Rondon Receives Sentence for Murder Conviction

Luis R. Rondon, former King of the Society for Creative Anachronism’s East Kingdom, today was sentenced to twenty-five years to life in state prison in connection with the October 2019 murder of Deborah Waldinger reports the Orange County (NY) District Attorney.

Rondon had been convicted by a jury in October of murder in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree. The sentence is the highest authorized under the law for murder in the second degree.

Rondon, who was a peace officer and sergeant with the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority at the time of the murder, knew the victim through their activities in the Society for Creative Anachronism.

At the trial, prosecutors argued that Rondon had killed the victim by striking her repeatedly on the head with a recently purchased framing hammer, and then flew to California where he was later apprehended. Prosecutors argued that Rondon’s motive for killing the victim was that she had threatened to tell his wife about their relationship and that he feared losing his wife, his house and his pension.  

“I am gratified that this defendant received the maximum sentence for this particularly brutal murder that was made even more horrific by the fact that the victim was killed in her own home,” said District Attorney David Hoovler. “It is always disturbing when someone whose job is to promote public safety commits acts of senseless violence.”

Pixel Scroll 10/30/21 I Never Meta Pixel I Couldn’t Scroll

(1) SEEMS I’VE HEARD THAT SONG BEFORE. “’Metaverse’ creator Neal Stephenson reacts to Facebook name change”Axios asked what he thought about the Zuckerberg announcement.

How do you feel about a storyline that you wrote in “Snow Crash” now turning into our potential global future?

It’s flattering when readers take the work seriously enough to put their own time and money into bringing similar ideas to fruition. After all the buildup in the last few weeks, the Meta announcement has a ripping-off-the-bandaid feeling.

Almost since the beginning of the genre, science fiction writers have occasionally been given credit for inspiring real-life inventions, so this is not new and it’s not unique. I was aware of that fact thirty years ago when I wrote “Snow Crash,” but I didn’t necessarily expect it to happen.

Good science fiction tries to depict futures that are plausible enough to seem convincing to the readers — many of whom are technically savvy, and tough critics.

So when depicting a future technology in a work of science fiction, you have to make it plausible. And if it’s plausible enough, it can be implemented in the real world.

(2) FUTURE TENSE. The series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination continues with “Furgen,” a new short story by Andrew Silverman, about a retriever, his owner, and his A.I.-enabled minder.

Caro had only once before felt such elation from a text alert, and that was when she first got Tucker in the mail. She ordered him from an exclusive breeder in Tokyo, of all places. She remembered she was watching videos of puppies learning to swim when her phone buzzed, followed by a message stating that Tucker, her beautiful new retriever, had just arrived on her doorstep. She shrieked with glee, ran outside to the porch, and opened up the hole-punched box containing the love of her life.

Today, six months into puppy parenting, Caro’s phone buzzed again, interrupting her usual stream of puppy content, to notify her that Furgen A.I. 2.0© had finally arrived….

There’s also a response essay by Clive D.L. Wynne, author of Dog Is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You.

It doesn’t take any special technology to see that dogs love people. Hildegard von Bingen, in the 11th century, noted that “a certain natural community of behavior binds [the dog] to humans. Therefore, he responds to man, understand him, loves him and likes to stay with him.” It could fairly be said that, like Othello, dogs love not wisely, but too well. Their loyalty to our capricious species has seen dogs led into wars, ill-fated Arctic expeditions, and many other tragic misadventures.

But are there limits on dogs’ capacity for love?…

(3) WFC 2021 ANNOUNCES DAY MEMBERSHIPS. World Fantasy Convention 2021 in Montréal will be selling day memberships. See more information at their website. The prices in Canadian dollars are:

  • Thursday  $75
  • Friday      $100
  • Saturday $100
  • Sunday      $50

World Fantasy Convention 2021 will be held at the Hotel Bonaventure Montréal from November 4-7.

(4) KEEP PUTTING ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF ANOTHER. At Eight Miles Higher, Andrew Darlington delves into the history of the UK’s most long-lived prozine: “SF Magazine History: ‘INTERZONE’”.

In terms of simple longevity, ‘Interzone’ must be credited as Britain’s most successful SF magazine ever. In January 1991 it comfortably coasted past the forty-one issue limit achieved by ‘Nebula’. Then by August 1994, it surpassed the eighty-five editions of ‘Authentic Science Fiction’. Leaving ‘Science Fantasy’ in its wake, until eventually, by the July-August 2009 issue, through stealth and persistence, it finally outdistanced the 222 incarnations of ‘New Worlds’. Nothing can now compete with that total. And throughout that regularly-spaced life-span, unlike the bizarre array of relaunches, rebirths and reconfigurations that characterized its predecessors, ‘Interzone’ has retained its recognizable appearance on the newsagent’s shelf as a reassuringly attractive glossy A4 magazine. 

(5) TWELVE-BODY SOLUTION. “The Three-Body Problem Casts 12 Stars, Including Two ‘Game of Thrones’ Alums” reports Tell-Tale TV. Twelve cast members are named at the link.

Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss didn’t wind up making their Star Wars movie, but the duo is working on a new science-fiction series for Netflix: The Three-Body Problem

…According to Deadline, the show has begun casting, announcing 12 stars for the upcoming series. Among them are two Game of Thrones alums: John Bradley and Liam Cunningham…. 

With actors hailing from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a number of popular films, it seems The Three-Body Problem will have a fairly recognizable cast. The creators haven’t revealed who’s playing who, but further updates should be on the horizon.

(6) NIGHT LIFE IN SANTA FE. There will be “A Night of Wild Cards!” at G.R.R. Martin’s Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, NM on November 13 at 4:00 p.m. – ticket info at the link.

Have you been touched by the Wild Card?

Spend an evening with authors George R.R. Martin, Melinda Snodgrass, and John Jos Miller as they speak about the Wild Cards Series, up coming projects, and remember fellow author and friend, Victor Milan.

Help us celebrate the life of Victor Milan, the release of “Turn of the Cards” in Trade Paperback, and “Death Draws Five” in Hardcover!

The Jean Cocteau is also a place where you can see Dune, the “Once-in-a-generation film,” as it was meant to be seen — on the big screen with a specially handcrafted cocktail in your hand.

(7) SIT DOWN, JOHN. In Debarkle Chapter 70, Camestros Felapton tells how the sf field finally said out loud they were ready for “Life After Campbell”.

…Torgersen’s Sad Puppies 3 slate and been something of a last hurrah for Analog at the Hugo Awards, with four Analog stories becoming finalists on the strength of the Puppy campaigns. Torgersen also included Kary English on the slate due to their common connection with Writers of the Future. No Writers of the Future from a year after 2015 would be a finalist again in the following years nor would any story from Analog make it onto the ballot…

(8) TURN AND RETURN. Boston University humanities professor Susan Mizrouchi on what caused Henry James to be interested in the supernatural and write The Turn Of The Screw. “On Spiritualism and the Afterlife in Henry James’ Turn of the Screw” at CrimeReads.

…Like many contemporary intellectuals, William and Henry took ghosts seriously. They were friendly with Frederic W. H. Myers, who headed the Society for Psychical Research, and Henry was recorded in the minutes of a society meeting in London reading a report on behalf of his absent brother about a female medium who was occasionally overtaken by the spirit of a dead man. Society researchers sought positivistic evidence of ghosts and provided a steady stream of testimonies for public consumption. These accounts of specter sightings, which numbered in the thousands, were in turn avidly consumed by readers, who couldn’t get enough of them.

The James brothers’ views on ghosts were rooted in contemporary science, and also in their personal convictions about the fate of consciousness after death. Having enjoyed such fertile minds, and interacted with so many others, neither could accept that these vital organs would simply expire with the body…. 

(9) DETERMINED COLLECTOR. “Holy bikini-clad Batwoman! Archive saves Mexico’s scorned popular films” – the Guardian tells how they did it.

… Had they not been rescued from a dusty storehouse seven years ago, the original negatives of hundreds of Mexican movies featuring the likes of the silver-masked crime-fighting wrestler El Santo, a bikini-clad Batwoman and the Satan-worshipping Panther Women would have been lost forever.

Salvation came in the form of Viviana García Besné, a film-maker, archivist, self-described “popular film activist” and descendant of Mexico’s cinematic Calderón clan…. 

“I thought the best, and most obvious, thing would be to send them all to the big film institutions in Mexico,” she says. “I told them about this marvellous collection of films, photos and paperwork, and thought they’d all jump for joy. But they were like, ‘We’ll have that, and maybe that, but not that.’”

Unwilling to split up the collection – “It’s the work of a company that began in 1910 and made films until 1990; that’s 80 years of cinema history,” she says – García Besné decided to hang on to it all and to embark on a quest to rescue and reappraise Mexico’s cine popular.

Her Permanencia Voluntaria (Double Feature) archive, which has extended beyond the Calderón collection and now holds some 400 films, is being showcased in Madrid this month in a season at Spain’s national film archive, the Filmoteca Española.

Despite the archive’s growing international reputation – it has restored 10 films over the past four years, and the collection is housed between the Mexican town of Tepoztlán and the UCLA film archive and the Academy film archive in Los Angeles – its genesis and survival have been far from easy….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1987 – Thirty-four years ago, The Hidden premiered. Directed by Jack Sholder and produced by committee as it had three producers (Michael L. Meltzer, Gerald T. Olson and Robert Shaye). It was written by Jim Kouf (under the pseudonym Bob Hunt. Kouf being an Edgar Award winning screenplay writer apparently decided not to be associated with this film. It had a cast of Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Nouri,  Clu Gulager, Chris Mulkey, Ed O’Ross, Clarence Felder, Claudia Christian and Larry Cedar. 

Critics liked it with Roger Ebert calling it “a surprisingly effective film“. Not surprisingly it has gained cult status.   Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an excellent seventy-three rating. It likely more or less lost at least something  even after making ten million as it cost five million to make and figuring in publicity costs that suggests a loss. 

A sequel, The Hidden II, direct to DDV, came out six years later. It did not have the cast of the original film. Let’s just say that it’s wasn’t well received and leave it there. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 30, 1923 William Campbell. In “The Squire of Gothos” on Trek, which was a proper Halloween episode even if it wasn’t broadcast then, he was Trelane, and in “The Trouble With Tribbles” he played the Klingon Koloth, a role revisited on Deep Space Nine in “Blood Oath”. He appeared in several horror films including Blood BathNight of Evil, and Dementia 13. He started a fan convention which ran for several years, Fantasticon, which celebrated the achievements of production staffers in genre films and TV shows and raised funds for the Motion Picture & Television Fund, a charitable organization which provides assistance and care to those in the motion picture industry with limited or no resources, when struck with infirmity and/or in retirement age. (Died 2011.)
  • Born October 30, 1939 Grace Slick, 82. Lead singer first with Jefferson Airplane and then with Jefferson Starship, bands with definite genre connections.  “Hyperdrive” off their Dragonfly album was used at the MidAmeriCon opening ceremonies. And Blows Against the Empire was nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation at Noreascon 1, a year that had no winner.
  • Born October 30, 1947 Tim Kirk, 74. His senior thesis would be mostly published by Ballantine Books as the 1975 Tolkien Calendar. Impressive. Even more impressive, he won Hugo Awards for Best Fan Artist at Heicon ’70, L.A. Con I, Torcon II, Discon II and again at MidAmeriCon. With Ken Keller, he co-designed the first cold-cast resin base used at MidAmeriCon. He also won a Balrog and was nominated for a World Fantasy Award as well.
  • Born October 30, 1951 Harry Hamlin, 70. His first role of genre interest was Perseus on Clash of The Titans. He plays himself in Maxie, and briefly shows up in Harper’s Island. He also has two choice voice roles in Batman: the Animated Series,  Cameron Kaiser in “Joker’s Wild” and even more impressive as the voice of werewolf Anthony “Tony” Romulus in “Moon of the Wolf”.  Since I know a lot of you like the series, I’ll note he plays Aaron Echolls in Veronica Mars
  • Born October 30, 1951 P. Craig Russell, 70. Comic illustrator whose work has won multiple Harvey and Eisner Awards. His work on Killraven, a future version of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, collaborating with writer Don McGregor, was lauded by readers and critics alike. Next up was mainstream work at DC with I think his work on Batman, particularly with Jim Starlin, being amazing. He also inked Mike Mignola’s pencils on the Phantom Stranger series. He would segue into working on several Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné projects. Worth noting is his work on a number of Gaiman projects including a Coraline graphic novel.  Wayne Alan Harold Productions published the P. Craig Russell Sketchbook Archives, a 250-page hardcover art book featuring the best of his personal sketchbooks.
  • Born October 30, 1958 Max McCoy, 63. Here for a quartet of novels (Indiana Jones and the Secret of the SphinxIndiana Jones and the Hollow EarthIndiana Jones and the Dinosaur Eggs and Indiana Jones and the Philosopher’s Stone) which flesh out the backstory and immerse Indy in a pulp reality. He’s also writing Wylde’s West, a paranormal mystery series.
  • Born October 30, 1972 Jessica Hynes, 49. Playing Joan Redfern, she shows up on two of the best Tenth Doctor stories, “Human Nuture” and “The Family of Blood”. She’d play another character, Verity Newman in a meeting of the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, “The End of Time, Part Two”. Her other genre role was as Felia Siderova on Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) in the “Mental Apparition Disorder” and  “Drop Dead” episodes. Her last genre adjacent role is Sofie Dahl in Roald & Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) HOMETOWN HAUNT. “Meet Karl Edward Wagner, Knoxville’s influential cult horror author that almost no one knows” — the Knoxville News Sentinel fans the flames of his memory.

