.

Yes, Gardner could be a bleak writer. Yes, the novella was dark even for him. But he had an uplifting idea for how the book would end. We discussed it often. We were midway through the second novella and aiming at that happy ending when, without warning, Gardner died.

I knew I would never write that third novella without his input, his genius. Nevertheless I wanted the world to see this genuinely happy ending. So I changed the direction of the work in progress, combined both novellas, divided them into chapters, and made of them a novel I think Gardner would have been pleased with.

The ending is exactly what Gardner envisioned all those decades ago. A happy one. For everyone.

When I wrote the last words of it, I cried.”

(7) NOT TOO LATE TO TUNE IN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.]“Arthur Charles Clarke discusses science fiction” at the Studs Terkel Radio Archive is a 1959 interview Studs Terkel conducted with Clarke where Clarke discusses his novels Childhood’s End and Earthlight, explains why he thought sf was not escapist, and said that “I’m a moral vegetarian, although I hate vegetables.”

(8) OKAY BOOMER. “Can You Recognize These Guest Stars On Star Trek: The Original Series?” John King Tarpinian got 9 of 11. I got 10. It helps if you’ve watched too much Sixties television.

We gathered some of our favorite guest stars from Star Trek: The Original Series. They are famous faces from classic television. See if you can match them to their popular roles. Good luck!

(9) DINO MITES. “‘Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous’ Trailer: Netflix Unleashes Look At New Dreamworks Animation Series, Launches Interactive Site”Yahoo! Entertainment has the story.

…The series trailer (watch it above) sets up the premise of Camp Cretaceous: A group of six teenagers are trapped at a new adventure camp on the opposite side of Isla Nublar. When the events of the film unfold and dinosaurs are unleashed across the island, each kid realizes their very survival rests on the shoulders of themselves and their fellow campers. Unable to reach the outside world, the six teens will go from strangers to friends to family as they band together to survive the dinosaurs and uncover hidden secrets so deep they threaten the world itself.

Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous premieres September 18 on Netflix.

The new interactive site, live now, invites users to experience a behind the gates look at Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous. At CampCretaceous.com, users can tour the campgrounds, get up close with dinosaurs, check out tree top cabins and a zipline, among other adventures.

(10) GOSPEL OR BLASPHEMY? Chris Mooney, in “You Don’t Have To Be A Genre Writer To Explore Genre” on CrimeReads, says his desire to put sf elements in a suspense novel led him to explore other works that combine sf and suspense, including novels by Colson Whitehead, Margaret Atwood, and Sir Kazuo Ichiguro.

…Sometimes when you mix things together, the results are amazing, even spectacular. As I was writing Blood World, I realized that almost of my all-time favorite books—the ones that had the greatest impact on me—were from authors who successfully incorporated elements from more than one genre. And now, it’s mid-August, the height of vacation season, and if, like me, you find yourself stuck in your backyard on a “staycation,” or lucky enough to live near a beach, you can do no better than these definitive, intelligent, page-turning, genre-bending classics.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • September 1, 1950Dimension X’s “The Roads Must Roll.” Based on the Robert Heinlein story that first was published in Astounding Science Fiction in the June 1940 issue, it would first be broadcast on this date on NBC  in 1950. It would win the Retro Hugo for Best Novella at MidAmericon II, the same year that OGH won another Hugo for Best Fan Writer. Jason Bolander, Norman Rose and Karl Weber were the cast. You can listen to it here. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 1, 1875 Edgar Rice Burroughs. Bradbury declared him “the most influential writer in the entire history of the world.” Now I’d not necessarily disagree or agree with that statement but I would note that he has largely fallen out of public notice once again. So what’s your favorite works by him? The Barsoom stories are mine. (Died 1950.) (CE)
  • Born September 1, 1928 – Shelby Vick.  Edited Planetary Stories 2005-2017.  Edited a new (i.e. 2013, centuries after the original) volume of Sindbad stories (with E. Erdelac & E. Roberts; unable to resist the spelling “Sinbad”), writing one.  A score of short stories around then.  Leading fan since the 1940s.  Introduced Lee Hoffman (to some of us, after this incident, “Hoffwoman”), to Bob Tucker.  Started WAW with the Crew in ’52 bringing W.A. Willis to Chicon II the 10th Worldcon.  Organized, if that word may be used, Corflu 16 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable); brought as a guest to Corflu 29.  Rebel Award.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born September 1, 1942 C. J. Cherryh, 78. I certainly think the Hugo Award-winning Downbelow Station and Cyteen are amazing works but I think my favorite works by her are the Merchanter novels such as Rimrunners. Anyone familiar with “Cassandra“,  the short story she won a Hugo for at Seacon ‘79? What’s it part of? (CE) 
  • Born September 1, 1943 – Filthy Pierre, 77.  So unassumingly and widely helpful for so long he was at length given the Big Heart (our highest service award) and more locally made a Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; its service award).  With Marilyn Wisowaty (as she then was; also F.N.) compiled The Blackdex and Bluedex indexing SF prozines.  FP being a filker is often at hand during an SF con and, when waiting is, inspires song, accompanying us on the current version of the Filth-O-Phone.  Made the well-named Microfilk, an early filk index.  Filk Hall of Fame.  Invented the Voodoo Message Board.  Fan Guest of Honor at Albacon 2010, Baltcon 52.  Under a transparent pseudonym has conducted the SF Conventional Calendar for Asimov’s since 1977.  [JH]
  • Born September 1, 1951 Donald G. Keller, 69. Editor and critic. Co-edited Phantasmicom with Jeff Smith (1969-1974). A contributor to The New York Review of Science Fiction in the early Nineties which is where his “The Manner of Fantasy” essay appeared. He also edited The Horns of Elfland anthology with Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman. Inactive genre wise for a decade now other than being a member of the editorial board of Slayage, the online Encyclopedia of Buffy Studies. (CE) 
  • Born September 1, 1952 – Brad Linaweaver.  Productive pro writer found lovable by many because of or despite proclaimed libertarian opinions.  A dozen novels, five dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors.  Artbook anthology Worlds of Tomorrowwith Forrest J Ackerman.  Interviewed William Tenn for Riverside Quarterly.  Two Prometheus Awards.  Phoenix. Heinlein’s brass cannon bequeathed to him.  (Died 2019)
  • Born September 1, 1954 – Larisa Mikhaylova, Ph.D., 66.  Editor, critic; translator including Cadigan and Le Guin.  Editor-in-chief, Supernova.  Organizer of conferences on Ivan Yefremov, co-ordinator of preparing his Complete Works.  Biography of HE in J. Francaville ed., Harlan Ellison.  “Shore Leave Russia” on Star Trek fandom in Russia, Eaton Journal of Archival Research in SF.  Academic Secretary, Russian Soc. Amer. Cultural Studies.  [JH]
  • Born September 1, 1961 – Jacinta Escudos, 59.  Mario Monteforte Toledo Central American Prize for Fiction.  Collection, The Devil Knows My Name (in Spanish, i.e. El diablo sabe mi nombre).  Anthologized in And We Sold the RainLovers and ComradesYou Can’t Drown the Fire.  Widely known outside our field.  Blog here (in Spanish).  [JH]
  • Born September 1, 1964 Martha Wells, 56. She’s has won a Nebula Award, a Locus Award, and two Hugo Awards, one for the “All Systems Red” novella at WorldCon ‘76, and the other for her “Artificial Condition“ novella at Dublin 2019.  Impressive. And she was toastmaster of the World Fantasy Convention in 2017 where she delivered a speech called “Unbury the Future”. Need I note the Muderbot Diaries are a truly amazing reading? (CE)
  • Born September 1, 1967 Steve Pemberton, 53. He’s on the Birthday List for being Strackman Lux in the most excellent Eleventh Doctor stories of “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead” but he has other genre credits including being Drumknott in Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, Professor Mule in the Gormenghast series and Harmony in the Good Omens series as well. (CE) 
  • Born September 1, 1974 Burn Gorman, 46. Best known for his roles as Owen Harper in Torchwood , Karl Tanner in the Game of Thrones, Philip Stryker in The Dark Knight Rises and also as Hermann Gottlieb in Pacific Rim and the sequel Pacific Rim: Uprising. Like so many of his fellow Torchwood performers, he’s been active at Big Finish where he’s been in nine Torchwood stories to date. (CE) 
  • Born September 1, 1978 — Yoav Blum, 42.  Software developer and author.  First novel translated (from Hebrew), The Coincidence Makers.  Ranks Guards! Guards! about the same as Winnie-the-Pooh.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Ziggy listens to an outburst about an unfair evolutionary advantage.
  • Off the Mark comes up with one of those times when you shouldn’t count on Superman to save your life.
  • The Far Side asks Doctor who?
  • The Far Side illustrates a science fictional parenting problem.

(14) LIPTAK’S SEPTEMBER GUIDE. Andrew Liptak teases “22 science fiction and fantasy books to check out this September” on the Readling List.

….I’ve been in a bit of a reading rut in recent weeks, but one book that I’ve been enjoying is The Human Cosmos: Civilization and the Stars by Jo Marchant. It’s out today, and Marchant takes a slightly different tack on the history of astronomy: she looks at not how humanity discovered the stars and planets, but how it impacted our development as a civilization. It’s an excellent example of multidisciplinary history, looking at archeology, science, mathematics, and of course, astronomy. I highly recommend it.

If you’re looking for other books coming out this month, here are 22 science fiction and fantasy ones hitting stores that you should check out.

(15) THE STICKS HAVE BEEN HEARD FROM. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, who has been without the internet most of the time during the pandemic, broke out of isolation to update “Concatenation Science Communication News”.

CoVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2 Lockdown — Please Note  Both Science Com and SF² Concatenation are in digital lockdown, but much is continuing as usual.  So stakeholders and those who liaise with either should note the following carefully.

Prior to CoVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2, neither abode being connected to the internet was not a problem (not even required) as regular internet access was available at college, volunteer work offices as well as learned society Fellows rooms’ and public libraries’ cybercafes (plus even hotels when travelling).  However, with SARS-CoV-2, access to these has ceased.  This means no e-mail communication since 20th March 2020 and this will not resume until we get a vaccine and restrictions are lifted. So if you have e-mailed, now you know why you have not had a response.

All other (non-e-mail) communications are working fine…

More news at the link.

He also tweeted assurance that there will be an autumnal edition of SF2 Concatenation as contributors have been snail-mailing contributions in on memory sticks.

(16) C.S. LEWIS MOVIE TO COMMENCE FILMING. “Production Begins Next Month for New C.S. Lewis Motion Picture” reports Narniafans.

… The material that this movie is based upon is Max McLean’s one man stage play that chronicles the Narnia author’s journey from atheism to Christianity… Although a filmed from the stage version of this production is already available on DVD, the new movie version will be entirely different with a full cast shooting at historic locations from C.S. Lewis’s life.

“The difference about this play is it’s going to be on location all over Oxford. We have full access to Maudlin College, The Kilns, the church, [and] various other places that are mentioned in the play. Instead of it being a one person show, it’s going to be a multi-actor show. I’ll play the older Lewis, we’ll have a boy Lewis, a young Lewis in his 20’s, cast his mother, his father, Tolkien, Barfield, Kirk, among others, and that is going to begin shortly.”

 In March 2020 the entire world of Fellowship for Performing Arts came to a complete standstill. The New York based theatrical organization had been selling 2,000 tickets a week for their four productions, but that quickly dropped to 0 tickets a week and there is no expectation that live theater will resume until 2021. More than 30 FPA shows have been canceled because it is far too dangerous to hold any public gatherings in the United States.

“Since our plays have all shut down, we’ve moved up our feature film adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s conversion story. That was designed to be a 2021/2022 project, well we’ve moved it up to September and October of this year. I’ll be leaving tomorrow for the UK to begin shooting in mid-September (I have to quarantine for two weeks before we begin shooting).”-Max McLean

Norman Stone is the producer of this movie. This award-winning British director also directed Shadowlands (1985), C.S. Lewis: Beyond Narnia (2005), and The Narnia Code (2009).

(17) WILL CROWDFUNDING LET THEM MAKE THEIR TEASER TRAILER? The Kickstarter for “BAÏDIR – the animated series”, a space-opera animated series, looks to be far from funding, having raised only $29,266 of its $35,968 goal and the appeal ending September 6.

This is an epic, modern, ecological, and family fable…

It tells the initiatory path of a hero willing to do anything to locate his sister, and thus restore the family’s lost balance. It is also a story that echoes a much broader collective quest. At stake: restoring our planet’s lost environmental equilibrium.

Baïdir is a series designed to span three parts, each composed of 8 episodes of 26 minutes. The genre varies from adventure to science fiction with a good dash of fantasy.

Born from the imagination of Slimane Aniss, then enriched by the graphic universe spun by Charles Lefebvre and Thierry Rivière, Baïdir got its first teaser in 2009. Several years later, in 2012, the concept for the series was purchased by a first production studio. This resulted in a second teaser being hatched. Then several years after that, Andarta Pictures managed to acquire the rights to the work. At long last, work could begin on building the narration and the universe, thus allowing it to take shape for the television screen.

Baïdir is a project that has garnered quite a lot of interest during its various development phases. There is a massive amount of fan art on social networks. This crowdfunding campaign will allow us to breathe life into this whole universe and to tell the story of Baïdir and his friends at last.

(18) ALIEN LIFE. The American Museum of Natural History will present online the “2020 Isaac Asimov Debate: Alien Life” on Wednesday, September 9, 2020.

Join Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, and a panel of experts for a livestream debate and question-and-answer session to discuss how life may have formed on Earth and explore what alien life might look like elsewhere in the universe.

What criteria do we use to classify life as we know it? Should the criteria be revised as we look for life on other worlds? The debate will bring together scientists from different fields–Nathalie A. Cabrol of the SETI Institute, Vera Kolb of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute, Carol Cleland of the University of Colorado, and Max Tegmark of MIT–to share their creative ideas for what forms life might take in an extraterrestrial environment and what these predictions can teach us about life on our own planet.

(19) HO, HO PHO. Archie McPhee has “Ketchup, Shiitake And Pho Candy Canes” ready for the holiday season – whatever holiday that may be. (“National Flash on Your Carpet Day”?) Wait – they seem to think it’s Christmas!

