Pixel Scroll 2/20/21 (I’m Picking Up) Good Vibraniums

(1) A CELEBRATION. N. K. Jemisin and Walter Mosley will be among the participants in “A Celebration of Octavia E. Butler”, a live virtual event at Symphony Space on February 24 starting at 7 p.m. (Eastern). Tickets sold at the link.

Actors and authors come together for an evening of readings and conversation to celebrate the work of the visionary author whose Afrofuturistic feminist novels and short fiction have become even more poignant since her death. Her award-winning novels, including Parable of the SowerKindredDawn, and Wild Seed, have influenced a generation of writers. Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (An Octoroon) will lead a discussion with authors N. K. Jemisin (How Long ’til Black Future Month?), Walter Mosley (The Awkward Black Man), and Imani Perry (Breathe: A Letter to My Sons); and actors Yetide Badaki (American Gods) and Adepero Oduye (When They See Us) will read selections from Butler’s prolific body of work.

Audience members will be invited to join the conversation with questions for the panelists.

(2) RED PLANET CLOSEUP. EiderFox Documentaries takes the NASA footage and gives you “Mars In 4K”.

A world first. New footage from Mars rendered in stunning 4K resolution. We also talk about the cameras on board the Martian rovers and how we made the video. The cameras on board the rovers were the height of technology when the respective missions launched. A question often asked is: ‘Why don’t we actually have live video from Mars?’ Although the cameras are high quality, the rate at which the rovers can send data back to earth is the biggest challenge. Curiosity can only send data directly back to earth at 32 kilo-bits per second. Instead, when the rover can connect to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, we get more favourable speeds of 2 Megabytes per second. However, this link is only available for about 8 minutes each Sol, or Martian day. As you would expect, sending HD video at these speeds would take a long long time. As nothing really moves on Mars, it makes more sense to take and send back images.

(3) WORLDCON FOLKS. Ty Schalter says he doesn’t know anything about the Worldcon, but his questions are good: “Worldcon vs. The World”. (Just the same it brings to mind a line from Field of Dreams: “Oh! You’re from the Sixties! There’s no room for you here in the future!”)

…How many of the people reading, writing, editing and publishing the state of the art in genre fiction also fly out to Worldcon every year? How many of the people who go to Worldcon every year are reading, say, FIYAH Magazine— the kind of bold, original, cutting-edge fantastic literature that’s currently earning Hugo Award nominations and wins?

I’m genuinely asking, because remember: I don’t know what I’m talking about. But from the outside, it sure looks like The SFF Community and Worldcon Folks are two pretty disparate groups of people, who don’t necessarily care for or value each other a whole lot.

I see it when SFF Twitter explodes with shock and outrage every time Worldcon steps on another rake— how did it happen again?! I see it every time Worldcon Folks are mystified that doing things the way they’ve always done them is now not just insufficient but immoral— and who are these people yelling at us, anyway?!

I see it every time I go to church.

Wait, church? Yes, at church — and in family businesses, and on non-profit boards. In Chambers of Commerce and Kiwanis clubs. In all the gray-haired, tuxedoed, former cultural revolutionaries of the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame harrumphing about letting N.W.A. in their storied institution. In every walk of life, everywhere, there are cultural and social organizations caught in an existential battle of whether to preserve their traditions or their values.

As a white guy turning 40 this year, I have an appreciation for the SFF of the 20th century and its associated Baby Boomer fans, slans, SMOFs, etc. In many ways, they’re who I grew up aspiring to be. But now that I’m grown, I can see the cultural blind spots and moral holes in the kind of let’s-just-us-smart-people-get-on-a-rocket-and-let-all-the-dumb-people-die Visions of A Better Future that still entice prominent members of the middle-aged-and-up set….

(4) HUGO DYNAMICS. Eric Flint’s Facebook comments in a discussion about Baen’s Bar include his views about the Hugo Awards and the Sad Puppies slates.

(5) AURORA AWARDS ELIGIBILITY. The Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association is compiling its eligibility lists. Do you know of  work that belongs there? More information at their website.

Just a quick reminder that the Aurora Award Eligibility Lists for works done by Canadians in 2020 are open and awaiting your submissions. The Eligibility Lists will close on February 28th at 11:59 EST.  If you have created, published, read, or know of works or activities that should be on our lists please assist us and submit them. Help us find all the fantastic work done by Canadians in 2020! All works should be submitted to the eligibility lists on our website at www.prixaurorawards.ca 

(6) BE LARRY’S GOOGLE MONKEY. Larry Correia is crowdsourcing the next step in his retaliation against the Worldcon for DisCon III disinviting Toni Weisskopf as a guest of honor. Camestros Felapton has the screencap in his post “More Larry Nonsense”. Correia’s public call says in part —

… I need examples of writers/editors/fans who WorldCon is perfectly comfortable with, and their shitty posts, tweets, memes, of things that aren’t “inclusive”. (advocating violence, shooting cops, killing Trump, celebrating Rush’s death, putting us in reeducation camps, whatever. If it makes you feel not included, I’d like to know)
If you don’t have a screen cap but are going from memory, that’s fine…. 

(7) HORRIBLE FAN BEHAVIOR. Examples of bad behavior in the sff community aren’t hard to come by. Harlan Ellison’s recitation of fannish awfulness, “Xenogenesis,” was probably written off the top of his head. It originated as his 1984 Westercon GoH speech. The Internet Archive has a copy in the transcript of an Asimov’s issue — https://archive.org/stream/Asimovs_v14n08_1990-08/Asimovs_v14n08_1990-08_djvu.txt

Ellison precedes his dossier of criminal acts and psychopathic behavior with this introduction:

… In biology there is a phenomenon known as xenogenesis. It is a pathological state in which the child does not resemble the parent. You may remember a fairly grisly 1975 film by my pal Larry Cohen titled It’s Alive! in which a fanged and taloned baby gnaws its way out of its mother’s womb and slaughters the attending nurses and gynecologist in the delivery room and then leaps straight up through a skylight, smashes out, and for the duration of the film crawls in and out of the frame ripping people’s throats.

Its natural father is a CPA or something similar. Most CPA’s do not, other than symbolically, have fangs and talons. Xenogenesis.

In the subculture of science fiction literature and its umbilically attached aficionados, we have the manifestation of a symbiotic relationship in which the behavior of the children, that is, the fans, does not resemble the noble ideals set forth in the writings and pronouncements of the parents, the writers. For all its apocalyptic doomsaying, its frequent pointing with alarm, its gardyloos of caution, the literature of imagination has ever and always promoted an ethic of good manners and kindness via its viewpoint characters.

The ones we are asked to relate to, in sf and fantasy, the ones we are urged to see as the Good Folks, are usually the ones who say excuse me and thank you, ma’am.

The most efficient narrative shorthand to explain why a particular character is the one struck by cosmic lightning or masticated by some nameless Lovecraftian horror is to paint that character as rude, insensitive, paralogical or slovenly.

Through this free-floating auctorial trope, the canon has promulgated as salutary an image of mannerliness, rectitude and humanism. The smart alecks, slugs, slimeworts and snipers of the universe in these fables unfailingly reap a terrible comeuppance.

That is the attitude of the parents, for the most part.

Yet the children of this ongoing education, the fans who incorporate the canon as a significant part of their world-view, frequently demonstrate a cruelty that would, in the fiction, bring them a reward of Job-like awfulness….

(8) WHO KNEW? Science Sensei regales fans with “40 Times Science Fiction Was Wrong About Predicted Future Events”. Connie Willis’ emcee routines about sf predictions are much funnier, admittedly.

… No matter how accurate some writers are about the future, they are victims of the time they live in. It’s not Verne’s fault that he wrote his books in the 1800s and lacked the knowledge we have today. Yet this is what happens when you write about the future. Those future people can look back to see how accurate you were. Verne is one of many amazing writers who were both right and wrong about his future predictions. Yet some were completely wrong, and this involves far more than books. That is what our article is about, the science fiction out there that ended up getting the future very wrong. Enjoy!

25. Back to the Future Part II (Food Hydrators In 2015)

The original Back to the Future, starring Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox came out in 1985. The movies were all released within 5 years in real-time but they had to always return to the year of the original film, 1985. Instead of the past, the second film focused on the future

In this film, we see a Future 2015, where they have an entire world we almost wish was real. One of the impressive futuristic inventions in the film was a Food Hydrator by Black & Decker. Any food you wanted could be made with it, cooked quickly and ready to go in seconds. We never saw this in 2015, and we’re still upset about it!

(9) THAT JOB IS HELLA HARD. David Gerrold comments on “What Would It Take to Actually Settle an Alien World?” and his writing generally in a new installment of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast at WIRED.

David Gerrold is the author of dozens of science fiction books, including The Martian Child and The Man Who Folded Himself. His new novel Hella, about a low-gravity planet inhabited by dinosaur-like aliens, was inspired by the 2011 TV series Terra Nova.

“The worldbuilding that they did was very interesting, very exciting, but because I was frustrated that they didn’t go in the direction I wanted to go, I was thinking, ‘Let me do a story where I can actually tackle the worldbuilding problems,’” Gerrold says in Episode 454 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

Hella goes into enormous detail about the logistics of settling an alien world, and grapples with questions like: Would it be safe for us to eat alien proteins? Would it be safe for us to breathe alien germs? What effect would plants and animals from Earth have on an alien ecology? It’s a far cry from many science fiction stories which assume that alien planets would be pretty much like Earth. “My theory is that there are no Earthlike planets, there’s just lazy writers,” Gerrold says….

(10) THE WORLD SF MAKES. Sherryl Vint’s Science Fiction is being released by MIT Press this month.

Summary

How science fiction has been a tool for understanding and living through rapid technological change.

…After a brief overview of the genre’s origins, science fiction authority Sherryl Vint considers how and why contemporary science fiction is changing. She explores anxieties in current science fiction over such key sites of technological innovation as artificial intelligence, genomic research and commodified biomedicine, and climate change. Connecting science fiction with speculative design and futurology in the corporate world, she argues that science fiction does not merely reflect these trends, but has a role in directing them.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 20, 1955  — On this day in 1955, Tarantula premiered. It was produced by William Alland, directed by Jack Arnold. It stars John Agar, Mara Corday, and Leo G. Carroll. The screenplay by Robert M. Fresco and Martin Berkeley was based on a story by Arnold, which was in turn was based on by Fresco’s script for the Science Fiction Theatre “No Food for Thought” episode  which was also directed by Arnold.  It was a box office success earning more than a million dollars in its first month of release. Critics at the time liked it and even current audiences at Rotten Tomatoes gives at a sterling 92% rating. You can watch it here. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 20, 1925 Robert Altman. I’m going to argue that his very first film in 1947, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, based off the James Thurber short story of the same name, is genre given its premise. Some twenty five years later Images was a full-blown horror film. And of course Popeye is pure comic literature at its very best. (Died 2006.) (CE)
  • Born February 20, 1926 Richard  Matheson. Best known for I Am Legend which has been adapted for the screen four times, as well as the film Somewhere In Time for which he wrote the screenplay based on his novel Bid Time Return. Seven of his novels have been adapted into films. In addition, he  wrote sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel”. The former episode of course has William Shatner in it. (Died 2013.)  (CE) 
  • Born February 20, 1926 – Pierre Boulle.  For us, Planet of the Apes and eight more novels, thirty shorter stories; famous for The Bridge on the River Kwai; a dozen other novels.  Knight of the Legion of Honor, Croix de GuerreMédaille de la Resistance, earned during World War II.   (Died 1994) [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1926 – Ed Clinton.  A score of short stories (some as Anthony More).  “Idea Man” essay in the Jan 44 Diablerie.  Review & Comments Editor for Rhodomagnetic Digest.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1943 – Dan Goodman.  Active fan in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis.  Literate, articulate, wry.  Edited and I believe named the Minn-StF clubzine Einblatt.  For a while in The Cult, to which the Fancyclopedia III article hardly does justice, but see Hamlet Act II scene 2 (Folger Shakespeare line 555).  In Lofgeornost at least as recently as 2014.  A story in Tales of the Unanticipated.  A note by me here.  (Died 2020) [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1943 – Suford Lewis, F.N., age 78.  Active in the LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.); then NESFA (New England SF Ass’n): a Founding Fellow (service; first year’s Fellow of NESFA awards, 1976), President, chaired Boskone 10, co-chaired B44, edited six Bujold books for NESFA Press, also the excellent Noreascon Two Memory Book (post-con; 38th Worldcon).  Ran the Retrospective-Hugo ceremony for L.A.con III (42nd), the Masquerade (our on-stage costume competition) for Noreascon Three (47th).  Co-ordinated and actually brought into being Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck, herself drawing Strength (! – Major Arcana VIII; a dozen-year project; see all the images and BP’s introduction here, PDF), and exhibiting all the original artwork at N2.  Fan Guest of Honor at Windycon VI (with husband Tony Lewis).  That ain’t the half of it.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1943 Diana Paxson, 78. Did you know she’s a founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism? Well she is. Genre wise, she’s best known for her Westria novels, and the later books in the Avalon series, which she first co-wrote with Marion Zimmer Bradley, then – after Bradley’s death, took over sole authorship of. All of her novels are heavily colored with paganism — sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn’t. I like her Wodan’s Children series more than the Avalon material. (CE)
  • Born February 20, 1954 Anthony Head, 67. Perhaps best known as as Librarian and Watcher Rupert Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he also made an impressive Uther Pendragon in Merlin. He also shows up in Repo! The Genetic Operaas Nathan Wallace aka the Repo Man, in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance as Benedict, and in the awesomely great Batman: Gotham by Gaslight voicing Alfred Pennyworth. (CE)
  • Born February 20, 1964 – Tracey Rolfe, age 57.  Half a dozen novels, as many shorter stories.  Clarion South 2004 (see her among other graduates in Andromeda Spaceways 10).  “How do you deal with writer’s block?” ‘I usually take my dog out for a walk.’ [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1979 Brian James Freeman, 42. Horror author. Novels to date are Blue November StormsThis Painted Darkness and Black Fire (as James Kidman). He’s also done The Illustrated Stephen King Trivia Book (superbly done) which he co-authored with Bev Vincent and which is illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne. He publishes limited edition books here. (CE) 
  • Born February 20, 1989 – Nathália Suellen, age 32.  Digital artist and commercial illustrator.  A score of covers for us, but certainty is elusive at borders.  Here is Above.  Here is Unhinged.  Here is The Gathering Dark (U.K. title).  Here is Henry, the Gaoler.  Here is a self-portrait.  [JH]

(13) EMOTIONAL ROBOTS. On March 10, Writers Bloc presents “Nobel Laureate Kazuo Ishiguro with Westworld’s Lisa Joy”. Book purchase required for access to the livestream.

Kazuo Ishiguro, winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature, seduces us with his storytelling. His novels (The Remains of the DayNever Let Me Go; and others) draw us in and we are powerless to leave the page. His novels are deceptive–while he lulls us into his gorgeous and straightforward prose, he presents us with profound observations of human behavior, and explorations of love, duty, and identity. In his new novel, Klara and the Sun, Ishiguro introduces us to Klara, an artificial object who watches the world from her perch in a shop. She watches the comings and goings of those who enter the shop, and those who merely pass by. She hopes that someone will choose her. and that she can be loved. Magnificent.

In conversation with Lisa Joy. Lisa Joy is one of the creators and writers of the acclaimed HBO series, Westworld. A dystopic genre-bending series, Westworld explores the fraught relationship between humans and human-looking robots at an amusement park. What happens when artificial intelligence interferes with the people who employ them? What happens when artificial intelligence breaks its own boundaries and those robots start to feel, to love, to cause harm? Westworld has won countless prestigious awards.

(14) ELUSIVE APPOINTMENTS. “How some frustrated COVID-19 vaccine hunters are trying to fix a broken system”The Seattle Times has the story.

That pretty much said it all, the other day, when a 90-year-old remarked in a Seattle Times story that the easy part of navigating our COVID-19 vaccine system was when she had to walk 6 miles through the snow to get the shot.

George Hu is only 52, but he can sympathize. When the former Microsoft developer tried to find appointments online for his 80-year-old in-laws, he was dumbfounded how primitive it all was.

“All tech people who see this setup are horrified,” Hu says.

That was my experience trying to nab a slot for my 91-year-old father. As everyone discovers, there isn’t one or a couple of places to hunt vaccine, but rather … hundreds, many with their own interfaces. I ran into one vaccine provider that was using Doodle for its vaccine appointment scheduling, another using Sign-Up Genius, another with a “don’t call us, we’ll text you back sometime” online form.

Rather than a global health emergency, it felt more like when the PTA is signing parents up for a bake sale.

“It’s whack-a-mole, except there are 300 holes,” Hu says. “And also you have no clue if the mole is ever going to pop up in any of them.”

(15) WHAT A BUNCH OF SCHIST. The headline made me click – “The missing continent it took 375 years to find” at BBC Future. Maybe your power to resist will be greater!

It took scientists 375 years to discover the eighth continent of the world, which has been hiding in plain sight all along. But mysteries still remain….

Zealandia was originally part of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, which was formed about 550 million years ago and essentially lumped together all the land in the southern hemisphere. It occupied a corner on the eastern side, where it bordered several others, including half of West Antarctica and all of eastern Australia.

Then around 105 million years ago, “due to a process which we don’t completely understand yet, Zealandia started to be pulled away”, says Tulloch.

Continental crust is usually around 40km deep – significantly thicker than oceanic crust, which tends to be around 10km. As it was strained, Zealandia ended up being stretched so much that its crust now only extends 20km (12.4 miles) down. Eventually, the wafter-thin continent sank – though not quite to the level of normal oceanic crust – and disappeared under the sea.

Despite being thin and submerged, geologists know that Zealandia is a continent because of the kinds of rocks found there. Continental crust tends to be made up of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks – like granite, schist and limestone, while the ocean floor is usually just made of igneous ones such as basalt.

But there are still many unknowns. The unusual origins of the eighth continent make it particularly intriguing to geologists, and more than a little baffling. For example, it’s still not clear how Zealandia managed to stay together when it’s so thin and not disintegrate into tiny micro-continents.

Another mystery is exactly when Zealandia ended up underwater – and whether it has ever, in fact, consisted of dry land. The parts that are currently above sea level are ridges that formed as the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates crumpled together. Tulloch says opinion is split as to whether it was always submerged apart from a few small islands, or once entirely dry land….

(16) THE BUZZ. Mental Floss assures us that Wasps Are Ridding Anne Boleyn’s Birthplace of Moth Infestation”.

…Now, however, it’s home to common clothes moths that could wreak havoc on rugs, clothing, and other vulnerable artifacts—including a rare 18th-century canopy bed and a tapestry that Catherine the Great bestowed upon the household in the 1760s. The moths have had much freer rein throughout Blickling Hall in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and periodic pest counts have proved that the population has grown considerably over the past year.

“There’s no doubt lockdown suited our resident bugs,” assistant national conservator Hilary Jarvis said in a press release. “The relative quiet, darkness, and absence of disruption from visitors and staff provided perfect conditions for larvae and adults alike from March onwards.”

To curb further spawning, the National Trust has enlisted the help of an unlikely ally: microscopic parasitoid wasps (Trichogramma evanescens). In 11 especially moth-ridden locations within the hall, staff members will plant dispensers that hold around 2400 wasps each, which will destroy moth eggs by laying their own eggs inside them. Though it seems like Blickling Hall will have simply swapped out one infestation for another, the wasps pose no threat to the upholstery or anything else—they’ll eventually die and “disappear inconspicuously into house dust,” if all goes according to plan….

(17) TENET COMMENTARY. CinemaWins tells you “Everything GREAT About Tenet!” There must have been more good stuff in there than I suspected.

