Pixel Scroll 11/19/20 1,001 Pixel Scroll Nights

(1) PLAYING HARD TO GET. Comicbook.com introduces “Star Trek Actors Brent Spiner and LeVar Burton Feud in Hilarious Omeleto Video”. It really is a hoot.

Star Trek: The Next Generation stars LeVar Burton and Brent Spiner have come together in a new video aimed at poking fun of their public personas and pitting the two against one another in a feud that overruns a fundraiser and causes havoc at an awards show. The short comes from Omeleto, home to a wide variety of different kinds of short films. Spiner takes the central role, lampooning himself as a shallow, pretentious jerk who begins and ends the short with musical numbers that would probably stand on their own as short-short films, given the YouTube (and Star Trek) ecosphere.

The short, titled “Brentwood,” sees Spiner vacillating between wanting to distance himself from his genre past, and wanting the material success and praise that comes with that success….

(2) CONVERSATION ABOUT OCTAVIA BUTLER. Last night journalist Lynell George, author of A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky, was online in dialog with LA Times reporter Julia Wick about the legacy and prolific writing of science fiction legend Octavia E. Butler. Watch the video here on Facebook.

(3) ROLE MODEL. Sarah Gailey wrote this entry in the series on their blog: “Personal Canons: All the Birds in the Sky”.

…If you haven’t already read this book, you absolutely should. It is in many ways a love letter to both science fiction and fantasy; it simultaneously contains a tender critique of the foibles of each. Through two narratives, the novel weaves the two supposedly-distinct genres together into a truly masterful accomplishment of a story.

Reading All the Birds in the Sky was a revelation. I’d never read anything like it before. It engaged with tropes and conventions in ways that revealed a rich understanding of genre, without ever falling into cliché. The narrative was simultaneously sincere and playful, honest and elusive, sly and heartfelt.

Before I lost myself in All the Birds in the Sky, most of my understanding of and enjoyment of contemporary genre fiction and media was defined by brittleness and snark. This isn’t to say that sincere sentiments weren’t out there — but sincere sentiments weren’t what I understood to be successful. They weren’t what I understood to be the mode of the day.

The goal, as I saw it, was to refute the notion that genre fiction was unselfaware. The goal was to be cool and aloof and maybe a little mean to fans. To narratively acknowledge a trope was, by necessity, to make fun of the trope. It was a bullyproofing mechanism: nobody could make fun of us if we made fun of ourselves, first.

As I recall, there was a good amount of this in the first draft of River of Teeth. But as I read All the Birds in the Sky — and as I revised the weird little novella I’d decided to write — something shifted….

(4) MORE MYTHOPEIA. Alison Flood, in “Unseen JRR Tolkien essays on Middle-earth coming in 2021” in The Guardian says The Nature Of Middle-Earth, edited by Carl F. Hostetter, will be published next year.

…The new collection, which is authorised by the Tolkien estate, will be called The Nature of Middle-earth, and will be published in June by HarperCollins, which promised it would “transport readers back to the world of The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales and The Lord of the Rings”. 

…Topics include Elvish immortality and reincarnation; the nature of the Valar, the god-like spirits of Middle-earth; the lands and beasts of Númenor; the geography of the kingdom of Gondor; and even who had beards. Whether elves, hobbits and even dwarven women could grow beards has long been subject of debate among fans.

The writings will be edited by Carl F Hostetter, a Tolkien expert and head of the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship who has been a computer engineer at Nasa since 1985. Hostetter previously worked with Tolkien’s youngest son Christopher, who curated the author’s posthumous output until his death in January, aged 95.

(5) SLIPPED DISC PROVES TERMINAL. Sadly, “NSF to decommission Arecibo radio telescope” reports Space News.

The National Science Foundation announced Nov. 19 it will perform a “controlled decommissioning” of the giant radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, citing recent damage that made it unsafe to operate or even repair.

In a call with reporters, NSF officials said two broken cables used to support a 900-ton platform suspended over the telescope’s 305-meter main dish put the entire structure at risk of collapse. One cable slipped out of its socket in August, falling to the dish below and damaging it, while the second broke Nov. 6

Both cables are attached to the same tower, one of three surrounding the main dish. “The engineers have advised us that the break of one more cable will result in an uncontrolled collapse of the structure,” said Ralph Gaume, director of the NSF’s Division of Astronomical Sciences, referring to cables attached to that same tower. That would result in the platform crashing down to the main dish and potentially toppling one or more of the towers.

… Engineers are working on a plan to carry out that controlled decommissioning, which will take several weeks to complete. “The execution of that controlled decommissioning is unknown at this point,” Gaume said. It could be done “very rapidly” if explosives are used to bring down telescope structures, he speculated….

(6) THIS TABLET IS HARD TO SWALLOW. The Pittsburgh Current calls it — “Fahrenheit 412: New Rule Bans Allegheny County Jail Inmates From Receiving Books; Reading Limited To 214 Select E-Books”

Christopher West, aka Brother Hush, has been in the Allegheny County Jail for three months To help pass the time, he immersed himself into one of his favorite hobbies, reading.

The jail had a policy, though, that inmates could only receive books directly from Barnes and Noble or the Christian Book Store. Hush took advantage of the policy and has tried to pass his time until trial (for more info on this, read Hush’s story here). But on Nov. 16, things changed.

“Yesterday I woke up in Fahrenheit 451,” says Hush, a musical artist, and activist, by phone Nov. 17 from the Allegheny County Jail. His reference was to the 1953 Ray Bradbury Novel that tells the story about a dystopian future where books are banned and burned.

On Monday, Nov. 16, the ACJ’s incarcerated population received a memo from warden Orlando Harper that read: “Effective Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, the Allegheny County Jail shall no longer accept books from Barnesandnoble.com and Christianbooks.com. Inmates living in our facility now have the ability to read over 214 free books and 49 free religious books through our tablet program. Inmates…also have access to a wide variety of books through the leisure library on each pod.”

The ACJ’s “tablet program” began earlier this year after the county inked a new contract with Global Tel*Link. The new deal provided inmate with tablets that they could use for entertainment purposes, to photos and videos from their families and to have video visits. The problem is, each of these services costs money out of an inmate’s pocket and baked on those fee, Allegheny County receives kickbacks from the telecom company of more than $4 million. Inmates do get roughly an hour-and-a-half of free credits. But after that they are charged anywhere from three-to-five cents per minute….

“I love to read,” Hush says. “I’ve got a box full of books in here. But, now I’m being limited to only certain titles and if I want to read longer than my free credits allow, then I have to pay. With a book, I’m not charged by the minute.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • November 19, 1931 Frankenstein debuted in Detroit, Michigan.  James Whale directed the motion picture not from an adaptation of the Mary Shelley novel but rather from a 1927 play by Peggy Webling that was based on the novel. The Webling play was adapted by John L. Balderston and the screenplay written by Francis Edward Faragoh and Garrett Fort. The  cast included  Frederick Kerr as Baron Frankenstein, Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein , Mae Clarke as Elizabeth Lavenza, and Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s Monster. Critics generally loved it and it’s considered one of the best horror films of all time. It currently holds an ever so hundred percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 19, 1911 – Mary Counselman.  Five dozen short stories, two dozen poems.  “The Three Marked Pennies” may have been the second most popular in Weird Tales; readers kept mentioning it for years.  This cover for Half in Shadow is by Tim Kirk.  “The Hallowe’en scariness of the bumbling but kindly Wizard of Oz has always appealed to me more than the gruesome, morbid fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and those later authors who were influenced by their doom philosophies.  My eerie shades bubble with an irrepressible sense of humour, ready to laugh with (never at) those earth-bound mortals whose fears they once shared.”  First Fandom.  Phoenix Award.  More here.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born November 19, 1919 Alan Young. He was David Filby and James Filby in The Time Machine. He was Stanley Beamish, the original lead in the unaired pilot of the 1967 Mr. Terrific series. It’s not the DCU character as the latter will not be created until 1997. And he was the voice of Scrooge McDuck for over thirty years, first in the Mickey’s Christmas Carol short (1983) and in various other films, series and even video games up to his death. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born November 19, 1924 William Russell, 96. He played the role of companion Ian Chesterton in Doctor Who, from the show’s first episode in the end until the next to the last of the second season when the Companions change. Yes, I know the “Unearthly Child” was the unused original pilot.  He’s continued the role to the present at Big Finish. And yes, he’s in An Adventure in Space and Time. (CE)
  • Born November 19, 1936 – Wolfgang Jeschke.  Fan, author, editor.  Pioneer of the Science Fiction Club Deutschland (deliberately two-language name).  Guest of Honour at ConFiction the 48th Worldcon (hello, Kees van Toorn); on the Program Book cover he’s second from the top; more about the con here.  WJ’s fanzine Ad Astra.  Five novels, thirty shorter stories; essays, introductions, radio plays.  For the publisher Heyne, edited Science Fiction MagazinScience Fiction Jahresband (we’d say “yearbook”, although der Band isn’t really the same as “book”), Welten der Zukunft (“Worlds of the Future”), Internationale Science Fiction StoriesScience Fiction Story ReaderTitan (with Pohl, Silverberg, Bova), Das Science Fiction Jahr, a score more anthologies (including Der Tod des Dr. Island, (“The Death of Dr. Island” – but alas, so far as I know, not the rest of this).  Harrison Award.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born November 19, 1943 – Allan Cole.  A dozen novels with Chris Bunch (and other novels outside our field), two with Nick Perumov, five alone.  Two shorter stories that I know of.  Appreciation of Tom Kidd for SF Age (hello, Scott Edelman).  A hundred television episodes.  Newspaper reporter.  Learned Shakespeare and Socrates from a Greek on Cyprus.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born November 19, 1953 – Wendy Orr, 67.  Four novels and a shorter story for us; forty other books.  Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Younger Readers, 1995.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born November 19, 1953 Robert Beltran, 67. Best known for his role as Commander Chakotay on Voyager. Actually only known for that role. Like so many Trek actors, he’ll later get involved in Trek video fanfic but Paramount has gotten legalistic so it’s called Renegades and is set in the Confederation, not the Federation. And it’s shorn of anything that’s identify it as Trek related. (CE)
  • Born November 19, 1963 Terry Farrell, 56. She’s best known for her role as Jadzia Dax on Deep Space Nine. She too shows up as cast on Renegades video Trek fanfic that Beltran is listed as being part of. She’s got some other genre roles such as Joanne ‘Joey’ Summerskill in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, and Allison Saunders in Deep Core. Interestingly she played the character Cat in the American pilot of Red Dwarf. (CE)
  • Born November 19, 1965 Douglas Henshall, 55. Best known for his role as Professor Nick Cutter on Primeval. He played T.E. Lawrence in two stories of the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles series, and the lead in The Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle. He showed up on Sea of Souls, a BBC paranormal series. Finally, he had a recurring role as Taran MacQuarrie on Outlander. (CE) 
  • Born November 19, 1974 – Kuroboshi Kôhaku, 46.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Illustrator and character designer.  I’ll let you read here about Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online.  No, I mean it, go ahead.  [JH]
  • Born November 19, 1980 Katherine Kelly, 40. Miss Andrea Quill in Class, the spin-off from Doctor Who that lasted but eight episodes. (I’ve not seen it.) She’d reprise her role for the Big Audio dramas. Other an appearance in Life on Mars, that’s it for her genre work. (CE) 
  • Born November 19, 1983 –  Kallie George, 37.  Four novels, as many shorter stories, for us.  Others inspired by Anne of Green Gables (and who isn’t?).  Teaches reading with a dinosaur – a cute one – no, I mean it – on ice skates.  Website here.  [JH]

(9) STILL PLAYING CAT AND MOUSE. Warner Brothers dropped the Tom and Jerry official trailer, sharing some very amusing moments. Coming out next year.

(10) HUGO NIGHT REMINISCENCE. Battlestar Galactica script writer Anne Cofell Saunders confesses:

(11) GOING HORRIBLY, HILARIOUSLY WRONG. Paste Magazine enthuses “Hulu’s Rebooted Animaniacs Carries Forth the Zaniness and Charm of the Original”.

… It’s not an escape from reality, as the reboot leans into its political commentary, but it’s a much more colorful, joyful version of it, where nearly any problem can be solved with a giant hammer pulled out of one’s pocket. Animaniacs only wants one reaction from audiences of any age, and that’s laughs. It succeeds tremendously.

Hulu’s rebooted series maintains the same core of the original series, bringing back Steven Spielberg as a producer and many of the same voice actors, composers, and writers who created it. Each 24-minute episode block consists of three shorts of varying length, usually two starring the Warner brothers Yakko (Rob Paulsen) and Wakko (Jess Harnell), and the Warner sister, Dot (Tress MacNeille), with the middle segment going to Pinky (Paulsen) and the Brain (Laurice LaMarche). Without any narrative throughline, Animaniacs remains a show you can watch in any order and enjoy….

 (12) ISN’T THAT SPECIAL? Screen Rant decries “10 Recent Movies With Inexcusably Bad Special Effects”. Hey, I actually paid money to see two of these in a theater – and I had no complaints about Black Panther’s effects even if it is number 3 on this list.

For better or worse, special effects have become an increasingly prominent part of Hollywood moviemaking, and this is particularly true for movies in fantasy and science fiction. While some of these effects really do add to the storytelling, and while some of them are gorgeous to look at, it has to be said that quite a few of them are also more than a little ridiculous.

4. Gods Of Egypt (2016)

It’s a little hard to say what, exactly, the makers of this movie were thinking when they pushed it into production. It’s not as if movies set in antiquity, particularly in mythology, have been especially successful or popular. Most are at best decent (and almost always critically derided).

It’s also quite impossible to take this movie seriously, in large part because the special effects are so disastrously overdone and yet also incredibly cheesy. Somehow, one doubts that this was the effect they intended. It certainly doesn’t help that the movie engaged in some truly egregious white-washing.

(13) IMPRINT REVIVED. [Item by Steve Green.] British horror author and anthologist Johnny Mains has dusted off his publishing imprint Noose & Gibbet for next month’s release of Our Lady of Hate, the first collection of short stories by Catherine Lord (1845-1901). It’s a 338pp hardback, limited to 100 copies.

(14) GRITTY UNREALISM. [Item by Andrew Porter.] From “The Classic Novel That Robert Macfarlane Just Couldn’t Finish” in the New York Times Book Review section.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

Frank Herbert’s “Dune.” Wild landscapes, weird nature, science fiction — this really should be my jam. But no; the violence came to sicken me by halfway through, as did aspects of the politics. So I junked it.

But he does like M. John Harrison and N.K. Jemisin.

(15) NOW THAT DISNEY OWNS EVERYTHING. Here’s an unexpected way to phrase the new state of affairs —

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Lord Of The RIngs Expert Answers Tolkien Questions From Twitter” on YouTube is a video from WIRED in which Tolkien expert Corey Olsen explains why Sauron was neither a human or an elf and why Tolkien thought the plural of dwarf was “dwarfs” and not “dwarves.”

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, James Davis Nicoll, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Steve Green, Contrarius, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus (in collaboration with OGH).]

The #DisneyMustPay Alan Dean Foster and SFWA Joint Press Conference

Cora Buhlert

By Cora Buhlert: After some confusion regarding the start time, the joint Zoom press conference of Alan Dean Foster and SFWA about Disney’s failure to pay royalties due to Mr. Foster, started with a slight delay. Present were Alan Dean Foster, his agent Vaughne Hansen and Mary Robinette Kowal, president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. The moderator was Kitty Kurth.

The press conference began with statements from Alan Dean Foster and Mary Robinette Kowal. Alan Dean Foster phrased his statement as an open letter to Mickey Mouse, while Mary Robinette Kowal talked about the broader implications of the issue. Both statements may be found on the SFWA website. After the statements were read, moderator Kitty Kurth opened the floor to questions from the audience.

Some time ago, Alan Dean Foster noticed that he no longer received either royalties or royalty statements for the novelization of the first Star Wars movie, the Star Wars tie-in novel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye as well as the novelizations of Alien, Aliens and Alien 3.

Alan Dean Foster contacted his agent Vaughne Hansen, who contacted the current publishers of the novels in question. It turned out that the problem was not with the publishers, but with Disney.

When Disney’s legal department kept stonewalling Vaughne Hansen, Alan Dean Foster contacted the SFWA grievance committee, who had no more luck getting a response from Disney. According to Alan Dean Foster, his agent and SFWA have been trying to talk to Disney without success for over a year now. So the matter was escalated to SFWA president Mary Robinette Kowal, who decided to take the unprecedented step to go public with the issue.

In essence, Disney claims that when they purchased Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox, they purchased the rights to the five novels in question, but not the obligation to pay Alan Dean Foster the royalties he is entitled to.

Mary Robinette Kowal stated that according to US contract law, when a company is bought or merged, both rights and obligations are transferred to the legal successor of the original company. Vaughne Hansen confirmed that the original contract for the Alien novelisations also includes a clause stating that rights and obligations are transferred to the legal successor in case of a buyout or merger. No word on the two Star Wars novels, but it would be very unusual, if the contract did not contain a transference of rights and obligations clause.

In my day job as a translator, I see a lot of contracts and can confirm that every contract contains a clause regarding the transferences of rights and obligations in case of a buyout or merger. This is very much a legal and business standard.

Vaughne Hansen stated that the problem is not with the contracts, but with Disney. Mary Robinette Kowal also pointed out that Disney’s behaviour sets a dangerous precedent with potentially huge consequences for all creatives. Mary Robinette Kowal also implored any writers who have experienced similar issues with Disney or any other company to contact SFWA via this form on their website.

Alan Dean Foster’s experience does not seem to be an isolated incident, because during the Q&A part of the press conference Steve Davidson reported experiencing a similar issues regarding the trademark to Amazing Stories, which he holds, and the eponymous Apple TV series. Michael Capobianco also expressed concerns regarding the novelisation of Alien Resurrection, which his late wife A.C. Crispin wrote.

Mary Robinette Kowal once more stressed that SFWA and Alan Dean Foster’s representatives want to talk to Disney to find a solution to the problem and that they only decided to go public, because they could not get a reply from Disney. Mary Robinette Kowal also stated that whether the contracts in question continue or are cancelled, Disney must pay the outstanding royalties to Alan Dean Foster.     


