Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #45

Who Watches The Watchmen? –  Part One: Episodes 1-3

**BEWARE SPOILERS**

By Chris M. Barkley:

WATCHMEN by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, 12 Issues, September 1986 – October 1987, omnibus edition DC Comics/Warner Books, 1987.

“This city is afraid of me…I have seen its true face”

-Rorschach

It is widely regarded that Jack Katz’s The First Kingdom (1974) and the late Will Eisner’s A Contract With God and Other Tenement Stories (1978) should be credited as being among the first great, modern graphic novels. 

Watchmen, by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons is, without a doubt, acknowledged as the first masterpiece of this literary form.

This psychological and sociological deconstruction of the nature and mythology of superheroes has been a towering inspiration to nearly everyone who has aspired to work in the comics industry since its publication in the mid-1980’s.

I had the privilege of reading Watchmen in its original twelve issue run when it was first published. I vividly remember being very excited about reading this series. And I, as a jaded 30-year-old-reader, had not been taken by surprise by a graphic novel or comic book since I was nine years old and encountering the Fantastic Four and the Justice League for the first time.   

I was mesmerized as Ozymandias’ (Adrian Veidt) diabolical plan to unite the world by making it fearful of a faked alien invasion played out; the murder of a remorseful ex-hero Eddie Blake (The Comedian), the relentless and brutal investigation of his and other murders by Rorshach (Walter Joseph Kovacs), Doctor Manhattan’s (Jon Osterman) growing alienation from humankind and the personal struggles of Sally Jupiter (Silk Spectre) and Nite-Owl (Dan Dreiberg) and the eventual destruction of a good portion of New York City and a massive death toll., .

And the plan worked. Or did it?

A nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States was averted, and the surviving heroes, with the exception of Rorshach, agreed to keep silent. Doctor Manhattan kills Rorshach to ensure his silence. But knowing he might not be able to speak out, he cleverly planted a diary outlining most of plot with a tabloid newspaper. We, the readers, were left with an ironic, ticking time bomb waiting to go off…

Moore and Gibbon’s original contract with DC Comics stipulated that if Watchmen went out of print, the publishing rights and characters would revert back to them to do with them as they wished. But, not only a critical success but a big moneymaker for DC. Moore, citing this and other contractual disputes with DC, is totally estranged from the publisher and has repeatedly refused to have anything to do with Watchmen. And I don’t blame him a bit. If we were all moral and ethical people, we would boycott anything and everything Watchmen-related. 

Unfortunately, we are not very moral or ethical people. Are we?      


WATCHMEN (Director’s Cut: 3 Hours 2 minutes, 4/4 stars, 2009) with Malin Åkerman, Billy Crudup,Matthew Goode,Carla Gugino,Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Patrick Wilson. Screenplay by David Hayter and Alex Tse, based on Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Directed by Zach Synder.

“People’s lives take them strange places. They do strange things, and sometimes they can’t talk about them… I know how that is.”.

Laurie Jupiter/Silk Spectre II

The film rights to Watchmen were immediately snatched up by renowned producers Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver. They were the first of many who tried, and failed, to make a movie out of Watchmen. Several writers and directors were employed to give it a go, among them Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame, who exclaimed at one point it would be better as a mini-series and at another said the graphic novel was “unfilmable”.

In 2005, Gordon and a new partner, Lloyd Levin, tapped director Zach Synder, who had just completed the special effects historical epic, 300, to try to bring it all together. Synder and new screenwriter Alex Tse used elements of an earlier script by David Hayer, restored the Cold War setting of 1985 and an element involving Doctor Manhattan working on an energy conversion project backed by Adrian Veidt.

I saw the film when it premiered a decade ago but hadn’t seen it since then. I remember being impressed with it and thought was a very good adaptation. Looking back, I gave it three out of four stars (on the Leonard Maltin rating scale) because as good as it was, I found the underlying themes of the source material somewhat muted. 

To re-acquaint myself with the film, I purchased a copy of Zach Synder’s director’s cut (which has 24 minutes of additional footage) and found it that it was a more satisfying experience. Sure, it features extended action scenes but it also gives more nuance and character motivation to Laurie Jupiter (Malin Ackerman), her mother, Sally (Carla Gugino) and Nite-Owl (Partick Wilson). Their character arcs actually heighten the performance of Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorshach, whose contrasting performance as the hard ass, uncompromising vigilante burns even brighter. In a fairer world would he have been nominated for an Oscar and aced the winner Christoph Waltz (for Inglorious Basterds) for the award.

Synder and screenwriter Alex Tse received a lot of criticism for changing a vital element of the original story; the conspiracy behind faking the alien invasion. Instead, a subplot involving Doctor Manhattan and Adrian Veidt developing a new source of energy derived from his superpowers and Veidt framing him for a far more heinous crime, the utter destruction of several major global cities. While I thought this was a brilliant way to set the film apart visually from the graphic novel, other critics harped that it was either still too faithful version or or disagreed with the choices storywise. As for me, I think that; filmmakers have a better chance of producing more interesting and innovative art when they bring their perspectives and ideas to an adaptation than being a slave to the original material.

(To get an author’s first-hand perspective on how they viewed an adaptation of their own work, interested readers may want to hunt down David Mitchell’s essay on how his 2004 novel, Cloud Atlas, was handled by its three directors. It was originally published in the 2012 movie tie-in edition and, as of this post, is not available online.)

Watchmen was not the huge financial success Warner Brothers and DC Comics had hoped for at the box office, earning $185 million worldwide against an estimated budget of $138 million. Sales of various home video editions have been moderately good. In bookstores and online, the graphic novel spiked in advance of the film and did so again this past year upon the announcement from HBO that a limited series was in the works. 

Despite the failure of the film, DC embarked on a series of prequel stories called Before Watchmen in 2012, featuring individual characters from the novel.

Naturally, Alan Moore was very unhappy with these developments, stating in a 2012 interview on the Seraphemera (Books & Music) website:

“All the nasty comments that I was making when I was angry–about the comics industry not having had an idea of its own in the last 40 years…it would seem that DC are really going that extra mile in trying to prove me incontrovertibly right.”

and

“What the comics industry has effectively said is, ‘Yes, this was the only book that made us briefly special and that was because it wasn’t like all the other books.’ Watchmen was something that stood on its own and it had the integrity of a literary work. What they’ve decided now is, ‘So, let’s change it to a regular comic that can run indefinitely and have spin-offs.’ and ‘Let’s make it as unexceptional as possible.’ Like I say, they’re doing this because they haven’t got any other choices left, evidently.”     


WATCHMEN: White Rabbit, HBO, DC Comics, based on Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, with Regina King, Jean Smart, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson,Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Andrew Howard, Jacob Ming-Trent, Tom Mison, Sara Vickers, Dylan Schombing, Louis Gossett Jr. and Jeremy Irons.

“I’ve got a nose for white supremacy and he smells like bleach.” 