…As the editor of The Year’s Best Horror anthology from 1980 until his death in 1994, Wagner showcased writers like Steven King, Harlan Ellison, Robert Bloch and Ramsey Campbell. Imagery from Wagner’s Lovecraftian short story “Sticks” influenced works like “The Blair Witch Project” and the “devil’s nests” branch constructs in the first season of “True Detective.”

“Wagner was ripped off,” said the late horror writer Dennis Etchison in a documentary interview. “That is only my opinion so the makers of ‘Blair Witch’ should not sue me. … I can only say that is my personal opinion, as an expert witness.”

But as large as a presence as he was in 1980s horror scene, his personal fame never matched the far-reaching influence of his ideas and taste. Wagner’s books and short stories are out of print and hard to obtain…. 

(14) NO SPARE CHANGE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Now this is meta. (Even though it has nothing to do with the newly renamed Meta.) New Yorker magazine has published a book review for a book about how Amazon is changing the way books are written—Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon (Verso), by literary scholar Mark McGurl. “Is Amazon Changing the Novel?”

…McGurl’s real interest is in charting how Amazon’s tentacles have inched their way into the relationship between reader and writer. This is clearest in the case of [Kindle Direct Publishing]. The platform pays the author by the number of pages read, which creates a strong incentive for cliffhangers early on, and for generating as many pages as possible as quickly as possible. The writer is exhorted to produce not just one book or a series but something closer to a feed—what McGurl calls a “series of series.” In order to fully harness K.D.P.’s promotional algorithms, McGurl says, an author must publish a new novel every three months. To assist with this task, a separate shelf of self-published books has sprung up, including Rachel Aaron’s “2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love,” which will help you disgorge a novel in a week or two. Although more overtly concerned with quantity over quality, K.D.P. retains certain idiosyncratic standards. Amazon’s “Guide to Kindle Content Quality” warns the writer against typos, “formatting issues,” “missing content,” and “disappointing content”—not least, “content that does not provide an enjoyable reading experience.” Literary disappointment has always violated the supposed “contract” with a reader, no doubt, but in Bezos’s world the terms of the deal have been made literal. The author is dead; long live the service provider….

(15) TO SWERVE PLAN. Master satirist Alexandra Petri parodies Facebook’s name change via Twilight Zone episodes. “Goodbye, Facebook. Welcome to the Meta Zone.”

There is a sixth dimension beyond that which is known to man, as vast as space and as timeless as infinity, lying somewhere just past the Twilight Zone, between the pit of Mark Zuckerberg’s fears and the summit of Mark Zuckerberg’s knowledge. It is an area we call … Meta, the new rebranded name of the Facebook parent company. Here are a few tales from this place….

(16) GRAND THEFT DINO. The case has been cracked. Unfortunately, so have the dinos. “3 dinosaur statues stolen from museum found damaged at Texas fraternity, officials say”Yahoo! has the story.

Three beloved dinosaur statues that were snatched from a Central Texas museum are back home thanks to the help of an eagle-eyed tipster. Unfortunately, two were heavily damaged.

Attention was widespread after the statues – named Minmi, Dilong and Dimetrodon, each 6 to 10 feet long – were stolen from their exhibit areas at The Dinosaur Park in Cedar Creek on Oct. 20, the park announced on its Facebook page. The dinosaurs were later recovered at a UT Austin fraternity, a representative for the museum confirmed to McClatchy News.

UT Austin is about 21 miles from The Dinosaur Park….

(17) FRIGHT AT NIGHT. Keith Roysdon talks about how he geeked out on horror in the 1960s building Aurora monster kits and reading Famous Monsters Of Filmland in “Growing Up Spooky” at CrimeReads.

.. A couple of years before I was born, the classic 1930s and 1940s Universal horror films were sold to TV stations around the country in the so-called “Shock” syndicated package. “Dracula,” “Frankenstein,” “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Invisible Man.” They were all there, or in the “Son of Shock” package to follow.

Suddenly, movies that had only been seen in theaters – in rare re-releases – for two or three decades were there for audiences old and new through television. Most stations packaged them as “Shock Theater” or “Nightmare Theater,” the latter a late-night double feature hosted by Sammy Terry, a genial ghoul played for Indiana viewers by Bob Carter, a mild-mannered musical instrument salesman by day who terrified us late at night each weekend….

(18) CLICK THAT CRITIC. Dom Noble tackles the new Dune movie. How good an adaptation of the book is it?

(19) LEGACY. It’s less fun if you don’t play them, but it can pay off for your heirs. “Sealed copy of ‘Super Mario Bros. 2’ sells for $88,550 in estate sale” reports UPI.

An auction house handling an estate sale for a recently deceased Indiana woman said a sealed copy of 1988 video game Super Mario Bros. 2 sold for a whopping $88,550.

(20) GOOD CLEAN FEAR. The New Yorker’s Richard Brody call these “The Best Horror Movies for Halloween—Without the Gore”.

…That said, there’s a formidable tradition of films that express horror according not to a set of established guidelines but to freely expressive impulse, evoking, through far-reaching imagination rather than blood and guts, the emotions of fear, dread, foreboding, and a sense the uncanny. Here are ten of my favorites….

The list includes –

Shadow of the Vampire”

(2000, E. Elias Merhige)

This extravagant horror drama, played earnestly, is nonetheless also a giddy comedy of counterfactual cinematic history. It’s centered on the shoot of “Nosferatu,” the founding vampire film, in which the titular bloodsucker—bald-headed, pointy-eared, pop-eyed, long-clawed, and fanged—runs rampage through the bedrooms of Transylvania. The wild premise of Merhige’s film (written by Steven Katz) is that the real-life actor playing that role, a little-known one named Max Schreck (the last name actually means “fright” in German), was cast in the role because he was a real-life vampire. John Malkovich plays Murnau, who, in order to cast Schreck, both deceives his cast and crew and puts them at grave risk; Schreck is played by Willem Dafoe, who is conspicuously having the time of his life playing a monster straight. Merhige, too, overtly delights in the misunderstandings that divide humans from monsters—and also offers a monstrous metaphor of cinematic history itself, the real-life depredations on which the classic cinema was founded.

(21) WHAT MUSIC THEY MAKE. Overly Sarcastic Productions takes on Werewolves for Halloween!

You know ’em, you love ’em, but you might not know ’em quite as well as you think you do! Today let’s dive into one of the big-name creatures of the night!

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Floor 9.5” at Vimeo, Tony Meakins says if the elevator stops between the ninth and tenth floor, don’t get off!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Bonnie McDaniel, Darrah Chavey, Jennifer Hawthorne, StephenfromOttwa, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 10/26/21 Big Pixel In Little Scroll

(1) KRUGMAN’S RINGING ENDORSEMENT. “‘Dune’ Is the Movie We Always Wanted” says Paul Krugman.  After pausing to tell us why he hates Apple TV’s Foundation series, he tells why he loves the Villenueve Dune adaptation.

… Now on to “Dune.” The book is everything “Foundation” isn’t: There’s a glittering, hierarchical society wracked by intrigue and warfare, a young hero of noble birth who may be a prophesied Messiah, a sinister but alluring sisterhood of witches, fierce desert warriors and, of course, giant worms.

And yes, it’s fun. When I was a teenager, my friends and I would engage in mock combat in which the killing blow had to be delivered slowly to penetrate your opponent’s shield — which will make sense if you read the book or watch the movie.

What makes “Dune” more than an ordinary space opera are two things: its subtlety and the richness of its world-building.

Thus, the Bene Gesserit derive their power not from magic but from deep self-control, awareness and understanding of human psychology. The journey of Paul Atreides is heroic but morally ambiguous; he knows that if he succeeds, war and vast slaughter will follow.

And the world Herbert created is given depth by layers of cultural references. He borrowed from Islamic and Ayurvedic traditions, from European feudalism and more — “Dune” represents cultural appropriation on a, well, interstellar scale. It’s also deeply steeped in fairly serious ecological thinking…

(2) SILICON VOLLEY. Did you have any doubts? “’Dune: Part 2′ Officially Greenlit” reports Variety. But you have to wait ‘til 2023 to see it.

… Legendary Entertainment announced the news in a tweet on Tuesday, ensuring that the spice will continue to flow on screen. Warner Bros. will distribute the film and help finance it, though Legendary is the primary money behind the movie and owns the film rights to the book series. The film is expected to have an exclusive theatrical run, and Legendary will likely make that point iron-clad after “Dune” debuted simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max last week. The unorthodox distribution pattern was a pandemic-era concession by Warner Bros., but one that caused an uproar when it was unveiled in 2020. “Dune: Part 2” will hit theaters on Oct. 20, 2023….

When interviewed by Variety at the Toronto Film Festival, Villeneuve said, “I wanted at the beginning to do the two parts simultaneously. For several reasons, it didn’t happen, and I agreed to the challenge of making part one and then wait to see if the movie rings enough enthusiasm… As I was doing the first part, I really put all my passion into it, in case it would be the only one. But I’m optimistic.”

(3) DISCON III BUSINESS MEETING DEADLINE. Meeting chair Kevin Standlee reminds all that the deadline for submitting proposals to the 2021 WSFS Business Meeting is November 16, 2021. Any two or more members of DisCon III (including supporting and virtual members) may sponsor new business. Submit proposals to businessmeeting@discon3.org. See “A Guide to the WSFS Business Meeting at DisCon III” [PDF file] for more information about the WSFS Business Meeting.

Reports from committees of the Business Meeting and financial reports from Worldcon committees are also due by November 16, 2021. Send reports to businessmeeting@discon3.org.

(4) RED ALERT. Remember when you had half a year to do all your Hugo reading? Okay, now’s time to panic. DisCon III today posted a reminder that the Hugo voting deadline is just a few weeks away.

(5) 6TH ANNUAL CITY TECH SF SYMPOSIUM. The Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium on Access and SF has extended the submission deadline of its call for papers until October 29. See full guidelines at the link.

The Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium aims to explore the broad theme of “Access and SF” as a way to understand the relationship between access and SF, identify what’s at stake and for whom, foster alliances between those fighting for access, and discuss how improving access for some improves access for all.

The Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium is a virtual event that will be held online Thursday, December 9 from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Eastern at CUNY in New York.

(6) HORROR TRIUMVIRATE Q&A. Goodreads invites fans to “Meet the Authors of Today’s Big Horror Novels”.

Stephen Graham Jones, author of My Heart Is a Chainsaw

GR: What’s your definition of a perfect horror novel?

