Pixel Scroll 1/15/22 Pixelpunk Scrollcore

(1) SEND ME IN, COACH. Continuing yesterday’s “squeecore” discussion — John Scalzi is happy to be in the conversation anytime, but that doesn’t mean he agrees with the point he’s being used to illustrate. “Portrait of the Author As a Component of a ‘Punk-Or-Core’ Formulation” at Whatever. (Running the tweet, too, because I love the graphic.)

… My canal, as it turns out, runs across a lot of thematic ground, and does a fair amount of intersecting. Some of that is by design, since I am easily bored, as a human and a writer, and like to splash around in new places. Some of that is just following the lay of the land. At the end of the day, however, it means that depending one’s inclinations and rhetorical needs, and contingent on examples, I can be grouped in with the gun-humping dudes who write military science fiction, or the woke SJW scolds who are currently ruining the Hugos, or pretty much wherever else you need me to go to make your point.

And at least superficially you won’t be wrong. I mean, I did write that story that you’re pointing to, and it does exist in that sphere, and I’m not sorry I wrote that thing, and may write a thing like it again, if I have a mind to. But I suspect on a deeper level — the level that actually makes your point something more than a facile, half-baked thesis to burble out onto a blog post or podcast because content content content — using me as an example is not hugely useful….

(2) HER MILEAGE VARIED. Cora Buhlert also shared her thoughts about Rite Gud’s “squeecore” podcast and Camestros Felapton’s post in response: “Science Fiction Is Never Evenly Distributed”.

… The podcasters are not wrong, cause all of these trends definitely exist in current SFF, though they’re not one unifying trend, but several different trends. Uplifting and upbeat SFF is certainly a trend and it already has a name that is much less derogatory than “squeecore”, namely hopepunk. Reader-insert characters and a video-game/RPG feel is a trend as well and there is a term or rather two for it, namely LitRPG and gamelit.

I agree that there is a strong influence of YA fiction and a tendency to show younger characters gaining skills rather than being already fully developed in contemporary SFF, but that’s the result of the YA SFF boom of the past twenty-five years, which served as a gateway to the genre for countless readers….

As I explained in this postGalactic Journey is very good at showing how different trends as well as older and newer forms of SFF coexist in the same period, because we try to cover everything and not just the cherry-picked examples that later eras choose to remember.

Also, quite often works are shoehorned into a trend, because they vaguely match some characteristics thereof and came out around the same time, even though they don’t really fit. The Expanse novels by James S.A. Corey are a good example. They are often shoehorned into the 2010s space opera revival, even though The Expanse has nothing in common with the likes of the Imperial Radch trilogy, the Paradox trilogy, the Hexarchate series or A Memory Called Empire beyond being set in space. Meanwhile, The Expanse draws heavily on mundane science fiction (a movement that never really got beyond its manifesto), Cyberpunk, golden age science fiction and the 1990s “cast of thousands/everybody and the dog gets a POV” style of SFF epics that never got a name, even though it was very much a thing and still lingers on….

(3) STILL WRESTLING WITH AMAZON. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki told Facebook followers that he heard from Amazon KDP again. And he posted more screencaps of his correspondence with them.

Some more updates on the Amazon KDP fiasco, they called me again yesterday, to explain why I can’t edit my banking details. Must have seen my tweet on it. They said it’s a security issue. And offered some more assistance in replacing it and ensuring I can get the royalties.

On another note, though related, I’m trying to use the account of a friend that was in the US because well, they don’t accept Nigerian bank accounts. I was using Payoneer, a service that mimics US bank accounts and essentially reads as if you are in the US. It’s legit btw, and accepted by Amazon. I’m pointing this out because a number of people latched on to this when I mentioned it, amongst the methods I use to get past through these restrictions. They said oh yes see, it’s your fault. One of those methods you use must have broken the rules.

This is how people enable racism even when they don’t cause it. They look for anything to justify and deny your marginalization. It either doesn’t exist, it didn’t happen, or it’s your own fault. A number of players were on every platform that carried this, saying this. You don’t even know what those methods are. But it must be one of them & this must all be my fault & deserved. The world tries to lock you out, then punishes you viciously for trying to not be locked out. Then people blame you for even trying at all to circumvent those lockouts. Every publishing-payment platform I’ve tried to use to do anything has either banned, blocked me or doesn’t work here or allow payment systems. From Draft2Digital to Smash words to Kickstarter to Paypal to Amazon KDP, to even Gofundme. But it must all be my fault. I must have violated all their rules somehow. Even GoFundMe that’s supposed to be for people in need of help. I wasn’t even qualified to beg for money. I needed an American to beg for me. If I had even tried to insert myself at any point into the arrangement, it’d have crashed….

(4) EXPANDING ON THE EXPANSE? Den of Geek contemplates what could happen to keep the series from really being over: “The Expanse: The Possibility of a Season 7 or Sequel Series”. (Beware spoilers.)

The Possibility of an Expanse Movie

While The Expanse team went into Season 6 knowing it would almost certainly be the show’s last, they chose to tell the story that included a Laconia-set subplot adapted from Expanse novella Strange Dogs. Unlike basically every other the story in Season 6, the Laconia subplot about a girl named Cara and her efforts to save brother Xan with the help some alien creatures was very forward-focused. It also properly introduced Admiral Duarte, a character who becomes incredibly important in the remaining books in the series. The decision to give so much of Season 6’s precious narrative time could have been made as a way to expand the scope of this world, and to pay homage to these future book plots, and/or it could hint that the Expanse production team have not completely ruled out the possibility of a future for this adaptation…

(5) INSIDE THE SHELL. Den of Geek points out “The Expanse Series Finale Easter Eggs: The Sci-Fi Heroes Who Helped” (Beware spoilers.)

As the coalition forces prepare to storm the ring station in The Expanse series finale, the Rocinante crew is running through its systems check, and voices are heard in the background signaling their readiness. “Thrace ready!” we hear, and our ears perk up. How unusual to share the name of one of the most badass space dogfighters ever, Kara “Starbuck” Thrace of Battlestar Galactica. When that’s followed by “Ripley ready!” all doubt is removed. Naming yet another famous spacefarer, Ellen Ripley of Alien, can’t be a coincidence.

Fortunately, fans of Easter eggs like this are provided with a quick glimpse of the roster on Naomi’s screen, and it’s filled with the great heroes of space science fiction in movies and television. It’s fitting that, as The Expanse makes its final bow, the “Great Hunt” of sci-fi culture appears to assist in the battle to end all battles. It’s easy, in fact, to spot the rest of Ripley’s team from Aliens: Hudson, Hicks, and Vasquez. So who else is among the assault team?…

(6) EXPANSIVE ACTING. Forbes’ Rob Salkowitz poses the questions: “Shohreh Aghdashloo On ‘The Expanse’ Series Finale And The Show’s Stellar Legacy”. (Beware spoilers.)

RS: Were there times when you and the cast watched the finished shows where you were surprised by how certain scenes came out, or by the work of your castmates?

SA: Absolutely. Every season, the producers would screen the first two shows for the cast all together in a theatre. There was one moment, maybe from season four or five, where Amos [Wes Chatham] was talking about his mother, and it was so powerful that I just lost it. I had to leave the theatre crying, I couldn’t help myself. The other cast members, my friends, came up to me and asked me what happened and I said I was just overcome seeing that scene. But you know, there were so many scenes and moments that felt so real like that, which made me feel like we did a good job bringing this saga to life.

(7) SPLASH-A-BOOM. An underwater volcano eruption this morning near Tonga caused a small tsunami which hit the west coast of Central, North and South America, and the east coast of Hawai’i. Hawaiian fan Dave Rowe says, “Here it was only one foot high (three feet was expected).” And he passed along a link to an impressive 2-second video compiled from real-time satellite photos of the eruption: “Shockwave By Near-Tonga Eruption Captured From Himawari Satellite” at Space Weather Gallery.

(8) THE BIG TIME. M. John Harrison is one of the 2022 Booker Prize judges.

…He sold his first story in 1965, and in 1969 joined the staff of the UK speculative fiction magazine New Worlds, where he edited the books pages until 1978.

His novels include Climbers, which won the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature in 1989; Nova Swing, which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2007; and The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again, which won the 2020 Goldsmiths Prize for innovation in fiction…. 

(9) I’VE SEEN THAT FACE BEFORE. Jordan D. Smith, who runs The Dark Crusade, a Karl Edward Wagner podcast, lists three examples of Karl Edward Wagner showing up as a character in other people’s fiction: “Three for the Road: Karl Edward Wagner in Fiction”.

… Below are three stories from the past ten years that have contained characters loosely based on, or inspired by, Karl Edward Wagner….

(10) TWO CATS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE. Mark Evanier eulogized voice actor “Leo DeLyon, R.I.P.” at News From ME. DeLyon died September 21 at the age of 96.

…We are especially interested in him because he occasionally did voices for cartoons. In the original Top Cat series in 1961, he did the voices of the characters Spook and Brain. That’s them above with Leo between them. He did other voices now and then for Hanna-Barbera…on The Smurfs and Paw Paws, and on a few specials when they needed voice actors who could sing. He was also the voice of Flunkey the baboon in the Disney version of The Jungle Book

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1995 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-seven years ago on this evening, the very short lived sequel to the Sixties Get Smart series aired on Fox. It too was called Get Smart. And it had Don Adams and Barbara Feldon still playing Maxwell Smart and Agent 99. Edward Platt who played The Chief had died some twenty years earlier. 

The relative success of the reunion movie Get Smart, Again! six years earlier prompted the development of a weekly revival of Get Smart but the ratings were absolutely abysmal, so it was canned after seven episodes. Thirteen years later, the Get Smart film despite critics not particularly liking it was a great success. 

The Variety review was typical of what critics thought of it: “Would you believe there is very little to laugh about in this return of Get Smart, a decidedly unfunny undertaking that could have clearly benefited from some input from Buck Henry or at the very least a phone call from Mel Brooks.” 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 15, 1879 Ernest  Thesiger. He’s here because of his performance as Doctor Septimus Pretorius in James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein. He had a major role in Hitchcock’s not completed and now lost Number 13 (or Mrs. Peabody) which is even genre adjacent. He was also in The Ghoul which was an early Boris Karloff film. And he continued to show up in SFF films such as The Ghosts of Berkeley Square where he was Dr. Cruickshank of Psychical Research Society. (Died 1961.)
  • Born January 15, 1913 Lloyd Bridges. Though I’m reasonably sure Secret Agent X-9, a 1945 serial, isn’t genre, I’m listing it anyways because I’m impressed that it was based on a comic strip by Dashiell Hammett, Leslie Charteris and others. He’s the Pilot Col. Floyd Graham in Rocketship X-M, Dr. Doug Standish In Around the World Under the Sea, Aramis in The Fifth Musketeer, Clifford Sterling in Honey, I Blew Up the Kid and Grandfather in Peter and the Wolf. His television appearances are too many to list here. (Died 1998.)
  • Born January 15, 1928 Joanne Linville. Best remembered I’d say for being the unnamed Romulan Commander Spock get involved with on “The Enterprise Incident”. (Vulcan’s Heart by Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz, calls her Liviana Charvanek.)  She also starred in the Twilight Zone‘s “The Passersby” episode, and she starred in “I Kiss Your Shadow” which was the final episode of the Bus Stop series. The episode was based on the short story by Robert Bloch who wrote the script for it. This story is in The Early Fears Collection. (Died 2021.)
  • Born January 15, 1935 Robert Silverberg, 87. I know the first thing I read by him was The Stochastic Man a very long time ago. After that I’ve read all of the Majipoor series which is quite enjoyable, and I know I’ve read a lot of his short fiction down the years. He has three Hugos with the first at NyCon II for Most Promising New Author, the other two being for his novella “Gilgamesh in the Outback” at Conspiracy ’87, and novella “Nightwings” at St. Louiscon. His “Hawksbill Station” novella was nominated at Baycon, and his Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg was nominated at Worldcon 75. He picked up a Retro Hugo at the Millennium Philcon for Best Fan Writer.
  • Born January 15, 1944 Christopher Stasheff. A unique blending I’d say of fantasy and SF with a large if I find sometimes excessive dollop of humor. His best known novels are his Warlock in Spite of Himself series which I’ve read some of years ago. Who here has read his Starship Troupers series? It sounds potentially interesting. (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 15, 1945 Ron Bounds, 77. A fan who was one of the founders of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society in the Sixties. He co-chaired Discon 2, was a member of both the Baltimore in ’67 and Washington in ’77 bid committees.  He chaired Loscon 2.  He published the Quinine, a one-shot APA. He was President of the Great Wall of China SF, Marching & Chop Suey Society which is both a cool name and a great undertaking as well.
  • Born January 15, 1965 James Nesbitt, 57. Best genre role was as Tom Jackman and Hyde in Jekyll which was written by  Steven Moffat. He’s also appeared in Fairy TalesThe Young Indiana Jones ChroniclesStan Lee’s Lucky Man and Outcast. Yes, I know he played Bofur in the Hobbit films. I still consider Jekyll his better by far genre role.

(13) SIGNAL BOOST. Since Hulu’s bad at promoting their films of this type, N. sent along a tweet he saw for I’m Your Man:

(14) MAKING LEMONADE WITHOUT LEMONS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I saw Dear Mr. Watterson, a 2013 documentary by Joel Allen Schroeder on YouTube, which you can watch for free, as long as you are willing to have your film interrupted with ads,  Of course Bill Watterson refuses to be interviewed or even photographed, and has refused to license his characters. How do you make a film about him?

Well, in the first half-hour Schroeder blows it with all sorts of talking heads, many of them comic strip creators, telling how special Calvin and Hobbes was as a strip.  Schroeder even goes back to his boyhood home in Appleton, Wisconsin to see his bedroom where he posted Sunday strips on the wall when he was a kid.  Who cares?

Things pick up when Schroeder goes to Chagrin Falls, Ohio, where Watterson grew up, and goes to the local library to see early illustrations Watterson drew for the local paper and hold an original strip about overdue books that is in the head librarian’s office. He then goes to the Billy Ireland Library at Ohio State, where Watterson’s archive is stored, and I thought that was interesting.  I bet a good documentary could be made about that library.

Then in the final third we get to the real subject of the film which is whether Watterson’s decision to forego all licensing deals was a good idea.  Here Berkeley Breathed, Stephen Pastis, and Jean Schultz had intelligent things to say.  As Pastis notes, there is a difference between licensing a Snoopy stuffed animal a four-year old could hold and having Snoopy sell life insurance through Met Life.  Seth Green also makes an appearance to note that he made bootleg Calvin t-shirts.

But one result of only having Calvin and Hobbes available in books is that these books are in school libraries and six- and seven-year-old kids love reading them.  That might not have happened if their first exposure to Watterson’s characters was through animated cartoons.

Dear Mr. Watterson is worth watching but you might want to fast forward through the first half hour.

(15) TWENTY THOUSAND PENNIES UNTO THE FEE. If you’re in the market for an online course about Jules Verne, The Rosenbach would like to sign you up: “Jules Verne’s Scientific Imagination with Anastasia Klimchynskaya”. Four sessions. Tuition for this course is $200, $180 Delancey Society and Members.

Verne is often cited as one of the fathers of science fiction and a lover of both literature and technology. Verne combined the earlier genres of the extraordinary voyage, travel narrative, and adventure story with unprecedented scientific rigor, creating the scientific romance genre, or roman de la science. This course will explore Verne’s unique mix of science and imagination and how it helped solidify the genre.

(16) UNDERGROUND ECONOMY. Here’s an interesting piece by DM David about just why dungeons full of monsters and treasures are a thing in Dungeons and Dragons and other RPGs: “The Movies and Stories than Inspired Dave Arneson to Invent the Dungeon Crawl”.

Around 1971 Dave Arneson and his circle of Minneapolis gamers invented games where players controlled individual characters who grew with experience and who could try anything because dice and a referee determined the outcomes. The group tried this style of play in various settings, but Dave invented one that proved irresistible: the dungeon.

Dave’s Blackmoor game—the campaign that spawned Dungeons & Dragons—began with a gaming group playing fictional versions of themselves in a fantasy world. The characters became champions in a series of miniature battles featuring armies clashing above ground. Without dungeons, the Blackmoor game might have stayed miniature wargaming rather than becoming D&D and a game nearly as well known as Monopoly. But by creating the dungeon crawl, Dave invented a new activity that transformed the campaign and ultimately made a lasting addition to popular culture…

(17) SHINY. The Daily Beast has a rundown on “The Laser SETI Projects That Might Find Intelligent Alien Civilizations”.

For 62 years, scientists have pointed instruments toward outer space in hopes of finding some sign that we’re not alone in the universe. But those instruments always scanned just a tiny swath of sky for a short span of time, limited mainly to listening for stray radio waves and leaving us largely blind to any visual evidence of extraterrestrials in the darkness of space.

Until now.

As the space age enters its seventh decade, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) is getting a lot wider and more deliberate. And that could significantly boost our chances of actually finding something for the first time.

In mid-December, scientists with the SETI Institute in California finished installing a new laser instrument: an expensive lens-camera-computer combo at Haleakala Observatory, situated on a mountaintop on Maui, Hawaii, 10,000 feet above sea level.

The east-facing instrument, when combined with an identical west-facing system at the Robert Ferguson Observatory in Sonoma, California, scans a 150-degree arc of the night sky more than a thousand times a second, filtering the light and looking for the telltale signature of laser light—a possible sign of intelligent life. “We’re trying to cover all the sky all the time,” Eliot Gillum, the principal investigator for the LaserSETI project, told The Daily Beast.

(18) HIBERNATING ALIENS. Why can’t we find them? Isaac Arthur says it might be because they’re taking a kip… (Just like the Norwegian blue.)

One explanation for the Fermi Paradox is that aliens may be undetected because they slumber, quietly hidden away in the galaxy. But how and why might such Extraterrestrial Empires hibernate?

(19) QUITE A STRETCH. Nature says a “Giant hydrogen filament is one of the longest features of its type in the Galaxy and it could give birth to stars” in “A cloud named Maggie”.

A long filament-like cloud of hydrogen atoms lurking on the far side of the Milky Way is among the largest such structures in the Galaxy — and offers a rare glimpse into one of the earliest stages of star formation.

Scientists first reported evidence of the filament, which they nicknamed Maggie, in 2020. Now, some of those scientists, including Jonas Syed at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, along with more astronomers, have conducted a detailed follow-up investigation. It shows that the filament stretches some 1,200 parsecs, roughly 1,000 times the distance from the Sun to its nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri.

Theory predicts that, over time, the neutral hydrogen atoms in the filament will pair up, forming dense clouds of hydrogen molecules. Such clouds ultimately give birth to stars.

(20) COMING CATTRACTIONS. Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet may be hated by astronomers, but credentials love it: Gizmodo explains: “If I Fits, I Sits: Starlink’s Self-Heating Internet Satellite Dishes Are Attracting Cats”.

SpaceX’s Starlink has been making steady gains with its fledgling satellite internet service, surpassing 100,000 terminals shipped in 2021 and showing promising improvements in performance after initial speed tests produced lackluster results. However, the company’s run into an unforeseen hiccup with its dishes: Cats love them….

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: The Matrix Resurrections,” the Screen Junkies say that the fourth film asks, “Do you take the blue pill and reboot this with Tom Holland as Neo or do you take the red pill and see how far up its own ass the story will go?” Also, since the film has musical theatre greats Neil Patrick Harris and Jonathan Groff (who was King George in Hamilton, and has also been in Frozen, Frozen II, and “Glee’) when is The Matrix musical coming?

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chris Barkley, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Cora Buhlert, Dave Rowe, N., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Cora Buhlert: Self-Published Science Fiction Competition Round 1

[In the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition, created by Hugh Howey and Duncan Swan, ten teams of book bloggers – including Team File 770 – will soon finish winnowing through their share of the 300 entries to decide which ones should make it to the next stage. Team members are reading the first 20% of each of their 30 books, and recommending the 10 they think the team should read in full. The 10 books that collectively get the most “yes” votes advance to a second stage where they will be read in full by the team and scored.  Here, Cora Buhlert shares her notes about the books she picked to advance.]

By Cora Buhlert:

A Touch of Death by Rebecca Crunden
  • A Touch of Death by Rebecca Crunden

This one starts out strong with a graphically described prison whipping of a new prisoner, who later turns out to be the protagonist Nate. The prison scene, told from the POV of a guard, is well written, but then I have a soft spot for prison stories. Then the story jumps ahead in time with protagonists Nate (who’s now out of prison, even though he barely escaped execution) and Catherine escaping dystopia to the outlands. This part is not quite as good and Catherine is sadly afflicted by the Doctor Who companion tendency to sprain her ankle.

This feels like a typical dystopian YA novel, but it was promising and I wanted to read on.

Yes, please, give me more.

  • Alterlife by Matt Moss
Alterlife by Matt Moss

John is about to rob a bank to support his family, when he just happens to hear someone mentioning that they made five thousand dollars playing a virtual reality game called Alterlife – quell coincidence. Of course, both game and videogame system cost five hundred dollars each and John already didn’t have money. Never mind that the game is sold out. So John lies to his wife and talks his boss into giving him a loan to buy the bloody game and console. Then he holes up in a friend’s apartment and starts playing a faux medieval virtual RPG.

I found this one dull, to be honest. The first few chapters are just John and his crappy life. Only by the end does he actually enter the game and it’s still not very exciting. Also, I feel sorry for John’s wife who’s married to a lying loser. This one also has technical issues, jumping between first and third person POV and present and past tense.

No thanks, not for me.

Aurora Ascending by Dennis Ideue
  • Aurora Ascending by Dennis Ideue

Starts off with an infodump prologue, which is thankfully short. But even when the novel proper starts, it just goes on and on infodumping. It takes until chapter 2 until the shuttle with the Aetherian crown princess Ember even lands on Earth and then another chapter for her to descend the ramp and promptly get shot, before we witness the landing yet again through the eyes of a random spectator. It takes several more chapters until we finally learn that Ember’s own father wanted her killed.

