Pixel Scroll 7/6/21 And Why Are There So Many Files About Pixels?

(1) SUPERVULNERABLE. If you want every moviegoer to have a shot at breaking your password, use one of these: “DC and Marvel superheroes top breached password lists” at TechRepublic.

Specops Software, a password management and authentication company, released a roundup of “Star Wars”-themed breached passwords for the sci-fi holiday May 4 also known as Star Wars Day. On Monday, the company brought the DC and Marvel universes into the fold and released a roundup of commonly used superheroes found on compromised password lists.

…To determine the list, the company said it assessed more than 800 million breached passwords from a subset of more than 2 billion breach passwords in Specops Breached Password Protection. Having appeared on lists of breached passwords more than 151,000 times, Marvel’s Loki ranked No. 1 in Specops findings. Runner-up “Thor” appeared on breached password lists nearly 148,000 times to edge out No. 3 “Robin.” In order, “Joker” and “Flash” round out the top five.

Interestingly, the top 10 includes six DC characters compared to Marvel’s four appearances with “Batman” (DC), “Superman” (DC), “Vision” (Marvel), “Falcon” (Marvel) and “Penguin” (DC) topping the list. The findings add a cybersecurity fold to the classic debate about the two comic book universes.

(2) ESSENCE OF WONDER. “’For All Mankind’: Reimagining Space, Society, and History on the Apple TV+ Show” will be the topic of Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron on Saturday, July 10 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. Register at the link. Can be viewed on StreamYard, YouTube, and Facebook Live.

Gadi couldn’t stop talking about “For All Mankind” until we promised to build an episode around it. Joining him and Karen to share their impressions of the show will be R.W.W. Greene (author of The Light Years and Twenty Five to Life), Helen Montgomery (Chair of Chicon 8), and Alex Fayette (board member of both Karen’s and Gadi’s startups).

(3) NOT JUST MASKS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Lauren Orsini discusses how cosplayers coped during the pandemic.  She focuses on professional cosplayers such as Yaya Han, who shifted to making masks during the early part of the pandemic but has managed to recoup some of her income streams through social media and promotional material for videogame companies. “Cosplaying in the pandemic, after E3 and other conventions were cancelled”.

…Ejen Chuang, a cosplay photographer and the author of Cosplay In America, said that based on his informal polls in the fandom, it wasn’t unusual for cosplayers to have pared down their participation during the pandemic. However, there have been a few opportunities over the past year: Even as some events took on a virtual format, a handful brought cosplay along with them. Hashtags like Anime Expo’s #MaskYourMasquerade and #DragonConGoesVirtual encouraged cosplayers to show off their looks and win prizes, even while they were staying safe at home.

Some cosplayers also found ways to meet safely in person during the pandemic. Chuang organized multiple socially-distanced photoshoots in his local Austin, Texas. By shooting with a long lens, he could photograph from six feet away or more while simulating proximity.

“You usually show the back of the camera to the cosplayer as you go,” he said, referring to the LCD screen found on the photographer’s side of a modern digital camera. “What I had to do was put my camera on a bench, walk six feet away, and then the cosplayer would look at the camera, give me feedback, walk away, and then I would pick it up again.”…

(4) THE SJW CREDENTIAL THAT ATE TOKYO. “A super realistic giant 3D cat has appeared on a Shinjuku billboard” in Japan and Time Out has the story:

… The digital billboard spans over three floors and stands out from the rest as it features a curved LED screen, which can display 4K images, and is accompanied by speakers…

To introduce the new 3D technology to the streets of Tokyo, Cross Shinjuku has started teasing a short video of a giant 3D calico cat. The cat will have its official debut on Monday July 12, when it will wake up when the screen turns on at 7am every morning and go to sleep in the evening before the screen turns off at 1am. The cat will also appear every so often in between ads throughout the day and meow at nearby pedestrians.

For now, the cat is only showing up briefly during the day, so you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled.

There’s a dedicated live YouTube video that let’s you monitor the billboard for feline appearances in realtime. When the cat shows up, this is what you see —

(5) INSTANT SEQUEL. Yahoo! looks back at the late director’s impact as a blockbuster creator: “How Hollywood idiocy almost killed Richard Donner’s Superman”.

…Donner was a proven commercial entity when he was given the project, having just had an enormous (and shamelessly enjoyable) smash with the first Omen (1976). So it was that the producers – Ilya Salkind, his father Alexander, and their partner Pierre Spengler – handed him a 550-page monster of a script by Godfather scribe Mario Puzo, and assigned him the job of directing not only Superman, but Superman II, which they intended to film at the same time.

This kill-two-birds production strategy has been fairly common practice in the decades since – it happened with the Back to the Future sequels, the Matrix sequels, the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the second and third Pirates of the Caribbeans. James Cameron is doing it with Avatars 2 and 3. But it was really breaking new ground in the 1970s, when the very concept of the numbered sequel was in its infancy, and it seems to have caused teething troubles from start to finish.

(6) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1968 —  Fifty-three years ago at BayCon, Roger Zelazny was nominated for two Hugos. He would win the Best Novel Hugo for Lord of Light where the other nominated works were The Einstein Intersection by Samuel R. Delany, Chthon by Piers Anthony, The Butterfly Kid by Chester Anderson and Thorns by Robert Silverberg. He was also nominated for a Best Novella for “Damnation Alley” but would lose out to Philip José Farmer‘s “Riders of the Purple Wage”.  Zelazny’s acceptance speech according to the BayCon Hugo Awards Ceremony Transcription cleaned version was concise: “Completely unexpected. Thank you very much. End of speech.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 6, 1916 — Donald R. Christensen. Animator, cartoonist, illustrator, writer. He worked briefly at Warner Bros. studio, primarily as a storyboard artist for Bob Clampett’s animation unit.  After that, he worked for Dell, Gold Key and Western Publishing comic books, as well as Hanna Barbera, Walter Lantz Productions and other cartoon studios. He wrote and provided illustrations for such comic book titles as Magnus, Robot Fighter, Donald Duck, and Uncle Scrooge. (Died 2006.)
  • Born July 6, 1918 — Sebastian Cabot. He’s here because he’s in the Hugo nominated The Time Machine as Dr. Philip Hillyer. Several years later, he’ll be in the animated The Sword in the Stone voicing both Lord Ector and The Narrator. Likewise he’d be Bagheera in The Jungle Book, and The Narrator in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Lastly he shows up in the Sandman film as Count, Conrad Nagel Theater. (Died 1977.)
  • Born July 6, 1945 — Burt Ward, 76. Robin in that Batman series. He would reprise the role in voicing the character in The New Adventures of Batman and Legends of the Superheroes, and two recent animated films, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face. (Has anyone seen these?) The latter are the last work done by Adam West before his death. 
  • Born July 6, 1951 — Rick Sternbach, 70. Best known for his work in the Trek verse sharing with Star Trek: The Motion Picture where he designed control panel layouts and signage for the Enterprise. He’s next hired for Next Gen where communicator badge, phasers, PADDs and tricorders are all based on his designs. These designs will also be used on DS9 and Voyager. He also pretty much designed every starship during that time from the Cardassian and Klingon ships  to the Voyager itself. He would win the Best Professional Artist Hugos at SunCon and IguanaCon II, and he was the Artist Guest of Honor at Denvention 3. 
  • Born July 6, 1952 — Hilary Mantel, 69. Though best remembered as the author of the Wolf Hall franchise, she’s actually written some genre fiction. The Mysterious Stranger involves supernatural occurances in a small British town in the Fifities; and Beyond Black is about a psychic who sees more than she wants to. She also indulged in alternative history in the short story, “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher – August 6th 1983”. 
  • Born July 6, 1952 — Geoffrey Rush, 69. First genre role is like the Mystery Men series which I’ll bet everyone has forgotten, followed by House on Haunted HillFinding Nemo and some other genre work as well with his major genre role being as Barbossa in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. And I’ll include his role in Shakespeare in Love as Philip Henslowe even if strictly speaking it’s not genre related as I really, really love that film. 
  • Born July 6, 1946 — Sylvester Stallone, 75. Although I think Stallone made a far less than perfect Dredd, I think the look and feel of the first film was spot on for the 2000 A.D. series which was something the second film, which though it had a perfect Dredd in Karl Urban, utterly lacked. And Demolition Man with him as Sergeant John Spartan was just perfect.
  • Born July 6, 1957 — John Barnes, 64. I read and really liked the four novels in his Thousand Cultures series which are a sort of updated Heinlein-style take on the spread of humanity across the Galaxy. What else by him do y’all like? I see he’s not put out a novel in a decade now, a pity that. Much of his fiction is available at the usual suspects though not most of the Thousand Cultures series.

(8) CLOUD CITY ON HOLD. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] JEDI (cloud computing services) contract with Microsoft cancelled; replacement contracts with both Amazon & Microsoft to be let. Unclear which is to be Master & which to be Padawan. “Pentagon cancels disputed JEDI cloud contract with Microsoft”.

The Pentagon said Tuesday it canceled a disputed cloud-computing contract with Microsoft that could eventually have been worth $10 billion. It will instead pursue a deal with both Microsoft and Amazon and possibly other cloud service providers.

“With the shifting technology environment, it has become clear that the JEDI Cloud contract, which has long been delayed, no longer meets the requirements to fill the DoD’s capability gaps,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

The statement did not directly mention that the Pentagon faced extended legal challenges by Amazon to the original $1 million contract awarded to Microsoft. Amazon argued that the Microsoft award was tainted by politics, particularly then-President Donald Trump’s antagonism toward Amazon’s chief executive officer, Jeff Bezos. Bezos owns The Washington Post, a news outlet often criticized by Trump.

The Pentagon’s chief information officer, John Sherman, told reporters Tuesday that during the lengthy legal fight with Amazon, “the landscape has evolved” with new possibilities for large-scale cloud computing services. Thus it was decided, he said, to start over and seek multiple vendors.

Sherman said JEDI will be replaced by a new program called Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability, and that both Amazon and Microsoft “likely” will be awarded parts of the business, although neither is guaranteed. Sherman said the three other large cloud service providers — Google, IBM and Oracle — might qualify, too.

(9) CROSSING ONE GAME WITH ANOTHER. “Animal Crossing Edition Monopoly arrives in August” reports Yahoo!

Tom Nook apparently isn’t content to sell houses to millions of Animal Crossing: New Horizons players. It seems he wants Monopoly players to fork over their bells as well. That’s right, as leaks suggested in recent days, Animal Crossing Edition Monopoly is on the way.

Rather than the traditional Monopoly format of buying properties and charging other players rent when they land on one of them, you’ll be collecting bugs, fish, fossils and fruit. You’ll also meet some other characters and carry out island tasks. When you stop by Nook’s Cranny, you can use bells to buy decorations, which are worth Nook Miles. Whoever collects the most Nook Miles is the winner….

(10) FURNISH YOUR UFO. “Ikea Believes In Aliens: Their New Assembly Manuals Are Proof” – and Print Magazine posted several pages of examples.

The US government recently released a statement that essentially declared that aliens aren’t not real. With the recent spat of unexplained aerial phenomena, they stopped themselves short of saying “I believe,” X-Files style and offered zero evidence of extraterrestrial life existing.

Because of this announcement, IKEA is ready to open its doors to new customers, especially if they have seven eyes and green lizardy skin. In recent work with Ogilvy Dubai, the beloved furniture brand created a unique collection of assembly manuals explicitly made for, you guessed it, aliens.

At first glance, these manuals might not seem all that different than the brand’s typical guidebooks. When looked at a little closer, you’ll find alien-like creatures and an undecipherable language made precisely for the little beings depicted.

(11) NEW CHAMPION. “The Largest Comet Ever Found Is Making Its Move Into a Sky Near You” says the New York Times.

Astronomers spy rocky and icy wanderers of all shapes and sizes zipping past Earth all the time. But earlier this month, they were flabbergasted when they caught sight of the largest comet they’d ever seen.

One of its discoverers, Pedro Bernardinelli, an astrophysicist at the University of Pennsylvania, conservatively estimates the object’s dusty, icy nucleus is between 62 and 125 miles long. That means this comet is as small as five Manhattan Islands, or it’s larger than the Island of Hawaii. Hale-Bopp, which lit up night skies in the late 1990s with its 25-mile-long nucleus, was long perceived to be a giant among comets. But the nucleus of this comet, Comet C/2014 UN271, “is still two or three Hale-Bopps across,” said Teddy Kareta, a planetary astronomy graduate student at the University of Arizona. “It’s just wild.”

“With a reasonable degree of certainty, it’s the biggest comet that we’ve ever seen,” said Colin Snodgrass, an astronomer at the University of Edinburgh.

The comet is currently inside Neptune’s orbit. Over the next decade, it will scoot toward the inner solar system. More of its ices will be vaporized by the sun’s glare, causing it to effervesce and brighten. In 2031, it will get within a billion miles of the sun — almost but not quite making it to Saturn — before journeying back to the coldest, darkest fringes of our galactic neighborhood.

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers:  Demon Slayer Mugen Train,” the Screen Junkies say that if you’re a fan of the Demon Slayer anime series, you’ll “wipe that Pocky dust off your wall scroll” to see this film.  But if you don’t know anything about the series, you’ll be as confused as someone who starts the MCU with Age of Ultron.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Rob Thornton, Theoryman, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]

Pixel Scroll 6/23/21 Second Stage Lesnerizer

(1) STARTING A STORY. This compelling thread starts here.

(2) BUTLER BIO ON THE WAY. Yesterday’s Oprah Daily acknowledged the author’s birthday with an excerpt from a new biography: “Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler: Excerpt”.

…But the Nebula and Hugo Award-winning author who explored themes of gender fluidity, climate change, authoritarianism, and the rise of Big Pharma is perhaps more widely read now than ever, and that phenomenon is destined to grow with the publication Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler by Ibi Zoboi, due out in January of 2022.

Zoboi, who was a National Book Award finalist for her young adult novel American Street, is not just a Butler devotee, but was mentored by the writer. Now, she has written an ode to her told in poems and prose. Here, Oprah Daily shares an exclusive sneak peak of the forthcoming volume, just in time to say: Happy Birthday Octavia Butler.

(3) THE PLAY’S THE THING. (Except she’s talking about a different play than Hamlet.) Connie Willis shared “Some Midsummer Night’s Dreams for Midsummer Night” on Facebook.

…The first night of our film festival, we watched GET OVER IT, the teen movie with Ben Foster, Kristen Dunst, and Martin Short. Berke, played by Ben Foster, has been dumped by Allison for another guy, so he tries out for the school musical DeFores-Oates (Martin Short) is directing, to try to get her back. He’s helped by Kelly (Kirsten Dunst) who really likes him, but he doesn’t even see her because he’s completely obsessed with getting Hermia back. Sound familiar?

The movie doesn’t do the whole play–there’s no Pyramus and Thisbe and Bottom’s just a walk-on, but there are fairies (including the rapper Sisqo), and a stoned stage crew who double as Puck, and the movie’s surprisingly faithful to the play, except for the ending, when Berke takes things into his own hands. GET OVER IT captures even better than Shakespeare the agony you go through when you’re in love with someone who doesn’t even know you exist.

The second night we watched the 1999 A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT DREAM (or as I call it, the Ally McBeal version,) starring Calista Flockhart and Christian Bale, with Kevin Kline as Bottom and Stanley Tucci as Puck. It’s a good movie overall and lots of stuff I loved–the lovers flee to the woods on bicycles, Puck is very funny and as much of an annoyance to his boss Oberon, Michelle Pfeiffer makes a sexy and funny Titania, and Max Wright is beyond wonderful as the reluctant actor dragged into the play at the last minute to be the Man in the Moon, with a cigarette dangling from his lip and a dog getting into the act.

But there are three moments of true genius in the play…

(4) GOODBYE TO AMAZON. Amanda S. Greene continues her step-by-step explanation of everything involved in shifting her books away from the Amazon platform in “Moving Forward or Onward or Whatever” at Mad Genius Club. There are a lot of issues that require thoughtful decisions.

 …I knew when I started it more would be involved than just uploading my books to the various storefronts or 3rd party aggregator. I hadn’t anticipated having to retrain myself to think in ways I haven’t since going exclusively with Amazon. 

Without going into too much detail, I had to look at how to get my books into the various storefronts, which storefronts I wanted to go with, etc. Initially, I decided to upload direct to BN, Kobo and Apple. I’d use Draft2Digital for the rest. I’ve changed my mind. The time saved alone by using D2D for everything is worth the few pennies per sale I pay to D2D to handle things for me. All I have to do is upload a generic ePub of the book, fill in the blanks and they do the rest. 

There is an added benefit of allowing them to handle it. Draft2Digital has a “sister” site called Books2Read. I’ve mentioned the site before but I am really starting to appreciate how powerful of a tool it can be for a writer. For example, here’s the landing page for Witchfire Burning. It shows the cover, gives the description and below lists other books (showing covers) I’ve written. It’s a much more attractive landing page than the product page at Amazon. If you click on the “get it now” button, it will take you to a new page where you can choose which storefront you want to visit (and I need to update it to pull in the Amazon link). 

The great thing about something like this is you can use it as your landing page for the book on your website…. 

(5) WE INTERRUPT THIS KERFUFFLE. Michael Swanwick offered “A Few Quiet Words of Thanks for the People Putting on Discon III” at Flogging Babel.

Yesterday, I reserved my hotel room for Discon III. And that put me in mind of the first and only time I was on a con committee.

This was in the 1970s, before I made my first sale. I’d only been to a few science fiction conventions but I knew the guy in charge of putting on a con whose name I conveniently forget and, doubtless for reasons of fannish politics, he filled the committee with his friends, despite the fact we none of us had any experience at the tasks we were assigned.

Long story, short. I did a terrible job. And I’ve never volunteered to serve again. Because even if everything goes perfectly, your reward for putting on a convention is not getting to experience it.

So I’d like to express my gratitude to the Discon III staff, both present and past. That includes everybody who quit for reasons of principle and everybody who decided to tough it out, also for reasons of principle.

This has been a star-crossed year for the Worldcon. I won’t bother to list all the problems: Acts of God, acts of Man, acts of Fans. We all know them. It must have been maddening to be at the white-hot center of them all.

Which makes this a good time to say: Thank you.

(6) FINE DISTINCTION. And one of John Scalzi’s comments:

(7) VISIT FROM THE DOCTOR. Jo Martin will be a guest at Gallifrey One: Thirty Second to Midnight, to be held in LA in February 2022.

It’s with great pleasure that we can now announce that JO MARTIN will be joining us next February as a confirmed guest, for her very first Doctor Who convention appearance in North America!

Jo Martin became an immediately beloved part of Doctor Who mythology when she appeared as Ruth Clayton in series 12’s “Fugitive of the Judoon” opposite Jodie Whittaker… a woman who was, in fact, a previously unknown earlier incarnation of the Doctor herself!  As the landmark first Doctor of color to be shown in the long-running series, she also appeared in the season finale “The Timeless Children.”…

(8) ONLINE PROMETHEUS AWARDS TO INCLUDE LFS-REASON PANEL. The Libertarian Futurist Society couch plans for their online award ceremony in these terms:

In 2021, LFS members will have a rare opportunity to watch and enjoy the annual Prometheus Awards ceremony and an interesting related panel discussion for free online – without having to register for a Worldcon.

Reason magazine will be the media sponsor of the hour-plus panel discussion, which will immediately follow the online half-hour Prometheus Awards ceremony for Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame). Reason editor Katherine Mangu-Ward and Reason’s book editor Jesse Walker will join LFS leaders, including board president William H. Stoddard, on the hour-plus panel discussion along with, we hope, the 2021 Prometheus Award-winning novelist (tba).

(9) VETERAN COMICS READER. James Bacon was interviewed by Football Comics Podcast Champ/We are United, as hosts Rab and Gull take a little break from all the footie and have a look at War Comics, covering classic titles like Battle, Commando, Victor, Warlord, and many more. “Champ/We Are United Episode 13: War Comics”.

(10) COSPLAY DATING. Yahoo! says “Singles Dress Up as Creatures for Blind Dates” is the premise of Sexy Beasts.

