Pixel Scroll 11/16/20 The Sith Who Sang

(1) UNPREDICTABLE QUESTIONS. On the 50th anniversary of the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy, the Toronto Public Library blog quizzes a trio of workers about their favorite memories: “Merril Collection at 50: Stories from the Spaced Out Library”. This is a wonderful Q&A.

The year 2020 will go down in history for many reasons. It also happens to be a major milestone for Toronto Public Library’s most far-out collection. In 1970, science-fiction author and editor Judith Merril donated 5,000 books to TPL to found the “Spaced Out Library.”

…To help mark the 50th anniversary of the Merril Collection, I asked Lorna Toolis (former Collection Head), Annette Mocek (Services Specialist) and Kimberly Hull (Librarian) to reflect on their favourite items and stories from the stacks. Together, they have 88.5 years of experience working with the collection! … 

What is the strangest or most memorable patron request you ever received?

Lorna: On my first day of work, a patron ran in and demanded “that book you have on UFOs, with the chart so that people can distinguish between the ones with round lights and the ones with square lights.” Other memorable questions included the Madonna of Lourdes as a UFO phenomenon, the possibility of pregnancy for vampires, Victorian era fiction involving carnivorous plants, transhumanism, etc. A recurring favourite question was the quest for H.P. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon. Apocryphal books were always in demand. 

People tend not to remember the authors or titles of short stories. More patrons than I could count over the years wanted to know the title of the short story where someone travels back in time to hunt a dinosaur and kills a butterfly and everything changes. “The Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury was probably the most requested short story ever. 

(2) YOUR TV GUIDE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Season 2 of HBO’s His Dark Materials starts tonight, Monday November 16.

I liked Season 1. My question: Will Lin-Manuel Miranda, playing rifle-packing aeronaut/balloonist Lee Scoreseby, get to sing, or at least say that he is not going to miss his shot?

(3) PKD THOUGHTS AND THEMES. Arthur B. analyzes the final novels and stories [Philip K.] Dick wrote from 1967 until “his transformative 2-3-74 experience” in “A Maze of Dick” at Fake Geek Boy. Quite interesting.

…This does not include A Scanner Darkly, which is properly placed among the novels written after 2-3-74; although begun in 1972, Dick would make extensive revisions to it until it was finally in a state he was satisfied with in 1976, and among those revisions were a number of additions and tweaks which worked in themes and imagery related to 2-3-74.

The Exegesis makes this explicit: Dick breaks down particular, identifiable scenes from A Scanner Darkly and directly says that he included them as a result of the experience, rather than those scenes informing the experience, and included them in a manner which was conscious and deliberate, as opposed to the inadvertent subconscious inclusion of such themes in pre-2-3-74 fiction which he occasionally believed had happened. (Those of us with more conventional understandings of cause and effect may instead conclude that the 2-3-74 experience, being a neurological incident produced by Dick’s mind, naturally ended up reflecting the themes and concepts that Dick had been thinking extensively about over his lifetime.)…

(4) BISHOP MEDICAL UPDATE. Michael Bishop shared about his cancer treatment in a public Facebook post on November 13. Much more at the link.

Had my first immunotherapy infusion yesterday at Emory University Hospital Midtown. No side effects yet, and I feel better this morning than I did yesterday morning. Even if it’s my imagination, I’m grateful….

One predictable side effect of my therapy, Dr. Read had told us, is a palpable energy deficit, and although it seemed too early for any such effect to kick in, I was totally dragged out by the time we got home. So I hit our bed upstairs and slept for almost two hours. All in all, a happy 75th birthday indeed.

(5) IN WORK TO COME. Editor Diana M. Pho introduces a WIRED Magazine series in “6 Sci-Fi Writers Imagine the Beguiling, Troubling Future of Work”.

…Today’s collaborative tension between humans and machines is not a binary divide between master and servant—who overthrows whom—but a question of integration and its social and ethical implications. Instead of creating robots to perform human labor, people build apps to mechanize human abilities. Working from anywhere, we are peppered with bite-sized names that fit our lives into bite-sized bursts of productivity. Zoom. Slack. Discord. Airtable. Notion. Clubhouse. Collaboration means floating heads, pop-up windows, chat threads. While apps give us more freedom and variety in how we manage our time, they also seem to reduce our personalities to calculations divided across various digital platforms. We run the risk of collaborating ourselves into auto-automatons.

First up, “‘Work Ethics,’ by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne”.

“SO YOU’RE TELLING me we’re going to be automated out of existence,” Romesh said. “I’m telling you that what you’re doing is wrong, wrong, wrong, and if you had any morals you’d shoot yourself.”

The complaint was made in a bar that was mostly cigarette smoke by this point, and to a circle of friends that, having gathered for their quarterly let’s-meet-up-and-catch-up thing, had found each other just as tiresome as before. Outside, the city of Colombo was coming to a crawl of traffic lights and halogen, the shops winking out, one by one, as curfew regulations loomed. Thus the drunken ruminations of Romesh Algama began to seem fundamentally less interesting….

(6) SUPPORT SUSAN PETREY SCHOLARSHIPS. Organizers Debbie Cross and Paul M. Wrigley are holding a fundraiser through eBay for the Susan Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund, which has been helping people attend Clarion and the Clarion West Writer’s Workshops since 1982.

At present we award two scholarships & one fellowship annually. Our biggest fund raiser is at the OryCon science fiction convention which should have been held this past weekend. Instead we are running an Ebay auction with books, glass & jewelry,  many quilted items & artwork. The link is below, the auction runs through  Friday. We’ll ship everything but pickup in Troutdale is available.

100% goes to the charity.

 (7) MEET MARVEL’S CREATORS. Marvel’s Storyboards season 2 premieres today on their YouTube channel.

Marvel’s Storyboards is a 12-episode non-fiction series following Joe Quesada, EVP, Creative Director of Marvel Entertainment, as he explores the origin stories and inspirations of storytellers of all mediums, backgrounds, and experiences at their favorite spots throughout New York City and beyond. The series aired its first six-episode season this past summer, and continuing this second season, will showcase a variety of visionary, critically acclaimed storytellers including Sasheer Zamata (actress, stand-up comedian and former SNL), Ed Viesturs (high-altitude mountaineer), Nelson Figueroa (former MLB pitcher for the New York Mets), Gillian Jacobs (Community, Love), Samhita Mukhopadhyay (Executive Editor, Teen Vogue), and Taboo (Black Eyed Peas), adding to the first season’s featured guests Natalia Cordova-Buckley (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Bobby Lopez (EGOT winning songwriter, Frozen, Avenue Q), Johnny Weir (former Olympic figure skater), Christian Borle (Something Rotten, Smash), Margaret Stohl (Life of Captain Marvel), and Hugh Jackman (Wolverine).

Marvel’s Storyboards Season 2 Episode Release Schedule:

  • Monday, November 16: Episode 1 feat. Gillian Jacobs
  • Friday, November 20: Episode 2 feat. Sasheer Zamata
  • Tuesday, November 24: Episode 3 feat. Samhita Mukhopadhyay
  • Tuesday, December 1: Episode 4 feat. Nelson Figueroa
  • Tuesday, December 8: Episode 5 feat. Taboo
  • Tuesday, December 15: Episode 6 feat. Ed Viesturs

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1975 — Forty five years ago, Patricia McKillip’s Forgotten Beasts of Eld would win the World Fantasy Award over Poul Anderson’s A Midsummer Tempest and H. Warner Munn‘s Merlin’s Ring.  It would the nominated for the Locus Best SF Novel and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award as well. The wrap-around cover art was by Peter Schaumann. (CE)

