Pixel Scroll 5/30/21 And Miglauble Of The Seven Seventy Eyes

(1) CASTING KERFUFFLE. Man named Chuck having a busy day swatting flies on Twitter.

(2) FIRST WORLDCON ATTENDEE TURNING 101. Bob Madle will turn 101 on June 2. Curt Phillips, who wrangled Bob’s centenary card shower last year, says that once again, “Birthday cards – even late ones – would be cool.” Mail them to: Bob Madle, 4406 Bestor Drive, Rockville, MD. 20853.

Bob Madle attended the first Worldcon in 1939, and a few years later he named the Hugo Awards.

Bob Madle and Curt Phillips; May 1, 2019.

(3) BUYER BEWARE. In the New York Times “Lionel Shriver Warns Readers Not to Meet Their Favorite Authors”. That puts paid to conventions, doesn’t it!

Have you ever changed your opinion of a book based on information about the author, or anything else?

On principle, I keep books and the characters of their authors separate. So, no, I haven’t changed my opinion of a book because of something I found out about the writer after I read it. However, I’ve warned audiences at events to avoid meeting the authors of their favorite books. The warts-and-all version is almost always a disappointment, and they risk a retroactive taint.

I’ll mention no names, but there was one debut book of fiction a while back that I thought was spectacular. Then I met the author, who was unbearable. I didn’t change my mind about the book (with some determination), but I confess that the subpar chancer behind the Wizard of Oz’s curtain did reduce my eagerness to read any of this author’s subsequent work.

(4) FAN IS ACCLAIMED PORTRAIT PAINTER. Nick Stathopoulos is once again an Archibald Prize finalist for “The white shirt – portrait of Tané Andrews”. Nick is a past Hugo, BSFA Award, and Chesley nominee who’s won Australia’s Ditmar Award 10 times. He also designed the Aussiecon 4 (2010) Hugo base.  

In the Sydney Morning Herald’s coverage of the 2021 Archibald Prize finalists it’s the sixth picture shown. And the subject has tweeted it, too —

(5) MUST COME DOWN. Maria Popova traces an early example of crowdsourced research: “Citizen Science, the Cosmos, and the Meaning of Life: How the Comet That Might One Day Destroy Us Gives Us the Most Transcendent Celestial Spectacle” at Brain Pickings.

…Among the stunned spectators was the esteemed Yale mathematician, astronomer, and “natural philosopher” Denison Olmsted. (He couldn’t yet be called a “scientist” — the word was coined a year later for the polymathic Scottish mathematician Mary Somerville.) Like most of his colleagues, Olmsted had largely ignored meteors as uninteresting minor curiosities, irrelevant to astronomy and better left to meteorology. Now, he was seized with the sense that they might have cosmic origins and might therefore hold clues to the celestial mechanics of the universe. But he knew his personal observations that night hardly constituted data.

The following morning, two years after the polymathic astronomer John Herschel — the era’s most venerated patron saint of science — made his pioneering case for citizen science, Olmsted drafted a letter and sent it to the local newspaper in New Haven, appealing to ordinary people to help him “collect all the facts attending this phenomenon… with as much precision as possible” by reporting anything they could recall about the time, orientation, and speed of the shooting stars they had witnessed. The announcement was quickly reprinted in newspapers across the country and responses began pouring in….

(6) BRAND NAME VIRTUAL CONFERENCE. Writers Digest is enrolling students for the “WDU Annual Science Fiction & Fantasy Virtual Conference” (August 27-29) at $199.99 a pop.

Writer’s Digest University is pleased to present a one-of-a-kind online event for science fiction and fantasy writers! On August 28 and 29, our WDU Annual Science Fiction & Fantasy Virtual Conference will provide expert insights from SIX award-winning and bestselling authors on the finer points of how to write within the science fiction and fantasy genres. Spend the weekend learning techniques for honing your craft from six different published authors*, then (if you choose) pitch your novel via query letter to a literary agent specifically looking for material in these genres. The agent will provide you with a personalized critique of your query – and maybe ask to see more.

Experience the education, camaraderie, and opportunities provided by a live writing conference without ever having to leave your home!

The information about the courses and instructors is a bit scanty at the moment —

  • The Grand Unified Theory of Science and Magic Systems by Jeff Somers
    In this session, Jeff will discuss some evergreen rules and guidelines that apply to the creation of both sci-fi and fantasy worlds.
  • Craft Secrets of the Top 1% of Writers by Michael La Ronn
    In this engaging presentation with lots of visual examples, prolific sci-fi & fantasy author Michael La Ronn will uncover the secret world of unusual but effective writing techniques he’s learned by becoming a student of the top 1% of authors.
  • TBD by Tobias Buckell
  • TBD by Nathan Makaryk
  • TBD by Leslye Penelope

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • May 30, 1952 On this date in 1952, Tales of Tomorrow’s “The Little Black Bag” first aired. An unsuccessful doctor finds some very interesting instruments in a black bag which he has bought from a pawnshop. He and his wife differ over the ethics of using them. The script was written by Mann Rubin from story by Cyril Kornbluth as first published in Astounding Science Fiction, July 1950. (It would win a Retro Hugo for Best Novelette at Millennium Philcon.) It starred Joseph Anthony,  Vicki Cummings, Florence Anglin and John Shellie. You can watch it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz. With a special guest appearance by Alan Baumler!]

  • Born May 30, 1922 — Hal Clement. Much to my surprise, his only Hugo was a Retro Hugo for the short story “Uncommon Sense” at L.A. Con III. My favorite novel by him is Mission of Gravity, and I’m also fond of The Best of Hal Clement which collects much of his wonderful short work. He’s reasonably well stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2003.) (CE)
  • Born May 30, 1927 – Bob Peak.  Illustrator for film, TimeTV GuideSports Illustrated, postage stamps.  NY Artists Guild’s Artist of the Year.  Society of Illustrators’ Hall of Fame, eight Awards of Excellence, four gold medals.  Posters for West Side StoryMy Fair LadyCamelot; for us, RollerballSupermanStar Trek.  See a Camelot-themed cover for The Once and Future King here.  (Died 1992) [JH]
  • Born May 30, 1936 — Keir Dullea, 85. David Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact. I know I saw 2001 several times and loved it but I’ll be damned if I can remember seeing 2010. He’s done a number of other genre films, Brave New WorldSpace Station 76, Valley of the Gods and Fahrenheit 451. And lest we forget he was Devon in Starlost. (CE)
  • Born May 30, 1937 – Ross Chamberlain, age 84.  One of our finest fan artists.  Guest of Honor at Westercon LV.  Illustrated the 1971 (3rd) & 2015 (11th) ed’ns of The Enchanted Duplicator.  Rotsler Award.  Here’s his Website.  [JH]
  • Born May 30, 1948 — Michael Piller. He was a writer and Executive Producer of The Next Generation, and co-creator of Deep Space Nine and  Voyager. He’s likely best known for co-writing “The Best of Both Worlds” and the pilots of DS9 (“Emissary”) and Voyager (“Caretaker”). Post-Trek, he developed a short-lived series based off of Stephen King’s novel The Dead Zone, and he had a deal with WB for a series called Day One, a post-apocalyptic series based on the UK Last Train series. WB reneged on the contract. (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born May 30, 1952 — Mike W. Barr, 69. Writer of comics and sf novels. Created along with Jim Aparo Looker (Emily “Lia” Briggs), a hero in the DC Universe. She first appeared first appeared in Batman & the Outsiders #25. He worked for both major houses though I’d say most of his work was at DC. He wrote the “Paging the Crime Doctor” episode of Batman: The Animated Series. (CE)
  • Born May 30, 1952– Andy Sawyer, age 69.  Fan, librarian, editor.  Managed the Liverpool SF Fdn. Lib’y twenty-five years.  Clareson Award (SF Research Ass’n; service). Fanzines Acnestis (not the apa by that name), Another Earth.  Here is a review of Zinos-Amaro’s conversations with Silverberg Traveler of Worlds.  [JH]
  • Born May 30, 1953 – Nancy Lebovitz, age 68.  Fan, conversationalist (is that redundant?), particularly known for calligraphy and thus slogan-buttons.  “I re-read sometimes because I’m enough of a different person that I notice different things in books than I used to.” Here she is on a panel at Laffcon IV (R.A. Lafferty convention); L to R, Samuel Tomaino, Darrell Schweitzer, Robert Bee, NL.  [JH]
  • Born May 30, 1963 – Helen Sharman, Ph.D., age 58.  Chemist.  First British cosmonaut.  Ten honorary doctorates.  It’s not science fiction, and though she was called the Girl from Mars (she was 24) it was for research at Mars Confectionery.  Memoir, Seize the Moment – with Christopher Priest, is that better?  [JH]
  • Born May 30, 1964 — Mark Sheppard, 57. He’s the son of actor W. Morgan Sheppard. A number of genre roles including lawyer Romo Lampkin on the Battlestar Galactica reboot, truly sleazy crime lord Badger on Firefly,  Tanaka on Dollhouse, Regent Benedict Valda on Warehouse 13, Canton Everett Delaware III on Doctor Who and Willoughby Kipling, member of the Knights Templar, on Doom Patrol. (CE)
  • Born May 30, 1971 — Duncan Jones, 50. Director Films include Moon (2009) which won a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation-Long Form and a BAFTA Award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, and Source Code (2011) which was nominated for both a Hugo and a Ray Bradbury Award. He also directed Warcraft (2016), the highest grossing video game adoption of all time. He is totally not best known for being David Bowie’s son. (AB)
  • Born May 30, 1980 – Narita Ryôgo, age 41.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Author of light novels and manga.  Think not our japonaiserie a one-way street; NR won Gold in the 9th Dengeki Novel Prizes for Baccâno! set in a fictional United States, notably during Prohibition, in manga, light novels, animé, a Ray Bradbury number of episodes i.e. 22, with alchemists, an immortality elixir, and – well, the title is Italian for “ruckus”.  There’s a magician named Szilard, a psychopathic assassin and train conductor, a transcontinental train The Flying Pussyfoot, an immortal named Elmer C. Albatross who masquerades as a demon, and – well –  [JH]

(9) STARSCAPES. “Milky Way photographer of the year 2021 – in pictures” is an awe-inspiring gallery of astronomical photos at The Guardian.

The annual Milky Way photographer of the year competition features the best photos of our galaxy as selected by Capture the Atlas. This year’s images were taken from around the world by 25 photographers of 14 different nationalities. The best time to see and photograph the Milky Way is usually between May and June with maximum hours of visibility on both hemispheres…

The winner, shown in the tweet below, is “Night lovers” by Mohammad Hayati, Hormozgan province, Iran. 

(10) GONE BEFORE YOU KNOW IT. Universal dropped a trailer for Old, the new M. Night Shyamalan movie coming in July.

This summer, visionary filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan unveils a chilling, mysterious new thriller about a family on a tropical holiday who discover that the secluded beach where they are relaxing for a few hours is somehow causing them to age rapidly … reducing their entire lives into a single day.

(11) A SLICE OF TIME. “Polychrome Pulps: 1942” is the painstakingly colorized version of this original photo of a newsrack filled with 1942 pulp magazines from Shorpy – The 100-Year-Old Photo Blog. Submitted by user “tedturner” who explains:

“I used a number of sources within the vintage magazine collecting community online to find color images of all of the covers included. All covers are colored accurately with the exception of ‘Super Sports’ which I could not find. I was able to find a number of other issues of ‘Super Sports’ but not the one featured in the picture. I used those as references in an effort to guess at the colors as accurately as possible.”

(12) HOME IS WHERE YOU HANG YOUR HAT. “’Darth Vader House’ hits the market for $4.3 million”CNN has the story, and the photo.

The dream home for Star Wars fans is now on the market in Texas. But the path to the dark side is not cheap.

Known as “The Darth Vader House,” the 7,000 square-foot home in Houston’s West University Place subdivision has a listing price of $4,300,000. The nickname comes from the exterior’s resemblance to the helmet of the famed Star Wars villain….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is a 1991 A&E documentary, written by and starring Leonard Maltin, about the cartoons of the Fleischer studio, from the early silent films to obscure, but great, late cartoons including “Raggedy Ann and Andy” and “Dancing on The Moon.”  It’s a good overview and Maltin is of course very knowledgeable.  But after the first 20 minutes commercials are included so be prepared to fast-forward several times.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Alan Baumler, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Tom Becker.]

Pixel Scroll 5/4/21 Let Us Now Scroll Famous Pixels

(1) USPS ‘DROID STAMPS ISSUED TODAY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From a post office near you, or via online: Star Wars Droids Stamps.

Use ’em to mail stuff! — or as an affordable, fungible gift to a Star Wars fan.

(2) THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. Fansided’s “Dork Side of the Force” shares a collection of “25 of the most iconic Star Wars movie posters of all time”.

… The movie posters used to promote the movies have sometimes become as iconic as some of the movie moments themselves. These are 25 of the iconic works of art that have become some of the most memorable Star Wars images over the years….

1. The Phantom Menace teaser poster

After a decade and a half without a new Star Wars movie coming to theaters, The Phantom Menace was announced. We would all finally get to experience the first chapter of the saga.

There were rumors as to what we would get to see and more than a few images released of the movie being worked on, but this was the first official image we got advertising the upcoming movie — and really the trilogy as a whole. The image of a 9-year-old Anakin casting a Darth Vader shadow on the wall hit the world with a bang…

(3) BRADBURY STRIKES BACK. This 2019 IndyStar article begins its list of “7 cool items you can see at ‘Fahrenheit 451’ author’s IUPUI center” with a Star Wars relic —

Star Wars ‘Empire Strikes Back’ script

The second movie in the original trilogy is the one Bradbury almost co-wrote. 

In the early 1940s, the writer studied with Leigh Brackett, a pioneer for women and the melodramatic space opera in science fiction. That gave way to a collaboration with “Lorelei of the Red Mist,” a novella about a powerful, siren-like woman who controls the strong, barbarian body that a convict has recently been transplanted in.Brackett went on to become a screenwriter and was a co-writer with Larry Kasdan on the “Empire” script. But she was in failing health, so the producer asked Bradbury whether he was familiar enough with her work to finish it if she couldn’t.

“Ray Bradbury said, ‘Yes, I do. But I want her to have credit,’ ” center director Jon Eller said.As it turned out, Brackett completed her draft before she died in 1978, so Bradbury never had to work on it.

But the script — a fourth revision that doesn’t even contain Darth Vader’s big reveal to Luke because that detail was so secretive — remains part of Bradbury’s collection.

(4) THE LOREMASTER. Craig Miller, author of the superb Star Wars Memories, shared a joke with Facebook readers that got an immediate laugh from George Lucas and Gary Kurtz at the time, and that he needs to explain to the rest of us.  

…And now, the story. This is one that appears in my book, Star Wars Memories (available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Walmart). More, and less obscure, stories throughout Star Wars Season.

Suggesting a Title for Film #3

(Warning: This story has a punch line. But it requires deep knowledge of both Star Wars lore and motion picture history in order to get it. I’ll explain it at the end but it won’t be as funny – maybe not funny at all – if I have to explain it you.)…

(5) LOCATING THE LOCATIONS. And Craig has definitely been to some of the places in “The Real Star Wars Universe” charted by Statista. (Click for larger image.)

(6) BIGGS SAVED FROM THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR. “Star Wars: A New Hope – Deleted Scenes” on YouTube is 8 1/2 minutes of footage cut from Star Wars, including several scenes with Garrick Hagon as Biggs Darklighter that never appeared in the final cut of Star Wars.

(7) BRING ME THE HEAD OF DARTH VADER. “Darth Vader’s helmet raises charity funds in May the 4th auction” reports The Guardian.

In an auction house far, far away (well, Bristol actually), the enduring power of the force was clear.

A Darth Vader helmet sold for £2,200, more than five times the top estimate, and a signed picture of Alec Guinness in his Obi-Wan Kenobi robes was snapped up for £3,100, treble what was anticipated.

Someone, somewhere, paid £9,000 for a prototype lightsaber, the weapon of choice of Jedi knights in the Star Wars saga, which the Earthlings at East Bristol Auctions had judged might bring in £80-£120.

Hundreds of items hoarded and collected by David Prowse, the Bristolian who played Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, were sold off in his home city following his death, aged 85, last year.

Naturally the sale took place on May the 4th

(8) DISSENTING VOICES. Not everybody is attuned to the spirit of the day.

(9) INSIDE AMAZON. Publishers Lunch learned something about how Amazon handles internal controversies:

Controversies
From this article we learned that Amazon has an executive who serves as director of book content risk and qualitySarah Castle. It was her job to assess internal complaints from “dozens of Amazon employees” asking the company to stop selling Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, by journalist Abigail Shrier, arguing that the book violates Amazon’s recently stated policy against selling books “that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.” The Seattle Times reports that Castle told employees on an internal message board, “After examining the content of the book in detail and calibrating with senior leadership, we have confirmed that it does not violate our content policy.”