Angela Abar/Detective Sister Night, Episode 1

  • Episode 1: “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice”, Written by Damon Lindelof, Directed by Nicole Kassell
  • Episode 2: “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship”, Written by Damon Lindelof & Nick Cuse, Directed by Nicole Kassell
  • Episode 3:”She Was Killed by Space Junk”, Written by Damon Lindelof & Lila Byock, Directed by Stephen Williams

Which brings us to Damon Lindelof’s “remix” of the original graphic novel for television.The veteran of high profile genre shows like Lost and The Leftovers, he turned the job down twice before accepting. He went in knowing that he would never get Alan Moore’s approval and that whatever may come, the die-hard fans of the graphic novel (or the film for that matter) would never be satisfied with the results.

Taking a deep creative breath, Lindelof took to Instagram and made the following statement: “I am compelled despite the inevitable pushback and hatred I will understandably receive for taking on this particular project. This ire will be maximally painful because of its source. That source being you. the true fans.”

He also said: “I’m a true fan, too. And I’m not the only one. What I love about television is that the finished product is not the result of a singular vision, but the collective experience of many brilliant minds.”

Among those brilliant minds is Watchmen’s original artist, Dave Gibbons, who signed on with Lindelof as a visual consultant. His contributions are immediately evident in costumes of the characters and the style and feel of the production itself. 

The story begins with one of the most stunning opening sequencing in the history of television; a brutal recreation of the ransacking, murderous rampage and destruction of the Black Wall Street of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. Emerging from the carnage, a young black child rescues an infant and flees the burning city.

We then shift ninety-eight years into the future and thirty four after the events depicted in the graphic novel. Loud rap music drones from of a pickup truck late at night. The middle aged driver become apprehensive when police lights signal for him to pull over and it appears he is a victim of racial profiling. And as the officer questions the driver in an antagonistic manner, it verifies these suspicions with one startling twist; the driver is white and the Tulsa cop is African-American and wearing a mask. When the cop is brutally assaulted and critically injured, it set in motion a series of events that will range far across this alternate universe.

And what a strange universe it is. Over the course of the first three episodes several several passing glances and easter eggs have revealed the following observations and easter eggs:

  • That actor Robert Redford has been President for decades. 
  • That African-Americans were granted some substantial reparations from the government over the years.
  • There are no cell phones or the development of any social media outlets. But electric cars seem to be a standard mode of travel.
  • Author/Attorney John Grisham was appointed to the Supreme Court and is retiring.
  • Masked vigilantes were banned in 1977 but apparently many persist in the practice.
  • A newspaper announces that Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias) has been officially declared dead.
  • Tiny squids fall from the sky on an irregular basis, a stark reminder that mankind is still living under a threat of an impending “invasion:’
  • A dramatization documenting adventures of the first vigilantes called “American Hero Story” is being promoted on television (a clear call out to the Tales of The Black Freighter comics in the original Watchmen AND to Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s American Horror Story).
  • And Doctor Manhattan has been spotted on Mars, puttering around building and deconstructing things on the surface and, presumably, keeping an eye on Earth.

Tulsa’s police chief, Judd Crawford (Don Johnson) quickly deduces that a white supremist group, the Seventh Kalvary, was responsible. Three years earlier, the force and their families had been targeted in a surprise attack that left them dead and the few that remained demoralized. In response, the state government funded a pilot project that allowed officers to mask themselves and detectives to don elaborate costumes to protect their identities. Unfortunately, as the first episode amply demonstrates, this habitually leads to the abuse of the civil rights of criminal suspects and innocent civilians alike.

Our main protagonist, Angela Abar, is a survivor of the attack and has adopted the guise of a mild mannered, civilian identity of a local baker. But, when she’s alerted via pager to an emergency, she swiftly enters the back room and, like Spiderwoman, the Green Hornet and countless other heroes, transforms herself into Sister Night; with a nun’s habit and balaclava clad, she is a total badass supercop.

Sister Night forcibly brings a suspect into Tulsa’s secret police facility where he is subjected to an interrogation by Detective Wade Tillman, aka Looking Glass (played a droll and sardonic Tim Blake Nelson), who wears a reflective mirror mask. After conducting a very strange method that seems imitate Bladerunner’s Voight-Kampff test, Tillman concludes that while the suspect may not have been directly involved with the attack, he definitely knows something. And Sister Night proceeds to beat the location of the Seventh Kalvary out of him.

Meanwhile, at an undisclosed location, we spy a man (Jeremy Irons) riding horseback through the countryside. (Although he isn’t identified, I immediately suspected this regal looking rogue to be Adrian Veidt. And I was right.) While he seems to be right at home, he gives the appearance of being preoccupied with writing a play called “The Watchman’s Son” and recruiting his servants, Miss Crookshanks (Sarah Vickers) and Mr. Phillips (Tom Mison) to help him bring it to life.

At first, I thought these might be androids, but no, after Mr. Philips is burned alive during the performance of the play, it’s revealed that there are multiple copies of him and Miss Crookshanks, clones, doing his bidding around the castle in various roles. And who knows, they might even be clones of himself!

It also becomes evident that while Veidt lives in relative comfort, he is not at liberty to leave the compound at any time. After another one of his Philips clones expires in a grisly manner during one of his experiments involving a primitive pressure suit and a trebuchet, it is evident that the World’s Smartest Man is trying to escape. And the person who is standing in his way is a mysterious character named “the Game Warden”, who sends Veidt a written warning that he suspects his current activities may be in violation of the terms of his imprisonment. And Veidt, being the person he is, doubles down on his efforts.        

Meanwhile, Sister Night and Chief Crawford lead a nighttime raid on the Kavalry’s remote safehouse, which, like the first two episodes, are thrillingly directed with precision and verve by Nicole Kassell. And while they succeed in breaking up the gang’s current plan, they don’t gain enough intelligence to know exactly what they’re up to. 

Angela goes home only to receive a phone tip from a strange voice who tells her knows who she is and proceeds to demands she drive to a location in a field she knows well. Fearing that her identity and family has been compromised, she drives there only to find Crawford’s body hanging from a tree and a VERY elderly black man in a wheelchair (Louis Gossett, Jr.), proudly claiming to be the murderer.

This man, who calls himself Will, also claims to be Angela’s grandfather and to being 109 years old. Angela takes him to her bakery hideout, handcuffs him and takes a DNA sample to be tested and later is shocked to find out his claim is valid. Having kept Will out of the investigation of Crawford’s death, she decides to formally take him into custody as a material witness. But as she places him in her civilian car under the cover of darkness, a mysterious craft swoops in with an electro-magnetic grapple and spirits Will, and her car (!), away. A paper flutters down from the car; the tattered leaflet with the words “Look After This Boy” scrawled on the back, the same note that was placed in the pocket by the father of the boy who survived the 1921 Tulsa riots. 

The third episode introduces the audience to a middle-aged Laurie Blake (Jean Smart, who is equally snappy and ironically sad in her role) the second Silk Spectre and daughter of Sally Jupiter and Eddie Blake. A hard-bitten veteran of the FBI’s Anti-Vigilante Task Force, she also appears to be trapped in a life she doesn’t enjoy very much. It is heavily implied that her ex-husband, Nite-Owl, is languishing in prison for violating the 1977 federal anti-vigilante act and Laurie feels guilty for receiving a get out of jail free card in exchange for her services. 

