Pixel Scroll 9/11/21 TribblePlusUnGood

(1) THE BRONZE TROUSERS. “’Cheese!’: Bronze statue of iconic duo Wallace and Gromit unveiled in Preston by creator Nick Park” reports ITV News Granada.

Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park unveils the new statue in Preston. Photo credit: PA

A large bronze statue of the iconic, cheese-loving duo Wallace and Gromit has been unveiled in Lancashire.

The bench sculpture is based on the inventor and his loyal pooch as they appeared in short-film ‘The Wrong Trousers’, and now sits pride of place outside Preston Markets.

(2) WORDSMITH. John Scalzi celebrates “30 Years of Being a Professional Writer” with a not-very- shocking admission:

…Thirty years on I do not have the writing career I thought I would have when I started out. I’ve said this before and I think people disbelieve me, but: I had no intention of being a novelist, or, at the very least, I assumed that if I were to write novels, that they would be a nice occasional side hustle. What I hoped for at the time — and what I assumed would be the case — is that I would write for newspapers all my life. The gig at the Fresno Bee would lead to gigs at other newspapers, and eventually I would land up at the New York Times/Washington Post/Los Angeles Times/Chicago Tribune as a daily columnist, riffing off local and world events like idols such as Mike Royko or Molly Ivins. Twenty-two-year-old me fully expected an entire career of daily deadlines and 800-word bursts of opinion.

And, I’m not going to lie, part of me is sad I didn’t get that life. Not too sad, because, well. Hello, welcome to Whatever, which I have been writing at for twenty-three years come Monday…. 

(3) NOUGHTS & CROSSES AUTHOR. Guardian reporter Sian Cain interviews YA SFF writer Malorie Blackman: “‘Hope is the spark’”.

…The last 18 months, however, have been a significant challenge. Having been classed as extremely vulnerable due to a health condition, Blackman has been isolating for most of the pandemic – and it is clear that, as she puts it, she “loves a chat”. “It has been a very strange time,” she says. “I was getting government letters saying: ‘Don’t go out.’ I was trying to live as normal a life as possible, knowing full well it was extraordinary circumstances. But you do what you can, so I focused on my writing. Endgame was a good thing because it felt like I was doing something. I wasn’t saving lives, but I was doing something.

What she was doing is probably the hardest thing an author can do: writing the ending. After 20 years, six books and three novellas, Noughts & Crosses, Blackman’s most famous series, is finished. It is set in Albion, an alternative Britain that was colonised by Africa, where the black population call themselves Crosses (as they are closer to God), while the white are Noughts (poorer, institutionally discriminated against)….

(4) IT’S TIME TO BE SIMULTANEOUS. The good folks at Space Cowboy Books have released Simultaneous Times, Vol. 2.5, a free ebook anthology of stories featured at the Simultaneous Times podcast. One of them is by Cora Buhlert. Here is a book trailer for the anthology: 

(5) KRUGMAN, PALMER & WALTON. CUNY will host “Imagining the Future: Economics and Science Fiction” on November 10 at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. Register for Zoom webinar access at the link.

What do economics and science fiction have in common? Much in the way economists forecast the results of social and economic structures, science-fiction writers envision future civilizations, both utopian and dystopian, through systematic world-building. Paul Krugman, distinguished professor of economics at the CUNY Graduate Center, joins in a conversation about the connection between the social sciences and fantasy fiction, and how they often inspire each other. Featuring: Ada Palmer, author of the Terra Ignota series and associate professor of history at the University of Chicago; Jo Walton, whose many books include Tooth and Claw, Ha’Penney, and the recent Or What You Will; and others.

(6) FRAMING TOOL. Maybe an algorithm will help make that blank screen less empty: “New tool could help authors bust writer’s block in novel-length works” reports Penn State News.

… Researchers at the Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology recently introduced a new technology that forecasts the future development of an ongoing written story. In their approach, researchers first characterize the narrative world using over 1,000 different “semantic frames,” where each frame represents a cluster of concepts and related knowledge. A predictive algorithm then looks at the preceding story and predicts the semantic frames that might occur in the next 10, 100, or even 1,000 sentences in an ongoing story….

The researchers’ framework, called semantic frame forecast, breaks a long narrative down into a sequence of text blocks with each containing a fixed number of sentences. The frequency of the occurrence of each semantic frame is then calculated. Then, the text is converted to a vector — numerical data understood by a machine — where each dimension denotes the frequency of one frame. It is then computed to quantify the number of times a semantic frame appears and signifies its importance. Finally, the model inputs a fixed number of text blocks and predicts the semantic frame for the forthcoming block.

…Authors could use the tool by feeding a part of their already-written text into the system to generate a set of word clouds with suggested nouns, verbs and adjectives to inspire them when crafting the next part of their story.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1979 – Forty-two years ago on this date, Wonder Woman put away her lasso for the last time as her series came to end after three seasons. The show’s first season aired under the name of Wonder Woman on ABC and is set in the 1940s, during World War II. The last two seasons aired on CBS and was set in the then-current day late Seventies, with the title changed to The New Adventures of Wonder Woman. It starred Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman / Diana Prince and Lyle Waggoner as Steve Trevor Sr. There would be fifty-nine episodes and a movie before it ended. Currently you can find it on HBO Max along with everything Wonder Woman that Warner Media has done. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an excellent eighty percent rating.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 11, 1934 — Ian Abercrombie. He played a most excellent and proper Alfred Pennyworth on the terribly well done Birds of Prey, a certain Professor Crumbs in Wizards of Waverly Place, he was Wiseman in Army of Darkness andvoiced Palpatine in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 11, 1940 — Brian De Palma, 81. Though not a lot of genre work, he has done some significant work including Carrie. Other films he’s done of interest to us are The Fury which most likely you’ve never heard of, and the first Mission: Impossible film along with Mission to Mars. Not genre, but I find it fascinating that he directed Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark video which has a genre connection as actress Courtney Cox would be in the Misfits of Science series and the Scream horror franchise as well.
  • Born September 11, 1941 — Kirby McCauley. Literary agent and editor who represented authors such as Stephen King, George R.R. Martin and Roger Zelazny. And McCauley chaired the first World Fantasy Convention, an event he conceived with T. E. D. Klein and several others. As Editor, his works include Night Chills: Stories of Suspense, FrightsFrights 2, and Night Chills. (Died 2014.)
  • Born September 11, 1948 — Michael Sacks, 73. He’s best remembered as Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse Five. Given how short his film career was, as it lasted but little over a decade, that’s no surprise. His only other genre role was as Jeff in The Amityville Horror. He’s now in the financial services sector. 
  • Born September 11, 1951 — Michael Goodwin, 69. Ahhh, Alan Dean Foster’s Commonwealth series. I know that I’ve read at least a half dozen of the novels in that series and really enjoyed them, so it doesn’t surprise that someone wrote a guide to it which is how we have Goodwin’s (with the assistance of co-writer Robert Teague) A Guide to the Commonwealth: The Official Guide to Alan Dean Foster’s Humanx Commonwealth Universe. Unfortunately like so many of these guides, it was done once part way through the series and never updated. 
  • Born September 11, 1952 — Sharon Lee, 69. She is the co-author with Steve Miller of the Liaden universe novels and stories which are quite excellent reading with the latest being Neogenesis. They won Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for significant contribution to SF in the spirit of the writer E.E. “Doc” Smith, and they won The Golden Duck, the Hal Clement Young Adult Award, for their Balance of Trade novel.  They are deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects.
  • Born September 11, 1958 — Roxann Dawson, 63. Best remembered for being B’Elanna Torres on Voyager. She’s also a published genre author having written the Tenebrea trilogy with Daniel Graham. This space opera series is available from the usual digital suspects. She’s got two genre film creds, Angela Rooker in Darkman III: Die Darkman Die, and Elizabeth Summerlee in the 1998 version of The Lost World. She’s the voice of The Repair Station computer on the “Dead Stop” episode of Enterprise. Oh and she popped up once on the Seven Days series. She’s long since retired from acting. 
  • Born September 11, 1965 — Cat Sparks, 56. Winner of an astounding fourteen Ditmar Awards for writing, editing and artwork, her most recent was in 2019 when she garnered one for “The 21st Century Catastrophe: Hyper-capitalism and Severe Climate Change in Science Fiction.” She has just one published novel to date, Lotus Blue, though there’s an unpublished one, Effigy, listed at ISFDB. She has an amazing amount of short stories all of which are quite stellar. Lotus Blue and The Bride Price collection are both available at the usual digital suspects. (CE) 

(9) NEAR TO THE MADDING CROWD. The DickHeads Podcast – so-called for their interest in Philip K. Dick – makes a side excursion to discuss someone who once gave an opinion about a PKD story: “Judith Merril Roundtable”.

Dick Adjacent is back. And it’s a good one too. The story goes that after David finished reading some of Judith Merril’s stories, he found a scathing review she wrote of PKD’s story Roog, and with that connection made, it seemed only appropriate to gather a panel of experts together and discuss her place in the science fiction universe. Considered a feminist force, she had to bully her way through a male-dominated business to make her voice heard. Incredible person. Incredible story. And a truly accredited panel. So listen in on David, Lisa Yazek, Gideon Marcus, Ritchie Calvin, and Kathryn Heffner as they discuss the legacy of Judith Merril.

(10) FLICKS BY THE BRIDGE. The Brooklyn SciFi Film Festival is back for 2021 with 160 sff films from 18 countries. All film selections will be available to stream online September 20-26 with live, in-person screenings to be held in Brooklyn at the Wythe Hotel Screening Room on September 25. Tickets available here. Special recognition in eight categories will be awarded by a panel of jurors and industry professionals on September 25.

This year, the BSFFF will feature all-new exclusive online events, screening parties, and filmmaker commentary. Another addition is the “The Future Sounds of Brooklyn,” which is a compilation of SciFi-inspired music from musicians across the globe. The popular  The Sixth Borough, a curated, BSFFF-developed series, which presents three fantastic science fiction short films united by a common theme each day of the festival, will return for the second year.

(11) A DIFFERENT WAY. Sebastien de Castell’s new YA fantasy Way Of The Argosi is pitched as “The Alchemist meets The Three Musketeers — with card tricks.”

A merciless band of mages murdered her parents, massacred her tribe and branded her with mystical sigils that left her a reviled outcast. They should have killed her instead.

Stealing, swindling, and gambling with her own life just to survive, Ferius will risk anything to avenge herself on the zealous young mage who haunts her every waking hour. But then she meets the incomparable Durral Brown, a wandering philosopher gifted in the arts of violence who instead overcomes his opponents with shrewdness and compassion. Does this charismatic and infuriating man hold the key to defeating her enemies, or will he lead her down a path that will destroy her very soul?

Through this outstanding tale of swashbuckling action, magical intrigue and dazzling wit, follow Ferius along the Way of the Argosi and enter a world of magic and mystery unlike any other.

(12) SAY AGAIN? [Item by David Doering.] Just the thing for the WSFS Business Meeting:

— Which the US Navy is also working on: “A New Navy Weapon Actually Stops You From Talking”. Like having that annoying kid who keeps repeating everything you say…on-demand!

The U.S. Navy has successfully invented a special electronic device that is designed to stop people from talking. A form of non-lethal weapon, the new electronic device effectively repeats a speaker’s own voice back at them, and only them, while they attempt to talk. 

It was developed, and patented back in 2019 but has only recently been discovered, according to a report by the New Scientist

The main idea of the weapon is to disorientate a target so much that they will be unable to communicate effectively with other people. 

Called acoustic hailing and disruption (AHAD), the weapon is able to record speech and instantly broadcast it at a target in milliseconds. Much like an annoying sibling, this action will disrupt the target’s concentration, and, in theory, discourage them from continuing to speak. …

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. First Fandom Experience tells “The Tale of Aubrey MacDermott”, who claimed to be the first active sff fan.

Aubrey McDermott was born in 1909 and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and claims to be the first active science-fiction fan. We’ll let Aubrey tell his own story through a letter that he sent to Andrew Porter around 1990…

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cora Buhlert, Denny Lien, Todd Mason, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 9/9/21 Please Remove Shoes Before Standing On Shoulders Of Giant

(1) TAKEI PAYS TRIBUTE TO BJO. [Item by David Doering.] If you didn’t catch it, last night the Paramount+ network put on a Star Trek Day special. They included short retrospectives on past Star Trek series from cast members. For TOS, they had George Takei. He described how the series was rescued for a third season, but then went out of his way with the short time he had to mention Bjo Trimble as the force behind it. His mention received a roar of applause and cheers from the crowd. I was deeply touched by both his highlighting Bjo and the audience’s response.

He went on to say that thanks to the third season, TOS could go into syndication, which is what cultivated a whole world of fans which led…and so on. Today we will have FIVE simultaneous Trek series on TV. Woah. So, SO glad to live to this era! 

(2) WATCH STAR TREK DAY SPECIAL. A recording of the three-hour-plus Star Trek Day livestream celebration is available at Facebook Live today.

(3) YOU WON’T EAT LUNCH IN THIS TOWN AGAIN. They controlled the vertical. They controlled the horizontal. The 1965 Worldcon committee even found a way to tune out Harlan Ellison, writer of Outer Limits’ “Soldier” episode. The Hugo Book Club Blog replays that bit of history in “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bombastic Ego”.

…Though he backed down from that attempt, Ellison was adamant that there should be a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1965, and encouraged other fans to write in nominations for the category … with the apparent belief that if the category was being considered that year, his Outer Limits episode would be a shoe-in.

But the 1965 Hugo Awards operated under a unique set of rules that have not been used since; as per the convention committee, the shortlist was created via “nomination by a panel of experts, selecting from suggestions offered by the membership at large.” In practice, this meant that no matter how many voters included “Soldier” on their nominating ballot, the Hugo Committee could omit it if they so chose….

(4) REMATRIX. The Matrix Resurrections will be in theaters and on HBO Max on December 22.

From visionary filmmaker Lana Wachowski comes “The Matrix Resurrections,” the long-awaited fourth film in the groundbreaking franchise that redefined a genre. The new film reunites original stars Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss in the iconic roles they made famous, Neo and Trinity.

(5) HE’S DEAD, JIM. Did you notice anything missing from the trailer above? Vice tries to explain the absence of a major character: “Is Morpheus Not in The Matrix Trailer Because He Died in The Matrix MMO?”

So you just watched the new Matrix Resurrections trailer and you’re wondering where Laurence Fishburne character Morpheus is. I’ve got bad news for you: Canonically, he’s been dead since the mid 2000s.

As part of an ambitious plan to continue The Matrix franchise after the films, the Wachowskis gave their blessing to a massively multiplayer online game based on the franchise, which launched in 2005. Victim of an overcrowded MMO market, The Matrix Online was canceled only four years later in 2009, and had less than 500 active players by that point. That this game is little known and now impossible to play does not also stop the following from being true: Technically, everything that occurred in that game is canon. The Matrix’s fan wiki considers The Matrix Online canon, and the Wachowskis were heavily involved in the creation of some of the Matrix games. They even appeared in The Matrix: Path of Neo.

According to The Matrix‘s fan wiki, Morpheus’s death was part of an in-game event where the character was, as always, up to some esoteric scheme…

(6) BYO. The real event was cancelled due to Covid, but 15,000 people showed up anyway. “Nevada sheriff says ‘Renegade’ Burning Man kept officers busy with rowdy behavior” reports the Reno Gazette Journal.

Things got a little salty on the playa at this year’s rogue Burning Man, according to the sheriff who has been overseeing the annual festival since 2015.

Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen described this year’s event — held outside the official auspices of the Burning Man organization — as  “people packed in a small space in the heat, no shade or cooling other than nighttime, little respect for your fellow man, and this year add the thick amounts of smoke and no (organized group) to attempt to diffuse situations.”

In addition to an increase in car crashes and open acts of speeding, there was a general “lack of care for fellow participants” over gathering that culminated Monday, Allen said.

He estimated more than 15,000 people flocked to what was dubbed “Renegade” Burning Man after organizers canceled the event for the second year in a row amid the COVID-19 pandemic. https://www.usatodaynetworkservice.com/tangstatic/html/pren/sf-q1a2z3be0d353f.min.html Typically, the annual event attracts more than 80,000 people to the playa about two hours north of Reno.

Last year it was estimated that about 5,000 people gathered in the Black Rock Desert even though the arts festival was cancelled.  

(7) CALLING BUGGIRL200. The New York Times profiles the creator of “A T-Shirt Shop for the Semi-Ironic ‘Twilight’ Fan”.

… She started selling them on Depop — a site often used to list “pre-loved” items — but realized, after receiving nearly 80 requests in her first day, that she’d need to scale up. So, she bought a web domain, BUGGIRL200.com (after her TikTok user name), and built her own online store. She has since sold more than 15,000 shirts, each of them reflecting tongue-in-cheek nostalgia for cultural touchstones from the last two decades. 

…This shirt — one of several “Twilight”-themed items Ms. Sinclair has made — was posted by Olivia Rodrigo on Instagram.

Her work has not gone unnoticed by the celebrity class: Olivia Rodrigo, for instance, tagged her friend Iris Apatow — daughter of Judd — in a photo on Instagram of a BUGGIRL200 original that reads as follows: “I think the Twilight movies are AWESOME!!!!! If you don’t think that makes me SEXY and COOL, DON’T FREAKING TALK TO ME!!!!! I am not even kidding.”

The image caught the eye of Dulce Clara, 21, a student in San Marcos, Calif. “‘Twilight’ will forever have a special place in my heart because not only did I grow up watching the movies, but it was actually my first teen romance film,” she said. When she saw Ms. Rodrigo’s post, she said, “I instantly fell in love with the shirt and bought it.”

