US Comic Book Layouts: A Book To Help You Do Layouts For Your Comic Books

The book in print form.

By James Bacon: Prolific Irish Comic artist PJ Holden has designed a layout sketchbook – 9 thumbnail layouts per page (with a blank facing page) the spine is white for writing what it is. 

There’s 120 pages with 60 pages with layouts on them. The layout page contains nine rectangles – these rectangles are scaled to fit the US comic book dimension size.

PJ Holden has been working in comics for 20 years now, with a considerable amount for 2000AD and his comic work with Irish writer Garth Ennis on The Stringbags last year, published by the U.S. Naval Institute Press has been critically acclaimed.  

I caught up with him and asked some questions.

JAMES BACON: Is this something you would have found useful earlier in your career?

PJ HOLDEN: I think so – certainly it’s a thing I was frequently doing with my own sketchbooks for layouts – I used to have a cardboard template with nine comic sized boxes drawn on it, I’d lay it on a page of my sketchbook and then trace out the layouts, so I was using something like it 15-20 years ago. 

JAMES BACON: Why would it have been useful to you, and at what stage in your drawing career?

PJ HOLDEN: One thing I don’t think you think about before you make the jump to professional work (and by professional I really mean getting paid to draw, so time becomes money) is how much time you spend on any given job that isn’t drawing. Once you make that leap, suddenly anything that can shave 5-10 minutes or that is just that little bit more convenient becomes worth pursuing, and over the last 20 years I’ve always sought out anything that could speed up the process, especially those bits that really don’t take skill – drawing layout boxes is one such bit.

JAMES BACON: Why are layouts important to master?

PJ HOLDEN: Well, once you’ve read the script you’ve got to start committing things to paper, and while some are lucky enough to go straight to inks most (me included) really need to figure out what it is we’re drawing first. The layout stage is where you do some of your early thinking on the page — how many people are in this panel, what’s the focal point for the page, will these two pages face each other? What’s happening on the page turn, etc.

You do it at the thumbnail stage because it’s faster and you can see the big picture very easily. Once you’ve got your layouts you can then move on to the pencils and if the layouts are tight enough (ie they have enough detail) then the pencils stage is greatly simplified.

JAMES BACON: What do you hope with this book?

PJ HOLDEN: Well, my initial thinking was “oh this is a smart way to get myself a neat little layout sketchbook I can use” and I figured making it available for anyone would help give me a little bit of a passive income (I mean, it’s not going to pay for a holiday, but I might be able to buy a couple of books…) 

Having done the first book, of course, other ideas occur, and I’ve a few other books waiting in the Amazon KDP — Kindle Direct Publishing — system for approval for publication (and about a dozen ideas for more). One in particular is a unique comic creators project diary that lets you track the course of projects while you do them over a year, incorporating many of the tricks I’ve learnt about using structured time to get work done.

What started as a bit of a lark, I’m hoping might actually end up a set of worthwhile tools for professional comic creators or anyone embarking on a comic making project.

PJ kindly went on to share some useful insights:

PJ HOLDEN: The book has a blank page facing a layout page – a deliberate choice I’ve made because, frankly, I don’t like drawing on the back of a page – but if you do, you’ve got a nice blank area to work with, and, the bane of all of my many dozens of sketchbooks, rather than a black spine that you can’t write on, it’s got a nice clean white spine for dating/other info, as well as space on the cover for more information. I think one key thing is to learn as much from as many people as possible and then find the tools that work for you. The books I’m doing, I hope are shaped in such a way that they give some of the necessary stuff to get the job done but equally are wide open for you to play an explore with how you’d find it useful – to be honest, I made this first book for professional comic artists but delighted to find a number of writers have picked up copies because it turns out knowing what your layouts might be is pretty handy for a writer!


The book is available from 

PJ Holden’s own Twitter thread about the book is here.

London Comic Mart Resumes

James Bacon, left, and friends.

London Comic Mart, May 23, 2021 Royal National Hotel Russell Sq., London 

By James Bacon: The London Comic Mart has a long history, in various guises, can be traced back to the Seventies, and it continued today. The lockdown beginning to ease has recently allowed venues to open up and welcome fans. It’s been 435 days since I walked into a scout hall in Pollokshields, Glasgow for the Commando Swap Meet, and the lack of interaction and engagement, and just comics, is telling. 

I headed into London early. Once into the city, the streets were deserted, surely quiet on a Sunday morning, but as I watched a cyclist pedal down the wrong side of what is normally a brisk road, it is obvious that normality is slow to return here. But a small group of comic book fans had also made the trek in. Changes have occurred, the space normally for tour busses and vans maneuvering is now a courtyard with matted green fake grass, and plastic benches, so seating was socially distanced amongst the couple dozen people who were patiently waiting. 

The queue formed, there were no cosplayers, no people running around offering hugs, no cheer when the door opened, these are collectors, of all ages, quietly on the mission, looking for comics, or cards or pops, and hoodies adorned with Venom, Cap Shields, Hunger Games and Star Wars were de rigueur, amongst some slick looking styles, and relaxed casuals. The wide diversity of London gets good representation at this event, while it’s also a destination for hard core European collectors, literally jetting in for the day. Or used to be. 

There was a limit on how many people were allowed in, which was never met. One had to fill in a tracing form, masks were mandatory for those who can wear them, and hand san was in abundance. The tables themselves were much more spaced, an extra room had been utilised, and a number of tables were not where they once were, a whole island block no longer in existence, and more spacing. Many of the regulars were here, and there were dealers who were there who I had not seen before, but there were also one of two regulars missing, making me wonder and hope that they were OK. 

If you felt there was someone too close, there was ample move away space.  

Comics were of course in abundance, eight boxes at 20p next to some silver age, about 50 boxes at a £1 next to an incredible wall for of key titles, 40p, 50p, £850… all prices were catered for here, and I was astonished to see one dealer offering Fantastic Four 1, graded at 1.5 for £10,000. The first appearance of Catwoman, you can have that for four figures, while Star Wars comics from 2015, a pound, including number 1.  

Usually it is a swarming chaotic mess of humanity, a little jostling, pushing and squeezing to get into the comics, but today, well today it is different. A new politeness had descended upon everything, people were patient, stepping away or back, giving space, checking in, and generally the extra space helped. 

Dave Finn from Incognito Comics reported a brisk and positive trade, and he reckoned that business was similar to pre-Covid, but it was clear that people went in earlier, and with more focus, to get going. His wall, all colourful and full of the nice things had many gaps as the short day wore on. 

It was amazing to watch, as a few comics would cost hundreds, and then moments later, a stack cost so little. There was some serious spending happening and many of the dealers had interesting comics on their walls. 

Some of the dealers who specialise in recent comics sold cheaply (from the last six to eighteen months) were either not there, or those that were did not have as much as I expect. It was interesting, there was no sign of Far Sector, and no  DIE, Invisible Kingdom, Monstress and only a couple of very recent Ghost Spiders. There was a Far Sector 1 on wall, at a fascinating price, but the Hugo constituency have chosen comics which have sold through, which are popular, and obviously in demand,  as well as recognising the brilliance. 

Variety in pricing was obvious, with so many thousands of comics at a £1 or less, it was easy to find one person selling at a few or fiver, and the same to hand, being moved on. Stock in shops or stock rooms, is not what is wanted, here, there was a keenness to move stock on. It was great to hear sharp London voices getting good deals, everyone, sellers and buyers happy, with the transaction, and to see knowledge and at times watch on, and see incredible bargains. 

My purchase of the day was a Silver Age Captain America for a £1. 

Everyone was just so nice, so grateful to be back, elbow knocks were to greet people, not to sharply squeeze in and look at comics, everyone thankful for being there, well, and of course enjoying the browse, the hunt, the chase, ticking off the wants,  and taking in the comics. The outdoor bar filled up after lunch, and many like myself, moved on, headed off when it was time to do so, not hanging around unnecessarily.

The next Comic Mart is scheduled for 22nd of August, but the same team, Showmasters, will be bringing London Film and Comic Con to the Olympia in July, and with Christopher Eccelston and Fiona Shaw leading the dozens of TV and film guests, that is expected to be the next major event, in London. The full Showmasters team were here, welcoming and observing, taking it in, and It was nice to hear about future plans and the National Film and Sci-Fi Museum, which will open this summer. 

 A lovely day altogether, and great to get back. 

Pixel Scroll 4/23/21 Look Out Pixel, ’Cause I’m Scrolling Technology, Ain’t Got Time To File No Apology

Martha Wells. Photo by Igor Kraguljac.

(1) MORE MURDERBOT IN OUR FUTURE. Martha Wells has a new six-book deal with Tordotcom reports Publishers Weekly – three of them in the Murderbot series.

Tordotcom’s Lee Harris took world English rights to six books by Martha Wells. The six-figure acquisition, which the imprint said is its largest to date, was brokered by Jennifer Jackson at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. Wells is the author of the bestselling Murderbot Diaries series, which is published by Tordotcom; the new deal covers three more books in that series, as well as three unrelated novels. The first book under the agreement, Witch King, is set for fall 2022.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to grab an egg roll and join comics writer/editor Jim Salicrup in Episode 143 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Jim Salicrup

I’d planned to take a day trip to New York last year to chat with Jim Salicrup, whom I’d met during the mid-‘70s when we both worked in the Marvel Comics Bullpen, but (for reasons I’m sure you understand) that couldn’t happen. And as I continue to pretend we’re living in the world we want, rather than the one we’ve been handed, I recently had that meal … albeit remotely.

For the past 15 years, Jim’s been the editor-in-chief at Papercutz, which publishes Nancy DrewThe Hardy BoysSmurfsAsterix, and more, but when I met him, he was at the start of his 20-year Marvel career, where he wrote TransformersSledge HammerThe A-TeamSpidey Super Stories, the infamous Incredible Hulk toilet paper, and much more. He also edited The AvengersThe Uncanny X-MenThe Fantastic Four, and The Amazing Spider-Man. In between those two jobs, he worked at Topps, where edited books such as Bram Stoker’s DraculaX-FilesZorro, and a line of Jack Kirby superhero comics — and also did a stint at Stan Lee Media as well.

We discussed the illustrated postcard which convinced Marvel Comics to hire him at age 15, how John Romita Sr. caused him to change his name the first day on the job, what he did to enrage MAD magazine’s Al Feldstein, his late-night mission to secure Stan Lee’s toupee, what editor Mark Gruenwald had in common with Bill Murray, why the 1970s’ X-Men revival was like Amazing Fantasy #15, how he convinced Todd McFarlane to stick to Spider-Man (which eventually led to a blockbuster new comic), the possible connection between Stan’s love of crossword puzzles and the famed Marvel Method, and much more.

(3) A NAME TO CONJURE WITH. “Unusual Humanism: Five Works by the Great Clifford D. Simak” are extolled by James Davis Nicoll at Tor.com.

Clifford Donald Simak was born on August 3, 1904, in Wisconsin. He died in Minnesota on April 25, 1988. That’s thirty-three years ago as of this Sunday….

Unfamiliar with Simak? Here are five of his works you could sample….

Time Is the Simplest Thing (1961)

Having learned the hard way that frail human bodies cannot withstand the rigors of interstellar travel, humanity turned to psychic exploration. Where physical exploration fails, psychic exploration succeeds. Casting astral projections to the stars, paranormals—“parries” in the vernacular—like Shepherd Blaine bring home the Milky Way’s wealth…at least, the riches that can be conveyed by a human mind. A bitterly disappointing result for most humans, but a source of great wealth for the Fishhook Corporation, which controls astral exploration.

Shepherd is too successful. After an encounter with a pink blob (who greets him telepathically with the words “Hi pal, I trade with you my mind…”), Shepherd returns home with an uninvited hitchhiker sharing his brain. Now, explorers who bring home guests vanish into Fishhook’s hospitality, never to be seen again. What happens after that is unclear. Certain that he does not want to find out what Fishhook does with (or to) the explorers, Shepherd goes on the run. He discovers that not only did he acquire a passenger out there in the stars, Shepherd himself has been transformed in…interesting…ways.

(4) THE BIG QUESTIONS. Blood Knife’s special cosmic horror issue includes these articles of interest:

  • “The Architecture of Woe” — Examines the role that architecture plays in gothic and cosmic horror past and present, and the way abandoned architecture and empty factories can evoke sensations of horror, awe, and inhumanity here in the real world.

…There is a haunting, dead quality to old buildings. They speak to us of lost possibility, of what was once mundane but which has been rendered fantastical by the passage of time—to walk their corridors or trip through their dust- and brickstrewn courtyards is to follow ancient footsteps, of men and women dead for decades and centuries. There is an energy to them, a sense that the past still lingers there. That it might reach out and take your hand, and pull you headlong and irresistibly back beyond your birth into the foreign realm of yesteryear….

  • “Interview: Laird Barron on Cosmic Horror” — Blood Knife’s Kurt Schiller interviews Laird Barron, discussing the current state of the genre, his own history with cosmic horror, and the way horror can be a tool for examining philosophical and cultural questions.  

Blood Knife: Cosmic horror often touches on these vast concepts far beyond human comprehension, but at the same time so much of the genre — as well as your own fiction (The Croning, Lagerstatte, etc.) — seems anchored to individual tragedy or loss. Is this balance between the cosmic and the individual something that you think about when writing?

Barron: The previous question touched on the micro/macro duality of cosmic horror. This is a facet of science fiction as well. Big concept, shallow character development vs. character driven narratives where the big concept is a backdrop. I’ve dabbled in both, but prefer the latter. I grew up telling stories to my brothers by kerosene lamplight. I improved those tales over time by observing their reactions. Invariably, they were most affected by narratives that centered people with problems. The background was just that—background. A trippy cosmic horror revelation works well as a destination. Characters are the vehicle that gets you there.

(5) SHELF CURIOSITY. Nerds of a Feather explores an author’s favorites in “6 Books with David Bowles”.

1. What book are you currently reading? 

A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine, the second in her Teixcalaan series. As a scholar of Nahuatl who has written a lot about pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, I really admired how Martine has done her homework for this series, mining Indigenous Mexican culture in such re

(6) BEHIND THE MASK. “New York Comic Con returning for smaller in-person event this fall” says SYFY Wire. And they’ve got events planned for other cities, too.

Manhattan’s Javits Center will *fingers crossed* once again be hustling and bustling with nerd activity between Oct 7-10 come this fall. ReedPop announced today that New York Comic Con (aka the “Metaverse”) is coming back for an in-person event this year, albeit with limited attendance and other safety measures (enforced social distancing, mandatory face coverings, and regular temperature checks) that help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Pro tip: make sure you cosplay as a character who is famous for wearing a face covering at all times. Din Djarin, Zamus, Sheik, and Deadpool all come to mind….

…In addition to NYCC, ReedPop will also host Floridia’s Supercon between Sep. 10-12; Seattle’s Emerald City Comic Con between Dec. 2-5; and Chicago’s C2E2 between Dec. 10-12. The biggest unknown right now is how many people are going to be allowed to attend these events (the attendance numbers, which are reliant on local and state mandates, can grow or shrink at any time). What’s more: we don’t know if proof of vaccination is going to be required before ticket-buyers start mingling among a throng of their fellow pop culture acolytes.

(7) THESE GROOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKING. The Verge thinks “Disney’s amazing bipedal robot Groot looks like Asimo discovered cosplay”.

Disney’s R&D labs, commonly known as its Imagineering team, does some extremely impressive — and expressive — things with robots. It’s made mechanical stunt doubleslifelike alien Na’vi, and, uh, this skinless weirdo. But the company’s latest creation looks like it quite literally walked out of a Disney movie. It’s a bipedal Groot that can amble about tether-free. As Disney’s Pinocchio would put it: he’s got no strings to hold him down.

TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino has the low-down on this robotic milestone for Disney. It’s part of the company’s long-term efforts to develop autonomous robot actors for its parks, says Panzarino, under the codename of “Project Kiwi.” The company’s engineers spent years creating their own free-standing bipedal robotics platform to power Groot, and Panzarino — who got to see the robot in person — came away impressed with their efforts….

(8) TODAY’S DAY.

The unofficial annual holiday celebrates the day in 2011 when the first episode of the sixth season of the [Doctor Who] series was aired in the United KingdomUnited States, and Canada….