Here are the statements by Mary Robinette Kowal and Alan Dean Foster posted at the SFWA Blog:

#DisneyMustPay Alan Dean Foster

A message from SFWA’s President, Mary Robinette Kowal:

Last year, a member came to SFWA’s Grievance Committee with a problem, which on the surface sounds simple and resolvable. He had written novels and was not being paid the royalties that were specified in his contract. The Grievance Committee is designed to resolve contract disputes like this. As part of our negotiating toolbox, we guarantee anonymity for both the writer and the publisher if the grievance is resolved.

When it is working, as president, I never hear from them.

When talks break down, the president of SFWA is asked to step in. We do this for any member.

In this case, the member is Alan Dean Foster. The publisher is Disney.

Here are his words.

Dear Mickey,

We have a lot in common, you and I.  We share a birthday: November 18.  My dad’s nickname was Mickey.  There’s more.

When you purchased Lucasfilm you acquired the rights to some books I wrote.  STAR WARS, the novelization of the very first film.  SPLINTER OF THE MIND’S EYE, the first sequel novel.  You owe me royalties on these books.  You stopped paying them.

When you purchased 20th Century Fox, you eventually acquired the rights to other books I had written.  The novelizations of ALIEN, ALIENS, and ALIEN 3.  You’ve never paid royalties on any of these, or even issued royalty statements for them.

All these books are all still very much in print.  They still earn money.  For you.  When one company buys another, they acquire its liabilities as well as its assets.  You’re certainly reaping the benefits of the assets.  I’d very much like my miniscule (though it’s not small to me) share.

You want me to sign an NDA (Non-disclosure agreement) before even talking.  I’ve signed a lot of NDAs in my 50-year career.  Never once did anyone ever ask me to sign one prior to negotiations.  For the obvious reason that once you sign, you can no longer talk about the matter at hand.  Every one of my representatives in this matter, with many, many decades of experience in such business, echo my bewilderment.

You continue to ignore requests from my agents.  You continue to ignore queries from SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.  You continue to ignore my legal representatives.  I know this is what gargantuan corporations often do.  Ignore requests and inquiries hoping the petitioner will simply go away.  Or possibly die.  But I’m still here, and I am still entitled to what you owe me.  Including not to be ignored, just because I’m only one lone writer.  How many other writers and artists out there are you similarly ignoring?

My wife has serious medical issues and in 2016 I was diagnosed with an advanced form of cancer.  We could use the money.  Not charity: just what I’m owed.  I’ve always loved Disney.  The films, the parks, growing up with the Disneyland TV show.  I don’t think Unca Walt would approve of how you are currently treating me.  Maybe someone in the right position just hasn’t received the word, though after all these months of ignored requests and queries, that’s hard to countenance.  Or as a guy named Bob Iger said….

“The way you do anything is the way you do everything.”

I’m not feeling it.

Alan Dean Foster

Prescott, AZ

Alan Dean Foster

Mary Robinette Kowal adds:

In my decade with the organization, the fact that we are forced to present this publicly is unprecedented. So too, are the problems. The simple problem is that we have a writer who is not being paid.

The larger problem has the potential to affect every writer. Disney’s argument is that they have purchased the rights but not the obligations of the contract. In other words, they believe they have the right to publish work, but are not obligated to pay the writer no matter what the contract says. If we let this stand, it could set precedent to fundamentally alter the way copyright and contracts operate in the United States. All a publisher would have to do to break a contract would be to sell it to a sibling company.

If they are doing this to Alan Dean Foster, one of the great science fiction writers of our time, then what are they doing to the younger writers who do not know that a contract is a contract?

To resolve the immediate issue regarding their breach of contract with Alan Dean Foster, Disney has three choices:

Pay Alan Dean Foster all back royalties as well as any future royalties.

Publication ceases until new contract(s) are signed, and pay all back royalties to Alan Dean Foster as well as any future royalties.

Publication ceases and pay all back royalties to Alan Dean Foster.

This starts with a conversation. You have our contact information and offer to sit down with a Disney representative, Alan’s agent Vaughne Lee Hansen, and a SFWA representative.

Regardless of choice, Disney must pay Alan Dean Foster.

If you’re a fan of Alan Dean Foster or believe that a writer’s work has value, please let Disney know.

If you are a writer experiencing similar problems with Disney or another company, please report your circumstances to us here.

#DearMickey #DisneyMustPay

#DisneyMustPay Alan Dean Foster

SFWA and Alan Dean Foster will hold a joint press conference on November 18 about unpaid royalties Disney owes the author.

Famed science fiction and fantasy writer Alan Dean Foster, writer of multiple book series, numerous novelizations of film scripts and more than 20 novels, will hold a joint press conference with Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America on Wednesday, November 18 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern/1:00 p.m. Central/ 11:00 a.m. Pacific. Foster and SFWA will discuss the non-payment by Disney of several contracts for works including multiple Star Wars and Aliens novelizations. 

Foster was originally contracted to write the Alien novelizations by Titan Books, and the Star Wars novelizations by Lucasfilms. Both companies regularly paid his royalties. When The Walt Disney Company acquired the rights to these novelizations in 2015, the payments stopped although the books continue to be sold. Disney continues to get money for the books. Alan Dean Foster, and possibly other authors with similar contracts, have not been paid.

Foster and SFWA will discuss the fact the contracts are contracts and that Disney must pay this author and any author to whom they owe royalty checks.  

The press conference will be available via Zoom Zoom (register at link).

The press conference will also be available on the SFWA Facebook page.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 11/7/20 My Favorite Lightyear

(1) NEWTON’S LAW LAB. From 2010, “William R. Newman on Why Did Isaac Newton Believe in Alchemy.”

Indiana University professor of History and Philosophy of Science, William R. Newman presents his lecture, entitled Why Did Isaac Newton Believe in Alchemy? Through historical documents and experiments that demonstrate alchemical processes, this lecture explains why one of the most insightful scientists in history was convinced that alchemical transformations were scientifically plausible.

(2) IT’S AROUND HERE SOMEWHERE. “Apocalypse Always: On Matthew Wolf-Meyer’s ‘Theory for the World to Come’” – a review by Sean Guynes at LA Review of Books.

Theory for the World to Come offers short, personal readings of a handful of familiar SF texts, including blockbuster films like RoboCop and novels by Octavia Butler, Orson Scott Card, Stephen Graham Jones, and Kurt Vonnegut. To these quintessentially SF texts he adds more loosely speculative ones, including funk music and Dougal Dixon’s speculative nonfiction book Man After Man. Wolf-Meyer identifies in each text an attempt to deal with a singular apocalypse and argues that in reading them collectively, in imagining their futurities together, we can better respond to the multiplicity inherent in all apocalypse. For Wolf-Meyer, apocalyptic imaginaries “produce models to think about society and how it might recover from devastating — if not ontology shattering — events.” Nothing new to scholars of SF, but Wolf-Meyer contends that these collective imaginings of devastating events offer a titular “theory for the world to come.” Indeed, in the time of ongoing apocalypse, we are already living in need of such theory and have only to produce it through engaging, praxis-oriented readings of speculative fiction.

(3) MULTI-STORY HOMES. Ray Bradbury and other writers are part of The Argonaut’s survey: “The Westside’s Hidden Literary History Is Written In Its Lost Architecture”.

…Bradbury would take advantage of the burgeoning bohemian atmosphere, living on Venice Boulevard — although moving a few blocks closer to the beach in 1947 — until the end of the decade. In 1950, the same year “The Martian Chronicles” was published, he left Venice.

The 670 property stayed in town a while longer, until it was demolished and replaced with a New York-style art gallery. The gallery opened in 2010, held a Bradbury-themed exhibit in 2012 and closed in 2013.

The Cheviot Hills property where Bradbury lived from the 1960s until his death in 2012 suffered a similar fate when it was torn down by the new owner, resulting in a public outcry.

Properties in Los Angeles can be designated Historic-Cultural Monuments, which gives them a protected status. Properties can be nominated for the designation by anyone, and they are often nominated by the owners themselves, Bernstein said. However, there are not as many Historic-Cultural Monuments on the Westside as there are in other parts of Los Angeles.

“Land values are so high and many might envision a land development in their future,” he said.

Of course, not every piece of Westside literary history has vanished. The house where Christopher Isherwood wrote his landmark novel “A Single Man” still privately observes the Santa Monica Canyon from its Ocean Avenue vantage point.

And sometimes, rather than vanish, literary history generates spontaneously. William Faulkner was rumored to have lived on an El Greco Street in Santa Monica — no such street seems to have existed in the city.

Another writer whose Westside presence was slightly overstated was Raymond Chandler. Loren Latker, operator of the Raymond Chandler fan website Shamus Town (www.shamustown.com), started investigating the crime writer’s many Los Angeles area homes and quickly noticed something amiss. Chandler lore had it that the writer lived at 723 Stewart St. in Santa Monica in the early 1920s when he was an executive at the Dabney Oil Syndicate.

“I went there looking around, and the addresses are wrong,” Latker said. “It’s not possible that he lived on Stewart in Santa Monica.”

Old maps of the area backed him up. Stewart did not cross Wilshire, where the 723 address would have been, Latker said. Chandler most likely lived on a Stewart Street in downtown Los Angeles, which was later renamed Witmer, he said. That would be near the Mayfair Hotel, an infamous Chandler haunt where the writer would check in, get drunk, call his office and threaten to kill himself….

(4) GOFUNDME. Steve Perrin has launched a GoFundMe to assist his wife Luise, a member of the SCA and LASFS: “Care for the Phoenix”

My wife Luise Perenne, known as Luise of the Phoenix  in the early days of the SCA, an artist in both dance and illustration, is going into hospice care after a very close call from a heart attack and pneumonia. She is extremely weak and at age 76 needs more help than I (at age 74) can provide. She starts hospice care at home on Monday. We need a caretaker to come in a couple of hours a day to help Luise, take care of her personal needs, and so forth. The usual charge is $25.00 an hour. Assuming 2 hours a day for a caretaker,  that’s $1500 a 30-day month, and I am  asking for more  to cover extra time or other emergencies.  After the 1st month we will have a better idea of what is needed and I will do another GFM. 

Offers to physically help from local friends are always appreciated.

(5) RING ME UP. Looper has made a directory: “Lord of the Rings: Every Ring-bearer in chronological order”. I knew who the first and last ones were – in between it gets busy!

It should come as no surprise that the first person to bear the One Ring is none other than the Dark Lord himself. After all, it’s Sauron who forges the overpowered loop of metal in the first place, right smack dab in the middle of the Second Age of Middle-earth history.

Of course, Sauron was around for a very long time before he made the One Ring. He started out as an angelic being that predated time itself. Eventually, the world was created, and he joined forces with the original Dark Lord, Morgoth. When Morgoth was defeated at the end of the First Age, Sauron stepped into his shoes and became the new Dark Lord.

(6) MALKIN GREY REMEMBERED. Now online, Pippin Macdonald’s tribute to her mother, Debra Doyle

…As a member of the SCA, she was known as Malkin Grey. She was chronicaler for the Barony of BhaKail, and later Tir-y-Don, and as such claimed she needed to be unbiased in any feuds that may crop up, so she could properly report on them. Really, it was her way of staying out of their drama. 

While in the SCA she wrote, with her best friend Peregrynne Windrider, “The Song of the Shield Wall.” Mom said it might have been the most wide reaching thing she ever wrote. Stanzas of it have ended up written on the walls of army outposts in Iraq. When my brother, Brendan, went to Pensic one year, when he told the bards his mom was Malkin Grey, it was as if he told them he was Mick Jagger’s kid. She earned numerous awards for her service to the SCA, including Mistress of the Pelican. …

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • November 7, 1997 — Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers premiered. It’s based loosely off Robert Heinlein’s Hugo Award winning novel of the same name.  It had a cast of Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards Jake Busey,  Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Muldoon and  Michael Ironside, and it received a mixed reception by critics ranging from utterly loathing it to really, really loving it and a generally negative one by most SF fans; it currently garners a seventy percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes among the quarter million audience reviewers who’ve given an opinion, and has long since earned back its modest budget. It would spawn a number of sequels, mostly bad, and one rather excellent animated series. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 7, 1910 Pearl Argyle. Catherine CabalI in the 1936 Things to Come as written by H.G. Wells based off his “The Shape of Things to Come” story. Being a dancer, she also appeared in 1926 in The Fairy Queen opera by Henry Purcell, with dances by Marie Rambert and Frederick Ashton. Her roles were Dance of the Followers of Night, an attendant on Summer, and Chaconne. (Died 1946.) (CE)
  • Born November 7, 1914 – R.A. Lafferty.  One of our most original and strange.  A score of novels, two hundred thirty shorter stories, three dozen poems.  Outside our field, see particularly The Fall of RomeOkla Hannali.  His name and Sir Arthur Clarke’s saying “One of the few writers who have made me laugh aloud” gave rise to LaffCons (here in 2019 even Darrell Schweitzer, 2nd from L, is almost at a loss); they and RAL’s East of Laughter gave rise to Feast of Laughter, 5 vols. so far; but while RAL is indeed comic, remember that the difference between comic significance and cosmic significance is a single sibilant.  One Hugo; Phoenix Award, World Fantasy Award, for life achievement.  Even the titles are strange (“Thus We Frustrate Charlemagne”, “Maybe Jones and the City”, “Or Little Ducks Each Day”).  Past Master may be the best start.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born November 7, 1917 – Mike Rosenblum.  Pioneer British fan.  Attended the 1937 Leeds convention.  Leading collector.  Doc Weir Award (for U.K. service).  Famous for Futurian War Digest; also in FAPAVector.  (Died 1978) [JH]
  • Born November 7, 1923 – Blanche Howard.  One novel for us; five others of which one was co-authored and then adapted for stage, a dozen shorter stories, correspondence with co-author.  Last novel at 87.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born November 7, 1934 Wendy Williams. You know I’ll work a Doctor Who reference in and she was in a Fourth Doctor story, “The Ark in Space” as Vira. Other genre appearances include Danger ManJack the Ripper, Leap in the Dark and The Further Adventures of the Musketeers. (Died 2019.) (CE) 
  • Born November 7, 1947 – Margaret Ball, Ph.D., 73.  Three novels with Anne McCaffrey, two dozen more, a dozen shorter stories.  Fulbright scholar.  Univ. Cal. Los Angeles professor.  Now retired in favor of fabric arts, see here.  [JH]
  • Born November 7, 1950 Lindsay Duncan, 70. Adelaide Brooke in the Tenth Doctor‘s “The Waters of Mars” story and the recurring role of Lady Smallwood on Sherlock in  “His Last Vow”, “The Six Thatchers” and “The Lying Detective”. She’s also been in Black MirrorA Discovery of WitchesFrankensteinThe Storyteller: Greek MythsMission: 2110 and one of my favorite series, The New Avengers. (CE) 
  • Born November 7, 1954 Guy Gavriel Kay, 66. The story goes that when Christopher Tolkien needed an assistant to edit his father J. R. R. Tolkien’s unpublished work, he chose Kay who was being a student of philosophy at the University of Manitoba. And Kay moved to Oxford in 1974 to assist Tolkien in editing The Silmarillion. Cool, eh? The Finovar trilogy which I love is the retelling of the legends of King Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere which is why much of his fiction is considered historical fantasy. Tigana likewise which is wonderful somewhat resembles renaissance Italy. My favorite work by him is Ysabel which strangely enough is called am urban fantasy when it isn’t. It won a World Fantasy Award. Let’s not forget that he was the Toastmaster at ConFrancisco. (CE) 
  • Born November 7, 1960 Linda Nagata, 60. Her novella “Goddesses” was the first online publication to win the Nebula Award. She writes largely in the Nanopunk genre which is not be confused with the Biopunk genre. To date, she has three series out, to wit The Nanotech SuccessionStories of the Puzzle Lands (as Trey Shiels) and The Red. She has won a Locus Award for Best First Novel for The Bohr Maker which the first novel in The Nanotech Succession. Her 2013 story “Nahiku West” was runner-up for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and The Red: First Light was nominated for both the Nebula Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Her site is here. (CE)
  • Born November 7, 1963 – Robh Ruppel, 57.   A score of covers, threescore interiors, trading cards, for us; here is Dragon 232here is Earth Hourhere is Passage to Dawn.  Among other things, here is his book Aspect Ratiohere is a review of his book Graphic L.A.  [JH]
  • Born November 7, 1974 Carl Steven. He appeared in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock as a young Spock, thereby becoming the first actor other than Leonard Nimoy to play the role in a live action setting. Genre one-offs included Weird ScienceTeen Wolf and Superman.  He provided the voice of a young Fred Jones for four seasons worth of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo which can be construed as genre. (Died 2011.) (CE) 
  • Born November 7, 1982 – Zhang Yueran, 38.  Won Mengya magazine’s 2001 New Concept writing competition.  Her 2004 collection Ten Loves tr. Engl. 2013, see particularly “The Ghost of Sushui City” tr. Engl. as “A Sushui Ghost Story”.  Int’l Writing Program Fall Residency 2011, Univ. Iowa.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) FACETIME. “Star Wars: Why Tusken Raiders Wear Masks”. ScreenRant wants to explain, but heck, doesn’t everybody now?

…Star Wars: A New Hope also introduced the audience to some of the creatures and alien species that inhabit this vast universe, though many of them weren’t fully identified until many years later when George Lucas brought the prequel trilogy. Such is the case of the Tusken Raiders, who made their first appearance in A New Hope but weren’t identified as such until Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, where viewers spent a lot of time in Tatooine, following a young Anakin Skywalker. After that, Tusken Raiders were absent for the rest of the Star Wars saga, but they recently returned in Disney+’s The Mandalorian, which has brought back some questions about them, such as why they wear masks and why they never take them off.

(11) GET YOUR CANDLES READY. November 13 is the day — “‘Fantasia’ Turns 80: Why Its Technological Achievements Can’t Salvage Its Shortcomings” Or so says Christian Blauvelt.