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 16, 1862 – Edith Ogden Harrison.  Five novels, half a dozen collections, of fairy tales and other fantasy; retold Bible stories; travel; recollections.  Wife of five-term Chicago mayor, illustrated his memoirs.  The Lady of the Snows illustrated by J. Allen St. John.  (Died 1955) [JH]
  • Born November 16, 1907 Burgess Meredith. Brief though his visit to genre be, he had two significant roles. The first was in Twilight Zone: The Movie as Narrator although initially he was uncredited. One of his other genre roles was a delightful take as The Penguin in original Batman series. He also shows up in Tales of Tomorrow, an anthology sf series that was performed and broadcast live on ABC from 1951 to 1953, and on The InvadersThe Twilight ZoneFaerie Tale Theatre: Thumbelina (with Carrie Fisher!) and The Wild Wild West. Did I mention he he voiced Puff the Magic Dragon in a series of the same name? Well he did.  Ok, so his visit to genre wasn’t so brief after all… (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born November 16, 1942 – Milt Stevens.  Co-chaired L.A.con II the 42nd Worldcon, Westercon 33, and the first Loscon.  Fan Guest of Honor at Loscon 9, Westercon 61.  Among our finest fanwriters, in his own zine The Passing Parade and many letters of comment.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  Mine here (PDF; p. 7).  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born November 16, 1950 – P.J. Evans, 70.  A frequent Filer (which tested my typo-avoiding powers).  Her adventures on an electric bendy-bus have been reported elsewhere.  Her many other adventures in fandom I have not found documented, and I won’t rely on memory.  I think they included Reynolds Rat and Rat Masterson.  [JH]
  • Born November 16, 1952 Candas Jane Dorsey, 68. Canadian writer who’s the winner of the Prix Aurora Award and the Otherwise Award for Genre Bending SF for her Black Wine novel. She’s also won a Prix Aurora Award for her short story, “Sleeping in a Box”.  She’s one of the founders of SF Canada which was founded as an authors collective in the late Eighties as Canada’s National Association of Speculative Fiction Professionals. At the present time, she appears to have little available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born November 16, 1958 Marg Helgenberger, 61. She’s best remembered no doubt as Catherine Willows on CSI which might be treated as genre. She was Hera in the recent Wonder Woman, and also appeared in Conan: Red Nail which doesn’t even get ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, Species and Species II, not to mention Tales from the Crypt. Oh, and two Stephen King series as well, The Tommyknockers and Under the Dome. (CE) 
  • Born November 16, 1972 Missi Pyle, 48. Laliari in Galaxy Quest which is one of my fav SF films of all time. Let’s hope that a series never comes to be.  She’s also has been in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Percy Jackson: Sea of MonstersA Haunted House 2Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Star Trek: The Next Generation,  RoswellThe TickPushing Daisies and Z Nation. (CE) 
  • Born November 16, 1959 – Jessica Rydill, 61.  Five novels, three shorter stories.  Here is her own cover for Malarat (there are other editions too).  In Winterbloom actual historical figures appear, including John Dee, whom I’ve always thought more interesting than Aleister Crowley, but what do I know?  With Cora Buhlert, edits Speculative Fiction Showcase.  [JH]
  • Born November 16, 1972 – Tobe Sunaho, 48.  (Her personal name last, Japanese style.)  Illustrator and character designer.  Here is Yurusa reshi itsuwari (“Forgiven and False”).  Here is Riviera.  Here are some images from Yggdra Unison (or Union).  Here is a Halloween greeting.  Here is an image from Shiueru’s Web.  [JH]
  • Born November 16, 1976 Lavie Tidhar, 44. The first work I read by him was Central Station which was the2017 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel winner. It certainly deserved that accolade! The next work by him I experienced was The Bookman Histories in which Mycroft Holmes is murdered and, well, everything of a pulp nature gets tossed into alternate history England.  Both brilliant and annoying at times. I’ve just read Unholy Land, his telling of the founding of a Jewish homeland long ago in Africa, and I’ve got By Force Alone, his profane Arthurian retelling, on my TBR list. (CE) 
  • Born November 16, 1977 Gigi Edgley, 43. Though her genre experiences are varied, I think she’ll be only remembered for her role as Chiana, a Nebari who was a member of Moya’s crew on Farscape. Other genre appearances include BeastmasterThe Lost WorldQuantum Apocalypse and she has a role in the video fanfic Star Trek Continues in the “Come Not Between the Dragons” episode. (CE) 
  • Born November 16, 1988 – Samantha Bailly, 32.  Six novels for us, three shorter stories; nine other novels, three collections, manga.  Imaginales de Lycéens prize for her first novel Oraisons (French, “prayers”) at age 19.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Broom Hilda almost immolates some visitors to a small planet.

(11) TA-NEHISI COATES’ BLACK PANTHER RUN RETURNS. Ta-Nehisi Coates resumes his run on Black Panther in February. Featuring outstanding art by Daniel Acuña and Ryan Bodenheim, Black Panther #23 will continue to reveal Coates’ grand vision for the character of King T’Challa and the Kingdom of Wakanda.

Since taking over as writer in 2016, the acclaimed author has taken Black Panther and Wakanda to the stars and beyond. Across the multiverse, T’Challa discovered an alternate Wakanda, one ruled far differently than his own. Having abandoned their once peaceful ways, this Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda will stop at nothing to rule all of the cosmos. After initially being enslaved by the empire and then joining a rebellion against it, T’Challa has finally made his way back to Earth, but this twisted reflection of Wakanda is not far behind…

…Said editor Wil Moss, “I promise, these last three issues will be worth the wait — Ta-Nehisi and Daniel have been building to this finale for over two years now, and the ensuing battle between the forces of T’Challa’s Wakanda and Emperor N’Jadaka’s Intergalactic Empire is going to knock your socks off! Just wait’ll you see who shows up to help defend Wakanda…”

(12) NOT MANDALORIAN RFD. Yahoo! Life invites everyone to “Watch Bryce Dallas Howard’s sweet homage to her dad in last week’s Mandolorian”. (Luckily my first thought was wrong, that we were going to see a green Opie.)

This weekend, Baby Yoda wasn’t the only endearing Child of a doting father to turn up on The Mandalorian. Episode director Bryce Dallas Howard took the opportunity to remind the world—well, at least to remind Apollo 13 fans—that she, like Baby “The Child” Yoda, has a dad.

…Given the opportunity to pay a little homage to one of her dad’s better-known flicks, it seems that Bryce Dallas Howard couldn’t resist. And yes, technically this is her second go-round as one of The Mandolorian’s directors, but here she was given a chance to nod to Apollo 13 in a way that’s absolutely suited to the story she was telling. Miss the reference and it’s still a cool sequence.

(13) GIVE OR TAKE A COUPLE YEARS. Jacke Wilson’s The History of Literature podcast arrives at last at “The Real Golden Age of Science Fiction”.

In Part Two of our look at great literary genres, Jacke probes the development of science fiction, from ancient Greek travels to the moon to the amazing stories of the 20th century. Along the way, he chooses four candidates for the Mount Rushmore of Science Fiction, reads a passage from science fiction’s O.G., and sees if there is a secret to science fiction that he can discover.

Jacke Wilson: …[Hugo Gernsback] had a tumultuous career as a publisher and a lousy reputation in the industry. Writers couldn’t stand him. They thought he ripped them off. They thought he was a crook. He was a little sleazy. He didn’t pay writers well and he stole their rights. He himself tried writing stories and the results were not good. But his magazine, that first magazine especially, Amazing Stories, was transformative. There’s no denying that the stories in the magazine are what launched the genre as we know it today. These magazine stories led to the Golden Age of Science Fiction. They were there for a whole generation of young people to discover.

That’s sort of the joke about the Golden Age of Science Fiction. They say, what’s the Golden Age of Science Fiction? Answer: 14. Get it? We call the ’30s and ’40s and ’50s the Golden Age as magazines thrilled readers with stories about space travel and time travel and nuclear power and everything else. And this was the era of World War II and the Cold War, and we had Sputnik and all of that to fill the need of science, fill the gap that that our confusion and fear about the world was putting into place thanks to our existential threat. Well, science was there to fill that gap, and science stories were there, too.

But 14 is the Golden Age. That’s what people say when they tell this joke. The Golden Age is that these stories hit you when you’re 14, when you’re looking for answers, looking to absorb reality, looking to make sense of it, and looking for something else, too—which is what I’ll save until the end.

(14) STATION-TO-STATION. “SpaceX launches 2nd crew, regular station crew flights begin” – the AP has the story.

SpaceX launched four astronauts to the International Space Station on Sunday on the first full-fledged taxi flight for NASA by a private company.

The Falcon rocket thundered into the night from Kennedy Space Center with three Americans and one Japanese, the second crew to be launched by SpaceX. The Dragon capsule on top — named Resilience by its crew in light of this year’s many challenges, most notably COVID-19 — reached orbit nine minutes later. It is due to reach the space station late Monday and remain there until spring.

(15) NEW WONDER. Maria Andreeva, in the Deadline story “‘Wonder Girl’ TV Series With Latina Lead From Dailyn Rodriguez & Berlanti Productions In Works At the CW” says that “Wonder Girl,” based on characters developed by Joelle Jones for DC Comics, is currently in development at the CW.,

…This would mark the first Latina superhero title character of a DC TV series. Rodriguez, who is the daughter of Cuban immigrants, is executive producing with Berlanti Prods.’ Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter and David Madden. Berlanti Productions produces in association with Warner Bros. Television.

The series tells the backstory/origin story of the DC Comics character of Yara Flor, who was recently revealed as a new Wonder Woman. Yara will make her comic book appearance this January in Future State: Wonder Woman, part of DC’s Future State event written and drawn by Jones.

(16) GENE-IUS. “Uh-Oh, Scientists Used Human Genes to Make Monkey Brains Bigger” reports Yahoo! Finance.

In an experiment that could portend a real-life Planet of the Apes situation, scientists spliced human genes into the fetus of a monkey to substantially increase the size of the primate’s brain. And it worked.

Researchers from Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Germany and Japan’s Central Institute for Experimental Animals introduced a specifically human gene, ARHGAP11B, into the fetus of a common marmoset monkey, causing the enlargement of its brain’s neocortex. The scientists reported their findings in Science.

The neocortex is the newest part of the brain to evolve. It’s in the name—“neo” meaning new, and “cortex” meaning, well, the bark of a tree. This outer shell makes up more than 75 percent of the human brain and is responsible for many of the perks and quirks that make us uniquely human, including reasoning and complex language.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Star Trek:  Into Darkness Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George explains the reason Spock throws a cold-fusion machine into a volcano early in the film “was because it has ‘cold’ in the title.”

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

Pixel Scroll 8/10/20
Ancillary Mustache

(1) ADDING A HUGO CATEGORY. Speculative Fiction in Translation’s Rachel Cordasco renews her appeal that “major Anglophone SFF awards should include a separate translation category” in “SFT And The Awards”.

…Really, all of this comes down to a naming problem. If the Hugos are going to be a “World Award,” logically they should include works from around the world, in any language. Since that doesn’t seem likely any time soon, and Anglophone readers generally don’t learn multiple languages unless they have to, then the award should (again, logically) stop calling itself a “World Award” and start acknowledging that, from the very beginning, it has been and still is an award given to English-language SFF by English-language readers.

….And then there’s the whole set of general arguments opposing, or at least not immediately embracing, a separate translation category. I’ve listed a few below:

  • We already have too many award categories.
  • Not enough Anglophone readers read SFT so how could they vote on it?
  • Creating a separate translation category will send the message that SFT is inferior to Anglophone speculative fiction.
  • SFT can win and has won awards without any “help.”
  • But how can we determine if the translation is any good?
  • Changing award rules is too difficult.

I’m going to address each of these points separately, making sure that I reiterate that I am not involved in any of these awards at the executive level, though I did participate in the most recent Locus Awards voting and was able to bring my knowledge of current SFT to the discussion, which I truly appreciated.