The attempt to tell the story from different POVs (Ember’s bodyguard, Ember, a random spectator) in the first person is a nice idea, but it doesn’t work, because the narrators all sound the same. The attempt to build up a romance between Ember and her earthly body guard Commander Elliott Greyjoy (her Aetherian bodyguard has been shot after randomly changing his surname) fails completely, because there is no chemistry, just Ember recounting their interactions. When they finally have sex, it’s a handled in a single line. The next day, a new assassin gets lucky and Ember dies. And then the Aetherian Empire goes to war with Earth. The rest is infodumpy war stuff

I’m not the target audience for overly technical military SF and I found this one a chore to get through, to be honest. The only interesting thing is the budding relationship between Ember and Greyjoy and that’s glossed over and then she dies.

No thanks, not for me.

Condition Evolution by Kevin Sinclair
  • Condition Evolution by Kevin Sinclair

This one opens with protagonist Shaun at the doctor, because he’s obese and steadily gaining weight since he had an accident, which cost him his job as a roofer. The doctor sends him to an experimental therapy using another immersive VR game. All expenses are paid, but the therapy takes year. The game turns out to be yet another pseudo-medieval fantasy world. However, Shaun is still overweight and has little stamina and gets captured by lizardmen almost immediately. He becomes a mining slave.

Again, I’m not the target audience for this one, because I find LitRPG with its focus on stats irritating. Though this one is more interesting than Alterlife.

No thanks, not for me.

Cranax Outbreak by Candice Lim
  • The Cranax Outbreak by Candice Lim

The prologue is a boardroom scene of several scientists at a research lab discussing whether to release a virus in order to ensure continued funding for their research. Lots of talking heads and I also found this plot highly problematic in the light of the conspiracy theories surrounding covid (though the book was released in April 2020, early in the pandemic, so it might be a coincidence). Naming a villain Cash and the company she works for MAD is also pretty on the nose. Later, there is a character named Vaxine. Really.

Once the novel proper starts, we get a POV shift (third to first) and an infodump about the history of STEM-focussed Asia Nova, courtesy of narrator Roxy, who also has a bad case of imposter syndrome. The story picks up once Roxy finds her mentor Dr. Jane Hershey in a suspended animation tank and stumbles upon two professors stealing a deadly virus, while helpfully blabbing out the plot again. Roxy can’t help Hershey, but manages to copy her data. However, the bad guys are on to her, as is the mysterious Vaxine.

There’s a potentially interesting story in here, but it’s buried in infodumps and stilted dialogue. Besides, a pandemic novel is not what I want to read right now.

No thanks, not for me.

Don’t Speak by Vanessa Heath
  • Don’t Speak by Vanessa Heath

The novel opens with the narrator addressing the reader and promising a story/warning about the dystopian world of this novel. Then, we get a flashback to the narrator’s childhood plus yet another infodump about the history of this dystopian world where speaking and illegal writing is forbidden and punishable by death. However, the writing is much better and more atmospheric. I also like the use of different fonts to designate different “speakers”.

The dystopia doesn’t make a lot of sense and the plot – teenager gets in trouble with school bullies, until school bullies get in trouble with dystopian regime – is nothing to write home about, but this one is quite intriguing and well written.

Yes, please, give me more.

Dusk by Ashanti Luke
  • Dusk by Ashanti Luke

The novel opens with a prologue that plunges us right in medias res with someone named Dr. Cyrus Chamberlain assaulting a hangar full of enemy soldiers to get to a spaceship. It’s supposed to be action-packed, but unfortunately we’re not given any reason to care about Cyrus or his mission. The fight scenes are confusingly described, too, e.g. does the bullet pass through the air or through Cyrus’ ear?

Next we get an epigraph by poet Elaine Goodale Eastman and then we get a kid clamouring for a bedtime story and the kid’s Dad (probably Cyrus) telling a story about an abused unicorn.

Then we get Cyrus again, about to leave the overpopulated and polluted Earth for the newly discovered planet Asha, a mission that is supposed to save humanity. Cyrus says goodbye to his family and leaves. The novel now alternates between Cyrus and his son Darius talking and infodumping and the adventures of Cyrus en route to Asha, which involve such thrilling fare as a debate about religion.

I found this one dull, to be honest, and the action-packed prologue doesn’t make it any more exciting. Maybe there is an interesting story in here somewhere, but so far I’m not seeing it. The plot is a little reminiscent of “Far Centaurus” by A.E. Van Vogt, but “Far Centaurus” is much better (and shorter). And I don’t even like Van Vogt.

No thanks, not for me.

Fanatic’s Bane by Edmund de Wight
  • Fanatic’s Bane by Edmund de Wight

The novel opens in a place called Barbo Transfer Station, where an alien Narath is chased through the nighttime streets and finally assaulted and killed by a xenophobic street gang. All this is witnessed by a ninja monk named Brother Cassius, who does not interfere.

Next we get an infodump about the Interstellar Trade Commonwealth and its enforcers, the so-called Free Agents. Then we are introduced to Free Agent Emma Malbane and get a scene from Emma’s POV comparing herself to an unnamed receptionist which is very male gazey and a typical example of men writing women.

Emma is sent to Barbo Transfer Station to investigate the hate crime against aliens, because those might destabilise the Commonwealth and civilisation itself.

The opening is atmospheric, though Brother Cassius’ refusal to help the beleaguered alien makes him rather unlikeable, but maybe he’s supposed to be. The Emma Malbane sequences are very infodumpy, though. There may be an interesting story here, but it never comes together.

No thanks, not for me.

Godeena by Stjepan Varesevac Cobets
  • Godeena by Stjepan Varesevac Corbets

The novel opens with cybernetic soldier Henry Broncon and his squad on a mission on the planet Morad, where Earth is at war with the alien Ansker. Surprise, they are ambushed, and everybody dies except Henry.

Next the scene switches to a space prison imaginatively called Hades. Of course, no one has ever escaped alive. Henry comes to Hades to put together a Dirty Dozen/Suicide Squad team of criminals for a mission. One of them is a female cyber soldier, who murdered her lover after he tried to kill her while pregnant and managed to kill the foetus.

The ambush opening didn’t do much for me, because I had no reason to care about the characters and what happened to them. The space prison recruitment part is stronger, but then I have weakness for prison stories.

There are some writing weaknesses here like tense shifts and head hopping. Nonetheless, I wanted to read on.

Yes, please, give me more.

Gods of the Black Gate by Joseph Sale
  • Gods of the Black Gate by Joseph Sale

The novel starts with Craig Smiley, a disturbed serial killer who hears the voices of the seven true gods and his father, en route to the solar system’s worst prison on Mars (another space prison story).

Then the scene switches to police officer Caleb Rogers who arrested Smiley and is informed that Smiley has escaped. Caleb and his partner Tom are sent to Mars to recapture him.

We also get transcripts of Rogers’ interviews with Smiley as well as Smiley’s visions/dreams while in prison and his escape.

Nice science fiction noir. Recommended.

Yes, please, give me more.

  • Grandfather Anonymous by Anthony W. Eichenlaub
Grandfather Anonymous by Anthony W. Eichenlaub

Ajay Andersen is an elderly Indian-Norwegian-American living in Minnesota in a dystopian surveillance state in 2045. We first meet him dealing with a social officer, a social worker/police officer hybrid supposedly making wellness checks on elderly people, but in truth looking for illegal tech, which ex-hacker Ajay happens to own. Luckily, Ajay can hack into the police files.

The officer also mentions they are looking for a fugitive, a woman with two young daughters. This fugitive is Ajay’s estranged daughter Sashi. The girls are the granddaughters he didn’t know he had. Sashi soon shows up at Ajay’s doorstep, daughters Kylie and Isabelle in tow, and asks Ajay to watch them. When she doesn’t return, Ajay has to go on the run with the girls.

A Cyberpunk thriller with a protagonist in his 70s. Recommended.

Yes, please, give me more.

Harvested by Anthony O’Brien
  • Harvested by Anthony O’Brien

A man called Jon Stone witnesses the supposed suicide of his mentor Joseph Swartz. Only that it’s not suicide but murder, committed by people wearing shades. Surprise, everybody is living in the Matrix and Joseph was about to reveal this to the world.

Jon Stone delivers Joseph’s last paper, which asks if the world is real or just a holographic simulation. Soon, he is contacted by good and bad holograms, both of which turn out to be attractive women described in a male-gazey way. Brunette Tori is the good hologram, blonde Alyssa is the bad hologram. Tori extracts Jon from Alyssa’s clutches and the Matrix.

This one is too close to The Matrix for my taste. The descriptions of New York City are very evocative, but the descriptions of the two holographic women are very male-gazey. There’s a lot head-hopping, too.

No thanks, not for me.

Homecoming by R. D. Meyer
  • Homecoming by R.D. Meyer

The novel is told as a series of journal entries by a historian named Shallisto Kai, who then proceeds to infodump about the history of humanity after they had to flee Earth as well as share their CV. Shallisto Kai is an expert in Earth history and therefore accompanies a military fleet on an expedition to reconquer Earth after 6000 years to chronicle the events of the expedition.

The early parts of this novel are basically one big infodump. We get information about the history of humanity and their expulsion from Earth, a primer on the political system, the calendar system, a tour of the flagship, her bridge and her crew, how the SLS drive works and so on. The premise – humanity has been driven from Earth and they want it back – is potentially interesting, but the execution is dull.  

Also, the humans are not very likable in this novel. They are xenophobic, exterminated an alien race a thousand years ago (okay, they were genocidal, but still) and they attack a random fleet of the alien Traygar, simply because they need to pass through their territory to get to Earth. Maybe the point is that the humans are jerks, but so far I’m not seeing it.

Finally, as someone who took Latin in school, the name Novam Terra is grating, because the adjective is in the wrong case.

No thanks, not for me.

In My Memory Locked by Jim Nelson
  • In My Memory Locked by Jim Nelson

The novel opens with a security expert named C.F. Naroy arriving at a crime scene in San Francisco in the year 2038. His former mentor and associate Michael Aggaroy has been brutally murdered, shortly after he asked Naroy to meet him. The police want to know what Aggaroy wanted of Naroy. Naroy isn’t sure, but suspects it has something to do with the “Old Internet” (i.e. ours).

A bit later, Naroy visits the only remaining copy of the “Old Internet”, which is kept on Alcatraz Island whose caretakers want to hire him. Turns out someone has been deleting parts of the old internet and the caretakers want Naroy to retrieve the stolen/deleted data. They won’t even press charges, they just want their data back.

This one starts out strong with some atmospheric descriptions of the rainy San Francisco of the near future, but then stalls out with a lot of infodumping, once Naroy gets to Alcatraz.

No thank, not for me.

Into Neon: A Cyberpunk Saga by Matthew A. Goodwin
  • Into Neon by Matthew A. Goodwin

Protagonist Moss works for ThutoCo as a bot controller and lives in a fully controlled company town. He’s in love with his childhood friend Issy, but doesn’t do anything about it. One day a woman named Ynna in full punk get-up knocks on his door. She works for a group that wants to expose ThutoCo‘s machinations and they want Moss’ help to do so. Ynna also gives Moss a data chip from his dead parents and hacks his implant. Then, she escapes as a security alert is triggered, but asks Moss to meet her in a bar in the megacity he has never visited.

This one may eventually become interesting, but it starts very slowly.

No thanks, not for me.

  • Lost Solace by Karl Drinkwater
Lost Solace by Karl Drinkwater

Opal has stolen an AI-controlled spaceship named Clarissa from the military to go on a quest for a lost spaceship. The novel opens with Opal waking from cryo-sleep, as Clarissa has arrived at their destination, a neutron star surrounded by a dust cloud. The lost spaceship Opal is searching – the passenger liner Solace, which disappeared 13 years ago – is hidden inside that dust cloud.

Spaceships get lost in hyperspace (here called “nullspace”) on occasion and suddenly reappear after decades or centuries. Often, these ships have been altered and there is something else on board. Something that can predict the future.

Since Opal can’t hail the drifting ship and her drones don’t work, because the ship has been altered, Opal puts on a cool armoured and armed spacesuit and boards the drifting lost ship.

I liked this one. The relationship between Opal and Clarissa is fun and the mystery of the lost ship is intriguing enough. Some nice worldbuilding hints as well.

Yes, please, give me more.

Mantivore Dreams by S. J. Higbee
  • Mantivore Dreams by S.J. Higbee  

The novel starts with Kyrillia, a teenager on a hot colony planet, at the Node, the planet’s internet equivalent, listening to music and discovering Bach. There also is Vrox, an alien familiar whom only Kyrillia can hear (and who also liked Bach). Kyrillia thinks he’s her imaginary friend, though he obviously isn’t .

The music session is cut shot when Kyrillia’s abusive mother arrives to beat her. We gradually learn that Kyrillia’s mother has always been abusive and hates her daughter for reasons unknown and that Kyrillia is also taking care of her disabled uncle, whom the mother also hates and resents. The uncle also abuses Kyrillia and her life is just shit. Kyrillia hopes to work at the Node like her mother someday, but her mother won’t let her. Even though Kyrillia is better at the job than her flake mother.

We also get some worldbuilding details. The colony is on a downswing. Most people can barely read and there was something called “the turbulence”.

One night, Kyrillia receives a holographic visit from a teenager named Kestor Brarian, who’s an apprentice Node keeper, who asks questions about the music site, which is apparently forbidden, and who tells her that Kyrillia’s mom is looking for an apprentice who’s not Kyrillia. There’s the usual teenage awkwardness between the sexes.

Kyrillia gets abused by her mother and uncle some more, the villagers drop cryptic hints that her mother has reasons for hating her and she has more clandestine conversations with Kestor. There’s also Seth, the kid of a disgraced family, who works as a day labourer and is Kyrillia’s friend.

This feels very YA-like with the abused protagonist, almost comically evil mother (who seems to be making a play for the Darth Vader Parenthood Award) and the two boys vying for her. Still, the story is entertaining enough and the worldbuilding is intriguing.

Yes, please, give me more.

No Easy Road by Greg Camp
  • No Easy Road by Greg Camp

Lieutenant Tom Cochrane is in the Centauri space navy and has constant issues with his aristocratic superiors, who are ordering him about and blaming him for the messes they caused. When Tom is ordered to fix substandard equipment his superior Commander Shelley had installed, the faulty equipment causes a shipwide failure and a fire, which gets the captain – who always supported Tom – killed. Tom gets blamed for this, which kills his Navy career.

The Tom segments are interspersed with segments featuring a man called Bertrand Lile, who appears to be some kind of spy or secret agent. He’s summoned to a meeting in a dingy hotel with an agent he recruited. Turns out the agent met someone at the hotel for sex, only for those someones to be murdered. Bertrand deduces that someone is on to his agent.

The Tom segments are pretty dull. Even the fire and explosion that kills the captain happened off-screen. The Bertrand segments are somewhat more exciting, but we get no information regarding who Bertrand is, what his mission is or why we should care. I guess I’m not the target audience for this one.

No thanks, not for me.

Numanity by Alexander Lucas
  • Numanity by Alexander Lucas  

The novel starts in medias res with two teenagers named Neeto and Ada, a cyborg, engaged in hacking operation to illegally watch a game called Alphaball in an abandoned sports bar, while exchanging banter. The scene is set in some kind of post-apocalyptic flooded world. They get caught and have to make a run for it. Neeto escapes, Ada doesn’t. We later see her getting interrogated.

The scene now shifts to the company behind Alphaball. The vice president is furious, because one of the cyborg players went off script, displayed too many abilities and ruined the game. He asks random talking heads for solutions and finally fires all but two of them.

The scene shifts again to Tiber Achilles, the Alphaball player who went off script and showed off too many abilities. His CEO mother is furious that he upset the delicated balance between the Darwin and Achilles companies.

There’s another scene featuring a biographer named Janajreh seeing Emin Lator, head of the Darwin company. Apparently, Emin had an affair with Rain Achilles, husband of the CEO of the rival company.

This one never really comes together and I have no reason to care about any of the characters. The endless talking head scenes with almost no dialogue attribution don’t help either. After twenty percent, I can’t even see what sort of story this is supposed to be.

No thanks, not for me.

Piercing The Celestial Ocean by Kip Koelsch
  • Piercing the Celestial Ocean by Kip Koelsch

The novel opens with a prologue where a spaceship named Endeavour (wasn’t the ship in No Easy Road also named that?) intercepts a cylindrical object coming out of a wormhole. The cylinder contains a humanoid woman in stasis.

Captain Ekels of the Endeavour is the usual washed out troublemaker captain that is standard for the military SF genre. He’s even done a stint in prison. Ekels hopes the discovery of the cylinder and its occupants will get him back in the good graces of the scientific community.

Ekels is ordered to put the crew of the Endeavour into stasis and wait until a fleet can arrive from Earth to build a research station to examine the capsule and its occupant. This will take fifteen years.

Once the Endeavour’s crew is in stasis, Ekels orders the ship AI to open the capsule and revive the occupant. We have no idea why he does this.

After the prologue, the story jumps to events on the other side of the wormhole 655 years earlier, where everybody and everything has apostrophe laden names and an astronomer named G’lea is about to observe the wormhole. This is a periodic event and is viewed as the coming of heavenly visitors by the clerics of this world. But G’lea knows it’s a natural phenomenon and wants to convince the clerics. This goes about as well as you can imagine.

The basic idea of two human/humanoid civilisations from opposite sides of a wormhole meeting each other is solid. However, the execution is lacking. The Ekels section is cliched and Ekels himself is neither likeable nor do his motivations make much sense. It’s also irritating that every single crewmember of the Endeavour seems to be male. The G’lea section is stronger, but the story just doesn’t gel.

No thanks, not for me.

Retrieval by Regina Clarke
  • Retrieval by Regina Clarke

Gillian runs a diner in the Mojave desert. One day, she’s late to open up and finds her new employee Gabriel missing. Shortly thereafter, Gillian and the patrons witness seven streaks of light in the sky and hear a loud boom. They assume that a nearby airbase is testing some kind of new weapons systems. Shortly thereafter, Gabriel reappears. Supposedly, he overslept. Gillian knows she should fire him, but doesn’t.

Gabriel promptly disappears again on a walk and generally acts strange, but Gillian is too busy to care, especially Gabriel reappears around lunchtime and is otherwise really good at his job.

Gillian’s ex, Birdy, drops by and wants to show her something he found in the desert. This something turns out to be a strange glowing disc. When pressed, the disc and a rusty trailer disappear.

The fire streaks was an alien crash and the disc is an alien artefact. The Roswell crash involved the same aliens. They are worried that the military might find their lost tech, so they try to retrieve it. This is the job of an alien commander called Malakai. His brother Inac is none other than Gabriel, Gillian’s new employee. For reasons best known to himself, Malakai is interested in Gillian and wants her retrieved along with the lost tech.

This is well written and the chapters from Gillian’s POV are very evocative. I also liked the descriptions of the desert. The Malakai chapters are less interesting so far. Nonetheless, I’m intrigued enough to want more.

Yes, please, give me more.

Shakedowners by Justin Woolley
  • Shakedowners by Justin Woolley

Captain Iridius B. Franklin is an inept commander, who is given equally idiotic assignments. He’s captain of the freighter Diesel Coast (named for a 21st century ecological disaster), which is delivering artificially intelligent toy dogs to a disaster stricken space colony at the opening of the novel.

Franklin also has a reputation for breaking starships. Things tend to go wrong around him, a phenomenon that is dubbed Franklinisms.

When the Diesel Coast reaches its destination, no one is answering their hails. They investigate and find no life signs, so they enter the mining colony and find the crew reduced to pink goo and all logs and data erased. Franklin is attacked by a swarm of insectoid nano-machines. He and his away team barely escape with their lives.

However, despite all precautions, some of the nano-machines manage to get aboard and take over one of the artificially intelligent robot dogs…

This is a fun work of humorous science fiction, reminiscent of the TV show The Orville and Joe Zieja’s books.

Yes, please, give me more.

Sidnye by Scott Fitzgerald Gray
  • Sidnye: Queen of the Universe by Scott Fitzgerald Gray

Sidnye is a teenaged orphan at a boarding school in Saskatchewan, Canada. She is messy and has recurring dreams about shooting stars. She’s friends with Emmet, who’s into astronomy. Her favourite teacher is McCune, who’s also her legal guardian.

I do like the descriptions of the Canadian winter, but the novel itself is not for me, I’m afraid. I’m no longer the target audience for YA-ish boarding school stories and there’s little in the early chapters that makes this story feel different from umpteen similar ones.

No thank you, not for me.

  • Sped-Bot by Billy DeCarlo
Sped-Bot: DroidMesh Trilogy Book 1 by Billy DeCarlo

The novel opens with fifteen-year-old Isaac, his father Harley and Isaac’s android (or gynoid) companion Carrie watching a soccer match on Novae Terrae (another case of using the wrong Latin case endings), a breakaway Earth colony. Isaac’s foster brother Liam is one of the players and wins the match for his team. This is not a good thing, because competition is discouraged on this world. Isaac apparently has some kind of intellectual disability (maybe somewhere on the autism spectrum), which is supposed to have been eradicated on this brave new world.

Isaac has problem with classmate Ralph Sampson who keeps humiliating him. However, Ralph’s father is Harley’s boss and a big deal in this brave new world. As we learn from one of Isaac’s lessons, Novae Terrae has a strict meritocratic caste system, disallows competition and violence, has abolished money and religion and dampened down the sex drive. Androids are omnipresent, but have no rights.

There may well be an interesting story here eventually, but the beginning never really progresses beyond Isaac’s bullying woes. And as I said above, I’m no longer the target audience for school stories.

No thank you, not for me.

The Dark Realm by Anthea Sharp
  • The Dark Realm by Anthea Sharp

Jennet Carter’s father is a game developer for the most immersive VR game system ever. Mr. Carter takes the prototype home and Jennet sneaks into his office to give it a try and play the new game Feyland. Unfortunately, the queen of the dark fae who rules the land has detected Jennet’s arrival and orders her captured.