(8) CHUNG MEDICAL UPDATE. Winchell Chung of Atomic Rockets has announced he is battling cancer.

Ad Astra Games reports on the efforts to keep Atomic Rockets online:

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1978 – Forty-three years ago this week, the Jason of Star Command series was first seen on CBS. It was created and produced by Arthur H. Nadel who was previously responsible for Shazam!The Secrets of Isis and Space Academy which this is a spin-off of. (The only series of these which I’ve seen is the first. I really liked it at the time. No idea what the Suck Fairy would make of it.) It would last but two seasons of twenty eight episodes.  (The first season episodes were fifteen minutes long and formed one story, the second were thirty minutes long.) James Doohan would be in the cast as Commander Canarvin for the first season before leaving to film Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and the chief villain here was Sid Haig who had appeared on Star Trek as the First Lawgiver in “The Return of the Archons”. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 9, 1922 — Pauline Baynes. She was the first illustrator of some of J. R. R. Tolkien’s lesser known works such as Farmer Giles of Ham and Smith of Wootton Major and of C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. With the help of cartographers from the Bordon military camp in Hampshire, Baynes created a map that Allen & Unwin published as a poster in 1970. Tolkien was generally pleased with it, though he didn’t particularly like her creatures especially her conception of a spider. (Died 2008.)
  • Born September 9, 1929 — Joseph Wrzos, 92. He edited Amazing Stories and Fantastic under the name Joseph Ross from 1965 through early 1967. With Hannes Bok, he edited in 2012, Hannes Bok: A Life in Illustration. He won First Fandom Hall of Fame Award, and its Sam Moskowitz Archive Award twice.
  • Born September 9, 1935 — Topol, 86. He’s best remembered for his role of Tevye the Dairyman in Fiddler on the Roof, on both stage and screen, but that’s not why he’s getting a Birthday.  No, that’s because it’s because he was Dr. Hans Zarkov in the 1980 Flash Gordon film. He’s got just two other genre appearences, once in Tales of the Unexpected as Professor Max Kelada  in the “Mr. Know-All” episode, and in the Bond film, For Your Eyes Only.
  • Born September 9, 1943 — Tom Shippey, 78. Largely known as a Tolkien expert, though I see he wrote a scholarly 21-page introduction to Flights of Eagles, a collection of James Blish work. Under the pseudonym of John Holm, he is also the co-author, with Harry Harrison, of The Hammer and the Cross trilogy of alternate history novels. And early on, he did a lot of SF related non-fiction tomes such as Fiction 2000: Cyberpunk and the Future of Narrative (edited with George Slusser). He edited The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories thirty years ago. 
  • Born September 9, 1952 — Angela Cartwright, 69. Fondly remembered as Penny Robinson on the original Lost in Space. She, like several of her fellow cast members, made an appearance in the Lost in Space film. In her case, it was as Shelia Harris in the “Echoes” episode. She appeared in the Logan’s Run series in “The Collectors” episode as Karen, and in Airwolf as Mrs. Cranovich in the “Eruption” episode. 
  • Born September 9, 1955 — Janet Fielding, 66. Tegan Jovanka, companion to the Fifth Doctor. The actress had a rather short performing career starting with the Hammer House of Horror series in 1980 where she was Secretary Mandy on the “Charlie Boy” episode” before landing the Doctor Who gig through 1984 before her career ending in the early Nineties. She was part of the 2013 50th Anniversary The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Her last acting role was voicing Dr. Mendez in the “Breakout” episode of the Australian Prisoner Zero series.
  • Born September 9, 1960 — Hugh Grant, 61. He appeared in The Lair of the White Worm as Lord James D’Ampton and in the remake of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as Mr. Waverly. And he was the Handsome Doctor in Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, the 1999 Doctor Who special made for the Red Nose Day charity telethon. He’s in the forthcoming Dungeons & Dragons as Forge Fletcher. 
  • Born September 9, 1971 — Henry Thomas, 50. Elliot in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Let’s just say that he’s had a busy post-E.T. acting career for which I will single out his rather good work in Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King and The Haunting of Hill House series. He’s playing Doctor Mid-Nite in the ongoing Stargirl series which I really need to see. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

Lise Andreasen supplies a Danish/English translation for the Wulffmorgenthaler 7/9 cartoon published at Politiken.

Good news!  Now that the apocalypse is over, we actually have the resources to rebuild the whole society, just as it was before!  What do you say!?

How about we don’t!  How do you think we ended up here?  Think, Lars!

(12) TILT. Somewhere down the I-10 from me a pop culture mecca is going away: “Pinball Museum Will Auction 1,700 Arcade Games After Closing Its Doors” says the New York Times.

Inside an unremarkable warehouse near Palm Springs, Calif., hundreds of pinball machines once beckoned arcade game aficionados from far and wide, their blinking lights and coin slots a throwback to a time long before Xbox.

But then came the coronavirus pandemic, and the game, one that the museum’s owner said was already a losing proposition because of the economic climate and the cost of real estate and insurance, was over. No flippers could keep the ball in play.

Now, the Museum of Pinball in Banning, Calif., one of the largest museums devoted to pinball machines, is about to do something that once might have seemed inconceivable: It will start on Friday to auction off more than 1,700 arcade games.

The auction will be conducted both online and at the museum itself, where in 2015 a Guinness World Record was set for the most people playing pinball simultaneously: 331.

The collection could be worth as much as $7 million, according to the auctioneer handling the sale, which includes some machines more than 60 years old. The holy grail of the sale could be a “Pirates of the Caribbean” collector’s edition pinball machine from 2018, associated with the Disney franchise, which the auction house said could fetch up to $35,000….

(13) MEET THE CREW. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds cast announcement does major fan service. See the video at StarTrek.com.

(14) CONTROL THAT IMPULSE. That’s the plan, says Yahoo! News: “A 150-Year Old Idea Could Lead To A Breakthrough In Space Travel”.

… Once the exclusive province of science fiction films, space colonization has been moving closer to becoming a reality thanks to major advances in astronautics and astrophysics; rocket propulsion and design, robotics and medicine. Trekkies, along with the otherworldly technology featured in the Star Trek series, have helped define the science fiction universe. One of the most mind-boggling of these technologies from those shows is the “Impulse Drive,” a propulsion system used on the spaceships of many species to get across the galaxy in amazingly short timeframes measured in months or a few years rather than centuries or millennia. 

And now scientists have unveiled the Holy Grail of Space Travel: A real-life Impulse Drive system able to achieve sub-light velocities using zero fuel propellants. After 30 years of tinkering and fine-tuning, a pair of scientists might finally be close to turning science fiction into science fact. 

And, NASA is taking the idea seriously. 

Conventional spaceships burn rocket fuel to achieve escape velocities, maneuver, and even land, in the case of SpaceX rockets. But what if you could build a spaceship that runs entirely on electricity?

That’s exactly what the Mach Effect Gravity Assist (MEGA) drive does.

Jim Woodward, a physics professor emeritus at California State University, Fullerton, and Hal Fearn, a physicist at Fullerton, have developed the Mach Effect Gravity Assist (MEGA) Drive propulsion based on what they say is peer-reviewed, technically credible physics.

With the help of a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) grant, the two scientists have developed MEGA Drive based on the physics described in Einstein’s theory of relativity….

(15) WHAT A TOOL. “Judge Says an AI Can’t Be an Inventor on a Patent Because It’s Not a Person”MSN.com has the verdict.

U.S. federal judge Leonie Brikema ruled this week that an AI can’t be listed as an inventor on a U.S. patent under current law. The case was brought forward by Stephen Thaler, who is part of the Artificial Inventor Project, an international initiative that argues that an AI should be allowed to be listed as an inventor in a patent (the owner of the AI would legally own the patent).

Thaler sued the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office after it denied his patent applications because he had listed the AI named DABUS as the inventor of a new type of flashing light and a beverage container. In various responses spanning several months, the Patent Office explained to Thaler that a machine does not qualify as an inventor because it is not a person. In fact, the machine is a tool used by people to create inventions, the agency maintained.

Brikema determined that the Patent Office correctly enforced the nation’s patent laws and pointed out that it basically all boils down to the everyday use of language. In the latest revision of the nation’s patent law in 2011, Congress explicitly defined an inventor as an “individual.” The Patent Act also references an inventor using words such as “himself” and herself.”

(16) HIJACK THE STARSHIP. Star Trek: Prodigy is coming to Nickelodeon.

Developed by Emmy Award-winners Kevin and Dan Hageman (“Trollhunters” and “Ninjago”) the CG-animated series STAR TREK: PRODIGY is the first “Star Trek” series aimed at younger audiences and will follow a motley crew of young aliens who must figure out how to work together while navigating a greater galaxy, in search for a better future. These six young outcasts know nothing about the ship they have commandeered – a first in the history of the Star Trek Franchise – but over the course of their adventures together, they will each be introduced to Starfleet and the ideals it represents.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, N., Lise Andreasen, Chris Barkley, James Davis Nicoll, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and  John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/2/21 Don’t Talk About Scrolldays! You Kidding Me? Scrolldays? I Just Hope We Can Scroll!

(1) SWEET AND SOUR NOTES. Kameron Hurley shares her answer to a professional challenge: “When Should You Compromise? How to Evaluate Editorial Feedback” at Locus Online.

…There is also a huge variance in the quality of editorial and stakeholder feedback. Some­times you get notes that make it clear that the person making them was reading (or wants to read) an entirely different book than the one you’ve written.

So how do you determine which notes to take to heart, and which to ignore?

For me, it all comes back to understanding my novel and the story I want to tell. The feedback I get that gets me closer to refining and communicating that story is the feedback I take. The notes I get that that are clearly moving off into a direction that takes me away from the story I want to tell are the ones I toss….

(2) TRUE PRO TRUTH. John Scalzi announced “Dispatcher 3: Finished!” Soon after he tweeted —

(3) STAND BY. Vanity Fair says the LOTR for television is coming out in 2022. “Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Unveils a First Image and Release Date”. Someone – not the Vanity Fair writer — pointed out the September 2 release date coincides with the anniversary of Tolkien’s death in 1973. (Actually, the Vanity Fair article names two different September release dates, but the second presumably is a typo.)

Ever since 2017 when Amazon first announced the massively expensive deal that would send TV audiences back into the world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, fans have been eagerly wondering when their journey might begin. The folks behind the as-yet unnamed series have picked a very auspicious date indeed. Break out the Longbottom Leaf and mark your calendars for September 2, 2022 so you can see what Amazon has had cooking over in New Zealand these last few years.

The date announcement comes with a first image of the series to celebrate the wrap of filming in New Zealand, and fans will be sure to eagerly pore over every pixel. We can confirm that the image is from the first episode though sources close to the production are declining to confirm the identity of the figure seen there. This could be an image of a city in Valinor. The trees in the background, at least, are very interesting. …

(3) DREAMS. Read Aaron Starr’s amazing parable “Feathers or Stones” at Black Gate. Today!

Once, long ago, there was a poor writer who lived in the depths of a forest with his wife. He would spend his evenings putting words to page while his wife rested by the fire. As she did so she would read those stories which were complete, and yet not yet ready for market. Using a special red pencil, she would note occasional errors and put to him questions the writing had left unresolved, in order that his next version of the story might be improved.

During the day she would walk out into the forest and spend her time hewing mighty trees, for she was a woodcutter by trade. He, meanwhile, would tend to the small garden, and every few days journey into the nearby town, riding down the river on a mighty raft formed of entire tree trunks she had stripped, all lashed together, and he would walk back home before sundown. Thus they had a modest supply of silver, and the wife was content they be together every evening.

But the writer was not content….

(4) INTERRUPTED DEBUT. Galactic Journey reviews the latest (in 1966) issue of If, including this story by a brand new author: “[August 2, 1966] Mirages (September 1966 IF)”.

The Empty Man, by Gardner Dozois

Jhon Charlton is a weapon created by the Terran Empire. Nearly invulnerable, incredibly strong and fast, he can even summon tremendous energies. Unfortunately for him, for the last three years, he has shared his mind with a sarcastic entity called Moros, which has appointed itself as his conscience. Now, Jhon has been sent to the planet Apollon to help the local rebels overthrow the dictatorial government.

Gardner Dozois is this month’s new author, and this is quite a debut. It’s a long piece for a novice, but he seems up to it. There’s room for some cuts, but not much. The mix of science fiction and almost fantasy elements is interesting and works. The only place I’d say a lack of experience and polish shows it at the very end. The point is a bit facile and could have been delivered a touch more smoothly, but it’s a fine start to a new career. Mr. Dozois has entered the Army, though, so it may be a while before we see anything else from him.

(5) FROM MASHUPS TO SMASHUPS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Reader, Financial Times.] In the July 28 Financial Times, Tom Faber discusses video game crossovers.

Most crossovers are like this:  Brawlers created solely to let fans collide fictional DNA of their favourite characters against each other,  Their storylines are little more than a set dressing,usually involving a convenient tear in the space-time continuum. Kingdom Hearts, a collaboration between Disney and Final Fantasy developer Square-Enix, took narrative more seriously to offer a role-playing game with original characters and complex lore.  Sending plucky anime heroes out adventuring with Donald Duck to learn the true meaning of friendship may sound like a painfully trite exercise, but the games proved a runaway success. Kingdom Hearts developed into a stranger, darker story than anyone expected.

Today we are at peak crossover. There is The Little Prince- in -Sky:  Children of the Light, Assassin’s Creed in Final Fantasy, DC Comics heroes in Mortal Kombat and dozens of franchises distilled into costumes for party game Fall Guys.  Sometimes these make sense:  Yes, ace attorney Phoenix Wright and kindly Professor Layton could plausibly solve crimes together while Pirates of the Caribbean nestles neatly into the nautical fiction of Den of Thieves.  Others are plain wrongheaded: Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing pits the blue hedgehog against other Sega characters in go-karts, blithely ignoring his defining trait–Sonic doesn’t need a vehicle to go anywhere fast. 

(6) MIDSOUTHCON HONORS. Nominations are being taken for the 2022 Darrell Awards through December 1. See complete guidelines at the link.

In order to qualify, the work must either be written by an author who is living in the greater Memphis area (as defined below) when the work is published OR have at least one significant scene set within that area. Broadly defined, the area is west Tennessee, north Mississippi and northeast Arkansas.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1991 – Thirty years ago, Charles de Lint’s The Little Country novel wins a HOMer Award. The HOMer Awards were given by the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Forum on CompuServe. Locus notes that the winning authors were active there. (The novel was set in Cornwall though the music in it is influenced by Northumberland bagpiper Billy Pigg as the principal character is smallpiper Janey Little.) It was also nominated for the Aurora, Locus, Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature and World Fantasy Awards as well. It’s just been released as an audiobook, and it is available from the usual suspects. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 2, 1917 Wah Chang. Of interest to us are the props he designed for the original Star Trek seriesincluding the tricorder and communicator. He did a number of other things for the series — the Rabbit you see on the “Shore Leave” episode, the Tribbles,  the Vulcan harp first seen in “Charlie X“ and the Romulan Bird of Prey. Other work included building the title object from The Time Machine, and the dinosaurs in Land of the Lost. (Died 2003.)
  • Born August 2, 1920 Theodore Marcuse. He was Korob in “Catspaw”, a second season Trek episode that aired just before Halloween aptly enough. He had appearances in The Twilight Zone (“The Trade-Ins” and “To Serve Man”), Time TunnelVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaWild Wild West and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in the episodes “The Re-collectors Affair,”  “The Minus-X Affair,”  and “The Pieces of Fate Affair.” (Died 1967.)
  • Born August 2, 1932 Peter O’Toole. I’m tempted to say his first genre role was playing King Henry in A Lion in Winter as it is alternate history. Neat film. Actually before that he’s got an uncredited role in Casino Royale as a Scottish piper. Really he does. His first genre role without dispute is as Zaltar in Supergirl followed by being Dr. Harry Wolverine in Creator. He’s Peter Plunkett in the superb High Spirits, he’s in FairyTale: A True Story as Arthur Conan Doyle, and Stardust as King of Stormhold. Not surprisingly, he played Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (Died 2013.)
  • Born August 2, 1948 Robert Holdstock. Another one who died far too young. His Ryhope Wood series is simply amazing with Lavondyss being my favorite volume. And let’s not overlook his Merlin Codex series which is one of the more original takes on that character I’ve read. The Ragthorn, co-written with Garry Kilworth, is interesting as well. Tor, which has the rights to him in the States, has been slow to bring him to the usual suspects. (Died 2009.)
  • Born August 2, 1949 Wes Craven. Swamp Thing comes to mind first plus of course the Nightmare on Elm Street franchiseof nine films for which he created Freddy Krueger. Let’s not forget The Serpent and the Rainbow. (Died 2015.)
  • Born August 2, 1954 Ken MacLeod, 67. Sometimes I don’t realize until I do a Birthday note just how much I’ve read of a certain author. And so it was of this author. I’ve read the entire Fall Revolution series, not quite all of the Engines of Light Trilogy, just the first two of the Corporation Wars but I’ve got it in my to be finished queue,and every one of his one-off novels save Descent. His Restoration Game is quite chilling. I should go find his Giant Lizards from Another Star collection as I’ve not read his short fiction. Damn it’s not available from the usual suspects!
  • Born August 2, 1955 Caleb Carr, 66. Ok, I’ll admit that this is another author that ISFDB lists as genre that I don’t think of as being as genre. ISFDB list all four of his novels as being genre including The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness which are not even genre adjacent by my reading. So is there something in those novels that I missed? 
  • Born August 2, 1976 Emma Newman, 45. Author of quite a few SF novels and and a collection of short fiction. Of interest to us is that she is co-creator along with her husband Peter, of the Worldcon 75 Hugo Award winning podcast Tea and Jeopardy which centers around her hosting another creator for a nice cup of tea and cake, while her scheming butler Latimer (played by Peter) attempts to send them to their deaths at the end of the episode. Her Planetfall series was nominated for a Hugo at CoNZealand.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark shows even an animated celebrity’s prosthetics can’t get past TSA.