Called “The Impossible Astronaut,” the episode became one of the most appreciated and watched episodes of the series.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 23, 1974 — On this day in 1974, Planet Earth premiered. It created by Gene Roddenberry, written by Roddenberry and Juanita Bartlett, not surprisingly,  was based on a story by Roddenberry. It starred John Saxon as Dylan Hunt. The rest of cast was Diana Muldaur, Ted Cassidy, Janet Margolin, Christopher Cary. Corrine Camacho and Majel Barrett. It was intended  as a pilot for a new weekly television series, but that never came to be. It was the second attempt by him to produce a weekly series set on a post-apocalyptic future Earth with Genesis II being the previous pilot.  Roddenberry recycled both the concepts and characters used in Genesis II. Some of the characters here would show up in the Andromeda series such as Dylan Hunt. It was generally well-received by critics at the time, and it currently has a fifty percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 23, 1923 Avram Davidson. Equally at home writing mystery, fantasy or science fiction, he wrote two splendid Ellery Queen mysteries, And on the Eighth Day and The Fourth Side of the Triangle. I’m fond of his Vergil Magus series if only for the names of the novels, like The Phoenix and the Mirror or, The Enigmatic Speculum. There was a 2020 audiobook edition of The Avram Davidson Treasury: A Tribute Collection edited by Robert Silverberg and Grania Davis, first published in 1998, with afterwords by Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison, and intros by many other sff writers.  (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born April 23, 1946 Blair Brown, 75. Emily Jessup In Altered States (based on the Paddy Chayefsky novel) was her first genre role. Later roles include Nina Sharp, the executive director of Massive Dynamic, on Fringe, an amazing role indeed, and Elizabeth Collins Stoddard in the 2004 television remake of Dark Shadows. Her last genre role I think was Kate Durning on Elementary. (CE)
  • Born April 23, 1955 Paul J. McAuley, 66. Four Hundred Billion Stars, his first novel, won the Philip K. Dick Award, Fairyland which I adore won an Arthur C. Clarke Award and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel. He was Toastmaster along Kim Newman at Interaction. (CE) 
  • Born April 23, 1956 Caroline Thompson, 65. She wrote the screenplays for Tim Burton’s Edward ScissorhandsThe Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride. A stage version of the latter with director and choreographer Matthew Bourne was co-adapted with her this year. She also wrote the screenplay for The Addams Family. (CE) 
  • Born April 23, 1962 John Hannah, 59. Here for being Jonathan Carnahan in The MummyThe Mummy Returns, and there was apparently a third film as well, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. In a meatier role, he was the title characters in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and of late he’s been Holden Radcliffe on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. Though not even remotely genre adjacent, he was Rebus in the one of BBC adaptation in of the Ian Rankin series. (CE) 
  • Born April 23, 1973 Naomi Kritzer, 48. I saw that her 2015 short story “Cat Pictures Please” had been a Hugo Award winner at  MidAmeriCon II, so I went and purchased Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories off iBooks so I could read it. It was superb as was Catfishing on CatNet which won a Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book in 2020. A sequel Chaos on Catnet comes out next week. (CE)
  • Born April 23, 1564 – William Shakespeare.  After five centuries a strong candidate for greatest writer in English.  Four plays, one narrative poem for us; much else.  Where his art pointed to fantasy he was as masterly as in the more mundane.  In plays he had to inspire belief by showing his beings’ speech and acts; which he did.  Priceless to read, to perform, despite and because of what has and hasn’t changed since.  (Died 1616) [JH]
  • Born April 23, 1879 – Talbot Mundy.  Four divorces, five wives; for years fifty cigarettes a day; failed at business ventures; married money and spent it; ivory poacher; war stories of himself false.  Yet sold a score of novels, half a dozen shorter fictions – in our field, not counting e.g. seven hundred radio scripts for Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy.  Hated fascism and Marxism-Leninism.  Racist anti-colonialist.  Sexist pioneer of strong female characters.  King – of the Khyber Rifles and Tros of Samothrace are on Kindle.  (Died 1940) [JH]
  • Born April 23, 1935 – Tom Doherty, age 86.  From book salesman to publisher of Tempo and Ace, then Tor and Tom Doherty Associates.  Skylark, Solstice, Gallun, World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Awards.  Guest of Honor at Boskone 23; Balticon 21; Lunacon 33; Fourth Street Fantasy 1991; Minicon 29, 32, 50; ArmadilloCon24, WindyCon XXX; Westercon 58; World Fantasy Con 2008; Anticipation the 67th Worldcon.  [JH]
  • Born April 23, 1942 – Amanda Prantera, age 79.  Briton sixty years in Italy.  Translator.  Euhemerist (another fine word that).  A dozen novels.  I don’t see how anything can be “very clear” in Strange Loop; in Conversations with Lord Byron a computer given everything known about B becomes sapient (not “sentient”, Brother Clute, argh) and starts writing poetry, I’d add “naturally” but –  [JH]
  • Born April 23, 1977 – Yasser Bahjatt, age 44.  Computerman, gamer, SF fan, first Sa‘udi in Singularity University’s graduate program and thus worked on Matternet, translator of TED (Technology, Engineering, Design) talks into Arabic, chair of Jeddah for 2026 Worldcon bid.  Wrote Yaqteenya, first Arabic alternative-history novel; it and three more novels (with Ibraheem Abbas) are available in English.  Insists on “a distinct correlation between a culture’s exposure to science fiction and the amount of scientific thought”.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater only looks like it’s in Rot-13 — that’s how these aliens really speak.

(12) BUSTED. In “Meanwhile, in Texas: A McAllen Thief Pilfered $400 Worth of Spider-Man Comic Books”, Texas Monthly tries to explain why these comics were worth stealing – if you are a collector.

What happened?

Kaboom Comics, a comic-book store in McAllen, had proudly built a display of rare comics on its “Wall of Keys,” featuring iconic issues of various titles. On April 14, however, an employee noticed bare spots on the wall where some of the key issues should have been, and, after checking with coworkers, confirmed that no one had purchased them. According to MyRGV.com, the store released on social media the security footage showing the heist taking place and placed a call—a veritable bat signal, if you will—asking the community to help identify the thief. 

What did they steal?

The biggest score in the heist was a copy of Amazing Spider-Man number 252, a key 1984 issue in Spidey’s mythology. A couple of issues of Venom, a spin-off series starring the web-slinger’s more sinister counterpart, as well as a stack of new-release comics were also skimmed off of the shelves.

Who took them?

While there’s yet to be a conviction in the case, the caper seems to be relatively cut and dried: a caller identified the suspect to McAllen police, and then the man she named—Edinburg High School assistant principal Juan Martinez Jr.—turned himself in, along with the comics, to the police department, offering a full confession and waiving his Miranda rights. He was arrested and charged with a Class B misdemeanor for theft of property worth between $100 and $750 (the value of the books was estimated at $409.93)…

(13) DEER NORMAN. That’s not how it’s signed, just how it should be. Nate D. Sanders Auctions currently shows a $5,000 bid for a Walt Disney Signed ”Bambi” Cel, Personally Inscribed to Norman Rockwell. You have until April 29 to top it.

Walt Disney signed display of Bambi and Thumper cels, uniquely inscribed to fellow American icon Norman Rockwell. Disney signs the mat in green wax crayon, ”To Norman / With Best Wishes / Walt”. Large display includes cels of Bambi, Thumper, two quail birds, grass and log, used in the 1942 classic film ”Bambi”, with a hand-painted background measuring approximately 11” x 9”, framed to a size of 19.375” x 17.5”. With ”Original WDP [Walt Disney Productions]” stamp above Disney’s signature. Some foxing and light discoloration to outer portion of mat. Cels remain in beautifully well-preserved condition, with only one hairline crack appearing on Bambi’s leg. With an LOA from Carl Sprague of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Norman Rockwell’s town, whose wife Susan Merrill was previously married to Jarvis Rockwell, Norman Rockwell’s son.

(14) PLEASE RELEASE ME. At Nerds of a Feather, Sean Dowie appreciates a novel’s account of the struggle to be free: “Microreview [Book]: Defekt by Nino Cipri”.  

…Defekt is the most enjoyably bubbly book I’ve read exploring the burden of shackles. Not literal shackles, but ones that can extend to life as a retail worker or a one of self-doubt. Those shackles siphon your time at the expense of empty praise from apathetic bosses, or it hamstrings the growth of your relationships. But Defekt shows that being unshackled and free is a possibility and is only deceptively difficult…

(15) FIRST IN THE FIELD. Also at Nerds of a Feather, Arturo Serrano’s “Review: The Dominion Anthology” leads with the note: “Ours is a time of ever-increasing visibility for African SFF—now it has its first anthology.”

…Edited by Zelda Knight and Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, and with a foreword by Tananarive Due, the Dominion anthology collects twelve stories and one poem about imagined futures and reimagined pasts told with deep sincerity and robustness of worldbuilding. This is certainly an exciting time for diversity in speculative fiction….

(16) ASTRONAUTS EN ROUTE TO ISS. SpaceX Crew2 launched and the crew is on its way to the Space Station.

This is a successful re-use of SpaceX craft – Space.com has the storyL “SpaceX launches 4 astronauts to space station, nails rocket landing”.

SpaceX just launched its third astronaut mission in less than a year. 

A slightly sooty Falcon 9 rocket topped with a Crew Dragon capsule took to the skies above NASA’s Kennedy Space Center here at 5:49 a.m. EDT (0949 GMT) today (April 23), lighting up the predawn sky as it lifted off from the historic Pad 39A. The launch kicked off SpaceX’s Crew-2 mission, which will carry four astronauts — NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Japanese spaceflyer Akihiko Hoshide — on a 24-hour flight to the International Space Station (ISS).

More here, reported by Reuters: “SpaceX rocketship launches 4 astronauts on NASA mission to space station”.

…The rocket’s first stage, meanwhile, descended back to Earth and touched down safely on a landing platform floating in the Atlantic on a drone ship affectionately named Of Course I Still Love You….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. While Soul may be a Hugo-nominated film, no movie is without sin – Cinema Sins, anyway: “Everything Wrong With Soul in 17 Minutes or Less”,

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

Pixel Scroll 4/10/21 Scrollier Than Thou

(1) LEND A HAND? Another Titan Comics blog tour will be rolling through on Monday. Would one of you volunteer to write a review of a comic by tomorrow night? I’d be thrilled, and so would Titan Comics. (Email me at mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com and I will send you a link to the PDF.)

(2) WISCON SAYS SUPPORT THEIR HOTEL. [Item by Jeffrey Smith.] This is different. The convention hotel saying: No convention this year? Come and hang out anyway! The SF3/WisCon Newsletter encourages readers to  “Spend Memorial Day weekend at the Concourse Hotel”.

As you know, we’re not able to hold a WisCon in Madison this spring. However! The Concourse Hotel, the longtime home of WisCon, is running a special promotion for members and friends of the WisCon community over Memorial Day weekend, May 27-31, 2021

… The Concourse hosted its first WisCon in 1984 and has been our full-time hotel partner since 1995. They are an independently owned and operated hotel and as such have been hit especially hard by the loss of business during the pandemic. This is a fantastic chance to support them, get away from home for the weekend and see some friends in a clean, well-ventilated, socially distant environment….

(3) BOTH SIDES NOW. Lincoln Michel is writing an interesting series about the different genre and literary ecosystems for his Counter Craft newsletter. Here are links to the first three posts.

… I’m NOT going to try and delineate the (various and conflicting) definitions of “genre” and “literary” here. I do plan to get into that in some future newsletter but for now when I refer to the “literary world” I’m speaking of what you’d expect: MFA programs, magazines like The Paris Review or Ploughshares, imprints like Riverhead or FSG, agents who list “literary fiction” on their websites, etc.

When I say “genre world” I’m focusing mostly on science fiction, fantasy, and horror fiction (plus the one hundred billion subgenres of those). Those are the genres I write in and am most familiar with. Obviously, there are other genre ecosystems: crime fiction, romance fiction, etc. Those tend to overlap a fair amount with SFF world, and also tend to function similarly in terms of how professional organizations operate, how awards are structured, and so on. But when I speak of something like “genre jargon” I’m pulling primarily from SFF. I don’t think I need to define SFF, beyond saying that acronym means “science fiction and fantasy.” You know it. Magazines like Lightspeed and Uncanny. Imprints like Orbit, Del Rey, and Tor.

Because genre vs. literary fiction is so often treated like a team sport where you pick a side and scream insults at the other one, I want to state up front that I root for both. Or perhaps play for both, in this metaphor. I’ve published in both “literary” magazines like The Paris Review and Granta as well as “genre” magazines like Lightspeed (forthcoming) and Strange Horizons. My story collection was published by the literary Coffee House Press and my science fiction novel is coming out this year from Orbit. I really love both “teams” here….

…Popular authors also tend to contend over and over. This can easily be seen by the list of multiple winners. Many SFF writers have won the Hugo for Best Novel multiple times. You have 6/12 (wins/nominations) for Heinlein and 4/10 for Bujold. Five different authors have won three times and nine have won twice. There is nothing like that in the Pulitzer. No author has won three, four, or six Pulitzers. Only four have won twice: Booth Tarkington, William Faulkner, John Updike, and Colson Whitehead. This is despite the fact that the Pulitzers have been around since 1918 and the Hugos only since 1953. (This pattern is a little less prominent in other, newer awards, but still there.)

It’s fair to note that SFF perhaps has a smaller pool of books to choose from, since at least theoretically the literary awards are drawn from all of literature. But if the literary world is as narrow and parochial as many SFF fans contend then you’d expect to see that in the rewards.

As with almost everything I discuss here, there are arguments for both ways of doing things. In the genre side, the titans of the genre can be adequately reflected in the awards. A monumental work like N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy—truly one of the best fantasy series of modern times, which I’ve written about a bit here before—can even win three times in a row . That would simply never happen in the literary world, no matter how deserving. And one could certainly argue that the awards more accurately reflect the tastes of readership.

This can be a downside too, since biases and prejudices are also reflected. Before N.K. Jemisin won in 2016, no black author had ever won the Hugo for best novel. If you had died before 2015, when Cixin Liu won, you would have never witnessed a POC win the Hugo. It was hardly perfect in the lit world, but you did have Ralph Ellison, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Ha Jin, Jesmyn Ward, Junot Díaz, Jhumpa Lahiri, and others winning NBAs and Pulitzers. It’s about the same for gender. Ursula K. Le Guin was the first woman to win a Hugo for Best Novel in 1970. (Ditto the Nebula, although that had only started in 1966.) By that time, dozens of women had won the Pulitzer and/or National Book Award.

All of that said, both the lit world and SFF world have been far better on the diversity front in the last five to ten years than they have been historically. Hopefully that will continue.

… Publishing runs on novels. At least when it comes to fiction, novels are what agents want to hear about, what editors want to look at, and—with a few exceptions—what readers want to buy. Perhaps because of this, short stories hold a special place in fiction writers’ hearts. The short story is our form. Our weird mysterious little monster that no one else can love.

Strangely, the opposite was true 100 years ago. For the first few decades of the 20th-century, the short story was the popular form of literature. It was a magazine world back then. Short stories were what paid the bills. Authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald felt forced to write short stories that they could afford to write “decent books” (novels) on the side! In the genre world, the short story was so dominant that even the “novels” were often a bunch of existing short stories stitched quickly together in what was known as a “fix-up.” I’m not talking obscure books here, but some of the pillars of SFF from that era: Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, Asimov’s I, Robot, and Simak’s City. Also several of Raymond Chandler’s best hardboiled novels over in crime fiction. (Here’s a good post by Charlie Jane Anders arguing the fix-up is the ideal form for SFF.)…

(4) INSIDE BASEBALL. Kevin Standlee views with alarm: “DisCon III Moves to December — and Ignores the WSFS Constitution”.

…You may be asking, “So what? All the bids we knew about have already filed, so what difference does it make?”

I contend that there are two reasons for being concerned about this. The first is that frankly, there are groups that are unhappy about both the bids on the ballot, for various reasons. A “sprint” bid might enter the field. Now even though I have agreed to run Memphis’ WSFS division should they win, I’m trying to be as fair as I can about the known deficiencies of all currently filed bids. In 1990, I was a member of the San Francisco in ’93 Worldcon bid committee, facing filed bids from Phoenix and Zagreb. Due to unimpressive performances from all three filed bids at the 1989 SMOFCon (the filing deadline at that time was the close of the previous Worldcon, and sites were selected three years in advance at that time), a heretofore hoax bid for Hawaii was pressed into service by a large number of SMOFs and a write-in bid for Hawaii in ’93 filed. The write-in bid placed second ahead of the Zagreb and Phoenix bids, and I rather expect that had they been on the ballot, they might have beaten San Francisco. In 1991-92, I wrote and was a co-sponsor of a change to WSFS rules that changed the filing deadline to 180 days before the convention, a rule that, had it been in effect for the 1990 election for the 1993 Worldcon, would have allowed Hawaii to be on the ballot. So even though it would have been used against me back then, I recognize the value in keeping the door open for “sprint” bids. If there are groups that still want to take a shot at the 2023 Worldcon, I think they should have a chance to file until the T-180 deadline that is written into the Constitution.