(10) DOOM IN RETROSPECTIVE. GamesRadar+ does a Q&A with a past writer of a popular comic book: “Doom Patrol, New Gods, Old Gods, and a Fissure King: The Rachel Pollack Interview”.

In 1993, Rachel Pollack took over DC/Vertigo’s Doom Patrol following Grant Morrison’s star-making turn on the book. Her run lasted 25 issues, but has never been collected – but has begun making its way to DC digital platforms recently.

Among the memorable stories is the initial ‘Sliding In the Wreckage’ arc, as well as the introduction of Kate Godwin (Coagula) – the first trans superhero for DC or Marvel comic books. Over the course of her run, Pollack touched on concepts of family, fitting in, and making a path for yourself in a world that didn’t have a set path for you.

Newsarama spoke to Pollack earlier this month about her Doom Patrol run, her prose work such as the new novella collection The Fissure King, and her poised return to comic books.

Newsarama: Rachel, what are you working on today?

Rachel Pollack: I’m actually typing up a second draft of a story called ‘Visible Cities.’ I always write everything longhand with fountain pen and then type it up, and that’s my second draft. I’m doing that at the moment. And then I’m preparing for a trip to Scotland.

(11) MOORE ACQUISITIONS. “’I’m bursting with fiction’: Alan Moore announces five-volume fantasy epic” in The Guardian.

Two years after announcing that he had retired from comics, Alan Moore, the illustrious author of Watchmen and V for Vendetta, has signed a six-figure deal for a “groundbreaking” five-volume fantasy series as well as a “momentous” collection of short stories.

Bloomsbury, home to the Harry Potter novels, acquired what it described as two “major” projects from the 67-year-old. The first, Illuminations, is a short story collection which will be published in autumn 2022 and which moves from the four horsemen of the apocalypse to the “Boltzmann brains” fashioning the universe. Bloomsbury said it was “dazzlingly original and brimming with energy”, promising a series of “beguiling and elegantly crafted tales that reveal the full power of imagination and magic”.

The second acquisition is a fantasy quintet titled Long London, which will launch in 2024. The series will move from the “shell-shocked and unravelled” London of 1949 to “a version of London just beyond our knowledge”, encompassing murder, magic and madness. Bloomsbury said it “promises to be epic and unforgettable, a tour-de-force of magic and history”….

(12) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

May 4, 1962 The Twilight Zone‘s “The Dummy”.

You’re watching a ventriloquist named Jerry Etherson, a voice-thrower par excellence. His alter ego, sitting atop his lap, is a brash stick of kindling with the sobriquet ‘Willie.’ In a moment, Mr. Etherson and his knotty-pine partner will be booked in one of the out-of-the-way bistros, that small, dark, intimate place known as the Twilight Zone.

On this day in 1962, The Twilight Zone aired “The Dummy”. It was written by: Rod Serling from an unpublished story by Lee Polk. It was directed by Abner Biberman and produced by Buck Houghton. It starred Cliff Robertson, Frank Sutton and  George Murdock.  An average ventriloquist finds he has a not-so-average and quite horrifying dummy. The plot here would later influence many other series including Batman: The Animated Series with its own terrifying animated apparent dummy. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 4, 1893 – Alfred Pollard.  Four novels for us; outside our field, crime and war stories, fiction and non, threescore books all told.  Served in World War I, earned the Victoria Cross.  (Died 1960) [JH]
  • Born May 4, 1909 Ray Quigley. Here solely for the three covers that he did for Weird Tales in the Forties. He didn’t do a lot of pulp work that I can find but these three are amazing. He did the December 1938 cover with the Dracula-like figure, the September 1940 cover with the nightmarish skull-faced Bombers and finally the May 1942 cover with the really scary living ship. The latter issue had Henry Kuttner, Robert Bloch and Dorothy Quick listed on the cover! (Died 1998.) (CE)
  • Born May 4, 1913 John Broome. DC writer during the Golden Age. He’s responsible for the creation of an amazing number of characters including The Phantom Stranger, Per Degaton (with artist Irwin Hansen), Captain Comet and Elongated Man (with Carmine Infantino), Atomic Knight and one of my favorite characters, Detective Chimp. The DC UNIVERSE streaming app has his work on The Flash starting on issue #133 and the entire early Fifities run of Mystery in Space that he wrote as well. (Died 1999.) (CE) 
  • Born May 4, 1920 Phyllis Miller. She co-wrote several children’s books with Andre Norton, House of Shadows and Seven Spells to SundayRide the Green Dragon, a mystery, is at best genre adjacent but it too was done with Norton. (Died 2001.) (CE) 
  • Born May 4, 1940 – Bob Layzell, age 80.  Threescore covers, a score of interiors.  Here is Farthest Star.  Here is Drunkard’s Walk.  Here is Dangerous Frontiers.  Here is A Trace of Memory.  Here is The Grey Prince.  [JH]
  • Born May 4 (year unknown) – Ernie Wheatley.  Known as the Dormouse of the LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.) for falling asleep with his head on his arms at table during restaurant after-meetings, raising it to speak aptly, sleeping again.  Once after we had adopted “Death will not release you” and someone uttered it on some such occasion EW piped up “Even if you die!” which was promptly added.  In 1960 while Westerns were big, also home-made films, and fanfiction meant fiction about fans, Lee Jacobs wrote “The Musquite Kid Rides Again” for SAPS about a transparently-disguised Wrai Ballard; it was filmed; here is EW as “Killer Kemp” i.e. Earl Kemp who by then had won a Hugo for Who Killed SF?  [JH]
  • Born May 4, 1943 Erwin Strauss, 78. I’m not sure I can do him justice. Uberfan, noted member of the MITSFS, and filk musician. He frequently is known by the nickname “Filthy Pierre” which I’m sure is a story in itself that one of you will no doubt tell me. Created the Voodoo message board system used at a number of early Cons and published an APA, The Connection, that ran for at least thirty years. Do tell me about him. (CE)
  • Born May 4, 1956 Murray McArthur, 65. He first shows on Doctor Who in “The Girl Who Died”, a Twelfth Doctor story before being The Broken Man on The Game of Thrones. He also shows up as a stagehand in the historical drama Finding Neverland before playing Snug in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (CE) 
  • Born May 4, 1957 – Nancy Canepa, Ph.D., age 64.  Here is Teaching Fairy Tales she edited.  Professor at Dartmouth.  “My teaching and research centers on early modern Italy (1550-1700).  I’m particularly fascinated by the development of new literary forms and languages during this period, in genres that range from the fairy tale to the mock epic to the travelogue.”  [JH]
  • Born May 4, 1960 – Kate Saunders, age 61.  A dozen novels, a couple of shorter stories for us; two dozen books all told, some for adults, some for children.  Newspapers, magazines, radio, television.  Trask Award.  Costa Children’s Book Award.  [JH]
  • Born May 4, 1974 James Bacon, 47. He’s a 14-time Hugo nominee, as a fan writer and as co-editor of The Drink Tank and Journey Planet, and a two-time winner — one Hugo with each fanzine. James was the 2004 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate: download his trip report at the unofficial TAFF website, WorldConNomicon. In addition to working on Irish convention Octocon, he ran his own conventions: Aliens Stole My Handbag, Damn Fine Convention, and They Came and Shaved Us. Ultimately he chaired the Dublin 2019 Worldcon. He ran Sproutlore—the Robert Rankin Fan Club. With fellow fans he established The James White Award, an annual short-story competition. And he often contributes to File 770! (OGH)
  • Born May 4, 1977 Gail Carriger, 44. Ahhhh such lovely mannerpunk she writes! I think I first noticed her with the start of the Finishing School series which she started off with Etiquette & Espionage some six years ago. Moirai Cook does a delightful job of the audiobooks so I recommend that you check them out. I also love the two novellas in her Supernatural Society series as well. (CE) 
  • Born May 4, 1978 – Shaenon Garrity, age 43.  A score of short stories.  Known for Webcomics Narbonic and Skin Horse.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  Web Cartoonists’ Choice Award for Outstanding Writing.  Lulu of the Year Award.  Summa cum laude from Vassar.  Website.  [JH]

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) BLADE STUNNER. “Star Wars Day: Disney Parks shares footage of a real-world lightsaber” – as SYFY Wire explains.

When guests head to Orlando’s Walt Disney World next year for the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser (an immersive, two-night experience housed at Galaxy’s Edge), they’ll probably catch sight of an actual lightsaber. That’s right, the Disney Parks Imagineering Research and Development team have built an honest to goodness retractable Jedi blade inspired by the iconic franchise.

To celebrate May the 4th (aka Star Wars Day), the Mouse House’s theme park division revealed a short video of the potentially patented lightsaber (it works kinda like a high-tech, dual measuring tape) — wielded by a cast member dressed as Rey — in action, and it’s beyond cool.

(16) A SHARPER IMAGE. Jeff Foust reviews the Folio Society Edition of Andrew Chaikin’s famous history of the Apollo missions for The Space Review: “Review: A Man on the Moon”.

…To be clear, the text of the book is unchanged from earlier editions: this is not a revised or expanded version. The only new words in this version is a brief preface by Chaikin, which he uses to explain the other major change of the book: the inclusion of nearly 200 color and black-and-white photos that he curated for the book. As high-quality digital versions of the photos became available in the years after he first wrote the book, he explains, “I was amazed at the details I could now see; I felt they had opened a new portal I could step through to witness what the astronauts had seen and done.”

This is not the first illustrated edition of the book, but this version strikes a better balance between the photos and text than that earlier three volume set, where the images at times drowned out the text. Here the images are better ties to the text, and include a mix of obvious famous pictures as well as less-famous ones from the missions or training for them. The book includes fold-out color plates, such as one that combines several views of the Earth taken by the Apollo 8 mission on its way to the Moon; it illustrates the spacecraft’s journey by showing our home planet get ever smaller.

The real value of A Man on the Moon, though, remains Chaikin’s account of the missions, enabled by his interviews with the Apollo astronauts. At the time he started the book, all but one of the 24 men who went to the Moon on nine Apollo missions were still alive (Apollo 13’s Jack Swigert died of cancer in 1982.) Enough times had passed for the astronauts to reflect on their journeys, but not so long that we would lose the chance to have them recount their experiences….

(17) RHUBARB PIE. Doris V. Sutherland received a virtual ovation for the new lyrics to “American Pie” posted as a comment on Camestros Felapton’s post “About three months to the Dragon Award 2021 finalists”. The first stanzas are —

A long, long time ago,
The Hugo Awards came along to honour sci-fi at its height
And I knew when I’d had a look
That each winner had been a classic book
Except perhaps for They’d Rather be Right

Then Puppies made some voting slates
The ’15 Hugos weren’t so great
The big winner was No Award
In science fiction’s culture war…

(18) KISS YOUR ASS GOODBYE. IFL Science has – simulated – bad news: “Large Chunk Of Europe “Annihilated” In NASA’s Latest Asteroid Impact Simulation Exercise”.

Every two years, international governmental and space agencies take part in a tabletop scenario as part of the Planetary Defense Conference. In this exercise, a space rock is discovered to be heading toward Earth and members of different agencies have to work out what are the best things to do to try and avoid catastrophe.

… The second day also sees a detailed look at what missions could be sent to deflect such an asteroid. And it’s not good news. The asteroid is too close and too fast (and possibly too big) for a course correction. So you ought to hit it hard. Either a nuclear weapon, among the biggest, ever assembled during the Cold War, or shooting like dozens of rockets at it. With the risk that it would fragment and still crash into Earth.

“If confronted with the 2021 PDC hypothetical scenario in real life we would not be able to launch any spacecraft on such short notice with current capabilities,” members of the group stated….

(19) CTHULHU FHTAGN. When a “Japanese Town Uses Relief Money To Erect Giant Squid Statue”, Cracked is there to haul in a net-full of puns.

…So folks, whether you hate the giant squid statue or find it ink-redible, what’s fin-ished is fin-ished. 

(20) FLY CASTING. In “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say the series “comes from the military espionage side of the MCU, where the morals are as grey as the visuals” and that the cameo appearance of Julia Louis-Dreyfus leads them to speculate about when the rest of the Seinfeld cast will show up in the MCU. No spoiler warning – but who knows?

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The World Begins With You” on YouTube, Fandom Games says the game is set in “nightmare Tokyo a place where you have to worry about how good you will look when you’re dead” and is so busy that the game “will have you tapping at your screen like a crazed woodpecker.”

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

Pixel Scroll 4/20/21 Because A Pixel Softly Filing, Left More Books As I Was Whiling

(1) A LITTLE SMACK, BUT WHERE? Andrew Hoe advises about “Spec-Fic-Fu: How to Make Aliens and Robots Fight Better” at the SFWA Blog.

…The prevalence of human-to-humanlike alien combat in sci-fi has even been lampooned in Star Trek: Lower Decks, where First Officer Jack Ransom needs only his barrel roll and double-handed swinging-fist to throw down–good-natured pokes at the limited repertoire Captain Kirk demonstrates when fighting an anthropomorphic Gorn (TOS, “Arena”) Yet people in the speculative fiction galaxy aren’t cookie-cutter humanoid, and their fighting styles shouldn’t be either.

Enter: Spec-Fic-Fu—the art of using martial philosophy to create enhanced sci-fi battles.  

 Primary Targets

First, consider an attacker’s primary targets. What must be protected? What should be attacked? Do your alien characters have the equivalent of Kung Fu paralysis points? Is your robot’s CPU located in its abdomen, making that a primary area to attack?…

(2) WHY AREN’T THERE MORE NOVELLAS? Lincoln Michel’s previous three posts in this series are quite interesting. The latest one is, too, but has definite flaws and oversights. “Novels and Novellas and Tomes, Oh My!” at Counter Craft. (You probably know Connie Willis wrote the 2011 award winner named in the excerpt.)

…So why are most novels published in a relatively narrow range of 60k to 120k words?

Or to put it another way: why doesn’t anyone publish novellas in America? Novellas as a form thrive in many parts of the world. They’re very popular in Latin America and Korea, and hardly uncommon in Europe. Yet it’s almost impossible to find a book labeled “a novella” in America outside of small press translations or classics imprints….

…Three quick notes on this chart. In 2012, the Pulitzer board refused to pick a winner from the finalists (justice for Train Dreams!). In 2019, the Booker co-awarded Bernardine Evaristo and Margaret Atwood so I averaged their page lengths. The 2011 Nebula and Hugo winner was Blackout / All Clear by Jo Walton, a single novel published as two books of 491 and 656 pages individually. Since the two were awarded as one book, I’ve combined the page count.

To be honest, I expected the page counts to be a bit more bloated than they are. Although the average (mean) for each award was in the tome territory of low 400s for the lit awards and high 400s for the SFF awards, excepting the NBA which came in at a longish-but-not-a-tome average of 321 pages.

The chart does add a data point to the anecdotal evidence that SFF books tend to be longer than literary fiction ones. Although the average (mean) lengths weren’t that different, there is far more variation of length in the lit awards including many shorter books below 300 pages.  Between the Hugo and Nebula, only one book—Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation—is under 300 pages versus seven from the three lit world prizes. The median lit award novel was 336 pages vs. 432 pages for the SFF awards….

(3) HURLEY COLLECTION COMING NEXT YEAR. Apex Publications announced the acquisition of Future Artifacts: Stories by Kameron Hurley, the award-winning author and trained historian specializing in the future of war and resistance movements. Her books include The Light BrigadeThe Stars are Legion, and The God’s War Trilogy, among others.

Future Artifacts is Kameron Hurley’s second short fiction collection and is comprised of 18 stories, many of which were previously only available through her Patreon. These stories include:

“Sky Boys”
“Overdark”
“The Judgement of Gods and Monsters”
“The One We Feed”
“Broker of Souls”
“Corpse Soldier”
“Leviathan”
“Unblooded”
“The Skulls of Our Fathers”
“Body Politic”
“We Burn”
“Antibodies”
“The Traitor Lords”
“Wonder Maul Doll”
“Our Prisoners, the Stars”
“The Body Remembers”
“Moontide”
“Citizens of Elsewhen”

Future Artifacts: Stories is slated to be released in the first quarter of 2022.

(4) BALTIC RESIDENCY. The BALTIC, an art gallery in North East England, released its “BALTIC Writer/Curator Residency Announcement 2021” yesterday.  

We’re pleased to announce that Alice Bucknell will participate in BALTIC’s Writer/curator Residency in Alnmouth, Northumberland in collaboration with Shoreside Huts.

