Pixel Scroll 9/21/21 I Wish They All Could Be California Scrolls

(1) DATLOW Q&A. “Curating Horror: An Interview with Ellen Datlow” conducted by Sadie Hartmann at LitReactor.

Your anthologies are all invite-only, correct?

Generally yes, unless I’m co-editing and the other editor wants to screen slush for a week or two. Nick Mamatas wanted to have a two week open reading period for Haunted Legends and so we did—and he passed on about 20 stories to me. Interestingly, although we took a few stories from that period, only one—maybe—was from someone we’d never heard of.

And the HWA anthology Haunted Nights that I co-edited with Lisa Morton had several open slots for an open reading. We had a few volunteers from HWA reading what came in and they passed a few stories on to us. The reason is that I don’t have time to read hundreds of submissions, and for a theme anthology, I don’t want dozens of rejected stories on the same theme floating around.

(2) HEAR HIM. Neil Gaiman will have a cameo role in BBC 4’s production of Lud-in-the-Mist, which will air October 30. “Visit Lud-in-the-Mist for Halloween” at SciFi Bulletin.

Doctor Who writer Joy Wilkinson has adapted the groundbreaking fantasy novel Lud-in-the-Mist into a play for BBC Radio Drama, which airs in October.

The novel by Hope Mirrlees was published in 1926 and is considered a pioneer of the fantasy genre that is all too often overlooked. Wilkinson aims to put that right – with the help of one of the book’s greatest advocates, Neil Gaiman, who has a star cameo in the production.

…Gaiman has long championed Lud-in-the-Mist as “a little golden miracle of a book” that is among his top 10 favourite novels. Wilkinson was absolutely thrilled when he agreed to play a pivotal role in the cast, which is led by Richard Lumsden, Olivia Poulet and Lloyd Hutchinson, and includes Doctor Who audio drama alumni Ellie Darvill and Jane Slavin.

(3) WALT LOVED TRAINS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This video (which dropped two weeks ago) has Disney historian Don Hahn join with Bill Farmer, who has voiced Goofy and Pluto since 1987, to visit Walt Disney’s train barn, which is now in Griffith Park.  Hahn and Farmer learn that Walt Disney was a major rail fan, and discuss how Disney’s love of trains helped to shape Disneyland. “Exploring Walt Disney’s Railroad Barn With A Disney Legend”.

(4) DEADLY.  This animated marvel series on Hulu is about a monkey assassin. George Takei voices one of the characters – not the title character, however. Marvel’s Hit-Monkey.

After a Japanese snow monkey’s tribe is slaughtered, he joins forces with the ghost of an American assassin, and together, they begin killing their way through the Yakuza underworld. Marvel’s Hit Monkey Season 1 premieres on Hulu on November 17, 2021, with all ten episodes. The Voice cast includes George Takei, Jason Sudeikis, Olivia Munn, Ally Maki, Nobi Nakanishi, and Fred Tatasciore.

(5) WRANGLE OVER DRAGON CON MASK POLICY. Author Michael Z. Williamson, who doesn’t favor required mask-wearing, and anyway says his medical situation precludes it, has been exchanging accusations with the Dragon Con committee where he was going to be on the program and have his usual tables to sell knives: “DragonCon: Racism, Lies, and Borderline Fraud” at The Sacred Cow Slaughterhouse.

About two weeks before event, DragonCon suddenly started posting on social media that everyone over age 2 would have to wear a mask, have proof of vaccine (except under 16 can’t get it?), or have a specific test 3 days before (and that last is ridiculous, when an attendee might stop at 12 truck stops on the way there).

Now, my political position on masks aside, I can’t wear one.  That’s literally why I was retired from the military.  Covering my face drops my blood oxygenation to COPD levels.  My wife hits every exemption there is, but good luck getting documentation that anyone considers “Acceptable.”

I inquired with both vendor relations and guest relations, and got told, “Ignore social media, we haven’t heard this and we don’t actually have a policy yet, that will be Thursday.”

Thursday rolls around and the email is, “The policy remains…”

Wait, I thought you didn’t have one yet? “Remains” means that was your policy, but you tried to pretend it wasn’t.

I told them I’d need a rollover by preference or a refund.

“Unfortunately, per policy, it’s too late for a refund or rollover.”

Yet, they were able to change their COVID policy.

So my choice was find someone to cover the show, or forfeit several thousand dollars to the poor, starving, corporate owners of DragonCon.

I withdrew as a guest, and made a public announcement to that effect. I was the 100th.  That seemed notable. In fact, by the end they lost 203 of 641 guests and professionals, or over 30%.

Now, I’m sure a case could be made in court for this being classic bait and switch, and refusing refunds or rollovers to be fraud. But I can’t state that as a fact without a court case.  It certainly smells that way, though….

He got his daughter to run his tables instead. Since the con, Williamson says this is what he’s heard:

…After the show I was told they were so very unhappy that I publicly boasted of being the 100th cancellation. Well, sorry about your feelings, but what about the feelings of 203 guests and families you screwed over by waiting for the last moment? What about the public threats to harass “plague rats” (perfectly healthy people not wearing masks) on your social media, that remained for days before being taken down?  We’re supposed to worship you, but you don’t need to respect the professionals in the field?

Then they unleashed this whopper, claiming the statement was made about me:

” there was a vendor this year who is making an incredibly racist remarks trying to sell his wares. Including things like “buy a knife from someone who speaks American” and “this is made with real metal, not ‘Chineseium’.” Worse than all of that however, was singling out another person in the vendors hall who is also selling knives. It was an Indian couple, and apparently that was why he wanted to specify that he does speak “American”, letting anyone who passed by know another vendor had people who spoke English as a second language at their table “

I’m going to explain why this is complete, unmitigated bullshit…

His explanation follows at the link.

(6) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1969 – Fifty-two years ago this week, the pilot of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) premiered on two different British broadcasters though it ran on ITV, the producing network. In the pilot, Hopkirk is murdered during an investigation but returns as a white-suited ghost. It was created by Dennis Spooner who had previously scripted for The Avengers and Doctor Who.  He also created Department S with Marty Berman. It starred Mike Pratt, Kenneth Cope and Annette Andre. It ran for one season of twenty-six episodes.  In the States, it was given the really awful title of My Partner the Ghost. The series was remade thirty years later and is notable as the Fourth Doctor actor had an important role in it. It’s currently available on Amazon Prime. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 21, 1866 — H.G. Wells. Writer of The Time Machine, a novella in 1895, being his first genre work. Way, way too many genre works to list here so I’ll single out The War of The WorldsThe Island of Doctor Moreau and The Invisible Man as works by him that influenced the genre in a very noticeable manner. He also wrote an impressive amount of short fiction and non-fiction as well. (Died 1946.)
  • Born September 21, 1912 — Chuck Jones. He wrote, produced and directed many Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons starring Bugs BunnyDaffy DuckWile E. Coyote and the Road Runner among many others. His work won three Oscars, and the Academy also gave him an honorary one in 1996. He’s responsible for television adaptations of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and Horton Hears a Who!, and of course Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. Oh, and yes, Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century. (Died 2002.)
  • Born September 21, 1947 — Stephen King, 74. I once saw him leaning up against a wall in Bangor outside his favorite breakfast spot nose deep in a paperback novel. I didn’t approach him to see what he was reading so intently. That’s how his native city treated him. Favorite by him? I’m not fond of his novels but I love his novellas and shorter fiction, so Different SeasonsFour past Midnight and Skeleton Crew are my picks. His only Hugo was a Best Related Non-Fiction Book one for Danse Macabre at Chicon IV though Carrie was nominated at Suncon, and his “Obits” novelette was nominated at MidAmeriCon II. 
  • Born September 21, 1947 — Nick Castle, 74. He  co-wrote with director John Carpenter the scripts for Escape from New York and Escape from L.A., but he’s best remembered for directing The Last Starfighter. He was Michael Myers in Halloween, a role he’d later reprise in, errr, Halloween.  His other interesting genre cred was performing the title song of Big Trouble in Little China as The Coup De Villes with Carpenter and Tommy Lee Wallace.
  • Born September 21, 1950 — Bill Murray, 71. Scrooged is my favorite film by him by a long shot followed by the first Ghostbusters film. I’m also fond of his voicing of Clive the Badger in Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • Born September 21, 1961 — Mark Allen Shepherd, 60.  Morn, the bar patron on Deep Space Nine. Amazingly he was in Quark’s bar a total of ninety three episodes plus one episode each on Next Gen and Voyager. Technically he’s uncredited in almost all of those appearances. That’s pretty much his entire acting career. I’m trying to remember if he has any lines. He’s also an abstract painter whose work was used frequently on DS9 sets. For all practical purposes, this was his acting career. 
  • Born September 21, 1983 — Cassandra Rose Clark, 38. Her contributions to The Witch Who Came in from the Cold, a serial fiction piece coauthored with Max Gladstone, Lindsay Smith, Ian Tregillis, and Michael Swanwick, are  superb. The Mad Scientist’s Daughter was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award, and her YA novel, The Assassin’s Curse, was nominated for Young Adult Library Services Association’s Best Fiction for Young Adults. She was nominated for an Elgin Award by the Science Fiction Poetry Association for her Sacred Summer collection.
  • Born September 21, 1990 — Allison Scagliotti, 31. One of the primary cast of Warehouse 13, a show that I really, really loved. Her first first genre role was as Jayna, one of the Wonder Twins, on the Smallville series. And she showed up in a crossover episode of Eureka called appropriately “Crossing Over”.  Her last gig is as Camille Engelson on Stitchers. I’ve not seen it but it’s also gotten really great reviews. 

(8) MARVEL FIRES BENNETT. The Mary Sue reports “Marvel Fired Joe Bennett After Alleged Anti-Semitic Cartoons”.

Marvel Comics fired Brazilian artist Joe Bennett and vowed not to hire him for “any future Marvel projects,” following allegations of anti-Semitism and troubling imagery in his artwork. Bennett had previously worked for Marvel Comics for nearly thirty years, beginning in 1994.

… This isn’t the first time Bennett has seemingly attacked members of marginalized communities. He previously mocked the 2019 assault of gay journalist Glenn Greenwald by a far-right Bolsonaro supporter. And just last year, Bennett “liked” transphobic comments on his public Instagram page. He is also an outspoken supporter of Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro, a fascist Trump-like leader currently overseeing the devastating spread of Covid-19 throughout his country.

SYFY Wire writer Mike Avila adds:

…But here’s the question I have: Why did it take so long? This isn’t the first time Bennett has been accused of drawing offensive material. It’s not even the first time this year it’s happened. 