  • Everything GREAT About Tenet! PART 0 (Plot Breakdown):
  • Everything GREAT About Tenet! PART 1: 
  • Everything GREAT About Tenet! PART 2: 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Jim Henson Introduces Kermit The Frog to Dick” on YouTube is a November 1971 clip from The Dick Cavett Show with both Jim Henson and Kermit as guests where you can clearly see how Henson changed his voice to be Kermit.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/4/21 It Is Too Late For The Pixels To Vote, The Scroll Has Already Begun

(1) OSCAR CHANCES. “Is Chadwick Boseman Headed for a Posthumous Best-Actor Oscar Win?” asks Vogue. Fans remember him as the Black Panther, King of Wakanda, and there may be other pages still to be added to his memory book:

With rave reviews for his performance as Levee, a blues trumpeter in 1920s Chicago, in the film adaptation of the August Wilson play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom—and now with a Screen Actors Guild nomination to go along with the Golden Globes nod he received on Wednesday—Chadwick Boseman may be inching ahead of his competitors in this year’s Oscars race for best actor.

Many award prognosticators are already predicting that Boseman, who died of cancer in August at the age of 43, could become the third actor—following Peter Finch in Network and Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight—to win a posthumous Oscar for his performance. (At this point, his chief rival appears to be Riz Ahmed, who plays a punk-metal drummer beginning to go deaf in Sound of Metal. Ahmed has won several critics’ awards as well as the best-actor citation from the National Board of Review.)…

(2) MURDER, HE WROTE. Mark Lawrence took a poll. The result, he says, is that “7.4% of you are monsters”.

(3) O TEMPORAO MORES! How the classics are neglected. The Washington Post needed to add this correction to the end of an article today —

Correction: A previous version of this story implied that a planet blows up in “The Empire Strikes Back.” No planets blow up in that particular Star Wars film. This story has been updated.

(From the article “Kroger closes Ralphs, Food 4 Less stores over pandemic pay mandate”.)

(4) ARGUMENT CLINIC. David Gerrold offered a new service on Facebook. This could be the coming thing.

At the suggestion of a friend, I am now charging $50 for 30 minutes of online argument.

Subject must be agreed on beforehand. (I reserve the right to decline.) Sources of data must also be agreed on before. (Fox News and other farce right sources will not be accepted. In return, I will forego CNN, NYT, Huffpost, Washington Post, and MSNBC)

No personal attacks aloud or allowed.

Only one argument per week please.

(5) ALPHABET SOUP IS BLUE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] YInMn has now been approved for commercial use: “Meet YInMn, the First New Blue Pigment in Two Centuries” at Hyperallergic.

Cerulean, azure, navy, royal … Much has been written about the color blue, the first human-made pigment. “Because blue contracts, retreats, it is the color of transcendence, leading us away in pursuit of the infinite,” wrote William Gass in his book On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry. Wassily Kandinsky once mused: “The power of profound meaning is found in blue, and first in its physical movements of retreat from the spectator, of turning in upon its own center […] Blue is the typical heavenly color.”

And now, for the first time in two centuries, a new chemically-made pigment of the celebrated color is available for artists — YInMn Blue. It’s named after its components — Yttrium, Indium, and Manganese — and its luminous, vivid pigment never fades, even if mixed with oil and water.

Like all good discoveries, the new inorganic pigment was identified by coincidence….

(6) THE GAME’S AFOOT. The Guardian covers the many reimaginations of Sherlock Holmes, including a few that are clearly genre, as well as the ongoing conflicts with the litigious Arthur Conan Doyle estate: “’I think I’ve written more Sherlock Holmes than even Conan Doyle’: the ongoing fight to reimagine Holmes”.

…. “My step-grandmother, Dame Jean Conan Doyle, tried hard to stop the world doing what it liked with her father’s fictional characters. In the end she realised this was a fruitless exercise,” says Richard Pooley, director of the Conan Doyle estate and step- great-grandson of the author. “Instead she focused on giving her approval to those Holmes pastiches which were well-written and did not stray too far from Doyle’s characterisation. We have tried to do the same.”

The estate has authorised Horowitz’s sequels and Lane’s stories, but most Holmes adaptations come without the estate’s stamp of approval – not that that appears to put readers off. Pooley says that its approval comes down to the quality of the writing, and if the writer stays “true to Doyle’s depiction of Holmes’s and Watson’s characters” – meaning they don’t mind if Cumberbatch’s Holmes lives in modern London, or if Holmes and Watson are women, as in HBO Asia’s Miss Sherlock….

(7) CREATIVITY BY THE HANDFUL. Another opportunity to hear from Octavia Butler researcher Lynelle George “about how a writer looks, listens, and breathes—how to be in the world.” “A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler: A Conversation with Author Lynell George”. Register here.

George will be in conversation with Los Angeles artist Connie Samaras, an avid admirer of Butler’s prose which served as the inspiration for her 2019 project “The Past is Another Planet”, an illustrious depiction of the Huntington Library, home to Butler’s archive. 

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 4, 1983 Videodrome premiered. It was written and directed by David Cronenberg, with a cast of James Woods, Sonja Smits, and Debbie Harry. It was the first film by Cronenberg to get Hollywood backing and it bombed earning back only two million dollars of its nearly six million budget. In spite of that, critics and audience goers alike found it to a good film. Today it is considered his best film by many, and it holds a sterling seventy-eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 4, 1889 – Dorothea Faulkner.  Two short stories, half a dozen poems, in If and Slant (there’s a range for you) and like that, under variations of “Rory Faulkner”, “Rory Magill”, “Dorothea M. Faulkner”.  Active in the LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society), serving a term as Secretary, and the Outlanders, also the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n).  Often seen in Now & Then.  With that and Slant you won’t be surprised to hear she attended Loncon I the 15th Worldcon (at age 68) and was made a Knight of St. Fantony.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born February 4, 1915 – Harry Whittington.  For us, one Man from U.N.C.L.E. novel and four novellas, and an essay on Fredric Brown for this collection; outside our field, note first HW’s One Deadly Dawn was published as an Ace Double with Tucker’s Hired Target; HW wrote two hundred novels – fourscore in one twelve-year span – under a score of names; quite possibly King of the Pulps; see here.  (Died 1989) [JH]
  • Born February 4, 1938 – Ted White, age 83.  Perhaps our most been-everywhere-done-everything fan alive.  A dozen novels, thirty shorter stories; assistant editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, then edited Amazing and Fantastic (concurrently!), Stardate; columnist for Algol and Thrust; “Uffish Thots” and “The Trenchant Bludgeon” in SF Review; active beyond measure there, in IzzardNew FrontiersRaucous CaucusRiverside QuarterlyYandro, and indeed File 770.  Interviewed by Schweitzer in SF Voices.  One Hugo (as Best Fanwriter; often a finalist as a pro), three FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards.  Chaired Lunacon 11-13.  Organized FanHistoricon 9 but couldn’t attend.  Variously Pro and Fan Guest of Honor at Bubonicon 4, DeepSouthCon 18, RavenCon 11, Aussiecon Two the 43rd Worldcon.  Also musician and music critic (plays keyboards, saxophone).  British Fantasy Award for Heavy Metal.  Acidulous, enthusiastic, skeptical, strong; it would be a miracle not to think him sometimes wrong.  [JH]
  • Born February 4, 1940 John Schuck, 81. My favorite SF role by him is as the second Draal, Keeper of the Great Machine, on the Babylon 5 series. I know it was only two episodes but it was a fun role. He’s also played the role of Klingon ambassador Kamarag in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  He guest starred in Deep Space Nine as Legate Parn In “The Maquis: Part II”, on Star Trek: Voyager as Chorus #3 in the “Muse” episode, and on Enterprise as Antaak in the “Divergence” and “Affliction” episodes.  Oh, and he was Herman Munster in The Munsters Today.  Now that was a silly role! Did you know his makeup was the Universal International Frankenstein-monster makeup format whose copyright NBCUniversal still owns? (CE) 
  • Born February 4, 1940 George A. Romero. Is horror genre or genre adjacent? Either way, he’s got an impressive listing form the Dead films, I count seven of them, to Knightriders, which is truly genre adjacent at best, and one of my favorites of him, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie. Oh, and he wasn’t quite as ubiquitous as Stan Lee, but he did show up in at least seven of his films. (Died 2017.) (CE) 
  • Born February 4, 1941 Stephen J. Cannell. Creator of The Greatest American Hero. That gets him Birthday Honors. The only other genre series he was involved with was The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage which I never heard of, but you can see the premiere episode here. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born February 4, 1959 Pamelyn Ferdin, 62. She was in the “And the Children Shall Lead” episode of Trek. She’ll show up in The Flying Nun (as two different characters),  voicing a role in The Cat in The Hat short, Night GallerySealab 2020 (another voice acting gig), Shazam! and Project UFO. She’d have a main role in Space Academy, the Jonathan Harris failed series as well. (CE) 
  • Born February 4, 1961 Neal Asher, 60. I’m been reading and enjoying his Polity series since he started it nearly twenty years ago. Listing all of his works here would drive OGH to a nervous tick as I think there’s now close to thirty works in total. I last listened to The Line War and it’s typically filled with a mix of outrageous SF concepts (Dyson spheres in the middle of hundred thousand year construction cycles) and humans who might not be human (Ian Cormac is back again).  (CE)
  • Born February 4, 1962 Thomas Scott Winnett. Locus magazine editorial assistant and reviewer from 1989 to 1994. He worked on Locus looks at books and Books received as well. In addition, he wrote well over a hundred review reviews for Locus. He died of AIDS related pneumonia. (Died 2004.) (CE) 
  • Born February 4, 1968 – Neve Maslakovic, Ph.D., age 53.  From Belgrade to Stanford’s STAR Lab (Space, Telecommunications, And Radioscience) to writing fiction.  Four novels, another due next month.  Likes the Twin Cities winters.  Has read Time and AgainA History of [Greek letter “pi”], Three Men in a Boat, nine by Wodehouse, five by Sayers, a Complete Sherlock HolmesA Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.  [JH]
  • Born February 4, 1968 – David Speakman, age 53.  Until recently very active in the N3F, serving as Chair of the Directorate, editor of The Nat’l Fantasy Fan and Tightbeam; two Franson Awards, Kaymar Award, awarded a Life Membership.  As to “recently”, he explains here.  [JH]
  • Born February 4, 1990 – Zach King, age 31.  Actor, author, digital-video illusionist.  Three novels for us.  Two London Film Festival first-place awards.  A video of him apparently flying on a broomstick had two billion views in four days.  “They rejected my application to Hogwarts but I still found a way to be a wizard.”  Does he do it all with mirrors?  Website. [JH]

(10) FANZINE SPOTLIGHT. The newest installment of Cora Buhlert’s Fanzine Spotlight series is a Q&A with Star Trek Quarterly editor Sarah Gulde: “Fanzine Spotlight: Star Trek Quarterly”.

Why did you decide to start your site or zine?

I’ve been a Trekkie since TNG started in 1987, so when Chris Garcia and James Bacon asked me to guest edit an issue of Journey Planet, I did a whole Star Trek-themed issue. I reached out to people I know in the Trek community and asked them to write about how Star Trek had impacted their lives. I ended up receiving some really impactful stories, from a friend who had immigrated to the US finding a family, to another friend finding the courage to come out of the closet, all through Star Trek.

It was a game-changing experience for me to edit other people’s stories. Everyone has a story to tell, but everyone is at a different writing level. Some pieces I didn’t have to touch, while I spent hours editing others. I loved helping people tell their stories, and making sure those stories were heard.

I loved it so much I didn’t want to stop with one issue! After some careful thought, I decided to create my own Star Trek-themed fanzine. Monthly was too much for me to take on by myself, so I went with quarterly. I asked Women At Warp, a feminist Trek podcast, to write a regular column. (Since then I’ve joined the show as a co-host.) I passed out flyers at the big annual convention in Las Vegas soliciting submissions for the first issue. And I posted to various Star Trek Facebook groups looking for more….

(11) SHOCKED, I TELL YOU. Delish reports “This Chocolate Easter Egg Features A Marshmallow Baby Yoda Inside”. Eat Baby Yoda? And the Galerie Candy site is already sold out! What kind of barbarians are at the gates?

…The Mandalorian Egg-Shaped Magic Hot Chocolate Melt from Galerie Candy is very similar to a hot cocoa bomb—but without the hot chocolate mix. Made of milk chocolate, it’s meant to be dissolved in a cup of hot milk to reveal the green Baby Yoda marshmallow inside. While it’s intended use is to make hot chocolate, you can easily eat the Baby Yoda treat as is.

(12) DEEP WATERS. In Two Chairs Talking podcast Episode 45, “Not Waving but Drowning”

David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss talk about the books they’ve been reading lately, ranging in length from novellas to a nine-volume, almost million-word opus written entirely in the form of letters. And a rather damp theme emerges…

(13) LIGHTEN UP. Frostbeard Studio adds a brand new bookish scent every month to its line of Book Lovers’ Soy Candles and Bookish Goods.

Here’s the description of their scented “Through the Wardrobe” candle:

Follow your nose through the woods to a mysterious lamppost where you’ll embark on a magical adventure into wintry realms. You might be cozied up with blankets and a book, but you’ll feel like you’re being whisked away to a snowy, enchanted forest in another world.

(14) GET IN ON THE GROUND FLOOR. Camestros Felapton recommends this adaptation of a comic: “Review: Sweet Home”.

…The monsters feel like a cross between The Thing and Attack on Titan but that weirdness aside, the story gradually drifts into a more conventional zombie-apocalypse survival narrative. The small number of survivors trapped on the ground floor of the Green Home apartment bloc, must find ways to band together to protect themselves from the surrounding nightmare. In later episodes they have to deal with an intruding human gang, as well as the secret agenda of the army which (as per usual) knows more about the plague than they are letting on. Luckily, by this point the viewer is more invested in the fate of the ensemble of characters who range from shop keepers to an improbable combination of people with bad-ass backstories.

(15) SUICIDE SQUAD. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]Warner Bros. has announced the official plot synopsis for Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. Now let the betting begin on who gets Gunned down first. “The Suicide Squad Synopsis Teases a ‘Search and Destroy’ Mission” at CBR.com.

… Some of the DC villains and antiheroes called out in the synopsis include Bloodsport, Peacemaker, Captain Boomerang, Ratcatcher 2, Savant, King Shark, Blackguard, Javelin and “everyone’s favorite psycho, Harley Quinn.” Part of the Suicide Squad’s mission will see them dropped off “on theremote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese.”

(16) CONTRAPTIONS WITH PERSONALITY. These imaginative illos are a lot of fun: “Boris Artzybasheff’s living machines / part one” and  “Boris Artzybasheff’s living machines / part two” at PastPrint.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/29/20 A Mime
In A Tesseract Still Has Ways To Get Out

(1) BRADBURY’S CHAMPION. The Los Angeles Review of Books hosts “Ray Bradbury at 100: A Conversation Between Sam Weller and Dana Gioia”.

COMMEMORATING THE CENTENNIAL of the great Ray Bradbury, biographer Sam Weller sat down with former California poet laureate and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts Dana Gioia for a wide-ranging conversation on Bradbury’s imprint on arts and culture.

SAM WELLER: The first time I met you was at the White House ceremony for Ray Bradbury in November 2004. You were such a champion for Ray’s legacy — his advocate for both the National Medal of Arts and Pulitzer Prize. As we look at his 100th birthday, I want to ask: Why is Bradbury important in literary terms?

DANA GIOIA: Ray Bradbury is one of the most important American writers of the mid-20th century. He transformed science fiction’s position in American literature during the 1950s. There were other fine sci-fi writers, but Ray was the one who first engaged the mainstream audience. He had a huge impact on both American literature and popular culture. He was also one of the most significant California writers of the last century. When one talks about Bradbury, one needs to choose a perspective. His career looks different from each angle….

(2) TUCKER ON BRADBURY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from “Beard Mumblings,” a column by Bob Tucker that appears in the recently published Outworlds 71, but which was written in 1986 and is about the 1986 Worldcon.

There were some very pleasant memories of the con.  One of them was when Ray Bradbury recognized me in the huge 10th floor consuite and came over to shake and talk.  Mind you, we had not met each other for 40 years.  Our last meeting was the 1946 Worldcon in Los Angeles, yet he recognized and remembered.  I was very pleased to see him again, and equally pleased to get his autograph across the page of his chapter in Harry Warner’s All Our Yesterdays.  Judging the way he examined that page and that chapter, he doesn’t have a copy.

(3) WHEN HOKEY RELIGIONS AND ANCIENT WEAPONS ARE A MATCH. Professor Louise A. Hitchcock makes a connection in “The Mandalorian and Ancient Mediterranean Societies: The Way of The Force?” at Neon Kosmos. BEWARE SPOILERS.

…Thus, like both Achilles and Gilgamesh of early epic, baby Grogu has semi-divine aspects paired with Din Djarin’s stoic sense of duty and discipline. The pairing both calls to mind Patroclus who becomes a role model to the younger Achilles as well as Enkidu who becomes humanised through his friendship with Gilgamesh. In each epic tale the pair are changed by their bond of affection which is forged through shared experience. In all of these epics, the friends are also tragically separated, our ancients by death, and Grogu by Din Djarin’s quest to return him to the Jedi to finish his training. An element of danger is added by the fact that the Empire is seeking to capture or buy Grogu to increase its power through acquiring his force sensitive blood.

The weekly quest for survival as Din and Grogu, pursue their goal operates on the basis of pre-monetary economy that is reminiscent of maritime trade in the ancient Mediterranean. Food and drink are sometimes obtained through a shared code of hospitality, exchanging mercenary acts for information or needed supplies, transporting individuals from one port to another, providing Beskar ingots in exchange for ship repairs, and even trading spices. In other words, things haven’t changed a lot since the Silk Road brought needed goods from Asia to Mesopotamia or ships transported copper from Cyprus to Crete.

(4) OWN THOSE LITTLE BLACK BOOKS. [Item by Rob Thornton.] Games Designers Workshop is doing two Bundles of Holding that together will contain all of legendary science fiction roleplaying game Traveller’s Little Black Books (LBBs). Currently, “Traveller LBBs 1” and “Traveller LBBs 2” are available. Both bundles together comprise the complete LBB collection.

Traveller! We’ve resurrected both of our 2015 offers of the classic “Little Black Books” from the Golden Age of Traveller, the original science fiction tabletop roleplaying game. Together these two bargain-priced offers give you DRM-free .PDF ebooks of all 50+ rulebooks, supplements, and adventures published as half-size manuals (with elegant black covers) by Game Designers’ Workshop, 1977-1982.

(5) BROKEN HEARTS OF A WRITING LIFE. Stephen R. Donaldson mourns the response to his latest draft.

11/12/20
“The Killing God”: progress report

                I’ve finally finished my first-pass revision of Book Three of THE GREAT GOD’S WAR, “The Killing God” (formerly known as “The Last Repository”). The text is now ready to deliver to my agent and editor. In its current form, it stands at 1100 pages, a bit more than 283,000 words. What happens next? My agent will read the book much faster than my editor will; but I won’t start on the next revision until I’ve received what are politely called “comments” from both of them. At that point, no doubt, Berkley (and Gollancz in the UK) will schedule publication. Sometimes this requires me to do my next revision in a hurry. But not always.

12/6/20 
“The Killing God”: bad news

                My agent has submitted the book to my editor at Berkley. Without reading it (!), my editor informed me that Berkley will not consider publishing the book until I cut 100,000 words. Roughly 35% of the text. On the assumption that I will not do such violence to my own work, Berkley has removed the book from their publication schedule.
Their assumption is correct. At this stage, I routinely prune my manuscripts by 10%. I may conceivably be able to go as far as 15%. But whether or not anyone likes my characters and how I handle them, my stories are very tightly plotted. Each piece relies on–and is implied by–what came before it. I can’t mutilate Book Three without making the entire trilogy incoherent.
My agent believes that where we stand now is not the end of “The Killing God.” (Never mind of my career.) He has persuaded my editor to go ahead and read the book. He hopes that seeing how strongly Book Three caps Books One and Two (which she loved) will persuade her to rethink her position. I have my doubts. I suspect that her position is corporate rather than editorial: my books no longer earn enough to make them worth publishing regardless of their intrinsic merits. Naturally, I hope I’m wrong.

When I have more news, I’ll post it here. I don’t expect to hear anything until sometime in January.

(6) NEXT NYRSF READING. Sam J. Miller will be featured on the virtual New York Review of Science Fiction reading, Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at 7:00 PM EST.