SGJ: One that changes your daily behavior—makes you afraid of the shower, afraid of the dark, suspicious of the people in your life. One that leaves you no longer certain about yourself or the world you live in. A perfect horror novel is one you forget is a book at all. It’s one that lodges in your head and your heart as an experience, a little perturbation inside you that you only snag your thoughts on when alone. But when those thoughts start to seep blood, you place that cut to your mouth and drink. This is the nourishment you need, never mind how drained it leaves you feeling. Nothing’s for free.

Caitlin Starling, author of The Death of Jane Lawrence

GR: What’s your definition of a perfect horror novel?

CS:  I want to drown in atmosphere. That doesn’t mean I want only slow-moving horror but books that feel like the movies The Blackcoat’s Daughter or A Dark Song—something in that vein. I also want characters that I can live inside, that even if I question their decisions, I don’t just hate or want to suffer. It’s more fun for me to watch a character I enjoy struggle.

Grady Hendrix, author of The Final Girl Support Group

GR: What sparked the idea for your latest book?

GH: Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to see R-rated movies, so after Boy Scout meetings when our Scoutmaster took us to the gas station for snacks, I convinced him that I was allowed to buy issues of Fangoria with my snack money instead. I’d pore over Fango’s deeply detailed plot breakdowns and photo spreads so that I could pretend to have seen all these horror movies. The first one I remember was their feature on the opening of Friday the 13th Part 2, in which the final girl from Part 1, played by Adrienne King, gets murdered by Jason. The casual cruelty of that blew my mind. This woman had seen all her friends die, decapitated the killer, and survived, but she still couldn’t let her guard down. I always wanted to write her a happier ending.
(Fun fact: Adrienne King is the audiobook narrator for The Final Girl Support Group.)

(7) CLASSISM IN SESSION. In “The Potterization of Science Fiction”, The Hugo Book Club Blog decries a prevalent type of sff story, and the distortions it has wrought on the TV adaptation of Foundation.

…One of the fundamentally troubling assumptions behind the born-great protagonist is the anti-democratic idea that the lives of some people simply matter more than the lives of other people. If we accept that Harry Potter is destined to be the only one who can do the thing that’s important, then why should we care about the life of Ritchie Coote? Likewise, if Aragorn is destined for the throne then we have to accept that all other Men of Gondor would be incapable of managing the kingdom (let alone Women of Gondor). There is a direct link between the idea that one person can be born great, with the ideas that underpin racism, classism, and sexism. See also: the equally flawed “great man” theory….

(8) DEATH FROM ABOVE. In the latest episode of Phil Nichols and Colin Kuskie’s Science Fiction 101 podcast, “Fly Me To The Moon”, they review The Apollo Murders.

The author, Chris Hadfield, has flown on the Space Shuttle and on Soyuz, worked on the Russian Mir space station, and commanded the International Space Station. You can’t get more astronaut experience than that.

….If you’ve been tempted by The Apollo Murders, listen to our review to see if it’s the kind of thing that appeal to you. But do be warned: here there be spoilers!

(9) FRIENDLY LOCAL GAME STORE DOCUMENTARY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Here’s a trailer for an interesting Kickstarter documentary about the largest independent games store on Earth. Now, I might be biased, since I worked there in the 1990s, but Sentry Box is great. One of the best SF book selections anywhere (Gord, the owner handed me my first copy of Lest Darkness Fall … and Steve Jackson and Judith Reeves-Stevens used to visit the store semi-regularly.) 

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1984 – Thirty-seven years ago, The Terminator said “I’ll be back” as the first in that franchise was released.  It was directed by James Cameron who wrote it along with Gale Anne Hurd who also produced it. (She would marry Cameron in 1985.) It starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton.  Almost all the critics at the time really liked it, though the New York Times thought there was way too much violence. You think? One critic at the time said it had, and I quote, “guns, guns and more guns.” Huh.  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a very high score of eighty-nine percent. I was surprised that it did not get a Hugo nomination.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 26, 1942 Bob Hoskins. I’ll insist his role as Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is his finest genre role though I suppose Mario Mario in Super Mario Bros. could be said… Just kidding! He’s the Director of The Raggedy Rawney which he also had a role, a strange might be genre film, and he’s Smee in Hook as well. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 26, 1954 Jennifer Roberson, 67. Writer of of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is the desert based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed is her Sherwood duo-logy that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood which tells the Robin Hood tale from the perspective of Marian. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis. 
  • Born October 26, 1960 Patrick Breen, 61. He’s Redgick, a Squid, a minor character that appeared in Men in Black. In beloved Galaxy Quest, he’s Quelled, a Thermian who forms a bond with Alexander Dane. It’s a wonderful role. And he has a recurring role as Larry Your-Waiter, a member of V.F.D. on A Series of Unfortunate Events series. 
  • Born October 26, 1962 Faith Hunter, 59. Her longest running and most notable series to date is the Jane Yellowrock series though I’ve mixed feelings about the recent turn of events. She’s got a nifty SF series called Junkyard that’s been coming out on Audible first. Her only award to date is the Lifetime Achievement award to a science fiction professional given by DeepSouthCon. 
  • Born October 26, 1962 Cary Elwes, 57. He’s in the ever-so-excellent Princess Bride which won a Hugo at Nolacon II as Westley / Dread Pirate Roberts / The Man in Black. He also shows up in Dr. Lawrence Gordon in the Saw franchise, and was cast as Larry Kline, Mayor of Hawkins, for the third season of Stranger Things. And no, that’s hardly all his genre roles. 
  • Born October 26, 1963 Keith Topping, 58. It being the month of ghoulies, I’ve got another academic for you. He’s published Slayer: The Totally Cool Unofficial Guide to BuffyHollywood Vampire: An Expanded and Updated Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to AngelThe Complete Slayer: An Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Every Episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and one and one for horror film fans in general, A Vault of Horror: A Book of 80 Great British Horror Movies from 1956-1974. He’s also written some novels in the Doctor Who universe, some with Martin Day, and written non-fiction works on the original Avengers, you know which ones I mean, with Martin Day also, and ST: TNG & DS9 and Stargate as well with Paul Cornell. 
  • Born October 26, 1971 Jim Butcher, 50. I really don’t know how far I got in the the Dresden Files, at least though Proven Guilty, and I will go back to it eventually. Who here has read his other series, Codex Alera and Cinder Spires? I see he won a Dragon this year for his Battle Ground novel, the latest in the Dresden Files series.
  • Born October 26, 1973 Seth MacFarlane, 48. Ok, I confess that I tried watching The Orville which he created and it just didn’t appeal to me. For those of you who are fans, why do you like it? I will admit that having it described as trying to be a better Trek ain’t helping. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Garfield shows we need some better way to handle giant robots. (I imagine Slim Pickens delivering the line in the comic.)

(13) DIOP WINS NEUSTADT. Boubacar Boris Diop is the 27th laureate of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, which recognizes outstanding literary merit in literature worldwide. Diop is not a genre writer so far as I’m aware, but this major literary award news came out today.

Francophone writer Diop (b. 1946, Dakar, Senegal) is the author of many novels, plays and essays. He was awarded the Senegalese Republic Grand Prize in 1990 for Les Tambours de la mémoire as well as the Prix Tropiques for The Knight and His Shadow. His Doomi Golo was the first novel to be translated from Wolof into English. Toni Morrison called his novel Murambi: The Book of Bones “a miracle,” and the Zimbabwe International Book Fair listed it as one of the 100 best African books of the 20th century.

…The Neustadt Prize is the first international literary award of its scope to originate in the United States and is one of the very few international prizes for which poets, novelists and playwrights are equally eligible. Winners are awarded $50,000, a replica of an eagle feather cast in silver and a certificate.

Boubacar Boris Diop

(14) SCIENCE FICTION IS ALWAYS ABOUT THE PRESENT.  Ali Karjoo-Ravary’s article about the Dune novel and movie’s use of culture is much more nuanced than the headline Slate gives it: “Is HBO’s 2021 adaptation of Frank Herbert’s book a white savior narrative?”

…Part of this is also Herbert’s fault. By writing a story in which he intended to critique “Western man,” Herbert also centered Western man. Often when critiquing something, one falls into a binary that prevents the very third option that so many have been looking for since decolonization. Herbert’s greatest shortcoming can be seen in his analysis of T.E. Lawrence and the deification of leaders in an interview he gave in 1969. He said, “If Lawrence of Arabia had died at the crucial moment of the British … he would have been deified. And it would have been the most terrifying thing the British had ever encountered, because the Arabs would have swept that entire peninsula with that sort of force, because one of the things we’ve done in our society is exploited this power.”

Herbert’s shortcoming is not his idea that “Western man” seeks to exploit the deification of charismatic leaders but that Arabs (or any other non-Western) would fall easily for it. This notion, in fact, builds on a stereotype that motivated European powers to fund propaganda among Muslims during the world wars in the hope that they could provoke a global jihad against one another. Needless to say, that didn’t happen, because Islam isn’t a “warrior religion” whose followers are just waiting for the right trigger to go berserk. Islam’s followers are human and are as complicated and multifaceted as other humans. Herbert should have seen that more clearly….

(15) PILE THESE ON TOP OF MT. TBR. CrimeReads’ Rektok Ross recommends some compelling YA horror and sf novels: “9 YA Survival Thrillers To Get Your Heart Pounding This Fall”.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

During a catastrophic natural disaster, high school sophomore Miranda takes shelter with her family in this heart-stopping thriller. After a meteor knocks the moon closer to earth, worldwide tsunamis demolish entire cities, earthquakes rock the world, and ash from volcanic explosions block out the sun. When the summer turns dark and wintery in northeastern Pennsylvania, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother are forced to hideout in their sunroom, where they must survive solely on stockpiled food and limited water. Readers will find themselves completely riveted by this story of desperation in an unfamiliar world although there are small slivers of hope, too.

(16) UNCOVERED. Tenth Letter of the Alphabet, in “Inspiration: The Reflection”, compares Will Bradley’s 1894 art with the science fictional cover by Mike Hinge it inspired, published by the 1975 fanzine Algol. Editor Andrew Porter commented there —

…This issue was the first with a full color cover. Working with the artist, Mike Hinge, was a challenge. He was a stickler for details, even demanded that his copyright appear on the front cover, in the artwork! This was also the first issue with the covers printed on 10pt Kromecoate, so the image really bumped up.

I forgot to mention that Hinge also did interior artwork, for the Le Guin piece. Also, all the type on the cover, and the headlines inside was done using LetraSet, which I still have dozens of sheets of, though I haven’t used it in decades.

(17) TOCHI ONYEBUCHI AND NGHI VO. At Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron, Nghi Vo and Tochi Onyebuchi joined Alan Bond and Karen Castelletti to talk about their 2021 Hugo Awards nominated works, Empress of Salt and Fortune and Riot Baby.

(18) FAMILY TREE. Joe Abercrombie’s response to Nina Melia’s tweet is, “Holy shit I’m Frodo in this metaphor?”

(19) THE WEED OF CRIME. In the Washington Post, Hannah Knowles says that federal prosecutors have charged Vinath Oudomzine for fraudulently obtaining a pandemic-related Small Businsss Administration loan. Prosecutors charge that Oudomosine spend $57,789 on a Pokemon card, which they did not identify. “Vinath Oudomsine used covid-19 business relief to buy a Pokémon card, federal prosecutors say”.

… On July 14, 2020, according to prosecutors, Oudomsine sought a loan for a business that he said had 10 employees and revenue of $235,000 over a year. The next month, court documents state, the SBA deposited $85,000 into a bank account in Oudomsine’s name.

Court filings give few details about the alleged Pokémon card purchase — such as which “Pocket Monster” it carried — simply stating that Oudomsine bought it “on or about” Jan. 8 of this year.

Collectible gaming cards can fetch big sums — this year, one unopened box of first-edition Pokémon cards sold for more than $400,000.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Halloween Kills Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, which has spoilers, Ryan George says Michael Myers managers to escape from the cliffhanger of the previous Halloween movie, even though he’s “an eight-fingered 60-year-old with smoke inhalation.”  Also, Jamie Lee Curtis, despite her billing, is barely in the movie and about half the script is various characters saying, “Evil dies tonight!”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chris Barkley, Lise Andreasen, Jennifer Hawthorne, Rob Thornton, Michael J. Walsh, Dann, Gadi Evron, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Danny Sichel.]

