Pixel Scroll 11/19/20 1,001 Pixel Scroll Nights

(1) PLAYING HARD TO GET. Comicbook.com introduces “Star Trek Actors Brent Spiner and LeVar Burton Feud in Hilarious Omeleto Video”. It really is a hoot.

Star Trek: The Next Generation stars LeVar Burton and Brent Spiner have come together in a new video aimed at poking fun of their public personas and pitting the two against one another in a feud that overruns a fundraiser and causes havoc at an awards show. The short comes from Omeleto, home to a wide variety of different kinds of short films. Spiner takes the central role, lampooning himself as a shallow, pretentious jerk who begins and ends the short with musical numbers that would probably stand on their own as short-short films, given the YouTube (and Star Trek) ecosphere.

The short, titled “Brentwood,” sees Spiner vacillating between wanting to distance himself from his genre past, and wanting the material success and praise that comes with that success….

(2) CONVERSATION ABOUT OCTAVIA BUTLER. Last night journalist Lynell George, author of A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky, was online in dialog with LA Times reporter Julia Wick about the legacy and prolific writing of science fiction legend Octavia E. Butler. Watch the video here on Facebook.

(3) ROLE MODEL. Sarah Gailey wrote this entry in the series on their blog: “Personal Canons: All the Birds in the Sky”.

…If you haven’t already read this book, you absolutely should. It is in many ways a love letter to both science fiction and fantasy; it simultaneously contains a tender critique of the foibles of each. Through two narratives, the novel weaves the two supposedly-distinct genres together into a truly masterful accomplishment of a story.

Reading All the Birds in the Sky was a revelation. I’d never read anything like it before. It engaged with tropes and conventions in ways that revealed a rich understanding of genre, without ever falling into cliché. The narrative was simultaneously sincere and playful, honest and elusive, sly and heartfelt.

Before I lost myself in All the Birds in the Sky, most of my understanding of and enjoyment of contemporary genre fiction and media was defined by brittleness and snark. This isn’t to say that sincere sentiments weren’t out there — but sincere sentiments weren’t what I understood to be successful. They weren’t what I understood to be the mode of the day.

The goal, as I saw it, was to refute the notion that genre fiction was unselfaware. The goal was to be cool and aloof and maybe a little mean to fans. To narratively acknowledge a trope was, by necessity, to make fun of the trope. It was a bullyproofing mechanism: nobody could make fun of us if we made fun of ourselves, first.

As I recall, there was a good amount of this in the first draft of River of Teeth. But as I read All the Birds in the Sky — and as I revised the weird little novella I’d decided to write — something shifted….

(4) MORE MYTHOPEIA. Alison Flood, in “Unseen JRR Tolkien essays on Middle-earth coming in 2021” in The Guardian says The Nature Of Middle-Earth, edited by Carl F. Hostetter, will be published next year.

…The new collection, which is authorised by the Tolkien estate, will be called The Nature of Middle-earth, and will be published in June by HarperCollins, which promised it would “transport readers back to the world of The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales and The Lord of the Rings”. 

…Topics include Elvish immortality and reincarnation; the nature of the Valar, the god-like spirits of Middle-earth; the lands and beasts of Númenor; the geography of the kingdom of Gondor; and even who had beards. Whether elves, hobbits and even dwarven women could grow beards has long been subject of debate among fans.

The writings will be edited by Carl F Hostetter, a Tolkien expert and head of the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship who has been a computer engineer at Nasa since 1985. Hostetter previously worked with Tolkien’s youngest son Christopher, who curated the author’s posthumous output until his death in January, aged 95.

(5) SLIPPED DISC PROVES TERMINAL. Sadly, “NSF to decommission Arecibo radio telescope” reports Space News.

The National Science Foundation announced Nov. 19 it will perform a “controlled decommissioning” of the giant radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, citing recent damage that made it unsafe to operate or even repair.

In a call with reporters, NSF officials said two broken cables used to support a 900-ton platform suspended over the telescope’s 305-meter main dish put the entire structure at risk of collapse. One cable slipped out of its socket in August, falling to the dish below and damaging it, while the second broke Nov. 6

Both cables are attached to the same tower, one of three surrounding the main dish. “The engineers have advised us that the break of one more cable will result in an uncontrolled collapse of the structure,” said Ralph Gaume, director of the NSF’s Division of Astronomical Sciences, referring to cables attached to that same tower. That would result in the platform crashing down to the main dish and potentially toppling one or more of the towers.

… Engineers are working on a plan to carry out that controlled decommissioning, which will take several weeks to complete. “The execution of that controlled decommissioning is unknown at this point,” Gaume said. It could be done “very rapidly” if explosives are used to bring down telescope structures, he speculated….

(6) THIS TABLET IS HARD TO SWALLOW. The Pittsburgh Current calls it — “Fahrenheit 412: New Rule Bans Allegheny County Jail Inmates From Receiving Books; Reading Limited To 214 Select E-Books”

Christopher West, aka Brother Hush, has been in the Allegheny County Jail for three months To help pass the time, he immersed himself into one of his favorite hobbies, reading.