You may also know that I started a “Favorite SFT” poll in 2018, which is open to anyone who would like to vote (once!). This approach has its flaws but it’s the best I can do with the resources I have. Just the fact that the poll exists makes me think that more people are becoming aware that SFT does exist.

To the first point that “we already have too many award categories”: so what? And also, is a translated category somehow less important than the “Young Adult” or “First Novel” category? And to the subpoint that some translated work might win in two categories, can’t that happen with other categories? And aren’t there ways to get around that? I freely admit that I’m not cut out for business meetings and deciding rules about rules- which is one of the reasons why I’m not on these committees. This is just me on a website putting forth my opinions, against which everyone is free to argue. (Just be respectful when you rip me to shreds, ok?)….

(2) DAY AFTER DAY. SYFY Wire explores “The Unending Appeal Of Time Loops”. But only once.

…But outside of a stay-at-home crisis, time loops have gained traction in their appeal due to the same themes that made Groundhog Day so popular to begin with. Like the drunken locals that Phil Conners laments to in Punxsutawney, or the fellow wedding guest in the Palm Springs hotel pool talking to Samberg’s Nyles, those existing outside the loop can relate on a visceral level to the experience of feeling like today is the same as yesterday and tomorrow. For Bill Murray, the appeal of Groundhog Day as a script was its representation of people’s fear of change, and how we choose to repeat our daily lives to avoid it. These themes echoed in Russian Doll, which as a bingeable streaming series really allowed audiences to inhabit the repetitive nature of the loops, ironically utilizing the same technologies that have sped our lives up and caused them to feel even more cyclical.

(3) FIYAHCON. I signed up for FIYAHCON (October 17-18) news in time to receive its August Update naming three more guests:

FIYAHCON tweeted additional information: Rebecca Roanhorse: “We suspect you know @RoanhorseBex from all of that constant award-winning she does as a Black + Indigenous writer of many brilliant things.”; Cassie Hart: “is a Maori writer who’s been working intensely behind the scenes to shine a light on SFF from Aotearoa while grinding out an impressive number of works herself.”; Yasser Bahjatt: “chaired the Worldcon bid for Saudi Arabia. And while that didn’t land, we are thrilled to hear more from him about Arabian SFF and other ways we can uplift and celebrate the spec community there.”

The three newcomers join FIYAHCON’s previously announced guests:

There’s also an educational FIYAH Definition T-Shirt that’s new.

(4) THE NEXT MARTIAN. io9 points to today’s trailer drop: “Hilary Swank Is on a Mission to Mars in the Emotional First Trailer for Netflix’s Away.

She’s boldly going where no one has gone before, but doing so means leaving the people she loves the most. We’ve got the first trailer for Netflix’s Away, a new series that sees Hilary Swank joining the first manned mission to Mars—a three-year journey that will test the limits of its crew, as well as the patience of those who were left behind….

(5) JUST SAYIN’. Jay Blanc tweeted his ideas for improving Hugo administration. Thread starts here. Whether or not he has the solution (and CoNZealand Deputy Hugo Administrator Nicholas Whyte responded skeptically in the thread), I had to agree with Blanc’s last tweet about what one of the problems is.

He’s not alone in marveling at how many times in the past decade the Hugos have been hamstrung because someone was writing code from scratch. That doesn’t always happen for the same reason. We didn’t always need or want, in the past, a system that integrates all aspects of a member’s digital interaction with the convention. That’s what they’re moving toward, therefore it would make sense for that software to be created and stabilized. Funding it, having the work done and vetted, and working out licensing to the committees (which are entities of their own) would all be part of the mission.

(6) THE EYES HAVE IT. “Looking Forward on Looking Backwards” at The Hugo Book Club Blog.

… Because they are voted on primarily by people who were born decades after the original publication dates, the Retro Hugos are less likely to recognize work that has not been reprinted. This means that the average Retro Hugo voter inevitably experiences the works they’re voting on through a filter created by the intervening generations. Other than Erle KorshakCora Buhlert, and Gideon Marcus, we’d be hard-pressed to name a Hugo voter who is likely to have read a 1945-era pulp magazine cover-to-cover and experienced the works in something like their original context….

No need to be so “hard-pressed.” You have not because you ask not.

…For the Retro Hugos to be relevant and worthwhile awards, we as members of the World Science Fiction Society need to wrestle with why the awards need to exist. Is their intent to reproduce the racist tastes of the past or can they help focus a critical lens on the history of the genre and help us discover works that might have been overlooked?

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 10, 1951 Tales Of Tomorrow first broadcast the “Blunder” in which a scientist is warned his experiment with nuclear fission could destroy the earth. Written by Philip Wylie who wrote the screenplay for When Worlds Collide.  The primary cast is Robert Allen and Ann Loring. It was directed by Leonard Valenta who otherwise did soap,operas. The original commercials are here as well.  You can watch it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 10, 1902 Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in the horror and sf films for The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain, the latter  from his own novel. ISFDB notes the latter was part of his Dr. Patrick Cory series, and he wrote quite a few other genre novels as well. Donovan’s Brain and just a few other works are available in digital form. (Died 2000.) (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1903 Ward Moore. Author of Bring the Jubilee which everyone knows about as it’s often added to that mythical genre canon and several more that I’m fairly sure almost no one knows of. More interestingly to me was that he was a keen writer of recipes of which ISFDB documents that four of his appeared in Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking Out of This World: “Kidneys — Like Father Used to Make” and “Pea Soup — Potage Ste. Germaine“ being two of them. (Died 1978.) (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1913 Noah Beery Jr. Genre-wise, he’s best remembered as Maj. William Corrigan on the Fifties classic SF film Rocketship X-M, but he showed up in other genre undertakings as well such as 7 Faces of Dr. LaoThe Six Million Dollar ManFantasy IslandBeyond Witch MountainThe Ghost of Cypress Swamp and The Cat Creeps. I think he appeared in one of the earliest Zorro films made where he’s credited just as a boy, he’d be seven then, The Mark of Zorro which had Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and his father, Noah Beery Sr. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1931 – Alexis Gilliland, 89.  Seven novels, six shorter stories and a Feghoot; Campbell (as it then was) for Best New Writer.  Chaired six Disclaves.  WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) met at his house for decades.  One of our finest fanartists.  Four Hugos, three FAAn (FAn Activity Achievement) Awards, Rotsler.  Letters, perhaps three hundred cartoons in AlexiadAlgolAmazingAnalogAsimov’sChungaFantasy ReviewFlagJanusLocusMimosaPulphouseSF EyeSF CommentarySF ReviewSFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) BulletinStar*Line, Worldcon Souvenir Books.  Here is a cover for SF Review.  See hereherehere.  Makes good deviled eggs.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1944 Barbara Erskine, 76. I’m including her because I’ve got a bit of a mystery. ISFDB lists her as writing over a dozen genre novels and her wiki page says she has a fascination with the supernatural but neither indicates what manner of genre fiction she wrote. I’m guessing romance or gothic tinged with the supernatural based on the covers but that’s just a guess. What do y’all know about her? (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1955 Eddie Campbell, 65. Best-known as the illustrator and publisher of From Hell (written by Alan Moore), and Bacchus, a most excellent series about the few Greek gods who have made to the present day. Though not genre in the slightest way, I highly recommend The Black Diamond Detective Agency which he did. It’s an adaptation of an as-yet unmade screenplay by C. Gaby Mitchell. (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1955 – Tom Kidd, 65.  Eight Chesleys.  Artbooks KiddographyOtherWorldsHow to Draw & Paint Dragons.  Three hundred eighty covers, a hundred forty interiors.  Here is Not This August.  Here is the Oct 83 Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Here is Songs of the Dying Earth.  Here is Overruled.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1962 – Horia Gâbea, Sc.D., 58.  Romanian playwright, poet, essayist, novelist, engineer, popularizer of contract bridge.  University of Bilbao prize for poetry.  The Serpent performed by the British Royal Court Theatre.  Translator of Chekhov, Corneille, John D. MacDonald, Machiavelli.  Accused of being “gratuitously bookish…. a pun more important than a murder…. thin and edgy like a razor…. forgives no one no thing.” Worlds and Beings anthology in English.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1965 Claudia Christian, 55. Best-known role is Commander Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5, but she has done other genre roles such as being Brenda Lee Van Buren in The Hidden, Katherine Shelley in Lancelot: Guardian of Time, Quinn in Arena, Lucy in The Haunting of Hell House and Kate Dematti in Meteor Apocalypse. She’s had one-offs on Space RangersHighlanderQuantum LeapRelic Hunter and Grimm. She’s Captain Belinda Blowhard on Starhyke, a six-episode series shot in ‘05 you can on Amazon Prime.  (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1971 – Lara Morgan, 49.  Six novels for us.  “Her mission is to rid the world of tea, one cup at a time.  This is going quite well.”  She liked All Our Yesterdays, alas for me not Harry Warner’s but Cristin Terrill’s; ranked Ender’s Game about the same as Lilith’s Brood.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1985 – Andrew Drilon, 35.  A dozen short stories; Philippine Speculative Fiction 9 with Charles Tan; four covers, three dozen interiors; comics.  Here is Heroes, Villains, and Other Women.  Here is WonderLust.  Here is a sequence from his own Whapak! [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) DOUBLE-OH BRACKETS. Morgan Jeffery, in “Sean Connery named the best James Bond as thousands of 007 fans vote in our poll” in Radio Times, says that 14,000 James Bond fans voted to see who the best Bond of all time was, with Sir Sean Connery first, Timothy Dalton second, and Pierce Brosnan third.  Sam Heughan from Outlander was named the #1 choice to be the new Bond in the survey,

…Round 1 saw Connery knock out current 007 actor Daniel Craig, coming out on top with 56 per cent of the vote compared to Craig’s 43 per cent, while Pierce Brosnan winning Round 2 with 76 per cent against his opponent George Lazenby’s 24 per cent.