(10) SOMETIMES THEY DO GROW WEARY. R.H. Lossin revisits “William Morris, Romantic Revolutionary” at the New York Review of Books.

At the end of William Morris’s News from Nowhere, or, An Epoch of Rest (Being Some Chapters from a Utopian Romance), a woman named Ellen explains to the visitor, William Guest, that he cannot stay in this perfect place of clean air, meaningful work, and satisfying leisure. Not because of any fictional science of time travel, nor because he poses a threat to this particular future’s social harmony, but because his very being has been so thoroughly deformed by the social conditions of nineteenth-century industrial capitalism that he is incapable of experiencing the pleasures and desires of a world freed of competition, exploitation, and suffering. “You belong,” explains Ellen, “so entirely to the unhappiness of the past that our happiness even would weary you.”

…Many aspects of News from Nowhere set it apart from other utopian fiction of the time—it is decidedly socialist, conscious of the environmental costs of industrialization, backward-looking rather than futuristic, and free of prescriptiveness about any particular social arrangements—but Ellen’s melancholy observation on the psychic life of the capitalist subject is singularly important. If no other argument for revolutionary change made within the novel seems persuasive, this line, appearing late in the narrative, should give us reason to consider the insufficiency, even the costs, of a pragmatic reformist mindset. At a moment in history when social reform and conservationist policy have appeared on the political horizon, William Morris offers a reminder of the constitutive limits of our imaginations. He urges us to wish harder, not plan better….

(11) INSIDE HIS STRUGGLE. SFF Book Reviews’ “The State of SFF – August 2021” roundup has an excellent lead-in to Scott Lynch’s recently-made-public newsletter update.

…Scott Lynch has always been transparent about his battle with depression and the resulting delay in publishing further books in the Gentleman Bastard series. When The Republic of Thieves came out years after the previous volume, me and the other Locke Lamora fans were happy and excited and hopeful that the series would continue soon. In 2019, Lynch mentioned that the next instalment, The Thorn of Emberlain, was as good as finished. It had a cover and everything. But as of 2021, the book hasn’t been published yet.

Scott has recently posted an update about his struggle with anxiety and his difficulties letting go of his work (handing it in to the publisher, making posts public, etc.). I found the post both brave and educating. I am no stranger to anxiety but it can take so many shapes and forms and not all of them are well-known. Scott is now taking medication to help him and as far as comments on the internet go, I think we all agree that we wish him the best! Whether the next book comes out soon or not isn’t even a point of discussion. We just want Scott to be okay.

(12) WATCH ALONG WITH JMS. J. Michael Straczynski has made public another Synced Straczynski Commentary for Babylon 5 for the “And the Sky, Full of Stars” episode.

Originally created for Patrons of my page at: https://www.patreon.com/syntheticworlds This is an original full-length commentary/reaction for And the Sky, Full of Stars, one of our most important season one episodes. Sync up at the start of the commentary, and hit play.

(13) UNBREAKABLE. SYFY Wire is astonished: “Coulson (Still) Lives?! Marvel Confirms Clark Gregg Is Back For ‘What If…?’ Series”.

Phil Coulson just can’t be killed! Thanks to a production brief for Marvel’s What If…? (debuting next week), we now have it confirmed that Clark Gregg officially recorded dialogue for the animated anthology series. While the document doesn’t go into specifics about the episode Gregg’s featured in, we’d say it’s not too far-fetched to assume that he’ll reprise the role of the Corvette-loving S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who has a rather impressive talent for sticking around the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Coulson, whose MCU tenure can be traced back to the very beginning in 2008’s Iron Man, was a regular recurring character across the movies until he was murdered by Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in 2012’s The Avengers. As Mobius (Owen Wilson) was kind enough to remind us in the season premiere of Loki, the agent’s death was the catalyst for bringing together Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

(14) WHY PROVO IS FANNISH PT. 64. [Item by David Doering.] Here at the Provo City Cemetery is another reason why our city is suitably fannish–even Daleks come here to die… 

A Dalek Named Thomas… kids’ book maybe?

(15) REANIMATION. The Huntington knows our day won’t be complete without a timelapse video of the blooming of one of its famous Corpse Flowers.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The How It Should Have Ended gang takes on Loki in this episode with spoilers. “Villain Pub – Into the Loki-Verse”.

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

Report on Day 1 of LTUE 2021

By David Doering: We opened today our first edition of a virtual Life, The Universe and Everything (LTUE) Symposium for Science Fiction & Fantasy Creators. We expected lower registrations being online, but we pleasantly surprised to have 697 memberships–almost 200 of which showed up in the last four-five days. I guess when people don’t have to book flights and hotel rooms they wait before they register.

We had reduced our full event membership down to $42 (appropriate, don’t you think?) so that may have encouraged some to wait till the end.

More interesting, we had 250+ attendees in the function rooms at 3 pm when we started programming. That represents about 1/3 of all attendees, which I have never seen at an in-person con. (Often I wonder where the 8000+ fans at Worldcon are when I peruse the function rooms.)

Alaya Dawn Johnson

Our GoH Alaya Dawn Johnson gave a marvelous keynote address. Since she is working in a small village in central Mexico without reliable internet, she traveled an hour away to a hotel with a good connection and came through loud and clear. What a feeling to be conducting a science fiction convention using science fictional tools!

Given our “serious” style of programming, we even had 30 people in a panel on using periods and commas correctly.

BTW: Our event platform is Discord with links to programming on YouTube. We have a team of 30 volunteers staffing the broadcast center at the Marriott Hotel. We have 3 people per event–a receptionist to track down and welcome people to their panel or presentation, a producer to run the actual stream, and a chat monitor to relay questions and maintain decorum with attendees. Worked well.

I am also signed up to attend Boskone, so I’ll have a better idea after tomorrow how we compare.  I know that several hours we are running 7 or 8 program items simultaneously. I am curious to see the numbers for those hours.

One other surprise. We had a late entry for a master class. (Those are longer session workshops, usually two hours or more in length, with an extra fee.) The instructor got me details just last Saturday on her “structuring story” session and yet garnered 22 signups despite very limited promotion. I wonder how many more we would have gotten if we had details out earlier?

You can see the grid schedule here: https://ltue.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/LTUE2021-GridSchedule.pdf

Things I miss from our in-person version? The buzz in the hallways, coffee shop, lobby, and the bar with writers and creators congregating for impromptu session. Hallways lined with fan tables, artists, and gaming. A packed dealers room with treasures beckoning my dollars to leave my pockets. 

We do have an LTUE art show in VR. You can access it from www.ltue.net/art-show . (CAUTION: It must download the display module which is 700MB.) The module allows you to browse a 3D room with high resolution art. The module also prevents downloading any of the art, which doing a simple webpage with images could not prevent.

Another big benefit of having online chat rooms is being able to catch up on a conversation. Also, to preserve great quotes and observations. Finally, many people just think better when typing than talking. 

Most Remote SF Bookstore
in the World?

By Dave Doering: Meet “Book Island” in the town of Saint Denis on Reunion Island—a small speck in the vast Indian Ocean:

Despite its remoteness, it boasts a classy bookstore highlighting its Science Fiction specialty:

Reunion Island is a province of France and so has regular flights spanning the almost 6000 miles from Paris to Saint Denis. (11,500 miles from LA, fyi.) Once there, you can make your way to 39 Rue Felix Guyon and relish their offerings for the cultured bibliophile.

If you taste runs more to movies and comics, try the “Lair of the Moray Eel” (found online at https://www.canalbd.net/le-repaire-de-la-murene):

The storefront is at 76 Rue Juliette Dodu in Saint Denis. Looks who’s visiting this remote part of the Galaxy:

It is also home to a publisher (!!) called “Bubbles in the Ocean” which specializes in works by Indian Ocean writers and artists. (If you read French, check them out here: https://www.bullesocean.re/.)

Finally, if you are way into movies, manga, and collectibles, head on into the interior of the island to the town of Saint Joseph and find VKomix:

I love the tagline “A Universe So Far Away”. It’s definitely a store very far away. (Dang. Couldn’t this just be in like Burbank or something??) Look at their selection:

I wish I could find this kind of stock here in Utah…

I can’t help but love a place that features Ghost Rider in all his glory:

When the World reopens, let’s plan a trip to do Reunion Island then…reunite as fans…maybe call it ReuniCon?  

Brandon Sanderson WFC 2020 Interview Highlights

Here are selections from the Brandon Sanderson Interview conducted by Dave Doering at World Fantasy Con 2020 on Saturday, October 31.


  • Brandon Sanderson’s first published novel, Elantris, came out from Tor in 2005. Tor also published six books in his Mistborn series, and the first three in the planned ten-volume series The Stormlight Archive. Five books in his middle-grade Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians series were released by Starscape. Brandon was chosen to complete Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Since then his work has included the Reckoners trilogy, and the Skyward series. He also hosts the Hugo Award-winning Writing Excuses podcast with Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, Dan Wells, and others.
  • Dave Doering is the founder of Life, the Universe, and Everything, a conference held annually in Utah. He also started the Leading Edge magazine at BYU. He works as a business and technical writer. 

DAVE: As we start our session today, Brandon, I wanted to borrow the approach from inside the Actor’s Studio and ask some general questions that I find fun:

What is your favorite word?

BRANDON: My favorite word changes. The word I overuse is maladroitly. Fans picked up on this early. Now my pet word is probably “miasma” or “inchoate”. I really love the word inchoate. But my editors tell me that’s a “once a book” word. 

DAVE: What turns you on?

BRANDON: Writing a new story.

DAVE: What turns you off?

BRANDON: Fish sticks. I really hate fish sticks.

DAVE: What’s your favorite curse word?

BRANDON: I don’t really curse, so I don’t really have any. However, when I was working on Mystborn, my 14-year-old sister went through it and crossed out all the curse words. (I was using “damn” and “hell”.) I didn’t consider those curse words but she was “ARR!”

She wrote in replacement suggestions for me to use. One was where I called a character a “damn fool”. She suggested i call him a “bone-doggey-head” instead. So that’s my favorite curse word since then. My 14-year-old sister suggestion: “Bone doggey head”. (That did not end up in the final manuscript, by the way.)

DAVE: What career would you follow now if you weren’t a writer?

BRANDON: If I weren’t a writer, I would hope I would have found some type of creative field to work in. Because doing something new each day and filling an empty page, making order from the chaos, is very, very excting and engaging to me.

Most realistically? I would have ended up as a professor. Because I do like academia. I do like teaching. If the writing hadn’t taken off that would have been one of the few careers open to me in what I was doing.

The thing is: I doubt if I would been able to make it because being in academia and gaining a tenure-track position today, particularly in the Arts, is really hard. There’s a lot of competition for those few places. What I am writing is Popular Fiction, and I don’t think I could have gotten off at any institution with a tenure-track position. I’d probably be some type of adjunct and live hand-to-mouth.

DAVE: In the next hundred years or so, when you leave this world, what do you hope that Robert Jordan will say to you at the great AfterCon? (And hoepfully not, “Well, Brandon, how DOES the Stormlight Saga end?!”)

BRANDON: I am hoping he says, “Good job!” “Good job but not as good as I could have done but you didn’t embarrass me kid!”

DAVE:  What’s the latest on your movies and TV series?

BRANDON: Good question. About three years ago, I sold a lot of things in Hollywood. This was kind of to a group I was hoping would be able to get them made. And as has always happened with me, nothing really ended up happening. I have gotten most of those rights back and I’m kind of sitting on them, trying to decide what I want to do.

There is nothing that is particularly close right now. I still have some of my things sold in Hollywood, but I’m starting to sit on the mall and just trying to assess what it is I want to do.

Hollywood’s an interesting place. I’ll tell you my favorite Hollywood story. Right when I was brand new, I sold my Middle Grade Evil Librarian series. My agent came and said, “Hey, somebody wants to buy this in Hollywood.” I’m like, What??  I didn’t know that anyone would be interested. This was before the first book had come out.

But Lemony Snicket was big at that point so I guess they were looking for things like that. So DreamWorks Animation optioned this in my second or third year that I had gone pro. They paid like $35,000 which at that point was what I was living on. (I was not making a ton for my books.) So that was really an unexpected bonus. I was perfectly happy to sell those rights and I still think of it as a great experience because, well, that’s what I lived on.

What they did was take several different properties and be working on  them–kind of with competing teams within DreamWorks Animation. They would bring them to Jeffrey Katzenberg and the heads of the studio. The teams would do these pitches, and Katzenberg would say yes or no, greenlight or no. It was not unusual that it took them two to three years to get everything ready. So they did all this.

They flew me out to DreamWorks. I got to go tour and see the storyboards they’re coming up with and all these things. Eventually our big day came where they took the screenplay and storyboard, all this stuff, in to pitch to Katzenberg. I was waiting with bated breath at my phone. Eventually the phone call came in. I picked it up and the first words out of his mouth were “Great news Brandon!”. I’m like, oh, they liked the pitch. They said yes, Katzenberg said this is probably the best screenplay he’s ever read. I’m like, wow.

Jeffrey Katzenberg has been in the business a long, long, long time. So my story is one of the best screenplays he ever read. Then I said, “I guess we’re greenlit then.” He says “Actually, no. He passed on the project. It’s dead in the water. We’re not renewing the option.”

I’m like, wait, what, what, how?? How is this good news? He loved the screenplay. If he loved the screenplay, why is he not making the movie?

They explained that he thought it felt like it was more of a live action than an animated one. So even though he really loved it and everything, they were passing. This is just kind of what happens.

I’ve found in Hollywood, nobody wants to give you bad news. Nobody really takes a lot of time to inform the author of what’s going on.  You hear well, well down the line ” Great news. It’s dead” quite a bit. That’s what educated me about what happens in Hollywood.

DAVE: So at what moment, Brandon, did you realize that you wanted to be a writer?

BRANDON: It was later than a lot of people. A lot of my friends were writing when they were two years old. With me, I became a writer when I was in my late teens. What happened is I had had a great teacher.

It was in Middle School –the eighth grade. My teacher’s name was Miss Raider [?], by the way. True story. My English teacher got me reading fantasy novels. Before that, I was not a big reader. She had picked up on the fact that I was reading below my grade level. She convinced me to try reading a book. It was by Barbara Hambly–Dragonsbane.  I fell in love with books. I actually remember going to the school library and flipping through the things in the card catalog. (All the books in the school library were alphabetized in the card catalog. You could look up books by author or by title. (Okay, this was a long time ago.)

I read Dragonsbane and I just loved it. I’m like, Is there anything else like this?? Well, if there’s anything else like this, maybe it’ll have dragon in the title. So I went to the card catalog and I found Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey next to it. And I’m like, Well, I guess I’ll try this one. I dove headfirst into reading all the fantasy books I could get my hands on.

Over the next couple of years, I really fell in love with reading this genre. I started to think “maybe this is what I want to do”. It was because these stories just made me feel powerful emotions. I’m not a guy that generally is very emotional. Even as a high school student, I was not very emotional. But these stories really said something to me. And I wanted to learn how writers did that. How they made me feel like I was in this other place and experiencing all these things. So I started my first book, probably when I was 16, or 17. (I never finished that one.) I started another one after a year of college at 19. That one I did finish. And I just kept going. I wrote 13 before I eventually sold one.

DAVE: Well, congratulations. Did that take you, what?, about three weeks of writing?

BRANDON: Ha, ha! You assume I am a very fast writer. But I am really not a very fast writer. People misunderstand this, I’m just very consistent.

I write around 2000 words a day. But I only get to work four days a week these days because I have to spend one of my days on things like publicity and interviews. Working on other projects for the blog and things like that. So four days a week I write around 8000 words–about eight to ten thousand a week. I may be slightly faster than average. But I’m not horribly fast. I’m just I just keep doing it. And I I tend to enjoy it. So that’s what happens:

I just do that really consistently. That’s the secret to my success.

DAVE: That’s interesting. I’ve heard stories of you getting on the plane in Los Angeles and arriving in Australia with a completed novel.

BRANDON: Yeah, people love to tell those stories. I’ll tell you part of why those stories started up. Early in my career after I started publishing, it’s very common to turn in a book and a publisher would sit on it for two years or so to get all the editing done.

For instance, my first book I turned in the first draft in April of 2003. It came out like May or June of 2005, right? That was a very common. That’s a very common release schedule in traditional publishing. When I started to take off, my book sales starting to go up, my publisher started to say, “Wait, why are we sitting on this Brandon Sanderson book? Why not publish it now? So it’ll affect our bottom line now? And it’ll look really good to all, you know, the investors and the higher ups?”

Suddenly, all these books that I had been sitting on, like, I’d have three books waiting for publication, they started publishing them just several months apart from one another. So there was a period in my career when it looked like I was writing 300,000 word novels every three months because they suddenly were publishing everything really quick. We kind of got to the end of those. From then on my schedule’s been about a book a year.

So from that I got quite the reputation for being very fast. But most of that was my publishers rearranging of schedules in order to have Brandon Sanderson books coming out sooner.