Alice Bucknell’s interdisciplinary practice spans writing, video, and 3D design to develop ecological world-building strategies. Drawing on the work of feminist science fiction authors including Octavia E. Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin, she is interested in the potential of emerging technologies including artificial intelligence and game engines in building alternative more-than-human futures.

Bucknell is currently a staff writer at Elephant Magazine and the Harvard Design Magazine, and her writing is published in titles including Flash ArtfriezeMoussePIN-UP, and The Architectural Review. During the BALTIC Writer/curator Residency, she will be laying the groundwork for ‘New Mystics’, a hybrid curatorial-editorial project that draws together the expanded practices of twelve artists fusing properties of mysticism and magic with advanced technology. The project will continue to be developed at Rupert in Lithuania in May and launched in summer 2021.

(5) HE LOOKED INSIDE. Rich Horton makes “A Delightful Discovery Inside an Old Book” at Black Gate. Let’s not spoil the surprise, but here’s a tiny clue:

…I have an ongoing interest in Twayne Triplets*, even though only two were ever published, so I grabbed my used copy of Witches Three eagerly many years ago. But while I’ve leafed through it before, I haven’t read it, partly because I already had copies of the other stories….

(6) Q&A ABOUT EARLY STAR TREK FANDOM. Fanac.org’s Edie Stern outlines what was discussed in April 17’s interview with two founders of Star Trek fandom. See the hour-plus video on their YouTube channel.

In this Fan History Zoom (April 2021), fan historian Joe Siclari interviews Ruth Berman and Devra Langsam about early Star Trek fandom. Ruth and Devra speak candidly about their introductions to fandom, the origins of their seminal fanzines T-Negative, Spockanalia and Inside Star Trek, and how the first Star Trek convention came to be. Hear the first hand stories of the reactions of science fiction fandom to Star Trek, before, during and after the run of the original series. How did fan fiction become so prominent in Trek fandom? Where did slash fiction come from? How did clips from the show make their way into the community? With contributions by Linda Deneroff, and others, along with an excellent Q&A session, this recording provides an entertaining and informative look at the beginnings of the first real media fandom, and how it grew.

(7) ALL IN THE SKYWALKER FAMILY. “Darth Vader ‘Star Wars’ script reveals how huge secret was preserved”CNN says it will be auctioned on May the Fourth—“Star Wars Day”

A script for “Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back” reveals how a pivotal plot twist in the movie franchise was considered to be such a secret that it was not reflected in the lines provided to actors.

The script, which belonged to Darth Vader actor David Prowse, will be auctioned next month by East Bristol Auctions in the UK. The actor died in November aged 85.

Prowse wore the black suit and helmet to play Vader in the original “Star Wars” trilogy.

But it was the actor James Earl Jones who provided the character’s voice — and who delivered one of Vader’s most famous lines to Luke Skywalker, telling the young Jedi: “I am your father.”

However, the script provided to Prowse omits this key revelation and shows different lines in its place.

“Luke, we will be the most powerful in the galaxy. You will have everything you could ever want… do not resist… it is our destiny,” the script given to Prowse reads….

Prowse’s incomplete copy of the “The Empire Strikes Back” script, which is marked “Vader” at the top of each page, is expected to sell for between £2,500-4,000 ($3,490-5,580) at auction alongside other “Star Wars” memorabilia.

(8) SHOOTING PROMPTS ANOTHER LOOK AT BRONIES. EJ Dickson, in a Rolling Stone article reposted by Yahoo!, asks: “Do Bronies Have a ‘Nazi Problem’? FedEx Shooting Shines Light on Faction of Subculture”.

It is a sad reflection of the times we live in that mass shootings in the United States tend to follow a specific pattern. In the hours after a shooting, reporters tend to comb through the shooter’s social media presence, usually revealing a lengthy history of anonymous message-board postings and far-right indoctrination. Following the April 15th attack on the FedEx ground facility in Indianapolis, which resulted in the deaths of nine people including the gunman, there was a slight variation on this pattern: The 19-year-old gunman was revealed to be affiliated with the brony subculture.

According to The Wall Street Journal — which cited internal memos circulated by Facebook in the wake of the attack — the gunman primarily used his Facebook accounts to discuss his love for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magica children’s cartoon series featuring magical ponies; male fans of the show are often referred to as “bronies.”

Though the memo was quick to state that there was no indication that brony culture played a role in the attack, the gunman posted about his love of a tawny pony named Applejack, one of the main characters of the franchise, less than an hour before the rampage. “I hope that I can be with Applejack in the afterlife, my life has no meaning without her,” he wrote. “If there’s no afterlife and she isn’t real then my life never mattered anyway.” The gunman also reportedly had a history of posting far-right content, such as a meme suggesting Jesus had been reincarnated as Hitler, the memo stated.

It’s important to note that the brony fandom is highly misunderstood, and it is not inherently racist or white supremacist; the majority of members of the fandom are simply fans of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Members of the community have also rallied to raise money for the victims with various GoFundMe campaigns circulating on social media. Yet the shooter’s social-media presence has drawn renewed attention to a disturbing trend within the community, which has been infiltrated by far-right forces since its beginning….

(9) CATASTROPHIC LIBRARY LOSSES. “Wildfire Deals Hard Blow to South Africa’s Archives” reports the New York Times.

Firefighters in Cape Town battled a wildfire on Monday that had engulfed the slopes of the city’s famed Table Mountain and destroyed parts of the University of Cape Town’s library, a devastating blow to the world’s archives of Southern African history.

… the fallout from this fire was also felt across the region after towers of orange and red flames devoured Cape Town University’s special collections library — home to one of the most expansive collections of first-edition books, films, photographs and other primary sources documenting Southern African history.

“We are of course devastated about the loss of our special collection in the library, it’s things that we cannot replace. It pains us, it pains us to see what it looks like now in ashes,” Mamokgethi Phakeng, vice chancellor of the University of Cape Town, said on Monday. “The resources that we had there, the collections that we had in the library were not just for us but for the continent.”

She added: “It’s a huge loss.”

By Sunday evening, a special-collections reading room at the university’s library had been gutted by the blaze, according to university officials. The reading room housed parts of the university’s African Studies Collection, which includes works on Africa and South Africa printed before 1925, hard-to-find volumes in European and African languages and other rare books, according to Niklas Zimmer, a library manager at the university.

A curator of the school’s archive, Pippa Skotnes, said on Monday that the university’s African film collection, comprising about 3,500 archival films, had been lost to the fire. The archive was one of the largest collections in the world of films made in Africa or featuring Africa-related content.

The library will conduct a full assessment of what has been lost once the building has been declared safe, university officials said.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 20, 1848 – Kurd Laßwitz, Ph.D.  First major SF writer in German.  One novel, seven shorter stories available in English; poetry; a dozen nonfiction books; four dozen essays; four hundred twenty works all told.  Eponym – swell word, that – of the Kurd Laßwitz Award.  (Died 1910) [JH]
  • Born April 20, 1914 – Karel Thole. (“tow-leh”) Best known as cover artist for Urania 233-1330; seven hundred sixty more covers, five dozen interiors.  Here is Urania 247 (L’altra faccia di Mister Kiel “The other face of Mister Kiel” is J. Hunter Holly’s Encounter).  Here is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  Here is The End of Eternity.  Here is The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton (tr. as “The third hand”).  Here is White Queen.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born April 20, 1917 – Terry Maloney. Twoscore covers.  Here is Sinister Barrier.  Here is The Last Space Ship.  Here is New Worlds 50.  Here is the Apr 57 Science Fantasy.  Here is New Worlds 62.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born April 20, 1926 – June Moffatt.  First fannish career with husband Eph (“eef”) Konigsberg, then flourishing with 2nd husband Len Moffatt: TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegates, Fan Guests of Honor at Loscon 8, Evans-Freehafer Award (service to LASFS, Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.), co-editors with me of Button-Tack; First Fandom Hall of Fame; next door in detective-fiction fandom, co-founders of Bouchercon, named for Anthony Boucher who excelled there and in SF.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation of JM here; mine here and here.  (Died 2018) [JH] 
  • Born April 20, 1935 – Mary Hoffman, age 86. A score of novels, two dozen shorter stories, a dozen collections for us; seven dozen books all told.  Outside our field Amazing Grace was a NY Times Best-Seller (1.5 million copies sold); its 2015 ed’n has an afterword by LeVar Burton.  Here is Quantum Squeak.  Here is Women of Camelot.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born April 20, 1937 George Takei, 84. Hikaru Sulu on the original Trek. And yes, I know that Vonda McIntyre wouldn’t coin the first name until a decade later in her Entropy Effect novel.  Post-Trek, he would write Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe with Robert Asprin. By the way, his first genre roles were actually dubbing the English voices of Professor Kashiwagi of Rodan! The Flying Monster and the same of the Commander of Landing Craft of Godzilla Raids Again. He also was Kaito Nakamura on Heroes. And later he got to play his character once again on one of those video fanfics, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II. (CE) 
  • Born April 20, 1939 Peter S. Beagle, 82. I’ve known him for about fifteen years now, met him but once in that time. He’s quite charming. (I had dinner with him here once several years back. His former agent is not so charming.)  My favorite works? A Fine and Private PlaceThe Folk of The AirTamsinSummerlong and In Calabria. He won the Novelette Hugo at L.A. Con IV for “Two Hearts”. And he has the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. (CE) 
  • Born April 20, 1943 Ian Watson, 78. He’s won the BSFA Award twice, first for his novel, The Jonah Kit, and recently for his short story, “The Beloved Time of Their Lives“. He also got a BSFA nomination for his charmingly-titled “The World Science Fiction Convention of 2080”.  (CE)
  • Born April 20, 1949 John Ostrander, 72. Writer of comic books, including GrimjackSuicide Squad and Star Wars: Legacy. Well those are the titles he most frequently gets noted for but I’ll add in The Spectre, Martian Manhunter and the late Eighties Manhunter as well. His run on the Suicide Squad isavailable on the DC Universe app as is his amazing work on The Spectre.  (CE) 
  • Born April 20, 1951 Louise Jameson, 70. Leela of the Sevateem, companion to the Fourth Doctor. Appeared in nine stories of which my favorite was “The Talons of Weng Chiang” which I reviewed here. She segued from Dr. Who to The Omega Factor where she was the regular cast as Dr. Anne Reynolds. These appear to her only meaningful genre roles. And she like so many Who performers has reprised her role for Big Finish productions. (CE) 
  • Born April 20, 1959 Carole E. Barrowman, 62. Sister of John Barrowman. John and Carole co-wrote a Torchwood comic strip, featuring Jack Harkness, entitled Captain Jack and the Selkie. They’ve also written the Torchwood: Exodus Code audiobook. In addition, they’ve written Hollow Earth, a horror novel. She contributed an essay about her brother to the Chicks Dig Time Lords anthology which is lot of fun to read. (CE) 
  • Born April 20, 1971 – Ruth Long, age 50.  Author and librarian.  Half a dozen novels, three shorter stories, some under another name.  Spirit of Dedication Award from Eurocon 37.  [JH]

(11) ACTIVITY IN SPITE OF IT ALL. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik looks at the Paramount Plus series No Activity and all the technical problems when it went from being a live-action comedy to an animated series as a result of the pandemic. “The Paramount Plus show No Activity has gone animated for a fourth season because of the pandemic”.

… After all, to make animated TV, actors needed equipment that would normally be at the studio. So kits containing boom microphones, advanced screens and other digital implements were sent to dozens of them around the world, complete with a snake’s den of colorful wires they had to untangle.

“It was a suitcase full of tech with Ikea-level instructions,” Farrell said.

“Actors aren’t usually the head of IT,” said Danny Feldheim, senior vice president of original content for ViacomCBS’s Paramount Plus, who oversees the show.

Hollywood stars decoding Fig B and Input C was only the start of the trouble. Producers and the animation company they hired, Flight School Studio from Dallas, needed to turn around eight half-hour episodes of animation in 11 months to make the Paramount Plus launch. (It can often take 18 months to do that.) The budget also couldn’t grow even though animation can be expensive….

(12) SET YOUR COURSE. At Psychology Today, Zorana Ivcevic Pringle Ph.D. extracts “Creative Leadership Lessons from Female Star Trek Captain Janeway”.

… Captain Janeway’s leadership style is different from other captains in the Star Trek universe. She is more measured than Captain Kirk and less aloof than Captain Picard. She is an immensely successful leader, succeeding in bringing Voyager home and solving problems never seen before. How she did it offers four main lessons about creative leadership.

1. Leading with emotional intelligence

Emotionally intelligent leaders are skilled in four ways related to dealing with one’s own and others’ emotions. First, they are skilled at accurately reading emotions, such as realizing when someone is frustrated or disappointed. They are not only aware of emotions but acknowledge them explicitly. Second, emotionally intelligent leaders help their staff channel feelings, even difficult ones, toward achieving important goals. They inspire enthusiasm and lead by hearing and considering both optimistic and pessimistic voices (or, concerns and hopes behind them). Third, emotionally intelligent leaders understand how their decisions or other events affect staff. And finally, they successfully manage their own emotions, as well as help staff when they are discouraged….

(13) TREK DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKERS. There will be a Zoom panel “Star Trek Deep Space Nine What We Left Behind Documentary Filmmaking with 455 Films and G-Technology” on May 20 from 5:00-6:00 p.m. Eastern. Click on this link to join the webinar. Passcode: 599833?

The production team at 455 Films will be discussing and showcasing the process behind the scenes in creating their recent documentary film “What We Left Behind” about the legacy of the Star Trek Deep Space Nine television series. Come learn how they created this documentary, from start to finish. They will be discussing how they came up with the idea, crowdsourced the financing, obtained legal approvals and contact with the actors and producers for filming, developed the film’s story and content throughout the whole process, and used G-Technology storage solutions during the filming and editing phases. There will also be a sneak peak of the current documentary they are working on for the Star Trek Voyager series. And there will be a raffle at the end of the event for a G-Technology hard drive. 

(14) WORF NEWS. [Item by rcade.] Michael Dorn set all the planets of the federation ablaze with a tweet Monday afternoon.

Dorn played Worf for 272 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine as well as four movies. But the project doesn’t involve anything for Paramount+, according to TrekMovie.Com: “Confirmed: Michael Dorn’s Cryptic Tweet About Starfleet Return Isn’t For A Star Trek Show Or Movie”.

While Dorn’s tweet about being summoned back into action by Starfleet could be seen as a hint related to his Captain Worf show, or possibly one of the three live-action or two animated Star Trek series currently in development, it appears that isn’t the case. TrekMovie has confirmed with sources that whatever this is, it isn’t related to a Paramount+ Star Trek project.

It probably doesn’t involve a movie either. Go back to your lives, citizens.

(15) RISE AND SHINE. Yahoo! advises, “The Lyrid meteor shower will leave ‘glowing dust trains’ across the sky on Thursday. Here’s how to watch.”

… The best time to glimpse the Lyrids is in the wee morning hours on Thursday, April 22, before the sun rises.

Waiting until the waxing moon sets – about 4 a.m. on the US East Coast – will make it easier to spot the meteors and their dust trains. Otherwise, the bright glow from the almost-full moon (it’ll be 68% full on Thursday) may obscure the meteor streaks.

Head to an area well away from a city or street lights, and bring a sleeping bag or blanket. No need to pack a telescope or binoculars, since meteor showers are best seen with the naked eye….

(16) BEAUTIFUL BALLOON. “The First Flight On Another World Wasn’t on Mars. It Was on Venus, 36 Years Ago” at Air and Space Magazine.

The world was thrilled this week as NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter pulled off something truly novel (see video above)—the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. But if you paid close attention, the precise wording of that accomplishment included qualifiers. Like the Wright brothers’ airplane, the Mars helicopter was preceded by balloons. In Ingenuity’s case it was a pair of aerobots that rode along with the Soviet Vega 1 and 2 Venus spacecraft and flew through the Venusian atmosphere in 1985. The episode is recounted in Jay Gallentine’s lively 2016 history of planetary exploration, Infinity Beckoned, from which the following excerpt is adapted….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. You can speak to a digital Albert Einstein thanks to UneeQ’s “digital human platform.”

On the 100th year anniversary of Albert Einstein winning the Nobel Prize for Physics, one of the smartest minds and most recognisable personalities in modern history is stepping back into the fray. Digital Einstein is a realistic recreation of his namesake, embodying the great man’s personality and knowledge – multiplied by the power of conversational AI and powered by UneeQ’s digital human platform.

(18) VIDEO OF THE NIGHT. In “Honest Game Trailers: Balan Wonderworld” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that Balan Wonderworld is so weird that it has “the deeply cursed vibes of a failed Kickstarter” and “might drive you insane H.P. Lovecraft-style if you play it too long.”