After arriving in the game, Jennet meets a brownie and fights the Black Knight, who is one of the Dark Queen’s goons. Lucky for Jennet, the game glitches and throws her back into the real world, where her father has just come home, accompanied by his friend Thomas Rimer (!). Thomas gives Jennet a book about fairy tales, whose illustrations match the game.

The Dark Queen, annoyed that the Black Knight has failed to capture Jennet, sends the Wild Hunt after her, but they fail, too. Meanwhile, Jennet is dealing with the typical teen school woes. During her holidays, she keeps returning to Feyland and does quests. When Jennet’s father announces that they’re moving to a small town, she is heartbroken.

This is certainly well written, but I’m not the target audience for either LitRPG or YA school drama. Nonetheless, I was intrigued enough that I wanted to read on.

Yes please, give me more.

The Hammond Conjecture by M. B. Reed
  • The Hammond Conjecture by M.B. Reed

The novel starts with a preface by the author, claiming that what we are about to read is a biography of one Hugh Hammond, based on his papers and requested by his daughter Eve. Clever framing device, which Reed also uses to urge us to sign up for their newsletter.

The novel proper opens with Hugh Hammond coming to in a hospital in World’s End, London, in 1982 with amnesia. No one will answer his questions and he believes he died and is in purgatory and this body is not his own.  The doctors of course think he’s crazy, but let him write a diary and prescribe a drug that will jolt his memories. This diary is what the novel is constructed from.

The first memory to return is of Hammond returning home from an assignment in 1971. We quickly realise that this is an alternate world, since there are airships landing at the Croydon aerodrome (long gone in our world). WWII ended with a peace treaty signed between the British Empire and Germany in 1941. The British Empire never died and neither did the Third Reich. Germany got to the moon, George V is still king and the 1968 riots were a lot more violent than in our world. In order to apply for Civil Service jobs, you have to prove Anglo-Saxon heritage.

We get another flashback to 1969 and Hammond arriving back in England after a lot of time spent in South Africa and India with the military. He joins the Secret Intelligence Service.

In hospital, Hammond befriends a nurse and chances to see a news program on TV. He realises that he has landed in an alternate world.

For once the blurb comparing this novel to early Michael Moorcock is correct, because it does remind me of the Jerry Cornelius stories. Philip K. Dick would also be a good comparison. This one is definitely intriguing.

Yes please, give me more.

The Prometheus Effect by David Fleming
  • The Prometheus Effect by David Fleming

The novel opens in the fall of 1945. Nineteen-year-old genius Jack is on the verge of developing fusion power and he is being questioned by the US President about a paper he has written, outlining challenges that humanity will face and the way to solve them. He is promptly recruited to head the secret organisation the City, which will be located in the Nevada desert.

The novel skips ahead to 2039 and a four-year-old boy named Mykl. Mykl appears to be a sort of genius, too. His single Mom works in Vegas and is murdered one night. Mykl ends up in a children’s home.

The scene shifts again to 2040 and CIA agent Sebastian Falstano aboard a submarine. Falstano is supposed to investigate extraterrestrial technology. The submarine crew is not pleased about this. Falstano is taken to a secret location, where he is met by an attractive blonde woman and taken to examine a billion year old alien artefact found on the moon. Then the woman shoots and drugs him.

The scene shifts to Jessica who is taking an entrance exam to join the military. Jessica is waist-deep in student loans and laments about the quality of education. Jessica wants to develop Cold Fusion, while the professors want her to study non-western cultures. The author can’t help getting on his soap box here. Eventually, Jessica joins the military and winds up at the City, only to be fire almost immediately for allegedly falsifying data. However, it’s just a test to figure out if Jessica is moral enough to join the City.

Jessica and Sebastian meet while chained to the seats of a bus. Sebastian wants to go public with the classified information. Jessica is horrified.

Once again, there’s probably an interesting story in here somewhere, but it never comes together. The fact that the author can’t resist getting on his soap box to hold forth about the value of higher education doesn’t help either.

No thanks, not for me.

The StarMaster’s Son by Gibson Morales
  • The StarMaster’s Son by Gibson Morales

The prologue begins with the StarMaster, ruler of the universe, about to “die” (his body is artificial, but his memory has been corrupted) after ruling for fifty years.

The scene shifts to a young man called Felik, who is debating the apparent demise of the StarMaster on a next generation social network. Felik suffers from a neural virus. He also happens to be the StarMaster’s clone son, one of many. His brother StarKeeper Oberon is the favoured successor, but another brother Megas is also in the running. Felik doesn’t care, he hopes to become Chief Philosopher. Meanwhile, he lives in a savanna projection, where he has sex and fights. By day, he works as an ambassador to technologically less developed species. One of these, the wraiths, capture him.

The scene shifts to Kai, an inquisitor (a.k.a. bounty hunter) who can project her consciousness into different artificial bodies. Kai and her ship Euphrates are attacked. The ship is destroyed and Kai has to flee aboard an escape pod. She comes to again thirty-nine years later and learns that she has been infected by a neural virus.

This one tries to cram way too much information and too many side stories into one novel and the result never really comes together.

No thanks, not for me.

  • The Voyage of the White Cloud by M. Darusha Wehm
The Voyage of the White Cloud by M. Darusha Wehm

The White Cloud is a generation ship and the novel consists of individual stories about the people living and dying aboard this ship.

The first one up is Susanne, a teacher. Susanne is religious and her experiences at a service are intermingled with her memories of struggling to become a teacher and falling for a boy who turns out to be gay. Susanne finds answers to all her questions in her religion

Next up are Janey, another teacher, and Tamar who are getting drunk and talk about aliens. The White Cloud has never encountered aliens, but Tamar believes they are writing messages in the stars. Tamar has proof and shows it to Janey. She wants Janey to tell the story of humanity and the White Cloud and encode it in the stars.

Then we get Lauren Ibarra, who has just turned sixty-seven years old and is dreading the party.

I love the idea of this one, but unfortunately, I don’t love the execution. The slice of life stories feel very inconsequential. Maybe it all comes together later, but not so far.

No thanks, not for me.

Where Weavers Daire by R. K. Bentley
  • Where Weavers Daire by R.K. Bentley

Melinda Scott is eighteen and works as a salvage specialist as part of a family crew. One day, during what’s supposed to be a test mission, she comes across a giant derelict spaceship of the Daires. She finds a spellbook and mysterious suit and realises that the ship belongs to a necromancer. Unfortunately, that necromancer or weaver, Spence MacGregor is still in his suit and regaining consciousness. He goes after Melinda, as she tries to escape and grabs hold of her. Her Mother Jainey and a relative named Tommy gives chase, but have to break off, when Tommy’s anti-magic weapons fail due to tampering.

Melinda makes her way aboard the ship again and finally meets Spence, who is struggling to bring his ship, which has been hacked, back under control. The hacker is one Wallace Stukari, an enemy of Spence’s. He tries to blow up the ship, but Spence and Melinda escape in an escape pod and land on the planet Stuk’s Hollow.

Jainey’s and Tommy’s ship is boarded by supposed tax collectors, who turn out to be Stukari agents. Tommy is working for them and Melinda was used as bait to draw out Spence, only everything went wrong. Wallace Stukari also appears and demands to know where Melinda and Spence are. He and Tommy land on Stuk’s Hollow to go after them.

This one is a tad confusing, explaining too little rather than too much. But the characters are likeable and I wouldn’t mind reading more about them.

Yes please, give me more.


SPSFC art by Tithi LuadthongLogos designed by Scott (@book_invasion)

Pixel Scroll 1/3/22 Barsoomian Rhapsody

(1) AUTHORS CALL OUT DRASTIC PROBLEMS WITH KINDLE DIRECT PUBLISHING. Several indie romance authors recently found themselves banned by Kindle Direct Publishing with no real explanation, including paranormal and SF authors such as Ruby Dixon, author of Ice Planet Barbarians. She’s a successful writer who has been reviewed in mainstream media, so this was very odd. Even when Amazon reinstated the authors and their books, some say they had to fight to get their royalties restored as well.

Lexi Ostrow, another author who experienced this, blogged about it extensively. “The Story of Amazon & The Destruction of a career – USA Today Bestselling Author Lexi Ostrow” is the first of three posts.

… The last 30ish hours have been very hard for me. Somehow, I offended Amazon’s KDP system and my entire career has been taken down. This blog is my attempt to share only the facts, while leaving out any opinions and emotions. At present, 43 books have been unpublished, over $300 in advertising dollars on a new release from 12.20.21 are wasted, and over 700 reviews & ratings are now gone. All of this occurred just 24 hours after my latest release, which was the first release I’ve had since last Christmas, due to fighting a mystery illness and COVID parenting a toddler – writing took a backseat.

Please consider sharing this blog on your social media. I want to effect change within Amazon more than I want my career back. If enough of us make noise, it’s possible this can all be changed….

As I am human, my next course of action included breaking down. I have been a published author – indie house, small presses, and self – for just over 6 years. I have been included in or solo’d in 54 novels + the two preorders. 

Per the email, my books were gone. My reviews were gone. My royalties would not be paid – yes, you read that correctly, Amazon was going to keep money I made on all my BACKLIST titles because the preorder raised a flag. I also cannot create another KDP account to begin again (which is fair if I’d done what I was accused of doing or anything else).

I took to social media for help, because my account was blocked so I couldn’t “contact us” beyond a form fill and I wasn’t content with that. To see the Facebook post, click here.

Susan Lyn says she suffered the same fate: “Writing and Life”.

In unrelated yet just as devastating news, I seem to have angered the gods of Amazon and all books have been purged from the behemoth. They seem to be doing a massive author purge, some pretty big names have also been affected.

Never fear, I’m in the process of sending all of my previously published titles wide (to be available everywhere but Amazon) and will update links to where they are available.

Ruby Dixon’s books have since been reinstated.

Lexi Ostrow’s Amazon author page also shows her Kindle books are back, but it was a struggle every step of the way as she explains in two follow-up posts. “Amazon & The Destruction of a Career Part 2” on December 26 contains screenshots of more emails exchanged with the Amazon Content Review Team. “Amazon & The Death of a Career – the Finale” on December 29 says that when Amazon restored her books, they initially did not restore the royalties in her account. Later, Ostrow got a call from someone from KDP’s Executive Customer Relations that her royalties also had been restored. Ostrow’s final post includes these lessons learned:

What did I learn from the call?

  • The KDP content team has no phone access because “they aren’t client facing so it isn’t an issue”. I assure you, I let him know how very much it was/is an issue
  • Executives have no idea why the content team does what they do – AKA NO NOTES!!
  • He found me via Twitter, not via any of my emails or attempted calls.
  • The KDP content team is overseas and doesn’t interact with clients. I was very verbal that this is a problem.
  • I was told there would be an investigation into why I was ignored so many times and not given proper responses.
  • That while nice, I will never put all my eggs in one basket. While I will remain on Amazon for the exposure, I am 100% wide.
  • Our fight to fix this process is not yet done, but I’m still trying to understand what will help as a petition merely expresses a desire for something, but we all know Amazon KNOWS their policy is shit.

(2) WEBB TELESCOPE IN THE SHADE. Yahoo! reports:“NASA’s new space telescope ‘hunky-dory’ after problems fixed”.

NASA’s new space telescope is on the verge of completing the riskiest part of its mission — unfolding and tightening a huge sunshade — after ground controllers fixed a pair of problems, officials said Monday.

The tennis court-size sunshield on the James Webb Space Telescope is now fully open and in the process of being stretched tight. The operation should be complete by Wednesday.

… The sunshield is vital for keeping Webb’s infrared-sensing instruments at subzero temperatures, as they scan the universe for the first stars and galaxies, and examine the atmospheres of alien worlds for possible signs of life.

Getting the sunshield extended last Friday “was really a huge achievement for us,” said project manager Bill Ochs. All 107 release pins opened properly.

But there have been a few obstacles.

Flight controllers in Maryland had to reset Webb’s solar panel to draw more power. The observatory — considered the successor to the aging Hubble Space Telescope — was never in any danger, with a constant power flow, said Amy Lo, a lead engineer for the telescope’s prime contractor, Northrop Grumman….

They also repointed the telescope to limit sunlight on six overheating motors. The motors cooled enough to begin securing the sunshield, a three-day process that can be halted if the problem crops up again, officials said.

“Everything is hunky-dory and doing well now,” Lo said.

(3) HARD TO SWALLOW. Cora Buhlert reviews the opening episode of the new series: “The Book of Boba Fett finds itself a ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’”. Beware spoilers.

…“Stranger in a Strange Land”, the first episode of The Book of Boba Fett continues where both The Mandalorian and Return of the Jedi left off. Because the scenes of Boba Fett establishing himself as the premiere crime lord on Tatooine are interspersed with flashbacks of Boba Fett’s past, including his escape from the Sarlaac’s digestive tract….

(4) ROUTES. In San Marino, the Huntington’s “Mapping Fiction” exhibit will open January 15: “Exhibition to Explore the Construction of Fictional Worlds through Maps and Novels”.

On the occasion of the centennial of James Joyce’s Ulysses, “Mapping Fiction” includes works by Octavia E. Butler, William Faulkner, Jack and Charmian London, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Mark Twain, among others…

…Other featured objects in this section include an Arion Press artist book edition of Edwin A. Abbott’s satirical novella Flatland, a Romance of Many Dimensions; J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy; George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones; maps from the Octavia E. Butler archive related to her Earthseed novels; and a map for The Mortmere Stories of Christopher Isherwood and Edward Upward.

(5) CINEMATIC CLI-FI. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Sonia Rao interviews directors of films that deal with climate change.  Most of the films discussed, including Wall-E, The Day After Tomorrow, and Mad Max:  Fury Road–are sf.  Kim Stanley Robinson is briefly interviewed in the section on Mad Max:  Fury Road. “Climate change is the greatest threat to humanity. Here’s how filmmakers have tried to make sense of it all.”

… Things fall apart rapidly in “The Day After Tomorrow.” Soon after climate scientist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) says at a United Nations conference that climate change could lead to an ice age, a storm system develops and threatens to destroy the Northern Hemisphere. Jack’s son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his friends seek shelter at the New York Public Library, where they burn books for warmth as snow mounts against the building’s outer walls.

Like its peers in the disaster genre, “The Day After Tomorrow” is consumed by the special effects involved in depicting calamity. Emmerich says his critics often forget that “when you make a movie, it has to be dramatic in a certain way.” People bought tickets to be stunned. This was the guy who made “Independence Day,” after all….

(6) TODD SULLIVAN. Space Cowboy Books presents an online reading and interview with Todd Sullivan author of the fantasy trilogy The Windshine Chronicles on January 25 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Free registration here.

(7) NIGHTMARES ALLEZ. Hear from the legendary director in the Maltins’ podcast: Maltin on Movies: Guillermo del Toro.

Guillermo del Toro is a sorcerer who places no limits on his imagination. His new film, Nightmare Alley, now playing in theaters, is an exquisitely rendered film noir that stands alongside his earlier work (The Devil’s Backbone, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water) with the promise of more to come—like his “take” on Pinocchio. Leonard and Jessie are longtime devotees and are thrilled to share this uniquely eloquent and passionate creator with all of you.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1993 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-nine years ago, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in syndication. The fourth spin-off of the original series (counting the animated run) was the first developed after the death of Roddenberry as created by Rick Berman and Michael Piller. It starred Avery Brooks, René Auberjonois, Terry Farrell, Cirroc Lofton, Colm Meaney, Armin Shimerman, Alexander Siddig, Nana Visitor and Michael Dorn. It would run for seven seasons and one hundred seventy-six episodes. It would be nominated for two Hugo Awards but wouldn’t win either of them. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 3, 1892 J.R.R. Tolkien. Yes, It’s the Birthday of J.R.R. Tolkien. I thought I’d do something different, so I asked Filers and other folk I knew what their favorite works by him were. 

Peter Beagle says:

‘You mean my favorite writing by Tolkien? Probably the story of Beren and Luthien, which I’ve always loved – or maybe the one now published as The Children of Hurin. One or the other.’

Cora Buhlert is one of three Filers who gave an answer:

‘The first Tolkien I actually read was The Hobbit, in an East German edition with the illustrations from the Soviet edition. I got it as a present from my Great-Aunt Metel from East Germany, who often sent me books for Christmas and my birthday. It’s still somewhere in a box on my parents’ attic. 

‘I liked The Hobbit a lot, but I didn’t know there were more stories set in Middle Earth, until several years later, when I spotted The Lord of the Rings at a classmate’s place and borrowed it from him. As a teenager, I had a thing for mythology and read my way through the Nibelungenlied, the Odyssey and the Iliad, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, etc… Lord of the Rings fit right into that context and I enjoyed it even more than I had enjoyed The Hobbit.

‘I didn’t read the essay “On Fairy Stories” until university, when I cited it in a paper I wrote for a class. Now I had been educated in an environment which considered the traditional Grimm’s fairy tales too brutal and unsuitable for children (luckily, my parents ignored that and told/read them to me anyway) and which viewed fantasy and science fiction or any kind of genre fiction as escapist trash and potentially harmful. I got regurgitated version of this from my teachers at school and in university I was exposed to the 1970s leftwing pop culture criticism where those ideas had originated. However, I didn’t believe that fairy tales were bad and that SFF was escapist trash, so I was thrilled to read “On Fairy Stories” and find that Tolkien, who surely was considered beyond reproach, agreeing with me.’ 

Lis Carey was our next Filer:

‘I think I have to say that The Hobbit is my favorite Tolkien. I really do identify with Bilbo’s desire to stay home, and enjoy his cozy hobbit hole and its comforts, in his comfortable, familiar neighborhood. Yet, against his better judgment, he is lured into going on an adventure (always a bad idea, adventures) with the dwarves, and finds out just how resilient he is, his unexpected bravery, his ingenuity when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges (“…he was chased by wolves, lost in the forest, escaped in a barrel from the elf-king’s hall…”) (yes, I love The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins, too.) He finds resources in himself that he never suspected–and at the end, he still goes home, to deal with his annoying relatives and enjoy his home. None of this “and now I will abandon everything I ever cared about, to be a completely different person in a different life.”‘

It’s been a long time for Ellen Datlow: since she read his nibs. so she says:

‘I haven’t read him in so long I don’t remember–I loved all three of the LOTR trilogy and The Hobbit but don’t remember exactly why.’  

Pamela Dean says she “unreservedly loves The Lord of the Rings, the translation of ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,’ and ‘On Fairy-Stories’.” 

Once again, The Hobbit proves popular as Jasper Fforde says it’s:

The Hobbit, because it’s the only one I’ve read – I liked it a great deal but was never really into spells, wizards and trolls, so never took it any further.’ 

Elizabeth Hand gave a lengthy reply:

‘I’d probably have to say The Lord of the Rings, which I’ve read it countless times over the last forty years. It imprinted on me at such an early age — I had the good luck to read it as a kid in the 1960s, when it was still a cult novel, and you had a real sense that you were in some secret, marvelous group of insiders who had visited a place not everyone knew about. Maybe kids discovering it today still have that feeling, in spite of the success of the movies (which I love). I hope so. But I also find that, as I’ve gotten older, I’m far more drawn to reread other works, especially in The Complete History of Middle Earth and The Silmarillion (we have very long Tolkien shelves here). 

‘I love the Beren & Luthien material, and also the various accounts of Turin, which recently were republished as The Children of Hurin. The dark tone of all of it, the tragic cast and also the recurring motifs involving elves and mortal lovers — great stuff. It doesn’t serve the function of comfort reading that LOTR does, and because I’m not so familiar with the stories I can still read them with something like my original sense of discovery. 

‘The breadth and depth of Tolkien’s achievement really becomes apparent when one reads The Complete History — 13 volumes, including an Index. Every time I go back to them I think, I could be learning Greek, or Ancient Egyptian, something that has to do with the real world.  But then, I’m continually so amazed by what this one man came up with, the intensity and single mindedness of his obsession. And I get sucked into it all over again.’ 

Gwyneth Jones says her favorite work is The Lord Of The Rings:

‘Why — Because I read it when I was a child, in bed with bronchitis. My mother brought me the three big volumes, successively, from the library, I’d never met anything like it, and it was just wonderful entertainment for a sick child. I grew out of LOTR, but will never forget that thrill.  More why: I’ve never felt the slightest temptation to open the massive prequels and spin-offs of Middle Earth fantasy, I just don’t have that gene, and I feel the Tolkien industry doesn’t need my money. And the other works are either too scholarly, or everything about them is represented in LOTR anyway.  I admired ‘Tree and Leaf’ when I read it, long ago, but I’m not sure if I still would.’ 

OR Melling says:

‘As a child, I loved reading fantasy – CS Lewis, E Nesbit, JM Barrie and so on – but when the librarian offered me The Hobbit and said “it’s about little men with hairy feet” I recall giving her one of those withering looks only children can give. Why on earth would I want to read a book about men with hairy feet? I did finally read The Hobbit when I was 12, after I had read The Lord of the Rings, and discovered that my initial suspicion was correct. I did not like the book at all, particularly its depiction of the elves. This was a great surprise, of course, considering that I had absolutely fallen in love with The Lord of the Rings. It is still one of my favourite books to this day. Aside from The Silmarillion – which I endured like all faithful fans – I have not read any other of Tolkien’s works.’ 

Catherynne M. Valente picked The Silmarillion:

‘I love The Lord of the Rings. I was once a hardcore Sindarin-speaking LoTR geek, in the days of my misbegotten youth. It is a vast and important book. But I have to say that I feel the book is incomplete without The Silmarillion, which provides a depth and mythology, an understanding of the forces at work, a breadth and beauty that LoTR does not have on its own. I am one of the few who loves The Silmarillion for itself, devoured it in one sitting, had no trouble with the archaic language. It should get more love than it does.’ 