DAVE: I’m curious about your early life in Nebraska. What did you carry away from Nebraska that has influenced you as a writer?

BRANDON: It’s hard to say honestly. I can point to Utah a little bit more since I moved out here in college. I went with a friend of mine who is a photographer down in southern Utah. A lot of people can pick out the southern Utah influence on things like the Stormlight Archive, which takes place in some chasms that feel very much like Little Wildhorse from Southern Utah, but I did I grew up my I I went to high school I was I didn’t move to Utah till I went to college.

I spent all of my my younger years in Nebraska. It was a really nice place to grow up. I had great teachers. I had good friends. Everyone’s really nice in the Midwest.

I still miss some of the Nebraska stuff. My favorite fast food found only in Nebraska is runza [a dough bread pocket with a filling consisting of beef, cabbage or sauerkraut, onions, and seasonings]. I do miss that.

I don’t miss the weather. Nebraska’s weather is not something to crow about. Let’s just say it’s hot and muggy in the summers and it’s cold and blizzarding full of snow in the winters. I much prefer it out here [in Utah] for that. You know, I always like Nebraska, if it had at least mild winters and mild summers. You should have to have that trade off. You have these terrible winters? Shouldn’t you have to be able to have mild summers, but nope.

The biggest lasting influence that I had really great literacy professionals and teachers all through high school and college who are just really good at helping encourage learning in students. I thank them and I have sent them some books, because I really do owe a lot to those teachers.

DAVE: You spent two years in Korea. How has that experience impacted your writing?

BRANDON: That’s a really good question. For those who don’t know, I was serving a mission with my church. I lived in Korea, learned the language and things there for two years. Number One, the linguistics had a big effect on me. I’d studied French all through high school, but there’s nothing like going and living and having to immerse and learn the language to actually teach you.

I remember going to France when I was in my junior year of high school. I was thinking “Man, I’ll be able to speak speak to everyone.” My French was so terrible, I couldn’t. I could barely ask people to pass the baguette. It was just awful.

Living in Korea, I didn’t have that choice. I was there for two years, not for two weeks (like I had been in France). Really getting into another language and learning to speak it, particularly one that has some grammar that’s very different from English, was super handy for me. Just kind of changing the way I looked at the world, learning another culture and living in another country. One that just has different social mores and things was really handy for me when I wanted to look at developing fantasy cultures. Not that I base them on Korean or Korea but the ideas, it’s like first hand experience of how different cultures can be.

It was instrumental in helping me when I researched to make a new culture. I think I have a much stronger foundation for understanding some of these elements than I would have had if I hadn’t lived in another country for two years. There is a lot from my studies, (I went on to have a Korean minor in college), that does end up in my books specifically from Korea.

DAVE: How has your faith then impacted you as a writer?

BRANDON: Many know I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. (I spent those two years in Korea as a missionary.) My faith makes me want to treat people’s belief systems with respect. (Nothing bothers me more than finding a book where there’s somebody that is like me, only to find that they exist to be proven wrong by the narrative.)

I kind of made the decision that because I’m so interested in all this, I’ve got to be really careful that I’m presenting other people’s belief systems or other people’s humanism, as well as I would want myself and the way I think depicted in stories, it is fascinating to me the various ways that people interact with Deity, or with with religion.

I explore the world through writing. My goal is not to go in and try to teach anything specific. My goal is to go in and to really explore who a character is, and what they believe, and why. Why they believe what they do.

DAVE: How did you make the transition then to become a writer?

BRANDON: My mother had convinced me to go to college as a chemistry major. Now my mother’s a very smart woman. She graduated top of her class in Accounting. In that era, she was the only woman in most of her accounting classes.

But she thinks like an accountant, and becoming a novelist was not necessarily a thing that seemed to add up to her on her balance sheets. She’s like, you know, if you want to be a writer, you should go become a doctor. Doctors have lots of free time, they always going golfing. So you could write books instead. So I went, and I was a chemistry major my freshman year at college. I did not enjoy it. They were there to do exactly what they did to me to ask: “Are you really sure this is what you want to do? Because this is what your days will be full of, if you major in this. So whoever designed those classes did exactly the right thing. They said, “Hey, chemistry in college is not chemistry in high school. Chemists become a chemist as a job.”

A doctor is what my mom wanted me to be but you know, there’s a whole lot of things involved in this that you got to be okay with. I washed out of that real quick and said, “No, my true love is writing, why am I here? Why am I spending all this time on these classes? I need to be a novelist.”

Korea was two years where I got to leave all that behind. Kiind of focus on something else for a while and really think about who I am, what I wanted to be, where I wanted to be. It was really great for that because it had me working pretty hard. That’s what life is like on the mission. We tend to get up early. That was a good regimentation for me. (I tend to have a bit of an artistic personality, which means that I could sleep in and maybe never get to my work.)

I came home from that and said, “You know what? I’m just gonna apply this to becoming a writer. I’m young, I’m stupid, everyone says it’s going to be a bad career choice. But I might as well do it when I’m young. I know that I’m pretty far behind a lot of other people who want to be writers, because I didn’t start until I was in my late teens. So I’m just going to work harder than them.” That’s why I started writing those books. That’s why I wrote so many, as I said. I got to give this a shot. So the next 10 years or so were just me working a graveyard shift at a hotel, writing books, and trying to figure out how to become a novelist.

DAVE: Why did you choose fantasy over science fiction? Your early science is very engaging and very compelling. So why Fantasy?

BRANDON: Why did I choose fantasy? When I first started writing, I did try a bunch of different genres. I had had good advice, which I think still is good advice, to try to write broadly, and do a lot of different things early in your practicing career. To really see if you can settle on what it is that you love to do. I’ve had many friends who thought they were one type of writer and then found their voice and in different genre entirely.

I wrote my first five books. Two of them were epic fantasies. They were basically the same book with a sequel, right? I just decided it’s long enough. I’ll end it now. Even though it wasn’t the ending. This happens to a lot of first time novels. I’d write the sequel and then I wrote a comedy, kind of a Bob Asprin’s-style comedy. I wrote a cyberpunk. I wrote a space opera. I just like doing that big survey, surveying the different genres. I did settle on fantasy as the thing I wanted to do.

There are a couple reasons for this. Number one, it was my first love as a reader. It is the thing that if I were going to pick a book, just off the show randomly, chances are good that you would find it is an epic fantasy book. That’s just the number of books that I owned of that genre were much more so what I really, really loved. It was an exciting time to be a fantasy fan, right? Because epic fantasy in particular can be argued as a little newer than science fiction. I feel like a lot of the innovations that were happening during the Silver Age of science fiction were happening in fantasy when I was a young man reading the genre in the 70s. When we started to see things like Sword of Shannara, it’s when we saw Dungeons and Dragons, it’s when we saw Star Wars. (We won’t get into the Star Wars “is it fantasy or science fiction?” argument here. But there are definitely fantastical things in that.)

I felt like as a reader, I was seeing new things all the time. There was more space in the fantasy genre to innovate than there was in science fiction. It’s part of what made me really excited. What I really like are and my first love are, these epic fantasy stories told in worlds that feel like science fiction worlds, that have the use of science fiction, some good old fashioned science fiction, world building, and extrapolation. They have these magic systems that stand with one foot in the fantastic and one foot in the scientific.

The books I’m writing are the handshake between the two sides. That is what I love, that is where I found my voice. That made me really excited to be writing these stories. I still enjoy science fiction quite a bit, I have written my fair share of it. But one of the things is I don’t feel like I read widely enough in science fiction, to really be leading a conversation. Anything I write in science fiction is not leading the conversation. Certainly, I hope that I’m doing things that are fun, interesting, exciting, and innovating. But I just cannot lead that discussion.

I can lead a discussion on where fantasy is going, right? I can be one of the people on the forefront of exploring what the genre can do. Because I have the background and the current reading knowledge to really add to that conversation in a way I just can’t in Science Fiction.

DAVE: Your ability to carry on this conversation with readers is on a global basis. I remember vividly your story of doing a book signing in the Middle East where maybe differently dressed fans stood in line to get you to sign your books. Different culture, but the same love of your works. How does an American fantasy writer have this appeal worldwide?

BRANDON: I think that stories have an appeal worldwide. One of the great powers of storytelling is it brings us together. It helps us see inside the mind of someone very different from ourselves. And that is, that is what you know, that’s why a lot of us writes why I writes why I read. I want to get inside this other person’s head, I want to see the the world that they create, and they want to, you know, be part of their life in a small way. And that’s why I think one of the reasons we love books.

DAVE: How do you balance your writing with your family life?

BRANDON:  You know, this is something I don’t think we talk enough about in the genre, or in the business of writing, I should say. It’s not impossible to have a regular life as a novelist. You don’t leave your work at work when you’re a novelist. I have a friend who likes to quip it’s great being self employed, you only have to work half days, and you get to decide which 12 hours that is. That is really an astute comment. Because you could write, as an author, 16 hours a day. You could write more than 16 hours a day, as the story sometimes will not leave you alone. This is part of what is exciting about the genre.

But it’s also very dangerous side about the business. It’s very dangerous because it is easy to ignore the other things in your life when you are a writer. I do think that there’s a much higher chance of authors having problems with substance abuse and some of these things, and self-medication, certain mental health issues and things like that among novelists. I can totally see why.

To illustrate an example of this. I remember when I was newly married. I went out with some author friends and my wife. I thought we had this wonderful dinner where we are talking all about the stories we’re working on. After dinner, I said to my wife, “Wasn’t that a wonderful dinner?” She says, “Well, you didn’t look at me once during dinner, I felt like I was invisible.”

This is very common among writers–to treat the people around them like they’re invisible. This is a big danger, I think. It was something that I had to realize I was doing. When I got into the storytelling mode, which happened a lot and still happens a lot, everything else faded. People felt ignored, justifiably, because they were getting ignored. I had to set up some strict boundaries in my life.

I recommend that, that writers or creative professionals or anyone who has a job that is very difficult to leave at work. Have some conversations with their loved ones about this. And what we kind of talked about is I realized I needed to, from a certain part of the day, I needed to wall that off from writing. I had to be like, I can’t write from from 5:30pm until 9:30, at night. That time can’t be used for writing, I had to take it off the table. I’ll spend time with my family if my family’s around. I had to just turn this into a firewall of time that is for family and not for anything else. By putting that firm structure in place, it’s actually been really good for my writing.

The thing we don’t acknowledge is: it’s really easy to burn out. In this business, it’s really easy to let those 16-hour days pile on top of one another. To the point that you get sick and tired and physically ill and start hating the thing that you once loved. It’s not good for us that we do this. By walling off a section has really been good for centering my life and for making sure that I turned into a slow and steady writer and not a mad, serious writer. Doing writing all the time. If my family’s not home, I can’t write during that time. It’s important for me that that not be writing time. I could read, I can do other things. But I cannot work on a book.

It’s really, really important we have these conversations. My wife said, “you know, one of the things I’ve noticed that you need is when you’re writing, you need to be left completely alone. This is very common for writers that a small interruption, when you’re in the zone, can mean big ramifications for how much you’re able to get done during that time. We need to be distraction-free.” She kind of became the guardian of my time. “I’m gonna make sure that Brandon is not interrupted during the times when he needs to be writing. And Brandon’s going to make sure that the times that he doesn’t need to be writing, that this time is for family and it is actually family time.”

It’s been really, really healthy.

For me, I usually only write five to eight hours a day. I do two four-hour sessions. Usually I’m getting up at around 12 or 1. I’m working till about five. I then get ready, take a shower, and spend 5:30 to 9:30 with my family. Around 10 o’clock, I go back to work till about 2am. As long as I’m hitting my word count goals at about 2, I’m free to go do something else. Play a video game, read a book, whatever. Usually by then, two four-hour sessions, I’m feeling mostly that my mind has been plumbed. There is nothing left to do.

If I’m really into something, I’ll take those two hours and I’ll keep going. So I have those two hours wiggle room that I can add more time if I want to in the day. Sometimes, I’ll add on a Saturday if I’m behind on a deadline. But it’s been really healthy for me. And what I find is, you know, people think that I’m a really fast writer, but by having this structure in my life, I don’t burn out. I’m very consistent, and I am able to keep doing this thing that I really truly love without having a lot of the side effects that could be dangerous and destructive.

DAVE: When do you find time in that brief 8-hour workday to do editing?

BRANDON: If I am editing a book, it is the main thing that I am doing. If I am not creating 2000 new words each day, I am in revision mode. In terms of words a day, it depends on how difficulat the draft is I am working on. A final polish is a bit easier than, for instance, the Alpha Read draft where I am making major changes based on editorial feedback on the book.

I can revise or edit between 8000 and 15000 words a day in the 8-hour workday if I am not doing significant changes. 15000 is when I am making small tweeks as I go along in  polishing and things like that.

DAVE: Let’s look at some general questions from the audience. Who’s your favorite character in your works?

BRANDON: I will borrow from Robert Jordan on this one. He always answered this question this way (or at least when I have heard him answer this in several interviews): “Whomever I am writing at the moment!”

I really like that answer, so I am going to steal it, because it is true. Whatever you are writing at the moment, whichever character you are writing at the moment, you need to see the world as they see it. You need to see it and be excited about writing about them. I try to make sure that is the case.

DAVE: Who do you turn to for input on worldbuilding? How do you avoid being distracted by all their input?

BRANDON: I turn to my writing group first. They are a group of friends and collegues that I have been sharing my work with since the early 90s. They know me as well as anyone does. They are very good at not pulling punches. That’s my initial group.

As for becoming distracted–it’s Discipline. I give myself a certain amount of time to write the book I am working on right now and focus on it. This rather than spreading my attention around on all the potential thiings I could be doing.

That focus was very important for me to learn. It’s part of what held me back early on from getting published. I did not have that focus early in my career. I was not willing to dedicate the time to polishing an individual work. Enough so that it was publishable. I would always move on to the next thing.

Certainly I had enough focus to finish the first draft, but not enough to finish the book. I find I need about five good drafts to make a book publishable and that I am proud of. If I don’t get four or five drafts it’s not going to be there.

Pixel Scroll 8/21/20 Pounded
In The Scroll By The Anthropomorphic Concept
Of Pixels

(1) COLUMBUS NASFIC OPENING CEREMONIES. [Item by David Doering.] Watching the Opening Ceremonies of the Columbus NASFiC, I noted the number of apologies for lack of the in-person meetings.

However, I also think we should celebrate that we are LIVING an SF novel. If we had written this 20 years ago, it would have been SF–real-time linkups with AV from around the globe!! Is that KEWL or what??

We did NOT have to cancel. We still have a great slate of programming. AND we still can get together to honor Mike Resnick.

I should add that we also don’t have worry about scaring each other with pathogens if we were in person. Thus potentially setting off a “War of the Worlds” scenario with all of us “aliens” descending on a single city only to be doomed by GERMS.

(2) ROGUE NASFIC. Chris Garcia is the virtual Columbus NASFiC’s Editor Guest of Honor. The con newsletter made everyone aware he’s also got some real-life concerns right now:  

Please share your positive thoughts, hopes, prayers – as appropriate – and spare a moment of contemplation for Christopher J. Garcia (GOH), his wonderful family Vanessa, John Paul and Ben, as they await news of their home, and neighbourhood, evacuated as they are from Boulder Creek in the Santa Cruz County CZU August Lightning Complex Fire. Certainly, we all wish them well. (submitted by James Bacon)

In better Chris Garcia news, check out his Rogue NASFiC YouTube channel of extra programming. As Chris explained on Facebook:

This is what happens when I’m given the power of Guest of Honor without oversight!

This YouTube Channel has some great videos of interviews and more! I’ll be adding as the Weekend (and beyond!) goes on!

Coming soon will be our Podcast channel!

I wanna thank the entire team of the NASFiC for letting me have a little fun!!!

Here’s one example:

(3) NINA ALLAN FIRES A CANON. [Item by PhilRM.] Here’s another very interesting piece by Nina Allan, discussing, among other things**, the notion of an SFF canon:  “Weird Wednesdays #11: the question of lineage”. There’s a well-known quote by Borges, from his essay on Kafka: “The fact is that every writer creates his own precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future.” Nina’s take (which I completely agree with) is that every writer creates their own canon; I’d extend this to say that every reader creates their own canon also.

**Her piece also convinced me that I really need to read William Golding’s The Inheritors and The Spire, which sound like fascinating books.

…I have explored and will continue to explore some of the ‘canonical’ works from science fiction’s so-called Golden Age – not because I feel I should but because I am interested. I enjoy thinking about these things, I enjoy writing criticism, and I happen to believe that the more widely you read around a subject, the more fiercely you can argue your corner, the more enjoyment you can derive. And having said that, I saw an interesting comment somewhere at some point during the post-Hugo furore with words to the effect that it is actually the middle generation of science fiction writers – Le Guin, Butler, Russ, Delany, Disch, Haldeman, Pohl – who are the true pioneers of the American tradition, who not only wrote better then but speak better now to the generation of writers currently winning Hugos. That definitely rings true for me, though it might not for you. But that’s the beauty of such contentions: they are there to be discussed.  

(4) SFF WRITERS ON AMW PODCAST. The American Writers Museum in Chicago is doing a series of science fiction-themed podcast episodes for the Ray Bradbury Centennial.