Round 3 saw perhaps the most surprising result yet, as Roger Moore was knocked out of the competition – with 41 per cent of the vote, he lost out to his immediate successor Timothy Dalton, who scored 49 per cent of the vote.

(11) TOP TEN. ScreenRant lists “Star Trek: The 10 Weirdest Official Merch You Can Buy”. After all, nobody wants to buy just plain old Trek merchandise. And one item meets a need of Filers who never have enough of these —

4. Next Generation Spoons

At some point, someone decided that Star Trek fans were fanatical about cutlery and all things fine dining, hence the creations of a series of elegant Next Generation spoons.

The high-quality spoons feature the faces of fan-favorite characters such as Captain Picard and Data on the handle of each implement. While nice its almost impossible to imagine anyone actually using these spoons to eat with and the illogical decisions that led to their creation would no doubt befuddle Spock.

(12) APOLLO 1 INVESTIGATION. Dwayne Day continues his exploration of space history with new details about the Apollo 1 fire of 1967 in The Space Review: “After the fire: a long-lost transcript from the Apollo 1 fire investigation”.

As long as there has been spaceflight, there have been conspiracy theories. There were conspiracy theories about Sputnik in the late 1950s (“their Germans are better than our Germans”) and dead cosmonauts in the early 1960s. Even before some people claimed—on the very day that it happened—that the Moon landing was faked, Apollo had its own conspiracy theories. In those days it was difficult for them to propagate and reach a wide audience, unlike today, when they can spread around the world at the speed of light. One of those Apollo conspiracy theories was about a whistleblower named Thomas Baron, who later died under mysterious circumstances.

Baron worked on the Apollo program in Florida for one of the key contractors. After the Apollo 1 fire in early 1967, Baron testified before a congressional fact-finding delegation that went to Florida. He later died under what some people considered to be mysterious circumstances, fueling speculation that he was killed to shut him up. The transcript of his testimony also could not be found by later researchers, which fueled the speculation that somebody was covering up damaging information.

In 1999, in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, radio station WAMU in Washington, DC, aired a program about the role of Washington politics in the lunar landing. “Washington Goes to the Moon” was written and produced by Richard Paul and featured interviews with a number of key figures in the story. Paul had decided that the Apollo 1 fire and the subsequent investigations into its cause would be a key focus of the program. In the course of researching the fire, he stumbled upon a document that many believed was long-lost: a transcript of an interview with Thomas Baron, who alleged that there were numerous improper actions taken by his employer, North American Aviation, which was building the spacecraft.

(13) THAT WAS A CLOSE ONE. “The nuclear mistakes that nearly caused World War Three” – BBC kept count.

From invading animals to a faulty computer chip worth less than a dollar, the alarmingly long list of close calls shows just how easily nuclear war could happen by mistake.

…All told, there have been at least 22 alarmingly narrow misses since nuclear weapons were discovered. So far, we’ve been pushed to the brink of nuclear war by such innocuous events as a group of flying swans, the Moon, minor computer problems and unusual space weather. In 1958, a plane accidentally dropped a nuclear bomb in a family’s back garden; miraculously, no one was killed, though their free-range chickens were vaporised. Mishaps have occurred as recently as 2010, when the United States Air Force temporarily lost the ability to communicate with 50 nuclear missiles, meaning there would have been no way to detect and stop an automatic launch.

(14) BLOCKHOUSE FOR BLOCKHEADS? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Isaac Schultz, in “For Sale: A Cold War Bunker and Missile Silo in North Dakota” on Atlas Obscura, says that tomorrow auctioneers will sell a 50-acre site in North Dakota that housed a missile base loaded with Sprint missiles that were supposed to be the last line of defense against Soviet ICBM’s.  The missiles are gone but the buildings are still there, and it’s perfect for a slan shack or future Worldcon bid, or would be an ideal place to conduct fan feuds.  What better place to launch verbal missiles than a place that housed real missiles? Plus all the former missile silos are guaranteed to be socially distant from each other!

HALF AN HOUR SOUTH OF the Canadian border, in Fairdale, North Dakota, a hulking concrete structure rises up from the flat fields that surround it. The beige buildings are so prominent on an otherwise pastoral landscape that they could be mistaken for a 20th-century Stonehenge.

It’s a Cold War missile site, and it’s for sale.

(15) I WALK TO THE TREES. In “The Lord of The Rings:  The Two Towers Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George promises a film with “a whole lot of walking.  Even the trees walk.”

[Thanks to John Hertz, Lise Andreasen, N., Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, James Davis Nicoll, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michal Toman, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/7/20 I Saw The Thing Comin’ Out Of The Sky, It Had The One Long File, One Big Eye

(1) WISH YOU WERE HERE. NASA unveiled “8 Martian Postcards to Celebrate Curiosity’s Landing Anniversary”.

Two sizes of wind-sculpted ripples are evident in this view of the top surface of a Martian sand dune. Sand dunes and the smaller type of ripples also exist on Earth. The larger ripples — roughly 10 feet (3 meters) apart — are a type not seen on Earth nor previously recognized as a distinct type on Mars.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has seen a lot since Aug. 5, 2012, when it first set its wheels inside the 96-mile-wide (154-kilometer-wide) basin of Gale Crater. Its mission: to study whether Mars had the water, chemical building blocks, and energy sources that may have supported microbial life billions of years ago.

Curiosity has since journeyed more than 14 miles (23 kilometers), drilling 26 rock samples and scooping six soil samples along the way as it revealed that ancient Mars was indeed suitable for life. Studying the textures and compositions of ancient rock strata is helping scientists piece together how the Martian climate changed over time, losing its lakes and streams until it became the cold desert it is today.

(2) MEET R.F. KUANG. Andrea Johnson notes she did this Nerds of a Feather  Q&A, “Interview: R.F. Kuang, author of The Burning God”, before Kuang won the 2020 Astounding Award. Still plenty to interest readers here.

NOAF: When you first started outlining and writing The Poppy War, did you know how the trilogy would end?

R.F. Kuang: Yes, I knew the ending before I knew the beginning. I always come up with the ending first. I’m a pantser rather than a plotter, but I can’t get started on a story unless I know where it’s all going; I need to give some direction to the story engine. I’ve been picturing the final scene in my mind for years and years, so it’s a relief to finally get it down on paper. So yes, I actually always conceived of The Poppy War as just the prequel material to the stuff I really wanted to write.

(3) WFC POC. World Fantasy Con, which will take place online October 29-November 1, is taking applications as well as donations for People of Color sponsored memberships.

In early June, WFC 2020 launched an initiative to help ensure that our convention is inclusive and that our program encompasses the diverse cultures and peoples that enrich the literature and art of fantasy and horror. Thanks to donations from many of our members and our sponsors, we have been able to sponsor attending memberships for twenty-eight people of color – so far. This initiative will continue until registration closes in late October. To donate to this fund, or to apply for a sponsored membership, visit this page on our website.
 
WFC 2020 operates under the auspices of Utah Fandom Organization, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Your donation may be tax deductible to the extent allowable by law.

(4) EDITS4BLACKSFF. “Diana M. Pho Announces the #Edits4BlackSFF Project, Which Offers Free Editorial Services to Black Speculative Writers”Tor.com has the story. Application details at the the project link.

Three-time Hugo Award-nominated editor Diana M. Pho has announced a new project dedicated to helping Black speculative fiction novelists get traditionally published. Entitled #Edits4BlackSFF, the project will select nine finalists for a free query letter review and 10-page line edit of their manuscript(s), with the winner receiving both a free developmental edit and consideration for representation from a pool of 8 literary agents.

(5) CANON TO THE LEFT OF THEM. John Scalzi’s “Oh, Christ, Not the Science Fiction Canon Again” actually has no theological content at all.

Ugh, we’re talking about the “canon” of science fiction literature, again, for reasons (most imminently the recent Hugo award ceremony and its fallout), and whether, basically, newer writers and readers should and must slog through a bunch of books in the genre that are now half a century old at least, from a bunch of mostly male, mostly white, mostly straight writers who are, shall we say, not necessarily speaking to the moment.

I’ve essayed this before, because I’m me, but here’s my newest set of thoughts on the matter, also because I’m me. Ready? Here we go:

As a practical matter, the science fiction “canon” is already dead….

(6) CANON TO THE RIGHT OF THEM. Camestros Felapton offered his take on things in “Canon and Campbell”. I looked at this excerpt and asked myself, “What more needs be said?” And yet, Camestros thought of something.

…On the first point I’d cite Chuck Tingle’s Space Raptor Butt Invasion, which has canonical qualities to it but which is also a shining example of something that is not required reading….

(7) STAMPS AFOOT. The Royal Mail will issue new Sherlock stamps on August 16 with secret messages embedded. What those messages are is displayed at the top of this Design Week article: “Royal Mail’s Sherlock Holmes stamps contain ‘secret messages’”.

…So founder Steve Haskin tells Design Week that designing the stamps was a “labour of love”. The stamps are based on fans’ most popular episodes, from the series premiere A Study in Pink to the series two cliff-hanger The Reichenbach Fall. Taking into account the global Sherlock Holmes fanbase, and its attention to detail, the studio pored over episodes to extract the “minutest moments” from Sherlock episodes.

Characters were taken from those episodes and placed in the foreground of the stamps, such as Irene Adler from the second series premiere A Scandal in Belgravia. These portraits had to be “strong” and “poignant” as they are focal point. “Special moments” were then illustrated using screengrabs and composed onto each stamp.

(8) KÜNSKEN STYX WITH IT. At the Hugo Book Club Blog, “Interview with Derek Künsken – Author of The House Of Styx”.

What was the main theme that you wanted to tackle in The House of Styx?