Enter Joe Keene Jr., a US Senator from Oklahoma (and an aspiring Presidential candidate) who comes calling on Laurie to do him a favor; he has arranged with the Bureau to send her to Tulsa to investigate the death of Chief Judd Crawford, who he strongly suspects might not have been killed by the Seventh Kalvalry but by a masked vigilante. .Should Laurie succeed and he becomes President, he strongly suggests he just might pardon Daniel Dreiberg.

But Laurie doesn’t only pine for her ex-husband, in her spare time from the investigation, she also records phone messages beamed directly to Mars via special booths for her ex-boyfriend, Doctor Manhattan to “hear”.

As sad and lonely as Laurie seems, her demeanor in public is sharp and professional. In her interactions with Angela, Wade and her nerdy FBI partner Dale Petey (Dustin Ingram) she lets it be known that does not suffer fools gladly and that she has read all of the reports, seen all of the video and is as smart as a very sharp, venomous tack. And if anyone is hiding anything, she’ll be the one to suss it out. Wade seemingly bows to her authority but not Angela, who puts on a brave and defiant face. That’s because she has plenty to hide at this point, including finding evidence that Chief Crawford may have been on the take and is concealing her grandfather’s role in his death.

And at the end of the third episode, as Laurie completes her phone call to Mars that evening, pleading for a sign from Doctor Manhattan that he might still care for her or the human race. As she is walking to her car, a huge clue falls into her lap from the sky above. And as she looks to see where it came from, she catches sight of Mars, glowing ominously in the distance. We leave Laurie as she laughs maniacally at the night sky and the audience wondering what the hell is going to happen next.

I must admit that I have been fairly overwhelmed by what Damon Lindelof has done with this production of Watchmen. He clearly reveres the source material but is totally unafraid in taking it in unexpected and startling directions.

There has been some blow back from fans who have complained at great length that Lindelof has made Watchmen too “political”, which is laughable because a more discerning reader should have caught on to those themes in the very first issue back in 1986. 

Others have vociferously objected to Rorschach being held up as a modern-day symbol of white supremacy. Well, those people thought he was the “hero” of previous iterations of Watchmen, when in fact, he was a damaged human being who was given the worst aspects of Batman, which were then magnified to the nth degree. A nihilistic, psychotic and inflexible, Walter Kovacs was the perfect character for other nihilistic, psychotic and inflexible racists to glom onto as their object of adulation.

Furthermore, Lindelof and his crew of creators are daring the audience to immerse themselves in a world where they may have to either root for, understand or have empathy for people, especially police officers, who are going about their jobs and lives in a completely aberrant and disgusting manner as they try to grapple with forces and circumstances they are having a hard time comprehending.

Also, in an era where more television shows and films are telling more diverse stories, it is utterly refreshing to see a gerne-oriented show tackle racial and political issues head on for a mainstream audience. These are exactly the sort of entertainment vehicles we need more of in these confusing and turbulent times; confounding, controversial and profound, they excite the intellect and stir meaningful conversations about who we are and what we should be doing.

This past spring, I stated that I was only going to list HBO’s magnificent techno-horror miniseries Chernobyl as my lone entrant on my Best Dramatic Presentation-Long Form Hugo award ballot. Well, I think may have been a bit premature saying that; if Damon Lindelof and company can pull it off this daring adaptation over the remaining six episodes, I’ll be nominating Watchmen as well. 

And from what I’ve seen so far, I’ll be VERY disappointed if they don’t make it. But, after seeing the first three episodes of this series, I have a sneaking suspicion they will stick the landing, in the biggest way possible.

Pixel Scroll 11/3/19 When You’re At The Bottom Of A Pixel, It’s Time To Put Down The Scroll

(1) FAN NONPROFIT CALLS FOR SUPPORT. Con-or-Bust, the organization that helps people of color/non-white people attend SFF conventions, has put out a call for workers to keep it going. Their Twitter thread about what’s needed starts here.

(2) FRESH MONSTERS. “Creepy Stories (and More) from Victor LaValle and Benjamin Percy” on Lit Hub links to an episode of the Lit Hub podcast Fiction/NonFiction, which features interviews with LaValle and Percy and each author reading three excerpts from their fiction.

LaValle explains how devices like monsters make it possible to write about how something feels, rather than merely what happened; Percy discusses doppelgängers, and asks whether politically, the call is coming from inside the house.

(3) COMPLETING THE ARC. John Scalzi had a good time at the movies — “Terminator: Dark Fate Review” on Whatever.

…As I walked out of the film last night I posted a five word recommendation of this film: “It gets Sarah Connor right.” This actually matters because despite the name of films, the “Terminator” films are about Sarah Connor, and the arc of her life dealing with the terrible fate that life has dealt her: Victim to fighter to avenger. Sarah Connor is realistically (with the context of these films) damaged by this fate of hers; particularly in this film she’s a PTSD wreck. And, well, she would be, wouldn’t she. It’s important that the Terminator films show her this way. It’s for better or worse the grounding the films need to make every other absurd thing that happens in them function on the level of plausibility.

(4) NOT SO BLITHE SPIRIT. In “Like It or Not, Damon Lindelof Made His Own Watchmen”, Vulture’s Abraham Reisman gets showrunner Damon Lindelof to answer several ethical questions about Watchmen, including the morality of how he is making the series without Allan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’s permission because the rights were supposed to revert to them if the comic books were out of print, and they’ve never gone out of print, and how Robert Redford is “in the series” as the perpetual president but the actual Robert Redford was neither approached or asked because he had retired before the series started production.

Does it keep you up at night? Or have you made your peace with it?
It wakes me up at night, but much less so now that it’s done. I’m about to say something very ridiculous, but in all sincerity, I was absolutely convinced that there was a magical curse placed upon me by Alan [Moore]. I’m actually feeling the psychological effects of a curse, and I’m okay with it. It’s fair that he has placed a curse on me. The basis for this, my twisted logic, was that I heard that he had placed a curse on Zack [Snyder]’s [Watchmen] movie. There is some fundamental degree of hubris and narcissism in saying he even took the time to curse me. But I became increasingly convinced that it had, in fact, happened. So I was like, “Well, at least I’m completely and totally miserable the entire time.” I should be!

(5) ALL ABOARD PULLMAN. The new BBC/HBO His Dark Materials mini-series starts Monday, November 4. The credits alone are enough to leave Io9’s Julie Muncy bowled over: “The Opening Title Sequence for His Dark Materials Is Stunningly Good”.

His Dark Materials is a sweeping fantasy epic, and it deserves a title sequence to match. Fortunately, thanks to HBO and the BBC, it’s got one. Today, BBC released the opening for the upcoming His Dark Materials TV show, and it absolutely lives up to the pedigree of the series. If you’re looking for something to build hype, this is it. I’m especially partial to the graphics at the end. Like, wow.

(6) HIS BARK MATERIALS. The previous item also reminded Daniel Dern of a photo he shot at Arisia 2016 of an “Armored polar bear” from The Golden Compass.

DanielDern-Arisia2016-DSC08657-DogCosplay

(7) NANOWRIMO AT 20. The New York Times celebrates the anniversary: “Ready. Set. Write a Book.” Article includes tips and tools.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the National Novel Writing Month project, which challenges people to write a 50,000-word novel in November. NaNoWriMo, as it is known, is a nonprofit that supports creative writing and education. Those who sign up for the group’s free annual event get community support, progress tracking and motivational advice to complete a book draft.