In celebration of Bradbury, the AWM will also air in August on its newly launched podcast four conversations with contemporary science fiction and fantasy writers. Each weekly episode of the podcast features one of the AWM’s past live programs and covers a range of topics including process, writing influences, and the life of a writer. J. Michael Straczynski, author of Becoming Superman headlines the August 10 episode. On the August 17 episode, Annalee Newitz, author of The Future of Another Timeline, is joined by journalist Dan Sinker. Hugo-Award winner John Scalzi, author of The Consuming Fire, is featured on the August 24 episode. Isabel Ibanez, author of Woven in Moonlight, closes out the month on the August 31 episode.

Episodes already online —

(5) THE POWER OF FIVE. James Davis Nicoll has assembled another listicle for Tor.com: “Five SF Books That Would Make Great Musicals”.

If there is one lesson to be learned from Hamilton’s Broadway success, it’s that a surprising diverse number of themes can be successfully turned into musicals. After all, who would have believed Ontario’s steel town—just a second—I have just been informed that the musical Hamilton is not in fact about Hamilton, Ontario, but rather about a significant figure in the American Revolution. I see.

Nevertheless, my point stands: almost everything can be turned into a musical, given sufficient talent. Even science fiction epics. Which brings me to the exciting topic of What Science Fiction Works I Would Like to See as Musicals.

(6)  HARRYHAUSEN SCULPTURE. This piece is up for bid at Nate D. Sanders Auctions until August 27. “Ray Harryhausen Original Bronze Sculpture — One of 12 in His Limited Edition Self-Portrait Entitled ‘Giving Life to Fantasy'”

Ray Harryhausen original sculpture, #10 in the limited edition of 12 created in the early 1990s, and then cast in 2010, the last work of fine art by the cinematic trailblazer before his passing. Entitled ”Giving Life to Fantasy”, this self-portrait sculpture depicts Harryhausen as he wanted to be remembered, filming the animated creatures of his imagination: the Cyclops and Dragon in their climactic battle in ”The 7th Voyage of Sinbad”. Other personal touches in this detailed sculpture include Harryhausen’s Giant Octopus from ”It Came from Beneath the Sea” in a box on the floor (along with his inspiration, the gorilla from ”King Kong”), and his Brontosaurus from ”The Animal World” on the side table. Signed and numbered by Harryhausen on the corner of the table, ”Ray Harryhausen 10/12”. Sculpture stands on a green marble and wooden base, with entire presentation measuring 19” x 11.5” x approximately 11” tall, and weighing nearly 50 lbs. Some light patina to bronze, overall near fine condition.

(7) HUNGER GAMES IN EVERYDAY LIFE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Reader, Financial Times.] This is the lede of an article by John Reed in the August 20 Financial Times about protests against the Thai government.

“It is a morning ritual at every Thai school, steeped in tradition and nationalist decorum: children stand still and sing the national anthem as the kingdom’s blue, white, and red flag is raised.

But this week, amid a growing ‘Free People’ youth protest movement, children across Thailand raised their hands during the ceremony to make the protesters’ trademark, defiant three-fingered salute.

The gesture originated in The Hunger Games, the dystopian young adult franchise of books and films, but has been adopted as an emblem of a movement that has spread from university campuses to secondary schools…

…”it has become a peacefully powerful symbol of anti-authoritarianism,’ said Viengrat Nethipo, assistant professor of political science at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University.  ‘Recently it’s been described among youth as symbolic of the French Revolution’s values of liberty, equality, and fraternity, so it’s easily adopted as a symbol.'”

(8) STATUE READY FOR PRIME TIME. [Item by rcade.] Medusa, a 2008 statue by the Argentine-Italian sculptor Luciano Garbati, is getting a seven-foot tall bronze version in New York City across from the New York Criminal Courthouse where Harvey Weinstein was put on trial. NSFW image in a tweet here

Garbati’s statue is a response to Benvenuto Cellini’s famous Perseus with the Head of Medusa statue and the idea that Medusa is the villain of the story.

Quartz explains in “The story behind the Medusa statue that has become the perfect avatar for women’s rage” – 

The original Greek myth of Medusa offers plenty to be angry about. The monstrous being with snakes for hair starts out as a human woman, who Poseidon rapes in Athena’s temple. The goddess then punishes Medusa by turning her into a Gorgon and exiling her. Perseus is later sent on an errand to bring Medusa’s head to King Polydectes. Equipped with a mirrored shield, winged sandals, and a special sack for her head, Perseus creeps up on Medusa while she lies sleeping, cuts off her head, and then uses it as a weapon for turning enemies into stone.”

Garbati says, “The representations of Perseus, he’s always showing the fact that he won, showing the head…if you look at my Medusa…she is determined, she had to do what she did because she was defending herself. It’s quite a tragic moment.”

(9) STEVEN UNIVERSE AND SHE-RA. “In Conversation: Rebecca Sugar and Noelle Stevenson” at Paper.

…With Steven Universe and She-Ra both having ended this year, PAPER invited showrunners Rebecca Sugar and Noelle Stevenson to sit down with one another and reflect on the legacies of their respective series, getting their start in comics, the state of representation in the animated field and where things go from here.

PAPER: Since you’re both wrapping up your respective series’, looking back at what each of you have accomplished, in those series what are you proud of, what do you wish you could have improved on or pushed further?

Rebecca Sugar: Okay, well looking back on everything, I’m really proud of what we were able to do with the characters of Garnet and Ruby and Sapphire. It really goes all the way back to the time I spent on Adventure Time and when I got a chance to do some of the earlier episodes with Marceline and Bubblegum. This was 2010 so Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was still a national policy. It would be half a decade before same-sex marriage was legal in The United States and I wanted to do something with the characters of Marceline and Bubblegum but figure out how to get it on TV. The strategy at the time that I pitched was that because they’re both centuries-old, millenniums-old, had a relationship sometime in the past and they’re unpacking that in a way that would be apparent. That was the only way to be able to do something with these characters and their relationship on screen.

As I was entering my show, I really wanted to find a way to be able to show characters actively in a relationship happening in real-time. We strategized the concept of fusion to be able to explore relationships and include queer relationships. Central to that, one of the things we were excited about was to have the character of Garnet have a ton of screen time and be a main character. There were a lot of things I wanted to explore with an active relationship to parallel my own relationship. I was inventing these characters with my co-executive producer Ian Jones-Quartey, who is also my partner. We wanted to explore an active, queer relationship that would parallel a lot of our experiences with bigotry as an interracial couple.

(10) N.K. [Item by rcade.] While discussing a project called Women’s Prize for Fiction Reclaim Her Name that asked to publish one of her stories for free, then asked to publish one of her novels for free, Nora Jemisin explains how she came to write novels under the initials N.K. Thread starts here.

“(And for those wondering, I’ve said this in multiple interviews, but I did it bc at the time I was an academic starting to publish papers, and thought the initials would separate my fiction writing from my academic writing. [Yeah, this was before natural language processing.])”

Read the whole thread for how she handles a question about what the K stands for.

(11) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • August 1998Blade premiered. With Wesley Snipes as Blade, this film, the first of a trilogy, was directed by Stephen Norrington and written by David S. Goyer as based on the Marvel character developed by writer Marv Wolfman and penciller Gene Colan. It was produced by Snipes along with Peter Frankfurt and Robert Engelman. Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, N’Bushe Wright and Donal Logue were the other principal cast. Marvel, along with Amen Ra Films and Imaginary Forces, were the producing film companies. It was generally well-received by critics though several thought it was way too violent. Box office-wise, it did fantastic but Marvel earned just a flat fee of $25,000. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently only give it a 55% rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 21, 1872 Aubrey Beardsley. Best remembered for his often highly erotic art, ISFDB lists him as having a genre novel, The Story of Venus and Tannhäuser, which bears one of the longest subtitles I’ve encountered (“The story of Venus and Tannhäuser in which is set forth an exact account of the manner of State held by Madam Venus, Goddess and Meretrix under the famous Hörselberg, and containing the Adventures of Tannhäuser in that Place, his Repentance, his Journeying to Rome, and Return to the Loving Mountain”). He has two genre novellas as well, “Catullus: Carmen Cl.“ and “ Under the Hill”.  And yes, he was just twenty-five when he died of tuberculosis. (Died 1898.) (CE) 
  • Born August 21, 1888 Miriam Allen deFord. Although it is said that she started writing SF when Boucher became editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, she only published five of her eighteen late Forties through Fifties works there. One published there, “Mary Celestial“, was written with Boucher. And one, “A Death in the Family”,  was adapted in Night Gallery‘s second season. Best remembered as a mystery writer.  I see no indication that she’s in print in any manner these days for her SF (but three of her mysteries are available from the usual suspects) though she had two SF collections, Elsewhere, Elsewhen, Elsehow and Xenogenesis.  (Died 1975.) (CE) 
  • Born August 21, 1911 – Anthony Boucher.  Co-founded The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction with Francis McComas, co-edited with him 1949-1954, alone through ’58; two Hugos for Best Professional Magazine.  Eight Best of F&SF anthologies 1952-1959 (’52-’54 with FM).  A Treasury of SF ’59, one of our best.  Six dozen short stories.  Translated into Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Russian.  Opera lover.  First translator of Borges into English, hello Evelyn Leeper.  Also detective fiction (a star there too), radio drama, poker.  (Died 1968) [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1927 – Arthur Thomson.  Fanartist.  Thirty covers, a hundred forty interiors.  Signature often read as “ATom”, some insist it’s just “Atom”.   Resident illustrator of Hyphen.  Back covers for Nebula.  Here is the Nov 64 Riverside Quarterly.  Here is Banana Wings 49 (repr. from An ATom Sketchbook).  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate, published ATom Abroad.  Official Artist of Boskone 15.  Two Novas.  Rotsler Award.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1943 – Ron Walotsky. A hundred eighty covers, fifty interiors.  Gallery in Locus 500.  Interview in SF Chronicle 214.  Magic: the Gathering cards.  Ancient Warriors of Lost Civilizations series based on horseshoe-crab shells found near his Florida home.  Here is the May 67 F&SF.  Here is Lord of Light.  Here is Earth Ship and Star Song.  Here is The Shores Beneath.  Here is Houston, Houston, Do You Read? (Souls cover bound with it is by Dieter Rottermund.)  Here is the Nov 97 Analog.  Here is Jimi Hendrix.  Artbook, Inner Visions.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1943 Lucius Shepard. Damn, I didn’t know he’d passed on. Life During Wartime which won him the Astounding Award for a Best New Writer is one seriously weird novel. And his World Fantasy Award winning The Jaguar Hunter is freaking amazing as are all his short collections. I don’t remember reading “ Barnacle Bill the Spacer” which won a Best Novella Hugo at ConFrancisco. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born August 21, 1956 Kim Cattrall, 64. Gracie Law in John Carpenter’s amazing Big Trouble in Little China. She also played Justine de Winter in The Return of the Musketeers, Paige Katz in Wild Palms, Lieutenant Valeris in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and Linday Isley in Good v. Evil. Series wise, she was one offs in Tales of the Gold MonkeyLogan’s RunThe Incredible Hulk and The Outer Limits. (CE);
  • Born August 21, 1957 – John Howe, 63.  A hundred sixty covers, two hundred fifty interiors.  The Maps of Middle-EarthThere and Back Again with Brian Sibley; A Middle-Earth Traveler.  Here is Rip van Winkle.  Here is The Lord of the Rings (presumably not meaning to imply Gandalf is he, aiee). Here is The Once and Future King.  Here is Fool’s Errand.  Here is Créatures.  Artbooks Myth & MagicSur les terres de TolkienJohn Howe Fantasy Art WorkshopForging DragonsLost WorldsColoring Dragons.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1965 – Darynda Jones, 55.  Sixteen novels, three shorter stories.  Summa cum laude from U. New Mexico.  Sign-language interpreter.  RITA Award.  Admits to almost finishing a post-Apocalypse story while in a corner booth at a Tastee Freez, kindly has never shown the manuscript.  Lives in New Mexico with husband and two sons the Mighty Mighty Jones Boys.  Third Grave Dead Ahead NY Times Best Seller.  [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1968 Carrie-Anne Moss, 52. I first saw her as Tara McDonald in the Dark Justice series. Not genre, just her first video I think. Due later played Monica Howard in the “Feeding the Beast” episode of Forever Knight as her first genre role. Oddly enough her next role was as Liz Teel in the Canadian series called Matrix which has nothing to do with the Matrix film franchise where she’s Trinity. Her latest genre role was playing Jeryn Hogarth in the now defunct Netflix based Marvel Universe. (CE)
  • Born August 21, 1972 – Socorro Vegas, 48.  Premio Nacional de Poesía y Cuento «Benemérito de América»Premio Nacional de Novela Ópera Prima «Carlos Fuentes» (Mexico).  Five book-length works (Todos las islas is short stories).  We may claim “The Giant in the Moon”, see it in English here.  Other translations in CompressedConcho River ReviewThe Listening EyeLiteralThe Modern Review.  [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1975 Alicia Witt, 45. Her first role was at age eight as Alia Atreides in David Lynch’s Dune. Next, genre wise at least, voices Caitlin Fairchild In the animated Gen¹³ film. She has series one-offs in Twilight ZonePerson of InterestElementaryWalking DeadSupernatural and The Librarians. She showed up in an episode of the original Twin Peaks and reprised that role nearly thirty years later in Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series. (CE) 

(13) DC FANDOME. In addition to everything else happening this busy weekend is the DC Fandome. It’s free and signing up is easy — here. The 24-hour event starts at 10 a.m. Pacific.

(14) GRATITUDES. In “i am grateful”, Wil Wheaton admits it’s hard for him to fall asleep because when he’s trying, that’s when anxiety works on him most aggressively. He shares a practice that has made it easier.  

…But I started doing something that’s been incredibly helpful, and I thought I’d share it.

Every night as I’m getting ready for bed, I focus on a list of things for which I am grateful. I call it “doing my gratitudes”. I just start somewhere, like “I am grateful that I am going to sleep in a warm, safe bed. I am grateful that I get to share this bed with Anne. I am grateful I have enough food.” Stuff like that. I remind myself that there is so much that is good in my life, and by thinking about those things, recognizing those things, and making space to feel grateful for them, I do not give my anxiety an opportunity to grab hold of anything and go to work on me.

… Those bright lights are so important right now, whether they are stadium lights turning night into day, or pinpricks that barely allow candlelight through black velvet. Spending time in gratitude makes it easier for me to find the light, and remember that it is there, even when I can’t see it.

(15) THE CAST IS IN HERE. SYFY Wire believes “The X-Files Cast Singing Its Theme Song On Zoom Is Now, Like The Truth, Out There”.

Did the iconic theme song for The X-Files need fan-written lyrics? If it got the cast of the sci-fi series to reunite for a musical Zoom call, then, perhaps — like the massive government archives secreting away the supernatural — it’s worth it for the greater good.

…Now how many government secrets are hidden in this song? The new lyrics — courtesy of contest winners Jennifer Large and Rebecca MacDonald — give composer Mark Snow’s classic eerie theme a twist, especially when sung by a wide-ranging collection of cast members and crew.

(16) A KIND OF WORLDBUILDING. Tiffany Meuret analyzes “Our Timely Obsession with Animal Crossing” at the SFWA Blog.

…Explanations abound for the game’s sudden explosion in popularity, but I have noticed a particularly common camaraderie among fellow writers. What is it about this game, with so many other open-concept games already in existence, that draws writers to it with such gusto? The timing of release and the sweetness of the game in such dark times are no doubt factors, but I believe it goes deeper than that, down to the very core of our creative hearts. 

…From that moment on, I unconsciously spun the narrative of my experience. From the clothes I wore to where I placed the coin-operated tourist binoculars I’d shot out of a balloon with a slingshot, I was crafting a story within this story-less game. This is the garden where I breed pink roses. Here is my carnival for when I need a bit of a thrill, outfitted with a popcorn machine and a teacup ride. There is the playground and community pool where I’ll meet my friends on the weekend, lined with color-coded tables for playing chess. Every piece of wallpaper, every color, every pair of jelly sandals I place on my chibi feet are dishing out tone and theme and mood. 

And then there are the villagers. They are a delight to witness as they flit about the island, munching on popsicles, singing, or sprinting Naruto-style on the beach. I’ve dedicated far too many hours to crafting and designing spaces on my island that my residents might enjoy, despite many of the items being stationary and non-interactive. My imagination does all the work the game does not. 

(17) TALL TYPO TALE. [Item by rcade.] The new version of Microsoft Flight Simulator maps the entire world so you can fly over it, using AI and lots of mapping data. Engadget reports “A typo created a 212-story monolith in ‘Microsoft Flight Simulator’”  

Alexander Muscat tweets, “In Microsoft Flight Simulator a bizarrely eldritch, impossibly narrow skyscraper pierces the skies of Melbourne’s North like a suburban Australian version of Half-Life 2’s Citadel, and I am -all for it-.”

(18) VANISHING POINT. BBC Documentary covers “Rulebreakers: How I disappear”.

In Japan, if you want to disappear from your life, you can just pick up the phone and a ‘night moving company’ will turn you into one of the country’s ‘johatsu,’ or literally ‘evaporated people.’ You can cease to exist. Meet the people who choose to disappear and the people who are left behind.

(19) NOT COYOTE AND ROADRUNNER. But there are prints from two animals. “Cliff collapses in Grand Canyon, revealing 313 million-year-old footprints, park says”Yahoo! News has the story.

A geology professor hiking in the Grand Canyon made a “surprising discovery” — the oldest recorded tracks of their kind.

After a cliff collapsed in Grand Canyon National Park, a boulder with fossilized tracks was revealed, park officials said in a Thursday news release. The fossil footprints are about 313 million years old, according to researchers.