I was flying to the Nebulas conference, I think it was in 2013. I had already created all of the biology in the clouds of Venus, but I didn’t really have a story to tell with this. I had a sort of survival story, but something was missing. This was going on at the same time as some of the ‘reasonable accommodation’ debates were happening in Quebec — and I’m half-Quebecois myself.

So I was following the news and basically it was appalling to see some of the discourse around “how should Arab people integrate into Quebec.” It quite obviously came from a place of intolerance. Then I realized that the caustic intolerance that I was observing in society was a perfect metaphor for the sort of acidic environment of the clouds of Venus. And so I wrote that story, but there was so much more to it that — as soon as I had sold it to Analog — I realized I had another novel or two in me dealing with those kinds of characters, that kind of political setting and that kind of metaphorical environment.

(9) IN COUNTRY. Paste Magazine says Lovecraft Country’s Pulpy Call Is One Even Cthulhu Couldn’t Resist”.

Ranging from Chicago’s South Side (the show was partially shot in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood) to the eerie East Coast where Lovecraft’s tales haunted their hapless sailors and professors, Lovecraft Country tracks the cruel magicks of legacy while pointing out at every turn that its genre’s legacy is steeped in racism. Just because Lovecraft was a racist dickhead on a cosmic scale doesn’t mean Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) doesn’t love his brand of fiction. Tic and his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) kick off the series on a Jim Crow-defying quest to find Atticus’ missing father (Michael K. Williams)—who’s off in search of their family’s secretive and spooky “birthright”—accompanied by Tic’s childhood friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollet).

….[It] could be a magical universe that exists just under the surface of his own, but it’s certainly not an exciting call to adventure. It’s trouble. Why? Because he’s Black, and Blackness doesn’t mix well with America’s entrenched systems—even if they’re magical ones.

This simple twist works to deconstruct the more conventional aspects of the series. That doesn’t mean the show lacks convention: there’s always water rising or bridges collapsing or demons seducing or heroes smooching. If a magazine from the ‘50s featured it on the cover, you can bet it’ll be bolder and Blacker in Lovecraft Country.

(10) HOT ON THE TRAIL. Alexis Soloski’s not-uncritical but interesting piece on Lovecraft in today’s New York Times is made timely by the imminent premier of Lovecraft Country. “Gods, Monsters and H.P. Lovecraft’s Uncanny Legacy”.

…Broadly — and with plenty of exceptions — Lovecraft’s stories suggest huge and unfathomable horrors lurking just beneath the surface of the mundane world. Filled with miscegenation, tentacles and unspeakable dread, his works often begin with ordinary or ordinary-seeming men drawn into extraordinary and otherworldly situations. Almost no one gets out alive or sane. His brand of weird is gooey and misanthropic, with an insistence that the universe is at best indifferent to human life and at worst antagonistic.

To adapt a Lovecraft work is to reckon with a troubled and troubling legacy — blatant racism and sexual phobias blight much of his work. Still, he remains influential, with his sinister, squishy qualities still felt across media — television, film, fiction, comics, video games, role-playing games, visual art, plushies — and multiple genres. The stomach monster from “Alien”? Extremely Lovecraft. That giant squid from “Watchmen”? Lovecraft again. The devouring Shoggoths from the “Lovecraft Country” pilot? A squelching tip of the hat.

If you don’t know your Yog-Sothoth from your Shub-Niggarath — good! Run while you can! But if you hold your sanity lightly, here is a brief guide to the man, the monsters and the popular culture slime trail his works have left behind.

(11) SINCE TOLKIEN. “From Tolkien to Hungarian folklore: a brief history of Hungarian fantasy literature” in Daily News Hungary is an English-language article by Barbara Simon.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 7, 1940 — The Adventures Of Superman radio program aired “Taos: Pillar Of Fire At Graves End”. It starred Bud Collyer and Joan Alexander but the former was kept a secret from the audience for another six years. Based on the comic created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1938, Superman, it was thought that it would be better if the actor was more mysterious, so he was kept anonymous. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 7, 1871 – Abanindranth Tagore.  Writer, painter, bridger of Euro-American and Asian artwork.  Literary fame for Bengali stories as told to children.  Nephew of Rabindranath Tagore, helped clear RT’s road to the Nobel Prize for Literature.  Fantasy elements integral.  Brought Chinese and Japanese elements into his own graphics.  See hereherehereherehere.  On his Khirer Putul Wikipedia says “sugar doll”, the French translation has “cheese doll”, which both miss the metaphor of khir.  (Died 1951) [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1903 Rudolf Ising. He was an early staffer to Walt Disney who left to create the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons at Warner.  He produced Hanna and Barbera’s first cartoon, Puss Gets the Boot, a cartoon featuring characters later known as Tom and Jerry. He was the first independent cartoon producer to win an Academy Award. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1928 – Milton Lesser.  For us eight novels, a hundred sixty stories, see hereherehere; letters in AmazingAstonishingFantasticPlanet.  Fictional memoirs of Cervantes, Columbus (won Prix Gutenberg du Livre), Goya, Poe.  Life Achievement Award from Private Eye Writers of America.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1933 – Jerry Pournelle, Ph.D.  Thirty novels, a dozen shorter stories, three dozen anthologies, many with co-authors; two hundred essays, letters, in AlgolThe Alien CriticDestiniesGalaxyOmniThe Patchin ReviewSF AgeSF ChronicleSF ReviewStarshipTrumpet; translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish.  Lucifer’s Hammer and Footfall (with Larry Niven) on NY Times Best-Sellers list.  Seventh SFWA President (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America).  Writers & Illustrators of the Future Lifetime Achievement Award.  Aerospace.  Computer journalist.  Founding President of Pepperdine Research Institute.  We met for lunch and disagreed.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1936 Richard L. Tierney, 84. A Lovecraftian scholar. Coauthored with David C. Smith, a series of Red Sonja novels which have Boris Vallejo cover art. Some of his standalone novels riff off the Cthulhu Mythos. Unless you read German, he’s not available digitally on either iBooks or Kindle. (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1957 Paul Dini, 63. First, he’s largely responsible for the existence of Batman: The Animated SeriesSuperman: The Animated SeriesThe New Batman/Superman AdventuresBatman Beyond, and yes, Duck Dodgers and Tiny Toons as well. He’s recently been writing for the Ultimate Spider-Man series which is quite good. He co-authored with Pat Cadigan, Harley Quinn: Mad Love. (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1957 – Lis Carey, 63.  Active Boston fan, faithful Filer.  Chair of Boskone 46.  Here she is at BucConeer (56th Worldcon) helping with the Bostando (Boston for Orlando) 2001 Worldcon bid (L to R. Suford Lewis, LC, Tim Roberge).  A few fiction and non-fiction books she’s read, her ranking higher to lower: Omar Bradley (by S. Ossad), Children of Blood & Bone (T. Adeyemi), Queens of Animation (N. Holt), The Last Emperox (J. Scalzi), The Once & Future King (T. White), The History of Bourbon (K. Albala; the drink, not France).  [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1960 Melissa Scott, 60. I think the first work I read by her was Trouble and Her Friends which holds up well even now. I’m also fond of Night Sky Mine and The Jazz. I see she has an entire series set in the Stargate Atlantis universe. (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1960 David Duchovny, 60. Obviously Fox Mulder on X-Files. Now has he done any other genre? Well, he was Dr. Ira Kane in Evolution, a comic SF film, and then there’s Denise Bryson, formerly Dennis Bryson, played by him, who’s a transgender DEA agent on the Twin Peaks series. He also voices Ethan Cole in Area 51, a first-person shooter video game. (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1970 – Yû Godai, 50.  The Story of the Beginning of Bone written while she was still a college student, 4th annual Fujimi Shobo (publisher) Fantasy Novel Prize; five more novels, three shorter stories.  Here is a cover from Avatar Tuner. [JH] 
  • Born August 7, 1980 – Lindsey Leavitt, 40.  A dozen young-adult and children’s novels, some for us (five are fantasies about mice in a series Commander in Cheese).  YALSA (Young Adult Lib’y Services Ass’n) Best Fiction Award, Amazon Book of the Year Award.  [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1975 Charlize Theron, 45. She surprised me by being in a number of genre films including Snow White and the Huntsman and The Huntsman: Winter’s War (which are both quite superb), PrometheusMad Max: Fury RoadThe Addams Family as Morticia Adams, The Devil’s Advocate, Æon Flux in  Æon Flux, the narrator of Astro Boy and her first film, Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest, a horror film I suspect she’d prefer everyone forget. She played Pria Lavesque on The Orville in the episode called, errr, “Pria”.  (CE)

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • From Grant Snider’s Incidental Comics. Where does “Funny once” go in this model?

(15) UNDER THE DOME. SciFiNow.uk points the way to DC’s virtual event: “DC Fandome: Immense Line-Up Announced”

…DC FanDome is the first-ever global celebration of the DC Multiverse covering the brand’s biggest films, live-action series, animated TV series, games and comics.

Available in nine languages (Brazilian Portuguese, Traditional Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish (LAS)), DC FanDome will feature over 100+ hours of programming celebrating the past, present and future DC content through panels, behind the scenes access, user generated experiences, big reveals and exclusives from DC.

DC FanDome is made up of the Hall of Heroes and five islands…

(16) THOUGHT EXPERIMENTS. Andrew Liptak surveys how “The U.S. Military Is Turning to Science Fiction to Shape the Future of War” for One Zero at Medium.

…It may sound like it could be the plot of a new Netflix series, but it’s actually one of the U.S. Army’s “science fiction prototypes,” a teaching tool designed to imagine what the near future of warfare might look like and to prompt military personnel to think creatively about conflicts they might end up fighting. This one takes the form of a 71-page graphic novel called Invisible Force: Information Warfare and the Future of Conflict, produced by the Army Cyber Institute at West Point and Arizona State University’s Threatcasting Lab.