This year’s Archie McPhee candy canes are here! We’ve got three crazy flavors to make your Christmas more delicious than ever. Ketchup Candy Canes are fresh-from-the-bottle candy that tastes just like America’s favorite condiment. Shiitake Mushroom Candy Canes have a mushroom flavor that will make Christmas morning even more fungus than usual. And, finally, Pho Candy Canes are un-pho-gettable! 

I hope Santa leaves the antidote within reach!

(20) RU A ROBOT? Daniel Dern calls it “The best CAPTCHA I’ve seen to date”.  From FB’s Concellation group.

[Thanks to N., John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, Contrarius, Michael Toman, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Martin Morse Wooster, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day O. Westin.]

Pixel Scroll 8/25/20 Headless Pixel

(1) NEW BEOWULF. Maria Dahvana Headley’s “new, feminist translation of Beowulf“ was released today by Macmillan.


Nearly twenty years after Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf—and fifty years after the translation that continues to torment high-school students around the world—there is a radical new verse translation of the epic poem by Maria Dahvana Headley, which brings to light elements that have never before been translated into English, recontextualizing the binary narrative of monsters and heroes into a tale in which the two categories often entwine, justice is rarely served, and dragons live among us.

Read Headley’s Introduction here.

…And so, I offer to the banquet table this translation, done by an American woman born in the year 1977, a person who grew up surrounded by sled dogs, coyotes, rattlesnakes, and bubbling natural hot springs nestled in the wild high desert of Idaho, a person who, if we were looking at the poem’s categories, would fall much closer in original habitat to Grendel and his mother than to Beowulf or even the lesser denizens of Hrothgar’s court.

I came to this project as a novelist, interested specifically in rendering the story continuously and clearly, while also creating a text that feels as bloody and juicy as I think it ought to feel. Despite its reputation to generations of unwilling students, forced as freshmen into arduous translations, Beowulf is a living text in a dead language, the kind of thing meant to be shouted over a crowd of drunk celebrants. Even though it was probably written down in the quiet confines of a scriptorium, Beowulf is not a quiet poem. It’s a dazzling, furious, funny, vicious, desperate, hungry, beautiful, mutinous, maudlin, supernatural, rapturous shout.

In contrast to the methods of some previous translators, I let the poem’s story lead me to its style. The lines in this translation were structured for speaking, and for speaking in contemporary rhythms. The poets I’m most interested in are those who use language as instrument, inventing words and creating forms as necessary, in the service of voice. I come from the land of cowboy poets, and while theirs is not the style I used for this translation, I did spend a lot of time imagining the narrator as an old-timer at the end of the bar, periodically pounding his glass and demanding another. I saw it with my own eyes.

(2) RAISEDWULF. Raised By Wolves continues to look wild as hell in new trailer for Ridley Scott’s HBO Max series” says A.V.Club.

Members of the very small but very vocal group of Alien: Covenant supporters (and its smaller Prometheus chapter) are probably a little extra excited for Raised By WolvesHBO Max’s new sci-fi series is executive produced by Ridley Scott, who also directed the first two episodes of a story that definitely looks like it’s treading thematic territory similar to Covenant—or what might’ve come after Covenant if Scott had been allowed to complete his trilogy. Scripted and created by Aaron Guzikowski (Prisoners), Raised By Wolves follows a pair of androids (including one played by Amanda Collin, serving serious Michael Fassbender android vibes) raising human children on a distant planet, where they’re teaching the little kiddos to be atheists. Everything is just fine until some other humans show up with their strong religious views and hatred of robots:

(3) ADDRESSEE UNKNOWN AT BAKER STREET. Netflix dropped a trailer for Enola Holmes, based on the novels by Nancy Springer about Sherlock Holmes’s little sister.

When Enola Holmes—Sherlock’s teen sister—discovers her mother missing, she sets off to find her, becoming a super-sleuth in her own right as she outwits her famous brother and unravels a dangerous conspiracy around a mysterious young Lord. Starring Millie Bobby Brown, Sam Claflin, with Henry Cavill and Helena Bonham-Carter.

(4) FOCUS ON FEAR. S.M. Carrière lets everyone know “Fans Can Be Scary” at Black Gate.

…However, there is absolutely no way that fans should get to dictate the way a story unravels. They do not get to demand of an author to end the series in the way that is not what the writer envisioned, or what the story demanded of them. Fans have no right to force the inclusion of events that do not ring true for that author or the story they’re trying to tell.

Yet, large clusters of fans believe that it is, in fact their right. Those folks, it seems, are not above threatening to end the careers of the author(s) that displeased them, some even going so far as to send death threats. No example of this sticks in my mind than the threats sent to author Veronica Roth, who displeased fans by killing off her protagonist (bold move. I can respect that), leaving the love interest to deal with that trauma.

…What scares me even more, however, is the idea that someone with too much time and a deeply entrenched sense of entitlement might show up at my door one day. I’ve heard first hand accounts of this happening to YouTubers and other celebrities, and the idea alone is enough to make me hyperventilate. Perhaps my home in the country will be an underground bunker…

This fear is, of course, compounded by gender. I’ve worked my fair share of gigs in retail with overly amorous clientele. I’ve been stalked by blokes who thought that a friendly sales person was actually a flirt. I’ve been hounded by men insistent that I am their future wife and they would treat me so well, if only I could be made to see it. I’ve had some of those men turn aggressive and threatening when I state in no uncertain terms that I am not interested. I’ve lost sleep and had panic attacks (and before anyone decides to explain to me that it’s not that bad, I highly recommend a little site called When Women Refuse).

Fans showing up at my door, even if just for a chat or an autograph, would absolutely trigger all of this nonsense. They would be a thoroughly unwelcome presence in my space. The utter lack of concern they show for a person’s need for privacy and even their mental well-being is frightening. Just thinking about it is making me get clammy.

(5) NASA. A Dublin 2019 Worldcon Special Guest is in the news.

(6) GET UP TO SPEED. Nisi Shawl’s “A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction” is an annotated list of 40 black science fiction works that are important to an understanding of the history of Black Science Fiction. Shawl comments in the introduction —

…Just one caveat before you start ordering and downloading and diving into things: some of these works could be construed as fantasy rather than science fiction. The distinction between these two imaginative genres is often blurred, and it’s especially hard to make out their boundaries when exploring the writing of African-descended authors. Why? Because access to the scientific knowledge from which SF often derives has been denied to people of the African diaspora for much of history. And the classification of what is and is not scientific knowledge hasn’t been under our control–it’s frequently a matter of dispute. Also, it’s sometimes difficult to understand the history of black science fiction without reference to the history of black fantasy.

Keeping in mind how inextricably the two genres are interwoven, I include works of fantasy in this history of black science fiction crash course reading list, though I’m careful to note their presence with a parenthetical F at the end of each entry, thusly: (F).

(7) STAY THE COURSE. And Worlds Without End has created a “A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction Reading List” to help readers track their progress, plus a “Roll-Your-Own Reading Challenge” on reading “Speculative Fiction by Authors of Colour”. (Note: You must be a logged in member of WWEnd to join this challenge. Join WWEnd).

(8) ESSENCE OF WONDER. This week’s Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron features “Nisi Shawl on Music, Spirituality, and the Creative Process”.

Nisi Shawl will join Gadi to co-host a show on music and spirituality in the creative process. Nisi will be joined by Iya Oshunmiwa for a discussion of West African religious traditions and how Nisi’s work relates to those traditions. Oshun Miwa is a Priest of Oshun and professional storyteller?. Nisi and Gadi will explore the role of music in Nisi’s life and work, and we’ll also have a reading from Nisi’s work.

(9) CLASHING THE SYMBOLS. Ros Anderson holds forth “On the Difficulty of Finding a Distinct Human Voice for an AI heroine”, and finds help in a thousand-year-old book.

…I stopped reading the AI books once I hit the first unfathomable equation. Instead, I found myself carrying The Pillow Book around with me, as if it were a balm that I wanted always to have on hand. In Japan, The Pillow Book is a set school text. It has been hailed as one of the earliest works of literature by a woman. But I believe that what has truly given it longevity—across a whole millennium—is Sei’s own distinctive, seductive voice.

Her writing feels like a witty and perceptive friend, cutting in her opinions, but never too serious. Some have even called Shonagon—mistakenly—shallow. The Pillow Book has been described as a 1,000-year-old proto-blog. It has some of that same immediacy and intimacy. That sense of fun.

When I went to my friends’ café each morning to write my own book, The Pillow Book would be tucked in my bag. Something of its timeless narrator slipped a circuit and made it into my writing too. Sylv.ie’s voice began to emerge: a mix of politeness, restraint and disarming honesty. Naïve and rather snobbish, but with a clear, outsider’s eye.

(10) FANFUND AUCTION AT COLUMBUS VIRTUAL NASFIC. [Item by Michael J. Lowrey.] The Fanfund Auction at the Columbus in 2020 Virtual NASFIC has closed, with total sales of US$549.01. Items sold ranged from chapbooks, to naming rights in a new shared universe. to a knitted lace shawl, to private cocktail classes, to a crocheted Irish steampunk textile postcard.

Even though it was a NASFIC, participants included (at a minimum) fen from Germany, Ireland, Poland, the U.S., the U.K. and Australia.

(11) DE-BOOK ‘EM, DANNO. Smithsonian Magazine has “The Inside Story Of The $8 Million Heist From The Carnegie Library”.

…There are two types of people who frequent special collections that are open to the public: scholars who want to study something in particular, and others who just want to see something interesting. Both groups are often drawn to incunables. Books printed at the dawn of European movable type, between 1450 and 1500, incunables are old, rare and historically important. In short, an incunable is so valued and usually such a prominent holding that any thief who wanted to avoid detection would not steal one. The Oliver Room thief stole ten.

Visitors and researchers alike love old maps, and few are more impressive than those in Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, commonly known as the Blaeu Atlas. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s version, printed in 1644, originally comprised three volumes containing 276 hand-colored lithographs that mapped the known world in the age of European exploration. All 276 maps were missing….

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 25, 1951, Space Patrol’s “A Big Wheel Named Ferris” first aired. The series was created by Mike Moser who was the series writer along with Norman Jolley. The principal cast was Ed Kemmer, Lyn Osborn, Ken Mayer, Virginia Hewitt, Nina Bara and Bela Kovacs. Although aimed at children, it had a sizeable adult following for its fifteen-minute and half-hour versions. Books, comic books and a radio series were soon to be added. Even toys would be offered to the viewers. You can watch this episode here.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 25, 1909 Michael Rennie. Definitely best-remembered as Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still. He would show up a few years later on The Lost World as Lord John Roxton, and he’s got an extensive genre series resume which counts Lost in Space as The Keeper in two episodes, The Batman as The Sandman, The Time TunnelThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Invaders. (Died 1971.) (CE)
  • Born August 25, 1913 – Walt Kelly.  Having acknowledged Herriman’s Krazy Kat as immortal and unique, what does that leave for Kelly’s Pogo?  There is something sublime about the Kat; but Pogo is superb.  If the Kat is brandy, say Delamain, Pogo may be bourbon, say Willett.  Here is a sample.  Here is another.  Judith Merril put Pogo in No. 6 of her Year’s Best SF.  Fantagraphics is up to vol. 6 of a complete run.  (Died 1973) [JH]
  • Born August 25, 1930 Sir Sean Connery, 90. Best film? From Russia with Love. Best SF film? Outland. Or Time Bandits you want go for silly. Worst film? Zardoz. These are my choices and yours no doubt will be different. (CE) 
  • Born August 25, 1947 – Michael Kaluta, 73.  Fifty covers, two hundred fifty interiors.  Interviewed in Realms of Fantasy.  Artbooks The Studio (with Jones, Windsor-Smith, Wrightson), The MK CollectionMK Series 2Dream Makers (with Grant, Heller, Moore, Vess, Wrightson), EchoesWings of TwilightMK Sketchbook vols. 1-4.  Comics, music albums, role-playing games, collectible cards; airplane-nose art and flight-unit patches.  Here is the Baycon ’87 Program Book.  Here is Davy.  Here is Vector 276.  Here is Deep Signal.  Shazam Award.  Inkpot.  Chesley for Artistic Achievement.  Spectrum Grand Master.  [JH]
  • Born August 25, 1955 Simon R. Green, 65. I’ll confess that I’ve read pretty much everything he’s written save his NYT best-selling Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. (Shudder! I did see it.) Favorite series? The NightsideHawk & Fisher and Secret History are my all-time favorite ones with Drinking Midnight Wine the novel I’ve re-read the most. His only active series now is the Ishmael Jones fantasy mystery and it’s quite excellent. (CE) 
  • Born August 25, 1956 – Chris Barkley, 64.  Con-goer; several hundred including some three dozen Worldcons when I last tried to count; I often find him doing Press Relations.  Campaigned for a Young Adult award; we now have the Lodestar.  Accessibility and diversity, too, get his labors.  Vigorous contributor to File 770.  Fan Guest of Honor at Windycon 2019.  “You have to walk a fine line between your utter conviction that you are right AND feeling flexible enough in your beliefs that you can admit you are wrong or can compromise.”  [JH]
  • Born August 25, 1958 Tim Burton, 61. Beetlejuice is by far my favorite film by him. His Batman is interesting. Read that comment as you will. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is definitely more Dahlish than the first take was, and Sleepy Hollow is just damn weird. (CE)
  • Born August 25, 1959 – Georges T. Dodds, Ph.D., 61.  Essays, reviews, in ArgentusSF SiteWARP.  Edited The Missing Link and Other Tales of Ape-Men.  Did an adaptation of Lemina’s To-Ho and the Gold Destroyers.  Note that his reviews include The Ghost Book of Charles Lindley, Viscount Halifax; Mary Shelley’s Last Man; and Brooks’ Freddy the Detective.  [JH]
  • Born August 25, 1967 – Laura Anne Gilman, 53. Thirty novels, six dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors, some under other names; more outside our field.  Managed a wine-tasting room awhile.  Interviewed in After HoursApexElectric VelocipedeFantasyInterGalactic Medicine ShowStrange Horizons.  “Writer, editor, tired person”.  Amen.  [JH]
  • Born August 25, 1970 Chris Roberson, 50. Brilliant writer. I strongly recommend his Recondito series, Firewalk and Firewalkers. The Spencer Finch series is also worth reading. He’s also written two Warhammer novels, Dawn of War and Sons of Dorn, and Is publisher with his wife Allison Baker of Monkey Brain Books. He won a Sidewise Awards for Alternate History for his O One novella which I’ve not read. (CE)   
  • Born August 25, 1971 – Lisa Papademetriou, 49.  A dozen novels, some under another name; more outside our field; many for young adults, but your mileage may vary.  Ranks The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy about the same as The Wave in the Mind.  [JH]
  • Born August 25, 1987 Blake Lively, 33. She was Adaline Bowman in The Age of Adaline, a neat meditation upon life and death. She also played Carol Ferris in that Green Lantern film but the less said about it the better. Her very first role was as Trixie / Tooth Fairy in The Sandman at age eleven. (CE)

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) THEME PARK ON THE ROCKS. “Evermore faces financial ruin after failing to pay contractors”Utah Business has the story.