[Thanks to Meredith, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Lorien Gray, Steven H Silver, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, JJ, rcade, John King Tarpinian, Jason Sizemore, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

The Hunt For Han Solo
Begins May 2021

StarWars.com has revealed a series of teasers spotlighting the major players of the anticipated Marvel Comics crossover, Star Wars: War Of The Bounty Hunters! Drawn by artist Giuseppe Camuncoli, these headshot images will also serve as variant covers for upcoming tie-in issues of the event that will see Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Doctor Aphra, Boba Fett, the galaxy’s deadliest bounty hunters, and more on a collision course for the greatest prize of all: Han Solo.

Jabba the Hutt, the infamous Tatooine crime lord, will also be joining the hunt in a special one-shot.

Jabba the Hutt is one of the most powerful and ruthless gangsters in the galaxy—and Boba Fett, his most trusted bounty hunter, has failed him. How will Jabba deal with betrayal and what does this have to do with a bounty hunter with ties to the High Republic? Star Wars: War Of The Bounty HuntersJabba The Hutt #1 by writer Justina Ireland and artist Luca Pizzari will be the first of four action-packed “War of the Bounty Hunters” one-shot tie-ins about the criminal underworld’s most notorious hunters and scoundrels, all told by the best Star Wars writers and illustrators in the galaxy.

“Getting to work on a comic at Marvel, especially a Star Wars comic about one of the most perpetually under-appreciated criminal masterminds in the whole galaxy, has been a trip,” Ireland told StarWars.com. “It’s exciting, a little scary, and really makes me wish I could time travel to tell my twelve-year-old self reading comics in the grocery store self  ‘All of this will pay off one day.’”

Six teasers and the main cover for Star Wars: War Of The Bounty Hunters — Jabba The Hutt #1 by Mahmud Asrar follow the jump.

[Based on a press release.]

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 3/30/21 Give Me A Long Enough Pixel And A Place To Scroll

(1) CHEN QUIFAN. Yi-Ling Liu has a profile of Chen Qiufan in the April WIRED.  The article has a wealth of detail about what it is like being a sf writer in China, including the news that if The Three-Body Problem had been published in China today instead of in 2008 it would be heavily censored. “Sci-Fi Writer or Prophet? The Hyperreal Life of Chen Qiufan”. Registration required.

… But in the past few years—a period that has seen China’s sci-fi authors elevated to the status of New Age prophets—Chen’s own career has become an object in the fun-house mirror. After The Waste Tide garnered widespread attention at home and abroad, reviewers began praising Chen as the “William Gibson of China,” and the tech industry has embraced him as a kind of oracle. An institute run by AI expert and venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee’s company has even developed an algorithm capable of writing fiction in the author’s voice. (Chen’s recent short story “The State of Trance,” which includes passages generated by the AI, nabbed first prize in a Shanghai literary competition moderated by an artificially intelligent judge, beating an entry written by Nobel Prize in Literature winner Mo Yan.) In China, it is the place of science fiction itself—and the status of writers like Chen—that have taken a turn toward the hyperreal….

(2) NOT TODAY’S TITLE: “A Mushroom You Can’t Smoke? That’s A Non-Tokeable Fungi!” The genius that is Daniel Dern strikes again.

(3) FLUSHED WITH PRIDE. James Davis Nicoll is impressed with these “Five Thrilling SFF Works About Meticulously Planned Infrastructure” at Tor.com.

Sure, there’s a lot of entertainment value in grand set piece battles, personal duels, or even two wizards engaging in a magical combat to the death. But there are those of us who enjoy a more arcane pleasure: edge of the seat thrills as protagonists struggle to build vast infrastructure projects. I would argue that providing London with a functional sewer system was more exciting than defeating the French at Trafalgar….

His first specimen is A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! by Harry Harrison (1972).

(4) A HAMMERLOCK ON FAME. “William Shatner to Be Inducted Into the WWE Hall of Fame” reports Comicbook.com.

WWE announced on Tuesday that the latest inductee into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame will be none other than Star Trek star William Shatner. The original Captain Kirk popped up on WWE programming a few times, including his famous 1995 appearance where he flipped Jerry “The King” Lawler and his turn as the celebrity guest general manager for Monday Night Raw in 2010.

This year’s induction ceremony will take place inside the WWE ThunderDome on April 6 and will induct both the Class of 2020 and 2021 after last year’s ceremony was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

(5) MY BIG FAT RED WEDDING. Io9 says Game of Thrones will also inspire a Broadway spinoff: “Game of Thrones Broadway: Key Westeros History Coming to Stage”.

Though the show is long gone, fans of Game of Thrones have plenty to look forward to. There will be more George R.R. Martin books (hopefully), multiple new HBO shows, and now there will be a stage production that’ll go back in time to fill in a key part of Westeros history.

Sixteen years before the events in Martin’s first novel, as well as the TV show, was the Great Tourney at Harrenhal—an event often referred to because many of the major players from across Westeros were there, either competing in, or enjoying, various competitions. Think of it almost like the Westeros Olympics. At the end of the event, Prince Rhaegar Targaryen declared his love for Lyanna Stark, a young woman who was already promised to Robert Baratheon. The event led to Robert overthrowing the Targaryens and basically starting the events that took place in the novels and series….

(6) CONTROVERSIAL MANIFESTO. “Writers in culture war over rules of the imagination”The Guardian visits the front lines.

It’s a venerable global cultural institution, dedicated to freedom of expression and set to celebrate its centenary this year. Yet the writers’ association PEN is being drawn into dispute over a declaration claiming the right of authors to imagination, allowing them to describe the world from the point of view of characters from other cultural backgrounds.

At issue is a charter manifesto, The Democracy of the Imagination, passed unanimously by delegates of PEN International at the 85th world congress in Manila in 2019. A year on , through the social upheavals of 2020, PEN’s US arm, PEN America, has not endorsed the manifesto, which includes the principle: “PEN believes the imagination allows writers and readers to transcend their own place in the world to include the ideas of others.”

While welcoming the commitment to freedom of expression, officials at PEN America indicate that aspects of the declaration might be perceived as straying into the contentious territory of cultural appropriation.

A spokesperson for PEN America told the Observer that the manifesto had not been explicitly rejected – two members of PEN America helped draft it – but “that does not necessarily indicate that we as PEN America formally endorse that action on behalf of our staff or board”.

PEN International’s “The Democracy of the Imagination Manifesto” says —

Pen International Upholds The Following Principles:

  • We defend the imagination and believe it to be as free as dreams.
  • We recognize and seek to counter the limits faced by so many in telling their own stories.
  • We believe the imagination accesses all human experience, and reject restrictions of time, place, or origin.
  • We know attempts to control the imagination may lead to xenophobia, hatred and division.
  • Literature crosses all real and imagined frontiers and is always in the realm of the universal.

(7) VERKLEMPT READERS. The New York Times absolutely knows “How Crying on TikTok Sells Books”.

…An app known for serving up short videos on everything from dance moves to fashion tips, cooking tutorials and funny skits, TikTok is not an obvious destination for book buzz. But videos made mostly by women in their teens and 20s have come to dominate a growing niche under the hashtag #BookTok, where users recommend books, record time lapses of themselves reading, or sob openly into the camera after an emotionally crushing ending.

These videos are starting to sell a lot of books, and many of the creators are just as surprised as everyone else.

“I want people to feel what I feel,” said Mireille Lee, 15, who started @alifeofliterature in February with her sister, Elodie, 13, and now has nearly 200,000 followers. “At school, people don’t really acknowledge books, which is really annoying.”

…“These creators are unafraid to be open and emotional about the books that make them cry and sob or scream or become so angry they throw it across the room, and it becomes this very emotional 45-second video that people immediately connect with,” said Shannon DeVito, director of books at Barnes & Noble. “We haven’t seen these types of crazy sales — I mean tens of thousands of copies a month — with other social media formats.”…

(8) OVERWROUGHT SKEPTIC. Everything Wrong With did Galaxy Quest recently:

Galaxy Quest is so good it hurts. It’s one of the best Star Trek movies ever made. It’s hilarious. We love it. Still has sins.

(9) EVERYBODY DROPS. NOBODY SPLATS. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] There’s this long but pretty interesting video at Brows Held High that says it’s about Starship Troopers, but is, at least in part 1, much more about Heinlein in general — it references many of his works, including, believe it or not, Farnham’s Freehold. (Any further parts aren’t released yet but probably will be soon; Kyle is reasonably reliable about his YouTube drops.) It also has an interesting dual generation take, where Kyle interviews his folks about their take on Heinlein’s work, as his father is an engineer who’s a huge Heinlein fan, and his family has a long history of military service.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1996 – Twenty-five  years ago, Paul J. McAuley wins the Clarke Award for Fairyland which had been published by Victor Gollancz Ltd the previous year. The other nominated novels were Ken MacLeod’s The Star Fraction, Patricia Anthony’s The Happy Policeman, Stephen Baxter’s The Time Ships, Christopher Priest’s The Prestige and Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age. It would also win the John W. Campbell Memorial and Arthur C. Clarke Awards.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 30, 1746 – Francisco Goya.  Some of what this painter achieved is very strange.  Here is The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters on the cover of Haunted.  Here is The Spell on the cover of The October Country.  Here is Fantastic Vision on the cover of Positions and Presuppositions in SF.  (Died 1828) [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1853 – Vincent Van Gogh.  Another painter whose work can be very strange.  Here is Starry Night on the cover of Orphans of the Sky.  Here is Wheatfield with Crows.  Here is The Night Café on the cover of Campbell & Baker’s anthology of stories and poems it inspired.  Here is a self-portrait.  (Died 1890) [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1906 – Dirce Archer.  Served a term as President of PSFA (Pittsburgh SF Ass’n).  Half a dozen reviews in Astounding that I know of.  By 1961 she said of herself, “Primarily a book collector now.  Used to do batik, clay modelling, water colors, but am now too nervous to do art” – after chairing Pittcon the 19th Worldcon.  (Died 1972) [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1904 Herbert van Thal. Editor of the Pan Book of Horror Stories series ran twenty-four  volumes from 1959 to 1983. Back From the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories is a look at the series and it contains Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares, the first biography of him written by Pan Book of Horror Stories expert Johnny Mains. (Died 1983.) (CE) 
  • Born March 30, 1914 – Francis T. Laney.  Active in his local club, and The Acolyte (Lovecraft fanzine), but what made him famous, or notorious, was his 130-page Ah! Sweet Idiocy! blistering us with how bad we were.  Read it for its writing, not its accuracy; there is, of course, all too much truth in it.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1928 Chad Oliver. Writer of both Westerns and SF, a not uncommon occupation at the time he was active. He considered himself an anthropological science fiction writer whose training as an academic informed his fiction, an early Le Guin if you will. Not a terribly prolific writer with just nine novels and two collections to his name over a forty year span. Mists of Dawn, his first novel, is a YA novel  which I’d recommend as it reads a lot to similar what Heinlein would write. (Died 1993.) (CE) 
  • Born March 30, 1933 Anna Ruud. Dr. Ingrid Naarveg in the Three Stooges film Have Rocket — Will Travel. Hey it is genre of a sorts, isn’t it? It’s a really fun film which is in the public domain so enjoy watching it here. On a more serious note, she was Doctor Sigrid Bomark in 12 to the Moon. She had one-offs in Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born March 30, 1948 Jeanne Robinson. She co-wrote the Stardance Saga with her husband Spider Robinson. Stardance won the Hugo Award for Best Novella at IguanaCon II. To my knowledge, her only other piece of writing was ‘Serendipity: Do, Some Thoughts About Collaborative Writing‘ which was published in the MagiCon Program Book. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born March 30, 1950 Robbie Coltrane, 71. I first saw him playing Dr. Eddie “Fitz” Fitzgerald on Cracker way back in the Ninties. Not genre, but an amazing role none-the-less. He was Valentin Dmitrovich Zhukovsky in GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough, with a much less prominent role as a man at an airfield in Flash Gordon being his first genre role. Being Rubeus Hagrid in the Potter franchise was his longest running genre gig. He’s also voiced both Mr. Hyde in the Van Helsing film and Gregory, a mouse, in The Tale of Despereaux film. (CE)
  • Born March 30, 1958 Maurice LaMarche, 63. Voice actor primarily for such roles as The Brain on the Pinky and The Brain series (which Stross makes use of in The Laundry series) with Pinky modeled off Orson Welles, the entire cast as near as I can tell of Futurama, the villain Sylar on Heroes, the voice of Orson Welles in Ed Wood, a less serious Pepé Le Pew in Space Jam, and, though maybe not genre, he’s voiced  Kellogg’s Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam and  the animated Willy Wonka character in Nestlé’s Willy Wonka Candy Company commercials. (CE)
  • Born March 30, 1975 – Wendy Isdell, Ph.D., D.D., age 46.  Two novels.  Likes Barbara Hambly for characterization and style.  Plays classical guitar.  “Can also tie things into knots with my feet….  Anyone who claims to be sane is simply clinging to the illusion that they agree with what everyone else says reality should be.  Sorry.  I don’t subscribe to that publication.  (I used to, but the cover price became too high so I bought Reader’s Digest instead.)”  [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1991 – Michelle IzmaylovM.D., age 30.  Five novels.  Aristine Mann Award.  Also loves drawing and painting.  First published at age 14.  Resident physician at Vanderbilt Univ. Medical Center.   “After a tough day … I sit down and write.”  [JH]

(12) KEEP YOUR DOCTORS STRAIGHT. “Pierce Brosnan joins Black Adam as Doctor Fate, who is not Doctor Strange” explains Yahoo!

Big news in the world of superhero casting, aTHR reports that Pierce Brosnan has joined Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam movie, where he’ll play DC superhero sorcerer Doctor Fate, who is not Doctor Strange. This will be Brosnan’s first indulgence in the world of super-powered cinematic throwdowns, taking on the role of Kent Nelson, an American archeologist (played, obviously, by a British man), who stumbles onto vast magical powers while exploring a foreign country, and yet is not, against all odds, Doctor Strange…

(13) DON’T PLAY WITH THAT! IGN tells where “LEGO Star Wars Darth Vader Helmet and More Sets Are Up for Preorder”. Kylo Ren would buy one of these.

…There’s a Darth Vader helmet, a Scout Trooper helmet, and an Imperial Probe Droid. All three sets will be available April 26, but you can preorder them now on Amazon.

LEGO says these sets are geared toward adults and experienced LEGO makers. They’re not designed to be played with; they’re designed to be displayed. They come with stands and placards so you can put them on your desk or bookshelf….

(14) ALWAYS BE CLOSING. Charles Seife’s biography Hawking Hawking regards Stephen Hawking as a “scientific celebrity”:

Stephen Hawking was widely recognized as the world’s best physicist and even the most brilliant man alive–but what if his true talent was self-promotion? When Stephen Hawking died, he was widely recognized as the world’s best physicist, and even its smartest person. He was neither. A brilliant exposé and powerful biography, Hawking Hawking uncovers the authentic Hawking buried underneath the fake. It is the story of a man whose brilliance in physics was matched by his genius for building his own myth.

(15) TICKED OFF. [Item by David Doering.] Another funny story. Swatch and Apple are in court over using the phrase “One more thing…” (Yeah, go figure.) The British judge concluded, however, that while:

Steve Jobs had used the phrase, it had probably been borrowed from television detective Columbo.

Not often does a fictional hero hold sway over a legal decision in a court of law. “Apple loses latest round of legal fight with Swatch over ‘one more thing’ phrase”.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Bravely Default II,” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that this game features “bland do-gooders shaped like bobbleheads” and “will make you regress into your childhood like an adult eating a Lunchable,”

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

Pixel Scroll 12/1/20 This Is Not
A Pixel To Be Put Aside Lightly…It Should Be Scrolled With Great Force

(1) TAKING THE LEAD. One of my favorite reviewers has been stepping up in her community, and has a book out encouraging others to do the same: “Why You Should Run For (Local) Office, by Adrienne Martini” at Whatever.

Author Adrienne Martini knows just a little about this: she ran for local office, and then chronicled the experience in her 2020 memoir Somebody’s Gotta Do It. Now she’s here to talk a little bit about that experience, and why it’s something you might consider thinking about as well.

(2) PLAYWRIGHTS SUMMONED. You have until January 15 to enter: “Accepting Submissions for 2021 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards”.

The Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College is accepting play submissions for the 2021 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards.

The fourth annual Neukom Award for Playwriting will consider full-length plays and other full-length works for the theater that address the question “What does it mean to be a human in a computerized world?”

Playwrights with either traditional or experimental theater pieces, including multimedia productions, are encouraged to submit works to the award program.