…We’re not here to bury “Fantasia.” A lot of it is impressive, even absorbing: the “Toccata and Fugue” sequence that opens this unique anthology plays like an experimental film, and the “Rite of Spring” transplants Stravinsky’s inflammatory ballet to the beginning of life on Earth before delivering the best dinosaur epic pre-“Jurassic Park.” But “Fantasia” is also the ultimate example of “white elephant art” in film, to borrow critic Manny Farber’s label. This is a case of Walt Disney being so committed to making an “important” film, a “breakthrough” film — one he felt would make critics take animation that much more seriously — that he ends up with a work of just intermittent artistry.

(12) ALFRED BESTER’S MARINER SCRIPT. “Eight Months to Mars” on YouTube is a 1965 documentary, done for the U.S. Information Agency and narrated by John Fitch, about the Mariner IV mission to Mars.  It includes copies of covers from Amazing and Galaxy, an argument that the Martian atmosphere could be made of sugar, the first photos of craters on Mars, and a prediction that human spaceflight to Mars would begin in 1980.  The script for this documentary is by Alfred Bester.

(13) WHO YA GONNA CALL? AutoBlog promises “Lego’s 18.5-inch Ghostbusters Ecto-1 will make you feel like bustin'”.

…The set is comprised of a whopping 2,352 Lego pieces and when completed, will measure 18.5 inches long. It’s one of the more accurate Lego vehicles the company has created, and features a steering box connecting the steering wheel to the front wheels, hinged doors and an opening hood with replica V8 engine inside.

Like the movie car, it’s packed with ghost-fighting gadgetry….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Mokapzu Park on Vimeo, Art and Graft shows what a park would be like after all the plants and animals died and scientists have to create new animals from discarded plastic bottles.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/19/20 We Keep Our Cats As Happy As We Can

(1) OOR WOMBAT KNOWS HOW TO WRITE HORROR. Kansas City’s The Pitch has Nick Spacek “Asking author Ursula Vernon to reveal what hides in The Hollow Places.

…Part of what makes Vernon’s books so terrifying is that they’re quite relatable. Told in the first person by rather chummy narrators who immediately become something like your best friends, The Twisted Ones‘ Mouse and The Hollow Places‘ Kara feel like folks you’d love to get to know better, making each page in both books an absolute treat.

“Horror is sufficiently immediate and visceral that you spend a lot of time thinking, ‘What would I do in this situation?’” Vernon explains her style. “It has to be very immediate, so that the reader isn’t yelling, ‘Don’t go in there!’ when they’re about to open the door. You don’t want that. You want people to relate to why they’re making these choices. You need a pressing reason why they will stay in this situation that is obviously bad. Things are going down, so it has to be a believable reason.”

She points to the fact that in The Twisted Ones, Mouse doesn’t want to leave her dog behind, and I concur, pointing to the fact that much of The Hollow Places is due to the fact that Kara’s Uncle Earl is still recovering and Kara doesn’t want to abandon him.

“That’s why people stay in scary situations,” Vernon agrees. “I think that’s a more relatable reason than something I don’t actually believe. People stay in situations either because they’re too poor to leave, they have nowhere to go, or there’s someone they just can’t bear to leave behind. You got to have the personal stakes.”

 (2) MARS MY DESTINATION. Tesmanian listens in as “Elon Musk shares SpaceX Starship plans at the Mars Society Convention”.

SpaceX’s founder Elon Musk was a guest at a the virtual International Mars Society Convention on Friday, October 16 (full video below). During the conference, he held a discussion with Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin. –“I think we want to be on track to become a multiplanet species and a spacefaring civilization, in order to […] ensure the continuance of consciousness as we know it,” Musk told Zubrin. “… As far as we know… we could be the only life.”

When Zubrin asked about Starship, SpaceX’s next-generation launch vehicle, Musk said he will manufacture many iterations of the vehicle. Starship will be capable of transporting tons of cargo and one hundred passengers to space destinations. It is actively under development at Boca Chica Beach in South Texas. Musk talked about the challenges SpaceX faced to develop the Falcon rocket, stating that he expects to have Starship failures throughout its development before reaching orbit.

Musk told Zubrin that Starship is being designed to enable a self-sustaining ‘city’ on Mars. “If the ships from Earth stop coming for any reason, does Mars die out?…” he said. So, Starship must be reusable and capable of carrying all the resources needed to aid humans’ survival on the Red Planet. Musk stated SpaceX’s goal is to get enough people and tonnage to the Martian surface ‘as soon as possible’, –“Are we creating a city on Mars … before any possible World War three… […]” — He told Zubrin he hopes to takes humans to Mars before any nuclear war, asteroid strike, any potential disaster threatens humanity’s existence.

(3) ANTE AND DEAL. If you didn’t catch it live, here’s a video of the latest Wild Cards panel.

Join five of the Wild Cards authors as they discuss what it’s like to write in a shared universe series and how exactly the Wild Cards Consortium works. Featuring Melinda Snodgrass, Paul Cornell, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Kevin Andrew Murphy, and David Levine.

(4) EMPLOYMENT IN TIMES OF PANDEMIC. “‘I worked in horror films. Now I’m an undertaker’: arts workers who had to find new jobs”The Guardian tells how entertainment industry workers are adapting.

For many workers who would ordinarily be earning a living in theatres, live music venues and nightclubs, which largely still remain closed in the UK, however, retraining has been a harsh reality since they lost their jobs in March. Countless creatives have already been forced to find other income to make ends meet, while a recent report found that 34% of musicians alone had thought about hanging up their instruments for good. Here we meet some of the people who’ve added some unusual strings to their bow during the pandemic …

‘In undertaking, you get to drive luxury cars’

Paris Rivers: SFX technician turned undertaker
Paris Rivers is on the phone from a cemetery in London, where he has just done a cremation. Formerly a special effects technician in film and TV, as well as a cabaret performer, he became an undertaker at the start of lockdown. Last week, he had to help dress the body of a man who had died from stab wounds. Even more shocking was seeing a child’s brain. “I’m doing a job that most people wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole,” he says. “But a lot of us didn’t have any alternatives.” Besides, he adds, “when people ask, ‘What did you do during 2020?’ I can say I was there on the frontlines.”

Rivers, 31, was “really scared and desperate for work” when Covid-19 hit and by chance, had a friend who was working in one of the temporary morgues set up at the beginning of the pandemic. After working there for two months, he contacted funeral homes to see whether anyone would take him on as a funeral service operator. He’s been transporting ashes, cadavers and coffins ever since. Compared with being on a film set, he says, the job is relatively “stress-free”.

“It’s strangely relaxing,” Rivers explains. “You get to go to beautiful cemeteries, wear a nice suit, drive luxury cars. Some people are shocked by the ick factor, but I started in horror films, so I find this fascinating. And how many people who work in horror films have actually worked around death? I feel this will be helpful for me in the long run.”

Even when the film industry starts back up properly, Rivers says, he’ll continue as an undertaker part-time. The job has inspired him in other ways, too. “I’m developing an Elvira-esque cryptkeeper,” he says of a character that he plans to bring to the stage. There will, of course, be “lots of black humour”.

(5) WIZARDS SUED. “Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman sue Wizards of the Coast after it abandons new Dragonlance trilogy” reports Boing Boing.

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, creators of the Dragonlance fantasy mythos, are suing Wizards of the Coast after the company ditched a licensing deal for the latest books in the long-running series.

Filed in district court in Seattle, the lawsuit [Scribd, PDF] was first reported by Cecilia D’Anastasio. The lawsuit claims that WoTC breached their contract without explanation and in “stunning and brazen bad faith”, despite having been intimately involved in the development of the new work, approving a trilogy’s worth of characters, storylines and scenes and signing with a publisher, Penguin Random House.

The lawsuit claims $10m in damages.

Weis and Hickman created Dragonlance, set within the broad ambit of WoTC’s Dungeons & Dragons role-playing franchise, in the 1980s. Its lively mix of colorful heroes and epic drama was a hit with gamers and readers, growing into a sprawling shared universe fleshed out by many authors, artists and designers. According to the lawsuit, Weis and Hickman agreed with Wizards of the Coast to produce the new novels in 2017, capping off the series and giving fans a final sendoff.

But the company pulled the plug in August 2020—and Weis and Hickman blame controversies at WoTC itself….

(6) TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN TV SHOW. This sff production went more quietly. NPR delivers the eulogy: “‘The Venture Bros.’ Creators On The Show’s Legacy, Its Fans — And Its Cancellation”.

An era of American television ended in September.

Its death came quietly, with news of its passing drowned out from all sides by crumbling institutions, environmental disasters, a historic pandemic and pervasive social unrest. As with all matters of public interest in 2020, its demise was announced via Twitter.

After spanning three presidencies and surviving several cultural sea changes, The Venture Bros. was cancelled after 17 years on the air.

If you’ve never heard of the animated series despite its longevity, you’re far from alone: Neither the half-hour comedy nor its home, Cartoon Network’s late night programming block Adult Swim, are often mentioned in the same breath as HBO and AMC or what’s conventionally viewed as “prestige TV.”

The Venture Bros. began airing its first season in 2004. It followed Dr. Thaddeus S. “Rusty” Venture, his sons Hank and Dean — the titular brothers of the program — and bodyguard Brock Samson on episodic romps in the action-adventure and science fiction vein…

(7) EARLY WARNING. The New York Times tells how Disney unabashedly apologizes and monetizes when it comes to some of its animated classics: “Disney Adds Warnings for Racist Stereotypes to Some Older Films”.

The 1953 film “Peter Pan” portrays Indigenous people “in a stereotypical manner” and refers to them repeatedly with a slur, according to Disney.Disney

They are classic animated films like “Dumbo” (1941) and “Peter Pan” (1953), but on Disney’s streaming service they will now get a little help to stand the test of time.

Before viewers watch some of these films that entertained generations of children, they will be warned about scenes that include “negative depictions” and “mistreatment of people or cultures.”

The 12-second disclaimer, which cannot be skipped, tells viewers, in part: “These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.”

In addition to “Peter Pan” and “Dumbo,” the warning plays on films including “The Aristocats” (1970) and “Aladdin” (1992), and directs viewers to a website that explains some of the problematic scenes.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • October 19, 2010 — On this day in 2010 in the United Kingdom, the BBC’s adaption of H.G. Wells’ The First Men In The Moon premiered on BBC Four. This film was written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Damon Thomas, it stars Gatiss as Cavor and Rory Kinnear as Bedford, with Alex Riddell, Peter Forbes, Katherine Jakeways, Lee Ingleby and Julia Deakin. It ends with a tribute to Lionel Jeffries, who played Cavor in the 1964 feature film, and who died earlier that year. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a so-so forty five percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 19, 1889 – Miguel Asturias.  A novel and a few shorter stories for us, maybe more; nine novels all told, story collections, poetry.  A Kind of Mulatto (tr. English as Mulatto and Mr. Fly) called “a carnival incarnated….  a collision between Mayan Mardi Gras and Hispanic baroque”.  In Men of Maize (Eng. in UNESCO Collection of Representative Works) a postman turns into a coyote, his people into ants, “written in the form of a myth….  experimental, ambitious, and difficult to follow.”  Nobel Prize in Literature.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1909 Robert Beatty. He’s best known for being in 2001: A Space Odyssey as Dr. Ralph Halvorsen. He played General Cutler in “The Tenth Planet,”  a Third Doctor story, and was General Halstead in The Martian Chronicles. He was in Superman III and Superman IV, respectively playing a tanker captain and the U.S. President. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1940 Michael Gambon, 80. Actor on stage and screen from Ireland who is best known to genre fans as Professor Albus Dumbledore from the Hugo-nominated Harry Potter films (a role he picked up after the passing of Richard Harris, who played the character in the first two films), but also had roles in Toys (for which he received a Saturn nomination), Mary ReillySleepy Hollow, and the Hugo finalist Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He has had guest roles in episodes of The Jim Henson HourDoctor Who, and Tales of the Unexpected, and played an acerbic storyteller and possibly tomb robber in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. He has also done voice roles in animated features including Fantastic Mr. FoxPaddington, and The Wind in the Willows, in which he voiced very nicely The Badger. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1943 – Peter Weston, F.N.  Founded Birmingham SF Group.  Fanzines Zenith, renamed SpeculationProlapse, renamed Relapse.  Reviewed fanzines for Vector as “Malcolm Edwards”, confusing when a real ME appeared later, indeed each chairing Worldcons (PW the 37th).  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Doc Weir Award (British; for service).  Fan Guest of Honor at Boskone 37, Eastercon 53, Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Lifetime Achievement Award at Corflu 32 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid).  His foundry cast the rockets of the Hugo Awards trophies.  (Died 2017)
  • Born October 19, 1945 John Lithgow, 75. He enters SF fame as Dr. Emilio Lizardo / Lord John Whorfin in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’ll later be in Santa Claus: The MovieHarry and the HendersonsShrekRise of the Planet of the ApesInterstellar and the remake of Pet Sematary. He was on television’s Third Rock from the Sun for six seasons. Oh, and he voiced The White Rabbit on the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland series! (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1943 L.E. Modesitt, Jr., 77. Writer of more than 70 novels and 10 different series, the best known of which is his fantasy series The Saga of Recluce. He has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including a World Fantasy Convention. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1946 Philip Pullman, 74. I’ll confess that I like his Sally Lockhart mysteries, both the original versions and the Billie Piper-led series,  far more than I enjoy the Dark Materials series as there’s a freshness and imagination at work there I don’t see in the latter. Oh, some of the latter is quite good — I quite enjoyed Lyra’s Oxford and Once Upon a Time in The North. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1948 – Jerry Kaufman, 72.  New York fan, then Seattle.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Fanzines with Suzanne Tompkins, The Spanish InquisitionMainstreamLittlebrook.  Also Sweetmeats (Sandra Miesel collection); The Best of Susan WoodThe Portable Carl Brandon; final issue of Innuendo (with Robert Lichtman).  Frequent loccer (loc = letter of comment) to fanzines.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 10, Rustycon 1, Minicon 26, Westercon 44, Boskone 34.  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1961 – Mike Manley, 59.  Draws The Phantom (daily since 30 May 16; Sundays by Jeff Weige), also Judge Parker (since 23 Feb 10).  Worked at Marvel (Spider-Man; co-created Darkhawk), DC (Batman, did 500th issue; Superman), Warner Bros. (Kids WB BatmanSuperman).  Plein air painter.  Teacher.  See his Weblog Draw!  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1964 – Kathleen Cheney, 56.  A dozen novels, thirty shorter stories.  Here is her cover for her own collection Shared Dreams.  Taught math through calculus, coached the Academics and Robotics teams, sponsored the chess club.  Fences with foil and saber.  Gardener.  Two large hairy dogs.  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1966 Roger Cross, 54. Actor from Jamaica who moved to Canada. He played a lead role in the series Continuum and has had parts in genre films The Chronicles of RiddickWar for the Planet of the Apes, the remake of The Day the Earth Stood StillX2Doomsday RockVoyage of TerrorThe Void, and the adaptations of Dean Koontz’ Hideaway and Sole Survivor. (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1982 – Jenny Bellington, 38.  One novel so far, about a boy whose gift is making maps.  More in the works.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) GOOD NEWS, FEATURING BABY YODA. The Washington Post traces the beginnings of a legend: “A boy gave a Baby Yoda to crews battling Oregon wildfires. They lovingly passed it among firefighters, across state lines.”

Sasha Tinning took her 5-year-old grandson, Carver, grocery shopping earlier this month to buy granola bars and other snacks to contribute to a donation drive for firefighters battling wildfires in Oregon.

But when Tinning ended up in the toy aisle that day, Sept. 12, her eyes — and Carver’s — were drawn to a Baby Yoda doll, the last one on the shelf.“I said, ‘The firefighters could use a friend, couldn’t they?’ ” said Tinning, 54, who lives in Scappoose, Ore., about 20 miles north of Portland.

“He would be a very good friend for them,” she recalled Carver saying.

They agreed that volunteer firefighters needed “The Force” more than anyone. So instead of buying granola bars and nuts, they picked up Baby Yoda — also known as the Child — from the popular Star Wars series “The Mandalorian.”

On their way home, they stopped by a donation tent for firefighters with the big-eyed, pointy-eared doll in hand. Tinning helped Carver write a quick note on a piece of scrap paper she found in her car trunk:“Thank you, firefighters,” it read. “Here is a friend for you, in case you get lonely. Love, Carver.”

Tyler Eubanks, a 34-year-old horse dental technician who was working in the donation booth that afternoon, showed the note and Baby Yoda to a few other volunteers. They all started crying, she said.

“The fires were close to us, and everyone was really high on emotion,” said Eubanks. “We were all really touched that Carver wanted to give a companion to the men and women who were out there risking their lives to fight the wildfires.”

Eubanks brought Baby Yoda to some firefighters who were helping in the effort to contain the 25-acre Unger Road Fire near Colton, Ore. She snapped a few photos of the fire crew with the doll so that she could send them to Carver, and thought that would be the end of it.

“But then the firefighters said, ‘We want to take him with us,’ ” Eubanks said.

So they did. And when they came upon other fire crews and showed off their Baby Yoda, those firefighters asked if they could have him for a while. The answer was yes.

“Before I knew it, Baby Yoda was out there traveling the universe,” Eubanks said.

Eubanks quickly came up with the idea to start a Facebook page — Baby Yoda Fights Fires — to chronicle the adventures of the Child.

More than 26,000 people now follow the page, which is full of photos of Baby Yoda hanging out with firefighters on the front lines of wildfires in Oregon and Colorado, and relaxing in fire base camps.

(12) HANGING OUT WITH THE DEAD. BBC Radio 4’s series A Natural History of Ghosts kicks off with an episode about “Ancient Ghosts”

‘When was the first time a human felt haunted?’

Kirsty Logan travels back to the world’s earliest civilisations to uncover where tales of ghosts first emerged.

From the earliest evidence of belief in an afterlife, seen in decorated bones in early grave sites, to Ancient Egyptian letters to the dead, and predatory Chindi unleashed to wreak deadly vengeance in the snowy wastes of North America, Kirsty tells the tales of the spirits that haunted our most ancient forebears, and became the common ancestor for ghost stories across all of human history.

(13) HARD CHARGING. “Die Hard’s Bruce Willis reprises John McClane role for unusual commercial”Digital Spy has the story.

…Now Bruce Willis has reprised the role once again, only this time it’s for… a car battery commercial?