Back in February, he was forced to apologize after readers of his and Al Ewing’s hit Immortal Hulk series noticed that Issue #43 had a panel with a jewelry store. In the background, the name of the store is written backward and reads “Cronemberg Jewery” with a Star of David below it. The reason why the lettering was insulting is obvious. But perhaps even more offensive was the Star of David on the jewelry store’s window. It had no bearing on the story at all and there was no indication it was a Jewish-owned business. For some, it was just the perpetuation of a Jewish stereotype in that situation….

(9) SHALKA DOCTOR. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Based on the 2003 animated serial The Scream of the Shalka, artist Lophial did this piece on Richard E. Grant’s Shalka Doctor. Source: Commission of Shalka Doctor for @DrWho42 !

(10) A DECK OF CREDENTIALS. Daniel Dern brings to our attention these Cats Bicycle Playing Cards.

This is THE deck of cards for cat lovers! Cats from Bicycle Playing Cards features illustrated cards by the renowned artist Lisa Parker. This unique playing card deck includes custom cat illustrations on every Ace, Face Card, and Joker. This deck of cards is a must-have for anyone looking to spice up their card game game night and makes the perfect gift for the cat lover in your life!

(11) IRRESISTABLE TITLE. Mark Yon reviews “The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa” at SFFWorld.

…After the death of his grandfather, Rintaro is devastated and alone. It seems he will have to close the shop. Then, a talking tabby cat called Tiger appears and asks Rintaro for help. The cat needs a book lover to join him on a mission. This odd couple will go on three magical adventures to save books from people have imprisoned, mistreated and betrayed them. Finally, there is one last rescue that Rintaro must attempt alone . . .”

If that hasn’t grabbed your attention, this book is not for you. It involves bookshops and masses of books in piles and on shelves that appear to go on forever, the descriptions of which will make a bibliophile sigh in admiration. There’s also some lovely characterisation, especially of Rintaro the acutely shy bookish teenager referred to as a hikikomori here, but also of his wise friend Sayo Yuzuki and the cat named Tiger the tabby. And credit must go here to the sympathetic translation made by Louise Heal Kawai from the original Japanese novel, first published there in 2017.

(12) MARKET NOT OPENED YET. “‘Shang-Chi’ Wins a Warm Asia Greeting. Then There’s China.”  The New York Times

Marvel released “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” with China in mind. Simu Liu, the film’s Canadian lead actor, was born in China. Much of its dialogue is in Mandarin. The cast includes Tony Leung, one of the biggest Chinese-speaking movie stars in history.

The studio’s first Asian superhero movie is a hit, drawing praise and ticket sales in East Asia and other global markets. Perhaps the only place where the movie has not been well received — in fact, it has not been received there at all — is mainland China.

Disney, which owns Marvel, has yet to receive clearance from Beijing’s regulators to show the film in the vast but heavily censored movie market. While the reasons aren’t clear, “Shang-Chi” may be a victim of the low point in U.S.-China relations.

China is also pushing back against Western influence, with increasingly vocal nationalists denouncing foreign books and movies and the teaching of English. They have even criticized Mr. Liu for his previous comments about China, which he left in the mid-1990s, when he was a small child.

Lack of access to the world’s largest movie market could limit how much money the film makes. But in other parts of Asia, the movie has been greeted warmly by audiences for how it depicts a Chinese superhero burdened by a racist back story.

“I was really expecting the movie to be racist,” said David Shin, a Marvel fan in Seoul. “I was surprised at how well they touched upon Asian culture.”…

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the spoiler-filled “Honest Trailers:  Jungle Cruise” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say that, like the ride it is based on, Jungle Cruise is “five percent colorful adventure and 95 percent corny jokes,” that this is the third movie (after Jumanji 2 and The Rundown) where Dwayne Johnson goes into the jungle to capture a bright, shiny object, that Emily Blunt has two Ph.D.’s–in botany and parkour, and that villain Jesse Plemons is “not exactly a Nazi, but not exactly not, see?”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Ben Bird Person, Rob Thornton, Chris Barkley, Cora Buhlert, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 7/10/21 More Scrolls About Pixels And Fnord

(1) GRRM’S NEW PROJECT. George R.R. Martin is one of the executive producers of the forthcoming Dark Winds series based on the books by Tony Hillerman. The Hollywood Reporter lists the others:

…The series is created and executive produced by Graham Roland (Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan) and stars Zahn McClarnon (Fargo), who is also an executive producer, and Kiowa Gordon (The Red Road). Vince Calandra (Castle Rock) is the showrunner and also an executive producer. Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals) will direct the pilot and executive produce. Other executive producers include George R.R. MartinRobert Redford, Tina Elmo and Vince Gerardis. In a rare move, the production has secured permission to film on tribal lands in New Mexico….

Martin’s own announcement on Not A Blog says:

…I am thrilled to report, Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee are returning to television.

We just got word from AMC that they are greenlighting DARK WINDS, based on Tony’s novels about the two Navajo tribal policemen.   The first season will be six episodes long, adapted (largely) from LISTENING WOMAN, one of my favorite books in the series.   If we get the viewers. more seasons will follow, and more books will be adapted.

…DARK WINDS will be filmed in and around Santa Fe and Gallup, and on the Navajo reservation, and based out of the Native-owned Camel Rock Studios (the former Camel Rock Casino), right here in the Land of Enchantment.   Filming will begin in August, and continue — we hope — for many years.

Bob Redford and Chris Eyre have put together a great team (with a little help from yours truly), and we hope to make a great show, one that truly captures the magic of this very special place.   Look for DARK WINDS on AMC in 2022.

(2) EYEWITNESS TO SFF HISTORY. Alec Nevala-Lee introduces the video of his interview: “Talking with Barry Malzberg”.

In the course of researching my book Astounding, I got to know the author Barry N. Malzberg, who by any estimation has had one of the most singular careers in all of science fiction. Over the course of three sessions in July 2019, I interviewed Barry about his life and work in a conversation that ended up lasting close to two hours, which I’ve finally put online. We spoke about his influences and early career; his time at the Scott Meredith Literary Agency; the rise and fall of the softcore erotica market; his friendships with Dean Koontz and Bill Pronzini; his brief stint as editor of Amazing Stories magazine; his encounter with the editor John W. Campbell; and the origins, legacy, and “bad karma” of his novel Beyond Apollo. I think there’s some good stuff there, so enjoy! (If you get the chance, you might also want to check out my recent interview with the science fiction podcaster Mikel J. Wisler, in which we discuss a similarly broad range of topics, including my New York Times review of Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir.)

(3) BUHLERT ONLINE READING. Cora Buhlert will be taking part in the monthly Flash Fiction Night organized by Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree, California on Tuesday, July 13 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific US Time. It’s a free online event — register here.

Cora wrote at her blog:

I’ll be reading some science fiction flash fiction together with Andy Dibble and Douglas A. Blanc. It’s already the third Flash Fiction Night and you can watch recordings of the first two on the Space Cowboy Books YouTube channel.

(4) THE FUTURE’S NOT FAR AWAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Kim Stanley Robinson took part in a forum about climate change moderated by Ezra Klein in the June 27 New York Times Magazine.  Other panelists include Saul Griffith, Rhinna Gunn-Wright, and Shilela Jasanoff.  Klein appeared pretty familiar with The Ministry of the Future. “What if American Democracy Fails the Climate Crisis?”

Klein: Stan, imagining outside the current context is your specialty as a science-fiction novelist, so I’m wondering what you think the weaknesses of our current systems are.

Kim Stanley Robinson: Well, we are stuck in an international system of nation-states, and we don’t have time to invent and institute any kind of alternative world governance, so we have to use what we’ve got. But we also have the Paris agreement, and climate equity was written into it so that developed rich nations were tasked with paying more and doing more and helping the historically disadvantaged and even colonized nations. Executing all that is, of course, a different story.

(5) LE GUIN. Andrew Porter sent this link to an article which he says surprisingly eluded him when The Guardian originally published it in March. It’s a review of the nonfiction book Le Guin completed during her last year: “Dreams Must Explain Themselves by Ursula K Le Guin review – writing and the feminist fellowship”. (The title essay appeared in Porter’s fanzine, and was collected in a 40-page chapbook of essays under the same title in 1975.)

In 1973 Ursula Le Guin was phoned by publisher and science fiction fan Andrew I Porter, trying to persuade her to write about herself in his magazine Algol. “Andy kept saying things like, ‘Tell the readers about yourself,’ and I kept saying things like, ‘How? Why?’” Standing in her hallway, with a child and a cat circling her legs, it seemed impossible to explain over the crackling connection that “the Jungian spectrum of introvert/extrovert can be applied not only to human beings but also to authors”. Le Guin knew that at one end of the spectrum there are authors such as Norman Mailer, who talk about themselves, and at the other, authors who, like her, need privacy….

(6) IT’S AROUND HERE SOMEPLACE. “Look: Long-lost ‘Wizard of Oz’ dress found in box at D.C. school” reports UPI. And it’s not quite as rare as you might at first believe. It’s the sixth version of Dorothy’s dress from the 1939 film known to still exist.

A long-lost dress worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz has been found decades later in a box at a university in Washington, D.C.

Catholic University announced in a news release that the dress, which was gifted to the school nearly 50 years ago by actress Mercedes McCambridge while she was serving as the drama department’s artist-in-residence, was found by drama department lecturer Matt Ripa in a box placed atop some mail slots near his desk.

Ripa said he had often gone searching for the dress during his free time after hearing about the long-lost item in 2014, but he was apparently beaten to the discovery by Thomas Donahue, a now-retired drama professor, who had placed the box in Ripa’s office before leaving the school last year.

Ripa said the box must have been placed atop the mail slots by someone, causing it to evade his notice until last month.

“As soon as I popped the top off the box, I knew what it was,” Ripa told The Washington Post. “I saw that blue gingham and I just started laughing and laughing. I mean, I’m still laughing. Because I was shocked, holding a piece of Hollywood history right in my hands.”

The school contacted Ryan Lintelman, entertainment curator at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History, to verify whether the dress was authentic. Lintelman and two colleagues examined the garment and determined that it appears to be the real deal.

(7) SPEAKING OF. “Andy Serkis Is Returning To The Lord Of The Rings”Giant Freakin Robot has the story.

Andy Serkis is going back to Middle Earth – but not in the way you might think. The actor, who has lent his voice to Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the first Hobbit film, will be narrating J.R.R Tolkien’s work in a brand new series of audiobooks.

(8) ON THE TUBE. In The Space Review, Emily Carney and Dwayne Day give a very deep, spoiler-filled dive into the second season of For All Mankind“Revisiting the past’s future: ongoing ruminations about ‘For All Mankind’”.