Given the popularity of The Masked Singer, we can ascertain that viewers enjoy watching people dressed up in strange costumes. And given the general state of reality television over the past two decades, we can also conclude that people enjoy watching people go on bizarre dates. Netflix has endeavored to combine these two irrefutable tenets in one convenient package. Thus, we have Sexy Beasts, in which elaborate-prosthetic-laden singles meet for a night of “nonjudgmental” romance. At least that’s how they’re touting it. Take a look at the trailer, which features dolphins, demons, canids, scarecrows, insects, bovines, and a handful of uncategorizables….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 23, 1976 — On this date in 1976, Logan’s Run premiered. It was directed by Michael Anderson and produced by Saud David. The screenplay by David Zelag Goodman is based on the 1967 Logan’s Run novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. It starred Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan, Roscoe Lee Browne, Farrah Fawcett, and Peter Ustinov. Though critical reception was at best mixed, it was a box success and is considered to have MGM from financial ruin. It was nominated at SunCon, a year in which no film was awarded a Hugo. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an excellent sixty-seven percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 23, 1945 — Eileen Gunn, 76. Her story “Coming to Terms” based on her friendship with Avram Davidson won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Her stories are in Stable Strategies and OthersSteampunk Quartet and Questionable Practices. With L. Timmel Duchamp, she penned The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 2: Provocative Essays on Feminism, Race, Revolution, and the Future. She’s well stocked at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born June 23, 1951 — Greg Bear, 70. Blood Music which won both a Nebula Award and a Hugo Award is an amazing read. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery. He’s deeply stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born June 23, 1953 — Russell Mulcahy, 68. You’ll likely remember him as directing Highlander, but he was responsible also for Highlander II: The Quickening, but disowned it after the completion-bond company really messed with production. He would later released this film in Highlander II: The Renegade Version. He also directed episodes of The HungerOn The BeachPerversions of Science and Tales from The Crypt
  • Born June 23, 1957 — Frances McDormand, 64. She’s God. Well at least The Voice of God in Good Omens. Which in on Amazon y’all. Her first genre role was in the “Need to Know” episode of Twilight Zone followed shortly thereafter by being Julie Hastings in Sam Raimi’s excellent Dark Man. She’s The Handler in Æon Flux and that’s pretty much everything genre worth noting. 
  • Born June 23, 1963 — Cixin Liu, 58. He’s a winner of a Hugo Award  for The Three-Body Problem and a Locus Award for Death’s End. He also a nine-time recipient of the Galaxy Award, the Chinese State sponsored SFF Awards. Anyone got a clue what’s going on with the alleged Amazon production of The Three-Body Problem as a film? Is it still on? 
  • Born June 23, 1964 — Joss Whedon, 57. I think I first encounter him with the Buffy tv series. And I hold that Angel was far better told. Firefly was a lovely series that ended far too soon. And don’t get me started on the Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Born June 23, 1972 — Selma Blair, 49. Liz Sherman in Hellboy, and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. She voiced the character also in the animated Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood and Iron as well. She’s Stevie Wayne in The Fog, a slasher film a few years later and was Cyane on the “Lifeblood” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. Later on, she’d be Jessica Harris in the “Infestation” episode of Lost in Space. 
  • Born June 23, 2000 — Caitlin Blackwood, 21. She was the young Amelia Pond in these Doctor Who episodes; “The Eleventh Hour”, “The Big Bang”, “Let’s Kill Hitler”, and “The God Complex”, and had a cameo in “The Angels Take Manhattan”.  She’s the cousin of Karen Gillan who plays the adult Pond. No idea how she was cast in the role but it was brilliantly inspired casting!

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld’s cartoon for New Scientist.

(14) WELCOME TO THE NEW WORLD. CrimeReads excerpts a new history of comic books by Paul S. Hirsch: “The Early, Wild, Exploited, and Sometimes Radical Days of the Comic Book Industry in America”.

The American comic book is inseparable from foreign policy, the great twentieth-century battles between capitalism and totalitarianism, and the political goals of the world’s preeminent military and cultural power. The history of the American comic book is a story of visual culture, commerce, race, and policy. These four fields are analogous to the four colors used to print comic books: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. They lie atop one another, smearing, blending, and bleeding to create a complete image. To separate them is to disassemble a coherent whole and to shatter a picture that in its entirety shows us how culture and diplomacy were entangled during the mid-twentieth century.

THE EARLY YEARS, 1935–1945

The period from 1935 to 1945 was defined by images of darkness and light. The comic industry itself—populated by otherwise unemployable immigrants, racial minorities, and political radicals—emerged from the shadows of the New York publishing world….

(15) BOOK RESURRECTION. “’Most of Australia’s literary heritage is out of print’: the fight to rescue a nation’s lost books” in The Guardian.

…This is the unfortunate fate of most books, even literary prize-winners. In fact, of the 62 books that won Australia’s Miles Franklin Award between 1957 and 2019, 23 are currently not available as ebooks, 40 are not available as audiobooks, and 10 are not available anywhere, in any format whatsoever. They’re officially out of print. This is something that Untapped: The Australian Literary Heritage Project is trying to rectify.

“Untapped is a collaboration between authors, libraries and researchers, and it came about because most of Australia’s literary heritage is out of print. You can’t find it anywhere,” says project lead, Associate Professor Rebecca Giblin from Melbourne Law School at the University of Melbourne. “Think about it. If so many Miles Franklin winners are out of print, you can imagine how bad availability must be for memoir, and histories, and other local stories.”

Untapped’s mission is to digitise 200 of Australia’s most important lost books, preserving them for future generations and making them available through a national network of libraries. They include books such as Anita Heiss’s I’m Not Racist, But … (2007) and Frank Hardy’s The Unlucky Australians (1968). “One exciting thing is that all these books will now be part of the National E-deposit scheme,” Giblin says, referring to the legal requirement for all publishers to provide copies of published works to libraries – a framework only recently extended to electronic publishing. “This means they’ll be preserved forever. These books will now be around as long as we have libraries.”

(16) WEIR Q&A. Suspense Radio, a thriller podcast, interviews Andy Weir: “LaunchpadOne: Interview with Andy Weir”.

Andy Weir built a two-decade career as a software engineer until the success of his first published novel, The Martian, allowed him to live out his dream of writing full-time. He is a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of such subjects as relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. He also mixes a mean cocktail. He lives in California.

(17) ROY HOWARD GOH SPEECH. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Cromcast has a recording of Roy Thomas’ guest of honor speech at the 2021 Robert E. Howard Days in Cross Plains. Lots of interesting stuff about working at Marvel in the 1960s and 1970s, not just Conan related, though there is a lot of that, too. “Howard Days 2021 – When Conan Went Public!”

(18) BUILDING UP THEIR INVENTORY. James Davis Nicoll knows where the cargo in their holds came from — “Risky Business: Five Books About Interplanetary Trade” at Tor.com.

Humans have, starting in prehistoric times (with obsidian, red ochre, etc.), established vast trade networks that cross mountains, deserts, and oceans. Presumably, this will be true in the future as well, even as humanity expands out into SPAAACE. While there are reasons why larger concerns will tend to dominate, the little guys will often provide more engaging narratives. Thus, these five heartwarming tales of working traders enthusiastically engaging in commerce among the stars…

The Trouble Twisters by Poul Anderson (1966)

Hyperdrive gave humans the stars…also vast fortunes to Polesotechnic League merchant princes like Nicolas van Rijn. Great men cannot be everywhere, however, which is why this collection of short pieces focuses not on van Rijn but his employee, David Falkayn (don’t worry! David eventually gets into management by marrying the boss’s beautiful daughter). Whether upending religious prohibitions, obtaining state secrets, or intervening in bitter ethnic strife, Falkayn and his co-workers always find the solution that delivers profit.

Long after the events in this book, Falkayn would become disenchanted with the League’s conscience-blind focus on immediate profits. This would have regrettable implications for Falkayn’s relationship with van Rijn, but without actually saving the League or humanity from the consequences of the League’s short-sighted policies. But at least they generated lots of profit for the shareholders before the League-armed space barbarians descended from the skies….

(19) SPIDER-MAN BEYOND. A Marvel press release tells me – “Stay tuned tomorrow for information on this exciting new Amazing Spider-Man era from Kelly Thompson, Saladin Ahmed, Cody Ziglar, Patrick Gleason, and Zeb Wells!”

(20) MARVEL MARKETING. Did that previous item come from this guy? This video from Screen Rant, which dropped today, features Ryan George as master marketer Normantula McMan, who says, “I get butts in seats.  I influence butts in ways you can’t imagine.”  And McMan knows butts, because his grandpa came up with the idea that four out of five doctors recommended a particular smoke!

(21) ASTRONAUTS TO EXPERIENCE TIDE EFEFCT. Yep, here’s the science entry in today’s Scroll courtesy of the AP: “Dirty laundry in space? NASA, Tide tackle cleaning challenge”. It turns out there’s a simple reason why the International Space Station smells like an old gym sock.

How do astronauts do laundry in space? They don’t.

They wear their underwear, gym clothes and everything else until they can’t take the filth and stink anymore, then junk them.

NASA wants to change that — if not at the International Space Station, then the moon and Mars — and stop throwing away tons of dirty clothes every year, stuffing them in the trash to burn up in the atmosphere aboard discarded cargo ships. So it’s teamed up with Procter & Gamble Co. to figure out how best to clean astronauts’ clothes in space so they can be reused for months or even years, just like on Earth.

The Cincinnati company announced Tuesday that it will send a pair of Tide detergent and stain removal experiments to the space station later this year and next, all part of the galactic battle against soiled and sweaty clothes….

(22) RETURN TO SENDER. Yahoo! draws our attention to a remarkable working model: “Fan-Made Captain America Shield Actually Bounces Back”.

…We have to give big props to the YouTuber here. Unlike other “make your own Cap shield” videos, he didn’t go the drone route. Which is kind of cheating. The MCU shield bounces after all, it doesn’t fly. According to their own description, the shield they made was created with carbon fiber with a fiberglass ring, to provide bounce while keeping maximum strength. The shield also magnetically connects to the user’s wrist, and can be thrown overhand just like Cap. We think the final results are pretty darn impressive….

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Hampus Eckerman, Cora Buhlert, James Davis Nicoll, Olav Rokne, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 3/29/21 Listen, Billy Pixel’s Come Unscrolled In File

(1) WOOKIEEPEDIA CONTROVERSY RESOLVED. The Wookieepedia editors’ vote on an “Amendment to naming policy for real-world transgender individuals” discussed in yesterday’s Scroll (Item #2) has been rendered moot by management’s decision that the status quo – using deadnames from production credits – violates the company’s Terms of Use:

…With the creation of our Community Safety team, we have an opportunity to lead on an evolving topic in society at large. That’s why we’ve been actively monitoring this conversation over the last week, including working with members of Wookieepedia’s administration knowing that there are a lot of opinions involved here.

Having reviewed the situation, and in keeping with the evolving understanding of these issues, Fandom has determined that, while it may not have been the intention, knowingly using a deadname in an article title is a violation of our Terms of Use. This is a global determination, meaning it applies to all wikis—including Wookieepedia. Since this supersedes local policies, this vote should be closed and policies should be updated to reflect the Terms of Use. The policy proposal here fits with our Terms of Use. Returning to the previous status quo (deferring to credits despite someone stating what their chosen name is) does not….

This is a final decision and Fandom staff will not be participating in a debate here or elsewhere right now. We will be discussing the topic of content related to the transgender community in greater detail with the Fandom community at large in the near future. We are committed to working with our community, internal teams, and outside experts to build a comprehensive framework to help guide our communities on how to properly create content relating to both fictional characters and real-life individuals who do not fit into outmoded definitions of identity and gender. Our goal is to provide an educational and growth framework for those who do not have real-life experience in these topics but want to learn more about creating inclusive content.

Our communities often spend much time debating the nuance of canon or the particulars of a given content policy, but we must also be willing to engage in challenging conversations about the nuance of external factors surrounding these topics. To that end, when wiki content is talking about real human beings with real needs, they must be respected.

(2) PLUMBING THE DEPTHS. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune calls on a scientist to answer “Which superhero should we call if the Suez Canal gets plugged again?”

…Our first thought was this is obviously a job for Superman, or someone nearly as strong like Thor, Wonder Woman or even the Incredible Hulk.

“Global supply chain blockage make Hulk mad! Hulk smash!” is how we imagine that would play out.

Not so fast, says our friendly neighborhood physics professor.

In addition to being an expert in stuff like amorphous semiconductors, University of Minnesota professor James Kakalios has pondered the physical properties of the superpowerful in his book, “The Physics of Superheroes.”

Kakalios explained that a 1,300-foot-long ship is designed to have its weight supported by water under the length of its hull. So a brute force effort by a single superhero could be counterproductive.

“Tanker ships are not meant to be picked up,” Kakalios said. “Even if supported under its center of mass, there would be enormous twisting forces, called torques, that would snap the vessel in half.”

Kakalios suggested that a better superhero for the job would be DC Comics’ Aquaman or Marvel Comics’ Namor the Sub-Mariner….

(3) FUTURE TENSE. Released this week, the latest in the monthly series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives: “The Trolley Solution” by Shiv Ramdas, about a college professor pitted against a machine. This is the third and final entry in their recent series about the future of learning.

From the moment the text message arrived with an aggressive ping, Ahmed knew something was amiss. Oh, it read innocuously enough, just the one line from Niyati asking if they could have a chat, but he knew better. It was still two weeks before his meeting with the tenure committee, which made it unexpected. Plus, it was Those Words. Whenever someone said that they wanted to have a chat, what they actually meant was that they had something to say to you that they knew you wouldn’t like one bit…. 

It was published along with a response essay by Katina Michael, a scholar of technology, policy, and society: “’The Trolley Solution’: How much of higher ed can be automated?”

Imagine a university without any teachers, just peer learners, open-access resources, and an office space full of high-speed internet-enabled computers, accessible to anyone between 18–30 years of age, regardless of any prior learning. That university is called 42. It does not have any academic instructors; the teachers are the self-starting students who have their eyes set on a job in Big Tech. Aided only by a problem-based learning curriculum, students gain a certificate of completion about three to five years after starting out. They are guaranteed internships in some of the world’s most prestigious firms and have set their sights on launching their careers as coders. 42’s philosophy is steeped in peer-to-peer learning, where human learners themselves spearhead the learning process….

(4) RELEASING A BOOK DURING THE PANDEMIC. Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore presents S.B. Divya, C.L. Clark, Arkady Martine, and Premee Mohamed in conversation on Friday, April 9, 2021 – 2:00 p.m. (Pacific). Register here.

S.B. Divya is a lover of science, math, fiction, and the Oxford comma. She enjoys subverting expectations and breaking stereotypes whenever she can. Divya is the Hugo and Nebula–nominated author of Runtime and co-editor of Escape Pod, with Mur Lafferty. Machinehood is her debut novel from Saga Press.

C.L. Clark graduated from Indiana University’s creative writing MFA. She’s been a personal trainer, an English teacher, and an editor, and is some combination thereof as she travels the world. Her short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, FIYAH, PodCastle and Uncanny. 

Arkady Martine is a speculative fiction writer and, as Dr. AnnaLinden Weller, a historian of the Byzantine Empire and a city planner. Under both names, she writes about border politics, rhetoric, propaganda, and the edges of the world.

Premee Mohamed is a scientist and writer with degrees in molecular genetics and environmental science, but hopes that readers of her fiction will not hold that against her. Her short speculative fiction has been published in a variety of venues.

(5) SPY QUEEN. Francis Hamit is on the third segment of today’s Matthews and Friends podcast talking about his alternative history spy novel, The Queen of Washington. Hamit says, “I go into how I do research, so that may interest some people.” Here is the link: “Matthews and Friends” (3-29-21).

(6) @EATONVERSE IS BACK. Andrew Lippert announced that the official twitter of the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy at UC Riverside is returning to active status. “It will primarily be used to share items and documents from the collections that spark interest or are discovered while processing and working with the collections.” Here’s one of their latest tweets:

(7) STARTING THE NEXT CENTURY. Bradbury 101, produced by Phil Nichols, is a sequel to last year’s audio podcast series, Bradbury 100, which celebrated the centenary year of Bradbury. Here’s what Episode 04 is about —

THE ILLUSTRATED MAN is Ray Bradbury’s 1951 short story collection. As a follow-up to the previous year’s THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, it secured Bradbury’s reputation as a science fiction writer of quality – and at the same time saddled him with the label “science fiction writer” even though most of his fiction after this point was NOT science fiction.

(8) CRACKED FACTS. Item #2 in Cracked’s “13 Scintillating Now-You-Know Facts About Movies, Science, And More” from March 28 remarkably gets some things wrong that were not wrong in the cited source article from Racked (“Meet the Woman Who Invented Cosplay”). Like, Forrest J Ackerman (the unnamed guy) and Morojo (her fan name) were never married.

(9) SHATNER’S 90TH BIRTHDAY WISDOM. “William Shatner Explains Star Trek’s Continued Popularity: ‘We’re on the Verge of Extinction’”. Don’t you know we’re on the eve of destruction? Shat does.

For more than 50 years, even though eras when the franchise was in a lull, Star Trek fandom has been vibrant and strong. Upon his 90th birthday, and turning himself into artificial intelligence, original Star Trek series star William Shatner reflected on why Gene Roddenberry’s vision has so firmly stood the test of time and why it seems to resonate even more strongly today. Shatner was blunt with the situation we find ourselves in during an appearance on PeopleTV‘s Couch Surfing, stating that “We’re on the verge of extinction. We are poisoning ourselves out of life, and the Earth will survive and this little cancer, mankind, that’s growing all around her will die off the way a body gets a temperature and kills the germs off. Mother Earth will get rid of us because we’re a pestilence. But we don’t have to be. And we can join with the rest of life that makes it here on Earth with equanimity.”

(10) NIMOY MONUMENT PLANNED. “Nimoy Family and Boston’s Museum of Science Announce Vulcan Salute Monument” reports StarTrek.com. The project was announced on Nimoy’s birthday, March 26.

The Museum of Science, Boston, one of the world’s largest science centers and one of Boston’s most popular attractions, in collaboration with the family of Leonard Nimoy, legendary actor of the historic television series, Star Trek, today, announced the development of a monument honoring the Boston native to be located at the Museum of Science.

The 20-foot, illuminated, stainless steel monument, designed by artist David Phillps, will be shaped in the famous “Live Long and Prosper” hand gesture that the actor’s character Mister Spock was known for. It will be located in front of the Museum, at Science Park, welcoming visitors and Star Trek fans from around the world.

The Museum wants to raise a million dollars for the Leonard Nimoy Memorial.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 29, 1968 –On this date in 1968, Star Trek’s “Assignment: Earth” first aired as part of the second season. Guest starring Robert Lansing as Gary Seven and Terri Garr as Roberta Lincoln, our crew which has time-travelled to 1968 Earth for historical research encounters an interstellar agent and Isis, his cat, who are planning to intervene in Earth history. It was intended as a pilot for an Assignment: Earth series that Gene Roddenberry planned but that never happened.