The second reason I think DisCon III should reopen filing, even if nobody else files, is philosophical. WSFS rules are not self-enforcing. We trust Worldcon committees to follow WSFS rules as much as they can, subject to local laws and other contingencies. There is no higher authority that can force a Worldcon committee to obey WSFS rules. There’s no WSFS Inc. that can step in and give orders. There is no appeal from a Worldcon committee’s decisions. A Worldcon committee that refuses to follow a clearly-written and unambiguous rule that would not be difficult to follow is telling us that no rule is safeWSFS governance is based on trust. If we can’t trust a committee to follow the rules, then the unwritten contract between the members of WSFS and the Worldcon committee that manages the members’ annual convention breaks down….

… I think DisCon III should change their initial decision and reopen site selection filing until June 18, even if no other bid surfaces, to confirm that insofar as they are able to do so, even under the difficulties of a worldwide pandemic, they will continue to obey the rules of the organization whose membership is the World Science Fiction Society. To do otherwise is to do a disservice to the members of WSFS….

(5) READ ALL ABOUT IT. The New York Times takes readers “Inside the Fight for the Future of The Wall Street Journal”, in the process showing what journalists believe is the way to attract today’s audience.

… Now a special innovation team and a group of nearly 300 newsroom employees are pushing for drastic changes at the paper, which has been part of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire since 2007….

… As the team was completing a report on its findings last summer, Mr. [Matt] Murray [WSJ Editor] found himself staring down a newsroom revolt. Soon after the killing of George Floyd, staff members created a private Slack channel called “Newsroomies,” where they discussed how The Journal, in their view, was behind on major stories of the day, including the social justice movement growing in the aftermath of Mr. Floyd’s death. Participants also complained that The Journal’s digital presence was not robust enough, and that its conservative opinion department had published essays that did not meet standards applied to the reporting staff. The tensions and challenges are similar to what leaders of other news organizations, including The Times, have heard from their staffs.

In July, Mr. Murray received a draft from Ms. [Louise] Story’s team, a 209-page blueprint on how The Journal should remake itself called The Content Review. It noted that “in the past five years, we have had six quarters where we lost more subscribers than we gained,” and said addressing its slow-growing audience called for significant changes in everything from the paper’s social media strategy to the subjects it deemed newsworthy.

The report argued that the paper should attract new readers — specifically, women, people of color and younger professionals — by focusing more on topics such as climate change and income inequality. Among its suggestions: “We also strongly recommend putting muscle behind efforts to feature more women and people of color in all of our stories.”

The Content Review has not been formally shared with the newsroom and its recommendations have not been put into effect, but it is influencing how people work: An impasse over the report has led to a divided newsroom, according to interviews with 25 current and former staff members. The company, they say, has avoided making the proposed changes because a brewing power struggle between Mr. Murray and the new publisher, Almar Latour, has contributed to a stalemate that threatens the future of The Journal.

…About a month after the report was submitted, Ms. Story’s strategy team was concerned that its work might never see the light of day, three people with knowledge of the matter said, and a draft was leaked to one of The Journal’s own media reporters, Jeffrey Trachtenberg. He filed a detailed article on it late last summer.

But the first glimpse that outside readers, and most of the staff, got of the document wasn’t in The Journal. In October, a pared-down version of The Content Review was leaked to BuzzFeed News, which included a link to the document as a sideways scan. (Staffers, eager to read the report, had to turn their heads 90 degrees.)…

(6) THE POWER OF ANTHOLOGIES. Featuring Linda D. Addison (Sycorax’s Daughters), Maurice Broaddus (POC Destroy Horror & Dark Faith), and Sheree Renée Thomas (Dark Matter), and moderated by author and editor Nisi Shawl (New SunsEverfairStories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany), “Ancestors and Anthologies: New Worlds in Chorus” is a free livestream panel hosted by Clarion West and the Seattle Public Library on Monday, April 12 at 6:30 p.m. Register at the link. It’s part of the “Beyond Afrofuturism: Black Editors and Publishers in Speculative Fiction” Panel Series.

From the groundbreaking Dark Matter to Sycorax’s Daughters to POC Destroy!, anthologies are one way marginalized voices gather in chorus on a particular subject, subgenre, or genre. Our anthologies panel will delve into the world of bespoke collections with luminaries in the field.

(7) AUTHOR’S LIBRARY GOING UNDER THE HAMMER. “L’Engle Library up for auction to benefit three organizations” announces the Madeleine L’Engle website. The books will be sold in lots on April 8, 13, 20, 22, and 27, but bidding opens early.

… What took so long? 1) It is a daunting thing when a loved one dies to be responsible for the accumulations of a lifetime. 2) We’re book people! Letting go of books is painful. A bookcase is a record of time spent and history and books are harder to find good homes for than one might think. 3) Her particular status as beloved author made every decision weighted.

(8) STANISLAW LEM CENTENNIAL DEBATE. On April 18, Polish Society for Futures Studies (PSFS) will present a live online debate “The expansion of future consciousness through the practice of science fiction and futures studies,” celebrating the Stanis?aw Lem centenary. Lem was a celebrated science-fiction writer and futurologist from Poland. The Centennial Debate will feature international participants: Thomas Lombardo, professor emeritus of Rio Salado College and author of books on science-fiction and future consciousness; Karlheinz Steinmüller, PhD, science fiction author, publisher and eminent German futurist; Kacper Nosarzewski, futurist from Poland and a literary critic.

The event will be streamed live on Zoom and YouTube, April 18th 12:00 am Pacific Standard Time, 3:00 pm Eastern Standard Time, 20:00 Central European Time, and the admittance is free. More information including links to the event will be posted at https://centennialdebate.ptsp.pl/.

The event is being supported by the World Futures Studies Federation, Association of Professional Futurists and Lem Estate, among many others.

Stanis?aw Lem wrote, in Solaris: “We don’t want to conquer the cosmos, we simply want to extend the boundaries of Earth to the frontiers of the cosmos.” The Centennial Debate will explore the practice of science-fiction and futures studies as different ways of “using the future” and increasing our understanding of humanity’s hopes, fears, prospects and predicaments.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • On a day in 1986 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home premiered.  It was directed by Leonard Nimoy who wrote it with Harve Bennett. It was produced by Steve Meerson, Peter Krikes, Nicholas Meyer and Harve Bennett. It starred the entire original original Trek cast. It would lose out to Aliens at Conspiracy ’87. The film’s less-than-serious attitude and rather unconventional story were well liked by critics and  fans of the original series along with the general public. It was also a box office success. And it has an exemplary eighty-one percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 10, 1936 – David Hardy, age 85.  Astronomical and SF artist.  European Vice President of the Int’l Ass’n of Astronomical Artists.  Artbooks e.g. Visions of SpaceHardyware50 Years in Space: what we thought then, what we know now.  Two hundred fifty covers, a hundred interiors.  Here is the Jun 74 Amazing.  Here is King David’s Spaceship.  Here is Understanding Space and Time (note that the piano is a Bösendorfer).  Here is the Apr 2010 Analog.  [JH]
  • Born April 10, 1940 Raul Julia. If we count Sesame Street as genre which it should, his appearance as Rafael there was his first genre role. Yeah, I’m stretching it somewhat. OK, how about as Aram Fingal In Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, a RSL production off the John Varley short story? That better?  He later starred in Frankenstein Unbound as Victor Frankenstein as well. His last role released while he was still living was in the superb Addams Family Values as Gomez Addams reprising the role he’d had in The Addams Family. (Died 1994.) (CE) 
  • Born April 10, 1948 – Jim Burns, age 73 (not James H. Burns 1962-2016).  Four hundred twenty covers, two hundred interiors.  Three Hugos.  Twelve BSFA (British SF Ass’n) Awards.  Artist Guest of Honour at Conspiracy ’87 the 45th Worldcon, several other more local cons in the U.K. and U.S., see here.  Artbooks e.g. LightshipTransluminalThe Art of Jim Burns.  Each in The Durdane Trilogy used a segment of this, e.g. The Asutra.  Here is Interzone 11.  Here is the Jul 94 Asimov’s.  Here is The Wanderer.  Here is Dozois’ 34th Year’s Best Science Fiction.  Here is Dark Angels Rising.  [JH]
  • Born April 10, 1951 – Ross Pavlac.  Co-chaired Marcon XIII-XIV, Windycon VIII, Chicon IV the 40th Worldcon.  Fan Guest of Honor at Torque 2.  Sometimes appeared in a blue aardvark costume; RP’s fanzine for the apa Myriad was The Avenging Aardvark’s Aerie; RP was one of the first fans to extrude a Website, also so called.  Chaired Windycon XXIV from his deathbed.  See these appreciations.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born April 10, 1953 David Langford, 68. And how long have you been reading Ansible? If he’s not noted for that singular enterprise, he should be noted for assisting in producing the second edition of the EoSF, not to mention some 629,000 words as a principal editor of the third (online) edition of the Encyclopedia of SF, and contributed some eighty thousand words of articles to the most excellent EoF as well. And let’s not forget his genre writing as well that earned him a Short Story Hugo at the Millennium Philcon for “Different Kinds of Darkness”.  And yes, he has won other Hugos, too numerous to recount here. (CE) 
  • Born April 10, 1955 Pat Murphy, 66. I think that her most brilliant work is The City, Not Long After which I’ve read myriad times. If you’ve not read this novel, do so now. The Max Merriwell series is excellent and Murphy’s ‘explanation’ of the authorial attributions is fascinating. And The Falling Woman by her is an amazing read as well. She’s reasonably well stocked at the usual suspects. (CE)
  • Born April 10, 1957 John M. Ford. Popular at Minicon and other cons where he would be Dr. Mike and give silly answers to questions posed to him while wearing a lab coat before a whiteboard. His most interesting novel I think is The Last Hot Time, an urban fantasy set in Chicago that might have been part of Terri Windling’s Bordertown series but wasn’t. Possibly. The Dragon Waiting is also excellent and his Trek novels are among the best in that area of writing.  I’d be lying to say he’s deeply stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born April 10, 1959 – Ruth Lichtwardt, age 62.  Hugo Adm’r for Anticipation the 67th Worldcon.  Chaired MidAmeriCon II the 74th; her reflections as Chair here.  Long active with the Gunn Center for the Study of SF; Adm’r for the 2021 Conference.  Co-chaired ConQuest 49.  Drinks Guinness.  [JH]
  • Born April 10, 1975 – Merrie Haskell, age 46.  Three novels, a score of shorter stories, recently in Beneath Ceaseless Skies 313.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  Schneider Book Award.  “I don’t think I’m unique in finding stories where female agency is non-existent, or is punished, as really troublesome….  I’m not even talking about the waiting-for-rescue parts; I don’t love that, mind you, but where are the choices?”  [JH]
  • Born April 10, 1978 Hannu Rajaniemi, 43. Author of the Jean le Flambeur series which consists of The Quantum ThiefThe Fractal Prince and The Causal Angel. Damn if I can summarize them. They remind me a bit of Alastair Reynolds’ Prefect novels, somewhat of Ian Mcdonald’s Mars novels as well. Layers of weirdness upon weirdness. Quite fascinating.  (CE) 
  • Born April 10, 1984 – Rachel Carter, age 37.  Three novels for us.  Nonfiction in e.g. The New Republic.  Teaches fiction-writing, also a freelance editor.  [JH]
  • Born April 10, 1992 Daisy Ridley, 29. Obviously she played the role of Rey in The Force AwakensThe Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. She was also in Scrawl, a horror film as well as voicing Cotton Rabbit in Peter Rabbit. Though stretching to even call it genre adjacent even, she was Mary Debenham in Murder on the Orient Express which was rather well done. (CE)

(11) THE GREAT (PRICE) LEAP FORWARD. “Comics are only getting more expensive. How high is too high?” asks Mike Avila at SYFY Wire.

…I won’t lie, though: I sure do miss the time when a buck got you two comics and change. But I get how inflation works and how rising paper costs can’t be ignored. I’m also quite aware that the higher cover prices of today’s market have led to creators being able to make a decent living while entertaining us. That benefits the fans, who get to enjoy the great stories that spring from their imaginations.

However, there does come a point where comic books can simply become too expensive for many fans, forcing readers to drop titles not because they don’t like reading them, but because they simply can’t afford to anymore.

We may be approaching that point.

One of the Big Two publishers, DC Comics, is bumping the price up on some of its monthly titles to $5.99 for a 40-page issue. In its solicitations for June releases, several ongoing series, The Joker #4, Superman Red & Blue #3, Wonder Woman: Black White and Gold #1, and one of the company’s flagship books, Batman #109, are all listed with $5.99 cover prices. Think about that for a moment. If someone wanted to read all four of those titles, it would cost about $24 (before tax) to do so. Four comics, $24. That’s a big financial hit….

(12) JONESING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] “Phoebe Waller-Bridge to star in new Indiana Jones” reports CNN. Let’s hope the 35-year-old Waller-Bridge is not the love interest for the 78-year-old Harrison Ford. She wouldn’t pass the “half+7” rule for another 22 years.

(13) TRADECRAFT. Francis Hamit was a guest on the Spies Like Us podcast to discuss “Pine Gap (2018) Part One”. (The trailer for the Netflix series is at the link: Pine Gap: Season 1).

2018 Australian 6-episode series which we HIGHLY recommend both for spy geeks and people that don’t care much about tradecraft but enjoy a solid human drama.  Watching these characters unwind and reveal their true characters under the duress of multiple intertwining espionage threats was a real treat for both of us.  ALSO!!!!  It is our first episode featuring a guest with actual expertise in the field, author and ex-intelligence officer Francis Hamit.  Really excited about this one.

Hamit says: “This was a very positive experience for me.  Tod and Dave are really nice guys and very ‘Otaku’ for any spy film or television show.  Some of those (James Bond, etc) fall into the SF&F genre and they’ve done about fifty so far.  Each is an hour long and they usually do two part, one hour each, in depth discussions.  I was on as a topic expert on SIGINT.”

(14) AMONG THE NEVERS. The New York Times’ Mark Hale tells why he found it hard to get into the show: “Review: ‘The Nevers,’ From HBO and (Formerly) Joss Whedon”.

One of the puzzlements of “The Nevers,” the new alt-superhero show beginning Sunday on HBO, is the title. The peculiarly gifted late-Victorian Londoners, mostly women, who serve as the show’s heroes (and some of its villains) are never called “nevers”; they’re most often referred to as the Touched. In the first four of the series’s 12 episodes, nothing is called the Nevers. You can understand not calling a show “The Touched,” but it’s still a little confusing.

And the confusion doesn’t end there. “The Nevers,” while handsomely produced and, from moment to moment, reasonably diverting, doesn’t catch fire in those early episodes in part because we — along with the characters — are still trying to figure out what the heck is going on.

Before this goes any further, it’s time to mention that “The Nevers” — a rare case these days of a genre series not based on an existing property — was created for the screen by Joss Whedon. There are things to be explained about Whedon’s involvement with the show, but for now let’s stick to the synergism between the new series and his great creation, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”…

(15) WHAT’S UP, DOCK. AP News is there when “American, Russians dock at International Space Station”.

A trio of Russian and American space travelers launched successfully and reached the International Space Station on Friday [April 9].

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov blasted off as scheduled at 12:42 p.m. (0742 GMT, 3:42 a.m. EDT) aboard the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft from the Russia-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan.

They docked at the station after a two-orbit journey that lasted just over three hours.

It is the second space mission for Vande Hei and the third for Novitskiy, while Dubrov is on his first mission.

(16) KING PONG. SYFY Wire tells how “Elon Musk’s Neuralink gets monkey to play Pong with its mind”. (The video is here.) “The darn monkey probably gets higher scores than I ever did,” says John King Tarpinian.

By today’s standards, Pong doesn’t appear to exactly offer the latest, greatest gaming experience around, but just try and tell that to Pager, a macaque monkey who works for Elon Musk at Neuralink, who is currently playing the game with just his mind…

The gameplay is all part of Musk’s master plan of creating a “fully-implanted, wireless, high-channel count brain-machine interface (BMI),” aka a Neuralink, according to the company’s latest blog post highlighting Pager’s gameplay. While the end goal of the implanted device is to give people dealing with paralysis a direct, neural connection to easily and seamlessly operate their computers and mobile devices, the technology is currently giving this monkey some solid entertainment (as well as some tasty banana smoothies)

In the best video you’ll see of a monkey playing video games all day, we get to hang out for a few minutes with Pager, a 9-year-old macaque who, about six weeks ago, had a Neuralink device implanted into each side of his brain. By appearance, he doesn’t seem to be ill-affected by the procedure, save for some missing head fur. Although, it’s hard to say we’re really having a good hang, as Pager is intently focused on playing mind games with a joystick, and on the sweet, sweet smoothies he gets for interacting with the computer. (Hey, at least he’s getting paid.)