Our final Filer is Paul Weimer who states:

‘I am going to go with a sidewise choice.   While LOTR and the Hobbit are some of my earliest and most beloved of all SFF that I have ever read, the piece by Tolkien that comes back to my mind again and again is the story of Beren and Luthien.  We get the story in a number of ways and forms :the small fragments we see in Lord of the Rings (or the tiny bit in the movie), the longer tale told in the Silmarillion, and the alternate and evolving versions seen in the extended histories of Middle Earth and his letters,  In the end this love story between man and elf, mortal and immortal, is in many ways THE story of Tolkien, more than the story of a Hobbit, or of the One Ring. It is very telling that Tolkien and his wife’s gravestone name check themselves as Beren and Luthien.  It moved me the first time I read the full story, and it moves me still.’

For Jane Yolen, it’s The Hobbit:

‘While it’s true that The Lord of the Rings is his masterwork and The Hobbit his first attempt at writing (and that, some say witheringly, for children) I have to admit I adore The Hobbit. It has adventure, wonderful characters, fine pacing and spacing, some really scary bits (my daughter ran screaming from the room when the trolls grabbed the ponies, and she refused to hear the rest of it.) And if I could ever write a chapter as good as the Riddles in the Dark chapter I would never have to write again.’

(10) COMIC SECTION.

  • Bizarro stretches the truth in a comic way.  

(11) FLIPPED SCRIPTS. “Premee Mohamed on turning science fiction tropes on their head” is one of the segments on the January 2 edition of CBC’s The Sunday Magazine with Piya Chattopadhyay. Listen to the profile at the link.

(12) THE TIME OF HIS LIFE. People always want to know how a successful writer does things. John Scalzi obliges with an account of how he budgets his time: “In Theory, My Work Day” at Whatever.

Now that the holidays have been packed away and we are back into the swing of things, I know that some of you have had an interest in how I manage my work days. The answer to this varies, largely depending on whether I’m working on a novel or not. However, as it happens, I am working on a novel again, and also, I’ve decided to put a bit more structure into my day. So in theory, here’s how my work days should go in 2022….

(13) THE AMAZON PRIME DIRECTIVE. Jeff Foust reviews an Amazon Prime documentary about Shat’s space trip for The Space Review: “Shatner in Space”.

… There is not a lot of drama in the show itself. When winds force a one-day delay in the flight, Shatner briefly ponders if the universe is trying to tell him that he shouldn’t go, but the moment passes. There’s a brief hold in the countdown because of a software issue that threatens a scrub (“You’ve got to be [bleeping] kidding,” Shatner says in the capsule) but that, too, quickly passes. There’s some footage inside the capsule during the flight itself, although not much more than what was shown during and immediately after the flight….

(14) MALLEUS MALEFICARUM. “How do you spot a witch? This notorious 15th-century book gave instructions – and helped execute thousands of women”The Conversation has the story.

Books have always had the power to cast a spell over their readers – figuratively.

But one book that was quite popular from the 15th to 17th centuries, and infamously so, is literally about spells: what witches do, how do identify them, how to get them to confess, and how to bring them to swift punishment.

As fear of witches reached a fever pitch in Europe, witch hunters turned to the “Malleus Maleficarum,” or “Hammer of Witches,” for guidance. The book’s instructions helped convict some of the tens of thousands of people – almost all women – who were executed during the period. Its bloody legacy stretched to North America, with 25 supposed “witches” killed in Salem, Massachusetts, in the late 1600s.

(15) FUSION EXPERIMENT SETS RECORD. “China switches on ‘artificial sun’ that is five times hotter than the real thing” reports MSN.com.

A nuclear fusion reactor in China has set a new record for sustained high temperatures after running five times hotter than the sun for more than 17 minutes, according to state media.

The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), known as an “artificial sun”, reached temperatures of 70,000,000C during the experiments, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The ultimate aim of developing the artificial sun device is to deliver near-limitless clean energy by mimicking the natural reactions occurring within stars.

“The recent operation lays a solid scientific and experimental foundation towards the running of a fusion reactor,” said Gong Xianzu, a researcher at the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who led the latest experiment.

The EAST project, which has already cost China more than £700bn, will run the experiment until June….

(16) TRUTH. Via RedWombat.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Chris Barkley, Anne Marble, Olav Rokne, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/30/21 “Say, Sky-Farmer, Can I Take this Wormhole To Tau Ceti?” “You Could, But I Don’t Know Why, They Already Have One.”

(1) SCALING MOUNT TSUNDOKU. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Book blogger Runalong Womble has shared his TBR Reduction Challenge for 2022 in a fun little blog post that may help those of us whose bedside tables are creaking under the weight of unread tomes. “Your TBR Reduction Book Challenge – Let Me Help You!”

So I usually like to increase your pile of books to be read and yes I admit a warm glow of satisfaction when I hear that you’ve been tempted. But spoilers I am just as liable to a good temptation. Pass a bookshop; sale or good review and magically books soon enter my house or e-reader (the latter a place where many books go to die unread as no one really knows what lives within them). So let your kind womble share their own TBR challenge and I hope this helps you too!

Here’s an example from Womble’s calendar:

March – New Beginnings

5 – For the beginning of Spring I want you to open a book in the TBR pile by an author you’ve never read before

Stretch Goal – March is named after Mars, so genre fans find a book that very likely has a big battle in it be it in space, our world or a secondary world.  Non-genre fans look for a book about a conflict be that a dilemma, family feud etc

(2) THE FOLKS AT HOME. Today Cora Buhlert posted “The 2021 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award” (companion piece to yesterday’s highly entertaining “2021 Darth Vader Parenthood Award”). The Kent ceremony got a little out of hand, as the various characters started interacting. But first, Cora discusses some candidates who didn’t make the finals.

…Everybody’s favourite gay couple, Paul Stamets and Dr. Hugh Culber from Star Trek Discovery became parents last year, when they formed a beautiful little rainbow family with Adira, teenaged genius with a Trill symbiont, and their boyfriend Gray, who’s a disembodied ghost for much of season 3 before finally getting a body in season 4. Through it all, Stamets and Culber have done an excellent job parenting their untraditional family and would certainly be deserving winners. But as I said above, the competition was stiff this year….

(3) UNEXPECTED LOVE LETTER. Évelyne Lachance says “Worldcon is the place to call home” in an essay for Medium.

Who is WorldCon for?

It’s for you, the science fiction fan. And by fan, I mean, at any level, any age, any level of fandom, knowledge, and experience. Whether you’ve read a single novel about space travel or thousands, whether you’re a Star Trek fan, a Star Wars Fan, both, or none, it doesn’t matter. Worldcon is a place of acceptance for all fans. There is no gatekeeping, no “true Scotsman”, no required reading or watching. You could walk into your first con with absolutely zero knowledge of anything Sci-Fi and still be welcomed with open arms. Because if you’re there, it means you belong there.

(4) LOOKING AT RERUNS. Olav Rokne notes at the Hugo Book Club Blog, “A small group of us are slowly working our way through all the Hugo-shortlisted Dramatic Presentations year-by-year. Some years have been more of a slog than others, but 1967 had an excellent shortlist, and the contemporaneous fanzines are filled with debate about the movies and shows. Seems like the year that the Best Dramatic Presentation category really came into its own at the Hugos.” “Best Dramatic Presentation Boldly Goes Forward (1967)”.

With the benefit of hindsight, it seems only natural that Star Trek should win a Hugo Award in its first season.

At the time, however, this decision was not without controversy.

The Worldcon chair for 1967, Ted White, published a screed against the show calling its writers patronizing and ill-informed. Hugo-winning fan writer Alexei Panshin opined that Star Trek was filled with cliches and facile plots.

But for every voice criticizing the new show, there were several voicing their support. Big-name authors like Harlan Ellison and A.E. Van Vogt campaigned for the television series to win a Hugo, hoping that the recognition might buy it a second season….

(5) A SLIPPERY SLOPE TO A ROCKY ROAD. In “Pluto should be reclassified as a planet, scientists argue” NBC is picking up a bit of science news that I saw a couple weeks ago but originally left alone because it’s not as much fun saying Pluto should be a planet if it means adding a whole bunch of other rocks I never heard of to the category, too!

A team of scientists wants Pluto classified as a planet again — along with dozens of similar bodies in the solar system and any found around distant stars.

The call goes against a controversial resolution from 2006 by the International Astronomical Union that decided Pluto is only a “dwarf planet” — but the researchers say a rethink will put science back on the right path.

Pluto had been considered the ninth planet since its discovery in 1930, but the IAU — which names astronomical objects — decided in 2006 that a planet must be spherical, orbit the sun and have gravitationally “cleared” its orbit of other objects.

Pluto meets two of those requirements — it’s round and it orbits the sun. But because it shares its orbit with objects called “plutinos” it didn’t qualify under the new definition.

As a result, the IAU resolved the solar system only had eight major planets — Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — and Pluto was relegated from the list.

But a study announced in December from a team of researchers in the journal Icarus now claims the IAU’s definition was based on astrology — a type of folklore, not science — and that it’s harming both scientific research and the popular understanding of the solar system….

(6) A SHORTER SENTENCE. The Scroll began following this case after Courtney Milan revealed she had been one of the jurors. The original, stunningly-long sentence now has been reduced by the governor: “Trucker Rogel Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence reduced from 110 to 10 years”.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis has commuted the sentence of truck driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos to 10 years with eligibility for parole in five. The 26-year-old was originally given a 110 year sentence for a 2019 crash that killed four people, but had his sentence reduced after public outcry over Colorado’s mandatory sentencing laws…. 

(7) SIDE BY SIDE. Karlo Yeager Rodríguez and Kurt compare their predictions (Episode  145 – Hugo Predictions Beer Run) against what won. . . as well as one pesky sponsor stealing the show in Podside Picnic Episode #149 “Beauty Of Our Weapons @ WorldCon”.

There’s also a recent episode hosted by Karlo where Kurt, Chris and Pete discuss the Thomas Godwin classic story The Cold Equations: Episode 148: “The Cold Beer Equations”.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2003 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Eighteen years ago, Patricia McKillip won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature and the World Fantasy Award for Ombria in Shadow. It was also on the long list for the Nebula Award. It had been published the previous year by Ace Books. The jacket illustration is by Kinuko Y. Craft who did almost all of the Ace covers for the author. I reviewed Kinuko Craft‘s Kinuko Craft: Drawings & Paintings over at Green Man which is a most excellent look at her art.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 30, 1865 Rudyard Kipling. Yes, Kipling. He’s written enough of a genre nature such as the Just So Stories for Little Children stories like “How the Camel Got Hump“ and “The Cat that Walked By Himself“, wonderful stories with a soupçon of the fantastic. Of course there’s always The Jungle Books which run to far more stories than I thought they did. Yes, he was an unapologetic Empire-loving writer who expressed that more than once in way that was sometimes xenophobic but he was a great writer. (Died 1936.)
  • Born December 30, 1950 Lewis Shiner, 71. Damn his Deserted Cities of the Heart novel was frelling brilliant! And if you’ve not read his Wild Cards fiction, do so now. He also co-wrote with Bob Wayne the eight-issue Time Masters series starring Rip Hunter which I saw was on the DC Universe app, so I read it and it was fantastic. Nice! Anyone here that’s read the Private Eye Action As You Like It collection of PI stories I see listed on usual suspects with Joe Lansdale?  It looks interesting. 
  • Born December 30, 1951 Avedon Carol, 70. She was the 1983 winner of the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund who went to Albacon II in Glasgow. And she was GOH at Wiscon II along with Connie Willis and Samuel R. Delany. She has been nominated for three Hugos as Best Fan Writer. She’s been involved in thirty apas and fanzines according to Fancyclopedia 3. She writes an active blog at Avedon’s Sideshow.
  • Born December 30, 1957 Richard E. Grant, 64. He first shows up in our world as Giles Redferne in Warlock, begore going on to be Jack Seward in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. On a lighter note, he’s Frederick Sackville-Bagg in The Little Vampire, and the voice of Lord Barkis Bittern in Corpse Bride. He breaks into the MCU as Xander Rice in Logan, and the Star Wars universe by being Allegiant General Enric Pryde in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
  • Born December 30, 1958 Eugie Foster. She was nominated for a Hugo at Aussiecon 4 for one of the most wonderfully titled novelettes I’ve ever heard of, “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast”. It won a Nebula and was nominated for a BSFA as well. I’ve not read it, who here has read it? She was managing editor for Tangent Online and The Fix.  She was also a director for Dragon Con and edited their onsite newsletter, the Daily Dragon. (Died 2014.)
  • Born December 30, 1959 Douglas A. Anderson, 62. The Annotated Hobbit, for which he won the Mythopoeic Award, is one of my favorite popcorn readings. I’m also fond of his Tales Before Narnia: The Roots of Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction which has a lot of great short fiction it, and I recommend his blog Tolkien and Fantasy as it’s one of the better ones on fantasy literature out there. 
  • Born December 30, 1976 Rhianna Pratchett, 45. Daughter of Terry who now runs the intellectual property concerns of her late father. She was with Simon Green the writer of The Watch, the Beeb’s Ankh-Morpork City Watch series. She’s a co-director of Narrativia Limited, a production company which holds exclusive multimedia and merchandising rights to her father’s works following his death. They of course helped develop the Good Omens series on Amazon. She herself is a video game writer including the recent Tomb Raider reboot.
  • Born December 30, 1980 Eliza Dushku, 41. First genre role was Faith in the Buffyverse. Not surprisingly, she’d star in Whedon’s Dollhouse. I think her Tru Calling series was actually conceptualized better and a more interesting role for her. She voices Selina Kyle, Catwoman, in the animated Batman: Year One which is quite well done and definitely worth watching.   She done a fair of other voicework, two of which I’ll single out as of note. One is the character of Holly Mokri in Torchwood: Web of Lies. The other role is fascinating — The Lady In Glen Cook’s The Black Company series. Here’s the link to that story: “IM Global Television Developing ‘The Black Company’; Eliza Dushku To Star”.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio’s big idea might be shocking at first, but it may grow on you.

(11) ZOOMING TO THE HUGOS. Cora Buhlert, a finalist who attended virtually from Germany, posted her commentary on the 2021 Hugo winners, but says her full con report will have to wait until the new year: “Some Thoughts on the 2021 Hugo Award Winners and the Ceremony in general”.

…The Zoom party was beamed into the main party via a tablet or laptop, so we could see our fellow finalists in Washington DC and could talk to them. Plenty of people came over to say hello and good luck. Outfits were admired – and honestly, the Hugos have the best range of outfits. It’s like the Oscars, only crazier. After all, we had two of Santa’s elves there, otherwise known as John and Krissy Scalzi. And best of all, you have a lot of people with realistic bodies at the Hugos. The masks made it a bit difficult to recognise people, even if I knew them, though thankfully Sarah was really good at recognising people under their masks. The noise level in the ballroom also made it difficult to talk, so we made signs to hold up saying things like “Good luck!”, “Great dress/suit/outfit” and – this was John Wiswell’s – “I’m rooting for you and only you, I promise.” I enjoyed the whole set-up a lot and hope that future Worldcons adopt this idea, so even finalists who cannot be present in person get a taste of the ceremony….

(12) THE STARS MY DESTINATION. Galactic Journey awards Galactic Stars to the best of 1966: “[December 26, 1966] Harvesting the Starfields (1966’s Galactic Stars!)”

There are many outlets that cover new releases in science fiction and fantasy.  But to my knowledge, only one attempts to review every English language publication in the world (not to mention stuff published beyond the U.S. and U.K.!) We are proud of the coverage we provide.

And this is the time of year when the bounty is tallied.  From all the books, magazines, comic strips, movies, tv shows, we separate the wheat from the chaff, and then sift again until only the very best is left.

These, then, are the Galactic Stars for 1966!

Here are the star-takers in Best Novelettes:

Riverworld, by Philip José Farmer

All of humanity is ressurrected on the banks of the world-river.  Including Tom Mix and a certain carpenter from Nazareth…

For a Breath I Tarry, by Roger Zelazny

Two computer brains endeavor to know long-dead humanity.  Beautiful.  Powerful.

A Two-Timer, by David I. Masson

A 17th Century scholar sojourns for a time in Our Modern Times.  Delightful.

Angels Unawares, by Zenna Henderson

An early tale of The People.  Kin can be adopted as well as born.

(13) SHAME ON YOU! For the Win reports a “Dead By Daylight fan gives up chase following stern talking-to” – the clip is at the link.

Sometimes, a good old-fashioned finger wag is enough to put someone in their place — at least it was in a particularly knee-slap worthy match of Dead By Daylight.

Over on Reddit, user Borotroth shared a cute clip of them fending off a killer in the most bizarre way possible: by scolding them via finger-pointing emotes. After a few good pokes, the killer decides to turn tail and run, like a child that’s received a stern talking-to from a parent. Typically, something like this would result in the survivor player getting clotheslined, yet that wasn’t the case. What a power move….

(14) SHIELDS UP. Space.com says the tricky part is just beginning: “James Webb Space Telescope begins unfolding delicate, massive sunshield”.

NASA’s massive new space observatory has entered its most perilous phase yet as it begins the careful process of unfurling its delicate sunshield.

The James Webb Space Telescope launched on Saturday (Dec. 25) and will be a revolutionary new observatory focused on studying the universe in infrared light. But first, it has to survive a monthlong trek out to its final post and a carefully choreographed deployment process. On Tuesday (Dec. 28), the spacecraft notched another key step in that deployment as it unfolded the Forward Unitized Pallet Structure (UPS) of its vast sunshield, according to a NASA statement… 

(15) HEAD IN THE CLOUDS. CBR.com knows where you can “Watch Japan’s Latest Massive Gundam Statue Being Assembled”.

…Japanese news organizations NHK and the Mainichi Shimbun were on hand to film the new statue’s head being attached. The statue is being constructed in the center of a shopping center located in Fukuoka, Japan. The Gundam’s head piece was pre-built and had to be lifted in place using a construction crane. As shown in the NHK’s video, just the head alone dwarfs the height of the workers who are putting the massive mecha together.

(16) YOU DIDN’T KNOW THEY WERE LOST? PBS’ Space Time with Matt O’Dowd offers advice about “How to Find ALIEN Dyson Spheres”.

On our search for alien lifeforms we scan for primitive biosignatures, and wait and hope for their errant signals to happen by the Earth. But that may not be the best way. Any energy-hungry civilization more advanced than our own may leave an indisputable technological mark on the galaxy. And yes, we’re very actively searching for those also. Time to update you on the hunt for galactic empires.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: How The Grinch Stole Christmas,” the Screen Junkies say you’ll probably get entertainment coal in your stocking if you watch this 2000 film with Jim Carrey as the third of his “menacing green characters who will probably kill you,” after the Riddler and the Mask.  “The film’s quite exhausting, like a cake made out of frosting,” the Junkies say, and is so dark that director Ron Howard is trying to be a “ginger Tim Burton.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Olav Rokne, Chris Barkley, Cora Buhlert, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/29/21 Whoever Said One Is The Loneliest Number Never Met A Tribble

(1) DRUMROLL, PLEASE! Cora Buhlert presents “The 2021 Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents”.

…This summer, an unexpected candidate in the form of King Randor of Eternia threw his hat or rather his crown in the ring. Now Randor has never been a stellar parents by any means, as chronicled in more than 100 episodes of the original Masters of the Universe cartoon. He not only completely fails to notice that his son Prince Adam is also the superhero He-Man despite the fact that in the original cartoon, He-Man is basically Adam with a tan and his clothes off, but also constantly berates Adam for not being whatever Randor expects from his son….

But this guy does not get the award – in fact, two even worse finalists finished ahead of him. And believe me, this is an extremely entertaining post!

(2) ROSE PARADE GRAND MARSHAL. Look for him on New Year’s Day:“LeVar Burton Talks About COVID Precautions And What The Rose Parade Means To Him” at LAist.

…When Burton found out about his selection as Grand Marshal, he said he was “gobsmacked.” The L.A. resident seemed to have been gravitating toward the role since he was a kid.

This year, the Rose Parade’s theme is “Dream, Believe, Achieve.” The credo strikes a particularly personal chord with Burton.

“[The theme] is almost as if it’s a recipe … for my life. My mother … Erma Jean Christian … I am the man that I am because she was the woman that she was. Education was primarily important to her,” Burton said. “My mother had two careers. First, as a teacher of high school English, and then as a social worker. So the values that she established in our family are all about dreaming your personal dream, whatever that is, and believing that you not only can achieve it but deserve it.”

Dreaming and believing that you deserve that dream, those two steps, said Burton, are necessary for anyone hoping to live out the “Dream, Believe, Achieve” theme….

(3) CHALLENGING COLONIZATION. Jerrine Tan finds Dune suffers by comparison to a Miyazaki classic: “Fear Is the Mind Killer; What Enlivens the Mind? — Dune’s Alt-Victimhood and Radical Nonviolence in Nausicaä in the LA Review of Books.

Dune in 2021, unchanged in its plot, but imagining an underclass of native people as made up of a smattering of different ethnicities (mostly Brown and Black), embodies what David M. Higgins calls “imperial fantasy” and “alt-victimhood” in his latest book, Reverse Colonization (2021). Higgins describes a genre of reverse colonization narratives in which audiences “who are most often the beneficiaries of empire [are invited] to imagine what it feels like to be on the receiving end of imperial conquest,” provoking audiences to “identify as colonized victims.” It’s hardly surprising, then, that white supremacists have long cathected to Frank Herbert’s Dune, and white nationalists — a group that feels threatened by the presence of people of color, and increasingly aggrieved and attacked by liberal pushes to address systemic racism — have eagerly anticipated Villeneuve’s latest adaptationAs Jordan Carroll succinctly sums up: “Fascists love Dune.” Suddenly, the privileged chosen one — the imperialist who is also the Christ figure — becomes the suffering victim deserving of sympathy. In this way, identification with victimhood becomes a seductive imperial fantasy for the most privileged in society, what Higgins terms “alt-victimhood.”…

… In this mode, a revisit of another 1984 film about a similar ecodystopian future can uncover a more radical and historically grounded politics apt for our contemporary moment. Hayao Miyazaki’s early animated film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) drew inspiration from the fantasy world of Herbert’s Dune and shares uncanny similarities with the Dune film adaptations: where Dune has giant sandworms, Nausicaä has the Ohmu; where Dune has desert, Nausicaä the Sea of Decay; Dune the Harkonnens, Nausicaä the Tolmekians. Instead of yet another imperially appointed master, in Nausicaä, the people are led by a daring princess, one who leads by example and is beloved by her people; one who resists imperial expansionists, but not at the cost of her own people; and most importantly, one who radically chooses nonviolent action against all possible defense of rational violence, and eventually achieves harmony through cooperation and understanding.