Now that the Dystopia Year of 2020 is over, we will begin 2021 with the wonderful writer Sam J. Miller to make sure we stay on our toes.

Sam J. Miller is the Nebula Award-winning author of The Art of Starving (an NPR best of the year) and Blackfish City (a “Must Read” in Entertainment Weekly and O: The Oprah Winfrey Magazine). Sam’s short stories have been nominated for the World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, and Locus Awards, and reprinted in dozens of anthologies. He is the last in a long line of butchers, and he has also been a film critic, a grocery bagger, a community organizer, a secretary, a painter’s assistant and model, and the guitarist in a punk rock band. He lives in New York City, and at samjmiller.com

After the reading general series dogsbody Amy Goldschlager will interview the author, and then we’ll open up the discussion to general questions from our virtual audience. Barbara Krasnoff will be the Audience Wrangler.

Please help us keep the series going by donating to NYRSF Reading Series producer Jim Freund at PayPal.me/HourWolf.

(7) EXPANDING THE HONORVERSE. Eric Flint did a title reveal on Facebook today.

Well, it’s official. After much wrangling and soul-searching, we’ve settled on the title To End In Fire for the upcoming Honorverse novel David Weber and I are writing. It’s tentatively scheduled for publication in October.

I tried to hold out for the more exciting title of The Cabal In The Luyten 726-8b (UV Ceti) System, but David overruled me. He thinks that title is too obscure. I find that hard to believe, given that the star system is clearly identified in the Gliese Catalog of Nearby Stars, which I’m sure can be found on every literate person’s bookshelves. But, he’s got the final sayso on account of he’s the one who created this whole setting.

Titles are just window dressing, anyway. What matters is the story — which in this case is shaping up to be a dandy. If I say so myself as shouldn’t, if I subscribed to Samwise Gamgee notions of modesty. Which (clears the throat), I don’t, on account of I’m a shameless scribbler and he’s, well, a hobbit when you get right down to it.

(8) MOSS OBIT. Actor Basil Moss (1935-2020) died November 28. There’s an overview of his career in The Guardian.

Basil Moss, who has died aged 85, was a perennial character actor often popping up in popular series as authority figures, but he found his best parts in two BBC soaps.

He became a familiar face on television as the librarian Alan Drew in Compact, set in the offices of a glossy women’s magazine… 

After Compact, Moss’s other TV roles included … a doctor with the hi-tech military agency Shado, defending the Earth against aliens, in UFO (1970-71), the puppet master Gerry Anderson’s first full live-action series; and Robert Atkinson in the political thriller series First Among Equals (1986).

Uncredited, Moss was also seen as a Navy submarine officer in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice (1967).

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 29, 1967 — “The Trouble with Tribbles” first aired as written by David Gerrold and directed by Joseph Pevney,  with some of the guest cast being Stanley Adams as Cyrano Jones, Whit Bissell as Station Manager and Michael Pataki  as Korax. Memory Alpha says ”Wah Chang designed the original tribbles. Hundreds were sewn together during production, using pieces of extra-long rolls of carpet. Some of them had mechanical toys placed in them so they could walk around.” Memory Alpha also notes Heinlein had Martian flat cats in The Rolling Stones that were similar to these and Roddenberry called to apologize for these being so similar. Who remembers these?  It would come in second in the Hugo balloting to “The City on the Edge of Forever” written by Harlan Ellison. All five final Hugo nominees at Baycon were Trek episodes written by Jerome Bixby, Norman Spinrad and Theodore Sturgeon.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 29, 1843 – Carmen Sylva.  Keyboardist (piano, organ), singer, graphic artist (painting, illuminating), poet, writer in English, French, German, Romanian, she left us particularly a dozen tales published in English as Pilgrim Sorrow, one in The Ruby Fairy Book and more recently in the VanderMeers’ Big Book of Classic Fantasy (2019).  CS was a pen name, she was the Queen of Romania.  (Died 1916) [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1915 – Charles L. Harness.  A dozen novels, five dozen shorter stories; appreciation of Van Vogt in Nebula Awards 31; interview “I Did It for the Money” in Locus (but, as has often been said, fiction-writers are liars).  SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Author of Distinction.  Best known for “The Rose” and The Paradox Men.  Three NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) Press books; here is Jane Dennis’ cover for Cybele, with Bluebonnets.  Patent lawyer.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1916 John D. MacDonald. He wrote three genre novels of which I think the best by far is The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything. He also wrote some sixty genre short stories, many of the genre are collected in End of The Tiger which is available from the usual digital suspects (Died 1986.) (CE)
  • Born December 29, 1924 – Art Rapp.  At his home in Michigan he welcomed fans and published Spacewarp; after two years’ Army service in Korea he married Nancy Share and moved to Pennsylvania.  Two N3F Laureate Awards (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n), later a term as N3F President.  To him was revealed the fannish ghod (naturally opinions differ on what this is for; it may indicate the shape of a cheek with a tongue in itRoscoe.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1928 Bernard Cribbins, 92. He has the odd distinction of first showing up on Doctor Who in the Peter Cushing as The Doctor non-canon Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. film. He would show up in the canon when he appeared as Wilfred Mott in the Tenth Doctor story, “Voyage of the Damned”, and he‘s a Tenth Doctor companion himself in “The End of Time”, the two-part 2009–10 Christmas and New Year special. (CE)
  • Born December 29, 1945 – Sam Long, age 75.  First noted in Fred Hemmings’ Viewpoint reporting Eastercon 23, he notably published (with Ned Brooks) the Mae Strelkov Trip Report (as you can see here; PDF) after friends brought the fine fanartist MS from Argentina.  SL still appears e.g. in The MT Void (pronounce it M-T, not as an abbreviation for mountain).  [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1950 – Gitte Spee, age 70.  This Dutch artist born in (on?) Java has done lots of illustrations for us.  Here is Detective Gordon’s first case in English and in Polish.  Here is Rosalinde on the Moon(in French).  [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1961 – Kenneth Chiacchia, Ph.D., age 59.  Medical science writer at Univ. Pittsburgh, and since he is ours too, member of both SFWA and the Nat’l Ass’n of Science Writers.  A dozen stories; poems (the 2007 Rhysling anthology has this one).  Carnegie Science Center Journalism Award.  [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1966 Alexandra Kamp, 53. Did you know Sax Rohmer’s noels were made into a film? I didn’t. Well she was the lead in Sax Rohmer’s Sumuru which Michael Shanks also shows up in. She’s also in 2001: A Space Travesty with Leslie Neilsen, and Dracula 3000 with Caspar van Dien. Quality films neither will be mistaken for, each warranting a fifteen percent rating  among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.. (CE) 
  • Born December 29, 1963 Dave McKean, 57. If you read nothing else involving him, do read the work done by him on and Gaiman called The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr Punch: A Romance. Brilliant, violent, horrifying. Well and Signal to Noise by them is worth chasing down as well. (CE) 
  • Born December 29, 1969 Ingrid Torrance, 51. A very busy performer who’s had one- offs in Poltergeist: The Legacy, The Sentinel, Viper, First Wave, The Outer Limits, Seven Days, Smallville, Stargate: SG-1, The 4400, Blade: The Series, Fringe, The Tomorrow People, and Supernatural.
  • Born December 29, 1972 Jude Law, 48. I think his first SF role was as Jerome Eugene Morrow in Gattaca followed by playing Gigolo Joe in A.I. with my fav role for him being the title role in  Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He was Lemony Snicket In Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Tony in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Dr. John Watson in Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Remy In Repo Man and he voiced Pitch Black in one of my favorite animated films, Rise of the Guardians. (CE)

(11) KAL-EL AND LL. SYFY Wire is there when “The CW’s Superman & Lois drops first heroic trailer for new DC series”.

… While the teaser isn’t very long (or footage-heavy for that matter), it does give us our first look at the Kent family unit, while Clark talks about how the stress of life can strengthen a person beneath the surface. His use of the phrase “forged liked steel” is a nice little nod to one of Superman’s monickers: the Man of Steel.

(12) SPDIEY’S NEW THREADS. Spider-Man’s hideous new costume that looks like he tore it off a New England Patriots cornerback is revealed in Amazing Spider-Man’ #61.

Over the years, Spider-Man has donned a host of iconic costumes, from his classics digs to the black suit to the Iron Spider. Now in 2021, everyone’s favorite Wall-Crawler will get a brand-new costume to add to his legendary wardrobe! Designed by superstar artist Dustin Weaver, this vibrant new look is unlike any that Peter Parker has worn before. The mysterious look can be seen on Weaver’s incredible variant covers for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #62 and April’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #63.

…  Peter Parker will wear this new suit for his face-off against Kingpin in the next arc of writer Nick Spencer’s hit run. Discover the mystery behind this top-secret costume when AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #61 and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #62 swing into shops this March!

(13) SUPERHERO LIFTS THEATER CHAINS. Deadline reports “’Wonder Woman 1984’ Opening Boosts Movie Theater Stocks, But AMC Loses More Ground”.

The better-than-expected Christmas-weekend opening of Wonder Woman 1984 is giving most exhibition stocks a welcome boost as the misery of 2020 gives way to hope for a brighter 2021.

Shares in Cinemark, Imax, Marcus Corp. and National CineMedia rose between 3% and 7% apiece after the sequel took in $16.7 million domestically, the best bow by any film during the coronavirus pandemic.

AMC, the world’s largest theater circuit, was a notable exception to the rally. Its stock dropped 5% on ongoing investor concern about its liquidity and a potential bankruptcy filing…. 

(14) BOOGLY WOOGLY STUFF. This is great — Boston Dynamics sets its robots dancing in “Do You Love Me?” on YouTube.

(15) SPLINTERS ARE BETTER. “Japan developing wooden satellites to cut space junk” – BBC News has the story. [Via Slashdot.]

…The partnership will begin experimenting with different types of wood in extreme environments on Earth.

Space junk is becoming an increasing problem as more satellites are launched into the atmosphere.

Wooden satellites would burn up without releasing harmful substances into the atmosphere or raining debris on the ground when they plunge back to Earth….

Does this train of thought wind up with Captain Harlock’s spaceship?

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] “Batman:  The Animated Series/The Heart of Batman” on YouTube is a 2018 documentary, directed by Alexander Gray, on the 1990s “Batman: The Animated Series” which many critics, such as Glen Weldon, say is the best version of Batman.  The film shows that the immediate inspiration for the series was Tim Burton’s Batman and Steven Spielberg’s desire to build an animation at Warner Bros., including giving the budget to have a full orchestra record Shirley Walker’s imaginative score.  Creators Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski give many influences, including film noir, German expressionist films, Citizen Kane, Max Fleischer’s Superman cartoons, and the art of Alex Toth.  But Andrea Romano gets a lot of credit for coming up with superb voices, including Mark Hamill as the Joker and Kevin Conroy as Batman.  The series also turned Harley Quinn into a full-fledged, interesting character and led to Margot Robbie playing her in three big-budget movies.

As an aside, Batman:  The Animated Series discusses how earlier animated shows of the 1980s had stifling restrictions imposed by network censors.  One writer (who wasn’t identified) worked on Super Friends.  One episode had the Justice League shrunk to midgets leading to Robin fighting a spider.  The censors said the cartoon had to include a scene where the spider is seen crawling away because Robin couldn’t hurt the spider.

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

Dr. Seuss Enterprises Wins Appeal to Ninth Circuit; Seuss-Trek Mashup Violates Copyright

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ suit to stop ComicMix’s Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go! project, a crowdfunded book featuring the writing of David Gerrold and the art of Ty Templeton.

The Ninth Circuit decision says —

The creators thought their Star Trek primer would be “pretty well protected by parody,” but acknowledged that “people in black robes” may disagree. Indeed, we do.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) claimed Boldly infringed their copyright and trademark for Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go! The Ninth Circuit panel concluded that Boldly did not make fair use of Seuss’ classic Oh, the Places You’ll Go! therefore ComicMix and the creators infringed DSE’s copyright, reversing the district court’s 2019 summary judgment in the defendants’ favor. However, the Ninth Circuit did affirm the lower court’s decision that the defendants’ book does not violate DSE’s trademarks.

The panel held that defendants’ use of Dr. Seuss’s copyrighted works, including the book Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (“Go!”), was not fair use. There is a four-factor legal test of fair use, and the panel said all four weighed against ComicMix. The case summary explains —

The panel concluded that all of the statutory factors weighed against fair use, and no countervailing copyright principles counseled otherwise. The purpose and character of Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go! (“Boldly”) weighed against fair use because defendants’ use was commercial and was not a parody or otherwise transformative. The creative nature of Go! and the amount and substantiality of the use of Go! also weighed against fair use, as did the potential market for or value of Seuss. The panel held that because fair use is an affirmative defense, the burden is on defendants with respect to market harm.

The Ninth Circuit observed that Boldly’s art was not simply comparable to Seuss’ style, it emulated specific pages in Seuss’ Go! The decision analyzes several instances in side-by-side comparisons.

The Seuss original is on the left, the Boldly page is on the right.

…ComicMix’s claim that it “judiciously incorporated just enough of the original to be identifiable” as Seussian or that its “modest” taking merely “alludes” to particular Seuss illustrations is flatly contradicted by looking at the books. During his deposition, Boldly illustrator Templeton detailed the fact that he “stud[ied] the page [to] get a sense of what the layout was,” and then copied “the layout so that things are in the same place they’re supposed to be.” The result was, as Templeton admitted, that the illustrations in Boldly were “compositionally similar” to the corresponding ones in Go!. In addition to the overall visual composition, Templeton testified that he also copied the illustrations down to the last detail, even “meticulously try[ing] to reproduce as much of the line work as [he could].”

The case will now be returned to the district court for trial on copyright infringement, which the defendants will face without their fair use defense.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 12/13/20 It’s The Pixel To Scroll When You’re Scrolling More Than One

(1) THE VALUE IN EXPERIMENTING. Nino Cipri offers some sff writing pointers. Thread starts here.

(2) BABY FOOD. Beware spoilers – but not spoilage: ‘The Mandalorian’ Season 2: A Baby Yoda food diary”) in the LA Times.

Babies have to eat — and Grogu is no different.

During the second season of “The Mandalorian,” Grogu, long referred to by fans as Baby Yoda, has been shown eating everything from a froglike alien’s eggs to fancy blue cookies. The popular Disney+ series could easily spawn a spinoff called “The Best Thing Baby Yoda Ever Ate.”

As of the seventh episode of Season 2, titled “The Believer,” Baby Yoda remains a captive of Moff Gideon and his Imperial forces. Hopefully, the Empire remembers to feed its prisoners, because Grogu is one hungry baby, if previous episodes are anything to go by.

Until Mando and Baby Yoda are reunited (and hopefully throw a celebratory feast), here’s a look back at everything Baby Yoda has been seen eating during the show so far.

(3) DINO TIMES. The Los Angeles Public Library did an “Interview With an Author: David Gerrold” about his new novel Hella.

How did the novel evolve and change as you wrote and revised it? Are there any characters or scenes that were lost in the process that you wish had made it to the published version?

I had a first draft that sat on my computer for a couple of years. It wasn’t bad, but it needed a polish. And the ending was unsatisfying. I offered it to Betsy Wollheim at DAW. I really admire her. She understands the genre better than most because she grew up in it. Her dad, Donald A. Wollheim, was one of the most underrated movers and shakers in the field. She suggested that I rethink the ending and I came up with a much stronger resolution, one that was a much better payoff. So I have to give her the credit for making Hella a better book.

(4) PRO TIP. In Isaac Asimov’s autobiography In Memory Yet Green he discusses how he continued to write letters in the pages of science fiction magazines even after he became a professional.

I began to enjoy less the writing of letters.  Yet I did write them, and often quarreled with writers who objected to something or other in one of my stories–until I received a letter from the writer Nelson S. Bond (whom I met briefly at the World Convention in 1939, and never again), saying that now that I was a professional, I should stop slugging it out in fan columns.  I took that seriously and from the moment I received that letter, I stopped writing letters to the magazines, except for very occasional ones that did not involve fannish comments.  I have always been grateful to Bond for this word in season.

(5) TWO FIFTHS. Thanks to Jim Henley for this fine example of a File 770 trope – double fifths!

(6) ANOTHER FIVE. Speaking of the magic number, James Davis Nicoll knows “Five Novels About the World After the End of the World”.

While nostalgia has had a place in tabletop roleplaying games ever since the field was old enough to have second editions—remember when tabletop roleplaying game nostalgia was new?—the recent Twilight 2000 Kickstarter is remarkable for the speed at which the project hit its funding goals: just seven minutes, a bit longer than it would take missiles launched from the Soviet Union to reach Britain.

First published in 1984, Twilight 2000 took as its background a mid-1990s Soviet-Chinese conflict that spiraled into a global war when East and West Germany tried to use Soviet distraction to reunify. By 2000 all sides are too exhausted to continue. Most campaigns begin as the war stumbles to a chaotic, exhausted halt.

T:2000 might seem to be an odd game to be nostalgic about. Perhaps it is a reflection of the Jason Mendoza principle: “Anytime I had a problem and I threw a Molotov cocktail, boom! Right away, I had a different problem.” …

(7) CHINA’S COSPLAY RESTRICTIONS. “China cracks down on cleavage at cosplay convention”CNN has the story.

Organizers of Asia’s largest digital entertainment expo — where scantily clad models usually dress up as characters from comic books, movies and video games — say they will levy a fine of $800 on women who reveal “more than two centimeters of cleavage.”

Men are not exempt from the crackdown on exposed flesh.

They will face the same penalty if they wear low-hanging pants or expose their underwear. If models are caught dancing in cages or around a pole they will be fined a whopping $1,600, as will anyone caught striking vulgar poses.

It’s the latest example of what appears to be a government campaign for stricter morality in China.

A New York Times story on December 11 collected other examples in “Two soccer teams showed up to play. One lost because of hair dye” (repeated here by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel):

Under China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, the Communist Party’s creeping interference on the smallest details of Chinese life is being felt more and more. Censors have blurred the bejeweled earlobes of young male pop stars on television and the internet so that, in their mind, the piercings and jewelry don’t set a bad example for boys. Women in costumes at a video game convention were told to raise their necklines.

(8) BATMAN ’66 AND OTHER VINTAGE TV OPINIONS. [Item by Todd Mason.]  From 1966: “At Issue; 65; What’s Happening to Television?” This episode of the monthly series from National Educational Television makes its points, sometimes less tellingly than its creators think it does, but writer Morton Silverstein and some of those interviewed sure get their boots in on Batman, the ABC series, to a remarkable degree. Also, the blithe use of “drama” to refer only to anthology series that don’t have a slant toward one established program category or another beyond that concept. Interesting to those who are students of popular culture and news medium self-justification.

“What’s Happening to Television?” is the topic explored by no fewer than twenty-two top personalities allied to the television industry. This hour program in National Educational Television’s “At Issue” series presents timely and critical observations on daily programs, news, TV ratings, government regulations and the role of advertising. “What’s Happening to Television?” is analyzed by network executives, news commentators, advertising people, writers and critics. They comment on the growth of television, from its infant days to its present giant development, when more than 35 million Americans watch their sets for some 3 hours daily. “What’s Happening to Television?” looks back into TV history, analyzing some of the early successes, commenting on present programs, and giving the viewer a glimpse of next fall’s offerings. Some of the questions discussed include: Will television ever live up to its potential? What is the real purpose? Who determines which programs are dropped? What is the role of the program sponsors? Is the public interest being protected? Is educational television the answer to more worthy programs? What can the viewer do to control the quality of programs coming into the family living room? 

(9) GALANTER OBIT. Star Trek author Dave Galanter (1969-2020) died of cancer on December 12. Galanter has authored (or coauthored with collaborator Greg Brodeur) such Star Trek projects as Voyager: Battle Lines, the Next Generation duology Maximum WarpThe Original Series novels Crisis of Consciousness and Troublesome Minds, and numerous works of short Star Trek fiction.

(10) LE CARRE OBIT. The author of the George Smiley novels has fallen to pneumonia: “John le Carre, who probed murky world of spies, dies at 89” reports the AP News. He died December 12.

