Boskone 2021 Pre-Con Report

By Daniel Dern: Boskone 58 is coming soon — Friday, February 12 through Sunday, February 14, 2021. The Boskone 58 event site is located here on Grenadine. As I write this, there are about 190 program items/events and around 150 speakers listed.

The Guests of Honor (GoH’s) are:

  • GUEST OF HONOR: Joe Abercrombie
  • SPECIAL GUEST: Sheree Renée Thomas
  • OFFICIAL ARTIST: Julie Dillon
  • MUSICAL GUEST: Marc Gunn
  • HAL CLEMENT SCIENCE SPEAKERS: Mike Brotherton & Christian Ready
  • NESFA PRESS GUEST: Ursula Vernon

Listed participants include a mix of familiar and new names/faces — including, I’m sure, many who might otherwise have been able to schedule/travel (in happier times) in person, including (to name just a few) Jeanne Cavelos, John Chu, Neil Clarke, Guy Consolmagno, C. S. E. Cooney, Bruce Coville, Ellen Datlow, Aliette de Bodard, Vincent Di Fate, S.B. Divya, Vince Docherty, Cory Doctorow, Sarah Beth Durst, Scott Edelman, Bob Eggleton, Greer Gilman, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Max Gladstone, Andrea Hairston, Carlos Hernandez, James Patrick Kelly, Marcin “Alqua” Klak, Mur Lafferty, Tabitha Lord, Kwame Mbalia, Larry Niven, Garth Nix, Suzanne Palmer, Tamora Pierce, Julia Rios, Charles Stross, Michael Swanwick, Carrie Vaughn, Fran Wilde, Connie Willis, and Jane Yolen.

Because of some of the interesting ways NESFA is doing this year’s Boskone, I feel it’s worth providing this pre-con report, including reasons to register  before the last minute if you haven’t already — and why it might be worth it even if you don’t have much online time available during those days.

(Note, any “according to Boskone” or unattributed-in-text quotes are from the Boskone web site.)

AFFORDABLE! Like Arisia 2021 (see my File770 Arisia post-con report), this year’s Boskone is, unsurprisingly, virtual-only — and full-weekend membership is, similarly, a modest $25.00.

Information like the program participants list and the program is publicly viewable — useful for deciding whether you want to “go.”

Membership gives you access to “the entire event site and program, including panel recordings, the Con Suite (where parties will be held in Zoom breakout rooms), the internal messaging system for chatting, and our special embedded chat windows for program items, art show, dealers, and fan tables.”

Boskone also lets you not buy a membership but still make a $5 (or multiples of) supporting contribution. You don’t get any convention access, but, according to Boskone, “Your gift helps defray expenses such as converting to an online format, providing American Sign Language services, assistance with our New Voices Fund, memberships for those in need, and more.”

KAFFEEKLATCH SIGNUPS! Kaffeeklatsch signups went live at noon EST Wednesday February 5, and while there’s more “seats” than I’ve typically seen at live cons — twenty-two, versus ten-to-twelve — they’re beginning to fill up. (I’ve already registered, and signed up for the ones I want to be at/in.) [Click for larger image.]

RECORDED PROGRAMMING. Unlike Arisia2021, Boskone will be recording all sessions that are done in the Zoom format. According to Boskone this will include “all panels, solo presentations, and other items that are held as a webinar. The only exception to this rule is if a program participant has asked not to be recorded.)…and there will be approximately 90 items recorded, with videos becoming available by the end of each day.” Note, according to a Boskone committeeperson, kaffeeklatches will NOT be recorded.

Boskone intends to make videos available by the end of each day — and, importantly, “We are keeping the Boskone 58 event site up through the end of February 2021.”

Given that I’ve currently flagged nearly three dozen program items as potentially interesting — and only two of those aren’t conflicting with one or two other sessions (and none of those slots have more than one KaffeeKlatch that I’ve signed up for) — I could easily be belatedly Boskone-ing up for a fortnight post-Boskone! I do expect to winnow my selections down — but it’s nice to not have to choose which one to go to — or regret choices because it sounds like the room next door is having more fun, or because I learn I missed a great discussion elsewhere.

If there aren’t KaffeeKlatches you want to be at, you can wait until the last minute — and if you’re OK with watching the recorded sessions, that’s not necessarily late in the game. (The web site currently says that Memberships are “Available Until 14 Feb, 2021.”)  [ NOTE, the registration page — and this article — had originally said “Until 15 February, 2021” but that has been updated, hence also my article.]

SUNDRY NOTES. Unlike Arisia 2021, which used a mix of web, Zoom and Discord, Boskone 58 is being  billed as a “single sign on event.” (Arisia 2021, by contrast, used Discord for some of the chat.)

Boskone is using the Grenadine event platform — which they’ve been using for several years (as have several other cons I’ve gone to, including the Dublin 2019 WorldCon). (With one exception: game players will have to sign up for the Board Game Arena.)

Magic show! I’m looking forward to being in the audience for a change, for the “Starship Magic Show” a “50-minute SF themed magic show. Vulcan’s Greatest Magician, S’kai, is presented by Dr. Willie Yee.”

 Convinced yet?

I’m of course sad that Mark and Priscilla Olson don’t seem to be doing their “Trivia For Chocolate” evening game show (where I surprisingly often end up in the top half-dozen), but I can see how this would be tricky to run over Zoom — and even harder to throw the point-keeping chocolate Thin Mints at the correct-or-snarky answerers.)

Ditto, I’ll miss schmoozing with friends F2F. On the other hand, no worries about weather, transit failures, hotel snafus, restaurant lines, or coffee not near ready in the Con Suite before the mornings’ first panels.

(Plus, harder to get autographs.)

I’m looking for to being at Boskone 58 — some as it happens, the rest before the end of the month.

Arisia 2021: A Brief Dern’s- and Web’s-Eye View

By Daniel Dern: Taking place Friday, January 15 through Monday, January 18, Arisia 2021  was, unsurprisingly, virtual-only with, according to the con runners, about 1,500 registrations.

For comparison, according to my File 770 report on Arisia 2020:

“The first Arisia had just over 800 attendees; Arisia 2017 had over 4,500 registered attendees! According to the con’s Monday morning January 20 Clear Ethernet newsletter, Arisia 2020 is reporting 3,052 registered attendees.”

Arisia 2021’s Guests of Honor were Suzanne Palmer (Author GoH), Hannibal King (Artist GoH), and Kat Tanaka Okopnik (Fan GoH).

Currently — fingers and pseudopods crossed! — Arisia 2022, January 14-17, 2022, is planned to be IRL, back at the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel, with Guests of Honor Andrea Hairston (Author GoH), Reiko Murakami (Artist GoH), and Elsa Sjunneson (Fan GoH). Memberships are for sale here.

Over the past year, I — like, I presume, everybody else reading this — have “attended”/participated in my share of family, friend, social, and work-related virtual events, including, for me, over the previous week or so, press events for the Consumer Electronics Show that’s normally live (and crowded) in Las Vegas.

However, Arisia 2021 was my first virtual Con. And I was under the weather enough that other than fulfilling my own panel commitments — part of a Readings panel, plus, over in FastTrack, reading some of my Dern Grim Bedtime Tales, Few Of Which End Well, & Other Stories, plus an instructive attempt to do my magic show en Zoom — I didn’t do anywhere as much as I might otherwise. (Plus, alas, no hall costume pix.) 

That said, here’s some info, screen grabs (with permission from Arisia, where appropriate), and some other notes’n’thoughts. (Please feel encouraged to put links to your own reports/posts for Arisia 2021, or other thoughts, in this post’s COMMENTS.)

ARISIA ONLINE! Arisia 2021 was organized to take place “entirely online, primarily across Discord, Zoom, and a new Arisia Virtual Convention website, designed specifically for this convention with an eye to recreating what we all love most about an in-person convention experience.”

Activities included meetups (using Zoom and Discord), including use of Zoom break-out rooms.

Arisia 2021 also of course used the usual gamut of email and social media for communicating/schmoozing, including Arisia’s Clear Ether blog, Twitter (https://twitter.com/Arisia), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/arisiainc/), and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/arisiainc/). (My apologies if there are any I’ve missed.) (Balticon 54, back in May 2020, apparently used Second Life extensively. According to Balticon: “Balticon 54 will be hosting a social space inside Second Life for convention attendees. The convention space, Balticon Station, will be a virtual con suite where you can meet and hang out with other fans. We also plan to sponsor Second Life convention activities, events, and to provide links to sci-fi and fantasy themed locations throughout Second Life.”)

Arisia 2021 had over 100 panels, meetups, song-circles, and sing, hosted live on Zoom. According to Arisia, “This year’s panels are running 55 minutes, instead of 75 minutes, with 35 minutes between sessions. This gives program participants time to make sure all of the technical pieces are working for the next session, hopefully minimizing technical disruptions.”

THE HELP DESK WAS STRONG: Program participants were expected to connect to Zoom half an hour before the actual session, to confirm those pesky details like “are my video and audio working,” “are all the participants here,” and (where appropriate) also making sure we were Discorded in.

Support cued us up at start the session, hung around in the background just in case, and helped make sure panelists and audience knew where the virtual break-out rooms where. Having been on my share of multi-person, many-newbies Zooms by know, I could tell we were in good, experienced hands.

THE MASQUERADE: You can still watch Arisia 2021’s half-hour Virtual Masquerade video, and while you don’t get the part-of-an-audience dynamic, you get a much closer, fuller look at the costumes, some in motion, along with some close-ups of the work and some comments from the creators.

DEALERS ROOM AND ART SHOW: According to pre-con info from Arisia, “The Art Show https://online.arisia.org/artshow and the Dealer’s Room https://online.arisia.org/dealers will be available to the public for the first time in Arisia history! …This year, Art Show and Dealer sales will happen through the specific Artists’ and Dealers’ websites. Links will be provided on their pages.”

Dealer and Art Show participants were organized alphabetically with info-tiles — straightforward enough, but lacking the walk-through/visual-browse of a live room, of course. I wonder whether there are manageable (as in, easy to implement and cross-platform/device-usable) ways to do this, like, say, using Second Life.

Arisia 2021 also offererd Gaming, filking, workshops (including swordplay — see the picture), dancing, and meet-ups — if anyone reading this participated in any of those, I welcome your thoughts below in the comments.

EXPERIENCES AND LESSONS LEARNED FROM MY OWN SESSIONS. I was in one of the multi-person reading sessions, along with  Anne Nydam (nydamprints.com), who read from her The Extraordinary Book of Doors (which I enjoyed, and highly recommend — it also includes books, libraries and cats), and RR Angell reading from a rather somber cyber/military-SF story. (I read a few of my flash-length Dern Grim Bedtime Tales.)

The audience was, by default, muted. Particularly since I was looking at my text, I couldn’t keep an eye on the audience view, I found the lack of audio feedback disconcerting.

Doing magic tricks — especially for FastTrack kids — proved harder than I thought, between things (unwantedly) disappearing into my virtual background, trying to keep my cards, rabbits, hats, etc. in my camera view, and properly lit. On the other hand, we — about eight or nine kids — had fun also asking and answering questions, telling jokes, showing me (and the rest of the audience) tricks, keeping us all happily occupied for the near-hour, which, I’m pretty sure, more than met the hopes of many of the parents/adults.

The good news: no problems with weather, hotel reservations, or public transit. No need to board our dog. Everybody had an equally good “seat” for events.

The sad news: none of the opportunistic or planned schmoozing with friends.

Were there bid or other parties? I forgot to check.

See you — with the emphasis on “see!” — you next year, tentacles twirled.

Pixel Scroll 1/7/21 There Is No Pixel – Only Scruul

(1) HOW TO KEEP GOING THE DAY AFTER. Sarah Gailey’s “Coup Self-Care” at Here’s the Thing has a long list of ideas for taking care of yourself (that begins after the following excerpt.)

…This kind of stress — the stress of a fucking coup happening in a big country that tends to be irresponsible with its feelings — is hard to weather. I’d wager I’m not the only one struggling with work today. Yesterday I didn’t struggle with work, because I have the luxury of being able to say “nothing is getting done today” when there’s a coup happening. So I didn’t struggle with work, because I didn’t even try to work — instead I watched what was happening, had phone calls with friends and family to process the domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol, and reached out to loved ones in an effort to remind all of us that we are not alone.

…What’s happening in America right now, for most of us, doesn’t feel quite so navigable as that. The coup isn’t something we can reach out and touch and change and solve. There are a ton of possible consequences and outcomes, some which we can predict and some which we can’t, and all of them will affect us, and none of them feel like things we can control. This shit is scary and destabilizing. It’s okay to feel scared and destabilized about the things we can’t control.

It’s also important to remember that the things we can’t control don’t take up the entire horizon. It’s easy to feel swallowed up by that sense of helplessness — but we aren’t helpless. There are things we can’t control, and there are things we can.

Let’s take a look at some things we can control. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen some of this before, but look through anyway to remind yourself of the places you can stabilize. These might not all apply to you. This is intended to be a broad assortment of options, not a definitive list! Take what works and throw the rest in the trash….

(2) MARK HIM PRESENT.  John C. Wright says he and his family were in Washington DC yesterday “to show our support for Trump, but, more to the point, our support for curtailing election fraud.”“Regarding the Events of Jan 6”. Short post followed by a lot of comments from Trump supporters.

(3) DAVID WEBER UPDATE. Today on David Weber’s author page at Facebook:

Latest from Mr. Weber:

BP is under control pretty much completely now. Still watching for possible clotting issues, but that’s only a general precaution at this point. We’re doing fairly gentle in-room therapy, and the lungs are mostly clear now, but O2 absorption is still lagging. Got me up to the level where they want me, but it’s still taking 6 liters of pressure to keep it there. So we work to bring that down on a day by day basis.

(4) HOW WRITERS DON’T GET PAID. Renowned sf critic Paul Kincaid posted on Facebook about the exploitation of nonfiction writers:

…Ten years ago I found myself inadvertently reviewing for the Los Angeles Review of Books (a review I had submitted to SF Studies was passed on to the LARB instead). At the time LARB was a start-up, a new kid on the block, and when you wrote for them you got a screed about how they were a professional publication and how much they appreciated their contributors but how they were operating on a shoestring so if we would consider not taking money for the review it would help. And yes, I was happy to help on those terms, so I did review after review for them for free. Until I was made redundant and I needed some income. So on my next review I asked to be paid. And they coughed up, no problem, money came through without a hiccup. Then they stopped asking me to review. Critics are valued only so long as you don’t have to pay them….

(5) TOMORROW PRIZE. Still time to enter The Tomorrow Prize contest for short science fiction by an L.A. County high school student – the deadline is February 1, 2021. For further information visit the contest webpage.

The Tomorrow Prize showcases the best in creative, critical thinking, as well as great storytelling, by students from throughout Los Angeles. 

The Tomorrow Prize is free for students to submit up to two original short stories of 1,500 words or less. Prizes include cash prizes for First, Second, and Third, as well as a special prize for the best environmental conservation themed story! 

This prize, The Green Feather Award is co-sponsored by the LA Audubon Society. The winner will receive a small cash prize and will be published in the LA Audubon newsletter.

(5A) THIS SHOULD TIDE YOU OVER. Fanac.org now has available for free download two of the biggest fanzines ever published.

Bergeron’s Willis issue of Warhoon came out in 1978. In those mimeo days File 770 was brand new, and I helped Bergeron promote his project with a rider attached to issue #5.

(6) FREE READ. Some of the Best from Tor.com 2020 is available free, featuring twenty-four original stories published on the site in the past year. It’s convenient if you haven’t already read them on the Tor.com site. Download from your favorite vendors.

(7) KNIT UP THE RAVELED SLEAVE. Here’s another entry in the Future Tense Fiction series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives.  “Dream Soft, Dream Big” by Hal Y. Zhang, “A new short story about science, startups, and a cultish online community.”

BECKER NGUYEN (NARRATION): Complete the sequence—the wheel, the printing press, the transistor … what’s next? What if I tell you the next revolutionary invention may already exist, but instead of being powered by coal or electricity, it’s powered purely by the most nebulous parts of our minds?

I’m Becker Nguyen. On today’s episode of Static Shock: how one man discovered something extraordinary about our dreams that could save the world, and what happened next that made it all seem like a nightmare.

It’s accompanied by a response essay by sleep researcher Kristin E.G. Sanders: “Can we convince the sleeping brain to process our problems?”