(17) BEACH BLANKET BIG BROTHER. Mr. Sci-Fi – Marc Scott Zicree – is running a multi-part series about radio and on-screen adaptations of Orwell’s novel. The latest is “1984 Marathon Part 5 — 1984 Meets Dr. Phibes!” However, the cute title is deceptive — it’s really an audio copy of Vincent Price’s 1955 radio performance in the role of Winston Smith.

[Thanks to Danny Sichel, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Jeffrey Smith, Michael J. Walsh, Andrew Porter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 7/16/20 I Been In The Right Pixel—But It Must Have Been The Wrong Scroll

(1) THE COUNT OF MOUNT TSUNDOKU. “100 Most Popular Fantasy Books on Goodreads”. I’ve read 16 of 100 – I’m not a voracious fantasy fan. See how well you do. Here’s what ranks at the top of the heap:

Dragons, demons, kings, queens, and the occasional farm boy (with a special destiny, of course): Fantasy literature has it all! To celebrate our favorite fictional worlds and characters, we went on a quest for the 100 most popular fantasies of all time on Goodreads, as determined by your fellow members.

Of course, as fantasy readers know, the journey itself matters just as much as the destination. To create our list, we first sought out the most reviewed books on our site. Additionally, each title needed at least a 3.5-star rating to join our fellowship of titles. And, since fantasy is known for its epic sagas, in the case of multiple titles from the same series we chose the one with the most reviews.

Here are the top fantasy books on Goodreads, listed from 1 to 100.

(2)  VIRTUAL SPACE AND SFFCON. CosmoQuest, a citizen science research organization, is holding a virtual con Friday, July 17 through Sunday, July 19 focused on space and science fiction. CosmoQuest-a-Con’s main events are free to watch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx, but you can also buy a $20 ticket for other space talks, author readings, concerts, and demos. The funds go to providing benefits to CosmoQuest’s part-time staff. The con’s home page is here.

(3) HARASSMENT REPORTED. Extreme horror author Tim Miller was called out as a harasser by M.M. Schill and others. Thread begins here. Miller’s social media is no longer available (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). His website remains online. (Note: It’s not the director of the same name.)

Schill also indicated this callout could be shared.

(4) AFROFUTURISM. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron will offer “Sheree Renée Thomas and Friends on Afrofuturism and the Magic of Storytelling and Music” on July 18. Register at the link.

Sheree has more knowledge on the topic of the history of Afrofuturism than anyone we ever met, not to mention an incredible ability to bring it to life through nothing less than magic and wonder. Also coming on the show will be Andrea Hairston, Pan Morigan, and Danian Darrell Jerry. This Saturday, the 18th of July.

We will explore the magic of storytelling and music, and the power of community and art to affect personal and prophetic change.

(5) NOTHING UP MY SLEEVE. James Davis Nicoll comes up with “Five Strategies for Hiding a ‘Lost’ Civilization” at Tor.com.

Suppose for the moment that one is a science fiction or fantasy author, and further suppose that one wanted to posit a past great civilization whose existence comes as a complete surprise to modern folk. Let us also suppose that one wanted overlooking this lost civilization to be plausible… How might one go about this?

I’d tend to reject the “a secretive cabal always knew but kept it secret” explanation. People gossip. People love to show off their insider knowledge. People sometimes accidentally cut and paste entire sections of texts they’d really rather the world not know about into their tweets. Even valuable trade secrets tend to leak out given enough time. So where to hide a lost civilization? Here are five possibilities, to be used together or in concert….

(6) SOME TRUTH IS OUT THERE. “I recently discovered that—unlike in my twenties—at 46 years old I am able to spend innumerable hours watching The X-Files unassisted by marijuana.” “I don’t want to believe” at Affidavit.

… Over the last three months, two things have happened to me. Firstly, I’ve come to recognize my younger self in the character of Agent Fox Mulder, and feel shame appropriate to such an identification. Secondly, I’ve entered that most dangerous of all psychological terrain: nostalgia.

(7) PRO TIP. Ligtspeed’s “Author Spotlight” is on Adam-Troy Castro:

You reference Chekhov’s Gun, but adhere more scrupulously to the original quote than commonly seen: What’s your favorite advice to writers? Is there advice you commonly flout?

My favorite advice to writers is to wring the emotional reaction from yourself, first. When writing humor, you need to barely stand how witty you’re being; when you’re writing tragedy, you need to weep; when writing horror, you need to be appalled that this monstrous stuff is coming out of you. Hell, if you’re writing a thriller, you need to fear for your characters. Honestly, if you don’t react yourself, if it’s just a technical exercise, no one else is going to care either.

(8) IMAGINARY PAPERS 3. Today the Center for Science and the Imagination published the third issue of Imaginary Papers, their quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination. This issue features writing from SF author Troy L. Wiggins and the science writer Kate Greene. Here is a direct link, and here is a link to subscribe for future issues.

(9) GÖRG OBIT. Galyn Görg, a dancer and actress who appeared on such shows as Twin Peaks and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and in films including Point Break and RoboCop 2, has died of cancer at the age of 55.

… Görg starred as police detective Leora Maxwell on the 1994-95 Fox sci-fi drama M.A.N.T.I.S., co-created by Sam Raimi, and played Nancy O’Reilly, the sister of One Eyed Jacks madam Blackie O’Reilly (Victoria Catlin), on three episodes of ABC’s Twin Peaks in 1990.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 16, 1955 Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe serial first aired. This black-and-white movie serial from Republic Pictures, originally began life as a proposed syndicated television series. It was written by Ronald Davidson and Barry Shipman, and was directed by Harry Keller,  Franklin Adreon and Fred C. Brannon. The cast was Judd Holdren as Commando Cody, Aline Towne as Joan Gilbert, William Schallert as Ted Richards and Richard Crane as Dick Preston . There would be twelve twenty five episodes. You can see the first episode, ‘Enemies of the Universe” here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 16, 1723 –  Sir Joshua Reynolds.  First President of the Royal Academy of Arts.  Famed as a portraitist.  Intellectual enough to keep company with Burke, Goldsmith, Johnson.  Painting mythological subjects calls for fantasy: here is Juno Receiving the Cestus from Venushere is Diana Disarming Cupidhere is Theory.  (Died 1792) [JH]
  • Born July 16, 1882 Felix Locher. He is considered the oldest Star Trek actor of all time by birth year, appearing in  “The Deadly Years” episode. 0ther genre appearances included Curse of the Faceless Man,  The Twilight ZoneFrankenstein’s Daughter, The Munsters, House of the DamnedThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Mission Impossible. His entire acting career was from 1957 to 1969. (Died 1969.) (CE)
  • Born July 16, 1916 – Paul Freehafer.  Joined the SF League in 1934, thus part of First Fandom (active at least as early as the first Worldcon, 1939) although 1F was not organized, if the word may be used, until much later.  So helpful to his local club the LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) that its service award is the Evans-Freehafer (after E. Everett Evans and PF).  Fanzine, Polaris.  More here. (Died 1944) [JH]
  • Born July 16, 1920 – Stan Woolston.  Printer and fan.  Life member of the Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n (N3F), edited Tightbeam, served on Welcommittee, earned the Kaymar.  Lifelong friend of Len Moffatt (published SF Parade with him), Rick Sneary.  Big Heart (our highest service award, community-wide).  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born July 16, 1928 Robert Sheckley. I knew that his short story “Seventh Victim” was the basis of The 10th Victim film but I hadn’t known ‘til now that Freejack was sort of based of his Immortality, Inc. novel.  I’ve read a lot by him with Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming (written with Zelazny) and Babylon 5: A Call to Arms being my favorite works by him. Sheckley is very well stocked on the aKindle store but not in the iBook store. H’h. (Died 2005.) (CE)
  • Born July 16, 1943 – Bruce Boston, 77.  Two novels; a hundred shorter stories in AmazingAsimov’sRealms of FantasySF AgeStrange Horizons; poems dusting our skies like strange stars.  Seven Rhyslings; Pushcart Prize; first Grand Master of the SF Poetry Ass’n.  Has chaired the Nebula Award jury for novels, the Philip K. Dick Award jury.  [JH]
  • Born July 16, 1951 – Sue Thomas, 69.  Coined the term “technobiophilia” and wrote a book about it.  Two novels; anthology Wild Women.  Correspondent, reviewer, in FocusFoundationMatrix, Paperback InfernoVector.  [JH]
  • Born July 16, 1951 Esther Friesner, 69. She’s won the Nebula Awards for Best Short Story twice with “Death and the Librarian” and “A Birthday”.  I’m particularly fond of The Sherwood Game and E.Godz which she did with Robert Asprin. She’s better stocked in the Kindle store than in the iBooks Store. (CE) 
  • Born July 16, 1956 Jerry Doyle. Now this one is depressing. Dead of acute alcoholism at sixty, his character Michael Garibaldi was portrayed as an alcoholic, sometimes recovering and sometimes not on Babylon 5. Damn. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born July 16, 1963 Phoebe Cates, 57. Ok, do her entire genre appearance credit is as Kate Beringer in Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch. It’s two films that I have an inordinate fondness for that the Suck Fairy cannot have any effect upon them what-so-ever. (CE)
  • Born July 16, 1967 Will Ferrell, 53. His last film was Holmes & Watson in which he played Holmes. It won Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screen Combo and, my absolute favorite Award, Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel. Wow. He was also in Land of the Lost which, errrr, also got negative reviews. Elf however got a great response from viewers and critics alike. He also was in two of the Austin Powers films as well. (CE)
  • Born July 16, 1975 – Lucian Dragos Bogdan, 45.  Author, caricaturist (the ”s” in his name should have a tiny comma under it for the sound English spells ”sh”). Likes rock music and the Tao Tê Ching (or, if you’d rather, Daodejing).  A dozen novels, thirty short stories, in our field; also mystery & thriller, romance.  Website in EnglishFrenchRomanian. [JH]

(12)COMICS SECTION.

(13) NOW A SHADOW OF ITS FORMER SELF. Silvia Moreno-Garcia sketches “A Brief History of Mexican Horror Comic Books” at Tor.com.

When people ask me if I like comic books I always have a split-second reaction. The answer is no. But it’s a nuanced no. I don’t like superhero comic books, but I grew up reading plenty of other stuff.

While in the United States “comic book” can be read as a synonym for “superhero,” such a correlation has not traditionally existed in Mexico. Mexican artists during their Golden Age were more interested in other kinds of content. This doesn’t mean there weren’t any superheroes—Fantomas, El Santo and Kalimán come to mind—but you were more likely to find other sorts of local comic books. And when people thought comic books, they probably thought historietas, monitos, una de vaqueros, all of which conjure something very far from Superman, Batman or the X-Men….

(14) TIME AFTER TIME. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Garry Trudeau about his new book Lewser! More Doonesbury In The Age Of Trump.  Trudeau discusses how he satirizes Trump, including how he draws the president’s hair, and how “for the most part, I’ve stayed away” from satirizing Trump’s children “and I’m not sure why.” “Garry Trudeau is spoofing the Trump presidency by treating it as ‘a hostile takeover’”.

… “There has been never the slightest danger of running out of inspiration — Trump serves up a banquet of lies, obfuscation and cruelty almost daily,” says Trudeau, whose new material runs every Sunday. “Steve Allen once said that comedy is tragedy plus time, but in Trump’s case, the passage of time is wholly optional.”

(15) THEY HAVE A LITTLE LIST. “So which comics companies got PPP loans?” ComicsBeat will satiate your curiosity on this score.

… Back when this pandemic thing first began, several economic relief packages were floated as part of the CARES Act, including small business loans known as PPP (Payment Protection Program) loans. The loans were to help with payroll to keep people employed – with the loans forgivable if 60% of the money went to payroll.

… It’s also not anything to be ashamed of – applying for aid during an economic shutdown is a smart move to keep people on the payroll and keep companies afloat, and it’s good that these comics companies were able to receive aid.

Now, we did hear that many actual small businesses, including comics shops, had a harder time getting loans, and there are lots of stories about billionaires getting payouts, from Kanye West to Soho House. And of course there was fraud, like using PPP money to pay for a new house in the case of the CEO of Wendy’s. Nice one!

(16) HEROES ASSEMBLE. In “Chris Evans Sends Captain America Shield to Young Boy Who Saved His Sister From Dog Attack”, Variety reports that Evans joined a bunch of other actors who play superheroes to cheer up Bridger Walker, a nine-year-old who got 90 stitches after protecting his four-year-old sister from a charging dog.

…“I’m sure you’ve heard this a lot over the last couple of the days, but let me be the next one to tell you: Pal, you’re a hero,” Evans said. “What you did was so brave, so selfless, your sister is so lucky to have you as a big brother. Your parents must be so proud of you.”

(17) IG NOBEL NOMINEE. Snakes! It has to be snakes – who can out-eat hot dog chugging humans. “Scientists Have Finally Calculated How Many Hot Dogs a Person Can Eat at Once”.

The world’s best hot dog eaters could outeat a grizzly bear or a coyote, but would fall far behind a wolf or a Burmese python, a new study finds.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, with streams of sweat pouring down his face, Joey Chestnut broke his own world record for hot dog eating, by downing 75 hot dogs (with buns) in 10 minutes at the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. It was his 13th win at the annual contest. And Miki Sudo set a women’s record, 48.5 hot dogs, to grab her seventh straight Nathan’s win.

Because of the coronavirus crisis, the event was held virtually this year, and Dr. James Smoliga was glued to his screen, rooting for new records. For the past few months, Dr. Smoliga, a veterinarian and exercise scientist, had been working on a mathematical analysis of the maximum number of hot dogs that a human could theoretically consume in 10 minutes.

“The answer is 83,” said Dr. Smoliga, a professor at High Point University in North Carolina.

He has now published the full analysis, which calculated this number based on 39 years of historical data from the Nathan’s contest, as well as on mathematical models of human performance that consider the potential for extreme athletic feats.

“It’s a great paper,” said Dr. Michael Joyner, a physician at the Mayo Clinic who studies human performance, adding that the analysis shows the classic fast rise in performance followed by more gradual improvements that happen when an event becomes professionalized. The best part, he said, is that Dr. Smoliga wrote it with a straight face.

(18) SPACE: 1999 REDUX. “Nuclear blast sends star hurtling across galaxy”. Looking for a gas station?

A star has been sent hurtling across the galaxy after undergoing a partial supernova, astronomers say.

A supernova is a powerful explosion that occurs when some stars reach the ends of their lives; in this case, the blast was not sufficient to destroy it.

Instead, it sent the star hurtling through space at 900,000 km/hr.

Astronomers think the object, known as a white dwarf, was originally circling another star, which would have been sent flying in the opposite direction.

When two stars orbit each other like this, they are described as a “binary”. Only one of the stars has been detected by astronomers, however.

The object, known as SDSS J1240+6710, was previously found to have an unusual atmospheric composition.

Discovered in 2015, it seemed to contain neither hydrogen nor helium (which are usually found), appearing to be composed instead of an unusual mix of oxygen, neon, magnesium and silicon.

(19) WRINKLES IN TIME. “Desert telescope takes aim at ageing our Universe” – BBC has the story.

Another telescope has entered the debate about the age and expansion rate of the Universe.

This topic has recently become the subject of an energetic to and fro among scientists using different astronomical facilities and techniques.

The new entrant is the Atacama Cosmology Telescope in Chile.

It’s been studying the “oldest light” on the sky and has concluded the Big Bang occurred 13.77 billion years ago, give or take 40 million years.

That’s almost exactly the same number we got from Europe’s flagship Planck space observatory mission, which mapped the ancient light in the early 2010s.

But therein lies the problem because other telescopes using different methods have come out with ages that are a few hundred million years younger.

What they’ve all been trying to do is measure what’s known as the Hubble Constant – the value used by astronomers to describe cosmic expansion.

(20) OLD GUARD, NEW LOOK. The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday interviews The Old Guard director Gina Prince-Bythewood, the first Black director of a superhero movie, about what it was like to direct the film and the choices she made in directing women that were different than what male directors would do. “Gina Prince-Bythewood is the first black woman to direct a major comic-book movie. It looks like the future.”

… When she began tackling the material, she adds, her identity as an African American woman informed nearly every decision she made. “The things that I influenced, that I noticed, that I corrected, that I amplified, absolutely come from a black female lens,” she says firmly. Although she was thrilled with Rucka’s original script, she asked him to flesh out Nile’s backstory, adding layers having to do with her family and experience in the military (where, not incidentally, her colleagues are women of color, much like the institution itself). Even the film’s many fight scenes bear the signature of someone who is coming from a different angle than the usual white male gaze. One in particular, between Andy and Nile on a cargo plane, was particularly sensitive for Prince-Bythewood.