Emily Carney:

Another interesting aspect about “For All Mankind” is that the show includes women as equal characters with equal time in the show’s narrative. That probably owes to the show’s “Star Trek” heritage. But the show doesn’t really start out that way in season one: it begins with the Soviets beating the US to the punch, and shows how the US astronaut cadre responds to this defeat. By this point in the show’s timeline, women aren’t astronauts, so we see the show’s Deke Slayton imploring his men to “get mad,” “kick the dog,” and let loose during the weekend after the Soviet landing.

This is when we get to meet Ed Baldwin and Gordo Stevens, who were just mere kilometers from the lunar surface weeks before. At The Outpost, an astronaut hangout modeled on a long-gone bar not far from Johnson Space Center, the astronauts have an insane, alcohol-soaked party, which culminates in a group singalong to Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted?” In my mind, I think this was shown to compare how men coped with defeat and heartbreak versus how women—in the upcoming narrative—would cope with similar stressful situations. Ed Baldwin even briefly kneecapped his own career by opening up about his frustrations with NASA to a reporter. At any rate, by this point, women were wives and mothers in the “For All Mankind” universe, not astronauts or management.

Dwayne:

Yeah, that’s a good observation. Initially, it’s all machismo. It’s brave men and heroes. But that’s about to change very fast. And that makes the show’s title a bit ironic—it’s not about “man” after the first episode.

After the Soviet Union beats America to the Moon, the Americans respond by landing Apollo 11, which in this alternative timeline, nearly ends in failure. But the Soviets then follow up with another significant first when they land a woman on the Moon. We see one of the female characters—a young Mexican girl named Aleida—smile when she sees that a woman is on the Moon.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1981 — Forty years ago, John Carpenter’s Escape from New York premiered. (That was how it was shown on-screen.)  Starring Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, this film was written by John Carpenter and Nick Castle. It was directed by John  Carpenter, and produced by  Larry Franco and Debra Hill. Supporting cast was Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasence, Ernest Borgnine, Isaac Hayes, Adrienne Barbeau, and Harry Dean Stanton. The film received generally positive reviews with Russell in particular finding strong favor with the critics; it did very well at the box office earning far more than it cost to produce; and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a seventy-seven percent rating which is far better than the thirty-nine percent rating the the Escape from L.A. sequel gets. It did not get a Hugo nomination at Chicon IV. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 10, 1903 — John Wyndham. His best known works include The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos, both written in the Fifties. The latter novel was filmed twice as Village of the Damned. The usual suspects have an impressive selection of his novels including these titles though little of his short fiction is available, alas. The Day of the Triffids is currently a buck ninety-nine there. (Died 1969.)
George Clayton Johnson by Tony Gleeson.
  • Born July 10, 1929 — George Clayton Johnson, He’s best known for co-writing with William F. Nolan the Logan’s Run novel, the source for the Logan’s Run film. He was also known for his scripts for the Twilight Zone including “A Game of Pool,” “Kick the Can,” “Nothing in the Dark,” and “A Penny for Your Thoughts,” and the first telecast episode of the original Star Trek, “The Man Trap.” (Died 2015.)
  • Born July 10, 1931 — Julian May. She‘s best known for her Saga of Pliocene Exile (known as the Saga of the Exiles in the UK) and Galactic Milieu series: Jack the BodilessDiamond Mask and Magnificat. She was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame at Sasquan. (Died 2017.)
  • Born July 10, 1941 — David Hartwell. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction describes him as “perhaps the single most influential book editor of the past forty years in the American science fiction publishing world”.  I certainly fondly remember the The Space Opera Renaissance he co-edited with Kathryn Cramer. Not to mention that his Year’s Best Fantasy and Year’s Best SF anthologies are still quite excellent reading, and they’re available at the usual suspects for a very reasonable price. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 10, 1941 — Susan Seddon Boulet. If you’ve read the American edition of Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife (which won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature Award), you’ve seen her amazing work. Or perhaps you’ve got a copy of Pomegranate‘s edition of Ursula Le Guin’s Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight which also features her art. If you’re keen on knowing more about this amazing artist, see the Green Man review of Susan Seddon Boulet: A Retrospective. (Died 1997.) 
  • Born July 10, 1945 — Ron Glass. Probably best known genre-wise as Shepherd Book in the Firefly series and its sequel Serenity. His first genre role was as Jerry Merris in Jerry Merris, a SF horror film, and he’d later show up voicing Philo D. Grenman in Strange Frame: Love & Sax (“slated as the world’s first animated lesbian-themed sci-fi film”; look it up as it has a very impressive voice cast) and he showed up twice as J. Streiten, MD in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Oh, and he was on Voyager playing a character named Loken in the “Nightingale” episode. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 10, 1953 — Hans Beimler, 68. He was co-executive producer, director, and writer on TekWar before co-producing a number of Next Gen episodes. He was involved in over a hundred episodes of Deep Space Nine in a numberof production roles too complicated to describe here. And he was one of the executive producers of the short-lived Dresden Files.
  • Born July 10, 1970 — John Simm, 51. The second of the modern Masters on Doctor Who.  He appeared in the final three episodes of the Time of the Tenth Doctor: “Utopia,” “The Sound of Drums,” and “Last of the Time Lords.” He also played Sam Tyler in the most excellent Life on Mars. And he played Macbeth atChichester Festival Theatre.

(11) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. Janice Marcus spotlights the latest (in 1966) work from oft-overlooked writer Rosel George Brown: “[July 10, 1966] Froth, Fun, and Serious Social Commentary (Sibyl Sue Blue)”.

Sibyl Sue Blue was not what I expected.

Set in the futuristic year of 1990, Rosel George Brown’s Sibyl Sue Blue takes place in a world both like and unlike today’s world of 1966. Sibyl is a tenacious and smart detective working for the city’s homicide department. When a series of bizarre ‘suicides’ start plaguing the city’s youth, she’s called in to investigate. As she follows the clues, she’s drawn into increasingly strange events, from trying alien drugs to being invited to join a spacefaring millionaire on an off-world jaunt.

Sounds like fun, right? Yet when Judith Merril told me the other day that she’ll be reviewing it in an upcoming issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction, she mentioned that “…under all the froth and fun and furious action, there is more acute comment on contemporary society than you are likely to find in any half dozen deadly serious social novels.

She’s right!

(12) JUNGLE CRUISE. Yahoo! shows what the redesigned Disneyland attraction will be like: “Disneyland revamps Jungle Cruise ride after racism criticism”.

…The Jungle Cruise will officially reopen on July 16, with some changes, the park announced Friday. The ride, which takes passengers through Asia, Africa and South America, had been closed since the park itself reopened April 30, after being shutdown because the pandemic. 

The company had announced in January that it would remove “negative depictions” of native people and pledged to make further changes to “reflect and value the diversity of the world around us.” 

The ride, which originally opened in 1955, has been criticized, for example, for depicting the locals as headhunters.

“We’re excited to be building on the story of the Jungle Cruise to include new adventures that stay true to the experience we know and love, while adding more humor, more wildlife, and an interconnected story,” Chris Beatty, an Imagineer who worked on the renovations, said in a news release. “As part of creative development, we’ve also introduced characters from around the world and took a thoughtful approach to ensure accurate representation of cultures in our story.”

Beatty explained in behind-the-scenes video of the upgrade that one of the team’s goals was to “bring a sense of inclusivity” to the project. “We want to make sure that everyone that rides the Jungle Cruise can see themselves in the characters and in this experience.”

They also wanted to keep it classic and to highlight the “skippers,” the Disney cast members who make jokes while leading the faux tour of the area.

As part of the new storyline, chimpanzees have taken over a wrecked boat and the tourists have climbed up a tree in search of safety…. 

(13) RISKY BUSINESS. The Hubble Space Telescope suddenly went offline almost a month ago. Now “NASA will attempt a ‘risky’ maneuver to fix its broken Hubble Space Telescope as early as next week”.

…However, a recent NASA announcement suggests a glimmer of hope: The agency tweeted on Thursday that it had successfully tested a procedure that would switch parts of the telescope’s hardware to their back-up components.

This could pave the way for the payload computer to come back online, leading to the restart of Hubble’s scientific observations.

NASA reported the procedure could happen as early as next week, following additional preparations and reviews. The telescope and the scientific instruments on board remain in working condition.

But the switch will be “risky,” according to NASA astrophysics division director Paul Hertz.

“You can’t actually put your hands on and change hardware or take a voltage, so that does make it very challenging,” he told New Scientist.

…On June 30, NASA announced it had figured out that the source of the payload computer problem was in Hubble’s Science Instrument Command and Data Handling unit (SI C&DH for short), where the computer resides.

“A few hardware pieces on the SI C&DH could be the culprit(s),” NASA said.

Backup pieces of hardware are pre-installed on the telescope. So it’s just a matter of switching over to that redundant hardware. But before attempting the tricky switch from Earth, engineers have to practice in a simulator, the agency added.

NASA has rebooted Hubble using this type of operation in the past. In 2008, after a computer crash took the telescope offline for two weeks, engineers successfully switched over to redundant hardware. A year later, astronauts repaired two broken instruments while in-orbit – Hubble’s fifth and final reservicing operation. (NASA does not currently have a way to launch astronauts to the space telescope.)

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

Pixel Scroll 6/13/21 I’ll Take A Sheet of Cities In Flight On the Edge Of Forever Stamps, Please

(1) HERE COMES THE SUN (STAMPS). On June 16 the United States Postal Service will release a series of stamps highlighting images of the Sun captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. Order them online here.

…The 20-stamp set features ten images that celebrate the science behind NASA’s ongoing exploration of our nearest star. The images display common events on the Sun, such as solar flares, sunspots and coronal loops. SDO has kept a constant eye on the Sun for over a decade. Outfitted with equipment to capture images of the Sun in multiple wavelengths of visible, ultraviolet, and extreme ultraviolet light, SDO has gathered hundreds of millions of images during its tenure to help scientists learn about how our star works and how its constantly churning magnetic fields create the solar activity we see.

“Just don’t stare at them directly,” says Daniel Dern.

(2) DAS Q&A. “Interview: Indra Das, author, science fiction and fantasy novels” in the Hindustan Times.

How did the idea of The Devourers, your last novel, take shape?During my undergraduate years, I attended a baul mela in Kolkata, and, while intoxicated, had a vision (not quite literally, but almost) while protecting a kitten in the mela ground from a circling pack of dogs, of being in the same spot hundreds of years earlier, listening to minstrels around a campfire in the dark wilderness, while monsters hunted us. When I returned from winter break to college, I turned that into a short story in a Creative Writing class, which eventually turned into the first chapter of The Devourers a while later, when I was in grad school.