“These are by far the oldest vertebrate tracks in Grand Canyon, which is known for its abundant fossil tracks” Stephen Rowland, a paleontologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said in the news release. “More significantly, they are among the oldest tracks on Earth of shelled-egg-laying animals, such as reptiles, and the earliest evidence of vertebrate animals walking in sand dunes.”

(20) IT’S BACK. Like The Blob or The Thing, there’s no stopping Pumpkin Spice from showing up anytime it wants. Morning Consult takes notice: “With Seasonal Products Making an Early Return This Year, Consumers Weigh In on Sweet Spot for Promotions”.

Pumpkin spice came early this year — too early, according to majorities of consumers. 

Dunkin’ Donuts’ pumpkin-flavored coffee and other fall treats returned to the menu earlier than ever this year, the company said, arriving at participating locations Wednesday. Starbucks Corp. has yet to confirm the return date for its much-loved pumpkin spice latte, but one location reportedly said the product would launch on Aug. 28. 

While some social media users are eager for the early return of fall products — a silver lining in an otherwise difficult year — new polling from Morning Consult shows that many consumers would prefer to see products promoted closer to the seasons or holidays with which they’re associated….

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Metal Monsterette is a fun family film made in 1957 with kids and cousins by Ed Emshwiller. His daughter Eve is the heroine and daughter Susan is the mad scientist Dr. Majenius. 

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

Pixel Scroll 5/10/20 She Scrolls Like A Pixel, Dances Like A Nipped Out Cat

(1) SOUND CHOICES. AudioFile’s Candace Levy helps listeners “Discover 5 New Fantasy Audiobook Series”.

Feeling down because you’re all caught up with your current fantasy series? Be sad no more, because 2020 is overflowing with new characters and new adventures for audiobook lovers.

First on the list –

Camille Peters’s PATHWAYS, the first in the Kingdom Chronicles series, finds its roots in two classic stories—“The Princess and the Pea” and “Rumpelstilskin”—and contains many familiar fairy tale elements, such as an enchanted forest and a peasant girl who meets a prince. At the same time, the plot includes fresh twists, making it easy for teen listeners to relate to the budding romance, the magical woods, the secrets and betrayals, and the hope for redemption and a happily ever after. Our reviewer praised narrator Shiromi Arserio for her skill in conveying the full range of emotions felt by our heroine as she follows her destiny.

(2) WHAT THE SHOW’S ABOUT. Abigail Nussbaum, in “Deus Ex: Thoughts on Westworld’s Third Season”, begins her summary with an example:

There’s a moment in the third season premiere of Westworld that, though incidental, also feels like it encapsulates the entire show. Dolores, the former “host” at the titular park, who has gained awareness, escaped her enslavement, and vowed to destroy humanity in her pursuit of safety for her people, has arrived at a swanky party wearing a classic Little Black Dress. Striding onto the scene with elegant purpose as only the statuesque Evan Rachel Wood can, she tugs at a bit of fabric, and the dress transforms, unfolding and draping itself around her to become a glittery ballgown. It’s very pretty, and an impressive feat of dressmaking (presumably vying for an Emmy nomination for costuming, the show has even released footage of a test run for the dress transformation). But a moment’s thought can only leave you wondering what it was all for. Both dresses are appropriate evening attire. Neither one makes Dolores more or less noticeable. Neither one conceals her from pursuit (of which there appears to be none). It’s not even as if the LBD was particularly “practical”. The whole thing exists purely for the cool moment. Which is not a bad thing in itself, of course–what is on-screen science fiction for, after all, if not providing us with cool moments to GIF and meme? But it also feels like Westworld in a nutshell: it looks super-dramatic, but when you give it a moment’s thought, it means nothing….

(3) SPFBO BEHIND THE SCENES. Mihir Wanchoo’s post about the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off at Fantasy Book Critic, “SPFBO 5: Conclusion & Some Thoughts”, includes a lot of “inside baseball,” but ends with these passionate thoughts about the contest’s mission —

Lastly I would like to clarify what the point of the contest is… Here’s what I think:
– It’s NOT about the authors.
– It’s NOT about the bloggers
– IT’S ABOUT THE READERS
– It’s about shining a spotlight on books that readers might have overlooked or never heard about. It doesn’t matter whether a book has a single Goodreads rating or 5K-plus because it can still reach more people by being in the contest.

I vehemently believe that every book should be judged on its own merit and not whether its author has won SPFBO or been a previous finalist or is a famous one (either traditionally published or self-published). Yes we can have rules about how frequently a previous winner or finalist can re-enter their new books (maybe with a cooling period of 2/3 years for a winner and a year for the finalist) but that’s a discussion to be had.

(4) THERE’S AN ART TO THIS KIND OF WRITING. Add NPR’s Steve Mullis to the list of people who adore the series: “Murderbot Makes A Triumphant (And Cranky) Return In ‘Network Effect'”.

…Wells’ latest, Network Effect, is the first full-sized novel featuring our favorite cranky, cynical, sentient, artificially intelligent robot. For those unfamiliar, I’ll give you a few minutes to catch up on the first four books. Done? OK, well that might not be long enough for a simple human, but for Murderbot, it would have been plenty of time to read the previous four volumes, watch an episode of future soap opera The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon and break into a security system to complete a mission.

(5) WRITE-IN. Marc Scott Zicree, creator of Space Command, makes headlines when Neil deGrasse Tyson joins the cast!

Mr. Sci-Fi shares how famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson suggested a story for Space Command and now is a character in the show!

(6) REGISTER FOR VIRTUAL WISCON. WisCon, the world’s first feminist sff convention, is preparing to hold its first ever all-online edition. WisCon 44 will run virtually over U.S. Memorial Day Weekend — May 22-25, 2020. Registration is now open.

Aqueduct Press is collaborating with the organizers to encourage registration with a book giveaway: the first 100 people to register for the online con will receive a digital copy of this year’s volume of The WisCon Chronicles (Vol. 12): Boundaries and Bridges. This year’s volume of the traditional series, which gathers thoughts and creations by WisCon attendees, is edited by Isabel Schechter and Michi Trota.

The volume features Charlie Jane Anders’s and G. Willow Wilson’s WisCon 43 Guest of Honor speeches and the Tiptree (now Otherwise) award winner Gabriela Damián Miravete’s speech and fiction, as well as essays by Alexandra Erin, Julia Rios, Nisi Shawl, John Scalzi, and more.

(7) COMPANY CLOSES AFTER COFOUNDER DIES. [Item by Steve Green.] Twilight Time, the boutique home video label founded in 2011 by Brian Jamieson and the late Nick Redman, announced today (May 10) that it will be shutting down this summer and has begun a ‘closing down’ sale of warehouse stock. Effective July 1, Screen Archives will be taking over remaining inventory. Press release: “It’s Twilight Time For Us!”

Redman died on January 17, aged 63, following a lengthy illness. During his time at the Fox Music Group, he oversaw such movie soundtracks as the 1996 boxset Star Wars Trilogy and the following year’s Star Wars: A New Hope. Thanks to his input, most of the Twilight Time releases had isolated music tracks.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 10, 1945  — Green Hornet’s “An Armistice From Death” was broadcast on WXYZ in Detroit. It has a cast of Bob Hall as the Green Hornet and Rollon Parker as Kato. The latter actor also voiced The Newsboy at the end of each episode who hawked the Extra edition of The Sentinel that carried the story of the weekly racket or spy ring being smashed. The story this time was that though the Nazis have surrendered, a team of a German agent and a Japanese spy plan to carry on the fight against America. The Japanese spy says, “Honorable Hitler never admit defeat!” The first step is to kidnap Kato, Next, they leave a bio weapon in the form of a fatal virus to attack the celebrating Americans. This broadcast followed the actual V-E Day by only 2 days! You can hear it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 10, 1863 Cornelius Shea. As SFE puts it, “author for the silent screen and author of dime novels (see Dime-Novel SF), prolific in many categories but best remembered for marvel stories using a fairly consistent ’mythology’ of dwarfs, subterranean eruptions, and stage illusion masquerading as supernatural magic.” To my surprise, only two of his novels are in the Internet Archive, though Complete Mystery Science Stories of Cornelius Shea which includes two of these Novels is available from iBooks  and Kobo. (Died 1920.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1870 Evoe. Brother of Ronald Knox, husband of Mary Shepard who illustrated Mary Poppins and whose father illustrated Winnie the Pooh and The Wind in the Willows.  Edited Punch 1932-1949 after contributing for years.  When in 1960 Punch ran a series “Authors in Space” – “Dickens in Space”, “Kipling in Space”, “Joyce in Space” – Evoe (a pen name) wrote “Conan Doyle in Space”. (Died 1970.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1886 Olaf Stapledon. Original and almost unimaginable. Last and First Men, his first novel (!) extends over two billion years – written in 1930.  Who could follow that?  He did, with Star Maker, over 100 billion years. Their range, imagination, and grandeur may still be unequaled.  He was, however – or to his credit – depending on how you see things – an avowed atheist.  Odd John, about a spiritual-intellectual superman, may be tragic, or heroic, or both; likewise Sirius, about a superdog, on this year’s Retro-Hugo ballot.  First recipient of the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, 2001.  Science Fiction Hall of Fame, 2014. (Died 1950.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1895 Earl Askam. He played Officer Torch, the captain of Ming the Merciless’s guards, in the 1936 Flash Gordon serial. It’s his only genre appearance though he did have an uncredited role in a Perry Mason film, The Case of Black Cat, which is at least genre adjacent as the defendant is a feline! (Died 1940.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1899 Fred Astaire. Yes, that actor. He showed up on the original Battlestar Galactica as Chameleon / Captain Dimitri In “The Man with Nine Lives” episode. Stunt casting I assume.  He had only two genre roles as near as I can tell which were voicing The Wasp in the English language adaptation of the Japanese Wasp anime series, and being in a film called Ghost Story. They came nearly twenty years apart and were the last acting roles that he did. (Died 1987.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1900 Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin. Groundbreakingly proposed in her doctoral dissertation (first Ph.D. from Radcliffe, at the time women-only) that the Sun was mainly hydrogen and helium; proved right four years later.  First woman to head a department at Harvard.  Six honorary degrees.  Stars in the Making (non-fiction) reviewed by Schuyler Miller in the July 1953 Astounding. Biography, What Stars Are Made Of (D. Moore; just published 2020). (Died 1979) [JH]  
  • Born May 10, 1905 Alex Schomburg. One of our finest graphic artists. 130 covers 1939-1993 from Startling to Tomorrow, including Amazing, Astounding and AnalogF & SFGalaxyAsimov’s, books – and the Westercon 37 Program Book; 250 interiors; not that numbers are supreme. Worldcon Special Committee Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1989, and Chesley Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1987; First Fandom Hall of Fame, 1990.  Six years an Illustrators of the Future judge.  See him in Di Fate’s Infinite Worlds. (Died 1998.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1935 Terrance Dicks. He had a long association with Doctor Who, working as a writer and also serving as the programme’s script editor from 1968 to 1974. He also wrote many of its scripts including The War Games which ended the Second Doctor’s reign and The Five Doctors, produced for the 20th year celebration of the program. He also wrote novelizations of more than sixty of the Doctor Who shows. Yes sixty! Prior to working on this series, he wrote four episodes of The Avengers and after this show he wrote a single episode of Space: 1999 and likewise for Moonbase 3, a very short-lived BBC series. (Died 2019.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1963 Rich Moore, 57. He’s directed Wreck-It Ralph and co-directed Zootopia and Ralph Breaks the Internet; he’s has worked on Futurama. It’s not really stretching the definition of genre , so I’ll note that he did the animation for the most excellent Spy vs. Spy series for MADtv. You can see the first one here. [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1969 John Scalzi, 51. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever read by him. What would I recommend if you hadn’t read him? The Old Man’s War series certainly is fantastic with Zoe’s Tale bringing tears to my eyes as well as the Interdependency series are excellent. I really have mixed feelings about Redshirts in that it’s too jokeyfor my taste. I will note that his blog is one of a very few which I read every post of. [CE]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz wonders what else is in the universe.
  • Garfield enjoys a fan favorite.
  • Free Range plays with a skeptical rock climber.

(11) LINE BY LINE. Gideon Marcus surveys the state of the computing arts – in 1965 – for Galactic Journey: “[MAY 10, 1965] A LANGUAGE FOR THE MASSES (TALKING TO A MACHINE, PART THREE)”.

This is part three of our series on programming in the modern computer age.  Last time, we discussed the rise of user-oriented languages.  We now report on the latest of them and why it’s so exciting.

…These days, thanks to companies like IBM, Rand, and CDC, digital computers have become commonplace — more than 10,000 are currently in use!  While these machines have replaced de Prony’s human calculators, they have created their own manpower shortage.  With computation so cheap and quick, and application of these computations so legion, the bottleneck is now in programmers.  What good does it do to have a hundred thousand computers in the world (a number being casually bandied about for near future years like 1972) if they sit idle with no one to feed them code?

(12) WHEN JUPITER COLLIDES WITH MARS. Yahoo! News asks “Will Coronavirus Kill Astrology?” Are they kidding?

If ever there was one, Susan Miller would be a blue-chip astrologer. So in January, when she appeared on CBS New York and predicted that 2020 would “be a great year, and it will be a prosperous year,” people listened.

People listened when she said Capricorn would be the year’s “celestial favorite,” Cancer was the most likely to wed, Libra was set to score in real estate, and Taurus could expect a calendar full of international travel.

And then people got mad because — it probably doesn’t need pointing out — things didn’t exactly go according to the stars’ plan….

(13) ONE PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND BRICKS. Apartment Therapy introduces fans to “The New Harry Potter LEGO Collection [which] Includes Tiny Mandrake Plants and a Giant Hedwig”.

The Harry Potter universe is expanding, with six new LEGO sets coming this summer. They include scenes from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as well as the house on Privet Drive where Harry spent his childhood and a large Hedwig that can move its wings with the turn of a crank.

The LEGO world of Harry Potter is already vast. The first sets came out in 2001 along with the first film, and 19 years later, you can find LEGO versions of everything from the Hogwarts Castle to Diagon Alley, with niche sets dedicated to moments in the books and films.

See them all at the LEGO site, including the Hogwarts Astronomy Tower.

(14) CAPALDI PITCHES IN. “Peter Capaldi on For The Love of Scotland Livestream 22/4/2020” is a segment Capaldi did (including reading Kurt Vonnegut) for the “Masks for Scotland” fundraiser held on April 22. He quips, “My life is mostly unchanged because i avoid people anyway.”

(15) LEM BACK IN PRINT. Brendan Byrne makes “The Case for Stanislaw Lem, One of Science Fiction’s Unsung Giants” at Medium.

Since his death in 2006, the work of Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem has slowly slid from view. While his impact upon on American audiences was always softened by the Iron Curtain — he was was in peak form during the ’60s and ’70s — and an often tortured translation process, Lem was at one point “the most widely read science fiction writer in the world,” at least according to Theodore Sturgeon, an eminent writer of SF’s so-called Golden Age.

Lem was acknowledged, especially by fellow authors, as an especially important figure in the genre, but of late he seems to be primarily remembered as the author of the novel Solaris, the base material for the 1972 film by Andrei Tarkovsky and the 2002 version by Steven Soderbergh. This is a poor fate for an author who, for the latter half of the 20th century, skipped nimbly between SF sub-genres, with occasional excursions outside SF. While his sphere of influence was massive — he sold 45 million books worldwide — Lem’s refusal to settle into some comfortable little niche is distinctly unusual in a contemporary marketplace which today sections writers into increasingly sub-sub-genres.

Lem was simultaneously a moralist, stylist, and semi-professional scientist (a teenage inventor who trained as a physician). He managed to write hard science fiction that engaged with contemporary developments in science, medicine, and philosophy without ever condescending to his audience or engaging in specialist-speak (unless he was satirizing it).

Fortunately, the MIT Press has seen fit to help rejuvenate Lem’s oeuvre — they recently republished six of his key books, and, in the process, made the case for a Lemian resurgence — just in time for his 2021 centenary….

(16) THE END IS NEAR. The wait is over. “Here Comes the Droughtlander! Everything You Need to Know About Outlander Heading into the Season 5 Finale” in Parade.

…“Almost anybody can write a good love story, in which people meet and fall in love and get married or run off together,” Gabaldon says, adding, “It’s much harder and thus more interesting to find out what it takes to be married for 50 years. I had never seen anybody do that, so that’s what I decided I’d like to do.”

The Starz series that follows the heroic journey of Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is such a success that the term “Droughtlander” has been coined for the period of time in between seasons. And we will be heading there shortly. The season five finale airs May 10, and according to Heughan, it’s going to be “big.”

(17) NOT QUITE AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT. [Item by David Doering.] From the Truth is Stranger than Fiction department, here’s the tale of how SF turned fact gave us the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution and banned slavery. “The $60,000 Telegram That Helped Lincoln End Slavery”.

…Statehood looked promising, particularly for Nye, who had great political ambitions. He preferred living on the East Coast and saw his post in Nevada as a way to launch himself into what he really wanted to be — a Senator. Nye was charismatic and known for his “winning friendly face,” but his countenance changed rapidly when a telegram arrived the evening of Tuesday, October 25, 1864. The head of the California Pacific Telegraph passed on a telegram to him, which said, “The President has not received a copy of your constitution.” The deadline for the materials was just a few days away. There wasn’t enough time to mail it to the President. If Nye was going to get 175 pages of this official document to Abraham Lincoln, he was going to have to use the new technology that was just installed three years prior — the telegraph.