Luis Rondon Convicted of Murder

Luis R. Rondon, former King of the Society for Creative Anachronism’s East Kingdom, was convicted by a jury today on charges of second degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon in connection with the 2019 murder of Deborah Waldinger reports News 12.

A press release issued by the Orange County (NY) District Attorney says Rondon faces from 25 years to life in prison on the murder charge when he is sentenced on December 15.

Rondon, who was a peace officer and sergeant with the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority at the time of the murder, knew the victim through their activities in the Society for Creative Anachronism.

Prosecutors argued at trial that Rondon had killed Waldinger by repeatedly striking her on the head with a recently-purchased framing hammer. He then flew to California to attend the Great Western War sponsored by the Kingdom of Caid, a regional chapter of the SCA, and was arrested by Taft (CA) police where the event was in progress. Prosecutors argued that his reason for murdering Waldinger was that she had threatened to tell his wife about their relationship and that he feared losing his wife, his house, and his pension.

Rondon was expelled from the SCA soon after his arrest in 2019.

Rondon Murder Trial Begins

Trial continues next week for Luis R. Rondon, former King of the Society for Creative Anachronism’s East Kingdom, on charges in connection with the murder of Deborah Waldinger in October 2019 reports News12.

Court information shows that jury selection was completed on September 22, and the trial is expected to run through September 29.

Prosecutors believe Rondon used a framing hammer to beat 32-year-old Deborah Waldinger to death in her New Windsor, NY apartment on October 7, 2019. He then traveled to California to attend the Great Western War sponsored by the Kingdom of Caid, a regional chapter of the SCA, and was arrested by Taft (CA) police on October 11 at the Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area where the event was in progress. He was extradited to New York.

Rondon’s attorneys entered not guilty pleas on his behalf to charges of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, felonies; and misdemeanor weapon possession in November 2019.

Rondon was expelled from the Society soon after his arrest.

The victim, Deborah Waldinger, was also active in the SCA, as well as in the Markland Medieval Mercenary Militia.

Pixel Scroll 9/14/21 I’m Sorry Dave, I’m Afraid I Can’t Scroll That

(1) HWA CELEBRATES LATINX HERITAGE MONTH. From September 15 through October 15 the HWA will be celebrating Latinx Heritage month in a series of interviews conducted by social media manager Sumiko Saulson.

The series will begin with an introductory piece from Cynthia “Cina” Pelayo. An excerpt: “Following this month is a celebration of our Latinx horror writers. I want to thank the Horror Writers Association for hosting this celebration of our Latinx horror writers. This is an exciting time to be a horror writer and to be a Latinx horror writer. Our stories are important and I’m happy to see the wonderful support our works are receiving.”
 
Go to Horror.org on September 15 to read the rest.

(2) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Almost 5,000 items – mainly comics — were stolen from Florida State University’s Robert M. Ervin Jr. Collection between March 17, 2020 and February 10, 2021. The list of what was taken is here.

The Robert M. Ervin Jr. Collection consists of comic books, serials, and containing and related to superheroes, science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Publications include those by Marvel Comics, DC Comics, underground comix publishers, foreign language titles, pulp magazines, and Big Little Books. Over 1200 serial titles are represented, predominantly from the 1950s through the 1970s. Other works include monographs and serials related to comic book collecting, history, and criticism as well as posters and prints featuring comic book characters and art.

Unfortunately, most missing items are not marked in any way that distinguishes them from other copies of the same magazines. Some may have mailing labels for Tallahassee, Florida addresses. Missing items may have appeared on the secondary market as early as March 2020.

If you have any information about these materials, please contact FSU Special Collections & Archives: Katie McCormick, Associate Dean of FSU Special Collections & Archives: kmccormick@fsu.edu

(3) THE BOOKER PRIZE. One book of genre interest has survived to join the half dozen on The Booker Prize shortlist. Its title is shown in boldface.

  • A Passage North, Anuk Arudpragasam (Granta Books, Granta Publications)
  • The Promise, Damon Galgut, (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)
  • No One is Talking About This, Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • The Fortune Men, Nadifa Mohamed (Viking, Penguin General, PRH)
  • Bewilderment, Richard Powers (Hutchinson Heinemann, PRH)
  • Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead (Doubleday, Transworld Publishers, PRH)

The winner will be announced on November 3.

(4) CORNERING THE MARKET. Horror Writers Association’s monthly Quick Bites tells that British horror author Graham Masterton has been honored for his work in Poland by the unveiling of a bronze dwarf on Kielbasnicza Street in the centre of Wroclaw.

It depicts him holding up a copy of his bestselling horror novel The Manitou, which told the story of a Native American shaman who was reincarnated after 400 years in the body of a white woman to take his revenge on the colonists who decimated his tribe. The Manitou was filmed with Tony Curtis, Susan Strasberg, Stella Stevens and Burgess Meredith.
 
The Manitou was the first Western horror novel published in Poland after the fall of Communism, and was a huge bestseller.  Graham Masterton visits Poland regularly and supports several Polish charities, including an orphanage in Strzelin.
 
Wroclaw boasts nearly 600 dwarves on its streets and they are a huge tourist attraction. 

(5) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. “Lost, stolen, eaten or burned, these are the words that the world will never read,” promises the Lost Manuscripts website, whose research includes a page from “The Eye of Argon” and a David Langford reference: “In which Page 49 goes missing for 34 years”.

.. What made this piece of fiction such a perennial hit? What made the exploits of Grignr, a barbarian, so relentlessly popular? Was it the wooden characters, the hackneyed plot? No. People generally agreed that it was the prose: the prose was spectacularly appalling. The special events at the science-fiction conventions were competitions: who could read the story aloud for the longest before beginning to laugh uncontrollably and thus be unable to continue?…

(6) HWA ONLINE READINGS. The Horror Writers Association “Galactic Terrors” online reading series for September 2021 features readings by Carol Gyzander, Sarah Read, and John Edward Lawson

CAROL GYZANDER writes and edits horror, dark fiction, and sci-fi. She’s Co-Coordinator of the HWA NY Chapter and one of the usual co-hosts of Galactic Terrors. …JOHN EDWARD LAWSON’s novels, short fiction, and poetry have garnered nominations for many awards, including the Stoker and Wonderland Awards. In addition to being a founder of Raw Dog Screaming Press and former editor-in-chief of The Dream People he currently serves as vice president of Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction. SARAH READ is a dark fiction writer in the frozen north of Wisconsin. Her short stories can be found in various places, including Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year vols 10 and 12. …Her debut novel THE BONE WEAVER’S ORCHARD, [was] nominated for the Bram Stoker, This is Horror, and Ladies of Horror Fiction Awards. Guest host MEGHAN ARCURI writes fiction. Her short stories can be found in various anthologies, including Borderlands 7 (Borderlands Press), Madhouse (Dark Regions Press), Chiral Mad, and Chiral Mad 3 (Written Backwards). She is currently the Vice President of the Horror Writers Association.

(7) SHOULD HAVE STAYED AT HOME. James Davis Nicoll picks out “Five Doomed Attempts at Planetary Colonization” for Tor.com readers.

Methuselah’s Children by Robert A. Heinlein (1958)

Products of an implausibly successful eugenics project, the long-lived Howard families become the focus of the mayfly masses’ paranoia that the Howards’ lifespan is not thanks to inherent genetic gifts but some secret they will not share. Life on Earth swiftly becomes untenable for the Howards. Those who can flee commandeer a sublight starship and flee to the stars, hoping to find a new world they can call home.

Earthlike worlds prove to be surprisingly common. There is however a small catch: the planet the Howards first encounter is already occupied. The alien Jockaira appear roughly comparable to humans. They are in fact property. The planet’s true masters are godlike, and they have no place for humans. An act of functionally divine will sends the Howards on their way… to a world whose gentle natives prove just as advanced in their way as the gods and even more disquieting to mortal humans.

(8) ROAD LESS TAKEN. Connie Willis told her Facebook followers they have a new book to look forward to. She describes the plot at the link.

Random House has bought my new novel and it will be coming out….well, I don’t actually know when it will be coming out. There’s still the rewrite to do with my editor and then the galleys and stuff, but hopefully soon.

The novel is called THE ROAD TO ROSWELL, and it’s a comedy about UFOs and alien abduction (I mean, what else could it be but a comedy when aliens are involved?)

(9) NORM MACDONALD (1959-2021). A comic best known for his work on Saturday Night Live, Norm Macdonald died September 14 of cancer. McDonald did a lot of voice work for genre animated (and some non-animated) films/TV as well as having a recurring role in the first two seasons of The Orville voicing the blob Yaphit, a Gelatin Lieutenant and Engineer.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1964 – Fifty seven years ago this evening on ABC, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea premiered. It’s based on the 1961 film of the same name. Both were created by Irwin Allen, which enabled the film’s sets, costumes, props, special effects models, and even sometimes the footage of the film to be used in the television series. It was the first of Irwin Allen’s four SF series (the latter series being Lost in SpaceThe Time Tunnel and Land of the Giants.) It starred as Richard Basehart as Admiral Harriman Nelson and David Hedison as Captain Lee Crane Robert. It would last for four seasons of one hundred and ten episodes. A 39-inch Seaview Moebius Model Kit was sold during the series. You can purchase it on eBay.  

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 14, 1927 — Martin Caidin. His best-known novel is Cyborg which was the basis for The Six Million Dollar Man franchise. He wrote two novels in the Indiana Jones franchise and one in the Buck Rogers one as well. He wrote myriad other sf novels as well. Marooned was nominated for a Hugo at Heicon ’70 but TV coverage of Apollo XI won that year. he Six Million Dollar Man film was a finalist for Best Dramatic Presentation at Discon II which Woody Allen’s Sleeper won. (Died 1997.)
  • Born September 14, 1936 — Walter Koenig, 85. Best known for his roles as Pavel Chekov on the original Trek franchise and Alfred Bester (named in homage of that author and a certain novel) on Babylon 5Moontrap, a SF film with him and Bruce Campbell, would garner a twenty-eight percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Alienable which he executive produced, wrote and acts in has no rating there. 
  • Born September 14, 1941 — Bruce Hyde. Patterns emerge in doing these Birthdays. One of these patterns is that original Trek had a lot of secondary performers who had really short acting careers. He certainly did. He portrayed Lt. Kevin Riley in two episodes, “The Naked Time” and “The Conscience of the King” and the rest of his acting career consisted of eight appearances, four of them as Dr. Jeff Brenner on Dr. Kildare.  He acted for less than two years in ‘65 and ‘66, before returning to acting thirty four years later to be in The Confession of Lee Harvey Oswald which is his final role. (Died 2015.)
  • Born September 14, 1944 — Rowena Morrill. Well-known  for her genre illustration, she is one of the first female artists to impact paperback cover illustration. Her notable works include The Fantastic Art of Rowena, Imagine (French publication only), Imagination (German publication only), and The Art of Rowena.  Though nominated for the Hugo four times, she never won, but garnered the British Fantasy Award, and the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. OGH’s obituary for her is here.  (Died 2021.)
  • Born September 14, 1947 — Sam Neill, 74. Best known for role of Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic Park, which he reprised in Jurassic Park III, and will play again in the forthcoming Jurassic World: Dominion. He was also in Omen III: The Final Conflict, Possession, Memoirs of an Invisible ManSnow White: A Tale of Terror, Bicentennial ManLegend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’HooleThe Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas BoxThor: Ragnarok and Peter Rabbit. Busy performer, genre wise. 
  • Born September 14, 1961 — Justin Richards, 60. Clute at ESF says “Richards is fast and competent.” Well I can certain say he’s fast as he’s turned out thirty-five Doctor Who novels which Clute thinks are for the YA market between 1994 and 2016. There’s another nineteen novels written there.  And he has other series going as well including being one of the main scriptwriters for the Jago & Litefoot Big Finish series, the characters being spin-offs from the Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Wang Chiang”.  And then there’s the Doctor Who non-fiction which runs to over a half dozen works. Prolific, isn’t he? 
  • Born September 14, 1972 — Jenny T. Colgan, 49. Prolific writer of short stories in the Whovian universe with a baker’s dozen to date, several centered on River Song. She novelized “The Christmas Invasion”, the first full Tenth Doctor story. She has two genre novels, Resistance Is Futile and Spandex and the City.
  • Born September 14, 1989 — Jessica Brown Findlay, 32. She appeared as Beverly Penn in the film version of Mark Helprin‘s Winter’s Tale novel. She’s Lorelei in Victor Frankenstein, a modern take on that novel, and plays Lenina Crowne in the current Brave New World series on Peacock. Finally I’ll note she was Abi Khan on Black Mirrior’s “Fifteen Million Merits“ episode. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Adam@Home confirms nothing needs doing more than reading.
  • FoxTrot finds another way students are annoyed with their parents.
  • Tom Gauld’s scientists’ attack of conscience is too late to help.