The award includes a $5,000 honorarium and support for a two-stage development process with table readings at local arts festivals. Works that have already received a full production are not eligible for the competition.

The deadline for all submissions is January 15, 2021. The awards will be announced in the spring of 2021.

(3) IT DOESN’T TAKE A WEATHERMAN. James Davis Nicoll lets his hair down in a Tor.com post “Five Hippie-ish SF Novels Inspired by Sixties Counterculture”. He starts with–

The Butterfly Kid by Chester Anderson (1967)

This book is set in an imagined futuristic New York, which oddly enough has remained stuck in an eternal 1960s. There’s still a vibrant hippie community in Greenwich Village. Youngsters from across square America travel to New York to discover themselves; there they are mentored (or at least observed) by old hands like Chester Anderson and his close friend Michael Kurland. This Greenwich Village is populated by nonconformists as eccentric as they are kind-hearted—for the most part.

The most notable exception is shameless grifter Laszlo Scott. For once, Scott’s most recent pharmaceutical offering is entirely authentic: his “Reality Pills” can make dreams real. The aliens supplying Scott have a malign intent: they may not want to actively unleash the heat rays, but they are counting on human nightmares to exterminate us all, leaving the world ripe for alien appropriation. Standing between humanity and certain doom: sixteen Greenwich Village potheads and hipsters. Two of whom are missing….

(4) A DECADE OF GOOD BOOKS. Happy birthday to the Fantasy-Faction review site – “Fantasy-Faction Turns 10! Help Us Spread the Love of Reading!” They’re asking fans to celebrate by contributing to organizations that support reading among the economically disadvantaged.  

…We couldn’t have made it ten years without all of you. And we can’t wait to see what the next ten years brings. Let’s close out this year of sadness and insanity with the best December this world has ever seen. Let’s give the gift of reading and share the love of fantasy, together!

(5) REEDPOP ABANDONS BOOK EXPO. “BookExpo and BookCon Are No More”Publishers Weekly attends the funeral.

U.S. book publishing’s biggest trade show is being “retired,” show organizer ReedPop announced today. BookExpo, along with BookCon and Unbound, will not be held in 2021 after being canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

ReedPop, the pop culture event–focused subdivision of Reed Exhibitions, said that, given the “continued uncertainty surrounding in-person events at this time,” the company has decided “that the best way forward is to retire the current iteration of events as they explore new ways to meet the community’s needs through a fusion of in-person and virtual events.”

In order to try to hold the event earlier this year, Reed moved the date from its usual spot at New York City’s Javits Center in late May to late July, but as the coronavirus continued to make larger meetings impossible, Reed cancelled the live conference and held six days of free virtual programming from May 26-31, the original dates of BookExpo and BookCon. 

…Reed Exhibitions’ convention business has been hammered by Covid-19. Through the first nine months of 2020, revenue was down 70%, parent company RELX reported. It expects full year revenue of £330m-£360 million and after a range of cost-lowering initiatives—including layoffs—total costs for the year are expected to be £530m-£540 million, excluding one-off costs related to restructuring and cancellations. Total Reed Exhibitions revenue in 2019 was £1.3 billion.

(6) ELDRITCH CHARITY APPEAL. Weird Providence asks for support on Giving Tuesday: “Lovecraft Arts and Sciences 2020 Fundraiser”.

…We at the Lovecraft Arts & Sciences Council work hard to bring people together from around the world, to cultivate a sense of community through exciting and unique programming, and to foster camaraderie among kindred souls. We strive to provide a welcoming home here in Providence for all members of the vibrant and diverse Weird community, and we’re proud of our success over the past eight years.

NecronomiCon 2019, our biggest event yet, saw over 2,000 folks gather in Providence to share their passion for the Weird. And our retail store continues to garner rave reviews as a “must-visit” and “treasure” for its unique selection and helpful staff. These are just a few ways that our organization enriches our city and the global Weird fiction community. 

Today, on this Giving Tuesday, we’re asking for your help. 

The Lovecraft Arts & Sciences Council is a nonprofit organization. We manage to do what we do with minimal staff – just two paid employees that help run our storefront in Providence. The rest of our operation relies on a squad of dedicated volunteers — of which I am one, squeezing in work for the organization between the tasks of my real job…. 

(7) ARECIBO OBSERVATORY DESTROYED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Sadly, the iconic radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory has collapsed. The suspended platform at the focal point broke loose and crashed into the main reflector below. This follows earlier breaks in the supporting cables. Business Insider has the report: “The Arecibo telescope’s 900-ton platform has crashed into its disk below and destroyed the iconic radio observatory”.

The second-largest radio telescope in the world is no more.

The Arecibo Observatory’s 1,000-foot-diameter telescope collapsed at 8 a.m. Tuesday in Puerto Rico. The telescope’s 900-ton platform, which was suspended 450 feet in the air to send and receive radio waves, crashed into its disk below, pulling down with it the tops of three support towers.

(8) WHAT A TANGLED WEB WE WEAVE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Nicholas Barber, in the BBC story “How a Spider-Man musical became a theatrical disaster”, notes that Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark had its first preview ten years ago.  Barber discusses the many reasons why this musical became one of Broadway’s biggest money-losers, including many failures of its special effects and the fact that composers Bono and the Edge had never heard a Broadway musical when they accepted the assignment to write the score and had to be sent an emergency care package of CDs with songs on them so they would know what to do.

It’s been 10 years since one of the most momentous nights of Glen Berger’s life. He was already an established off-Broadway playwright and children’s television writer, but on 28 November 2010, a musical he had scripted had its first preview at the Foxwoods Theatre in New York – and it was shaping up to be an international smash.

The musical was Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Its friendly neighbourhood title character had been a beloved pop-cultural icon for five decades, and had just featured in three Hollywood blockbusters. The songs were written by rock’n’roll royalty, U2’s Bono and The Edge. And the director was Julie Taymor, who had masterminded the record-breaking stage adaptation of Disney’s The Lion King. Turn Off the Dark couldn’t go far wrong with a pedigree like that. Could it?

Which is not to say that Berger wasn’t nervous. Speaking to BBC Culture from his home in upstate New York, he remembers how strange it felt to be unveiling something he and his collaborators had been devising together for years. “We were opening the door,” he says, “either to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory or some sort of slaughterhouse.” The show relied on complicated aerial stunts in which the performers were suspended from wires, and so the first preview was bound to keep stopping and starting as technical hitches were addressed….

(9) HEADHUNTER THWARTED. TMZ, in the story “Darth Vader’s Original ‘Star Wars’ Helmet Stolen” says that Frank Hebert (note spelling) allegedly broke into Bad Robot Productions and left with a shopping cart full of Star Wars stuff, including an original Darth Vader helmet, but all the stolen stuff was returned.

…Law enforcement sources tell us … 38-year-old Frank Hebert was arrested Monday night after he allegedly broke into the Bad Robot Productions building in Santa Monica and made off with ‘Star Wars’ movie memorabilia … including Darth’s helmet.

We’re told cops responded to the scene and were told by security personnel that Hebert had been captured on surveillance video illegally entering the building through the rooftop, and casually walked out with a shopping cart full of stuff.

Our sources say cops quickly found a guy pushing a cart down the street not too far away, which we’re told was full of ‘Star Wars’ stuff — as in, original props used in the actual movies.

(10) NO DOUGHS. SYFY Wire sets the frame of this video designed to encourage charitable giving: “Broke Batman parody from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. crew boosts COVID relief”.

The video is a way for Ward and the S.H.I.E.L.D. crew to raise awareness for a good cause: lending a financial hand to entertainment workers whose livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic-related shutdowns across the industry. Through the associated #fundthebat social media campaign, fans can chip in a little moolah to bolster the Motion Picture Television Fund’s Covid-19 Emergency Relief Fund. The clip links to a GoFundMe page where anyone can donate — regardless of which side they’re on in the Marvel-versus-DC debate.

The fund says it’s using “every dollar” contributed through the campaign to “support the thousands of out of work carpenters, hair stylists, drivers, make up artists, painters, set dressers, electricians, editors, grips, camera people, actors, writers and directors who created the shows and movies that have kept you entertained during this difficult time.”

(11) FANZINE FAN OBIT. Ansible® 401 released today relayed this notice from Robert Lichtman:

Miriam Dyches Carr Knight Lloyd, US fan active in the 1950s and 1960s with fanzines including various ‘Goojie Publications’ titles as Dyches or Carr, Klein Bottle and later issues of Fanac with her first husband Terry Carr, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Poughkeepsie with her second husband Frank Knight, died on 23 October.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 1, 1995The Adventures of Captain Zoom In Outer Space premiered on television. Directed by Max Tads from a script by Brian Levant, Rick Copp, and David A. Goodman, it starred Daniel Riordan, Ron Perlman, Nichelle Nichols, Liz Vassey and Gia Carides. It follows the adventures of Fifties actor Ty Farrell who plays the title character in a Captain Video-like program, The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space. Although you’ll find references on the net for a series having been made and for fans having seen it, there wasn’t such a series. Only the TV movie. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a rating of, well, they don’t have a rating for it. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 1, 1886 — Rex Stout. ISFDB says his Nero Wolfe’s “The Affair of the Twisted Scarf” which was also published as “Disguise for Murder”” and also “Poison à la Carte” are SF. Now I’ve read each of them quite some years back but I don’t recall anything in them that makes them genre. Now I adore Nero Wolfe but never even thought of these novels as being genre adjacent. (Died 1975.) (CE) 
  • Born December 1, 1942 — John Crowley, 78. I’m tempted to say he’s a frelling literary genius and stop there but I won’t. Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and World Fantasy Award winning Little, Big is brilliant but if anything his crow centric novel of Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr which received the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award makes that novel look like child’s play in comparison. Did you know he wrote a novella called The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines? Or Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land, which contains an entire imaginary novel by the poet? (CE)
  • Born December 1, 1964 — Jo Walton, 56. She’s won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and the World Fantasy award for her novel Tooth and Claw in which dragons got positively and delightfully Victorian. Even if they eat each other.  Her Small Change trilogy may be the finest WW II novels I’ve read bar none, and her Sulien series is an excellent retelling of the Arthurian myth.  Among Others which won a Hugo and Nebula is she says about the “coming-of-age experience of having books instead of people for friends and solace”. I can relate to that as I imagine many here can too. (CE)
  • Born December 1, 1964 — Alisa Kwitney, 56. Daughter of Robert Sheckley and Ziva Kwitney. Editor, Vertigo Books. Contributing author, The Dreaming: Beyond The Shores of Night, set in Gaiman’s Sandman multiverse, scriptwriter for the Vertigo Visions: The Phantom Stranger graphic novel and editor of Vertigo Visions: Artwork from the Cutting Edge of Comics  Currently an editor at Brain Mill Press. (CE) 
  • Born December 1, 1965 — Bill Willingham, 55. Best known I’d say for his long running Fable series though personally I think his best work was Proposition Player. He got his start in the late 1970s to early 1980s as a staff artist for TSR games where he was the cover artist for the AD&D Player Character Record Sheets and a lot of games I don’t recognize not being a gamer at that time. I do recognize his superb 1980s comic book series Elementals,  and he later write the equally excellent Shadowpact for DC. I was always ambivalent about the Jack of Shadows series that he spun off of Fables. His House of Mystery was rather good as well. (CE) 
  • Born December 1, 1971 Emily Mortimer, 49. She was the voice of Sophie in the English language version of Howl’s Moving Castle, and Jane Banks in Mary Poppins Returns. She was the voice of Lisette in the superb Hugo animated film, and was Nicole Durant in The Pink Panther. (CE)

(14) GOO GOO GUY. Start running now – Vulture brings word that “Peter Dinklage to Reportedly Star in Toxic Avenger Reboot”.

…Based on the four-film franchise and Marvel comic-book series, Dinklage’s Toxic Avenger will reportedly retain the character’s origin story (hapless underdog pushed into toxic waste and reborn with superpowers, naturally) while exploring “environmental themes” with a take on “the superhero genre in the vein of Deadpool.” Because God help superhero movies if we force Toxie into a gritty reboot, too.

(15) YESTERDAY’S TOMORROW. At Monster Movie Music, they’re putting together episode recaps of old black-and-white TV sff with screencaps and connective text, like “TALES OF TOMORROW / ‘Appointment On Mars’ – 1952”. Interesting idea.

Here’s a wild one from the TOT gang. In this episode, three men man a rocket and go to Mars where they will mine for rare minerals and ore to take back to Earth to cash in. But, things don’t go as planned…

(16) MONOLITHS: EASY COME, EASY GO. The Utah monolith and its Romanian imitator vanished less mysteriously than they arrived, in that the people who took them down are at least known to someone.

Salt Lake City’s Fox13 repots “Well-known Moab slackliner says he took down Utah monolith”.

“On the night of November 27, 2020, at about 8:30pm– our team removed the Utah Monolith,” [Andy] Lewis wrote, in a Facebook post. “We will not be including any other information, answers, or insight at this time.”

And in Europe: “Romanian monolith mystery solved: two blokes carried it off” says Yahoo!

You wait for ages for an era-defining monolith created by an unseen alien race to appear out of nowhere, then two turn up at once.

After the mysterious emergence of a shiny metallic plinth in the Utah desert piqued the imaginations of sci-fi fans across the world last week, another appeared just a few days later in rural Romania.

And just like its American cousin, it has vanished – seemingly without a trace.

The mayor of the Romanian town where the local monolith was planted seems to know more than he’s saying:

…The mayor had hoped that the structure could potentially become a tourist attraction for Piatra Neamt, a picturesque mountainous town with a population of around 100,000. But he offers up a more sobering theory as to why the monolith disappeared in a matter of days.

“Whoever placed the monolith would have suffered legal consequences because we can’t allow structures without legal authorisation,” he said.

“It’s quite a mystery that this came up in a week that I had a chat with some local investors who don’t obey construction laws — it’s absolutely a bizarre coincidence,” he added.

(17) SJW CREDENTIAL COMMUTE. [Item by JJ.] Alexander Perrin’s “Short Trip” is an interactive cat adventure on a trolley line. Better with the sound on. Use right/left arrows to move faster/slower forward/backward. if you stop at the tram stops, cats will get on and off. The details are best enjoyed if you don’t run it at full speed

(18) ON THE ROAD WITH J.G. BALLARD. “Crash! (1971) by J. G. Ballard” on YouTube is a short film, originally broadcast by the BBC in 1971, in which J.G. Ballard drives a car and obsesses about crashes.

(19) PARTY POOPERS. Maria Temming reports in the Washington Post that researchers at the University of Georgia, the Florida Institute of Technology, and the Colorado School of Mines have tried growing crops on Martian soil and discovered “Farming on Mars will be a lot harder than ‘The Martian’ made it seem” thanks fo the soil’s high scidity and the presence of the potent microbe killer calcium perchlorate in high quantities.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Demon’s Souls” on YouTube, Fandom Games says Sony revised the 1990’s game Demon’s Souls without consulting the original developers, which meant that “Sony treats the Demon’s Souls IP like Gollum treats the One Ring.”

[Thanks to JJ, John Hertz, James Davis Nicoll, Paul Di Flippo, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, David Doering, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day David Goldfarb.]

Pixel Scroll 11/29/20 Tonstant Pixel Scrolled Up

(1) FREE READ FROM FUTURE TENSE. “The Suicide of Our Troubles” by Karl Schroeder, is part of Future Tense Fiction, a monthly series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives.

Nadine Bach noticed a package of ham waving at her from inside the grocery store. November was one of those months when the choice was between paying rent and buying food, and she hadn’t planned to stop by during her daily walk—but this ham was proclaiming that it was free.

Having prospective meals wave at her was hardly unexpected—Mixed Reality was finally maturing past the flying-whale stage of visual grab-assery, and was settling into the predictable role of being yet another advertising medium….

Journalist Anna V. Smith has written a response essay: “When Nature Speaks for Itself”.

In more than 100 countries, citizens have clear constitutional rights to a healthy environment. The United States is not one of them. Nevertheless, for the past few decades or more, people have argued through the courts that the U.S. has an obligation to provide a healthy environment, including addressing climate change, as the Juliana v. United States youth lawsuit has insisted. But simultaneously, an emerging movement is focusing on the rights of nature itself: to grant personhood status to lakes, rivers, and plant species so they might have legal standing in court to defend their rights to exist and persist. If laws are an assertion of a nation’s values, what does it say that the U.S. grants personhood to corporations, but not nature?…

(2) ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS EXCEPT UTAH. Salt Lake City’s Fox13 reports “Monolith removed from southern Utah desert by ‘unknown party’”. You see, this is how primates really operate. That’s why 2010 is in the rearview mirror and we’re nowhere near Europa.