(3) ALL THE KING’S PUBLICISTS. Stephen King wrote the adaptation of his book Lisey’s Story that’s coming to Apple TV+, and is getting a lot of coverage about it. The New York Times interviewed him: “Stephen King on Why ‘Lisey’s Story’ Was One He Had to Adapt Himself”.

Alone, but not: It’s a theme that courses through King’s sweeping body of work, and it returns for several characters across layers of time and space in “Lisey’s Story,” which begins Friday on Apple TV+. Julianne Moore stars as Lisey Landon, the widow of Scott Landon, a famous novelist (played by Clive Owen) whose childhood traumas drove him to forge a connection to a transdimensional world called Boo’ya Moon.

As vividly depicted in the show, Boo’ya Moon is a place of tranquil beauty, like a Pre-Raphaelite wonderland. But it’s also menacing terrain, where cloaked figures sit silently inside a massive amphitheater awaiting resolutions to earthly traumas…

SYFY Wire talked to the producer: “J.J. Abrams on Lisey’s Story and why Stephen King adaptations are booming right now”.

… Even among the many other King adaptations that have recently emerged or are set to arrive in the near future, the Apple TV+ series based on King’s 2006 novel feels especially important, because King himself has said so. He counts Lisey’s Story among his personal favorite works, and holds it so dear that he took it upon himself to script all eight episodes of the miniseries for director Pablo Larrain (Jackie)….

Hear King himself speak about it on today’s CBS Sunday Morning.

(4) LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE. Hear author of Light of the Stars Adam Frank in a free webinar co-sponsored by the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination – register and maybe win a book: Adam Frank Webinar & Giveaway.

The search for life in the Universe is undergoing a profound renewal. Thanks to the discovery of thousands of planets orbiting other stars, the introduction of new observing technologies, and increased support from both public and private sectors, a new science of searching for “techno-signatures” is emerging.   

In this talk Dr. Frank will unpack this frontier area, discussing what counts as a techno-signature; how to be systematic in thinking about exo-civilizations and their evolution; what techno-signatures can tell us about our own future. He believes that within the next few decades we will likely have actual data relevant to the question life, perhaps even the intelligent kind, in the Universe. 

Dr. Adam Frank is a leading expert on the final stages in the evolution for stars like the Sun, but his current work also focuses on life in the universe. His research group at the University of Rochester has developed advanced supercomputer tools for studying how stars form and how planets evolve. His most recent book is Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth, which won the 2019 Phi Beta Kappa Award for Science. He has written two other books, The Constant Fire: Beyond the Religion and Science Debate, and About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang.  He is the co-founder of the blog 13.8 on BigThink.com and an on-air commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered.

(5) ON THE AIR. A half hour segment of The Martian Chronicles is part of the WAMU’s “The Big Broadcast: June 13, 2021”.

We’re celebrating 5 years tonight of Murray Horwitz as host of The Big Broadcast! Join us for some of our favorites, including Orson Welles, Fred Allen, Lucille Ball and The Whistler — as well as our usual DragnetYours Truly Johnny Dollar and Gunsmoke….

7:30 p.m. Dimension X    “Martian Chronicles” (Original air date August 18, 1950. NBC network.) (Running time 30:19)

(6) SFF AND THE BIG QUESTIONS. “Exploring Tomorrow: Meaningful Science Fiction and Life’s Big Questions” is Mikel J. Wisler’s podcast:

Can science fiction save the world? Author and filmmaker, Mikel J. Wisler, explores the themes and ideas presented in a wide range of sci-fi movies and books from various time periods. Convinced that sci-fi is the most naturally philosophical genre, Wisler invites everyone from die-hard fans to casual observers to dive into meaningful conversations about how sci-fi helps us think about our future, brings up challenging scenarios, and forces us to ask big questions.

Astounding author Alec Nevala-Lee is interviewed in Episode 25.

(7) NED BEATTY (1937-2021). Actor Ned Beatty died June 13 at the age of  83. Best known for his work in Deliverance and Network, his genre roles included Lex Luthor’s (Gene Hackman) bumbling sidekick Otis in Superman (1978) and its 1980 sequel.  He was in  Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977). He voiced Lotso in Toy Story 3 (2010) and The Mayor in Rango (2011). And he has another two dozen lesser genre credits.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 13, 1980 —  On this date in 1980, The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything premiered in syndication as distributed by Paramount Television. Based on the John D. MacDonald novel of the same name, it was written by George Zateslo and directed by William Wiard. Myrl A. Schreibman Was the producer. It starred Robert Hays, Pam Dawber, Zohra Lampert, Jill Ireland, Ed Nelson and Maurice Evans. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 13, 1892 — Basil Rathbone. He’s best remembered for being Sherlock Holmes in fourteen films made between 1939 and 1946 and in a radio series of the same period. For films other than these, I’ll single out The Adventures of Robin Hood (all Robin Hood is fantasy), Son of Frankenstein and Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet. (Died 1967.)
  • Born June 13, 1893 — Dorothy Sayers. ISFDB often surprises me, and having her listed as writing four stories in the genre did it again. All of them were written in the Thirties and here they are: “The Cyprian Cat”, “The Cave of Ali Baba”, “Bitter Almonds” and “The Leopard Lady”. So, who here has read them and can comment on them being genre or not? (Died 1957.)
  • Born June 13, 1903 — Frederick Stephani. Screenwriter and film director who is best remembered for co-writing and directing the 13-chapter Flash Gordon serial in 1936. He directed Johnny Weissmuller‘s Tarzan’s New York Adventure (aka Tarzan Against the World). He was also an uncredited writer on 1932’s Dracula. (Died 1962.)
  • Born June 13, 1943 — Malcolm McDowell, 78. My favourite role for him was Mr. Roarke on the rebooted Fantasy Island. Of course his most infamous role was Alex in A Clockwork Orange. Scary film that. His characterization of H. G. Wells in Time After Time was I thought rather spot on. And I’d like to single out his voicing Arcady Duvall in the “Showdown” episode of Batman: The Animated Series.
  • Born June 13, 1949 — Simon Callow, 72. English actor, musician, writer, and theatre director. So what’s he doing here? Well he got to be Charles Dickens twice on Doctor Who, the first being in “The Unquiet Dead” during the time of the Ninth Doctor and then later during “The Wedding of River Song”, an Eleventh Doctor story. He’d also appear, though not as Dickens, on The Sarah Jane Adventures as the voice of Tree Blathereen in “The Gift” episode. I’ve not watched the series. How is this series? He was also The Duke of Sandringham in the first season of Outlander
  • Born June 13, 1953 — Tim Allen, 68. Jason Nesmith in the much beloved Galaxy Quest. (Which of course won a much deserved Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at Chicon 2000.) He actually had a big hit several years previously voicing Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story which would be the first in what would become a long-running film franchise.
  • Born June 13, 1963 — Audrey Niffenegger, 58. Her first novel was The Time Traveler’s Wife. She has stated in interviews that she will not see the film as only the characters in the novels are hers. Good for her.  Raven Girl, her third novel about a couple whose child is a raven trapped in a human body, was turned into performed at the Royal Opera House. 
  • Born June 13, 1969 — Cayetana Guillén Cuervo, 52. She’s got the role of Irene Larra in El Ministerio del Tiempo (The Ministry of Time), a Spanish SF series which sounds fascinating but which I’ve not seen. Anyone here seen it? Not fond of captioning, but I’d put up with it to see this. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) JEMISIN & COMPANY. DC Comics tells what makes its latest Green Lantern exceptional: “Jo Mullein and Far Sector Are Out of This World”.

…Sojourner “Jo” Mullein’s impact is not defined by the fact that she’s the first Black, queer woman to ever hold the mantle of Green Lantern. Or by the fact that N.K. Jemisin, Jamal Campbell and Deron Bennett are one of the first all-Black creative teams to helm a Green Lantern title. Those are huge factors in just what makes the book special, of course, but what truly makes Far Sector and its hero feel so groundbreaking is the imaginative exploration of what it means to be a Green Lantern and the innate understanding of how that very imagination is at the core of what makes the hero great. Where some Green Lantern stories feel stymied by a lack of the thing that gives the Power Ring its magic, Far Sector pulses with imagination on every page….

(12) NEW HANDS AT THE HELM. “‘The Lord Of The Rings’ Goes On: Anime Film ‘The War Of The Rohirrim’ In Works At New Line”Deadline has the story.  

The J.R.R. Tolkien franchise is heading back to the big screen in a fresh New Line and Warner Animation anime title The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim.  I’m told that the Oscar-winning feature architects Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh are not involved with the project as we speak, but that will be determined down the road. Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings: Return of the King scribe Philippa Boyens will be a consultant on the new project directed by Kenji Kamiyama. The pic is being fast-tracked with animation work done by Sola Entertainment. Voice casting is currently underway. Pic will be distributed around the globe by Warner Bros. Pictures.

The War of the Rohirrim focuses on a character from the book’s appendix, the mighty King of Rohan, Helm Hammerhand, and a legendary battle which helped shaped Middle-earth heading into LOTR. The anime pic will expand the untold story behind the fortress of Helm’s Deep, delving into the life and bloodsoaked times of Hammerhand. Overall, the movie is a companion piece to New Line’s LOTR trilogy and is set roughly 250 years before that movie during the third age (Note Amazon’s upcoming Lord of the Rings mini-series is set during the second age).

Kamiyama has been behind such anime projects as Blade Runner: Black Lotus and the TV series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Joseph Chou (Blade Runner: Black Lotus) will produce. Jeffrey Addiss and Will Matthews (The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance) are writing….

“This will be yet another epic portrayal of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world that has never been told before. We’re honored to partner with much of the incredible talent behind both film trilogies, along with new creative luminaries to tell this story,” said Sam Register, President of Warner Bros. Animation. “And so it begins.”

(13) TOURISTS, ASSEMBLE! See a replay of the Avengers Campus Opening Ceremony from Disney California Adventure park.

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Rich Lynch, Darrah Chavey, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 6/6/21 The Wee Pun Shoppes Of Ishtar

(1) NETWORK EFFECT. Martha Wells commented about last night’s win in “Nebula Award!”

So a cool thing happened: Network Effect won the Nebula Award for Best Novel!

I was really shocked and floored. I really didn’t think it would win. We had invited some (vaccinated) friends over to watch the ceremony live on YouTube but I also had to be logged in to a zoom “green room” the whole time, so we spent a lot of Friday and Saturday housecleaning, getting party food at the store, and trying to reconfigure our internet to be robust enough to make this work. (Because of the way the live broadcast worked, if I got kicked out of the green room zoom because of a dropped connection, they wouldn’t be able to let me back in.) We ended up directly connecting my laptop to the router, which worked great. And the Tiramisu cake from the HEB bakery was both beautiful and delicious.