The ad, for the DieHard Battery from Advance Auto Parts, sees John McClane crash through a window, escape through an air vent and face off against the villainous Theo, played by a returning Clarence Gilyard Jr.

De’voreaux White also reprises his role as driver Argyle, and steals the “yipee ki yay” line from Willis, who is probably glad that he didn’t have to say it.

(14) THE UNFORSEEN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “MVPs of Horror: How ‘The Simpsons’ creators added COVID-19 masks to this year’s ‘Treehouse of Horror'” says Simpsons writers were already planning an election segment for this year’s Treehouse of Horror, but added jokes about masks (which everyone in Springfield wears except for Homer).  Next year’s Treehouse is already in development, and will include a segment based on the Oscar-winning film Parasite.

When the staff of The Simpsons sat down to write the thirty-first edition of the show’s annual “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween anthology in 2019, they knew that the 2020 Presidential election would be the scariest subject they could tackle. That’s why “Treehouse of Horror XXXI,” which airs Nov. 1 at 8 p.m. on Fox, opens with an election parody that’s not for the faint of heart. “We predict what will happen on January 20 if people like Homer don’t smarten up a little,” longtime Simpsons showrunner, Al Jean, teased during the all-star The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror at Paley Front Row 2020. “Amazingly, most of it was written a year ago, and all of it still seems true!” (Watch the panel above.)

Simpsons fans know that the show has a knack for seeing into the future, whether it was predicting President Donald Trump back in 2000 or calling the winners of multiple Super Bowls. But there’s one thing that the writers didn’t predict while writing their own 2020 election parody: that Americans would be casting ballots for either President Trump or Vice President Joe Biden during the midst of a deadly pandemic….

(15) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Food & Wine found a portal story in the candy section of the store: “Reese’s Created a Roving, Remote-Controlled Door to Help Make Trick-or-Treating Safer This Halloween”.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full force, this year’s Halloween celebrations will look significantly different than they did in 2019. Trick-or-treating, specifically, is problematic as attempting to visit as many neighbors as possible in a single night is pretty much the opposite of staying “bubbled.” But major candy brands are doing what they can to keep the Halloween spirit alive with interesting interpretations on how to make trick-or-treating coronavirus-friendly.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are a Halloween favorite, and for 2020, the always inventive brand is introducing an over-the-top new candy delivery system: the Reese’s Trick- or-Treat Door. This robotic door uses voice-recognition technology to deliver candy hands-free. When the remote-controlled, nine-foot-tall front door (lamps and all!) uses its three motors to lumber your way, simply say “trick-or-treat,” and a Bluetooth speaker should know it’s time to spit out a king-size Reese’s candy bar via a retractable shelf in the mail slot.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Bill Wagner, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, N., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 9/29/20 The Three-Tribble Problem

(1) TREK THE VOTE. Trek fans are called on to volunteer their time to help protect election integrity in this YouTube clip featuring many stars from all of the shows, including Gates McFadden, Wil Wheaton, and Armin Shimmerman.

(2) R.U.R. EXHIBIT. Radio Prague International posted on its English language page “Karel Capek’s ‘robots’ at 100 – new exhibition highlights foreign productions of R.U.R.” (although, of course, they used the proper character to begin the author’s last name, for which we have substituted “C” because WordPress turns the other into a question mark.)

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of R.U.R., the dystopian theatre play by Karel Capek that introduced the word ‘robot’ into English – and to science fiction as a whole. A new exhibition called A Journey into the Depths of the Robot’s Soul focuses on how Capek’s ground-breaking play was received and staged abroad.

R.U.R. (or ‘Rossum’s Universal Robots’) was Karel ?apek’s most popular work during his lifetime, both in Czechoslovakia and abroad. By 1923, a couple of years after its premiere in Prague, the dystopian play had been translated into 30 languages and been staged in major theatres in Europe and across the Atlantic.

Exhibition curator Zdenek Vacek is director of the Karel Capek Memorial, a museum housed in the writer’s summer residence in Stará Hu?, south of Prague. For the centennial anniversary, he says, they decided to focus on the history of R.U.R.’s early foreign performances and influence on writers around the world.

(3) BOLDLY GOING? A comic con in LA in December? Don’t count on it: “L.A. Comic Con announces in-person event, but conventions are still banned in the state” – the LA Times has the story.

L.A. Comic Con says it is moving forward with its plan to hold an in-person convention in December at the L.A. Convention Center, but large gatherings — such as conventions and conferences — are currently not permitted anywhere in California amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The event’s organizers explained in a Sunday announcement on the L.A. Comic Con website that they have been working with the convention center and taking guidance from state and local officials to plan an event they think will “be both safe and fun” for attendees and exhibitors.

But Doane Liu, the executive director of the Los Angeles Department of Convention and Tourism Development, told The Times on Monday that this announcement came as a surprise and is premature.

“Under current state health guidelines, conventions are not allowed,” Liu said. “It’s not known when they will be allowed.”

…In a video posted to YouTube on Tuesday, the chief executive of L.A. Comic Con parent company Comikaze Entertainment, Chris DeMoulin, clarified that L.A. Comic Con is currently “a potential show.”

(4) DISNEY RETRENCHING. In fact, here’s more of the news we’re really expecting to see: “Disney to lay off 28,000 workers at domestic theme parks” reports the LA Times.

The Burbank-based company said Tuesday that it would lay off 28,000 employees at its domestic parks division, which includes Disneyland Resort in Anaheim and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

The company’s once-mighty parks division has been severely hobbled by the coronavirus health crisis. In March, Disney announced it was furloughing more than 100,000 workers after the pandemic forced the company to shut down its lucrative theme parks.

Walt Disney World has been operating with strict capacity limits and social distancing requirements. California has not yet allowed theme parks including Disneyland to resume business.

(5) TRAILER PARK. SciFiNow alerted viewers to “Cognition: Trailer Revealed For Sci-Fi Short”.

COGNITION is a short dystopian sci-fi drama / thriller about a son confronting his past trauma. Journeying through the symbolic landscape of the subconscious mind, the story follows an unbreakable bond between father and son…. A bond that transcends SPACE AND TIME…..

(6) ASHKIN DIES. Nobel laureate Arthur Ashkin, who the New York Times styles as having invented a ‘Tractor Beam’, died September 21 at the age of 98.

Arthur Ashkin, a physicist who was awarded a 2018 Nobel Prize for figuring out how to harness the power of light to trap microscopic objects for closer study, calling his invention optical tweezers, died on Sept. 21 at his home in Rumson, N.J. He was 98.

Optical tweezers — or optical traps, as they are more properly known — use the pressure from a highly focused laser beam to manipulate microscopic objects, from atoms to living organisms, like viruses and bacteria.

As the Nobel committee wrote, Dr. Ashkin had “invented optical tweezers that grab particles, atoms, molecules, and living cells with their laser beam fingers.”

Trapping biological material proved to have groundbreaking practical applications in research and in understanding the behavior of the basic building blocks of life, like DNA, and other biological systems. Today, optical tweezers are widely manufactured and sold to researchers.

Dr. Ashkin’s “tweezer” is created by shining a laser — a beam of coherent monochromatic light — through a tiny magnifying lens. The lens creates a focal point for the laser, and, by a strange twist of nature, particles are drawn near that focal point and trapped there, unable to move up or down or backward or forward.

Steven M. Block, a professor of biology and applied physics at Stanford University, compared optical tweezers to the kind of immobilizing technology postulated in “Star Trek” and “Star Wars,” calling them “the closest thing to a tractor beam that humans have ever produced.”…

(7) MEDIA ANNIVESARY.

  • Fifty years ago, Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness won the Hugo Award for Best Novel at Heicon ’70. (It would win the Nebula Award as well.) (The  runner-ups for the Hugo were Robert Silverberg’s Up the Line, Piers Anthony‘s Macroscope, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.‘s  Slaughterhouse-Five and Norman Spinrad’s Bug Jack Barron.)  It was published first by Ace Books in their paperback Ace SF Special, Series 1 in 1969, and has had at least thirty editions in eleven languages though not Finnish. The first edition of The Left Hand of Darkness did not contain an introduction though later editions do. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 29, 1942 Ian McShane, 78. Setting aside Deadwood which is the favorite series of Emma Bull and Will Shetterly where he’s Al Swearengen, he portrays Mr. Wednesday in American Gods.and it turns out, though I don’t remember it, he was Dr. Robert Bryson in Babylon 5: The River of Souls film. And he’s Blackbeard in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Now you tell me what your favorite genre role is by him. (CE)
  • Born September 29, 1944 Isla Blair, 76. Her first credited film appearance was in Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors as an art gallery assistant.  She was Isabella in The King’s Demons, a Fifth Doctor story. She’s in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as the wife of her real-life husband Julian Glover, and credited as Mrs. Glover. Finally, she has played a starring role as Sally in the BBC’s alternate history An Englishman’s Castle series. (CE)
  • Born September 29, 1949 – Joêlle Wintrebert, 71.  Nine novels, three dozen shorter stories; three years editing Univers; essays, reviews in Alerte!FictionFuturs; edited Petite anthologie de la science-fiction (all in French).  [JH]
  • Born September 29, 1952 – Lou Stathis.  Fan and pro.  Part of the SF Forum that gave birth to ICON.  Wrote for FantasticMississippi ReviewSF EyeThrustVertigo (i.e. DC Comics’). One novel.  Here is a Jeff Schalles photo from the mid-1980s.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born September 29, 1959 Scott MacDonald, 61. He’s been on four Trek shows:  Next Gen, VoyagerDeep Space Nine, and  Enterprise. He’s also on Space Above and BeyondBabylon 5X-FilesStargate: SG-1Carnivale and Threshold.. (CE) 
  • Born September 29, 1961 Nicholas Briggs, 59. A Whovian among Whoians who started out writing Who fanfic. First off, he’s the voice of the Daleks and the Cybermen in the new series of shows. Second he’s the Executive Producer of Big Finish Productions, the audio drama company that has produced more Doctor WhoTorchwood and other related works that you’d think possible. Third he’s appeared as himself in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. (CE) 
  • Born September 29, 1961 Dale Dickey, 59. She was Martha Bozeman in a recurring role on True Blood. She’s also been on Them: CovenantThe X-Files and Bones, and in two genre films, Changeling and Iron Man 3. (CE) 
  • Born September 29, 1961 – John O’Halloran, 59.  Long active at SF cons.  Webmaster for the Int’l Costumers Guild, 1989.  “Gerard” in the Best of Show “Trumps of Amber”, Torcon 3 (61st Worldcon) Masquerade, see here (at right) and here; judge, LoneStarCon 3 Masquerade (71st).  Official Photographer of Events, Loncon 3 (72nd); Official Photographer for Candid Shots, Sasquan (73rd) – see his Sasquan album here.  Fan Guest of Honor (with wife Chris), Baycon 2013.  Taiko drummer (as Chris is too).  [JH]
  • Born September 29, 1978 – Aislinn Batstone, 42.  (Forename is Irish, pronounced like “Aish-lin”.)  “What the Witch Wants” in Stupefying, “Instructions in My Absence” in Timeless Tales, a dozen more.  Master’s degree in Philosophy, taught philosophy, married a philosopher.  So there.  [JH, B.A. in Philosophy]
  • Born September 29, 1983 – Elisa McCausland, 37.  Half a dozen books (some collaborative).  Ignotus award for Wonder Woman about feminism as a superpower; later, with Diego Salgado, Supernovas, a feminist history of audiovisual SF; McC also does “Postheroic Transmutations”, about the subversive power of superheroines, on the Rock & Comics podcast (all in Spanish, i.e. her section of R&C is «Transmutaciones Postheroicas»).  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) STOCKING UP. Virgin Galactic SPCE stock recorded big gains after more financial firms recommended it to investors: “Virgin Galactic jumps 25% in its second best day ever after getting Wall Street’s full endorsement”.

Shares of Virgin Galactic surged nearly 25% in trading Monday after Wall Street firms continued to set higher expectations for the space tourism stock.

The stock jump came after Bank of America and Susquehanna began coverage of Virgin Galactic. Notably, the two firms join six others in recommending Virgin Galactic’s stock to investors, giving the company the eight Wall Street buy ratings – and zero to hold or sell.

“No company in our coverage universe has anywhere near comparable growth potential,” Bank of America analyst Ron Epstein said.

Virgin Galactic’s 24.8% jump, with shares closing at $20.51, was its second-biggest in a trading day since its public debut last year. Including Monday’s climb, the stock is up about 78% this year.

(11) ALWAYS THOSE DARNED MUGGLES. “Scots Harry Potter fans slammed for cramming station to see Hogwarts Express” reports the UK’s Daly Record.

Scots Harry Potter fans have been slammed as ‘idiotic’ after scores of people crammed onto a railway platform to watch a train from the iconic film franchise pass by.

The steam train, made famous by the blockbuster movie series, travelled from its winter base in Carnforth in Lancashire on Monday.

The ‘Hogwarts Express’ route had several stops at a number of Scots stations, including Dalmuir in West Dunbartonshire.

The locomotive chuntered past the gathered Potter fanatics at around 5.45pm.

But photos that emerged of the fleeting moment sparked fury on social media.

Locals slammed Dalmuir residents for ignoring social distancing guidelines.

Some claimed that many among the large crowd on the platform were not wearing face masks or coverings and were also not staying two metres away from each other.

Many took to Facebook to vent their anger after the image was shared online.

One wrote: “Yes, it’s a train from Harry Potter, but I think there are much more important things going on.

“Covid-19 is so strong right now, Christmas is under threat.

“We are meant to be social distancing and none of this is happening whatsoever for a train.

“This is shameful, disgusting and very disappointing.”

Another added: “Where is the social distance there?”

A third commented: “I cannot believe the stupidity of these people all for the sake of a Harry Potter train….

(12) ABOUT YOUR STAR WARS KNOWLEDGE. Ranker contends there are “25 Things You Didn’t Know About The Original ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy”. (If I didn’t know that many answers on my driver’s exam, I’d be walking!) Here’s Number One —

1. James Earl Jones Wasn’t Credited By Request

James Earl Jones’ long career is filled with exceptional roles, but he’s probably best known for providing the voice of Darth Vader. David Prowse spoke all the dialogue as the movie was filmed, but his British West Country accent wasn’t working for George Lucas.

It’s unclear whether Lucas always planned to dub over Prowse’s dialogue, but in the end, that’s what he did, using Jones’ dialogue instead. Jones, however, asked that he not be given credit for his work in the film’s credit reel, and in the original, he wasn’t. 

Jones felt that his contribution to the film was minimal and he didn’t deserve credit. Over time, he realized the significance his voice gave to the character and reprised the role in subsequent movies, television series, and video games.

(13) BUSINESS OUTREACH. “How do you know you’ve arrived at the Uncommon Open Air weekend? You see the bookshop with a sea monster coming out of the windows,” the owners said on Facebook.  This landmark is the River Bookstore in Amherstburg, Ontario.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Screen Junkies, in “Firefly Honest Trailer” on YouTube, invite viewers to “suit up in their dustiest browns and beiges” to watch Firefly, the show with so much “quippy dialogue” that “if the ship goes under 50 quips an hour, it’s primed to explode!”

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

Pixel Scroll 9/8/20 If You Can’t Be With The Scroll You Pixel, Pixel The Scroll You’re With

(1) STAR TREK DAY. io9’s James Whitbrook tells how “Star Trek: Discovery’s New Trailer Brings the Fight for the Federation to the Far Future”.

The crew of the Discovery made a terrible sacrifice at the end of season two, leaving their lives as they knew them behind and flinging the ship 930 years into the future, where the Federation is in some dire straits of its own (again). Now it seems it’s up to Michael and her friends to remind them of what the Federation has fought hard to stand for.

Star Trek’s all-encompassing Star Trek Day livestream event just kicked off with the latest look at the third season of Discovery, our first since that major glimpse at New York Comic-Con last year.

(2) KLINGON GOES POSTAL. Robert J. Sawyer celebrated Star Trek Day on Facebook with this observation:

If you’d told Canadian actor John Collicos that his country would honour him with a stamp 50-odd years later for the four or five days of work he did as one of countless guest-starring roles over his career, he’d have thought you were out of your mind.

It’s part of this 2016 set:

(3) POD TREK. Tawny Newsome, of the Star Trek: Lower Decks voice cast, announced an upcoming podcast, Star Trek: The Pod Directive, which she will co-host with actor-comedian Paul F. Tompkins (BoJack Horseman).

Guests will include actor Ben Stiller, author Reza Aslan, “Star Trek: Picard” star Michelle Hurd, “Lower Decks” executive producer Mike McMahan, politician Stacey Abrams, comedian and “Discovery” costar Tig Notaro, astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, and “Picard” and “Short Treks” composer Jeff Russo.

Newsome also debuted a preview for the show, which runs weekly Sept. 14 through Nov. 9.

(4) MULAN. Jeannette Ng’s article “‘Mulan’ Has a Message: Serve China and Forget About the Uighurs” at Foreign Policy challenges the terms under which the film was made, then sharply criticizes the film itself.

All art is political. Strangely, Disney’s live-action Mulan is more obviously so than most.

Mulan makes the current nationalist mythology of a Han-dominated China the foundation of its story. That would be bad enough. But parts of it were also filmed at the location of current and ongoing mass human rights abuses, including cultural genocide, against ethnic minorities.

The credits of Mulan specifically thank the Publicity Department of the Chinese Communist Party’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region Committee, as well as the Public Security Bureau in the city of Turpan and other state entities there. The Public Security Bureau is one of the main forces administering the internment camps, enforcing the surveillance and interrogation of even nominally “free” Uighurs, forcing people into slave labor, demanding that Uighurs host Han guests employed by the government to spy on them, and sterilizing Uighur women. The Publicity Department—a term that used to be more honestly translated as the Propaganda Department—justifies these atrocities. Most of these policies were well in place—and some of them known in the West—by the time the film was shot, partly in Xinjiang, in 2018.

That should be the only thing that needs to be written. But there’s more.

Even before the film—which was not previously known to have been filmed  in Xinjiang—arrived, it had blundered right into politics. Two of the film’s stars, Liu Yifei (Mulan) and Donnie Yen (Commander Tung), have voiced their support of the Hong Kong police against the city’s pro-democracy protests, thus sparking an online movement to boycott the film…. 