“John le Carre has passed at the age of 89. This terrible year has claimed a literary giant and a humanitarian spirit,” tweeted novelist Stephen King. Margaret Atwood said: “Very sorry to hear this. His Smiley novels are key to understanding the mid-20th century.”

…After university, which was interrupted by his father’s bankruptcy, he taught at the prestigious boarding school Eton before joining the foreign service.

Officially a diplomat, he was in fact a “lowly” operative with the domestic intelligence service MI5 —he’d started as a student at Oxford — and then its overseas counterpart MI6, serving in Germany, on the Cold War front line, under the cover of second secretary at the British Embassy.

His first three novels were written while he was a spy, and his employers required him to publish under a pseudonym. He remained “le Carre” for his entire career. He said he chose the name — square in French — simply because he liked the vaguely mysterious, European sound of it….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 13, 2002 — On this date in 2002, Star Trek: Nemesis premiered. It directed by Stuart Baird and produced by Rick Berman from the screenplay by John Logan as developed from the story by John Logan, Rick Berman and Brent Spiner. It was the fourth and final film to feature the Next Generation cast. It received decidedly mixed reviews, was a full-blown box disaster but currently has a decent fifty percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 13, 1909 – Alan Barclay.  Five novels, two dozen shorter stories; essays “Interplanetary Navigation” in New Worlds SF, “The Bow” in SF Adventures.  “The Scapegoat” is in New Worlds SF 105 which has this neato Sydney Jordan cover.  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1923 – Faith Jaques.  Six covers, eight interiors for us.  Here is Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and here is an interior.  Here is “The Flirtation of Two Mice”.  Outside our field I know her for this; and here are some Christmas Waits.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1929 Christopher Plummer, 91. Let’s see… Does Rudyard Kipling in The Man Who Would Be King count? If not, The Return of the Pink Panther does. That was followed by Starcrash, a space opera I suspect hardly anyone saw which was also the case with Somewhere in Time.  Now Dreamscape was fun and well received.   Skipping now to General Chang in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country. Opinions everyone? I know I’ve mixed feelings on Chang.  I see he’s in Twelve Monkeys which I’m not a fan of and I’ve not seen The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus yet. (CE) 
  • Born December 13, 1940 – Ken Mitchell, age 80.  Co-founded the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild and the S Playwrights Center.  A novel, a shorter story, two covers for us (here is The Tomorrow Connection); six other novels, a dozen plays.  Retired from the Univ. Regina English Department, tours as a cowboy poet.  Order of Canada.  Saskatchewan Order of Merit.  [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1945 – Drew Mendelson, age 75.  Two novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  Maybe Cora Buhlert can explain why “Once I Built a Railroad” was translated as »Einst baute ich eine Eisenbahn« which means Once I built a railroad but Pilgrimage was translated as Die vergessenen Zonen der Stadt which isn’t a bad title for it but doesn’t mean Pilgrimage.  [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1949 R.A. MacAvoy, 71. Winner of the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. I’m very, very fond of her Black Dragon series, Tea with the Black Dragon and Twisting the Rope. The only other thing I’ve read of hers is The Book of Kells so, do tell me about her other works. (CE) 
  • Born December 13, 1954 Tamora Pierce, 66. Her first book series, The Song of the Lioness, took her character Alanna through the trials of training as a knight; it sold very well and was well received by readers. She would win in 2005 the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, a rare honor indeed. (CE)
  • Born December 13, 1954 Emma Bull, 66. Writer of three of the best genre novels ever, Bone Dance: A Fantasy for TechnophilesFinder: A Novel of The Borderlands and War for The Oaks. Will Shetterly, her husband and author of a lot of really cool genre works, decided to make a trailer which you can download if you want. Just ask me.  She’s also been in in a number of neat bands, one that has genre significance that being Cat Laughing which has Stephen Brust, Adam Stemple, son of Jane Yolen, and John M. Ford either as musicians or lyricists. They came back together after a long hiatus at MiniCon 50. Again just ask me and I’ll make this music available along with that of Flash Girls which she was also in. (CE) 
  • Born December 13, 1960 – José Eduardo Agalusa Alves da Cunha, age 60.  (Agalusa the maternal, Alves da Cunha the paternal surname, Portuguese style.)  Two novels for us: The Society of Reluctant Dreamers just appeared in English, 2019; The Book of Chameleons won the Independent Foreign Fiction prize); a dozen others, shorter stories, plays, poetry, journalism, radio.  Int’l Dublin Literary Award.  [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1969 Tony Curran, 51. Vincent van Gogh in two Eleventh Doctor stories, “Vincent and the Doctor” and “The Pandorica Opens”, the latter as a cameo. He’s had vampire roles in Blade II as Priest and Underworld: Evolution as Markus, and was Lt. Delcourt in The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn to name but a few of his myriad genre roles. (CE) 
  • Born December 13, 1978 – Lee Isserow, age 42.  A score of novels, a dozen shorter stories for us; screenwriting; and the terrifying ABAM project, which means – yes – A Book A Month.  Has read not only Breakfast of Champions but The Master and Margarita.  [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1984 Amal El-Mohtar, 36. Canadian editor and writer. Winner of Hugo Awards for Best Short Story for “Seasons of Glass and Iron” at WorldCon 75 and  Best Novella for “This Is How You Lose the Time War” at CoNZealand (with Max Gladstone). (The latter got a BSFA and a Nebula as well.) She’s also garnered a Nebula Award  for “Madeleine“, a World Fantasy Award for “Pockets” and a World Fantasy Award for “Seasons of Glass and Iron”. Impressive. She has edited the fantastic poetry quarterly Goblin Fruit magazine for the past four years. (CE) 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • In The Far Side, it looks like the coroner’s office has already picked up this extra sized decedent.
  • And in another entry of The Far Side, they also walk dogs.

(14) IMAGINARY GIFT SHOP. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Washington Post had a short feature where they asked writers to “dream up the presents that they’d love to parcel out this year but don’t exist.”  Ken Liu says he wants a phone-sized device he can point at tweeters to see whether they are arguing in good faith or just being a troll.  Ted Chiang says he wished the Web had evolved into a subscription-based servie where people paid for sites they visited with money instead of personal data. “A guide to gifts that don’t exist but should”.

(15) THE ANSWER IS BOOKS. Of more practical use, “A gift guide for the fans of science fiction, fantasy and horror books in your life” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar in the Washington Post.

It’s that time of the year when the nights grow long, the air grows cold, the festive lights go up and the year’s best books lists are sprouting like mushrooms after the rain. But will any of them help you find that perfect book-gift for your friends who love science fiction, fantasy and horror? If not, we’re here to help….

(16) THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY. Camestros Felapton is highly entertaining with “My new pointless Star Wars theory”.

The issue that had been bugging me was the inconsistent way of travelling between planets. In the films but also in The Mandalorian (less so in cartoons), characters fly in space ships between planets in two ways:

  • Using hyperspace as faster than light travel.
  • Using sub-light speed engines….

But now he has it all figured out!

(17) YES, VIRGINIA, THERE WAS A WRITER NAMED G. K. CHESTERTON? At CrimeReads, Olivia Rutigliano contends “Famed mystery writer G.K. Chesterton proudly, sincerely believed in Santa Claus”.

… Chesterton’s applied his penchant for logic in this article on “Santa Claus.” Along with providing a short history of the figure of Santa Claus in popular culture (particularly his origins, as the gift-wielding St. Nicholas of Bari in Medieval iconography), Chesterton offered a simple proposition: that a child’s ultimately ceasing to believe in Santa Claus, justified by the fact that Santa Claus is not real, is a precursor to that child’s ceasing to believe in God. And this, Chesterton explained, was a terrible phenomenon.

And then he admitted a surprising detail: “I startled some honest Protestants lately by telling them that, though I am (unfortunately) no longer a child, I do most definitely believe in Santa Claus.”

Elaborating on this decidedly ‘hot take,’ Chesterton stressed that he felt it was critical for children to believe in Santa Claus even after Santa Claus has been debunked as a real, flesh-and-blood man, because the Santa Claus that children know is ultimately a caricature of an actual saint; just because, Chesterton argued, he is not real to their eyes does not mean that he is not a genuine, spiritual entity….

(18) FIREFLY CHARACTER AS ILLUSTRATION OF PTSD. “SERENITY and Coping with Trauma” from Cinema Therapy on YouTube.

What happens when you’re kidnapped from your family, tortured, and conditioned into being an assassin? You get River Tam. And also Alan, apparently. Therapist Jonathan Decker and filmmaker Alan Seawright discuss what we can learn about coping with trauma from Summer Glau’s character River in Serenity and Firefly. They break down some of the symptoms of PTSD she exhibits, and some of the things that help her work through them and start healing. Even though most of us don’t live in a sci-fi future with space ships, space zombies, and space cowboys (along with psychics and lots of other fun), we can still learn a thing or two about how to heal from and deal with the trauma we do face in real life.

(19) ZOOMING THROUGH FANHISTORY. Fanac.org is planning a series of Zoom Interactive Fan History Sessions.

For our first session, Rob Hansen is going to give us an historic tour of fannish Holborn, London. Rob is probably the most accomplished fan historian writing these days. As most of you know, he has written the history of British fandom, Then and has put together a number of books covering various aspects of British fandom. Find many of them here. Reserve the date: Saturday, December 19, 2020 at 11AM EDT.

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

(20) BEYOND INFINITY. Disney+ dropped a trailer for What if….? an alternate-universe animated series.

(21) MARTIANS AT THE NEW YORK TIMES. [Item by David Goldfarb.] The New York Times puzzle page has a game called “Letter Boxed”, in which you make words out of letters arranged around a square. The idea is to use all the letters with as few words as possible: there is always a two-word solution. The two-word solution for Saturday 12/12 was “Visualizing – Grok”.

(22) EDUCATE YOURSELF. Ursula Vernon ladles out more life experience. Thread starts here.

(23) RUN TO DAYLIGHT. SYFY Wire learned that “Spiders get thrown off spinning webs in zero-G…unless they have light”.

It’s one small step for insects, eight steps for spider-kind.

“Arachnauts” flown to the ISS have revealed their secret backup plan when they can’t use gravity to figure out where they are when spinning their webs. Earth’s gravity is what normally helps them make a web optimal for catching dinner—and position themselves in it. Lamps accidentally placed above the spider experiment showed that when the arachnids lose their orientation in microgravity, they use light to find their way again….  

(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Hulk (2003) Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that people who watched the 2003 Hulk expecting that Hulk would smash things will be disappointed by the first 45 minutes, which consist of nothing but brooding and that few people will be excited by the scenes where Hulk beats up a Hulkified French poodle.

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

2020 QSF Flash Fiction Contest Winners

The winning stories in Queer Sci Fi’s 2020 flash fiction contest were announced August 8. The theme for contestants’ 300-word speculative flash fiction stories was “innovation.”

These high-finishing stories are among the 120 collected in QSF’s new book Innovation: Queer Sci Fi’s Seventh Annual Flash Fiction Contest:

FIRST PLACE

  • The Fleshsmith And The Metalsmith – Devon Widmer

SECOND PLACE

  • Dragonslayer – E.M. Hamill

THIRD PLACE

  • Antlers – K.A. Masters

JUDGES CHOICES

  • “Are My High-Speed Underwater Sperm Darts Normal?” And Other Teen Questions by Brenna Harvey
  • Cuttles and Chthonic Curry by Ginger Streusel
  • A New Line of Communication by Jamie Lackey
  • An Original Use of Magic by C.L. McCartney
  • Connectivity by Cassidy Frazee
  • The Choice by David Gerrold

HONORABLE MENTIONS

  • Moura Inovadora, by Emilia Agrafojo
  • Burnt Crystals, by Blaine D. Arden
  • The Price of Ingenuity, by Chris Bannor
  • Just Perfect, by Redfern Jon Barrett
  • Speak, by Brooke K. Bell
  • Abandon, by Jade Black
  • It Goes Without Saying, by Sydney Blackburn
  • To The Point of Invention, by Shannon Brady
  • The Emperor’s New Helmet, by Minerva Cerridwen
  • The Great Body-Swap of 2222, by Koji A. Dae
  • Divergence, by Andi Deacon
  • Ebony Heart, by Kellie Doherty
  • The Thing With the Bats, by Mary Francis
  • Connectivity, by Cassidy Frazee
  • Summer Construction, by Jasie Gale
  • You Wish, by James Alan Gardner
  • Regeneve, by J.S. Garner
  • The Choice, by David Gerrold
  • I Want a New Drug, by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
  • Basement Bargain, by Jeff Jacobson
  • The Hope, by Susan James
  • Transformation, by Christopher Koehler
  • With Eight Little Eyes, by Mary Kuna
  • Cure for Dry Sales, by S S Long
  • An Original Use of Magic, by C.L. McCartney
  • Kabbalistic Yentes, LLC, by Milo Owen
  • A Family in Love, by Stephen B. Pearl
  • A Dire Need, by L.S. Reinholt
  • Cuttles and Chthonic Curry, by Ginger Streusel
  • I Doesn’t Matter, Of Quartz, by Noah K. Sturdevant
  • One More Night, by Nathaniel Taff
  • The Law of Leaky Abstractions, by T. T. Thomas
  • Appetite, by Andrew Vaillencourt
  • Light, by Eric Warren
  • Enchantrixx, by Shannon Yseult

[Via Locus Online.]

Pixel Scroll 8/18/20 It’s A World Of Cats On To Be Read Piles, It’s A Scroll, Scroll World!

(1) STATE GUIDANCE ISSUED FOR SF IN CHINA. Variety reports“China Issues Guidelines on Developing a Sci-Fi Film Sector”.

Chinese film authorities issued a new document outlining policy measures to boost the country’s production of science fiction movies.

Entitled “Several Opinions on Promoting the Development of Science Fiction Films,” the document highlights how the sci-fi genre fits into the ruling Communist Party’s broader ideological and technological goals. It was released earlier this month by China’s National Film Administration and the China Association for Science and Technology, a professional organization.

The document focuses on domestically developing pro-China science fiction film content and high-tech production capability. It comes in the wake of the country’s first VFX-heavy sci-fi blockbuster hit, “The Wandering Earth,” which remains the third highest grossing film of all time in the territory with a local box office of $691 million.

…To make strong movies, the document claims, the number one priority is to “thoroughly study and implement Xi Jinping Thought.” Based on the Chinese president’s past pronouncements on film work, filmmakers should follow the “correct direction” for the development of sci-fi movies. This includes creating films that “highlight Chinese values, inherit Chinese culture and aesthetics, cultivate contemporary Chinese innovation” as well as “disseminate scientific thought” and “raise the spirit of scientists.” Chinese sci-fi films should thus portray China in a positive light as a technologically advanced nation.

…Nevertheless, China’s lack of strong sci-fi is primarily due to a lack of innovative ideas and scripts, the document said. The country should focus on generating strong sci-fi scripts through talent incubators and prizes, and by urging film festivals to set up specific sci-fi film departments. The adaptation of sci-fi literature, animation and games should be encouraged to stimulate the production of new original content.

Elementary and middle school students should be made to watch “excellent sci-fi movies,” while universities should be urged to “strengthen the training of sci-fi related talent.”

(2) CANCELLATION CULTURE. David Brin writes much more about what he suspects in “The Postman speaks: Save the Post Office!”

Amid outcry over Republican efforts to wreck the U.S. Postal System, scientist/science-fiction author David Brin — author of the popular novel “The Postman” — offers a few tools and perspectives…. 

What Will They Do to Destroy the Mail?

Oh, these proto-Holnist traitors can be feral and clever. Here are some ways they have already — or plan to — sabotage our nation’s oldest institution.

  • Don’t allow overtime (done)
  • Remove extra mailboxes (started; incomplete)
  • Remove critical equipment (done)
  • Remove ballot bulk mail postage discount (done)
  • Reduce funding
  • Refuse to deliver if no/insufficient postage
  • Change filters on automated sorting to reject more mail
  • Demand postal workers take unused leave at critical times
  • Misprint ballots so auto-processing fails
  • Shut down critical sorting warehouses in key areas
  • Companies currying GOP favor will send a lot of mail during the 2 weeks that mail-in ballots are flooding the system, causing jams
  • Use mercenaries and ‘holnist’ barbarians to terrorize voters, sabotage mailboxes and vehicles and workers, sow chaos and provide excuses for ‘martial law.’
  • Don’t put anything past them.

(3) JOB DESCRIPTION. David Gerrold shared a free post on his Patreon: “I Am Not A Writer. I Am A Storyteller.”

…I have been accused of being a writer. I’m not. My 1962 writing instructor was right when he told me, “You can’t write. You’re wasting your time. You’ll never be a writer.”

He was right. I’m not a writer. 

I’m a storyteller. 

A story is — pay attention now, this is the good stuff —  a story is about a person with a problem. 

Let me repeat that. A STORY IS ABOUT A PERSON WITH A PROBLEM. 

This is why stories are the essential part of human intelligence. Because all human beings have problems. We either defeat them or they defeat us. 

But either way, we end up with a story about the problem. 

The essential definition of a story is this: “Here’s a problem. Here’s what didn’t work. Here’s what did work. And here’s what I learned.” It’s that last phrase that’s important. The problem is an access to the lesson. Even if the problem didn’t get solved, the lesson is still critical. And if there is no lesson to be learned, then it wasn’t a real problem, just some stuff to be handled. (“I have to do the dishes,” isn’t a problem. Just do the damn dishes.)…

(4) COMIC BOOK LEGAL DEFENSE FUND UPDATE. Graeme McMillan, in The Hollywood Reporter story “Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Attempts to Rebuild After Chief’s Exit” discusses how the fund is rebuilding after the departure of Charles Brownstein on sexual harassment charges. 

On June 22, Charles Brownstein resigned from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund after serving as executive director for 18 years. The exit came following pressure from comic industry professionals as details of his alleged assault of creator Taki Soma 15 years earlier re-emerged online. More than a month after his departure, the CBLDF is attempting to rebuild both itself and trust from the comic book community.

In 2005, Soma reported to police that Brownstein assaulted her during the Mid-Ohio Con convention, with details becoming public the following year. In 2006, Brownstein admitted to the assault, calling it “a stupid, drunken prank, of which I’m ashamed” in a public statement, although he kept his position inside the CBLDF following an independent third party investigation.

… “Honestly, I don’t think I’ve seen a response from the fund that would make me feel comfortable supporting them after Brownstein’s departure,” Batman writer James Tynion IV told The Hollywood Reporter. “I want to see who they put forward as the voice of the fund, and see what kind of work they’re open to doing to make a better community. Until they do that, I’ll be a skeptical observer, and my money will keep going to the [another comic book non-profit] Hero Initiative, where I can see measurably good work being done.”

Harrow County artist Tyler Crook is also skeptical about the continued viability of the organization.

“I’m very glad to see Brownstein gone, but I won’t be supporting them until after we see what changes they make to reform the organization,” said Crook, adding that Brownstein remaining with the organization for so many years despite his alleged behavior identified structural problems that need to be addressed. “Right now, I’m feeling pretty pessimistic about the CBLDF’s ability to change. I think our industry might be better served with a new, organization built on stronger foundations and with a stronger moral compass.”

Calvin Reid, in “Trexler Named Interim CBLDF Executive Director” in Publishers Weekly, says that Jeff Trexler has been named interim director.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has appointed Jeff Trexler its interim director, effective immediately. He succeeds Charles Brownstein, who resigned from the position in June after allegations of assault leveled against him resurfaced.

Trexler will oversee and update the CBLDF’s operations and its mission. He will also be charged with restoring the organization’s credibility and stature in the comics community after the departure of Brownstein, who held the executive director position at CBLDF for 18 years.

“The original mission of CBLDF is one I passionately support as a longtime member of the comics community,” Trexler said in a statement. “This is a time of evolution for the organization, and I am honored to be a part of it.”

Before joining the CBLDF, Trexler was associate director of the Fashion Law Institute. He is a member of the ethics committee at Kering Americas, and has served on the board of the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art. Trexler is also a lifelong comics fan as well as a lawyer, and has provided legal analysis on a variety of issues surrounding the comics industry….

(5) FULL COURT PRESS. “CBS Beats Copyright Claims Over ‘Star Trek: Discovery’”Bloomberg Law has the story.