There was a Nebula Red Carpet tag on Twitter for outfits, and I wore a dress I’d actually bought for the Dublin WorldCon, but the back wasn’t sewn quite right, so wearing it for an online event was perfect.

(2) O’DONNELL AWARD. And Connie Willis, winner of The Kevin J. O’Donnell, Jr. Service to SFWA Award, posted her acceptance remarks on Facebook.

Thank you, Jim, for that great introduction and thanks to all of you for this lovely award.

I don’t really deserve it. In the first place, if the service was emceeing the Nebulas, that was really fun.

In the second place, if it was teaching at Clarion and Clarion West, I loved doing that, and I’ve been rewarded every day by the wonderful things my students have accomplished and the awards they’ve won. You Clarion people are great!…

(3) LIVE FROM THE VATICAN. Brother Guy is on the NPR’s “Weekend Edition”: “The Vatican’s Space Observatory Wants To See Stars And Faith Align”.

At a time of growing diffidence toward some new scientific discoveries, the one and only Vatican institution that does scientific research recently launched a campaign to promote dialogue between faith and science.

It’s the Vatican Observatory, located on the grounds of the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, a medieval town in Alban Hills 15 miles southeast of Rome.

The director, Brother Guy Consolmagno, is giving this reporter a guided tour of the grounds…. 

…A native of Detroit, Consolmagno studied physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, volunteered with the Peace Corps in Africa and taught physics before becoming a Jesuit brother in his 40s. He has been at the Observatory for three decades. His passion for astronomy started with a childhood love of science fiction.\

“I love the kind of science fiction that gives you that sense of wonder, that reminds you at the end of the day why we dream of being able to go into space,” Consolmagno says.

A passionate Star Wars fan, he tells this reporter proudly, “even Obi-Wan Kenobi came to visit” the Observatory, pointing to the signature of actor Alec Guinness, who played the role in the original movie trilogy, in a visitor’s book from 1958….

(4) THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. From writer/director/producer Lisa Joy (Westworld) comes Warner Bros. action picture Reminiscence, starring Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson and Thandiwe Newton. Scheduled for release on August 20.

Nick Bannister (Jackman), a private investigator of the mind, navigates the darkly alluring world of the past by helping his clients access lost memories. Living on the fringes of the sunken Miami coast, his life is forever changed when he takes on a new client, Mae (Ferguson). A simple matter of lost and found becomes a dangerous obsession. As Bannister fights to find the truth about Mae’s disappearance, he uncovers a violent conspiracy, and must ultimately answer the question: how far would you go to hold on to the ones you love?

(5) FOREIGN MARKETS. Fonda Lee comments on trad publishers’ varied handling of translated editions of books. Thread starts here.

(6) DEEPER DIVE INTO POE. In the Washington Post, Michael Dirda reviews The Reason for the Darkness of the Night by John Tresch, a book that shows that Edgar Allan Poe was well-informed about the science of his day and a look at how science played a role in Poe’s thought, including his fiction. “Is Poe the most influential American writer? A new book offers evidence”.

…That morose view of Poe, still widespread, isn’t precisely accurate. As Tresch reminds us, Edgar grew up coddled by the wealth and status of his Richmond stepparents, excelled in many of his courses at the University of Virginia and, during his time at West Point, was well liked by his fellow cadets (over half of whom helped underwrite a volume of his poems). While it’s hard to imagine him in any uniform but a severe black suit, Poe actually served in the Army for four years, rising to the rank of sergeant major.

…As a lifelong “Magazinist,” Poe could write anything: humorous squibs, book reviews, parodies, articles about the latest scientific discoveries, exposés of quackery (most notably of Maelzel’s chess-playing automaton), critical essays on “the philosophy of composition,” an almost unreadable cosmological prose-poem called “Eureka” and, of course, those unforgettable stories of self-justifying murderers and shrill psychopaths: “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.” . . . “True — nervous — very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?”

In “The Reason for the Darkness of the Night” (available June 15), Tresch emphasizes how much Poe infuses scientific discourse into his most fantastical imaginings. For example, in “A Descent Into the Maelstrom,” a sailor, whose boat has been sucked into a gigantic whirlpool, rather improbably saves himself by thinking like a physicist: He observes that cylindrical objects fell more slowly into the whirling vortex than other objects of the same size, so he quickly lashes himself to a barrel to escape from a watery grave. In another story, “The Man That Was Used Up,” Poe describes a highly decorated army officer who, because his body parts have been replaced by various prostheses, is actually a steampunk cyborg….

(7) KRAMER PAROLE VIOLATION ALLEGED. Seems like it’s barely news anymore when Ed Kramer gets arrested. Just found out this happened in January: “Ed Kramer — who was tied to Gwinnett courthouse computer trespassing drama — was arrested this week” – the Gwinnett (GA) Daily Post has the story.

Gwinnett County jail records show Ed Kramer was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on Wednesday and released the following day. The only charge was the probation violation, for which a judge set a $22,200 bond.

“There was an alleged probation violation where it was alleged that Mr. Kramer texted an alleged image of an unclothed adolescent,” District Attorney Patsy Austin-Gatson said. “He has been released and the matter is pending investigation.”…

(8) GRAND OPENING. Deadline says the “2021-22 NBC Schedule” features a show that’ll go even deeper underground than LA’s Red Line.

TUESDAY

9-10 PM – LA BREA

LA BREA – An epic adventure begins when a massive sinkhole opens in the middle of Los Angeles, pulling hundreds of people and buildings into its depths. Those who fell in find themselves in a mysterious and dangerous primeval land, where they have no choice but to band together to survive. Meanwhile, the rest of the world desperately seeks to understand what happened. In the search for answers, one family torn apart by this disaster will have to unlock the secrets of this inexplicable event to find a way back to each other.

The cast includes Natalie Zea, Eoin Macken, Jon Seda, Nicholas Gonzalez, Chiké Okonkwo, Karina Logue, Zyra Gorecki, Jack Martin, Veronica St. Clair, Rohan Mirchandaney, Lily Santiago, Josh McKenzie and Chloe De Los Santos. Writer David Appelbaum executive produces with Avi Nir, Alon Shtruzman, Peter Traugott, Rachel Kaplan, Steven Lilien, Bryan Wynbrandt, Ken Woodruff, Arika Lisanne Mittman and Adam Davidson. “La Brea” is produced by Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group, in association with Keshet Studios.

(9) WILLIAMS III OBIT. Actor Clarence Williams III died June 4 of colon cancer at the age of 81. Best known for his work on Sixties police series The Mod Squad, his genre roles included three episodes of Twin Peaks (1990) as FBI Agent Roger Hardy, who informed Dale Cooper of his suspension from the FBI. He also was in TV episodes of Tales from the Crypt (1992), Star Trek: Deep Space 9 (1996), and Millennium (1997).

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

June 6, 1998 – On this date in 1998, The Truman Show premiered. It was directed by Peter Weir, and produced by Scott Rudin, Andrew Niccol, Edward S. Feldman, and Adam Schroeder. It was written by Andrew Niccol off the 198 The Twilight Zone episode “Special Service” (as written by J. Michael Straczynski). It starred Jim Carrey, Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich, Natascha McElhone, Holland Taylor and Ed Harris.  Critics loved it, it did great at the box office and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an eighty-nine percent rating. Did I mention it won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Aussiecon Three? 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 6, 1799 – Alexander Pushkin.  Sometimes after a surprise you re-examine and think “Oh.  Of course.”  When Ravi Shankar first visited Russia, people cried “Pushkin!  Pushkin!”  They loved Pushkin and there is a resemblance.  I’d like to call Mozart and Salieri a fantasy but, as my father used to say, not within the normal meaning of that term.  Anyway, we get Ruslan and Lyudmila and “The Queen of Spades” and The Bronze Horseman and “The Golden Cockerel” and The Stone Guest and “The Shot”.  Speaking of which –  (Died 1837) [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1918 — Richard Crane. In the Fifties, he would be cast in two of the series that largely defined the look and feel of televised SF for a decade. First, he was the dashing lead in Rocky Jones, Space Ranger which lasted for thirty-nine thrilling episodes; second, he’s Dick Preston in nine of the twelve episodes of the wonderfully-titled Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe. He was also the lead in the fifteen-chapter serial Mysterious Island which was a very loose adaption of the Jules Verne novel. (Died 1969.) (CE)
  • Born June 6, 1921 – Milton Charles.  Artist and art director in and out of our field; Art Director for Jaguar (New York), later for Pocket Books; five hundred awards from Amer. Inst. Graphic Arts (AIGA), Society of Illustrators, Amer. Book Publishers, and like that.  Here is his cover for Tucker’s Wild Talenthere is Vonnegut’s Mother Nighthere is a study of his V.C. Andrews covers.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1924 — Robert Abernathy. Writer during the 1940s and 1950s. He’s remembered mostly for his short stories which were published in many of the pulp magazines that existed during the Golden Age of Science Fiction such as Planet StoriesGalaxyF&SFAstounding and Fantastic Universe. He did around forty stories in total, and apparently wrote no novels that I can locate. There’s no collection of his works currently available in digital form but many of his stories are up at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1990.) (CE)
  • Born June 6, 1945 – Vivian French, age 76.  Libraries in the United Kingdom say she is borrowed – that’s a metaphor, folks – shall we call it a Thing Contained for the Container? – half a million times a year; the Tiara Club books have sold three million copies.  Three dozen novels for us, some shorter stories, not least “I Wish I Were an Alien” in which the extraterrestrial boy, for his part, wishes –  [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1947 — Robert Englund, 74. I think his best performance was as Blackie on the very short-lived Nightmare Cafe. Short-lived as in just six episodes. Of course most will remember him playing Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. He actually appeared in a couple of now forgotten horror films, Dead & Buried  and Galaxy of Terror, before landing that role. And he’s continued to do myriad horror films down to the years ranging from CHUD  to Strippers vs Werewolves. (Really. Truly.)  Versatile man, our Robert.  (CE) 
  • Born June 6, 1951 – Geraldine McCaughrean, age 70.  (Pronounced “muh-cork-run”.)  For us, a dozen novels, including the authorized sequel Peter Pan in Scarlet, retellings of The Odyssey and 1,001 Nights; as many shorter stories; recent collection, Sky Ship; a hundred seventy books all told; five dozen plays; two Carnegie Medals; Printz Award.  “Do not write about what you know, write about what you want to know.”  [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1957 – Max Bertolini, age 64.  Thirty covers, a few interiors; artbooks The Art of Max Bertolini and Revelations; comics.  Here is the Jun 04 Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Here is the Oct-Nov 08.  Here is the Apr 11 Fantasy.  Here is his Silver Surfer.  [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1964 — Jay Lake. Another one who died far too young. If you read nothing else by him, read his brilliant Mainspring Universe series. Though his Green Universe is also entertaining and I see Wiki, not necessarily known for its accuracy, claims an entire Sunspin Universe series is still forthcoming from him. Anyone know about these novels? (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born June 6, 1973 — Guy Haley, 48. British author of the Richards & Klein Investigations series, a cyberpunk noir series where the partners are an android and an AI. His regular pay check comes from his Warhammer 40,000 work where he’s written a baker’s dozen novels so far. Not surprisingly, he’s got a novel coming out in the their just announced Warhammer Crime imprint which, though I’ve read no other Warhammer 40.000 fiction, I’m interested in seeing how they do it. (CE)
  • Born June 6, 1973 — Patrick Rothfuss, 48. He is best known for the Kingkiller Chronicle series, which won him several awards, including the 2007 Quill Award for his first novel, The Name of the Wind. He also won the Gemmell Award for The Wise Man’s Fear. Before The Name of the Wind was released, an excerpt from the novel was released as a short story titled “The Road to Levinshir” and it won the Writers of the Future contest in 2002. (CE)
  • Born June 6, 1973 – Anne Ursu, age 48.  Teaches at Hamline, first university in Minnesota.  She’s given us eight novels, for children, adults, both.  The Lost Girl is told from the viewpoint of a crow.  In The Cronus Chronicles – three so far – two cousins find they’re in Greek myths; the first cousin we meet is Charlotte Mielswetzki, and if I say so myself it’s about time we did.  Breadcrumbs retells The Snow Queen; creatures from Hans Andersen’s tales keep showing up; and Jack, Hazel’s only friend in 5th Grade, may not want to be saved.   [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur comments on that advanced alien technology we’re always on the lookout for.
  • Heathcliff leaves something to the imagination – barely.
  • Comics Kingdom draws an unexpected parallel between Robin and the Seven Hoods and Star Wars.