…When these electrical impulses finally reached the last leg of their journey, they were sent to the telegraph office of the War Department. This transmission was of such importance that intelligence from the warfront was put on hold for five hours to make way for Nevada’s telegram. Hodge’s and Ward’s message took two days to get to Lincoln and the cost of sending the message was $4,303.27 ($60,000 today). Nevada’s electric constitution reached Lincoln on the evening of October 28 and he proclaimed it a state on the 30th. On the 31st of October, Nevada officially celebrated its statehood, which gave it the right to participate in the election a week later on November 8….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Inside The Making of Dr. Strangelove” on YouTube is a 2000 documentary about Dr. Strangelove that includes interviews with production designer Sir Ken Adam, Kubrick biographer John Baxter, and James Earl Jones, who made his debut in the film.

[Thanks to Microtherion, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Darrah Chavey, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Lise Andreasen, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 5/1/20 Do Ansibles Dream Of Electronic Beeps?

(1) NEW MARVEL COMICS ON THE WAY. Today, Marvel Comics announced its plans to resume releases for its comics starting Wednesday, May 27. Said a press releasem “True Believers everywhere will now be able to escape back into the Marvel Universe and continue following their favorite Marvel stories and characters.”

Over the next few weeks, Marvel will keep a balanced release schedule for its comics and trade collections as the industry continues to restart distribution and comic shops begin to reopen and adapt to current social distancing policies. Stay tuned for more information as Marvel continues to release new comics in the most thoughtful way we can for fans, creators, and the industry during these unpredictable times.

(2) THINGS COVID-19 MAKES UNPREDICTABLE. Fantastika 2020 today announced that they have optioned March 19-21, 2021 as a backup in case their first deferred date – October 23-25 this year – doesn’t pan out. All four guests of honor — Adrian Tchaikovsky, Aliette de Bodard, Peadar Ó Guilín, and Eva Holmquist — are planning to come to Fantastika 2020 in October, but right now no one knows if they will be able to come next March.

(3) A CERTAIN CONVENTION CASUALTY. Pittsburgh’s furry fandom Anthrocon, which was to be held July 2-5, announced on April 27 that they have cancelled this year’s event:

(4) AN UNEXPECTED OMEN. Tor.com’s Emmet Asher-Perrin directed fans how to eavesdrop on an exchange between two favorite characters: “Crowley and Aziraphale Weather the Lockdown on Good Omens’ 30th Anniversary”.

It’s the 30th anniversary of Good Omens’ publication, so Neil Gaiman, David Tennant, Michael Sheen, and the other folx involved with last year’s miniseries have offered up a brand new scene. As a (literal) treat.

(5) MEREDITH MOMENT. Barbara Krasnoff’s mosaic fantasy novel of the past and future of two Jewish families, The History Of Soul 2065, is available today for only 99 cents at Amazon & other venues! — Amazon, Barnes & Noble, itunes, Kobo, Google Play. Read Daniel Dern’s January 27 File 770 review of the book.

(6) ABOUT JEMISIN’S AUDIOBOOK. AudioFile has posted a Behind the Mic video with Robin Miles and her Earphones Award winning performance on N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became.

AudioFile Magazine’s review begins —  

Robin Miles gives voice to everything New York in this fantastical celebration of the city’s spirit. As the novel opens, New York City is going through a transformation–it’s becoming sentient, embodied by six human avatars who represent the city’s five boroughs plus New York as a whole…. 

(7) A SHAGGY DOG STORY. Margaret Lyons, the New York Times television critic, asks “How Much Watching Time Do You Have This Weekend?”

Robbie Amell on “Upload.” The dog is his character’s therapist.

‘Upload’
When to watch: Starting Friday, on Amazon.

“Upload” feels like a hybrid of “The Good Place,” “Black Mirror” and “Idiocracy,” a cheeky, cynical but still lyrical sci-fi romantic dramedy. Robbie Amell stars as Nathan, a tech bro in 2033 whose consciousness is uploaded to a chichi but bizarre afterlife. Corporate greed is a defining pillar of modern life, and on “Upload” it’s a defining pillar of death, too, where the indignities of being advertised to, of always feeling shaken down, of being little more than a revenue stream, can endure for eternity. But hey, free gum! If you like big, imaginative shows with bite, watch this.

(8) HOPS TO IT. The bibulous Camestros Felapton shares the results of exhaustive testing in “Beers and Hugos: what to pair with your novel finalists”.

What to drink as you sit in your favourite reading spot with a good book is a vexing question of no import whatsoever. Wine has its advocates but I think drinking beer or slowly sipping spirits is a better a match for novels.

But what to match with this year’s Hugo Finalists for Best Novel?

So many factors to consider about each book! For example —

The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley. Do we need a high-strength beer here to match the mind-twisting plot or something with more flavour and less alcohol so we can concentrate and try to work out what is going on? I’ve drunk Chocolate Fish Milk Stout before which is a suitably disorientating car-crash of nouns but I don’t think that is the right tone for this novel. I want something that is sharp but very much not what it seems to be — a drink that makes you want to know what is going on and why? Perhaps something with a hint of a terrible experiment gone wrong… …

(9) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY. HBO dropped a teaser trailer. The series debuts in August.

HBO’s new drama series, based on the 2016 novel by Matt Ruff of the same name, debuts this August. The series follows Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) as he joins up with his friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father (Michael Kenneth Williams). This begins a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and the terrifying monsters that could be ripped from a Lovecraft paperback.

(10) MORE BUDRYS. David Langford says, “Research for the recent Budrys SF essay collection Beyond the Outposts uncovered a mass of material that didn’t fit the scope of that already oversized book. I’m happy to report that the Budrys family liked the idea of my releasing a free ebook of other writings by our man — from a tasty 1960 fanzine to his final editorials in Tomorrow SF.”

Now you can download free A Budrys Miscellany: Occasional Writing 1960-2000 at the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund Free Ebooks page – and please consider making a donation to TAFF.

(11) IT WASN’T THAT LONG AGO. Onward came and went with good reviews but an otherwise muted reception placing it much lower than Pixar’s more beloved films. YouTuber 24 Frames of Nick gives it a reappraisal. “You’re wrong about Onward.”

(12) TODAY’S DAY.

SPACE DAY is celebrated annually on the first Friday of May. An unofficial educational holiday created in 1997 by Lockheed Martin, Space Day aims to promote the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields among young people.

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 1, 1953 Tales of Tomorrow’s “The Evil Within” episode first aired. A scientist has perfected a chemical that unleashes the beast within, but before he can create an antidote, his wife takes it when he takes a sample home to keep it refrigerated. It was directed by  Don Medford from a script by David E. Durston and Manya Starr. It starred James Dean, Margaret Phillips and Rod Steiger. It was Dean’s only genre role.  You can watch it here.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 1, 1905 E. Mayne Hull. She was the first wife of A. E. van Vogt and a genre writer in her own right with two novels to her credit, Planets for Sale and The Winged Man (which is co-written with her husband), and about a dozen stories. The Winged Man is a finalist for the Retro Hugo this year. She does not appear to be available in digital form. (Died 1975.)
  • Born May 1, 1923 Ralph Senensky, 97. Director of six Trek episodes including “Obsession” and “Is There in Truth No Beauty?“ which are two of my favorite episodes. He also directed episodes of The Wild Wild WestMission: ImpossibleThe Twilight Zone (“Printer’s Devil”), Night Gallery and Planet of the Apes.
  • Born May 1, 1946 Joanna Lumley, 73. No, she was no Emma Peel, but she was definitely more than a bit appealing (pun fullly intended) in the New Avengers as Purdey. All twenty-six episode are out on DVD. Her next genre outing was In Sapphire & Steel which starred David McCallum as Steel and her as Sapphire. If you skip forward nearly near twenty years, you’ll  find her playing The Thirteenth Doctor in The Curse of Fatal Death in the 2017 Comic Relief special. Yes, she played the first version of a female Thirteenth Doctor. 
  • Born May 1, 1952 Andrew Sawyer, 68. Librarian by profession, critic and editor as well being an active part of fandom. He is the Reviews Editor for Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction. I’ve also got him doing Upon the Rack in Print, a book review column in Interzone and elsewhere and contributing likewise the Rust Never Sleeps column to Paperback Inferno as well. He hasn’t written much fiction, but there is some such as “The Mechanical Art” in the  Digital Dreams anthology.
  • Born May 1, 1955 J. R. Pournelle, 65. Some years ago, I got an email from a J. R. Pournelle about some SF novel they wanted Green Man to review. I of course thought it was that Pournelle. No, it was his daughter. And that’s how I came to find out there was a third Motie novel called, errrr, Moties. It’s better than The Gripping Hand.
  • Born May 1, 1956 Philip Foglio, 64. He won the Hugo Award Best Fan Artist at SunCon and IguanaCon 2. He later did work for DC, First and Marvel Comics including the backup stories in Grimjack. He and his wife are responsible for the totally ass kicking Girl Genius series
  • Born May 1, 1957 Steve Meretzky, 63. He co-designed the early Eighties version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy video game with the full participation of Douglas Adams. ESF also says that he did a space opera themed game, Planetfall and its sequel A Mind Forever Voyaging in the Eighties as well. He did the definitely more erotic Leather Goddesses of Phobos as well. 
  • Born May 1, 1972 Julie Benz, 48. I remember her best as Darla on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, but she’s had other genre roles such as Julie Falcon In Darkdrive, a very low budget Canadian Sf film, Barbara in the weirdly good Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th, and Angela Donatelli in Punisher: War Zone. 

(15) COMICS SECTION.

  • Reality Check tells how one robot family overcame its hereditary medical problem.
  • Reality Check also demonstrates the importance of grammar when instructing one’s fairy godmother.
  • Speed Bump describes a drug with questionable effects.

(16) THE LAST OF SHE-RA. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Final Season Trailer.

(17) HISTORY IMPROVED UPON. David Doering wonders if this is where the tradition of fabulous meeting minutes began for the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society:

“Bruce A. Yerke’s position as the most entertaining Secretary the LASFS ever corralled, and as founder and editor of Imagination (the magazine which precipitated the  unprecedented hordes of LASFS publications on the fan world ), is doubtless well known to most fans, but it wouldn’t do to forgo mention of his fabulously hilarious minutes. Those priceless documents were probably the indirect cause of the attendance of many otherwise uninterested persons, who came around solely to discover whether they had been libeled or praised, and to writhe or bask in a flow of words as the minutes were read.”

“The Damn Guy” in Fan Slants, Sept. 1943

Some of Yerke’s other attempts at jocularity in 1943 were more sophomoric.

“I was resting on a couch in one corner of the LASFS clubroom, dozing contentedly. Yerke entered, espied my recumbent form, and concluded that this was a splendid opportunity for some real fun. Producing an enormous sheet of wrapping paper, he tucked it about me, and then gleefully set fire to it. Luckily I came to my senses at this point and prevented an uncomfortable experience. When I demanded an explanation for his unseemly conduct, he replied, ‘I was giving you a hot-torso!’” 

(18) CIRCULAR FILE. James Davis Nicoll shares the addresses in “Put a Ring On It: Potential Planetary Ring Systems and Where to Find Them” at Tor.com.

… The mediocrity principle would suggest that other ring systems exist—systems that may be even more spectacular than Saturn’s. Recent discoveries hint that this may be the case. Data from the star 1SWASP J140747—have I complained yet today that astronomers are terrible at naming things?—suggests that its substellar companion may have a ring system that could be 180 million kilometers wide. That is about 30 million kilometers more than the distance from the Earth to the Sun. If Saturn had a ring system like that, it would be naked-eye visible.

(19) THE NAVY VS. THE DAY MONSTERS. Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait tells SYFY WIRE readers: “So, Those Navy Videos Showing UFOs? I’m Not Saying It’s Not Aliens, But It’s Not Aliens.” He gives a kind of Reader’s Digest condensation of the work done at MetaBunk.

On 27 April 2020, the U.S. Department of Defense officially released three unclassified videos, footage taken on Navy fighter jets. These videos, leaked to the public in 2007 and 2017, appear to show three unidentified flying objects moving in weird and unexpected ways. The Navy had already acknowledged the videos were real, but pointedly did not say what they show.

Do these videos show alien spaceships? If you do a lazy search on Google for them, the results might give you the idea they do. A lot of electrons have been spilled claiming these show alien vehicles making impossible maneuvers, are surrounded by a glow indicating some sort of advanced tech like a “warp drive,” and are clearly beyond our own miserable human technology.

But is any of this actually true?

Yeah, no. I mean, sure, the objects in the footage are unidentified, but something being a UFO doesn’t make it, y’know, a UFO….

(20) LINNAEUS NEVER HEARD OF THESE. Maybe you want to know, maybe you don’t, but you’re about to find out! “The 7 Strangest Real-Life Species Named After Star Trek Characters” courtesy of StarTrek.com.

Ever since Gene Roddenberry’s seminal sci-fi series blasted off in 1969, scientists across Earth have been naming newly-discovered species after the franchise’s characters and cast. Which animals share names with Star Trek’s most beloved and why? We’ve energized the etymology behind seven real-life Star Trek species into one handy databank below.

First on the list:

Ledella spocki (named after Mr. Spock)

At first, naming a mussel after Leonard Nimoy’s Science Officer may seem highly illogical. However, when tasked to title a newly-discovered mollusk in 2014, Spanish researchers led by Dr. Diniz Viegas opted to pay homage to Spock. The reason? They noted the shape of the mussel’s valves resembled the pointed ears of Star Trek’s most famous human-Vulcan hybrid.

(21) OPINIONS — EVERYBODY’S GOT ONE. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber earns his check this week arguing“Why The Empire Strikes Back is overrated”.

…This might come across as a contrarian hot take, but it seems obvious to me that the best film in the Star Wars series is, in fact, Star Wars. (I know we’re supposed to call it ‘A New Hope’ these days, but it was called Star Wars when it came out in 1977, so that’s good enough for me.) What’s more, it seems obvious that The Empire Strikes Back is the source of all the franchise’s problems. Whatever issues we geeks grumble about when we’re discussing the numerous prequels and sequels, they can all be traced back to 1980.

…My grievance with The Empire Strikes Back isn’t that it sticks to the winning formula established by Star Wars: that’s what most sequels do, after all. My grievance is that it also betrays Star Wars, trashing so much of the good work that was done three years earlier. My un-Jedi-like anger bubbles up even before the first scene – at the beginning of the ‘opening crawl’ of introductory text, to be precise. “It is a dark time for the Rebellion,” says this prose preamble. “Although the Death Star has been destroyed, Imperial troops have driven the Rebel forces from their hidden base and pursued them across the galaxy.”

Haaaaang on a minute. “Although the Death Star has been destroyed”? “Although”? The sole aim of the heroes and heroines in Star Wars was to destroy the Death Star, a humungous planet-pulverising spaceship of crucial strategic importance to the Empire. One of their big cheeses announced that “fear of this battle station” would keep every dissenter in line. Another hailed it as “the ultimate power in the universe”. But now the Rebels’ demolishing of the ultimate power in the universe is waved aside with an “although”? That, frankly, is not on. And it’s just the first of many instances when The Empire Strikes Back asks us to pretend that Star Wars didn’t happen….

(22) LITTERBUGS. “High microplastic concentration found on ocean floor”.

Scientists have identified the highest levels of microplastics ever recorded on the seafloor.

The contamination was found in sediments pulled from the bottom of the Mediterranean, near Italy.

The analysis, led by the University of Manchester, found up to 1.9 million plastic pieces per square metre.

These items likely included fibres from clothing and other synthetic textiles, and tiny fragments from larger objects that had broken down over time.

The researchers’ investigations lead them to believe that microplastics (smaller than 1mm) are being concentrated in specific locations on the ocean floor by powerful bottom currents.

“These currents build what are called drift deposits; think of underwater sand dunes,” explained Dr Ian Kane, who fronted the international team.

“They can be tens of kilometres long and hundreds of metres high. They are among the largest sediment accumulations on Earth. They’re made predominantly of very fine silt, so it’s intuitive to expect microplastics will be found within them,” he told BBC News.

(23) IT’S SAD TO BE ALL ALONE IN THE WORLD. Or so I remember someone telling Mary Tyler Moore in Thoroughly Modern Millie. “Animals in zoos ‘lonely’ without visitors”.

A number of zoos around the world are reporting that their animals are becoming “lonely” without visitors.

Zoos have had to close to members of the public due to Covid-19.

At Phoenix Zoo, keepers have lunch dates with elephants and orangutans, and one sociable bird needs frequent visits. Primates have gone looking for missing visitors.

Dublin Zoo said animals were also “wondering what’s happened to everyone”.

Director Leo Oosterweghel said the animals look at him in surprise.

“They come up and have a good look. They are used to visitors,” he told the Irish Times.

…Without visitors, some animals lack stimulation, Paul Rose, lecturer in animal behaviour at the University of Exeter, told the BBC.

“Some individuals, such as primates and parrots get a lot of enrichment from viewing and engaging with visitors. It is beneficial to the animal’s wellbeing and quality of life. If this stimulation is not there, then the animals are lacking the enrichment,” he said.

It’s not just the mammals: “Garden eels ‘forgetting about humans’ need people to video-chat”.

Keepers at Toyko’s Sumida Aquarium, which has been closed since 1 March due to the coronavirus pandemic, are starting to worry about their garden eels.

The sensitive little creatures had become used to seeing hundreds of faces peering into their tanks.

Now the aquarium is deserted they’ve started to dive into the sand whenever their keepers walk past.

This makes it hard to check they’re healthy.