A story arc about a giant tardigrade in “Star Trek: Discovery” didn’t infringe a copyright in an unreleased video game that also featured a giant tardigrade, the Second Circuit affirmed Monday.

Many elements of the work that CBS Broadcasting Corp. and Netflix Corp. allegedly infringed covered uncopyrightable scientific facts and ideas about tardigrades, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said.

Anas Osama Ibrahim Abdin owns a copyright in the “distillation” of the concept for his video game “Tardigrades,” a compilation of images, descriptions, and illustrations detailing the game’s characters and backstory. It features a space-station botanist who travels through space after being absorbed into a giant tardigrade, based on the real-life microscopic creature that can endure extreme heat, cold, pressure, and radiation.

Three episodes in the first season of CBS’ “Star Trek: Discovery” also involve a space encounter with a massive tardigrade-like creature, and Abdin sued CBS for copyright infringement in Manhattan federal court. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed Abdin’s claims in September.

The Second Circuit affirmed that CBS and Netflix—which is licensed to air “Discovery” outside of the U.S.—didn’t infringe because the works aren’t substantially similar. Abdin’s use of tardigrades largely wasn’t copyrightable, the court said.

“Abdin’s space-traveling tardigrade is an unprotectable idea because it is a generalized expression of a scientific fact—namely, the known ability of a tardigrade to survive in space,” the court said. “By permitting Abdin to exclusively own the idea of a space-traveling tardigrade, this Court would improperly withdraw that idea from the public domain and stifle creativity naturally flowing from the scientific fact that tardigrades can survive the vacuum of space.”…

(6) WELL WORTH YOUR TIME. [Based on notes from John Hertz.] Roberta Pournelle left our stage on August 3, 2020.

There was no public church service and no public interment.  Her remains were laid to rest at Forest Lawn on August 14th, as it happens not far from OGH’s father’s.

“Roberta Jane Isdell Pournelle, 16 June 1936–3 August 2020” is Jennifer Pournelle’s eulogy.

 … I was hardly an “only child,” and I’m not merely referring to my wonderful brothers. Roberta taught in schools where most would not. She taught kids who were guilty of being poor, or black, or Latinx, or homeless. or abused, or dyslexic, or otherwise illiterate and/or desperate. Kids with “form,” kids with little future; kids who were pregnant or fathers or incarcerated for crimes real or imagined and precious little hope of anger management. The kids nobody wanted. The kids dismissed as “juvvies.” The kids about whom precious few truly, actually, cared.

Advised to leave, advised to cease, advised that her talents lay elsewhere, she taught on. She was there….

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

August 18, 1950 Destination Moon, produced by Geotge Pal, premiered in the United Kingdom. It would be voted a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at the Millennium Philcon. It was directed by Irving Pichel from the screenplay by Alford Van Ronkel and Robert A. Heinlein and James O’Hanlon. It’s based off Robert A. Heinlein‘s Rocketship Galileo novel. It starred John Archer, Warner Anderson,  Erin O’Brien-Moore, Tom Powers and Dick Wesson. Mainstream critics usually didn’t like but Asimov said In Memory Yet Green that it was “the first intelligent science-fiction movie made.”  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a mediocre 48% rating. It is not in the public domain but the trailers are and here is one for you.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 18, 1929 Joan Taylor. Her first genre role was Earth vs. the Flying Saucers as Carol Marvin, and she followed that with 20 Million Miles to Earth as Marisa Leonardo. Her last genre role was as Carol Gordon in Men into Space, a late Fifties series about a USAF attempt to explore and develop outer space. She retired from acting in the early Sixties. (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born August 18, 1931 Grant Williams. He is best remembered for his portrayal of Scott Carey in The Incredible Shrinking Man though he did have the role of the psychopathic killer in Robert Bloch’s The Couch. Of course, he shows up in Outer Limits where he plays Major Douglas McKinnon in “The Brain of Colonel Barham”.  And he’s Major Kurt Mason in The Doomsday Machine. (Died 1985.) (CE)
  • Born August 18, 1931 – Seymour Chwast, 89.  French ed’n of Doctor DolittleOdysseyCanterbury TalesDivine Comedy; three dozen more.  Here is We.  Here is Analog 6 (anthology).  Here is Lord Tyger.  Much outside our field too; see hereherehere, and this archive.   Saint Gaudin Award, Art Directors Hall of Fame, American Inst. Graphic Arts Medal, honorary doctorate from Parsons.  [JH]
  • Born August 18, 1934 Michael de Larrabeiti. He is best known for writing The Borrible Trilogy which is noted by several sources online as being an influence by writers in the New Weird movement. Ok folks, I’ve not read so please explain how The Borrible Trilogy influences that literary movement as it doesn’t seem like there’s any connection. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born August 18, 1935 — Brian Aldiss. He’s well known as an anthologist and SF writer with Space, Time and Nathaniel, a collection of short stories being his first genre publication. I’ll single out Space Opera and other such anthologies as my favourite works by him. His “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long” is the basis for A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Much honoured, he’s was named a Grand Master by SFWA and inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. He also has received two Hugo Awards, one Nebula Award, and one John W. Campbell Memorial Award. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born August 18, 1943 –Richard Bober, 77.  Three dozen covers.  Here is Lake of the Long Sun (in Polish).  Here is Shards of Empire.  Here is the 2003 Chesley Awards Retrospective (at left, top to bottom, images by Bober, Ledet, Eggleton, Bonestell).  Gallery, Feb 98 Realms of Fantasy.  [JH]
  • Born August 18, 1947 – Paul Skelton, 73.  Long-active fanziner, in his own zines (sometimes with wife Cas Skelton) and letters of comment to others’.  Five FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards, four for Best Correspondent and one for life achievement thereat.  [JH]
  • Born August 18, 1949 –Takeshi Shudô.  Known for Magical Princess Minky Momo (television animé), Pokémon (pocket monsters; TV, film, novels), and Eternal Filena (serialized light novel, then OVA – original video animation, made for home release without prior theater or television showing – then role-playing video game).  For Pokémon, coined Team Rocket’s motto.  Won Best Screenplay at first Japan Animé Awards.  Memorial exhibit at Suginami Animation Museum, Tokyo, 2011.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born August 18, 1950 Mary Doria Russell, 70. The Sparrow series, The Sparrow and its sequel Children of God, are awesome. The Sparrow won the Arthur C. Clarke, BSFA, and Tiptree Awards, and it was the reason she won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Though not genre, Doc and its  sequel Epitaph are mysteries using the historic character of  Doc Holliday.  (CE)
  • Born August 18, 1966 – Alison Goodman, 54.  Seven novels, five shorter stories.  Translated into ten languages.  Part of “Time Travel, Time Scapes, and Timescape” in NY Rev. of SF with Benford, Blackford, Broderick, McMullen, Townsend.  Two Aurealis Awards.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 18, 1981 – Bridget (“B.R.”) Collins, 39.  Seven novels.  Bradford Boase Award.  Blog is called jugjugjug “because ‘jug jug jug’ is supposed to be the noise a nightingale makes (the way ‘tu-whit tu-whoo’ is supposed to be an owl).”  Website shows bookshelves with The Complete Sherlock Holmes and The Sot-Weed Factor.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) FACE THE MUSIC. Stephen Colbert repurposed the last Avengers movie trailer:

(11) CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE. David Langford’s contribution didn’t make it into the CoNZealand edition of Worldcon Order Of Fan-Editors (W.O.O.F.) for whatever reason, so he posted it on his own site: Cloud Chamber #164.

(12) FIRST CABIN. George R.R. Martin told Not A Blog readers he’s “Back in Westeros”.

…But some decades ago, wanting more solitude, I bought the house across the street and made THAT my writer’s retreat.   No longer would I write all day in my red flannel bathrobe; now I would have to dress and put on shoes and walk all the way across the street to write.  But that worked for a while.

Things started getting busier, though.   So busy that I needed a full-time assistant.   Then the office house had someone else in it, not just me and my characters.   And then I hired a second assistant, and a third, and… there was more mail, more email, more phone calls (we put in a new phone system), more people coming by.   By now I am up to five assistants… and somewhere in there I also acquired a movie theatre, a bookstore, a charitable foundation, investments, a business manager… and…

Despite all the help, I was drowning till I found the mountain cabin.

My life up here is very boring, it must be said.  Truth be told, I hardly can be said to have a life.   I have one assistant with me at all times (minions, I call them).  The assistants do two-week shifts, and have to stay in quarantine at home before starting a shift.   Everyone morning I wake up and go straight to the computer, where my minion brings me coffee (I am utterly useless and incoherent without my morning coffee) and juice, and sometimes a light breakfast.  Then I start to write.   Sometimes I stay at it until dark.   Other days I break off in late afternoon to answer emails or return urgent phone calls….   

(13) SFWA. “SFWA Announces New Communications Manager”, Rebecca Gomez Farrell.

… The Communications Manager will lead SFWA’s communications initiatives to produce high-quality content to engage both SFWA members and potential members within the SF/F community, as well as expand the organization’s brand recognition.

… SFWA Executive Director Kate Baker said, “Because of the nebulous nature of the organization, and because our members are located around the world, having a steady and engaging presence via social media is more important than ever. I am thrilled that Rebecca has joined the organization to help shape our messaging, to build upon the excellent work done by past volunteers, and to promote not only the organization and its members, but communicate what is important to all SF/F writers, wherever they may be. Please join us in welcoming Rebecca to the team!”

“Since joining in 2012,” said Gomez Farrell, “my fiction career has benefited greatly from the events and services SFWA offers its members, but most importantly, from the community we share. I’m thrilled to lend my skills in new media communication to fostering more of that community for my fellow members.” 

(14) SPECTRUM. The new Spectrum Advisory board was announced on Muddy Colors. Arnie Fenner listed the names with short bios at the link.

….it’s Cathy’s and my pleasure today to present in alphabetical order our new Spectrum Advisory board!

… Talk about a Dream Team!

And what exactly does the Spectrum Advisory Board do? Well, they have two primary jobs: the first is to nominate, debate, and ultimately select each year’s Grand Master honoree. (I wrote about the criteria for the Grand Master Award in a previous Muddy Colors post for anyone that’s curious.) It’s a big responsibility, for sure, but the Board’s second job is even more difficult and crucial:

Job #2 is to help us not be stupid.

Cathy and I started Spectrum because of a sincere love for fantastic art in whatever guise it takes and a desire to help creators receive the recognition and respect we felt they deserved. Spectrum quickly became a welcoming home, a community, and a family, for all artists regardless of gender, race, religion, nationality, politics, or ethnicity, a celebration of diversity and imagination. Though we’re moving a little slower and our energy isn’t what it once was, that love and that purpose are as strong in us today as they were when we first began 27 years ago. But time and technology march on and nothing survives in a vacuum: with so many changes and challenges, with so many societal minefields to traverse, we count on our Advisory Board to help us avoid the avoidable mistakes (as best anyone can) and better serve the community as a whole….

(15) STAND UP, EMPTY POCKETS. The “Stand Still. Stay Silent. – Book 3” Kickstarter appeal invites donors to “Help us print the third book of Minna Sundberg’s award-winning Nordic fantasy and adventure webcomic Stand Still. Stay Silent.” There being a lot of people wanting to lock down a copy of the book, they have raised $198,054 of their $35,000 goal with 26 days to go.

An underfunded, questionably selected, rag-tag team of explorers are assembled and launched into the unknown in a search for information and relics of the Old World – hopefully valuable relics. Stand Still. Stay Silent. follows six people (and a cat) on a journey filled with adventure, camaraderie and Nordic mythology. Who knows what they might find on their journey… and what they might lose.

(16) CATCHING UP. Nnedi Okorafor’s new book was released today – just in time for one feline’s appreciation.

(17) ALWAYS NEWS TO SOMEONE, Let File 770 be the last to tell you what Yahoo! Life was the next to last to tell you: “Somehow We All Just Figured Out Where Gandalf Keeps His Pipe”.

Nearly two decades years after the release of The Fellowship of the Ring, fans are still discovering new things in Peter Jackson‘s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. There’s a lot of material to cover, with the three lengthy theatrical releases further extended in their home video editions. Which is why it’s so surprising that, all these years later, people keep spotting one particular detail for the first time.

We’re talking about Gandalf’s pipe, specifically where he keeps it…

(18) REAR VIEW. “Why did scientists paint eyes on hundreds of cattle butts? To save lives, study says”.

For four years, researchers painted fake eyes on hundreds of cattle butts for the sake of science. What seems like a silly prank, the “eye-cow technique” proved lifesaving for the animals as it made predators rethink their attack, choosing another meal instead.

The scientists say their method is a more humane and “ecologically sound” alternative to lethal control and fencing used to separate cattle from carnivores. The team even theorizes the technique could be used to prevent human-wildlife conflicts and reduce criminal activity, according to a news release. A study was published Aug. 7 in the journal Communications Biology.

“The eye-cow technique is one of a number of tools that can prevent carnivore-livestock conflict—no single tool is likely to be a silver bullet. Indeed we need to do much better than a silver bullet if we are to ensure the successful coexistence of livestock and large carnivores,” study co-author Dr. Neil Jordan, a researcher with the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia and the Taronga Western Plains Zoo, said in the news release.

“But we’re hoping this simple, low-cost, non-lethal approach could reduce the costs of coexistence for those farmers bearing the brunt,” he added.

Eye patterns can be found — naturally — on butterflies, fish, molluscs, amphibians and birds to scare predators away. Images of eyes have even been shown to reduce bike theft in people, a 2012 study showed. But no mammals are known to possess eye-shaped patterns on their coats.

So, in the Okavango Delta of Botswana in Southern Africa, where livestock and lions, leopards, hyenas, cheetahs and wild dogs coexist, such a deceptive tactic could save animals from their death sentence, the researchers thought.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers:  The Old Guard” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies take on the latest film from Netflix designed to “make you look up from your phone for two minutes so it counts as a view.”  The film featured Charlize Theron leading a group of “illumi-hotties” who, although they’re thousands of years old, haven’t come up with a cool catchphrase.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Lise Andreasen, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Bill Higgins, Hampus Eckerman, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W. (I had to come back and use the other half of Kip’s 2018 verse.)]

Pixel Scroll 8/13/20 There’s A Right Way To Pixel, A Wrong Way To Pixel, And There’s The Scroll Way To Pixel

(1) BLYLY IN STAR-TRIBUNE AGAIN. Uncle Hugo’s Bookstore owner Don Blyly, who made the front page in Minneapolis yesterday, was back in the news today when the city announced it has reversed a policy that has made it hard to get demolition permits: “City removes tax demand that was blocking rebuilding of riot-torn Minneapolis”.

Minneapolis officials will no longer require property owners to prepay the second half of their property taxes in order to start removing rubble from sites damaged in the May riots.

Mayor Jacob Frey announced the change Thursday after the Star Tribune reported on the controversy.

…Minneapolis property owners have complained that the policy was slowing the pace of recovery and turning piles of debris into public safety hazards. The situation is different in St. Paul, which has been issuing demolition permits without requiring the prepayment of the second half of 2020 property taxes, which are due in October.

…“This will remove one small roadblock, but I am not sure how much it will actually speed up the entire rebuilding process,” said Don Blyly, owner of Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s bookstores in Minneapolis, which were destroyed in the riots. “You are still going to have the problem of a whole lot of demolition permits being handled by people who are working at home because of COVID-19.”

Blyly, who hired a contractor to remove the rubble from his lot a month ago, still doesn’t have his demolition permit, even though he paid his taxes last week.

Minneapolis City Council Member Andrew Johnson said he will introduce legislation at Friday’s council meeting that would require city officials to expedite the approval process for riot-damaged properties and waive all administrative fees.

“We should be processing their applications first, in front of everyone else’s, and they shouldn’t be subject to any unnecessary steps that are slowing stuff down,” Johnson said. “We need to bend over backward and do everything possible to help them with rebuilding.”

(2) F&SF COVER. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s Sept/Oct 2020 cover art is by Bob Eggleton for “The Shadows of Alexandrium” by David Gerrold.

(3) QUITE A FASCINATING ARTICLE. In “My First Thriller: David Morrell” on CrimeReads, Rick Pullen interviews Morrell, who explains that sf writer and Penn State English professor Philip Klass not only inspired Morrell to find the path he needed to complete First Blood (whose protagonist was John Rambo) but also introduced Morrell to his first agent.

…He read the show’s credits, noting that Stirling Silliphant was the creator. His local library found the address for the “Route 66” production company (the beginning of Morrell’s love affair with libraries). He mailed Silliphant a hand-written letter, saying “I want to be you.” Surprisingly, Silliphant wrote back with a single-spaced, two-page letter within the week. (The framed letter now hangs in Morrell’s office.)

“I wish I had some specific advice for you or encouragement,” wrote Silliphant, “but what I have to say is certainly not new. Keep writing…eventually if you have something of promise to say, someone will help you or hire you.”

…While at Penn State, he met science fiction writer Philip Klass, better known by the pseudonym William Tenn, who taught the basics of fiction writing.

“It was astonishing that a university would hire a real writer. He did not have a degree. He was the backbone of their creative writing department…I couldn’t get into his classes. They filled up right away. So Klass agreed to meet me during office hours.”

To test Morrell, Klass instructed him to turn in a short story every week, and every week he did.

Eventually Klass summoned Morrell to his office and begged him to stop writing fiction. “You’re terrible,” he said.

“He was right,” Morrell says. “I was writing bad Joyce and Faulkner.”

From Klass, he learned “every writer has a dominant emotion.” Morrell’s was fear. Maybe if he wrote honestly about fear, Klass told him, he would stop writing all of his horrible imitation fiction.

“I took him at his word.”…

(4) HELP NEEDED. Filer Lenora Rose hopes someone can lend a hand:

I have a writer’s issue to do with language — specifically semi-Nordic language — and I think this might be the right place to ask for help?

So I’m dealing with a fantasy setting that is used for the course of at least three books. One of the countries major characters come from speaks something I have been rendering, for the purpose of getting through the rough drafts, as quasi-Nordic — sometimes actually looking up words in Swedish or Norwegian or Icelandic and picking the one that sounds the least like English, and also going a Germanic style take two or three words and squish them together. It didn’t help that I decided they were the culture where the names of humans mostly translate to other nouns (Snow, Willow, etc) and the names of the non-human sapient race are usually those Germanic-style squished-together compounds (Bright Witty Magpie is one, as is Stream in Spring Flood). The protagonist is a multi-linguist and cares about this stuff.

Well, the story is now getting into final draft stages in every other way, and the placeholder language is still something that would almost certainly give any linguist or speaker of any of the related Scandinavian languages creeping horrors.

It certainly bothers me, because in the “I don’t know what I don’t know” way, I’m terrified I am going to end up, (as one author did when inventing names she thought sounded Welsh), naming someone a slang term for women’s hygiene products or something similarly terrible.

So basically I need a consult with someone who speaks a related language and would be willing to make non-painful translations or naming suggestions, or a linguist to do the same. *I am assuming this is something where I should pay for their time in some way*, at least if it goes past an initial consultation.

If anyone is willing to help, please relay your email through OGH – mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com

(5) HUGO RIPPLES. The KPBS website keeps the story alive: “Criticism Of 2020 Hugo Awards Spotlights A Lack Of Inclusivity In Literary Fiction World”.

….With 2020 seeing the re-emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, leading to many conversations about inclusivity, [George R.R.] Martin’s mispronunciations have taken on a deeper meaning.

“The backlash is absolutely justified,” said Hugo award winner and British fantasy author Jeanette Ng. “But I am sometimes frustrated that it gets reduced down to an anger about him mispronouncing names rather than this deeper tension between competing visions of the genre and the award…Whilst the mispronunciations matter, they are ultimately a symptom of that deeper disconnect of what the [awards are meant to do].”

(6) ASFA SPONSORS BIPOC MEMBERSHIPS. The Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists is offering “Sponsored Memberships For BIPOC”. Donations have raised the number available to 15.