Interesting note: The uncredited human form of Isis was portrayed by actress, dancer, and contortionist April Tatro, not Victoria Verti, actress (in Rosemary’s Baby under the name of Angela Dorian) and Playboy Playmate of the previous year, as would become part of Trek lore.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 29, 1914 – Roy Hunt.  Program Book for Denvention I the 3rd Worldcon.  Here is his cover.  Here is the Pacificon I Combozine (4th Worldcon).  Here is a cover for The Gorgon, used on five issues 1947-1948.  Here is an illustration for “The Ghost” (Van Vogt, 1948).  Here is vol. 1 no. 2 of Fantasy Book.  Here is the LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) coat of arms, which he designed.  Here is the Dec 59 New Frontiers.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1926 – Tom Adams.  Two short stories, eight covers, five interiors for us; much else, poetry prints, light shows e.g The Jimi Hendrix Experience, covers for Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie; a copy of AC’s Death in the Clouds with TA’s cover appears in the Dr. Who episode “The Unicorn and the Wasp” (10th Doctor).  Here is Needle in a Timestack.  Here is Patron of the Arts.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1930 John Astin, 91. He is best known for playing as Gomez Addams in Addams Family, reprising it on the Halloween with the New Addams Family film and the Addams Family animated series. A memorable later role would be as Professor Wickwire in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., and I’d like to single out his delightfully weird appearance on The Wild Wild West as Count Nikolai Sazanov in “The Night of the Tartar” episode. (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1943 Eric Idle, 78. Monty Python is genre, isn’t it? If not, I know that The Adventures of Baron MunchausenYellowbeardMonty Python and the Holy GrailQuest for CamelotShrek the Third and Nearly Departed, an updated version of Topper, which he all had a hand in certainly are. And it turns out he’s written a witty SF novel, The Road to Mars: A Post-Modern Novel, which involves an Android, comedy and interplanetary travel. (CE)
  • Born March 29, 1944 – Linn Prentis.  Began working as an agent for Virginia Kidd, then her own agency with offices in Washington State and New York.  Among her clients, Kage Baker, Patricia Briggs, Rick Bowes, A.M. Dellamonica, James Morrow.  Prentis Literary continues.  (Died 2016 – on December 24th, alas) [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1947 Patricia Anthony. Flanders is one damn scary novel. A ghost story set in WW I it spooked me for nights after I read it and I don’t spook easily. Highly recommended.  James Cameron purchased the movie rights to  her Brother Termite novel and John Sayles wrote a script, but the movie has not been produced. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1956 Mary Gentle, 65. Her trilogy of Rats and GargoylesThe Architecture of Desire and Left to His Own Devices is a stunning work of alternate history with magic replacing science. I also highly recommend her Grunts! novel. Gamers particularly will love it. She has a cyberpunk novel, Left To His Own Devices, but I’ve not read it. Who here has read it? I’m surprised that she hasn’t been nominated for any Hugo Awards according to ISFDB database. (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1957 Elizabeth Hand, 64. Not even going to attempt to summarize her brilliant career. I will say that my fav works by her are Wylding HallIllyria and Mortal Love. We did do an entire edition at Green Man on her and I need to update it to the present site. It’s got a neat conversation with her on what her favorite foods are. (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1963 – Michelle Mitchell-Foust, Ph.D., age 58.  Two poetry books; two anthologies (with Tony Barnstone), Poems Dead and Undead and Poems Human and Inhuman (also called Monster Verse).  Elixir Press Poetry Prize, Columbia University Poetry Prize, Missouri Arts Council Biennial Award.  [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1968 Lucy Lawless, 53. Xena in Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Cylon model Number Three D’Anna Biers on that Battlestar Galactica series. She also played Countess Palatine Ingrid von Marburg, the last of a line of Germanic witches on the Salem series. Her most recent genre role as Ruby Knowby, one of the Dark Ones, on the Ash vs Evil Dead series. Though not genre, she was Lucretia in  Spartacus: Blood and Sand, its prequel Spartacus: Gods of the Arena and its sequel Spartacus: Vengeance. (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1978 –  Nerine Dorman, age 43.  Four novels for us, a score of shorter stories; half a dozen anthologies.  Won a Nommo and a Sanlam Gold.  Has read The Count of Monte CristoThe Master and MargaritaThe Big TimeThe Stars My DestinationDouble StarWho?  [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1990 – Kiran Millwood Hargrave, age 31.  Poet, playwright, novelist.  Three novels for us.  Waterstone Children’s Book Prize, British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year, Blackwell Children’s Book of the Year.  First novel for adults opened at No. 1 on The Times (i.e. of London) Bestseller Chart.  “Our parents took us everywhere – Jordan, India, China….  India is particularly special to me as my mum is from there.”  From The Girl of Ink & Stars: ‘A myth is something that happened so long ago that people like to pretend it’s not real, even when it is.’  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest discover robots with ethical problems – according to their designers.

(14) WISHBONER. Some show-biz pros are asking what turkey thought up this idea: “Comic-Con Criticized for In-Person Thanksgiving Weekend Event” in The Hollywood Reporter.

San Diego Comic-Con will return this year with an in-person convention during Thanksgiving weekend.

The pop culture event will host a “Comic-Con Special Edition” at the San Diego Convention Center from November 26-28. The announcement comes less than a month after Comic-Con International announced a virtual event would be held this summer due to uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic and the risk of large-scale gatherings. The three-day Comic-Con@Home virtual event is set for July 23-25.

“It is our hope that by Fall conditions will permit larger public gatherings,” an announcement for the event said. “Comic-Con Special Edition will be the first in-person convention produced by the organization since Comic-Con 2019, and the first since the onset of the global pandemic COVID-19. The Fall event will allow the organization to highlight all the great elements that make Comic-Con such a popular event each year, as well as generate much needed revenue not only for the organization but also for local businesses and the community.”

…The announcement for an in-person Thanksgiving weekend event received immediate criticism across social media, with many noting the pandemic impacted the ability for many to be with their families during the holidays last year.

“So they scheduled #SDCC on the same weekend as the first chance most families will (hopefully) be fully able to celebrate Thanksgiving in two years. See you in 2022!” Charles Soule, writer and author for Daredevil and She-Hulk, shared on Twitter.

“Sure. Make it during the one non-denominational fall holiday weekend in U.S., w/ always peak airfare prices. And I’m sure A-list celebs will LOVE doing this. Black Friday, indeed,” author Tara Bennett wrote.

Linda Ge, who writes for CW’s new series Kung Fu, also tweeted “Does Comic-Con realize that most people didn’t get to spend last Thanksgiving with their families because of the pandemic? #SDCC”

(15) C3PO, R2D2, AND BBQ€590. This summer you could be “grilling from another galaxy” with the Star Wars-inspired Galaxy Grill for a mere 590 Euros.

Amaze your friends with a real space vehicle – they will definitely join the dark side with you.

(16) TECH SKEPTIC. In the Washington Post, Dalvin Brown says the likelihood you will have a robot with legs helping you in your home is very small, because robots are expensive, heavy (what happens if a robot falls on you?) and robots with humanlike hands are really expensive.  “Robots don’t know much about the world they’re operating in, so a robot needs a great deal of education to learn where things are in your house.” “For all the hype, robots are limited in what they can do in your home”.

… But how likely is it that you’ll ever be able to own a true robotic butler?

Robots are indeed getting more complex. As AI continues to advance, it allows machines to figure out more complex problems and reliably chat with humans. Still, robotics and AI firms say you’ll have to wait quite some time before you’re able to own anything remotely similar to Rosey the Robot from “The Jetsons.”

In fact, companies are having a hard time commercializing anything more complex than a Roomba — which has been vacuuming houses for 20 years.

… Right now, robots are doing well in factories where there’s plenty of space, no small kids around and employees wearing protective gear. They’re really good at completing a single repetitive task, like screwing on a wheel.

But imagine introducing machinery with legs and lifting capabilities into your home where things can and do go wrong. What if it falls on someone, or a software update causes it to go haywire? It’s funny on “The Jetsons,” but it wouldn’t be so comical if your grandmother were on the receiving end….

(17) RYAN GEORGE. In “Godzilla Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says the producer is happy that the son of Bryan Cranston’s character is named Ford because “selling your son’s name as advertising space is tight!”  (The producer’s three sons are Ben, Jerry, and Outback Steakhouse.)

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Filers will remember when OwlKitty entered the Lord of The Rings.  But in “Godzilla v. Cat (OwlKitty Parody)” on YouTube, OwlKitty takes on Godzilla!

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Chris R., JJ, Cat Eldridge, David K. M. Klaus, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, David Doering, Andrew Porter, Joey Eschrich, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 2/7/21 Scroll Nine From Filer Space

(1) HWA YIELDS TO SAFETY CONCERNS. This year’s StokerCon will be virtual: “StokerCon™ 2021 Special Announcement”. The virtual event will keep the announced May 20 to 23 dates. Next-year’s in-person event will take place in Denver at the same hotel they intended to use in 2021.

The Horror Writers Association has made the difficult decision to shift StokerCon™ 2021 from an in-person event to a virtual platform during its originally scheduled May 20 to 23 dates. With the ongoing pandemic, the emergence of viral variants, and the broad range of travel obstacles around the world, we have deemed this to be the safest, most responsible way to hold the event.

As might be expected with an event of this size, switching to a virtual footing poses many challenges, but Con co-chairs, James Chambers and Brian Matthews; HWA President, John Palisano; Vice President, Meghan Arcuri; Administrator, Brad Hodson; and the officers and trustees of the HWA Board have made significant progress in executing this change.  Our hope is to preserve the spirit of StokerCon and create an event that will resemble as closely as possible our usual programming—panels, presentations, interviews, author readings, ceremonies, and the Bram Stoker Awards® presentation. At this time our plans include the Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference, Librarians’ Day, Horror University, and the Final Frame Film Competition. And while we won’t be able to gather in the same place, all attendees of this virtual StokerCon will receive—or, outside the U.S., have the option to receive—a printed copy of the beautiful souvenir book created and edited by Josh Viola and HEX Publishing….

(2) BOSKONE’S INTERVIEW SERIES. Boskone 58, to be held February 12-14 has been running a series of interview posts.

Dr. Gillian Polack

…If you were planning a holiday or vacation and could visit any location, whether in the real world or fictional worlds, where would you go? Why? 

I love portal fantasies. I always dreamed of the doors in other peoples’ writing and of walking through those doors into enchanted lands. Then I wrote my own. I now want to visit the house in Borderlanders and travel to strange places. I seldom want to visit anywhere I’ve written about, for I know all the downsides of all the places, but doors that lead to hidden seas or to rooms lined with liquid glass? That’s different.

Here are links to more mini-interviews:

(3) HOUR AFTER HOUR. Jim Freund is “Celebrating 50 years of Hour of the Wolf, his WBAI radio show.

Hour of the Wolf premiered in early 1971, somewhere between January and early March. I was to engineer the majority of her programs. Adler came up with the title, taken from the 1967 Ingmar Bergman film of the same name starring Liv Ullman and Max von Sydow. Initially there was no consistent opening music theme until early 1972, when we saw the environmentally-aware science fiction movie Silent Running. The best thing in the film (IMO) was the fabulous soundtrack by Peter Schickele of P.D.Q. Bach fame. There is a grand scene in the movie in which we see small robots caring for and watering the last trees in existence; the camera then pans out to an exterior perspective showing us that this is one of many ships set up as environmental domes. The name of this music is “The Space Fleet,” and once we found a copy in a bin in a 69-cent store, it became the official theme music of the show….

…In 1973, Margot and I both passed the entrance qualifications for the Clarion West Science Fiction Writers Workshop — an intense six-week seminar that featured a different teacher each week that was a veritable Who’s Who of progressive writing in the era. I could not afford to go to Seattle for that long, much less the entrance fee, plane fare, and room and board. Furthermore, Margot told me if I could not go, I would take over Hour of the Wolf in her absence. And that’s what happened. When Margot came back, she was offered a 7-9 AM slot twice a week, which fit her schedule better, and it was agreed that I would stay over after Hour of the Wolf and engineer her show as well….

(4) BE SERIOUS. While the BBC hasn’t said Jodie Whittaker is moving on, speculation is rife – and Radio Times’ Huw Fullerton scoffs at the rumored replacements. “The next Doctor and why all the guesses are wrong”.

… Every single time we start talking about who the next Doctor should be, people invariably start suggesting names so absurd and unlikely that you have to wonder if they’ve recently returned from a parallel universe, where appearing in a popular British sci-fi series is the pinnacle of creative and financial achievement.

Tilda Swinton? Richard Ayoade? Idris Elba? If people seriously think these sort of names are realistic, they haven’t been paying attention to the way the show is made, or its demands. It’s like watching the judges on The Masked Singer confidently predicting that Brad Pitt has decided to dress up as a talking clock and sing ballads on ITV primetime – while technically possible, not a suggestion that anyone could really take seriously….

(5) PRO TIPS. Lou J. Berger drew on his 15 years of experience for this writing advice on Facebook.

… The second bit of advice is to write for yourself, first and foremost. If you are changing your manuscript because you know exactly how each of your critique partners will judge it, see the above advice about finding a new group. The value of a strong critique group will ALWAYS be better than writing in a vacuum. Unless there’s toxicity. Then get the hell out, immediately.

Writing for yourself means that you write something you want to read. And when you read it through other people’s eyes, you are catering to another person’s will. We’ve been through enough in our lives, bending to the will of others. Don’t let your prose get sullied by that same desperate need to conform. It is in the writing of your HEART that you will find release, and the passions that stir you, in the quiet hallways of your own mind, deserve the treatment that only you, and you alone, can give them. Write your HEART and let the others be damned. If there’s one thing in this godforsaken world that you can lay claim to, it is your innermost, private thoughts, and they shall always be yours, the true essence of what makes you unique….

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 7, 1992 The Ray Bradbury Theater aired “The Utterly Perfect Murder” episode. Based on a short story by Bradbury, it concerns the long anticipated revenge of a boy tormented in his childhood who now thinks he has plotted the utterly perfect murder. It’s directed by Stuart Margolian, and stars Richard Kiley, Robert Clothier and David Turri. You can watch it here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 7, 1478 – Sir Thomas More.  Recognized as a saint in the Catholic Church.  Renowned among us for Utopia, which would be just fine if we read it carefully enough to realize that, as Lafferty had a fictional TM repeat in Past Master, it’s a satire.  (Died 1535) [JH]
  • Born February 7, 1812 – Charles Dickens.  Many of us know “A Christmas Carol”, with ghosts; he wrote fourscore more fantastic stories, among much else he is still famous for; some say he believed the end of Mr. Krook in Bleak House was possible, others call it fantasy.  I can’t let CD’s greatness go without saying, but it’s mostly outside our field.  (Died 1870) [JH]
  • Born February 7, 1883 – John Taine.  A dozen novels, three shorter stories.  Under another name he earned a Ph.D., taught math at Cal Tech, wrote Men of Mathematics which he wanted to entitle The Lives of Mathematicians, and several others, The Queen of the SciencesThe Handmaiden of the SciencesThe Development of MathematicsMathematics: Queen and Servant of Science, of substantial literary ability in this subject which is far easier to do than to write prose about.  (Died 1960) [JH]
  • February 7, 1908 Buster Crabbe. He played the lead roles in the Tarzan the FearlessFlash Gordon, and Buck Rogers series in the Thirties, the only person to do so although other actors played some of those roles.  He would show up in the Seventies series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as a retired fighter pilot named Brigadier Gordon. (Died 1983.) (CE)
  • Born February 7, 1913 – Henry Hasse.  His superb “He Who Shrank” is in the superb Healy-McComas anthology Adventures in Time and Space.  Since this is File 770, I’ll note HH is named co-author of Ray Bradbury’s “Pendulum”, Sep 41 Super Science Stories, which I understand is RB’s first publication in a prozine.  A story “The Pendulum” appeared in the Fall 39 Futuria Fantasia, RB’s fanzine.  The Kent State Univ. Collected Stories of RB vol. 1 lists both: do you know how they differ?  I can’t get at these sources just now.  But we digress.  One novel; twoscore more shorter stories, two with RB, two with Emil Petaja, two with Albert de Pina.  (Died 1977) [JH]
  • Born February 7, 1921 – John Baltadonis.  Today is the hundredth birth-anniversary of this fannish giant (he was in fact 6’2″ [1.9 m] tall).  See the note about him yesterday, No. 6 in the Pixel Scroll.  Don’t neglect his fanart; we did during his life, he never had enough Best Fanartist nominations even to reach the Hugo ballot.  [JH]
  • February 7, 1949 Alan Grant, 72. He’s best known for writing Judge Dredd in 2000 AD as well as various Batman titles from the late 1980s to the early 2000s.  If you can find it, there’s a great Batman / Judge Dredd crossover “Judgement on Gotham” that he worked on. His recent work has largely been for small independents including his own company. (CE)
  • February 7, 1950 Karen Joy Fowler, 71. Michael Toman in a letter to our OGH asked we note her Birthday as he has a “A Good Word for one of his favorite writers” and so do I. Her first work was “Recalling Cinderella” in L Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Vol I. Her later genre works are Sarah Canary, the Black Glass collection and  the novel The Jane Austen Book Club, is not SF though SF plays a intrinsic role in it, and two short works of hers, “Always” and ““The Pelican Bar” won significant Awards. Her latest genre novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, is being adored far and wide. (CE)
  • February 7, 1952 Gareth Hunt. Mike Gambit in The New Avengers, the two-season revival of The Avengers that also starred Joanna Lumley as Purdey and Patrick Macnee as John Steed. Quite excellent series. He was also Arak in the Third Doctor story, “Planet of The Spiders”. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • February 7, 1955 Miguel  Ferrer. You likely best remember him as OCP VP Bob Morton in  RoboCop  who came to a most grisly death. Other notable genre roles include playing FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield on Twin Peaks and USS Excelsior helm officer in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. In a very scary role, he was Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning in Brave New World.  Lastly I’d like to note that he did voice work in the DC Universe at the end of his life, voice Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz) in Justice League: The New Frontier and Deathstroke (Slade Joseph Wilson) in Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. (Died 2017.) (CE) 
  • February 7, 1960 James Spader, 61. Most recently he did the voice and motion-capture for Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron. No, I did not enjoy that film, nor the Ultron character. Before that, he played Stewart Swinton in Wolf, a Jack Nicholson endeavor. Then of course he was Daniel Jackson in Stargate, a film I still enjoy though I think the series did get it better. He also plays Nick Vanzant in Supernova andJulian Rome in Alien Hunter. (CE)
  • Born February 7, 1990 – Jessica Khoury, age 30.  Seven novels. “Read as much as you can, in as many genres as you can.  Read insatiably.  Read ingredients on your food.  Read warning labels on heavy machinery.  Read the newspaper, read magazines, read manga”.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) SAME BAT CHANNEL, SAME BAT BROKEN RECORD. Busted again: “AWKKKKKK! Batman No. 1 Sells for $2.2 Million” reports Print.

Last week, reported The Hollywood Reporter, a near-mint copy of the Batman No. 1 comic, published in 1940, “sold as part of Heritage Auction’s comics and comic art events. … The final price was $2,220,000, which included the buyer’s premium fee.” Just in case you’re worrying about how you’re going to pay your monthly health insurance premium or children’s college tuition, that number, to repeat, was $2,220,000—a record for “the most expensive Batman comic ever sold.”

Does that mean that other comic books have sold for more? Well, according to Helen Stoilas in The Art Newspaper, “The rare 1940 issue, which marks the first appearance of the Joker and Catwoman, is the second most-expensive comic book ever sold. Even before the live sale opened on Thursday [Jan. 14], the start of Heritage’s four-day Comics and Comic Art event, online pre-bidding for the comic book had shot up to $1.9 million. Its sale of $2.22 million, to a U.S. bidder on the auction house’s online HA Live platform, knocked out the previous Batman record holder, a copy of 1939’s Detective Comics #27, which introduced the character to the world and sold for $1.5 million at Heritage this past November.”

(10) THROWBACK TEAM. “Justice Society: World War II” on YouTube is a trailer for a new WB cartoon about the original matchup of DC superheroes.

(11) CATCHING UP TO FANDOM. The New York Times shows why “‘Bridgerton’ Is Just the Beginning”.

It’s a world of corsets, stays and chemises. Of weskits, bum rolls, breeches and hoop panniers. For actors, wearing period costume has long meant literally stepping into the past: lacing soft modern flesh into antique shapes and learning how to use the toilet without peeling off multiple layers.

“Bridgerton,” Shonda Rhimes’s racially diverse Netflix series set in 1813 England, has suddenly ignited new interest in Regency fashions. But a global community of hobbyists has been designing, making and wearing clothing from the 19th century and earlier for many years. Long a private obsession fueled by films like “The Leopard” and “Pride and Prejudice,” social media has widened the conversation, with fans of all ages and backgrounds worldwide now trading notes on how best to trim a sleeve or adjust a straw bonnet.

Pre-pandemic, they gathered in Los Angeles at Costume College, an annual conference, at Venice’s Carnival and the Fêtes Galantes at Versailles. Some lucky Europeans, like Filippa Trozelli, find themselves invited to wear their historical clothing to private parties at ancient local estates….