(13) HORROR COOK BOOK COMING. The HWA Cook Book edited by Marge Simon, Robert Payne Cabeen, and Kate Jonez will be available in 2022. The cover art is by Robert Payne Cabeen.

(14) FREE OR YOU NAME IT. Charles Sheffield’s The Cyborg from Earth is the latest ebook in the Publisher’s Pick program, which you may set your own price for. The cart will show the suggested price of $1.99. You may change it to any price including $0.00. (Mobi and Epub editions.)

(15) HARVEST OF SF NEWS. SF² Concatenation has just posted its autumnal edition of news (books, film, TV and science), articles and stand-alone book reviews.

v31(4) 2021.9.15 — New Columns & Articles for the Autumn2021

v31(4) 2021.9.15 — Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews

v31(4) 2021.9.15 — Non-Fiction SF & Science Fact Book Reviews

(16) THICKER THAN WATER. Here’s a ghoulish discovery: “Martian Colonists Could Use Their Own Blood to Produce Concrete” says Gizmodo.

Provocative new research suggests the blood of astronauts, when mixed with Martian soil, can produce a durable concrete-like substance. Incredibly, other human bodily fluids were shown to make this biocomposite even stronger.

The first colonists to arrive on Mars will need to build shelters and spaces for work, but the Red Planet isn’t exactly bustling with hardware stores and material suppliers.

Ideally, the colonists could use some of the stuff that’s right there on Mars, such as regolith (soil), rocks, and water, the latter of which is sparse and hard to reach. Trouble is, these on-site resources don’t magically combine to produce viable construction materials….

(17) KEY INGREDIENTS. Locke & Key Season 2 teaser. The show comes Netflix on October 22, 2021.

Locke & Key follows 3 siblings who, after the murder of their father, move to their ancestral home only to find the house has magical keys that give them a vast array of powers and abilities.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Lise Andreasen, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day John M. Cowan.]

Pixel Scroll 8/10/21 The Scrolls Are Lovely, Dark And Deep, But I Have Pixels To Keep

(1) SANDBAGGING GOODREADS FOR RANSOM. TIME probes “Goodreads’ Problem With Extortion Scams and Review Bombing”.

A few months after posting a message on Goodreads about the imminent release of a new book, Indie author Beth Black woke up to an all-caps ransom email from an anonymous server, demanding that she either pay for good reviews or have her books inundated with negative ones: “EITHER YOU TAKE CARE OF OUR NEEDS AND REQUIREMENTS WITH YOUR WALLET OR WE’LL RUIN YOUR AUTHOR CAREER,” the email, shared with TIME, read. “PAY US OR DISAPPEAR FROM GOODREADS FOR YOUR OWN GOOD.”

Black, who has self-published both a romance novel and a collection of short stories in the past year, didn’t pay the ransom. “I reported it to Goodreads and then a couple hours later, I started noticing the stars dropping on my books as I started getting all these 1-star reviews,” she says. “It was quite threatening.”

Scammers and cyberstalkers are increasingly using the Goodreads platform to extort authors with threats of “review bombing” their work–and they are frequently targeting authors from marginalized communities who have spoken out on topics ranging from controversies within the industry to larger social issues on social media.

… Goodreads remains one of the primary tools on the internet for book discovery, meaning lesser-known authors often have to rely on the site to get their work noticed. But at this point, some feel that Goodreads’ ratings and reviews system is causing more harm than good.

In a July 29 statement to TIME, a spokesperson for Goodreads said that the company is actively working to resolve many of these review bombing problems.

“We take swift action to remove users when we determine that they violate our guidelines, and are actively assessing all available options to take further action against the small number of bad actors who have attempted extortion scams,” the statement read. “We have clear guidelines for reviews and participation in our community, and we remove reviews and/or accounts that violate these guidelines… We also continue to invest in making technology improvements to prevent bad actor behavior and inauthentic reviews in order to better safeguard our community.”

Review bombing, ransom emails and extortion

As author Rin Chupeco told TIME, Goodreads is a “good idea that slowly became unmanageable over the years due to lack of adequate moderation and general indifference.”

One emerging issue is review bombing: when a coordinated group, or a few people with multiple accounts, intentionally tank a book’s aggregate rating with a flurry of one-star ratings and negative reviews….

.. But Black isn’t the only author to be targeted. There are many threads on Goodreads discussing similar issues, with posts from writers who’ve been targeted….

(2) MAKING RULES DIFFERENTLY. Eleanor Konik shows colleagues a way to expand their horizons in “Unusual Governments to Take Inspiration From” at the SFWA Blog.

Often, speculative fiction relies on common government types, like monarchies and republics, because they’re familiar to readers. History, however, offers other examples of sociopolitical systems. They can be a gold mine for worldbuilding ideas that stretch beyond the mainstream.

Cycling Governments

Age-sets are a sociopolitical system common in East Africa. Among Kenya’s Nandi people, each ibinda (age-set) corresponds to a stage of the life cycle. Boys and girls from each region would be initiated into their age-sets during a series of mass ceremonies.  As an analogy, consider a series of nearby communities gathering children into one centralized boarding school then transitioning them out of school and into the lifestage of young adults marrying and being busy with young children, after which they would return to the workforce before finally amassing the experience to lead the community as political figures. 

In the Ethiopian Highlands, this sort of cycling age-set system, known in some places as gadaa (for men) or siqqee (for women), led to the development of a republic with democratic elections and the peaceful transfer of power, which took roughly eight years to accomplish. It is not the “democratic republic” as described in ancient Greece. Men were bound to their neighbors by the bonds of shared experiences, handling infrastructure projects for the whole region. In some places, this led to peace. In others, expansion of the length of time men spent in the warrior stage meant an increase in raids and conquest. 

(3) SILVERBERG TO BE DISCON III VIRTUAL PARTICIPANT. Robert Silverberg revealed online today: “Apparently I will be at the DC worldcon after all, though only virtually.  Since I am unwilling to travel to the East Coast in wintertime, they have arranged for me to do a virtual conversation with Nancy Kress, with Alvaro Zinos-Amaro acting as moderator.  So my 67-year streak of worldcon attendance will remain intact, if only virtually.”

(4) ENTER THE DRAGONS. Camestros Felapton’s epic has now reached a key moment of 2016: “Debarkle Chapter 55: The Dragon Award Begins”.

…With the devastating final results of the 2015 Hugo Award, some Puppy supporters thought that the right response was to walk away from Worldcon and the Hugo Awards altogether. This was matched by some of the rhetoric from critics of the Puppies, who had suggested that the Puppy leadership should set up their own awards.

So it was both notable and not wholly a surprise when on March 31 2016 Dragon Con announced the first inaugural Dragon Awards with their own new website…

(5) DULCET TONES. Open Culture invites you to listen as “Benedict Cumberbatch Reads Kurt Vonnegut’s Letter of Advice to People Living in the Year 2088”.

A few years ago we posted Kurt Vonnegut’s letter of advice to humanity, written in 1988 but addressed, a century hence, to the year 2088. Whatever objections you may have felt to reading this missive more than 70 years prematurely, you might have overcome them to find that the author of Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions single-mindedly importuned his fellow man of the late 21st century to protect the natural environment. He issues commandments to “reduce and stabilize your population” to “stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems,” and to “stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars,” among other potentially drastic-sounding measures.

Commandment number seven amounts to the highly Vonnegutian “And so on. Or else.” A fan can easily imagine these words spoken in the writer’s own voice, but with Vonnegut now gone for well over a decade, would you accept them spoken in the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch instead?

(6) END TIMES. Netflix dropped this trailer for the final season of Lucifer today.

Lucifer scored the promotion, but does he really want the job? Plus, Chloe prepares to give up detective work, Amenadiel joins the LAPD, and more.

(7) SOUNDING OFF. The Guardian interviews actors who are better known for their voice than their face. One of them is Doug Jones of Star Trek: Discovery fame: “’They wanted my meerkat to sound like a Russian Alan Sugar’ – meet TV’s secret superstars” in The Guardian.

…[Doug Jones:] When you say yes to playing something that doesn’t look human, you’re saying yes to the entire process. I don’t get to shout: “Get this off me! It’s so hot and sticky.” I need the mindset of a performer, but also the endurance of an athlete, one who can take five or six hours of makeup application, then get through a long day of shooting.

Because of all the parts I’ve played, I often end up skipping the conventional casting process. People in creature effects just say: “It’s a tall skinny alien – we need Doug Jones.” I was playing the amphibian in the Oscar-winning film The Shape of Water when Star Trek: Discovery approached me. I was actually thinking “I’m not sure how much more rubber and glue I want in my life,” but there was no way I could turn it down. For Saru, I wear a four-piece prosthetic over my head that comes down past my collarbones, with gloves to change my hands. It’s all been moulded to my shape and pre-painted so getting it all glued on is only a two-hour process. I wear a Starfleet uniform like everybody else, but I do have special hoofed boots that add five inches to my height. That makes me about 6ft 8ins!…

(8) TRAPPED IN AMBER. Irish/Dutch writer couple Angeline B. Adams and Remco van Straten talk about the future of the sword and sorcery genre — and if it has one: “Fled & Done: Sword & Sorcery” at Turnip Lanterns.

…Modern Sword & Sorcery writers face an uphill battle, if they want to emerge from the shadow of Conan (including, and in particular, his Marvel comics and Schwarzenegger film incarnations). And that indeed sums up our dilemma: is it worth trying to expand the genre, when the general audience’s idea of S&S has calcified in cliché? Especially when a large section of S&S fans (and authors) have very firm ideas of what S&S was, is and always will be?…

(9) INTERNATIONAL TOLKIEN FANDOM. Brazilian podcast Tolkien Talk did a video Q&A with acclaimed Tolkien scholar Douglas Anderson. It’s the fifth in their series of major international interviews. Find the others at their Tolkien Talk YouTube channel.

Meet Douglas A. Anderson, creator of The Annotated Hobbit and one of the most important tolkienists of our time. All the way from his first contact with J.R.R. Tolkien’s work to unveiling misconceptions throughout the time, get an overview on Tolkien’s life and works from one that accessed them directly.

(10) CRIMINAL RECORD. Anthony Horowitz has reached a crime fiction award milestone: “Horowitz becomes Japan’s most-decorated foreign crime author” at The Bookseller.

Author Anthony Horowitz has won the Best Mystery of the Decade award by Honkaku Mystery Writers Club for his first Daniel Hawthorne novel, The Word is Murder, making him the most-decorated foreign crime author in Japanese history.

Horowitz is the first author in Japanese history to win 16 literary awards in total, according to his publisher…. 

(11) WHY THIS SOUNDS FAMILIAR. “’I Am Legend’ screenwriter responds to conspiracy theory about vaccines and zombies”Yahoo! has the story.

There are a multitude of reasons why people are hesitant or refusing to get the coronavirus vaccine in the midst of a pandemic that’s killed over 600,000 people in the U.S. and millions worldwide, from distrust in science and medicine to wariness towards the government and also… zombies?

New York Times report last weekend about a Bronx-based eyewear company struggling to persuade its employees to get jabbed referenced one worker whose hesitancy was based off of the belief that the COVID vaccine is the shot that turned people into zombies in the 2007 post-apocalyptic film I Am Legend.

As the Times pointed out, the zombification portrayed in the box office hit starring Will Smith was caused by a genetically reprogrammed virus, not the vaccine for it. But the bizarre claim has still flourished on the hotbed of vaccination misinformation that is social media.