In recognition of systemic biases against BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, & other People of Color)  both within the Speculative Fiction & Fantasy communities and without, the Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists intends to sponsor memberships in the organization for BIPOC artists. These sponsorships will be open to up-and-coming artists as well as established artists, and each membership will convey voting rights in the annual Chesley Awards in addition to periodic opportunities to exhibit in shows with other ASFA artists. Additionally, ASFA encourages its BIPOC members to participate in our Board elections, as candidates for Board positions and as voters, to ensure that the organization’s representatives are truly representative of our membership and our aspirations for the community overall.

If you are interested in receiving one of these memberships please fill out this form: https://forms.gle/YF23aYPvMPe4mob86

(7) MARK ON HISTORY. “NASA wants nuclear-contaminated Santa Susana site to be made a historic landmark”. I guess that this is the first time I ever heard about the meltdown is inherently explained by the cover-up. But I grew up at the other end of the San Fernando Valley feeling the earth tremble when they used to test rockets over there.

The site of America’s first nuclear meltdown — and subsequent cover-up — in the picturesque hills of Ventura County may soon join Hearst Castle, the cable cars of San Francisco, and the Santa Barbara Mission as an official landmark in the National Register of Historic Places.

In what some have described as a cynical attempt by a U.S. government agency to avoid a long-promised cleanup of toxic and radioactive contaminants, NASA has nominated the Santa Susana Field Laboratory for official listing asa traditional cultural property.

…Hidden within the chaparral and rocky peaks of the Simi Hills, the Santa Susana Field Lab conducted research that was critical to the nation’s Cold War ambitions, yet toxic to the Earth. The partial meltdown released radioactive gasses that the public was never warned about, and spent rocket fuel, heavy metals and other toxins contaminated the soil and groundwater.

…Now, NASA and a coalition of Native American groups have proposed the area be designated a traditional cultural district. The move has been opposed by critics, who fear that strict laws protecting Native American artifacts, combined with terms of the 2010 agreement, could make it difficult to clean up contamination.

(8) WHY JUST BEING NOMINATED IS A PLUS. The Dragon Awards nominations inspired John Scalzi to signal boost his 2019 post “Hey, Let’s Talk Awards For a Bit: A Handy Guide For Dealing With Them”. He makes many points drawn from his experience as a nominated writer. For example —  

4. Winning an award is not always as important as being a finalist. I can speak to this personally: In terms of my career, it was far more important for me to have been nominated for the Best Novel Hugo award in 2006, than it was for me to win it in 2013. Why? Because in 2006 I was new to the field, and having my first novel nominated was a thing, especially when coupled with the nomination for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. I was the first person in more than twenty years to get nominated for the Campbell and Best Novel in the same year, and it changed my status in the field from “who is John Scalzi” to “oh, that’s John Scalzi.”

I didn’t win the Hugo that year (nor should I have: Spin by Robert Charles Wilson won, and deservedly so), but it didn’t matter because the boost put me in a different career orbit. When I did win the Best Novel award, several years later, it was great, and I loved it, and I wouldn’t trade the experience. But careerwise, it wasn’t a transforming event. It was a confirming event. My professional career didn’t change all that much after I won. Whereas being nominated earlier was transforming, and ultimately more important to my career.

(9) BOOKS ARE FLYING OUT THE DOOR. Entertainment Weekly reports “Twilight companion novel Midnight Sun sells 1 million copies in first week”.

…The novel, which follows the love story between vampire Edward Cullen and high schooler Bella Swan that fans originally fell for in the first Twilight book back in 2005, is currently No. 1 on USA Today’s Best-Selling Books List as well as on The New York Times’s Children’s Series List. While the original book series —which was adapted into a franchise of movies starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in the leading roles — was told from the point of view of Bella, this version takes readers inside the mind of her bloodsucking boyfriend, Edward.

Something about that last line sounds a little off….

(10) BITING FOR BYTES. What made me think of that headline, I wonder, “The Big Idea: Julie E. Czerneda” at Whatever.

…Esen the Living Archive

When I first envisioned Web-beings, it was a thought experiment on a biological basis for being semi-immortal. I arrived at the notion of organisms who manipulate their molecular structure using energy to repair aging and damage. It led me to aliens who’d hide themselves by cycling, as I called it, into the form of shorter-lived intelligent species. To be convincing, they’d need to know how to behave as one. Thus I had them (there were six at the start) collect and share everything they discovered about a species, from its biology (and thus how to be that form) to every aspect of society and culture.

When your memory consists of your flesh, you’re able to store vast amounts of information, which Web-beings exchange by biting off bits of one another. (I love my job.)…

(11) A CONZEALAND SOUVENIR. W.O.O.F. #45 put together by the Worldcon Order of Fan-Editors for CoNZealand is a free download from eFanzines [PDF file]. It boasts a cover by Tim Kirk, and contributions from John Purcell, Chris Garcia, Rich Lynch, Chuck Connor, Ahrvid Engholm, Evelyn & Mark Leeper, David Schlosser, Mark Blackman, Andrew Hooper, Murray Moore, Kees van Toorn, Wolf von Witting, R. Laurraine Tutihasi, Roger Hill, Alan Stewart, and Phil Wlodarczyk. Guy H. Lillian III served as the Offcial Editor.  

(12) I DON’T KNOW — THIRD BLAST! On the Dragon Awards site: “A Blast from the Past (Winners) – Part 3” with Kevin J. Anderson, Nick Cole, Larry Correia, Richard Fox, Claudia Gray, Brian Niemeier, S.M. Stirling, and Harry Turtledove.

If you were a voting electorate of one, what book by any other author would you give a Dragon Award to? What books by other authors would you recommend to those who voted for or enjoyed your book?

Nick Cole: I’m going to decline naming any authors because I have too many talented friends. If you enjoyed Ctrl Alt Revolt!, I guess I would recommend that you read any book by any author who’s been cancelled. Instead of just arbitrarily listening to someone’s opinion on some author and why they should be banned, blacklisted, and their works burned in a bonfire either digital or physical, I think you should take the time to read that book, listen to that person, and come to the conclusion yourself.

(13) BOOK ANNVERSARY.

  • August 2015 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] The House of Shattered Wings, the first of her Dominion of The Fallen series by French-Vietnamese author Aliette de Bodard was published by Roc in the U.S.  It would be the first novel in what has been a prolific and award-rich writing career. In addition to the decadent, ruined Paris set of the Dominion of The Fallen series, there’s her Xuya stellar empire where she makes rich use of her French-Vietnamese heritage. Of the new writers I’ve been reading (and most are female), I think she’s one that bears watching as it’ll be interesting to see what new universes come from her. And yes I’m waiting for the first Xuya novel somewhat impatiently.
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard cover art by Nekro
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard cover art by Nekro

(14) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 13, 1953 — George Pal’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War Of The Worlds premiered in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Not New York City as is popularly believed.) It was directed by Byron Haskin from the screenplay by Barré Lyndon. It starred Gene Barry and Anne Robinson. It was narrated by Cedric Hardwicke. The film was both a critical and box office success with it earning back its budget in its first run. And it would won an Academy Award for Special Effects. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 71% rating. (CE)

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 13, 1895 Bert Lahr. Best remembered  and certainly beloved as The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, as well as his counterpart who was a Kansas farmworker. It’s his only genre role, though In the war film Meet the People, he would say “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” which was later popularized by a cartoon character named Snagglepuss. (Died 1967.) (CE)
  • Born August 13, 1899 Alfred Hitchcock. If he’d only done his two Alfred Hitchcock series which for the most part was awesome, that’d be enough to get him Birthday Honors. But he did some fifty films of which a number are genre such as The Birds and Psycho. Though I’ve not read it, I’ve heard good things about Peter Ackroyd’s Alfred Hitchcock. (Died 1980.) (CE)
  • Born August 13, 1909 Tristram Coffin. He’s best remembered for being Jeff King in King of the Rocket Men, a Forties SF serial, the first of three serials featuring this character. He showed up on the Fifties Superman series in different roles, sometimes on the side of Good, sometimes not. He played The Ambassador twice on Batman in. “When the Rat’s Away the Mice Will Play” and “A Riddle a Day Keeps the Riddler Away”. (Died 1990.) (CE)
  • Born August 13, 1922 Willard Sage. He showed up on Trek as Thann, one of the Empaths in “Empath”. He was Dr. Blake in Colossus: The Forbin Project, and had roles in The Land of GiantsInvadersThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Outer Limits and The Sixth Sense. (Died 1974.) (CE)
  • Born August 13, 1928 – Sir George Pollock, Bt.  The 5th baronet (an oversimplification); pursued photography that had light itself as its subject; invented color photographs using controlled light, originally through glass, which he called Vitrograph; later, large-scale photographic murals.  Five book and magazine covers for us; here is New Writings in SF 3.  Two album covers for His Master’s Voice; here is HQM 1008 with Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale (translation in part by Michael Flanders!), here is HQM 1026 with Prokofievand Shostakovich.  Here is Galactic Event.  Website here (under re-construction but some help).  Appreciation by the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain here (“NGV” is Nat’l Gallery of Victoria) (PDF).  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born August 13, 1932 – John Berkey.  A hundred seventy covers, two hundred twenty interiors.  Mixed his own colors.  Here is Starman Jones.  Here is Star SF 6.  Here is the Nov 94 SF Age.  Here is a Star Wars book.  Here is One Giant Leap.  Four artbooks; lastly J. Frank ed., The Art of John Berkey.  Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.  Spectrum Grand Master.  Website here.   (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born August 13, 1945 – Rita Krupowicz.  (She usually signed “R.J. Krupowicz”.)  Ten covers, as many interiors.  Here is The Dark Cry of the Moon.  Here is the Nov 85 Fantasy & Science Fiction.  This is from The Vortex Library on Twitter.  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born August 13, 1952 – Donna Barr, 68.  Enlisted in the U.S. Army, school-trained Teletype operator.  Much of her work self-published, available electronically.  Stinz was serialized in the Eclipse Comics series The Dreamery (hello, Lex Nakashima).  GURPS (Generic Universal RolePlaying System) and Traveller role-playing books.  “I usually do a rough on scrap paper (junk mail has lots of blank backs!), happily cutting and pasting, then I copy the whole thing (so the back is clear), rearrange the copy backwards on the back of the final paper, slap in some lettering guides, flip it over on a light table, and use it as a rough guide while I ink.  No penciling, and no erasing.”  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 13, 1974 – Christina Henry, 46.  A dozen novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  Alice, Red Queen and Looking Glass are “a dark and twisted take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”; The Girl in Red is “a post-apocalyptic Red Riding Hood novel”.  The Ghost Tree, expected next month, is “an homage to all the coming-of-age horror novels I read when I was younger – except all those books featured boys as the protagonists when I longed for more stories about girls.  Just to clarify, though – this is not a young adult novel; it’s intended for an adult audience (like all of my work).”  [JH]
  • Born August 13, 1977 Damian O’Hare, 43. Though you might know him from  the Pirates of the Caribbean films, The Curse of the Black Pearl and  On Stranger Tides where he played Gillette, I know him as the voice of John Constantine on Justice League Action. He also showed up in Agent Carter. (CE)
  • Born August 13, 1990 Sara Serraiocco, 30. She plays the complex role of Baldwin on the Counterpart series which I’ve got on the iPad for watching soon. Anyone watch this? (CE) 
  • Born August 13, 1990 – Marlon Pierre-Antoine, 30.  “Helena’s Empire” is an E-book novelette.  Its sequel Wandering Stars explores a teenage girl’s whblooming romance with Lucifer (i.e. after his fall), whom she meets on a beach.  MP ranks The Divine Comedy above Animal Farm, both below The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  [JH]

(16) COMICS SECTION.

(17) DC SECRET HISTORY. “John Ridley Unveils ‘The Other History of the DC Universe'”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Years after the completion of the second outing of his alternate history series The American Way12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley is returning to comics to reveal The Other History of the DC Universe. The long-awaited series, exploring DC’s lengthy comic book mythology from a new angle, has been newly scheduled for a November release.

The five-part series, originally announced in 2018, re-examines important and iconic moments from DC’s comic book history from the point of view of characters from traditionally disenfranchised groups, including Jefferson Pierce — better known as Black Lightning — and Renee Montoya (The Question). Giuseppe “Cammo” Camuncoli, Andrea Cucchi, and colorist José Villarrubia are the artists for the series, with covers from Camuncoli and Jamal Campbell (Far Sector, Naomi)….

(18) THE AIRING OF GRIEVANCES. “Netflix soured the live-action remake of Avatar: The Last Airbender, its showrunners say” – a story on Vox.

In a rare public fallout for Netflix, the creators of the platform’s highly anticipated, live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender, the acclaimed Nickelodeon cartoon, have walked away from the project.

Avatar: The Last Airbender’s full run became available on Netflix this past June, attracting a huge audience and reigniting the 2000s cartoon’s popularity. But in separate posts published to their respective blogs and InstagramsAvatar franchise creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko said they were no longer involved with the previously announced Netflix remake, due to prolonged creative differences.

“When Netflix brought me on board to run this series alongside Mike two years ago,” Konietzko wrote in his Instagram post, “they made a very public promise to support our vision. Unfortunately, there was no follow-through on that promise. … [T]he general handling of the project created what I felt was a negative and unsupportive environment.”

“I realized I couldn’t control the creative direction of the series, but I could control how I responded,” DiMartino added on his own website. “So, I chose to leave the project.”…

(19) HALLOWEEN CUISINE. The Horror Writers Association calls on members to stir up some entries for the “Horror D’oeuvres Recipe Contest”.

(20) THE FORUM ON BRADBURY. Today’s episode of BBC’s The Forum: “Ray Bradbury, a master of science fiction”.

”People ask me to predict the future, when all I want to do is prevent it.” Ray Bradbury has been acclaimed as the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream but, as the quote above shows, he regarded himself as the author of modern philosophical fables, rather than a sci-fi writer. In his dystopian works, such as Fahrenheit 451, he holds up a mirror to contemporary society and then transposes it into fantastical and futuristic scenarios. Bradbury was a prolific writer who tried his hand at everything from poems and novels to TV and radio scripts but it’s his early short stories which he produced in his twenties that are perhaps the most imaginative.

To mark the centenary of Bradbury’s birth, Rajan Datar is joined by three Bradbury experts to help him navigate through the author’s prodigious output: Professor Jonathan Eller from Indiana University who is also the Director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies; Dr. Miranda Corcoran who teaches American literature at University College Cork with particular interest in science fiction, horror and the gothic; and Dr. Phil Nichols who combines research into Bradbury’s TV and other media work with the teaching of Film and Television Production at Wolverhampton University.

(21) TOONING OUT. Camestros Felapton’s attention was drawn to “The Webtoon Short Story Contest” by Vox Day’s complaints that his Arkhaven Comics entry got no love from the judges:

Where there are stories gathered together there are story competitions and Webtoon is no different. They recently held their Short Story competition with the winners announced here https://www.webtoons.com/en/challenge/contest/us-contest-2020. It’s a juried award with cash prizes that splits winners and runners up into two categories: “Brain” for stories that blow your mind and “Heart” for stories that warm your heart (Rules and FAQs).

“Why are you telling us all this Camestros?” I hear you say….

Camestros proceeds to make some interesting observations.

After looking at those, you can also read Vox’s complaints in “Unappreciated and unawarded” [Internet Archive]. (Or not!)

And it wasn’t just unawarded. Midnight’s War somehow didn’t even qualify as one of the 36 runners-up despite being one of the top 10 ranked in Popularity and earning a higher rating than two out of the three Silver winners.

This tells me that Arkhaven needs to seriously rethink our plan to use Webtoons as a platform…. 

(22) NUH-UHHH! “Dwayne Johnson Can’t Convince His Daughter He Starred In ‘Moana'”NPR transcript.

Dwayne Johnson’s character in the Disney film Moana is beloved by kids everywhere. However, his daughter refuses to believe that her dad lent the character his voice.

(23) FIRST-PERSON NON-SHOOTERS. “The U.S. Military Is Using Esports As A Recruitment Tool” – another NPR transcript.

…JAY PRICE, BYLINE: Esports has exploded in the past few years. There are pro leagues, bricks and mortar arenas, players with six-figure salaries. Millions of people log on to streaming platforms like the Amazon owned Twitch to watch games and interact with players and each other. Many are of recruiting age. The military has taken notice. Major General Frank Muth just finished a stint leading U.S. Army Recruiting Command.

FRANK MUTH: This really has brought us into the modern era of where this generation and the next generation – they’re mainly hanging out online all the time.

PRICE: The four largest military services all now have teams or official players. Sergeant Nicole Ortiz is on the Army’s team. Her role includes playing games while socializing and explaining military life to viewers, like her own as an IT specialist.

NICOLE ORTIZ: A lot of them, they look at movies and think that the Army is just about war and shooting guns. In reality, I used to work at a help desk.

PRICE: Recruiting brass say the new esports push is already helping, especially given the difficulties of face-to-face recruiting during the pandemic. Part of the allure is being able to interact directly with viewers through the chat function. And that’s where the military’s esports initiative ran into some trouble.

KATIE FALLOW: What they did here is impermissible under the First Amendment.

PRICE: Attorney Katie Fallow is with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. She represents an activist named Jordan Uhl. On the Army and Navy Twitch channels, he posted messages including, what’s your favorite U.S. war crime? Uhl was banned from both, along with dozens of others who posted similar messages or other comments the military gamers deemed improper.

FALLOW: Because they basically said, we don’t like that you’re raising questions about war crimes or things that the military is sensitive about. And they blocked people based on their viewpoints.

(24) SOONER OF LATER IT ALL ADDS UP. In “The Cost of Perseverance, in Context”, the Planetary Society says the cost of the latest Mars Exploration Rover mission sounds quite modest compared to some other chosen figures.

NASA expects to spend approximately $2.7 billion on the Perseverance rover project. This number can sound large, even excessive, to some—but it’s a number that demands context. Let’s give it some….

The total cost of the Perseverance rover is equivalent to…

(25) FAILURE TO LAUNCH. “Bird watching: The robin that thinks a cuckoo is its baby” (despite the cuckoo being bigger than the robin…) Short BBC video.

They say birds of a feather flock together, but what are the chances of a robin and cuckoo sharing a bit of lunch?

Well, County Donegal woman Maureen Carr captured the moment a red-breasted bird shared its meal.

(26) PUT IT IN REVERSE. BBC reports “London bus garage to become world’s largest ‘trial power station’”.

…Northumberland Park garage will host vehicle-to-grid technology, which feeds energy stored in parked electric buses back into the electricity network.

If the government-funded Bus2Grid project is rolled out across London it could power an estimated 150,000 homes.

The project will begin in November and run for three years.

Putting energy back into the grid when demand is high and recharging buses when demand is low helps make the network more efficient by balancing the peaks and troughs.

Ian Cameron, head of innovation at UK Power Networks, said: “A fleet of bus batteries harnesses large amounts of electricity and they are habitual, with regular and predictable routes, driving patterns and timings.

“That means we can easily predict and plan for how we can use any spare electrical capacity they can offer.”

(27) FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE. Forbidden Planet, the world’s largest and best-known comic book and cult entertainment retail chain, is throwing itself a 42nd birthday party — Forbidden Planet 42 – an online event featuring many genre and other celebrities. 

On Saturday August 29th 2020ForbiddenPlanet.com will play host to a huge range of celebrity interviews, as alumni from the worlds of science fiction, comics & popular culture come together to help the store celebrate 42 years of pop-culture addiction – and ponder the answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everythingwith an all-star cast of our oldest friends & customers! 

This star-studded online event will feature new, exclusive interviews with some of Forbidden Planet’s most celebrated customers including William ShatnerDMCNeil Gaiman, Alice CooperJonathan RossGerard WayGarth EnnisKevin Smith, Michael Moorcock, Simon Pegg, Mark MillarDan Slott, V.E. Schwab, Dave GibbonsBrian BollandDirk MaggsChris Claremont & Ben Aaronovich amongst others, hosted by Forbidden Planet’s Andrew Sumner.

 As part of the Forbidden Planet 42 celebrations, this online extravaganza will also host a tribute to Forbidden Planet’s old friend – the late, great Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) in the shape of a rare, never-before-heard interview with Douglas (recently discovered in the Forbidden Planet vaults) conducted by another old pal, celebrated author Neil Gaiman.