Ursula K. Le Guin once said that “[t]o use the world well, to be able to stop wasting it and our time in it, we need to relearn our being in it.” Crucially, Nausicaä imagines a new way of being in the world by radically reframing our relation to it and our understanding of it. Instead of a desert, the inhospitable environment in Nausicaä is known as the Sea of Decay. But far from a dying and deadened milieu, the Sea of Decay is in fact brimming with life….

(4) ONCE AND FUTURE SPIDER-MEN. If you can’t find enough spoilers in the introductory paragraphs of Camestros Felapton’s “Review: Spider-Man and Hawkeye, MCU stuff, spoilers etc” he promises there are lots more below the fold!

(5) LOOKING BACK. Anime UK News begins its year-end retrospective with “Anime UK News Review of 2021 Part 1: Anime”.

After the difficulties of 2020 – in which we were all really grateful for the ability to stream and watch at home – 2021 has been an odd blend of lockdown and modified freedom. Scotland Loves Anime (and its regional offshoots) triumphantly brought live audiences back to the cinema. Funimation has managed to have anime screenings in many local cinemas. As for the world of streaming and simulcast, in August we had the official confirmation that Sony’s Funimation Global Group had acquired Crunchyroll. How this will all pan out for viewers/subscribers remains to be seen. Earlier, Manga Entertainment became Funimation UK, bringing an end to a famous label and uniting streaming, home video and cinema releases under the same name.

With all these changes, how has the anime-viewing experience been for the fans? Has there been too much material available on streaming services ranging from Netflix and Amazon Prime to dedicated companies like Crunchyroll and Funimation, leading to a dip in quality? Our writers have been looking back at their favourites from 2021 and are here to share their thoughts. Let us know what your ’21 favourite have been too!

(6) BORROWED TIMES. “NYC Libraries Release Their Top Checkouts Of 2021”Gothamist has the lists, which include a couple works of genre interest.

The NYPL Systemwide (the Bronx, Manhattan & Staten Island)

  1. The Vanishing Half: A Novel by Brit Bennett
  2. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  3. Klara and the Sun: A Novel by Kazuo Ishiguro
  4. A Promised Land by Barack Obama
  5. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
  6. The Guest List: A Novel by Lucy Foley
  7. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  8. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb
  9. The Other Black Girl: A Novel by Zakiya Dalila Harris
  10. Malibu Rising: A Novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1967 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Fifty-four years ago, “The Trouble with Tribbles” first aired  on NBC as written by David Gerrold and directed by Joseph Pevney, with some of the guest cast being Charlie Brill as Arne Darvin, Stanley Adams as Cyrano Jones, Whit Bissell as Station Manager Lurry, Michael Pataki as Korax. 

Memory Alpha says ”Wah Chang designed the original tribbles. Hundreds were sewn together during production, using pieces of extra-long rolls of carpet. Some of them had mechanical toys placed in them so they could walk around.” 

Memory Alpha also notes Heinlein had Martian flat cats in The Rolling Stones that were similar to these and Roddenberry called to apologize for these being so similar. My understanding is that they brought the issue to Heinlein’s attention and asked for permission to continue. To their surprise, he granted it in exchange for a signed copy of the episode’s script.

(I know that Heinlein’s authorized biography contradicts this story. Really contradicts this story.) 

It would come in second in the Hugo balloting at BayCon to “The City on the Edge of Forever” written by Harlan Ellison. All five final Hugo nominees at BayCon were Trek episodes written by Jerome Bixby, Norman Spinrad and Theodore Sturgeon.

David Gerrold wrote a book on his experiences in the creation of this episode, The Trouble with Tribbles: The Birth, Sale and Final Production of One Episode. He did a children’s book as well, Too Many Tribbles!.

There would be two more Trek stories done with Tribbles. “More Tribbles, More Troubles”, the fifth episode of the first season of the animated series riffed off them. And of course Deep Space Nine would revisit the story in “Trials and Tribble-ations” which blended seamlessly footage from the original episode with new video including the Charlie Brill character. It, too, would be nominated for a Hugo, this time at LoneStarCon 2. (Babylon 5’s “Severed Dreams” won.) 

Tribbles have been also seen in other Trek episodes and films, including The Search for Spock and the rebooted Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness. They also appeared in Enterprise’s “The Breach”.  Phlox uses them as food for his creatures in sickbay. Which is either truly disgusting or really appropriate given how prolific they are. Or both.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 29, 1901 William H. Ritt. US cartoonist and author, whose best known strip, Brick Bradford, was SF. Two of the early Thirties strips, Brick Bradford and the City Beneath the Sea and Brick Bradford with Brocco the Mountain Buccaneer, became Big Little books. In 1947, Brick Bradford, a 15-chapter serial film starring Kane Richmond, was produced by Columbia Pictures. (Died 1972.)
  • Born December 29, 1912 Ward Hawkins. Alternative universes! Lizard men as sidekicks! He wrote the Borg and Guss series (Red Flaming BurningSword of FireBlaze of Wrath and Torch of Fear) which as it features these I really would like to hear as audiobooks. Not that it’s likely as I see he’s not made it even to the digital book realm yet. (Died 1990.)
  • Born December 29, 1928 Bernard Cribbins, 93. He has the odd distinction of first showing up on Doctor Who in the Peter Cushing as The Doctor non-canon Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. film. He would show up in the canon when he appeared as Wilfred Mott in the Tenth Doctor story, “Voyage of the Damned”, and he‘s a Tenth Doctor companion himself in “The End of Time”, the two-part 2009–10 Christmas and New Year special.
  • Born December 29, 1963 Dave McKean, 58. If you read nothing else involving him, do read the work done by him on and Gaiman called The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr Punch: A Romance. Brilliant, violent, horrifying. Well and Signal to Noise by them is worth chasing down as well. 
  • Born December 29, 1966 Alexandra Kamp, 55. Did you know one of Sax Rohmer’s novels was made into a film? I didn’t. Well, she was the lead in Sax Rohmer’s Sumuru which Michael Shanks also shows up in. She’s also in 2001: A Space Travesty with Leslie Nielsen, and Dracula 3000 with Caspar van Dien. Quality films neither will be be mistaken for, each warranting a fifteen percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • Born December 29, 1969 Ingrid Torrance, 52. A very busy performer who’s had one- offs in Poltergeist: The LegacyThe SentinelViper, First WaveThe Outer LimitsSeven Days, Smallville, Stargate: SG-1The 4400Blade: The SeriesFringeThe Tomorrow People, R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour and Supernatural
  • Born December 29, 1972 Jude Law, 49. I think his first SF role was as Jerome Eugene Morrow in Gattaca followed by playing Gigolo Joe in A.I. with my fave role for him being the title role in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He was Lemony Snicket in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Tony in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Dr. John Watson in Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Remy in Repo Men and he voiced Pitch Black in one of my favorite animated films, Rise of the Guardians.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) BEST PICS OF 2021. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] From Nature’s end-of-year edition, “Images of the year.”

This one is of a 40-million-year-old gnat in amber. Photographed by Levon Biss and it got an honourable mention in the 2021 Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition. If it were over a score of million years older, then shades of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park!

My personal topical favourite of the year, which I downloaded in case I ever needed it for a talk, is a computer simulation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.  This is also a .gif and an animation.  Alas, I forget the source (it was one of the papers we covered in SF2 Concatenation CoVID coverage during the year) but it is quite a nifty simulation showing spike movement.  This jiggling helps enable it to lock on to human cell membrane proteins giving it access to the cell. To see it, click here.

(11) OVERDUE BOOK. For your Fifties viewing pleasure: The Man From 1997, an episode of the Conflict anthology TV series aired in 1956. In the episode, Charles Ruggles portrays an elderly time-traveling librarian from the future attempting to retrieve a 1997 almanac that he mistakenly left 41 years before it is supposed to exist. I loved one of the comments somebody left – “Damn he from 1997 and he didn’t even ask them if he can smoke in their house.”

The cast also includes actor James Garner. Wikipedia says he caught producer Roy Huggins’ attention with a comedic performance as a gambler in the episode, Huggins to cast Garner as the lead the following year in his television series Maverick, according to Huggins’ Archive of American Television interview.

(12) I’LL FLY AWAY. Click and “See the Faberge x Game of Thrones Dragon Egg That Sold for $2.2M” at The Hollywood Reporter.

That iconic theme song practically starts playing upon laying eyes on Fabergé’s decadent Game of Thrones dragon egg. But if you were hoping to add the $2.22 million hand-forged creation to your collection, well, that Targaryen ship has sailed.

The luxurious “commemorative egg objet” was sold to an anonymous U.S. buyer in April shortly after its announcement and before the nine months of painstaking work was begun by Fabergé workmaster Paul Jones and his team of artisans, global sales director Josina von dem Bussche-Kessell told The Hollywood Reporter….

(13) STILL THINKING ABOUT THEM. New York Times opinion columnist Ezra Klein tweeted a list of recommended books from 2021, and several are sff. Thread starts here.

(14) SFF IN THE EIGHTIES. Nicholas Whyte continues to reacquaint himself with past Hugo-winning novels, discussing the 1983 and 1984 winners in “Blood Music”, by Greg Bear; Startide Rising, by David Brin”.

…And Brin has put a lot of work into thinking about how intelligent creatures with completely different mindsets might work together, especially with the undertones of slavery and colonialism which are the foundation of the series. I really enjoyed revisiting it. Where “Blood Music” is “My God! What if…”, Startide Rising is sensawunda reflecting contemporary debates (as always).

(15) OFF THE BEAM. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from October, but it was news to me! “NYC Mayor de Blasio Explodes Millions of Trekkie Heads By Misidentifying His Star Trek Costume — And BLOWING Prime Directive” at Mediaite.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio set his verbal phasers on “stun” with a shocking display of Star Trek ignorance at a press conference, falsely identifying his uniform and making a complete hash out of Starfleet’s Prime Directive.

The shameful display occurred during a lengthy press conference at which the mayor covered a variety of topics, including having a safe Halloween.

As State Senator Kevin Parker completed his presentation on highspeed broadband, de Blasio appeared onscreen sporting a blue Starfleet shirt with a science department badge and command insignia, an obvious tribute to Commander S’chn T’gai Spock — or Mr. Spock to humans, and Dr. Spock to confused Boomers….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Method Actor Tutorial” on Screen Rant. Ryan George plays Kurt Truffle, method actor.  Truffle knew he would be a method actor because as a kid, he’d object to losing duck duck goose by speaking in goose language, so the other kids couldn’t understand him.  Truffle claims that method actors can be jerks on the set and in life because method actors will do what it takes to stay in character.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, StephenfromOttwa, Michael J. Walsh, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day – no, wait, it’s OGH!]

Pixel Scroll 12/21/21 Pixeland Is The Scrolliest Place On Earth

(1) LET US REMEMBER THE TWENTY-FIRST OF DECEMBER. It’s already dark out! Oh, wait – today’s the Winter Solstice! No wonder. Let NASA Ames Research Center tell you all about it.

(2) RAYTHEON. Social media criticism for DisCon III’s acceptance of Raytheon sponsorship money splashed onto some of the Hugo ceremony participants. The committee issued this statement:

Cora Buhlert commented:

(3) WORLDCON ACCESSIBILITY ISSUES. Mari Ness, who navigates convention space in a wheelchair, summarizes her experiences with DisCon III, which she ultimately decided against attending: “Are we really doing this again? Discon III, accessibility, and genre cons” at Blogging with Dragons.

Discon III turned out to be my worst Worldcon ever – one of my worst genre events, ever.

And I didn’t even go….

(4) THE GAME’S AFOOT. Congratulations to James Nicoll Reviews on posting their 2000th review today: “Just Lots of Little Frames”, about Greg Stafford, Jeff Richard, and Jason Durall’s 2021 The Runequest Starter Set, which is a starter set for Runequest: Roleplaying in Glorantha . As always, the footnotes are great!

(5) FIFTY THOUSAND BEBOP FANS CAN’T BE WRONG. Yahoo!‘s Jeff Yeung has an updated report about the ongoing Cowboy Bebop petition:

Netflix’s recent cancellation of the live-action Cowboy Bebop has left many fans disappointed, and now more than 50,000 of them have signed a petition to bring the show back for a second season.”

“I truly loved working on this,” the show’s co-executive producer Javier Grillo-Marxuach said on Twitter after Netflix’s decision. “It came from a real and pure place of respect and affection. I wish we could make what we planned for a second season, but you know what they say, men plan, God laughs.” He added that the team “had so much cool sh*t planned” for Cowboy Bebop’s second season.”

(6) SUITE MEMORIES. Covert J. Beach gives a full rundown on the party suite he used for his “loosely invitational” parties at DisCon III (which also ended up being the location for the Chengdu Victory Party when “it turned out that the suite that had been earmarked for Chengdu had been given away.”)  

….At over 1800 sqft the Suite was bigger than my Condo, complete with full kitchen (I even baked something) and a full washer-dryer. To do it justice I brought three bags of booze rather than just two, discovering in the process that the Briggs and Riley Baseline Carryon is a fantastic piece of luggage to carry booze. It is the perfect width for most long whisky tins. It took two full trips of the car to move the party kit to the hotel, and two back (the 2nd return load which totally packed the car is picured), with a third supplementary trip each way. I caused a lot of bemusement with the valets.

The Convention had a bartender on tap over zoom so people could get advice on what drinks to make. I hear a number of calls were made from the room in the suite called “The Library” where the bartender was amazed at the variety the Capclave/Balticon Scotch Cabal put together (I don’t bring it all.) Much was drunk….

(7) TOP SHELF. Polygon offers its picks of “The best fantasy and sci-fi books of 2021”. In alphabetical order by author’s last name, so no definitive number one ranking.

…If you love books then you know: They aren’t just escapism, they also inspire introspection, making us think harder about the world we live in. This is precisely the promise of great science fiction and fantasy — categories we’ve chosen to consider in a list together, as fantastic books continue to blur the line between the two speculative genres (and besides, we love to read them all). These 20 books span genres and perspectives — from space operas, to Norse mythology retellings, to romances with a dash of time travel. But all of them gave us something new to consider.

In a year with so many incredible choices, it was hard to narrow down the list. So we’ve also included some of our favorite runners up….

(8) WOMEN OF MARVEL. In March, Women Of Marvel #1 will continue highlighting Marvel’s female heroes in an all-new collection of tales. 

  • A Squirrel Girl and Black Widow team-up against a maniacal villain in a story that explores the complexities of super hero identities by Hugo award winning writer Charlie Jane Anders
  • An action-packed Shanna the She-Devil and Silver Sable short sees the jungle ladies battle against wild animal poachers by award winning video game script writer Rhianna Pratchett
  • A dark Jessica Jones tale of compulsion and redemption from celebrated creator Jordie Bellaire and drawn by rising star Zoe Thorogood
  • A fun-filled page-flipper of Black Cat’s greatest failures and latest triumphes by novelist Preeti Chhibber and superstar artists Jen Bartel, Marguerite Sauvage and more!
  • The Marvel Comics writing debut of artist Mirka Andolfo and much more!

(9) MILAN MEMBER OF JURY IN HIGHLY-PUBLICIZED CASE. [Item by rcade.] The romance novelist Courtney Milan revealed on Twitter that she was a juror in the trial that led to truck driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos being sentenced to 110 years in prison for the 29-vehicle crash in Colorado that killed four people in 2019. The brakes on his truck failed while he was descending mountains on Interstate 70, leading to the accident after he didn’t veer off into a runaway truck lane.

Milan wrote this on December 14 in tweets she subsequently deleted (Archive.today copy below):

I’m going to write something longer about this, but I just have to say this right now: 110 years is unjust. I feel sick with how unjust this is.

I don’t feel like I can say much right now because my brain keeps stuttering out on this, but my brain will come back online at some point.

I was on the jury in this case and if I had known this was the mandatory minimum for a kid who made some really bad decisions at exactly the wrong time, I would absolutely have engaged in jury nullification.

The severity of the sentence, which must be served consecutively, has brought international attention to the case. A Change.org petition asking Colorado Gov. Jared Polis to grant clemency or a commutation to Aguilera-Mederos has received over 4.5 million signatures.

Before becoming a full-time romance writer, Milan was a law professor at Seattle University School of Law and clerk to Supreme Court justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy, according to the Washington Post.

A male juror in the case told Fox 31 the sentence was “100-fold of what it should have been” and had this reaction when it was handed down: “I cried my eyes out.”

(10) STEP RIGHT UP. Signal boosting Connie Willis’ appeal for Locus subscriptions and donations. If she were here she’d say click to support Locus today.

(11) ORENSTEIN OBIT. Inventor Henry Orenstein, responsible for many popular toys including Transformers, died December 14. The New York Times paid tribute: “Henry Orenstein, 98, Dies; Force Behind Transformers and Poker on TV”.

…He refashioned himself as a toy inventor (he held dozens of patents) and broker. During the Toy Fair in Manhattan in the early 1980s, he saw a Japanese-made toy — a tiny car that could easily change into an airplane — and recognized more elaborate possibilities.

“He started playing with it and said, ‘This is the best thing I’ve seen in at least 10 years,’” recalled Mrs. Orenstein, who, as Carolyn Sue Vankovich, met her future husband in 1967 when she was demonstrating Suzy Homemaker at the Toy Fair. “He had the sparkle he got when he got excited.”

Mr. Orenstein put together a deal between Hasbro and the Japanese manufacturer, Takara, which led to Hasbro’s introduction in 1984 of Transformers, toy robots that could turn into vehicles or beasts. They would become hugely popular, spawning an animated television series and a movie franchise.

“Ideas don’t come in little pieces,” Mr. Orenstein told Newsweek in 2016. “It’s in, it’s out. It’s there or it’s not,” he said. “I was just an inventor. You needed a big company to do what I thought should be done: making real transformations from complex things to other complex things.”…

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1965 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] ?Fifty-six years ago one of the best Bond films premiered in the form of Thunderball. Directed by Terence Young, it was the fourth Bond film off a  screenplay by Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins off yet another Fleming novel. The original screenplay was by Jack Whittingham but it wasn’t used. 

Need I say that Sean Connery plays Bond here? Well this will be only the first time that Connery plays Bond based off this novel as he’ll play him in Never Say Never Again which was executive produced by Kevin McClory, one of the original writers of the Thunderball story. McClory had the filming rights of the novel following a very long legal battle dating from the Sixties.

Reception from critics was decidedly mixed but Dilys Powell of The Sunday Times said that “The cinema was a duller place before 007.”  The box office was fantastic as it earned out one hundred and forty million against a budget of under ten million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a rather excellent seventy-three percent rating. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 21, 1898 Hubert Rogers. Illustrator during the Golden Age of pulp magazines. His first freelance work was for Ace-HighAdventureRomance, and West. In ‘42, he started doing covers for Astounding Science Fiction which he would do until ‘53. He did the cover art for the ‘51 edition of The Green Hills of Earth, the ‘50 edition of The Man Who Sold the Moon and the ‘53 edition of Revolt in 2100. (Died 1982.)
  • Born December 21, 1928 Frank Hampson. A British illustrator that is best known as the creator and artist of Dan Dare, Pilot of The Future and other characters in the boys’ comic, The Eagle, to which he contributed from 1950 to 1961. There is some dispute over how much his original scripts were altered by his assistants before being printed. (Died 1985.)
  • Born December 21, 1929 James Cawthorn. An illustrator, comics artist and writer who worked predominantly with Michael Moorcock. He had met him through their involvement in fandom. They would co-wrote The Land that Time Forgot film, and he drew “The Sonic Assassins” strip which was based on Hawkwind that ran in Frendz. He also did interior and cover art for a number of publications from the Fifties onwards including (but not limited to) Vector 3New Worlds SFScience Fantasy and Yandro. (Died 2008.)
  • Born December 21, 1937 Jane Fonda, 84. I’m sure everyone here has seen her in Barbarella. Her only other genre appearances are apparently voice work as Shuriki in the animated Elena of Avalor series, and in the Spirits of the Dead, 1968 anthology film based on the work of Poe. She was the Contessa Frederique de Metzengerstein in the “Metzengerstein” segment of the film.  
  • Born December 21, 1948 Samuel L. Jackson, 73. Where to start? Did you know that with his permission, his likeness was used for the Ultimates version of the Nick Fury? It’s a great series btw. He has also played Fury in the Iron ManIron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First AvengerThe AvengersCaptain America: The Winter SoldierAvengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers: Infinity War and showed up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. too! He voiced Lucius Best (a.k.a. Frozone) in the Incredibles franchise, Mace Windu in The Phantom Menace and The Clone Wars, the Afro Samurai character in the anime series of the same name and more other genre work than can be listed here comfortably so go ahead and add your favorite role by him.
  • Born December 21, 1943 Jack Nance. Let’s just say he and David Lynch were rather connected. He’s in Henry Spencer in Eraserhead, he had a small role as the Harkonnen Captain Iakin Nefud in Dune and he’s Pete Martell in Twin Peaks. He’s also a supporting role as Paul, a friend of Dennis Hopper’s villain character in Blue Velvet but even I couldn’t stretch that film to be even genre adjacent. (Died 1996.)
  • Born December 21, 1944 James Sallis, 77. Ok he’d be getting a Birthday today if only for his SJW cred of giving up teaching at a college rather than sign a state-mandated loyalty oath that he regarded as unconstitutional. But he also does have a short SFF novel Renderings more short fiction that I can count, a book review column in F&SF and he co-edited several issues of New Worlds Magazine with Michael Moorcock.  Worthy of a Birthday write-up! 
  • Born December 21, 1966 Kiefer Sutherland, 55. My he’s been in a lot of genre undertakings! I think that The Lost Boys was his first such of many to come including FlatlinersTwin Peaks: Fire Walk with MeThe Three Musketeers, voice work in Armitage: Poly-MatrixDark City, more voice work in The Land Before Time X: The Great Longneck Migration, Marmaduke and Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn TwilightMirrors, and yes, he’s in the second Flatliners as a new character. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld’s alternate history drives the world of a well-known Christmas carol.