The jail had a policy, though, that inmates could only receive books directly from Barnes and Noble or the Christian Book Store. Hush took advantage of the policy and has tried to pass his time until trial (for more info on this, read Hush’s story here). But on Nov. 16, things changed.

“Yesterday I woke up in Fahrenheit 451,” says Hush, a musical artist, and activist, by phone Nov. 17 from the Allegheny County Jail. His reference was to the 1953 Ray Bradbury Novel that tells the story about a dystopian future where books are banned and burned.

On Monday, Nov. 16, the ACJ’s incarcerated population received a memo from warden Orlando Harper that read: “Effective Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, the Allegheny County Jail shall no longer accept books from Barnesandnoble.com and Christianbooks.com. Inmates living in our facility now have the ability to read over 214 free books and 49 free religious books through our tablet program. Inmates…also have access to a wide variety of books through the leisure library on each pod.”

The ACJ’s “tablet program” began earlier this year after the county inked a new contract with Global Tel*Link. The new deal provided inmate with tablets that they could use for entertainment purposes, to photos and videos from their families and to have video visits. The problem is, each of these services costs money out of an inmate’s pocket and baked on those fee, Allegheny County receives kickbacks from the telecom company of more than $4 million. Inmates do get roughly an hour-and-a-half of free credits. But after that they are charged anywhere from three-to-five cents per minute….

“I love to read,” Hush says. “I’ve got a box full of books in here. But, now I’m being limited to only certain titles and if I want to read longer than my free credits allow, then I have to pay. With a book, I’m not charged by the minute.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • November 19, 1931 Frankenstein debuted in Detroit, Michigan.  James Whale directed the motion picture not from an adaptation of the Mary Shelley novel but rather from a 1927 play by Peggy Webling that was based on the novel. The Webling play was adapted by John L. Balderston and the screenplay written by Francis Edward Faragoh and Garrett Fort. The  cast included  Frederick Kerr as Baron Frankenstein, Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein , Mae Clarke as Elizabeth Lavenza, and Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s Monster. Critics generally loved it and it’s considered one of the best horror films of all time. It currently holds an ever so hundred percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 19, 1911 – Mary Counselman.  Five dozen short stories, two dozen poems.  “The Three Marked Pennies” may have been the second most popular in Weird Tales; readers kept mentioning it for years.  This cover for Half in Shadow is by Tim Kirk.  “The Hallowe’en scariness of the bumbling but kindly Wizard of Oz has always appealed to me more than the gruesome, morbid fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and those later authors who were influenced by their doom philosophies.  My eerie shades bubble with an irrepressible sense of humour, ready to laugh with (never at) those earth-bound mortals whose fears they once shared.”  First Fandom.  Phoenix Award.  More here.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born November 19, 1919 Alan Young. He was David Filby and James Filby in The Time Machine. He was Stanley Beamish, the original lead in the unaired pilot of the 1967 Mr. Terrific series. It’s not the DCU character as the latter will not be created until 1997. And he was the voice of Scrooge McDuck for over thirty years, first in the Mickey’s Christmas Carol short (1983) and in various other films, series and even video games up to his death. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born November 19, 1924 William Russell, 96. He played the role of companion Ian Chesterton in Doctor Who, from the show’s first episode in the end until the next to the last of the second season when the Companions change. Yes, I know the “Unearthly Child” was the unused original pilot.  He’s continued the role to the present at Big Finish. And yes, he’s in An Adventure in Space and Time. (CE)
  • Born November 19, 1936 – Wolfgang Jeschke.  Fan, author, editor.  Pioneer of the Science Fiction Club Deutschland (deliberately two-language name).  Guest of Honour at ConFiction the 48th Worldcon (hello, Kees van Toorn); on the Program Book cover he’s second from the top; more about the con here.  WJ’s fanzine Ad Astra.  Five novels, thirty shorter stories; essays, introductions, radio plays.  For the publisher Heyne, edited Science Fiction MagazinScience Fiction Jahresband (we’d say “yearbook”, although der Band isn’t really the same as “book”), Welten der Zukunft (“Worlds of the Future”), Internationale Science Fiction StoriesScience Fiction Story ReaderTitan (with Pohl, Silverberg, Bova), Das Science Fiction Jahr, a score more anthologies (including Der Tod des Dr. Island, (“The Death of Dr. Island” – but alas, so far as I know, not the rest of this).  Harrison Award.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born November 19, 1943 – Allan Cole.  A dozen novels with Chris Bunch (and other novels outside our field), two with Nick Perumov, five alone.  Two shorter stories that I know of.  Appreciation of Tom Kidd for SF Age (hello, Scott Edelman).  A hundred television episodes.  Newspaper reporter.  Learned Shakespeare and Socrates from a Greek on Cyprus.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born November 19, 1953 – Wendy Orr, 67.  Four novels and a shorter story for us; forty other books.  Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Younger Readers, 1995.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born November 19, 1953 Robert Beltran, 67. Best known for his role as Commander Chakotay on Voyager. Actually only known for that role. Like so many Trek actors, he’ll later get involved in Trek video fanfic but Paramount has gotten legalistic so it’s called Renegades and is set in the Confederation, not the Federation. And it’s shorn of anything that’s identify it as Trek related. (CE)
  • Born November 19, 1963 Terry Farrell, 56. She’s best known for her role as Jadzia Dax on Deep Space Nine. She too shows up as cast on Renegades video Trek fanfic that Beltran is listed as being part of. She’s got some other genre roles such as Joanne ‘Joey’ Summerskill in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, and Allison Saunders in Deep Core. Interestingly she played the character Cat in the American pilot of Red Dwarf. (CE)
  • Born November 19, 1965 Douglas Henshall, 55. Best known for his role as Professor Nick Cutter on Primeval. He played T.E. Lawrence in two stories of the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles series, and the lead in The Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle. He showed up on Sea of Souls, a BBC paranormal series. Finally, he had a recurring role as Taran MacQuarrie on Outlander. (CE) 
  • Born November 19, 1974 – Kuroboshi Kôhaku, 46.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Illustrator and character designer.  I’ll let you read here about Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online.  No, I mean it, go ahead.  [JH]
  • Born November 19, 1980 Katherine Kelly, 40. Miss Andrea Quill in Class, the spin-off from Doctor Who that lasted but eight episodes. (I’ve not seen it.) She’d reprise her role for the Big Audio dramas. Other an appearance in Life on Mars, that’s it for her genre work. (CE) 
  • Born November 19, 1983 –  Kallie George, 37.  Four novels, as many shorter stories, for us.  Others inspired by Anne of Green Gables (and who isn’t?).  Teaches reading with a dinosaur – a cute one – no, I mean it – on ice skates.  Website here.  [JH]