(12) THE FINAL CAT FRONTIER. “Star Trek Enterprise Cat Tree: Bolding Going Where No Cat Has Gone Before” at Technabob. I’m thinking the cats shown posing on this tree might easily be mistaken for aliens.

A USS Enterprise and Deep Space Nine themed cat tree: it’s what every Star Trek loving feline owner’s home has been missing. And now thanks to Etsy seller CE360designs, you can finally fill that void with a custom Star Trek Enterprise 1701D and DS9 Wood Cat Tower. You know they say good things come in small packages, but I imagine this box being on the larger side.

According to the sales copy, “The bottom is a wormhole but can be a Borg ship.”

(13) MARS SPINOFFS. The space agency tells how “NASA’s Perseverance Pays Off Back Home”.

A laser-light sensor that can identify bacteria in a wound may sound far-fetched, but it’s already becoming a reality, thanks in part to NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. The technology is going to Mars for the first time on Perseverance, which will touch down on the Red Planet in February, but it’s already detecting trace contaminants in pharmaceutical manufacturing, wastewater treatment, and other important operations on Earth.

That’s not the only technology headed to Mars that’s already paying dividends on the ground. Here on Earth, these innovations are also improving circuit board manufacturing and even led to a special drill bit design for geologists….

(14) SLOW WOOD? That’s what Michael J. Walsh asked after reading CBC Radio’s article: “Scientists develop transparent wood that is stronger and lighter than glass”.

Researchers at the University of Maryland have turned ordinary sheets of wood into transparent material that is nearly as clear as glass, but stronger and with better insulating properties. It could become an energy efficient building material in the future.

Wood is made of two basic ingredients: cellulose, which are tiny fibres, and lignin, which bonds those fibres together to give it strength.

Tear a paper towel in half and look closely along the edge. You will see the little cellulose fibres sticking up. Lignin is a glue-like material that bonds the fibres together, a little like the plastic resin in fibreglass or carbon fibre. The lignin also contains molecules called chromophores, which give the wood its brown colour and prevent light from passing through.

Early attempts to make transparent wood involved removing the lignin, but this involved hazardous chemicals, high temperatures and a lot of time, making the product expensive and somewhat brittle. The new technique is so cheap and easy it could literally be done in a backyard….

(15) DAVIDSON READ ALOUD. The Avram Davidson Universe is a podcast dedicated to the life work and impact of award-winning author, Avram Davidson. Episode 6 features “Alan Dean Foster & “Help! I Am Dr. Morris Goldpepper”.  It’s a very funny science fiction story about dentists. 

In each episode, we perform a reading and discussion of his works with a special guest. Avram Davidson (1923–1993) was a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and crime fiction. Davidson was born in Yonkers, NY and and served in the Navy during World War II. His life work includes 19 novels and over 200 short stories, all of which have been widely recognized for their wit and originality. Davidson’s works have won awards in three genres: an Edgar Award for mystery, a Hugo Award for science fiction, and three World Fantasy Awards.

(16) SUPER BOWL COMMERCIAL. The most genre of today’s TV spots was “Edward Scissorhands – Cadillac Super Bowl Commercial”.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Professor Layton” on Honest Game Trailers, Fandom Games says that while Professor Layton is “the world’s worst Sherlock Holmes cosplayer” the game’s many quizzes should appeal to fans of “anime, Agatha Christie, and people who enjoy the puzzle section in the newspaper.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, JJ, Will R., Darrah Chavey, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Michael J. Walsh, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 1/25/221B Baker Street

(1) PAY TO CO$PLAY? [Item by Dann.] The Japanese government is considering a change in that nation’s copyright laws to cover professional cosplayers.  The change would require professional cosplayers to pay the creators of various characters for permission to dress up as those characters.

The intent of the proposed law is to leave amateur cosplayers alone.  However, there are concerns that amateur cosplayers that share images of themselves in costume via social media (i.e. Instagram, etc.) could run afoul of the law as it currently being considered. Kotaku has the story — “The Japanese Government Could Change Cosplay Forever”.

…As writer and translator Matt Alt points out, the Japanese government is currently considering changing the country’s copyright laws, so that professional cosplayers would pay for use of characters.

Cosplay can be big business. Japan’s most successful professional cosplay Enako (pictured) has made over $90,000 a month from public appearances, merchandise, photobooks, chat sessions, and endorsements. Other cosplayers also earn cash for selling photos or clips of them dressed as famous characters. Creators don’t currently get a cut, and the amendment would change this. Moreover, it’s suggested that a standardized set of rules would help avoid any trouble with creators.

According to Kyodo News, Japanese copyright law is unclear but points out that cosplay done without a profit motive is not necessarily infringement. So, for many cosplayers in Japan, things will probably not change. However, Kyodo News adds that even uploading cosplay photos to social networking sites like Instagram could be considered copyright infringement. If so, the effects would be felt throughout the cosplay community.

(2) NOW THAT THEY’VE SETTLED. Andrew Liptak reports “Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman Announce New Dragonlance Trilogy” at Tor.com.

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman are officially returning to the Dragonlance franchise. Weis announced today that she and her writing partner will be writing a new trilogy set to follow their classic fantasy novels with Del Rey Books, with the first installment to tentatively hit stores later this year.

… The pair began writing the trilogy in 2018, but last year, word broke that the pair had sued Wizards of the Coast for $10 million for breach of contract, over some issues with the publication process. Back in December, they settled and withdrew the lawsuit, allowing the book series to move forward.

(3) SLF TOPICAL TALK. The SF Bay Area chapter of the Speculative Literature Foundation arranged a video session about “Virology for Writers with Dr. Kishana Taylor”.

Our expert talks conjure our members’ creativity by learning about an academic subject of great interest to speculative fiction writers. It’s hard to think of a more relevant topic for today than virology! Dr. Taylor is a post-doctoral researcher at Carnegie Mellon University. Her work focuses on the role of monocytes in the development of severe COVID-19. She is an alumnus of the Diaz-Munoz Lab at UC-Davis, where she focused on understanding patterns and frequencies of influenza reassortment. The SLF-SF Bay Area is organized by Audrey T. Williams, Rebecca Gomez Farrell, and Jasmine H. Wade. T

(4) SHE HAD ENOUGH SPOONS. In “Exploring the People of Middle-earth: Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, an Unexpected Hero”, Megan N. Fontenot leads Tor.com readers through Tolkien’s drafts and the evolution of a flawed character who nevertheless enjoys a shining moment at the end.

…The conflict between Bilbo and the Sackville-Bagginses, which is arguably the most important aspect of Lobelia’s character in the first chapters of The Lord of the Rings, intensifies with each draft. This is especially true as Tolkien began to put more and more years between the action of his new story and that of The Hobbit.

First, he simply wrote that Bilbo did not remain on “calling-terms” with the Sackville-Bagginses after his unexpected return dashed the latter’s hopes of claiming Bag End. Later, Tolkien added that “The coldness between the Bagginses of Bag End and the Sackville-Bagginses” had gone on for “some seventy-five years and more” (RS 31). In the third version of “The Long-Expected Party,” the conflict between the two families becomes part of Bilbo’s inheritance: in that draft, Bilbo is married and Bingo [Frodo] is his son; Bingo is the one who gives presents, and it is said that he “inherited the belief” in Lobelia’s theft from his father (RS 33)….

(5) A CENTURY OF ROBOTS. [Item by rcade.] One hundred years ago today on January 25, 1921, the word “robot” was introduced in the play RUR (Rossum’s Universal Robots) by Karel Capek. [Latin “c” used because WordPress doesn’t support the correct special character.] The word comes from the Czech “robota” (meaning serf labor or drudgery) and was suggested to him by his brother Josef. “Robot wars: 100 years on, it’s time to reboot Karel Capek’s RUR”.

The original robots weren’t sentient machines made of metal, but instead came from an assembly line of human-like organs. Think more Westworld and less C3P0. Michael Billington of The Guardian describes the play, which he says deserves a modern retelling:

“But what kind of play is it exactly? A dystopian drama attacking science and technology? Up to a point, but it’s much more than that. It starts almost as a Shavian comedy with a do-gooding visitor, Lady Helen Glory, turning up on an island where robots are manufactured out of synthetic matter. She is amazed to discover that a plausibly human secretary is a machine and is equally astonished when the factory’s directors turn out to be flesh and blood creatures rather than robots. With time, the play gets darker as the robots prove to be stronger and more intelligent than their creators and eventually wipe out virtually all humankind. Only a single engineer survives who, a touch improbably, shows two robots transformed by love.”

The play was a sensation and a Kansas City Star journalist wrote in 1922 that “robots” should be pronounced “rubbits.” That didn’t catch on but the word did.

(6) GENTLEMEN, BE SEATED. On the Two Chairs Talking podcast, Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg get together to talk about the best books they read, and the best things they watched in 2020.

David and Perry look back at the books they read during 2020 and pick their favourites in a variety of categories.

Perry and David wind up their discussion of the best books they read in 2020 and roll on to talking about their best movies and television seen during the year.

(7) LOGOS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the January 20 Financial Times, gaming columnist Tom Faber looks at the constructed languages (or ‘conlangs”) in Assassin’s Creed.

The Elder Scrolls:  Skyrim introduces Dovahaul, the language of dragons and magic spells, with a 34-character alphabet made up of scrapes and dots, the only shapes a dragon might reasonably be able to carve into stone. …Cry Proud, set in the stone age, includes two languages that approximate the proto-Indo-European spoken by our ancestors 12,000 years ago.  These are used to voice the entire game by actors coached to speak and emote in ancient tongues.  Games from The Sims to World Of Warcraft and Myst to Animal Crossing have also dabbled in constructed languages.

The conlang created for 2005’s Jade Empire was particularly sophisticated. Tho Fan was the aristocratic language of the game’s fantastical eastern setting, created by a Ph.D student over four months for a budget of about $2,000.  The student tested his 2,500-word vocabulary by translating the first chapter of St John’s Gospel before submitting it to developers.  It was only last autumn, 15 years after the game’s release that the conlang community finally cracked the Tho Fan code.

(8) LANE OBIT. Tim Lane (1951-2021), seven-time Hugo nominee as co-editor of FOSFAX, died January 12. The funeral home notice has these details:

The Alexandria, VA native was a graduate of Purdue University and was a computer programmer. He was a son of the late Lt. Col. Ernest Edward Lane Jr. and Eloise Kathryn Basham Lane.

Graveside services will take place at 11:00 AM Saturday at Sweeden Cemetery. Gravil Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Surviving are his fiance, Elizabeth Garrott of Louisville; a sister, Theodora Kathryn “Teddi” Vaile (Phil) of Atlanta; and a brother, Ernest Edward “Ernie” Lane III (Cathy) of Trinity, FL.

(9) BAER OBIT. “Beloved Disney Animator Dale Baer Dies Age 70” Animation Magazine lists the following (and many more!) credits in its tribute.

We’re sad to report the passing of beloved animator Dale Baer at age 70 from complications due to ALS. A contributor to many beloved Disney Animation features and co-founder of his own studio, The Baer Animation Company, Baer won an Annie for Outstanding Achievement for Character Animation for his work on The Emperor’s New Groove in 2001 and the Winsor McCay Lifetime Achievement award in 2017.

Baer started at Disney Animation in 1971, being only the second person hired into the Studios’ inaugural training program, and went on to contribute to many of the feature films that followed, starting with Robin Hood (1973) and continuing through Frozen”(2013) and beyond.  From his landmark work on Who Framed Roger Rabbit to his supervising roles on The Lion King (adult Simba), The Emperor’s New Groove”(Yzma), The Princess and the Frog (the frog hunters), he was acclaimed and admired by his peers….

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2010 — Ten years ago, Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City wins the Clarke. This South African writer had already won the 2010 Kitschies Red Tentacle for best novel for Zoo City, and it would be nominated for the Otherwise, BSFA and World Fantasy awards as well. The cover artwork received a BSFA award for best art. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 25, 1759 – Robert Burns.  Let’s take a cup of kindness yet for the collector, or author, of “Auld Lang Syne”, which Tony Smith included in Tales to Terrify, as perhaps it does, or should.  Some of RB’s poetry is more definitely ours, e.g. Tam o’ Shanter – here is a Virgil Finlay illustration.  August Derleth put “Death and Dr. Hornbrook” in Dark of the Moon.  There is of course much more, in many moods.  (Died 1796) [JH]
  • Born January 25, 1872 – Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale.  Her work was used for the cover of Don’t Bet on the Prince.  Here is The Uninvited Guest.  Here is Bottom and Titania from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.  She illustrated Browning (see here) and Tennyson (see here), and did stained glass (see here).  You can see all her Golden Book of Famous Women here.  (Died 1945) [JH]
  • Born January 25, 1918 – Armin Deutsch, Ph.D.  His “Subway Named Möbius” is much admired and was on the Retro-Hugo ballot.  He was an astronomer  – our neighbor – at Mt. Wilson and Palomar; was associate editor of the Annual Rev. Astron. & Astrophysics; has a Moon crater named for him.  (Died 1969) [JH]
  • Born January 25, 1943 Tobe Hooper. Responsible for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre which he co-wrote with Kim Henkel. That alone gets him birthday honors. But he directed the Salem’s Lot series, also Poltergeist, Lifeforce and Invaders from Mars. And this is hardly a full listing. I’m sure that you’ve got your favorite film by him. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born January 5, 1945 – Flonet Biltgen.  A novelette, and a handful of poems in Star*Line; Clarion graduate; long-time member of the Pittsburgh Worldwrights.  See this tribute.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born January 25, 1946 Richard Poe, 75. Along with Nimoy, Kelley, Doohan, Lenard, Frakes, Sirtis, Shimerman and de Lancie, he is one of only a few actors to play the same character on three different Trek series. He played Cardassian Gul Evek on Next GenDeep Space Nine and Voyager. (CE)
  • Born January 25, 1950 Christopher Ryan, 71. He’s played two different aliens on Doctor Who. First in the Sixth Doctor story, “Mindwarp”, he was Kiv where he looked akin to Clayface from the animated Batman series. Second in the era of the Tenth Doctor (“The Sontarian Experiment” and “The Poison Sky”) and the Eleventh Doctor (“The Pandorica Opens”), he was the Sontarian General Staal Commander Stark. (CE)
  • Born January 25, 1958 Peter Watts, 63. Author of the most excellent Firefall series which I read and enjoyed immensely. I’ve not read the Rifters trilogy so would welcome opinions on it. And his Sunflower linked short stories sound intriguing. He won a Hugo for Best Novelette at Aussiecon 4 for “The Island”. (CE) 
  • Born January 25, 1973 Geoff Johns, 48. Where to begin? Though he’s done some work outside of DC, he is intrinsically linked to that company having working for them for twenty years. My favorite work by him is on Batman: Gotham KnightsJustice League of America #1–7 (2013) and 52 which I grant was way overly ambitious but really fun. Oh, and I’d be remiss not to notehis decade-long run on the Green Lantern books. He’s writer and producer on the most excellent Stargirl. (CE) 
  • Born January 25, 1978 – David Lee Stone, age 43.  Under his own name, as David Grimstone, and as Rotterly Ghoulstone, he’s written for Interzone – I can’t stop there – and published thirty novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  He’s even worked in Bulgaria for the British Council, reading his works and talking about story-creation with teenagers in Sofia.  That’s the heart of the Shope region.  I mustn’t infuriate my other Bulgarian friends by saying the Shopi are the best dancers, and it wouldn’t be true, they’re all good, but did he learn anything in 11/16?  What do you say, Cat?  [JH]
  • Born January 25, 1983 – Gretchen McNeil, age 38.  Opera singer, circus performer, now author.  Ten was a YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Ass’n) Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, with a video adaptation on Lifetime.  3:59 is “a sci-fi doppelganger horror about two girls who are the same girl in parallel dimensions [and] decide to switch places.”  But – or and – GM has read two books by Evelyn Waugh, all of Jane Austen including Lady Susan and Sanditon, six Hornblower books, five by Sir Walter Scott, six by Baroness Orczy, and Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South.  These are deep waters, Watson.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest find themselves waiting for hours in a different kind of line than when they were young.

(13) MORE BERNIES. Here’s Bernie Sanders as Captain Pike in his special chair and posing with the Minutemen from the HBO Watchmen series.

(14) BUT THINK OF THE EXPOSURE! “Rolling Stone seeks ‘thought leaders’ willing to pay $2,000 to write for them” reports The Guardian.

… Emails seen by the Guardian suggest that those who pass a vetting process – and pay a $1,500 annual fee plus $500 up front – will “have the opportunity to publish original content to the Rolling Stone website”. It suggests that doing so “allows members to position themselves as thought leaders and share their expertise”.

That message is reinforced by the Council’s website, which, under the headline Get Published, tells would-be members: “Being published in one of the best-known entertainment media outlets in the world sets you apart as a visionary, leader, and bold voice in your industry.”

(15) MONUMENTAL SUGGESTION. The International Federation of Trekkers has started a petition at Change.org calling for a Monument of CAPT Benjamin Sisko in New Orleans.

We the people of the City of New Orleans, petition the City Council to erect a bust and small display to the literary/media character CAPT Benjamin Lafayette Sisko popularized in the program, “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”.

As a “native son” of the Crescent City, there are examples in both of Riverside, IA (CAPT James T. Kirk) and Bloomington, IN (CAPT Kathryn Janeway) where similar monuments have been constructed. While he is popularly known as “The Emissary to the Prophets” and Hero of the Dominion war. His in relation to his peers (the aforementioned Kirk and Janeway) he is a the first POC Starship Captain (and lead) of a Star Trek franchise, a single father, a musician, culinary aficionado, civil rights activist, explorer and engineer. There are three examples of this. First as assuming the role of Gabriel Bell (a homeless, unemployed worker) in the two part episode “Past Tense” and as 1950’s Science Fiction Writer Benny Russell a POC. All three dealt with issues that we are now faced with. He personifies the best qualities of a New Orleanian and eloquently proves no matter the goals, or the dreams one person can make their dreams possible….

(16) JUNGLE CRUISE COURSE CORRECTION. “Disneyland to update Jungle Cruise after racism complaints” reports the Los Angeles Times. I’ve long wondered how some of the imagery outlasted the Sixties, let alone remained to the present day.

… A spear-waving war party was added to the Jungle Cruise in 1957, as was the “Trader Sam” character, a dark-skinned man today outfitted in straw tribal wear. Disney tiki bars — one on each coast — are named for the character that traffics in stereotypes. He’ll trade you “two of his heads for one of yours.”

“As Imagineers, it is our responsibility to ensure experiences we create and stories we share reflect the voices and perspectives of the world around us,” Carmen Smith said in a statement provided by Disney. Smith is the creative development and inclusion strategies executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, the company’s division responsible for theme park experiences.

Concept art previewed by Disney showed a reworking of the “trapped safari” scene, in which adventurers scurry up a tree to avoid the horn of a rhinoceros. In its current state at Disneyland, a white traveler is at top while native safari guides are in a more perilous position. The re-imagined scene, one initially dreamed up by master Disney animator-designer Marc Davis as an advertisement for the ride, solely features hapless participants of a previous Jungle Cruise boat tour

… As silly and overly pun-filled as the Jungle Cruise may be, it has long been criticized as viewing adventure through an imperialist lens. Non-Americans are depicted as either subservient or savages. While the ride is meant to be a collage of Asia, Africa and South America, human figures of the regions are presented as exotic, violent and dim-witted, humor that in the 1950s and 1960s was troublesome and today reeks of racism.

(17) POTTER GOING BACK TO SCHOOL. “’Harry Potter’ Live-Action TV Series in Early Development at HBO Max” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

…While it’s news that executives at HBO Max and Warners are engaged in meetings to find a writer and pitch for a Harry Potter TV series, no writers or talent are currently attached as the conversations are still in the extremely early stages and no deals have been made. “There are no Harry Potter series in development at the studio or on the streaming platform,” HBO Max and Warner Bros. reaffirmed in a statement to THR.