(15) SWEDEN ACQUIRES A STEED. “Dark Horse Comics to Be Acquired by Gaming Giant Embracer Group”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Dark Horse Comics properties such as Hellboy and The Umbrella Academy are finding a new home. The indie comics publisher has agreed to be sold to Embracer Group, the Swedish video game conglomerate. The deal is expected to close in early 2022….

(16) THE RAIN IN NEW SPAIN STAYS THE LAUNCH AGAIN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Astronomers have once again been told they must wait a bit to open their Big Present—launch of the James Webb space telescope. The latest, and hopefully the last, delay has pushed the launch until Christmas day. This one-day delay is due to expected advert weather conditions. “Delay pushes NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope launch to Christmas morning” at CNN.

The highly anticipated launch of the James Webb Space Telescope has been delayed yet again — this time because of interference by Mother Nature.

Now, the telescope is expected to launch on December 25 from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

The launch window opens Christmas morning at 7:20 a.m. ET and closes at 7:52 a.m. ET. Live coverage of the launch will stream on NASA’s TV channel and website beginning Saturday at 6 a.m.

The news of adverse weather conditions came shortly after NASA shared that the Launch Readiness Review for the telescope was completed on Tuesday….

(17) ABOUT THE WESTERN SPELLING OF A CHENGDU GOH’S NAME. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Given the fuss some make over pronunciation, I am a little reluctant to wade in here (though I have lost count of the number of times my own name has been mispronounced, misspelled and even an alternate used (well, this last is a bit debatable but suffice to say my first name is not the one I am commonly known as – and no it wasn’t my choice).)  There are simply far more important things to get exercised about: human rights, political rights (*cough* Hong Kong) and climate change to name but a few.  Anyway…

How do you spell Sergei Lukyanenko / Lukianenko?  Well, conversions to the Latin alphabet are always problematic. I do not know about the US, but here in Brit Cit William Heinemann published Sergei Lukyanenko’s Night Watch series.  If that is his commonly-used publishing name in the West then arguably it would be best to use that so that folk can internet search out his work.

(18) LIFE IMITATES ART. You know the humorous motorcade bits that interrupted the Hugo Awards ceremony? Well, Andrew Porter did not have to leave Washington without seeing the real thing. Here’s his photo of a motorcade taken from his Shoreham Hotel window. 

Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter

(19) IN BEAUTIFUL BURBANK. “The Mystic Museum In Southern California Is Full Of Fascinating Oddities And Vintage Items”Only In Your State’s article includes a photo gallery.

The Mystic Museum is a small museum dedicated to the occult, paranormal, mysticism, and horror. If you find yourself fascinated by the macabre, then consider it the place for you!

(20) HOLIDAY WHO. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist/illustrator Colin Howard did this piece on the 2003 animated Doctor Who serial “Scream of the Shalka”:

(21) THE OTHER GRAND CANYON. Microsoft News for Kids reports: “Orbiter discovers ‘significant amounts of water’ in Grand Canyon-like area of Mars”.

A researcher orbiter circling around Mars has discovered “significant amounts of water” underneath the surface of an area on the red planet similar to the Grand Canyon, according to the European Space Agency.

The orbiter, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, was launched by the European Space Agency along with the Russian Space Agency in 2016 and has been orbiting Mars ever since, with the goal of learning more about the gases and the possibility of life on the planet.

Recently, the orbiter was scanning an area of Mars called Valles Marineris, using the Fine Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector instrument, or FREND, which can detect hydrogen on and up to 3 feet underneath Mars’ soil.

The Valles Marineris is a 2,500-mile-long canyon on Mars with parts that are 4 miles deep. Not only is it 10 times longer and 4 times deeper than the Grand Canyon, but the Valles Marineris’ length is nearly as long as the entire United States.

Data collected from the instrument from May 2018 to Feb. 2021 showed the middle part of the canyon contained a large amount of water, indicating some form of life could possibly be sustained. The findings were published in the solar system journal Icarus on Wednesday…. 

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Spider Man: No Way Home Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spoiler-filled episode, has the producer watch the five Spider-Man movies before Tom Holland shows up so he can understand the many special guest stars in this one.  “How are we going to market this film without revealing all the crazy stuff?” the producer asks.  “Leaks!” the writer says.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Ben Bird Person, rcade, Bonnie McDaniel, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 12/18/21 It Was Anti-Agathics All Along

I’ve been hammering at the keyboard on one thing and another since this morning’s WSFS business meeting. Thanks to Cat Eldridge, who’s the reason there’s something to read in today’s Scroll!

(1) COVER YOUR EXPANSE. An Expanse-themed ugly sweater (really not a sweater, more of a jersey but anyway) is being raffled off for charity by the authors. Get a $5 ticket here: “The Expanse Ugly Sweater Charity Raffle Ticket”. Tickets will be on sale through December 22, 2021, at 10:00 p.m. US Central Time.

During the most recent Expanse press event in Los Angeles, Wes was given this limited-edition ugly and amazing sweater. In the spirit of the season of giving, Ty and That Guy are raffling it off to give back to the community.

Supporting Families

In honor of the classic Christmas movie Die Hard and the importance it places on family during the holidays, Ty and That Guy are putting all the money raised from this raffle to sponsor a family this year.

Community Brickworks is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization staffed entirely by volunteers that operates a food pantry and library in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia. The Ty & That Guy donation will support one or more families in the area this holiday season.

(2) 2023 WORLDCON DECIDED. Chengdu, China will host the 2023 Worldcon. Kevin Standlee’s photo of their version of Progress Report Zero is below. So is SFW’s congratulatory banner. (Click on either for a larger image.) File 770’s report of the voting and 2023 guests of honor is at the link.  

(3) GETTING READY. Cora Buhlert allowed File 770 to preview the gown she will be wearing as she participates virtually in tonight’s Hugo Awards ceremony as a finalist. Her dad took the photo.

(4) FAN SERVICE. Screen Rant is prepared to tell you “Every Sci-Fi Icon Who Guest Starred On The Big Bang Theory”.

…A good portion of Big Bang Theory‘s millions of fans likely are said geeks, considering just how many sci-fi, fantasy, and comic book icons were brought on to guest star.

This, unsurprisingly, included multiple cast members from both the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises, generally considered the two champions of mainstream sci-fi. Sadly, Harrison Ford was never among that lot, as seeing him play off his generally grumpy public persona when dealing with Sheldon being annoying would’ve been terrific. Still, the sci-fi icons Big Bang Theory did manage to enlist the services of include some of the biggest genre names ever….

…[Levar] Burton’s Star Trek: The Next Generation colleague Brent Spiner – who played Lieutenant Commander Data – also appeared on Big Bang Theory, in season 5’s “The Russian Rocket Reaction.” Spiner attends a party thrown by another former co-star in Wheaton, and notably, when Sheldon shows up, he and Wheaton finally mend fences. That’s followed by Spiner accidentally putting himself on Sheldon’s enemies list….

(5) SFF AND THE REAL WORLD. Future Tense’s Science Fiction/Real Policy Book Club has selected Infomocracy by Malka Older to discuss virtually on February 2, 2022.

Science fiction can have real policy impacts, and comes rife with real-life commentary. For the third gathering of our Science Fiction/Real Policy Book Club, we have selected Malka Older’s Infomocracy. The novel imagines a future where politics has become both simplified and infinitely more complex, thanks to the omniscient Information, which has led the transition from warring nation-states to a seemingly tidy form of corporate-ish global micro-democracy. 

Join Future Tense and Issues in Science and Technology at 6pm ET on February 2nd to discuss the novel and its real-world implications. The book club will feature breakout rooms (they’re fun and stress-free, we promise) where we can all compare notes and share reactions, even if we didn’t finish the book!

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1968 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Fifty three years ago, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang premiered. It was directed by Ken Hughes. The film was produced by Albert R. Broccoli of James Bond fame.

The screenplay was co-written by Roald Dahl and  Hughes as rather loosely based on Ian Fleming’s Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car novel. (If you want to read it, it is available at the usual suspects at a quite reasonable price.) The novel was published in 1964 after a few months after his death.The book became one of the best selling children’s books of the year. 

Broccoli was initially not enthusiastic about it but changed his mind after the success of Mary Poppins. The film had a cast of Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, Benny Hill, James Robertson Justice, Adrian Hall, Heather Ripley, Lionel Jeffries, Robert Helpmann, Barbara Windsor and Gert Fröbe.

The film’s songs were written by the Sherman Brothers, who had previously composed the music for Mary Poppins

Critics loved with Roger Ebert saying that “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang contains about the best two-hour children’s movie you could hope for.” The box office however was an absolute disaster as it only made eight million on the budget of ten million that it cost to produce. Ouch. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a rather excellent seventy-one percent rating.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 18, 1913 Alfred Bester. He’s best remembered perhaps for The Demolished Man, which won the very first Hugo Award. I remember experiencing it as an audiobook — a very spooky affair! The Stars My Destination is equally impressive with Foyle both likeable and unlikable at the same time. Psychoshop which Zelazny finished is in my library but has escaped reading so far. I’ve run across references to Golem100 but I’ve never seen a copy anywhere. Has anyone read It?  (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 18, 1939 Michael Moorcock, 82. Summing up the career of Moorcock isn’t possible so I won’t. His Elric of Melniboné series is just plain awesome and I’m quite fond of the Dorian Hawkmoon series of novels as well.  Particular books that I’d like to note as enjoyable for me include The Metatemporal Detective collection and Mother London. Interestingly he was a nominated a number of times for a Hugo for Best Professional Magazine for New Worlds SF, his other Hugo nomination was at IguanaCon II for Gloriana, or, The Unfulfill’d Queen.
  • Born December 18, 1941 Jack C. Haldeman II. He’d get Birthday Honors if only for On the Planet of Zombie Vampires, book five of the adventures of Bill the Galactic Hero, co-written with Harry Harrison. He’d also get these honors for chairing Disclave 10 through Disclave 17, and a Worldcon as well, Discon II. He was a prolific short story writer, penning at least seventy-five such tales, but alas none of these, nor his novels, are available in digital form. His only Award is a Phoenix Award which is a lifetime achievement award for a SF professional who has done a great deal for Southern Fandom, quite a honor indeed.  (Died 2002.)
  • Born December 18, 1946 Steven Spielberg, 75. Are we counting Jaws as genre? I believe we are per an earlier discussion here. If so, that’s his first such genre work followed immediately by Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Between 1981 and 1984, he put out Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Twilight Zone: The Movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. He’d repeate that amazing feat between ‘89 and ‘93 when he put out Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Hook (YEA!) which I both love followed by Jurassic Park which I don’t. The Lost World: Jurassic Park followed starting a string of so-so films,  A.I. Artificial IntelligenceMinority ReportWar of the Worlds and one decided stinker, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.   The BFG is simply wonderful. And I want one of the better Iron Giant figures on the market! 
  • Born December 18, 1953 Jeff Kober, 68. Actor who’s been in myriad genre series and films including VThe Twilight ZoneAlien Nation, the Poltergeist series,The X-Files series, Tank Girl as one of the kangaroos naturally, SupernaturalStar Trek: VoyagerStar Trek: Enterprise, Kindred: The Embraced and The Walking Dead. 
  • Born December 18, 1954 Ray Liotta, 67. We could just stop at him being Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams, don’t you think of it as being an exemplary genre cred? Well I do. On a much sillier note, he’s in two Muppet films, Muppets from Space and Muppets Most Wanted. On a very not silly note, he was Joey in Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.
  • Born December 18, 1968 Casper Van Dien, 53. Yes, Johnny Rico in that Starship Troopers. Not learning his lesson, he’d go on to film Starship Troopers 3: Marauder and the animated Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars. Do not go read the descriptions of these films!  (Hint: the former has a nineteen percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.) He’d also star as Tarzan in Tarzan and the Lost City, show up as Brom Van Brunt In Sleepy Hollow, be Captain Abraham Van Helsing In Dracula 3000, James K. Polk in, oh really CasperAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sequels, Rumpelstiltskin in Avengers Grimm and Saber Raine In Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine.

(8) SIGNING ON. Paul Weimer admired the good taste of people in line for Martha Wells’ autograph.

(9) BIGGEST FAN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Tom Holland about Spider-Man:  No Way Home. He notes that Holland will play Fred Astaire in an upcoming film, “a role he thinks he convinced producer Amy Pascal that he was right for when he would tap-dance on the Spider-Man set to stay warm between takes,” “Tom Holland is still a Spider-Man fan at heart”.

… Back then, when the highly anticipated trailer for “Captain America: Civil War” debuted to celebrate Spider-Man’s arrival in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Holland figured nothing would surprise him. Then Spider-Man blinked.

That subtle CGI movement of the eyes on his mask looked like a camera lens zooming in and out.It was inspired by the character’s original look in the comic books — and was designed to show the film was sprinkling the character with a bit of MCU magic. Holland, a lifelong Spider-Man fan who also happened to be Spider-Man, was caught up in the hype….

(10) ANOTHER BRIDGE TO CROSS. Comicbook.com has the photo: “The Orville Season 3 First Look Released”.

Hulu has provided The Orville fans with the first look at the show’s return as The Orville: New Dawn. That new subtitle comes as The Orville becomes a streaming original on Hulu, leaving its broadcast home, FOX, behind. It’s been a long wait, but The Orville fans can finally start counting down the weeks. The new image shows several returning characters: Capt. Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane, series creator), Cmdr. Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), and Lt. Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes), and Isaac (Marc Jackson) at their posts on the ship’s bridge. Recurring guest star Admiral Halsey (Victor Garber) is also present.

(11) FUZZY MEMORY. MeTV asks if you “Ever wonder why the women on ‘Star Trek’ appear out of focus?” Learn more about Classic Trek’s cinematographer at the link.

… The soft focus was often paired with romantic, swooning music. While the crew members were shot heroically in blazing light and sharp focus, love interests, on the other hand, looked more like watercolors. To achieve the effect, thin layers of plastic, or diffusion filters, were placed before the lens for those shots. No, as far as we know, Vaseline was not smeared on the lens. The technique came to be known as “The Gaussian Girl,” named for the Gaussian blur. …

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Kevin Standlee, Sheila Addison, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern, who says the key is in this YouTube video.]

Pixel Scroll 12/15/21 A Pixel Upon The Deep

(1) CHENGDU MARATHON LIVESTREAM CONTINUES. The Chengdu Worldcon bid livestream was noted in yesterday’s Scroll. Alison Scott took a look at it and reported in a comment here —

The Chengdu bid has been running a stream each evening (11:00 – 14:00 UTC) on Chinese Youtube/Twitch style site bilibili, featuring SF authors and other celebrities encouraging Chinese SF fans (of whom there are millions of course) to join DisCon III and vote for Chengdu.

The link to the stream is here. Although i couldn’t understand the stream, I used Google Translate to read the chat; full of SF fans, mostly students, talking about their favourite books, movies and tv shows and asking how to set up a local SF club in their area.

(2) TOMORROW PRIZE DEADLINE. There’s less than one week left for Los Angeles County high school students to enter their short sci-fi stories in The Tomorrow Prize and The Green Feather Award competitions. Full details at the Omega Sci-Fi Awards website. Those feeling the pressure should read “5 Things that Inspire” by Clare Hooper.

With the deadline approaching, many find it intimidating to start writing. Writer’s block is the worst. But the best cure for writer’s block is finding a good place to start, and that may mean inspiration. Here are five things that inspired previous winners and honorable mentions of The Tomorrow Prize and The Green Feather Award to write:

1: Anime

The accessibility and popularity of anime has only gotten wider in recent years. With so many shows in dozens of genres, it’s easy to find something you may want to put your own spin on. Omega Sci-Fi Awards Student Ambassador and Tomorrow Prize Finalist, Gwendolyn Lopez found inspiration through Studio Ghibli films. These films usually have a thin line between the mundane and the fantastical, thus inspiring Gwendolyn to give a more introspective feel to her story, Star Sailor. Ethan Kim, an honorable mention for The Tomorrow Prize, took inspiration from a different anime show, Dororo, which features a young man roaming the countryside fighting demons. Dororo inspired the themes of godlike figures and a battlefield setting in his story Cold Ashes….

(3) TOP GRAPHIC NOVEL. “Bechdel’s ‘Secret to Superhuman Strength’ Wins PW’s 2021 Graphic Novel Critics Poll” announced Publishers Weekly.

The Secret to Superhuman Strength (Mariner) by Alison Bechdel lands on the top spot of PW’s annual Graphic Novel Critics Poll, garnering seven votes from a panel of 15 critics. A groundbreaking queer author and a true household name in contemporary comics, Bechdel is best known for her widely acclaimed 2006 graphic family memoir Fun Home.

In The Secret to Superhuman Strength, her long-anticipated third memoir, Bechdel celebrates the fads and fanaticism of fitness culture—including her own obsession with physical self-improvement—using the phenomenon as a lens through which to examine both queer and American culture writ large…. 

(4) RAISING KANE. Cora Buhlert posted a new Fancast Spotlight, featuring The Dark Crusade, a podcast focused on the works of Karl Edward Wagner: “Fancast Spotlight: The Dark Crusade”.

… Therefore, I’m happy to welcome Jordan Douglas Smith of The Dark Crusade to my blog:

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

The Dark Crusade is dedicated to the life and work of writer/editor/publisher Karl Edward Wagner. We are systematically moving through his work, discussing it from a historical and literary lens. In addition to the podcast, we have a companion blog that covers additional facts about the stories, links to scholarship, and overviews of some of the collections Wagner has edited….

(5) TAFF VOTING OPENS TODAY. Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund administrators Johan Anglemark and Geri Sullivan are now accepting ballots for the 2022 TAFF race. It will close on April 19, 2022, after Reclamation (Eastercon) in London.

You can download the fill-in form ballot here (US Letter; A4 will follow shortly). It has the candidates’ platforms, the names of their nominators, and the voting instructions. Voting is open to anyone active in fandom before April 2020 who donates at least £3 (GBP), €3 (EUR), or $4 (USD) to TAFF. Voting is also possible online here.

Competing for the honor are these four great fans: Anders Holmström (Sweden), Fia Karlsson (Sweden), Mikolaj Kowalewski (Poland), and Julie Faith McMurray (UK). One of them will make a TAFF trip to Chicon 8, the 80th World Science Fiction Convention in September, 2022.

(6) CAST A WIDE NET. [Item by Cora Buhlert] The Pulp Net has an article about Fritz Leiber, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by Don Herron: “Three sought adventure”. What struck me about this is that Herron not only knew Leiber, but also met Harry Otto Fisher, on whom Mouser was based and the resemblance was apparently uncanny.

… “Two Sought Adventure” saw print that August in the pulp Unknown — the first professional sale for Fritz Leiber Jr., who would go on to become one of the most-awarded writers in 20th-century imaginative literature.

The characters introduced, the barbarian Fafhrd and the wily Gray Mouser — the two best thieves in Lankhmar, and the two best swordsmen — would have many more adventures with the author till the end of his life….

(7) I’VE HEARD THAT NAME BEFORE. It appears to be Fritz Leiber month, because Grimdark Magazine also has an article about him by Ryan Howse: “The works of Fritz Leiber”.

… During their adventures, they battled men, magicians, and monsters, were in the power of two bizarre wizards who obviously did not have their best interests at heart, faced down the incarnation of death, survived the poverty of lean times in Lankhmar, climbed the world’s largest mountain on a whim, and plenty more. Their quests were often them following a rumour for fun or profit, with no grander schemes in mind….

(8) RAMA LAMA. “Dune Director Denis Villeneuve to Adapt Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama”Tor.com has the story.

Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve is heading from Arrakis to Rama. After he finishes up Dune: Part Two (which was greenlit after Dune: Part One’s commercial success), the director will take on a feature adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama….

(9) OFF THE BEAM. Camestros Felapton has his own cat-themed series – Timothy the Talking Cat in the spirit of Zelig: “Missing Moments from Movie History: The Carbonite Manoeuvre”. Picture at the link.

An infamous cat-related accident on the set of the Empire Strikes Back resulted in this unfortunate outcome….

(10) ON THE DIAL. At BBC Sounds, The Exploding Library series begins with “Mother Night, by Kurt Vonnegut”.

In this new literature series, a trio of comedians explode and unravel their most cherished cult books, paying homage to the tone and style of the original text – and blurring and warping the lines between fact and fiction.

“We are what we pretend to be. So we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

So reads the warning at the beginning of the novel Mother Night, in an author’s introduction written by Kurt Vonnegut himself. Yet in this world of unreliable narrators, editor’s “corrections” and weirdly omniscient first-person testimony, nothing is really what it seems.

Purportedly the “confessions of Howard J. Campbell Jr”, an American expat-turned Nazi propagandist-turned Allied spy (allegedly), Vonnegut’s warped collection of bizarre characters and slippery narratives invite us to cast aside our black and white notions of morals and guilt and survey the gazillions of greys in between.

Comedian Daliso Chaponda considers the strange world of people playing versions of themselves in public – comedians, spies, politicians and, to an extent, all of us. How do you deal with people perceiving you differently to your “real” self? And, for that matter, how do you know who you “really” are?