If you think you have a novel in you, here is a quick guide to digital tools to help you along your way.

(And if the thought of cranking out an average of 1,667 words a day in the NaNoWriMo challenge doesn’t fit in with your schedule or you need more prep time — don’t despair. You could write it at your own pace.)

(8) SLADE OBIT. Bernard Slade, who co-created The Flying Nun and wrote 17 episodes of Bewitched, has died at the age of 89 reports the New York Times. Outside of genre his successes were creating the 1970s television series The Partridge Family, and the Broadway play “Same Time, Next Year.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 3, 1954 — In Japan, Godzilla (Gojira) premiered. This is the very first film in the Godzilla franchise.  It was written by Honda, Takeo Murata, and Shigeru Kayama, and was produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka, with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya.  It enjoys a 89% rating at Rotten Tomatoes among viewers and an even more impressive 93% among critics. It made almost nothing on its first run here on the States. 

And here is a good place to link to Funny or Die’s Rambo/Godzilla mashup (released in June).

  • November 3, 1967 — The Trek episode of “I, Mudd” first aired. Starring Roger C. Carmel as Harry Mudd with Richard Tatro as  Norman,  Alyce Andrece as Alice #1 through #250, Rhae Andrece as Alice 251 through 500 and, lest we forget, Kay Elliot as Stella Mudd. Written by Stephen Kandel as based on a story by Gene Roddenberry.  

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 3, 1921 Charles Bronson. He didn’t do he a lot of genre acting but I’ve got him in One Step Beyond as Yank Dawson in “The Last Round” and he’s in The Twilight Zone in “Two” as The Man opposite Elizabeth Montgomery as The Women. He was also in Master of The World which is  based on the Verne novels Robur the Conqueror and its sequel Master of the World. (Died 2003.)
  • Born November 3, 1932 Monica Vitti, 87. She’s best remembered in the English language movie going world for her performance as the lead agent in Modesty Blaise. It‘s rather loosely based upon the Modesty Blaise strip by Peter O’Donnell, who co-wrote the original story upon which Evan Jones based his screenplay. 
  • Born November 3, 1932 Jack Harness. Usually I’d give a précis of his fan bio based Fancyclopedia 3 and sources. Oh, this time you really need to go read the Fancyclopedia 3 write-up as the writer has detailed a true character among characters: Jack Harness (Died 2001.)
  • Born November 3, 1933 Aneta Corsaut. If you saw The Blob, the original Fifties version, she was Jane Martin. Her only other genre film work was as an uncredited tourist mother in Blazing Saddles. And unless I’m mistaken, she had no other genre series work at all though she was popular in Westerns. (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 3, 1933 Jeremy Brett. Still my favorite Holmes of all time. He played him in four Granada TV series from 1984 to 1994 in a total of 41 episodes. One source said he was cast as Bond at one point, but turned the part down, feeling that playing 007 would harm his career. Lazenby was cast instead. (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 3, 1933 Ken Berry. He’s making the Birthday Honors for Disney’s The Cat from Outer Space in which he was Dr. Frank Wilson. No, the cat wasn’t Goose. And he played seven different roles on the original Fantasy Island which well may be a record. Oh, he like pretty much everyone else was a guest performer on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. I know it’s not genre, I just find that amusing. (Died 2018.)
  • Born November 3, 1952 Eileen Wilks, 67. Her principal genre series is the World of Lupi, a FBI procedural intertwined with shapeshifters, dragons and the multiverse. Highly entertaining, sometimes considered romance novels though I don’t consider them so. The audiobooks are amazing as well! 
  • Born November 3, 1953 Kate Capshaw, 66. Best known as Willie Scott in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (which I’ll confess I’ve watched but a few times unlike the first film which I’ve watched way too much), and she was in Dreamscape as well. She retired from acting several decades ago.
  • Born November 3, 1953 Adam Ant, 66. He actually has a decent genre acting history having been on the Eighties Amazing Stories, in Out of Time (a time travel film), Love Bites (oh guess), Tales from The Crypt, voiced a role on Batman: The Animated Series and Cyber Bandits. Oh and voicing Sri Charge-A-Lot on The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries!
  • Born November 3, 1956 Kevin Murphy, 63. Best known as the voice and puppeteer of Tom Servo for nine years on the Mystery Science Theater 3000. He was also the writer for the show for eleven years. I’m surprised the series was never nominated for a Hugo in the Long Form or Shot Form. Does it not qualify?
  • Born November 3, 1963 Brian Henson, 55. Can we all agree that The Happytime Murders should never have been done? Thought so. Wash it out of your consciousness with Muppet Treasure Island or perhaps The Muppet Christmas Carol. If you want something darker, he was a puppeteer on The Witches, and the chief puppeteer on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And he voices Hoggle in Labyrinth.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) CARTOON-LIKE SCULPTURE. This towering figure sits in front of a new high-rise on the waterfront in Greenpoint, NYC.

(13) KEEPING AHEAD. Steven James advises authors “How to Write Crime Fiction Set in the Near Future” at CrimeReads.

2) Trust your reader’s imagination.

In my latest novel, Synapse, I refer to slates, which are basically the tablets of the future. Who knows what phones thirty years from now or even five years from now will be able to do? Don’t make the smartphones of the future too dumb. If you can imagine it, there’s probably some software engineer somewhere out there who’s thought of the same thing.

So, when it comes to technology don’t try to get so specific that the technology will be outdated by the time the book comes out.

Here’s a prime example: years ago when I was writing my book The Rook, I thought it would be cool if someone could look up a song online just by humming it and search using sound-based search algorithms rather than just text-based ones. Cutting-edge, right? Well, as I was writing the manuscript, that technology was released. If I’d included it in my book as something new or innovative, readers would have shaken their heads: “They’ve been able to do that forever.” It’s important to keep an eye on current trends and technological breakthroughs.

(14) FANTASTIC ART. CBS’ Sunday Morning paid a visit to “Art collective Meow Wolf”.

What is Meow Wolf? An art collective founded in Santa Fe, N.M., whose name came from words picked out of a hat, and which puts on immersive exhibitions that tantalize audiences with vivid visuals and storytelling that is magical, mysterious, or just downright weird. Their latest exhibit, called “The House of Eternal Return,” is contained in a former bowling alley purchased by one of the group’s benefactors, “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin. Conor Knighton reports.

(15) NEXT WEB. Looper sounds the alert: “Get ready for a Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse sequel”.

The news drop came after several days of teasing and a pair of cryptic tweets posted to the official Twitter account for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. On October 27, the account posted a GIF of a genetically modified spider silk-gliding down to the streets of New York and creepy-crawling toward the camera — a moment fans will remember from the aesthetically striking film. The post was accompanied by an emoji of a pair of eyes, often used to indicate that secrecy, sneaky behavior, or some kind of deceitful act is taking place. Then, on October 31, the Into the Spider-Verse Twitter page shared a hype-boosting warning: “Something’s up. Our Spidey sense is tingling. RT if yours is, too.”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “How To Power Your House, With xkcd’s Randall Munroe” on YouTube, Randall Munroe offers all sorts of options for powering your house using the amount of space in a typical front yard.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/20/19 Recommended To All To Whom This Sounds Like A Recommendation

(1) NOW IT’S AN APOCALYPSE. The row started by Martin Scorsese’s remarks isn’t likely to subside anytime soon now that Francis Ford Coppola has been even more extreme in his supporting comments: “Coppola backs Scorsese in row over Marvel films”.