…In a recent study, my collaborators and I asked whether targeted memory reactivation could improve problem-solving. In evening sessions, participants attempted to solve brain teasers, each paired with a different music clip. Then, we presented some of the music clips while participants slept. In the morning, participants reattempted the same brain teasers they failed to solve the prior night. We were excited to find that participants solved more of the brain teasers that were cued overnight. Interestingly, unlike for Katia, the solutions did not come to them in a dream. And unlike Loewi, they did not awaken with the solution in the middle of the night. Instead, participants solved the brain teasers when they actively worked on them again.

(8) YOUR MIND’S EAR. [Item by Daniel Dern.] A message I just read on LinkedIn gave the person’s location as Dunedin, <State>.

My <brain or whatever> initially parsed (internally pronounced) it as:

Duned-in

at which point some other part of my brain went, “Wait, that’s not right,” called up the Tolkein reference cells, and burped up, “Du-ne-din”

Yeah, it’s likely the real pronunciation-influencer was my being on LinkedIn (which I pronouce/see as two syllables).

Can anybody think of other words with different pronounciations based on sf-or-fantasy PoV?

(9) A TREAT FOR THE EYE. Dreams of Space – Books and Ephemera has numerous scans of the excellent art in the Russian book Hour of Space (1962).

This book is a soviet history of spaceflight and text heavy. What is notable about it are the color plates and some of the chapter header illustrations…. 

Vladimir Lvov. Illustrated by V. Noskov. Hour of Space. Moscow: Publishing House of the Central Committee if the Komsomol. 206 p. 20 cm. 1962.

(10) ELLISON AT IGUANACON. Fanac.org has posted the first segment of a recording of “Harlan Ellison: Burning the Phoenix” from 1978.

IguanCon II, the 36th Worldcon, was held in Phoenix, Arizona in 1978. Guest of Honor Harlan Ellison held forth for hours in “Burning the Phoenix: Remarks, Dark & Light.” This audio recording, illustrated with images, is the first 40 minutes of that talk. Harlan tells a great story about Avon, talks about The Tonight Show, his script for Asimov’s “I, Robot” and about his plans for “The Last Dangerous Visions”. Harlan was a charismatic, funny, witty speaker, and at this event, he is talking to a large audience of his appreciative and enthusiastic fans.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • January 7, 1934 — The first Flash Gordon comic strips of Alex Raymond were published by King Features Syndicate. The strip was subsequently adapted into many other media, from three Universal movie serials (Thirties Flash Gordon and Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars, and Forties Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe) to a 1970s television series and a 1980 feature film, Flash Gordon

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz]

  • Born January 7, 1899 – Orlin Tremaine.  Noteworthy to us for years as editor of Astounding.  His editorial “Thought Variants” struck a spark.  At one point headed half a dozen Street & Smith magazines e.g. Air TrailsCowboy StoriesDynamic AdventuresRomance Range.  Published half a dozen stories of his own.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  (Died 1956) [JH]
  • Born January 7, 1891 – Page Cooper.  World War II reporter.  Wrote books about horses and dogs including the fine Man o’ War.  For us she put eight poems in Weird Tales; two are quoted, more about her is told here.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born January 7, 1912 Charles Addams. Illustrator best known for the Addams Family which he first drew in 1932 and kept drawing until his death. Needless to say there have been a number of films using these characters of which The Addams Family is my favorite. Linda H. Davis’ Charles Addams: A Cartoonist’s Life is well worth seeking out and reading. (Died 1988.) (CE) 
  • Born January 7, 1924 – Col. Christine Haycock, M.D.  Nurse in World War II, first woman intern at Walter Reed Hospital, professor, graduate of U.S. Army War College, Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.  Olympic fencer, amateur radio, photography.  Married Sam Moskowitz; both were Guests of Honor at Disclave 9.  Treasurer of the Lunarians.  After SaM died, won the Moskowitz Archive Award.  American Medical Women’s Ass’n appreciation here.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born January 7, 1926 – Graham Stone.  Leading Australian fan, being also, as is often included, a bibliographer, collector, small-press publisher.  Notes on Australian SFAustralian SF Bibliography 1948-1999 (rev. 2010), Vol Molesworth’s History of Australian SF Fandom 1935-1963.  Correspondent of Riverside QuarterlySF ChronicleSF Commentary.  Bertram Chandler Award.  See here.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born January 7, 1948 – Jeannie DiModica, age 73.  Immortalized in Ginjer Buchanan’s “I’ve Had No Sleep and I Must Giggle”.  [JH]
  • Born January 7, 1950 Erin Gray, 71. She’s best known as Colonel Wilma Deering Buck Rogers in the 25th Century series. Would it surprise you that she shows up in as Commander Grey in Star Trek Continues, one of those video Trek fanfic? Well it certainly doesn’t surprise me at all. (CE) 
  • Born January 7, 1955 Karen Haber, 66. I fondly remember reading her Hugo nominated  Meditations on Middle Earth anthology, not to mention the three Universe anthologies she did with her husband Robert Silverberg which are most excellent. I don’t remember reading any of her novels but that’s hardly a certainty that I didn’t as even when my memory was a lot better than is now,  I hardly remembered all the genre fiction I’ve read. (CE) 
  • Born January 7, 1957 Nicholson Baker, 64. Ok ISFDB lists him as having two SFF novels, The Fermata and House of Holes. The Wiki page him lists those as being two out of the three erotic novels that he’s written. Not having read them, are they indeed erotic SFF? I see that ESF say they’re indeed SFF and yes are erotic. H’h. (CE) 
  • Born January 7, 1961 Mark Allen Shepherd, 60.  Morn, the bar patron on Deep Space Nine. Amazingly he was in Quark’s bar a total of ninety three episodes plus one episode each on Next Gen and Voyager. Technically he’s uncredited in almost all of those appearances. That’s pretty much his entire acting career. I’m trying to remember if he has any lines. He’s also an abstract painter whose work was used frequently on DS9 sets. (CE) 
  • Born January 7, 1966 Heidi Elizabeth Yolen Stemple, 55. Daughter of Jane Yolen, sister of Adam Stemple who was the vocalist of Boiled in Lead which mother wrote lyrics for. She and mother co-wrote the Mirror, Mirror: Forty Folktales for Mothers and Daughters to Share anthology which I highly recommend for your reading pleasureISFDBsays they did two chapbooks as well, A Kite for Moon and Monster Academy.  (CE) 
  • Born January 7, 1968 – Georgi Gospodinov, age 53.  A novel and a shorter story for us; other short stories, plays, screenplays, four books of poetry.  Angelus Award, Jan Michalski Prize, six Bulgarian awards.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Herman has an alien encounter with a short order cook.
  • Bizarro shows one step in a witch’s purchase of a new home.
  • Get Fuzzy has a disturbing example of cat litigation….

(14) ARG! Rabbit Rabbit provides “A Game Designer’s Analysis Of QAnon” on Medium.

I am a game designer with experience in a very small niche. I create and research games designed to be played in reality. I’ve worked in Alternate Reality Games (ARGs), LARPsexperience fictioninteractive theater, and “serious games”. Stories and games that can start on a computer, and finish in the real world. Fictions designed to feel as real as possible. Games that teach you. Puzzles that come to life all around the players. Games where the deeper you dig, the more you find. Games with rabbit holes that invite you into wonderland and entice you through the looking glass.

When I saw QAnon, I knew exactly what it was and what it was doing. I had seen it before. I had almost built it before. It was gaming’s evil twin. A game that plays people. (cue ominous music)

QAnon has often been compared to ARGs and LARPs and rightly so. It uses many of the same gaming mechanisms and rewards. It has a game-like feel to it that is evident to anyone who has ever played an ARG, online role-play (RP) or LARP before. The similarities are so striking that it has often been referred to as a LARP or ARG. However this beast is very very different from a game.

It is the differences that shed the light on how QAnon works and many of them are hard to see if you’re not involved in game development. QAnon is like the reflection of a game in a mirror, it looks just like one, but it is inverted.

First characteristic on the list:

Guided Apophenia

(15) KARMA CHAMELEON. “Rutgers engineers have created a new type of light-reacting hydrogel”SYFY Wire has the story.

Blending in with one’s immediate environment like the active camouflage technology used by the alien hunter in Predator would certainly have alarming applications in the real world, making the procurement of a free windmill cookie from the bulk food bin at grocery stores nearly undetectable.

But clever scientists and engineers at Rutgers University are eager to replicate that amazing invisibility ability by inventing a new type of 3D-printed stretchable material with the power to change color on demand. While the potentials for such shifting smart gels are limitless, the immediate goal is targeting an advanced method of military camouflage.

(16) SCREAMING HEADLINES. Here a high-definition re-upload of the late MF Doom’s supervillain-themed “All Caps” music video

(17) LOST WORLD, FOUND SFF. In “Revisiting The Lost World, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Rollicking Adventure Novel” on CrimeReads, Jon Lellenberg discusses why Doyle wrote The Lost World and explains his interest in sf. (Note: CrimeReads misspelled the author’s name which is Jon and not John.)

… In the end, Conan Doyle went in another direction, but did not lose his desire to write a “Rider Haggardy” novel. While he admired authors like George Meredith and Charles Reade and his own contemporary, Thomas Hardy, he preferred to write Romances and Adventures. Even being a doctor was a Romance to him, embraced in his “The Romance of Medicine” talk in 1910 at St. Mary’s Hospital, London, where his son Kingsley was a medical student. And the scientific consulting detective Sherlock Holmes’s investigations were Adventures as far as Conan Doyle was concerned, rather than Cases, or Mysteries.

By 1911, these tendencies collided with a regret over diminishing “blank spaces” on the world’s map. When a Lost World character remarks that “The big blank spaces in the map are all being filled up, and there’s no room for romance anywhere,” Conan Doyle was quoting himself anonymously, from a talk he’d given the year before at a luncheon honoring the Arctic explorer Robert Peary….

(18) WIRED FOR SOUND. Literary Hub introduces “Charlie Jane Anders Reads from Victories Greater Than Death” in the Storybound podcast. (“S3. Ep. 4: Charlie Jane Anders reads an excerpt from “Victories Greater Than Death”.)

Storybound is a radio theater program designed for the podcast age. Hosted by Jude Brewer and with original music composed for each episode, the podcast features the voices of today’s literary icons reading their essays, poems, and fiction.

On the fourth episode of the third season, Charlie Jane Anders reads an excerpt from Victories Greater Than Death, with sound design and music composition from Oginalii.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Spock’s Surprise Visit To The Carol Burnett Show” on YouTube shows a cameo that Leonard Nimoy made as Spock on the show in 1967.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/30/20 Is There Nothing I Can Take? Doctor! To Relieve This TARDIS-Quake?

(1) ALL IN THE FAMILY. Cora Buhlert has announced the winner of the 2020 Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents. This year, she has a Retro Darth Vader Parenthood Award winner as well.

… This year also marks the 40th annual Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents.

Let’s have a bit of background: I have been informally awarding the Darth Vader Parenthood Award since sometime in the 1980s with the earliest awards being retroactive. Over the years, the list of winners migrated from a handwritten page to various computer file formats, updated every year. Last year, I finally decided to make the winners public on the Internet, because what’s an award without some publicity and a ceremony? The list of previous winners (in PDF format) up to 2017 may be found here, BTW, and the 2018 winner and the 2019 winner were announced here.

And there is no danger of spoiling this year’s result, for as Cora herself says —

This is another winner where many members of our esteemed audience will go, “Who?”

(2) ON SECOND THOUGHT. “Michael Sheen Hands Back OBE From Queen Elizabeth II” – in a report today Deadline says the Good Omens actor did it in 2017. But it’s news to me!

…Speaking in a YouTube interview with Guardian columnist Owen Jones, the Welsh actor said he handed back an Order of the British Empire (OBE) that he received in 2009 for services to drama.

He quietly returned the honor in 2017 after conducting research on Wales’ relationship with England as part of delivering the Raymond Williams Society lecture. He referenced his unease with practices such as handing the Prince of Wales title to the heir to the throne, despite that individual being English.

(3) STALLING SPEED. The Guardian reports on the woes of the famous bookstalls along the banks of the Seine in Paris: “Through gilets jaunes, strikes and Covid, Paris’s 400-year-old book stalls fight to survive”.

…One recent Sunday, though, Jérôme Callais made €32. And there was a day that week when he made €4: a single paperback, he can’t even recall which. It has not, Callais said, sheltering from driving rain on an all but deserted Quai de Conti, been easy.

“In fact, it’s been terrible,” he said, surveying a long, long row of shuttered boxes. “The culmination of three disastrous years. First the gilets jaunes and their protests. Then the transport strikes last winter. And now Covid: travel bans, lockdowns, curfews. In financial terms, a catastrophe.”

Not that anyone ever became a bouquiniste for the money. Even in non-pandemic times, small-scale, secondhand bookselling in the era of smartphones, e-readers and Amazon is never going to be much of a money-spinner….

(4) PIXEL ADJACENT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Learned by having just watched 10 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘A Christmas Story.

(The movie based on Jean Shepherd’s stories from his collection In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, which many folks of my greying years listened  to Shep read on his radio show over the years):

1, One of the 8,000 kids who auditioned for the role of Ralphie (Shep’s younger self) was Wil Wheaton. (This fact makes it sufficiently sf-adjacent to be a Scroll item.)

2, One of the auditioners for the role of the father was Jack Nicholson.

(5) THOMAS ON BRADBURY. This is from an interview with new F&SF editor Sheree Renée Thomas in the December Locus:

I really loved Ray Bradbury because he often wrote about small towns.  Even though I’ve lived in New York, I don’t really think of Memphis as a small town–it’s a big city with lots of different little towns in it–but I liked that Bradbury wasn’t patronizing and dismissive.  He recognized, like so many other writers, that in these places great complexity, mystery, and human drama can be found.  He had some problematic things in his work, but he was more progressive than some of his peers at the time.  I loved his language and his characters,

There’s a big excerpt of the interview at the link (although this paragraph admittedly isn’t part of it.)

(6) STAGING FRANKENSTEIN. The New York Times revisits “A ‘Frankenstein’ That Never Lived”. Tagline: “On Jan. 4, 1981, the effects-heavy production opened and closed on the same night. Forty years later, the creators revisit a very expensive Broadway flop.”

The show’s human stars included John Carradine, in what would be his last stage role, as the blind beggar.

GIALANELLA Carradine had been doing such crap — B movies, commercials. He was an old man, but he still had that deep, rich, whiskey voice. During previews, Joe rented a screening room and showed us “Frankenstein” and “Bride of Frankenstein” [from 1935, in which Carradine had an uncredited bit part]. Someone turned to him and said: “That’s such a great film. What’s your memory of it?” He stood for a minute and said, “Two days’ work.”

CARRIE ROBBINS, costume designer His hands were so riddled with arthritis he could not dress himself. I had a lovely small-of-stature dresser who was able to hide in the “fireplace” of the old man’s hut and help him out.

The role of Victor Frankenstein went to William Converse-Roberts, a recent Yale Drama School graduate who would be making his Broadway debut. After extensive auditions of other actors, the part of the Creature went to Keith Jochim, who had originated the role in St. Louis.

GIALANELLA Nobody was nailing it. I went to Joe and said, “You’ve got to bring in Keith.” They didn’t want to do it. They wanted someone with at least New York credibility.

MARTORELLA Keith’s audition was incredibly moving. We had 10 minutes, and he ended up reading for a half an hour. Then he came back in the afternoon in the makeup he had designed [for St. Louis]. I wrote in my diary, “He had totally transformed himself into a heap of horror.” I can still see the faces of Tom, Joe and Victor. They were in awe.

The show, began loading in at the Palace on Oct. 23, 1980. The crew started with 15 stagehands, which quickly swelled to three dozen. The start of previews was delayed by the complexity of Douglas Schmidt’s sets, which rotated on a giant turntable, and by issues with effects like the Tesla coil, whose full intensity was ratcheted up over the course of rehearsals.

JOHN GLOVER, actor The first time [the Tesla coil] went off, it scared the crap out of me. Instead of falling into the orchestra pit, I jumped all the way over it.