(21) COGNITIVE DISSONANCE TIME. What’s gotten into Tor.com’s headline writers? “Let Henry Cavill Show You Parts You’ve Never Seen Before… As He Assembles This Gaming PC”. But Emmet Asher-Perrin says —

It’s not what you think, promise.

In fact, Cavill used this opportunity to play some very sexy music while he… assembled his gaming PC…. 

Does it seem strange to see such humor in a headline after reading one of the items above?

(22) DEBUT NOVELIST. From Goodreads: “Lindsay Ellis: How Science Fiction Makes Sense of the Present”.

Until this summer, Lindsay Ellis was mainly known as a super smart and witty film critic and YouTube essayist… This month, Ellis’ debut science fiction novel, Axiom’s End, arrives….

I was eight years old when Lois Lowry’s The Giver was released in 1993, and it became an instant turning point for me, not only for my relationship to books in general, but to science fiction in particular. Anti-authority narratives for children are extremely common—it’s pretty much the basis for all of Nickelodeon’s marketing—but narratives for young children tend to have cartoonishly evil authority figures who are obviously in the wrong. The Giver, in contrast, presents us with what appears to be a utopia, challenging the young reader with a simple, comforting authority structure that over the course of the narrative the protagonist Jonah learns not only has sapped his community’s members of their humanity, but does monstrous things in its bid to maintain control.

One of the main hallmarks of science fiction is the use of social constructs, technologies, and futures that do not yet exist—and may never exist—as a means of exploring our present. In the case of The Giver, it was the first book I read that used science fiction to create (to an eight year old, anyway) mind-blowing revelations about the nature of society and the individual’s relationship to it. The Giver is one of those books that serves as a perfect gateway for children who are just beginning to learn that change is inevitable, that well-meaning people can be wrong, and that solutions to problems are not always obvious. …

(23) LEFANU ON TV. “Carmilla–Official UK Trailer” on YouTube is a trailer for a “reimagined” version of J.S. LeFanu’s great horror novella which is now being streamed in the U.S.

Isolated from the outside world, fifteen-year-old Lara (Hannah Rae, “Broadchurch”, Fighting with My Family) lives in seclusion on a vast country estate with her father and strict governess Miss Fontaine (Jessica Raine, “Patrick Melrose”, “Jericho”). Late one evening, a mysterious carriage crash brings a young girl (Devrim Lingnau) into their home to recuperate. Lara immediately becomes enchanted by this strange visitor who arouses her curiosity and awakens her burgeoning desires.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/9/20 A Pixel Scroll Title That Turns Out To Have Been Used Before

(1) NOT DEAD YET. Since the cancellation of San Diego Comic-Con 2020 was announced in mid-April the people behind it have been thinking about an online counterpart. This humorous video dropped on May 8.

What it all means has yet to be revealed. However, in April SDCC started posting coloring books and videos with the theme of Comic-Con Museum@Home.

While Comic-Con 2020 has been cancelled (we’ll return in 2021!) and the Comic-Con Museum is currently closed along with the rest of the museums in Balboa Park, we want to welcome you to our newest endeavor: Comic-Con Museum@Home!

We have great plans for this new section of our website. This will be your main source for some amazing Comic-Con Museum content, such as exclusive videos—including past events (Sense of Wonder with Jen Bartel, The Art of Shag, Will Eisner Week), and new video content created exclusively for the Museum@Home program. Plus, we’re proud to introduce our exclusive “Fun Book” series, a regularly scheduled downloadable PDF featuring activity and coloring sheets created by the Comic-Con Museum for various age groups.

For one example – “Comic-Con Museum Celebrates Will Eisner: Life Forces: The Art of the Comics Memoir.“

(2) GNAW, YOU’RE KIDDING ME. The New York Times’ Cathy Weaver says it’s “Time to Check Your Pandemic-Abandoned Car for Rats”.  

You might want to make sure there’s not a rat living (or recently dead) in your car’s engine.

Why are you still reading? Check your car for a rat, I said. That’s the tip. Rats like it in there, and while they could take up residence in a car engine at any time, anecdotal reports (and mankind’s modern if imperfect knowledge of rat behavior) suggest the phenomenon may be occurring more frequently right now.

Three line breaks into this story, it is becoming increasingly clear that the depth of your interest in rats plunges far deeper than basic car maintenance tips. You are a person who seeks to understand rats in a way that rats may not even understand themselves. You want to read the invisible instruction encoded in a rat’s brain that compels him to abandon the deli dumpster where he has spent the majority of his short life and, all of a sudden, carry a leaf and perhaps some twigs into the engine of your Jetta. OK. Here is more rat information…

(3) LEAPIN’ LEPUS. “Juliet Johnson and Peter Capaldi On The Story of Richard Adams’ Watership Down” on YouTube is a promotional video for Black Stone Publishing in which Richard Adams’s daughter, Juliet Johnson, and Peter Capaldi discuss a new, unabridged version of Watership Down which Capaldi recorded to commemorate Richard Adams’s centennial.

(4) SURVIVAL OF THE SFFEST. “Everything I Need To Know To Survive Covid-19 I Learned By Watching Scifi & Horror Movies” is a clever mashup by Evan Gorski and Michael Dougherty.

(5) SOFT RE-OPENING. South Pasadena’s Vidéothèque movie rental business told people on its mailing list they expected to be allowed to reopen for pick-up service today.

Pursuant to County Health Dept provisions (& crossing our fingers), we will re-open Saturday, May 9 from 11am-7pm with front door service & will keep these hours daily.

Please refer to our website vidtheque.com to search for titles 

They included a bunch of movie recommendation lists to stimulate the demand, including Time Out’s “The 100 best horror films – the scariest movies ranked by experts”. Number four on the list is

Alien

The miracle of birth
Talk about above and beyond: Ridley Scott was hired by Twentieth Century Fox to make ‘“Jaws” in space’, and came back with one of the most stylish, subversive, downright beautiful films in either the horror or sci-fi genre. The masterstroke, of course, was hiring Swiss madman HR Giger as the film’s chief designer – his work brings a slippery, organic grotesquerie to what could’ve been a straight-up bug hunt (© ‘Aliens’). But let’s not overlook Dan O’Bannon’s script, which builds character without assigning age, race or even gender – plus one of the finest casts ever assembled.

(6) VIDEO GAME CREATOR. The Strong Museum of Play has received a collection of prototypes and projects from the family of inventor Ralph Baer.

Ralph Baer, known as the father of home video games and the first person to patent the idea of playing a video game on a television, spent more than four decades creating, inventing, and changing the landscape of play. The Strong museum, home to the World Video Game Hall of Fame, is pleased to announce that it has received a donation of prototype toys and technologies from Baer’s family that showcase his work and his creative thinking. The items add to the museum’s existing collection of Baer materials, which includes his personal papers and one of his desktop inventing workstations.

…Baer is known for his work in the video game industry, but in addition to creating the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972, the first home console machine, Baer led a successful career in toy and handheld electronic game design, creating the matching game Simon and the plush bear TV Teddy, among many other products. This collection includes dozens of items in various stages of development, including a Big Bird Talking Bank, the Video Buddy interactive system, augmented GI Joe rescue set, Super Simon, along with various other pieces or concepts, including talking greeting cards, a twirling carnival ride, modified stuffed animals, and a toy phone. Together, along with the museum’s existing personal papers, they provide a window into Baer’s design process.

“My father escaped Nazi Germany as a child, and he spent much of his life after that thinking differently about the world and trying to introduce more fun and whimsy into it. He was a visionary and creative force who never stopped learning, inventing, and tinkering—even into his 90s,” says Mark W. Baer, his son and the Trustee of the Ralph H. Baer Trust. 

(7) CREATURE FEATURE. Marie Brennan considers “New Worlds: Working Animals” at Book View Café.

…In fact, dogs serve as kind of a template for things we use working animals to do. The tasks of draft (pulling things like wagons or plows), pack (carrying loads directly) and riding came up when we talked about transportation, so I won’t rehash the list of species used in different parts of the world — but I will note that certain animals we can’t domesticate, like zebra and moose, can occasionally be tamed to perform those tasks. This category is where the Industrial Revolution made the most immediate and obvious dent: once we could replace muscle power with steam power and its successors, we no longer needed to keep millions of horses and mules and donkeys and camels and so forth to work for us.

(8) WHAT’S STUFFED INSIDE. NPR’s Jason Sheehan rides the line: “These ‘Little Eyes’ Watch The World Burn”.

Samanta Schweblin is not a science fiction writer. Which is probably one of the reasons why Little Eyes, her new novel (translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell) reads like such great science fiction.

Like Katie Williams’s 2018 novel Tell The Machine Goodnight before it, Little Eyes supposes a world that is our world, five minutes from now. It is a place with all our recognizable horrors, all our familiar comforts and sweetnesses, as familiar (as if anything could be familiar these days) as yesterday’s shoes. It then introduces one small thing — one little change, one product, one tweaked application of a totally familiar technology — and tracks the ripples of chaos that it creates.

In Tell The Machine, it was a computer that could tell anyone how to be happy, and Williams turned that (rather disruptive, obviously impossible) technology into a quiet, slow-burn drama of family and human connection that was one of my favorite books of the past few years. Schweblin, though, is more sinister. She basically gives everyone in the world a Furby with a webcam, and then sits back, smiling, and watches humanity shake itself to pieces.

You remember what a Furby is, right? They were those creepy-cute, fuzzy animal toys that could blink and squawk and sing, dance around and respond to some basic commands. They were toys that pretended (mostly poorly) that they were alive.

Schweblin’s version is called a kentuki. It’s a simple, fur-covered crow or mole or bunny or dragon with cameras for eyes, wheels, a motor. And a person inside. Virtually, of course. Not, like, for real. Because that would be horrifying. And Little Eyes is absolutely horrifying, but not that kind of horrifying….

(9) REDECORATING THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE. ScreenRant tries to explain “Why The Fourth Doctor Had A Second (Original) TARDIS Console Room”.

…In the debut episode of Doctor Who‘s original season 14, The Doctor takes his then-companion, Sarah Jane Smith, to a different, unused console room, and then strongly suggests this place was actually the original hub of the TARDIS. This console room remained The Doctor‘s base for the remainder of the season and was a massive visual departure from what had come before, with wooden panel walls, stained glass windows, and a smaller, cabinet-like console. Unfortunately, the Victorian-style console room only lasted a single season before the white, pimply decor returned. Reports conflict as to whether the wood of the previous set was proving problematic to maintain, or whether incoming producer, Graham Williams, simply wasn’t a fan.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 9, 1973 Soylent Green premiered in theatres. It was the last performance by Edward G. Robinson who gets a great death scene here. It starred Charlton Heston and Leigh Taylor-Young. It was directed by Richard Flieschier and produced by Walter Seltzer and Russell Thacher. It was rather loosely based on Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison. Most of the critics at the time generally liked it, and at Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 71% rating among audience reviewers.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 9, 1860 J. M. Barrie. For us and for many others he’s the author of Peter Pan.  After that he had a long string of successes in the theater.  He knew George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells.  He joined the Authors Cricket Club and played for its team along with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A.A. Milne, and P.G. Wodehouse.  He was made a baronet in 1913. (Died 1937.)
  • Born May 9, 1913 Richard McKenna. His short story “The Secret Place” was a Hugo finalist and won the Nebula.  “Casey Agonistes” (short story) and “Hunter, Come Home” (novelette) are in many anthologies; “Casey” has been translated into French, German, Italian; “Hunter” into French, German, Italian, Romanian; “Secret” into Dutch, German, Italian, Polish.  Cover artist for Volume 3 of the NESFA Press Essential Hal Clement (Variations on a Theme by Sir Isaac Newton).  Best known outside our field for The Sand Pebbles.  (Died 1963.)
  • Born May 9, 1920 Richard  Adams. I really loved Watership Down when I read it long ago so will not read it again so the Suck Fairy may not visit it. Are any of the various Watership animated affairs worth seeing? Reasonably sure I’ve read Shardik once but it made no impression one way or the the other.  Heard good things about Tales from Watership Down and should add it my TBR pile. (Died 2016)
  • Born May 9, 1920 William Tenn. Clute says in ESF that ‘From the first, Tenn was one of the genre’s very few genuinely comic, genuinely incisive writers of short fiction, sharper and more mature than Fredric Brown and less self-indulgent in his Satirical take on the modern world than Robert Sheckley.’  That pretty sums him up I think.  All of his fiction is collected in two volumes from NESFA Press, Immodest Proposals: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume I and Here Comes Civilization: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume II. (Died 2010.)
  • Born May 9, 1925 Kris Neville. His most well-remembered work, the “Bettyann” novella, is a classic of science fiction. It would become part of the Bettyann novel, a fix-up of it and “Overture“, a short story of his. He wrote a lot of rather great short fiction, much of which can be in the posthumous The Science Fiction of Kris Neville, edited byBarry N Malzberg (who greatly admired him) and Martin H Greenberg, and more (some overlapping with the first collection) Earth Alert! and Other Science Fiction Tales. He’s not alas wisely available in digital form. (Died 1980.)
  • Born May 9, 1926 Richard Cowper. Writer of some seriously comic genre fiction that Martin Amis loathed. The White Bird of Kinship series is what he’s best remembered for and I’d certainly recommend it as being worth reading.  It appears that all of here are available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 2002.)
  • Born May 9, 1936 Albert Finney. His first genre performance is as Ebenezer Scrooge in Scrooge. That’s followed by being Dewey Wilson in Wolfen, a deeply disturbing film. He plays Edward Bloom, Sr. In the wonderful Big Fish and voices Finis Everglot in Corpse Bride. He was Kincade in Skyfall. He was Maurice Allington in The Green Man based on Kingsley Amis’ novel of the same name. Oh, and he played Prince Hamlet in Hamlet at the  Royal National Theatre way back in the Seventies! (Died 2019.)

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Immortal words from The Far Side.
  • Bookshelves dominate Grant Snider’s new Incidental Comic.

(13) KEEPING COMIC SHOPS AFLOAT. Shelf Awareness reports money will start flowing from the rescue fund next week: “Binc Distributing $950K to Comic Book Stores”.

Next Tuesday, May 12, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) will distribute more than $950,000 raised by the Comicbook United Fund to comic store owners. The fund was created in response to the Covid-19 pandemic by Creators 4 Comics, Jim Lee, DC and Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group. Binc is distributing amounts ranging from $800 to $2,400 to 637 comic book shops across the U.S. and U.S. territories.

The Comicbook United Fund grew out of the Forge Fund, which Oni-Lion Forge established last year with a donation to Binc of $100,000. This year, DC added another $250,000 to the fund. In addition, after the pandemic hit, a coalition of artists, authors, comics creators and other supporters held more than 600 auctions on Twitter, and DC’s Jim Lee began auctioning 60 original sketches in 60 days on eBay, with 95% of sales going to Binc.

In addition to the more than $950,000 that Binc is distributing to comic stores next week, Binc has distributed another $174,786 to 156 comic retail employees and owners to help with rent, mortgage, utilities, food and other necessities during this pandemic

(14) TIME AND TIDE. Wil Wheaton’s latest read is “By request, an HP Lovecraft short story.” Hear him at Soundcloud.

…I love the Cthulhu mythos, but I’m not crazy about Lovecraft’s storytelling. I feel like he spends a lot of time in the high concept and the world building, without ever really going more than skin deep on his protagonists and narrative characters. NB: I haven’t read a ton of Lovecraft, probably six or so short stories, so maybe he has a novel or novella with rich characters and narratives, but I haven’t found it.

None of this is to suggest that he wasn’t brilliantly creative and imaginative, just that his stories aren’t the most satisfying use of my time.

However, hundreds of you have reached out in comments and emails, asking me to narrate something from the Cthulhu Mythos, so today’s RFB Presents is a short, weird, lurid story called Dagon.

(15) OUR DYING EARTH. Tammy reviews “GOLDILOCKS By Laura Lam” at Books, Bones, and Buffy.

Goldilocks has a fantastic premise and uses one of my favorite sci-fi tropes: leaving our dying Earth and striking out to colonize a new planet, in the hopes of saving humankind. And for the first half of the story, it lived up to this promise. But I ended up with mixed feelings, and I felt the first half was way stronger than the second half. Still, I had a lot of fun reading this book, and I’m going to recommend it to readers who love strong female characters and enjoy reading about current social issues. There are some scary events in Goldilocks that really hit close to home (can you say “pandemic”?) which added a lot of tension to the story, but I also felt that Lam made a few missteps with the characters’ choices in some cases.

(16) IN THE BEGINNING. “Supergirl: 10 Things You Never Noticed About The First Episode” at ScreenRant.

… Since so much has happened in the meantime, it’s easy to forget what Supergirl was like in its beginnings when Kara Danvers was still learning how to use her powers and was hoping to figure out how to be a hero. No matter how many times you’ve seen the show’s first episode, you might have never noticed the following 10 details.