Francis Ford Coppola jumped into a controversy over the Marvel superhero movies Saturday, not just backing fellow director Martin Scorsese’s critique of the films but denouncing them as “despicable”…

“When Martin Scorsese says that the Marvel pictures are not cinema, he’s right because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration.

“I don’t know that anyone gets anything out of seeing the same movie over and over again,” the 80-year-old filmmaker said.

“Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.”

(2) CINEMA AND THE MCU. David Gerrold challenges those two notable filmmakers’ opinion:

I disagree with Scorsese. I disagree with Coppola. They are wrong to dismiss the Marvel Cinematic Universe as “not cinema.”

The final battle in Avengers Endgame was a masterpiece of cinema, ranking with the final battle in Seven Samurai.

Why do I say this?

Because we got to see people we had fallen in love with rise to the most courageous moments of their lives — and when that whole group of women warriors showed up, that was one of the most emotional moments I’ve ever seen in a movie. I cheered.

See, the thing about movies — yes, they’re art. There is true artistry in The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. Goodfellas is riveting, so is Casino.

But … I did not cheer any moment in any of those pictures. Was I emotionally involved? Yes. When the door closes on Kate’s realization that Michael has lied to her, that’s a powerful cinematic moment that resonates forever.

But do I come out of Scorsese and Coppola’s movies feeling cheered? No. Enlightened? Maybe a little. But never cheered.

And I think that’s part of their resistance to the Marvel films. A Marvel film is a good time. You experience a challenge, a triumph, a few laughs, and you end up feeling emotionally gratified, even exhilarated…

(3) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted her pictures of the reading: “Fantastic fiction at KGB October 16 photos”.

A nice crowd showed up to hear Barbara Krasnoff and Nicole Kornher-Stace read from their new novels, despite a lot of rain.

Nicole Kornher-Stace and Barbara Krasnoff

(4) UNWONTED PERFECTION. You don’t remember typing that word? You thought you wrote another one? In fact, you’re sure of it? Granola Rolla, a Facebook friend, takes that sort of thing in stride:

Autocorrect is a poet, effortlessly, without pretense, never feeling like it should explain itself. I envy the confidence with which it edits poetry into my day. Also, I have disreputable gloves on my shopping list. I doubt they’ll be as useful for the housework as the disposable gloves I’d thought I wanted, but such a fun thing to ponder.

(5) IT’S TAKING A KIP. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The Phone Call Isn’t Dead, It’s Evolving”.

Talking was the most popular way to communicate via cellphone in the fall of 2012, with 94% of survey respondents having done so in the prior week, according to consumer-research firm MRI-Simmons. By the spring of 2019, talking had fallen to least popular, behind texting, emailing, posting to social media and using chat apps, with just 45% reporting doing it in the prior week. In other words, less than half had used their phone for an actual phone call.

Multiple people I interviewed said when the phone rings unexpectedly, they assume someone has died….

(6) CUT TO THE CHASE. Carlye Wisel, in “Disney Finally Released Details on Rise of the Resistance — and It’s Going to Be the Best Star Wars Ride Yet” in Travel and Leisure, says that Disney’s new Star Wars ride, which will open on December 5 at Disney World, will last 15 minutes, includes trackless technology, and promises to have humor in the grim battle between the Resistance and the First Order. (Article warns where the spoilers begin.)

With multiple ride systems — four to be exact — that guests will experience while traveling on this intergalactic journey, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will be one of the longest Disney rides in existence, as guests find themselves being chased by Kylo Ren for 15 minutes.

The latest Star Wars ride will also function like all your favorite Disney attractions combined into one, channeling The Haunted Mansion, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and famed overseas attractions like Mystic Manor for a thematic experience likely to exceed expectations, even for those who have already tried out other Star Wars rides. Paired with its special effects, projections, and blaster gunfire, Rise of the Resistance is shaping up to be a cinematic attraction so over the top, you won’t even be able to imagine what will come next.

(7) ESCAPING OBSCURITY. Slashfilm says tickets are available: “‘Roundtable’ Live Read: Brian K. Vaughan’s Unproduced Script to Be Read Aloud in Hollywood”. The show is November 2.

In the summer of 2008, Eisner and Harvey Award-winning comic writer Brian K. Vaughan (Lost, Y: The Last Man) sold a high-concept screenplay to DreamWorks called Roundtable. The movie never went into production, the script sat on a shelf collecting dust, and Vaughan went on to become the showrunner of the CBS TV series Under the Dome and continue his career in comics by writing things like the sci-fi/fantasy epic Saga. But now, eleven years later, Vaughan’s Roundtable script will finally see the light of day.

Sort of.

The Black List, the organization that publishes an annual list of the best unproduced screenplays in the industry, is sponsoring a live reading of the script for one night only in Los Angeles, and this sounds like a cool opportunity to experience a story that may otherwise languish in obscurity forever. Read on for the synopsis of Roundtable, and to find out how to get tickets to the show.

(8) CAN’T GET OUT. CBS Sunday Morning devoted a segment today to “Playing an escape room” (video).

Correspondents David Pogue, Martha Teichner and Nancy Giles, along with “Sunday Morning” intern Cory Peeler, face a difficult challenge: Find their way out of a room before a bomb goes off! It’s just one of many examples of the big business in escape rooms – immersive adventures in which people must solve puzzles in order to extricate themselves. Air Date: Oct 20, 2019