(7) WELLS OBIT. Deadline reports “Dawn Wells Dead: ‘Gilligan’s Island’ Star Dies From Covid Compilations At 82”. She did a lot of TV work in addition to her iconic role as Gilligan’s Mary Ann, but that series’ animated spinoff transformed her character into a genre voice acting role in Gilligan’s Planet (1982-1983) —

Gilligan’s Planet is based on the premise that the Professor had managed to build an operational interplanetary spaceship to get the castaways of the original series off the island. This series creates a different timeline for the Gilligan franchise, rendering the two Universal Television film sequels necessarily in a different continuity, as those films had integrated the cast back into society….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 30, 1865 Rudyard Kipling. Yea Kipling. He’s written enough of a genre nature such as the Just So Stories for Little Children stories like “How the Camel Got His Hump“ and “The Cat That Walked By Himself“ being wonderful stories with a soupçon of the fantastic in them that he deserves a Birthday. Or there’s always The Jungle Book which runs to far more stories than I thought. Yes, he was an unapologetic Empire loving writer who expressed that more than once but he was a great writer. (Died 1936.) (CE) 
  • Born December 30, 1869 – Stephen Leacock, Ph.D.  Forty short stories for us; he called some “nonsense novels”, but as to their length that is numerically nugatory.  Lorne Pierce Medal.  Governor General’s Award.  Mark Twain Award.  Eponym of the Leacock Memorial Medal.  Admirer of Robert Benchley, admired by Groucho Marx and Jack Benny.  A complicated conservative, a consummate comic.  Let us at his left write so well.  (Died 1944) [JH] 
  • Born December 30, 1935 – David Travis, Ph.D.   Bowler and mathematician.  Five stories.  Correspondent of AmazingSF ReviewStarship, hello Andy Porter.  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born December 30, 1931 – Ilene Meyer.  Artist Guest of Honor at Rustycon 3.  Here is the Norwescon 8 Program Book.  Here is the Jul 88 Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Here is the May 90.  Here is the Jan 94.  Here is Vance’s Chateau D’If.  Here is the Fenners’ artbook on her.  Covers for six volumes of P.K. Dick’s letters; here is 1980-1982.  Here is The World Below; she did not live to complete The World Above.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born December 30, 1950 Lewis Shiner, 70. Damn his Deserted Cities of the Heart novel was frelling brilliant! And if you’ve not read his Wild Cards fiction, do so now. He also co-wrote with Bob Wayne the eight-issue Time Masters series starring Rip Hunter which I see is on the DC Universe app. Yea! Anyone here that’s read the Private Eye Action As You Like It collection of PI stories I see listed on usual suspects  with Joe Lansdale?  It looks interesting. (CE) 
  • Born December 30, 1951 – Avedon Carol, age 69.  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate and thus Fan Guest of Honour at Eastercon 34, whereupon she married Rob Hansen (see her report here) and both were Fan Guests of Honour at Eastercon 40.  AC also FGoH at Wiscon 11, Corflu 32 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid; the FGoH is determined, um, idiosyncratically).  Many fanzines, see here.  [JH]
  • Born December 30, 1952 – S.P. Somtow, age 68.  Thirty novels, ninety shorter stories, many interwoven, interdependent, international.  Forty poems; a hundred essays (thirty in Fantasy Review), letters, messages, reviews, introductions to introductions – I’m not making this up, he is.  Here is his cover for The Other City of Angels.  Campbell Award (as it then was) for Best New Writer.  Locus Award.  World Fantasy Award.  Composer, conductor (Golden W from the Int’l Wagner Society), founder of performing companies, and in fact a prince of a man.  In person I last saw him playing piano four-hands with Laura Brodian Kelly-Freas (as she then was).  Website.  [JH]
  • Born December 30, 1959 Douglas A. Anderson, 61. The Annotated Hobbit, for which he won the Mythopoeic Award, is one of my favorite popcorn readings. I’m also fond of his Tales Before Narnia: The Roots of Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction which has a lot of great short fiction it, and I recommend his blog as it’s one of the better ones on fantasy literature out there: Tolkien and Fantasy (CE)
  • Born December 30, 1976 Rhianna Pratchett, 44. Daughter of Terry who now runs the intellectual property concerns of her father. She herself is a video game writer including the recent Tomb Raider reboot. For her father, she’s overseen and being involved several years back in The Shepherd’s Crown, the last Discworld novel. She’s a co-director of Narrativia Limited, a production company which holds exclusive multimedia and merchandising rights to her father’s works following his death. They of course helped develop the Good Omens series on Amazon. (CE)
  • Born December 30, 1980 Eliza Dushku, 40. First genre role was Faith in the Buffyverse. Not surprisingly, she’d star in Whedon’s Dollhouse. I think her Tru Calling series was actually conceptualized better and a more interesting role for her. She voices Selina Kyle, Catwoman, in the animated Batman: Year One which is quite well done and definitely worth watching.  She done a fair of other voicework, one of which I’ll single out as of note which is the character of Holly Mokri in Torchwood: Web of Lies. (CE)
  • Born December 30, 1986 Faye Marsay, 34. Shona McCullough In a Twelfth Doctor story, “The Last Christmas”. She also was on A Game of Thrones for several seasons as The Waif. (Who that is I know not as I didn’t watch that series.) She also played Blue Colson in Black Mirror’s “Hated in the Nation” tale. Her theater creds include Hansel & GretelPeter Pan and Macbeth — all definitely genre. (CE) 
  • Born December 30, 1993 – Kaley Bales, age 27.  Visual artist.  Illustrations for Michael Ezell, Peter Madeiros.  Here is Why She Wrote.  “My biggest sources of inspiration are the Pacific Ocean coastline, fresh produce, and any mainstream media made before the 1970s.”  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) TRADITIONAL GALLIFREYAN HOLIDAY CELEBRATION. “Doctor Who best Christmas episode revealed by fans” in a Radio Times poll.

…“God bless us, every one! A decade on, A Christmas Carol is still the Doctor Who festive special liable to turn even the greatest TV Scrooge into a true Christmas convert,” said Huw Fullerton, RadioTimes.com’s Sci-Fi and Fantasy Editor.

“Filled with Who-letide cheer, adventure, flying sharks and even a Katherine Jenkins solo, this episode really does have it all. Is it any wonder it’s still at the top of any Whovian’s Christmas list?”

Also starring Michael Gambon, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill alongside Smith and Jenkins, the Steven Moffat-penned episode sees Smith’s Doctor try to evoke Charles Dickens’ classic tale to warm the heart of an old miser (Gambon), whose greed and apathy threaten the lives of countless people.

…Interestingly, the poll also recorded a high result for William Hartnell festive one-off The Feast of Steven (1965), which was actually the seventh part of the Daleks’ Master Plan serial, and saw the First Doctor break the fourth wall to wish everyone at home a Merry Christmas.

Considering this episode was irretrievably lost soon after broadcast and very few will have been able to see it, it seems likely fans were intending to show a general support for Hartnell’s Time Lord, and note his often-overlooked status as the first Doctor (and the only for 40 years) to have a Christmas special.

  1. A Christmas Carol (2010) 13 per cent
  2. The End of Time (2009/10) 11 per cent
  3. The Christmas Invasion (2005) 10 per cent (higher vote)
  4. The Feast of Steven (1965) 10 per cent
  5. Resolution (2019) 8 per cent (higher vote)
  6. The Husbands of River Song (2015) 8 per cent
  7. Voyage of the Damned (2007) 8 per cent
  8. Twice Upon a Time (2017) 7 per cent
  9. The Runaway Bride (2006) 6 per cent
  10. The Time of the Doctor (2013) 5 per cent
  11. Last Christmas (2014) 5 per cent
  12. The Snowmen (2012) 3 per cent (higher vote)
  13. The Next Doctor (2008) 3 per cent
  14. The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe (2011) 2 per cent
  15. The Return of Doctor Mysterio (2016) 1 per cent

(11) GETTING READY FOR DISNEY+’S WANDAVISION SERIES.  [Item by Daniel Dern.]  This alone is enough to have me ready to subscribe to Disney+ (Yes, Loki also looks interesting, and as long as I (will) have a subscription, I will no doubt dip a mutant-clawed iron-armored toe into the other Marvel series). (And we’ll finally watch Hamilton: The Movie.)

Here’s the trailers. Yes it looks like it’s going to be a hopefully long strange trip.

In case you aren’t already sold, here’s a bit of background etc: (I assume there’s no spoilers, but can’t guarantee it.)

The show takes place after Avengers: Endgame (during which Vision died).

It takes (some of its) inspiration from Marvel’s House Of M event/story line (where W & V have young kids), and from Tom King’s superlative, heart-wrenching Vision 12-issue (2-15-2016) comic mini-series.

(King also, among other things, wrote the recent equally but differently moving Mr Miracle mini-series, for DC.)

And here’s several ways to get/read King’s series — worth doing for its own sake.

1, Buy the individual issues, or “graphic novels” (issues collected into book format), either The Vision (all 12 issues), or the done-in-two collections:

  • The Vision. 1, Little worse than a man (1-6)
  • The Vision. 2, Little better than a beast (7-12)

2, Read via Marvel’s Unlimited  comics streaming service (https://www.marvel.com/unlimited). (All twelve issues are there — on the mobile app, easy to find via BROWSE/SERIES/VISION. I’m having trouble finding it via the web interface.)

(FREE) 3, Digital borrow from HooplaDigital.com (well, 2 borrows), assuming your library offers Hoopla as one of its digital services.

(FREE) or as a library book borrow, either as a single volume,

Or as two volumes, like Hoopla

  • The Vision. 1, Little worse than a man
  • The Vision. 2, Little better than a beast

(12) TAKE A TRIP BACK IN TIME. A group of fans on Facebook painstakingly colorized all the comics in this 1944 photo of magazine covers on a newsstand. Click to see the image.  

(13) FIRST FIFTH. PBS program NOVA names “The top 5 science stories of 2020”.

…Despite facing coronavirus-related setbacks, researchers made profound discoveries and helped people understand some startling realities. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx probe grabbed a piece of an asteroid, and the Japan Space Agency’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft returned samples of another asteroid to Earth. Scientists found signatures of water on the moon and nearby space rocks, and an obscure gas on our celestial neighbor, Venus. Meanwhile, other scientific endeavors—like climate change research at the poles—faced a freeze as the pandemic brought “normal” life here on Earth to a halt

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers 2020,” the Screen Junkies say last year was “a live action version of The Book of Revelation, featuring fires, famine, rain, and other signs of the End Times.”  Special Guest Patton Oswalt adds to the mirth.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/16/20 She’s Got A Pixel To File

(1) PAY THE WRITER. In “Star Wars novelist Alan Dean Foster’s Disney royalties issue, explained” at Polygon, Andrew Liptak examines the terrain of what is likely to be an uphill struggle, documents the increasing number of writers with the same grievance, and gives an overview of what some have heard from lawyers.

…Still, after the success of Star Wars, Foster found himself a go-to person for movie novelizations. Over the years, he’s penned dozens of novelizations for franchises like AliensStar TrekDark Star, The Black Hole, Clash of the Titans, Outland, The Thing, Krull, The Last Starfighter, Starman, The Chronicles of Riddick, and others. They were all written in addition to his own original novels.

The nature of a work-for-hire contract means an author who’s written a tie-in novel will have little control over where their story ends up; how characters, situations, or details are used after they turn in their manuscript; and even the copyright of the work itself. It’s a tradeoff: Foster might not own the book, but the product may provide a steady revenue stream for years, especially if the franchise is popular with audiences. Write enough of them, and those tributaries will feed a healthy river.

Shortly after Disney acquired 20th Century Fox last year, Foster says that his royalties for his Alien novels stopped coming. He and his agent first attempted to resolve the issue with the book’s publisher, Warner Books. According to Foster’s agent Vaughn Hansen, while Foster and the organization [SFWA] were working to uncover the provenance of those rights, it became clear there were also missing payments for his Star Wars novels….

Unpaid royalties appear to be an issue that affects other writers. Four additional authors have come forward to Polygon to confirm that they haven’t been paid royalties for work now owned by Disney, for works that appear to have been transferred to other publishers: Rob MacGregor, who wrote the tie-in novel for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, as well as several additional tie-in novels; Donald Glut, author of the Empire Strikes Back novelization; James Kahn, author Return of the Jedi and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom novelizations; and Michael A. Stackpole, author of the X-Wing comics, Star Wars: Union, and Star Wars: Mara Jade — By the Emperor’s Hand. Without seeing contracts or the full details of the nature of the transfer of property from Lucasfilm to Disney, it’s hard to know if each author falls into the same situation as Foster, but the result appears to be the same: They haven’t received money that they feel entitled to for the work that they published….

(2) A NOBEL PURSUIT. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination’s Into the Impossible podcast has reached its milestone 100th episode: “100: Barry Barish – Black Holes, Nobel Prizes & The Imposter Syndrome”

Barry Barish is an emeritus professor at Caltech, where he has worked since 1963. He became director of the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) project in 1997, which led to his Nobel Prize in 2017. He has many other awards and is a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences and American Physical Society, of which he was also president.

Barry joins our Nobel Minds playlist on the INTO THE IMPOSSIBLE podcast. He shared the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics with Rai Weiss and Kip Thorne “for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves.” We discuss Barry’s long and remarkable career that covers many disciplines within physics. It’s not the standard model, but he has a confidence about himself, and his contributions that make it seem perfectly natural to have been part of such varied, noteworthy projects during his career. Despite that, Barry also admits to feeling like an imposter at times, especially when singing the same Nobel register as Einstein. What a moment!

(3) A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN. Not Pulp Covers is the place to admire Alphonse de Neuville’s engravings for 20000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.

(4) SCREEN TIME. Kellie Doherty analyzes the experience of “Being a Panelist in a Virtual World” at Fantasy-Faction.

As an author, one key thing I always need to be doing is marketing, and events are wonderful marketing tools. Events allow us authors and other creatives to reach a new audience base, network with fellow creatives, and get our names out there. It allows people to gush about what they love while also opening doors for others who are looking to get into those fields. It even helps to demystify the careers of creatives. Plus, events are great for selling—vendor tables are usually bustling, and panels/workshops are key places to chat about all the creative endeavors.

But what about virtual events? Is it still a great experience for the panelists?…

(5) DON’T TOUCH THAT DIAL. “Stephen King Has Thoughts About Stephen King TV Shows” – and the New York Times takes notes as he shares them. For example —

‘It’

1990

This two-part ABC mini-series, an adaptation of King’s sprawling 1986 novel about a child-murdering monster in small-town Maine, is perhaps best remembered for Tim Curry’s frightening performance as Pennywise the Clown.

“I liked that series a lot, and I thought Tim Curry made a great Pennywise,” King said. “It scared the [expletive] out of a lot of kids at that time.”

In fact, King credits the impact of the series on children with the later success of the film version, which starred Bill Skarsgard as the diabolical clown and was a box-office sensation in 2017. (A 2019 sequel, based on the second half of the novel, was similarly successful.)

“One of the reasons the movie was a big hit was because kids remembered seeing it on TV,” King said. “So they went to see it.”

(6) POINT OF NO RETURN. “‘Heroes’ Was Supposed to Be Leonard Roberts’ Big Break. Instead, It Nearly Broke Him” – the actor tells Variety readers about the end of his time on the once-popular show.

As he details in his account below, he experienced immediate friction with his main co-star Ali Larter — and perceived indifference from creator and showrunner Tim Kring — that led him to feel singled out as a Black actor, a feeling that only grew more intense after he was fired from the show after its first season.

…As the first season played out, I learned two other non-white lead characters would be killed off and I started to wonder whether D.L. would suffer the same fate. His presence on the show kept getting smaller, and by the mid-season finale he had been shot more times than 2Pac. I even had my management inquire about the possibility of me being killed off. While I was initially thankful for the opportunity, the experience had become creatively unfulfilling and I thought moving on might be best for everyone. I was told, however, that the production’s response was “We love Leonard.” And in March 2007, while filming the penultimate episode of the season, a producer told me that I was indeed returning for Season 2. I took it as a positive sign, and looked forward to new possibilities.

One of our last publicity obligations that first season involved a photoshoot for Entertainment Weekly, in which cast members, based on their characters’ relationship on the show, were featured on collector’s edition covers. The release of the covers was to coincide with the network’s upfront presentation for the 2007-2008 season in New York.

Upon arriving backstage at Radio City Music Hall for a rehearsal, I caught my co-star’s eye. “I’m hearing our cover is selling the least of all of them,” she told me. It was the first and only thing she said to me that night and I believed the subtext was clear: I was tarnishing her brand….

(7) ANOTHER REASON TO BEWARE. Longshot Press owner Daniel Scott White, publisher of Unfit and Unreal magazines, doubles down on his unhinged strategy of making enemies of SFWA writers.