(13) VOICE OF EXPERIENCE. Kameron Hurley says her career arc taught her to put things in perspective. Thread starts here.

(14) LISTEN TO MY STORY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Shipworm calls itself “the first feature-length audio movie” which means it s a 115-minute drama that has a script that reads more like a screenplay and less like a radio drama.  A doctor and Iraq War veteran wakes up and finds a voice in his head who calls herself “The Conductor” and tells him he has to do bad things or his wife and children will die.  I’m not going to explain what The Conductor is and what the shipworms are, but this story is borderline sf and slightly on the sf side of the border but only slightly..  It’s a professional production (SAG-AFTRA is acknowledged in the credits) and I listened to it and it’s OK, but the writers studied their screenwriting books too closely because the characters seem like plot cliches and not human beings.  I think this is Two Up Productions’s first entry into this sort of production, and I’d like to hear their fifth.  Shipworm is promising, but there’s room for improvement. Shipworm: Podcast”.

(15) STRANGE NEW EGGS. “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Star Teases Original Series Easter Eggs” at Comicbook.com.

,,, Rebecca Romijn plays Number One, the Enterprise‘s first officer, in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, alongside Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike and Ethan Peck as Mr. Spock. She tells Looper that production is now deep into the show’s first season.

“We are currently in production on the first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” Romijn said. “My lips are sealed, but I am in Toronto and we are on episode seven of 10 — and we are not allowed to say anything about what we’re doing. This is the story of the 10 years on the Enterprise — this is the 10 years leading up to Captain Kirk on the Enterprise. So, this is Captain Pike and Number One, and Spock is a science officer. We outrank him, which is really fun, because when does anybody ever outrank Spock?'”

While Romijn might not be spilling plot details, she did indicate that there will be references to Captain Kirk’s adventures charting the final frontier. “I can’t say anything else because there are so many Easter eggs on this show, but we are very, very, very excited to introduce this show,” she said. “It’s in keeping with the original series — they’re standalone episodes. It’s a little bit lighter. We are visiting planets. We are visiting colonies, and we are so proud of our work so far.”

(16) AND EGGS AGAIN. SYFY Wire took the tour: “The MCU Easter Eggs You Need to Look for at Avengers Campus”, a new attraction at Disney California Adventure. Here are the first two of 15 identified in the article.

Here are some of our favorites you can see in our exclusive slideshow below:

1) The Pym Menus boards are actually Scott and Hope’s phones, and if you watch the screens, you’ll see them get texts and messages from some of their famous friends like Tony Stark.

2) Near the front of the Stark Industries building (now WEB Workshop), there’s a special parking spot for a close friend of both Howard Stark and Peggy Carter.

(17) DOUBLE DRAGONS. There are now two Dragons at the ISS: “SpaceX Dragon docks at space station to deliver new solar arrays and tons of supplies”Space.com has the story.

SpaceX Dragon cargo ship arrived at the International Space Station today (June 5) to deliver new solar arrays along with tons of fresh research experiments and NASA supplies as part of the company’s 22nd cargo resupply mission.

The uncrewed Dragon autonomously linked up with the orbiting laboratory at 5:09 a.m. EDT (0909 GMT), parking at the zenith, or space-facing, side of the station’s Harmony module. Docking occurred approximately 40 hours after the Dragon’s launch on a Falcon 9 rocket Thursday (June 3) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. At the time of docking, both spacecraft were sailing about 258 miles (415  kilometers) over the South Pacific Ocean.  …

(18) STAND ON MANHATTAN. Jason Sacks reviews one of the famous Malthusian sf novels for Galactic Journey: “[June 6, 1966] The World is Ending (Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison)”.

In this world we follow police officer Andrew Rusch as he tries to track down the murderer of a rich man who lives in one of those spacious apartments. We watch Rusch fight through his wretched world to find the killer, find a new love, lose an old companion, and fight like hell to acquire even the most basic things he needs to survive. Even the source of food remains a mystery in this book. We never find out what the mysterious and prized substance soylent is made of, and that enigma is typical of the way Harrison creates his world. Harrison puts us in the well-worn shoes of his characters, forcing us to understand their privations and pain on a personal level….

“We never find out”? Of course we do in the movie, but what about in the book, which I read when it first came out? Unfortunately, I don’t remember for myself how Harrison left things – I’ll have to trust Jason on that.

(19) BUGS, MR. RICO! The “Cicadas Have Arrived” in Mister Scalzi’s neighborhood. Listen to them on his video at the link.

(20) IT’S A BIRD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This video from Accented Cinema’s Yang Zhang has as its premise that South Korea, with Parasite and Minari, is now a global power in films.  But to get there South Korean filmmakers turned out a lot of sci-fi and fantasy cheese.  Zhang shows us the cheese, including knockoff anime, knockoff Godzilla, knockoff Batman and Wonder Woman, and lots of other bits of cheesy goodness, including a knockoff King Kong (released in the U.S. as A*P*E that does something that Kong has thankfully never done.

(21) WISHES. Once again, a chance to watch The Genie (A Unicorn Production) made by LA fans in the 1950s. With Forry Ackerman, Fritz Leiber., Jr, and Bjo Trimble.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A sff short film “It’s Okay” presented by DUST.

In this Black Mirror-esque tale, a couple revisit key moments of their past, only for their memories to take an unexpected turn. … Cam and Alex are a simple couple living an un-extraordinary life, when strange things suddenly start happening to them. Will they uncover the truth before they lose one other?

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Paul Weimer, Nancy Collins, Lise Andreasen, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/29/21 I’m Worth A Scrillion In Pixels

(1) TO THE VICTOR. Hugh Howey, sponsor of the first annual Self-Published Science Fiction Competition (SPSFC), displayed the trophy that will be sent to the inaugural winner. He added there will be slightly different trophies every year, but they’ll all be in the same vein.

It’s not only — this thing is so heavy, this is so robust, but you’re gonna have an award that people can actually pick up and play with. You can like run around the house and say pew pew to people with this. Um, of course, all of our blasters are set to stunning…

(2) PUT IN A GOOD WORD. Nominations are being taken for the 2021 Good Furry Award at Ask Papabear. Voting is being done here.

The Good Furry Award is an annual award that debuted in 2019. Each year, the award will be presented to one furry (or group of furries) to recognize them for outstanding spirit in the furry community. The winner will receive a check for $500 and a crystal trophy of recognition. The award money can be used at the winner’s discretion, although we would not be surprised if it is used to attend a convention or buy something furry….

Why are you doing this?

It seems to me that every time something negative happens in the fandom, people focus on that too much to the point of giving the entire fandom a bad reputation. Rather than paying attention to the few furries who cause trouble, I would like us all to focus on furries who do good things and are good people. Let’s give those furries some attention instead! The vast majority of furries are good people, and I want us all to start talking about them and thinking about them. My hope is to uplift this community. It’s not so much about the final award (although that is important); it is about taking serious time to bring good furries to light.

(3) FANTASY AFRICA. Eugen Bacon, the African Australian writer and editor, lends her voice to one of the stories featured on the Australian Broadcasting Company program “Reading Western Sydney, a hot country town & fantasy Africa remade”.

…And entire new worlds are created, drawing upon West African mythology and the layers of colonialism, in Suyi Davies Okungbowa’s epic fantasy, Son of the Storm (read by speculative fiction writer Eugen Bacon).

(4) MUSIC FOR THE SPHERES. Bandcamp Daily “Lost in Space Music: Records That Explore the Outer Limits”.

…This is music that’s literally about outer space itself: its nature and substance, the experience of being in it, its effect on human beings, and the ways we interact with it. The stylistic range of this music is immense; it includes records made by Sun Ra as well as records made by NASA, which not only compiled music to be sent into space (the 1977 Voyager spacecrafts’ Golden Records), but also released the album Symphonies of the Planet, which features sounds captured by the Voyager probes. (Sounds in space? Yes, they’re there.)

There’s even more to explore on this list, which features music about the infinite breadth and depth of outer space, music about crossing almost incomprehensible interstellar distances, romantic narratives about space flight, the ominous power of the universe, and more….

One of these works has the intriguing title Music for Black Holes. Does the tune escape? Or is this what’s on the radio while you’re being pulled in?

(5) PULPS GO FOR RECORD PRICE. The copy of The Shadow #1 (1931) highlighted in Heritage Auction’s The Intelligent Collector ended up selling for $156,000, setting a world record as the most expensive pulp magazine ever sold. 