[Thanks to Kathryn Sullivan, John King Tarpinian, JJ, John Hertz, Rose Embolism, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Gordon Van Gelder, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of the ridiculous number of stories in today’s Scroll. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]

Pixel Scroll 8/8/20 You Unlock This Scroll With The Key Of Pixelation

(1) JURY SUMMONS. Two groups are recruiting jurors for their annual awards.

The British Fantasy Society’s call is here.

If you are interested in being a juror for this year’s awards, please register your interest here We are especially interested in hearing from those historically under represented on juries; and you do not need to be a member of the BFS to fulfil this role.

Both forms will remain open until Wednesday 16th August.
Any questions, please get in touch at bfsawards@britishfantasysociety.org

A few days ago they were concerned about the balance of applicants:

The Aurealis Awards also are looking – “Aurealis Awards 2020 – Call for Judges”. Full requirements at the link.

We are seeking expressions of interest from Australian residents who would like to judge for the 2020 Aurealis Awards. Judges are volunteers and are drawn from the Australian speculative fiction community, from diverse professions and backgrounds, including academics, booksellers, librarians, published authors, publishing industry professionals, reviewers and enthusiasts. The only qualification necessary is a demonstrated knowledge of and interest in their chosen category (good time management skills and an ability to work in a team in an online environment are also essential).

(2) ULTIMA RATIO REGUM. Camestros Felapton continues to work out what canon means to sff readers, and if it’s useful in “Types of canon/key texts”.

… I think within discussions of canon there is a sense of books whose role it is to edify the reader, the books that will make you (somehow) a better reader. I’m sceptical that any books really fit that criteria and even more sceptical that we can find a common set of such books. However, there are clearly books that themselves provoke further books and as such books that get referenced in later works and later works that can be seen as response to earlier works. Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers being an obvious example of such a work. This is canon as a kind of feedback loop of significance — the books that are themselves critiques of Troopers lend significance to Troopers as a book. You don’t have to have read Starship Troopers to enjoy Kameron Hurley’s Light Brigade but having some familiarity with Heinlein’s book adds an element to Hurley’s book.

(3) HEATED WORDS. As someone wrote on Twitter: “The phrase ‘You couldn’t make Blazing Saddles today’ takes on an entirely new meaning.” CBR.com has the story: “Blazing Saddles Is Being Remade as an Animated Samurai Movie About Cats and Dogs” .

Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles is considered a film classic, even though it’s stirred up some controversy over the years. Now the film is being retold in an entirely new medium, as well as an entirely new genre.

The Los Angeles film company Align is helping develop an animated film titled Blazing Samurai. The film takes the basic premise of Blazing Saddles and transplants it to the Samurai era. The story follows a dog named Hank who dreams of becoming a Samurai. When he becomes in charge of protecting Kakamucho, he learns that the town is populated entirely by cats.

(4) A GOLDEN AGE. Galactic Journey does a rundown on the 1964-1965 television season: “[AUGUST 8, 1965] NAVIGATING THE WASTELAND #2 (1964-65 IN (GOOD) TELEVISION)”. I was 12 around then so no wonder I remember this as the Golden Age of TV. The Traveler obviously has a later bedtime than I did that year, because I never got to watch his favorite, Burke’s Law —

Three years ago, I reported on the state of television in the wake of former FCC-chief Newton Minow’s pronouncement that television was a ‘vast wastelend.’  Since then, I have remained a devoted fan of the small screen, if not completely addicted to ‘the boob tube.’  Indeed, the Young Traveler and I have our weekly favorites we do not miss if we can at all help it.

And so, as we sail through the sea of summer reruns, gleefully anticipating the Fall line-up, I take delight in awarding the Galactic Stars of Television for the 1964-65 season.

Burke’s Law 1963-65

Amos Burke is what would have happened if Bruce Wayne’s parents had never been shot – he’s a Beverly Hills playboy millionaire who also happens to be the dapper Captain of Homicide for the L.A. Police Department.  In each episode, Amos, with the aide of grizzled Sergeant Hart and youthful Detective Tilson (and occasionally the doe-eyed Sergeant Ames), solves a murder mystery…..

If The Traveler hadn’t waxed rhapsodically about this show – and I’m not sure whether he thinks it fits the blog’s sff theme or just thinks it’s good – then it wouldn’t have seemed such a glaring oversight to end the post pointing out Harlan Ellison wrote a script for the lamentable Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, without mentioning Ellison also wrote four scripts for 1964 episodes of his beloved Burke’s Law series.

(5) SINCE 1984. Jane Johnson looks back on “A life in publishing”.

I realised this morning that it’s 36 years to the day when I started to work in publishing, as an editorial secretary at George Allen & Unwin Publishers, in Ruskin House on Museum Street. What follows really is the trajectory of modern publishing in microcosm.

My skillset was not ideal: I loved books, especially the works of JRR Tolkien and came with a first class English degree, a Masters in Scandinavian Studies (Old Icelandic) and absolutely no secretarial abilities at all. But I had worked for a year at Foyles and another as a boardmarker/cashier at Ladbrokes, and so had proved I could work hard and not be snooty about getting my hands dirty; and that I was numerate and understood the concept of gambling, which my new boss assured me was the essence of publishing. These were the times of Telex machines and manual typewriters, which were just giving way to electronic typewriters (my nightmare) but David was remarkably patient with my Tippexed letters, blackened carbon copies and non-existent shorthand, and within a year had promoted me away from my disaster zone to become an editor. Paperbacks were a fairly new concept: hardbacks were the prestige edition.

(6) IMPROVEMENT NOT NEEDED. In a post on Facebook, David Gerrold tells how a book is being unfairly belittled.

There is currently a backlash against The Giving Tree, and some people are circulating an alternate ending.

Hey! I have an idea. I have an alternate ending for Winnie The Pooh. Pooh is a bear. He decides he likes bacon. He eats Piglet. Much more realistic, right?

No, look. Shel Silverstein knew what he was doing when he wrote The Giving Tree.

It doesn’t need an alternate ending — specifically not one that’s preachy, badly written, doesn’t really fit, and is intended to cast the original in a bad light….

(7) TAKING THE MINUTES. In “Six Novels That Bring Together Mystery And Time Travel” on CrimeReads, Julia McElwain recommends novels by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Lauren Beukes as time travel novels mystery readers might like.

Depending upon how it’s done, it can add to the tension—a race against time as our characters try to return to their own era—or it can allow readers to explore the past through modern eyes. In my own In Time mystery series, I’ve enjoyed the fish-out-of-water sensation that my main character—a modern-day woman and brilliant FBI agent—experiences after being tossed back to the Regency period in England. As women then were second-class citizens without the ability to even vote, not only does she have to deal with personal obstacles, but she also cannot tap into her usual arsenal of forensic tools to solve crimes.

Whether time travel is being used to wrap a mystery in an extra, innovative layer or is allowing readers to view humanity and history through a different lens, the theme is brilliantly done in the books that I’ve listed below….

(8) ALLEN OBIT. A software pioneer has died: “Frances Allen, Who Helped Hardware Understand Software, Dies at 88” in the New York Times.

Frances Allen, a computer scientist and researcher who helped create the fundamental ideas that allow practically anyone to build fast, efficient and useful software for computers, smartphones and websites, died on Tuesday, her 88th birthday, in Schenectady, N.Y.

Her death, in a nursing home, was confirmed by her great-nephew Ryan McKee, who said the cause was Alzheimer’s disease.

In the mid-1960s, after developing software for an early supercomputer at the National Security Agency, Ms. Allen returned to her work at IBM, then the world’s leading computer company. At an IBM lab in the Hudson River Valley town of Yorktown Heights, just north of New York City, she and her fellow researchers spent the next four decades refining a key component of modern computing: the “compiler,” the software technology that takes in programs written by humans and turns them into something computers can understand.

For Ms. Allen, the aim was to do this as efficiently as possible, so programmers could build software in simple and intuitive ways and then have it run quickly and smoothly when deployed on real-world machines.

Together with the researcher John Cocke, she published a series of landmark papers in the late 1960s and ’70s describing this delicate balance between ease of creation and speed of execution. These ideas helped drive the evolution of computer programming — all the way to the present day, when even relative novices can easily build fast and efficient software apps for a world of computers, smartphones and other devices.

In 2006, on the strength of this work, Ms. Allen became the first woman to win the A.M. Turing Award, often called the Nobel Prize of computing.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 8, 1956 X Minus One aired “The Last Martian.” This is the story of a reporter  seeing if a man’s claim that he is a Martian placed in a human’s body.  George Lefferts was the scriptwriter who adapted the story from the Fredric Brown’s “The Last Martian” short story first published in Galaxy Science Fiction in October 1950.  Mandel Kramer, Elliot Reed, Santos Ortega, Ralph Bell, John McGovern, and Patricia Weil were in the radio cast.  You can listen to it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 8, 1883 – Paul Stahr, Jr.  Forty covers for Argosy 1925-1934.  Also Collier’sJudgeLife, People’s Home JournalThe Saturday Evening Post; book covers, posters.  Here is the 10 Jan 31 Argosy.  Here is the 25 Aug 34.  Here is The Ship of Ishtar.  Here is a World War I poster.  (Died 1953) [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1919 Dino De Laurentiis. Maker of Dune obviously but less obviously also a lot of other genre including Conan the BarbarianFlash GordonKing KongHalloween II and Halloween IIIDead Zone and The Last Legion. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born August 8, 1930 Terry Nation. Best-known as scriptwriter for Doctor Who and creator of the Daleks. He later created Blake’s 7. He would also write scripts for The Avengers, The Champions andMacGyver. (Died 1997.) (CE) 
  • Born August 8, 1935 Donald P. Bellisario, 85. Genre shows include Tales of the Gold MonkeyAirwolf and of course, that truly amazing show Quantum Leap. Ok, is Tales of the Gold Monkey genre? Well if not SF or fantasy, it’s certainly pulp in the best sense of that term. (CE)
  • Born August 8, 1937 Dustin Hoffman, 83. Ahhh, Captian Hook, the man who got swallowed by the vast crocodile in Hook. Yeah, I like that film a lot. By no means his only genre appearance as he was Mumbles, Caprice’s fast-talking henchman in Dick Tracy (not a film I love), Mr. Edward Magorium in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and the voice of Master Shifu in Kung Fu Panda. (CE)
  • Born August 8, 1950 – John D. Berry, 70.  Of New York (Fanoclasts), later Seattle.  “The Club House” 1969-1972 (fanzine reviews) for Amazing.  Pacific Northwest Review of Books (with Loren MacGregor).  Fan Guest of Honor, Norwescon 1, VCON 13, Westercon 63.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Designed the souvenir book for 15th World Fantasy Con.  I daren’t say a font of knowledge but indeed he is good with them.  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1958 – David Egge, 62.  Thirty book and magazine covers, three dozen interiors.  Here is The End of Summer.  Here is The Dorsai Pacifist (in German).  Here is a 1986 cover for The Mote in God’s Eye (in fact Moties don’t have faces, a non-trivial point, but see this anyway).  Here is the Apr 01 Analog.  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1961 – Tim Szczesuil, F.N., 59.  Chaired Boskones 33, 53.  Five terms as NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) President, four as Treasurer; various committees.  Contributed to APA:NESFA.  For NESFA Press, edited His Share of Glory (C.M. Kornbluth), Strange Days (Gardner Dozois; with Ann Broomhead).  Fellow of NESFA (service award).  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1971 – Phlippa Ballantine, 49.  First New Zealand author to podcast her novel (Weaver’s Web, 2006; three more; PB since moved to Virginia).  Three novels about the Order, five (with husband Tee Morris) about the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences (Phoenix Rising was a top-10 SF book of the year on Goodreads, sequel The Janus Affair a Locus best-seller and Steampunk Chronicle readers’ choice for fiction), two about the Shifted World; a score of shorter stories.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1988 – Flavia Bujor, 32.  Children’s novel The Prophecy of the Stones (or “Gems”), written at age 13, translated into 23 languages.  A second is rumored.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump shows that the pandemic has reached mythic proportions.
  • Bizarro has a moral.

And Today In Comics History:

  • August 8, 1978: Garfield’s sidekick, Odie, made his comic strip debut.

(12) TUNING UP. CinemaBlend pays tribute to “10 Excellent John Williams Scores In A Steven Spielberg Movie”. On their list is:

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977)

The 1977 science-fiction epic Close Encounters of the Third Kind helped cement Steven Spielberg as a master of the genre, and the movie’s epic story of humans coming into contact with aliens was only made that more memorable thanks to soaring and sweeping score by John Williams. 

Throughout the entire movie, the score pushes the plot along to the point where the humans finally begin to communicate with the alien mothership, which is another way of inserting Williams’ composition into the picture. The “Play The Five Tones” scene is a miraculous piece of filmmaking and orchestration as it starts rather small and hushed before going into a back and forth between the two species before growing into a grand composition that ultimately ends with a chorus of strings growing in intensity as the aliens reveal themselves to the amazement of the humans.

(13) PRIVATE EYES. NPR tells how “From Desert Battlefields To Coral Reefs, Private Satellites Revolutionize The View”.

As the U.S. military and its allies attacked the last Islamic State holdouts last year, it wasn’t clear how many civilians were still in the besieged desert town of Baghouz, Syria.

So Human Rights Watch asked a private satellite company, Planet, for its regular daily photos and also made a special request for video.

“That live video actually was instrumental in convincing us that there were thousands of civilians trapped in this pocket,” said Josh Lyons of Human Rights Watch. “Therefore the coalition forces absolutely had an obligation to stop, and to avoid bombardment of that pocket at that time.”

Which they did until the civilians fled.

Lyons, who’s based in Geneva, Switzerland, has a job title you wouldn’t expect at a human rights group: director of geospatial analysis. He says satellite imagery is increasingly a crucial component of human rights investigations, bolstering traditional eyewitness accounts, especially in areas where it’s too dangerous to send researchers

…They get those images from a handful of private, commercial satellite companies, like Planet and Maxar.

For the past three years, Planet has done something unprecedented. Its 150 satellites photograph the entire land mass of the earth every day — more than one million images every 24 hours. Pick any place on earth — from your house to the peak of Mt. Everest — and Planet is taking a photograph of it today.

“If you could visualize a string of pearls going around the poles, looking down and capturing imagery of the earth underneath it every single day,” said Rich Leshner, who runs Planet’s Washington office.

Scroll through Planet’s photo gallery and you get a bird’s eye view of the state of the world: idle cruise ships clustered off Coco Cay in the Bahamas, deserted streets around normally bustling sites like the Colosseum in Rome, and the smoke from the relentless fires set by farmers clearing land in the Amazon rainforest.

U.S. government satellites are the size of a bus. Planet’s satellites are the size of a loaf of bread. Planet is in business to make money, and its clients include the U.S. military and big corporations. But it also works with lots of non-profits and other groups it never anticipated.

(14) DAMMIT, BLANET! There is a thesis about a new type of planets, called “Blanets” (BLack Hole plANETS). “New Class of Planet Can Form Around Black Holes, Say Astronomers”Discover has the story.

Supermassive black holes are among the most exciting and puzzling objects in the universe. These are the giant, massive bodies that sit at the heart of most, perhaps all, galaxies. Indeed, they may be the seeds from which all galaxies grow.

Supermassive black holes are at least a hundred thousand times the mass of our sun. They are often surrounded by thick clouds of gas that radiate vast amounts of energy. When this happens, they are called active galactic nuclei. Discovering the properties of these clouds, and their curious central residents, is an ongoing exercise for astrophysicists.

Now researchers have a new phenomenon to consider — the idea that planets can form in the massive clouds of dust and gas around supermassive black holes. Last year, Keichi Wada at Kagoshima University in Japan, and a couple of colleagues showed that under certain conditions planets ought to form in these clouds. These black hole planets, or blanets as the team call them, would be quite unlike any conventional planet and raise the possibility of an entirely new class of objects for astronomers to dream about.

(15) DEAD OR ALIVE? In this 2019 article, WIRED considers the possibilities after “A Crashed Israeli Lunar Lander Spilled Tardigrades on the Moon”.

…Half a world away, Nova Spivack watched a livestream of Beresheet’s mission control from a conference room in Los Angeles. As the founder of the Arch Mission Foundation, a nonprofit whose goal is to create “a backup of planet Earth,” Spivack had a lot at stake in the Beresheet mission. The spacecraft was carrying the foundation’s first lunar library, a DVD-sized archive containing 30 million pages of information, human DNA samples, and thousands of tardigrades, those microscopic “water bears” that can survive pretty much any environment—including space.

But when the Israelis confirmed Beresheet had been destroyed, Spivack was faced with a distressing question: Did he just smear the toughest animal in the known universe across the surface of the moon?

…The lunar library on the Beresheet lander consisted of 25 layers of nickel, each only a few microns thick. The first four layers contain roughly 60,000 high-resolution images of book pages, which include language primers, textbooks, and keys to decoding the other 21 layers. Those layers hold nearly all of the English Wikipedia, thousands of classic books, and even the secrets to David Copperfield’s magic tricks.

Spivack had planned to send DNA samples to the moon in future versions of the lunar library, not on this mission. But a few weeks before Spivack had to deliver the lunar library to the Israelis, however, he decided to include some DNA in the payload anyway. Ha and an engineer on Spivack’s team added a thin layer of epoxy resin between each layer of nickel, a synthetic equivalent of the fossilized tree resin that preserves ancient insects. Into the resin they tucked hair follicles and blood samples from Spivack and 24 others that he says represent a diverse genetic cross-section of human ancestry, in addition to some dehydrated tardigrades and samples from major holy sites, like the Bodhi tree in India. A few thousand extra dehydrated tardigrades were sprinkled onto tape that was attached to the lunar library.

(16) THE BARD’S SJW CREDENTIALS. Cats are the theme for Shakespeare & Beyond’s post: “Of the flattering, pampered, reviled, predatory, ‘harmless, necessary’ early modern cat”.

… While many of us today think of cats primarily as pampered pets and cherished internet weirdos, for early modern Europeans cats ran the gamut, from pests and carriers of disease, to indicators of witchcraft and other feminine misbehavior, to objects of affection and partners in play. Shakespeare’s own references to cats display such a variety. Trying to shake Hermia off in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lysander calls her “thou cat, thou burr! vile thing,” (3.2.270), and Macbeth’s First Witch calls out to Graymalkin, a common name for a cat that could also be applied to a “jealous or imperious old woman,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary (1.1.9). In other places, he references a cat’s behavior, as when Falstaff insists he is “as vigilant as a  cat to steal cream” (Henry IV, Part 1 4.2.59). The Oxford English Dictionary also credits Shakespeare with the first reference to a cat’s purr, in All’s Well That Ends Well (5.2.19)…

(17) IS THAT PAL OR HAL? Wil Wheaton devotes a blog post to his forthcoming movie: “Wil Wheaton is a very bad friend in trailer for horror-thriller Rent-A-Pal”.

Everything about this movie makes me happy. The cast is superb, the editing and photography and music are gorgeous, and the story is REALLY FUCKING CREEPY.

I can’t wait for y’all to see this when it comes out in September.

The short description of the movie on YouTube says:

Set in 1990, a lonely bachelor named David (Brian Landis Folkins) searches for an escape from the day-to-day drudgery of caring for his aging mother (Kathleen Brady). While seeking a partner through a video dating service, he discovers a strange VHS tape called Rent-A-Pal. Hosted by the charming and charismatic Andy (Wil Wheaton), the tape offers him much-needed company, compassion, and friendship. But, Andy’s friendship comes at a cost, and David desperately struggles to afford the price of admission.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/3/20 Undeserved Loss And Inaccessible Healing

(1) MAKE ROOM, MAKE ROOM! The 2020 Hugo voting report, which begins with a short list of works that got enough votes to be finalists but were disqualified or withdrawn by the author, showed that Ann Leckie declined her nomination for The Raven Tower. In a blog entry today she explained why: “The Hugos and The Raven Tower”.