Number 10 —

National City

Kara reveals shortly after the beginning of the first episode that she lives and works in National City. The name of the city is a nice easter egg for all fans of the publisher DC comics.

National City doesn’t have its origin in the comics, but by choosing this name for Supergirl’s home, the show’s creators paid homage to DC comics. Before DC was, well, DC, the company’s name was National Comics Publications, hence the ‘National’ in the name of Supergirl’s city.

(17) MASTERPIECE THEATRE. Gideon Marcus is there when That Was The Week That Was goes off the air, and other real news is happening, but no time to waste! This is the magazine with Robert Sheckley’s Mindswap! — “[MAY 8, 1965] SKIP TO THE END (JUNE 1965 GALAXY]” at Galactic Journey.

…And then, having given my report, I’d tie it pithily to the subject at hand, namely the June 1965 Galaxy science fiction digest.  But the fact is, there’s lots to cover and I’m anxious to get it all down while it’s still fresh in my mind.  So, you’ll just have to pretend that I was clever and comprehensive in my introduction…. 

(18) THE FAR FUTURE – 1947. At First Fandom Experience they’ll take you back even further in time where you can see “A Rarity: Tellus News”.

This issue of Tellus News, a “newspaper of the future,” was discovered among a collection of fanzines from the 1940s.  It was mis-categorized because of the cover date: “Sol 23, 1947”

But this hand-drawn fanzine was created in 1932 by Howard Lowe as a vision of what news might look like 15 years hence.  It’s not a copy — it’s an original set of drawings. Rendered in colored pencil, it was likely never reproduced, and as such is a one-of-a-kind artwork….

(19) STAR WARS FOR THE 1 PERCENTERS. Michael Verdon, in the Robb Report story “Why ‘Star Wars’ Characters Are Taking Over the World’s Most Expensive Superyachts” says the British superyacht firm Thirtyc has been putting out Star Wars-related yachts for Star Wars Day on May 4, and Verdon shows how the onepercenters are having cosplay fun with their expensive yachts.

…Seeing a storm trooper and Darth Vader on a million-dollar tender isn’t an everyday occurrence. Neither is catching a glimpse of Princess Leia or Chewbacca driving away on another tender.

At first, the firm received a lot of compliments about their whimsical but highly realistic work. “As it spoke to peoples’ imaginations, they started asking us to use their boats,” says Armstrong. Soon, Star Wars vehicles like AT-AT Walkers and Starfighters appeared on superyacht helipads and rear decks.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Universe” on YouTube is a 1960 documentary, directed by Roman Kroitor and Colin Low for the National Film Board of Canada, which Stanley Kubrick said was one of his inspirations for 2001.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/2/20 This Pixel Scroll Title Made From 60% Recycled Material

(1) SIGNAL BOOST. Julie C. Day’s Weird Dream Society, a charity anthology with all proceeds going to RAICES (The Refugee And Immigrant Center For Education And Legal Services), is in the pre-order stage.

Playful, whimsical, or dark, but always thoughtful and tinged with the inexplicably weird, the Weird Dream Society brings together some of the most innovative creators in speculative fiction. Most of the book consists of reprints with a few new stories to round it out.

The anthology includes stories by Nathan Ballingrud, Carina Bissett, Gregory Norman Bossert, Karen Bovenmyer, Christopher Brown, Emily Cataneo, Julie C. Day, Michael J Deluca, Gemma Files, A.T. Greenblatt, Nin Harris, Chip Houser, James Patrick Kelly, Marianne Kirby, Kathrin Köhler, Matthew Kressel, Jordan Kurella, Premee Mohamed, Sarah Read, Sofia Samatar, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Steve Toase, and A.C. Wise.

In addition to his fictional work, author and artist Gregory Norman Bossert generously donated the anthology’s cover illustration.

Proceeds from this charity anthology go to support RAICES, the nonprofit agency that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to under-served immigrant children, families, and refugees. With offices in Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio, RAICES is “a frontline organization in the roiling debate about immigration and immigrants in the world.”

Paul Jessup has reviewed the project for Vernacular Books:

…But I’ve never been one for rules or guidelines, and really neither is this collection. I will say, I knew a few of these stories ahead of time, they were favorites published in off beat anthologies and magazines back in the day, so seeing them here was a joy and a promise of things to come. You know an anthology is going to be good when you recognize some of your favorites right away….

Weird Dream Society will be released May 26, 2020. Pre-order eBook: Amazon | Kobo | B&N Nook; Pre-order Paperback: Amazon | Barnes&Noble. Find out more at Twitter, their website, and Goodreads.  

(2) PROFIT SHARING. It’s the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts. J.K. Rowling is observing it a bit differently than usual. “JK Rowling donates £1m to two charities”

JK Rowling, the creator of the Harry Potter adventures, is donating £1m to charities supporting vulnerable people during the lockdown.

Half of the money will go to Crisis which helps homeless people, and half to Refuge to support victims of domestic abuse.

Rowling’s donations come amid #HarryPotterDay on Twitter.

Saturday also marks the anniversary of one the author’s major events in her stories.

On Twitter, Rowling said: “Today’s the 22nd anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, but I am going to be honest and say that it feels inappropriate to talk about fictional deaths.

“Too many people are losing loved ones in the real world.”

Rowling, who wrote many of her Harry Potter stories while living in Edinburgh, said many vulnerable people who were homeless or in an abusive relationship were suffering at this time.

(3) COMMUNITY RALLIES. Shelf Awareness reports an epic fundaising success to help comics and book stores.

In five days, #Creators4Comics raised $433,166 for the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) to support comics stores and indie bookstores hurt by Covid-19. The group’s charity auction featured 635 separate auctions on Twitter and other platforms by comics creators, authors and celebrities.

“Comic shops and indie bookstores have supported so many of us,” said Kami Garcia, author of the graphic novel Teen Titans: Raven, who brought the organizers together. “They aren’t just places where we buy books and comics. These stores are places where we find belonging.”

Among the participants were Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Patton Oswalt, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Joe Hill, Shannon Hale, Mike Mignola, Brad Meltzer, Mariko Tamaki, Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Marissa Meyer, Danielle Paige, Gene Luen Yang, Tom King, Bryan Edward Hill, Jason Aaron, Marc Guggenheim, Gail Simone, Vita Ayala, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Cassandra Clare, Marieke Nijkamp, Margaret Stohl, Jock, Mico Suayan, and G. Willow Wilson. Seth Meyers, Damon Lindeloff and Robert Kirkman made generous matching donations.

Since March 13, 135 comics retailers and their households have received more than $150,950 in financial assistance for rent, food and essential medications from Binc–more than double the amount distributed last year to this sector of the book industry. In total, 722 comic book stores have now applied for aid….

(4) GENRE PALADIN. Joshua Gillingham takes up the cudgels “In Defense of Genre Fiction”.

…Well, some might say that reading genre fiction is a bit like ordering pulled-pork sandwiches over and over, that it makes you predictable (i.e. boring). Others might add that writing genre fiction is little more than an act of trying to resuscitate long-dead tropes while trying to pass off cheap imitations as original work. Given these two stereotypical notions, especially within the writing community, there can be a lot of shame or defensiveness around reading or writing these kinds of stories. Therefore, I feel the need to present an argument in defense of genre fiction, its readers, and its writers…. 

(5) SERLING SILVER. Herbie J. Pilato continues his “Writing for Your Life” series with “Rod Serling and ‘The Twilight Zone’” at Medium.

The development and execution of The Twilight Zone and its induction into the annals of TV history is a story of an obsessive need for acceptance on many levels.

Submitted for your approval:

Exhibit A: Rod Serling, Zone’s creator, executive producer, central writing force, and charismatic host. The show’s popularity preyed upon his endless reservoir of ideas, originally inspired by his obsession with the past and his preoccupation with aging, mixed in with a measure of courage and faith, and the survival techniques he learned in the army….

(6) AHH NATURE. “Sir Tim Cattenborough Presents The Life Cycle of a Novel” – a Camestros Felapton production.

[A stunning new nature documentary by world famous publisher, naturalist and national treasure Sir Timothy Cattenborough]

Our beautiful planet Earth. From up here on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro we can see the vast vistas of nature’s own miracles and what greater miracle can there be than the majestic novel — one of the natural world’s most miraculous miracles.

Here I am in the forests of Borneo gazing in wonder at the spectacular site of thousands of novels making their nests among the natural shelving of the great pine trees of northern Scandinavia. Whether it is these great majestic creatures of the plains of Patagonia or the more common domesticated novel of these rolling hills of Southern England, the novel is a familiar sight to us all.

But very few people have ever managed to see the hidden lifecycle of a novel. How are they born? How do they grow? And how, via the miracle of evolution do they reproduce? Today, via special cameras disguised as robots disguised as librarians we have, over a gruelling five minute project, at last gained unique footage of the novel’s lifecycle….

(7) MAY THE FOURTH. This will make your Starbucks mocha grande seem cheap by comparison. NBC Los Angeles tells Star Wars fans “Blue Milk on May the Fourth, You Can Have”.

Scum & Villainy Cantina, in Hollywood, can kindly help us locate the cosmic libation, however.

The “Star Wars”-sweet venue, which also celebrates a number of different fandoms via a host of events, will celebrate May the Fourth by offering 21+ fans Wretched Blue Milk Snack Packs for $11.38 each.

(8) TEMPTING TIDBITS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Not directly SF (although McPhee has written about Freeman Dyson, just not here.)

The Patch, John McPhee’s newest [in 2019] (and 7th) collection of short pieces, has two parts:

  • six long sports or sport-related articles (mostly golf) (~ 90 pages)
  • “an album quilt” — ~130 pages of dozens of his shorter articles (or excerpts from same)

In case “John McPhee” and “new collection of short pieces” isn’t enough to make you borrow or buy the book, here’s links to 3 sections of quilt, and if these aren’t enough to get you to borrow or buy this book (and, by extension, proceed to read more of his books), well, then more wouldn’t help.

1, “Pools and pools and pools of chocolate — fifty-thousand pound, ninety-thousand pound, Olympus-length pools of chocolate…”

2. [Found via Google Books.] “When Martha, my youngest daughter, was seventeen, her English teacher–Mrs. Thomas–write forty-seven vocabulary words on the blackboard and told the class to write a short composition using all forty-seven words: aspersion, audacious, avarice, blanch…”

(DPD notes, in searching for this, by omitting McPhee’s name, the above search’s results includes “A Glossary for the Fiction of Clark Ashton Smith”.)

3, McPhee tries an eary word processor – quoted in “The Machine That Was Going To Tranquilize This Scene Was Locked Away In A Quiet Cubicle”.

“Joseph Martin, computer methodologist at the [New York] Times, has been pursuing for some years what he describes as ‘the ideal philosophy of creating a newspaper’… you start by ‘capturing the keystroke at the origin.'”

(DPD notes, the first URL does not contain the full text of what’s in the book.)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 2, 1952 Tales Of Tomorrow aired its “Red Dust” episode. As the copy provided not the network says, “The first human mission to another solar system loses 2 crew on a red dust-covered planet, which once had an advanced civilization. Due to allergies, neither of the shipmates got anti-radiation shots, so the remaining crew aren’t concerned about their own return to Earth. But then the red dust starts to appear everywhere on the space ship.” It was directed by Don Medford from a script by Irving Elman from the play by noted SF writer Theodore Cogswell, a member of the First Fandom Hall of Fame. His “The Wall Around the World” novelette as published in the September 1953 issue of Beyond Fantasy Fiction was nominated for a Retro Hugo at Noreascon 4. The cast was Fred Stewart, Lex Barker, Skedge Miller and Robert Patten. You can watch it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 2, 1890 E. E. “Doc” Smith. Best-known for the Lensman and Skylark series. I note that multiple sources say he is called the father of space opera. Is he indeed that?  Another author I know I’ve read quite a lot of but would be hard pressed to say exactly what I’ve read decades on. (Died 1965.)
  • Born May 2, 1921 Satyajit Ray. Bengali filmmaker, screenwriter, graphic artist, lyricist, music composer and writer who is here for his genre fiction which fortunately has been translated into English as most of us don’t read Bengali. Over a decade recently, three collections came in English The Diary of a Space Traveller and Other StoriesClassic Satyajit Ray and The Collected Short Stories) with most of his genre work in the collection. There are nine stories involving Professor Shonku, his most popular SF character. (Died 1992.)
  • Born May 2, 1924 Theodore Bikel. He was on Next Generation playing the foster parent to Worf in the “Family” episode playing CPO Sergey Rozhenko, ret.. That and playing Lenonn in Babylon 5: In the Beginning are the roles I want to note. Bikel also guest-appeared on The Twilight Zone in “Four O’Clock” as Oliver Crangle. Well there is one minor other role he did — he voiced Aragorn in the animated The Return of the King. By the way, Theodore Bikel’s Treasury of Yiddish Folk & Theatre Songs is quite excellent. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 2, 1925 John Neville. I’ve mentioned before that Kage considered Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen to be one of her favorite films and John Neville was one of the reasons that she did so. You can read her review here. Among his other genre roles, Neville had a prominent recurring role in The X-Files as The Well Manicured Man. And he showed up playing Sir Isaac Newton on The Next Generation in the “Descent” episode. (Died 2011.)
  • Born May 2, 1941 Paul Darrow. He‘s best remembered for playing Kerr Avon in Blake’s 7. He also had two appearances on Doctor Who, playing Captain Hawkins in Doctor Who and the Silurians, a Third Doctor story, and later Trekker in Timelash, a Sixth Doctor story. He also played Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Missing Link” in the Science Fiction series. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 2, 1942 Alexis Kanner. His first genre appearance was on The Prisoner where he so impressed McGoohan in the “Living in Harmony” episode that he created a specific role for him in the series finale, “Fall Out” where he stands trial. He also has an uncredited role in “The Girl Who Was Death” in that series. His final known acting role was as Sor in Nightfall based off the Asimov story of the same name. (Died 2003.)
  • Born May 2, 1946 David Suchet, 74. Though rather obviously better remembered as Hercule Poirot, he does show up on in a Twelfth Doctor story, “Knock Knock,” simply called Landlord.  Don’t let don’t deceive you. He’s appeared in some other genre work from time times to time including Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the ApesHarry and the HendersonsDr. No: The Radio PlayWing CommanderTales of the Unexpected and Peter Pan Goes Wrong.
  • Born May 2, 1946 Leslie S. Klinger, 74. Editor and annotator of Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Frankenstein, as well as Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen, and the stories of H. P. Lovecraft. I particularly recommend his Sandman annotations as Gaiman was actively involved in them and they’re quite interesting. 
  • Born May 2, 1948 Bob Null. Very long-time LASFS member who was the club’s VP for an equally long period. Fancyclopedia 3 say that “He also sat on the Board of Directors, and frequently handled logistics for local conventions including both Loscon and local Worldcons, and was always one of those nearly invisible hard-working people who make fandom work. He is a Patron Saint of LASFS.” (Died 2010.)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Grant Snider of Incidental Comics captures the present season of the world.

(12) JOB LOSSES. Condolences to gifted editors Diana M. Pho, Diana Gill, and Melissa Frain who were among Macmillan’s COVID-19 employee layoffs.

(13) JUST WHAT WE NEED. Tipper Gore will be happy to hear that “Deezer develops AI to detect explicit song lyrics”. But what’s their stand on shaving cream?

Streaming service Deezer is developing technology to automatically detect explicit content in songs.

The company has been looking into the issue because record labels often fail to identify offensive lyrics when they submit songs, it explained.

In fact, it said, a “substantially large part” of its library did not have a tag indicating whether or not a song contained strong language or themes.

In response, it is researching a way of automatically flagging up such content.

Although the technology is not yet “fit for tagging songs as explicit in a fully automated manner,” it could be used to help humans identify potentially explicit material.

The problem has grown exponentially bigger over the last couple of years, with profanities cropping up ever-more frequently in mainstream pop songs by the likes of Ariana Grande and Beyonce.

Added to that, a streaming service like Deezer can receive up to 40,000 new tracks every day, making it impossible for humans to review all the lyrical content.

Parents are particularly keen to screen out explicit content – but while mainstream services like Deezer, Apple and Amazon Music offer the ability to “turn off” explicit songs, the results are patchy at best.

(14) LIGHTNING AND LIGHTNING BUGS. “Random House Copy Chief: Stand Tall, Wordsmiths! (But Choose Your Battles)” – a print summary of a linked 25-minute interview; includes realization that singular “they” was necessary. (From 2019.)

Random House copy chief Benjamin Dreyer is not a fan of the word “very.”

“It’s not a dreadful word,” he allows, but “it’s one of my little pet words to do without if you can possibly do without it.”