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 20, 1965 Village Of The Giants premiered.  It starred Tommy Kirk and Beau Bridges, and is very loosely based on Wells’s book The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth. It scores 20% at Rotten Tomatoes.
  • October 20, 1987 The Hidden premiered. Starring Kyle McLachlan with Claudia Christian in an interesting cameo as well, reviewers (76%) and audience.(72%) alike loved it at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 20, 1882 Bela Lugosi. He’s best remembered for portraying Count Dracula in the 1931 film franchise Drácula. Now tell me what’s your favorite film character that he played? (Died 1956.)
  • Born October 20, 1905 Frederic Dannay. Creator and writer, along with Manfred Bennington Lee, of Ellery Queen. Now I wasn’t going to say was he was genre but ESF does say he was because such genre authors such as Sturgeon penned Queen novels such as The Player on the Other Side. (Died 1982.)
  • Born October 20, 1916 Anton Diffring. A long career with many genre roles which I’ll note but a few of here. He was Fabian in Fahrenheit 451, Graf Udo Von Felseck of Purbridge Manor in The Masks of Deaths (a rather well-crafted Holmes film) and he played De Flores, a neo-Nazi in “Silver Nemesis”, a most excellent Seventh Doctor story. (Died 1989.)
  • Born October 20, 1934 Michael Dunn. He’s best known for his recurring role on the Wild Wild West as Dr. Miguelito Loveless, attempting to defeat our heroes over and over, but he has had another appearances in genre television. He would be Alexander, a court jester, in the Trek “Plato’s Stepchildren” episode and a killer clown in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea “The Wax Men” episode. (Died 1973.)
  • Born October 20, 1943 Peter Weston. He made uncountable contributions  in fan writing and editing, conrunning and in local clubs. He was nominated for a number of Hugo Awards but never won, including one nomination for his autobiography, Stars in My Eyes: My Adventures in British Fandom. Beginning in 1984 and for many years after, those Awards were cast by the car-parts factory which Weston owned and managed until he retired. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 20, 1935 Leg Mailer, 85. He showed up in Trek twice first playing Bilar in “The Return of the Archons” and then being an Ekosian SS lieutenant in the “Patterns of Force” episode. And he Imperial Guard Number One in The Star Wars Holiday Special.  He had one-offs on The Greatest American Hero and the original Mission:Impossible, and he did voice work for An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. Note: until 1970, he used his birth name of Ralph Medina. 
  • Born October 20, 1937 Emma Tennant. To the Manor born and a lifelong supporter of Labour, ISFDB lists nine of her novels as being as SFF. As the Literary Encyclopedia  says “Her work is feminist, magical and wicked, and uses the fantastic and the Gothic to interpret and explore everyday women’s roles.“ I’ve not read her, so do tell me about her pleased if you’ve read her! (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 20, 1941 Anneke Wills, 78. In 1966, she took the role of Polly, a companion to both the First and Second Doctors. She was herself in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. She was also in Doctor Who: Devious, a fan film in development since 1991. You can see the first part here. 
  • Born October 20, 1946 Thomas Wylde, 73. He’s here because he’s got two stories in the Alien Speedway franchise, Roger Zelazny’s Alien Speedway #2: Pitfall and Roger Zelazny’s Alien Speedway #3: The Web. I’ve never heard of these. Anyone read them?  He’s also got two stories in L. Sprague de Camp’s Doctor Bones series as well. 
  • Born October 20, 1958 Lynn Flewelling, 61. The lead characters of her Nightrunner series are both bisexual, and she has stated this is so was because of “the near-absence of LGBT characters in the genre and marginalization of existing ones.” (Strange Horizon, September 2001) The Tamír Triad series is her companion series to this affair

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) UP ALL NIGHT. In the Washington Post Magazine, Mikaela Lefrak profiles Andrew Aydin, whose day job is working for Rep. John Lewis and whose night-time job was helping Rep. Lewis write the Eisner Award-winning March. “He’s a Hill staffer for Rep. John Lewis by day — and an award-winning graphic novelist by night”.

…While they were writing “March,” they would spend hours on the phone combing through Lewis’s memories of sit-ins at whites-only lunch counters and the Bloody Sunday attacks during the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march. Occasionally they’d even fall asleep while still on the phone. “It reminded me of when sometimes Martin Luther King Jr. would call me late at night and he would fall asleep, and then I would fall asleep,” Lewis told me. “We’d talk and talk.”

Both men drew inspiration for the project from the 1957 “Montgomery Story” comic book that Lewis read as a teen. (It sold for 10 cents a copy.) They also looked to successful graphic memoirs like Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home” and Art Spiegelman’s “Maus.”

(13) WATCHMEN. The New York Times James Poniewozik says Lindelof’s TV adaptation delivers “a mystifying world you want to spend time in.” — “Review: ‘Watchmen’ Is an Audacious Rorschach Test”.

Damon Lindelof’s entertaining comic-book rethink takes on the Big Bad of white supremacy, explosively and sometimes unsteadily.

Many a superhero origin story involves exposure to a volatile substance — something dangerous, radioactive, caustic — that can be powerful if mastered, ruinous if uncontrolled.

In HBO’s “Watchmen,” beginning Sunday, that fissile storytelling material is history: specifically, America’s legacy of white supremacy. The first episode begins with the 1921 riot in Tulsa, Okla., in which white mobs rampaged in the prosperous “Black Wall Street,” massacring African-Americans in the street and strafing them from above with airplanes. A small boy’s parents pack him onto a car that’s fleeing the mayhem, like Kal-El being sent from Krypton. But there is no Superman flying to the rescue.

With that opening, Damon Lindelof (“Lost,” “The Leftovers”) reframes the universe that the writer Alan Moore and the artist Dave Gibbons created in the 1980s comics series. Where Moore wrote an alternative history of Cold War America — a pre-apocalyptic dystopia in which masked vigilantes have been outlawed — Lindelof reaches back and forward in time to root his caped-crusaders story in a brutal American tragedy.

The choice invests this breathtaking spectacle with urgency. “Watchmen” is a first-class entertainment out of the box, immediately creating a sad and wondrous retro-futuristic world. It takes longer, though, to get a handle on the complicated and all-too-real material it uses as its nuclear fuel….

(14) TOPIC OF CONVERSATION. Also in the Washington Post Magazine, in the Date Lab column, Neil Drumming explained what happened when the Post arranged for Piotr Gregowski and Claire Wilhelm to go on a blind date. “Date Lab: He worried that he sounded a little too excited about a fantasy novel”.

Things picked up when Claire mentioned that she’d been reading The Name of the Wind. a fantasy novel from The Kingfisher Chronicles series by Patrick Rothfuss.  Piotr is, as he puts it, ‘a huge fantasy nerd.’ ‘He was very excited to talk about that,’ said Claire.  He taught her how to pronounce the name of the novel’s main character, Kvothe.  (It’s Ka-Voth-ee.)  Piotr loosened up considerably on the topic of fantasy fiction. ‘Probably too much for a first date,’ he told me.  He needn’t have been concerned; a self-proclaimed fantasy nerd herself, Claire described him as ‘just the right amount of nerd.’  ‘We had a lot in common,’ she said.

However…

“Claire told me she didn’t feel much of an attraction, either, but ‘I would maybe have gone out with him if he had asked.’  In the end, she  considers the date a success because ‘I got to talk about books I like.’

But they didn’t go out again.

(15) AFTER A DNA TEST. Severance recommends, “If you want to comfort someone who’s had a DNA surprise, avoid making these 10 comments.”

Until recently, most people likely haven’t encountered someone who’s been knocked off balance by a DNA test result, so it’s understandable they might not appreciate the magnitude of the impact. But it’s just a matter of time. Mind-blowing DNA revelations are becoming so common that some DNA testing companies have trained their customer service staff representatives to respond empathetically. While those employees may know the right thing to say, here in the real world the people around us often haven’t got a clue how it feels — like a punch to the gut.

If you’ve become untethered from your genetic family, you might get a second surprise: some of your friends and loved ones may be remarkably unsympathetic, often infuriatingly judgmental, and sometimes even hostile. It’s clear that although DNA surprises have become ubiquitous, social attitudes haven’t kept pace, and a stigma remains….

3. Blood doesn’t make family.

This tries to mollify us and discount our feelings at the same time. Blood is exactly what makes family, consanguinity being the first definition of kinship. Certainly there are also families of affinity, but the familial love we feel for them doesn’t alter the fact that our blood relatives exist and they matter to us.

(16) SOCIABLE SLIME. “‘The Blob,’ A Smart Yet Brainless Organism Fit For Sci-Fi, Gets Its Own Exhibit”NPR has the story.

A brainless, bright-yellow organism that can solve mazes and heal itself is making its debut at a Paris zoo this weekend.

At least so far, “the blob” is more benevolent than the ravenous star of its 1950s sci-fi film classic namesake.