“My wife [Patrice] and I have cried many nights over this project,” says Ken Bretschneider, founder and CEO at Evermore Park. “This is not a position we wanted or should have gotten into.” 

Only eight years ago, Bretschneider invested more than $37 million (and counting) of his own fortune largely from the sale of his previous startup DigiCert in 2012 to build a sort of live-action theme park in Pleasant Grove, Utah. He hired dozens of contracted construction workers to bring his medieval vision to life, but as plans became more and more grandiose, Bretschneider found himself strapped for cash and unable to make payments to the teams building the park.

Bretschneider claims he’s been fighting for additional funding something he says has been hard to procure for a unique project such as this but until he does, he owes millions of dollars in construction, mechanic, and landscaping fees to workers across the valley who have yet to be paid, sparking a number of controversies across the state…. 

(16) DREAM FOUNDRY WRITING CONTEST. The Dream Foundry Writing Contest is taking submissions through October 11, 2020. The contest  will be judged by Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld Magazine. Full guidelines here.

We’re looking for complete and finalized stories of speculative fiction of up to 10,000 words. This year, we’re proud to announce monetary prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places.

1st: $1000; 2nd: $500; 3rd: $200

There is no submission fee. All rights remain with the creators.

At the Dream Foundry blog there’s “An Interview with the Dream Foundry’s Writing Contest Coordinator Vajra Chandrasekera”.

Professional development spaces for emerging writers are not necessarily easily accessible to those who need it most. How do you see opportunities like the Dream Foundry’s writing contest fitting into the professional development of new and upcoming writers?

I think nine-tenths of “professional development” for a short story writer at the beginning of their career is learning how to make their own practice effective. This means figuring out what they want to write about and what they’re good at writing, and writing more stories where they do those things, ideally at the same time. Sometimes it’s just that a contest gives you a clearly defined set of constraints to work within, which can be very productive. Sometimes it’s good to hang out in a discord with a bunch of other people who are trying to solve the same problems you are—so you can commiserate and share experiences and animal pictures, if you’re into that sort of thing, and even if not, these are good spaces to eventually share knowledge about the industry, too.

(17) DREAM FOUNDRY ART CONTEST. The new Dream Foundry Art Contest coordinator is Dante Luiz, an illustrator and occasional writer from southern Brazil. He is one of the two Art Directors for Strange Horizons, and his first graphic novel was published in 2020 by comiXology Originals (CREMA, written by Johnnie Christmas).

The Dream Foundry Art Contest will run from 1 September 1 to November 1, 2020. The first place winner for the art contest will receive $1000. Guidelines are located here.

(18) LIFESAVING APP. From the creator of The Oatmeal.

About

This app was designed by Matt Inman, creator of The Oatmeal.

It was built and developed by Nick Inman, Matthew’s brother.

FAQ

When will it be available in the Google Play store?
It will be available at some point in space and time.

The app didn’t work for me! What should I do?
Try vigorously shaking your phone and rebooting your router.
If that fails, try blowing profusely into your phone’s charge port.
If that fails, accept that the universe is fundamentally against you.
Just please don’t email us about it.

Does this app work on dogs?
No. That’s why it has the word “cat” in the title.

What about tigers?
Yes, it is tiger-compatible.

(19) ANOTHER ORDINARY DAY ON THE INTERNET. Think of your experiences on Facebook. Ever wonder how you got into arguments you don’t even want to be in? Ever had to block someone? Now think of having to deal with 800 times as much of it as you do. Okay. Now you’re ready to hear Larry Correia explain “About My ‘Tone’ On Social Media” [Internet Archive] on Monster Hunter Nation.

…I had one last month, with 8,000 comments, where I ended up blocking over 100 people in 24 hours. That was nuts.

Apparently, where all these people come from, blundering into a stranger’s living room and screaming in his face is a “conversation”. And if you don’t put up with their endless abuse, you’re obviously a bad person.

Awesome.  I’ll be the bad guy.

And it is bipartisan. Though I’d say 80% of the time I’m yelled at by annoying leftists, 15% it’s annoying right wingers, and 5% Too Fucking Insane To Register On Any Regular Political Scale.

That’s for controversial posts. For regular, boring, not controversial posts at all, I can count on getting lots of “helpful” suggestions. These mean well, but then never stop coming, and most of them are so awful they really make my head hurt. You’re right, sir, I should totally install more electrical outlets into my closet. Why thank you, ma’am, I should totally disregard my decade of professional experience and write my books according to your really awful suggestions.

Then there’s the people who think they are funny, who aren’t. I’ve heard the same tired jokes 10,000 times. I can’t post about the availability of a new product without Shut Up And Take My Money memes, and I can never mention food spicier than white bread without listening to dozens of people whine about how weak their bowels are…

(20) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Gizmodo warns “Trillions of Rogue Planets Could Be Careening Through Our Galaxy”. And none of them are insured.

A new estimate suggests the Milky Way contains more free-floating planets than stars. It’s a big claim, but an upcoming mission might actually prove it.

Rogue planets in our galaxy could number in the tens of billions and possibly even trillions, according to new research published in the Astronomical Journal. If confirmed, it means the Milky Way hosts more unbound, starless planets than it does stars. This estimate was developed in preparation for the Roman Galactic Exoplanet Survey (RGES), a five-year mission that’s scheduled to start in about five to six years.

(21) THE SHAPE OF THINGS THAT ARE PRESENT. “Johannes Kepler and COVID-19: 400 Years of Mathematical Modeling” on the Library of Congress Blog.

…Because viruses have such small genetic codes they have to be very efficient when it comes to building their shapes. Many, such as COVID-19, have polyhedral designs. A polyhedron is a three-dimensional shape with flat faces that are made of two-dimensional polygons. They have straight edges and sharp corners. As geometric figures, they have been studied since the time of the ancient Greeks.

In the early 17th century the astronomer Johannes Kepler, perhaps best known for his derivation of the laws of planetary motion, was fascinated by these shapes. In 1619, exactly 400 years before the outbreak of COVID-19, he produced a book called “Harmonices Mundi” (“Harmony of the Worlds”) that peered into and tried to understand these simple yet mysterious forms. The Library has copies of this work in the Rare Books and Special Collections Division.

(22) DOMESTIC FELICITY. What will SJWs think of the idea you can heat your home with cats? “Cat v panel heater: Which is better?” at New Zealand blog One Roof.

… How many cats do you need to heat an energy-efficient home?

It’s the question on everybody’s lips. Well, maybe not everyone’s lips, and it’s possible this is a niche topic, but it is relevant.

A 3kg cat has a heat output of 14.8 watts, or 129.65 kilowatt-hours – the metric commonly used by power companies to show you how much energy you’re using.

These numbers are important when it comes to the design and building of energy-efficient homes, as the heat output of random things like cats can lead to overheating.

For example, to be certified Passive House, a building must have an annual heating demand of less than 15kWh per square metre to maintain a comfortable temperature.

For a typical Kiwi house of 150sqm, the annual energy demand would be 2250kWh. The number of cats required, therefore, would be 17.35, but let’s avoid chopping cats and round up to 18 whole cats.

(23) WILL THEY MAKE YOU GLAZE OVER? Food & Wine  promises “These New Dunkin’ Beers Are Made with Actual Donuts”.

At this point, an endless parade of brands is dabbling in craft beer collaborations: bands like The Flaming Lips, clothing lines like L.L. Bean, and even the mustard maker French’s. But few companies have been as aggressive in their beer collab-ing ways as Dunkin’. After some early experiments in 2017 (a pumpkin brown ale with Catawba Brewing and a coffee stout with Wormtown Brewery), the donut and coffee chain found a lasting (and larger) partner in 2018 with the Massachusetts-based Harpoon Brewing. That year, the two brands released their Dunkin’ Coffee Porter. Then, in 2019, Harpoon Dunkin Summer Coffee Pale Ale hit shelves.

Now, for the 2020 fall season, Harpoon and Dunkin’ are releasing a full lineup of four beers—including three new brews, two of which are billed as the first beers to ever be made with actual Dunkin’ donuts. And tapping into craft beer’s biggest trend, one of those is even a donut-infused hazy IPA!

Arriving this September, Harpoon and Dunkin’ are bringing back their popular Coffee Porter for the third consecutive year—and it arrives alongside a trio of new creations: Harpoon Dunkin’ Pumpkin, Harpoon Dunkin’ Boston Kreme, and Harpoon Dunkin’ Jelly Donut. The first of the three is described as a “Spiced Latte Ale” inspired by the seasonal espresso drink. The “light in color and easy-drinking” 5.2 percent ABV ale is “brewed with real pumpkin, pumpkin pie spices, and a splash of coffee” to create “a perfect blend of all the autumn flavors we love, with just a touch of espresso-like roast.”…

(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Fall Guys, Ultimate Knockout” on YouTube, Fandom Games takes on a multi-player game where you “use five percent of your brain” to maneuver your character through a course “that’s somewhere between Battle Royale and a Japanese game show.”

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

Pixel Scroll 8/24/20 The Word For Scroll Is Pixel

(1) CULTURE CANCEL. Andrew Liptak tells Tor.com readers “Amazon’s Culture TV Series No Longer in the Works”. He also reports, “Ringworld doesn’t seem to be moving forward.” His source is Den of Geek, which has it from Utopia creator Dennis Kelly who said:

“In the end, I just think the estate didn’t want to go through with it. It wasn’t the material. They hadn’t seen anything [he had written], it was just because I think they weren’t ready to do it, for whatever reason. I’m a little mystified myself, to be honest.”

(2) ANOTHER NASFIC GOODY. The Columbus 2020 NASFiC published a Coloring Book of illustrations by some of their art show participants, including Artist Guest of Honor Stephanie Law. Download from Google Drive here.

(3) LEVYING A TAXONOMY. James Wallace Harris asks “When Did E. M. Forster’s ‘The Machine Stops’ Become Science Fiction?” at Classics of Science Fiction.

In 1909 E. M. Forster’s story “The Machine Stops” was published in the November issue of The Oxford and Cambridge Review. It is a dystopian tale about a future society run by a machine. Forster was replying to H. G. Wells novel, A Modern Utopia serialized in the Fortnightly Review in 1904 and 1905. Neither writer thought they were writing science fiction because, first, the term did not yet exist, and second, because Wells was promoting scientific socialism and Forster was protesting it. However, both stories had all the trappings of science fiction.

A Modern Utopia is seldom remembered by science fiction fans, but “The Machine Stops” is considered one of the classics of the genre, and often reprinted in retrospective anthologies of science fiction short stories.

(4) MERCURY RISING. The Right Stuff, a new scripted original series begins airing October 9 on Disney+.

Tor.com’s Andrew Liptak, in “The First Trailer for Disney+’s The Right Stuff Shows Off a Familiar Story of Heroics”, takes this approach:

…What many of these stories boil down to is that a group of white men worked really hard to reach the Moon, and did.

To be sure, it’s an incredible achievement. But it’s not the full story, and a new body of works like Hidden Figures, Apple’s For All Mankind, Mercury 13, and Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut novels have begun to reinterpret and puncture the mythos that’s surrounded Apollo for decades, highlighting the role that marginalized mathematicians, engineers, designers, and astronaut candidates played in that epic story.

(5) ANOTHER STAY-AT-HOME RECOMMENDATION. From the Time to Eat the Dogs podcast, “The Argument Against Human Colonies in Space”, via LitHub.

Time to Eat the Dogs is a podcast about science, history, and exploration. Each week, Michael Robinson interviews scientists, journalists, and adventurers about life at the extreme.

In today’s episode, Daniel Deudney makes the argument against the human colonization of space. He suggests that Space Expansionism is a dangerous project, a utopian ideal that masks important risks to human civilization. His latest book is Dark Skies: Space Expansionism, Planetary Geopolitics, and the Ends of Humanity….

Michael Robinson: You make the point in your book that futurists are people who are kind of connected to this idea of technological futurism, especially in space. Futurists are also usually space expansionists. I was thinking about that. I’m like, why would that have to be? Because there are all kinds of, let’s say, technologies of space that don’t require expansionism. You have all kinds of remote rovers, for example, and telescopes. So what’s the connection between space, futurism, and people who want to expand or colonize space?

Daniel Deudney: Well, there’s lots of different ideas in space expansionism. And certainly one of the most basic is exploration to acquire knowledge. Think about geographic exploration as a type of scientific activity where one goes to different places and makes, you know, empirical observations about those places. That’s what exploration is. So geography is a science in an important way. And that activity, as you intimated, doesn’t really require humans nearly as much as it will get in the past. This is one of the unique features of space exploration to date in comparison, say, to the exploration of the ocean or the Arctic or the atmosphere. We have robotic vehicles that have gone to Mars. Many of the bodies in the solar system have been visited by probes of increasing capability. And humans have only been briefly—50 years ago—to the moon. And so there is a sense in which a kind of prostatic or a robotic exploration has been occurring.

And the reason for this is kind of obvious, which is that the cost of putting a human into space and keeping a human alive is about the same as it was 50 years ago. Very high, very difficult. And the cost of sending a probe has been getting successively cheaper. This is, of course, because the generic technologies people say, oh, space technology has been advancing. Well, the technologies that have been advancing that are most important have not really been unique to space. They’ve been the same technologies rooted in revolutions and solid-state physics that underlay the Internet censors, obviously computing capability, communications. Think about the amount of bandwidth that we now etch into tiny parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, say, compared to what the electric telegraph could do. Bandwidth has been the big story.