On Monday, I Am Legend screenwriter Akiva Goldsman entered the chat.

“Oh. My. God. It’s a movie. I made that up. It’s. Not. Real,” Goldsman tweeted in response to journalist and comic book writer Marc Bernadin, who shared a screencap of the article with quote, “We. Are. All. Going. To. Die. Sooner. Than. We. Should.”…

(12) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2013 – Eight years ago, Futurama ended its run. It had four seasons on FOX, and when cancelled there was revived by Comedy Central and ran another three seasons. In between, reruns aired on Adult Swim.  It was created by Matt Groening of Simpsons fame. Over its seven seasons, it would run for one hundred and seventy episodes. There would be four later films, Bender’s Big Score, The Beast with a Billion Backs, Bender’s Game and Into the Wild Green Yonder. It had a legendary voice cast of Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche, Phil LaMarr, Lauren Tom, David Herman and Frank Welker. It was nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Script for the “Where No Fan Has Gone Before” episode during the last season. It has a ninety-five percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 10, 1902 Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in horror and sf films for The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain, the latter  from his own novel. He won a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form at Dublin 2019  for Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman and was nominated for six more. ISFDB notes Donovan’s Brain was part of his Dr. Patrick Cory series, and he wrote quite a few other genre novels as well. Donovan’s Brain and just a few other works are available from the usual suspects. (Died 2000.)
  • Born August 10, 1903 Ward Moore. Author of Bring the Jubilee which everyone knows about as it’s often added to that mythical genre canon, and several more that I’m fairly sure almost no one knows of. More interestingly to me was that he was a keen writer of recipes of which ISFDB documents — four of his appeared in Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking Out of This World including “Kidneys — Like Father Used to Make” and “Pea Soup — Potage Ste. Germaine.“ (Died 1978.)
  • Born August 10, 1913 Noah Beery Jr. Genre wise, he’s best remembered as Maj. William Corrigan on the Fifties classic SF film Rocketship X-M, but he showed up in other genre undertakings as well such as 7 Faces of Dr. LaoThe Six Million Dollar ManFantasy IslandBeyond Witch MountainThe Ghost of Cypress Swamp and The Cat Creeps. I think he appeared in one of the earliest Zorro films made where he’s credited just as a boy, he’d be seven then, The Mark of Zorro which had Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and his father, Noah Beery Sr. (Died 1994.)
  • Born August 10, 1931 Alexis A. Gilliland, 90. He won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1982, edging out Brin and Swanwick for the honor. Gilliland also won four Hugo Awards for Best Fan Artist in the early Eighties and won the Tucker Award for Excellence in Partying in the late Eighties. What the Hell is that? And he won the Rotsler Award for fan art in 2006.  He’s got two series, Rosinante and Wizenbeak, neither of which I’ve read, so do tell me about them please. 
  • Born August 10, 1944 Barbara Erskine, 77. I’m including her because I’ve got a bit of a mystery. ISFDB lists her as writing over a dozen genre novels and her wiki page says she has a fascination with the supernatural but neither indicates what manner of genre fiction she wrote. I’m guessing romance or gothic tinged with the supernatural based on the covers but that’s just a guess. What do y’all know about her?
  • Born August 10, 1955 Eddie Campbell, 66. Best known as the illustrator and publisher of From Hell, written by Alan Moore, and Bacchus, a most excellent series about the few Greek gods who have made to the present day. Though not genre in the slightest way, I highly recommend The Black Diamond Detective Agency which he did. It’s an adaptation of an as-yet unmade screenplay by C. Gaby Mitchell.
  • Born August 10, 1960 Antonio Banderas, 61. Genre work in Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, the Spy Kids franchise, voice work in the Puss in Boots and Shrek franchises, appearances in The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle and the New Mutants. He’s James Mangold in the forthcoming Indiana Jones film. 
  • Born August 10, 1965 Claudia Christian, 56. Best known role is Commander Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5, but she has done other genre roles such as being Brenda Lee Van Buren in The Hidden, Katherine Shelley in Lancelot: Guardian of Time, Quinn in Arena, Lucy in The Haunting of Hell House and Kate Dematti in Meteor Apocalypse. She’s had one-offs on Space RangersHighlanderQuantum LeapRelic Hunter and Grimm. She’s Captain Belinda Blowhard on Starhyke, a six episode series shot in ‘05 you can see on Amazon Prime.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) UP TO DATE. Entertainment Weekly says Robin is now bi. “Robin becomes a bisexual icon in new Batman comic”. Clearly it doesn’t cut it to keep visualizing Burt Ward/Robin as Adam West/Bruce Wayne’s teenage ward — I missed the part where Robin was dating at all.

The latest issue of Batman: Urban Legends, a monthly anthology series, revealed that the Caped Crusader’s longtime sidekick Robin, specifically the Tim Drake version of him, is bisexual. 

The moment came at the end of part 3 of the Sum of Our Parts story, from writer Meghan Fitzmartin, artist Belén Ortega, colorist Alejandro Sánchez, and letterer Pat Brosseau. 

(16) SUBSTACK GROWING. “Comic Book Writers and Artists Follow Other Creators to Substack” – the New York Times tells how it will work.

… Nick Spencer, a comic book writer best known for his work for Marvel Entertainment, was the liaison between Substack and a group of creators who, starting Monday, will publish new comic book stories, essays and how-to guides on the platform.

He said he approached Chris Best, a Substack founder, with the idea last year, when the pandemic was keeping many fans out of the comic book shops and the creators were looking for new ways to connect with readers.

The initial lineup includes comic-centric newsletters from Saladin AhmedJonathan HickmanMolly OstertagScott Snyder and James Tynion IV, with other writers and artists to be announced.

The creators will be paid by Substack while keeping ownership of their work. The company will take most of the subscription revenue in the first year; after that, it will take a 10 percent cut.

Mr. Tynion, who last month won an Eisner Award, the comic industry’s highest honor, for best writer, said he would break away from writing Batman for DC Entertainment to devote time to his creator-owned series and his Substack newsletter.

(17) KEEPING THE BOOKS. Lazy Rabbit has a set of humorous pictures of librarian jokes on Facebook.

(18) CATS FOR ADOPTION. Let’s signal boost the availability for adoption of a new litter of kittens in Los Angeles. The owner is a friend of Gideon Marcus of Galactic Journey. You can reach her by emailing digginginthewrongplace (at) gmail (dot) com.

The momma cat is approx two years old. We just had her spayed and she had a dental check too. She’s negative for all diseases/fleas/worms, and in great health.

Kitties are 9 weeks old. All in great health. Too young to be neutered yet.

Let me know if anyone’s interested!

(19) CANDLING THE EGGS. SYFY Wire got first dibs on this 90-second video: “Monsters at Work: Explore the Pixar show’s various Easter eggs”.

SYFY WIRE is excited to debut an exclusive featurette that breaks down a number of these subtle — and not-so-subtle — references in the Disney+ series. Series executive producer Bobs Gannaway tells us that all of the Easter eggs “happened naturally and came from anyone on the crew at any phase of production — be it a storyboard artist adding something in the board, or the art director dressing the set.” 

“We focused mostly on world expansion — using the graphics to suggest parts of the world we will never see: like the Laffeteria menu, or advertisements on the back of Roz’s newspaper,” he continues. “We also focused things more inward and on our characters. For example, Duncan’s nameplate changes every episode, and whenever he’s listening to his boom box, the ‘mixtape’ is labeled. You have to really zoom into the frames to see those. Other things aren’t so much Easter eggs as they are just having fun: like changing the theme music every time during the credits to reflect that episode’s story, and doing something different each time with the wind-up teeth in the Mike’s Comedy Class title card. Everyone has a good time adding the details to the world.”

(20) TRICK OR TRICK. “’Muppets Haunted Mansion’ Halloween Special First Images Revealed” – see the pics at Halloween Daily News. Below is the trailer from May.

On today’s 52nd anniversary of the premiere of the Haunted Mansion dark ride at Disneyland, two first-look images from this October’s new Muppets Haunted Mansion Halloween special have been released, including Kermit and Miss Piggy in costume …as each other.

The special will feature the Muppets cast, along with celebrity cameos, new music, and fittingly seasonal fun for all ages.

Muppets Haunted Mansion will take place on Halloween Night, when Gonzo is challenged to spend one night in The Haunted Mansion.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers, The Legend of Zelda:  Skyward Sword”, Fandom Games says this is “the motion-control Zelda game no one asked for” where “every fight feels like doing a bunch of morphone before a high-school fencing match.”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Cora Buhlert, BravoLimaPoppa, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Flaneur.]

Pixel Scroll 4/24/21 The Fantastic Voyage Of Space Force Beagle One To The Non-Fungi Bottom Of The Fabulous Mushroom Planet Of The Apes Of Wrath, And Back Again

(1) ERRING EYE. Catherine Lacey’s short story “Congratulations on Your Loss” is the latest from Future Tense Fiction, a monthly series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination.

…Inside was a large photograph printed on thin paper, an image filling the whole sheet. The photograph—a grainy shot of a woman jaywalking across a street with a large blue purse tucked under one arm—had been taken from a high angle. On the left edge of the photograph a white car was visible, headed directly toward the woman, and on the right side a bit of a pedestrian walkway could be seen. A citation was printed on the back—this woman, it explained, was Enid, and Enid had illegally crossed Z Street last Thursday at 3:34 in the afternoon. The fine was enough to buy a week of modest groceries….

It comes with a response essay by human rights lawyer Nani Jansen Reventlow: “There’s no such thing as flawless facial recognition technology”.

A few years ago, I attended a meeting for litigators at a digital rights conference. When entering the room, I saw many familiar faces, and a few that were unfamiliar. When I introduced myself to one of the women I had never seen before, a white woman, she reacted in a most offended manner. “Yes, we met this morning at your office,” she snapped at me. Given that I had been nowhere near my office that morning, I was quite sure she was mistaken. In the course of this awkward exchange, it dawned on me that she was confusing me with my boss: also a woman of color, but in no way resembling me otherwise. “Ah, yes, we all look alike,” I sighed, rolling my eyes, and moved on….

(2) HOBBIT READING WITH MANY SFF AUTHORS. The Rutgers Writers House presents “The Hobbit: A Rutgers Day Round Robin Reading (Part 2)” a video on Facebook:  

Tolkien lived through a lot. His own global pandemic, two world wars (which included, of course, the bloody Battle of Somme), the Great Depression, the death of both parents by age twelve. Despite being disillusioned (like most of his generation), his stories are incredibly illusioned. And we need them now. These stories of adventure, of vigilance, of hardship and humor and hope. Here, then, is the next virtual installment of our continuing round robin reading of Tolkien’s The Hobbit (Chp 2 & 3). With over a hundred readers. Featuring a robust roster of RU students/alumni and faculty/staff, as well as two dozen authors, including Lev Grossman, Eoin Colfer, Stephen Graham Jones, Ellen Kushner, Joe Abercrombie, Karen Russell, Catherynne Valente, and Brian Selznick. Plus, Jeff VanderMeer, inexplicably dressed like a giant, blue caterpillar and Darcie Little Badger flipping and fanning a butterfly knife (which I suppose makes a strange sort of sequential sense). Lots of armor, too (both mail and plate). And plenty of hoods, torches, and swords. All in just an hour….

(3) LISTEN IN. “BBC World Service announces new original podcast, The Lazarus Heist”Exchange4Media has the highlights:

The BBC World Service has announced its major new original podcast, The Lazarus Heist. It tells the true story of an attempted $1 billion hack, which investigators say was carried out by a secretive ring of elite North Korean hackers. 

The Lazarus Heist is presented by cybercrime investigative journalist Geoff White and Pulitzer-nominated veteran foreign correspondent and world renowned North Korea expert, Jean Lee. Geoff has been investigating the underworld of digital crime for years, while Jean has extensive experience of reporting from inside North Korea. 

This major new release will initially run for 10 episodes, released weekly.

The first episode is at BBC Sounds: “The Lazarus Heist – 1. Hacking Hollywood”.