As digital technologies and robotics have opened up the kinds of futures once imagined by pulp science fiction writers, a loose network of national security professionals, military officers, and training organizations are working to try to predict the future of war — by generating science fiction stories of their own….

(17) UP ABOVE THE WORLD. Paul Weimer tells what he enjoyed about a new sff novel: “Microreview [book]: In Evil Times by Melinda Snodgrass” at Nerds of a Feather.

…The world that Snodgrass creates continues to fascinate from the first novel, especially since we expand from the pressure cooker of the High Ground space station to see the Empire, on the ground, as it were, as well as in the depths of space. We get slices of society all around, from Mercedes’ center of Imperial power, to the very humble existence that Tracy’s father as a tailor has, to the life of military officers. We get a painted portrait of what this stratified, socially conscious world is like and how people fit into that system, resist that system and find themselves in trouble for opposing that system. We also get a better sense of how aliens, an oppressed stratum of society, fit and struggle in a human dominated Solar League. Aliens are very much third class citizens, and the consequences of that are explored in the book both from Tracy and Mercedes’ perspectives….

(18) HELP WANTED. Writing all those Tor.com five-things posts has burned out James Davis Nicoll’s laptop, and he’d be thrilled if people want to help him buy the replacement: “Alas, Poor Jenkins”.

My faithful laptop has subtly hinted that I need to prioritize replacing it, first by closing every Word File within a few minutes of opening them…

(19) SAVING THROW. Wizards: Tales of Arcadia premiered on Netflix today.

After discovering a secret underworld of trolls and teaming up with aliens to save the planet, the teenagers of Arcadia Oaks are back for one final journey: time traveling to the world of King Arthur’s Camelot to defeat villains and preserve the future. Major characters like Jim (Emile Hirsch), Toby (Charlie Saxton) and Claire (Lexi Medrano) have returned from the previous sagas of “Trollhunters” and “3Below,” joined this time by the legendary Merlin (David Bradley). 

The series is written and produced by Guillermo del Toro, whose 2017 film “The Shape of Water” took home four Oscars, including best picture and director.

(20) GRAND FINALE. Meanwhile, IndieWire reports “Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans’ Animated Film to Premiere on Netflix in 2021”.

…Del Toro has billed the film as the conclusion to his “Tales of Arcadia” television trilogy which includes the “Trollhunters,” “3Below,” and “Wizards,” shows. “Wizards” premiered on Netflix today.

Here’s Netflix’s synopsis for the upcoming film: Arcadia may look like an ordinary town, but it lies at the center of magical and mystical lines that makes it a nexus for many battles among otherworldly creatures, including trolls, aliens and wizards. Now, the heroes from the hit series “Trollhunters,” “3Below” and “Wizards,” team-up in their most epic adventure yet where they must fight the Arcane Order for control over the magic that binds them all.

(21) OVER A BARREL. NPR’s Linda Holmes sees that “Seth Rogen Finds Himself (Twice) In ‘An American Pickle'”

When you think about a Seth Rogen movie, he’s almost always got pals around. He’s made comedies with James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Adam Sandler and — if you count Steve Jobs — even Michael Fassbender. It only makes sense he would eventually make a buddy movie with himself.

An American Pickle, streaming on HBO Max on Aug. 6, is adapted from a four-part Simon Rich story that appeared in The New Yorker in 2013. Called “Sell Out,” it’s about a Polish immigrant named Herschel (whose wife is pregnant) who falls into a pickle barrel in 1920 and wakes up, perfectly preserved, 100 years later. This premise, neatly told in the first six short paragraphs, is both absurd and (no pun intended) narratively rich. In the film, which Rich adapted for the screen himself, both the preserved Herschel and his great-grandson Ben — who are the same age — are played by Seth Rogen. What follows is part wacky opposites-attract picture, part family story, part silly caper and, most interestingly, part funny (but also thoughtful) examination of what our ancestors would think of us, especially if they made great sacrifices to give us what we now have.

In the original story, Herschel’s descendant is Simon Rich himself, a script doctor in Hollywood. Here, he’s Ben, an app developer who’s spent five years of his life trying to get an app off the ground that scans bar codes to tell you how ethically made a particular product is. For a whole variety of reasons — from “what’s an app?” to “who cares?” — this confounds Herschel. He quickly discovers, too, that the small cemetery where his wife is buried has been dishonored by the presence of a giant billboard for vanilla vodka (chosen perhaps because Rogen has enormous fun pronouncing “vanilla vodka” in his version of Herschel’s accent). This cannot stand. So Herschel sets out to do what he knows best: make pickles and sell them to Brooklyn, so he can reclaim the cemetery. This does lead to some familiar material about hipsters who love artisanal foods, but it’s executed pretty well, and Rich’s script keeps it moving.

…Let’s focus on this much: It’s a clever idea, it has some good jokes, and it approaches the idea of immigration to the United States in a way I haven’t seen. That’s not to even mention the fact that being preserved in a pickle barrel and waking up in 100 years has never been more appealing.

(22) HOW DID THEY KNOW? Mental Floss dishes up “9 Books That Predicted the Future”. This first one is pretty surprising.

1. FUTILITY

In this book written by Morgan Robertson, a massive ocean liner described as “the largest craft afloat” is steaming at full speed through the North Atlantic when a watchman cries out “Iceberg.” But the ship hits the ice and begins to sink. With too few lifeboats, many of the passengers drown when the ship goes down.

The story sounds familiar, but this ship wasn’t the TitanicFutility‘s ship was the Titan. Robertson penned his novel 14 years before the Titanic took its doomed maiden voyage—and those aren’t the only similarities between Robertson’s Titan and the Titanic, either. Such was the predictive power of the text that just a week after the sinking of the Titanic the story—now called The Wreck of the Titan; or, Futility—was being serialized in newspapers as “an amazing prophecy.”

(23) AND AWAY THEY GO. “Facebook removes QAnon conspiracy group with 200,000 members”.

Facebook has deleted a large group dedicated to sharing and discussing QAnon conspiracy theories.

QAnon is a wide-ranging, unfounded conspiracy theory that a “deep state” network of powerful government, business and media figures are waging a secret war against Donald Trump.

A Facebook spokeswoman said the group was removed for “repeatedly posting content that violated our policies”.

Last month both Twitter and TikTok also cracked down on QAnon content.

Twitter banned thousands of accounts and said it would block QAnon urls, while TikTok deleted hashtags that signposted QAnon videos.

The deleted Facebook group, called Official Q/Qanon, had nearly 200,000 members.

There are, however, many other QAnon groups that are currently still active on the platform.

(24) CORMORANT ALOFT AGAIN. Adri Joy says readers will find a long-awaited payoff in terms of character healing and growth in the third book of this series: “Microreview [Book]: The Tyrant Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson” at Nerds of a Feather.

…Baru Cormorant is back for round three! In The Tyrant Baru Cormorant (which, in-keeping with the rest of this series’ inexplicable name shortenings, is being published as “The Tyrant” in the UK) everyone’s favourite provincial savant returns for another round of high-stakes political drama against the empire of Falcrest: the empire which colonised her island, killed one of her fathers and tried to cut her off from her own culture as a child, and also the empire which now counts her as among its most elite operatives. The first book in the series captured my heart and then broke it into a million pieces, and while I don’t think I’m the same reader as I was five years ago, I still consider new releases in this series to be a significant event, and I’m especially glad we haven’t had to wait too long between the previous book and this one.

(25) SHADES OF MEANING. PEN America’s weekly interview series delivers “The Pen Ten: An Interview With Laura Van Den Berg”.

9. The stories in this collection are haunting, and this also includes the stunning cover art. Whether it’s a woman who works as grief freelancer playing the roles of widowers’ dead wives or a woman pretending to be her missing sister, the stories speak to each other in unearthly ways. Can you speak about the subversive nature of ghosts that permeate the collection—when you realized this was a connective tissue while writing the stories and how it operates in the book, as well as our lives?
The cover was designed by Na Kim, who is a genius. I think it captures the spirit of the collection beautifully. In terms of the thematic through lines, I thought a lot about the supernatural as a means to explore the material that cannot be contained by corporal life: the unsayable secrets, the unexamined truths, the incomprehensible realities. In an NPR interview, Toni Morrison once said that “if you are really alert, then you can see the life that exists beyond the life that exists on top.” What does this “life beyond” have to say about our world that cannot be conveyed through other channels? What does it mean to haunt? What does it mean to be haunted? All these questions were important guides, though it took some time to recognize the supernatural as a thematic link. For a while, I had a lot of stories—maybe 350 pages worth—but I was struggling to find the book. Once I started letting the spectral guide me, a shape began to emerge.

(26) A BACON REFERENCE WITHOUT SCALZI. Lise Andreasen shares a fraught moment from the German quiz show Gefragt Gejagt today. 

Who wrote Nova Atlantis?

Wrong answer: Hemingway. 

[Thanks to Olav Rokne, Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, PhilRM, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Bence Pintér, Lise Andreasen, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

Pixel Scroll 5/2/20 This Pixel Scroll Title Made From 60% Recycled Material

(1) SIGNAL BOOST. Julie C. Day’s Weird Dream Society, a charity anthology with all proceeds going to RAICES (The Refugee And Immigrant Center For Education And Legal Services), is in the pre-order stage.

Playful, whimsical, or dark, but always thoughtful and tinged with the inexplicably weird, the Weird Dream Society brings together some of the most innovative creators in speculative fiction. Most of the book consists of reprints with a few new stories to round it out.

The anthology includes stories by Nathan Ballingrud, Carina Bissett, Gregory Norman Bossert, Karen Bovenmyer, Christopher Brown, Emily Cataneo, Julie C. Day, Michael J Deluca, Gemma Files, A.T. Greenblatt, Nin Harris, Chip Houser, James Patrick Kelly, Marianne Kirby, Kathrin Köhler, Matthew Kressel, Jordan Kurella, Premee Mohamed, Sarah Read, Sofia Samatar, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Steve Toase, and A.C. Wise.