(6) INFORMED TERROR. Spacefaring Kitten is “Paying a visit to Lovecraft Country” at Nerds of a Feather.

…When the bulby-eyed Lovecraft statue was finally retired in 2015, his most ardent admirers were so unhappy that they even returned the trophies they had previously won. As much Lovecraftiana is published as before, but the most memorable new works explicitly take aim at the racial attitudes of Lovecraft and his works. Victor LaValle’s “Ballad of Black Tom” rewrote the “The Horror at Red Hook” from the viewpoint of a black protagonist, and other such works are making it hard to even think about Lovecraft without considering his politics.

In Lovecraft Country, all the Lovecraftian monstrosities are there to make a very specific political point. Indeed, Shoggoths are roaming the night and there are things with way too many eyes and tentacles (and consonants in their names), but evil-wise they are nothing compared to the darkness of Jim Crow. It’s a good premise, even though it reduces the Lovecraftian to a gallery of slimy monsters, missing all the bleak lonely horror that I would actually consider Lovecraft’s claim to fame. Beings from alien dimensions and the fact that there used to be towns where non-whites are killed if they don’t leave before the sun sets are both terrifying.

(7) TODAY’S DAY.

August 24 – Pluto Demoted Day

PLUTO’S STATUS [NASA]:

Pluto’s classification as a planet has had a history of changes. Since 2006, per the International Astronomical Union’s planetary criteria, Pluto isn’t considered a planet because it hasn’t cleared the neighborhood around its orbit of other objects. However, it does meet IAU’s criteria for what constitutes a dwarf planet.

Pluto Demoted Day now takes place every year to mark that very occasion. 

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

August 24, 1966  — Fantastic Voyage premiered. It would lose out at NYCon 3 to Star Trek’s “The Menagerie” for Best Dramatic Presentation. It was directed by Richard Fleischer and produced by Saul David. The screenplay by Harry Kleiner from a story by Jerome Bixby and Otto Clement. The cast was Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Edmond O’Brien, Donald Pleasence, and Arthur Kennedy. Asimov wrote the novelization which came out six months before the film leading to the belief that it’s based on that novel. Critics generally liked it with one saying saying it was the best SF film since Destination Moon. It however didn’t catch on with public and was a box office failure. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an incredible 91% rating.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 24, 1872 – Sir Henry Maximilian Beerbohm.  Signed caricatures and was generally known as “Max”; when Bernard Shaw, whom he succeeded as drama critic for the (British) Saturday Review, wrote “The younger generation is knocking at the door; and as I open it there steps spritely in the incomparable Max”, that too stuck.  MB, then 26, celebrated since his Oxford days, was and remained deft and immaculate, treating himself as he did others, e.g. “I was a modest, good-natured boy.  It was Oxford that made me insufferable.”  Unfortunately for satire a blade seems just a strip of metal if we don’t see it cut.  Love of MB, or Jane Austen, or Lady Murasaki, calls for knowing their world.  MB is ours by virtue of Zuleika (rhymes with bleak-ahDobson, one further novel, six shorter stories, fictional memoirs in Seven Men and Two Others (expanded 1950 from Seven Men); he did much more.  Here is a caricature of himself.  (Died 1956) [JH]
  • Born August 24, 1896 – Stanton Coblentz.  A score of novels, six dozen shorter stories, fifty poems; more in history, criticism, other nonfiction.  Clute and Langford complain “never a smooth stylist, nor an imaginative plotter”, but “he had a strong gift for the description of ingeniously conceived alien environments, and was often regarded as … best capable of conveying the sense of wonder”.  Memoir Adventures of a Freelancer.  (Died 1982) [JH]
  • Born August 24, 1899 Jorge Luis Borges. I’m reasonably sure my first encounter with him was at University with the assignment of The Library of Babel. I’m not deeply read in him but I also loved The Book of Imaginary Beings, and though not genre, recommend The Last Interview and Other Conversations for an excellent look at him as a writer. (Died 1985.) (CE) 
  • Born August 24, 1915 Alice Sheldon. Alice Sheldon who wrote as James Tiptree Jr. was one of our most brilliant short story writers ever. She only wrote two novels, Up the Walls of the World and Brightness Falls from the Air but they too are worth reading even if critics weren’t pleased by them. And who here knows why Up the Walls of the World waswithdrawn from the Hugo nominations at Seacon ‘79?  (Died 1987.) (CE)
  • Born August 24, 1926 – Bea Mahaffey.  Edited MysticScience Stories and Other Worlds Science StoriesUniverse with Ray Palmer (sometimes jointly as “George Bell”).  Member of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group.  Spoke at Hydracon.  Visiting the United Kingdom she was celebrated in Northern Ireland with BEACon.  Here she is pulling strings at NYcon II (14th Worldcon; left, Lee Hoffman; center, Dave Kyle).  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  (Died 1987) [JH]
  • Born August 24, 1932 William Morgan Sheppard. Best remembered I think as Blank Reg in Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future. Genre wise I’d add him being the Klingon Prison Warden In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Merrit in The Prestige, the rather scary Soul Hunter on Babylon 5 and a Vulcan Science Minister in Star Trek. (Died 2019.) (CE) 
  • Born August 24, 1936 A. S. Byatt, 84. Author of three genre novels, two of which I’m familiar with, Possession: A Romance which became a rather decent film, and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature-winning The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, and one I’ve never heard of, Ragnarok: The End of the Gods,  but I’m actually much, much more fond of her short fiction. I’d start with the Little Black Book of Stories and Angels & Insects collections. (CE) 
  • Born August 24, 1951 Tony Amendola, 69. Prolly best known for being the Jaffa master Bra’tac on Stargate SG-1. He’s also had recurring roles as Edouard Kagame of Liber8 on Continuum and on Once Upon a Time as Pinocchio’s creator, Geppetto. His list of one-off genre appearances is extensive and includes AngelCharmed,  Lois & Clark, Space: Above and Beyond, the Crusade spin-off of Babylon 5X FilesVoyagerDirk Gently’s Holistic Detective AgencyTerminator: The Sarah Connor ChroniclesAliasShe-Wolf of London and Kindred: The Embraced. He’s also been a voice actor in gaming with roles in such games as World of Warcraft: Warlords of DraenorWorld of Warcraft: Legion and World of Final Fantasy. (CE)
  • Born August 24, 1951 – Orson Scott Card, 69.  Five dozen novels, a hundred shorter stories, a score of poems; video games, comics, film; nonfiction.  “Books to Look For” in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction May 87 – Dec 93.  InterGalactic Medicine Show 2005-2019.  Letters, essays, reviews in DestiniesGalaxies (France), The Green PagesSF Magazine (Japan), SF ReviewStarship.  Interviewed in «Alien Contact» JahrbuchFiction (France), The Leading EdgeLightspeedLocus, NY Rev of SFPhénixSF Eye.  Campbell Award for Best New Writer (as it then was); first author to win both Hugo and Nebula in consecutive years; three more Hugos; Mythopoeic Award; Phoenix; Skylark; Ditmar; two Geffens; Grand Prix de l’ImaginaireKurd Laßwitz PreisSeiun.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 24, 1957 Stephen Fry, 62. He’s Gordon Deitrich in V for Vendetta, and he’s the Master of Laketown in The Hobbit franchise. His best role is as Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows though he made an interesting narrator in the film version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and not to be overlooked is that he’s the narrator  for all seven of the Potter novels for the UK audiobook recordings. (CE)
  • Born August 24, 1961 – H.R.H. Sophie Audouin-Mamikonian, 59.  A score of novels for us, many young-adult fantasy.  Medals of the Legion d’Honneur and of Art et Lettres.  An heiress to the ancient throne of Armenia (thus entitled “Her Royal Highness”).  [JH]
  • Born August 24, 1983 – Jessica Wick, 37.  Short stories; poems in Aoife’s Kiss, Chi*ZineIdeomancerMythic DeliriumStar*LineStrange HorizonsUncanny; 2008 Rhysling anthology.  Can be found now in Shimmerzine.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

Editor’s Note: These links worked earlier today but now I can’t get the images to load at that site.

  • Half Full raises 2020 to mythical heights.
  • Bliss thinks there are some songs spacemen should let alone.

(11) RACE IN ASTERIX. Brigid Alverson and  Calvin Reid, in the Publishers Weekly story: “Race and Representation: Relaunching Asterix in America”, say that Papercutz is reprinting the Asterix comics in America, but is worried about what to do about the “blatant white supremacy” of Asterix scenes with Black characters.

…Acclaimed cartoonist Ronald Wimberly is an Eisner Award nominee, a Glyph Award-winner, was resident comics artist at the Maison des Auteurs in Angoulême, home of the annual French comics festival, and is a media and cultural critic. He is also the editor/founder of the broadsheet pop culture and art critical journal LAAB: An Art Magazine, where he has written about depictions of Blackness in comics. He described the Asterix comics as “blatantly white supremacist.”

“It’s clear that Uderzo has the chops to draw a myriad of things,” said Wimberly, who saw some of the original Asterix art while living in France. “It’s true that he has a limited bag of tricks for characters, but he takes the time to differentiate by type and by importance. He has three traits to differentiate slaves from other characters: black skin, full lips, and ‘oriental’ clothing and accessories.”

Wimberly continued, “Even a child knows that the Romans kept all types of slaves and promoted ethnicities of all types to high position, so it’s easy to see that the purpose of making all of the slaves black is a modern, white supremacist device.”

…[Papercutz president and publisher Terry Nantier] says that the publisher did agree to a few subtle changes—the enormous red lips have been recolored and subdued, up to a point. Asked about adding, for example, an explanatory essay to each book that provides context about the history of race and representation, Nantier said he continues to negotiate with Hachette. “But this is a classic, and we have to keep that in mind,” he says.

“The series has caricatures of absolutely everyone, including the Gauls,” Nantier says in its defense. “Everyone is skewered, every nationality, and this was the way 50-60 years ago that Black people were caricatured. There are issues of stereotypical representation which by today’s standards are a problem. We weren’t able to get much changed, but there were some changes.”

(12) ELLER’S THIRD BRADBURY BOOK. The University of Illinois Press is running a “Ray Bradbury Birthday Bundle Sale” with prices good til August 28. (See prices at the link.)

Happy 100th birthday, Ray Bradbury! The Press is excited to announce that today, on the Bradbury Centennial, we are releasing the final addition to Jonathan Eller’s Ray Bradbury trilogy, Bradbury Beyond Apollo. Drawing on numerous interviews with Bradbury and privileged access to personal papers and private collections, Eller, the director of the Bradbury Center, uses this final installment to examine the often-overlooked second half of Bradbury’s working life.

(13) WHAT DOES YOUR EMPLOYER REALLY MEAN? “Five Pocket-Sized Paperbacks and the Art of Sneaky Reading” — James Davis Nicoll initiates his Tor.com audience in the way to improve each shining hour:

… Passing the long hours reading was officially forbidden.  But…they can’t have meant it. The security uniform boasted a breast pocket just the right size and shape to conceal a mass market paperback.  There’s a hint right there.

Which books made their way into that pocket? I am glad you asked. Here are my top five.

(14) LOOKNG OVER THE SHELVES. Paul Weimer leads a Q&A with the author of Annihilation Aria in “6 Books with Michael Underwood” at Nerds of a Feather.

5) What’s one book, which you read as a child or a young adult, that has had a lasting influence on your writing?

A series I’ve thought about recently that I think made a bigger impact on me than I’d realized is the Death’s Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman (starts with Dragon Wing). The series presents a universe where the four elements each have their own world in a multiverse. I remember a strong travelogue/magical setting tourism angle in those books, and they made a big impression on me in terms of worldbuilding and the idea of several connected worlds, each with their own unique characteristics and cultures. I’ve riffed on that type of worldbuilding in Genrenauts as well as in different ways in some projects that haven’t yet reached publication.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Lord of the RIngs: The Return of the King Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George warns us to be prepared for Frodo’s “armor that looks like a prom dress,” terrifying scenes of cherry tomato eating, and seven different climaxes a half hour after the film should have ended.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/23/20 Scrolling In The Pixel Rain

(1) COLUMBUS 2020 NASFIC. The latest North American Science Fiction Convention ended today. NASFiC Newsletter is a place where you’ll find preserved such vital information as —

NASFiC by the Numbers

As of 11:30 pm on Saturday there were 1092 people registered through the convention website and 716 people on Discord.

Souvenir Book

We all know no one reads the souvenir book until they’re home, long after the con has ended. But since you’re ALREADY home, you can read it now! Read about our awesome Guests of Honor! Check out the convenient lists of artists and dealers, in case you want to follow up on something you saw at the con. Click to download your copy!

Out of context quotes

“Our asses are full of miracles”

“The attendees… or my minions. Whichever is more convenient”

“I just want to give all of you a big hug with my sand snork”

I can also recommend the NASFiC History section because some of it is written by yours truly. It begins with the site selection vote held in 1973 for the original NASFiC of 1975:

…Each bid was led by a co-chair of L.A.Con I, the just-completed Worldcon, Charles Crayne or Bruce Pelz.

…Crayne and Pelz reacted to TorCon 2’s [decision] simply by running their own site selection process at the con. I got my first bidding experience while helping Bruce Pelz and Milt Stevens haul cases of beer from a package store to their bid party in Toronto’s Royal York Hotel. “Strong backs, weak minds,” I think Bruce said. When the ballots were counted, we (Bruce and Milt may be thinking, “What do you mean, we?”) lost to Chuck Crayne’s bid.

(2) OKORAFOR Q&A. NPR’s Weekend Edition spoke with Nnedi Okorafor about her new book: “A Boy Avenges His Murdered Father, With The Help Of A Magical ‘Ikenga'”.

On whether the themes in the book were inspired by present-day corruption

I started writing this in 2009. … What we’re dealing with now in the United States, it’s not something that just happened. It’s been been going, and going, and going, and if we’re talking about Nigeria, Nigeria has been battling corruption for a very long time as well. … I couldn’t say that it was inspired by current events, but its connection to current events is certainly no accident.

On having a more global perspective

It was like I grew up hybrid — this hybrid culture where … I’m learning about two different histories and blending them together. And so when I sat down to write, that’s what naturally came forth. … When it comes to looking at things historically, I look at it in a very broad, global way. Everything that happens, you know, I’m making connections not just from one country, but from two countries.