(5) DISNEY AMBITIONS. In a Washington Post opinion piece, “Why Disney’s new ‘Mulan’ is a scandal”, Isaac Stone Fish says that Disney credits “four Chinese Communist party propaganda departments in the region of Xinjiang and the Public Security Bureau of the city of Turpan in the same region–organizations that are facilitating crimes against humanity.”  He says we need to know the extent to which Disney cooperated with instruments of Chinese repression against the Uighurs and that by filming in Xinjiang the 2020 version of Mulan is “Disney’s most problematic movie” since the racist Song Of The South. Fish also adds perspectives about Disney’s historic efforts to do business in China.

…Disney executives had thought that the original “Mulan” would please both the Chinese government and Chinese filmgoers. But because Disney had distributed “Kundun” (1997), a film glorifying the Dalai Lama, Beijing restricted the studio’s ability to work in China. Disney spent the next several years trying to get back into the party’s good graces. “We made a stupid mistake in releasing ‘Kundun,’” the then-CEO of Disney Michael Eisner told Premier Zhu Rongji in October 1998. “Here I want to apologize, and in the future we should prevent this sort of thing, which insults our friends, from happening.”

Since then, Disney has endeavored to please Beijing. The rewards have been immense, culminating in the successful opening of Shanghai Disneyland in June 2016. This park, Disney’s Executive Chairman Bob Iger said, is the “greatest opportunity the company has had since Walt Disney himself bought land in Central Florida.” Partnering with Xinjiang is another step that binds Disney closer to the party.

(6) HARD SF. [Item by Eric Wong.] Rocket Stack Rank has posted their annual compilation — “Outstanding Hard Science Fiction of 2019” — with 19 stories that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.

Included are some observations obtained by changing the Highlight from Free Online to Podcasts, changing the table View by Publication and Author, and Filtering the table by awards, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers.

(7) SLEEPING IN THE FACTORY. In “How Speculative Fiction Becomes Reality” on CrimeReads, Rob Hart says his 2018 novel The Warehouse has “an outside world so hostile people are forced indoors” and “an online retail merchant dominating the economy while the small business landscape is wiped out,” but that when he wrote his novel he thought the future he foresaw would happen a decade from now, not in 2020.

…Instead of the slow march of climate change and the steady drip of private interest trumping public good, it was a pandemic that ground the economy to a halt in a matter of weeks. We may not be housed in giant, city-sized live-work facilities, but most of us are now living at our jobs.

And hasn’t that been the whole point of the 21st century economy? Forcing you to come in sick, making you accept unpaid overtime and check your e-mail on the weekends—it was all about making it so you were always working. Even better if you barely left the office. Now you don’t.

Not to say there’s any fun in being right. Not with so much suffering and loss. Not with so many monumental failures in leadership. Not when facing the realization of just how fragile the system is, and how many holes there are in the safety net.

(8) THE FATHER OF HIS COUNTRY. Andrew Liptak has an interview with Matt Ruff at Reading List: “Lovecraft Country: making the best of the horror icon”.

Your book came out in 2016 on the heels of a larger movement and reckoning within fandom about the role of authors of color and from marginalized communities. How does that longer history of marginalization and exclusion play into your view with the book or the world you’ve set up?

I knew that stuff was going on while I was writing, but history of dissatisfaction of fans of color goes back a lot further. In my research for the novel, I would be reading back issues of the Chicago Defender (the historic black newspaper in Chicago in the 1950s) to get a sense of what the issues of the day were in the black community at that time, and I would read the reviews section for movies and books and the things coming out then. A lot of it was very familiar in terms of the complaints that the reviewers had: we’ve got money, we want to buy movie tickets, we want to buy books, please make stuff that recognizes that we exist and that plays to us too.

The problem was that back then was that you could complain all you want it, but the only folks reading the Black press were Black folks who did not get to make decisions in Hollywood. So this dissatisfaction has always been there. It was expressed by friends of mine growing up, and there’s a woman named Pam Noles, who wrote an essay called Shame that was very influential when I was thinking about Lovecraft Country, which sort of talks about her evolution as a young Black nerd. One of the things she talks about that’s heartbreaking is experience going to see Star Wars for the first time and which for her as for me, was like a quasi-religious experience. But for her, it was also the moment where she finally understood what her parents had been trying to tell her about: this genre that you like doesn’t really appreciate you the way you seem to think it does.

(9) BUTCHER PREVIEW. The book trailer for Jim Butcher’s Battle Ground debuted at Virtual Dragon Con. The trailer was filmed back in December, concurrently with the trailer for Peace Talks, directed by Priscilla Spencer. Dragon Con also hosted a virtual cast and crew panel for both trailers: “The Dresden Files: Peace Talks Trailer Cast and Crew Panel” with Jim Butcher, Spencer, and the rest. 

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 8, 1973 Star Trek: The Animated Series premiered on NBC. Featuring the voice work of the original cast with the exception of Walter Koenig which was apparently due to budget constraints. Most other voices were done by the cast but Sarek, Cyrano Jones and Harry Mudd were performed by the original actors. It would air for two seasons and twenty two episodes winning an Emmy for Outstanding Entertainment in a Children’s Series for its second season. David Gerrold, Chuck Menville, D.C. Fontana and Larry Niven would write scripts as would Walter Koenig. Roddenberry decided it wasn’t canon after it ended which didn’t stop scriptwriters from referring to it down the years in inventive ways, i.e. Elim Garak on DS9 mentions Edosian orchids, a reference to the character Arex here who’s an Edosian. (CE)

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 8, 1925 Peter Sellers. Chief Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther films which are surely genre, aren’t they? Of course, he had the tour de force acting experience of being Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, President Merkin Muffley and Dr. Strangelove in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Amusingly he was involved in another of folk tale production over various mediums (film, radio, stage) including Cinderella, Tom ThumbMother Goose and Jack and The Beanstalk. (Died 1980.) (CE) 
  • Born September 8, 1932 – John Boardman, Ph.D., 88.  Physicist, fanziner, filker.  Master of Diplomacy i.e. the board game.  Treasurer of Nycon 3 (25th Worldcon).  Life Member of the Lunarians, Fan Guest of Honor (with wife Perdita) at Lunacon 41.  Officer of the Puddleby-on-the-Marsh Irregulars.  Co-founder of the Beaker People’s Libation Front.  “Science for Science Fiction” in Ares.  Active in the Society for Creative Anachronism, served as Mural Herald of the East Kingdom.  To be seen in AmraAsimov’sLocusRiverside QuarterlySF ReviewTrumpetXero.  “Because you are not John Boardman, is why.”  [JH]
  • Born September 8, 1936 – Don Punchatz.  Ninety covers, two hundred interiors for us; more outside our field.   Here are FoundationFoundation and EmpireSecond Foundation.  Here is Nightwings.  Here is Night of the Cooters.  Artbook Don Punchatz, a retrospective.  Spectrum Grandmaster.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born September 8, 1945 Willard Huyck, 75. He’s got a long relationship with Lucas first writing American Graffiti and being the script doctor on Star Wars before writing Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, andbefore being the writer and director on Howard the Duck which, yes, is a Lucasfilm. It’s the lowest rated on Rotten Tomatoes Lucasfilm production ever at 15% followed by Radioland Murders, the last script he’d write for Lucasfilm which would be a still dismal 24%.  (CE) 
  • Born September 8, 1947 – Bill Burns, 73.  Attended every Eastercon (Unted Kingdom nat’l con) since 1965.  Doc Weir Award (U.K. service award).  Best known for founding and maintaining eFanzines.com.  Fan Guest of Honour (with wife Mary) at Eastercon LX; at 77th Worldcon.  A dozen FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards. [JH]
  • Born September 8, 1952 – Linda Addison, 68.  For us, two dozen stories, ninety poems, in ApexAsimov’sDark MatterTales of the UnanticipatedTomorrow, three hundred fifty all told.  Poetry editor of Space & Time, “Word Ninja” there.  B.S. (mathematics) from Carnegie-Mellon.  2002 Rhysling anthology.  First black Stoker winner; won four more.  Horror Writers’ Lifetime Achievement award.  [JH]
  • Born September 8, 1954 Mark Lindsay Chapman, 66. Sorry DCU but the best Swamp Thing series was done nearly thirty years ago and starred the late Dick Durock as Swamp Thing and this actor as his chief antagonist, Dr. Anton Arcane. Short on CGI, but the scripts were brilliant. Chapman has also shown up in Poltergeist: The LegacyThe New Adventures of Superman, The Langoliers and Max Headroom to name a few of his genre appearances. (CE)
  • Born September 8, 1958 – Danny Flynn, 62.  Hundreds of covers, computer-game illustrations, in and out of our field; biology, detective fiction, golf.  Here is the May 94 Interzone.  Here is I Will Fear No Evil (surely one of our best book titles).  Here is Wild Seed.  Artbook Only Visiting This Planet.  [JH]
  • Born September 8, 1965 Matt Ruff, 54. I think that his second book Sewer, Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy is his best work to date though I do like Fool on The Hill a lot. Any others of his I should think about reading? And, of course, there the adaptation of Lovecraft Country which I’ve not see as I don’t have HBO. (CE) 
  • Born September 8, 1966 Gordon Van Gelder, 54. From 1997 until 2014, he was editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, (and later publisher, which he remains), for which he has awarded twice, and quite well deserved they were, the Hugo for Best Editor Short Form at Nippon 2007 and at Denvention 3.  He was also a managing editor of The New York Review of Science Fiction from 1988 to 1993, for which he was nominated for the Hugo a number of times. (CE)
  • Born September 8, 1975 C. Robert Cargill, 45. He, along with Scott Derrickson and Jon Spaihts, worked on the script for Doctor Strange. More intriguingly they’re writing the script for The Outer Limits, a movie based on the television show. The film, produced by MGM, will be adapted from just the “Demon with a Glass Hand” episode begging the question of what they’re writing for a script given that Ellison did write the Writers Guild of America Awards  winning Outstanding Script for a Television Anthology script. (CE) 
  • Born September 8, 1979 – Bianca Turetsky, 41.  Three novels, four shorter stories with Courtney Sheinmel.  In the novels, illustrated by Sandra Suy, Louise Lambert buying dresses on sale from strange folk finds they take her back in time, pleasing KirkusSeventeen, and the Historical Novel Society.  [JH]

(12) WEARING THE HORNS. Added to the fanhistory site THEN, Ken Cheslin’s 1989 piece “SADO and the 1960s Brum Group – a memoir”. Curator Rob Hansen says, “This might interest a few people, if only for how much Ken Cheslin’s Viking character Olaf coincidentally resembles the later ‘Hagar the Horrible’.”

(13) WINNING NAME. L. Jagi Lamplighter has decided her new column at Superversive SF will be called “Slice of Light”, and follows the title announcement with a heartwarming preview of coming attractions. Even you heathens might enjoy this one.

(14) HALO OVER JUPITER.

(15) TEARS OF A CLOWN.  “Ted Cruz, longtime fan of ‘The Princess Bride,’ swipes at cast members’ plans to reunite to raise money for Democrats”The Hill has the story.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a longtime fan of “The Princess Bride,” took aim at cast members of the cult classic over the weekend after reports emerged of their plans to reunite for a fundraiser supporting Democrats in Wisconsin.

Cast members from the film will be taking part in a virtual table read for the fundraiser — which a site for the event said will feature actors Robin Wright, Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin and Billy Crystal. 

In a tweet reacting to the news on Saturday, Cruz referred to lines from Inigo Montoya, a character portrayed by Patinkin in the 1987 film.

“Do you hear that Fezzik? That is the sound of ultimate suffering. My heart made that sound when the six-fingered man killed my father,” he wrote in the tweet.

“Every Princess Bride fan who wants to see that perfect movie preserved from Hollywood politics makes it now,” Cruz, who has been vocal in the past about his feelings for the film and acted out a scene from the flick when he was running for president in 2015, added….

(16) LOST AND FOUND. “Roanoke’s ‘Lost Colony’ Was Never Lost, New Book Says” – the New York Times sifts the scholarship.

…Historians and archaeologists not involved in the recent research on Hatteras were more skeptical, saying that the evidence was inconclusive and that they wanted to see peer-reviewed work. They also said the argument was not new: The idea that the Croatoans, as the Native people on Hatteras were called, adopted at least some of the settlers has long been considered plausible.

“Sure, it’s possible — why wouldn’t it be?” said Malinda Maynor Lowery, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “People don’t get lost. They get murdered, they get stolen, they get taken in. They live and die as members of other communities.”

Dr. Maynor Lowery presented a similar possibility in her 2018 book on the history of the Lumbee people, the descendants of dozens of tribes in a wide region including eastern North Carolina. Despite violence by the English against Croatoan villagers, she wrote, the settlers probably took refuge with them.

“The Indians of Roanoke, Croatoan, Secotan and other villages had no reason to make enemies of the colonists,” she wrote. “Instead, they probably made them kin.”

The English landed into a complicated fray of conflict and shifting alliances, said Lauren McMillan, a professor at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va.

“They’re all interfighting, and these different groups are trying to use the English against one another,” she said. “The Croatoans perhaps saw the English as a powerful ally and sources of valuable new things.”

Dr. Maynor Lowery, who is Lumbee, added that the “lost colony” story is itself based on the incorrect premise “that Native people also disappeared, which we didn’t.”

The story, she said, was like “a monument that has to come down,” adding that “it’s harder to dismantle an origin story than a statue.”

(17) ESSENCE OF WONDER. “AI and Ethics: Professionals Speak” on the next Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron.

Not Mute in the Winter…
In the first part of the show, we’ll be discussing the potential of AI to be useful to society in general, but we’ll be taking a greater look at where there are possibilities for AI to be misused or even abused if not properly handled.  Our primary questions in this part of the show will be to ask where AI can be biased, how bias is introduced into AI systems, examples of attacks on AI and how these then manifest in the world. We’ll be looking at the social implications of using AI in situations where previously only human judgement has been deployed and how this is spreading to encompass more decision-making processes.

Turing Test Failed, They Suspect Nothing…
Our show corner will be looking at theoretical examples of how a number of simple and sensible decisions could give rise to AI that can go from beneficial to nefarious.

Terminating Skynet…
In the second part of the show, we’ll be looking will be how to ensure an ethical approach to the development and control of Artificial Intelligence.  How we should go about securing AI systems and the methods of embedding ethics throughout the lifecycle of AI and its usages. We will also delve into the social vs institutional approaches to Ethical AI.

The panelists include:

  • Steve Orrin – Federal CTO, Intel Corp
  • Dr. Jim Short – Research Director, Lead Scientist and co-founder of the Center for Large Scale Data Systems (CLDS) at the San Diego Supercomputer Center.
  • Chloe Autio – AI Policy Lead for Intel Corp
  • Dr. Andrew Harding – Senior Technology and Policy Adviser at Centre for Data Ethics & Innovation for the UK Government
  • Tamara Zubatiy – CEO of VeriCrypt

(18) AI SPEAKS BACK. On Onion Public Radio, “Robots Inform Artificial Intelligence Researchers That They’ll Take It From Here”.

The A.I. research team at MIT is hailing it as a breakthrough in their field that will finally allow them to kick back and relax a little bit. We have the latest on what the now-sentient robotic life forms have planned next.

(19) THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS. “Realistic False Arm Dinosaur Puppet” – several different versions are available. Here’s one of them.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: Batman:  Mask of the Phantasm” on Youtube, the Screen Junkies take on the fine film that entertained a “generation of latch-key kids” in the 1990s.

[Thanks to John King Tarpnian, N., JJ, Alan Baumler, Eric Wong, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day C.A. Collins.]

Pixel Scroll 9/5/20 Astronauts In The Weightlessness Of Pixelated Space

(1) BSFS MAKES GRANT TO 2020 WORLD FANTASY CON. The membership of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society has granted $1000 to the 2020 World Fantasy Convention, Salt Lake City, Utah, which will be held virtually this year.

The grant may be used to defray any of the considerable fixed expenses that are required to hold the annual event, which awards the prestigious World Fantasy Awards to the best Fantasy or Dark Fantasy works published in the previous year.

The 2020 World Fantasy Convention will be held virtually, October 19 – November 1.

More information about the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) can be found here.

(2) HORROR IN EVERYDAY LIFE. Shiv Ramdas livetweeted a family crisis he was following by phone. Thread starts here. (Since it already had 69K retweets and almost 300K likes by the time I saw it, you’ve probably already read it!)

(3) INCONCEIVABLE. Rolling Stone reports “‘The Princess Bride’ Cast to Reunite for Virtual Table Read” as a political fundraiser.

The cast of the beloved comedy The Princess Bride will reunite for a one-night-only virtual table read to raise money for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

“A Virtual Princess Bride Reunion” will features original cast members Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Chris Sarandon, Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, Carol Kane, the film’s director Rob Reiner and “special guests.” In addition to the table read, the reunited cast will partake in a virtual Q&A moderated by Patton Oswalt.

The virtual table read will livestream only once, on September 13th at 6 p.m. CST. Fans of the film can RSVP at Act Blue to watch the livestream. “Anything you donate will be used to ensure that Trump loses Wisconsin, and thereby the White House,” organizers promise; both Elwes and Reiner have been vocal in their criticism of Donald Trump on social media.

(4) CANON FIRE. Chris Nuttall, in “Some Thoughts On The SF Canons” at Amazing Stories, offers his own outlook on genre history.

…Second, the average writer in the early era worked under a set of very harsh restrictions. There were lots of issues that were taboo, from sex and mating to race and racism; there were morality clauses in contracts that could and would be enforced if the writer stepped too far out of line. Heinlein, for example, wrote coloured characters … but he had to give himself plausible deniability He did this so well in one book – Tunnel in the Sky – that he managed to raise suspicions of miscegenation instead. By modern standards, this is insane as well as stupid. But we’re talking about an era that was worried about Mr. Spock’s ears!

Third, the average writer did not know where technology was going. They made a lot of guesses and got some things right, but they also got a lot of things wrong. Heinlein’s predictions regarding computer development, for example, were absurd. He assumed a lot of easy things would be very hard, if not impossible, and vice versa. Asimov’s predictions were even worse, to the point he has wood-burning stoves co-existing with atomic power plants and FTL drives.