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1974 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-seven years ago, Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein premieres. The screenplay was co-written by Brooks and Gene Wilder who plays the lead role. The rest of the cast was Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Kenneth Mars and Madeline Kahn. 

The film was shot in black and white with the lab equipment there originally used as props for the 1931 film Frankenstein as created by Kenneth Strickfaden.

Brooks has often said that he considers it by far his finest although not his funniest film as a writer-director. Reception for it was generally very good with Roger Ebert saying it was his “most disciplined and visually inventive film (it also happens to be very funny).”  It won a Hugo at Aussiecon. It was a fantastic box office success earning eighty-six million on a budget of just three million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it near perfect rating of ninety-two percent. 

Mel Brooks would later adapt this into a musical that would run both off Broadway and on Broadway.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 15, 1923 Freeman Dyson. Physicist best known in genre circles for the concept he theorized of a Dyson Sphere which would be built by a sufficiently technologically advanced species around a sun to harvest all solar energy. He credited Olaf Stapledon in Star Maker (1937), in which he described “every solar system… surrounded by a gauze of light traps, which focused the escaping solar energy for intelligent use” with first coming up with the concept. (Died 2020.)
  • Born December 15, 1937 John Sladek. Weird and ambitious would be ways to describe his work. The Complete Roderick Is quite amazing, as is Tik-Tok, which won a BSFA, and Bugs is as well. He did amazing amounts of short fiction, much of which is collected finally in the ironically named Maps: The Uncollected John Sladek. He is generously stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2000.)
  • Born December 15, 1951 David Bischoff. His “Tin Woodman” which was written with Dennis Bailey and nominated for a Nebula would be adapted into a Next Generation story. He also wrote the Next Gen story “First Contact” (with Dennis Russell Bailey, Joe Menosky, Ronald D. Moore and Michael Piller.) And he continued the Bill the Galactic Hero story with Harry Harrison.  He’s also written a kickass excellent Farscape novel, Ship of Ghosts. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 15, 1952 Marta DuBoi. Her first genre role is on the Starman series as Dr. Ellen Dukowin the “Fever” episode though you’ll likely better recognize her as Ardra on the “Devil’s Due” episode of the Next Generation. She also had roles on The Land of The LostThe Trial of the Incredible Hulk and Tales of the Golden Monkey. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 15, 1953 Robert Charles Wilson, 68. He’s got a Hugo Award for Spin, a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for The Chronoliths, a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the “The Cartesian Theater” novelette and Prix Aurora Awards for the Blind Lake and Darwinia novels. He also garnered a Philip K. Dick Award for Mysterium. Very, very mpressive indeed. 
  • Born December 15, 1954 Alex Cox, 67. Ahhh, the Director who back in the early Eighties gave us Repo Man. And that he got a co-writer credit for the screenplay of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas before it was completely rewritten by Gilliam. As you know he directed a student film version of Harry Harrison’s Bill, the Galactic Hero at University of Colorado Boulder just a few years ago!
  • Born December 15, 1963 Helen Slater, 58. She was Supergirl in the film of that name, and returned to the 2015 Supergirl TV series as Supergirl’s adoptive mother. Also within the DC Universe, she voiced Talia al Ghul in in Batman: The Animated Series. Recently she also voiced Martha Kent in DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year. And Lara in Smallville… And Eliza Danvers on the  Supergirl series..   Her other genre appearences include being on SupernaturalEleventh HourToothlessDrop Dead Diva and the very short-lived Agent X
  • Born December 15, 1970 Michael Shanks, 51. Best known for playing Dr. Daniel Jackson in the very long-running Stargate SG-1 franchise. His first genre appearance was in the Highlander series and he’s been in a lot of genre properties including the Outer LimitsEscape from MarsAndromeda (formally titled Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda and there’s a juicy story there), SwarmedMega Snake, Eureka, Sanctuary, Smallville, Supernatural and Elysium. Wow! 

(13) TIME TO CROW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews Death’s Door, a game he feels is strongly influenced by Legend Of Zelda, Dark Souls, and Hollow Knight.

Coming from tastemaking indie publisher Devolver Digital, I should have known better than to judge the game harshly.  Its mechanics are familiar but the plot is original and compelling, told with an economy that threads through every element of the game’s design.  You play a fledgling crow who is a new employee at a supernatural bureau of avatar grim reapers.  Your job is to collect the souls of those who have passed on.  Yet when a soul you have collected is stolen, your immortality (a handsome job perk) is compromised, meaning you will age and ultimately die if you cannot recover it….

Death’s Door is a game about being a small, fragile thing in a mysterious, dangerous world.  This is deftly constructed with certain characters and safe spaces scattered across the map which are colourful and memorable: the interminable bureaucracy of the celestial reaper’s office; your companion Pothead, whose skull has been replaced with a vat of soup; the gravedigger who gives touching elegies for those enemies you slay. The spare lines of dialogue tinkle with humour and specificity, helping you empathise with the mute reaper crow on his lonely journey to understand the meaning of death.

(14) BUHLERT AT VIRTUAL WORLDCON. Best Fanwriter Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert has posted her virtual DisCon III schedule: “Cora goes virtually to DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon”. Her first panel is Thursday.

(15) COMING DOWN A CHIMNEY NEAR YOU. The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda rescues last-minute shoppers with his list of “Gift books 2021: Mysteries, ghost stories and other treats”.

‘The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories: Volume 5,’ edited by Christopher Philippo (Valancourt)

This latest in an annual series again demonstrates that chills and frights still linger in the browning pages of old magazines and Christmas albums. Philippo reprints two fine tales I’ve read elsewhere — Amelia B. Edwards’s “My Brother’s Ghost Story” and Barry Pain’s “The Undying Thing” — but all his other choices were unfamiliar to me. Since James Skipp Borlase is represented by two stories, I decided to read them first….

(16) YA BOOK SUGGESTIONS. Tara Goetjen on YA horror, paranormal, and ghost story novels crime fiction fans might like. “Genre-Bending YA Novels Perfect For Crime Fans” at CrimeReads.

… To me, this is the great intrigue of a genre-bending thriller. There should always be, without fail, a human face behind the mystery or the bloodshed, just like there is in No Beauties or Monsters [her new book]. But whether or not there is a shadowy, inexplicable, perhaps unbelievable force also wielding terror… well, that’s why we read on till the very end. Here are some other genre-bending young adult novels with speculative elements that kept me reading till the very end too….

(17) LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS HOBBITS. GameRant’s Alice Rose Dodds delves into the books to help fans of the LOTR movies answer the question  “What Exactly Is Shire Reckoning?” — “What exactly is this measurement of time, and how does It differ from others in Middle Earth?”

…It is little known that there was a vast long period of time before which any hobbits ever came to rest in The Shire. Hobbits, being of a homely nature and loving their beautiful holes beyond all else, dislike to remember this fact, for they see those days as terrible days, before the comfort of a simple life was discovered… 

(18) IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK AT LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS. But don’t be fooled.  “Christmas Movies Show How Fake Snow Evolved, From ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ To Harry Potter” at LAist.

Watching classic holiday movies is a journey through the technology used to create yuletide joy in different generations. We once used asbestos as movie snow — now the technology ranges from computer graphics to a special type of paper.

In the early days of film, Hollywood “snowmen” would take anything that could be seen as white and flaky and put it to use, author and Atlas Obscura editor April White told LAist. Those sources of flaky whiteness included bleached cornflakes, gypsum, salt, concrete dust, asbestos, and even chicken feathers….

(19) THE LATEST STRANDS. Richard Lawson sorts the cycles of Spider-Man movies for Vanity Fair readers and comments on the new trailer in “Spider-Man: No Way Home Is a Very Tangled Web”.

…Well, to be fair, Spider-Man was always a Marvel property; he just lives at Sony because of deals that long predate Kevin Feige’s Disney-backed conquest of the content cosmos. In that sense, No Way Home is mostly just a triumph of studio executives agreeing on things and actors making their schedules work. A feat unto itself, I suppose…

(20) WEB CASTER VS. SPELL CASTER. Doctor Strange and Spider-man battle it out in the mirror dimension in this clip of the Spider-Man vs Doctor Strange fight scene from Spider-Man: No Way Home.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Rob Thornton, Cora Buhlert, Jeffrey Smith, Johan Anglemark, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson, part of “The Hugo Pixel Scroll Winners” series.]

Pixel Scroll 12/6/21 A Pixel Is About The Most Massively Useful Thing An Interscroller Hitchfiler Can Have

(1) SPECTRUM FANTASTIC ART QUARTERLY. Cathy and Arnie Fenner have finished the first volume: “Spectrum Fantastic Art Quarterly *Update*” at Muddy Colors. It will be released December 20. Meantime, Arnie explains they are still at work on changes to the Spectrum competition and annual:

Remember awhile back when I mentioned that Cathy and I were planning to do a quarterly Spectrum bookazine? Guess what: the first volume is done. And what do I mean by “bookazine?” Well, I guess it’s something of a marriage of design, editorial, and graphics in a format that reads like a magazine but sits happily with the books on your shelf. It’s not exactly a new concept: if you hop in the way-back machine and take a look at Herb Lubalin’s Avant Garde or at Ralph Ginzburg’s hardcover Eros (which was also designed by Lubalin) you’ll see just how neat the idea is.

So while we’ve been figuring out all the minutia that goes into reorganizing the Spectrum competition and annual (and, lemme tell you, there are some cool discussions going on…if we can only figure out the logistics) and preparing to open #28 for entries, we put our heads together with some friends and decided to create the Spectrum Fantastic Art Quarterly to stay engaged with the community while the competition/book gets rebuilt—and have some fun in the process. And “fun” is the key word here: as we mention in the introduction to Vol 1, it’s sort of a throw-back to my days publishing fanzines (or “semiprozines” or “boutique magazines” or whatever you want to call them), that are produced out of love with making a buck, though important, secondary. SFAQ is a 12?x12?, perfect-bound, full-color softcover; it’s about and for fantastic artists of all sensibilities—and that includes illustrators, gallery painters, sculptors, art directors, calligraphers, comics artists, and more—and for everyone interested in the people and history of our field. Is it perfect? Nope. Did we probably make some dumb mistakes or let some typos slip by us? Undoubtedly. But it was most certainly fun to put together and we’ve got all kinds of ideas for features and designs percolating in our noggins—all ideas that work better for a “bookazine” rather than a traditional magazine or book, if you know what I mean. If it works, it works; if it doesn’t, we’ll at least have had a good time trying.

Anyway, Spectrum Fantastic Art Quarterly Vol. 1 will be released (according to the printer) December 20th—yes, this year. Merry Christmas! If you’re interested, here’s where you can order your copy. It’ll probably still be a week or so before they have them listed, but…you heard it here first.

STUART NG BOOKS https://stuartngbooks.com / https://www.facebook.com/stuart.ng.73

BUD PLANT’S ART BOOKS – https://www.budsartbooks.com / https://www.facebook.com/budsartbooks

(2) WINNIPEG IN 2023 WORLDCON BID QUESTIONNAIRE. Jannie Shea reports that Winnipeg in 2023’s response to the Smofcon questionnaire is posted at the bid’s website: “Fannish Question Time_Smofcon – Winnipeg 2023 Worldcon Bid”.

Several of the bid committee also practiced in an informal Q&A session on their YouTube channel earlier this year. The raw unedited session, held back in July, can be viewed here.

(3) FREE READ. Issue 4 of Whetstone: Amateur Magazine of Pulp Sword and Sorcery (which actually is a semiprozine according to Hugo rules) is out: Cora Buhlert says, “Good modern sword and sorcery fiction and it’s free, too.”

(4) TURNAROUND. Neon Hemlock Press launched a Kickstarter to fund the anthology Luminiscent Machinations: Queer Tales of Monumental Invention edited by Rhiannon Rasmussen and dave ring, “a speculative anthology exploring the limits of machinery, the fragility and power of queer bodies, and mecha in all their forms.” Social media controversy has arisen because one of the contributors to the anthology is Neon Yang, who criticized Isabel Fall’s “Helicopter Story” (originally titled “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter.”) Some defenders of Isabel Fall are condemning Yang’s promotion of their own queer mech story.

Emily VanDer Werff’s Vox article “How Twitter can ruin a life: Isabel Fall’s complicated story” published in summer 2021 refreshed memories about Neon Yang’s stance on Twitter 18 months earlier when “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” first appeared:

“When the story was first published, we knew nothing about Isabel Fall’s identity, and there was a smattering of strange behavior around the comments and who was linking to it that led people to suspect right-wing trolls were involved in this,” says science fiction author Neon Yang. They were publicly critical of the story on Twitter…. 

Publisher Neon Hemlock has made this statement:

Meanwhile, Neon Yang’s Twitter account is labeled “temporarily restricted” with a message that says, “You’re seeing this warning because there has been some unusual activity from this account. Do you still want to view it?” although one can still click through the warning and access it.

Doris V. Sutherland’s post “On Neon Yang’s Toxic Reputation” reviews the original 2020 controversy in some detail, searching for an explanation why Yang is experiencing this backlash:

…Yet, despite the flimsiness of the accusation, Neon Yang retains a reputation as the person who did the most to bring down Isabel Fall. As far as I can tell, the misconception can be traced back to the aforementioned Vox article, in which Yang is the only person quoted as justifying the backlash against the story. Nowhere does the article state, or even imply, that Yang was the main aggressor; yet nonetheless, it seems to have established Yang as the face of the anti-Fall movement….

Those that live by the censor’s scissors are liable to end up being snipped at themselves. There is, perhaps, a degree of karma in a person who rolled along with the erasure of Isabel Fall’s story — simply because it made some of the readers uncomfortable — being placed in a position where their own presence in an anthology is deemed uncomfortable, to the extent where at least one collaborator has decided to pull out….

(5) ALL HAIL. AudioFile Magazine’s latest “Behind the Mic Podcast” interviews Ray Porter, who narrated the Project Hail Mary audiobook.

Narrator Ray Porter joins AudioFile’s Michele Cobb to tell listeners about his experience narrating PROJECT HAIL MARY, Andy Weir’s newest sci-fi bestseller. PROJECT HAIL MARY is one of AudioFile’s 2021 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Audiobooks, and it’s a thrilling interstellar adventure. Ray gives Michele an inside glimpse into preparing the many voices deployed in this space opera and tells her what has stayed with him about bringing it to life. Read the full review of the audiobook at audiofilemagazine.com. Published by Audible, Inc. Curious listeners can take a peek into Ray’s recording studio in his narrator video on PROJECT HAIL MARY.

(6) OUT OF THE PAN AND INTO THE… Cora Buhlert’s review of the latest (in 1966) Space Patrol Orion episode is up at Galactic Journey“[December 6, 1966] Welcome to the Space Prison: Space Patrol Orion, Episode 6: ‘The Space Trap’”

The episode starts with Commander Cliff Alister McLane (Dietmar Schönherr) receiving his latest orders from General Wamsler (Benno Sterzenbach). It’s yet another routine mission (and we all know how well those tend to go for the Orion 8): Collect space dust in order to investigate the panspermia theory, which causes Wamsler’s aide Spring-Brauner (Thomas Reiner) to drone on and on about the panspermia theory, i.e. the theory that life did not originate on Earth, but is distributed through the universe via spores hitching a ride with space dust, asteroids, meteorites, etc… The theory is the brainchild of Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius, who also developed the theory of a global greenhouse caused by industrial carbon dioxide emissions, which played a role in the Orion episode “The Battle for the Sun”. One of the writers is apparently a fan….

(7) KGB SCHEDULE CHANGE. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series in New York has changed the lineup for their December 15 event.

This month, Mercurio D. Rivera will be reading with David Leo Rice. N.K. Jemisin will be reading for them in February.

David Leo Rice’s info was part of the original announcement. The brief bio for Mercurio D. Rivera follows.

Mercurio D. Rivera

Mercurio D. Rivera’s short fiction has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award and has won the annual readers’ award for Asimov’s and Interzone magazines, respectively. His work has also appeared in venues such as Analog, Lightspeed, io9, Nature, Black Static, and numerous anthologies and Year’s Best collections.

His new novel Wergen: The Alien Love War tells stories of unrequited love set against the backdrop of humanity’s complicated relationship with enigmatic aliens afflicted with a biochemical infatuation for humanity. His story “Beyond the Tattered Veil of Stars,” was recently podcast by Dust Studios, and features Gillian Jacobs (Community) and Justin Kirk (Weeds). 

The readings are Wednesday, December 15 starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern in the KGB Bar. (Address at the link.)

(8) GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT. A month ago the Scroll linked to NPR’s coverage of the Maryland Renaissance Faire (item #16). Red Barn Productions and Kevin Patterson also run the “Great Dickens Christmas Fair” in the Bay Area of California, similar to a Ren Faire but with a theme of Christmas in Charles Dickens’s time.  They are getting pushback from attendees and participants for what is said to be failure to provide a safe space for marginalized people: “’Not a safe space’: Black cast members boycott Dickens Christmas Fair over failure to prevent racist, sexist behavior” in the San Francisco Chronicle.

… “I met some of my greatest friends at the Dickens Fair,” says Tooles, who went on to join the event’s volunteer cast, taking on bigger roles and more responsibility each year. 

Her history with the tight-knit fair community is what makes the past two years so heartbreaking for Tooles, who is one of a small number of Black cast members at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair. What started as a goodwill effort to help rectify what is seen as the event’s failure to protect its volunteers and guests from racist and sexist behavior has turned ugly. Now, more than 200 cast members and thousands of guests have pledged to boycott this year’s fair, which is set to return to the Cow Palace on Saturday, Dec. 4, in a scaled-down, drive-through experience for the next three weekends. 

“I want people to recognize what their values are and decide if the Dickens Fair aligns with them,” says Tooles, founder of an affinity group for the fair’s Black performers called Londoners of the African Diaspora, or LoAD…. 

There’s a related petition at Change.org, “End Racism and Injustice at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair”.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1979 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-two years ago on this date, Star Trek: The Motion Picture had an exclusive premiere in Washington, D.C. It is directed by Robert Wise from the screenplay by Harold Livingston which in turn is based on the story by Alan Dean Foster and I’m surprised he didn’t novelize it. You know who was in the movie so I won’t detail the cast here. Reception was decidedly mixed though Roger Ebert called it “a good time”. The box office was exceedingly good as it made one hundred forty million against forty million in production costs. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a so-so rating of just forty-two percent. It was nominated for a Hugo at Noreascon Two, the year that Alien was chosen as the Best Film. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 6, 1893Sylvia Townsend Warner. Do yourself a favor and look up a bio of her as she’s a fascinating person. This site is a good place to do that. Her first novel, Lolly Willowes or, The Loving Huntsman, is definitely genre. ISFDB lists four genre collections by her, but Kingdoms of Elfin and Lolly Willowes are available on the usual suspects. (Died 1973.)
  • Born December 6, 1911Ejler Jakobsson, Finnish-born Editor who worked on Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories butbriefly as they were shut down due to paper shortages. When Super Science Stories was revived in 1949, Jakobsson was named editor until it ceased publication two years later. Twenty years later, he took over Galaxy and If, succeeding Frederik Pohl.  His first credited publications were The Octopus and The Scorpion in 1939, co-edited with his wife, Edith Jakobsson. (Died 1984.)
  • Born December 6, 1918William P. McGivern. Once in a while, I run across an author I’ve never heard of. So it is with McGivern. He was a prolific writer of SFF stories for twenty years starting from the early Forties. ISFDB only lists one genre novel by him, The Seeing, that he wrote with his wife Maureen McGivern. The digital has been good for him with the usual suspects having pretty much everything by him that he did except oddly enough the long out of print The Seeing. (Died 1982.)
  • Born December 6, 1923Wally Cox. Ok, who can resist the voice of the Underdog series which ran from 1964 to1967? I certainly can’t. He was in Babes in ToylandThe Twilight ZoneMission: Impossible, Lost in SpaceGet SmartThe Girl from U.N.C.L.E.QuarantinedNight Gallery and Once Upon a Mattress. (Died 1974.)
  • Born December 6, 1953Tom Hulce, 68. Oscar-nominated screen and stage actor and producer. His first genre role was in a highly-praised performance as the lead in the American Playhouse broadcast of The Rise and Rise of Daniel Rocket, about a young boy who discovers that he can fly. Although the bulk of his career has been in the theater, his most notable genre film role was as Henry Clerval in Kenneth Branagh’s Saturn-nominated Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. He was nominated for an Annie Award for his voice performance of Quasimodo in Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and appeared in the films Stranger than Fiction and Jumper.
  • Born December 6, 1957Arabella Weir, 64. A performer with two Who appearances, the first being as Billis in “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”, a superb Eleventh Doctor story, before being The Doctor Herself in “Exile”, a Big Audio production. She’s had one-offs on genre and genre adjacent series such as Shades of DarknessGenie in the HouseRandall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and even a genre adjacent Midsomer Murders
  • Born December 6, 1962Colin Salmon, 59. Definitely best known for his role as Charles Robinson in the Bond films Tomorrow Never DiesThe World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. He played Dr. Moon in “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead”, Tenth Doctor stories, and was Walter Steele on Arrow. He most recently played General Zod on Krypton He was, alas, Ben in that clunker of films, Mortal Engines.
  • Born December 6, 1969Torri Higginson, 52. I had forgotten that she had a role in the TekWar movies and series as Beth Kittridge. I like that series a lot. Of course, she portrayed Dr. Elizabeth Weir in one episode of Stargate SG-1 and the entire Stargate Atlantis series. Her most recent genre roles was as Dr. Michelle Kessler in Inhuman Condition, where she plays a therapist who focuses on supernatural patients, and Commander Delaney Truffault in the Dark Matter series. 

(11) FOOTS THE BILL. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Turns out Aziraphale might be a bit of an Angel in real life too … “Michael Sheen turns himself into a ‘not-for-profit’ actor” reports BBC News.