Two of his magazines were the subject of complaints last February, covered by File 770’s roundup: “Is This Practice Unreal or Unfit? It’s Both”. Then two weeks ago White called for submissions to the magazines, but added “Tip: SFWA members not eligible” (see here, item #2.)

White’s latest assault is against Benjamin C. Kinney, first person to put his name to the complaints brought out in February. Thread starts here.

And White is also working on a Nixonian enemies list.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2008 — Twelve years ago, Catherynne M. Valente had the unusual honor of winning the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for not one novel but for two novels in the same series, The Orphan’s Tales: In The Night Garden and  its sequel, The Orphan’s Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice. It is the only time that this has happened as far as we can determine. An Otherwise Award would also go to The Orphan’s Tales: In The Night Garden

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 16, 1880 – Anna Alice Chapin.  Children’s book from the Victor Herbert operetta Babes in Toyland with its libretticist Glen MacDonough.  Half a dozen more fantasies; ten other books; shorter stories for magazines and newspapers; a play with her husband, and three more stories, made into films.  (Died 1920) [JH]  
  • Born December 16, 1917 Arthur C. Clarke. When I was resident in Sri Lanka courtesy of Uncle Sam in the early Eighties, nearly every American ex-pat I ran into was reading The Fountains of Paradise. The tea plantations he described therein are very awesome.  I never saw him but he was well known among the small British community there and I passed by his residence one day. I’ll admit that I’ve not read that much by him — Childhood’s EndRendezvous with Rama and that novel are the only long form works by him I’ve read.  I’ve read a lot of short fiction including of course Tales from The White Hart. I’m certain I’ve read The Nine Billion Names of God collection as well. And I’ve seen 2001 myriad times but I’ve never seen the sequel. (Died 2008.) (CE) 
  • Born December 16, 1927 Randall Garrett. Randall Garrett. Ahhh, Lord Darcy. When writing this up, I was gobsmacked to discover that he’d written only one such novel, Too Many Magicians, as I clearly remembered reading more than that number. Huh. That and two collections, Murder and Magic and Lord Darcy Investigates, is all there is of this brilliant series. (The later Lord Darcy collection has two previously uncollected stories.) Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. is named in honor of Garrett.  I’ll admit I’ve not read anything else by him, so what else have y’all read? (Died 1987.) (CE):
  • Born December 16, 1937 Peter Dickinson. Author who was married from 1991 to his death to Robin McKinley.  He had a number of truly  great works, both genre and not genre, including EvaThe Tears of the Salamander and The Flight of DragonsThe Ropemaker garnered a well-deserved Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. His James Pibble upper class British mystery series are quite excellent as well. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born December 16, 1928 – Philip K. Dick.  Four dozen novels, ten dozen shorter stories, half a dozen poems; letters in The Alien Critic and PsychoticRiverside QuarterlySF Commentary.  A Hugo for The Man in the High Castle; Campbell Memorial Award for Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said; British SF Ass’n Award for A Scanner Darkly; Kurd Laßwitz Prize for VALIS.  SF Hall of Fame.  See too The Shifting Realities of PKD (L. Sutin ed. 1995).  Curiouser and curiouser.  (Died 1982) [JH]
  • Born December 16, 1937 – Norm Metcalf.  His Index of SF Magazines 1951-1965 followed Day’s Index to the SF Magazines 1926-1950.  His fanzine New Frontiers drew contributions from fannish pros e.g. Poul Anderson, Tony Boucher, Sprague de Camp.  Active in many apas, e.g. FAPA (fifty years), IPSOOMPASAPS (forty years), SFPAThe Cult.  (Died 2019) [JH]  
  • Born December 16, 1948 – Steve Forty, age 72.  Indispensable Vancouver fan.  Served as President of BCSFA (British Columbia SF Ass’n – to bring in a Tom Digby joke, not its real name, which is West Coast SF Ass’n), editor of BCSFAzine, chair of VCON 20, perhaps inevitably Fan Guest of Honour at VCON 40.  BCSFAzine was printed by Gestetner mimeograph until the late 1980s; S.40 had at least six Gestetners, each carrying a different colour ink (note spelling, these are Canadians), so as to manage multi-color covers.  BCSFA’s VCON Ambassador for Life.  Aptly a steel-burnisher by trade.  To us in the States he is the North Forty, but what do we know?  [JH]
  • Born December 16, 1956 – Alexander Bouchard, age 64.  Fanzines Scopus:3007Lightning Round.  Podcaster, costumer, conner (we have filkers, costumers –).  Fanwriting at least as early as “Asimov, the Foundation of SF” in Lan’s Lantern 34.  I’ve heard of but not seen the vegan electric-pressure-cooker recipe book over this name so can’t say if his, but you probably know fans who’re vegan electric pressure cookers.  [JH]
  • Born December 16, 1957 Mel Odom, 63. An author deep into mining franchise universes with work done into the BuffyverseOutlandersTime PoliceRogue Angel (which I’ve listen to a lot as GraphicAudio as produced them as most excellent audioworks) and weirder stuff such as the Left Behind Universe and Tom Clancy’s Net Force Explorers, both I think game tie-ins. (CE) 
  • Born December 16, 1967 Miranda Otto, 53. She was Éowyn in the second and third installments of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film franchise. (I stopped watching after The Fellowship of The Rings.) She‘s Zelda Spellman in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Mary Ann Davis in Spielberg’s version of The War of The Worlds. She also played Wueen Lenore inI, Frankenstein which had an an amazing cast even if the Tomatometer gives it’s 5% rating. (CE)
  • Born December 16, 1971 – Roz Clarke, age 49.  Three anthologies with Joanne Hall (2 vols. of Airship Shape and Bristol FashionFight Like a Girl); four short stories.  “Haunt-Type Experience” reprinted in Stories for Chip (i.e. S.R. Delany; tribute anthology).  [JH]

(10) THE WATCH. A trailer is out for The Watch Season 1. Premieres January 3.

Anyone can be a hero. ‘The Watch’, an all-new series inspired by characters created by Sir Terry Pratchett stars Richard Dormer as Vimes and Lara Rossi as Lady Sybil Ramkin.

(11) ON THE BOTTOM. John Picacio tweeted photos of his 2020 Hugo which features something I’ve never seen on the trophy before – writing on the bottom of the base. The text explains the design elements.

(12) TIME CONSIDERED. “Christopher Nolan On Why Time Is A Recurring Theme In His Movies”: NPR’s “All Things Considered” interviewed the filmmaker. Audio and a transcript at the link.

CHRISTOPHER NOLAN: Time is the most cinematic of subjects because before the movie camera came along, human beings had no way of seeing time backwards, slowed down, sped up. And I think that went some way to sort of explain to me why I’ve been interested in exploring it in movies because I think there’s a really productive relationship. And I had this visual notion of a bullet that’s in a wall, being sucked out of the wall and into the barrel of the gun it was fired from. And I put the image in “Memento,” my early film, as a…

(13) AN EXPANSIVE LETTER TO THE EDITOR. [Item by Daniel P. Dern] “Catching Up to ‘The Expanse,’ the Space Opera You Love” is a review by Mike Hale at the New York Times.

“The undisputed heir to ‘Battlestar Galactica’ begins its fifth (and next to last) season on Amazon Prime Video.”

DPD comments (note, I’m also submitting a shortened-for-length-restrictions version of this to the NYTimes online comments to the review, which already has a modest but informed discussion going):

While this is basically a favorable-enough review of the TV series, I want to pick a few nits, from the perspective who

a) is a life-long sf fan — written, also comics, movies and TV

b) has read all the Expanse books (and some of the novellas/stories) and is current watching the previous seasons

c) Never watched the original Battlestar G; watched maybe 2-3 eps of the 2004 reboot.

1) Hale says, with respect to The Expanse (show), “The series capably fulfills the basic requirement of speculative science-fiction: It keeps you guessing about where the journey’s going to end.”

Huh? This makes me wonder how much Hale knows about science fiction as a genre, as opposed to having watched a bunch. Discuss amongst yourselves.

2) “With regard to the show’s intensely devoted following, a binge only confirms what was obvious from the first few episodes. ‘The Expanse’ is the natural heir to the cult-favorite ‘Battlestar Galactica’ (2004-9); it’s another old-fashioned, hard-core space adventure set within an up-to-date clash-of-civilizations political allegory. It was an easy move for the ‘Galactica’ faithful.”

Since, like I said above, I haven’t watched (enough) B/G, I can’t agree or disagree with the “natural heir” point, nor whether B/G faithful found it an “easy move.” I will challenge “allegory” (and I’m dubious about “civilizations”).

3) “’The Expanse’ operates on a smaller, more intimate scale than ‘Galactica,’ …it doesn’t imagine ships zapping among star clusters. It’s contained within our solar system.” Hello? Venus whack? Galactic gateway? I’m not convinced Hale has watched the most recent two seasons. Or wasn’t paying attention.

4) “’The Expanse’ builds its future world in a schematic way that provides an efficient framework for plot and, I’m guessing, appeals to viewers who like their science-fiction highly diagramed.”

I’m not sure what Hale means by “schematic,” much less “highly diagrammed,” and even if I did, I don’t think I’d agree, assuming I could figure out what he meant. I mean, you could make similar claims about Game of Thrones, no?

5) “Into this setup, the show introduced a golem-like alien substance (called, with a notable lack of imagination, the protomolecule)”

“Notable lack of imagination”? Talk about setting phrasers to “Snark!”

“In its facelessness and inexorability, it was a decent stand-in for the cylons of ‘Galactica.’””

First, isn’t Cylon a proper noun, worth of initial-capping?

Arguably, also, the p-mol isn’t completely faceless, e.g., using the appearance (and perhaps more) of Detective Miller at times, to manifest to James “F***ing” Holden.

Like I said, Hale’s review is basically positive, but the off-notes irk me. Again, my theory is that Hale’s watched his share of TV/movie sf, but hasn’t read a significant amount of it.

Anyhoo, I’m looking forward to the new season.

(14) DRAWN THAT WAY. Publishers Weekly asked critics to name the year’s best graphic novels. Not too much genre on their list, unless you’re coming from a place that all graphic novels check that box: ‘”Kent State’ On Top of PW’s 2020 Graphic Novel Critics Poll”.

Released in September during the 50th anniversary year of the 1970 tragedy, Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio (Abrams ComicArts) by veteran comics journalist Derf Backderf garnered the majority of votes in PW’s annual Graphic Novel Critic’s Poll, receiving eight votes from a panel of 14 comics critics.

The PW Graphic Novel Critics Poll is compiled by asking participating critics to list up to 10 trade book releases they consider the best graphic novel and comics works of the year. The book receiving the most votes wins; and we share the remaining top vote-recipients. Titles listed as Honorable Mentions each received a single vote. Taking part in this year’s poll are PW graphic novel reviewers Gilcy Aquino, Chris Barsanti, Maurice Boyer, Rob Clough, John DiBello, Glen Downey, Shaenon Garrity, Rob Kirby, Cheryl Klein, Maia Kobabe, Sarah Mirk, and Samantha Riedel. Also participating are PW Graphic Novels Reviews editor Meg Lemke and PW senior news editor Calvin Reid.

(15) VIDEO OF YESTERDAY. Family Planning (1968) on YouTube is a 1968 Disney cartoon, featuring Donald Duck, done in cooperation with the Population Council.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Shazam!  The History of Shazam!” on YouTube is a 2019 documentary, narrated by Cooper Andrews, about the character originally known as Captain Marvel and, from 2011 onwards, completely known as Shazam.  It’s of course tied in to the 2019 movie Shazam, and we learn that the reason Billy Batson in the movie is part of a foster family was because of a 2012 revision of the character by Geoff Johns.  I think the lawsuits over whether Captain Marvel was a Superman knockoff are more interesting than the character itself.  It’s primarily comics-oriented because the only filmed appearances of the character until 2019 were in a 1940s serial and what looks like a cheezy 1970s Saturday morning series,  I think the most fun facts in the documentary are a visit to the DC archive (known as the Vault) and learning that one of the chief enemies of Captain Marvel, Dr. Sivana, was modeled after co-creator C.C. Beck’s dentist. I did think it was worth an hour.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Liptak, Trey Palmer, Rich Lynch, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 12/7/20 When All You Have Is A Scroll, Everything Looks Like A Pixel

(1) WHERE THE BLOOD STILL PULSES – SO TO SPEAK. R.S. Benedict’s article for Blood Knife “How Horror Makes Itself Ungovernable” says that horror alone resists the corporatization of geek culture.

…Geek culture—comic books, video games, sci-fi, fantasy—is mainstream now, squeezing out mysteries, dramas, and period pieces at the box office.

…This is nothing to be celebrated. This is not victory. The mainstreaming of geek culture is artistic gentrification, a way for moneyed interests to wrest control of culture from the creatives who built it and crowd out any voice with something new or subversive to say. Sci-fi, which once gave us visions of the future, and fantasy, which once nurtured our imaginations, have been hijacked to sell imperialism and soda pop. The invaders have won; our loved ones have been replaced by pod people.

Only one speculative genre has managed to escape the Disneyfication process and retain something resembling a soul: horror….

(2) THE TRUTH, OR SOMETHING, IS OUT THERE. The news got George Takei’s attention.

“Former Israeli space security chief says aliens exist, humanity not ready” reports The Jerusalem Post.

Has the State of Israel made contact with aliens?

According to retired Israeli general and current professor Haim Eshed, the answer is yes, but this has been kept a secret because “humanity isn’t ready.”

Speaking in an interview to Yediot Aharonot, Eshed – who served as the head of Israel’s space security program for nearly 30 years and is a three-time recipient of the Israel Security Award – explained that Israel and the US have both been dealing with aliens for years.

And this by no means refers to immigrants, with Eshed clarifying the existence of a “Galactic Federation.”

The 87-year-old former space security chief gave further descriptions about exactly what sort of agreements have been made between the aliens and the US, which ostensibly have been made because they wish to research and understand “the fabric of the universe.” This cooperation includes a secret underground base on Mars, where there are American and alien representatives.

If true, this would coincide with US President Donald Trump’s creation of the Space Force as the fifth branch of the US armed forces, though it is unclear how long this sort of relationship, if any, has been going on between the US and its reported extraterrestrial allies.

But Eshed insists that Trump is aware of them, and that he was “on the verge” of disclosing their existence. However, the Galactic Federation reportedly stopped him from doing so, saying they wished to prevent mass hysteria since they felt humanity needed to “evolve and reach a stage where we will… understand what space and spaceships are,” Yediot Aharonot reported.

As for why he’s chosen to reveal this information now, Eshed explained that the timing was simply due to how much the academic landscape has changed, and how respected he is in academia.

“If I had come up with what I’m saying today five years ago, I would have been hospitalized,” he explained to Yediot.

Of course, the timing may also have something to do with the release of Eshed’s newest book, The Universe Beyond the Horizon – conversations with Professor Haim Eshed. And considering all the year’s travails, I liked this reaction —

(3) FELLOWSHIP OF THE PREQUEL. In the “Silmarillion Seminar”, hosted at The Tolkien Professor, a bunch of academics sit down and talk about the Silmarillion chapter by chapter:

Despite its challenging learning curve, The Silmarillion is an amazing set of stories. Some of these stories may be even more profound and more moving than The Lord of the Rings. What’s more, once you know The Silmarillion, you will begin to understand The Lord of the Rings in a whole new way.

In the Silmarillion Seminar, listeners will be reading through the book slowly and carefully, at the pace of about a chapter a week, and gathering together to have an online audio discussion with the Tolkien Professor about each chapter. Each session will be recorded and posted here on this page. Hopefully, you will pick up your copy of the book and give this truly incredible book another chance.

(4) IN A BEGINNING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] OK, now here’s a book I want to read (and have just library-reserved)…

A year or two or three ago, I went to an interesting lecture at Harvard on the origins of alphabets. It was interesting… but it didn’t address my question, and, when either in the Q&A session at the end or while we were milling afterwards, I asked about the origin of alphabetic order, to which I was told, more or less, IIRC, that was a different question. Fair ’nuff.

So, I just saw this review in our paper edition of the December 6 New York Times’ Book Review section (tho, per the URL, I see it ran online back in late October): A Place For Everything: The Curious History of Alphabetical Order by Judith Flanders.

A few paragraphs into reading the review, I made a note (snapped a pic using my phone) and have reserved-requested it through/from my local library.