Expanding the world of Harry Potter remains a top priority for HBO Max and Warner Bros., which along with creator J.K. Rowling, controls rights to the property. Harry Potter is one of Warners’ most valuable pieces of IP. (It’s also worth pointing out that while Harry Potter remains a beloved franchise, Rowling sparked backlash from the trans community after saying that transgender individuals should be defined by their biological sex.)

(18) NEW ROVERS. I’m being shadowed by a moon spider… “AI spacefarers and cosmic testbeds: Robust robotic systems forge path for human space exploration” reports TechRepublic.

A new deep space race of sorts is heating up as nations set their sights on the moon, Mars, and beyond.

Two rovers are scheduled to land on the Martian surface in the months ahead: NASA’s Perseverance is scheduled to touch down in February and will be joined by the Tianwen 1 mission’s rover later this year.

Following up on the Chang’e 5 probe’s recent successful lunar retrieval mission, the UK plans to deploy a robotic spider-like rover on the moon in 2021. NASA’s Artemis program aims to place a woman and a man on the moon by 2024 and will launch the Intuitive Machines 1 (IM-1) mission in October in preparation for future manned lunar exploration efforts.

(19) MAKE IT SO. Sir Patrick Stewart has been vaccinated and encourages others to get it.

(20) BURNS ON RE-ENTRY. “Burns Night: Haggis travels to the edge of space!” – the BBC covers an exotic celebration.

Scotland’s national dish is usually eaten on Burns Night, which celebrates the Scottish poet Robert Burns, but this year the pudding had a very different experience.

Instead of being boiled and eaten it was attached to a weather balloon and sent up more than 20 miles (107,293ft) above the Earth!

… The haggis was attached to a camera so it could get this stunning selfie!

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Soul Pitch Meeting” on YouTube, Ryan George says that far too much of SOUL is filled with body-swapping and pants-ripping scenes, and people who see the movie will ask, “What happened to the cat?”

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

Pixel Scroll 12/13/20 It’s The Pixel To Scroll When You’re Scrolling More Than One

(1) THE VALUE IN EXPERIMENTING. Nino Cipri offers some sff writing pointers. Thread starts here.

(2) BABY FOOD. Beware spoilers – but not spoilage: ‘The Mandalorian’ Season 2: A Baby Yoda food diary”) in the LA Times.

Babies have to eat — and Grogu is no different.

During the second season of “The Mandalorian,” Grogu, long referred to by fans as Baby Yoda, has been shown eating everything from a froglike alien’s eggs to fancy blue cookies. The popular Disney+ series could easily spawn a spinoff called “The Best Thing Baby Yoda Ever Ate.”

As of the seventh episode of Season 2, titled “The Believer,” Baby Yoda remains a captive of Moff Gideon and his Imperial forces. Hopefully, the Empire remembers to feed its prisoners, because Grogu is one hungry baby, if previous episodes are anything to go by.

Until Mando and Baby Yoda are reunited (and hopefully throw a celebratory feast), here’s a look back at everything Baby Yoda has been seen eating during the show so far.

(3) DINO TIMES. The Los Angeles Public Library did an “Interview With an Author: David Gerrold” about his new novel Hella.

How did the novel evolve and change as you wrote and revised it? Are there any characters or scenes that were lost in the process that you wish had made it to the published version?

I had a first draft that sat on my computer for a couple of years. It wasn’t bad, but it needed a polish. And the ending was unsatisfying. I offered it to Betsy Wollheim at DAW. I really admire her. She understands the genre better than most because she grew up in it. Her dad, Donald A. Wollheim, was one of the most underrated movers and shakers in the field. She suggested that I rethink the ending and I came up with a much stronger resolution, one that was a much better payoff. So I have to give her the credit for making Hella a better book.

(4) PRO TIP. In Isaac Asimov’s autobiography In Memory Yet Green he discusses how he continued to write letters in the pages of science fiction magazines even after he became a professional.

I began to enjoy less the writing of letters.  Yet I did write them, and often quarreled with writers who objected to something or other in one of my stories–until I received a letter from the writer Nelson S. Bond (whom I met briefly at the World Convention in 1939, and never again), saying that now that I was a professional, I should stop slugging it out in fan columns.  I took that seriously and from the moment I received that letter, I stopped writing letters to the magazines, except for very occasional ones that did not involve fannish comments.  I have always been grateful to Bond for this word in season.

(5) TWO FIFTHS. Thanks to Jim Henley for this fine example of a File 770 trope – double fifths!

(6) ANOTHER FIVE. Speaking of the magic number, James Davis Nicoll knows “Five Novels About the World After the End of the World”.

While nostalgia has had a place in tabletop roleplaying games ever since the field was old enough to have second editions—remember when tabletop roleplaying game nostalgia was new?—the recent Twilight 2000 Kickstarter is remarkable for the speed at which the project hit its funding goals: just seven minutes, a bit longer than it would take missiles launched from the Soviet Union to reach Britain.

First published in 1984, Twilight 2000 took as its background a mid-1990s Soviet-Chinese conflict that spiraled into a global war when East and West Germany tried to use Soviet distraction to reunify. By 2000 all sides are too exhausted to continue. Most campaigns begin as the war stumbles to a chaotic, exhausted halt.

T:2000 might seem to be an odd game to be nostalgic about. Perhaps it is a reflection of the Jason Mendoza principle: “Anytime I had a problem and I threw a Molotov cocktail, boom! Right away, I had a different problem.” …

(7) CHINA’S COSPLAY RESTRICTIONS. “China cracks down on cleavage at cosplay convention”CNN has the story.

Organizers of Asia’s largest digital entertainment expo — where scantily clad models usually dress up as characters from comic books, movies and video games — say they will levy a fine of $800 on women who reveal “more than two centimeters of cleavage.”

Men are not exempt from the crackdown on exposed flesh.

They will face the same penalty if they wear low-hanging pants or expose their underwear. If models are caught dancing in cages or around a pole they will be fined a whopping $1,600, as will anyone caught striking vulgar poses.

It’s the latest example of what appears to be a government campaign for stricter morality in China.

A New York Times story on December 11 collected other examples in “Two soccer teams showed up to play. One lost because of hair dye” (repeated here by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel):

Under China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, the Communist Party’s creeping interference on the smallest details of Chinese life is being felt more and more. Censors have blurred the bejeweled earlobes of young male pop stars on television and the internet so that, in their mind, the piercings and jewelry don’t set a bad example for boys. Women in costumes at a video game convention were told to raise their necklines.

(8) BATMAN ’66 AND OTHER VINTAGE TV OPINIONS. [Item by Todd Mason.]  From 1966: “At Issue; 65; What’s Happening to Television?” This episode of the monthly series from National Educational Television makes its points, sometimes less tellingly than its creators think it does, but writer Morton Silverstein and some of those interviewed sure get their boots in on Batman, the ABC series, to a remarkable degree. Also, the blithe use of “drama” to refer only to anthology series that don’t have a slant toward one established program category or another beyond that concept. Interesting to those who are students of popular culture and news medium self-justification.

“What’s Happening to Television?” is the topic explored by no fewer than twenty-two top personalities allied to the television industry. This hour program in National Educational Television’s “At Issue” series presents timely and critical observations on daily programs, news, TV ratings, government regulations and the role of advertising. “What’s Happening to Television?” is analyzed by network executives, news commentators, advertising people, writers and critics. They comment on the growth of television, from its infant days to its present giant development, when more than 35 million Americans watch their sets for some 3 hours daily. “What’s Happening to Television?” looks back into TV history, analyzing some of the early successes, commenting on present programs, and giving the viewer a glimpse of next fall’s offerings. Some of the questions discussed include: Will television ever live up to its potential? What is the real purpose? Who determines which programs are dropped? What is the role of the program sponsors? Is the public interest being protected? Is educational television the answer to more worthy programs? What can the viewer do to control the quality of programs coming into the family living room? 

(9) GALANTER OBIT. Star Trek author Dave Galanter (1969-2020) died of cancer on December 12. Galanter has authored (or coauthored with collaborator Greg Brodeur) such Star Trek projects as Voyager: Battle Lines, the Next Generation duology Maximum WarpThe Original Series novels Crisis of Consciousness and Troublesome Minds, and numerous works of short Star Trek fiction.

(10) LE CARRE OBIT. The author of the George Smiley novels has fallen to pneumonia: “John le Carre, who probed murky world of spies, dies at 89” reports the AP News. He died December 12.

“John le Carre has passed at the age of 89. This terrible year has claimed a literary giant and a humanitarian spirit,” tweeted novelist Stephen King. Margaret Atwood said: “Very sorry to hear this. His Smiley novels are key to understanding the mid-20th century.”

…After university, which was interrupted by his father’s bankruptcy, he taught at the prestigious boarding school Eton before joining the foreign service.

Officially a diplomat, he was in fact a “lowly” operative with the domestic intelligence service MI5 —he’d started as a student at Oxford — and then its overseas counterpart MI6, serving in Germany, on the Cold War front line, under the cover of second secretary at the British Embassy.

His first three novels were written while he was a spy, and his employers required him to publish under a pseudonym. He remained “le Carre” for his entire career. He said he chose the name — square in French — simply because he liked the vaguely mysterious, European sound of it….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 13, 2002 — On this date in 2002, Star Trek: Nemesis premiered. It directed by Stuart Baird and produced by Rick Berman from the screenplay by John Logan as developed from the story by John Logan, Rick Berman and Brent Spiner. It was the fourth and final film to feature the Next Generation cast. It received decidedly mixed reviews, was a full-blown box disaster but currently has a decent fifty percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 13, 1909 – Alan Barclay.  Five novels, two dozen shorter stories; essays “Interplanetary Navigation” in New Worlds SF, “The Bow” in SF Adventures.  “The Scapegoat” is in New Worlds SF 105 which has this neato Sydney Jordan cover.  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1923 – Faith Jaques.  Six covers, eight interiors for us.  Here is Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and here is an interior.  Here is “The Flirtation of Two Mice”.  Outside our field I know her for this; and here are some Christmas Waits.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1929 Christopher Plummer, 91. Let’s see… Does Rudyard Kipling in The Man Who Would Be King count? If not, The Return of the Pink Panther does. That was followed by Starcrash, a space opera I suspect hardly anyone saw which was also the case with Somewhere in Time.  Now Dreamscape was fun and well received.   Skipping now to General Chang in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country. Opinions everyone? I know I’ve mixed feelings on Chang.  I see he’s in Twelve Monkeys which I’m not a fan of and I’ve not seen The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus yet. (CE) 
  • Born December 13, 1940 – Ken Mitchell, age 80.  Co-founded the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild and the S Playwrights Center.  A novel, a shorter story, two covers for us (here is The Tomorrow Connection); six other novels, a dozen plays.  Retired from the Univ. Regina English Department, tours as a cowboy poet.  Order of Canada.  Saskatchewan Order of Merit.  [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1945 – Drew Mendelson, age 75.  Two novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  Maybe Cora Buhlert can explain why “Once I Built a Railroad” was translated as »Einst baute ich eine Eisenbahn« which means Once I built a railroad but Pilgrimage was translated as Die vergessenen Zonen der Stadt which isn’t a bad title for it but doesn’t mean Pilgrimage.  [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1949 R.A. MacAvoy, 71. Winner of the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. I’m very, very fond of her Black Dragon series, Tea with the Black Dragon and Twisting the Rope. The only other thing I’ve read of hers is The Book of Kells so, do tell me about her other works. (CE) 
  • Born December 13, 1954 Tamora Pierce, 66. Her first book series, The Song of the Lioness, took her character Alanna through the trials of training as a knight; it sold very well and was well received by readers. She would win in 2005 the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, a rare honor indeed. (CE)
  • Born December 13, 1954 Emma Bull, 66. Writer of three of the best genre novels ever, Bone Dance: A Fantasy for TechnophilesFinder: A Novel of The Borderlands and War for The Oaks. Will Shetterly, her husband and author of a lot of really cool genre works, decided to make a trailer which you can download if you want. Just ask me.  She’s also been in in a number of neat bands, one that has genre significance that being Cat Laughing which has Stephen Brust, Adam Stemple, son of Jane Yolen, and John M. Ford either as musicians or lyricists. They came back together after a long hiatus at MiniCon 50. Again just ask me and I’ll make this music available along with that of Flash Girls which she was also in. (CE) 
  • Born December 13, 1960 – José Eduardo Agalusa Alves da Cunha, age 60.  (Agalusa the maternal, Alves da Cunha the paternal surname, Portuguese style.)  Two novels for us: The Society of Reluctant Dreamers just appeared in English, 2019; The Book of Chameleons won the Independent Foreign Fiction prize); a dozen others, shorter stories, plays, poetry, journalism, radio.  Int’l Dublin Literary Award.  [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1969 Tony Curran, 51. Vincent van Gogh in two Eleventh Doctor stories, “Vincent and the Doctor” and “The Pandorica Opens”, the latter as a cameo. He’s had vampire roles in Blade II as Priest and Underworld: Evolution as Markus, and was Lt. Delcourt in The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn to name but a few of his myriad genre roles. (CE) 
  • Born December 13, 1978 – Lee Isserow, age 42.  A score of novels, a dozen shorter stories for us; screenwriting; and the terrifying ABAM project, which means – yes – A Book A Month.  Has read not only Breakfast of Champions but The Master and Margarita.  [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1984 Amal El-Mohtar, 36. Canadian editor and writer. Winner of Hugo Awards for Best Short Story for “Seasons of Glass and Iron” at WorldCon 75 and  Best Novella for “This Is How You Lose the Time War” at CoNZealand (with Max Gladstone). (The latter got a BSFA and a Nebula as well.) She’s also garnered a Nebula Award  for “Madeleine“, a World Fantasy Award for “Pockets” and a World Fantasy Award for “Seasons of Glass and Iron”. Impressive. She has edited the fantastic poetry quarterly Goblin Fruit magazine for the past four years. (CE) 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • In The Far Side, it looks like the coroner’s office has already picked up this extra sized decedent.
  • And in another entry of The Far Side, they also walk dogs.

(14) IMAGINARY GIFT SHOP. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Washington Post had a short feature where they asked writers to “dream up the presents that they’d love to parcel out this year but don’t exist.”  Ken Liu says he wants a phone-sized device he can point at tweeters to see whether they are arguing in good faith or just being a troll.  Ted Chiang says he wished the Web had evolved into a subscription-based servie where people paid for sites they visited with money instead of personal data. “A guide to gifts that don’t exist but should”.

(15) THE ANSWER IS BOOKS. Of more practical use, “A gift guide for the fans of science fiction, fantasy and horror books in your life” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar in the Washington Post.

It’s that time of the year when the nights grow long, the air grows cold, the festive lights go up and the year’s best books lists are sprouting like mushrooms after the rain. But will any of them help you find that perfect book-gift for your friends who love science fiction, fantasy and horror? If not, we’re here to help….

(16) THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY. Camestros Felapton is highly entertaining with “My new pointless Star Wars theory”.

The issue that had been bugging me was the inconsistent way of travelling between planets. In the films but also in The Mandalorian (less so in cartoons), characters fly in space ships between planets in two ways:

  • Using hyperspace as faster than light travel.
  • Using sub-light speed engines….

But now he has it all figured out!

(17) YES, VIRGINIA, THERE WAS A WRITER NAMED G. K. CHESTERTON? At CrimeReads, Olivia Rutigliano contends “Famed mystery writer G.K. Chesterton proudly, sincerely believed in Santa Claus”.

… Chesterton’s applied his penchant for logic in this article on “Santa Claus.” Along with providing a short history of the figure of Santa Claus in popular culture (particularly his origins, as the gift-wielding St. Nicholas of Bari in Medieval iconography), Chesterton offered a simple proposition: that a child’s ultimately ceasing to believe in Santa Claus, justified by the fact that Santa Claus is not real, is a precursor to that child’s ceasing to believe in God. And this, Chesterton explained, was a terrible phenomenon.

And then he admitted a surprising detail: “I startled some honest Protestants lately by telling them that, though I am (unfortunately) no longer a child, I do most definitely believe in Santa Claus.”

Elaborating on this decidedly ‘hot take,’ Chesterton stressed that he felt it was critical for children to believe in Santa Claus even after Santa Claus has been debunked as a real, flesh-and-blood man, because the Santa Claus that children know is ultimately a caricature of an actual saint; just because, Chesterton argued, he is not real to their eyes does not mean that he is not a genuine, spiritual entity….

(18) FIREFLY CHARACTER AS ILLUSTRATION OF PTSD. “SERENITY and Coping with Trauma” from Cinema Therapy on YouTube.

What happens when you’re kidnapped from your family, tortured, and conditioned into being an assassin? You get River Tam. And also Alan, apparently. Therapist Jonathan Decker and filmmaker Alan Seawright discuss what we can learn about coping with trauma from Summer Glau’s character River in Serenity and Firefly. They break down some of the symptoms of PTSD she exhibits, and some of the things that help her work through them and start healing. Even though most of us don’t live in a sci-fi future with space ships, space zombies, and space cowboys (along with psychics and lots of other fun), we can still learn a thing or two about how to heal from and deal with the trauma we do face in real life.

(19) ZOOMING THROUGH FANHISTORY. Fanac.org is planning a series of Zoom Interactive Fan History Sessions.

For our first session, Rob Hansen is going to give us an historic tour of fannish Holborn, London. Rob is probably the most accomplished fan historian writing these days. As most of you know, he has written the history of British fandom, Then and has put together a number of books covering various aspects of British fandom. Find many of them here. Reserve the date: Saturday, December 19, 2020 at 11AM EDT.

Despite the pandemic, Rob has done video recordings around London, and with historic photos and live description will give us a tour that covers some household fannish names and places. He has worked with Edie [Stern] over the past several months to provide an interesting and fairly detailed coverage of London’s fan heritage. This one-hour session is based on tours which Rob has given to individual fans and also developed as a group tour after the last London Worldcon. Even if you have been on one of these tours, you will find some fresh sights and insights. Of course, Rob will be live on Zoom with additional material and to answer questions.  Please send your RSVP to fanac@fanac.org as our Zoom service is limited to 100 participants.

(20) BEYOND INFINITY. Disney+ dropped a trailer for What if….? an alternate-universe animated series.

(21) MARTIANS AT THE NEW YORK TIMES. [Item by David Goldfarb.] The New York Times puzzle page has a game called “Letter Boxed”, in which you make words out of letters arranged around a square. The idea is to use all the letters with as few words as possible: there is always a two-word solution. The two-word solution for Saturday 12/12 was “Visualizing – Grok”.

(22) EDUCATE YOURSELF. Ursula Vernon ladles out more life experience. Thread starts here.

(23) RUN TO DAYLIGHT. SYFY Wire learned that “Spiders get thrown off spinning webs in zero-G…unless they have light”.

It’s one small step for insects, eight steps for spider-kind.

“Arachnauts” flown to the ISS have revealed their secret backup plan when they can’t use gravity to figure out where they are when spinning their webs. Earth’s gravity is what normally helps them make a web optimal for catching dinner—and position themselves in it. Lamps accidentally placed above the spider experiment showed that when the arachnids lose their orientation in microgravity, they use light to find their way again….  

(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Hulk (2003) Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that people who watched the 2003 Hulk expecting that Hulk would smash things will be disappointed by the first 45 minutes, which consist of nothing but brooding and that few people will be excited by the scenes where Hulk beats up a Hulkified French poodle.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/10/20 Schrödinger’s Box Remains Both Ticked And Unticked At The Same Time Until You Pixel It

(1) A NOT-SO-LITTLE LIST. BookRiot concocted a way of assessing an interesting question: “How Do Readers Rate The New York Times Best-Selling Books?”

…For their research, the organization pooled all titles on the NYT List from June 22, 2008 to March 29, 2020. They then determined the top 100 titles from the NYT list based on the number of times it appeared on the lists in that time frame, and each of those titles was subtracted from its average ranking on the list. This made for a total of 716 unique titles.

Once those titles were identified, the top 100 reviews on Goodreads—the reader’s view of books—were pulled. The researchers looked at how many times those titles appeared on the NYT List, then subtracted this from the average list ranking. A book’s total score was calculated using this number, as well as the average Goodreads starred rating for the title….