In addition to his fictional work, author and artist Gregory Norman Bossert generously donated the anthology’s cover illustration.

Proceeds from this charity anthology go to support RAICES, the nonprofit agency that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to under-served immigrant children, families, and refugees. With offices in Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio, RAICES is “a frontline organization in the roiling debate about immigration and immigrants in the world.”

Paul Jessup has reviewed the project for Vernacular Books:

…But I’ve never been one for rules or guidelines, and really neither is this collection. I will say, I knew a few of these stories ahead of time, they were favorites published in off beat anthologies and magazines back in the day, so seeing them here was a joy and a promise of things to come. You know an anthology is going to be good when you recognize some of your favorites right away….

Weird Dream Society will be released May 26, 2020. Pre-order eBook: Amazon | Kobo | B&N Nook; Pre-order Paperback: Amazon | Barnes&Noble. Find out more at Twitter, their website, and Goodreads.  

(2) PROFIT SHARING. It’s the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts. J.K. Rowling is observing it a bit differently than usual. “JK Rowling donates £1m to two charities”

JK Rowling, the creator of the Harry Potter adventures, is donating £1m to charities supporting vulnerable people during the lockdown.

Half of the money will go to Crisis which helps homeless people, and half to Refuge to support victims of domestic abuse.

Rowling’s donations come amid #HarryPotterDay on Twitter.

Saturday also marks the anniversary of one the author’s major events in her stories.

On Twitter, Rowling said: “Today’s the 22nd anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, but I am going to be honest and say that it feels inappropriate to talk about fictional deaths.

“Too many people are losing loved ones in the real world.”

Rowling, who wrote many of her Harry Potter stories while living in Edinburgh, said many vulnerable people who were homeless or in an abusive relationship were suffering at this time.

(3) COMMUNITY RALLIES. Shelf Awareness reports an epic fundaising success to help comics and book stores.

In five days, #Creators4Comics raised $433,166 for the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) to support comics stores and indie bookstores hurt by Covid-19. The group’s charity auction featured 635 separate auctions on Twitter and other platforms by comics creators, authors and celebrities.

“Comic shops and indie bookstores have supported so many of us,” said Kami Garcia, author of the graphic novel Teen Titans: Raven, who brought the organizers together. “They aren’t just places where we buy books and comics. These stores are places where we find belonging.”

Among the participants were Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Patton Oswalt, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Joe Hill, Shannon Hale, Mike Mignola, Brad Meltzer, Mariko Tamaki, Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Marissa Meyer, Danielle Paige, Gene Luen Yang, Tom King, Bryan Edward Hill, Jason Aaron, Marc Guggenheim, Gail Simone, Vita Ayala, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Cassandra Clare, Marieke Nijkamp, Margaret Stohl, Jock, Mico Suayan, and G. Willow Wilson. Seth Meyers, Damon Lindeloff and Robert Kirkman made generous matching donations.

Since March 13, 135 comics retailers and their households have received more than $150,950 in financial assistance for rent, food and essential medications from Binc–more than double the amount distributed last year to this sector of the book industry. In total, 722 comic book stores have now applied for aid….

(4) GENRE PALADIN. Joshua Gillingham takes up the cudgels “In Defense of Genre Fiction”.

…Well, some might say that reading genre fiction is a bit like ordering pulled-pork sandwiches over and over, that it makes you predictable (i.e. boring). Others might add that writing genre fiction is little more than an act of trying to resuscitate long-dead tropes while trying to pass off cheap imitations as original work. Given these two stereotypical notions, especially within the writing community, there can be a lot of shame or defensiveness around reading or writing these kinds of stories. Therefore, I feel the need to present an argument in defense of genre fiction, its readers, and its writers…. 

(5) SERLING SILVER. Herbie J. Pilato continues his “Writing for Your Life” series with “Rod Serling and ‘The Twilight Zone’” at Medium.

The development and execution of The Twilight Zone and its induction into the annals of TV history is a story of an obsessive need for acceptance on many levels.

Submitted for your approval:

Exhibit A: Rod Serling, Zone’s creator, executive producer, central writing force, and charismatic host. The show’s popularity preyed upon his endless reservoir of ideas, originally inspired by his obsession with the past and his preoccupation with aging, mixed in with a measure of courage and faith, and the survival techniques he learned in the army….

(6) AHH NATURE. “Sir Tim Cattenborough Presents The Life Cycle of a Novel” – a Camestros Felapton production.

[A stunning new nature documentary by world famous publisher, naturalist and national treasure Sir Timothy Cattenborough]

Our beautiful planet Earth. From up here on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro we can see the vast vistas of nature’s own miracles and what greater miracle can there be than the majestic novel — one of the natural world’s most miraculous miracles.

Here I am in the forests of Borneo gazing in wonder at the spectacular site of thousands of novels making their nests among the natural shelving of the great pine trees of northern Scandinavia. Whether it is these great majestic creatures of the plains of Patagonia or the more common domesticated novel of these rolling hills of Southern England, the novel is a familiar sight to us all.

But very few people have ever managed to see the hidden lifecycle of a novel. How are they born? How do they grow? And how, via the miracle of evolution do they reproduce? Today, via special cameras disguised as robots disguised as librarians we have, over a gruelling five minute project, at last gained unique footage of the novel’s lifecycle….

(7) MAY THE FOURTH. This will make your Starbucks mocha grande seem cheap by comparison. NBC Los Angeles tells Star Wars fans “Blue Milk on May the Fourth, You Can Have”.

Scum & Villainy Cantina, in Hollywood, can kindly help us locate the cosmic libation, however.

The “Star Wars”-sweet venue, which also celebrates a number of different fandoms via a host of events, will celebrate May the Fourth by offering 21+ fans Wretched Blue Milk Snack Packs for $11.38 each.

(8) TEMPTING TIDBITS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Not directly SF (although McPhee has written about Freeman Dyson, just not here.)

The Patch, John McPhee’s newest [in 2019] (and 7th) collection of short pieces, has two parts:

  • six long sports or sport-related articles (mostly golf) (~ 90 pages)
  • “an album quilt” — ~130 pages of dozens of his shorter articles (or excerpts from same)

In case “John McPhee” and “new collection of short pieces” isn’t enough to make you borrow or buy the book, here’s links to 3 sections of quilt, and if these aren’t enough to get you to borrow or buy this book (and, by extension, proceed to read more of his books), well, then more wouldn’t help.

1, “Pools and pools and pools of chocolate — fifty-thousand pound, ninety-thousand pound, Olympus-length pools of chocolate…”

2. [Found via Google Books.] “When Martha, my youngest daughter, was seventeen, her English teacher–Mrs. Thomas–write forty-seven vocabulary words on the blackboard and told the class to write a short composition using all forty-seven words: aspersion, audacious, avarice, blanch…”

(DPD notes, in searching for this, by omitting McPhee’s name, the above search’s results includes “A Glossary for the Fiction of Clark Ashton Smith”.)

3, McPhee tries an eary word processor – quoted in “The Machine That Was Going To Tranquilize This Scene Was Locked Away In A Quiet Cubicle”.

“Joseph Martin, computer methodologist at the [New York] Times, has been pursuing for some years what he describes as ‘the ideal philosophy of creating a newspaper’… you start by ‘capturing the keystroke at the origin.'”

(DPD notes, the first URL does not contain the full text of what’s in the book.)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 2, 1952 Tales Of Tomorrow aired its “Red Dust” episode. As the copy provided not the network says, “The first human mission to another solar system loses 2 crew on a red dust-covered planet, which once had an advanced civilization. Due to allergies, neither of the shipmates got anti-radiation shots, so the remaining crew aren’t concerned about their own return to Earth. But then the red dust starts to appear everywhere on the space ship.” It was directed by Don Medford from a script by Irving Elman from the play by noted SF writer Theodore Cogswell, a member of the First Fandom Hall of Fame. His “The Wall Around the World” novelette as published in the September 1953 issue of Beyond Fantasy Fiction was nominated for a Retro Hugo at Noreascon 4. The cast was Fred Stewart, Lex Barker, Skedge Miller and Robert Patten. You can watch it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 2, 1890 E. E. “Doc” Smith. Best-known for the Lensman and Skylark series. I note that multiple sources say he is called the father of space opera. Is he indeed that?  Another author I know I’ve read quite a lot of but would be hard pressed to say exactly what I’ve read decades on. (Died 1965.)
  • Born May 2, 1921 Satyajit Ray. Bengali filmmaker, screenwriter, graphic artist, lyricist, music composer and writer who is here for his genre fiction which fortunately has been translated into English as most of us don’t read Bengali. Over a decade recently, three collections came in English The Diary of a Space Traveller and Other StoriesClassic Satyajit Ray and The Collected Short Stories) with most of his genre work in the collection. There are nine stories involving Professor Shonku, his most popular SF character. (Died 1992.)
  • Born May 2, 1924 Theodore Bikel. He was on Next Generation playing the foster parent to Worf in the “Family” episode playing CPO Sergey Rozhenko, ret.. That and playing Lenonn in Babylon 5: In the Beginning are the roles I want to note. Bikel also guest-appeared on The Twilight Zone in “Four O’Clock” as Oliver Crangle. Well there is one minor other role he did — he voiced Aragorn in the animated The Return of the King. By the way, Theodore Bikel’s Treasury of Yiddish Folk & Theatre Songs is quite excellent. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 2, 1925 John Neville. I’ve mentioned before that Kage considered Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen to be one of her favorite films and John Neville was one of the reasons that she did so. You can read her review here. Among his other genre roles, Neville had a prominent recurring role in The X-Files as The Well Manicured Man. And he showed up playing Sir Isaac Newton on The Next Generation in the “Descent” episode. (Died 2011.)
  • Born May 2, 1941 Paul Darrow. He‘s best remembered for playing Kerr Avon in Blake’s 7. He also had two appearances on Doctor Who, playing Captain Hawkins in Doctor Who and the Silurians, a Third Doctor story, and later Trekker in Timelash, a Sixth Doctor story. He also played Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Missing Link” in the Science Fiction series. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 2, 1942 Alexis Kanner. His first genre appearance was on The Prisoner where he so impressed McGoohan in the “Living in Harmony” episode that he created a specific role for him in the series finale, “Fall Out” where he stands trial. He also has an uncredited role in “The Girl Who Was Death” in that series. His final known acting role was as Sor in Nightfall based off the Asimov story of the same name. (Died 2003.)
  • Born May 2, 1946 David Suchet, 74. Though rather obviously better remembered as Hercule Poirot, he does show up on in a Twelfth Doctor story, “Knock Knock,” simply called Landlord.  Don’t let don’t deceive you. He’s appeared in some other genre work from time times to time including Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the ApesHarry and the HendersonsDr. No: The Radio PlayWing CommanderTales of the Unexpected and Peter Pan Goes Wrong.
  • Born May 2, 1946 Leslie S. Klinger, 74. Editor and annotator of Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Frankenstein, as well as Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen, and the stories of H. P. Lovecraft. I particularly recommend his Sandman annotations as Gaiman was actively involved in them and they’re quite interesting. 
  • Born May 2, 1948 Bob Null. Very long-time LASFS member who was the club’s VP for an equally long period. Fancyclopedia 3 say that “He also sat on the Board of Directors, and frequently handled logistics for local conventions including both Loscon and local Worldcons, and was always one of those nearly invisible hard-working people who make fandom work. He is a Patron Saint of LASFS.” (Died 2010.)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Grant Snider of Incidental Comics captures the present season of the world.