“Very” and its cousins “rather” and “really” are “wan intensifiers,” Dreyer explains. In their place, he advises that writers look for a strong adjective that “just sits very nicely by itself” on the page. For example, “very smart” people can be “brilliant” and “very hungry” people can be “ravenous.”

Dreyer gets the final say over questions related to grammar, style and clarity at Random House. Now he’s sharing his writing advice in the new book Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style.

“Words are my business, and the meaning of words is my business,” he says. “To watch language twisted and distorted — that gets under my skin and makes me unhappy.”

(15) IRON (LIFTING) MAN. Game of Thrones actor breaks 501kg deadlift record”.

Game of Thrones actor Hafthor Bjornsson has set a world deadlifting record by lifting 501 kg (1,104 lbs).

Bjornsson, a powerlifter who portrayed Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane in the HBO series, broke the record at his gym in his native Iceland.

He lifted the barbell for two seconds, before dropping the weights and roaring in delight.

The event was streamed by sports broadcaster ESPN and filmed for Bjornsson’s YouTube channel.

Bjornsson, who is 2.05m tall (6ft 9in), previously won the World’s Strongest Man competition in 2018.

(16) KNITS UP THE RAVELED SLEEVE OF SPACESUITS. Richard Trenholm’s CNET article “Dreams of the future: How sci-fi sees sleep” dates to 2018, but its references – like this one to the Culture – make it timeless.

…A much smarter option for dodging the duvet is employed by space pirate captain Kraiklyn in Ian M Banks’ novel Consider Phlebas. He could put each side of his brain to sleep individually so he could stay constantly awake and no one could sneak up on him in bed. The downside was that his personality changed depending on whether his left or right brain was in charge.

Generally, though, catnap-compressing contraptions are surprisingly rare in speculative fiction — it seems sleep is just too fundamental a human requirement for even sci-fi writers to mess with. Still, that doesn’t stop us trying out all manner of apps and sleep trackers to improve the quality of our kip….

(17) ABOUT SF’S PREDICTIVE POWERS…. Kevin Polowy, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Terry Gilliam, ’12 Monkeys’ screenwriters reunite, admit they ‘had no clue’ when creating film’s fictitious virus” says that when he asked 12 Monkeys co-screenwriter David Peoples what research he did about designing the virus in the film, he said, “How about not at all?  We had no clue,” a thought seconded by director Terry Gilliam.

The sci-fi story follows a prisoner (Bruce Willis) plucked by scientists to time travel (though the filmmakers prefer to think of it as “mind travel”) to the mid-’90s to discover the root of the virus, which is thought to be generated by an anarchist faction known as The Army of the 12 Monkeys.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Conspiracy Cruise” on Vimeo is a short film by Brad Abrahams that asks what happens when members of conspiracy fandom on a cruise are attacked by the conspiracy!

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

Pixel Scroll 4/11/20 And The Auld Scrollangle Went Pixel Jangle All Along The Files Of The Royal Canal

(1) ONE WORD: PLASTIC! Cora Buhlert’s latest Galactic Journey contribution is: “[APRIL 10, 1965] FURNISHING THE HOME OF THE FUTURE: INTERIOR DESIGN FOR THE SPACE AGE”.

…But while the International Style may excel at furnishing office buildings, its minimalist purism does feel a little too cold and bland for the home. Thankfully, our Northern neighbours are on the case with furnishings that manage to be both modernist and cosy.

In the past three decades, Scandinavia has emerged as a source of beautiful and functional design to the point that Scandinavian Modern has become a recognisable style found in many homes in Europe (including my own) and beyond.

Traditionally, Scandinavian Modern has been associated with clean lines, neutral palettes and natural materials like wood, leather and wicker. A prime example is the beautiful “Hammock” chair by Danish designer Poul Kjærholm. However in recent times, Scandinavian designers have branched out and embraced materials like plastics as well as brighter colours….

(2) PREDICTING THE PRESENT. John Scalzi was interviewed by NPR’s Weekend Edition: “Set 1,500 Years From Now, ‘The Last Emperox’ Is Still Pretty Timely”.

Now, the scientists of Scalzi’s world knew the Flow was going to collapse — but they didn’t do anything about it. Why?

“Primarily wish fulfillment and greed,” he says. “The idea that, sure, this thing is going to happen. But is it really going to happen the way that the scientists and experts say it’s going to happen? And even if it is happening in that way, isn’t there a way that we can work it to our advantage so that when it finally does happen, we’ll still be OK while everybody else is kind of in trouble?”

(3) TIME ON YOUR HANDS? WIPE IT OFF. The pandemic is no joke, despite which McSweeney’s contributors are getting a lot of laughs out of it. Consider Scott Bolohan’s declaration “I Am Using My Free Time To Not Write A Novel”.

They say the best way to not write a novel is to not write every day. When you first wake up is a particularly good time to not write. But as I join billions of others around the world in quarantine, I worry my newfound free time is going to get in the way of not writing a novel….

(4) OUT THE WINDOW. And if Charles Stross ever writes a third Scottish near-future police procedural (following Halting State and Rule 34) it won’t be the one he planned: “Yet another novel I will no longer write”. But you can see an excerpt of what might have been.

…And the whole theme of this untitled novel was going to be: this is elite panic, and this is disaster capitalism, and this is what really happens during a zombie epidemic, and these things are not the same—

And then COVID-19 came along and basically rendered the whole thing unneccessary because we are all getting a real world crash-course in how we deal with people suffering from a viral pandemic, and we do not generally deal with them using shotguns and baseball bats even if they’re so contagious that contact might kill us.

Because—fuck my life—writing plausible near-future SF in the 21st century wasn’t hard enough already.

Anyway, let me leave you with the WARNING very rough, first draft, unpolished only existing fragment of what was intended to be The Lambda Functionary before COVID-19 buried it at the crossroads with a mouthful of garlic and a stake through its heart….

(5) EXPANDING HORIZONS. Drew Hayden Taylor is “Imagining an Indigenous science-fiction festival for the stay-home era” in the Toronto Globe and Mail. A good jumping off point for anyone interested in exploring indigenous SF.

This may come as a surprise, but self-isolating on a Central Ontario First Nation can be quite boring. Especially when you consider that B.C. (Before COVID-19), I would’ve been returning from the sun-drenched hills of Albuquerque, N.M., at this very moment, fresh from IndigiPop X, essentially an Indigenous Comicon. There, amidst as many as 2,000 other IndigiNerds, I would have been wallowing ecstatically in a pop culture smorgasbord of film, music, gaming and panels discussing topics as diverse as how to develop a superhero, developing storylines throughout a comic book series, exploring the implications of the effects archetypes in pop culture have on communities and individuals, and the crafting of costumes for cosplay and film … all with Indigenous themes. Like most other things, it was cancelled. And I wept.

But I don’t need an Indigenous science-fiction convention to explore all that. Sitting in my living room, bored silly, I have decided to celebrate my own sci-fi festival. It will have practically everything the one in Albuquerque would, except our sci-fi will be locally sourced.

(6) BUFFY VIDEO BUFFET. SYFY Wire reports “Buffy cast set for virtual Q&A”. There’s a free segment (see below). They’re also selling 2-minute live video chats with the celebrities.

…As entertainment conventions and film/TV productions around the world remain shut down under the coronavirus lockdown, some events are taking creative approaches to the situation. Some, like SXSW, are screening films with partners like Amazon. Others, like convention company Wizard World, are taking things 100 percent virtual.

One of these Wizard World Virtual Experiences is the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel event (not really a panel, since everyone’s going to be online) featuring a free 45-minute live video Q&A with castmembers James Marsters, Amber Benson, Clare Kramer, Elisabeth Röhm, Emma Caulfield, and Camden Toy. The moderated Q&A will stream on Twitch, Facebook Live, and YouTube.

Where otherwise fans may have lined up to get an autograph, they’ll now be able to pay for a few minutes of exclusive facetime with their actor of choice or get a recorded video message. They can also still get autographs (just shipped to their homes). As cons continue to adapt to the new normal of the pandemic, an all-online comic con doesn’t seem too far-fetched.

The Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel Q&A takes place on April 11 at 12:00 PM PDT.

From the Wizardworld site:

FREE Live Q&A: Take part in this free, interactive and moderated 45-minute live video Q&A with the cast of Buffy/Angel!  Livestream will be viewable on the Wizard World Virtual Twitch channel, Facebook Live, and YouTube.

(7) TALBOT MUNDY REMEMBERED. Michael Dirda whets readers’ appetite for a book newly in the public domain: “For fans of Indiana Jones and Dan Brown, an adventure story for the ages” in the Washington Post.

First published as a book in 1924 and thus out of copyright this year, Talbot Mundy’s “The Nine Unknown” is an occult thriller for fans of the Indiana Jones movies, Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code,” Rudyard Kipling’s “Kim” and, of course, Mundy’s other supernaturally inflected adventure classics, “King — of the Khyber Rifles” and “Om: The Secret of Ahbor Valley.” Set in India, the novel focuses on a secret society — the Nine Unknown — that has existed for centuries, accumulated immense wealth and used its esoteric powers to shape the course of history. As one character says, “Viceroys, kings, and all their pomp are side-shows.”

….Mundy’s “The Nine Unknown” is just one of several highly entertaining novels published in the United States in 1924 and now in the public domain. Let me also recommend Lord Dunsany’s beautifully written romantic fantasy “The King of Elfland’s Daughter,” P.C. Wren’s Foreign Legion swashbuckler, “Beau Geste,” Edgar Rice Burroughs’s “The Land That Time Forgot,” Francis Brett Young’s spooky “Cold Harbour,” and such golden-age mysteries as Edgar Wallace’s nostalgically kitschy “The Green Archer” and A.E.W. Mason’s “The House of the Arrow.” Any of these books will provide at least temporary respite from the nightmare in which we now live.

(8) HELP FOR SFWA MEMBERS. “SFWA Announces Resources for Writers Affected by COVID-19” at the SFWA Blog. Grants, medical assistance and dues relief are available to SFWA Members.

Mary Robinette Kowal, president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) today announced relief efforts to help members of the science-fiction and fantasy (SF/F) community affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including a combination of dues relief, grants, and other programs.

“These are unprecedented times,” Kowal said. “Many of our members are facing painful and difficult circumstances. For creative artists, in particular, the pandemic has brought the cancellation and suspension of much of our usual access to revenue. Uncertainty about the future is in the air, and bills continue to come due.”

Many SFWA members have seen their income sharply reduced, as publishers delay anthologies and novels, advertising vanishes in the flood of news, and public events like conventions and tours are canceled or postponed. Many bookstores and other distributors have shuttered, and readers have less money for buying books.

To respond to these challenges, SFWA today announced a series of measures to support its members….

(9) LADY DUNSANY DIES. Ireland’s Meath Chronicle has a familiar name in the obituaries: “Lady Dunsany dies from Covid-19 as son pays tribute to frontline workers”.

Lady Dunsany, Maria-Alice De Marsillac Plunkett, has died from Covid-19, her son, Randal Plunkett, announced tonight.

She was wife of the late Edward Plunkett, 20th Lord Dunsany, who died in 2011, and mother of the present Lord, the filmmaker and conservationalist, Randall.
The Brazilian-born architect is also survived by two children from her first marriage, and Randal’s younger brother, Oliver….

(10) HEATH OBIT. SYFY Wire reports:

Hilary Heath, the actress who co-starred with Vincent Price in the 1968 British-American cult horror hit Witchfinder General and also appeared on TV in The Avengers and Space:1999, has died of complications due to the coronavirus. She was 74.

The Hollywood Reporter obit includes this quote –

Following a turn in The Body Stealers (1969), she reunited with Price in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Oblong Box (1969) and Cry of the Banshee (1970).

“I adored Vincent,” she said during a 2010 panel discussion. “I played his mistress, his daughter and his wife. And he said, ‘If you ever play my mother, I’ll marry you.’ ” 

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 11, 1986 The Toxic Avenger was released nationally two years after it premiered in New York City. It directed by Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman (who is credited here as Samuel Weil) as written by Kaufman and Joe Ritter. It was the first installment of The Toxic Avenger franchise which would encompass three more films, a Marvel Comics series and a short lived children’s animated series. Mitch Kessler was the Toxic Avenger with his voice  provided by Kenneth Kessler. Critics at the time ranged in their opinions from disgusted to delighted with the mainstream ones decidedly not liking it; it currently holds an approval rating of 70% among  audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.  Kaufman and Herz are currently attached to a reboot.  

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 11, 1867 William Wallace Cook. Newspaper reporter and pulp writer who wrote four novels (The Fiction FactoryA Round Trip to the Year 2000, or A Flight Through Time, Cast Away at the Pole and Adrift in the Unknown, or Adventures in a Queer Realm) which were serialized in Argosy in the early part of the last century. Clute at EoSF says he was “was a crude writer, but is of interest for his attempts to combine adventure plots and Satire.” (Died 1933.)
  • Born April 11, 1920 Peter O’Donnell. Best remembered as the creator of Modesty Blaise who  of which EoSF says that her “agility and supple strength are sufficiently exceptional for her to be understood as a Superhero”.  He also wrote the screenplay of The Vengeance of She based on H. Rider Haggard’s Ayesha: The Return of She novel. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 11, 1941 Gene Szafran. He did the cover art for genre  books published by Bantam and Ballantine during the Sixties to the Eighties, including a series of Signet paperbacks of Robert A. Heinlein’s work including Farnham’s Freehold, The Green Hills of Earth, and Methusaleh’s Children. His art would garner him four Locus Awards. (Died 2011.)
  • Born April 11, 1949 Melanie Tem. She was the wife of genre author Steve Rasnic Tem. A prolific writer of both novels and short stories, she considered herself a dark fantasy writer, not a horror writer. Bryant, King and Simmonds all praised her writing. If I had to make recommends, I’d say start with Blood MoonWitch-Light (co-written with Nancy Holder) and Daughters done with her husband. ”The Man on the Ceiling” won her a World Fantasy Award.  She died of cancer which recurred after she’d been in remission. (Died 2015.)
  • Born April 11, 1952 James Patrick Kelly, 68. One of his best stories, “Solstice” is in Sterling’s Mirrorshades anthology. Of course, he’d win the Hugo Award for “Think Like a Dinosaur” and “1016 to 1”, both amazing pieces of writing! The Mariska Volochkova series is the one I would definitely recommend if you’ve not read it yet.
  • Born April 11, 1955 Julie Czerneda, 65. She won the Prix Aurora Award for her Company of Others novel. She’d also receive one for Short Form in English for her “Left Foot on A Blind Man” Story, both of these early in her career.  She has a long running series, The Clan Chronicles which is as sprawling as anything Martin conceived.
  • Born April 11, 1963 Gregory Keyes, 57. Best known for The Age of Unreason tetralogy, a steampunk and magical affair featuring Benjamin Franklin and Isaac Newton. He also wrote The Psi Corps Trilogy and has done a lot of other media tie-in fiction including Pacific RimStar WarsPlanet of The ApesIndependence Day and Pacific Rim
  • Born April 11, 1981 Matt Ryan, 39. He’s John Constantine in Constantine and the Arrowverse along with being regular cast now on Legends of Tomorrow starting with fourth season, as well as voicing him on Justice League Dark and the superb  Constantine: City of Demons.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Grant Snider’s advice —

(14) ON THE MARGINS. The New York Times asks “Can Comic Books Survive the Coronavirus Era?”

….The dollars at stake are substantial: in recent years, sales of comics and graphic novels in the United States and Canada have topped $1 billion annually, with printed comic books accounting for more than a third of that figure, according to an analysis by Comichron and ICv2, sites that track the comic business. Digital sales contribute about $100 million to that total.

But now, neither the people who make comic books nor the veteran observers of this industry see a quick solution; they cannot predict whether the current calamity will eradicate only some stores and publishers or an entire, decades-old model of doing business.

“I do think this is an extinction-level event,” said Heidi MacDonald, editor of The Beat, a comics culture website. “It’s life-changing for everyone. This is a whole industry that lived on very thin margins. There’s no port in this storm.”

Publishers of every size recognize that they are at risk. Dan Buckley, the president of Marvel Entertainment, which is home to Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Avengers, said in a statement, “This crisis is having an unprecedented impact on every aspect of our lives and requires patience and perseverance,” adding that he remained optimistic that comics “are here to stay.”

(15) DRUCKER APPRECIATION. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna has an appreciation of Mort Drucker, including interviews with cartoonists Sergio Aragones and Tom Richmond and The Simpsons producer David Silverman.  Cavna recalls interviewing Drucker at a Reuben Awards ceremony in 2015 and asking him if “there was anyone he could not caricature.”  “My wife,” said Drucker.  “She’s too perfect to draw.” “Mort Drucker’s legendary Mad magazine caricatures spoofed Hollywood — and Hollywood loved them”.