The character soon was given his own pulp magazine, with the first issue hitting newsstands in 1931. It was an instant hit, with the series running for 325 issues over 18 years. Batman co-creator Bill Finger later acknowledged that his first Batman script was a takeoff on a Shadow story.

Over the decades, the Shadow spawned television shows, movies and comic books. The caped crimefighter would also inspire other pop-culture favorites: Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, Disney’s Darkwing Duck, and the crime-fighting hero Silver Shroud in the Fallout 4 videogame.

The auction set several other auction records for pulp magazine titles.

  • A 1923 first edition, second-state copy of Weird Tales sold for a record $36,000. The rare variant second-state copy, in attractive Very-Good plus condition, is one of the longest-running and considered among the most influential pulp horror titles ever published.
  • A 1933 first edition of Doc Savage, offered in very good/fine condition, sold for $33,600, shattering the previous auction record paid for the magazine. The copy is the nicest of the five Heritage experts have seen to date, only three of which are unrestored. The previous auction record for a first edition of the title was set by Heritage in December 2020 when a copy sold for $22,800.

(6) IN PIECES. Leonard Maltin pronounces “A Quiet Place Part Ii: A Solid Sequel”.

Sequels don’t usually get my juices going but this follow-up to the 2018 hit movie makes all the right moves. Writer-director John Krasinski wastes no time in revealing the spindly alien creatures who caused such havoc last time… and gives us ample time to examine the disgusting details of their anatomy.

But it’s the human factor–amazing ingenuity and a dogged refusal to surrender—that again takes center stage. Calm and cool-headed as ever, even without her husband to protect her and her family, Emily Blunt sets a great example for her children, an adolescent son (Noah Jupe) who’s braver then he realizes and a daughter (Millicent Simmonds) who refuses to treat her deafness as a shortcoming….

(7) SPOT ON. And he follows up with his view of Cruella: The Devil You Say” at Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy.

It says something about our times that a story that once featured cute, heroic dalmatians now focuses on their adversary, a larger-than-life villain (just as Sleeping Beauty has morphed into the saga of Maleficent). Parents should note the PG-13 rating on Cruella, which is earned through a series of nightmarish scenes involving death, abandonment, and revenge. Some children may absorb all of this as make-believe but others might have a different reaction to so much dark matter. I fall into the latter category; I was aghast….

(8) MACLEOD OBIT. Gavin MacLeod, best known as the Captain of The Love Boat and as Murray, a WJM newswriter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, died May 29 at the age of 90. Before then he worked on a lot of TV shows, and his genre credits included episodes of Men Into Space (1959), The Munsters (1964), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1965), My Favorite Martian (twice, 1965 and 1966), and Wonder Woman (1978).

(9) SCAMMELL OBIT. Stuntman Roy Scammell died May 15 – The Guardian has a tribute. He worked on many genre films.

…He worked on several James Bond films and for Stanley Kubrick on the stylised and brutal violence of A Clockwork Orange (1971) and later Barry Lyndon (1975). He also worked on Rollerball (1975), Midnight Express (1978), Alien (1979), Saturn 3 (1980), Flash Gordon (1980, appearing as one of the Hawkmen, hanging from wires for hours in order to achieve the film’s flying sequences), Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984, working with a live panther while dressed as an ape) and Willow (1988).

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1957 — In 1957, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings wins the final International Fantasy Award that will be given out. The International Fantasy Award was one of the first awards created to honor works of SF and fantasy as it preceded the Hugos by two years being created in 1951 with its first winner being Earth Abides by George R. Stewart. (It was preceded by both the N3F Laureates and the Invisible Little Man Award.)  It was a British Award in origin having been originally created and promoted by G. Ken Chapman, John Wyndham, Frank Cooper, and Leslie Flood. It gave out six fiction and three non-fiction Awards in total. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 29, 1874 – G.K. Chesterton.  Wrote essays, fiction, poems (is poetry fiction?), plays, biography, criticism; illustrator, journalist, radio broadcaster.  Half a dozen of his eighty books are ours, famously The Napoleon of Notting Hill and The Man Who Was Thursday; eighty of his two hundred shorter stories.  Events in his Father Brown stories turn out not to be fantasy.  But GKC was the prince of paradox.  (Died 1936) [JH]
  • Born May 29, 1901 – Ken Fagg.  A dozen covers for If and a few others; co-creator of world’s largest geophysical relief globe; illustrator for LifeHolidaySaturday Evening Post; art director for 20th Century Fox.  See three of his If wrap-arounds hereherehere.  Here is A Volcanic Eruption on Titan, Sixth Moon of Saturn.  (Died 1980) [JH]
  • Born May 29, 1906 – T.H. White.  We can claim six of his novels (counting The Once and Future King as one – although its publication history made its first part “The Sword in the Stone” eligible for a Retro-Hugo, which we gave it), twenty shorter stories.  He lived to see Once & Future made into the Lerner & Loewe musical Camelot, which L&L told each other was impossible, and they were right, but luckily that didn’t matter.  He translated a Bestiary, called non-fiction, which is like calling Once & Future a children’s story.  (Died 1964) [JH]
  • Born May 29, 1909 — Neil R. Jones. It is thought that “The Death’s Head Meteor”, his first story, which was published in Air Wonder Stories in 1930, could be the first use of “astronaut” in fiction. He also created the use of a future history before either Robert A. Heinlein or Cordwainer Smith did so. They’re collected in The Planet of the Double SunThe Sunless World and a number of other overlapping collections.   He’s a member of the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1988.) (CE) 
  • Born May 29, 1923 — Genevieve Linebarger. Widow of Cordwainer Smith. She completed several stories after his death in The Instrumentality of Mankind series, to wit “Golden the Ship Was — Oh! Oh! Oh!”, “The Lady Who Sailed the Soul”, “Down to a Sunless Sea” and “Himself in Anachron“.  She shares co-authorship with him on these. (Died 1981.) (CE) 
  • Born May 29, 1930 – Richard Clifton-Dey.  Five dozen covers for us; a hundred total, Westerns, war books, advertising, romance; a few interiors; much unsigned, identified by his widow.  See here (Fritz Leiber), here (Tim Powers), here (H.G. Wells).  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born May 29, 1942 — Kevin Conway. His first genre role was as Roland Weary in Slaughterhouse-Five with later roles in Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace and Black Knight, neither of which I suspect many of you have seen. You will likely have seen him in The Lathe of Heaven as Dr. William Haber.  He played Khalistan on “The Rightful Heir” episode of Next Generation, and had one-offs on Dark Angel, Life on Mars and Person of Interest. (Died 2020.) (CE) 
  • Born May 29, 1948 – Larry Kresek, age 74.  Thirty covers for us.  First chair of illustration dep’t, Ringling School of Art & Design; movie posters, record albums, national ads, pharmaceutical illustrations; adviser to education committee, N.Y. Society of Illustrators; professor, Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design; various projects with wife Joan Kresek.  See here (Spider & Jeanne Robinson), here (Theodore Sturgeon), here.  [JH]
  • Born May 29, 1952 – Louise Cooper.  Eighty novels for us: a dozen Time Master novels, also CreaturesDark EnchantmentIndigoMermaid CurseMirror, MirrorSea Horses; a dozen stand-alone novels, another dozen shorter stories.  She and husband Cas Shandall sang with the shanty group Falmouth Shout.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 29, 1960 — Adrian Paul, 61. Duncan MacLeod on Highlander. And yes, I watched the whole bloody series though none of the films. His first appearance in genre circles was as Dmitri Benko in the “Ashes, Ashes” episode of the Beauty and the Beast series. He shows up next as Prospero in Masque of the Red Death. He’s got several series before HighlanderWar of the Worlds (not bad at all) where he was John Kincaid, a short lived role as Jeremiah Collins on Dark Shadows and an even shorted lived rolled on Tarzán as Jack Traverse. His first post-Highlander Sf series is Tracker where he plays alien shapeshifter Cole / Daggon.  A decade ago, he returned to a familiar role in Highlander: The Source. His last series role was playing Dante on Arrow.  Note: this is not a complete list. (CE) 
  • Born May 29, 1970 – Erin Healy, age 51.  Three novels for us; half a dozen others, two nonfiction anthologies.  Descended from a brother of Daniel Boone, so he is her great (great-great-great-great-great-great) uncle.  “I thought I’d be a politician, but God used an English professor to save me from that disastrous choice.”  [JH]
  • Born May 29, 1987 — Pearl Mackie, 34. Companion to Twelfth Doctor. The actress was the first openly LGBTQ performer and companion cast in a regular role in Doctor Who. Mackie, says Moffatt, was so chosen as being non-white was not enough. Her other notable genre role was playing Mika Chantry in the audiowork of The Conception of Terror: Tales Inspired by M. R. James. (CE) 
  • Born May 29, 1996 — R. F. Kuang, 25. She’s an award-winning Chinese-American fantasy writer. The Poppy War series, so- called grimdark fantasy, consists of The Poppy War which won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel, and The Dragon Republic and The Burning God. She won the 2020 Astounding Award for Best New Writer. (CE) 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close to Home introduces someone who helps give Hell the reputation it enjoys today.

(13) REMIND YOU OF INDIANA WHOSIS? The movie adaptation of Disney’s Jungle Cruise comes to theaters July 30.

Inspired by the famous Disneyland theme park ride, Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” is an adventure-filled, rollicking thrill-ride down the Amazon with wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff and intrepid researcher Dr. Lily Houghton. Lily travels from London, England to the Amazon jungle and enlists Frank’s questionable services to guide her downriver on La Quila—his ramshackle-but-charming boat. Lily is determined to uncover an ancient tree with unparalleled healing abilities—possessing the power to change the future of medicine. Thrust on this epic quest together, the unlikely duo encounters innumerable dangers and supernatural forces, all lurking in the deceptive beauty of the lush rainforest. But as the secrets of the lost tree unfold, the stakes reach even higher for Lily and Frank and their fate—and mankind’s—hangs in the balance.

 (14) FATED CAST. Learn more about the forthcoming movie Infinite in this Q&A with director Antoine Fuqua at IGN: “Infinite Trailer: Exclusive First Look Photo From the Mark Wahlberg Sci-Fi Action Film”.

What Makes Mark Wahlberg Right for Infinite

Making Infinite feel grounded amidst all the fantastical elements is also the reason why Mark Wahlberg was cast in the lead role of Evan McCauley. “One of Mark’s great qualities is that there’s a sense of authenticity to who he is and there’s a basic decency and sort of a grounding that makes him extremely relatable,” di Bonaventura said. Having an everyman like Wahlberg being the audience’s guide through this heightened world also makes Evan’s skepticism about what he’s discovering mirror the audience’s own gradual suspension of disbelief.