(3) CLARION WEST. The Clarion West Write-a-Thon reached new heights:

…We set a new record as 542 individual writers participated, with nearly 250 active regulars bonding and sharing writing on our Slack channel. We are so proud and grateful!

In all, we raised over $26,000, surpassing our goal and ensuring we can continue to bring the Clarion West resources and experience to the world. Going online with so many classes, most of them free, was a huge investment. We can say without doubt that this investment has paid off!

(4) BUG NIGHT. Clarion West will be hosting a free online event with Seanan McGuire and an entomologist. Register at the link.

Saturday, Sept 12, 6:00 PM Pacific

Insects, Arachnids, and Fellow Travelers, a.k.a “Bug Night”

Join us for a conversation with award-winning author Seanan McGuire and entomologist Kristie Reddick to discuss how science fiction and fantasy use bugs as proxies for aliens, societies, fears, and hopes. From Alien to Ant Man, Starship Troopers to James and the Giant Peach, what do all these stories have to tell us about being human?

Register here. This event is free to view online. Purchase a ticket to join the live Q&A after the event. Limited higher-tier tickets also get you books and other goodies for supporting Clarion West!

(5) RECONVENE AFTER ACTION REPORT. Mlex tells what it was like to virtually attend “reCONvene 2020”, and has quotes from some of the panels.

…reCONvene has now assembled and accomplished a hybrid version of the other cons I attended. And they did it really well!

The format of reCONvene was to set up a series of simultaneous program items, so that you could only attend one out of several that were happening during any given hour. This is the typical parallel programming style of most cons, so it had a natural feel to it. Since the con was a one-day event, this meant that between the hours of 11am to 5pm, you could attend six full panels sessions, at most. Or, if you are the sort to go in and out of rooms during a con, you could pop around and get a flavor for the multiple things going on.

Glimpsing Climate Recovery

Vincent Dougherty (moderator)
Vandhana Singh

Vandhana Singh started off the session by noting that the looming threat of climate change is not being met with the serious measures it requires. On the contrary, the collective juggernaut of humankind is colliding with it head on.

VandhanaIt’s a so called ‘normal’ way of behavior that brought us here. People are so invested in what feels normal for them, their denial kicks in, and they want to do the same things they have always done in the same way. I really didn’t realize the depth to which the current paradigm has a hold on our imaginations. And you can also see the predicted rise of right-wing groups actually taking place before our very eyes.

VinceIn any complex system you not only get the linear effect, but you get all sorts of unexpected outcomes that radiate out in different directions. There’s an established body of climate fiction that deals with these actually. There were archetypes of them even before the 20th century. And each of these stories attempts to deal with the inexplicable change that suddenly occurs. These could be brought on by wars, pandemics, or even the use of agriculture. Historically all of these, and many other factors, have been proven to be causes of total systemic changes. So, what do you think you are going to change in your fiction writing due to this situation that we find ourselves in?

(6) JUDGE EAST OF THE PECOS. Adam Roberts tells The Guardian’s readers about a book that pleased him: “Mordew by Alex Pheby review – an extravagant, unnerving fantasy”.

…I’m one of the judges for the 2020 World Fantasy award and over the last few months I’ve read literally hundreds of fantasy titles, some good, some bad, most mediocre. I might easily have groaned at yet another entry into this overcrowded mode. But Mordew is a darkly brilliant novel, extraordinary, absorbing and dream-haunting. That it succeeds as well as it does speaks to Pheby’s determination not to passively inhabit his Gormenghastly idiom but instead to lead it to its most extreme iteration, to force inventiveness and grotesqueness into every crevice of his work. It seems that one way to take an apparently exhausted idiom and make it new is just to push through, with enough imaginative energy to refresh the tired old tropes. Mordew is so crammed with grotesque inventiveness that it overwhelms the reader’s resistance.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 23, 1965 Dr. Who And The Daleks starring Peter Cushing premiered in the U.K. Note that  it was not Who canon as, though it used The Daleks serial script by Terry Nation from the series as its basis, The Doctor here is not part of the regenerations accepted by the BBC. Roberta Tovey as Susan and Jennie Linden as Barbara are the other principal cast. It was directed by Gordon Flemyng, and produced by Milton Subotsky and Max J. Rosenberg from a screenplay by Subotsky. Neither Clute nor anyone else who’s reviewed cared for it or its sequel. A Guardian reviewer several years back said that, “people don’t talk about Dr Who and the Daleks any more.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently have the film at a 41% rating. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 23, 1863 – Amélie Rives, Princess Troubetzkoy.  A score of novels (we may claim The Ghost Garden), shorter stories, paintings, plays; three poems in Fantasy & Terror 13 (ed. J.A. Salmonson; published posthumously).  Introduced to Prince Pierre Troubetzkoy (1864-1936) by Oscar Wilde.  Matter by and about her and the Prince in U. Virginia Lib’y Special Collections.  (Died 1945) [JH]
  • Born August 23, 1898 – George Papashvily.  Author, sculptor, inventor.  Fought in Georgian Menshevik Army against Soviet Russians, immigrated here.  Memoir Anything Can Happen (with wife Helen) sold 1.5 million copies, made a motion picture (G. Seaton dir. 1952); five more books.  We may claim “Davit” and “The Khevsouri and the Eshmakie”.  (Died 1978) [JH]
  • Born August 23, 1924 – Lloyd Birmingham.  A score of covers, thirty interiors.  Here is the Nov 61 Fantastic.  Here is the Feb 62 Analog.  Here is the Apr 62 Amazing and here is the Oct 63.  Here is Great SF 9.  Also comics, freelance illustration.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born August 23, 1927 Peter Wyngarde. Not one who was a lead actor in any genre series save Department S where he was Jason King but interesting none-the-less. For instance, he shows up in the two Sherlock Holmes series, one with Peter Cushing and one with Jeremy Brett. He’s in a series of Doctor Who with the Fifth Doctor and he faces off against the classic Avengers pairing of Steed and Peel. He shows up as Number Two in The Prisoner as well. (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born August 23, 1929 Vera Miles, 90. Lila Crane in Psycho which she reprised in Psycho II. On a much more family friendly note, she’s Silly Hardy in Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle, the very last of the twelve Tarzan pictures released by RKO. She has done one-offs on Buck Rogers in Twentieth CenturyFantasy IslandThe Twilight ZoneAlfred Hitchcock PresentsI Spy and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (CE)
  • Born August 23, 1931 Barbara Eden, 89. Jeannie on I Dream of Jeannie. Her first genre role however was on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Lt. Cathy Connors, though she’d show up a few years later as Greta Heinrich on The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. Some thirty-five years after I Dream of Jeannie went off the air, she had a recurring role as Aunt Irma on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. (CE) 
  • Born August 23, 1944 Karl Alexander. Author of Time after Time which when filmed was directed and written by Nicholas Meyer. Cast includes Malcolm McDowell, Mary Steenburgen and David Warner. (A thirteen-episode series would happen in 2017.) His sequel of Jaclyn the Ripper is not as well known, nor is his Time-Crossed Lovers novel. (Died 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born August 23, 1947 – Marva Dasef, 73.  Technical writer who turned to fiction.  Three novels, twenty shorter stories for us; various others.  Ranked The Martian above Dhalgren.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 23, 1961 Alexandre Desplat, 59. French film composer who won an Academy Award for The Shape of Water. He also composed the music for genre films including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Golden CompassFantastic Mr. FoxHarry Potter and the Deathly HallowsRise of the Guardians, and Isle of Dogs. (CE)
  • Born August 23, 1969 – Benjamin Rosenbaum, 51.  One novel, five dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors.  Translated into Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Urdu.  Software developer for Nat’l Science Foundation, for Washington, D.C., city government; built on-line game Sanctum.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 23, 1983 – Winston Blake Wheeler Ward, 37.  Founded Infinite Worlds magazine with a Kickstarter raising $3,500 from a hundred people (target $1,500) in Apr 19; five issues so far.  Founder & curator of on-line monthly flash-fiction challenge the Five Hundred.  Loves woodworking and dogs.  [JH]
  • Born August 23, 1990 Jessica Lee Keller, 30. Lauren, Elise’s Best Friend, in The Adjustment Bureau from Philip K. Dick’s “Adjustment Team” story. She also shows up in LuciferTerror Birds and 12-24 where IMDB describes her as the One Tit Zombie. (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) NOW AT BAT. Warner Bros. dropped a trailer during the DC Fandome for The Batman with Robert Pattinson.

(11) FANTASTICON ONLINE IN SEPTEMBER. Denmark’s “Fantasticon 2020 becomes virtual”.

This year’s Fantasticon will not be “The Weird Fantasticon” at our usual venue, but will be a virtual convention, like most other conventions during the Covid-19 pandemic. The dates will be 5-6 September 2020.

This post has more specifics: “The virtual Fantasticon 2020 – update”

Our plans for Fantasticon 2020 now include the following:

A virtual onetrack program on Zoom Saturday and Sunday 5-6 September from 10 Am to 4 PM.

A Discord server where you can meet the other fans and get information about the convention. Opens 9:30 AM on September 5th and closes 4:30 PM on September 6th.

Please sign up by buying a (free) ticket on Billetfix, https://billetfix.dk/da/e/virtual-fantasticon-2020/ You will get links to Zoom and the Discord server via the email you give us there.

The theme of Fantasticon will be disasters, but not a word about the covid-19 pandemic (we get plenty of info on that particular disaster from other sources). But as usual, not everthing will be about the theme.

Some of the program will be in English, some of it in Danish.

(12) FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE. Texas Monthly caught up with the founder of Romance Writers of America: “Vivian Stephens Helped Turn Romance Writing Into a Billion-Dollar Industry. Then She Got Pushed Out.”

…Stephens is 87 now, under self-imposed lockdown in one of those amenity-rich mid-rise apartment complexes that have sprouted all over Houston, this one just north of Hermann Park, in the Binz area. Her one-bedroom unit is cluttered with papers and stacks of books on nearly every surface. There are many romance novels, yes, as well as more-cerebral tomes such as A Nervous Splendor, a history of Vienna in the late 1880s. Family photographs, some dating back almost to that time, populate a small table in a living room corner….

…  It has long been an open secret—certainly among women of color—that romance publishing has a race problem. A 2014 survey of four thousand romance writers conducted by Larson revealed that authors of color earned about 60 percent less than white writers. In 2019, research conducted by the Ripped Bodice, in Los Angeles, one of the few bookstores in America to sell romance exclusively, revealed that only 8 percent of leading romance publishers had released novels by women of color. And, not incidentally or coincidentally, the membership of the RWA is 86 percent white, according to the latest data. No Black writer had won a RITA—formerly the RWA’s highest honor—until 2019, and not for want of trying….

(13) SAFETY FIRST. Ron Fein delivers the “Arkham Board Of Health Feedback On Miskatonic University’s Draft Plan For A Safe Campus Reopening” at McSweeneys.

Food services

We agree that students need not wear masks during meals. However, please revise the final plan to say “while eating,” rather than “while slobbering and ravening with delight.”

(14) ANOTHER PSA. Even CNN’s headline writer is exasperated: “Oh, great: NASA says an asteroid is headed our way right before Election Day”.

Well, 2020 keeps getting better all the time.

Amid a pandemiccivil unrest and a divisive US election season, we now have an asteroid zooming toward us.

On the day before the presidential vote, no less.

Yep. The celestial object known as 2018VP1 is projected to come close to Earth on November 2, according to the Center for Near Earth Objects Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It was first identified at Palomar Observatory in California in 2018.

“Asteroid 2018VP1 is very small, approximately 6.5 feet, and poses no threat to Earth. If it were to enter our planet’s atmosphere, it would disintegrate due to its extremely small size,” NASA said in a statement. “NASA has been directed by Congress to discover 90% of the near-Earth asteroids larger than 140 meters (459 feet) in size and reports on asteroids of any size.”

(15) SHOOTS AND LEAVES. CNN issues an invitation to “Meet the ‘SlothBot,’ the robot taking its sweet time to monitor our climate”.

…”I could not understand how these slow, tasty animals that are just sitting there waiting to be eaten by a jaguar could survive,” Egerstedt said. “So I started reading about sloths and I got really excited about embracing slowness in robotics. And when you’re measuring things that are evolving over weeks and months, you don’t have to be fast — it’s OK to be slow, as long as you’re out there and getting the job done.”

With this in mind, Egerstedt and several students in his lab came up with the idea to design a robot that could do just that — reach places that humans and most high-powered robots can’t, like a tree canopy, and stay there to monitor environmental changes over time.

To do this, the SlothBot needed to be extremely energy efficient — sloth-like, if you will — to conserve power and continue sampling the air, without having to be lowered down from the trees and recharged….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In 2016, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum made it possible to “Explore the Museum in Klingon”. Here’s a video based on the outtakes.

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is one of the galaxy’s most popular tourist destinations, and celebrates infinite diversity in infinite combinations among its visitors. Although we are fairly certain there are no longer undercover Klingon agents on staff, we welcome citizens of the planet Kronos to explore the history of flight on Earth alongside our terrestrial visitors.

To help increase Klingon visitorship, we turned to Earth’s premier extraterrestrial linguist and former Smithsonian post-doctoral fellow, Marc Okrand. Okrand developed the Klingon and Vulcan languages for the Star Trek franchise, and was kind enough to translate and record a highlights tour of the Museum, discussing your favorite artifacts in Klingon.

The tour, which can be enjoyed from anywhere on or off the planet, includes six of the Museum’s most iconic artifacts, some of which required creative interpretation for our interstellar audiences. The Spirit of St. Louis became St. Louis toDuj (Mettle of St. Louis), while John Glenn’s Mercury spacecraft Friendship 7 became “Mercury jup ghom Soch” (“Group of Friends 7”), because there is no Klingonese word for “friendship.”… 

[Thanks to John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Michael J. Walsh, John King Tarpinian, Mlex, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title cedit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 8/21/20 Pounded
In The Scroll By The Anthropomorphic Concept
Of Pixels

(1) COLUMBUS NASFIC OPENING CEREMONIES. [Item by David Doering.] Watching the Opening Ceremonies of the Columbus NASFiC, I noted the number of apologies for lack of the in-person meetings.

However, I also think we should celebrate that we are LIVING an SF novel. If we had written this 20 years ago, it would have been SF–real-time linkups with AV from around the globe!! Is that KEWL or what??