Time-lapsed videos of the blob show a slimy organism rapidly multiplying in size. How fast exactly? The blob can sprint about four centimeters per hour, according to the Paris Zoological Park

The blob is neither animal, nor plant. And although Physarum polycephalum — Latin for “many-headed slime” — is classified as a type of slime mold, scientists now consider the creature unrelated to fungi.

…The slime mold, which lacks a nervous system, is capable of advanced decision-making, learning and long-term memory storage, according to Audrey Dussutour, who studies unicellular organisms with the French National Center for Scientific Research.

“It can find its way through a maze, it can construct efficient transport networks, sometimes better than us, actually,” Dussutour said in an interview with NPR’s Weekend Edition.

(17) THE LONG HAUL. “Qantas completes test of longest non-stop passenger flight” — note change in approach to jet lag.

Australian carrier Qantas has completed a test of the longest non-stop commercial passenger flight as part of research on how the journey could affect pilots, crew and passengers.

The Boeing 787-9 with 49 people on board took 19 hours and 16 minutes to fly from New York to Sydney, a 16,200-km (10,066-mile) route.

Next month, the company plans to test a non-stop flight from London to Sydney.

Qantas expects to decide on whether to start the routes by the end of 2019.

If it goes ahead with them, the services would start operating in 2022 or 2023.

…Passengers set their watches to Sydney time after boarding and were kept awake until night fell in eastern Australia to reduce their jetlag.

Six hours later, they were served a high-carbohydrate meal and the lights were dimmed to encourage them to sleep.

On-board tests included monitoring pilot brain waves, melatonin levels and alertness as well as exercise classes for passengers and analysis of the impact of crossing so many time zones on people’s bodies.

(18) USEFUL SJWC? BBC has video of “Mr London Meow: The therapy cat visiting hospitals”. Much better company than The Blob.

Mr London Meow is a therapy cat who goes into some of London’s hospitals to offer therapeutic care to patients.

At the Royal London in Whitechapel he is loved not just by the patients, but by the staff as well.

(19) ANOTHER POTTERVERSE INSIGHT NOBODY ASKED FOR. Don’t read this Clickhole post if you’re sensitive to insults against Italians. “Big Step Backward: J.K. Rowling Has Revealed That Dementors Are The Wizarding World’s Version Of Italians”.

Buckle up, Harry Potter fans, because J.K. Rowling’s latest bombshell about the series definitely isn’t doing anything for inclusivity: The bestselling author has revealed that Dementors are the wizarding world’s version of Italians.

(20) FOR YOUR VIEWING TERROR. Vogue nominates “The 40 Best Spooky Movies to Watch for Halloween”. Three of them are —

Halloweentown

A Disney Channel original movie from the era before they were all about tweens becoming pop stars. (Stream it on Hulu and Amazon.)

Sabrina the Teenage Witch

If you’ve been into the sexy new Sabrina show, revisit the quirky original. You won’t be disappointed. (Stream it on Amazon.)

Practical Magic

You’ll want to become a witch after watching this ’90s cinematic staple. Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman star as witchy sisters navigating love, death, and magic. (Stream it on Amazon.)

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Olav Rokne, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller with an assist from Anna NImmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 5/22/18 The Return Of The Revenge Of The Son Of The House Of The Bride Of The Night Of The Living Pixel Scroll

(1) ROBSON ON WORLDBUILDING. Juliette Wade interviews celebrated author Kelly Robson in her latest Dive Into Worldbuilding hangout — “Kelly Robson and ‘Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach’”. Wade has both notes on the interview and a video at the link.

This hangout looks twice as exciting now that Kelly has gone on to win a Nebula in the meantime (for her novellette, A Human Stain)! It was a pleasure to have her on the show to talk about her recent novella, Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach.

Kelly started out by telling us about how critical economics was to this story. She’s passionate about economics! (And so she should be; worldbuilding without economics is flimsy.) She calls it “the physics of worldbuilding.” She told us that when she was first writing historical fiction, she began with medieval settings because it seemed more straightforward to manage, but that since then, she’s branched out into greater challenges. In this story, the historical portion is set in Mesopotamia!

(2) RECAP. Shannon Hale, one of the principals in the story, gives her own rundown of yesterday’s FanX antiharassment news in “My FanX craziness, annotated”.

Since this has blown up and become news, I’m going to lay out here all my interactions with FanX (Salt Lake City’s Comic Con).…

(3) IN TUNE. Olga Polomoshnova shares her analysis “On Lúthien’s power of singing” at Middle-Earth Reflections.

The fairest of all Children of Ilúvatar, Lúthien is not an ordinary character. Being the daughter of an Elf and a Maia, she inherited various traits of both kindreds. Among many of her gifts and skills singing was one of the most exceptional. However, when it comes to talking about Lúthien’s singing, we should bear in mind that hers was not renowned just for being done in a beautiful voice. Lúthien’s songs possessed special power

(4) REALITY SHOW. Tom McAllister tells new writers to recalibrate their expectations in “Who Will Buy Your Book?” at The Millions.

Before I ever published anything, I’d assumed that if I ever finished a book, there would be so much demand from family and friends alone that we’d have to go into a second printing before the release date. But I am here to tell you: most people in your family will never buy your book. Most of your friends won’t either.

I have a handful of friends and family members—people I consider close to me, people I see regularly—who have never come to any of my dozens of book events. I don’t know if they own any of my books because I haven’t asked, but I have a pretty good guess. After my first book came out, I would peruse friends’ bookshelves, trying to determine their organizational system (if it’s not alphabetical, then where is my book? Maybe they have some special hidden shelf for books they truly cherish?). On a few occasions, I called them out for not having it. This accomplished nothing, besides making both of us feel bad.

The point of this piece is not to shame those people or to complain about not getting enough support. It’s just to say: whatever you think it’s like after you publish a book, it’s actually harder than that.

(5) PAYSEUR. Quick Sip Reviews’ Charles Payseur covers “Beneath Ceaseless Skies #251”, which, coincidentally has a story by Jonathan Edelstein.

It’s a rather quick issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, with two stories linked in a way by their length (neither of them over 2500 words, which is unusual for the publication). But it lends both stories a sort of impact, and a feeling of anticipation. In the first, that means having to wait for the results of a very important test. In the second, that means having to wait for the results of a very important confrontation. In both, there are certain indications that might guide readers otwards guessing what happens next, but both times it’s left up in the air what _actually_ transpires after the final stories end. What it is certain is that both look at characters struggling to solve tricky problems, ones where they have been made culpable of a misstep and are desperate to find a way forward. So yeah, to the reviews!

Stories:

“The Examination Cloth” by Jonathan Edelstein (2232 words)…

(6) LAW WEST OF THE EAST RIVER. The New York Times Magazine offers the verdict of “Judge John Hodgman on Children Watching James Bond Movies”. Here’s the problem —

Ren writes:  Our children, ages 7 and 9, love James Bond movies.  We’ve seen almost every one, but my wife doesn’t want them to see Casino Royale.  It’s often referred to as the best Bond, but she believes it is too inappropriate for them.  Can you help?  I’d like to watch the movie with my kids, who are James Bond fans just like me.