The now-famous “monolith” structure that was discovered last week by a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter crew during a count of bighorn sheep in southeastern Utah has been removed — but not by government officials.

Riccardo Marino posted on Instagram that he and Sierra Van Meter went to the spot, located south of Moab and just east of Canyonlands National Park, late Friday night to get some photos. But when they arrived, it was no longer there.

Marino said they saw a pickup truck with a large object in its bed driving in the opposite direction shortly before they got there.

Marino and Van Meter also saw that someone had written “Bye B****!” and appeared to have urinated at the spot where the piece, believed by most to be abstract art, formerly stood.

(3) NEW ZOOM INTO FAN HISTORY. Joe Siclari of FANAC.org invites you to “Get ready for a trip to fannish London!”

We are planning a series of  Zoom Interactive Fan History Sessions, and for our first sessionRob Hansen is going to give us an historic tour of fannish Holborn, London. Rob is probably the most accomplished fan historian writing these days. As most of you know,  he has written the history of English fandom, Then and has put together a number of books covering various aspects of British fandom. Find many of them at https://taff.org.uk/ebooks.phpReserve the date: Saturday, December 19, 2020 at 11AM EDT.

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

(4) ALMA AWARD. The nominees for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2021 were released in October, 263 candidates from 69 countries.

Worth 5 million Swedish kronor, the world’s largest cash prize for children’s literature is given to authors, illustrators, oral storytellers and reading promoters for work “of the highest artistic quality” featuring the “humanistic values” of the late Pippi Longstocking author, for whom the award is named. Lindgren died in 2002 at the age of 94.

The 2021 ALMA laureate will be announced on April 13, 2021.

(5) PROWSE OBIT. Actor Dave Prowse, the original Darth Vader, has died aged 85 reports The Guardian. He was a 6’6″ weightlifter who’d made a name for himself in England as The Green Cross man, a traffic safety figure in PSAs before being invited by George Lucas to audition for the roles of Vader and Chewbacca. He chose Vader and when asked why, replied: “Everyone remembers the villain.”

(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1990 — Thirty years ago, the sort of horror novel Angel of Darkness by Samuel M. Key was first published by Jove Books. The author had a short career having just three novels credited to him, the others being From a Whisper to a Scream and I’ll Be Watching You. Now that would be the end of the story if it hadn’t turned out that this was the pen name for Charles de Lint who recently won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, a rare honor indeed. Amusingly enough, Samuel M. Key was the name of the small monkey puppet that graced the top of his computer at that time. All three novels are now available from the usual digital suspects under the name of de Lint. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 29, 1832 – Louisa May Alcott.  Besides Little WomenLittle Men, and more outside our field, she wrote A Modern Mephistopheles and five dozen shorter ghost stories, fairy tales, and other fantasies.  Active abolitionist and feminist.  (Died 1888) [JH]
  • Born November 29, 1898 C.S. Lewis. There are no doubt folks here who are far more literate on him than I am. I read The Screwtape Letters for a college course decades ago and thoroughly enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia also many years back but that’s it for my personal acquaintance with him.  I know individuals that have loved The Space Trilogy and I’ve known ones who loathed it. So what do you like or dislike about him? (Died 1963.) (CE)
  • Born November 29, 1918 Madeleine L’Engle. Writer whose genre work included the splendid YA sequence starting off with A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels: A Wind in the DoorA Swiftly Tilting PlanetMany Waters, and An Acceptable Time. One of her non-genre works that I recommend strongly is the Katherine Forrester Vigneras series. (Died 2007.) (CE) 
  • Born November 29, 1925 – Leigh Couch.  Science teacher.  First Fandom.  Active fan, as were her husband and their children including Lesleigh Luttrell.  LC had letters in The Alien CriticJanusSF Commentary, and Analog.  Guest of Honor at Archon 1 – as LL was at Archon 3.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born November 29, 1950 Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Writer who produced a number of genre novels and more than seventy short fiction works. He was chair of the Nebula Award Committee for nearly a decade, and business manager for the SFWA Bulletin for several years; he also chaired for 7 years, SFWA’s Grievance Committee, which advocates for authors who experience difficulties in dealing with editors, publishers, agents, and other entities. He received the Service to SFWA Award in 2005, and after his death, the award was renamed in his honor. (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born November 29, 1952 – Doug Beekman, age 68.  A hundred covers, ninety interiors.  Also comics, collectible cards, agenting; outside our field, advertising.  Spectrum Gold Award for comics, Silver for advertising.  Here is Time Out of Joint.  Here is The Drawing of the Dark.  Here is Spinneret.  Here is The Stars at War.  Here is an ink drawing for Homecoming Earth (and see DB’s comments here).  [JH]
  • Born November 29, 1956 – Mark Ferrari, age 64.  Having for years taken our breath away with colored-pencil images like these he was struck by a truck while riding his mountain bike, recovering but not enough to perpetuate his Prismacolor perfection.  He wrote The Book of Joby, by which time technology could take him to giving good graphics again.  Now he can make this and this.  Do see his Website.  [JH]
  • Born November 29, 1969 Greg Rucka, 51. Comic book writer and novelist, known for his work on Action ComicsBatwoman and Detective Comics. If you’ve not read it, I recommend reading Gotham Central which he co-created with Ed Brubaker, and over at Marvel, the four issue Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra which he wrote is quite excellent as well. I’ve read none of his novels, so will leave y’all to comment on those. He’s a character in the CSI comic book Dying in the Gutters miniseriesas someone who accidentally killed a comics gossip columnist while attempting to kill Joe Quesada over his perceived role in the cancellation of Gotham Central. (CE) 
  • Born November 29, 1971 Naoko Mori, 49. Torchwood is really the genre appearance she’s remembered for and  I see that she popped up first in Doctor Who playing her Torchwood character of Doctor Sato in the Ninth Doctor story, “Aliens of London”.  She also voiced Nagisa Kisaragi in Gerry Anderson’s Firestorm, and she had the role of Asako Nakayama in the second season of The Terror series which is based off the Dan Simmons novel. (CE) 
  • Born November 29, 1976 Chadwick Boseman. Another death that damn near broke my heart. The Black Panther alias Challa in the Marvel metaverse. The same year that he was first this being, he was Thoth in Gods of Egypt. (If you’ve not heard of this, no one else did either as it bombed quite nicely at the box office.) He was Sergeant McNair on Persons Unknown which is at least genre adjacent I would say.  And he even appeared on Fringe in the “Subject 9” episode asMark Little / Cameron James. (Died 2020.) (CE)
  • Born November 29, 1981 – Jon Klassen, age 39.  First person to win both the Caldecott (U.S.) and the Greenaway (U.K.) for illustration with the same book, which he wrote too.  Both This Is Not My Hat and predecessor I Want My Hat Back were NY Times Best-Sellers, jointly selling over a million copies.  Previously the Governor General’s Award for English-language children’s illustration (Canada; Cats’ Night Out).  Among other things JK illustrated Mac Barnett’s Circle.  [JH]
  • Born November 29, 2001 – Mckenzie Wagner, age 19.  Five books, the first published when she was 7.  Maybe anything can’t happen, but lots of things can.  You start whenever you start.  [JH]

(8) ICE PIRATES. Alec Nevala-Lee discusses Stillicide by Cynan Jones at the New York Times: “A Climate-Crisis Novel Offers True-to-Life Snapshots of Survival”.

…Cynan Jones’s climate-crisis novel “Stillicide,” which was originally written as a BBC Radio series, arrives just as the bar has been raised for world-building. We want speculative fiction to unfold against a complex background, without getting bogged down in incidental facts that an average person would take for granted. Yet noticing the uncanny details of our lives is all we seem to do lately, and few authors can compete with the strangeness of the real world.

Over the course of several excellent short novels, Jones, who lives in Wales, has figured out a formula that seems to rise to the challenge. His favorite strategy is to build a story around a single clearly defined thread — in his devastating debut, “The Long Dry,” it’s a lost cow — that provides a structure for a series of intensely observed vignettes. This frees him to move between time frames and perspectives, and he often focuses on people on the margins.

In “Stillicide,” the through-line is an iceberg headed for London. The novel opens many years after Britain has entered an extended drought, and enough time has passed for one phase of responses to yield to the next. After becoming a target for terrorists, a pipeline to the city has been replaced by a train that carries millions of gallons of water from a distant reservoir, equipped with automatic guns to mow down any moving object near the tracks. Another plan involves towing a giant iceberg to the dry Thames, which will displace entire neighborhoods….

(9) DUE NORTH. Sean D.’s “Microreview [Book]: Sweet Harmony by Claire North” at Nerds of a Feather covers a new novel by a celebrated author.

…Sweet Harmony follows Harmony, a young woman living in a world in which nanotechnology (nanos) can not only improve your health, but your libido, mentality, and physicality. Harmony’s surrounded by people obsessed with superficiality, and the more she is deemed unworthy by them, the more insecure she becomes. She becomes beholden to nanos, with almost all of her expenditures dedicated to keeping her esteemed beauty. But that obsession comes with a price.

This novella tackles domestic abuse, unattainable beauty standards, familial conflict, selfishness warring with selflessness, and vocational biases. Not one of those themes is undercooked or scattered. The secret is that Claire North uses the nanotechnology as an underpinning to all these themes. The story spotlights Harmony’s experience and growing dependency on the nanos and touches all the themes along the way, never losing focus because as it moves from idea to idea, it’s always grounded in a center.

(10) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Posten–Santa” on Vimeo, Santa’s feeling pretty grumpy because the icebergs at the North Pole are melting and the Norwegian Postal Service is improving its deliveries!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Joe Siclari, David Doering, Michael J. Walsh and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 11/27/20 Why Did Constantinpixel Get The Works?

(1) BABY TALK. If you’re not watching The Mandalorian but still want all the latest spoileriffic information about Baby Yoda, read this episode recap at Variety “’The Mandalorian’: Ahsoka Tano And Baby Yoda Reveal Their Secrets“. BEWARE SPOILERS. (Was that clear enough?)

“The Mandalorian” teed up the arrival of Ahsoka Tano two episodes ago and judging from the speed and cameo size of the show thus far, viewers would have been forgiven for thinking we might only get a small glimpse of the Jedi this episode. But that thought was immediately sliced in half by two white lightsabers….

(2) PANTS REMOVED. And some Mandalorian news of less import – SYFY Wire says “The Mandalorian has digitally removed the ‘Jeans Guy’ blooper”.

It’s been one week since eagle-eyed viewers discovered an unexpected blooper on The Mandalorian, as a regular-clothed member of the crew was spotted in the background of one of the scenes of the hit Disney+ TV series. 

However, despite “Jeans Guy” quickly becoming a bit of an Internet sensation, the production gaffe — which even appeared in production stills for the series — has since been digitally removed from the episode by the streamer and Lucasfilm…. 

(3) SHE PLAYED HER CARDS RIGHT. The Walter Day Collection presents a Q&A in “Science Fiction Trading Card Spotlight – Betsy Wollheim”.

How did you feel when you first started out at DAW?

It was very difficult working in an office between my mother and my father for ten long years. But I stayed because I loved the work and realized that was what I was meant to do.

(4) LASFS. The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society has named Susan Fox as the winner of the Evans-Freehafer Award for club service – specifically, her work this year facilitating the club’s virtual meetings.

(5) FIRE WHEN READY. David Steffen unleashes a formidable idea in “Universal Transitive Headcanon (UTH): A Metafiction Framework Proposal” at Diabolical Plots. (Philip Jose Farmer will be sorry he missed this.)

I would like to propose some terminology for a particular type of headcanon that can be applied across many media, though centered around actor-based media like movies and TV based on actor-transitivity and character-transitivity: the Universal Transitive Headcanon (UTH). This proposal will be the basis of a series of posts that I intend to write analyzing movies, books, comics, and other media through the UTH.

For those who are not familiar with the term, “headcanon” refers to an unofficial interpretation of a work of fiction, which may or may not have any support in the source material, but which are not part of the official canon as defined by the source material.

…The foundational concepts of the Universal Transitive Headcanon are:

  • Actor-Transitivity: Every character played by a single actor is part of the same continuity. For example, this would dictate that Darth Vader and Mufasa are part of the same character story….

(6) BATMAN HISTORY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “How Batman Changed The World” on Screen Rant is a Batman documentary on YouTube that explains how the best Batman stories, including “Batman:  The Animated Series” and the films of Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan, have room both for strongly realized Batman characters and strongly realized descriptions of Bruce Wayne.  This includes a description of historian Mark Bolderman’s efforts to find Bill Finger’s heirs and get them to successfully sue Warner Brothers for co-creator credit (which first happened on Batman V. Superman:  Dawn Of Justice.” This dropped today.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2005 — Fifteen years ago, China Miéville’s the Iron Council novel would win the Arthur C. Clarke Award besting  Ian McDonald’s River of Gods,  David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, Richard K. Morgan’s Market Forces, Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife and Neal Stephenson’s The System of the World.  It follows Perdido Street Station which also won this Award and The Scar which was nominated for this Award in the Bas-Lag universe series. It would also win the BFA  August Derleth Fantasy Award  for Best Novel and place well in the Hugo Award for Best Novel that year as well. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldrdge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 27, 1935 Verity Lambert. Founding Producer of Doctor Who. (When she was appointed to Who in 1963, she was BBC Television’s only female drama producer, as well as the youngest.) After leaving BBC, she’d oversee the Quatermass series at Thames. She’d return to BBC to Executive Produce three seasons of So Haunt Me, a supernatural series.  She appeared in the fan-made Doctor Who tribute “A Happy Ending” in 2005. (Died 2007.) (CE) 
  • Born November 27, 1951 Melinda M. Snodgrass, 69. She wrote several episodes of Next Generation including “The Measure of a Man” which was nominated for a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award and served as the series’ story editor during its second and third seasons. She also wrote scripts for SlidersStrange LuckBeyond RealityOdyssey 5, Outer Limits and SeaQuest DSV. She’s co-editor and a frequent story contributor to George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards series. Of her novels, I like her Queen’s Gambit Declined the best. CE) 
  • Born November 27, 1957 Michael A. Stackpole, 63. Best known for his myriad Star Wars and BattleTech books, but I’m going to single him out for the excellent Once a Hero which was nominated for a Nebula, his Conan the Barbarian novel,  and the two Crown Colonies novels. (CE) 
  • Born November 27, 1961 Samantha Bond, 59. Best known for playing Miss Moneypenny in four James Bond films during the series’ Pierce Brosnan years. Was Mrs Wormwood in three episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures, the spin-off of Doctor Who, and played Helga in Erik the Viking which written and directed by Terry Jones. (CE)
  • Born November 27, 1963 Fisher Stevens, 57. He’s best remembered as Ben Jabituya in Short Circuit (and renamed Ben Jahveri in the sequel), Chuck Fishman on Early Edition, and Eugene “The Plague” Belford in Hackers. He’s alsomhad roles on The HungerLostThe MentalistMedium and Elementary. (CE) 
  • Born November 27, 1974 Jennifer O’Dell, 46. Her only meaningfu  role to date, genre or otherwise, has been that of Veronica on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World but what a pulp heroine she made there. She’s had some minor roles such on Charmed and Bones, and appearances on films such as Alien Battlefield  and Dr. Laurie Williams on Vampire flick Slayer but nothing major to date. (CE)
  • Born November 27, 1907 – L. Sprague de Camp.  Aeronautical engineer and author; as Fancyclopedia 3 says “not primarily a fan but a very fannish pro”; famous for fantasy often rooted in science; good-natured and playful when he accepted the rules; tireless materialist and debunker, with all that brought.  A hundred books, far more shorter stories, four hundred essays, two hundred reviews, a hundred poems.  Guest of Honor at Tricon the 24th Worldcon (1966) and many SF conventions thereafter, e.g. Balticon 3 &17, Boskone 9, Lunacon 20, LibertyCon 1, 5 & 10.  Forry Award, Pilgrim Award, Int’l Fantasy Award, SFWA Grand Master, World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, Sidewise Award for Life Achievement in Alternative History.  Productive collaborator with e.g. Lin Carter, Robert E. Howard, Fletcher Pratt, Catherine Crook de Camp.  Biographer of Howard and Lovecraft.  Fiction and study guides about Conan the Barbarian.  One Hugo, for his memoir Time and Chance.  The Incomplete Enchanter, see the NESFA Press omnibus.  Tales from Gavagan’s Bar, get the Owlswick ed’n if you can; the Bantam lacks the illustrations; the Kindle I’m told has goofs.  Outside our field notably The Ancient Engineers.  My anecdote here (11th paragraph, but you’ll need the 4th).  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born November 27, 1909 – James Agee.  One novelette for us, which he got published in Harper’s; very worthy outside our field, see here.  (Died 1955) [JH]
  • Born November 27, 1916 – Earl Singleton, Sc.D.  His Nepenthe was the first fanzine devoted to poetry.  Journeyed from Boston to Chicon I the 2nd Worldcon (1940) with Art Widner in AW’s car the Skylark of Foo, no small adventure then.  Later great outside our field.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born November 27, 1928 – Josh Kirby.  Three hundred covers, two hundred interiors.  Artbooks Voyage of the AyeguyThe Josh Kirby Poster BookIn the Garden of Unearthly DelightsA Cosmic CornucopiaJosh Kirby’s Discworld Portfolio.  British Fantasy Award for Best Pro Artist.  Here is New Writings in SF 13.  Here is The Jagged Orbit.  Here is A Bad Day for Ali Baba.  Did the Two of Cups for Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck (PDF).  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born November 27, 1942 – Marilyn Hacker, 78.  Nat’l Book Award, Barnstone Translation Prize, PEN (Poets, Essaysts, Novelists) Award for Poetry in Translation, Fagles Translation Prize, PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, Lambda Literary Award, Marshall Poetry Prize, Lorde Award, Conners Prize, Masefield Memorial Award, NY Writers Hall of Fame, Amer. Acad. Arts & Letters Literary Award.  Chancellor of the Amer. Acad. Poets.  Edited Quark with Delany; his Babel-17 has chapter epigraphs from her poems.  [JH]
  • Born November 27, 1960 – Lori Wolf.  Hugo Ceremony Manager at LoneStarCon 2 the 55th Worldcon.  Co-chaired ArmadilloCon 15 & 23.  Reviews in Nova Express.  Fan Guest of Honor at Conestoga 6 and much missed.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • Born November 27, 1974 – Lisa Mangum, 46.  Three novels, four shorter stories, four anthologies.  Lives in Utah, likes trips to Disneyland.  Has read The Secret Lives of Codebreakers (I myself recommend Between Silk and Cyanide), Stephen King’s On WritingThe 2011 Book Blogger’s CookbookLiterature: Unsuccessfully Competing Against Television Since 1953.    [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Pluggers says you are one (a plugger) if this genre idea is your ambition.