(16) YOU ARE, NUMBER SIX. Paleymatters.org interviewed Alan Moore about The Prisoner TV series in 2018.

DB: What appealed to you about the show then, and what appeals to you about it now? How much of it did you understand initially as ergodic storytelling?

AM: First and foremost, it was the show’s experimentalism and radicalism that made the impact. Some of its sensibilities were already in the televisual air around then, with the wackier Avengers episodes and Anthony Newley’s Strange World of Gurney Slade (which I hadn’t then seen), but it was The Prisoner which seemed to most perfectly synthesise these exciting new elements and approaches into a coherent vehicle, a vehicle apparently aimed at affecting the mind of the viewer in ways that, outside of avant garde theatre and cinema, the general public hadn’t previously encountered.

I certainly didn’t understand it as ergodic storytelling at that point, and in fact have just had to look up the word “ergodic.” If I’m interpreting the term correctly, ergodic storytelling would be narratives that go through their permutations but always return to an underlying state of ongoing stability, an example being most serials and soap operas: disruptions to the underlying situation will provide the excitement and motivations for a given number of episodes, but once the disruption has been resolved the ongoing narrative will settle back to its basic state, ready for the next thrilling or amusing disruption. While The Prisoner seemed to hammer home its ergodic nature — with the bars slamming across McGoohan’s face at the end of each episode after another thwarted escape — it never really seemed to me to be playing to the comforting endless stasis of a show like, say, The Fugitive. It always seemed as if this was a narrative that was heading towards a fixed point and a conclusion.

David Bushman: Apparently many, many people in the U.K. were incensed by the ending — the reveal of Number 1, the Delphian nature, etc. Do you remember your initial reaction to the series finale?

Alan Moore: I imagine you’re almost certainly right about the scale of public anger aroused by the Gnostic extravagance of that final episode, but that wasn’t at all my experience as a thirteen-year-old in Northampton’s Boroughs neighborhood, a district not widely regarded for its intellectual acumen. Down in the Boroughs, everybody that I spoke to, children and adults both, seemed far more stimulated and intrigued by that final episode than they were infuriated….

(17) PURPOSE OF SFF. Recently it was Chandra K. Clarke’s turn to come up with “The Big Idea” at Whatever. The author says, “For my money, science fiction’s highest and best use is to inspire people to think about the future they want.” 

…When tech bros weren’t burning tens of millions of dollars on dubious inventions, such as Wi-Fi-enabled juicers, they were launching massive, disruptive “platforms” that had the capacity to be positive socioeconomic forces, with little thought (or care) for how they might be abused. Where it once it felt as if we were on the verge of some big breakthroughs and substantial progress, we now feel as if we’re scrambling to avoid disaster while fighting a rearguard action.

My response to this was to write Echoes of Another. In it, a well-meaning scientist invents a technology that can record and play back the neurological and physiological states associated with “flow”—that rare but lovely state of total focus and peak performance. She wants to be able to invoke flow on demand so that humanity can bring peak states to bear on our biggest problems. But before she’s able to do much with her prototype, it is stolen, copied, and put to a range of uses, both good and . . . well, really rather bad….

(18) SPACE CHOW. In WIRED, Nicola Twilley, interviews Ariel Ekblaw, head of the Space Exploration Initiative at the MIT Media Lab.  One section of the initiative is about what sort of hobbies will keep astronauts’ minds stimulated on long space voyages,  But she spends most of her article profiling Maggie Coblentz, head of the initiative’s gastronomic research division, about how reasonably tasty food can withstand space instead of “space gorp” astronauts usually eat. “Algae Caviar, Anyone? What We’ll Eat on the Journey to Mars”.

… The focus group gathered in a fluorescent-lit conference room decorated with large-format photos of lollipops and Buffalo wings and coiled spirals of salami. On the table, Coblentz had laid out small plastic cups of M&Ms, freeze-dried cheese bites, and Tang; these would serve as both snacks and design inspiration. Nespoli showed up with props of his own—some silvery foil packets from NASA’s current menu rotation; some cans filched from the Russian supplies and the European Space Agency, including one simply labeled SPACE FOOD; and a translucent plastic package filled with what looked like yellowish plugs of ear wax but were apparently dehydrated mashed potatoes. “Nobody goes to space for the food,” Coleman said.

(19) HARRY POTTER CRAFTS. These knitting kits will be the first in Hero Collector’s new handicrafts range. The collection is scheduled to launch Q3 2020, and starts with five kits:

  • Hogwarts Express Door Insulator: This kit contains everything you need to make a Hogwarts Express inspired door insulator. Finished item measures approx. 61cm long.
  • House Scarves: Show your house pride by knitting your own Hogwarts house scarf. Do you belong to Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Slytherin? Finished item measures at least 160 cm.
  • House Slouch Socks and Mittens: Need something more to keep you warm this winter? These house pride socks and mittens will do the trick! Or perhaps you have a house-elf that would be all too happy to receive them…
  • House Reversible Backpacks: Complete your house pride collection by creating a “magical” reversible backpack, perfect for carrying all your items to school (cauldrons excluded).
  • Teapot and Egg Cosies: For all the Mrs Weasley’s out there, you can now show your love for the Wizarding World by knitting these teapot and egg cosies.

(20) LIGHTS OUT. Space.com says mark your calendar: “We’re T-minus 4 years to the next Great American Solar Eclipse in 2024”.

The next Great North American Solar Eclipse is coming.

Four years from now, on Monday, April 8, 2024, a total eclipse of the sun will sweep across our continent. The dark shadow cone of the moon — known as the umbra — will trace out a path like a black crayon across parts of 15 states. An estimated 130 million people will either be positioned inside or within less than a day’s drive of the zone of the total eclipse. Almost all of North America, as well as Central America and a sliver of northwestern South America will see a partial eclipse. 

(21) OF RARE DEVICE. “Rube Goldberg Bar of Soap Challenge” on YouTube is a contest from Rube Goldberg, Inc. (run by Goldberg’s granddaughter, Jennifer George, in which contestants have to come up with Goldberg like- contraptions that place a bar of soap in someone’ hand in either 10 or 20 steps. Contest details here.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/18/18 Your Scroll Is Important To Us. Please Hold.

(1) OKORAFOR BRANCHES OUT. The Black Panther’s sister, Shuri, is getting her own comic series. Marvel’s press release says:

All hail Wakanda’s technological genius! As revealed exclusively on Bustle, Marvel is thrilled to announce that this fall, award winning author Nnedi Okorafor and Eisner-nominated artist Leonardo Romero (Hawkeye) will be bringing SHURI #1 to readers everywhere! And revealed for the first time, Marvel is excited to share the dazzling cover to issue #1 by industry-acclaimed artist, Sam Spratt, best known for his cover art work on Janelle Monae’s “Electric Lady.”

The world of Wakanda is facing a tragic crisis: Black Panther is lost in space, and everyone is looking at who will step up to lead their country in his absence. But Shuri is happier in a lab than she is on the throne…how does a princess choose between her duties to her country and her own ideals?

“Shuri is an African young woman of genius level intelligence who is obsessed with technology and has traveled spiritually so far into the past that she’s seen Wakanda before it was Wakanda,” Okorafor told Bustle in an interview. “The Ancestors call her Ancient Future. And she’s super ambitious. What do I love about her? Alllll that and more. She’s a character in the Marvel Universe who really sings to me.”

(2) OVERLORD TRAILER. J.J. Abrams’ zombie horror movie Overlord is in theaters November 9.

On the eve of D-Day, US paratroopers drop behind enemy lines, to infiltrate a small village. Unfortunately, they realize the Nazis are experimenting with supernatural forces to fight them.

 

(3) BATWOMAN ON THE WAY. SYFY Wire has two stories about the development of a Batwoman TV show to join the other DC Comics properties running on the CW network (the “Arrowverse”). CW is already the home of The FlashArrowLegends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl, with a tradition of doing a set of crossover episodes as an annual event since the 2014–2015 season. In “Batwoman TV Series in Development at the CW to Join the Arrowverse” some of the basics are discussed:

Vampire Diaries writer/producer Caroline Dries is locked in as a writer and producer on the project, along with Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, and Geoff Johns. To that end, the casting and tonal decisions made for the crossover event would likely carry over into a potential series. Think of it as one heck of a big backdoor pilot, basically.

That article also speculates on which version of Batgirl would be filmed, noting that the original 1956 character is not in the modern comics:

However, this iteration of the hero was wiped out of DC’s continuity during 1985’s seminal limited series, Crisis on Infinite Earths. Batwoman was reestablished into existence in 2006 in the form of Kate Kane, a Jewish LBGTQ character, one of the first-openly gay characters in the DC universe.

The story “Report: The CW Seeking Lesbian Actress With Open Ethnicity to Play Batwoman in Solo Series” pursues that aspect more thoroughly as well as sounding a cautionary note [emphasis added]:

TVLine is reporting the network has put out the call for an actress of any ethnicity who can play in the age range of 24-29, and that it’s looking for a lesbian for the role if possible. The right person would join scriptwriter and co-producer Caroline Dries (The Vampire Diaries) to develop the standalone Batwoman series. Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, and Geoff Johns are also co-producing.

News that The CW is eyeing Batwoman for the series treatment is still super-fresh, and it’s not guaranteed that her appearance in the crossover will lead directly to a green-lit show. If the network does move forward with Batwoman, the show is expected to debut sometime next year.

(4) SHAZAM! Yahoo! Entertainment reports Shazam! will be released April 5, 2019 — “Shazam! on EW’s special Comic-Con cover: ‘It’s Superman meets Big'”.

Zachary Levi throws off the perfect Shazam! pitch: “It’s Superman meets Big!” declares the affable former Chuck star who’s squeezing into a skin-tight suit to play what’s perhaps the ultimate daydream-come-true superhero across all of comic book lore: An ordinary 14-year-old kid named Billy Batson who can transform into a grown-up superhero with an array of heroic powers by uttering a single world (“Soundhound!” No wait: “Shazam!”) and then return to his regular self whenever he wants.

(5) THAT SOUND YOU HEARD. JJ read this tweet and squeed — “This is by the same guy who did The Silence space SF trilogy which I really loved last year (under pen name D. Nolan Clark).”

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 18, 1948 — James Faulkner, who played Mr. K in Martian Chronicles (TV edition in the US)
  • Born July 18 – Paul Verhoeven, 80. Director of RoboCop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers. Also Hollow Man which has a gratuitous nude scene fitting a man who responsible for Basic Instinct. Also Producer of the animated Starship Troopers series which is quite excellent. Writer for the apparently forthcoming RoboCop Returns film.
  • Born July 18 – Vin Diesel, 51. Guardians of The Galaxy (“I am Groot!”) and other MCU films, The Iron Giant, xXx and Chronicles of Riddick franchises and The Fifth Element.
  • Born July 18 – Kristen Bell, 38. The forthcoming animated Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, also DeadwoodFlatland: The Movie, Heroes and the Astro Boy franchise and iZombie.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • SJW credential tech in Arlo and Janis.
  • Fantasy tropes face retrenchment in Bizarro.
  • Something has two possible explanations, and since you’re reading this blog the odds are you’ll prefer Last Kiss’ second choice.

(8) MARKET REPORT. According to Yahoo! Finance, “Comic sales are down as readers abandon print”.

Comic book and graphic novel sales fell 6.5% in 2017 from a 2016 high of $1.015 billion. Graphic novels brought in $570 million while comic books brought in about $350 million.

A report posted to Comichron notes that comic stores are still the biggest source for revenue while $90 million is attributable to digital downloads.

“After a multiyear growth run, the comics shop market gave back some of its gains in 2017, with lackluster response to new periodical offerings and, consequently, graphic novel sales,” wrote Comichron’s John Jackson Miller. “The third quarter of 2017 saw the worst of the year-over-year declines, leading into what has turned out to be a stronger spring for stores in 2018.”

(9) THE OVERPRICE GUIDE. (Or so Bruce Pelz used to call it….) Heritage Auctions encourages comics collectors to “Download the Complete 2018-19 48th Edition Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide!” at a cost of $30.

In conjunction with the release of the book the new 2018-19, 48th edition of the electronic Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide is now available for immediate download! (Compatible with both Mac and PC!) No serious collector should be without an Overstreet, and this is even more true of the searchable electronic version. Available exclusively through Heritage Auctions, this new version is:

  • Alphabetically indexed
  • Searchable (by any keyword)

At a cost of only $30, this revolutionary new format is one of the best investments available in our hobby. Begin enjoying the benefits right now. Download your copy to your hard drive today.

(10) SEE IT FREE. On July 22 the community will get in free to the Dreaming the Universe sf exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of History.

(11) OWN BOND’S RIDE. Lego has come out with the official James Bond Aston Martin DB5 which you can make out of Lego elements.

(12) MORE LEGO CREATIONS. Here are a couple more cool projects, including a ferocious Lego SJW credential….

(13) DOUBLE PARKED. When Bob Shaw MC’d the Hugos in 1986, one of his humorous interludes involved a job assignment to write copy about a submarine prone to take “unplanned depth excursions.” “Spain’s new submarine ‘too big for its dock'”.

An attempt to deploy a new submarine for Spain’s navy has run aground again, after it emerged it cannot fit in its dock, Spanish media report.

The S-80 boat was redesigned at great expense after an earlier mistake meant it had problems floating, and it was lengthened to correct the issue.

Spanish newspaper El País now reports that after the changes, the docks at Cartagena can no longer fit the vessel….

The original problem with the submarine dates back to 2013, when it was discovered that it was about 100 tons heavier than it needed to be.

That caused a problem for its buoyancy – so it could submerge, but might not come back up again.

A former Spanish official told the Associated Press at the time that someone had put a decimal point in the wrong place, and “nobody paid attention to review the calculations”.

(14) BIG LIFTER. Clip of the An-124 in action: “Business booming for giant cargo planes”. Possibly highest capacity — internal crane, kneeling landing gear — what’s not to like?

$7tn of goods travel by air every year. Most goes in the hold of normal airliners. But for those big, awkward loads, something rather larger is required.

(15) TAKING A BITE OUT OF DEVELOPMENT. “Anne Rice’s ‘Vampire Chronicles’ Lands at Hulu”The Hollywood Reporter has the news.

Two years after being put into development, Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles TV series has found a home.

In a competitive situation with multiple outlets pursuing the project, Hulu has landed Vampire Chronicles. The streamer, home to Emmy darling The Handmaid’s Tale, has put the drama into development.

Bryan Fuller, who boarded the Paramount Television and Anonymous Content effort as showrunner in January, exited the project six months ago. Fuller opted to step back rather than step on the toes of longtime friends Rice and her son, Christopher, who penned the original script. (Christopher is a four-time New York Times best-selling author and recipient of the Lambda Literary Award.)

Anne and Christopher Rice will executive produce the potential series, alongside Anonymous Content’s David Kanter and Steve Golin.

Paramount Television and Anonymous Content optioned the rights to 11 books from the Vampire Chronicles franchise back in April 2017. More than 100 million copies have been sold worldwide. Rice’s Interview With the Vampire was first published in 1976 and served as the basis for the 1994 feature of the same name starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst and Antonio Banderas.

(16) COURT RULES ON PARENT’S NOTE. Dear Judge, please excuse my boy from having the pants sued off him for thieving on the internet….. From Techspot we learn that a “Federal court says Epic can go ahead with its lawsuit against teen”.

Judge says mother’s letter does not establish a strong enough claim to dismiss…

According to TorrentFreak, most of the arguments put forth in the document were irrelevant because they failed to state a claim. The only complaint that held any water was whether or not C.R. could have entered into the EULA agreement.

Epic argued that minors cannot invalidate the terms of a contract while receiving the benefits of said contract. In other words, C.R. illegally misrepresented himself as an adult and is therefore still obligated to the contractual terms.

According to court rules, an accuser’s complaint holds more weight than a motion to dismiss. Judge Howard ruled that the letter from the mother was not enough to throw out the suit.

“As detailed in plaintiff’s response memorandum, defendant has not shown that the complaint fails to allege sufficient facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. [T]herefore, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, plaintiff has stated a plausible claim, and the motion to dismiss must be denied.”

The defendant now has two weeks to file a response to the complaint. Failing that, Epic can proceed to ask for a default judgment in the case.

(17) ENCHANTMENT UNDER THE SEA.  Deadline has the art: “‘Aquaman’ Poster Revealed: Jason Momoa Dives In To The Crowded DC Pool”

The film will have [a] Comic-Con panel this week, where director James Wan has said the fir.st trailer will be revealed. The initial footage shown at CinemaCon showed the undersea kingdom of Atlantis, replete with swimming fish people — some riding sea horses — and futuristic submarines. Aquaman is challenged by his brother (Patrick Wilson) for the throne, with Amber Heard’s Mera begging Aquaman, “Unless you help us, millions will die.”

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