A movie, Kim Jong-un and a devastating cyber attack. The story of the Sony hack. How the Lazarus Group hackers caused mayhem in Hollywood and for Sony Pictures Entertainment.
And this is just the beginning…

(4) CHIPPING OFF EVERYTHING THAT ISN’T THE SOLUTION. In “The Creative Sherlock Holmes: Appreciating the Rational Thinker’s Hidden Artistry” at CrimeReads, Bonnie MacBird says that Sherlock Holmes was also an artist as well as a cool, rational thinker, and we need to understand his artistic side if we are to appreciate his abilities.

…Of course Holmes is every bit as much as artist as he is a scientist.

But artists create. What, exactly does Holmes create? You won’t find daubs of cerulean blue paint on his frock coat. “Data, data, data! I cannot make bricks without clay!” says he.

His art material is this data, this clay—the details, the facts of the case which he has observed or ferreted out. But only Holmes creates these bricks which build up the solution. He creates a mental model of “what happened, who did it, how, and why?”…

(5) ABOUT BRADBURY. The American Writers Museum hosts “Sam Weller: Telling Bradbury’s Story” on April 27 at 6:00 p.m. Central. Register for the free program here.

Ray Bradbury’s authorized biographer Sam Weller discusses the life and legacy of the iconic American writer. In conversation with American Writers Museum President Carey Cranston, Weller will speak on Bradbury’s writing, his worldwide impact, and his enduring relevance in American literature today. This program will be hosted on Zoom. 

(6) BEAR’S WRITER SURVIVAL TIPS. Elseweb on April 27, Anglia Ruskin University hosts Elizabeth Bear in another free online event: “AHSS Presents – a conversation with: Elizabeth Bear ‘How to Survive a Literary Life’”. Begins at 9:30 a.m. Pacific.

There’s a lot of information out there on how to perfect your work and seek publication. There’s not as much about how to deal with the stresses of writing for a living—inconsistent income streams, uncertainty, arbitrariness of the market, mental health issues, public exposure, professional jealousy, exploitative contracts, and more.  

Elizabeth Bear

(7) FORMERLY FAMOUS. Jeff Foust reviews a new documentary about Gerard K. O’Neill, “The High Frontier”, for The Space Review.

…O’Neill is largely forgotten, even among many who work in the space industry in some way today. But at the peak of interest in space colonies in the 1970s, O’Neill was, at least briefly, in the cultural mainstream, appearing on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson and profiled on “60 Minutes.” The prospect of giant cities in space, built of out lunar materials that could also support development of space solar power facilities, seemed at least in the realm of the possible at the time.

The new documentary The High Frontier: The Untold Story of Gerard K. O’Neill attempts to rekindle that interest while reexamining the life of O’Neill. The 90-minute film had its premiere Saturday night on the Space Channel online, and is now available to rent or buy on various services, including iTunes and Google Play.

The movie extensively uses archival footage, including those “The Tonight Show” and “60 Minutes” appearances, as well as another show where O’Neill appeared alongside Isaac Asimov. That footage is combined with interviews with his family, colleagues, and others who knew or were inspired by him. It’s a who’s-who of the space advocacy community, with people such as Rick Tumlinson, Peter Diamandis, and Lori Garver, as well as pioneers in the commercial space industry like Charles Chafer and Jeffrey Manber. (Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk also appear in the film, but in footage from speeches they gave rather than interviews with the filmmakers.)…

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 24, 1955 — The X Minus One radio program aired on NBC for the first time. Written by Ray Bradbury, “And The Moon Be Still As Bright” is the tale of Mars expedition which finds the Martians extinct due to chickenpox brought to them by previous expeditions. The crew save one decide to destroy all Martian artefacts. Ernest Kinoy wrote the script from the story by Bradbury, and the cast included John Larkin and Nelson Olmstead.  The show would run from now until January 8, 1958 with many of coming from well-known SF authors including Anderson, Pohl, Asimov, Blish, Leiber, Heinlein and Simak to name just a few. You can hear this episode here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 24, 1900 – Elizabeth Goudge, F.R.S.L.  A score of novels, thirty shorter stories; here is The Little White Horse.  Nonfiction e.g. a Life of St. Francis.  Carnegie Medal.  Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.  Memoir The Joy of the Snow.  (Died 1984) [JH]
  • Born April 24, 1911 – Evaline Ness.  Half a dozen covers, many interiors for us; much else.  Here is The Book of Three.  Here is Coll and His White Pig.  Here is Taran Wanderer.  Here is an interior for Sam, Bangs & Moonshine.  Caldecott Medal.  Society of Illustrators Original Art Lifetime Achievement Award.  See this Univ. Minnesota note.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born April 24, 1930 Richard Donner, 91. He’s credited in directing Superman which is considered by many to be the first modern superhero film. H’h. Well I’m instead going to celebrate him instead for ScroogedThe Goonies and Ladyhawke. Not to mention the horror he did — Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood. Oh, and the first X-Men film which was superb.  (CE) 
  • Born April 24, 1936 Jill Ireland. For her short life, she showed up in an amazing number of genre shows. She was on Star Trek romancing Spock as Leila Kalomi In “This Side of Paradise” episode. She had five appearances on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well as being on Night Gallery, My Favorite MartianVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Voodoo Factor and the SF film The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything based on the 1962 novel of the same name by John D. MacDonald. (Died 1990.) (CE) 
  • Born April 24, 1946 Don D’Ammassa, 75. Considered to be one of the best and fairest long-form reviewers ever. His Encyclopedia of Science Fiction covers some five hundred writers and his two newer volumes, Encyclopedia of Fantasy and Horror Fiction and Encyclopedia of Adventure Fiction are equally exhaustive. I can’t comment on his fiction as I’ve only ever encountered him as a reviewer. It appears the only novel of his available from the usual suspects is THE 39 ADEPTS: A Wanda Coyne novel. (CE) 
  • Born April 24, 1950 Michael Patrick Hearn, 71. Academic who has some of the best annotated works I’ve had the pleasure to encounter. I wholeheartedly recommend both The Annotated Wizard of Oz and The Annotated Christmas Carol, not to overlook Victorian Fairy Tales which is simply the best collection of those tales. (CE) 
  • Born April 24, 1953 – Larry Carmody, age 68.  Fanzines Eternity Road and (with Stu Shiffman) Raffles.  Chaired Lunacon ’84.  [JH]
  • Born April 24, 1955 – Wendy Delmater, age 66.  Eight short stories, four poems for us; editor, Abyss & Apex.  Otherwise e.g. Confessions of a Female Safety Engineer.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born April 24, 1973 – Judy Budnitz, age 48.  One novel, three shorter stories for us; maybe we should count others, see this note in Harvard Magazine.  “Magical or horrific or impossible things might happen in my stories, but the characters are always guided by the same human emotions that we all share.”  Two collections.  Jaffee Foundation Award, Wallant Award.  [JH]
  • Born April 24, 1974 – Leigh Fallon, age 47.  Four novels, one shorter story.  After a career in corporation treasury, traveling to eight countries, decided to write; now, with husband and four children, only travels between U.S. and Ireland.  So much for escapism.  [JH]
  • Born April 24, 1983 Madeline Ashby, 38. California-born Canadian resident writer whose Company Town novel created an entire city in an oil rig. Interestingly In 2013, she was a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer but recused herself on the grounds that her pro career started with her ‘09 publication of a short story in Nature, so her two-year eligibility period had already expired. And  her Machine Dynasties series is simply brilliant with resonances of the Murderbot series on it. (CE) 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark covers a kaiju fashion dispute.
  • And Frankenstein strives for sartorial splendor at Bizarro.

(11) BARBARELLA. Bleeding Cool reports “Sarah A. Hoyt Writes Barbarella #1 For Dynamite July 2021 Solicits”. Believe me, I’m not going to start reporting every time a Puppy writes a comic, however, I wasn’t previously aware Hoyt was working in the field. So, news to me!

Sci-fi and fantasy novelist Sarah A. Hoyt, author of Uncharted, Darkship Thieves, and many more, is writing a new Barbarella series from Dynamite, based on the classic comic books, novels and movie, with new artist Madibek Musabekov, coming out in July.

(12) PURCHASING MATERIALS VS. SERVICES. “Libraries Can Use ARPA Funds on E-books, but Change May Be Needed”Publishers Weekly analyzes the issue.

Federal and state library officials have confirmed that funds allocated under the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARPA) can be used to purchase digital content. But in guidance issued this week, leading vendor OverDrive clarified that the current licensing terms used by some publishers may have to be amended for libraries to license titles using those funds.

In a notice that went out to library customers on April 20, following conversations with IMLS officials, state librarians, and publishers, OverDrive explained that while IMLS has advised that licensing digital content is an acceptable use of ARPA funding, the agency also concluded that “metered” e-book access (licenses that apply lend or time limits on circulation) may be categorized as a “service” rather than as a “materials” purchase. And because ARPA funds must be used within a 16-month window (from June 1, 2021 through September 30, 2022), some of the lend-limited or time-limited licenses currently offered by publishers may not fully qualify under ARPA if the license term extends beyond the September 30, 2022 deadline for using ARPA funds….

(13) CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. Yahoo! News says that “An Oklahoma woman was charged with felony embezzlement for not returning a ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ VHS tape more than 20 years ago”. But the charge has now been dismissed.

…Caron McBride reportedly rented the “Sabrina The Teenage Witch” tape at a now closed store in Norman, Oklahoma in 1999, according to KOKH-TV. She was charged a year later, in March 2000, after it was not returned, KOKH-TV reported citing documents. 

McBride was notified about the charge by the Cleveland County District Attorney’s Office when she was attempting to change the name of her license after she got married, the news station reported. 

“She told me it was over the VHS tape and I had to make her repeat it because I thought, this is insane. This girl is kidding me, right? She wasn’t kidding,” McBride told KOKH-TV, adding that she does not recall renting the video. 

“I had lived with a young man, this was over 20 years ago. He had two kids, daughters that were 8, 10, or 11 years old, and I’m thinking he went and got it and didn’t take it back or something. I have never watched that show in my entire life, just not my cup of tea. Meanwhile, I’m a wanted felon for a VHS tape,” McBride told the news station.

The district attorney’s office has dismissed the charges.

McBride also recalled randomly getting let go from a few jobs, and now she understands why.

“This is why… because when they ran my criminal background check, all they’re seeing is those two words: felony embezzlement,” McBride told KOKH-TV. 

(14) NOT QUITE A PAIL OF AIR. Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait tells how“NASA’s MOXIE made oxygen on Mars” for SYFY Wire readers,

Well, isn’t this a breath of fresh air: An experiment on board the Mars Perseverance rover designed to produce breathable oxygen from carbon dioxide has been switched on and is working! On April 20 it produced 5 grams of oxygen — not a huge amount, but it’s designed to make as much as 10 grams per hour, and this is the very first time oxygen has been converted from native air on another planet.

The device is called MOXIE — the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment — and it’s small (like everything sent to Mars, size and mass are at a premium)….

(15) THE TERRIBLY WRONG OF SPRING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Rite of Teletubbies” on YouTube, Martim Gueller fuses the Teletubbies with “The Rite of Spring”! (This will really get your weekend started right!)

(16) PULP HISTORY. On the 1950s British Science Fiction YouTube channel, lifelong fan Philip Harbottle talks about his introduction to sff in the 1950s, and show some rare vintage books from his collection. Episode 20 covers the Tit-Bits Science Fiction Library.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “A Man, A Plan, A Pleonasm” Dern.]

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

Martha Wells. Photo by Igor Kraguljac.

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

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

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

Jim Salicrup

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time Is the Simplest Thing (1961)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. What book are you currently reading? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) TODAY’S DAY.

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

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

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

(11) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

What happened?

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

What did they steal?

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

Who took them?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 4/15/21 Pixel Dawns On MarbleScroll

(1) PAY THE WRITER. Adam Whitehead in “Disney and Alan Dean Foster approaching settlement on royalties” at The Wertzone brings promising news:

Foster does not go into details, but notes on his webpage.

“The irritating imbroglio with Disney, which you may have read about, is moving towards a mutually agreeable conclusion. A formal statement will be forthcoming.”

Hopefully the matter will now be resolved and Disney will agree to uphold their contractual obligations moving forwards with both Foster and all other impacted authors.