READERS RANK THE BEST BESTSELLERS

Using the methodology laid out above, which books that landed on the NYT List were among the most well-reviewed by readers on Goodreads? The researchers calculated 20 titles among the top.

… The top ranking best seller for readers was Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. The book appeared on the bestseller list over 600 times, ranking at an average of #3, and readers gave it an average rating of 4.1 stars on Goodreads.

Interestingly, 11 of the titles on this list are children’s, middle grade, or YA books, and of the remaining titles, six are self-help/productivity books. Given that the NYT List has primarily featured white authors until more recently—and it’s still primarily white in some categories—it’s not a surprise to see that only a small number of the top 20 books are by authors of color…

(2) HOW HUMANS RELATE TO PROGRAMS. Future Tense ran a piece by Torie Bosch about “Shouting at Alexa”.

… For years now, commentators have reminded us that the gendered dynamics of digital assistants are troubling. In September, Future Tense ran an excerpt from The Smart Wife: Why Siri, Alexa, and Other Smart Home Devices Need a Feminist Reboot by Yolande Strengers and Jenny Kennedy . “Friendly and helpful feminized devices often take a great deal of abuse when their owners swear or yell at them. They are also commonly glitchy, leading to their characterization as ditzy feminized devices by owners and technology commentators—traits that reinforce outdated (and unfounded) gendered stereotypes about essentialized female inferior intellectual ability,” they write.

That’s me, swearing and yelling at my feminized device even though it only wants to be friendly and helpful.

What I tell myself, though, is that I’m really trying to avoid anthropomorphizing the Echo and the rest of the tech in my life. It’s a tendency I’ve had ever since I got to know ELIZA, the chatbot created by an MIT researcher in the 1960s. ELIZA was designed to mimic Rogerian therapy—which basically means that this simple program turns everything you say into a question. For some reason, it was installed on some of the computers in my middle-school library in the ’90s. Most of the time, I tried to get her—I mean it!— to swear, but I also spilled my tweenage heart out occasionally. And I’m not the only one. As a Radiolab episode from 2013 detailed: “At first, ELIZA’s creator Joseph Weizenbaum thought the idea of a computer therapist was funny. But when his students and secretary started talking to it for hours, what had seemed to him to be an amusing idea suddenly felt like an appalling reality.”…

(3) THE WRITER’S CRAFT. Delilah S. Dawson on how to write a synopsis. Thread starts here. (H/t to Cat Rambo.)  

(4) IT’S A NOPE. The Mary Sue checked the social media response from two people whose opinions we’d like to hear: “Rhianna Pratchett and Neil Gaiman React To the First Trailer for The Watch.  

…Terry Pratchett’s daughter, Rhianna Pratchett, responded to the clips on Twitter, writing “Look, I think it’s fairly obvious that
@TheWatch shares no DNA with my father’s Watch. This is neither criticism nor support. It is what it is.”

… Beloved author Neil Gaiman also weighed in on Twitter in response to fan questions on the faithfulness of adaptions. Gaiman, who collaborated with Terry Pratchett on Good Omens, personally oversaw the novel’s adaptation into a miniseries on Amazon Prime, serving as writer and showrunner for the series. Gaiman defended the creator’s original vision of their work, stating “If you do something else, you risk alienating the fans on a monumental scale. It’s not Batman if he’s now a news reporter in a yellow trenchcoat with a pet bat.”

(5) VINTAGE DARKNESS. “25 years of His Dark Materials: Philip Pullman on the journey of a lifetime” as told by the author in The Guardian.

It was 1993 when I thought of Lyra and began writing His Dark Materials. John Major was prime minister, the UK was still in the EU, there was no Facebook or Twitter or Google, and although I had a computer and could word-process on it, I didn’t have email. No one I knew had email, so I wouldn’t have been able to use it anyway. If I wanted to look something up I went to the library; if I wanted to buy a book I went to a bookshop. There were only four terrestrial TV channels, and if you forgot to record a programme you’d wanted to watch, tough luck. Smart phones and iPads and text messaging had never been heard of. The announcers on Radio 3 had not yet started trying to be our warm and chatty friends. The BBC and the National Health Service were as much part of our identity, of our idea of ourselves as a nation, as Stonehenge.

Twenty-seven years later I’m still writing about Lyra, and meanwhile the world has been utterly transformed.

To some extent, my story was protected from awkward change because I set it in a world that was not ours. It was like ours, but different, so I could take account of the real-world changes that helped my story, and ignore those that didn’t. 

(6) SATISFIED CUSTOMER. “One Good Thing: The wonderful sci-fi novel A Memory Called Empire makes diplomacy enthralling” – a review at Vox.

Arkady Martine’s A Memory Called Empire, which recently won the Best Novel award at science fiction’s prestigious Hugo Awards, reads like its author was simultaneously influenced by Game of Thrones, histories of the Cold War, various anti-colonialism writings, and the Star Wars prequels. It’s a grand, galaxy-spanning space opera that is mostly about diplomacy. Or, if you prefer, it’s an impressively wonky novel about galactic geopolitics that just happens to feature spaceships and aliens. I love it.

It’s difficult to talk about A Memory Called Empire without spoiling some of its best surprises because the core of the book sounds impossibly dry. But let me give it a shot anyway, because the best way to read this book is to know almost nothing about what happens after its first few chapters….

(7) AFTERGLOW. The Guardian’s Matt Kamen asks — “Cancel culture: is Netflix killing off series too soon?”

Another day, another cancellation – or at least, that’s how it’s starting to feel when it comes to Netflix. Having culled the likes of Sense8, The OA, Santa Clarita Diet and Altered Carbon in recent years, all after two or three seasons and often leaving viewers on major cliffhangers, the streaming service has turned its bloodlust on to Glow, which had already started filming its fourth season before the pandemic hit, and The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

The latter, a prequel to the cult-favourite 1983 Jim Henson movie, produced and performed entirely with staggeringly intricate puppets and animatronics, and featuring an all-star cast, premiered on Netflix in August 2019. It garnered near-universal acclaim from critics, and a slate of awards nominations – including, crucially, picking up a 2020 Emmy for outstanding children’s program. Yet even awards success hasn’t spared it the axe, with the executive producer, Lisa Henson, confirming it won’t be returning….

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1993 – Twenty-seven years ago, The Flash Girls released their first album, The Return of Pansy Smith and Violet Jones. The Minneapolis based band consisted of Emma Bull and Lorraine Garland, also known as The Fabulous Lorraine. Garland is notable as being Neil Gaiman’s personal assistant. Among the songwriters were Jane Yolen, Alan Moore, and Neil Gaiman. Bull and Garland adopted the names Pansy Smith and Violet Jones as their alternate personas and would become characters in the DC Sovereign Seven series where they run a coffee shop. They would release two more albums, Maurice and I and Play Each Morning Wild Queen. Bull and Shetterly moved to California which broke up the band and Garland formed Folk Underground which also had songs written by Neil Gaiman and Jane Yolen. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 10, 1895 – Lin Yutang, Ph.D.  Author, editor, translator, gifted popularizer (yes, it’s possible).  One SF novel.  Built a working Chinese typewriter (yes, it’s –) never developed commercially but pivotal in machine-translation research.  My Country, My People a best-seller.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1929 Robin Hardy. Wicker Man is the film he’s known for though he followed that up with The Wicker Tree, an adaptation of his Cowboys for Christ novel. Anyone seen it? The Bulldance is at least genre adjacent. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born October 10, 1931 Victor Pemberton. Writer of the script for the “Fury from the Deep”, a Second Doctor story in which he created the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. He had appeared as an actor in the series, in a non-speaking role as a scientist in “The Moonbase”, a Second Doctor story. In the Seventies, he wrote the BBC Doctor Who and the Pescatons audio drama which I remember hearing. It was quite excellent. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born October 10, 1931 – Jack Jardine.  Writing under another name, four Agent of T.E.R.R.A. novels, three others.  Indeed many other names.  Radio disc jockey, humorist.  See Bill Mills’ appreciation here.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1942 – Wojtek Siudmak, 78.  More than seven hundred covers, seventy interiors.  Six artbooks (in French).  Two Chesleys.  Here is Double Star.  Here is a volume of Norman Spinrad.  Here is Dune.  Here is The Return of the King.  Here is Expansion.  [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1957 – Rumiko Takahashi, 63.  (Names would be reversed in Japanese style.)  Manga artist with 200 million copies of her work in circulation.  Two Shogakukan Awards, two Seiun Awards.  Inkpot.  Science Fiction & Fantasy Hall of Fame, Eisner Hall of Fame.  Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême, second woman and second Japanese to win.  Scottish rock band named for Urusei Yatsura, her first to be animated.  This cover reprinting vols. 1&2 of Ranma 1/2 shows Ranma’s dad changed into a panda and Ranma into a girl.  [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1959 Kerrie Hughes, 61. Anthologist, some of which impressively have had several printings. Favorite titles for me for me include Chicks Kick Butt (co-edited with Rachael Caine), Zombie Raccoons & Killer Bunnies (with Martin H. Greenberg) and Shadowed Souls (with Jim Butcher). She’s written short fiction and essays as well. It looks like almost all of her anthologies are available from the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born October 10, 1968 Mark Bould, 52. British academic whose done a number of interesting genre-related works including Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction, co-edited with China Miéville, Parietal Games: Critical Writings by and on M. John Harrison with M. John Harrison and Michelle Reid, and Fifty Key Figures in Science Fiction written with Andrew M. Butler and Adam Roberts and Sherryl Vint. (CE) 
  • Born October 10, 1976 Marjan Neshat, 44. Best remembered for her recurring role as Samar Hashmi on Quantico which is at least genre related. She’s also had roles in the Robocop reboot, FringeElementaryNew Amsterdam and Person of Interest. (CE)
  • Born October 10, 1971 – Jeff Miracola, 49.  Magic, the Gathering (over a hundred cards) and Shadowrun; children’s books e.g. The Book of Impossible Objects; Electronic Arts video game Mini-Golf.  In eight issues of Spectrum so far (2-5, 15-16, 19-20); Advanced Photoshop magazine; 30 Years of Adventure (Dungeons & Dragons).  Here is a cover for Tower of Babel.  “Continue to work on your craft.  Draw, paint, and create always.  Consider getting together with other artists…. actually creating and feeding off each other’s energy.”  [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1984 Jenna Lê, 36. Minnesota-born daughter of Vietnam War refugees, her genre poetry is collected in A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora along with other poems. That collection placed second for an Elgin Award. You can find an excellent interview with her here. (CE) 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SMILE FOR THE CAMERA. This weekend, the New York Comic Con managed to run a cosplay competition despite being a virtual event: “Sew And Tell! Virtual Championships Of Cosplay Winners Announced At NYCC 2020” at SYFY Wire.

… The Beginners victor was Commander Poptart, a U.S. entrant who dressed as Ahsoka Tano from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. “This was an incredible build for a beginner. Well, done, Commander Poptart,” said JediManda, who was dressed as Baby Yoda from The Mandalorian

No runner-up was announced.

The runner-up in Needlework was Demorafairy from the U.K., who dressed as Little Red Ashe from Overwatch. “We loved this costume, the letterwork is so impressive on it. All her engineering, like the vest, was done in three different layers, so every piece would lay correctly,” said Yaya Han. “I thought that was just really genius and it just has such a great balance of different techniques used. All her sewing was very clean and the skirt was the right length and everything was finished.”

Sewcialist Revolution from the U.S. nabbed the top honor for the Needlework category with her Claire Fraser costume inspired by Outlander. She spent five years learning how to make 18th-century clothing and then hunkered down for an extra six months putting the dress together. “This is needlework in its best representation,” Han added. “She used period-accurate methods, so much of it was hand-done … We really appreciated all of the efforts that she went into.”…

And more.

(12) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY EFFECTS. “Making the Monsters of ‘Lovecraft Country’” is discussed in the New York Times.

…Consider the monstrous, man-eating Shoggoths of HBO’s “Lovecraft Country,” last seen decimating a squad of racist police officers on Sunday night. They may not be the mind-bending series’s most terrifying menace — that title goes to vintage, 1950s white supremacy — but it isn’t for lack of trying.

Shoggoths are hideous to look at — pale, bulbous, covered in scabby, asymmetric eyes — and deadly to encounter, with concentric rows of gnarled teeth that turn trespassers into tartare. H.P. Lovecraft first wrote about blob-like creatures called Shoggoths in the late ’20s in a series of sonnets, and they appeared in his 1936 novella “At the Mountains of Madness.”

But the original Shoggoths, described by Lovecraft as “normally shapeless entities composed of a viscous jelly which looked like an agglutination of bubbles,” bear little resemblance to the fast-moving, gorilla-like beasts that first terrorized Tic, Leti and co. in the series premiere.

(13) IN SPACE THEY CAN HEAR YOU SING. Earlier this year NPR’s “Science-Fiction Music: Monsters, Aliens In ‘Filk'” covered all pop music, including work by fans.

As science fiction spread within music, fans began to share songs with one another, and the movement became known as Filk. It took its name from a 1950s article about these unusual songs, which misspelled “Folk” as “Filk.” Bill Sutton is the president of Interfilk, an organization that helps fans and musicians attend Filk conventions. Sutton says otherworldly ideas in popular music, combined with excitement about the space program, made people believe that technology could save everything.

(14) 007, MUNSTER, AND RIPLEY, OH MY! Want to buy the Green Hornet’s car? At Profiles in History’s “The Icons & Legends of Hollywood Auction” on November 12-13, many extraordinary costumes, props and relics are going under the hammer. 

Following is just a glimpse of the items awaiting you in these pages that left indelible marks in Hollywood history: 

  • John Travolta “Tony Manero” screen worn signature leather jacket from Saturday Night Fever.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio “Jack Dawson” poker game/boarding costume from Titanic.
  • Roger Moore “James Bond” Royal Navy uniform jacket from The Spy Who Loved Me.
  • Jane Seymour “Solitaire” psychic medium cape and headdress from Live and Let Die.
  • Orson Welles “Charles Foster Kane” coat from Citizen Kane.
  • Marilyn Monroe “The Girl” fantasy tiger gown from The Seven Year Itch.
  • Gene Kelly “Don Lockwood” legendary rain suit from the Singin’ in the Rain.
  • Gary Cooper “Lou Gehrig” Yankee uniform from The Pride of the Yankees.
  • James Dean “Jett Rink” tuxedo from Giant.
  • Elizabeth Taylor “Leslie Benedict” arrival to Reata ensemble from Giant.
  • Vivien Leigh “Scarlett O’Hara” traveling dress from Gone With the Wind.
  • Fred Gwynne “Herman Munster” signature costume from The Munsters.
  • Tina Louise “Ginger” signature glamor dress from Gilligan’s Island.
  • Sir Richard Attenborough “John Hammond” signature cane from Jurassic Park
  • Sigourney Weaver “Ripley” signature Nostromo jumpsuit from Alien.
  • Hero “ramming” Chestburster with articulating jaw and “whiplash” tail from Alien
  • Hero “Ra” Cheops class Pyramid Warship filming miniature from Stargate.
  • Hero X-71 Shuttle “Independence” filming miniature from Armageddon.
  • Zed’s “Grace” Harley chopper ridden by Bruce Willis “Butch Coolidge” in Pulp Fiction

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

Pixel Scroll 9/11/20 Mrs. Pixel, We’re Needed

(1) FUR STUDIES. The Dogpatch Press published a 2-part interview with a professor at Boston College specializing in classical history who teaches a course called “Beast Literature” which covers talking animal stories and gets into animation and furry fandom.

I gather that classicism is about Greek/Roman tradition and how it carries on in modern culture. How does that merge with research about Disney and similar pop culture, and how did that develop as a focus for you?

That’s right — Classics is a complicated term, but it’s shorthand for the study of the ancient Mediterranean world and its continuing significance.

As for Classics, Disney, and pop culture, I can’t say exactly how it all began merging. I’ve loved animation for as long as I can remember. VHS tapes of Disney’s Robin Hood, Bluth’s American Tail, and Vitello’s Gallavants ran non-stop in my house when I was a kid, and that interest has gotten stronger as time goes by. And I’ve been studying Classics for more than 20 years now. If you spend that long learning and thinking intensively about one area, you just can’t shut off that part of your brain. You develop a sensitivity and notice wherever it pops up, whether that’s at work or vegging out in front of the TV.

The fact that Greece and Rome exert this pervasive presence means it happens all the time, and the more you notice, the more complex and interesting those patterns become, and the deeper you want to dive. So it’s an organic mixing of two things I love and have spent a ton of time trying to learn and understand better.

(Dogpatch Press:) It was interesting that you mentioned teaching a course in talking animals. Tell me all about it! Since when, and how unique is that, and how is it being received? What sort of students are in it and what are they studying in general?

(Christopher Polt:) I love that course — the material is so fun and weird and meaningful. The basic question we ask is, “What are we doing when we speak by using animal voices, and what does that say about our attitudes towards humans, animals, and the lines we draw between them?” It’s also my chance to teach some cool, off-the-wall art and literature. We read Apuleius’ Golden Ass, which is a novel about a guy who accidentally turns himself into a donkey and goes on a journey through the Roman provinces (think The Emperor’s New Groove, but much sexier and more violent), and Nivardus’ Ysengrimus, which is the earliest major collection of stories about Reynard the fox, an archetypal animal trickster.

Sometimes I also take students on field trips to tie historical material we’re learning to lived experience. One of my favorites has been to a local pet cemetery. We spend a few days talking about how Greeks and Romans use animals to think about divinity, mortality, and the afterlife, and we look at epitaphs and funeral poems for dead pets, which are often written from the animal’s point of view. There’s a great example in the British Museum, which commemorates the life of a dog named Margarita (“Pearl” in Latin), who died while giving birth to puppies:

Another professor at U of South Florida does an animals in antiquity course that has a section on furries. 

Christopher Polt also discusses masks in ancient drama in an interesting thread that starts here.

(2) GAME OF ZONING. Ben Ashford, in the Daily Mail story “‘All it’s missing is Jon Snow and a couple of dragons!’ GoT author George R.R. Martin submits plans to build fantasy castle in his New Mexico backyard – but his neighbors aren’t bending the knee!”, says that Martin submitted plans to build a seven-story library in his backyard that looks like the tower of a castle, but the Santa Fe Historic Review Board turned him down because the keep was six feet higher than what zoning regulations permitted.

The 71-year-old creator of Dragonstone, Winterfell and the Red Keep describes his proposed Gothic-style structure as a free-standing ‘seven-sided library’ in a planning application lodged with the City of Santa Fe.

But locals say the fortress-like building, featuring imposing stone walls, battlements and a 27ft tower, is akin to something from HBO’s hit show Game of Thrones and totally out of place in a suburban neighborhood where it will spoil their views.

Martin’s architects toned down the medieval aspects in revised drawings but still need special permission from the city’s Historic Design Review Board to start work on the ‘Water Garden Keep’ because the turret is several feet higher than zoning codes allow.

(3) SUSANNA CLARKE REVIVAL. The New Yorker visits “Susanna Clarke’s Fantasy World of Interiors”. Tagline: “Fifteen years after an illness rendered her largely housebound, the best-selling writer is releasing a novel that feels like a surreal meditation on life in quarantine.”

… Often while I spoke to Clarke I could hear Greenland in the background, clinking dishes in the kitchen sink. Later, he told me that Clarke gets up much earlier than he does, and tries to write for the few hours when her energy is at its peak. By the afternoon, she needs to rest, and even in the morning her ability to participate in, say, a demanding conversation is limited to about an hour. She is very private about whatever she’s working on; in fact, she can be a little cagey about whether she’s working on anything at all. “She’s on her sofa with her laptop,” Greenland said. “And I don’t know if she’s playing a game, if she’s watching TV, if she’s writing e-mails, or if she’s working. It’s not apparent to me. She’s in her bubble. But what I do know is that, for a long while, she was too ill to write. And then, after that, she was writing fragments.”