We did NOT have to cancel. We still have a great slate of programming. AND we still can get together to honor Mike Resnick.

I should add that we also don’t have worry about scaring each other with pathogens if we were in person. Thus potentially setting off a “War of the Worlds” scenario with all of us “aliens” descending on a single city only to be doomed by GERMS.

(2) ROGUE NASFIC. Chris Garcia is the virtual Columbus NASFiC’s Editor Guest of Honor. The con newsletter made everyone aware he’s also got some real-life concerns right now:  

Please share your positive thoughts, hopes, prayers – as appropriate – and spare a moment of contemplation for Christopher J. Garcia (GOH), his wonderful family Vanessa, John Paul and Ben, as they await news of their home, and neighbourhood, evacuated as they are from Boulder Creek in the Santa Cruz County CZU August Lightning Complex Fire. Certainly, we all wish them well. (submitted by James Bacon)

In better Chris Garcia news, check out his Rogue NASFiC YouTube channel of extra programming. As Chris explained on Facebook:

This is what happens when I’m given the power of Guest of Honor without oversight!

This YouTube Channel has some great videos of interviews and more! I’ll be adding as the Weekend (and beyond!) goes on!

Coming soon will be our Podcast channel!

I wanna thank the entire team of the NASFiC for letting me have a little fun!!!

Here’s one example:

(3) NINA ALLAN FIRES A CANON. [Item by PhilRM.] Here’s another very interesting piece by Nina Allan, discussing, among other things**, the notion of an SFF canon:  “Weird Wednesdays #11: the question of lineage”. There’s a well-known quote by Borges, from his essay on Kafka: “The fact is that every writer creates his own precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future.” Nina’s take (which I completely agree with) is that every writer creates their own canon; I’d extend this to say that every reader creates their own canon also.

**Her piece also convinced me that I really need to read William Golding’s The Inheritors and The Spire, which sound like fascinating books.

…I have explored and will continue to explore some of the ‘canonical’ works from science fiction’s so-called Golden Age – not because I feel I should but because I am interested. I enjoy thinking about these things, I enjoy writing criticism, and I happen to believe that the more widely you read around a subject, the more fiercely you can argue your corner, the more enjoyment you can derive. And having said that, I saw an interesting comment somewhere at some point during the post-Hugo furore with words to the effect that it is actually the middle generation of science fiction writers – Le Guin, Butler, Russ, Delany, Disch, Haldeman, Pohl – who are the true pioneers of the American tradition, who not only wrote better then but speak better now to the generation of writers currently winning Hugos. That definitely rings true for me, though it might not for you. But that’s the beauty of such contentions: they are there to be discussed.  

(4) SFF WRITERS ON AMW PODCAST. The American Writers Museum in Chicago is doing a series of science fiction-themed podcast episodes for the Ray Bradbury Centennial.

In celebration of Bradbury, the AWM will also air in August on its newly launched podcast four conversations with contemporary science fiction and fantasy writers. Each weekly episode of the podcast features one of the AWM’s past live programs and covers a range of topics including process, writing influences, and the life of a writer. J. Michael Straczynski, author of Becoming Superman headlines the August 10 episode. On the August 17 episode, Annalee Newitz, author of The Future of Another Timeline, is joined by journalist Dan Sinker. Hugo-Award winner John Scalzi, author of The Consuming Fire, is featured on the August 24 episode. Isabel Ibanez, author of Woven in Moonlight, closes out the month on the August 31 episode.

Episodes already online —

(5) THE POWER OF FIVE. James Davis Nicoll has assembled another listicle for Tor.com: “Five SF Books That Would Make Great Musicals”.

If there is one lesson to be learned from Hamilton’s Broadway success, it’s that a surprising diverse number of themes can be successfully turned into musicals. After all, who would have believed Ontario’s steel town—just a second—I have just been informed that the musical Hamilton is not in fact about Hamilton, Ontario, but rather about a significant figure in the American Revolution. I see.

Nevertheless, my point stands: almost everything can be turned into a musical, given sufficient talent. Even science fiction epics. Which brings me to the exciting topic of What Science Fiction Works I Would Like to See as Musicals.

(6)  HARRYHAUSEN SCULPTURE. This piece is up for bid at Nate D. Sanders Auctions until August 27. “Ray Harryhausen Original Bronze Sculpture — One of 12 in His Limited Edition Self-Portrait Entitled ‘Giving Life to Fantasy'”

Ray Harryhausen original sculpture, #10 in the limited edition of 12 created in the early 1990s, and then cast in 2010, the last work of fine art by the cinematic trailblazer before his passing. Entitled ”Giving Life to Fantasy”, this self-portrait sculpture depicts Harryhausen as he wanted to be remembered, filming the animated creatures of his imagination: the Cyclops and Dragon in their climactic battle in ”The 7th Voyage of Sinbad”. Other personal touches in this detailed sculpture include Harryhausen’s Giant Octopus from ”It Came from Beneath the Sea” in a box on the floor (along with his inspiration, the gorilla from ”King Kong”), and his Brontosaurus from ”The Animal World” on the side table. Signed and numbered by Harryhausen on the corner of the table, ”Ray Harryhausen 10/12”. Sculpture stands on a green marble and wooden base, with entire presentation measuring 19” x 11.5” x approximately 11” tall, and weighing nearly 50 lbs. Some light patina to bronze, overall near fine condition.

(7) HUNGER GAMES IN EVERYDAY LIFE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Reader, Financial Times.] This is the lede of an article by John Reed in the August 20 Financial Times about protests against the Thai government.

“It is a morning ritual at every Thai school, steeped in tradition and nationalist decorum: children stand still and sing the national anthem as the kingdom’s blue, white, and red flag is raised.

But this week, amid a growing ‘Free People’ youth protest movement, children across Thailand raised their hands during the ceremony to make the protesters’ trademark, defiant three-fingered salute.

The gesture originated in The Hunger Games, the dystopian young adult franchise of books and films, but has been adopted as an emblem of a movement that has spread from university campuses to secondary schools…

…”it has become a peacefully powerful symbol of anti-authoritarianism,’ said Viengrat Nethipo, assistant professor of political science at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University.  ‘Recently it’s been described among youth as symbolic of the French Revolution’s values of liberty, equality, and fraternity, so it’s easily adopted as a symbol.'”

(8) STATUE READY FOR PRIME TIME. [Item by rcade.] Medusa, a 2008 statue by the Argentine-Italian sculptor Luciano Garbati, is getting a seven-foot tall bronze version in New York City across from the New York Criminal Courthouse where Harvey Weinstein was put on trial. NSFW image in a tweet here

Garbati’s statue is a response to Benvenuto Cellini’s famous Perseus with the Head of Medusa statue and the idea that Medusa is the villain of the story.

Quartz explains in “The story behind the Medusa statue that has become the perfect avatar for women’s rage” – 

The original Greek myth of Medusa offers plenty to be angry about. The monstrous being with snakes for hair starts out as a human woman, who Poseidon rapes in Athena’s temple. The goddess then punishes Medusa by turning her into a Gorgon and exiling her. Perseus is later sent on an errand to bring Medusa’s head to King Polydectes. Equipped with a mirrored shield, winged sandals, and a special sack for her head, Perseus creeps up on Medusa while she lies sleeping, cuts off her head, and then uses it as a weapon for turning enemies into stone.”

Garbati says, “The representations of Perseus, he’s always showing the fact that he won, showing the head…if you look at my Medusa…she is determined, she had to do what she did because she was defending herself. It’s quite a tragic moment.”

(9) STEVEN UNIVERSE AND SHE-RA. “In Conversation: Rebecca Sugar and Noelle Stevenson” at Paper.

…With Steven Universe and She-Ra both having ended this year, PAPER invited showrunners Rebecca Sugar and Noelle Stevenson to sit down with one another and reflect on the legacies of their respective series, getting their start in comics, the state of representation in the animated field and where things go from here.

PAPER: Since you’re both wrapping up your respective series’, looking back at what each of you have accomplished, in those series what are you proud of, what do you wish you could have improved on or pushed further?

Rebecca Sugar: Okay, well looking back on everything, I’m really proud of what we were able to do with the characters of Garnet and Ruby and Sapphire. It really goes all the way back to the time I spent on Adventure Time and when I got a chance to do some of the earlier episodes with Marceline and Bubblegum. This was 2010 so Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was still a national policy. It would be half a decade before same-sex marriage was legal in The United States and I wanted to do something with the characters of Marceline and Bubblegum but figure out how to get it on TV. The strategy at the time that I pitched was that because they’re both centuries-old, millenniums-old, had a relationship sometime in the past and they’re unpacking that in a way that would be apparent. That was the only way to be able to do something with these characters and their relationship on screen.

As I was entering my show, I really wanted to find a way to be able to show characters actively in a relationship happening in real-time. We strategized the concept of fusion to be able to explore relationships and include queer relationships. Central to that, one of the things we were excited about was to have the character of Garnet have a ton of screen time and be a main character. There were a lot of things I wanted to explore with an active relationship to parallel my own relationship. I was inventing these characters with my co-executive producer Ian Jones-Quartey, who is also my partner. We wanted to explore an active, queer relationship that would parallel a lot of our experiences with bigotry as an interracial couple.

(10) N.K. [Item by rcade.] While discussing a project called Women’s Prize for Fiction Reclaim Her Name that asked to publish one of her stories for free, then asked to publish one of her novels for free, Nora Jemisin explains how she came to write novels under the initials N.K. Thread starts here.

“(And for those wondering, I’ve said this in multiple interviews, but I did it bc at the time I was an academic starting to publish papers, and thought the initials would separate my fiction writing from my academic writing. [Yeah, this was before natural language processing.])”

Read the whole thread for how she handles a question about what the K stands for.

(11) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • August 1998Blade premiered. With Wesley Snipes as Blade, this film, the first of a trilogy, was directed by Stephen Norrington and written by David S. Goyer as based on the Marvel character developed by writer Marv Wolfman and penciller Gene Colan. It was produced by Snipes along with Peter Frankfurt and Robert Engelman. Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, N’Bushe Wright and Donal Logue were the other principal cast. Marvel, along with Amen Ra Films and Imaginary Forces, were the producing film companies. It was generally well-received by critics though several thought it was way too violent. Box office-wise, it did fantastic but Marvel earned just a flat fee of $25,000. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently only give it a 55% rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 21, 1872 Aubrey Beardsley. Best remembered for his often highly erotic art, ISFDB lists him as having a genre novel, The Story of Venus and Tannhäuser, which bears one of the longest subtitles I’ve encountered (“The story of Venus and Tannhäuser in which is set forth an exact account of the manner of State held by Madam Venus, Goddess and Meretrix under the famous Hörselberg, and containing the Adventures of Tannhäuser in that Place, his Repentance, his Journeying to Rome, and Return to the Loving Mountain”). He has two genre novellas as well, “Catullus: Carmen Cl.“ and “ Under the Hill”.  And yes, he was just twenty-five when he died of tuberculosis. (Died 1898.) (CE) 
  • Born August 21, 1888 Miriam Allen deFord. Although it is said that she started writing SF when Boucher became editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, she only published five of her eighteen late Forties through Fifties works there. One published there, “Mary Celestial“, was written with Boucher. And one, “A Death in the Family”,  was adapted in Night Gallery‘s second season. Best remembered as a mystery writer.  I see no indication that she’s in print in any manner these days for her SF (but three of her mysteries are available from the usual suspects) though she had two SF collections, Elsewhere, Elsewhen, Elsehow and Xenogenesis.  (Died 1975.) (CE) 
  • Born August 21, 1911 – Anthony Boucher.  Co-founded The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction with Francis McComas, co-edited with him 1949-1954, alone through ’58; two Hugos for Best Professional Magazine.  Eight Best of F&SF anthologies 1952-1959 (’52-’54 with FM).  A Treasury of SF ’59, one of our best.  Six dozen short stories.  Translated into Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Russian.  Opera lover.  First translator of Borges into English, hello Evelyn Leeper.  Also detective fiction (a star there too), radio drama, poker.  (Died 1968) [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1927 – Arthur Thomson.  Fanartist.  Thirty covers, a hundred forty interiors.  Signature often read as “ATom”, some insist it’s just “Atom”.   Resident illustrator of Hyphen.  Back covers for Nebula.  Here is the Nov 64 Riverside Quarterly.  Here is Banana Wings 49 (repr. from An ATom Sketchbook).  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate, published ATom Abroad.  Official Artist of Boskone 15.  Two Novas.  Rotsler Award.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1943 – Ron Walotsky. A hundred eighty covers, fifty interiors.  Gallery in Locus 500.  Interview in SF Chronicle 214.  Magic: the Gathering cards.  Ancient Warriors of Lost Civilizations series based on horseshoe-crab shells found near his Florida home.  Here is the May 67 F&SF.  Here is Lord of Light.  Here is Earth Ship and Star Song.  Here is The Shores Beneath.  Here is Houston, Houston, Do You Read? (Souls cover bound with it is by Dieter Rottermund.)  Here is the Nov 97 Analog.  Here is Jimi Hendrix.  Artbook, Inner Visions.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1943 Lucius Shepard. Damn, I didn’t know he’d passed on. Life During Wartime which won him the Astounding Award for a Best New Writer is one seriously weird novel. And his World Fantasy Award winning The Jaguar Hunter is freaking amazing as are all his short collections. I don’t remember reading “ Barnacle Bill the Spacer” which won a Best Novella Hugo at ConFrancisco. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born August 21, 1956 Kim Cattrall, 64. Gracie Law in John Carpenter’s amazing Big Trouble in Little China. She also played Justine de Winter in The Return of the Musketeers, Paige Katz in Wild Palms, Lieutenant Valeris in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and Linday Isley in Good v. Evil. Series wise, she was one offs in Tales of the Gold MonkeyLogan’s RunThe Incredible Hulk and The Outer Limits. (CE);
  • Born August 21, 1957 – John Howe, 63.  A hundred sixty covers, two hundred fifty interiors.  The Maps of Middle-EarthThere and Back Again with Brian Sibley; A Middle-Earth Traveler.  Here is Rip van Winkle.  Here is The Lord of the Rings (presumably not meaning to imply Gandalf is he, aiee). Here is The Once and Future King.  Here is Fool’s Errand.  Here is Créatures.  Artbooks Myth & MagicSur les terres de TolkienJohn Howe Fantasy Art WorkshopForging DragonsLost WorldsColoring Dragons.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1965 – Darynda Jones, 55.  Sixteen novels, three shorter stories.  Summa cum laude from U. New Mexico.  Sign-language interpreter.  RITA Award.  Admits to almost finishing a post-Apocalypse story while in a corner booth at a Tastee Freez, kindly has never shown the manuscript.  Lives in New Mexico with husband and two sons the Mighty Mighty Jones Boys.  Third Grave Dead Ahead NY Times Best Seller.  [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1968 Carrie-Anne Moss, 52. I first saw her as Tara McDonald in the Dark Justice series. Not genre, just her first video I think. Due later played Monica Howard in the “Feeding the Beast” episode of Forever Knight as her first genre role. Oddly enough her next role was as Liz Teel in the Canadian series called Matrix which has nothing to do with the Matrix film franchise where she’s Trinity. Her latest genre role was playing Jeryn Hogarth in the now defunct Netflix based Marvel Universe. (CE)
  • Born August 21, 1972 – Socorro Vegas, 48.  Premio Nacional de Poesía y Cuento «Benemérito de América»Premio Nacional de Novela Ópera Prima «Carlos Fuentes» (Mexico).  Five book-length works (Todos las islas is short stories).  We may claim “The Giant in the Moon”, see it in English here.  Other translations in CompressedConcho River ReviewThe Listening EyeLiteralThe Modern Review.  [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1975 Alicia Witt, 45. Her first role was at age eight as Alia Atreides in David Lynch’s Dune. Next, genre wise at least, voices Caitlin Fairchild In the animated Gen¹³ film. She has series one-offs in Twilight ZonePerson of InterestElementaryWalking DeadSupernatural and The Librarians. She showed up in an episode of the original Twin Peaks and reprised that role nearly thirty years later in Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series. (CE) 

(13) DC FANDOME. In addition to everything else happening this busy weekend is the DC Fandome. It’s free and signing up is easy — here. The 24-hour event starts at 10 a.m. Pacific.