(5) YOUNG PEOPLE. Young People Read Old SFF reaches the second-to-last story in the Rediscovery collection from Journey Press, “Cornie on the Walls” Sydney van Scyoc. What does James Davis Nicoll’s panel think about this 1963 entry?

Sydney J. van Scyoc was mainly active in the 1960s through the 1980s. Although new short pieces appear as late as 2005, her most recent novel was 1991’s Deepwater Dreams. I haven’t read Deepwater because van Scyoc occupied a blindspot in my collecting. Having read this example of her work, I’ve taken to picking up her novels when I see them. Finding time to read them has thus far eluded me.

But were my Young People as enthusiastic? Let’s find out…. 

(6) MURDER IN SPACE. James Davis Nicoll also found time to write about “Five Space-Based Murder Mysteries” for Tor.com. One of them is —

Places in the Darkness by Christopher Brookmyre (2017)

230,000 kilometres above the Earth’s surface, Ciudad de Cielo is filled with almost every vice and foible known to humanity. This is a paradise for bent private cop Nicola “Nikki Fixx” Freeman, because it offers many ways for a high-ranking Seguridad officer to siphon off some extra wealth for herself. The system works, as long as nobody gets too greedy and everyone remembers that there are limits to the crimes to which the authorities can turn a blind eye….

(7) GHOSTS IN THE BIG APPLE. The NY Ghost Story Festival can be viewed free on YouTube.

Night One: Thursday December 10, 2020 7PM EST

Guests are Gwendolyn Kiste, Hysop Mulero and Rudi Dornemann

Night Two: Saturday December 10, 2020 7PM EST

Guests Sarah Langan, Lee Thomas, and Douglas Wynne

Here is the event page for Night Two on Facebook.

When the year grows old and December’s daylight departs too soon it is time to fill the dark nights with stories of ghosts and the supernatural.

Welcome to The New York Ghost Story Festival. An annual event of ghost story readings and discussion hosted by Daniel Braum. Featuring authors of the uncanny, strange and fantastic from New York and around the globe.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • November 1995 — “Two Tales of Korval,” the very first stories in Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Adventures in the Liaden Universe series was published by SR in a very limited sixty copies. There was two stories here, “To Cut an Edge” and “A Day at The Races”, plus “A Partial Liaden Glossary”.  More printings would follow. Both stories are in A Liaden Universe Constellation: Volume 1 which is available from the usual digital suspects.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 7, 1873 – Willa Cather.  A dozen stories for us, besides the work of her fame like O Pioneers!My ÁntoniaOne of Ours.  Pulitzer Prize.  Fellow, Amer. Acad. Arts & Sciences.  Nat’l Inst. Arts & Letters gold medal for fiction.  Nat’l Women’s Hall of Fame.  New York Writers Hall of Fame.  (Died 1947) [JH]
  • Born December 8, 1886 – Heywood Broun.  Sportswriter, drama critic, columnist, editor; co-founded the Newspaper Guild.  One of the Algonquin Round Table.  Often wrote against racism, censorship, persecution of people for their beliefs. A novel and three shorter stories for us, much other work.  (Died 1939) [JH]
  • Born December 7, 1915 Leigh Brackett. Let’s us praise her first for her Retro Hugo this year for Shadow Over Mars, originally published in the Fall 1944 issue of Startling Stories. Now surely her scripts for The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye are genre adjacent? Why not? Ok, then her very pulpy Sea-Kings of Mars is? Being rhetorical there. And I love her Eric John Stark stories! (Much of these were written with her husband Edmond Hamilton.) And yes, she competed The Empire Strikes Back script just before she died.  Is that the actual shooting script? (Died 1978.) (CE) 
  • Born December 7, 1947 – Anne Fine, O.B.E., age 73. Three novels, four shorter stories for us; seventy children’s books, eight adults’.  Two Carnegie Medals, two Whitbread Awards, The GuardianAward.  Children’s Laureate (U.K., awarded every two years).  Fellow, Royal Soc. Literature.  Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.  [JH]
  • Born December 7, 1949 Tom Waits, 71. He’s got uncredited (but obviously known) roles in Wolfen and The Fisher King. He is in Bram Stoker’s Dracula as R.M. Renfield, and he shows up in Mystery Men as Doc Heller and in Mr.Nick in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. He’s simply Engineer in The Book of Eli. (CE)
  • Born December 7, 1953 Madeleine E Robins, 67. I’m very fond of her Sarah Tolerance series which starts often Point of Honour, it features a female PI in an alternate version of Georgian London. The Stone War set in a post-apocalyptic NYC is quite interesting as well, and she has quite a bit short fiction, though only three have been collected so far in Luckstones: Three Tales of Meviel. Much of her fiction is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born December 7, 1957 – Terri Blackstock, age 63.  Six novels for us; forty others.  Carol Award.  Two NY Times best-sellers.  “I still print things out and mark all over the hard copies after each draft.  Under glass, I have pictures of my characters, with important stats about them, such as their ages, so I can refer to them often.”  [JH]
  • Born December 7, 1973 Kelly Barnhill, 47. Her The Girl Who Drank the Moon novel was awarded the Newbery Medal and she was a McKnight Writing Fellow in Children’s Literature. Four years ago, her “Unlicensed Magician” novella received the World Fantasy Award for Long Fiction. Iron Hearted Violet was nominated as Andre Norton Award.  (CE) 
  • Born December 7, 1980 – Satô Yûya, age 40.  (Surname first, Japanese style.)  Mishima Yukio Prize.  A dozen novels, as many shorter stories.  “Same as Always” closes the just-released Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories.  [JH]
  • Born December 7, 1984 – Walter Dinjos.  This just-emerging Nigerian had a dozen stories in e.g. Abyss & ApexBeneath Ceaseless SkiesGalaxy’s Edge.  (Died 2018) [JH]

(10) ROLLING ON THE RIVERS. You Rivers of London fans might want to know about Ben Aaronovitch’s Titan Comics series, the latest title being Rivers of London Volume 8: The Fey and the Furious. (Writers: Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel. Artist: Lee Sullivan.)

Trouble never lies far from the race track. When a flash car belonging to a young boy racer from England washes up in the Netherlands with a bagload of unusual cargo, it’s evident there is more than meets the eye happening at street races held in an Essex car park. Enter Detective Inspector Peter Grant. Fresh from suspension, he takes to the track in his orange ‘asbo’ Ford Focus to try and infiltrate the big leagues. But Peter soon finds himself sucked back into an Otherworld – a real-life fairyland!

They’ve also diagrammed where the comics fit into the overall series. (Click for slightly larger version.)

(11) PANDEMIC HEROES. “Real Nurses, Real Stories” describes The Vitals, a comic Marvel produced in collaboration with the Allegheny Health Network based on true stories of nurses fighting the pandemic. Read the comic here —  The Vitals: True Nurse Stories (2020). (I’ll start typing again in a moment, right now I have something in my eye…)

(12) ALIEN COMICS ON THE WAY. Marvel Comics earlier announced plans for all-new comics set in the iconic world of the Alien franchise. The first of these will arrive March 2021 with ALIEN #1, written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, art by Salvador Larroca, and cover by InHyuk Lee.

ALIEN #1 will be a thrilling addition to the incredible legacy that began with the groundbreaking 1979 film. Featuring both new and classic characters from Earth and beyond, this bold take on the Alien mythology will entertain both longtime fans and newcomers to the legendary horror/science-fiction saga.

The new story will feature a Weyland-Yutani mercenary named Gabriel Cruz as he battles a deadly new breed of xenomorph with the survival of his child hanging in the balance.

(13) THE PLAY’S THE THING. File 770 contributor Francis Hamit’s stage play Memorial Day is now available for community and other theatre groups. See Stageplays.com. To read the opening scenes, click here.

Francis Hamit is the last guy you would expect to write an anti-war play.  He is an Army brat who served four years in the U.S. Army Security Agency during the Vietnam War and had a tour there himself.

“I mostly write about two things,” he says, “Soldiers and spies.  My background is in Military Intelligence and I try to stay current with how the American military has changed in the decades since the Vietnam War ended.  For many of those who were it there, it never did, because American society turned on us and blamed us for losing the war and every bad thing that happened there.  We were all accused of being drug addicts and war criminals, and that legacy has passed to subsequent generations of American soldiers.  Most Americans no longer know us, nor do they want to.  We are there on the front lines, but everyone else is at the Mall.”

MEMORIAL DAY is a two act, one set, seven character play set in a small town or city neighborhood someplace in the USA.  Anywhere between Alabama and Alaska.  One of the men was an Army Ranger on D-Day in World War Two.  Part of the so-called “Greatest Generation”.  The others came later.  The bar is owned by a Vietnam veteran, a draftee who one day got into a situation that earned him the Medal of Honor.  He doesn’t know what to do with the fame that comes with that award, and resists efforts by other to exploit it.  He will not even march in the town’s annual Memorial Day parade.  Anyone who ever lived in a small town will find these folks relatable.

(14) A NIP HERE, A TUCK THERE. Peter Jackson didn’t pull a Lucas on Lord of the Rings, but here’s what did change: “Peter Jackson talks 4K remasters for Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies” at SYFY Wire.

Peter Jackson recently revisited Middle-Earth to remaster his Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies in 4K Ultra HD. The undertaking allowed the celebrated director to go back to the original films (for example, The Fellowship of the Ring turns 20?! next December) and update their visual effects with modern tools. But don’t worry, this isn’t a Star Wars Special Editions-type situation of a director going back in and adding a bunch of stuff that wasn’t there originally.

“Visual effects technology has advanced a lot in 20 years and when they became ultra-crisp and sharp with the 4K process, we realized that some of the shots were not holding up too well. So, we got the opportunity to go back and remove and paint out any imperfections,” Jackson explains in a new video posted by Warner Bros. “I should make it clear: we didn’t upgrade or enhance any of the effects shots. They’re exactly the same as you’re used to seeing them, except they do look as if they were done today rather than 20 years ago.”

In doing so, he was also able to make both trilogies feel like one seamless unit, despite the fact that The Hobbit adaptations were shot years later and at a much higher frame rate. “They now feel like it’s one big, long film, telling the same story and looking and sounding the same,” Jackson added.

(15) CELEBRITY TSUNDOKU. “Dolly Parton Likes to Read by the Fire in Her Pajamas” according to the New York Times Book Review. Some of what she reads is sff!

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of? 

Not enough folks know what a great book “Kindred,” by Octavia E. Butler, is. It’s kind of tricky to describe but somehow it all works — it’s about race relations and there’s time travel and romance. It’s powerful.

Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid? 

I love historical fiction with a touch of romance — writers like Lee Smith or Diana Gabaldon. I avoid horror.

(16) WERE YOU INVITED TO THE FUNERAL? Colin Broadmoor claims “The Future Died in 1999” at Blood Knife.

The future died in 1999. Ever since, we’ve been trapped in the eternal present—waiting for the other shoe to drop.

For two decades, we’ve fought the same wars, watched the police murder the same people, voted for the same duopoly, and paid for the same IPs in books, movies, and video games. I’m typing this at the close of A.D. 2020—the year I waited for all my life, the way some Christians wait for the Second Coming.

2020, the year forever associated with media like R. Talsorian’s Cyberpunk 2020 (2nd ed., 1992). Each day I wake in 2020 and look around to see myself surrounded by the ash and shadows of the spent neon future of my youth.

For those of you who were not there or don’t remember, it’s difficult to explain the ways in which the 1990s were different from today. There are two key aspects of that final decade of the 20th century that you must keep in mind:

  1. It was the last decade in the West in which the analog took precedence over the digital in all fields.
  2. People felt as if we were witnessing the first rays of a 21st-century dawn, one that promised humanity better living through technology.

(17) A REASON FOR THIS SEASON. Several versions of this holiday tree decoration are for sale — no wonder! The 2020 LED Flickering Dumpster Fire.

[Thanks to Cliff, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John Hertz, R.S. Benedict, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, Francis Hamit, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Danny Sichel.]

Pixel Scroll 11/30/20 The Apotheosis Of Mayor Amalfi Considered As An Uphill Pixel Scroll

(1) THE SQUEEZE IS ON. NPR’s Morning Edition explores why “Critics Oppose Penguin Random House Acquiring Simon & Schuster”.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

It is the blockbuster that has the literary world talking – the potential merger of the huge Simon & Schuster with Penguin Random House, the largest publishing company in the country. But the Authors Guild, the world’s largest organization for writers, have released a statement opposing the deal. Laura Zats is a literary agent and the host of the podcast “Print Run,” and she joins us now to explain why the joining of these two companies might be a cause for concern….

ZATS: Well, I think the big thing to understand is that it’s not just that they’re going to have so much of a market share. But what happens when a single company has a market share is that there’s less competition for who can publish the books, which is really bad for agents – which is what I am – and really bad for writers.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How so?

ZATS: There are a – as an agent, I submit to a lot of different imprints, a lot of different editors. And, currently, for example, when Penguin and Random House merged in 2013, you could go to auction with those. You could submit, and you could drive up advances, and you could get better terms and – for your writers.

(2) DREAMHAVEN UPDATE. Greg Ketter can still use help, as he noted in a message to a recent donor to the DreamHaven Restoration GoFundMe. (See the November 9 story “DreamHaven Books Owner and Employee Robbed, Beaten”.)

Thank you so much for thinking of us when there are so many people hurting these days.  It’s nice to know people are concerned for us.  It has been a rough year with the riot/break-in, Covid shutdowns, the assault and robbery, but, all-in-all, we’re in much better shape than most.  At least we’re still here.

The easiest ways to help are either ordering books from our website or there is a GoFundMe campaign under “DreamHaven Restoration”.  I actually thought it had ended but when we had the robbery a number of new donations showed up and made me cry all over again.  I’m not used to asking for or accepting help.  But I have learned to be terribly grateful for it once it’s offered.

(3) A HORROR MENTOR. A lot is explained in Odyssey Podcast #133 featuring JG Faherty.

A life-long resident of New York’s haunted Hudson Valley, JG is the author of seven novels, ten novellas, and more than seventy-five short stories, and he’s been a finalist for both the Bram Stoker Award (The Cure, Ghosts of Coronado Bay) and ITW Thriller Award (The Burning Time). He writes adult and YA horror, science fiction, dark fantasy, and paranormal romance, and his works range from quiet, dark suspense to over-the-top comic gruesomeness.

Since 2011, JG has been a Board Trustee for the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and a Mentor. He launched their Young Adult program, and also their Library & Literacy program, which he still runs. Recently, he co-founded the HWA’s Summer Scares reading initiative in conjunction with Becky Spratford and several library organization, and he teaches local teen writing programs at libraries. In 2019, he was recognized with the Mentor of the Year Award by the HWA.

As a child, his favorite playground was a seventeenth-century cemetery, which many people feel explains a lot.

(4) TWO COMPANIONS OUT. Io9 learned that Doctor Who’s Tosin Cole and Bradley Walsh Are Leaving the Show”.

…Whittaker also confirmed the news, saying she was “devastated” to lose Cole and Walsh as costars: “On a personal note, absolutely devastated. Both of them had to carry me to my trailer. I haven’t cried like that for such a long time. Brad couldn’t cope with it at all. Tosin was like, ‘I really can’t cope with you getting this upset.’”

As of now, it’s unclear whether Doctor Who will return to its more traditional pattern of “one Doctor, one companion,” or if new cast members will be added to the series. But for now, it will be a sad but sweet goodbye to one of the show’s greatest father-son teams. Doctor Who’s “Revolution of the Daleks” arrives on January 1, 2021. In addition, the series is entering production for its 13th season, which is set to have eight episodes.

(5) TOP FIVE. Here are The Guardian’s “Best science fiction and fantasy books of 2020”. Some are definitely less jolly than others.

Mordew
by Alex Pheby, Galley Beggar
The Gormenghastly city of Mordew is built on living mud – we discover it’s God’s body, not quite dead – that teems with grotesque and fantastical life. Pheby’s protagonist Nathan rises from the slums to meet a special destiny. It may sound like a cliched storyline, but the relentless inventiveness and verve of Pheby’s imagination make this book stand alone. Startling, baroque, sometimes revolting – but always amazing.

(6) THEY’RE DOOMED. Does James Davis Nicoll have more pitch ideas than Ryan George? I think so… “Four Stories That Subvert the Cosy Catastrophe Genre” at Tor.com.

Given our recent discussion of such tales, I should note that I quite dislike one particular subset of lifeboat stories: the ones in which a small group of plucky pioneers somehow escape the dying Earth and reach a new world they can call their own. But in the meantime, the unlucky masses who could not make their way onto the flotilla die with their homeworld.