…Speaking to The Big Issue, Sheen described how he stepped in to bankroll the Homeless World Cup when funding for the £2m project fell through at the last moment.

“I had committed to helping to organise that and then suddenly, with not long to go, there was no money,” he said.

“I had to make a decision – I could walk away from it and it wouldn’t happen.

“I thought, I’m not going to let that happen. So, I put all my money into keeping it going.

“I had a house in America and a house here and I put those up and just did whatever it took.

“It was scary and incredibly stressful. I’ll be paying for it for a long time.

“But when I came out the other side, I realised I could do this kind of thing and, if I can keep earning money, it’s not going to ruin me.”

(12) GREYSKULL SESSION. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] On my own blog, I wrote a lengthy rumination of Masters of the Universe: Revelation, which does some really interesting things and was so much better than a sequel to a cartoon designed to sell toys has any right to be: “The Power of Greyskull – Some Reflections on Part 2 of Masters of the Universe: Revelation” This one will go on my Hugo ballot, which I for one did not expect at all.

 The second half of Masters of the Universe: Revelation, Kevin Smith’s continuation of the original cartoon from the 1980s, just became available and I opted to watch that over the new Hawkeye show (which I will watch eventually) and Star Trek Discovery (which is apparently available in Europe now, though I still haven’t figured out how), because I enjoyed the first half a lot more than I expected. Besides, part 1 ended on one hell of a cliffhanger, so of course I wanted to know how Teela, Andra, Duncan and the rest of gang are going to get out of that one….

(13) RECOMMENDED KICKSTARTERS. Cora Buhlert also sent links to a pair of Kickstarters worthy of attention: 

Changa and the Jade Obelisk 2, a sword and soul comic, is looking for funding: “Changa and the Jade Obelisk #2 by 133art Publishing”

 Changa #2 Cover by: Matteo Illuminati and Loris Ravina

Blazing Blade of Frankenstein 1, a comic featuring Frankenstein’s monster as a wandering sword and sorcery hero, is also looking for funding. I had never heard of these people before, but the concept is simply too cool to ignore: “Blazing Blade of Frankenstein #1 by FRIED Comics”.

(14) THE CLASS OF 2021. The New York Times is there when “NASA Introduces Class of 10 New Astronaut Candidates”. Their names: Nichole Ayers, Christopher Williams, Luke Delaney, Jessica Wittner, Anil Menon, Marcos Berríos, Jack Hathaway, Christina Birch, Deniz Burnham and Andre Douglas.

NASA on Monday inaugurated 10 new astronaut candidates who could walk on the moon within the next decade, or carry out research on the International Space Station.

The new astronaut candidate class is NASA’s 23rd since 1959, when seven astronauts were picked by the military for Project Mercury, the first American human spaceflight program. The latest astronaut candidate group comes as NASA prepares for its most daunting challenges in space since Americans landed on the moon during the Apollo program of the 1960s and ’70s. The agency’s growing focus is on Artemis, its program to return astronauts to the moon….

(15) BUT NOT ROCK CANDY. BBC News reports “Stonehenge builders had a sweet tooth, artefacts suggest”.

The builders of Stonehenge ate sweet treats including foraged fruit and nuts, English Heritage has revealed.

Previously it was thought they had consumed pork, beef and dairy.

But excavations of the Durrington Walls settlement, inhabited by the builders of the monument in about 2,500 BC, suggest they collected and cooked hazelnuts, sloes and crab apples too.

Researchers said evidence of charred plant remains suggest they might have followed recipes to preserve the food….

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Cora Buhlert, Meredith, Bill, Olav Rokne, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn. Update: The excerpts of Doris V. Sutherland’s comments were added a couple hours after the Scroll was posted.]

Pixel Scroll 11/24/21 So Good They Scrolled It Twice!

(1) THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. Camestros Felapton’s Debarkle has reached its final chapter. The massive history of the Sad Puppies intertwined with right-wing political developments from 2014-2021 concludes with “Debarkle Afterword: Dramatis Personae” – very like the “where are they now?” credits at the end of based-on-a-true-story movies.

(2) ANGRY ROBOT BOOKS UNVEILS NEW LOGO. Angry Robot Books revealed their new logo, designed by Kate Cromwell, which comes as part of an overall rebranding including the launch of an upgraded website, enabling the direct sale of physical books.

AR Logo Icon

Formed in 2009, Angry Robot Books have undergone some key adjustments throughout the years but, since joining Watkins Media in 2014 and coming under the leadership of Associate Publisher Eleanor Teasdale in 2019, the award-winning science fiction, fantasy, and genre-boundary pushing company is thriving. This new logo represents the history of Angry Robot Books whilst simultaneously looking forward.

With initiatives such as Clonefiles – offering free ebooks to any independent bookshop physical purchase – Angry Robot Books have a cherished legacy of serving the book-buying public, and this new, upgraded website with physical sales capacity, deepens the direct connection between publisher and customer.

These developments come at an exciting time for Angry Robot Books as summer 2021’s runaway hit, The Coward by Stephen Aryan, is already in its third reprint and the October super-lead, Un-su Kim’s The Cabinet, continues to bask in reviews including selection for the Best Science Fiction of 2021 in The Washington Post. With 2022 books crossing geographical, figurative, mythological, and atmospheric borders, the future is bright for Angry Robot Books as highlighted in the recent survey of genre for 2022 at Library Journal which so prominently featured a range of the imprint’s titles and authors.

The new logo is part of the cover of R.W.W. Greene’s Mercury Rising, designed by David Leehy. The book will be released May 10, 2022.

Even in a technologically-advanced, Kennedy-Didn’t-Die alternate-history, Brooklyn Lamontagne is going nowhere fast. The year is 1975, thirty years after Robert Oppenheimer invented the Oppenheimer Nuclear Engine, twenty-five years after the first human walked on the moon, and eighteen years after Jet Carson and the Eagle Seven sacrificed their lives to stop the alien invaders.

Brooklyn just wants to keep his mother’s rent paid, earn a little scratch of his own, steer clear of the cops, and maybe get laid sometime in the near future. Simple pleasures, right? But a killer with a baseball bat and a mysterious box of 8-track tapes is about to make his life real complicated…

(3) LAST NIGHT ON RIVERDALE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Beware spoilers. Riverdale is going through a five-episode story arc when it is in the alternate universe “Rivervale.”  In this universe, Archie died as part of a pagan sacrifice.

“Rivervale” had a mention of Neil Gaiman.  Jughead in this universe is still a writer, but he discovers there is a secret apartment next to his apartment that is haunted.  Jughead and his girlfriend decide to turn the hidden apartment into a writing studio.  He says he wants the apartment to have “a Neil Gaiman nautical vibe,’” so he decides to decorate the window with ships in bottles. I dunno what Gaiman has to do with ships in bottles, and I’m sure Gaiman has nothing to do with Jughead’s making sure he chugs all the Scotch in the bottle before putting a ship in. The ghosts in the hidden apartment empower Jughead so he is able to “vomit out” the first draft of a novella in one night.  I’ll spare the details as to how Jughead’s typewriter gets as smashed as he does after downing a bottle of Scotch.

(4) ROONEY BOYCOTT OF AN ISRAELI PUBLISHER GAINS AUTHORS’ SUPPORT. China Miéville is one of the authors and publishing industry figures who have signed a letter endorsing Sally Rooney’s decision to turn down an offer with an Israel publishing house, describing it as “an exemplary response to the mounting injustices inflicted on Palestinians”.  Artists for Palestine UK organized the letter, and the complete text and a list of all signers is on their website: “Leading writers support Sally Rooney decision to refuse publication in Israel”.

The Guardian’s article includes this background coverage:

Rooney turned down an offer to sell Hebrew translation rights in her new novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You, to the publisher Modan, which had published her previous two books, and which had put in a bid. The bestselling Irish novelist said last month that she supported the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS), which works to “end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law”, and that she did not feel it would be right to collaborate with an Israeli company “that does not publicly distance itself from apartheid and support the UN-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people”.

While two Israeli book chains subsequently announced that they would pull Rooney’s books from their shelves, the novelist’s move has now been backed by 70 writers and publishers…

(5) SAVING THROW. “Thanksgiving” at Tablet Magazine is new seasonal fiction from Elizabeth Bear set in a near-future, climate-changed world. The ending reminds me slightly of the key to world peace from the end of Stand on Zanzibar.

… Kids these days can’t imagine how we lived without reality filters, without ambient power transmission, without biosphere impact laws. They get along fine without frogs, however, which is something I can’t manage.

Most of them never really missed a frog. They never had the opportunity. They have never really missed Vanuatu, or Cape Cod, or a sequoia. Just as I never missed a dodo, an ivory-billed woodpecker, the American chestnut. If I had grandkids—let’s say, my abstract, intellectual grandkids—they would not miss rhinos or sugar maples or coffee. Except in that same abstract, intellectual fashion. They would not give a damn about vanilla, sequoias, or ash trees except as historical curiosities similar to the aurochs, the cave bear, and dinosaurs…

(6) NPR’S PICKS OF 2021. NPR has put up its massive list of “Best Books 2021: Books We Love”. It’s sortable by category – this is the button to pull out the 48 “Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction” titles. The tool will also take you back to any of their annual selections since 2013.

(7) HELP KEEP THEM AFLOAT. The magazine Mermaids Monthly is running a Kickstarter to finance its second year: “Mermaids Monthly Year 2”. They have raised $4,212 with 35 days to go.

Our campaign goal for Mermaids Monthly 2022 is $33,000. This is a little bit higher than Mermaids Monthly 2021 because it covers some needs that the original team didn’t know about! In addition to covering the cost of content for 12 digital issues, the $33,000 will pay for one additional staff member for more coverage, as well as things like alt text generation, sensitivity readers, the submission system (Moksha), and international money transfer fees for paying our contributors who live outside the U.S.

(8) FIRST FOUNDATION. Cora Buhlert was on the Light On Light Through podcast to discuss Foundation — both the books and the TV show — with Paul Levinson and Joel McKinnon: “Foundation 1st Season: Cora Buhlert, Joel McKinnon, and Paul Levinson discuss”.

 There’s also a video version on YouTube:

(9) MIQUEL BARCELÓ (1948-2021). Miquel Barceló, the founder of Ediciones Nova, a Penguin collection dedicated to science fiction, died November 22. The Wikipedia sums up his career:

…He worked as an editor for Ediciones B, where he directed the NOVA collection, specialized in science fiction tales and novels, and writing introductory articles for the books published in the collection.

His last academic position was as a professor at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) where he promoted the creation of the UPC Prize, the most important prize in Spanish science-fiction. He directed and coordinated the UPC Doctorate program on Sustainability, Technology and Humanism. He also kept a monthly column for the computer magazine “Byte” and contributed to several publications on Astronomy and Artificial Intelligence.

In 1996 the Spanish Association of Fantasy and Science Fiction awarded a lifetime achievement award to Barceló….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1974 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-seven years ago in the USA on this date, Murder on the Orient Express was first shown. Based off the Agatha Christie novel, the script was by Paul Dehn, who wrote the Bond film Goldfinger. It was directed by Sydney Lumet who direct Network, which is at least genre adjacent, isn’t it? It was produced by John Brabourne and Richard Goodwin who would go on to produce two more Christie films, Death on the Nile and The Mirror Crack’d

Oh, and it has an absolutely stellar cast of Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Martin Balsam, Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Rachel Roberts, Richard Widmark and Michael York. You can see the trailer here.

Critics loved it with Roger Ebert’s comments being typical with him saying it provided “a good time, high style, a loving salute to an earlier period of filmmaking.” The box office was amazing as it made thirty six million dollars on a minuscule budget of one point two million dollars.  Christie who died fourteen months after this was made said that this film and Witness for the Prosecution were the only movie versions of her novels that she liked.

Now you’re going to get your Obligatory Science Fiction connection to use the old rec.arts.sf.written newsgroup term. The Twelfth Doctor would riff off this story including the train setting in the “Mummy on the Orient Express” episode though the murderer there was decidedly not human. 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a most excellent seventy-eight percent rating. 

It would have three more versions over the decades, a 2001 TV film version, a 2010 episode of the Agatha Christie’s Poirot series, and a 2017 film with Kenneth Branagh as the Belgian detective. Branagh narrates the movie tie-in audiobook. 

I just purchased this poster for my apartment as it is one of my favorite films. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 24, 1882 E. R. Eddison. Writer whose most well-known work by far is The Worm Ouroboros. It’s slightly connected to his much lesser known later Zimiamvian Trilogy.  I’m reasonably that sure I’ve read The Worm Ouroboros but way too long ago to remember anything about it. Silverberg in the Millenium Fantasy Masterworks Series edition of this novel said he considered it to be “the greatest high fantasy of them all”. (Died 1945.)
  • Born November 24, 1907 Evangeline Walton. Her best known work, the Mabinogion tetralogy, was written during the late 1930s and early 1940s, and her Theseus trilogy was produced during the late 1940s. It’s worth stressing Walton is best known for her four novels retelling the Welsh Mabinogi. She published her first volume in 1936 under the publisher’s title of The Virgin and the Swine which is inarguably a terrible title. Although receiving glowing praise from John Cowper Powys, the book sold quite awfully and none of the other novels in the series were published at that time. Granted a second chance by Ballantine’s Adult Fantasy series in 1970, it was reissued with a much better title of The Island of the Mighty. The other three volumes followed quickly. Witch House is an occult horror story set in New England and She Walks in Darkness which came out on Tachyon Press is genre as well. I think that is the extent of her genre work but I’d be delighted to be corrected. She has won a number of awards including the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature, Best Novel along with The Fritz Leiber Fantasy Award,  World Fantasy Award, Convention Award and the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1996.)
  • Born November 24, 1926 Forrest J Ackerman. It’s no wonder that he got a Hugo forfor  #1 Fan Personality at Philcon II and equally telling that when he was handed the trophy by Asimov, he physically declined saying it should go to Ken Slater to whom the trophy was later given by the con committee. That’s a nice summation of him. You want more? As a literary agent, he represented some two hundred writers, and he served as agent of record for many long-lost authors, thereby allowing their work to be reprinted. He represented Ed Wood! He was a prolific writer, more than fifty stories to his credit, and he named Vampirella and wrote the origin story for her. Speaking of things pulp which she assuredly is, he appeared in 81 films and as himself in over one hundred documentaries and programs which I’ll not list here. Eclectic doesn’t begin to describe him. His non- fiction writings are wonderful as well. I’ll just single out Forrest J Ackerman’s Worlds of Science FictionA Reference Guide to American Science Fiction Films and a work he did with Brad Linaweaver, Worlds of Tomorrow: The Amazing Universe of Science Fiction Art. Did I mention he collected everything? Well, he did. Just one location alone contained some three hundred thousand books, film, SF material objects and writings. The other was eighteen rooms in extent. Damn if anyone needed their own TARDIS, it was him. In his later years, he was a board member of the Seattle Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame who now have possession of many items of his collection. Not that he didn’t have problems around fans as Mike reported here. (Died 2008.)
  • Born November 24, 1948 Spider Robinson, 73. His first story “The Guy with the Eyes” was published in Analog February 1973. It was set in a bar called Callahan’s Place, a setting for much of his later fiction.  His first published novel, Telempath in 1976 was an expansion of the novella “By Any Other Name”. The Stardance trilogywas co-written with his late wife Jeanne Robinson.  In 2004, he began working on a seven-page 1955 novel outline by the late Heinlein to expand it into a novel. The resulting novel would be called Variable Star. Who’s read it? He won the Astounding Award, and has three Hugos: the first at SunCon for his “By Any Other Name” novella, the second at IguanaCon II for “Stardance that he wrote with Jeanne Robinson and the the at ConStellation for the “Melancholy Elephants” short story. 
  • Born November 24, 1957 Denise Crosby, 64, Tasha Yar on Next Gen who got a meaningful death in “Yesterday’s Enterprise” after getting an earlier truly meaningless one. In other genre work, she was on The X-Files as a doctor who examined Agent Scully’s baby. And I really like it that she was in two Pink Panther films, Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther, as Denise, Bruno’s Moll. And she’s yet another Trek performer who’s popped doing what I call Trek video fanfic. She’s Dr. Jenna Yar in “Blood and Fire: Part 2”, an episode of the only season of Star Trek: New Voyages as Paramount was not amused. 
  • Born November 24, 1957 John Zakour, 64. For sheer pulp pleasure, I wholeheartedly recommend his Zachary Nixon Johnson PI series which he co-wrote some with Larry Ganem. Popcorn reading at its very  best and I see GraphicAudio has done full cast audio performances of them which should be a real hoot. It’s the only series of his I’ve read, so anyone else read his other books? 
  • Born November 24, 1957 Jeff Noon, 64. Novelist and playwright. Prior to his relocation in 2000 to Brighton, his stories reflected in some way his native though not birth city of Manchester. The Vurt sequence whose first novel won the  Arthur C. Clarke Award is a very odd riff off Alice in Wonderland that he describes as a sequel to those works. Noon was the winner of an Astounding Award for the Best New Science Fiction Writer.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Calvin and Hobbes discuss what they learned from science fiction.
  • Shoe has an awful, genre-related pun. How can you resist?

(13) ON THE LINE. “Another Look At Bill Mauldin” in The Comics Journal, a review of Drawing Fire: The Editorial Cartoons of Bill Mauldin, says that the artist needed real-life experiences to generate effective drawings.

…Mauldin’s drawing style for the wartime cartoons was wonderfully evocative of the ambiance of the dogface’s life. He drew with a brush, and his lines were bold and fluid but clotted with heavy black areas, clothing and background detail disappearing into deep trap-shadow darkness that gave the pictures a grungy aspect that approximated visually the damp and dirty feelings bred by the miserable field conditions of a soldier’s life on front lines everywhere. Willie and Joe looked like they needed a bath, and so did many of their readers…

(14) MOVIES FOR A NEGLECTED HOLIDAY. That’s Connie Willis calls this list of movies for Thanksgiving Day, published on her Facebook page. (And Connie summons all her panache to explain why Miracle on 34th Street is on it.)

Poor Thanksgiving! It gets short shrift all around. Not only is it completely upstaged by Christmas, but now Black Friday means that Thanksgiving only gets a single day, and in the last few years (interrupted only by the Pandemic), Black Friday starts Thursday afternoon so you don’t even have time to do the dishes before Thanksgiving’s over and it’s on to the Christmas spending frenzy.

The same is true for movies. Hallmark devotes an entire month to Christmas movies and there are dozens of other new and old classics to watch, but there are hardly any Thanksgiving movies, and the ones there are always seem to involve a person who’s terminally ill. (Don’t believe me? How about STEPMOM, FUNNY PEOPLE, and ONE TRUE THING, to say nothing of THE BIG CHILL, in which the person’s already died?) Movies like that are the last thing we need in this Pandemic-That-Never-Seems-To-End.

So here’s a list of some cheerful Thanksgiving movies to watch in the ninety seconds or so between Thanksgiving dinner and Black Friday…

(15) LISTEN UP. “Doctor Who teases animated lost story The Abominable Snowmen”Radio Times has something else for us to be thankful about.

…As fans are well aware, 97 episodes of Doctor Who have been lost to time due to a since-scrapped BBC policy that saw them deleted from the broadcaster’s archives.

This has proved particularly damaging to Patrick Troughton’s time as the Second Doctor, given that almost half of his adventures in the role are incomplete.

The good news is that all of the affected episodes still exist in audio form thanks to recordings made by fans, which have been a great help in reconstructing them in the medium of animation….

(16) IT DOESN’T AGE LIKE WINE. “The Halo 3 Game Fuel fandom is dying”Polygon fosters that strange sensation called nostalgia for something you never experienced…

Two years ago, YouTube user xKorellx poured a bit of history down the drain. In a first-person video, they gently cradle a can of Mountain Dew Game Fuel in their palm. Swirls of orange and blue energy surround the Mountain Dew logo, and alongside it, a close-up image of Master Chief sprinting forward like he’s going to bust out of the can and into your pathetic reality. The vivid branding hasn’t faded in 10-plus years since Halo 3 Game Fuel left stores, but the can’s structural integrity is … compromised.

The silver top of the can is bloated and uneven. It looks to be moments from exploding. It has been deemed unfit for drinking or display. Solemn guitar music swells. xKorellx cracks the tab one-handed and pours the yellow-orangish liquid into the sink.

Today, a sip of that liquid will cost you anywhere between $35 and $80….

(17) WHAT COLOR BOOK COMES AFTER BLUE? “The Pentagon Forms New Department to Watch and Study UFOs” reports Vice.

The Pentagon announced the formation of the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group (AOIMSG), a successor to the U.S. Navy’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force. The group study Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon (UAP), the U.S. military’s name for UFOs.

According to the Pentagon’s press release, “the AOIMSG will synchronize efforts across the Department and the broader U.S. government to detect, identify and attribute objects of interests in Special Use Airspace (SUA), and to assess and mitigate any associated threats to safety of flight and national security.”

UFOs have been an obsession of the Pentagon (and broader society) for decades. In the 1950s and 60s, the U.S. Air Force’s Project Blue Book studied the phenomenon. In the preceding years, tales of strange lights in the sky captivated the world. Interest in UFOs waxed and waned over the years but exploded again recently when U.S. Navy pilots began giving interviews on high profile programs like 60 Minutes about the strange things they’d seen in the sky….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Movie Criminal Tutorial” on Screen Rant, written by Seb Decter, Tyler Lemco, Jr. plays movie crime consultant John Doe, Jr.  Doe’s father, John Doe, committed the crimes that led to the 1960s movie The Italian Job, and inspired the younger Doe to allegedly pursue a life of criminal activity.  Doe says it helps to have a wide network (he knows Pajamas Sam, Pajamas Freddy, and Sam The Fish), always talk through a Pringles can on the phone so no one can recognize your voice, and come up with an original tool when you’re whacking somebody (he likes a computer mouse).

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chris Barkley, Darrah Chavey, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]