The aquarium says the eels are “forgetting about humans” and is making what it calls an “emergency plea”.

“Could you show your face to our garden eels from your home?”

Yes, they’re asking people to call in for a sub-aqua video chat and remind the eels that humans are friendly.

(24) COMIC STALK. Marvel Entertainment announced today the launch of a brand-new digital series, Marvel Presents: The World’s Greatest Book Club with Paul Scheer, a six-episode weekly series celebrating your favorite comics and the community around them. This fun, light-hearted series is hosted by actor and comedian Paul Scheer, who will be joined by celebrity guests including Damon Lindelof, Gillian Jacobs, W. Kamau Bell, Phil Lord, Yassir Lester, and Jason Mantzoukas. The series is produced in partnership with Supper Club with Paul Scheer, Jason Sterman, Brian McGinn, and David Gelb as executive producers.

For fans, comic shops have and always will be the heart of the comic book community; a place for new and longtime fans to come together and share their passion, fandom, and appreciation for the artform while learning about something new. As a lifelong lover of Marvel comics, Scheer will look to capture some of that comic shop experience by diving into the personal origin stories with comics and beyond with each guest in the series. Scheer will be joined by Marvel New Media Head of Content Stephen Wacker to provide an inside look into some of Marvel’s most-read classics and unlock forgotten treasures from the Marvel vault.

In the first installment, Scheer and special guest Damon Lindelof and Marvel’s Stephen Wacker take an inside look into some of Marvel’s most-read classics and forgotten treasures, discussing Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk (2005) #1, New Mutants (1983) #1, and The New Mutants Marvel Graphic Novel (1982).

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, David Doering, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, N., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 4/27/20 Abbot And Cos-Scroll-O Meet The Pixel Monster

(1) LATEST COMICS BARGAIN. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “ComiXology Now Offering 60-Day Free Trial of Their Unlimited Service” reports The Inventory. ComiXology’s $5.99/month Unlimited gives you access to “over 25,000 digital comics, graphic novels, and manga from DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, and more!”

At free, this is a deal you can’t beat. (Assuming you’ve got a reasonable viewing device, in terms of screen size.) The regular price isn’t shabby, either, as long as you find stuff you like. (I did, but after a year-ish of binging, had found most/enough.)

Aside from DC and Marvel — a smaller and sometimes different selection than what you’d find on their own unlimited sites — there’s Dynamite, IDG, Fantagraphics, etc. IIRC, there’s Saga, Trees, ERB/Barsoom stuff, and some original-from-ComiXology titles (none of which grab me, but your jauntage may vary).

If you’ve already started exploring ComiXology’s FREE offerings, you’ll find more in many of those titles to keep going with.

BTW, if you haven’t already gotten a free Hoopla (hoopladigital.com) account through your library, do that! You can’t read as much, but the price is right.

And you can find many of Hoopla’s offerings on ComiXology, which in turn will let you make more use of your Hoopla monthly limit.

(See my “All In Color For A Zorkmid” post for more on all this.)

Here’s my question for Filers: What device are you using to read your digital comics on? In particular, is anybody using a tablet/2-in-1 other than an iPad Pro 12.9 where the screen is big enough to let you read it in the printed-comic-equivalent full size? E.g., on a Chromebook that supports that ComiXology Android app? Let me know (via a comment).

‘Nuff read!

(2) CONTEST WINDOW OPENS. “B&N Launches National Children’s Short Story Contest” – a chance for some, details at Publishers Weekly.

During these unprecedented times when families are hunkered down at home together due to the Covid-19 virus, Barnes & Noble is giving aspiring young authors a chance to showcase their creativity—and become published. Between April 27 and May 29, contestants can submit written or graphic short stories to be considered for inclusion in an anthology that the company will release in time for this year’s holiday season.

(3) COUGH IT UP MARVEL. Emily Asher-Perrin is right! Avengers: Endgame Never Showed Us Its Greatest Scene”.

But I would like to register a complaint: You see, the most interesting arc of the film is nowhere to be found on screen. And I request that Marvel produce the deleted footage of this arc, otherwise I’m not really sure why this movie was made at all.

I’m speaking, of course, about how Doctor Stephen Strange stage managed an entire apocalypse solely for Maximum Dramatic Effect.

(4) EMPTY THE MAGAZINE. Good eReader says “Barnes and Noble will stop selling new magazines”.

Barnes and Noble has shuttered over 500 of their 600 bookstores in the United States and the bookseller has announced they are no longer going to be ordering new magazines and will cease carrying them altogether.

“It will probably be a bigger deal for smaller publishers who count on the money they get upfront from B&N,” said one industry veteran, who noted that big newsstand titles, like Hearst’s Cosmopolitan and Meredith’s People, are far more reliant on other retailers.

(5) COVID COSPLAY. In the Washington Post, Maura Judkis says that cosplayers took the mandatory mask-wearing requirements to dress up as characters. “We regret to inform you that your inflatable T. rex costume is not virus-proof”.

Hence the Spider-Man in the canned food aisle.  The dinosaur roaming the deli section. The unicorn walking a dog. These sightings, though not nearly as common as surgical masks and gloves, have accented our lockdown landscapes with flecks of whimsy: A couple visited their relatives wearing costume spacesuits. In China, one woman picked up medication dressed as a giraffe. In Italy, a man was reportedly arrested after breaking quarantine to go outside in a T-rex suit.

(6) MOVIE MAKING. Filer Cliff sent this link to “RenderMan: An Advanced Path-Tracing Architecture for Movie Rendering”, a paper describing a project he’s been working on. He says, “This is the software used for all Pixar movies, the Star Wars movies (and pretty much all of ILM’s output), Lord Of The Rings (but not The Hobbit) and is the oldest and one of the most widely used renderer in movie production. This was the software that Hanrahan and Catmull originated and which earned them the Turing Award you mentioned a few weeks ago.” The article begins —

Pixar’s RenderMan renderer is used to render all of Pixar’s films and by many film studios to render visual effects for live-action movies. RenderMan started as a scanline renderer based on the Reyes algorithm, and it was extended over the years with ray tracing and several global illumination algorithms.

This article describes the modern version of RenderMan, a new architecture for an extensible and programmable path tracer with many features that are essential to handle the fiercely complex scenes in movie production. 

(7) ROCKET OWNER. The person who won the auction of the prop Hugos from the set of Knives Out.

(8) TALK TO THE ANIMALS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Washington Post has two articles about the video game Animal Crossing.  Michael Andor Brodeur interviews Animal Crossing’s composer, Kazumi Totaka, and says his music is “a blissful 24-hour lullaby that’s helping countless players weather countless hours of forced downtime.”  “The Animal Crossing soundtrack is an unlikely lullaby for a nervous world”.

Right now, millions of households and headphones around the globe are filled with the music of one of the world’s most popular and influential composers.

Over the past month, homebound listeners have spent hundreds of hours immersed in his latest work — a suite of never-ending melodies — but most of them don’t even know his name. They consume his music the same way one breathes air, with an unceasing and unconscious appetite.

Elise Favis says the the latest Animal Crossing, “Animal Crossing:  New Horizons,” gives players more control over the environment in the game and more opportunities to customize the game to make it more of a form of personal expression. “Everything you need to know about the Animal Crossing: New Horizons major update”.

…Upon booting up your recently-updated game, you’ll notice your mailbox has two messages, one from Bank of Nook and the other from Nintendo. The bank notifies you of a reduced interest rate for your account (this is likely to curb the all-too-quick road to wealth many players have taken) and attaches a gift of a rug shaped like a bag of bells. As for Nintendo, their message thanks you for downloading the update and gives you a decorative world map to hang on the wall.

Outside of slashing your interest rate (it’s unclear how much the rate has changed), these freebies are welcome.

(9) ANDRUS OBIT. Longtime fanzine fan Reed Andrus died April 25. He was interested in all things associated with the science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mystery genres. He once said Richard E. Geis’ Science Fiction Review was his gateway into fandom. He also contributed to the National Fantasy Fan Federation’s Yesterday and Today (1974), co-edited Laughing Osiris (1974-1978), and published Bull of the Seven Battles which Brian Earl Brown’s Whole Fanzine Catalog (1979) jokingly described as “a personalzine so confident of its limited appeal and exclusive audience that it doesn’t list the address in the zine itself…”

Andrus said in a comment here at File 770 he was a cancer survivor who underwent surgery in 2007.

For more than three decades his work appeared in print and online, from the Charlotte Austin Review, and Mystery News to The Thunder Child. He studied for a Ph.D in US history at the University of North Texas.

Andrus found a fannish home in the Classic Horror Film Board discussion forums. Known there as “oldmanster,”  he left over 6,800 comments between 2005 and 2014.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 27, 1955 The Devil Girl From Mars premiered. It was produced by Edward J. Danziger and Harry Lee Danziger as directed by David MacDonald. It was written by James Eastwood and John C. Maher  It starred Patricia Laffan, Hugh McDermott, Adrienne Corri and Hazel Court. Critics in general called it a delightfully bad film with the Monthly Film  Bulletin saying it was “Everything, in its way, is quite perfect.” The audience reviewers over at Rotten Tomatoes apparently don’t agreed as they give it a 22% rating. You can decide for yourself as you can see it here as it’s in the public domain.
  • April 27, 1963The Day of the Triffids premiered in the USA. It was produced by George Pitcher and Philip Yordan, as directed by Steve Sekely.  It’s rather loosely based on the 1951 novel of the same name by John Wyndham (who was toastmaster at Loncon 1) as scripted by Bernard Gordon and Philip Yordan. It starred Howard Keel, Nicole Maurey, Janette Scott, Kieron Moore and  Mervyn Johns. Critics who were familiar with the novel weren’t terribly happy with the film. It currently rates a 52% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.  Yes, it’s in the public domain, so you can watch it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 27, 1901 Frank Belknap Long. John Hertz say that Long should be singled out for the “To Follow Knowledge” novelette which he lovingly discuses here. I only add as John didn’t note it, that he received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1994.)
  • Born April 27, 1920 Doris Baumgardt. Well-known and loved fan, illustrator and writer. She was a member of the Futurians, and a founding member of FAPA. She was also a member of the CPASF and the Science Fictioneers. She was one of five members of the Futurians allowed into the first World Science Fiction Convention by Sam Moskowitz — the other four were Isaac Asimov, David Kyle, Jack Robinson and Richard Wilson. She wrote three pieces of short fiction that were published in the Forties and Fifties; she contributed artwork to fanzines. (Died 1970.)
  • Born April 27, 1922 Jack Klugman. He was in an amazing four Twilight Zone episodes (“A Passage for Trumpet,“ “A Game of Pool,” “Death Ship” and “In Praise of Pip,” plus one-offs on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The Outer Limits. Does Around the World in Eighty Days count as genre adjacent? If so, he was in the Eighties ministries. (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 27, 1957 Rachel Caine, 63. She has two ongoing endeavors, the Weather Warden series which is most excellent and the superb Great Library series. I can’t speak to the Morganville Vampires series as I don’t do vampires really. And yes, I know she’s got a number of other series, far more than can detailed be here. 
  • Born April 27, 1958 Caroline Spector, 62. She was an Associate Editor at Amazing Stories for several years, but her main genre connection is her fiction in George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards series where she has seven stories. She also a Shadowrun novel, Worlds Without End. (Now that was an interesting RPG!) she also has an essay, “Power and Feminism in Westeros” in James Lowder’s Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, From A “Game of Thrones” to “A Dance with Dragons
  • Born April 27, 1958 Jon Cassar,  62. Producer, The Orville. Not my cup tea but I many y’all love it. His director and producer genre credits are extensive and include Person of InterestTouchContiniumTerra NovaFringeHuman TargetForever Knight and that’s not an inclusive list by any means. 
  • Born April 27, 1963 Russell T Davies, 57. Responsible for the 2005 revival of the BBC One of Doctor Who. (A Whovian since the very beginning, he thinks “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” has the best dialogue in the entire series.) Of course he’s also responsible for Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures as well. (Need I note that the The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot was his idea?) Oh, and a few years back, he produced A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
  • Born April 27, 1967 Erik Thomson, 53. Scottish actor who’s best remembered  for being Hades on Hercules: The Legendary JourneysYoung Hercules and  Xena: Warrior Princess. His first acting role was as an unnamed young man in the “By The Numbers” episode of The Ray Bradbury Theater
  • Born April 27, 1986 Jenna Coleman, 34. Clara Oswald, Companion to the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors.   She remains the longest serving companion since the series was revived. Genre wise, she was also Connie in Captain America: The First Avenger, and did voice voice work on the animated reboot of Thunderbirds Are Go. And yes, she showed up in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio discovers the challenges for vampires during the Covid-19 crisis.
  • Marmaduke demonstrates how to achieve orbit.

(13) COMIC BOOK DIAGNOSIS. “‘This is beyond the Great Depression’: will comic books survive coronavirus?”The Guardian goes looking for the answer.

…The comics world is now split between many have-nots and two very prominent have-alls: DC Comics and Marvel Comics, subdivisions of massive publicly traded corporations Disney (Marvel) and AT&T (DC), worth $192bn and $224bn respectively. Though Marvel and DC have taken a hit from the pandemic, they’re still so big that professionals and retailers look to them not just for guidance, but also for relief. DC has donated $250,000 to a charity for bookshops, and, for the first time since the 1970s, is allowing retailers to return unsold comics. A spokeswoman said the company was also assessing new ways to distribute comics to shops for mail-order and kerbside pickup programmes. The Guardian has also seen an email from DC sent to shops last week, saying it will start distributing comics through three new companies – two of which are reportedly run by retailers that directly compete with the shops themselves.

And Marvel has cut its editorial staff by half, according to a source familiar with the situation. A Marvel spokesman said the company would not confirm numbers, but that all the cut staff were furloughed, not laid off, and the firm would continue providing health insurance “for the duration of the furlough period”. Bleeding Cool also reports that Marvel has stopped work on at least 20% of its forthcoming books. However, it is offering some discounts to publishers

(14) SOCIAL DISTANCE MUSIC. “Hands Off: A 100th Anniversary Guide to Theremin Music” at Bandcamp.

The year is 1920. At a government-run think tank in Petrograd, a brilliant young Soviet scientist harnesses the power of something called the “heterodyne beat frequency” to create a mysterious-looking, antennaed box that creates a high-pitched wail, which intensifies when his hands come closer to it. This might sound like the plot of some sci-fi film noir, but it’s the real-life origin story of the device that bears Professor Léon Theremin’s name. An electronic instrument that you play without touching would seem like the quintessential axe of the virtual era, but 2020 actually marks the theremin’s 100th birthday.

“It’s an extremely simple concept,” says Steven M. Martin, director of Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey, the 1993 documentary that helped precipitate a renaissance for the enormously influential instrument. “The circuitry is very elegant. That was the basis for all electronic music up until the digital era. All [analog] synthesizers…were based on the same principle that Theremin pioneered.”

Originally, the theremin was seen as a sort of space-age violin, far more difficult to master than old-school instruments due to the lack of a physical reference point…. 

(15) EVERYBODY CHIP IN! The BBC reports “Belgians urged to eat more chips by lockdown-hit potato growers”.

Belgians are well known for loving chips (frites), often with a big dollop of mayonnaise, but hard-up farmers now want them to eat chips twice a week.

Romain Cools of the potato growers’ union Belgapom presented it as a matter of survival, as a major export sector fears ruin in the coronavirus crisis.

About 750,000 tonnes of potatoes are piled up in Belgian warehouses, as the lockdown has sent orders plummeting.

“Let’s all eat chips twice a week, instead of just once,” Mr Cools urged.

Since mid-March, restaurants in Belgium and many other markets for potato growers have closed. The cancellation of Belgium’s many spring and summer festivals has added to their woes.

Moreover, the international trade in potatoes has been hit. Belgium is one of the world’s top exporters of potato products, including frozen chips. It sends more than 1.5m tonnes annually to more than 100 countries.

One small bright spot in this story is that Belgapom will now deliver 25 tonnes of potatoes a week to food banks in Flanders – produce that will otherwise simply rot, Belgian media report.

(16) PINNING DOWN THE STORY. “HBO Makes ‘Hellraiser’ Series Development Deal; ‘Halloween’s David Gordon Green To Direct Early Eps” reports Deadline.

HBO has made a deal to develop a series from the classic horror franchise Hellraiser, with Halloween helmer David Gordon Green set to direct the pilot and several more initial episodes that brings to the small screen for the first time Pinhead, the iconic pincushion-domed villain who heads a group of pasty-faced villains sent from hell, known as the Cenobites.

(17) GRIM WONDERLAND. In “Book Review: Looking Glass by Christina Henry”, The BiblioSanctum’s Mogsy praises a collection of short fiction.

Novellas and anthologies? Typically not my thing. But since this collection was not only written by Christina Henry but is also part of her incredible Chronicles of Alice world, I knew I would make an exception. Looking Glass features four new stories set in the same universe as Alice and Red Queen, which reimagines Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland through dark horror lens. It is not a sequel per se, but seeing as this grim quartet of interlinked short tales serves as a continuation of the saga, it would be helpful to have read the previous novels.

(18) CLIPPING SERVICE. David Doering found this 1966 newspaper photo of one of my relatives using a remote banking terminal, arguably a forerunner of the ATM. Dr. Richard Glyer had a practice in Mountain View, CA. I think I met him, or for certain, his widow. She was a painter and my father had one of her landscapes.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Man 2020” on Vimeo, Steve Cutts explains why plants and animals are happy that humans are staying home.

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, N., Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Darrah Chavey, Francis Hamit, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day The Other Nigel.]