Why this distaste? Well…

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2000 — Twenty years ago, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling would win the World Fantasy Award for their Silver Birch, Blood Moon anthology, the fifth in their Fairy Tale series. (Datlow would later garner a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.) If you’re familiar with the work they did with the Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror Anthology series, then you know what to expect here. It’s fine Autumnal reading from the likes of Neil Gaiman, Delia Sherman, Nola Hopkinson, Patricia McKillip and many, many more exemplary writers. Tom Canty provided the cover illustration here as he did for so many of their anthologies. All of the Fairy Tale series are now available from the usual digital suspects. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 30, 1667 – Jonathan Swift.  Timeless for Gulliver’s Travels – because cutting the sharp nasty parts makes it seem a children’s book?  Because readers think it satirizes those stupid people over there?  Anyway, great.  Other work also worth reading.  (Died 1745) [JH]
  • Born November 30, 1893 – E. Everett Evans.  “Triple E” was so big-hearted and so actively that he was loved by fans and pros, large and small.  Four novels, two dozen shorter stories; The Planet Mappers won the annual Boys’ Clubs of America award for most enjoyable book.  Helped found the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fed’n), served a term as its President, founding editor of The Nat’l Fantasy Fan.  Co-edited Le Zombie with Tucker – what a combination.  Chaired the first Westercon.  The Big Heart (our highest service award) established at his death, for years bore his name.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born November 30, 1906 John Dickson Carr,. Author of the Gideon Fell detective stories, some of which were decidedly genre adjacent. The Burning Court with Fell is on this list as is his vampire mythos backstoried novels, Three Coffins and He Who Whispers. And I really should note his Sir Henry Merrivale character has at one genre outing in Reader is Warned. (Died 1977.) (CE) 
  • Born November 30, 1937 Ridley Scott, 83. Alien: Covenant which did surprisingly well at the Box Office and has a sixty-five rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes is his most recent genre work of note but he’s got a long and distinguished list that includes the most excellent Blade Runner, Alien, the 1984 Apple advert, Exodus: Gods and Kings , Legend,  Prometheus and yes, Robin Hood. I’ve watched Blade Runner sans the narration and I’ll say I still do prefer the original version. (CE)
  • Born November 30, 1944 – Susan Gubar, Ph.D., age 76.  Leading feminist interested in SF among much else.  Several important essays, some with Susan Gilbert; their Norton Anthology of Literature by Women put them among Ms. magazine’s Women of the Year.  Recently, see SG’s “C.L. Moore and the Conventions of Women’s SF”.  Sandrof Life Achievement Award.  [JH]
  • Born November 30, 1945 Billy Drago. Best remember I think as the evil John Bly in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.  He was certainly booked a lot in genre roles as he has appearances in Cyborg 2, Sci-Fighters,  Supernatural and X-Files. He also played the demon Barbas in the original Charmed series. And he was in Tremors 4: The Legend Begins, a film I’m sure no one was begging for. Finally, I note that he was in the Masters of Horror “Imprint” episode, which Showtime pulled due to “disturbing content” which you can read about here. (Died 2019.) (CE) 
  • Born November 30, 1947 David Mamet, 73. Playwright with an interesting genre history. He wrote and produced Frog Prince based off that folktale, and later did a contemporary version of the Faust legend. Not to forget the comic weirdness of The Revenge of the Space Pandas, or Binky Rudich and the Two-Speed Clock. (CE) 
  • Born November 30, 1952 – Jill Eastlake, F.N., age 68.  She and her husband Donald E. Eastlake III are Founding Fellows of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Co-chaired Boskone 11, chaired Boskone 15.  Guest of Honor at Rivercon IX.  Reliable, responsible at many tasks.  Her help with costuming earned her the Int’l Costumers Guild Life Achievement Award.  For one Worldcon she telephoned me about judging the Masquerade (our onstage competition); she was the Masq Director; I said “Sure, Jill.”  She said “I want you for one of my Workmanship Judges.”  I said “Jill, I’m not competent to do that.”  She said “Which one of us is running this Masquerade, you or me?”  I think that was the year I crawled underneath two monsters to see how their pipe-frames were fastened.  The other judges said I was okay.  [JH]
  • Born November 30, 1955 Andy Robertson. A fan and editor who worked as an assistant editor on Interzone and contributed myriad reviews and interviews. He published some fiction and edited two anthologies based on the works of William Hope Hodgson’s Night Lands, Volume 1: Eternal Love, featuring tales set in Hodgson’s world, and William Hope Hodgson’s Night Lands Volume 2: Nightmares of the Fall. Alas they were never made into digital editions. (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born November 30, 1955 —  Kevin Conroy, 65. Without doubt, best known for voicing Batman on Batman: The Animated Series which is my Batman. Justice League Action saw him reprise that role with the other characters often noting his stoic personality.  I’ve not seen it, but on Batwoman, he plays Bruce Wayne in the “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Two” episode.  Bruce Timm likes his work in the Batman 75th Anniversary Short Batman: Strange Days which is interesting as he only says one word though he grunts nicely.  (CE)
  • Born November 30, 1957 – Martin Morse Wooster, age 63.  Articulate critic and commenter, often seen here and in Banana WingsFantasy ReviewInterzoneMimosa, NY Review of SFQuantumSF Book ReviewSF CommentarySF ReviewThrust.  Contributor to e.g. Magill’s Guide to SF.  Outside our field, see e.g. Angry Classrooms, Empty Minds.  [JH]
  • Born November 30, 1982 – Zach Fehst, age 38.  American Magic was a Library Journal Summer Best Book.  Outside our field, has traveled to three dozen countries, hosted Discovery Channel’s Ultimate Guide to the Awesome; plays electric mandolin, skis on snow and sand.  “Sometimes when I’m feeling hopeless I ask myself what someone with hope would do, and try to do that.”  [JH

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) DOONESBURY. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna uses the occasion of Doonesbury’s 50th anniversary to interview Garry Trudeau about the ten greatest strips of the past 50 years. “As ‘Doonesbury’ turns 50, Garry Trudeau picks his 10 defining strips”. On the list is —

PALM BEACH CARD CONTROVERSY (June 21, 1985)

Palm Beach, Fla., ordinance requires low-wage service employees to register with police and carry ID cards.

Trudeau: The legendary Mary McGrory told me that in all her years of writing columns, she wasn’t sure a single one of them had changed anything. That’s not a bar that cartoonists generally set for themselves, but in the case of my story arc about racist Palm Beach pass cards, the strip did have an impact. Exposure of the apartheid-like ordinance proved so embarrassing to Florida that the state legislature passed a law banning it. It was called the “Doonesbury Bill,” and the governor sent me the signing pen. Still, that’s the exception. Most of the time, expecting satire to make a difference is purely aspirational.

(11) FLAME ON. Hero Within offers a “Comic Con Scented Candle”. Don’t you think everybody on your gift list deserves one?

Are you missing the sights, sounds and experiences of comic cons? How about the smell? To reflect the worst year ever, the world’s worst product of 2020, the Comic Con Scented Candle. Our Hero Within scientist* secretly spent 2019 at conventions collecting the essence of fans and distilled this blend of body odor, old comic books and stale hot dogs into a horrible candle. While not for the faint of heart, it will remind you of being surrounded by a thousand sweaty fans. Makes for a perfect gift but a terrible candle. Order at your own risk.

(12) YOUR CULTURAL COMMENTATOR. [Item by Daniel Dern.] If Bertold Bretcht’s Threepenny Opera were in Klingon, we’d have the song:

“Mek’Leth The Knife”

(13) DOGGING IT. “In the Footprints of the Hound: Why The Hound of the Baskervilles Still Haunts” on CrimeReads, sf writer James Lovegrove, author of the Holmes pastiche The Beast Of The Stapletons explains why The Hound Of The Baskervilles remains one of the scariest novels ever written.

…Yet, as Sherlock Holmes’s closest brush with the supernatural, The Hound of the Baskervilles demonstrates that the Great Detective’s powers are equal to any task, even combating forces that are seemingly beyond our ken. The Hound itself is no common blackmailer or thief or assassin. It is a thing of nightmares, so frightening that the sight of it alone can induce a fatal heart attack in one victim and send another hurtling to his death off a rocky outcrop while fleeing it. It is designed to scare not just characters in the novel but readers too, and when Holmes and Watson at last overcome it, and the artifice behind it stands revealed, our fears are not entirely allayed. This is no Scooby-Doo unmasking moment, when we can laugh as we understand that there was nothing to be afraid of, that the horror was all in our minds. We can’t help but remember that the Hound was trained, and tricked out in phosphorescent paint, and kept half-starved by its owner, for no reason other than to terrify and pursue and kill. It is an embodiment of evil. It is Stapleton’s jealousy, resentment and cruelty made flesh, a canine avatar of avarice.

(14) READ THREE. Camestros Felapton makes me want to read this book! “Review: City of Brass by by S.A. Chakraborty”.

…I’m a bit late starting S.A. Chakraborty’s 2017 fantasy series or, on the otherhand, I’m just in time as the third part of what is now a trilogy was published this year. The novel follows Nahri from Cairo to the magical city of Daevabad where a second point-of-view character awaits, the djinn prince Ali. Pious and idealistic, Ali is second in line to the throne but is torn between his familial duty and his concern for the shafit under-class of the city — the half-human/half-djinn people who are treated unjustly by ruling families. Nor is this the only fracture point in the city…. 

(15) SURVEILLANCE SOCIETY. Archie McPhee calls your attention to the “Lucky Yodelling Christmas Pickle Ornament”, an insidious technology that even Philip K. Dick forgot to predict.

This Yodelling Pickle Ornament yodels when you walk past. That means it’s either a bright, cheerful reminder of pickles and Christmas or an alarm that lets you know when snoopers are investigating their presents. Either way, you need one!

(16) ANOTHER POINTY THING. Damn, they’re breaking out all over the place! “Utah monolith sighting followed in Romania by similar mystery metal object”SYFY Wire has he latest.

Only days after the now-famous first metal monolith was discovered hiding out in the Utah desert, another gleaming slab has now been spotted lurking near an ancient archaeological site in Romania. Early reports don’t reveal much, but British tabloid Daily Mail led the charge today in revealing an early look at the newly-discovered 13-foot obelisk, which reportedly was found on Nov. 26 near an ancient Dacian fortress.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The New Mutants Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George explains that The New Mutants is a film where one mutant’s chief personality trait is his love of doing dishes and the mutants are in a school “run by one woman with zero security guards.”

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

Pixel Scroll 11/17/20 When You Get Caught Between The Moon And New Scroll City, The Best That You Can Do Is File In Love

(1) VIRTUAL PHILCON. Philcon 2020 will be taking place online the weekend of Friday November 20 through Sunday, November 22, 2020. It’s free. Information about how people can participate and navigate in Philcon using Zoom and Discord can be found at www.philcon.org and at https://konopas.philcon.org/#info

There will be no charge for joining Philcon 2020. It will be necessary to sign up for each program item, which may be done even while the program item is underway  The program schedule is set, subject to changes, and can be reviewed at https://konopas.philcon.org/

There will be five program tracks, a reading track, a filk and music track and social gatherings in Zoom and Discord.

The massive Filk program begins at 11 a.m. Friday. Concerts, open filk and a songwriting contest will run day and night until Sunday night.

The panels, readings and workshops start at 5:30 p.m. Literary panels cover topics for fans and writers. Science and technology, fandom, media, anime, gaming all have substantial coverage.

There are currently plans for 157 program items.

For those of you who knew and loved Hugh Casey, we will be holding a memorial get-together on Saturday at 5:30.

We hope to have an in person Philcon back at the Cherry Hill Crowne Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill, New Jersey in 2021. The dates will be November 19 to 21, 2021.

(2) VIRTUAL CONTRAFLOW/DEEPSOUTHCON. Also this coming weekend, on November 21 there will be a free one-day virtual 2020 DSC/SFC CONference put on by the CONtraflow committee.

As most of you already know, we had to postpone our 2020 convention due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While we were able to work out most of those details for a Convention next year, we are not able to postpone an actual Deep South Con. In lieu of what would have been our event this year, we would like to offer to the Fen at the Southern Fandom Confederation a virtual day of the community, creativity, and fun the Fans of the Southern Louisiana region can offer with a small taste of a virtual CONtraflow’s 2020 Deep South Con. We are calling it The 2020 DSC/SFC CONference. 

This one-day event will be completely virtual and totally free and begins at 10 am Saturday November 21.  It is an invitation for you to join us on ZOOM for panels on some of your favorite topics: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Film, TV, SMOF subculture, and much more. 

…We will also be hosting a virtual Southern Fandom Confederation meeting, gaming on the Discord Platform (including the annual DSC Hearts event) and evening programming.  Again, all the events are free- but since it is free, the space/seats are limited.  Interested Fans should be sure to drop us an email at http://www.contraflowscifi.org or find/message us on Facebook to make sure there are seats still available before November 20.  Also, while the event will be free, CONtraflow will be selling 2021 memberships during the day for the absolute lowest price that weekend on Eventbrite.com

We will also have a donation page available for those who’d just like to help out since we have expenses accrued for 2020, even without holding a convention, and the costs of this weekend’s CONference….

(3) CARNEGIE MEDALS SHORTLIST. The six shortlist titles for the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence — three each for the fiction and nonfiction medals — were announced on November 17. The winners will be named online on Thursday, February 4, 2021.  

I believe none of these are genre, but you may still be interested.

FICTION FINALISTS

  • A BurningMegha Majumdar (Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC)
  • Deacon King KongJames McBride (Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC)
  • Homeland Elegies — Ayad Akhtar (Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.)

NONFICTION FINALISTS

(4) THE BIG PICTURE. Kaaron Warren told Facebook followers her novel The Grief Hole has scored a development grant to be made into a movie. “Imagine Sol Evictus in real life…and all those ghosts.”

It’s one of seven projects to be supported by Screen Canberra.

THE GRIEF HOLE– Fiction Feature Film – Development loan Writers: Joshua Koske, Kaaron Warren When an embattled social worker with the ability to see how people die discovers her cousin’s suicide was influenced by a seductive and powerful celebrity, she must overcome her own personal tragedies and work with other gifted individuals to put a stop to his reign of terror before they become the next in a long line of willing victims.

Two of the other announced projects are also of genre interest:

PARANORMAL BLACKTIVITY Writers: Benny Eggmolesse, Jacob Keed, Nakyua Gorrie, Romina Accurso Producers: Benny Eggmolesse, Joe Weatherstone, Catherine Nabauer and Scott Wilson Development Loan, TV Series (horror) Rival siblings must team up to investigate bloody murders, strange disappearances and super weird stuff they suspect are caused by ancient Aboriginal monsters, woken by an imbalance in the natural world.

GIRL ON THE MOON – Television Series Fiction – Development loan Writers: Georgina Jenkins, Sue McPherson In 2069, Aboriginal Australian girl Luna (17), the only child ever born on the Moon, dreams of travelling to Earth to connect with her unknown father and her culture. But she knows her weak Moonling body would never survive. Luna is about to discover she is more powerful than any Earthling.

(5) CAREER WISDOM. “Questions for: David Burnett” – the former Gollancz publisher — at BookBrunch [PDF file.]

Who has been the most influential person in your career?

There have been a few, including Paul Elek [of Paul Elek Publishers]. He taught me to go out there and find authors and projects and pictures when you have small resources (in his case, it was a crushing bank overdraft). Liz Calder was the greatest. Victor Gollancz was a publishing genius and one man tornado. He could dine on sardines if the going got difficult, otherwise it was the Savoy Grill.

(6) PANIC IN THE YEAR TWO-OH-TWO-ZERO. I usually don’t get my cancel culture news from Mad Genius Club, but here is Amanda S. Green with two scoops concerning The Mandalorian: “A Swab, A Huh? And A You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me”.

…But I do think we will see more pressure from the Left to try to delist our work if it doesn’t meet the cause du jour. We’ve already seen how Target overreacted to a single tweet about a book and removed it from its shelves last week. It’s apologized and, iirc, returned the book. But this knee-jerk reaction to the woke crowd is more than a little disturbing.

The idiocy seems to grow with each week that passes. Just this month, Baby Yoda was “cancelled” by the woke crowd because he dared eat the eggs of a sentient being. How dare this “Child” do that! Bad Baby Yoda.