(14) GRATITUDES. In “i am grateful”, Wil Wheaton admits it’s hard for him to fall asleep because when he’s trying, that’s when anxiety works on him most aggressively. He shares a practice that has made it easier.  

…But I started doing something that’s been incredibly helpful, and I thought I’d share it.

Every night as I’m getting ready for bed, I focus on a list of things for which I am grateful. I call it “doing my gratitudes”. I just start somewhere, like “I am grateful that I am going to sleep in a warm, safe bed. I am grateful that I get to share this bed with Anne. I am grateful I have enough food.” Stuff like that. I remind myself that there is so much that is good in my life, and by thinking about those things, recognizing those things, and making space to feel grateful for them, I do not give my anxiety an opportunity to grab hold of anything and go to work on me.

… Those bright lights are so important right now, whether they are stadium lights turning night into day, or pinpricks that barely allow candlelight through black velvet. Spending time in gratitude makes it easier for me to find the light, and remember that it is there, even when I can’t see it.

(15) THE CAST IS IN HERE. SYFY Wire believes “The X-Files Cast Singing Its Theme Song On Zoom Is Now, Like The Truth, Out There”.

Did the iconic theme song for The X-Files need fan-written lyrics? If it got the cast of the sci-fi series to reunite for a musical Zoom call, then, perhaps — like the massive government archives secreting away the supernatural — it’s worth it for the greater good.

…Now how many government secrets are hidden in this song? The new lyrics — courtesy of contest winners Jennifer Large and Rebecca MacDonald — give composer Mark Snow’s classic eerie theme a twist, especially when sung by a wide-ranging collection of cast members and crew.

(16) A KIND OF WORLDBUILDING. Tiffany Meuret analyzes “Our Timely Obsession with Animal Crossing” at the SFWA Blog.

…Explanations abound for the game’s sudden explosion in popularity, but I have noticed a particularly common camaraderie among fellow writers. What is it about this game, with so many other open-concept games already in existence, that draws writers to it with such gusto? The timing of release and the sweetness of the game in such dark times are no doubt factors, but I believe it goes deeper than that, down to the very core of our creative hearts. 

…From that moment on, I unconsciously spun the narrative of my experience. From the clothes I wore to where I placed the coin-operated tourist binoculars I’d shot out of a balloon with a slingshot, I was crafting a story within this story-less game. This is the garden where I breed pink roses. Here is my carnival for when I need a bit of a thrill, outfitted with a popcorn machine and a teacup ride. There is the playground and community pool where I’ll meet my friends on the weekend, lined with color-coded tables for playing chess. Every piece of wallpaper, every color, every pair of jelly sandals I place on my chibi feet are dishing out tone and theme and mood. 

And then there are the villagers. They are a delight to witness as they flit about the island, munching on popsicles, singing, or sprinting Naruto-style on the beach. I’ve dedicated far too many hours to crafting and designing spaces on my island that my residents might enjoy, despite many of the items being stationary and non-interactive. My imagination does all the work the game does not. 

(17) TALL TYPO TALE. [Item by rcade.] The new version of Microsoft Flight Simulator maps the entire world so you can fly over it, using AI and lots of mapping data. Engadget reports “A typo created a 212-story monolith in ‘Microsoft Flight Simulator’”  

Alexander Muscat tweets, “In Microsoft Flight Simulator a bizarrely eldritch, impossibly narrow skyscraper pierces the skies of Melbourne’s North like a suburban Australian version of Half-Life 2’s Citadel, and I am -all for it-.”

(18) VANISHING POINT. BBC Documentary covers “Rulebreakers: How I disappear”.

In Japan, if you want to disappear from your life, you can just pick up the phone and a ‘night moving company’ will turn you into one of the country’s ‘johatsu,’ or literally ‘evaporated people.’ You can cease to exist. Meet the people who choose to disappear and the people who are left behind.

(19) NOT COYOTE AND ROADRUNNER. But there are prints from two animals. “Cliff collapses in Grand Canyon, revealing 313 million-year-old footprints, park says”Yahoo! News has the story.

A geology professor hiking in the Grand Canyon made a “surprising discovery” — the oldest recorded tracks of their kind.

After a cliff collapsed in Grand Canyon National Park, a boulder with fossilized tracks was revealed, park officials said in a Thursday news release. The fossil footprints are about 313 million years old, according to researchers.

“These are by far the oldest vertebrate tracks in Grand Canyon, which is known for its abundant fossil tracks” Stephen Rowland, a paleontologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said in the news release. “More significantly, they are among the oldest tracks on Earth of shelled-egg-laying animals, such as reptiles, and the earliest evidence of vertebrate animals walking in sand dunes.”

(20) IT’S BACK. Like The Blob or The Thing, there’s no stopping Pumpkin Spice from showing up anytime it wants. Morning Consult takes notice: “With Seasonal Products Making an Early Return This Year, Consumers Weigh In on Sweet Spot for Promotions”.

Pumpkin spice came early this year — too early, according to majorities of consumers. 

Dunkin’ Donuts’ pumpkin-flavored coffee and other fall treats returned to the menu earlier than ever this year, the company said, arriving at participating locations Wednesday. Starbucks Corp. has yet to confirm the return date for its much-loved pumpkin spice latte, but one location reportedly said the product would launch on Aug. 28. 

While some social media users are eager for the early return of fall products — a silver lining in an otherwise difficult year — new polling from Morning Consult shows that many consumers would prefer to see products promoted closer to the seasons or holidays with which they’re associated….

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Metal Monsterette is a fun family film made in 1957 with kids and cousins by Ed Emshwiller. His daughter Eve is the heroine and daughter Susan is the mad scientist Dr. Majenius. 

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

Pixel Scroll 8/20/20 The Pixel Came Back From Nothing At Scroll

(1) NASFIC FAN FUND AUCTION. Michael J. Lowrey makes a last-minute appeal: We still need items for auction pretty desperately: books, fanzines, tuckerizations, fannish memorabilia, whatever, for the Virtual FanFund Auction at the virtual NASFIC on Facebook.” Post items there. The auction starts Friday. Lowrey says — 

An auction item post should include the following:

Item Name
Description
Minimum Bid

Please note that if your Fan Fund Auction Donation requires shipping, you are expected to pay for that shipping as an additional donation. If you wish to restrict shipping to your home country, say so up front.

This is a Silent Fan Fund Auction, to be held on behalf of TAFF (the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund, http://taff.org.uk/), GUFF (the Get Up-and-over Fan Fund, https://taff.org.uk/guff.html), DUFF (the Down Under Fan Fund, https://downunderfanfund.wordpress.com/), and LAFF (The Latin American Fan Fund). These funds serve to enable fans to travel to other countries and continents to attend their major conventions and meet the local fans, people they may know only from letter columns, email, or chatty websites. And to get it all done, the funds depend on contributions of fans like you… and, of course, benefit auctions.

This is your chance to pick up any number of interesting things… art, books, fanzines, pulp magazines, t-shirts, things that somehow involve cats… the opportunity to be “Tuckerized” into a work of fiction… or other peculiar or “fannish” stuff.

Donations for the fan fund auction will be accepted via posts to this event, and we also accept monetary donations via paypal to n.a.taff.2020@gmail.com. If you would like the proceeds from your auction donation to go to a particular fan fund, indicate that in your post. The proceeds from donations without designations will be evenly split between the fan funds.

(2) SHIELDS UP. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Chris Lindahl, in the Indiewire story “Embroiled In A Legal Battle, Nichelle Nichols’ Family Seeks GoFundMe Help For Star Trek Icon”, says that Nichols’s son, Kyle Johnson, is suing her manager, Gilbert Bell, saying that Bell is taking advantage of Nichols’s infirmity to abuse her fortune.  Nichols was diagnosed with dementia in 2013 and had a stroke in 2015.  The GoFundMe campaign which has raised $64,760 of its $100,000 goal is under “Shields Up Nichelle Nichols.”

Now allegedly suffering from dementia, Nichelle Nichols, 87, who played Uhura on the original “Star Trek” in the late 1960s, is embroiled in an ongoing legal battle involving her manager, Gilbert Bell. Alleging Bell took advantage of Nichols over the last decade, Nichols’ family has taken to GoFundMe to help raise money for the icon’s legal battle.

The most recent court action came earlier this month, when Kyle Johnson, Nichols’ son, filed a cross complaint against Bell. The complaint is in response to a 2019 lawsuit filed by Bell against Johnson, where Bell alleges that it is Johnson’s actions that are harming Nichols — while Bell has always had her best interests in mind.

Johnson has denied Bell’s allegations of wrongdoing against him. Bell has not yet responded in court to Johnson’s allegations. IndieWire has reached out to lawyers for Johnson, Bell, and a representative for Nichols….

(3) THE CAISSONS KEEP ROLLING ALONG. I would like to contest the claim in Steve Davidson’s title “The Science Fiction Cannon is Not a Thing; Canon is.”

…There’s also the contention that Science Fiction is a continuum, an on-going, centuries old dialogue of call and response, writers reacting to published works and offering up variations, counter-arguments, expansions in response. “We stand on the shoulders of giants” is an expression often used to acknowledge that without the work perfomed by previous generations of authors, editors, publishers, artists and fans, contemporary SF would not be where it is today.

That latter is often negatively receieved these days, and it shouldn’t be. Much is made about contemporary SF rejecting the all white heterosexual european male colonialist based SF of the 40s, 50s and 60s – but of course without the existence of such a body of work, there would be nothing to react to or reject. Call it a benign correction as the field expands to incorporate diverse voices or call it a war against patriarchy, in both estimations there is something that is being addressed and re-evaluated (if not pushed back against and excoriated).

Is there an SF Canon? Yes. But is it a moving scale? Is it inviolate? Is it mandatory?

No, no and no.

(4) CASTING THE CANON. And Doris V. Sutherland cannot resist trying to answer the question for another genre, “What is the Horror Canon?”

…Picture a bookshelf, completely empty and ready to have a tidy set of volumes lined up on it. Now imagine that someone has decided to fill it with the canonical works of horror literature. What would they start with? Frankenstein and Dracula would be obvious choices. These may well be followed with reasonably-sized collections of Poe and Lovecraft stories. Next, let’s add the complete ghost stories of M. R. James.

Now pause for thought. That’s five books – and already we’ve covered a pretty substantial chunk of the most influential horror fiction in the English language. Regardless of what else we put on the shelf – and it’s easy enough to think of further titles, from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to The Exorcist – it’s hard to deny that those above five books will cover a pretty big percentage of whatever horror canon we end up with.

Now try to imagine a bookshelf with the science fiction canon. It’s a taller order: off the top of my head, we’d have at least four books if we wanted to represent Isaac Asimov alone (I, Robot and the Foundation trilogy). When we factor in Verne, Wells, Heinlein, Clarke, Bester, Ellison, Le Guin… well, let’s just say we’re going to end up with more than five books.

So, the horror canon is smaller than the science fiction canon – or, to phrase that differently, more tightly-focused. Thinking about it, this makes sense. Horror is a genre where less is more – look at how many classics of horror fiction are short stories rather than novels, for one. And when I look back at our hypothetical bookshelf of canonical horror, I have to wonder if those books might be better described not as a horror canon, but as a set of horror archetypes.

(5) SPIRITUAL FORMATION. John Scalzi enters the confessional at Whatever and gets it all off his chest: “Okay, Sure, It’s My Fault Science Fiction is the Way It Is Right Now”.

The dimwitted bigot brigade finally came across my piece about the Science Fiction canon from a couple of weeks ago and had a predictable spasm about it, asserting how it was evidence that (I’m paraphrasing from various sources, here) a) science fiction and fantasy was dying, b) traditional publishing (the sf/f parts of it anyway) is dying too, c) I’m responsible in some measure for a) and b), despite d) the fact that apparently I don’t actually sell and/or only sell through byzantine sleight of hand by the publishing industry for reasons and also e) I suck, f) which is why I don’t want people to read older works because then they would realize that, and while we’re at it g) modern sf/f is infested with terrible work from people who aren’t straight white dudes, h) which I, a straight white dude, am also somehow responsible for, and so in short, i) everything is my fault, and j) I am simultaneously a nobody and also history’s worst monster.

It’s a lot! I think it must be tiring to be a dimwitted bigot, thinking about me….