(9) STILL PLAYING CAT AND MOUSE. Warner Brothers dropped the Tom and Jerry official trailer, sharing some very amusing moments. Coming out next year.

(10) HUGO NIGHT REMINISCENCE. Battlestar Galactica script writer Anne Cofell Saunders confesses:

(11) GOING HORRIBLY, HILARIOUSLY WRONG. Paste Magazine enthuses “Hulu’s Rebooted Animaniacs Carries Forth the Zaniness and Charm of the Original”.

… It’s not an escape from reality, as the reboot leans into its political commentary, but it’s a much more colorful, joyful version of it, where nearly any problem can be solved with a giant hammer pulled out of one’s pocket. Animaniacs only wants one reaction from audiences of any age, and that’s laughs. It succeeds tremendously.

Hulu’s rebooted series maintains the same core of the original series, bringing back Steven Spielberg as a producer and many of the same voice actors, composers, and writers who created it. Each 24-minute episode block consists of three shorts of varying length, usually two starring the Warner brothers Yakko (Rob Paulsen) and Wakko (Jess Harnell), and the Warner sister, Dot (Tress MacNeille), with the middle segment going to Pinky (Paulsen) and the Brain (Laurice LaMarche). Without any narrative throughline, Animaniacs remains a show you can watch in any order and enjoy….

 (12) ISN’T THAT SPECIAL? Screen Rant decries “10 Recent Movies With Inexcusably Bad Special Effects”. Hey, I actually paid money to see two of these in a theater – and I had no complaints about Black Panther’s effects even if it is number 3 on this list.

For better or worse, special effects have become an increasingly prominent part of Hollywood moviemaking, and this is particularly true for movies in fantasy and science fiction. While some of these effects really do add to the storytelling, and while some of them are gorgeous to look at, it has to be said that quite a few of them are also more than a little ridiculous.

4. Gods Of Egypt (2016)

It’s a little hard to say what, exactly, the makers of this movie were thinking when they pushed it into production. It’s not as if movies set in antiquity, particularly in mythology, have been especially successful or popular. Most are at best decent (and almost always critically derided).

It’s also quite impossible to take this movie seriously, in large part because the special effects are so disastrously overdone and yet also incredibly cheesy. Somehow, one doubts that this was the effect they intended. It certainly doesn’t help that the movie engaged in some truly egregious white-washing.

(13) IMPRINT REVIVED. [Item by Steve Green.] British horror author and anthologist Johnny Mains has dusted off his publishing imprint Noose & Gibbet for next month’s release of Our Lady of Hate, the first collection of short stories by Catherine Lord (1845-1901). It’s a 338pp hardback, limited to 100 copies.

(14) GRITTY UNREALISM. [Item by Andrew Porter.] From “The Classic Novel That Robert Macfarlane Just Couldn’t Finish” in the New York Times Book Review section.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

Frank Herbert’s “Dune.” Wild landscapes, weird nature, science fiction — this really should be my jam. But no; the violence came to sicken me by halfway through, as did aspects of the politics. So I junked it.

But he does like M. John Harrison and N.K. Jemisin.

(15) NOW THAT DISNEY OWNS EVERYTHING. Here’s an unexpected way to phrase the new state of affairs —

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Lord Of The RIngs Expert Answers Tolkien Questions From Twitter” on YouTube is a video from WIRED in which Tolkien expert Corey Olsen explains why Sauron was neither a human or an elf and why Tolkien thought the plural of dwarf was “dwarfs” and not “dwarves.”

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, James Davis Nicoll, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Steve Green, Contrarius, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus (in collaboration with OGH).]