(10) LIVE LONG AND OOPS. “B.C.’s ‘nerd’ premier gives Vulcan salute during swearing-in ceremony”CTV News has the story.

Self-described “nerd” John Horgan flashed a Vulcan salute while being sworn in as B.C.’s 36th premier on Thursday, but said the gesture was purely accidental.

Horgan had his hand raised to recite the oaths of allegiance, office and confidentiality with Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin when his fingers slowly formed the salutation made famous by Leonard Nimoy on “Star Trek.”

While speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Horgan acknowledged making the gesture but suggested he did it subconsciously.

“Quite honestly it wasn’t until after it happened that it was brought to my attention,” Horgan said. “I’m a nerd, I can’t help it. I do that a lot.”

The premier stressed that he meant no disrespect giving the salute during a formal ceremony, and that it wasn’t an intentional “signal to geeks everywhere.”

(11) FIAT LUX SKYWALKER. That Anakin has a great holiday gift idea — the Talking Darth Vader Clapper.

This Darth Vader clapper responds and talks each time you clap your lights on or off. Just clap twice to turn you lights on, and he’ll say “The force is strong with this one”, and clap twice again to turn your lights off, and he’ll respond with “You underestimate the power of the dark side”. Just plug your lamp into the bottom of him, and plug him into any wall outlet.

Okay, this is what everybody I know is getting for Christmas!

(12) UFO AIRBNB. Homes & Property brings word of “Spaceship home for sale: extremely rare Futuro house in New Zealand on the market after being in storage for years”.

… Designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen in 1968, the Futoro house is one of only 100 ever built.

…Futuro homes were originally intended to be ski cabins that would be easy to built and heat, with the end result being transportable homes that could be dismantled and reassembled in two days — or even airlifted in one piece if required.

(13) PUPPET TIME CAPSULE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Art Carney Meets Peter And The Wolf with The Bil Baird Marionettes” on YouTube is a show originally broadcast on ABC on November 30, 1958, as a puppet-based musical with music by Sergei Prokofiev and lyrics by Ogden Nash.  The video includes 10 minutes of an interview Ed Sullivan did with Walt Disney (and Donald Duck) at the Disney studios in 1953.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Russian space agency has produced its version of the idea “Our sky, if some celestial bodies were closer to us”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Olav Rokne, Kathy Sullivan, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Rich Lynch, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 7/27/20 Sir! I’ve Isolated The Reverse Pixel Flux Coupling!

(1) CAN VIRTUAL CONS BE MADE BETTER? In “What Lessons Can Future Conventions Learn From Virtual San Diego Comic-Con?”, Io9 staffers Beth Elderkin, Jill Pantozzi, Cheryl Eddy, James Whitbrook, Charles Pulliam-Moore, and Germain Lussier assess what didn’t work about SDCC 2020, “from a lack of support for the artists and vendors who would usually be on the show floor, to the lack of fan involvement, to how to create a sense of energy that the convention’s swath of ‘family Zoom call’ style pre-recorded panels were lacking.” 

(2) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY. HBO showed its Lovecraft Country trailer to San Diego Comic-Con’s @Home audience.

(3) TRAILER PARK. Ars Technica offers “An Ars roundup of the many trailers unveiled this weekend during Comic-Con@Home” where you can see all the others.

People might not be able to flock to San Diego Comic Con this year in person, but the virtual convention, Comic-Con@Home, has been running all weekend, with countless panels, sneak peeks, and teasers and trailers for upcoming TV shows—but not many films, because let’s be honest: it’s not looking so good for major theatrical film releases in the fall. On Thursday alone, we got the full trailer for Bill and Ted Face the Music, a teaser for the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost horror comedy Truth Seekers, and the first trailer for S2 of HBO’s His Dark Materials. Rather than continue to cover each individually, we decided to compile the remaining trailers of interest into a single roundup post.

(4) A CAUTIONARY TALE. Linda D. Addison offers her experience with Covid-19 as a warning in this public Facebook post.

I’m sharing what my life has been like since June 8 because I’ve seen too many people not taking Covid-19 serious. This virus is real. If sharing this wakes even one person up, it’s worth it.

I’ve been as safe as possible, going to the supermarket every two weeks for supplies, wearing a mask, sanitizing everything, however, 7 weeks ago I got very sick for 9 days with symptoms of mild coronavirus, talked to my doctor and stayed in self isolation for more than 2 weeks. I was fortunate that my temp never went high enough or my breathing bad enough that I had to go to the hospital. Since then, I’ve lived with continued cough, fatigue, shortness of breath (using inhaler from doctor helps).

This is happening to many people in recovery (look up Covid Long Haulers). So I’m sleeping a lot, healing will come, but this is so new there’s not much the medical field can do at this point. I’m ok. My friend, Jill, lives around the corner and has been helping by dropping off stuff.

PLEASE, wear a mask (if not for yourself, for anyone who crosses your path)!

(5) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. Vulture’s Mark Harris, in “The Neverending Story of Those Neverappearing Avatar Sequels”, contends that although James Cameron says Avatar 2 has been delayed because of the coronavirus, the guy is suh a perfectionist that it’s highlyunlikely we will see Avatar 3,4, or 5.

…The wait for more Avatar has become something of a running joke, so much so that a Twitter thread I started when it was already a running joke is now well into its sixth year. The first sequel was originally announced almost a decade ago, in October 2010, with a projected release date of December 2014. Since then, its opening date has, at regular intervals, been moved back one year at a time — except once, in 2017, when it moved back two years. But the film has also morphed from a two-sequel series into a four-sequel series, with a lingering sense that the mountain was being made bigger as a way of justifying the length of the climb. 

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 27, 1997 Stargate SG-1 premiered on Showtime where it would run for its first five seasons. The show which was created by Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner. It’s based rather loosely off the Stargate film. The initial core cast was Richard Dean Anderson, Michael Shanks, Amanda Tapping and Christopher Judge.  It would run for a decade with the last five years being on Sci Fi. Two spinoff series, Stargate Atlantis which would run five seasons, and Stargate Universe which would last two seasons. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a stellar 91% rating. (CE)

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 27, 1870 – Hilaire Belloc.  Orator, poet,correspondent,sailor, satirist, soldier, activist.  Cautionary Tales for Children includes “Jim, who ran away from his nurse, and was eaten by a lion” and “Rebecca, who slammed doors for fun and perished miserably”; 1907 readers would quickly recognize the parody.  A hundred fifty books; we can claim half a dozen novels (illustrated by G.K.Chesterton!), as many shorter stories.  (Died 1953) [JH] 
  • Born July 27, 1874 Frank Shannon. He’s best remembered now as the scientist Dr. Alexis Zarkov in the three Flash Gordon serials starring Buster Crabbe between 1936 and 1940.  The serials themselves were Flash GordonFlash Gordon’s Trip to Mars and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. (Died 1959.) (CE)
  • Born July 27, 1891 – Ruth Plumly Thompson.  Following Frank Baum’s death, she wrote two dozen Oz books.  Three other novels, six dozen shorter stories, ten dozen poems.  Also wrote for The Smart SetThe Saturday Evening PostLadies Home JournalJack and Jill.  Many regard her as a worthy successor.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born July 27, 1908 – W.I. Van der Poel, Jr.  Art director for Galaxy 1950-1960.  A score of covers – but not, it seems, appearing there.  He is however on this famous 1952 Emshwiller cover – see the key here.  Look at The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag.  (Died 1987) [JH]
  • Born July 27, 1927 – Mel Hunter.  A hundred book and magazine covers, eight dozen interiors.  Here is the May 53 Galaxy.  Here is The End of Eternity.  Here is Double Star – the Great Lorenzo at right.  Here is the Jun 58 If.  Here is the Mar 61 F & SF.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • Born July 27, 1938 Gary Gygax. Game designer and author best-known for co-creating  Dungeons & Dragons with Dave Arneson. In addition to the almost-beyond-counting gaming modules he wrote, he wrote the Greyhawk Adventure series and the Dangerous Journeys novels. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born July 27, 1939 Sydney J. van Scyoc, 81. Her first published story was “Shatter the Wall” in Galaxy in 1962. She continued to write short stories throughout the Sixties and Seventies, and published Saltflower, her first novel in the early Seventies. Over the next twenty years, she published a dozen novels and likewise number of short stories. For all practice purposes, she’s not available in digital format. (CE)
  • Born July 27, 1948 Juliet Marillier, 72. She’s a New Zealand born and Western Australian resident fantasy writer focusing entirely on historical fantasy. She has a number of series including Blackthorn & Grim which at two volumes is a good introduction to her, and Sevenwaters which at seven volumes is a serious reading commitment. She’s a regular contributor to the fiction writing blog, Writer Unboxed.
  • Born July 27, 1949 – Cora Lee Healy, 71.  Fanartist, has done some pro work.  Here is a cover for Algol.  Here is “Starward”.  Here is another astronomical.  She has been in Energumen and Granfalloon; she did the Ace of Cups in the Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck (see this review by a Tarot collector; although the reviewer says the Deck is out of print; copies can still be obtained; if all else fails, ask me, John Hertz, 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles, CA 90057).  [JH]
  • Born July 27, 1950 Simon Jones, 70. He’s well known for his portrayals of Arthur Dent, protagonist of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He first portrayed the character on radio for the BBC and again on television for BBC Two. Jones also featured in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film in a cameo role. He’s in Monty Python’s The Meaning of LifeBrazil and 12 Monkeys as well.  (CE) 
  • Born July 27, 1952 – Bud Webster.  Our Gracious Host has done better than I could.  (Died 2016) [JH] 
  • Born July 27, 1958 – Kate Elliott, 62.  Two dozen novels (some under another name), a dozen shorter stories; interviewed in ApexLightspeedLocusMindsparks.  “The Sword of Heaven [in two parts, An Earthly Crown and His Conquering Sword] I call my Mozart novel because of the speed it flowed out of me….  my Beethoven novel The Law of Becoming was like hacking through the jungle into unknown country….  Being a parent has made me a better writer.”  Unconquerable Sun just released this month.  Mills College woman.  [JH]
  • Born July 27, 1968 Farah Mendlesohn, 52. She’s an historian and prolific writer on genre literature, and an active fan. Best works by her? I really like her newest work on Heinlein which I’m reading now, The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein which is up for a Hugo next week. Her work Diana Wynne Jones: Children’s Literature and the Fantastic Tradition is a fascinating read. And I highly recommend her Rhetorics of Fantasy as we don’t get many good theoretical looks at fantasy. (CE)
  • Born July 27, 1979 – Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, 41. Three dozen short stories; poems; essays, reviews, interviews, in AnalogClarkesworldFoundationNY Review of SFStrange Horizons.  Anthology (with Robert Silverberg), When the Blue Shift Comes.  Traveler of Worlds, conversations with Silverberg.  Good moderator of the Asimov centenary panel at Loscon 46.
  • Born July 27, 1984 – Hao Jingfang, Ph.D., 36.  Vagabonds just appeared in English and Spanish this year.  A score of shorter stories; Best-Novelette Hugo for “Folding Beijing”, first won by a Chinese woman.  Translated into English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Russian, Spanish.  Interviewed in LightspeedMonde chinois (in French).  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) NEW TUNES TOON. SYFY Wire’s points out you can watch the new cartoon as part of this Comic-Con@Home video panel: “Boo! Looney Tunes Cartoons Debuts New Porky And Daffy Short At Comic-Con@Home”,

“We wanted to tap into the zany energy of the 1940s stuff,” added supervising producer Alex Kirwan. “That was our favorite era of the shorts and we just wanted more of that. We didn’t want to set out to reinvent it and we didn’t want to set out to put new sensibilities on it … What we love about the shorts is that they’re wonderful slapstick humor and we just wanted to get back to [that] and be really true to the way they paired the characters and the way they built comedy dynamics.”

(10) WATCH ALEX ROSS AT WORK. Over the last two months, Marvel has revealed 28 “Timeless” variant covers created by Alex Ross, which will begin to hit local comic shops in September. See Ross craft his iconic painted covers, and see how his timeless imagery was made into a magnificent mural in Marvel’s NYC offices in this video.

(11) FROM BACK STORY TO NO STORY. “Peter Shinkoda says Marvel exec claimed ‘nobody cares’ about Asian people” – BBC has the story.

Daredevil actor Peter Shinkoda says his storyline was cut after a Marvel executive said “nobody cares about” Asian characters.

Shinkoda played Nobu in the Marvel Netflix series, which was cancelled at the end of 2018.

But he says his character’s “back story was dropped” on orders from former Marvel Television head Jeph Loeb.

“I’m kind of reluctant to say this, but… I’m going to take this moment,” Shinkoda said during a virtual talk.

“Jeph Loeb told the writers’ room not to write for Nobu and Gao – and this was reiterated many times by many of the writers and show runners – that nobody cares about Chinese people and Asian people,” he alleged.

The Canadian actor, who was taking part in a #SaveDaredevil roundtable discussion with actors from the show, said a storyline about Nobu’s journey to America ended up being dropped.

(12) THE SUN SHINES ON EVERYBODY. And some take more advantage of that than others:“What the heroin industry can teach us about solar power”

If you have ever doubted whether solar power can be a transformative technology, read on.

This is a story about how it has proved its worth in the toughest environment possible.

The market I’m talking about is perhaps the purest example of capitalism on the planet.

There are no subsidies here. Nobody is thinking about climate change – or any other ethical consideration, for that matter.

This is about small-scale entrepreneurs trying to make a profit.

It is the story of how Afghan opium growers have switched to solar power, and significantly increased the world supply of heroin.

(13) RETURN TO SENDER. “Nasa Mars rover: Meteorite to head home to Red Planet”.

A small chunk of Mars will be heading home when the US space agency launches its latest rover mission on Thursday.

Nasa’s Perseverance robot will carry with it a meteorite that originated on the Red Planet and which, until now, has been lodged in the collection of London’s Natural History Museum (NHM).

The rock’s known properties will act as a calibration target to benchmark the workings of a rover instrument.

It will give added confidence to any discoveries the robot might make.

This will be particularly important if Perseverance stumbles across something that hints at the presence of past life on the planet – one of the mission’s great quests.

“This little rock’s got quite a life story,” explained Prof Caroline Smith, head of Earth sciences collections at the NHM and a member of the Perseverance science team.

“It formed about 450 million years ago, got blasted off Mars by an asteroid or comet roughly 600,000-700,000 years ago, and then landed on Earth; we don’t know precisely when but perhaps 1,000 years ago. And now it’s going back to Mars,” she told BBC News.

(14) I FIND YOUR LACK OF FAITH DISTURBING. NPR reports “Lottery Winner In Jamaica Avoids The Spotlight Dressed As Darth Vader”.