(6) I’M BATMAN. Will there be as many of them as there were of Spartacus? Yahoo! Entertainment reports “Ben Affleck To Return As Batman In Upcoming ‘Flash’ Movie That Also Will Feature Michael Keaton As Dark Knight”.

…Affleck reportedly got the script for The Flash at the end of last week and agreed to board the project.

“He’s a very substantial part of the emotional impact of the movie. The interaction and relationship between Barry and Affleck’s Wayne will bring an emotional level that we haven’t seen before,” Muschietti tells Vanity Fair who broke the news. “It’s Barry’s movie, it’s Barry’s story, but their characters are more related than we think. They both lost their mothers to murder, and that’s one of the emotional vessels of the movie. That’s where the Affleck Batman kicks in.”

Another reason feature mythology-wise why Affleck’s Batman is coming back to The Flash, and that’s that Miller’s Flash considers him to be the original Dark Knight, the guy he fought alongside in Justice League. Hence, per Muschietti, it was necessary to have Affleck’s Batman as a starting point: “He’s the baseline. He’s part of that unaltered state before we jump into Barry’s adventure…There’s a familiarity there,” he further tells Vanity Fair.

(7) STORYBUNDLE. Available for the next three weeks: The Exclusive Dark Fantasy and SF Bundle – Curated by Douglas Smith.

2020 has been a scary year. Like some dark fantasy or horror story. Or a dystopian tale about the end of the world.

Why not embrace that spirit? Show this year from hell that you can take whatever it dishes out, because you know what dark fantasies and horror stories are really like. And you’ve seen more ends of the world than 2020 could even dream of.

…Read about curses and ghosts, about Norse gods on the Canadian prairies and what happens after Ragnarök and the end of the world. Read how life on Earth may end if we don’t stop killing our planet. Read twenty-one tales of personal apocalypses (because someone’s world is always ending), and stories from a very special and very strange bookstore. Read about post-human biopunk and day-after-tomorrow climate change adventure. Read about the boy who is either a scrawny, bullied, neglected son of insane parents or the imprisoned leader of a death cult dedicated to the goddess of discord.

…For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Picking Up the Ghost by Tone Milazzo
  • Wasps at the Speed of Sound by Derryl Murphy
  • The Door to Lost Pages by Claude Lalumière
  • Tombstone Blues by Chadwick Ginther

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus SEVEN more books, for a total of eleven!

  • Bullettime by Nick Mamatas
  • It’s Not the End and Other Lies by Matt Moore
  • Chimerascope by Douglas Smith
  • Over the Darkened Landscape by Derryl Murphy
  • Objects of Worship by Claude Lalumière
  • Too Far Gone by Chadwick Ginther
  • Wikiworld by Paul Di Filippo.

(8) DESEGREGATION DRAMATIZED. Series developers include Black Panther’s lead actor and the creator of The Orville: “Chadwick Boseman, Seth MacFarlane, Eisa Davis team up to develop series about Little Rock Nine”THV11 has the story.

Chadwick Boseman and Seth MacFarlane are teaming up with Eisa Davis to develop a drama based on the Little Rock Nine’s efforts to end racial segregation at Central High School in 1957.

Deadline reported the three will work on developing the project, based on Carlotta Walls LaNier’s memoir A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High.

The series will look at the desegregation of the high school and how 14-year-old LaNier and eight other students became the first Black people to attend the all-white school.

In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that segregated schools were unconstitutional and called for the integration of all schools.

The nine students, along with Daisy Bates, became civil rights icons as they risked their lives to combat the racist school segregation policies in Arkansas.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • This week in 1950Dimension X aired a story out of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles in which a Martian named Eala dreams of a visitor from a planet, Earth, where they know life is impossible. This episode was unusual in that Bradbury hosted it instead of the usual Dimension X host. The story was later renamed “Ylla” which is considered the canonical title for this story but it was first published as “I’ll Not Ask for Wine” in Maclean’s, January 1, 1950. Listen here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 20, 1883 Austin Tappan Wright. Did you know that Islandia wasn’t published when he was alive? His widow edited his fifteen hundred page manuscript for publication, and following her own death in 1937 their daughter Sylvia further edited and cut the text yet more; the resulting novel, shorn of Wright’s appendices, was published in 1942, along with a pamphlet by Basil Davenport, An introduction to Islandia; its history, customs, laws, language, and geography, based on the original supplementary material. Is there a full, unedited version? (Died 1931.) (CE)
  • Born August 20, 1906 – Sheila Hawkins.  Wrote and illustrated fifty children’s books in the United Kingdom and Australia, many with animals, many fantastic.  Here is The Singing Chameleon.  Here is Taliesin.  Here is an interior for Long Ears.  Here is Wish and the Magic Nut, which won Picture Book of the Year.  Also landscapes and abstracts.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born August 20, 1909 André Morell. Best remembered as Professor Bernard Quatermass in the Quatermass and the Pit series, and as Doctor Watson in the Hammer Film Productions version of The Hound of the Baskervilles which is quite excellent.  It’s also worth noting that he played O’Brien in BBC’s 1954 Nineteen Eighty-Four, opposite Peter Cushing as Winston Smith. (Died 1978.) (CE)
  • Born August 20, 1915 – Arthur Porges.  For us a hundred short stories, some under other names; half a dozen posthumous collections.  Many more for others e.g. detective fiction.  Translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Serbian, Spanish.  Here he is on the cover of the Sep 60 Fantastic (i.e. his story “The Shadowsmith”; cover artwork by John Duillo).  This Website is about AP and his brother Irwin.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born August 20, 1942 – Joe Mayhew, F.N.  One of our finest fanartists; two Hugos for that.  Five short stories published, in AberrationsAboriginal, and Tomorrow; a score of reviews in Absolute Magnitude, more in the Washington Post.  A hundred seventy drawings in Asimov’sFlagFOSFAXThe Frozen FrogIt Goes on the ShelfJourney PlanetMimosaNY Rev. of SFPLOKTASquiggeldy HoyVojo de Vivo; various Worldcon and other con publications.  Radio-style plays for Disclaves and Boskones.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award).  Chaired the 1987 Disclave.  Library of Congress Recommending Officer for SF.  Fan Guest of Honor at Novacon II, Albacon 3; Ghost of Honor at Capclave 2001, Balticon 49.  Here is his cover for the Nov 98 WSFA Journal (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n).  Here is an illustration from Mimosa 17.  (Died 2000) [JH] 
  • Born August 20, 1943 Sylvester McCoy, 77. The Seventh Doctor and the last canon Doctor until the modern era of the official BBC Doctors when they revised canon. He also played Radagast in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films, he’s The Old Man of Hoy in Sense8 and he voices Aezethril the Wizard in the “Endgame” episode of Thunderbirds Are Go.  (CE)
  • Born August 20, 1951 Greg Bear, 69. Blood Music which won both a Nebula Award for Best Novelette and a Hugo Award at L.A. Con II for Best Novelette is an amazing read. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery. I confess that I’ve not read him over the past few decades. What’s he done as of late that I should consider reading? (CE) 
  • Born August 20, 1961 Greg Egan, 59. Australian writer who exists though he does his damnedest to avoid a digital footprint. His excellent Permutation City won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award  and “Oceanic” garnered a Best Novella Hugo at Ausiecon Three. I assume he wasn’t there given his stance against attending Worldcons? (CE) 
  • Born August 20, 1961 – Jim Clemens, 59.  Three dozen novels for us, half a dozen shorter stories, some with Rebecca Cantrell; action-adventure books under another name, some with Grant Blackwood; certified SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) diver; Doctor of Veterinary Medicine under yet another name – if he wants to keep these careers separate, why shouldn’t we?  Translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian.  [JH]
  • Born August 20, 1962 Sophie Aldred, 58. She’s Ace, the Seventh Doctor’s Companion. (By the way Doctor Who Magazine: Costume Design: Dressing the Doctor from William Hartnell to Jodie Whittaker is a brilliant read and has a nice look at her costuming.) She’s reprised the role in the Big Finish audio adventures. (CE)
  • Born August 20, 1969 – Christina Diaz Gonzalez, 51. Three novels for us, three others.  Many awards for historical fiction The Red Umbrella (also in Spanish).  Born in Florida to Cuban parents.  Took a law degree, practiced law awhile.  Lives in Miami with husband, sons, a dog that can open doors.  [JH]
  • Born August 2, 1972 – Carolyn Cohagen, 48.  Four novels.  Conducts Girls With Pens, creative writing for girls 8-14.  Earlier, a stand-up comic in New York, Chicago, London, Amsterdam; studied physical theater at École international de théâtre Jacques Lecoq, Paris.  Ranks The Phantom Tollbooth about the same as Slaughterhouse-Five.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTON.

(12) HORRIBLE EXAMPLES. Earlier this month Titan Comics was handed a golden opportunity to publicize their collection of The Best of Hägar The Horrible by Dik Browne.

Joe Biden recently announced his choice of Kamala Harris as running mate, and in the official photograph by Adam Schultz also revealed that he keeps a framed cartoon strip on his desk – from Titan’s own Hägar the Horrible!

Bleeding Cool reported on the story, as well as quoting Biden saying that the strip had helped him through personal tragedies by reminding him “a lot of people are going through a lot worse than you’re going through, and the way they get through it is … they have people reach out, touch them, give them solace.”

This is the strip on Biden’s desk:

And here are some other examples Titan shared in its press kit, several with genre jokes.

(13) NINETEEN MINUTES OF FAME. At least, the nineteen-minute mark is where fame summons James Davis Nicoll in Isaac Arthur’s video The Fermi Paradox: Galactic Disasters. James notes, “He mispronounced my name but I am the Nicoll in Nicoll-Dyson Laser, which can reduce an Earth-sized world to vapour in a week at distances of up to a million light years.”

If anything, this video makes Cixin Liu’s Death’s End sound too cheerful.

(14) THE NAME OF MY LAST BAND. Just released on YouTube today — Live From the Space Stage: A HALYX Story is a full-length documentary.

For one glorious summer, an experimental, sci-fi band rocked Disneyland’s space stage. With a bass-playing Wookiee and an acrobatic frog, the band’s existence is nearly unbelievable, and the story behind its creation is just as incredible.

(15) TIME TO BREAK INTO THE PIGGY BANK. At Heritage Auctions, bidding is up to $180,000 for Frank Frazetta A Princess of Mars Painting Original Art (1970).

Possibly the most famous of all of the John Carter of Mars covers by Frazetta, the artist actually painted two versions in 1970, with the first being published as a Doubleday hardback dustjacket cover. Fearing that the original art would not be returned from the publisher, Frazetta immediately painted a version for himself – the stellar painting we’re offering – since he was so proud of the image. Frazetta personally related to Joe and Nadia Mannarino (see below), and presumably others, that he loved this second painting even more than the original (which he actually sold in the early 1970s). We’re showing the two paintings side-by-side online for review. Regardless of which version you prefer, both represent the quintessential heroic fantasy image, with the bold, strong hero, the voluptuous female at his legs, and surrounded by a dangerous alien environment.

(16) THE DOCTOR’S MONSTER. BBC shares some “Surprising secrets of writers’ first book drafts”.

…When Frankenstein first appeared in print in 1818, anonymously but with a preface by Percy Bysshe Shelley, plenty of readers assumed that the poet was its author. In Mary Shelley’s introduction to the 1831 edition, she wrote that people had asked her “how a young girl, came to think of, and to dilate upon, so very hideous an idea?” In keeping with the story’s eerie origins – the stormy nights and sunless summer days beside Lake Geneva – she put it down to a kind of visitation, the result of “imagination, unbidden, possessed”. Yet as the manuscript reveals, inky-fingered graft played a big role in allowing the doctor’s monster to evolve into the more tragic, nuanced creature that’s haunted our imaginations ever since. In fact, “creature”, Mary’s initial description, is later replaced by “being”, a being who becomes still more uncannily human thanks to other tweaks such as replacing the “fangs” that Victor imagines in his feverish delirium with “fingers” grasping at his neck.

Sadly, the refusal to believe that a woman barely out of girlhood could possibly have authored this transcendent Promethean fable has never quite gone away, and Percy’s notes on the manuscript have been used to bolster the theory that he at least co-authored Mary’s novel. While he’s certainly an astute line editor, the chief revelation here is domestic: the radical Romantic was a supportive, affectionate partner.

(17) FLUSHED WITH PRIDE. “Transparent Public Toilets Unveiled In Tokyo Parks — But They Also Offer Privacy”.

The idea of using a public bathroom with see-through walls may sound like the stuff of nightmares. But a famous Japanese architect is hoping to change that view, using vibrant colors and new technology to make restrooms in Tokyo parks more inviting.

“There are two things we worry about when entering a public restroom, especially those located at a park,” according to architect Shigeru Ban’s firm. “The first is cleanliness, and the second is whether anyone is inside.”

Transparent walls can address both of those worries, Ban says, by showing people what awaits them inside. After users enter the restroom and lock the door, the powder room’s walls turn a powdery pastel shade — and are no longer see-through.

“Using a new technology, we made the outer walls with glass that becomes opaque when the lock is closed, so that a person can check inside before entering,” the Nippon Foundation says.

The group is behind the Tokyo Toilet project, enlisting world-famous architects to create toilets “like you’ve never seen.”

(18) NOT COSPLAY. You couldn’t make this up: “Ninja museum: Thieves carry out heist at Japanese site”.

A ninja museum has been raided in Japan, with thieves making off with more than a million yen (£7,100).

The Iga-ryu Ninja Museum in central Japan is dedicated to the history of the famous Iga clan of ninja.

Police were called after an alarm was set off at 01:30 local time on Monday (16:30 GMT on Sunday), the museum said on Thursday.

Officers found the office door had been forced with what is thought to be a crowbar and the 150kg safe was missing.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Someone with time on their hands turns 2001 into 2020.

2020: an isolation odyssey is a reenactment of the iconic finale of 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968). Restaged in the context of home quarantine, the journey through time adapts to the mundane dramas of self-isolation–poking fun at the navel-gazing saga of life alone and indoors.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, N., Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Andrew Porter, Michael J. Walsh, Linda Deneroff, Chip Hitchcock, Paul DiFilippo, John A Arkansawyer, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Simon Bisson.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Setting: Jim Crow-era America

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

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

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

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

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

3. Shoggoths.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

(12) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. TNG: Qpid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 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.]