Fourth, the average writer lived in a far more limited world. There was both relatively little awareness of other cultures and a certain sense that the Anglo-American way was the best. It isn’t until fairly recently, thanks to the internet, that we have really become aware of alternatives. They drew on their awareness of the world to shape their future worlds, hence the number of very traditional societies in fantastic worlds….

However, it seems unclear why 20th Century sff writers would be unaware of alternatives that Wilberforce, Lincoln, and Susan B. Anthony already knew about in the 19th Century. In fact, they probably weren’t unaware of them. It’s hard not to simply enjoy the status quo when it works in your favor.

(5) THE RETURN OF HYPER COMICS. A book-length collection of Steve Stiles’ Hyper Comics, in the works when he died earlier this year, was released in August. One of the places it can be ordered is Barnes and Noble.

The last project of legendary underground cartoonist and Hugo Award-winner Steve Stiles, who passed away in 2020, is a September release from Thintwhistle Books, a company formed by Steve’s widow, Elaine Stiles. 

Packed with more than 150 pages of Steve’s classic work from Hyper Comics, Heavy Metal, Stardate, and a host of other publications, it’s an essential part of any cartoon collector’s library !

Krupp Comic Works founder Denis Kitchen called Steve “one of the funniest and cleverest goddamn cartoonists on the planet.” Mark Schultz said of Steve’s back-up stories in Xenozoic Tales, “It was a joy to collaborate with him – if he made any adjustments to my scripts they were invariably improvements.” Heavy Metal editor Ted White called Steve’s contributions to the magazine “Phil-Dickian in their SF surrealism, wicked in their observations, and Firesign Theatre-like in their mocking details.” 

In The Return of Hyper Comics, you’ll thrill to the adventures of Jim Baxter, Marijuana Detective. You’ll share Steve’s nightmares as he meets Nixon and Trump. You’ll smile along with Mr. Smile when he accidentally kills a girl he is trying to save. “If only I could stop smiling,” he says. You’ll get an advance look at next month’s QAnon conspiracy when Steve reveals, “Joe Stalin Tells Me What to Draw!” And you’ll barf as Steve’s first orgy ends with tainted oysters and a group emergency room visit. 

Steve had a particular genius for chronicling life’s humiliating moments, and fortunately for his fans, Steve had enough humiliating moments in his life to fill volumes. He stands up to fellow students after one of them writes a racist insult on the blackboard, and in revenge they finger him as the culprit. A dealer spikes Steve’s coffee with LSD, leaving him on a bicycle in Queens in rush hour. But through it all, Steve faces life’s traumas with self-mocking humor and a core of optimism that nothing manages to quite extinguish. 

The Return of Hyper Comics is 150 pages of wicked social satire, bizarre sex, science fiction, violence, drugs, and personal humiliation, all with brilliant art by a master cartoonist. Thintwhistle Books disclaims responsibility for damage resulting from excessive laughter.

(6) RADIO REENACTMENT. “Daniel Dae Kim to Lead All-Star Recreation of ‘The Adventures of Superman’ 1940s Radio Serial”Yahoo! Entertainment has the story.

Daniel Dae Kim will lead an all-star cast in a recreation of the original “The Adventures of Superman” radio serial during the second installment of DC FanDome, Warner Bros. announced Friday.

Kim is one of three actors who will voice Superman in the one-hour production, which is being produced using original scripts recently found in Warner Bros. archives. The event is being held in support of The Creative Coalition, a Hollywood nonprofit that aims to address entertainment industry issues as well as urgent social issues.

Joining Kim as Superman in the production is Wilson Cruz (“Star Trek: Discovery”) and current Creative Coalition president Tim Daly (“Madam Secretary’)….

The performance of “The Adventures of Superman” will be available beginning on demand for 24 hours beginning Sept. 12 at 10:00 AM as part of DC FanDome: Explore the Multiverse, the second installment of the successful virtual Comic-Con alternative, which debuted in August. The event can be accessed at DCFanDome.com.

(7) NICHOLS MACIOROWSKI DIES. Influential animation visual development and story artist Sue Nichols Maciorowski died on September 1 at the age of 55 reports Animation Magazine.

The family obituary notes:

Sue graduated from California Institute of Arts with a visual animation degree in 1987. There she was part of a team that won an Emmy for work on The Muppet Babies. After graduation, Sue worked for Jim Henson on The Muppet Babies, Marvel production, and taught classes at CalArts. She then started her long career with Disney Studios working on animation films where she was best known for her expertise in character development. A few of her favorite works that she contributed to were Hercules, Beauty and the Beast, and the Princess and the Frog. More information on her career may be found on her website, Mothernichols.com.

Disney tweeted its own tribute. Thread starts here.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • September 5, 1952 Tales of Tomorrow’s “Seeing-Eye Surgeon” –

Does Doctor Xenon really exist? I don’t know. For that matter, do we three standing in this room really exist? Who knows? The real and the unreal. Where does one stop and the other begin. Maybe we’re just a figment or product of someone else’s fevered imagination. Someone from another world perhaps. — Doctor Bob Tyrell

On this day in 1952, Tales of Tomorrow first aired “Seeing-Eye Surgeon” which is the only SF credits for co-writers Michael Blair and Ed Dooley. The cast was  Bruce Cabot as surgeon Bob Tyrell, Constance Towers as Martha Larson,  Edwin Jerome                as Doctor Foyle and Joseph Holland as the possibly mythical Doctor Xenon. Towers would later be in  episodes of The Outer LimitsThe 4400 and Deep Space Nine. You can see it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 5, 1774 – Caspar Friedrich.   Leading Romantic painter; known for great landscapes with human presence small.  Here is a Frankenstein using CF’s Wanderer Above the Sea of Foghere is another using The Sea of Icehere is another using Cromlech in the Snow.  Here is a Dracula using Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon.  (Died 1840) [JH]
  • Born September 5, 1913 – Sheilah Beckett.  Illustrated seventy fairy-tale titles for Little Golden Books.  First woman illustrator at the Charles E. Cooper studio, N.Y.  Commercial work e.g. Necco Wafers, Whitman’s Chocolates, but preferred children’s books and Christmas cards.  Lived to be 100.  Here is a cover for Rapunzel.  Here is an interior for Sleeping Beauty.  Here is Jane Werner’s retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses.  Here is an interior from John Fowles’ retelling of Cinderella.  Here is a book of Beauty and the Beast stickers.  Here is Lowell Baird’s translation of Candide.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born September 5, 1921 Paul L. Payne. He edited both Jungle Stories (three years in the Forties) and the better known Planet Stories (five years in the same period) but there’s very little on him on the web. ISFDB notes that he wrote one novel for us, The Cructars Are Coming, which is available in an Armchair Fiction print edition along with Frank Belknap Long’s Made to Order novel. (Died 1993.) (CE) 
  • Born September 5, 1936 Rhae Andrece and Alyce Andrece. They played a series of androids in I, Mudd, a classic Trek episode. Both appeared as police women in “Nora Clavicle and the Ladies’ Crime Club” on Batman. That’s their only genre other appearance. They only acted for three years and every appearance but one was with the other. (Died 2009 and 2005, respectively.) (CE)
  • Born September 5, 1936 —Joseph A. Smith, 84.  Two dozen covers, half a dozen interiors for us; many others.  Here is Hercules in his lion’s skin.  Here is The Adventures of King Midas (look at the rock!).  Here is Stopping for a Spell and here is Year of the Griffin.  Here is Witches.  Here is Gregor Mendel.  Here is Circus Train.  [JH]
  • Born September 5, 1939 George Lazenby, 81. He is best remembered for being James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service which I’m sure I’ve seen if I’ve completely forgotten it now. His turn as Bond was the shortest among the actors in the film franchise and he is the only Bond actor not to appear beyond a single film. Genre wise, he also played Jor-El on Superboy and was also a Bond like character named JB in the Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. film. (CE) 
  • Born September 5, 1940 Raquel Welch, 80. Fantastic Voyage was her first genre film though she made One Million Years B.C. thatwith her leather bikini got her more notice. She was charming in The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers. She has one-offs in Bewitched, Sabrina the Teenage WitchThe Muppet ShowLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child and Mork & Mindy. (CE)
  • Born September 5, 1953  – Paul Stinson, 67.  Seventy covers, a few interiors, for us; more for commercial clients.  Here is Jesus on MarsHere is Gunn’s Road to SF vol. 2.  Here is the first issue of Beyond.  Here is Ice Hunt.  Here is Pillars of Salt.  [JH]
  • Born September 5, 1959 Carolyne Larrington, 61. Norse history and culture academic who’s the author of The Land of the Green Man: A Journey Through the Supernatural Landscapes of the British Isles and Winter is Coming: The Medieval World of Game of Thrones. She also wrote “Norse gods make a comeback thanks to Neil Gaiman – here’s why their appeal endures” for The Conversation. (CE)
  • Born September 5, 1964 Stephen Greenhorn, 56. Scriptwriter who written two episodes for Doctor Who: “The Lazarus Experiment” and “The Doctor’s Daughter”, both Tenth Doctor stories. He also wrote Marchlands, a supernatural series whichJodie Whittaker and Alex Kingston appeared in. He also wrote the Mind Shadows strip which was featured on the Who website. (CE)
  • Born September 5, 1964 – Olga Dugina, 56.  Teacher, illustrator (sometimes with Andrej Dugin).  Here is an image from The Three Orangeshere is another.  Here is Dragon Feathers.  Here is an interior from The Adventures of Abdi (Brazilian ed’n; text shown is in Portuguese).  Here is one from The Brave Little Tailor.  [JH]
  • Born September 5, 1981 – Dina Djabieva, 39.  Three images in Star*Line vol. 36 no. 2, cover for vol. 36 no. 3.  Here is “Pan”.  Here is “Warrior Monk”.  Here is “Elysium”.  Here is “The Maiden”.  She says, “I find myself living between two worlds, the dreaming and the waking.  Too often I am not able to distinguish between the two.”  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld on the possibilities of sci-fi (in The Guardian).
  • Another Tom Gauld sff cartoon —

(11) INSIDE COMICS. The Numlock News’ Walt Hickey interviews a comics industry expert: “Numlock Sunday: John Jackson Miller on the comic book shutdown”.

You alluded to this a little bit, but one thing that’s so interesting about this particular industry is there are two very large well-capitalized companies and then several other smaller companies producing the core product. Then there’s one middleman. And then there’s zillions of tiny little mom and pops. And as a result, the one middleman was able to functionally shut everything down.

Most responsible retailers in the business saw that this needed to happen because we could not have stuff being shipped that couldn’t be sold. The bills would keep mounting up. The problem simply is that this is a system where it expects that there’s cashflow coming in constantly. Diamond was in a situation where they needed to try to pay off their suppliers for the books that they had already sold, and they knew that there was not going to be any more money coming in at the same time. Diamond did get a credit line with Chase, Steve Geppi has said this is not going to be a problem going forward.

But there are many different kinds of comic shops. There are many that focus on graphic novels, and they’re much more insulated against these problems, because the graphic novels have continued shipping from other other distributors outside the comics industry like Random House. There are stores that have games or toys or something else like that they’re also doing.

Then, of course, let’s say you’re a pure comic shop, that means you probably also have a back issue section and many have a mail order, online stores or eBay stores, and there’s over 10 billion comic books already in existence so not having the new ones for a few weeks, you know, that’s not that big a deal.

But there are some shops, they’re suburban in nature, they tend to be more superhero-centric stores and those are the people that are more concerned about a disruption to the habitual nature of comics reading. My response to that would be, “yeah, but is the comics habit going to break any faster than the professional basketball watching habit will break, or the movie-going habit will break?” I think when you have every alternative also shutting down, you’re less likely to have people respond to this as, “the comics, they’ve left me, they’ve abandoned me.” No, it’s that the comet has struck, and we’re all going to just catch our breath here for a while, and we’re going to try to figure out how to restart this thing.

I’ve used the metaphor of Apollo 13 that they have to bring these systems up one at a time, systems that were never designed to shut down.

(12) NE$$IE. And now that you’ve finished that business survey, InsideHook hopes you want to know “How Much Does the Loch Ness Monster Boost Scotland’s Economy?”

When the effect of tourist attractions on local economies comes to mind, what are some of the first places one can think of? Historical sites, perhaps, or cultural events. But what happens when the thing that helps drive a local economy might not exist at all?

This isn’t a brain-teaser or a deep dive into epistemological thinking; instead, it’s a precursor to the way the Loch Ness Monster hosted the Scottish economy. Which, it turns out, is by a lot. A new article by Michele Debczak at Mental Floss delves into the way one of the world’s most famous cryptids has helped shape the local economy in Scotland. Nessie might not be real, but its impact certainly is.

How much of an impact is there on Scotland’s economy? According to a study commissioned by accountant and Loch Ness Monster fan club founder Gary Campbell, the economic boost of Nessie tourism heads into the 8 figures.

(13) RADIO FREE DRACULA. The University of Delaware’s Resident Ensemble Players will be doing a five-part radio play adaptation of Dracula. Hear a member of the company speak about “Dracula: About the Project” at Soudcloud.

A free audio presentation by the Resident Ensemble Players, in partnership with WVUD 91.3 FM.

Much more than just a gothic horror story, DRACULA is a love story, a mystery, and a globe-trotting adventure tale. The REP partners with radio station WVUD for a free, five-episode audio drama of this classic to be presented every Friday night in October.

Beginning in the forbidding mountains of Transylvania, a mysterious night-stalking beast entraps and seduces his way to England in search of new blood. A group of colleagues and companions unearth the horrible secrets of this life-sucking creature as they launch a heart-pounding chase across Europe, only to find themselves in the fight for their lives to save both themselves and the ones they love.

WVUD will broadcast/stream DRACULA in October on Friday nights at 7:00 PM:

  • Oct. 2, 7:00 PM — Episode 1: Listen, What Sweet Music 
  • Oct. 9, 7:00 PM — Episode 2: The Coming Storm
  • Oct. 16, 7:00 PM — Episode 3: Of Nature and Supernature 
  • Oct. 23, 7:00 PM — Episode 4: Master and Servant 
  • Oct. 30, 7:00 PM — Episode 5: Chasing Nightfall

Listeners can tune into WVUD’s Friday night broadcasts on 91.3 FM on radio or stream from computer or digital devices at http://www.wvud.org/

(14) NO DEPOSIT, NO RETURN OF THE KING. GameSpot recommends you use your Labor Day Weekend free time studying this extra-long list: “Lord Of The Rings Rewind: 49 Things You Didn’t Know About The Return Of The King”. Lots of things I didn’t know here.

11. This elf is an in-joke

The elf who tells Arwen that she “cannot delay” her journey to the Undying Lands was played by Bret McKenzie, who subsequently became famous as half of musical comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, alongside Jemaine Clement. McKenzie very briefly appeared in Fellowship of the Ring, and his character became known as Figwit among admiring fans–an acronym for “Frodo is great… who is THAT?” Jackson decided to put him in Return of the Ring and give him some dialogue “just for fun for the fans.”

(15) MEDIA TIE-IN. Who knew there was Forbidden Planet merch out there? A buddy of John King Tarpinian’s stopped off at the Walmart in Bakersfield for supplies on his way to the Sequoias found this on the shelves —

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Double King” on YouTube is a 2017 film by Australian animator Felix Colgrave about a murderous monarch that has been viewed 42 million times but has never shown up on File 770! (Although I don’t think there’s a rule that it has to.)

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

Pixel Scroll 9/4/20 When The Scroll Comes A Filing, The Pixel Turn It Back, First From The Circle, Fifth From The Track

(1) FREE WOLVES. The first episode of Raised By Wolves is free on YouTube SYFY Wire has the story:

Those interested in blasting off to a distant world filled with strife and android parents are in luck: HBO Max has put the entire first episode of its new sci-fi show, Raised By Wolves, on YouTube for free.

(2) BUTLER ON BESTSELLER LIST. SYFY Wire celebrates Octavia Butler’s posthumous breakthrough to the NY Times Bestseller List: “Author Octavia Butler Reaches New York Times Best Seller List, 14 Years After Her Death”.

It may have taken more than 44 years since the publication of her first-ever novel, but one of Octavia E. Butler‘s books has finally made it into the New York Times Best Seller List — something the widely-acclaimed science fiction author had envisioned for herself several years ago. 

The novel to reach the list is 1993’s The Parable of the Sower, which offers an uncanny, but no less prescient glimpse at California in the early 2020s, a dystopian future where people are dealing with global climate change, as well as an economic crisis. 

This is the book’s first time on the NYTimes Paperback Trade Fiction list, where it currently sits at no. 13, though future weeks could see it rise, if not stay, due to both Butler’s cultural impact as an author, as well as the plot’s renewed relevance, given the current global climate — not unlike the surge in popularity seen by other dystopian novels following the 2016 election, such as Margaret Atwood‘s The Handmaid’s Tale and George Orwell‘s 1984. The book is currently a bestseller on Amazon, where it’s also No. 1 in the African American Science Fiction category…. 

(3) ANTHOLOGY ROUNDUP. Mark R. Kelly, whose Science Fiction Awards Database is an incredible resource, told Facebook readers today he has expanded its usefulness in another direction: Anthologies.

Over at my science fiction awards website, sfadb.com, I have — after a year of work — greatly expanded the section about anthologies. There are now 118 pages compiling over 1400 anthologies, grouped by editor or theme and arranged chronologically, with descriptions, photos, tallies of authors and sources, and composite tables of contents. Total descriptive text on the 118 pages: about 30,000 words. There will always be more books to compile, of course, but for now I’m considering this done. Comments, corrections, and suggestions welcome.

(4) WE THE CHARACTERS. If only school had been like this: “The Daily Heller: The U.S. Constitution in Pictures” at Print Magazine.