(12) JOB LOSSES. Condolences to gifted editors Diana M. Pho, Diana Gill, and Melissa Frain who were among Macmillan’s COVID-19 employee layoffs.

(13) JUST WHAT WE NEED. Tipper Gore will be happy to hear that “Deezer develops AI to detect explicit song lyrics”. But what’s their stand on shaving cream?

Streaming service Deezer is developing technology to automatically detect explicit content in songs.

The company has been looking into the issue because record labels often fail to identify offensive lyrics when they submit songs, it explained.

In fact, it said, a “substantially large part” of its library did not have a tag indicating whether or not a song contained strong language or themes.

In response, it is researching a way of automatically flagging up such content.

Although the technology is not yet “fit for tagging songs as explicit in a fully automated manner,” it could be used to help humans identify potentially explicit material.

The problem has grown exponentially bigger over the last couple of years, with profanities cropping up ever-more frequently in mainstream pop songs by the likes of Ariana Grande and Beyonce.

Added to that, a streaming service like Deezer can receive up to 40,000 new tracks every day, making it impossible for humans to review all the lyrical content.

Parents are particularly keen to screen out explicit content – but while mainstream services like Deezer, Apple and Amazon Music offer the ability to “turn off” explicit songs, the results are patchy at best.

(14) LIGHTNING AND LIGHTNING BUGS. “Random House Copy Chief: Stand Tall, Wordsmiths! (But Choose Your Battles)” – a print summary of a linked 25-minute interview; includes realization that singular “they” was necessary. (From 2019.)

Random House copy chief Benjamin Dreyer is not a fan of the word “very.”

“It’s not a dreadful word,” he allows, but “it’s one of my little pet words to do without if you can possibly do without it.”

“Very” and its cousins “rather” and “really” are “wan intensifiers,” Dreyer explains. In their place, he advises that writers look for a strong adjective that “just sits very nicely by itself” on the page. For example, “very smart” people can be “brilliant” and “very hungry” people can be “ravenous.”

Dreyer gets the final say over questions related to grammar, style and clarity at Random House. Now he’s sharing his writing advice in the new book Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style.

“Words are my business, and the meaning of words is my business,” he says. “To watch language twisted and distorted — that gets under my skin and makes me unhappy.”

(15) IRON (LIFTING) MAN. Game of Thrones actor breaks 501kg deadlift record”.

Game of Thrones actor Hafthor Bjornsson has set a world deadlifting record by lifting 501 kg (1,104 lbs).

Bjornsson, a powerlifter who portrayed Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane in the HBO series, broke the record at his gym in his native Iceland.

He lifted the barbell for two seconds, before dropping the weights and roaring in delight.

The event was streamed by sports broadcaster ESPN and filmed for Bjornsson’s YouTube channel.

Bjornsson, who is 2.05m tall (6ft 9in), previously won the World’s Strongest Man competition in 2018.

(16) KNITS UP THE RAVELED SLEEVE OF SPACESUITS. Richard Trenholm’s CNET article “Dreams of the future: How sci-fi sees sleep” dates to 2018, but its references – like this one to the Culture – make it timeless.

…A much smarter option for dodging the duvet is employed by space pirate captain Kraiklyn in Ian M Banks’ novel Consider Phlebas. He could put each side of his brain to sleep individually so he could stay constantly awake and no one could sneak up on him in bed. The downside was that his personality changed depending on whether his left or right brain was in charge.

Generally, though, catnap-compressing contraptions are surprisingly rare in speculative fiction — it seems sleep is just too fundamental a human requirement for even sci-fi writers to mess with. Still, that doesn’t stop us trying out all manner of apps and sleep trackers to improve the quality of our kip….

(17) ABOUT SF’S PREDICTIVE POWERS…. Kevin Polowy, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Terry Gilliam, ’12 Monkeys’ screenwriters reunite, admit they ‘had no clue’ when creating film’s fictitious virus” says that when he asked 12 Monkeys co-screenwriter David Peoples what research he did about designing the virus in the film, he said, “How about not at all?  We had no clue,” a thought seconded by director Terry Gilliam.

The sci-fi story follows a prisoner (Bruce Willis) plucked by scientists to time travel (though the filmmakers prefer to think of it as “mind travel”) to the mid-’90s to discover the root of the virus, which is thought to be generated by an anarchist faction known as The Army of the 12 Monkeys.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Conspiracy Cruise” on Vimeo is a short film by Brad Abrahams that asks what happens when members of conspiracy fandom on a cruise are attacked by the conspiracy!

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Chip Hitchcock, Julie C. Day, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

2017 Salam Award for Imaginative Fiction

The winner of the inaugural Salam Award for Imaginative Fiction was announced September 27. The new short story award is intended to “promote science fiction and related genres of writing in Pakistan.”

Winner

  • Firuza Pastakia for her story The Universe is a Conscientious Gardener

Finalists

The two other finalists were:

  • Saniya Kamal for her story The Last Interview of Lara Khalid
  • Nur Ibrahim for her story Against the Dust

Honorable Mentions

  • Jawziya Zaman  – Contagion
  • Taimoor Ahmad – Noor
  • Laila Kasuri  – Balochi Bots – The Adventures of Omar Jamshed
  • Maira Asaad – Rootless
  • Faraz Talat – Symptoms of Prejudice
  • Zain Rashid Mian – The Short Life of Ali Lakri
  • Saadia Pathan – Sunless

The Salam Award for Imaginative Fiction is named for Dr. Albus Salam, one of the pioneers of science in Pakistan.

Dr. Abdus Salam

Eligible for consideration were original, previously unpublished English-language stories of 10,000 words or less by persons residing in Pakistan, or of Pakistani birth/descent. The initial award announcement said the winner will receive a cash prize of Rs 50,000, a review by an established literary agent, a review from a professional editor, with the potential for publication by Tor.com.

The 2017 award judges were Jeff VanderMeer, Usman Malik, and Mahvesh Murad.

Malik wrote after the winner was announced, “We received a robust number of entries and were quite impressed by the quality of the longlist we ended up with. The stories were blinded (none of the judges knew the names or genders of the writers).”

Next year’s editor and agent reviewers will be Diana Pho of Tor and Jennie Goloboy of Red Sofa Literary respectively. The judges for 2018 will be announced later this year.

Con or Bust Creates Its Own Nonprofit Corporation

Con or Bust, which “helps people of color/non-white people attend SFF conventions,” is now being run by its own newly-created not-for-profit corporation in New York. (Search the NY database). And they are seeking items for their annual online auction, with bidding to take place from May 25 through June 5.

Con or Bust’s fundraising activities formerly were part of the Carl Brandon Society (CBS). However, it came to public attention last year that the Society had lost its federal tax-exempt status, meaning Con or Bust donations would not be deductible until certain steps were taken by CBS to regain that status, which have yet to be completed.

Kate Nepveu announced that Con or Bust, Inc. filed a certificate of incorporation with the state on April 6, 2016. Its inaugural Board of Directors is:

Con or Bust followed by submitting an application for federal tax-exempt status under 501(c)(3) on April 17. Once approved, the tax-exempt status will be retroactive to the date that Con or Bust, Inc., was created. (The IRS says they should expect to hear within 90 days.) As a small charity, Con or Bust, Inc., is exempt from registration with New York State, but Nepveu says they will also be submitting an application to confirm that exemption. All of their corporate documents can be read online at the updated About page.

Meanwhile, the Carl Brandon Society is filing the tax returns necessary for its re-application for tax exempt status. Nepveu says CBS looks forward to having that in place later this year.

Auction: Con or Bust is principally funded through its annual online auction, and they are looking for donations.

Anyone can offer something for auction, by filling out a form on the website – all you need is an email address. Pictures of the item(s) can be uploaded at the same time

Full details are at the main auction information page. Click here for the Submit an Auction form.

Due the auction starting later, the next period for fans of color to request monetary assistance will be May 27-June 6.