…I’ve had a taste of that cookie quite a few times now. It is, let me tell you, one delicious cookie. And when the email came telling me that The Raven Tower was a finalist for the Hugo Award, I thought of the books in that longlist, how often I’d had a bite of this cookie, and how many of the amazing books from 2019 were debuts, and/or were books that, when I’d read them, my first thought was, Oh, this should be on the Hugo ballot. More books than there were spots, for sure. And I realized that I could do something about that, at least in a small way.

And so I withdrew The Raven Tower from consideration.

Let me be perfectly clear–I was overwhelmed at the thought that so many readers felt The Raven Tower deserved to be a Hugo finalist. I have been treasuring that for months. And as I’m sure we all know, these have been months during which such treasures have become extremely important.

I also want to be clear that this is not any sort of permanent decision on my part. I make no promises about withdrawing anything in the future. If I am ever so fortunate as to have a work reach the shortlist again, and I see what seems to me a good reason to withdraw, I will. If I don’t, I won’t. It is, after all, one of the sweetest, most delicious cookies around!

(2) A WEE JOKE. From the August issue of Ansible:

The Retro Hugo Statistics reveal that a single Fan Writer nomination for 1944 work (it took three to get on the final ballot and no one had more than six) went to some chap called David Langford. Ho ho, very satirical….

(3) WHO BENEFITS. Much truth in this.

(4) NOW PLAYING. “The Ballad of Ursula K. Le Guin.”

(5) ALWAYS TO CALL IT RESEARCH. “John Boyne accidentally includes Zelda video game monsters in novel”The Guardian has his confession.

John Boyne, the award-winning author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, has acknowledged that a cursory Google led to him accidentally including monsters from the popular video game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in his new novel.

Boyne’s A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom opens in AD1 and ends 2,000 years later, following a narrator and his family. In one section, the narrator sets out to poison Attila the Hun, using ingredients including an “Octorok eyeball” and “the tail of the red lizalfos and four Hylian shrooms”….

Dana Schwartz rounded up some graphics to support the story. Thread starts here.

(6) HARD TO KEEP UP. David Gerrold concludes a Facebook post about sff awards with this sentiment:

…Personally, I am delighted that we are suffering from the challenges of success instead of the problems of failure. The level of mediocrity has risen and the level of excellence has truly surpassed the past. So the challenges in front of any author must look insurmountable, even to the long-time practitioners.

As difficult as all this may seem to anyone who writes, it’s still a good thing. Because it’s no longer about the awards — in fact, it never was about the awards. It has always been about the quality of the work.

That there is so much good work being created these days is a victory for the field, and especially for the readers.

I just wish I had enough time to keep up with it all.

(7) ONE MORE TAKE. Robert J. Sawyer has his own issue with George R.R. Martin’s choices while hosting the Hugo ceremony.

…But let me elucidate one category of Martin’s microaggressions that cut across the entire spectrum of humanity by subtly excluding anyone not part of his old guard: his use of nicknames for writers and editors whose prominence was in days gone by, signaling that no matter who you might be, if you weren’t part of the inner circle back in the day, you’ll never really be a true fan (or pro) now.

In Martin’s very, very long commentaries during yesterday’s Hugo Awards ceremony, Robert Silverberg was “Silverbob,” George Alec Effinger was “Piglet,” and the editor Robert A.W. Lowndes was “Doc.” I think Martin also called Isaac Asimov “Ike” during his trips down memory lane, although I’m not going to sift through the hour and forty-five minutes of his rambling again (fully half of the total running time of the Hugo ceremony) to be sure.

You see? Even someone like me — 40 years a selling author in this field, and now 60 years of age — was never part of that ancient, early prodom. I’ve known Robert Silverberg since 1989 and knew Asimov and Effinger, too, but was never close enough to call them by cutesy nicknames.

And if someone like me feels left out after all these decades in the field, imagine how the newer writers, or the writers whose literary background wasn’t the American SF magazines, felt during the Hugo ceremony.

… Yes, it’s a small thing — that’s why it’s called a MICROaggression — and it’s usually done without consciously intending to exclude or put down someone else, but microaggressions ARE pervasive and exclusionary in effect. We’d all do well to guard against committing them.

(8) JOIN THE BOB & DOUG SHOW. Back in their home theater after taking their show on a bit of a road trip, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will discuss their flight to the International Space Station and back aboard the inaugural crewed voyage of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon craft. This press release — “NASA Astronauts to Discuss Historic SpaceX Crew Dragon Test Flight” – tells how to access their news conference.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will discuss their recently completed SpaceX Demo-2 test flight mission to the International Space Station during a news conference at 4:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 4.

The news conference from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will be broadcast live on NASA Television and on the agency’s website.

This will be a virtual event with no media present, due to the safety restrictions related to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Reporters who wish to participate by telephone must call Johnson’s newsroom at 281-483-5111 to RSVP no later than 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4. Those following the briefing on social media may ask questions using the hashtag #AskNASA.

(9) DRESSING UP PITTCON. The International Costumers Guild did a roundup of contemporary photos and reports about a Worldcon sixty years ago: “Convention Costuming History – 1960”.

The 1960 Worldcon, known as Pittcon (Pittsburgh, PA) promoted their masquerade as a “Costume Cabaret”. Following the show, there would be a glee club performance, a “minstrel show of science fiction flavor”, and then a dance (music provided by a “hi-fi”, rather than a live band like some past years)…

(10) ROBERTA POURNELLE OBIT. Roberta Pournelle, widow of Jerry, passed away last night at the age of 85. Her son Frank Pournelle announced services are planned in the coming week. The Chaos Manor page on Facebook saluted her:

An educator for 30 years at the Dorothy Kirby Center in Commerce, Mother of 4, Grandmother, a friend to many; she made order out of Chaos.

Born Roberta Jane Isdell, she married Jerry Pournelle in 1959. ISFDB shows she wrote a nonfiction piece for Analog in 1988, “High-Tech for the Little Red Schoolhouse.”

(11) SUSAN ELLISON OBIT. HarlanEllisonBooks.com announced today that Susan Ellison (1960-2020) died over the weekend at home, the “Lost Aztec Temple of Mars.” No other details were given. Susan and Harlan married in 1986 and were together 32 years until his death in  2018.

(12) BUARD OBIT. It was recently learned that Patricia Anne Buard died in May 2017 reports the International Costumers Guild. Photos of her masquerade entries at the link.

Patricia Anne Buard. Patricia was a person of several interests, including theater and theology. In addition to having created works of both original fantasy and historical recreations, her short story “Devil’s Advocate” was published in the Marion Zimmer Bradley anthology book “Red Sun of Darkover”, released in 1987.

(13) IVEY OBIT. David Ivey succumbed to his battle with cancer on July 24. The International Costumers Guild describes one of his memorable entries.

David was a Michigan area costumer. His best known creations were Krakatoa, the Volcano God, and St. Helen. Krakatoa appeared at several venues, including Worldcon: Chicon V, in 1991 (photo below). It was quite innovative for its time, featuring several special effects.

(14) ENGLISH OBIT. “Bill English: Computer mouse co-creator dies at 91” – BBC pays tribute.

The co-creator of the computer mouse, William English, has died aged 91.

The engineer and inventor was born in 1929 in Kentucky and studied electrical engineering at university before joining the US Navy.

He built the first mouse in 1963, using an idea put forward by his colleague Doug Engelbart while the pair were working on early computing.

…Bill English became the first person to use a mouse when he built the prototype at Mr Engelbart’s research project at the Stanford Research Institute.

The idea was Mr Engelbart’s, which he described as only being “brief notes” – but the creation was down to Bill English.

His first version was a wooden block with a single button – and underneath, two rolling wheels at 90-degree angles that would record vertical and sideways movement.

“We were working on text editing – the goal was a device that would be able to select characters and words,” Mr English told the Computer History Museum in 1999.

(15) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 3, 1951 — The Tales of Tomorrow series premiered with “Verdict From Space”. The series was performed and broadcast live on ABC from 1951 to 1953. There were eighty-five episodes, each twenty-five minutes in length. The series came about through the efforts of Theodore Sturgeon and Mort Abrahams, together with the membership of the Science Fiction League of America. The League who included Theodore Sturgeon, Anthony Boucher, and Isaac Asimov made their work available to the producers.  The screenplay was written by Sturgeon and is based on his own story “The Sky Was Full of Ships” first published in the June 1947 issue of Thrilling Wonder. You can watch it here.

(16) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 3, 1841 – Juliana Ewing.  Thirty short stories for us; a score of books with our and other stories, plays, book-length fiction, for children.  Roger G. Lancelyn Green (1918-1987), one of the Inklings, who suggested the name Chronicles of Narnia to C.S. Lewis, called JE’s the first outstanding child-novels in English literature.  Kipling said he knew her novels Jan of the Windmill and Six to Sixteen almost by heart; of Six “here was a history of real people and real things.”  From her novelette “The Brownies” (1865) the Baden-Powells got the idea and name for junior Girl Guides.  Here is a Caldecott cover for Jackanapes (1884).  (Died 1885) [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1904 Clifford Simak. I was trying to remember the first novel by him I read. I’m reasonably sure it was Way Station though it could’ve been City which just won a well-deserved Retro Hugo. I’m fond of Cemetery World and A Choice of Gods as well. By the way I’m puzzled by the Horror Writers Association making him one of their three inaugural winners of the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. What of his is truly horror? (Died 1988.) (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1920 P. D. James. Author of The Children of Men which she wrote to answer the question “If there were no future, how would we behave?” Made into a film which she said she really liked despite it being substantially different than her novel. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1922 – Ron Turner.  Some sources say his birthday is the 22nd.  Twelve dozen covers (I’d say “one gross”, but look what trouble that made for Bilbo Baggins), more if you count posthumous uses.  Tit-Bits SF ComicsSpace AceRick RandomStingrayThe DaleksThunderbirds.  Here is Operation Venus.  Here is a John Russell Fearn collection.  Here is Rick Random and the Terror from Spacehere is its opening interior.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1926 —  John Gardner. Author of more Bond novels that one would think possible. He’d write fourteen original James Bond novels, more than Fleming wrote, and the novelized versions of two Bond films. He also dip into the Sherlock universe, writing three novels around the character of Professor Moriarty. Rights to film them were optioned but never developed. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1940 Martin Sheen, 80. So that was who that was! On Babylon 5: The River of Souls, there’s a Soul Hunter but the film originally didn’t credit an actor who turns out to be Sheen. Amazing performance. He’s been in a number of other genre roles but that’s the ones I like most. Though I will single him out for voicing Arthur Square in Flatland: The Movie. (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1946 – John DeChancie, 74.  Best known for nine Castle Perilous and three Skyway books, he’s published ten besides, two dozen shorter stories; if you know he has written as Raul Cabeza de Vaca, and entitled a poem “The Refusal to Mourn the Rejection, by Printed Form, of a Hopeful Writer in Pittsburgh, February, 1992”, you’ll know he can read, and smile, and has been with SF a while.  Some fans become pros; some pros become fans, as he did; some are both, as he has been.  Plays piano, likes the American Songbook and Rachmaninoff; paints, including a portrait of Rachmaninoff.  See this, which includes portraits of Marty Cantor and Chip Hitchcock.  [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1950 John Landis, 70. He’d make this if all he’d done was An American Werewolf in London, but he was also Director / Producer / Writer of the Twilight Zone movie. And wrote Clue which was the best Tim Curry role ever. And Executive Produced one of the best SF comedies ever, Amazon Women on the Moon. (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1953 – Margaret Bechard, 67.  Reed College woman (as an Antioch boy, I think of these things).  Children’s fiction, translated into French, Korean, Swedish.  Two novels, one shorter story for us; Star Hatchling about first contact won a Golden Duck.  Six other novels.  [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1971 – Yoshitoshi ABe, 49.  Graphic artist.  Usually writes his name in Roman letters, with capitalized for the sake of early works he signed “AB”.  Known to sketch with just his finger and an iPad.  Thirty self-published books; artbooks; covers; half a dozen each of animé and manga.  Here is his cover for Sakurazaka’s All You Need Is Kill (A. Smith tr. 2009; hello, Pete Young).  Here is Walking the Dragon from YA’s artbook Gaisokyu (“Palace”; 2007).  [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1972 Brigid Brannagh, 48. Also credited as Brigid Brannagh, Brigid Brannah, Brigid Brannaugh, Brigid Walsh, and Brigid Conley Walsh. Need an Irish redheaded colleen in a genre role? Well she apparently would do. She shows up in Kindred: The EmbraceAmerican GothicSliders, Enterprise (as a bartender), RoarTouched by an AngelCharmedEarly EditionAngel (as Virginia Bryce in a recurring role), GrimmSupernatural and currently on Runaways in the main role of Stacey Yorkes. (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1979 – Evangeline Lilly, 41.  Actress, author.  She was in LostReal Steel, two Peter Jackson hobbit films, three Marvel superhero films – to misquote Winston Churchill, who said a Wasp couldn’t sting thrice?  So far two Squickerwonker short stories for children have appeared, one translated into Portuguese.  [JH]

(17) A TOTAL SURPRISE. After Hastings author Steven H Silver tells Lawrence Shoen about eating reindeer steak in Stockholm as part of “Eating Authors: Steven H Silver”. However, the cuisine is overshadowed in this great anecdote about something that happened at dinner —

SHS: Honestly, there are a lot of things I don’t remember about my most memorable meal because it sticks out not because of the food or the company or even the location, but rather because of an incident that occurred during the meal….

(18) KAIJU KIA. Does ScreenRant have enough fingers and toes to answer the question? “How Many Times Godzilla Has Died (All Movies)”. (And I wonder if it’s more or less than the number of times John Wayne got killed?)

He’s starred in over 30 movies but how many of those has Godzilla actually died in? The first movie is a somber monster movie with the title creature is intended to be a walking metaphor for nuclear weapons. The movie’s huge success led to a franchise that is still running nearly 70 years later, with the monster appearing in sequels, reboots and remakes, in addition to comics, novels and video games where he’s battled against all sorts of creative monsters.

(19) MAD, I SAY. Could it be that Dave Freer’s message in “F-IW” at Mad Genius Club is “When you’re in your time machine on the way back to kill baby Hitler, don’t forget to stop off in the Sixties and take over traditional publishing”?

…Both of these [old] books had a huge effect on my young mind. Yes, I can see the Woke and modern left rubbing their hands (and other parts, never mentioned) in glee, saying ‘Yes! We were RIGHT that we had to capture publishing and exclude any badthink. Just think if we’d had the dominance we have now over traditional publishing, back in 1960, even evil people like Freer would have been won (Hi: I’m Dave the Divider. If it wasn’t for me, so we are told by the self-elected authorities,  sf/fantasy would be united and singing Kumbaya. See what a fate I saved you from!).

(20) CANON FIRED. Meg Elison says you’re excused from reading the SFF “canon.”

Thread starts here. A couple of excerpts —

(21) APOLLO POLITICS. At The Space Review, Dwayne Day discusses an interesting radio program about space history. “Sending Washington to the Moon: an interview with Richard Paul”.

The radio show “Washington Goes to the Moon” two decades ago shed new light on the political battles around the Apollo program, and provided a wealth of material for later historians. Dwayne Day interviews the man who wrote and produced the show.

(22) FANTASY NETWORK FREEBIES. Some of us encountered The Fantasy Network for the first time watching CoNZealand events. They also have lots of free content. For example, the 2017 movie Magellan:

When NASA picks up three signals of extraterrestrial origin coming from within our own solar system, the space agency expedites a mission to investigate the sources. As Earth’s lone emissary, they send Commander Roger Nelson, the test pilot for an experimental spacecraft call the Magellan, assisted by an onboard A.I. named Ferdinand.

(23) MORE, PLEASE. James Davis Nicoll is sure these are “Five Stories That Make You Wish For a Sequel”. But rest easy – none of them involve the megaselling series that have made sff news this week.

Many books function perfectly as standalones; many series end well. Plots are resolved, characters are given their reward or punishment. But there are also books that seem to cry out for a sequel and series that are never finished, leaving readers frustrated. We want more!

Alexis Gilliland’s Rosinante series is on this list —

… I discovered the series is funnier than one would expect from plotlines that feature banking crises, union negotiations, and the sudden collapse of the dominant government in North America. There were just three books in the series—Revolution from Rosinante (1981), Long Shot for Rosinante (1981), The Pirates of Rosinante (1982)—but the setting was expansive and interesting enough that more stories were possible, perhaps elsewhere in Gilliland’s Solar System. Thus far, none have materialized.

(24) DIY. “New ‘Quar-Horror’ Films Show Staying At Home Is Scary Too”.

It’s no exaggeration to say this year feels like a horror movie. And now, a few filmmakers are making it official.

All over YouTube, you can find inventive homemade horror shorts taking the pandemic as inspiration. (They come from Brazil, from Canada and from, well, Funny or Die.) And a new movie Host, filmed over twelve weeks in quarantine and entirely on Zoom, debuted on the horror channel Shudder last week.

Call it “quar-horror.”

Among the most chilling of the YouTube offerings is Stay At Home, part horror movie and part PSA from a filmmaker in New Orleans.

“I literally just grabbed a box, and I set up the camera on a tripod and gave myself a scenario,” says Kenneth Brown, a former Uber driver turned horror auteur. “And the story started to build and build and build.”

Brown went to film school, and you can tell. Based on the myth of Pandora’s Box and the evening news, Stay At Home is elegantly lit and crafted. As of this writing, it’s racked up nearly 200,000 views on YouTube.

Part of what makes Stay At Home so effective — and heartfelt — is the insistent drone of news anchors discussing the mounting carnage. “That’s everything I need to say as far as reaching African Americans, which is the population most vulnerable to this virus,” says Brown, who is Black himself.

But escapism is also the point, say Nathan Crooker and James Gannon. Their upcoming quar-horror, called Isolation, just wrapped principal photography. The two produced the film; Crooker is also its director. Isolation is an anthology; nine interconnected shorts by different directors who filmed their movies using only resources immediately available to them.

(25) PIECEMEAL. According to BBC, “Other mammals lose out in panda conservation drive”.

Saving the giant panda is one of the big success stories of conservation.

Decades of efforts to create protected habitat for the iconic mammal has pulled it back from the brink of extinction.

But, according to a new study, while many other animals in the same landscape have benefited from this conservation work, some have lost out.

Leopards, snow leopards, wolves and Asian wild dogs have almost disappeared from the majority of protected areas.

Driven to near extinction by logging, poaching and disease, their loss could lead to “major shifts, even collapse, in ecosystems”, said researchers in China.

Without the likes of leopards and wolves, deer and livestock can roam unchecked, causing damage to natural habitats, with knock-on effects for other wildlife, including pandas themselves.

By protecting the panda’s forests, conservationists believed they would be protecting not only the charismatic black-and-white animal, but the many other species roaming the same habitat.

But while that has worked for some other wildlife, the efforts do not appear to have worked for large carnivores, such as the leopard and wolf.

A team of researchers now says a broader – holistic – approach is needed to manage the ecosystem in which the panda lives – one that ensures key species don’t lose out.

(26) SHORT LEAPS FORWARD. In the Washington Post, Bethonie Butler interviews Catherine Hardwicke, whose new Quibi series “Don’t Look Deeper” is set “15 minutes into the future” and has a teenage girl as a protagonist who may or may not be an android.  Hardwicke discusses what it was like to direct a story delivered in 10-minute chunks and why star Helena Howard is a “strong and vulnerable” actor Hardwicke enjoyed working with. “Can Catherine Hardwicke get you to watch Quibi?”

Why Quibi? Were the shorter episodes appealing?

Actually, the script was written for short episodes. It was written in chapters. I thought that was quite interesting when I first read the script. I was like, “Wow, that’s fascinating,” because the short format does tie in — it weaves in directly with what’s going on with [Aisha’s] memory. We tell the story in a non-linear way as her memories are being erased and restored. The technology that we’re exploring, showing it on a new technological platform with the vertical and horizontal, it all seemed to kind of work together in an interesting way. So this leap of faith — that [Quibi founder Jeffrey] Katzenberg said let’s try this format — I thought that was an interesting challenge to dive into it and see what happens.

(27) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Dragonball Evolution Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that when the hero of the film has to collect seven dragonballs to make a wish that dragonballs are as powerful as “blowing out candles on a birthday cake.”

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