Many of these “bits,” as Clarke calls them, have been squirrelled away for possible inclusion in some future work. “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” is partly written in a style reminiscent of John Aubrey, the British scholar best known for his “Brief Lives” series of short biographies. In the novel, these passages come complete with footnoted anecdotes that document the history of English magic with a distinctive combination of whimsy and nineteenth-century punctiliousness. One such story mentions a chick, hatched from an enchanted egg, that “grew up and later started a fire that destroyed most of Grantham.” Clarke writes, “During the conflagration it was observed bathing itself in the flames. From this circumstance, it was presumed to be a phoenix.”

Although the origins of “Piranesi” predate Clarke’s illness, she did not commence intensive work on it until her symptoms abated, a few years ago…. 

 Dan Kois’ review of Piranesi for Slate, “Susanna Clarke’s First Novel in 16 Years Is a Wonder”, begins:

How big is the House? It is limitless. Its towering rooms are the size of two soccer fields or more. Connected by passageways and staircases, the rooms extend in every direction as far as Piranesi can explore. He writes in his journals that he has traveled nearly a thousand rooms from what he believes to be the center of things and has never reached the end. Even the staircases are huge, their steps much taller than a man can comfortably climb, as if, Piranesi writes, “God had originally built the House intending to people it with Giants before inexplicably changing His Mind.”

(4) OLD PEOPLE READ OLD SFF. James Davis Nicoll reread “The Amazing Adventures of Space Cat!” for the first time since 1969. (James may not really be that old, but he is the curator of the Young People Read Old SFF series, so what else could I call it?)

…Convinced the cat is lucky (as opposed to, say, needing more supervision than it is getting), Fred insists that the cat accompany him on humanity’s very first trip to the Moon. Fred’s superiors acquiesce because they would not dream of taking away a man’s good-luck charm. When Fred leaves for the Moon on rocket ship ZQX-1, Flyball accompanies him.

(5) I, FOR ONE. In “Two Books Wonder: How Long Until You Fall in Love With a Robot?”, the New York Times’ Amanda Hess discusses Work Mate Marry Love: How Machines Shape Our Human Destiny by Debora L. Spar and Sex Robots And Vegan Meat: Adventures at the Frontier of Birth, Food, Sex, and Death by Jenny Kleeman.

“Science fiction is not about the future,” the sci-fi novelist Samuel R. Delany wrote in 1984. The future “is only a writerly convention,” he continued, one that “sets up a rich and complex dialogue with the reader’s here and now.” That is a useful way of understanding all the many pop nonfiction books that speculate about the technologies of the future, and attempt to divine their effects on human beings. Their predictions depend on how well they interpret the present.

One such interpreter is Debora L. Spar, the dean of Harvard Business School Online, who writes at the intersection of tech and gender. In her new book, “Work Mate Marry Love,” she considers an emerging wave of innovations that she believes could upend how we experience relationships, reproduction, gender expression and death. “We will fall in love with nonhuman beings,” Spar predicts in the book’s opening pages, “and find ways to extend our human lives into something that begins to approximate forever.” Spar argues that new technologies spark shifts in the most intimate of human affairs, often in unexpected ways. She casts this as a causal relationship, one imbued with a sense of inevitability. The book’s subtitle, “How Machines Shape Our Human Destiny,” gives the machines the agency.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Paul Winchell, the voice of Jerry Mahoney and Disney’s Tigger has the honor of having filed the first patent for an artificial heart: “Paul Winchell: An Amazing Inventor”.

…But what was probably most fascinating about Winchell was the fact that he was a very successful inventor. Over the course of his life, he held patents on over 30 devices, including a disposable razor, a flameless cigarette lighter, an illuminated ballpoint pen, a retractable fountain pen, an inverted novelty mask, battery-operated heated gloves, an indicator to show when frozen food had gone bad after a power outage, and the first artificial human heart. That’s right, the artificial heart.

This invention was developed through collaboration with Dr. Henry Heimlich, inventor of the Heimlich Maneuver, and held the first patent for such a device.

(7) FERRIS-YERXA OBIT. It has been leaned that author Frances Ferris-Yerxa died March 3, 2019 at the age of 101. The family notice said:

She married Le Roy Yerxa. When Le Roy passed away at an early age, she was left with four young children to raise and care for. She later married William Hamling and they had two more children. She was always oriented to the welfare of her family. She loved all her children, all her grandchildren, all her great grandchildren and great great grandchildren and nieces and nephews.

The Yerxa website notes that both Leroy (as his name was spelled on magazine covers) and Frances wrote stories for the “pulp” science fiction magazines Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures.

These magazines were published by Ziff-Davis out of Chicago, IL. By the early 1940s, Palmer, the managing editor of these publications, had developed a stable of local (Chicago-based) writers who could write to order, often producing stories around cover paintings by Harold McCauley, Robert Gibson Jones, or Malcolm Smith. The mainstays were Don Wilcox, Robert Moore Williams, David Wright O’Brien, William P. McGivern, Leroy Yerxa, and David Vern, plus (later in the decade) Chester S. Geier, Berkeley Livingston, and William L. Hamling.

Leroy Yerxa was among the most prolific contributors to the Ziff-Davis magazines. He was twenty-seven years old when his first story, “Death Rides at Night,” appeared under his own name in the August 1942 Amazing. In the next four years, till his untimely death in 1946, he sold more than seventy stories to Palmer for Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures, with many of those published pseudonymously. He is rumored to have written an entire issue of Fantastic Adventures (possibly the one for December 1943). While other writers wrote more, their output was not concentrated in such a short, intense period. Possibly Yerxa’s only rival in this regard was David Wright O’Brien, who in the five years from 1940 through 1944 sold more than a hundred stories to Palmer, not counting his collaborations with McGivern.

Palmer’s core of writers were so prolific that they could fill every issue. To avoid the frequent recurrence of names, the authors used various personal pseudonyms, some of which were later adopted by other authors. For instance, “Lee Francis” began as a pen name of Leroy Yerxa’s (which he often used when his wife Frances published a piece under her own name in the same edition), but after his death in 1946 it was used by others, including Hamling. In addition, a practice began of creating a number of “house names.” The house names were used by several writers, so that we had the authors using several names and several authors using the same name.

Leroy Yerxa died and, after a reasonable length of time, William Hamling, who had been a good friend as well as colleague, proposed to Frances Yerxa. Frances, who had already made a name for herself as a writer with her material appearing all over the place, accepted Hamling’s proposal and Hamling assumed responsibility for Yerxa’s sons Edward and Richard, and began raising them as his own. Then, Bill and Frances had two children, a daughter Debbie and Billy Jr. They lived in Evanston, the north contiguous suburb of Chicago, on Fowler Avenue in a nice, comfortable house.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

September 2010  — At Aussiecon 4 a decade ago this month, China Miéville‘s The City & The City would win the Best Novel Hugo in a tie with The Windup Girl by  Paolo Bacigalupi. It would be his first, and to date only, Hugo Award. It would later win the BSFA Award for Best Novel, the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel and the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Impressive indeed. It was written as a gift for Miéville’s terminally ill mother, who was a fan of police procedurals. It  would be made into an audiobook narrated by John Lee who also narrates Alastair Reynolds’ Prefect Tom Dreyfus novels. A four-part television adaptation by the BBC was broadcast in 2018.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 11, 1862 – O. Henry.  Master of the short story, often with a surprise ending.  I’ve read the 1926 Complete Works with almost three hundred, poems too; perhaps half a dozen are ours.  When in Wouk’s Youngblood Hawke Jeanne Green compares YH to O. Henry and YH recoils, Wouk who is no dope means us to see YH is wrong and JG is right; YH doesn’t know his own greatness in his fog of yearning for sophistication.  Of course we’d never –  (Died 1910) [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1889 – Ann Bridge.  Alpinist, archaeologist, gardener.  Novel And Then You Came, four shorter stories, for us; a score of other novels including detective fiction, also travel, memoirs.  Praise: people, history, politics shown with truth and skill.  Blame: snooty.  Decide for yourself.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1940 Brian De Palma, 80. Though not a lot of genre work, he has done some significant work including Carrie. Other films he’s done of interest to us are The Fury which most likely you’ve never heard of, and the first Mission: Impossible film along with Mission to Mars. Not genre, but I find it fascinating that he directed Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark video which has a genre connection as actress Courtney Cox would be in the Misfits of Science series and the Scream horror franchise as well. (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1941 Kirby McCauley. Literary agent and editor who as the former who represented authors such as Stephen King, George R.R. Martin and Roger Zelazny. And McCauley chaired the first World Fantasy Convention, an event he conceived with T. E. D. Klein and several others. As Editor, his works include Night Chills: Stories of Suspense, FrightsFrights 2, and Night Chills. (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1951 Michael Goodwin, 69. Ahhh — Alan Dean Foster’s Commonwealth series. I know that I’ve read at least a half dozen of the novels there and really enjoyed them, so it doesn’t surprise that someone wrote a guide to it which is how we have Goodwin’s (with Robert Teague) A Guide to the Commonwealth: The Official Guide to Alan Dean Foster’s Humanx Commonwealth Universe. Unfortunately, like so many of these guides, it was done once and never updated. (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1952 Sharon Lee, 68. She is the co-author with Steve Miller of the Liaden universe novels and stories which are quite excellent reading with the latest being Neogenesis. They have won Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for for lifetime contributions to science fiction, and they won The Golden Duck (the Hal Clement Young Adult Award) for their Balance of Trade novel.  They are deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born September 11, 1956 – Jefferson Swycaffer, 64.  Ten novels, thirty shorter stories; regular correspondent in Broken Toys; active in the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Federation), indeed winning both its Kaymar and Neffy Awards.  [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1958 Roxann Dawson, 62. Best remembered for being B’Elanna Torres on Voyager. She’s also a published genre author having written the Tenebrea trilogy with Daniel Graham. This space opera series is available from the usual digital suspects. She’s got two genre film creds, Angela Rooker in Darkman III: Die Darkman Die, and Elizabeth Summerlee in the 1998 version of The Lost World. She’s the voice of The Repair Station computer on the “Dead Stop” episode of Enterprise. (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1960 – William Tienken.  This appreciation by Our Gracious Host beats anything I could do.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1961 – Sally Green, 59.  Half Bad and Smoke Thieves trilogies, plus 3½ novella “Half Lies”.  Meanwhile she still runs most days despite several attempts to give it up.  [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1965 Cat Sparks, 55. Winner of an astounding fourteen Ditmar Awards for writing, editing and artwork, her most recent was in 2019 when she garnered one for “The 21st Century Catastrophe: Hyper-capitalism and Severe Climate Change in Science Fiction“.   She has just one published novel to date, Lotus Blue, though there’s an unpublished one, Effigy, listed at ISFDB. She has an amazing amount of short stories all of which are quite stellar. Lotus Blue and The Bride Price collection are both available at the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1976 – Lizzy Stevens, 44.  A novel and (with husband Steve Miller) five shorter stories; “A Lost Memory” an Amazon Best Seller.  Some other fellow having written Dharma Bums, LS and SM wrote about karma bums.  That Loki is always right in the way.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) WINGING IT. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt says that former Marvel Comics editor Christian Cooper, famed as the Black birder accosted by a white woman in Central Park, has come out with a comic called “It’s a Bird!” that is “The first issue of ‘Represent!’ a digital series from DC Comics that will showcase writers and artists from groups underrepresented in the industry.” “Christian Cooper has written a comic book partly inspired by his viral Central Park moment”.

… “It’s a Bird” features Jules, a teenager given a pair of binoculars by his father and told to explore his surroundings. Jules, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of birds, is quickly harassed by those threatened by his presence as an unannounced Black man in an open space.

That and other moments of hostility evoke racial profiling that Cooper and other Black birders have experienced, but the story turns slightly mystical when Jules begins using his binoculars and sees images of Black people who have fallen to police violence, including Amadou Diallo, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

Cooper works as a senior editorial director at Health Science Communications and didn’t think he would wind up back at one of the superhero publishers so quickly, but here he is.

“I really appreciated it when [DC Comics] came to me and said do you want to do this comic, because I did have something to say,” he said in an interview. “It’s interesting how it slips into maybe this space in the DC Universe that isn’t normally occupied. It is a very magical-realist tale. There is something fantastical that happens in the course of the story. But it’s not capes. It’s not superheroes.”

(12) LEGO MY THINGO. The Drum invites readers to “Meet Bygglek: how Ikea and Lego built a creative solution to messy play”. I thought only Dr. Seuss tought up names like that.

Lego is well aware that its product encourages mess. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, as any decent Lego session ends with bricks and figures all over the floor. To make it easier for parents to cope without stifling creativity, Lego looked to the giants of storage, Ikea. Together they created a simple solution, aptly named ’Bygglek.’

…Løgstrup recalls how, while struggling to make the right contact at Ikea, a chance encounter at a school board meeting kickstarted the soon-to-be long-term collaboration between the two beloved Scandinavian brands. “By some coincidence, the leader from our licensing department happened to sit next to someone at Ikea and they started discussing the potential project,“ he explains.

Spurred on by this coincidence, the early courtship saw the Lego team invite Ikea to ‘come play‘ by sending them a stop motion movie to spell out the challenge Lego faced. An attractive offer that few could refuse, Ikea designer Andreas Fredriksson notes. “Of course we wanted to play. It was a yes from the beginning. It‘s the perfect match because we work with small space living at home and Lego is all about play.“

(13) MULAN OPENS QUIETLY IN CHINA. Pei Li, in the Reuters story “Disney’s ‘Mulan’ battles mixed reviews and media muzzle at Chinese launch”, says that Mulan was launched in China with “no major media buildup and no star-studded premier or red-carpet launch” with the film getting mixed reviews in China due in part to its historical anachronisms (buildings exist in the film that were built several hundred years later).

…”Mulan” has provoked a backlash on overseas social media over its star’s support of Hong Kong police and for being partly filmed in the Xinjiang region, where China’s clamp-down on ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims has been criticised by some governments and rights groups.

Chinese authorities told major media outlets not to cover the film’s release in the wake of the uproar, four people familiar with matter told Reuters, further weighing on its chances of success.

(14) MISGUIDED MISSIVE. Early Bird Books, a division of Open Road Media, sends subscribers emails with a list of e-books which are on special for the moment. Yesterday, a now-former subscriber reports they sent her an email with the subject “Message From Our Partner: Relieve Dryness & Make Intimacy Comfortable” with extensive information and endorsements about a product marketed by FemmePharma. The recipient was outraged and copied it to me.

One almost wonders if it was an act of revenge by an employee on their way out the door.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. German Netflix series Dark ended this year; here’s a breakdown on its themes on nihilism and fate from the YouTube channel Wisecrack.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, N., Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Patch O’Furr, Frank Olynyk, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 7/22/20 Will No One Rid Me Of This Turbulent Pixel?

(1) HUGO VOTING LYRICS. The midnight (Pacific) deadline is imminent, inspiring 770’s reference to “I’m Getting Married in the Morning” in a post today — which Goobergunch celebrated by creating new words for the song.

There’s books and ‘zines all over town
And I’ve got to track ’em down
In just a few more hours….

I’m Hugo voting in the morning
That silver rocket’s gonna shine
Put up a racket
Download the packet
But make sure I go vote online

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman, like so many others, won’t be getting to New Zealand this summer, so – “It’s time for a long-distance lunch and dinner with award-winning writer Lee Murray”. Listen in, at the Eatng the Fantastic podcast.

At the urgings of some of my Patreon supporters, I’ve decided to break bread anyway with some of the creators I’d intended to record with had I made there, only with 16 hours and thousands of miles separating us. So last night, I had dinner with writer Lee Murray, while she had lunch the following day.

Lee is a three-time Bram Stoker Awards finalist, and is also New Zealand’s most awarded writer and editor of fantastic fiction, having won two Australian Shadows and a dozen Sir Julius Vogel Awards. Her novels include The Battle of the Birds (2011), Dawn of the Zombie Apocalypse (2019), as well as Into the Mist (2016), Into the Sounds (2018), Into the Ashes (2019), and others.   She’s edited fourteen anthologies, including Baby Teeth: Bite-Sized Tales of Terror (2013), Hellhole: An Anthology of Subterranean Terror (2018), and others.  Her first collection, Grotesque: Monster Stories, will be published July 24.

We discussed how she crafted her first short story collection, the importance of mentoring our next generation of genre writers, why we’re unlikely to ever go spelunking together, whether she prefers her zombies fast or slow, the unique awards club of which we’re both members, the way her use of New Zealand culture might be perceived differently by readers in and out of her country, the difficulties some seem to have with stories written in the present tense, the thrill of being the first New Zealander to appear in Weird Tales magazine, how the experiences of reading aloud The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings differ, and much more.

(3) GHOST STORY. Step into the booth and hear Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff’s “Confessions of a Ghost Writer: When to Hold an Exorcism” at Book View Café.

I recently had to exorcise, er, fire a client. One I’d been working with for years. I have written three complete novels for this fellow, rewritten a fourth and outlined a fifth. The novel we were working on when we parted company was one we had been at for roughly six years from the time when he turned over a research binder, a long, detailed, Harvard-style outline, and a number of drafted chapters and scenes.

I freely admit that I allowed the situation to go on too long, but I really dislike quitting, and I have first hand evidence of the efficacy of the Golden Rule. I know that if you treat even contrarians with kindness and friendliness, you will end up with a good friend….

(4) BRONY DOCUMENTARY. Jenny Nicholson narrates The Last Bronycon: a fandom autopsy

(5) COSPLAYER GALLERY. A San Diego Union-Tribune photographer thought it would be a shame to let all that talent go to waste. “Comic-Con 2020: All dressed up and nowhere to go”.

With this week’s Comic-Con International moving online because of the coronavirus pandemic, there’s a whole world of cosplayers with a lot of creativity to show off. Since they can’t strut their stuff in the Gaslamp District, photographer K.C. Alfred asked them to suit up and show us their powers at various spots around San Diego County….

(6) COMIC CON ALTERNATIVE. John King Tarpinian tells me “We don’t need no stinkin’ San Diego” because this weekend they’re still going to hold the Casper Comic Con. No, it’s not for ghosts – yet, anyway. It’s happening in Casper, Wyoming.

The 2020 Casper Comic Con will be held INSIDE of the Casper Events Center. Mask are highly recommended
Guest appearance by FLASH GORDON Sam J. Jones

(7) SIZEMORE OBIT. Paranormal romance author Susan Sizemore died July 20 at the age of 69. She wrote fan fiction set in the Star Trek universe. She later began writing original romance novels and when she was about 40, she won the 1991 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award, presented to a previously unpublished author. And soon after she sold her debut novel, a time-travel romance called Wings of the Storm. Later in her career, she was asked to write a media tie-in novel Forever Knight: A Stirring of Dust based on the television series. She created two original series about a vampire world, Laws of the Blood, and Primes. According to her friend Jody Lynn Nye, Sizemore was active in the Society for Creative Anachronism, where she was known as Sibeol the Sinister (she was left-handed). 