But that’s not the only scene from The Mandalorian to catch the eye of the woke crowd this month. In a more recent episode, cries of outrage were heard through the interwebz because of a character’s armor. 

Boobz armor is bad according to Anita Sarkeesian.

Why do I think she’d have been outraged if the lady Mando armor was exactly the same as Mando’s was? After all, then they could be accused of trying to erase the female form. 

But, but, but it’s not “real”, as one commenter points out. No shit, Sherlock. It’s a fucking show. It’s fiction. Not that the Sarkeesians of the world care as long as they can show their woke card.

And, yes, they will come for those writers they feel aren’t giving out the right message–especially those more successful than they are. And that presents a danger to all of us. Will the venues we’ve been using to sell our books remain open to us in their current forms or will we have to start tailoring our books to their demands?

(7) VICTORY AT SEA. Harry Turtledove, dubbed “The Master of Alternate History”by Publishers Weekly, has written a number of classics in the subgenre, including How Few Remain, The Guns of the South and The Man with the Iron Heart. His new novel Salamis was released November 11.

Salamis is the fifth (standalone) novel in Harry Turtledove’s critically acclaimed Hellenic Traders universe, detailing the adventures of two cousins, Menedemos and Sostratos, who work as seaborne traders following the death of Alexander the Great. This time the stage is one of the greatest sea battles ever fought in ancient times; the Battle of Salamis of 306 BC.

The small, free, and independent polis of Rhodes is trying to stay neutral between the local great powers, each ruled by one of Alexander the Great’s marshals: Asia Minor, controlled by one-eyed Antigonos, and Egypt, under the rule of Ptolemaios.

As tensions between the great powers escalate, Menedemos and Sostratos are trying to resolve their own problems, oblivious to the fact that one of the greatest navel fleets in ancient history is about to set sail. Ptolemaios, needing shipping to carry weapons for the army he intends to land, coerces Menedemos into bringing their ship, the Aphrodite, along as part of his expeditionary force. And so, very much against their will, Menedemos and Sostratos become small parts of one of the ancient world’s most significant naval battles.

Turtledove uses his study of history (with a Ph.D in Byzantine history) to create alternate worlds in intricate detail, crafting enthralling adventures that have garnered him high critical praise as well as making him one of the most successful bestselling authors in alternate history.

(8) YOUNG AUTHORS’ CLUB. SFFAudio tweeted a graphic of this story by 13-year-old Philip K. Dick published in a Berkeley paper in 1942.

(9) ZACK’S CUT. HBO Max dropped a trailer for what is now called Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 17, 1915 – Raymond F. Jones.  Sixteen novels, six dozen shorter stories.  Son of the Stars was I think the first science fiction I read, at about age 8.  Also I like “The Person from Porlock” – which Groff Conklin, one of our finest anthologists, put in his Treasury, one of our finest anthologies.  RFJ entitled a story “I Tell You Three Times” a year before Heinlein put that Hunting of the Snark allusion in The Rolling Stones.  When I agree with Clute and Nicholls it’s a frabjous day – oops, wrong Carroll poem: RFJ wrote “solid, well-crafted … adventures … in a … transparent style…. one of the carriers of the voice of SF.”  (Died 1994) [JH]
  • Born November 17, 1925 Rock Hudson. Best known genre role was as Col. John Wilder in The Martian Chronicles series off the Ray Bradbury work. He also played President Thomas McKenna in the World War III miniseries which you may or may not consider SF. That’s it. He was by the way yet another of the uncredited guest performers on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. (Died 1985.)  (CE) 
  • Born November 17, 1936 – John Trimble, 84.  He and wife Bjo (the software won’t show the caret over her j, an Esperantism indicating the pronunciation “bee-joe”), two of our great fans, are also omnifans: fanwriting, fanart, clubs, costuming, conventions, Star Trek, our neighbor the Society for Creative Anachronism.  I’ve been Master of Ceremonies for our onstage costume competition the Masquerade, a wondrous and sometimes terrifying task; JT was MC for possibly the greatest, certainly the longest, at L.A.con II the 42nd Worldcon: over a hundred entries: you couldn’t leave, the next one would be even better: two-thirds through, when a voice cried “How many more, John??” he answered I won’t tell you.  I can’t quite remember this panel, but it was fun.  JT chaired Westercon 23 and an Equicon; he & Bjo were Guests of Honor at Westercons 66 & 70, at the 13th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas; in the photo, JT & BT with daughter Kat), at ConJosé the 60th Worldcon.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born November 17, 1952 Robin McKinley, 68. Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast was her first book. It was considered a superb work and was named an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Rose Daughter is another version  of that folktale, whereas Spindle’s End is the story of Sleeping Beauty, and Deerskin and two of the stories that you can find in The Door in the Hedge are based on other folktales. She does a superb telling of the Robin Hood legend in The Outlaws of Sherwood. Among her novels that are not based on folktales are SunshineChalice and Dragonhaven.  Her 1984 The Hero and the Crown won the Newbery Medal as that year’s best new American children’s book. She was married to Peter Dickinson from 1991 to his death in 2015, they lived together in Hampshire, England where she still lives. They co-wrote two splendid collections, Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits and Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits. I’d be very remiss not to note her Awards, to wit a Newbery Honor for The Blue Sword, then a Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown, a World Fantasy Award for Anthology/Collection for Imaginary Lands, as editor, a Phoenix Award Honor Book for Beauty and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for Sunshine. Impressive indeed! (CE) 
  • Born November 17, 1954 –Kevin E. Johnson, 66.  A hundred forty covers, a few interiors; one short story.  Here is Gods of Riverworld.  Here is Firebird.  Here is The Toynbee Convector.  Here is Throne of Fools.  Here is Ciara’s Song.  Artist Guest of Honor at RustyCon 2, Valleycon 11.  [JH]
  • Born November 17, 1956 – Rebecca Moesta, 64.  Half a dozen novels, three shorter stories; thirty more novels, half a dozen more shorter stories, two pop-up books, with husband Kevin Anderson.  Interviewed together in SF Chronicle 224, Shimmer 4.  The only continent they have not visited together – yet – is Antarctica.  Devout gadgetologist.  [JH]
  • Born November 17, 1965 Sophie Marceau, 54. Elektra King, the villain opposing our hero In The World Is Not Enough, the 19th Bond Film. Also Eloïse d’Artagnan in Revenge of the Musketeers, Hippolyta in that version of A Midsummer Night’s DreamandLisa / Belphegor in Belphegor, Phantom of the Louvre. She’s also one of the voice actors in Nature is Speaking, a Gaian series. (CE) 
  • Born November 17, 1966 Ed Brubaker, 54. Comic book writer and artist. Sandman Presents: Dead Boy Detectives I’d consider his first genre work. Later work for DC and Marvel included The AuthorityBatmanCaptain AmericaDaredevil, Catwoman and the Uncanny X-Men. If I may single out but one series, it’d be the one he did with writer Greg Rucka which was the Gotham Central series which has been rumored to in developed as a tv series. It’s Gotham largely without Batman but with the villains so GPD has to deal with them by themselves. Grim and well done. He’s a member of the writing staff for the Westworld series where he co-wrote the episode “Dissonance Theory” with Jonathan Nolan. (CE)
  • Born November 17, 1976 – Shawna Yang Ryan, 44.  Four novels for us, one other.  Fulbright scholar.  Ass’n for Asian American Studies Best Book Award in Creative Writing, Elliot Cades Emerging Writer Award, American Book Award.  [JH]
  • Born November 17, 1978 Tom Ellis, 42. Currently playing Lucifer Morningstar in the rather excellent Lucifer series created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg from The Sandman series. It’s quite good. Also had roles in Doctor Who as Tom Milligan in the Ten Doctor story, “Last of the Time Lords”, Once Upon a TimeMessiahThe Strain and Merlin. (CE) 
  • Born November 17, 1983 Christopher Paolini, 37. He is the author of the most excellent Inheritance Cycle, which consists of the books EragonEldestBrisingr, and Inheritance. Several years ago, The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm, the first book in a series called Tales of Alagaësia, was published. A film version of the first novel came out sometime ago but I’ve not seen it. And his first SF novel, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, was just published. (CE)
  • Born November 17, 1993 – Andrew Melvin, 27.  Sixteen short stories so far; they are all horrid – I mean, literally – and so collected in Horror Tales; see this cover.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro is there to witness Dracula’s day in court.

(12) URBAN SPACEMAN. Sprudge invites you to “Meet Covidisor, A Practical COVID Helmet That Lets You Drink Coffee”.

…But what the Covidisor has that puts it head and shoulders above the Air is a special swivel-mounted port on the front of the face shield that allows the wearer to consume any beverages via a straw. No longer will you have to make your face available to the outside world in order to enjoy that extra hot no foam latte. At last we can be safe, and caffeinated.

Available in eight different color options for the hard hat, the Covidisor retails for $275. And if you’re not sold on it yet, this snazzy music video by Vedra might change your mind. They’re walking all over a plague-ridden NYC, singing and wearing the Covidisor and just having the time of their life as though everything is fine. Everything is going to be fine…with Covidisor.

(13) SUPERMAN DOCUMENTARY MINI-REVIEW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Amazing Story of Superman on YouTube is a 2006 documentary, directed by Kevin Burns and narrated by Kevin Spacey, about Superman from Siegel and Shuster’s creation through Superman Returns.  It wouldn’t surprise me if this was originally a bonus feature for the Superman Returns DVD, because there’s too much of a hard sell for both that movie and “Smallville” which makes both productions out to be imaginative masterpieces, even though Superman Returns is average and “Smallville” got pretty soapy pretty quickly.  But there’s lots of interesting Superman stuff in it, such as the photos of Superman from the 1939 World’s Fair, ads for Superman Bread from the 1940s, and commercials from around 2004 with Jerry Seinfeld and an animated Superman.  The most interesting discovery is that after George Reeves killed himself in 1959, the people behind the Superman TV show did a pilot for The Adventures of Super Pup with characters in animal suits.  This of course went nowhere.  I still think it’s worth watching provided you know you’re getting a hard sell for about a third of the film.

Forrest J. Ackerman is in it briefly explaining what fanzines are and how Siegel and Shuster got their start in sf fandom.

(14) SPACEX ISS MISSION SUCCESSFUL. “SpaceX capsule with 4 astronauts reaches space station”WDRB has the story.

SpaceX’s newly launched capsule with four astronauts arrived Monday at the International Space Station, their new home until spring.

The Dragon capsule pulled up and docked late Monday night, following a 27-hour, completely automated flight from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The linkup occurred 262 miles (422 kilometers) above Idaho.

“Oh, what a good voice to hear,” space station astronaut Kate Rubins called out when the Dragon’s commander, Mike Hopkins, first made radio contact….

(15) WHERE NO GREEN TOY HAS GONE BEFORE. “‘Star Wars’ Fans Notice An Adorable Addition To The New Space Station Crew”Yahoo! News has details.

…Eagle-eyed “Star Wars” fans spotted an adorable addition to the crew that launched into space on Sunday: The Child, better known as Baby Yoda.

The four astronauts onboard used a plush toy of the beloved character from the Disney+ series “The Mandalorian” to determine whether they had reached zero gravity:

(16) PREDICTING THE PRESENT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Songbird takes place in week 215 of the national lockdown, where people quarantined under Covid-23 have to be placed in camps.  Good times!  Produced by Michael Bay.

(17) ACQUISITION. Publishers Lunch reports:

Richard Kadrey and Cassandra Khaw’s THE DEAD TAKE THE A TRAIN, about a freelance psychic operative tracking an ever-morphing supernatural serial killer in New York City, to Diana Gill at Nightfire, with Kelly Lonesome editing, in a two-book deal, for publication in summer 2022, by Ginger Clark at Curtis Brown for Kadrey, and by Michael Curry at Donald Maass Literary Agency for Khaw.

(18) ITTY BITTY TEENY WEENY BACTERIAL SPACE MINERS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The New York Times reports “These Microbes May Help Future Martians and Moon People Mine Metals”. (May be paywalled.)

An experiment aboard the space station showed that bacteria were effective at extracting rare earth elements from rocks.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: Toy Story 4” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say the fourth Toy Story movie has Keanu Reeves in it because we all love Keanu Reeves and has “many beloved character actors getting paid only to say ‘Woody’ or ‘Buzz.'”

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

Hankera-Pankera: A Not-Quite-A-Review Of Heinlein’s Pursuit Of The

By Daniel Dern: I’m not sure this is, for the most part, so much a “review” of Robert Heinlein’s The Pursuit of the Pankera: A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes as opposed to a bunch of statements about it. Your space-time mileage may vary. Although since one goal is to help you decide whether or not you want to read the book, I guess that makes it a review.

(If you want a review that actually talks about the contents, here’s Sourdough Jackson’s scroll from back in May 2020.)

I grew up on the Heinlein juveniles, notably Have Space Suit, Will Travel, Citizen Of The Galaxy, The Star Beast and The Rolling Stones, and have read (or done my best to read) all Heinlein, including the essays, the alternate versions (more on this below), and including The Number Of The Beast. Some Heinlein, I still re-read; other, not so much.

The Pursuit Of The Pankera is, according to the brief (half-page) Publisher’s note from Shahid Mahmud, Heinlein’s original, hitherto-unpublished novel whose first third he forked into his The Number Of The Beast. According to Mahmud’s note, “…[this] new book is one hundred percent Heinlein. Other than regular editorial work was asked to provide ‘fillers.'”

(Unlike, say, Variable Star, which Spider Robinson wrote based on Heinlein’s outline and notes.)

Number, according to Alan Brown’s “Long-Lost Treasure” article on Tor.com, “first appeared in portions serialized in OMNI magazine in 1978 under the editorial direction of Ben Bova….The book version of Heinlein’s novel was published in 1980.”

Now, we have the option (I’m not sure if it qualified as an “opportunity”) to read what Heinlein wrote originally.

The forking occurs in both books in Chapter 18, “right after the characters’ specially equipped car, the Gay Deceiver, makes its first jump to a parallel universe,” according to the Publisher’s Note (which appears also, with a slightly different first paragraph, in the new hardcover of Number, according to Amazon’s view.

Pankera is not being promoted as an alternative version of Number, but rather, together they are identified/promoted as “two parallel novels about parallel universes.”

Arguably, that’s geometrically incorrect, the two books don’t parallel so much as fork (although they do semi-unfork a few times).

The “divergence in texts” is flagged by a small marker. In the hardcover of Pankera (via my library), it’s on page 152.

At Boskone 57, there was a free chapter sales promo, which began either at that point, or at the next chapter, which is like half a dozen pages later.

Based on the free chapter sampler of Pankera (I don’t remember whether it started at the demarc, or at the start of the next chapter) that I got at Boskone 57 back in February 2020 (just before Almost Everything Shut Down), I was sufficiently unenthused that I planned to not library-get the book when it became available.

Then, mid-late summer, seeing that the book was now available, and Things Being Different, I added it to my library reserve request list, and, a month or so later, with inter-library loan transit back in action, my place in line came up.

Most of the text and plot of Pankera goes in different directions and routes from Number, although the chapters/sections involving Oz and Charles Dodgson seem largely the same in both (and, not owning a copy of Number to check against, I’m not going to worry about it. It feels like I can recall some minor differences, no big deal). On the other hand, the Lensmen sections are significantly different. (See Sourdough’s review for deets.)

Pankera does NOT go places where Number did; in particular, (SEMI-SPOILER ALERT), it doesn’t go into the LazarusLongiverse. Other than our not getting to see Gay Deceiver and Dora schmooze (to which Lazarus Long apologizes to our protagonists, with something like “I’m sorry, my spaceship is corrupting your spaceship.”), given where Heinlein took this in Number, I consider this not-going-there a Good Thing. If you read Number and haven’t blanked that portion out from your memory, you know what I’m talking about, ’nuff not said.

On the more general subject of Heinlein “lost versions” — longer versions he wrote which he cut down for publication — I have mixed feelings, based on the ones I own/have read (thanks largely to Baen Books). The longer version of Red Planet had a lot of interesting stuff in it, and, IIRC, more depth. The longer version of The Puppet Masters felt weaker, in writing punch. Podkayne — mostly, IIRC, Heinlein’s original ending, and, in my paperback, with sundry essays and other bonus stuff, was interesting and made sense. Stranger In A Strange Land did not feel improved by the restored text throughout. (Did I miss any? That’s all I can recall.) But Pankera is in a different category, or at least is presented as such.