The Constitution Illustrated (Drawn & Quarterly) is so easy to read (and inexpensive to buy) that even a man-child U.S. President might learn something about the laws, precepts and rights bequeathed to the nation he leads. R. Sikoryak, comics artist, cartoon historian and now Constitutional scholar, has drafted the styles of many of America’s great past and present comic strip artists (of all religions, creeds, genders and social backgrounds) —from Alex Raymond’s “Flash Gordon” to Hank Ketcham’s “Dennis the Menace” to Alice Bechdel’s “Dykes to Watch Out For” to Nicole Hollander’s “Sylvia” to Frederick Burr Opper’s “Happy Hooligan” to, whew, Art Spiegelman’s “Maus,” and many, many others.

(5) GREEN ASTRONAUT TO RED PLANET. The New York Times says now is the time to watch Away, Hilary Swank’s Martian Odyssey.

‘Away’

When to watch: Now, on Netflix.

Where has Hilary Swank been the past few years? En route to Mars. This 10-episode drama stars Swank as Emma Green, the mission commander on the first manned (womanned?) mission to Mars.

In space, disaster lurks around every asteroid. Back on earth, Emma’s husband (Josh Charles) and their daughter (Talitha Bateman) face their own crises. Should Emma complete her mission or return home to care for her family? Working moms have it rough! Swank, backed by a nifty international cast, commits with her usual live-wire intensity. But the vibe remains gloomy and the heart-wringing, like the vast expanse outside the shuttle, goes on and on and on. Guess you can cry in space.

(6) FRODO AND SAM. Quite a thoughtful post by Mary Nikkel from 2019.

…By contrast, Frodo’s obstacles are primarily internal. He endured a lot of those same exterior challenges as Sam, but Sam did much to absorb their impact (see the Cirith Ungol rescue). Frodo’s challenges are the slow, steady erosion of a soul being asked to carry a tremendous internal darkness without being consumed by it. Everything he was became laser-focused on that monolithic spiritual and emotional task.

This is why, at the end, Frodo had to sacrifice far more than Sam. Because Sam’s primary struggle was against external forces, once those external forces were alleviated, he could go home, marry, have children, live as a functional member of his community. For Frodo, the cessation of exterior pressure could do nothing to mend the way his soul had been burning from the inside out….

(7) LIFE AT THE KILNS. First Things, a religious website, hosts a conversation with Douglas Gresham: “C. S. Lewis And His Stepsons”.

…For decades, despite a booming cottage industry of Lewis biographies and endless academic theorizing about the last years of Lewis’s life, Douglas kept to himself the fact that Lewis struggled mightily to help his mentally ill stepson [David]. “We didn’t tell anybody,” he told me. “The only reason I’m releasing it now is because people should know what Jack put up with and what Warnie put up with and how heroic they were to do it at all.” It is time, he added, “that people understand what Jack and Warnie went through. Jack and Warnie didn’t know what the heck to do.”

(8) DON’T BE A LONE ARRANGER. SPECPO, the official blog of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association, tells how to “Publish More Poems” through the support of a critique group.

Here’s a few ways that critique groups help you grow.

1.) Increase your output by reducing revision time.

Revision means re-vision. It’s common knowledge that all writers need distance from their work in order to see it in new ways. We all use tricks to help force along the re-vision process. We change fonts, change reading locations, read it out loud, and these will do in a pinch but there is no replacement for time. 

Oh, wait. Except a literal new set of writerly eyes on your poem. This is where critique groups can help in areas that beta readers cannot: we’re all writers. When a writer sets their eyes on your draft, they are giving you a fresh look without you having to bury your poem in peat for seven months.

(9) DEFINING SPECULATIVE. Also at SPECPO, Melanie Stormm posted a three-panel infographic designed to answer the question “What Counts As Speculative?” Here is the first section –

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • September 4, 1966  — At Tricon in Cleveland, Ohio, Gene Roddenberry debuted Star Trek‘s “Where No Man Has Gone Before” episode.  It was so well received that fans there demanded that he show them the black-and-white print he had with him of “The Cage”, the original Star Trek pilot. (Neither would win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at NyCon 3 the next year as that would instead go to Trek’s “Menagerie“ episode, a reworking of “The Cage”.) Thus was born the popular legend that credits September 4th, 1966 as the true birth date of the Star Trek franchise.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 4, 1905 Mary Renault. ISFDB only counts her Theseus series work  as  genre novels (The King Must Die and The Bull from the Sea) by her. Is that right? I’m not familiar with her full body of work to say if that is or is not correct. (Died 1983.) (CE) 
  • Born September 4, 1916 – Robert A.W. “Doc” Lowndes.  (Surname is one syllable, rhymes with astounds.)  Founded the Stamford, Connecticut, chapter of the SF League, 1935.  Edited DynamicFamousFutureSF QuarterlySF Stories; various other prozines outside our field.  Founded Vanguard Records with James Blish.  Four novels, fifty shorter stories, poems, under many different names. Nonfiction Three Faces of SFThe Gernsback Days (with M. Ashley), Bok (with C. Beck, H. Bok, J. Cordes, G. de la Ree, B. Indick).  Guest of Honor at Lunacon 12, Boskone 10.  Best-known fanzine Le Vombiteur; several more.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  (Died 1998). 
  • Born September 4, 1919 – Evelyn Copelman.  After the Denslow-illustrated 1900 Wizard of Oz fell out of print, EC illustrated a 1944 ed’n showing the influence of the 1939 motion picture; then a 1947 Magical Monarch of Mo, and a further 1956 Wizard.  Outside our field, many illustrations, another career in graphic design.  (Died 2003)
  • Born September 4, 1924 Joan Aiken. I’d unreservedly say her Wolves Chronicles were her best works. Of the many, many in that series, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase featuring the characters of Bonnie Green, Sylvia Green and Simon is I think the essential work to read even though The Whispering Mountain is supposed to a prequel to the series I don’t think it’s essential reading. (Or very interesting.) The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is certainly the one in the series I see stocked regularly in my local bookstores. (Died 2004.) (CE) 
  • Born September 4, 1928 Dick York. He is best remembered as the first Darrin Stephens on Bewitched. He was a teen in the police station in Them!, an early SF film which is considered the very first giant bug film. He’d showed up in myriad Alfred Hitchcock Presents, several episodes of Twilight Zone and has a one-off on Fantasy Island. He voiced his character Darrin Stephens in the “Samantha” episode of The Flintstones. (Died 1992.) (CE) 
  • Born September 4, 1957 Patricia Tallman, 63. Best known as telepath Lyta Alexander on Babylon 5, a series I hold that was magnificent but ended somewhat annoyingly. She was in two episodes of Next Generation, three of Deep Space Nine and two of Voyager. She did uncredited stunt work on further episodes of the latter as she did on Voyager. H’h to the latter. Oh, and she shows up in Army of Darkness as a possessed witch. (CE)
  • Born September 4, 1962 – Karl Schroeder, 58.  A dozen novels, thirty shorter stories.  With Cory Doctorow, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing SF.  Essays, reviews  in Analog, Bifrost (French), LocusNY Review of SFOn Spec.  Interviewed in Challenging DestinyClarkesworldLightspeed.  Two Prix Aurora awards.  Ventus NY Times Notable Book.  Past President of SF Canada (nat’l ass’n of SF pros).  [JH]
  • Born September 4, 1963 – Linda Davies, 57.  Six novels for us; Longbow Girl was the Mal Peet Children’s Book of the Year.  Several others.  Escaped, as she put it, from investment banking to write fiction, naturally including financial thrillers.  [JH]
  • Born September 4, 1963 – Mike Scott, 57.  His adventures with the much-loved fanzine PLOKTA, the Journal of Superfluous Technology (= Press Lots Of Keys To Abort), involved him with the PLOKTA Cabal, two Hugos, and notoriety as Dr. Plokta.  Chaired CUSFS (Cambridge Univ. SF Soc.) and led the successful bid to hold Loncon 3 (72nd Worldcon).  Married the horsewoman and fan Flick, another cabalist.  [JH]
  • Born September 4, 1972 Françoise Yip, 48. She was a remarkably extensive career in genre productions including Earth: Final ConflictAndromedaCapricaFringeRobocop: Prime DirectivesSeven DaysFlash GordonSmallvilleMillenniumArrow and Sanctuary.  Genre casting directors obviously like her. (CE) 
  • Born September 4, 1973 – Jennifer Povey, 47.  Seven novels, forty shorter stories; role-playing games.  Horsewoman.  Ranks The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress above Level 7, with which I agree.  Collection, The Silent Years.  [JH]
  • Born September 4, 1975 Kai Owen, 45. Best known for portrayal of Rhys Williams in Torchwood, the Doctor Who spin-off I stopped watching after the first two series. He reprised his character in the Big Audio and BBC audio dramas. (CE) 

(12) BOSEMAN TRIBUTE. Following the passing of Chadwick Boseman last week, the late actor has now been honored with a new piece designed by Ryan Meinerding, Head of Visual Development for Marvel Studios.

(13) THUMB DOWN. Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson pans the remake: “Disney’s New Mulan Is a Dull Reflection of the Original”.

… Having affirmed its place in the firmament of animated classics, Mulan could have enjoyed a nice retirement. But Disney as it exists now is not content to let things rest, and so—after tackling live-action remakes of Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Alice in Wonderland—they turned their necromancy to Mulan. Only, certain mores and cultural interests have changed in the last 22 years, meaning Disney didn’t feel quite comfortable simply literalizing the 1998 film, talking dragon and musical numbers and all. Instead, they wanted a big action epic in the style of many huge movies that have come out of the Chinese film industry, only directed by a New Zealander, Niki Caro.

Caro directed the lovely New Zealand coming-of-age tale Whale Rider, which earned its young star, Keisha Castle-Hughes, an Oscar nomination for best actress. In that way, she was a fine pick for Mulan, another coming-of-age story about a headstrong young woman bucking the rigid gender norms of her place and time. In other ways—being that Caro is not from China or of Chinese descent—her hiring rang alarm bells. Disney had to proceed carefully, not wanting to tarnish valuable I.P. or create a cultural blowback that would put its corporate progressiveness under the microscope.

What has resulted from all that needle threading is a movie, out on Disney+ on September 4, that’s been managed to death. The new Mulan is a sweeping action movie with lots of cool fight choreography, and yet it never musters up a sense of awe. Even the loathsome Beauty and the Beast remake was not this bland and perfunctory; that film at least had the darkly electrifying jolt of its awfulness. Mulan is not awful. It’s just inert, a lifeless bit of product that will probably neither satisfy die-hards nor enrapture an entire new generation of fans.

(14) BORNE AGAIN. Nina Shepardson reviews “‘Borne’ by Jeff VanderMeer” at Outside of a Dog.

Although I first encountered Jeff VanderMeer through the excellent anthologies he co-edits with his wife Ann, he’s better known for his fiction. His Southern Reach Trilogy and Ambergris novels are both beloved by fans of weird fiction. Borne is the first in a trilogy set in a post-apocalyptic city where people scavenge for biotechnological creations that have escaped into the wild while trying to evade a giant flying bear. No, that was not a typo, there really is a giant flying bear. His name is Mord….

(15) DICELIVING. Camestros Felapton proposes an easy way for sff critics to save themselves the trouble of constantly rearranging those reviewers’ clichés in “Get a free opinion about science in science fiction”.

You’ll need a D20 dice and the table below. Take the sentence “I believe that the science in science fiction should be X and Y” and replace X and Y with entries from the table, rolling the dice twice to get your exciting new take on the discussion….

(16) THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I heard a 2019 podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Brad Bird (Maltin on Movies  — Brad Bird).  Bird explained that he first visited Disney in 1968, when he was 11.  Three years later, he sent them a 15-minute animated film.  This was a time when character animation was at its low point, where the only studio producing character animation was Disney, who produced one film every three years.  Most of the animators who started working with Disney in the 1930s were still active 30 years later, but they realized they had no successors, so Bird was recruited.  He discusses his apprenticeship with the great animator Milt Kahl and then went on to study at Cal Arts, where the one class for character animators met in the basement in room A113.  Bird has remained friends with many of the students in that class, including Henry Selick, Tim Burton, and John Musker, and sticks “A113” as an Easter egg in all of his films.  Also discussed:  what Bird did for “The Simpsons,” and his surprise at being drawn as the villain Syndrome in The Incredibles.

(17) ASK NASA. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate will hold a community town hall meeting with Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen and his leadership team at 12 p.m. EDT Thursday, Sept. 10, to discuss updates to NASA’s science program and the current status of NASA activities.  

Members of the science community, academia, the media, and the public are invited to participate by joining at the link here. (If prompted, please use event number 199 074 4251, followed by event password Zk4n3G48gbd.)

To ask a question, participants can go here.

Users must provide their first and last name and organization and can submit their own questions or vote up questions submitted by others. The meeting leaders will try to answer as many of the submitted questions as possible.

Presentation materials will be available for download and a recording will be available later that day here.

(18) L. RON HUBBARD, COMMANDING. [Item by Dann.] I came across something interesting via one of my regular YouTube channels; The History Guy. THG is prepared by an actual history professor.

In this case, he was offering a window into the history of WWII vintage anti-submarine ships of the US Navy.

One of those ships, PC-815, reportedly engaged with a pair of Japanese submarines just off the northwestern coast of the United States. The sub-chasers expended all of their depth charges and had called in two blimps in pursuit of the two submarines.

In his lengthy and quite descriptive after-action report, the captain of the PC-815 claimed to have positively sunk one of the submarines and damaged the other. The after-action reports of the other US Navy air and sea vessel commanders involved in the chase did not support that claim.

Shortly thereafter, the PC-815 was diverted from coastal defense duty and was assigned to escort a ship down to San Diego for final outfitting. Upon arrival, the captain of the PC-815 had the ship moored off of some area islands and decided to conduct some nighttime gunnery exercises using those islands as targets. The islands belonged to Mexico and were defended by an installation of Mexican army soldiers.

Shortly thereafter, the captain of the ship, one L. Ron Hubbard, was removed from command and reassigned to other…non-command….duties.

If you want to skip to the part about Hubbard, it’s at the 12:33 mark of the video.

Other links are to the ever-questionable Wikipedia.  Those pages seem to match up well with other sites that aren’t affiliated with the Scientology folks.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/6/20 The Scroll With The Twisted Pixel

(1) SHARKE SIGHTING.  Nina Allan has been doing an interesting series of posts on both Hugo nominees and Clarke Award nominees; she wrote one on all of the Hugo-nominated novellas, for example. Her most recent is on Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade. “Weird Wednesdays #9/Clarke Award #3: The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley”.

…What a ride, what a charge. Kameron Hurley was last shortlisted for the Clarke Award back in 2014, for her debut novel God’s War. I enjoyed and admired God’s War, but had fallen somewhat out of touch with Hurley’s work since, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to read her latest within the context of the Clarke. What a delight it is to see a writer fulfilling her potential. What I loved most about God’s War and the short fiction from Hurley that I’d read in the interim was its densely textured language, and The Light Brigade is immediately, thrillingly identifiable as by the same hand. Time (and increasing fame) has done nothing to slow or flatten the vividness and immediacy of Hurley’s approach, nor compromise its intelligence or conceptual ambition.

… Although The Light Brigade works perfectly well as a standalone novel – you don’t need to have read any of Hurley’s other work or even any science fiction to get on board – it is important to note the many and clever ways in which it is directly in conversation with older works of SF. …

(2) SUBSCRIBE TO ASTROLABE. Aidan Moher will launch a new newsletter— Astrolabe — on Friday

Aidan Moher

Astrolabe covers all the stuff I love—from science fiction and fantasy, to retro gaming, parenting, and personal news about my work. It’s about talking my stuff and professional news, but also building a community of readers, and sharing the love by highlighting and sharing all the other great work and books I come across.

Why wait? Here’s the link to subscribe.

Aidan Moher, who won a Best Fanzine Hugo in 2014 for A Dribble of Ink, which really was a beautiful publication, has gone on to author  “On the Phone with Goblins” and “The Dinosaur Graveyard,” and write for KotakuVentureBeatEGMUncanny MagazineCast of WondersBarnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy BlogTor.com, and various other places. 

But Aidan has not forgotten my teasing from back in 2014. He ended his email:

I see your absolute glee that I’m starting a issue-based fanzine, Mike Glyer. I SEE YOU.

(3) NUMBER NINTH, NUMBER NINTH. NPR’s Jason Sheehan warns us that “Whatever You’re Expecting, ‘Harrow The Ninth’ Is Not That Kind Of Book”.

You know how sometimes people say, Oh, it’s okay. You don’t have to read the first book in this series to dive right into the second.

This is not that kind of book

You know how sometimes people say, It’s like everything you loved about the first book, only MORE.

This is not that kind of book.

Last year, Tamsyn Muir absolutely owned the lesbian-necromancers-in-space genre. She created a crumbly, dusty, deeply haunted and wonderfully goopy horror-universe with Gideon the Ninth, peopled it with creepy, sepulchral wizards, dipped it all in the reverential tones of quasi-Catholic religious fanaticism, wrote it like a science-fantasy parlor romance full of murder and then gave it to us, still warm and dripping, like a cat bringing home a particularly juicy mouse.

…I loved Gideon. Loved everything about it. It was just so much of a book — so strange, so full, so lush, so double-bats*** crazy and so unerringly cool — that I didn’t think anything could top it.

And Harrow the Ninth, second in the series, doesn’t.

Because it is not that kind of book.

Gideon was the perfect surrogate through which to experience Muir’s creation — a brash, foul-mouthed, anarchic guide who was just as wonderstruck as we were by the gory weirdness happening at every other breath, but never so serious about it that any piece of the story felt logy with funereal detail.

Harrow, though? Harrow is all black crepe and rosaries. She’s that one goth girl from high school gone full dark supernova with her sacramental face paint and unfathomable necromantic powers. A bone witch (and don’t think Muir doesn’t have some fun with that), she can construct a skeleton from a chip of tibia and have it tear your arms and legs clean off. She vacillates wildly between breathless (though exceptionally prudish) teenage passion for a corpse (that would take pages to explain), fervent prayer and drear musings on death — her own and everyone else’s. At one point, she carefully (and explosively) poisons someone with a soup made from her own bone marrow and it’s passed off like, Oh, that’s just Harry, exploding one of God’s own hit men at the dinner table, the kooky kid!

(4) FAN PIPES UP. Speaking of Tamsyn Muir, she did an Ask Me Anything on Reddit yesterday: “I’m Tamsyn Muir, author of HARROW THE NINTH, second book of the Locked Tomb trilogy. AMA!”