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 22, 1959 Hercules Unchained premiered nation-wide. An Italian-French production, it was directed by  Pietro Francisci, and produced by Bruno Vailati. Screenplay was by Ennio De Concini and Pietro Francisci with the latter also writing the story. It is claimed that the story is based off of Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles and Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus. Primary cast was Steve Reeves, Sylva Koscina, Primo Carnera and Sylvia Lopez. Critics in general though it was better than the predecessor film Hercules and it was the third most popular movie at the British box office in 1960. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes really don’t like it and give it a 20% rating.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 22, 1881 – Margery Williams.  Wrote The Velveteen Rabbit.  Lovecraft’s “On The Thing in the Woods by Harper Williams” is about one of her books: HW a pseudonym.  Another novel, twenty shorter stories, for us, often with James Bowman; many others.  Forward, Commandos! (1944) has a black soldier, rare in literature then.  Translations from French and from Norwegian (with Dagny Mortensen).  Newbery Honor.  (Died 1944) [JH]
  • Born July 22, 1889 James Whale. He is best remembered for these Thirties horror films: FrankensteinThe Old Dark HouseThe Invisible Man and Bride of Frankenstein which are all considered classics. He also made during this period, The Man in the Iron Mask, which surely is genre adjacent. (Died 1957.) (CE)
  • Born July 22, 1898 – Stephen Vincent Benet.  “The Devil and Daniel Webster” leaps to mind.  Three dozen short stories, seven dozen poems, touching SF.  Guggenheim Fellowship.  Judged Yale’s Young Poets Competition ten years.  Three O. Henry awards (don’t minimize him either).  Member, Amer. Acad. Arts & Letters.  Fellow, Amer. Acad. Arts & Sciences.  Pulitzer Prize.  Look for him.  (Died 1943) [JH]
  • Born July 22, 1898 – Alexander Calder.  This edition of two Calvino stories has a Calder cover.  But AC’s relation to us is higher, or deeper, or something.  His mobiles (he invented them) and stabiles show an extraordinary joining of reality and fantasy — and science.  Here is Two Moons.  Here is Homage to Jerusalem.  He worked flat, too; here is a lithograph Black Sun.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born July 22, 1932 Tom Robbins, 88. Author of such novels as Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Another Roadside Attraction. ISFDB lists everything he’s done as genre and who am I to argue with them? Now Jitterbug Perfumethat’s genre! (CE)
  • Born July 22, 1936 Angus Allan. British comic strip writer responsible for such strips asThe Six Million Dollar ManLogan’s Run and DangerMouse. As the in-house writer for the Anderson’s TV Century 21, he provided the newspaper “news story” scripts for Fireball XL5Stingray, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.  He also wrote the novelization of Thunderbirds Are Go. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born July 22, 1939 Dean McLaughlin, 81. His best-known work is “Hawk Among the Sparrows” which was short-listed for both a Hugo and Nebula Award for Best Novella. He’s also written Dawn, a novel based off of Asimov’s “Nightfall” novelette. He was won for Analog Awards for Best Novella or Novelette. (CE)
  • Born July 22, 1941 – Vaughn Bodé.  The equipment won’t show his name as he wrote it; over the “e” shouldn’t be an accent acute (which is what you see), but a macron (horizontal line), i.e. indicating a long vowel, not emphasis: it doesn’t rhyme with “okay”.  I never heard him say it; I spent years thinking it was like body, but maybe it’s like Commando Cody.  Anyhow, he gave us Cheech Wizard – and lizards – and much else.  Here is a cover for Galaxy.  Here is one for Amazing (with Larry Todd).  (Died 1975) [JH]
  • Born July 22, 1944 Nick Brimble, 76. His first genre role was in Lust for a Vampire as the First Villager. He next shows up in Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound as The Monster. He’s Sir Ectot in A Knight’s Tale which I really like be it genre adjacent or not. His lastest film genre role is as Dr. Zellaby in Soulmate, and he’s the voice of Owsla in the Watership series. (CE)
  • Born July 22, 1959 – Greg Costikyan, 61.  Among us he published the New York Conspiracy’s Hymnal.  Later, while staying with SF, he grew famous as a game designer and critic.  Many SF reviews in Ares.  Four novels (First Contract translated into French), sixteen shorter stories.  Five Origins awards.  Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design Hall of Fame.  Much about his gaming in his Wikipedia entry.  [JH]
  • Born July 22, 1965 – Lee Ann Setzer, 55.  Editor (or if you prefer, editrix) for a while of The Leading Edge.  Short stories as Lee Ann Layton.  Children’s books; Biblical-fiction novels Gathered about Ruth, Hidden about Esther.  Her husband said “I had to marry you.  You’re the only one who truly understands about the US space program.” While in Japan ate nattô (fermented soybeans), hurrah!  [JH]
  • Born July 22, 1972 Colin Ferguson, 48. Best known for being Sheriff Jack Carter on Eureka. Damn I miss that series which amazingly won no Hugos. He’s also been in Are You Afraid of the DarkThe HungerThe X-FilesThe Outer Limits, the Eureka “Hide and Seek” webisodes (anyone seen these?) and The Vampire Diaries. (CE)

(10) TWO PLEASE. In Episode 32 of Two Chairs Talking former Aussie Worldcon chairs Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg talk about movies and TV. Which one is the tougher audience?

After discussing the current state of COVID-19 restrictions, Perry pans the movie Ad Astra, but cheers The Mandalorian series on Disney+, and the Netflix movie The Old Guard. David waxes enthusiastic about the Amazon series Tales from the Loop, and the movie Yesterday.

(11) ELEMENTARY, MY DEAR SALESPERSON. Need a little heavy metal? “Rare and Exotic Elements To Collect Including Uranium for Sale at Luciteria Science!”

For the academic, scientist, collector, or hobbyist with an interest in the building blocks of the natural world, obtaining pure, representative samples of elements can be a challenge. Since our inception, we started off as an oddball but fun sideline as the Lucite furniture company which then became, Luciteria Science. Today, we serve the discerning collector with Lucite acrylic displays of the elements in their raw forms, functional calibration reference cubes, hand- and machine-polished mirror cubes, and much more!

(12) URBAN SPACEMAN. “Hazmat Suits for Air Travel Are Here”Bloomberg has the story.

…Yezin Al-Qaysi says haute hazmats are just the thing to make flying feel safe again. In mid-April the co-founder of VYZR Technologies, a Toronto-based company specializing in personal protective gear, launched a new product called the BioVYZR via crowdfunding site Indiegogo. The $250, futuristic-looking outer layer resembles the top half of an astronaut’s uniform, with anti-fogging “windows” and a built-in hospital-grade air-purifying device. Paranoid flyers were quick to scoop it up, pre-ordering about 50,000 suits and raising $400,000 for the nascent company. The first batch is set to be delivered by the end of July.

Andrew Porter points out that sff got there first!  Photo from 1936 film Things to Come:

(13) BEST OF FIENDS. Io9 says “Marvel Villainous Is Perfect for Those Who Thought the Disney Version Was Too Nice”.

If playing Disney Villainous is like being in the fifth grade, Marvel Villainous is the first day of middle school. It feels the same, but it’s totally not. There are rules and norms you had no idea existed but are now the most important things in the world—and there’s a chance the classmates you came along with may not be your friends by the end of it. But that kinda makes Ravensburger’s board game a blast.

The latest board and card game release from Ravensburger (in a partnership with Prospero Hall) is a departure from the Disney Villainous series, which pitted different Disney villains against each other in a race to complete goals from their movies. This version ventures into the Marvel Universe to focus on the exploits of classic comic book baddies (they’re technically not the MCU versions but they have very similar designs and goals, so they’re pretty much the same thing).

The starting edition of this game, Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power, features five villains: Hela, Killmonger, Ultron, Thanos, and Taskmaster. 

(14) THIS IS THE CITY. Andrew Porter passed along links to two overviews of Los Angeles right after City Hall was built – terrain that will look familiar to those of you who have seen the Fifties monster movie THEM! (Or the original Dragnet series.)

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Sharknado Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that all the “science” in Sharknado was “pier-reviewed” because “some drunk guy on the pier reviewed it.”

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

Pixel Scroll 6/13/20 Scroll Me The Pixel Of Alfredo Tsundoku

(1) EMERGENCY KERFUFFLE. When the New York Times recently reported that “the Internet Archive is ending its program of offering free, unrestricted copies of e-books because of a lawsuit from publishers, which said lending out books without compensation for authors or publishing houses was ‘willful mass copyright infringement’”, part of the internet fell on Chuck Wendig who had called IA a ”pirate site” for setting up the so-called National Emergency Library, even though he was only one of many to do so. His thread starts here. Update: “Only approved followers can see @ChuckWendig’s Tweets”

(2) ACTION ITEMS. The Booktubers behind the BooktubeSFF Awards have postponed the awards in favor of addressing some compelling issues:

(3) POINTING THE WAY. Here’s Buzzfeed’s list of “20 Books To Read If You Want To Get Into Black Sci-Fi And Fantasy”.

BuzzFeed Books recently asked Goodreads about its most popular Black speculative fiction titles. Below are 20 books that get high ratings and ample attention from the site’s many lovers of sci-fi and fantasy….

20. Mothership: Tales From Afrofuturism and Beyond, edited by Bill Campbell and Edward Austin Hall

Mothership: Tales From Afrofuturism and Beyond is an anthology gathering the writings of some of the most talented and groundbreaking authors of Afrofuturism and beyond, including N.K. Jemisin, Linda D. Addison, Rabih Alameddine, and more.

5-star review: “The best thing about this anthology is that it is filled with a variety of fiction across speculative genres from authors with both complementary and completely different styles. Mothership is a go-to if you want to bathe in Black speculative excellence, but it is also simply about the human experience across ethnicities, times, and places. It features works from and about other peoples of color, multi-racial individuals, and seats them all in different contexts.” —Dara Crawley

(4) WW. Another delay: “Wonder Woman 1984 sets release date for Oct. 2”CNET has the story.

… “Wish we were sharing our film yesterday but there are more important things going on in our world we’d rather you focus on for now,” Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins tweeted. “Thank you to our fans for being so great, by our sides.”

(5) UNDER THE HOOD. The guidelines for CoNZealand’s virtual masquerade are out. There are a lot of them. This is just an excerpt.

…Due to the current pandemic and global and local responses to it we are going digital! Both for our event and for all registrations, content, and that means entries.

All of the above rules apply. These are standard health and safety rules.

All entries will be pre-recorded.

You will have 2 minutes for your performance, solo entries included! Technical advice on recording your performance will be coming shortly, but most smartphones will be up to the task for video, more care will be needed for audio so please plan and have a back up accordingly!

You will also have 5 mins for a Q&A that will introduce you to our CoNZealand crew and audience.

We will be streaming the Masquerade as well as have the entries viewable before and after the event, this necessitates changes to what we are able to use for audio in entries. This information will be available soon.

(6) FULL LID. Alasdair Stuart, in this week’s “The Full Lid — 12th June 2020”, takes a long look at the extraordinary Blindspotting, written by and starring Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal and directed by Carlos López Estrada. Then, “From Oakland we go to deep space and check out Nerys Howell’s precise, brilliant one-season science fiction podcast Seren. Finally, we come into land in rural Ireland with the fantastic The Hole in the Ground, directed by Lee Cronin who will be directing the next Evil Dead movie.” The interstitials this week are episodes of the superb Nightlight horror fiction podcast. 

(7) LIZARD LEFTOVERS. You couldn’t make this stuff up! But somebody did — “5 Super Weird Godzilla Vs. Movies That Almost Got Made”. For instance:

Godzilla vs. Batman

Holy radiated lizard scales, is Godzilla vs. Batman really a thing? Yes, I’m afraid it is, and Toho isn’t the only one that came up with the idea. American studio Greenway Productions, led by producer William Dozier, who produced Adam West’s Batman: The Movie, had a script drafted called Batman Meets Godzilla. Toho, for its part, had screenwriter Shinzi Sekizawa, who wrote Mothra vs. Godzilla, write its own version, but little is known about that one. The draw to have Godzilla fight Batman in both Japan and the United States seemed purely logical at the time. Batman’s comic books were flying off the shelves in Japan, and Godzilla movies were relatively popular in America too. So for both production companies, it seemed like a no-brainer to have a man dressed up like a bat fight a giant radiated lizard.

In William Dozier’s script, Batman, Robin and Batgirl first fight the villainous mad scientist Klaus Finster, who eventually awakens Godzilla. Batman and his sidekicks use every Bat-tool in their Bat-belts to stop the destructive Godzilla, but eventually settle on a plan to lure Godzilla with a mating call and then knock him out with explosives. After a thrilling battle between Godzilla and the Bat-crew, Batman finds a way to attach an explosive to Godzilla’s neck with Bat-rope and detonates it. While Godzilla is unconscious, the humans build a rocket around him and send him into the far reaches of outer space.

Sadly, this whimsical and silly adventure would never come to pass, likely because it’s insane, but also because the seas of change were roaring. The Adam West Batman TV show only lasted three seasons and a much darker interpretation of Batman was brewing in the comic books. Eventually, both Batman and Godzilla would see a radical transformation, but they would never meet on the big screen.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 13, 1958 Forbidden Planet premiered. It was produced by Nicholas Nayfack, and directed by Fred M. Wilcox. The screenplay was by Cyril Hume from a story by Irving Block and Allen Adler. It starred Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis and Leslie Nielsen, with narration by Les Tremayne. Critics loved the film. “Weird but fascinating and exciting” said one. On its initial run the film turned a modest profit. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a spectacular 85% rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 13, 1860 – Lancelot Speed.  Painter, illustrator, director of early British silent films, cartoonist in Punch and elsewhere.  Illustrated Andrew Lang’s Fairy books and Rider Haggard’s She, for which he also designed the film sets.  Here is Swanhild walking the seas, from Haggard’s Eric Brighteyeshere is Snowdrop in her glass coffin, from The Red Fairy Bookhere is a scene from The Odyssey.  (Died 1931) [JH]
  • Born June 13, 1865 – W.B. Yeats.  Nobel Prize in Literature.  Co-founded the Abbey Theatre.  Student of Irish folklore & fantasy; Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry reprinted 2015 as Irish Fairy Tales.  A dozen short stories, forty poems, for us.  Here is “Among School Children” (How can we know the dancer from the dance?).  Here is “Byzantium”.  Here is “The Second Coming” (what rough beast?).  (Died 1939) [JH]
  • Born June 13, 1892 Basil Rathbone. He’s best remembered for being Sherlock Holmes in fourteen films made between 1939 and 1946 and in a radio series of the same period. For films other than these, I’ll single out The Adventures of Robin Hood (all Robin Hood is fantasy), Son of Frankenstein and Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet. (Died 1967.) (CE) 
  • Born June 13, 1893 – Dorothy Sayers.  Known for Lord Peter Wimsey, whom I applaud – including his meticulously shown faults – but little of her detective fiction is ours (there are a few, like “The Cyprian Cat” which happens not to have Lord Peter).  Her religious writing was not fantasy for her.  I offer two points.  One small: in Busman’s Honeymoon, climax of the Wimsey stories, the ghost, almost an aside, is superb.  One great: her rendition of The Divine Comedy: it is fantasy: it’s Dante’s dream.  Sayers didn’t invent it; nor did Pope invent the Iliad and the Odyssey, his renditions of which, liberties taken and all, still shine.  (Died 1957) [JH]
  • Born June 13, 1903 Frederick Stephani. Screenwriter and film director who is best remembered for co-writing and directing the 13-chapter Flash Gordon serial in 1936. He directed Johnny Weissmuller‘s Tarzan’s New York Adventure (aka Tarzan Against the World). He was also a uncredited writer on 1932’s Dracula. (Died 1962.) (CE)
  • Born June 13, 1920 – Walter Ernsting.  Co-founded the Science Fiction Club Deutschland – note its combined English-German name – editing its newsletter five years.  Called the father of German fandom.  Big Heart Award.  Co-invented (as Clark Darlton) Perry Rhodan – who began, in 1961, as a U.S. Space Force Major of 1971; here is the first cover; as of early 2019, more than 3,000 weekly digest-size booklets, 400 paperbacks, 200 hardbacks, two billion copies in novella format sold worldwide.  As CD and otherwise, three hundred SF novels, many shorter stories, many with co-authors; translated into Dutch, English, French, Russian; commemorative book in 2000, Clark Darlton, the Man who Brought the Future.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born June 13, 1929 Ralph McQuarrie. Conceptual designer and illustrator. He worked on the original Star Wars trilogy, the first Battlestar GalacticaStar Wars Holiday SpecialCocoonRaiders of the Lost Ark, Nightbreed, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home andE.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born June 23, 1934 – Doreen Webbert.  First appeared in 1959, joining SAPS (the Spectator Amateur Press Society) and with husband Jim serving jointly as Official Editors six years.  First convention, Westercon 13 (Boise, Idaho).  Later to Arizona.  Stalwart of Leprecons, Coppercons, Westercons, NASFiCs (N. Amer. SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas).  Fan Guest of Honor at Tuscon 15, Coppercon 9, Con/Fusion (sponsored by San Diego Comic-Con), Kubla Khanterfeit.  [JH]
  • Born June 13, 1943 Malcolm McDowell, 77. My favorite role for him was Mr. Roarke on the rebooted Fantasy Island. Of course, his most infamous role was Alex in A Clockwork Orange. Scary film that. His characterization of H. G. Wells in Time After Time was I thought rather spot on. And I’d like to single out his voicing Arcady Duvall in the “Showdown” episode of Batman: The Animated Series. (CE)
  • Born June 13, 1949 Simon Callow, 71. English actor, musician, writer, and theatre director. So, what’s he doing here? Well he got to be Charles Dickens twice on Doctor Who, the first being in “The Unquiet Dead” during the time of the Ninth Doctor and then later during “The Wedding of River Song”, an Eleventh Doctor story. He’d also appear, though not as Dickens, on The Sarah Jane Adventures as the voice of Tree Blathereen in “The Gift” episode. I’ve not watched the series. How are they? He was also The Duke of Sandringham in the first season of Outlander. (CE)
  • Born June 13, 1953 Tim Allen, 67. Jason Nesmith in the much beloved Galaxy Quest. (Which won a much deserved Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at Chicon 2000.) He actually had a big hit several years previously voicing Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story which would be the first in what would become a film franchise.
  • Born June 13, 1974 – Jeaniene Frost.  Her Night Huntress books have been New York Times and USA Today best-sellers.  Fifteen of them so far, nine more novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  Audiobooks.  She says, “In my dream, I saw a man and a woman arguing.  Somehow I knew the woman was a half-vampire, the man was a full vampire, and they were arguing because he was angry that she’d left him.”  Her Website is here.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) HISTORY MOVES IN HITCHCOCK’S DIRECTION. SYFY Wire tells “Six Ways Psycho Impacted The Future Of Film”.

Psycho inspired the first documentary about a single scene in a film

By now, we are used to feature-length documentaries about the making of certain classic films – or what they could have been. Room 237, Jodorowsky’s Dune, Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau, Lost in La Mancha, and Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy are just a few recent examples. But 78/52 is the first documentary to concentrate on a single scene in a film. The documentary, directed by Alexandre O. Philippe, focuses on the infamous “shower scene.” The title refers to the number of set-ups in the scene (78) and the number of cuts (52). What other film has a three-minute scene that could hold enough interest to generate a 91-minute documentary?

(12) MARS SCIENCE CITY. CNN tells how “Architects have designed a Martian city for the desert outside Dubai” – with photos.

Dubai is a city where firefighters use jetpacks, archipelagos are built from scratch, and buildings climb into the clouds; a slick metropolis in the middle of a vast red desert. First-time visitors would be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled onto a film set for a sci-fi movie.

Now Dubai is set for what must be its most other-worldly architectural project yet.

In 2017, the United Arab Emirates announced its ambition to colonize Mars within the next 100 years. But architects are already imagining what a Martian city might look like — and planning to recreate it in the desert outside Dubai.

Mars Science City was originally earmarked to cover 176,000 square meters of desert — the size of more than 30 football fields — and cost approximately $135 million.

Intended as a space for Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) to develop the technology needed to colonize Mars, architects Bjarke Ingels Group were asked to design a prototype of a city suitable for sustaining life on Mars — and then adapt it for use in the Emirati desert.

(13) WATCHING MASTER SHIFU.  “Red pandas tracked by satellite in conservation ‘milestone'”.

Conservationists are satellite tracking red pandas in the mountains of Nepal to find out more about the factors that are driving them towards extinction.

The mammals are endangered, with numbers down to a few thousand in the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China.

Ten red pandas have been fitted with GPS collars to monitor their range in the forests near Mount Kangchenjunga.

(14) BEST GUESSES. Vice is delighted to inform readers that “Scientists Have Discovered Vast Unidentified Structures Deep Inside the Earth”. What are they? The article offers a couple of wild-ass theories.

Scientists have discovered a vast structure made of dense material occupying the boundary between Earth’s liquid outer core and the lower mantle, a zone some 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) beneath our feet.

The researchers used a machine learning algorithm that was originally developed to analyze distant galaxies to probe the mysterious phenomenon occurring deep within our own planet, according to a paper published on Thursday in Science.

(15) DON’T LOSE THIS NUMBER. Marc Laidlaw shares “The Satellite 37L4O5 Etc. Waltz.”

In the future, everyone will have a unique customized waltz, personalized entirely for them, which identifies them immediately. Reminder: Any waltz may be suspended at the discretion of the Identi-Waltz Authority.

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