Anyhoo, my summary thoughts, opinions and advice:

  • I found (particularly in rereading) many parts of Number annoying enough to skim/skip, particularly where our four protagonists take turns mindgaming the others, also where a few characters spend way too much time doing what Nero Wolfe (who does not appear in either Number or Pankera) might generously characterize as a stunt. By comparison, in Pankera, nobody got quite on my nerves as much, nor did any of the plot bits.
  • OTOH, Pankera often has more characters deciding and explaining housekeeping/packing type details, beyond what I felt we needed. But easy to skim past.
  • Number does more with the dingus in terms of Gay Deceiver (which I liked) than Pankera.

Beyond that, Sourdough Jackson’s review pretty much hits the mixed bag of goods and bads better than I can. I do agree with their analysis and opinions of the ending, and the overall plot driver.

One nitpick: While I’m not going to go back and re-skim to confirm, it feels like “Pankera” is used primarily as a singular, with “Panki” being the plural, which makes the book title misleading. (Also, it feels like the terms doesn’t occur in the text until about 40-50 pages after what they refer is introduced. If I had an e-version, I’ll text-search to verify. Meanwhile: Tsk.)

Assuming you’re enough of a Heinlein fan to be potentially interested — and have read enough later-Heinlein to know what you may be in for — I neither recommend you read Pankera nor avoid it. I don’t feel it’s annoying enough to warn you away — nor compelling enough to urge you to read it.

I don’t regret having read it; I’m not looking to get my time back. But I’m glad I did it as a library borrow. Back it goes! You’ve been advised!

Like I said, I don’t think this is a review so much as a verbose ACHTUNG! DER LOOKENSPEEPERS sign.

Pixel Scroll 9/21/20 A Sandworm Wearing A Face Mask Walks Into A Bar

(1) TOP TARDIS OWNER DECIDED AT BALLOT BOX. Radio Times counted 50,000 votes and the result was close — “Doctor Who fans vote David Tennant best Doctor, narrowly beating Jodie Whittaker”.

…Both actors took 21 per cent of the overall poll vote with over 10,000 votes apiece, with Tennant squeaking ahead with just 100 extra votes in the final count. At other points, Whittaker had been leading the poll or was just below eventual third place winner Peter Capaldi, Whittaker’s predecessor in the role (playing the Twelfth Doctor from 2013-2017) who claimed 18 per cent in the final count….

You can see a full breakdown of the votes and results below.

  1. David Tennant 10518 / 21%
  2. Jodie Whittaker 10423 / 21%
  3. Peter Capaldi 8897 / 18%
  4. Matt Smith 7637 / 16%
  5. Tom Baker 3977 / 8%
  6. William Hartnell 1983 / 4%
  7. Paul McGann 1427 / 3%
  8. Christopher Eccleston 1144 / 2%
  9. Jon Pertwee 1038 / 2%
  10. Patrick Troughton 915 / 2%
  11. Sylvester McCoy 462 / 1%
  12. Colin Baker 359 / 1%
  13. Peter Davison 351 / 1%

(2) STAR CHOW. Sir Pat Stew and Mark Hamill (as Luke Skywalker) face off in a new commercial for Uber Eats.

(3) A COUPLE OF…WHAT? That’s what they’re trying to figure out. Disney+ dropped a trailer for WandaVision.

Welcome to WandaVision. Coming soon to Disney+. Marvel Studios’ captivating new series “WandaVision” stars Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, and marks the first series from Marvel Studios streaming exclusively on Disney+. The series is a blend of classic television and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in which Wanda Maximoff and Vision—two super-powered beings living idealized suburban lives—begin to suspect that everything is not as it seems.

(4) OUTPOST. Skeptoid Media and The Outpost’s title sponsor, Texas Tech, will host a new virtual popular science and entertainment convention, Outpost 2020, from October 23-25, 2020. Yoon Ha Lee will be one of the GoHs.

With an interdisciplinary focus on entertainment, science, literature and education, Outpost 2020 is what happens when a comic con meets a science fair and sets up shop at the intersection of science literacy and science fiction.  In addition to social events, a screening of Science Friction and two full days of panels, The Outpost will feature a track of podcasts recording live, including Everyday Einsten, Grief Burrito, Monster Talk and more. Guests of honor include planetary scientist Tanya Harrison (Tanya of Mars); Locus winner Yoon Ha Lee (Machineries of Empire); actress Susan Egan (Steven Universe), and award-winning composer Brian Tyler (Avengers: Age of Ultron.)

The virtual format enables attendees to tune in from anywhere in the world and the event will be recorded for those who are unable to attend live via Crowdcast. To maximize accessibility, ticket prices are only $25, and a limited number of free tickets are available at registration.

Asteroid Awards. Outpost 2020 features the inaugural Asteroid Awards, recognizing the impact of entertainers, educators and scientists working to further an informed future by inspiring audiences with innovation and the power of narrative. Each award will come with a cash prize sponsored by Texas Tech or Skeptoid Media, and winners will be announced in an awards ceremony on October 24.

(5) BLEAK DEFINITION. Merriam-Webster’s “Words We’re Watching” today discusses “On ‘Doomsurfing’ and ‘Doomscrolling’”]

What to Know

Doomscrolling and doomsurfing are new terms referring to the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing. Many people are finding themselves reading continuously bad news about COVID-19 without the ability to stop or step back….

(6) DUBLIN DOWNLOAD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the September 18 Financial Times, Sarah Hemming writes about To Be A Machine (Version 1.0), a play at the Dublin Theatre Festival (dublintheatrefestival.ie) being performed until October 10 and adapted from Mark O’Connell’s book about people who want to download their brains into computers.

Now the book is a play.  And not only that–it’s a play that mirrors its subject, inviting you to attend in person by sending in your disembodied self via video.  To Be A Machine (Version 1.0), which opens (live-streamed shortly at Dublin Theatre Festival, features actor Jack Gleeson, playing the bemused O’Connell while around him 110 audience members flicker on multiple iPad screens.

The show was originally going to be more conventional, a piece with disembodied actors and a physical audience that explored the friction between the transhumanist desire to free ourselves from our bodies nd the fct live theatre depends on bodies in a room.  Then the pandemic intervened.  The solution seems curiously apt, playing with the idea of what theatre ‘without the hindrance of the body’ actually means.

(7) COBB OBIT. Ron Cobb, a former draughtsman with the Army Corps in Vietnam who became a famous cartoonist for the LA Free Press and went on to a career in Hollywood, died September 21. “Ron Cobb, Designer of the ‘Alien’ Ship and the ‘Back to the Future’ DeLorean, Dies at 83”.

Ron Cobb, the underground cartoonist turned production designer who influenced the making of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and helped shape the worlds of Conan the BarbarianAlien and Back to the Future, has died. He was 83.

Cobb died Monday — his birthday — of Lewy body dementia in Sydney, his wife of 48 years, Robin Love, reported.

Cobb brought to life several cantina creatures for Star Wars (1977) and came up with weaponry and sets for Conan the Barbarian (1982), the exterior and interior of the Nostromo ship in Alien (1978) and the earth colony complex in Aliens (1986) and the DeLorean time machine in Back to the Future (1985).

His prolific design work also included the breathing tanks and helmets in The Abyss (1989), the Omega Sector logo and the H bombs in True Lies (1990)the interior of the Mothership and the stranded tanker in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and the vehicles of The Last Starfighter (1984)….

Rick Sternbach said, “He was amazing to work with on The Last Starfighter. We know of his incredible skills as an artist, and I learned a great deal from him on that single film, but the thing that impressed me the most was his almost giddy enthusiasm for SF and tech.”

Early in his career, Cobb designed some covers for Forry Ackerman’s Famous Monsters. He even showed up for the first meeting in LASFS’ original clubhouse in 1973.

First meeting at the original LASFS clubhouse in 1973. Photo by Stan Burns. Back row, L to R: Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, Jerry Pournelle, A. E. Van Vogt, Forry Ackerman. Middle row, L to R: Unknown, Harlan Ellison, Larry Niven, Wendayne Ackerman Front row, L to R: Unknown, Bill Mills, Ron Cobb.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • Fourteen years ago, the Worldcon Guest of Honor Speeches as edited by Mike Resnick and Joe Siclari was published by ISFiC Press. It would place second for Best Related Work to James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B Sheldon by Julie Phillips at Nippon 2007.  With an introductory essay by the editors, it collected a number, though not all, of the speeches made by Guests of Honor starting with the one by Frank R. Paul at the first Worldcon up to the one by Christopher Priest at Interaction. Some have been published elsewhere such as Philip José Farmer’s which appeared as “ Reap” first in Richard E. Geis’ Science Fiction Review in November 1968. It had a press run of a thousand copies with a cover by Bob Eggleton who had won a Hugo for Best Professional Artist at L.A. Con III. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 21, 1840 – Thèrése Bentzon.  Essayist, journalist, novelist, translator.  Important in the history of e.g. abolitionism and feminism.  Translated Dickens and Twain.  For us, she tr. (and abridged and rewrote, alas) some of Haggard’s Allan Quatermain in 1888 (and yes, J. Hetzel did it).  (Died 1907) [JH]
  • Born September 21, 1866 – H.G. Wells.  Two dozen novels, a hundred short stories, for us; many others, essays, even this which he illustrated himself.  Hardly kept his opinions out of his fiction; sold his birthright for a pot of message, said Chesterton; but The Time MachineThe War of the WorldsThe Invisible Man, at least, are classic.  (Died 1946) [JH]
  • Born September 21, 1912 – Rod Ruth.  Good at interiors, of which he did nearly two hundred; a few covers, like this for the Dec 41 Amazing.  Here is “Letter to the Editor” (note fictional date 24 Nov 10!) from the Feb 44 Fantastic.  Series, “Romance of the Elements”; here is Hydrogen.  Outside our field, here is a Julian May book; RR also drew The Toodles.  (Died 1987) [JH]
  • Born September 21, 1912 — Chuck JonesLooney Tunes and Merrie Melodies creator (think Bugs Bunny). His work won three Oscars, and the Academy also gave him an honorary one in 1996.  (Died 2002.) (CE)
  • Born September 21, 1935 Henry Gibson. I’m going confess upfront that I remember best him as a cast member of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. On regards his genre work, he showed up on the My Favorite Martian series as Homer P. Gibson, he was in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as an uncredited dancer, in Bewitched twice, once as Napoleon Bonaparte, once as Tim O’ Shanter, he was the voice of Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web, in The Incredible Shrinking Woman as Dr. Eugene Nortz, and even in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the “Profit and Lace” episode to exact in which he was Nilva, a Ferengi. (Died 2009.) (CE) 
  • Born September 21, 1937 – Ron Cobb, 83.  Having worked on Sleeping Beauty he became a political cartoonist for the Los Angeles Free Press and The Mother Earth News.  In our field he did motion picture design work for AlienConan the BarbarianThe Last StarfighterStar Wars; also Rocket Science Games.  Here is his cover for the Jul 59 F&SF.  Here is a ship he designed for Alien.  Artbook, Colorvision.  [JH]
  • Born September 21, 1947 Nick Castle, 73. He co-wrote with director John Carpenter the scripts for Escape from New York and Escape from L.A., but he’s best remembered for directing The Last Starfighter. He was Michael Myers in Halloween, a role he’d later reprise in, errr, Halloween.  His other interesting genre cred is performing the title song of Big Trouble in Little China as The Coup De Villes with Carpenter and Tommy Lee Wallace. (CE) 
  • Born September 21, 1947 Stephen King, 73. I once saw him leaning up against a wall in Bangor outside his favorite breakfast spot nose deep in a paperback novel. I didn’t approach him to see what he was reading so intently. That’s how his native city treats him. Favorite by him? I’m not fond of his novels but I love his novellas and shorter fiction, so Different SeasonsFour Past Midnight and Skeleton Crew are my picks.  (CE)
  • Born September 21, 1950 Bill Murray, 70. Scrooged is my favorite film by him by a long shot followed by the first Ghostbusters film as I remain ambivalent about the second Ghostbusters film. I’m also fond of his voicing of Clive the Badger in Fantastic Mr. Fox. (CE)
  • Born September 21, 1964 – Andy Duncan, 56.  Three dozen short stories; a sestina in Asimov’s; essays, reviews in The Cambridge Companion to SFFoundationLocusNova Express (i.e. the fanzine, not the W. Burroughs book), NY Rev SF; interviewed in Intergalactic Medicine ShowLightspeedStrange Horizons.  One Sturgeon, one Nebula, three World Fantasy Awards.  [JH]
  • Born September 21, 1972 – Laurine Spehner, 48.  A dozen covers, three dozen interiors; a few short stories.  Here is The Year in Québécois SF, 1999 (2004) and here is 1994 (2014); here is Solaris 204 and here is 215 (all in French).  [JH]
  • Born September 21, 1983 – Cassandra Rose Clarke, 37.  A dozen novels, a score of shorter stories; a sestina in Liminality, half a dozen more poems.  John Clute says Star’s End has “ethical complexity that marks the tale off from much space opera”.  CRC ranks, low to high, We Have Always Lived in the CastleDeclarePale Fire.  [JH]
  • Born September 21, 1990 Allison Scagliotti, 30. One of the primary cast of Warehouse 13, a show that I really, really loved. Her first genre role was as Jayna, one of the Wonder Twins, on the Smallville series. And she showed in a crossover episode of Eureka called appropriately “Crossing Over”. Her last gig is as Camille Engelson on Stitchers which to my surprise got good ratings. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SUNDAY SUPPLEMENT. [Item by rcade.] The Sunday installment of the Mutts comic strip brings back a character not seen on the funny pages since the 1950s:

The catchphrase “Nov Schmoz Ka Pop?” identifies the Keebler Elf-looking fellow as the Little Hitchhiker, the creation of Gene Ahern in the Squirrel Cage comic strip that ran from 1936 to 1953. The absurd ride-thumbing character inspired Robert Crumb’s iconic Mr. Natural from the underground comix era.

Mutts creator Patrick McDonnell is a fan of classic strips, sometimes bringing their characters into his own. Before the Little Hitchhiker, there was a 10-strip series in August featuring Popeye, Olive Oil and Sea Hag.

(12) CRAZY-EX NEXT. Rachel Bloom, first introduced to fans by her Hugo-nominated song about Ray Bradbury, has a new project: “Romantic Mystery Drama ‘I’m In Love With The Dancer From My Bat Mitzvah’ in Development at The CW”.

A romantic mystery drama called I’m In Love With The Dancer From My Bat Mitzvah is in development at The CW, according to Deadline. The series comes from CBS Studios.

Ilana Wolpert (High School Musical: The Musical: The Series) will serve as creator, writer, and executive producer. Rachel Bloom (Robot Chicken) will also write and executive producer with Debbie Liebling signed on as an EP (PEN15).

The new series follows a young woman right before her college graduation who gets romantically rejected by her best friend. She soon becomes obsessed with a dancer from her bat mitzvah and convinces her friends to join her down a path of criminal conspiracy. The story is inspired by true events and explores the theme of what we tell ourselves in order to prevent dealing with the reality of a situation.

This is the next project for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend alums Wolpert and Bloom. The CW series ended in 2019.

(13) WITH A CAST OF LEGO. The Star Wars Holiday Special, famous for all the wrong reasons, is getting a second chance: “The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special To Premiere On Disney+”

This November, The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special, — which premieres on Life Day, November 17, 2020 on Disney+, — will reunite Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie, Rose and all your favorite droids, from R2-D2 to BB-8, for a joyous feast on Life Day, the holiday first introduced in 1978’s Star Wars Holiday Special. The new LEGO special is the first to debut on the streaming platform and will continue the rich longtime collaboration between Lucasfilm and the LEGO Group — playful adventures told in an endearingly irreverent way.

Set after the events of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Rey leaves her friends to prepare for Life Day as she embarks on a new adventure with BB-8 to gain a deeper knowledge of the Force. At a mysterious Jedi temple, Rey finds herself hurled into a cross-timeline adventure through beloved moments in Star Wars cinematic history, coming into contact with Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi and other iconic heroes and villains from all nine Skywalker saga films. But will she make it back in time for the Life Day feast and learn the true meaning of holiday spirit?  You’ll have to watch to find out!

(14) CANON, CAN OFF. [Item by Daniel Dern.] This “Walk’n’Cut” can opener from Tanga looks (to me) like Ultron’s nephew, or something.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that the producers of the Hobbit movies turned one normal-sized book into three very long movies by padding the hell out of it and throwing in stuff that’s completely unnecessary.”

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