[Question] … I have been telling all my friends that Alecto the Ninth is going to be a heist novel. Can you please confirm this, and if so, also confirm that there will be many heart crimes. Thank you for writing these books, they are fantastic….

tazmuir

AMA Author Tamsyn Muir

I had to go back and look to see if I’d ever mentioned that I wanted a heist in Alecto, because otherwise you are 1. psychic or 2. hiding in my drywall — there IS actually a heist in Alecto. It’s not the world’s greatest heist, and is undertaken by idiots, but there’s a heist. If you’re in my house, can you tell me if turning off the boiler at night has helped the pipes? I assume you’re between the walls.

(5) OPENING A FRESH DECK. NPR’s Glen Weldon reports that “With ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks,’ A Venerable Franchise Loosens Up”.

The prospect of spoofing Star Trek represents nothing new under the (binary) sun(s). The franchise has become an institution, and mocking institutions remains a thriving American cottage industry. Saturday Night Live started taking whacks at Trek way back in the ’70s, as did MAD magazine, and the short-lived sitcom Quark. As a piece of cultural furniture, Star Trek’s ubiquity, driven by multiple television series, movies, books, games, comics and fan-fiction, means its tropes have entered the collective consciousness, and have thus become easy to recognize — and to make fun of.

Why, one could even construct an entire, very-good movie just by riffing on Trek (1999’s Galaxy Quest), as well as an entire, not-very-good television series (FOX’s mystifying The Orville).

The difference between all these previous efforts and the one represented by Star Trek: Lower Decks, premiering Thursday August 6th on CBS All Access, is a simple one:

This time, the comm signal is coming from inside the house.

True, the franchise has poked the gentlest of fun at itself, over the years — a throwaway line here, a winking reference to previous Trek series there. But Star Trek: Lower Decks is an official Trek property, its yuks are both nerdily meta and rigorously in-canon, and they go — more broadly than boldly, it must be said — where no Trek has gone before.

The premise is such stuff as comedy sketches are made on: Starships are huge, and staffed by hundreds of officers and crew members, so why does every Trek story need to revolve around the bridge, and the same 7 or so characters? Why not focus instead on the grunts doing the tedious, everyday work?

Creator/showrunner Mike McMahan made his bones on the animated series Drawn Together and Rick and Morty — shows whose darker, more cutting humorous sensibilities would seem to clash with Trek’s traditional commitment to ennobling, optimistic uplift. But that disconnect turns out to work for the new series, in most respects. For the nerds, in-jokes and easter eggs abound, testifying to the creators’ fondness for the source material, while viewers who don’t know a nacelle from a Jeffries Tube will likely appreciate the show’s sheer joke-density — and the fact that, as an animated series, it comes outfitted with an unlimited special effects budget.

That’s important, because despite its bright, broad, cartoony look, the planets of Lower Decks can appear legitimately otherworldly, instead of all looking like the Vasquez Rocks outside of Santa Clarita, California. Alien races can look alien — obviating previous series’ need to, as one wag (me) once put it, “Grab a dayplayer, slap a hunk of spirit gum between their eyebrows, paint ’em Prussian blue and shove ’em in front of the camera”.

(6) I WRITE THE WORDS. NPR reveals how “A New Documentary Shines A Spotlight On The Lyricist Behind The Disney Renaissance”.

Alan Menken composed the song “Prince Ali,” memorably sung by Robin Williams in Disney’s 1992 animated feature Aladdin, while sitting at the lyricist’s hospital bed. His friend, Howard Ashman, was dying.

“His life was pitifully cut short, unfortunately, as were many at that time,” says Menken. “But Howard’s [death], for me, is the most personally difficult and his spirit remains very, very present still; there’s something about Howard that is not just a statistic in the battle against AIDS. But as an artist, he’s extremely vital — even now.”

Howard, a documentary about Ashman and his work as an award-winning lyricist, is coming to streaming August 7 on Disney+. It also shows the friendship between Ashman and Menken, who met in New York City in the 1970s, where Ashman was the artistic director of a black box theater, the WPA, near Union Square. Menken had been working as an accompanist for singers and writing songs for Sesame Street, and they immediately gelled like Rodgers and Hammerstein. Together they wrote the musicals Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater and the unlikely hit, Little Shop of Horrors — a monster mash parody of American musical comedies, which won several Drama Desk Awards and was adapted into a film in 1986 – before going on to work for Disney.

The documentary tracks Ashman’s rise from a theater-obsessed kid in Baltimore, to his musical highs and lows (including the ill-fated Broadway show Smile with composer Marvin Hamlisch), and to his untimely death. It’s told through archival photos, song demos, new interviews with family and friends and a filmed recording session from Beauty and the Beast — a Disney-lover’s treasure trove….

(7) ABOUT ASIMOV. In the comments on LitHub’s article “What to Make of Isaac Asimov, Sci-Fi Giant and Dirty Old Man?”, posted in May, former SFWA President Marta Randall told about the time Isaac Asimov assaulted her:

“In general,” writes Nevala-Lee, “Asimov chose targets who were unlikely to protest directly, such as fans and secretaries, and spared women whom he saw as professionally useful.”

I have to take exception to this. In the mid-1980s I was serving my first term as president of the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), the first woman to hold that office, and attended the Boskone convention, as did Dr. Asimov. He showed up in the organization’s suite and I thought it proper to introduce myself, so at a suitable break in the conversation, I held out my hand for a shake and tried to say, “Dr. Asimov, I’m Marta Randall, the president of SFWA.” I didn’t make it to the second syllable of his title before he grabbed my hand, jerked me to him, and tried to stick his tongue down my throat. We were in a suite run by our professional organization, but apparently it never occurred to him that his actions might be inappropriate. Luckily a number of members who knew me pried him off of me before I tried to deck him.

We met again years later, when I was protected by carrying a baby on my back. He was perfectly cordial, but never apologized, if he even remembered the assault.

The man was a pig.

(8) VIRTUAL OXONMOOT. The UK’s Tolkien Society will hold “Oxonmoot Online” from September 18-20. Full details at the link.

…Clearly Oxonmoot Online will be a very different event from a normal Oxonmoot, but our aim is to bring you a busy and engaging weekend of Tolkien related activities. In addition, the online nature of the event offers new opportunities for international members who are normally unable to travel to Oxford to take part….

…Thanks to the actions of Ar-Pharazôn at the end of the Second Age, we find ourselves living on a round world – which means we have to deal with the complexities of time zones. To make the event as accessible as possible to as many of our members as we can, the “core” time for the keynote events and larger activities will be 18:00-22:00 UK time.

Outside these hours, we will run an engaging programme of talks, papers, activities and social gatherings – the exact timing of which will depend on the offers we get from you, our members. We intend to record talks and papers so that delegates can watch the presentations which are delivered at a time which is difficult in their time zone…

(9) THE GOAL IS MONEY. Trailer for the Korean sff movie Space Sweepers. “Are lots of trash worth a fortune?”

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 6, 1955 Science Fiction Theater’s “The Stones Began to Move” first aired. Starring Truman Bradley, Basil Rathbone, and Jean Willie, a discovery inside the just-opened tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh may hold a clue as to the construction of the pyramids, but a murder is committed to keep that secret from being revealed. You can watch it here,

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 6, 1809 – Alfred, Lord Tennyson.  (His name was Alfred Tennyson; he was later made 1st Baron Tennyson.)  Poet whose engagement with quest and fantasy point us to him (“To follow knowledge like a sinking star, beyond the utmost bound of human thought” – speaking of which, don’t neglect the highly strange Frank Belknap Long story “To Follow Knowledge”, 1942).  See “Ulysses”, “Tithonus”, Idylls of the King (the Matter of Arthur).  (Died 1892) [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1874 Charles Fort. Writer and researcher who specialized in anomalous phenomena. The term fortean is sometimes used to characterize such phenomena. No, not genre as such, but certainly an influence on many a writer. The Dover publication, The Complete Books of Charles Fort, that collects together The Book of The Damned Lo!Wild Talents and New Lands has a foreword by Damon Knight. L. Sprague de Camp reviewed it in Astounding Science-Fiction in the August 1941 issue when it was originally published as The Books of Charles Fort. (Died 1932.) (CE)
  • Born August 6, 1877 John Ulrich Giesy. He was one of the early writers in the Sword and Planet genre, with his Jason Croft series  He collaborated with Junius B. Smith on many of his stories though not these which others would call them scientific romances. He wrote a large number of stories featuring the occult detective Abdul Omar aka Semi-Dual and those were written with Smith. I see iBooks has at least all of the former and one of the latter available. Kindle has just the latter. (Died 1947.) (CE)
  • Born August 6, 1911 Lucille Ball. She became the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu Productions, which is where Star Trek was produced. Her support of the series kept it from being terminated by the financial backers even after it went way over budget in the first pilot. (Died 1989.) (CE) 
  • Born August 6, 1917 – Barbara Cooney.  Author and illustrator of a hundred children’s books, some fantastic.  Two Caldecott Medals.  National Book Award.  Here is a picture that might simply be entitled “Fantasy”.  Here is a cover for Snow White and Rose Red.  Here is Where Have You Been?  Here is “The Owl and the Pussycat” (note the runcible spoon).  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1955 – Judith Bemis, 65.  Co-chair (with husband Tony Parker), Tropicon 8-9.  Fan Guest of Honor (with Parker), Concave 16.  Treasurer of MagiCon (50th Worldcon), Noreascon 4 (62nd).  Active getting fanzines into FANAC.org database. [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1955 –Eva Whitley, 65.  Chaired Paracon 1, Disclaves 26 & 34.  Widow of Jack Chalker; says  ”Possibly the only person in fandom to meet spouse by making him GoH (Paracon 1)”.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 17 (with Chalker) & 21, Norwescon XXII (with Chalker).  Active in WSFA (Washington [D.C.] SF Ass’n) and BSFS (Baltimore SF Ass’n).  [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1962 Michelle Yeoh, 58. Ok, I have to give her full name of Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng. Wow. Her first meaningful genre roles were as Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies and Yu Shu Lien in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I actually remember her as Zi Yuan in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the first film of a since cancelled franchise. And then there’s her dual roles in the Trek universe where she’s Captain Philippa Georgiou and Emperor Philippa Georgiou. The forthcoming Section 31 series will involve one of them but I’m not sure which one… (CE)
  • Born August 6, 1969 – Álvaro Enrigue, 51.  Novel Sudden Death for us, Herralde Prize.  Six novels, three collections of shorter stories and one of essays.  Mortiz Prize.  Carlos Fuentes said E’s novel Perpendicular Lives “belongs to Max Planck’s quantum universe rather than the relativistic universe of Albert Einstein, a world of co-existing fields … whose particles are created or destroyed in the same act.”  Translated into Chinese, Czech, French, German.  [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1972 – Paolo Bacigalupi, 48.  Six novels, a score of shorter stories, translated into French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Romanian, Spanish.  Interviewed in Electric VelocipedeIntergalactic Medicine ShowInterzoneLightspeedLocusNY Review of SFSF Research Ass’n Review.  First novel The Windup Girl won Hugo, Nebula, Campbell (as it then was) Memorial, Compton Crook, Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, Ignotus, Laßwitz, Prix Planète, Seiun; also a Printz, a Sturgeon, another Seiun.  Toastmaster at MileHiCon 42; Guest of Honor at ArmadilloCon 33, Capclave 2014.  Williamson Lectureship, 2014.  [CE and I found two different dates for his birthday; since he’s done and won much, we decided to let both notes stand – JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Truer cartoon words were never spoken — Ziggy.

(13) US IN FLUX. The latest story from the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project is “Tomorrow Is Another Daze,” a story of Aztlán, creative reuse, and making technology work for you by Ernest Hogan (an Arizona-based writer, often called the father of Chicanx science fiction).

Lalo was in the middle of making Huevos Rancheros Microöndas when the doorbell rattled. The microwave buzzed less than a second after. Yet another quarantine for yet another virus was going on, so he wasn’t eager to answer the door. For all he knew it could be a terminal case, long past the early stages that are said to be similar to what they used to call future shock: the disorientation and hallucinations, the convulsions, foaming at the mouth, about to drop dead on his porch under the decorations his wife insisted on putting up, requiring the services of a hazmat team….

On Monday, August 10 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, they will have another virtual event on Zoom, with Ernest and scholar, author, and editor Frederick Luis Aldama. Register at the link.

(14) EAR TO THE GROUND. Michelle Nijhuis, in “Buzz Buzz Buzz” at New York Review of Books, discusses four recent works about human responsibilities towards animals.

…The scholarly emphasis on negative rights, along with the work of animal-rights and animal-welfare activists, has arguably improved the treatment of domesticated animals in North America and Europe. Public opposition to animal cruelty is now widespread, and recent laws and policies have banned animal blood sports. The insights of advocates such as Temple Grandin have helped us imagine how other species experience the world, and begin to curb some of the most brutal factory-farming practices.

None of these advances, however, has changed our fundamental relationship with animals—which is hardly sustainable, ethically or otherwise. In Slime, when one of the translators finally succeeds in communicating with a bump-nosed parrotfish from the Pacific Ocean, the message is stark, delivered in dramatic terms: “Youare helping Slime to kill us You You You Land Monsters!!! Why? Stop? Why? Change your swimming! Change your swimming! Change your swimming!!!!” Were Slime written today, it might include a line from a pangolin or a bat, warning that our heedless exploitation of animals carries deadly risks for all.

… That animals are in this sense political actors is an underrecognized and, to my mind, potentially powerful point of convergence between the animal-rights and ecological-protection movements: both traditions hold that animals have needs and wants that humans are more than capable of understanding, and should attend to.

(15) BE CAREFUL OUT THERE AMONG THEM ENGLISH. James Davis Nicoll was pleased to get some egoboo from the letters to the editors in the August 4 Sydney Morning Herald:

Hold the phonics

Each of your “o’s”, Kevin Harris, represents different sounds because of the consonants in each word that have individual phonetic sounds; always have and always will (Letters, August 5). Otherwise, we’d all be speaking French, where half the letters aren’t ever pronounced. John Kingsmill, Fairlight

Thirty years ago, one James Nicoll observed that “English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and riffle their pockets for new vocabulary”. With that has come disparate rules of pronunciation, to the annoyance of Kevin Harris’ five-year-old and countless others. For English, basic phonics works for about 40 per cent of words, enough to make it a useful tool. For the rest, plenty of guided reading will make up most of the deficit. Richard Murnane, Hornsby

(16) SURPRISE! – NOT. “Hollywood censors films to appease China, report suggests” – BBC has details.

Hollywood bosses have been censoring films to placate the film market in China, a report has suggested.

The lengthy report says US film companies want to avoid losing access to China’s lucrative box office market.

It said casting, content, dialogue and plotlines were increasingly being tailored to appease censors in Beijing.

The report, compiled by the free speech charity PEN America, claimed China was therefore influencing movies released in cinemas around the world.

China holds the world’s second largest box office market behind the US.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, American films earned $2.6bn (£2bn) in China last year, with Disney’s Avengers finale, Endgame, making $614m (£466m).

PEN is a non-profit organisation that campaigns on free speech and it sponsors the Pinter Prize for literature.

The report said that Marvel’s 2016 superhero film Dr Strange whitewashed a major Tibetan character for fear of jeopardising the title’s chances of success in China.

The forthcoming Top Gun sequel, Maverick, was also criticised for the “mysterious disappearance of the Taiwanese flag” in a 2019 trailer.

“Our biggest concern is that Hollywood is increasingly normalising pre-emptive self-censorship in anticipation of what the Beijing censor is looking for,” said James Tager, author of the report.

(17) HEISENBIRDS. “Attaching Small Weights To Pigeons Helps Them Shoot Up In The Social Hierarchy”NPR transcript:

Scientists found that attaching small weights to pigeons causes them to shoot up in the social hierarchy. The finding is important because scientists often attach trackers to pigeons.

STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:

It turns out there is a social hierarchy among pigeons, and it definitely pays to be the big bird on campus.

STEVE PORTUGAL: Being top of the dominance hierarchy basically gives you preferential access to everything. It means you get priority access to food, priority access to mates.

SHAPIRO: That’s Steve Portugal, a zoologist and biologist at Royal Holloway, University of London. And contrary to what you may have heard about the early bird getting the worm, in the case of pigeons, it is heavier birds that get all the perks.

VANEK SMITH: So Portugal and his colleagues wondered what would happen if you made lighter pigeons feel heavier. If you beefed them up, would they punch above their weight?

SHAPIRO: They tested their theory in a captive flock of homing pigeons. They identified the birds in the bottom half of the hierarchy and loaded them up with tiny weights – little bird backpacks, actually.

PORTUGAL: And sure enough, when I did that, they became much more aggressive, started much more fights and won many more fights as well.

(18) EVRYBODY MUST BE STONE. ScreenRant luckily didn’t run out of fingers while counting the cast: “All 9 Star Trek Actors In Gargoyles The Animated Series”.

A number of Star Trek actors lent their voices to the animated series Gargoyles. The show followed the adventures of gargoyles, nocturnal creatures who turned into stone during the day. After being transported from their home in Scotland to New York City, the clan were awoken from their 1000-year-long magical slumber and took on the responsibility of protecting the city. The children’s series originally ran from 1994 until 1997, but has been finding new audiences thanks to Disney+.

… Like Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis was a main character on both Star Trek: TNG as well as GargoylesSirtis played Deanna Troi, the empathetic, chocolate-loving counsellor onboard the USS-Enterprise. Troi is half-Betazoid, which grants her empath abilities — which often came in handy in dealings with other alien races. Also like Frakes, Sirtis played a villainous role on Gargoyles: her character Demona despised humans, and is possibly the most dangerous of all remaining gargoyles. She aligned herself with David Xanatos, and was largely responsible for him resurrecting the Wyvern clan, whom she had hoped would join her on her quest for vengeance.

(19) BEEB TRIVIA. Nicholas Whyte told the SMOFs list where they could see this Hugo-related feat:

The UK quiz show University Challenge had three questions about the Hugo Awards for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form last night, all correctly answered by the team from Strathclyde University – which, as it happens, is in Glasgow.

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