It’s not uncommon for lottery winners to want to avoid the spotlight, right? But showing up dressed as Darth Vader to collect your check is a new one. It happened in a galaxy not so far away, in May Pen, Jamaica, when a man claimed his $95 million prize in a dark lord of the Sith costume. 

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that Saruman is spinning Gandalf around, he “forces Gandalf to learn breakdancing against his will.”

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

Pixel Scroll 2/24/20 You Make Me Vote Like A Natural Person…

(1) WORLDCON AMBITIONS. Tammy Coxen wants to remedy the problem of groups bidding for Worldcons without having any knowledge of the norms and customs of the convention they want to run. With input from many others, she has created an introduction — “So You Want to Bid for a Worldcon”.

Have you ever thought about running a Worldcon? Because Worldcon has been going on for so long (over 80 years!) there are a lot of expectations, traditions, norms and customes about how to do that, and if you don’t know about them, it’s really hard to win your bid! We haven’t necessarily done a great job of communicating that to people, so (with a lot of help from friends) I put together this intro guide. This is not a how-to document with details – this is more big picture. I think it’s useful to all bidders, but it should be especially useful to people who are new(er) to Worldcons. Please feel free to share.

(2) AURORA AWARDS NEWS. The Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association reminded people today that the Aurora Awards Eligibility lists close February 29, 2020. And the announcement comes with a warning —

This means that if there are any works you wish to nominate for an award which are not found on the public eligibility lists you will need to submit them before 11:59PM EST February 29, 2020.

Nominations will open March 1, 2020.  

Unlike in previous years, works that are not on the Eligibility lists prior to the opening of Nominations will NOT be able to be added.  

(3) BENFORD Q&A. At Buzzy Mag, Jean Marie Ward conducts the “Gregory Benford Interview – The future is all we have left”.

Jean: We’re so glad to have you. Your most recent published books are both alternate history. “The Berlin Project” looks at the world that might have been if the U.S. had the A bomb before D-day. “Rewrite” offers a sequel to your classic timescape with a Groundhog Day twist. What occasioned this desire to remake recent history?

Gregory: Because it’s so tempting. There are so many pivot points, particularly in World War II and I as a physicist was very close to the issue of, how do you get the Uranium-235 to make bombs? You have to separate it out from the heavier 238 isotope. And the decision of how to do that, I had two choices and General Groves was forced to make the choice because the scientists were divided and he chose the wrong one and it cost us a year in the Second World War. It’s generally agreed by historians that had we suggested or made happen centrifically a separation, spinning cylinders, we would have chopped a year off the gaseous diffusion that Oak Ridge used and spent $1 billion doing. So, how would that change the war? You would have the bomb at D-day, well, how would you use it? And I use this title, “The Berlin Project” because that’s what the scientists in the project called it the first few years because the target was Berlin. Groves said that was too obvious.

So he called it the Manhattan Project and opened an office in Manhattan to give the excuse of, well, of course it was near Columbia University where all his work was done, but still they were always focused on Berlin. So, that was just too tempting because I was a postdoc for Edward Teller at Livermore for two years and then a staff member. He offered me a staff position which I took before I went to UC Irvine. And Teller told me all these delicious stories about the Manhattan Project. And I knew so many of them. The woman who helped me to do physics at UC San Diego, Maria Kepert Mayor, when I was working on problems with her and did a bunch of nuclear physics, again for my thesis, she won the Nobel Prize. And she told me all kinds of delicious stories about the Manhattan Project….

(4) GIBSON BAFFLED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall in the February 15 Financial Times, John Thornhill interviews William Gibson.

Gibson knew the late (John Perry) Barlow well, but he says he is ‘absolutely baffled by the naive utopianism of the early Internet pioneers, who enthused about disruption.  Barlow professed to love Neuromancer — according to Gibson — but appeared to have missed the central idea that cyberspace also had its downsides.  Even today Gibson says he is puzzled by older readers who approach him at book signings to thank him for inspiring them to pursue a career in tech.

“They’d read a book in which there didn’t appear to be any middle class left and in which no characters had employment.  They were all criminal freelancers of one sort or another. So, it was always quite mysterious to me.”

(5) BRINGING DIVERSITY TO SPACE. “Black in Space: Breaking the Color Barrier” is airing this week on the Smithsonian Channel. It also can be viewed on YouTube.

America’s experiences during the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race are well documented. However, few know about the moment these two worlds collided, when the White House and NASA scrambled to put the first black astronaut into orbit. This is the untold story of the decades-long battle between the U.S. and the Soviet Union to be the first superpower to bring diversity to the skies, told by the black astronauts and their families, who were part of this little known chapter of the Cold War.

…On Aug. 30, 1983, the astronaut Guion Bluford embarked as a crew member of the Space Shuttle Challenger, making him the first African-American in space. This documentary features him alongside Edward Dwight, an Air Force pilot edged out of a position with NASA, and Frederick Gregory, the first African-American to command a NASA mission, to examine the complications of sending a black man into space during the Cold War. 

Also included are Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez, the first Cuban astronaut sent into space by the Soviet Union, and Ronald McNair, an African-American pilot who died in the Challenger disaster in 1986.

(6) JOHNSON OBIT. Fame came late in Katherine Johnson’s life for her contributions to the early space program. “Smithsonian Curators Remember Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician Highlighted in ‘Hidden Figures,’ Who Died at 101”.

…Striking out during “a time when computers wore skirts,” she once said, Johnson quickly proved her incomparable worth. So trusted were her calculations that astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, considered them an integral part of his preflight checklist—even after the equations had been transferred over to modern electronic machines. “When he got ready to go,” Johnson said of Glenn, “he said, ‘Call her. And if she says the computer is right, I’ll take it.”

Her work fueled innumerable feats of aeronautics, several of which were outlined in the 26 research papers Johnson published over her decades-long career. The earliest of these publications made Johnson one of the first women at NASA to become a named author or co-author on an agency report, according to Margalit Fox at the New York Times.

…Though Johnson’s landmark contributions went mostly unheralded by mainstream media throughout her tenure at Langley, the 2010s finally brought her name into the public eye. In 2015, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama, who described Johnson as “a pioneer who broke the barriers of race and gender, showing generations of young people that everyone can excel in math and science, and reach for the stars,” reports Russell Lewis for NPR. The next year, Margot Lee Shetterly’s book Hidden Figures, as well as a movie adaptation by the same name, highlighted the accomplishments of Johnson and her colleagues.

The film was nominated for three Oscars. When Johnson took the stage at the 2017 Academy Awards ceremony, the mathematician—then 98 years old and the only one of the movie’s central characters still alive at the time of its release—received a thunderous standing ovation. That fall, NASA dedicated a new Langley building in her honor, the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility….

The Washington Post obituary also includes many details of her personal life and early career at NACA and its successor, NASA.

…Mrs. Johnson had a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and spent her early career studying data from plane crashes, helping devise air safety standards at a time when the agency’s central concern was aviation….

Chris Garcia wrote her bio when the Bay Area’s Computer History Museum made her a Fellow last year:

… NACA was renamed National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) in 1958, and Johnson became an aerospace technologist within NASA’s Spacecraft Controls branch. In 1960 she coauthored Determination of Azimuth Angle at Burnout for Placing a Satellite Over a Selected Earth Position, an important report that laid out the equations for determining landing position for orbital spaceflight. In 1961 she calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 Earth orbital mission….

(7) MORE ABOUT BARBARA REMINGTON, In “Blast from ye past”, DB follows this intro with some intriguing comments and insights about the late artist:

Barbara Remington has died, at 90. Really old-time Tolkienists will remember her name as that of the artist who created the covers for the first issue of the Ballantine paperbacks of The Lord of the Rings, which may be seen pictured in her obituary here. (Note they’re all actually one painting split into three parts, which was also issued as a single poster without overprinting.)

Ballantine’s goal was to get the books in the shops quickly, to compete with the unauthorized Ace paperbacks, so they gave Remington very little time to work….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 24, 1952Aladdin And His Lamp premiered. It was directed by Lew Landers, and starred Johnny Sands and Patricia Medina. Filming was finished in less than a week. It was originally produced for a television audience, then Allied Artists picked up the film and added additional footage for a theatrical release. You can see this short film here.
  • February 24, 1960 The Amazing Transparent Man premiered. It was directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, and starred Marguerite Chapman and Douglas Kennedy. It and Beyond the Time Barrier were film in Dallas in two weeks. Critics in general liked it, but the audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes is a lousy 16%. You can see the film here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 24, 1909 August Derleth. He’s best known as the first book publisher of H. P. Lovecraft, and for his own fictional contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos (a term that S. T. Joshi does not like). Let not to overlook him being the founder of Arkham House which alas is now defunct. I’m rather fond of his detective fiction with Solar Pons of Praed Street being a rather inspired riff off the Great Detective. (Died 1971.)
  • Born February 24, 1933 Verlyn Flieger, 87. Well-known Tolkien specialist. Her best-known books are Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s WorldA Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Road to Faerie, which won a Mythopoeic Award, Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth (her second Mythopoeic Award) and Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien (her third Mythopoeic Award). She has written a YA fantasy, Pig Tale, and some short stories.
  • Born February 24, 1945 Barry Bostwick, 75. Best remembered for being Brad Majors in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. His first genre undertaking was the English language narration of Fantastic Planet. He voices the Mayor in The Incredibles 2
  • Born February 24, 1947 Edward James Olmos, 73. Reasonably sure the first thing I saw him in was as Detective Gaff in Blade Runner, but I see he was Eddie Holt in Wolfen a year earlier which was his genre debut. Though I didn’t realize it as I skipped watching the entire film, he was in The Green Hornet as Michael Axford. (I did try watching it, I gave up after maybe fifteen minutes. Shudder.) He has a cameo as Gaff in the new Blade Runner film. And he’s William Adama on the rebooted  Battlestar Galactica. He made appearances on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Eureka
  • Born February 24, 1951 Helen Shaver, 69. Her SFF debut was as Betsy Duncan in Starship Invasions aka Project Genocide in the U.K. though you’ve likely not heard of her there, you might have seen her as Carolyn in The Amityville Horror.  She’s Littlefoot’s mother in The Land Before Time, and Kate ‘White’ Reilly in the second Tremors film. She’s got one-offs in The Outer Limits, Amazing Stories, Ray Bradbury Theater and Outer Limits to name but a few. And she was Dr. Rachel Corrigan in Poltergeist: The Legacy, a super series indeed.
  • Born February 24, 1966 Billy Zane, 54. His genre roles include Match in Back to the Future and Back to the Future Part II, Hughie Warriner in Dead Calm, John Justice Wheeler in Twin Peaks, The Collector in Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and the title role in The Phantom.
  • Born February 24, 1966 Ben Miller, 54. He first shows up in our corner of things on The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones in the “Daredevils of the Desert” episode as an unnamed French Officer. His main genre role was on Primeval, a series I highly recommend as a lot of fun, as James Lester.  He later shows up as the Sheriff of Nottingham in a Twelfth Doctor episode entitled “Robot of Sherwood”. 
  • Born February 24, 1968 Martin Day, 52. I don’t usually deal with writers of licensed works but he’s a good reminder that shows such as Doctor Who spawn vast secondary fiction universes. He’s been writing such novels first for Virgin Books and now for BBC Books for over twenty years. The Hollow Men, a Seven Doctor novel he co-wrote wrote with Keith Topping, is quite excellent. In addition, he’s doing Doctor Who audiobooks for Big Finish Productions and other companies as well. He’s also written several unofficial books to television series such as the X Files, the Next Generation and the Avengers

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Today’s Bizarro is a look-twice.
  • The Argyle Sweater has a silly twist on a common parents-with-a-teenager line.
  • And the brilliant Tom Gauld again –

(11) MARTIAN HOPS. “Hunting for ‘marsquakes,’ NASA lander finds a surprisingly active red planet” reports the LA Times.

…The lander, which touched down on the red planet 15 months ago, has detected plenty of seismic activity, an unexpectedly strong local magnetic field and around 10,000 whirlwinds passing over the Martian surface.

The findings, published Monday in a suite of six papers in the journals Nature Geoscience and Nature Communications, will help scientists unlock the secrets of Mars’ interior and understand why it looks so different from Earth.

“What these results really are showing us is that Mars is an active planet today,” said Bruce Banerdt, the mission’s principal investigator, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada-Flintridge, and a co-author of the new studies.

InSight is situated in a roughly 27-yard-wide impact crater in western Elysium Planitia, a volcanic plain whose surface material ranges in age from 3.7 billion to just 2.5 million years old. About 1,000 miles away lies Cerberus Fossae, a volcanic region full of faults, evidence of old lava flows and signs that liquid water once ran on the surface.

(12) HITCH YOUR WAGON TO A STAR. In the Washington Post, Homer Hickam argues that it’s time for a “moon rush” and “once electricians, plumbers, miners, and construction workers start going to the moon, and the middle class starts using products made with materials from Luna, the United States will turn into a true spacefaring nation.” “Let the moon rush begin”.

As these efforts get going, however, it’s important to avoid the thinking of a half-century ago and look at the moon in a different way. This is, after all, not your grandfather’s moon. After the Apollo moon-landing program of the 1960s and ’70s, a series of robotic missions discovered that Luna was a lot more interesting than many had previously thought. It has abundant water and oxygen, as well as helium, platinum, thorium, rare earth metals and other minerals that may well be worth digging up and transporting back for use in thousands of products. Last year, a gigantic blob of metal, as yet unidentified but significantly larger than the Big Island of Hawaii, was discovered beneath the lunar south pole. Whatever it is, it has value. The quiet far side of the moon could also provide a location for interstellar observatories, and tourists who would pay a lot to have a lunar vacation are inevitable. In other words, a real business case can be made for the moon, a case that could not only put dollars back into the pockets of taxpayers but also open up jobs for skilled workers on the lunar surface.

(13) FEEL THE HEAT. Own the “Darth Vader Helmet BBQ Grill” for a mere $724.97! Yahoo! Lifestyle adds:

In addition to the Darth Vader version, Burned by Design LTD makes a R2D2 fire pit, a Storm Trooper fire pit, a Death Star fire pit, and a Boba Fett fire pit. So find your favorite character and enjoy one of those long, outdoor summer nights.

(14) FEEL THE BEAT. “Earth Harp: The man behind the unique instruments ‘epic’ sound” – BBC video.

William Close is the inventor behind the Earth Harp – the world’s longest string instrument which uses architecture and landscapes to create a unique sound.

Mr Close, who has performed the giant harp all over the world, says the audiences are often left feeling like they are “inside the instrument” during his performances.

(15) SET AN EXAMPLE. “Marvel’s Black Panther film costumes to star in new Ipswich exhibition”.

Costumes from Marvel’s Black Panther film will feature in an exhibition designed to help “young black people shape their sense of identity”.

Three costumes from the big-screen hit will be on show at Unmasked: The Power of Stories in Ipswich.

Organisers were inspired by the film’s message about the capacity of storytelling to unite or divide people.

Contributor Phanuel Mutumburi said the exhibition would provide opportunities for people to join in.

Ipswich’s communities were “at the heart” of the exhibition, which would highlight important issues for different communities within the Suffolk town, said organisers.

(16) MAKING DEW. BBC traces “The ethereal art of fog-catching”.

In chronically dry regions around the world, communities are finding ways to live from the water suspended in the air – creating valuable drinking water from mist.

When Abel Cruz was just a boy, near the Peruvian region of Cusco, he had to walk for more than an hour every day to collect water from the nearest source and take it back home. Then he realised that, during the rainy season, drops accumulated in the banana leaves.

“When we saw that, my father and I built natural canals with the leaves to collect the water,” he says. “The first drops were a bit dirty and dusty, yet it was useful to wash dishes.”

The leaves, however, only lasted for around two weeks. “So we cut bamboo in half and we replaced the canal pipes with them, which lasted a lot longer,” explains Cruz. “That is how I got involved with collecting water.”

Today Cruz is collecting water in a very different way – he catches fog.

With large sheets of mesh strung up on hillsides, it is possible to harvest the thick mists that drift across the arid Peruvian landscape. Tiny droplets condense on the netting and dribble down into pipes that carry the water into containers where it can be used to irrigate crops or even as drinking water.

Each net can capture between 200-400 litres of fresh water every day, providing a new source of water for communities that have had no easy access to regular supplies. Cruz has helped to install more than 2,000 of these fog catching nets in eight rural communities across Peru as well as in Bolivia, Colombia and Mexico. The impact has been dramatic.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mitigation of Shock from Superflux on Vimeo is about an installation by Superflux displaying the gloomy world of 2050 after climate change and economic collapse.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Tammy Coxen, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]