For background, see Cora Buhlert’s post “The #DisneyMustPay Alan Dean Foster and SFWA Joint Press Conference”.

(2) NO, THE REAL WRITER. The Guardian says the proceeds of a literary prize were ripped off by scammers: “Rathbones Folio prize paid £30,000 to scammers posing as the winner”. (Incidentally, they did make it good to the genuine winner.)

… Publishing industry magazine the Bookseller revealed on Wednesday that the Folio, which is awarded to the year’s best work of literature regardless of form, was scammed by “sophisticated cyber-criminals”. The scammers posed as the Mexican author [Valeria] Luiselli, who had won with her novel Lost Children Archive, and requested that the £30,000 payment be made through PayPal.

Minna Fry, the prize’s executive director, confirmed that the funds were lost and that “the police were informed at the time, as were key industry colleagues”.

“Our winner Valeria Luiselli was awarded her prize money in full, and the lost funds were absorbed by cost savings elsewhere,” she added.

The prize is run by a charity and is independent from its sponsor, Rathbone Investment Management. Fry said the investment firm “have supported us through this incident and helped us to put in place additional safeguarding measures”.

This is not the first time a book prize has been targeted by fraudsters. A spokesperson for the Baillie Gifford prize for non-fiction, worth £50,000, confirmed that it was also targeted in November, but no funds were paid.

“Someone emailed pretending to be the 2020 winner Craig Brown and asked us to pay the prize money via PayPal,” a spokesperson for the prize told the Bookseller…

(3) EXIT THE WAYFARER UNIVERSE. On the Imaginary Worlds podcast “Becky Chambers Goes Wayfaring”.

Becky Chambers’ latest novel, “The Galaxy and The Ground Within,” is the final book in her Wayfarer series, which is about aliens, humans and AI trying to make their way through the galaxy and find common ground. Some of the characters in her books may seem fantastical and strange, but the conversations between them often revolve around familiar issues like identity, gender, family structure, and politics. We talk about why she’s closing this chapter in her writing career, even though the Wayfarer series could’ve gone on indefinitely, and what she has planned next.

(4) WEB OF LIES. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee casts an oversized shadow across comic book fandom. But arguments abound about how much credit he deserves for the various works he is purportedly behind. In a new deeply-researched biography True Believer, journalist Abraham Riesman looks at this iconic figure. It’s a terrific book that perhaps people should be considering for Best Related Work on *next year’s* Hugo ballot, and that the Hugo Book Club Blog reviewed this week:  “The Lies That Bind”.

There is a long tradition of fandom idolizing a certain variety of PT Barnum-style self-promoter. This tradition has come under much-needed scrutiny in the past decade thanks to works such as Astounding by Alec Nevala-Lee and The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein by Farrah Mendelsohn. Abraham Riesman’s True Believer is a welcome addition to this critical reckoning.

(5) SPOTTED IN GOTHAM. Did you know François Truffaut took the robot dog out of his film of Fahrenheit 451 because there was no technology for the dog? Well, that future has just about arrived: “NYPD Deploys ‘Creepy’ New Robot Dog In Manhattan Public Housing Complex” in Gothamist.

… The remote-controlled bot was made by Boston Dynamics, a robotics company famous for its viral videos of machines dancing and running with human-like dexterity. (Versions of “Spot,” as the mechanical dog is known, can open doors, and are strong enough to help tow an 18-wheeler.)

Since October, the NYPD has dispatched the robot to a handful of crime scenes and hostage situations, raising fears of unwanted surveillance and questions about the department’s use of public dollars. The mobile dog, which comes equipped with automated sensors, lights, and cameras capable of collecting “limitless data,” is sold at a starting price of $74,000.

A spokesperson for the NYPD said the robot dog was on standby, but not used, during a domestic dispute at East 28th Street on Monday afternoon. After a man allegedly barricaded himself inside a room with a mother and her baby, officers showed up and convinced him to let them exit. The man was arrested for weapons possession, police said….

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 15, 1944 –On this day in 1944, The Monster Maker which was originally titled The Devil’s Apprentice premiered. It was directed by Sam Newfield and produced from a script written by by Sigmund Neufeld which was by Lawrence Williams, Pierre Gendron and Martin Mooney. It starred J. Carrol Naish, Talla Birell, Wanda McKay and Ralph Morgan. It was almost completely ignored by critics at the time and it currently holds an extremely low five percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers. You can see it here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 15, 1452 – Leonardo da Vinci.  One of our greatest neighbors.  Among his many drawings were things that could almost be made then; dreaming them up, and depicting them, took imagination very much like SF authors’ and illustrators’.  Here is a 500th-anniversary exhibit I made for Dublin 2019 the 77th Worldcon with high-tech graphics wizard Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink (shown as it appeared at Loscon XLVI later; scroll down past Rotsler Award photos).  (Died 1519) [JH]
  • Born April 15, 1908 – Howard Browne.  Edited Amazing and Fantastic; five novels, a dozen shorter stories for us, some under other names; also detective fiction; films, television.  More here.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born April 15, 1933 Elizabeth Montgomery. She’s best remembered as Samantha Stephens on Bewitched. Other genre roles included being Lili in One Step Beyond’s “The Death Waltz” which you can watch here. She also had on every-offs in The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and voicing a Barmaid in the “Showdown” episode of Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 1995.) (CE)
  • Born April 15, 1937  Thomas F. Sutton. Comic book artist who’s best known for his contributions to Marvel Comics and  Warren Publishing’s line of black-and-white horror magazines. He’s particularly known as the first artist of the Vampirella series. He illustrated “Vampirella of Draculona”, the first story which was written by Forrest J Ackerman. (Died 2002.) (CE)
  • Born April 15, 1938 – Unipán Helga, age 83.  (Personal name last, Hungarian style.)  Designed more than a hundred twenty books, many ours.  Here is The Antics of Robi Robot (in Romanian).  Here is an interior from the Jun 73 Korunk (“Our Age”).   Here is Orthopedic Hat.  Here is The Vicissitudes of a Brave Mouse.  Here is Calendar of Nature.  [JH]
  • Born April 15, 1941 – Mal Dean.  Six covers, twoscore interiors for us.  Particularly associated with Michael Moorcock and the graphic-art Jerry Cornelius.  Here is the Jun 69 New Worlds.  Here is “The Duke of Queens duels Lord Shark the Unknown” illustrating MM’s “White Stars”.  Here is the Nov 75 – Jan 76 Other Times.  Outside our field, jazz trumpeter & bandleader, illustrator; cartoonist.  Here is a posthumous artbook.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born April 15, 1949 – Tim Bolgeo.  Uncle Timmy chaired LibertyCons 1-25, Chattacons 7-11.  Fan Guest of Honor at Con*Stellation III (not this one), DeepSouthCon 43, StellarCon 33, LibertyCon 32.  Four decades a fixture in fandom.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born April 15, 1949  Sharan Newman, 72. Author of the most excellent Guinevere trilogy (GuinevereChessboard Queen and Guinevere Evermore), a superb reinterpretation of the Arthurian saga . They’re available at the usual digital suspects as is her superb Catherine LeVendeur medieval mystery series. Alas her SF short stories are not. (CE) 
  • Born April 15, 1966 – Cressida Crowell, age 56.  A dozen novels, particularly about How to Train Your Dragon (eleven million copies sold) and The Wizards of Once.  Illustrates many of her own books.  Blue Peter Book Award.  “Children are surrounded by adults who are VERY BOSSY.  They might not always mean to be bossy, and they have the best of intentions, but still.”  [JH]
  • Born April 15, 1974 Jim C. Hines, 47. Winner at Chicon 7 of the Best Fan Writer Hugo. Author of the Goblin Quest series which I’ve read at least two of and enjoyed. Same for his Magic ex Libris series. Yeah more popcorn reading. (CE) 
  • Born April 15, 1990 Emma Watson, 31. Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film franchise which lasted an entire decade. She was Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and the voice of Prince Pea in The Tale of Despereaux. (CE) 
  • Born April 15, 1997 Maisie Williams, 24. She made her professional acting debut as Arya Stark of Winterfell in Game of Thrones. She was Ashildr, a Viking woman of unique skills, the principal character of “The Girl Who Died”, during the time of Twelfth Doctor who would be back several times more. She was Wolfsbane in the Marvel film New Mutants. (CE) 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) CLARION CALLS. The Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, organized by the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego, is hosting the Winter Writers Series, a monthly series of conversations between Clarion alumni and instructors about the art of speculative fiction and their writing careers. These conversations, co-hosted by Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, are presented via Zoom Webinars and are free and open to the public. Each conversation will include time for Q&A with the audience. The next is —

Speculative Horror

April 21, 2021, 5pm PT / 8pm ET (register here)

Join us for a conversation about ins and outs of writing modern horror with three astounding writers and Clarion alumni/instructors who terrify and unsettle us.

Jeffrey Ford is the author of the novels The PhysiognomyThe Girl in the GlassThe Portrait of Mrs. CharbuqueThe Shadow YearThe Twilight Pariah, and Ahab’s Return. His story collections are The Fantasy Writer’s AssistantThe Empire of Ice CreamThe Drowned LifeCrackpot Palace, and A Natural History of Hell.

Victor LaValle is the author of the short story collection Slapboxing with Jesus, four novels, The EcstaticBig MachineThe Devil in Silver, and The Changeling and two novellas, Lucretia and the Kroons and The Ballad of Black Tom. He is also the creator and writer of a comic book Victor LaValle’s DESTROYER. He has been the recipient of numerous awards including the World Fantasy Award, British World Fantasy Award, Bram Stoker Award, Whiting Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, Shirley Jackson Award, American Book Award, and the key to Southeast Queens. He was raised in Queens, New York. He now lives in Washington Heights with his wife and kids. He teaches at Columbia University.

Sam J. Miller is the Nebula-Award-winning author of The Art of Starving (an NPR best of the year) and Blackfish City (a best book of the year for Vulture, The Washington Post, Barnes & Noble, and more – and a “Must Read” in Entertainment Weekly and O: The Oprah Winfrey Magazine). A recipient of the Shirley Jackson Award and a graduate of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, Sam’s work has been nominated for the World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, John W. Campbell and Locus Awards, and reprinted in dozens of anthologies. A community organizer by day, he lives in New York City. His latest novel is The Blade Between.

(10) LEEDS LIBRARY ARTICLE ON E.R. EDDISON. The Secret Library / Leeds Libraries Heritage Blog profiles the author in “Novels That Shaped Our World: Life, Death and Other Worlds”.

…In 1922 he published his first and most notable fantasy work, The Worm Ouroboros. The Worm, a serpent or snake, derived from the old Norse, ormr. This he followed with three volumes set in the imaginary world first observed by the Lords Juss and Brandoch Daha as they gaze from the top of great mountain, Koshstra Pevrarcha in The Worm, Zimiamvia, known as The Zimiamvian trilogyMistress of Mistresses (1935), A Fish Dinner in Memison (1941), and The Mezentian Gate (published posthumously in 1958). His Icelandic sagas were: Styrbiorn the Strong (1926) and his much admired translation of Egil’s Saga (1930).

In 1963 almost twenty years after Eddison’s death his late wife, Winifred Grace, and his close friend and literary executor, Sir George Rostrevor Hamilton deposited into the care of the special collections of the Leeds Central Library the vast majority of Eddison’s manuscript works….

(11) LIVE OCTOTHORPE. Big doings by John Coxon, Alison Scott and Liz Batty on the Octothorpe podcast.  Listen to Episode 29 here — “Ode to Badger”.

John is not Chris Garcia, Alison is full of beans, and Liz is T. S. Eliot. We handle letters of comment and then spend an hour talking about ConFusion in a BUMPER EPISODE.

You also are invited to join them for Octothorpe Live on 25 April – either join the Facebook group here or email them at octothorpecast@gmail.com for the Zoom link!

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Zack Snyder’s Justice League/Trilogy” on YouTube is HBO Max’s repackaging of Man Of Steel, Batman v. Superman, and Zack Snyder’s Justice League into a trilogy.

[Thanks to Edd Vick, Bruce D. Arthurs, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, StephenfromOttawa, Cat Eldridge, James Davis Nicoll, Steven French, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Olav Rokne, Andrew Porter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]