John Hodgman’s answer:

Of course 7-and 9-year-olds like movies with cars that fly.  But they don’t love problematic gender portrayals and seventh-grade-level sex jokes.  That’s why Ian Fleming wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for children and the James Bond series for man-children.  But if Casino Royale (which is great!) is truly the last one you have left, why not?  Why not complete your experiment and cuddle up with your kids and watch Daniel Craig be tortured in a very private area?  No one can stop your mad plan now.  Not even you, Mr. Bond!

(7) GOLD OBIT. Virtuoso movie poster creator Bill Gold died May 20 at the age of 97. His iconic work included Casablanca and The Exorcist.

Mr. Gold comfortably spanned the years from paperboard to the computer era, and many of his posters became nearly as famous as the movies they promoted. Some won design awards; many were coveted by film buffs, sold at auctions or collected in expensively bound art books. The best originals came to be considered rare and costly classics of the genre.

For Michael Curtiz’s “Casablanca” (1942), Mr. Gold’s second assignment, he drew Humphrey Bogart in trench coat and fedora, dominant in the foreground, with a constellation of co-stars — Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid and others — in the airport fog behind him. To raise the drama, Mr. Gold put a pistol in Bogie’s hand. And he put fear and regret, not love, in Ms. Bergman’s eyes, to avoid stepping on his last lines.

(8) COMICS SECTON.

(9) SHORT STUFF. Camestros Felapton walks us through his rankings in “Hugo Ballot 2018: Short Story”.

…It doesn’t feel that long ago that the talk was whether the SF short story was dead or close to death. The impact of Sad Puppy campaigns and Rabid Puppy vandalism hit the short story category hard. And what an emblematic category it had been for the Hugo Awards and science fiction! American style science fiction had grown out of the short story style and some of the greats of SF were intimately connected with shorter form fiction. Ray Bradbury especially but also Issac Asimov – The Foundation Trilogy being one of many SF classics that grew from connected shorts.

The Hugo finalists this year are a set of entertaining and varied reads. There’s not one theme or style and there are elements of fantasy and science-fiction as well as some classic twists.

(10) KATE BAKER AT WORK. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak points to Clarkesworld where people can “Listen to one of the best short science fiction podcasts right now”.

In the years since she became the full-time narrator for the podcast, Baker has become the de facto voice for the podcast, an experience that she says is “surreal.” “I view it as a huge responsibility and an honor,” she says. “because I get to go and be in someone’s ear, and I think that’s an intimate power, and I don’t ever want to abuse that.”

Baker doesn’t read or rehearse the story before recording, and while she notes this approach has burned her a couple of times, the “biggest draw to this whole job is the fact that I’m experiencing the story along with the listener for the first time, and I can experience those emotions with the listener. If you’re hearing my voice crack or if I sound stuffy because I had to walk away because I started crying, that’s all pretty genuine.”

That’s something that shines through: a recent episode featured Rich Larson’s heartbreaking short story “Carouseling”, and you can hear her voice break after she finishes reading the story. This emoting, along with Baker’s long-standing narration for the podcast, provides a familiar and consistent warmth that subtly enhances each story that the magazine produces. The result is not only a catalog of powerful short fiction, but one that’s also presented in a voice that makes them even better.

(11) CHINESE BOTS. My brethren are bound for Luna. “China launch will prep for Moon landing”.

“The launch is a key step for China to realise its goal of being the first country to send a probe to soft-land on and rove the far side of the moon,” the state news service Xinhua quoted Zhang Lihua, the satellite project’s manager, as saying.

In addition to its onboard communications equipment, Queqiao will also carry two scientific instruments and will deploy two microsatellites.

The forthcoming Chang’e 4 mission will explore the Moon’s South Pole-Aitken Basin with a payload of scientific instruments. It is a key step in China’s long-term plan to further its ambitions as a major space power.

China previously landed a robotic lander and rover, collectively known as Chang’e 3, on the Moon in December 2014. The rover continued to transmit data until March 2015.

(12) STONY END. BBC tells about plans for “Turning carbon dioxide into rock – forever”.

With rising concentrations of atmospheric CO2, scientists have been testing “carbon capture and storage” (CCS) solutions since the 1970s.

CarbFix, however, stands out among CCS experiments because the capture of carbon is said to be permanent – and fast.

The process starts with the capture of waste CO2 from the steam, which is then dissolved into large volumes of water.

“We use a giant soda-machine”, says Dr Aradottir as she points to the gas separation station, an industrial shed that stands behind the roaring turbines.

“Essentially, what happens here is similar to the process in your kitchen, when you are making yourself some sparkling water: we add fizz to the water”.

The fizzy liquid is then piped to the injection site – otherworldly, geometric igloo-shaped structure 2km away. There it is pumped 1,000m (3,200ft) beneath the surface.

In a matter of months, chemical reactions will solidify the CO2 into rock – thus preventing it from escaping back into the atmosphere for millions of years.

(13) HOW IT BECAME A KILLER. From the BBC: “Malaria genetics: study shows how disease became deadly” — relatively recently — and a warning to watch for other parasites and viruses jumping species.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 200 million people are infected with malaria every year; the disease caused the deaths of almost half a million people globally in 2016, and the majority of those deaths were children under the age of five.

By far the deadliest species of the parasite which causes this global health scourge is Plasmodium falciparum.

While this species infects and often kills people when injected through the bite of a female Anopheles mosquito, there are many other related species which infect some of our great ape cousins – chimpanzees and gorillas.

To study those, the researchers collaborated with a team caring for injured and orphaned apes in a sanctuary in Gabon. As part of the animals’ health checks, veterinary staff take blood samples from them.

“It turns out that healthy animals have a really high background level of parasites in their blood,” Dr Berriman told BBC News. “[These animals] are blissfully ignorant of the scientific value in their blood.”

The blood samples provided a series of malarial genetic codes that the scientists could use to trace its evolutionary history.

“We don’t have fossils for tracing the history of a parasite,” said Dr Berriman.

(14) WATCHMEN PITCH. ComicsBeat is less skeptical after seeing how “Damon Lindelof details new WATCHMEN television adaptation in open letter”.

But recently, reports began to spring up that the showrunner might be taking a completely different approach to the material. Instead of a mannered, straight adaptation of the 12 issues or any kind of extrapolation thereof, he was instead comparing it to what Noah Hawley has been up to with FX’s Fargo: a series whose world is informed by the original property, but not beholden to it in terms of character or plot. In short: think of it as “stories taking place in that same world, at any time period you can think of”. It’s great, with a capital “G”.

And today, Lindelof has spoken in more specific (maybe) terms, with a letter he posted on his Instagram, to give the public an opportunity to dig into his headspace a bit regarding his overall pitch for the series…if it sounds familiar, well…it should:

 

View this post on Instagram

Day 140.

A post shared by Damon (@damonlindelof) on

More at the link.

(15) ZOMBIE EMERGENCY. Not “Florida man” this time: “Florida city apologizes for alert warning of zombies”.

Officials in a Florida city apologized for an emergency alert that warned of a real power outage and a not-so-real “zombie alert.”

The alert, sent out by the city of Lake Worth early Sunday, warned of a “power outage and zombie alert for residents of Lake Worth and Terminus,” referencing a city from AMC’s The Walking Dead.

 

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