As di Bonaventura put it, “You want a guy that’s saying, ‘Really? You’re going to try to convince me of this. Really? I’m reincarnated?’ And Mark’s great for that. And then, of course, you want him to rise to being the hero, which Mark is very good at. So he fits what we were hoping for out of that character.”

Chiwetel Ejiofor Plays Infinite’s “Tragic Villain”

Every hero needs a strong antagonist and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s character Bathurst is “a tragic villain,” according to Fuqua. “He was once an Infinite that possibly still believed in other things, whether it be God or other things in life. He’s been in constant search of that God, of that spirit, and all he keeps getting is reborn, reborn, reborn, without being enlightened, if you will, so that for him, it’s just becoming darker and darker and more tortured.”…

(15) A TIME FOR EVERY PURPOSE. Amazon Prime dropped a trailer for The Tomorrow War. Available July 2.

In The TOMORROW WAR, the world is stunned when a group of time travelers arrive from the year 2051 to deliver an urgent message: Thirty years in the future mankind is losing a global war against a deadly alien species. The only hope for survival is for soldiers and civilians from the present to be transported to the future and join the fight. Among those recruited is high school teacher and family man Dan Forester (Chris Pratt). Determined to save the world for his young daughter, Dan teams up with a brilliant scientist (Yvonne Strahovski) and his estranged father (J.K. Simmons) in a desperate quest to rewrite the fate of the planet.

(16) BRAIN UPGRADE. Arturo Serrano highlights author Sarah Pinsker’s skillful storytelling in “Review: We Are Satellites” at Nerds of a Feather.

…After David’s implant is revealed to have sensory processing issues, we are carried through a deeply detailed plot of corporate irresponsibility, medical neglect, political opportunism, workplace discrimination, sibling envy, systemic ableism, and the many ways the external world can invade our private choices.

All four family members get first-person chapters, but David’s are the most engaging. The long train of sentences does a great job of conveying his mind’s permanent state of panicked hyperawareness. For example, “He could describe the location of every fly on every wall in a room full of flies but he didn’t notice his body’s reactions until he counterreacted to them.” If the delight of science fiction is making unreal worlds feel close to us, this novel does one better: it makes us live a mental state that has never existed….

(17) ALWAYS LISTEN TO YOUR EDITOR. In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri says John Steinbeck’s editor told him his stories were great, as long as he took out the werewolves! “John Steinbeck’s editor removes all the werewolves from his work”.

… But I had one question: Why are there so many werewolves?

Just a few instances, going through your work —

“Of Mice and Men and Werewolves”: I don’t think Lennie needs to be a werewolf for this story to work! I think he could just be a guy, although I did like the sad part at the end where George has to load a silver bullet into his gun while telling Lennie to think about rabbits….

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day John A Arkansawyer.]

Pixel Scroll 5/23/21 Looking Up Out Of An Inkwell

(1) BANDFORMER ROBOT. Daði Freyr’s (Daði & Gagnamagnið) song “10 Years” finished fourth in the 2021 Eurovision contest. The official video is entertainingly science fictional.

(2) POWELL BOOKS. Emily Inkpen was able to have “A Conversation with Gareth L. Powell”, creator of Silversands, The Recollection, and the trilogies; Ack Ack Macaque and Embers of War.

I know that for the Japanese translation of Embers of War, the title of the book was changed, can you tell us what it’s known as in Japan?

[GLP] The Japanese title translates as “Warship Girl,” which puts the emphasis firmly on the character of the sentient starship Trouble Dog.

Deciding on a title for a book can be difficult. The Japanese title switches the emphasis from the wider political context of the book, to one of the main characters. Do you think this will change the way people in Japan approach the book?

[GLP] I’m not sure. The Japanese cover has a very cool manga-style illustration of Trouble Dog’s human persona, so coupled with the title change, I think the publishers are very much positioning her as the main character/selling point. She’s young but hooked into this powerful weapon, and I think in that way perhaps they see her in the same sort of light as the main characters in Ghost in the Machine or Akira.

(3) FUTURE CRIMES. Jed S. Rakoff questions the rationale of being “Sentenced by Algorithm” at The New York Review. (Complete article is behind a paywall.)

Is it fair for a judge to increase a defendant’s prison time on the basis of an algorithmic score that predicts the likelihood that he will commit future crimes? Many states now say yes, even when the algorithms they use for this purpose have a high error rate, a secret design, and a demonstrable racial bias. The former federal judge Katherine Forrest, in her short but incisive When Machines Can Be Judge, Jury, and Executioner, says this is both unfair and irrational.

One might think that the very notion of a defendant having his prison time determined not just by the crime of which he was convicted, but also by a prediction that he will commit other crimes in the future, would be troubling on its face. Such “incapacitation”—depriving the defendant of the capacity to commit future crimes—is usually defended on the grounds that it protects the public and is justifiable as long as the sentence is still within the limits set by the legislature for the crime. But the reality is that the defendant is receiving enhanced punishment for crimes he hasn’t committed, and that seems wrong.

Nonetheless, Congress and state legislatures have long treated incapacitation as a legitimate goal of sentencing. For example, the primary federal statute setting forth the “factors to be considered in imposing a sentence” (18 U.S.C. sec. 3553, enacted in 1984) provides, among other things, that “the court, in determining the particular sentence to be imposed, shall consider…the need for the sentence imposed…to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant.”

How is the likelihood of “further crimes of the defendant” to be determined?

(4) THE MAP IS NOT THE TERRITORY. Mohammad Reza Kamali delves into “The Tale of the annotated map and Tolkien’s hidden riddles – Part Four”.

To find out whether Europe or anywhere else was really the source of inspiration for Tolkien’s work, we need to have documented evidence. The most famous evidence from Tolkien’s writings about comparing our earth to Middle-earth is his famous Letter 294:

The action of the story takes place in the North-west of ‘Middle-earth’, equivalent in latitude to coastlands of Europe and the north shores of the Mediterranean… If Hobbiton and Rivendell are taken (as intended) to be about the latitude of Oxford, then Minas Tirith, 600 miles south, is at about the latitude of Florence. The Mouths of Anduin and the ancient city of Pelargir are at about the latitude of ancient Troy.

But as we saw in detail in part 1 of this article series, Tolkien’s note on the annotated map that was discovered fairly recently helps us understand he is not saying in Letter 294 that he was inspired by Europe itself in creating his Middle-earth map, but that he was using well-known European locations to illustrate the position and dimensions of Middle-earth.

We have talked many times about Letter 294 in my article series because has long been considered the greatest enemy of my research, which considers Tolkienian influences further east than Europe. Because of this letter, for years my research has been quickly dismissed almost as a joke, and few took it seriously. But when the annotated map notes were found, the situation suddenly changed. Let’s look at the situation afresh….

(5) LONE STARS. In the Washington Post, Matt Hurwitz has a preview of Solos, a near-future original anthology series on Amazon Prime which has one performer (including Anthony Mackie and Dame Helen Mirren) in every episode. “In ‘Solos,’ Helen Mirren, Anthony Mackie and Constance Wu are part of an impressive cast. Here’s why it needed ‘true masters of the craft.’”

“My dad always used to say, ‘If you talk to yourself, that’s fine, but if you answer yourself, it’s a problem,’?” recalls actor Anthony Mackie. In Amazon Prime’s “Solos,” however, he kind of does just that.

In fact, most of his esteemed colleagues — including Oscar winners Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman and Anne Hathaway, along with Constance Wu, Dan Stevens, Nicole Beharie and Uzo Aduba — do as well. Each of the show’s seven episodesfeatures, with slight exception, a single actor. Going it alone.

….As a sci-fi fan, Weil gave each “Solos” tale a futuristic bent. “Just a few minutes in the future, though. Sometimes we need a little bit of distance to appreciate the experiences and emotions we’re feeling today,” he says. “What if there was an A.I. that could replace your loved one who passes away? What if, in the future, there was a fertility drug that could ensure 100 percent success? What if, in the future, we had smart homes that were a participant in our own lives?”

The concept gave him and his co-writers a chance to take some of those occasional character ideas that don’t always have a place and give them their day. “All writers have ideas we scribble on the back of a bar napkin, or that we log in on our computer at 2 a.m. and don’t know how they’re going to fit in something we’re working on,” he says. “This was a moment to pluck those characters from obscurity and give them life, a moment onstage.”…

Vogue also profiles Helen Mirren and her character’s Dior wardrobe.

(6) STOKER CEREMONY. You can hear the deeply touching speeches and acceptance remarks while viewing yesterday’s online 2020 Bram Stoker Awards® Ceremony at YouTube.

(7) GET YOUR CARD PUNCHED. Scott Edelman followed last night’s ceremony with an induction of his own.

Another Bram Stoker awards ceremony means — there are new winners — but also new losers. Some of them who like me are in the Never Winner category said they’re looking forward to having me give a new punch to their “It is an honor to be nominated” cards when we meet next year in Denver. But if there are any *new* Never Winner losers out there who’d like this Susan Lucci of the HWA to mail you one — just ask!

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 22, 1957 — On this day in 1957, Quatermass 2 premiered In the U.K. It was produced by Anthony Hinds, and directed by Val Guest. It’s a sequel to The Quatermass Xperiment. Screenplay was by Nigel Kneale and Val Guest.  It stars Brian Donlevy, John Longden, Sid James, Bryan Forbes, Vera Day, and William Franklyn. Like the first film, some critics thought it was a lot of fun, some were less than impressed. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a respectable sixty percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 23, 1915 – Oliver Butterworth.  Four decades a Professor of English at Hartford College; staged a yearly Shakespeare’s Birthday party.  Six children’s books: we can claim The Enormous Egg which won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, two more.  The egg was enormous because it had to hatch a triceratops, eventually named Uncle Beazley.  Egg was made into a play, produced on television by NBC Children’s Theater.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1915 – William Timmins.  A run of 46 Astounding covers including for The World of Null-A, six more; here’s his last; fifty interiors. Outside our field, All AcesThe Boy Scout HandbookCluesDime SportsFamily CircleLibertyThe ShadowWestern Storyoilswatercolors.  (Died 1985) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1921 — James Blish. What was his best work? Cities in FlightA Case of Conscience? I’d argue it was one of those works. Certainly it wasn’t the Trek pieces of fiction though he certainly pumped them out with nearly ninety all told if I’m reading ISFDB right. And I hadn’t realized that he wrote one series, the Pantropy series, under a pen name (Arthur Merlyn). (Died 1975.) (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1934 – Phil Castora.  Quiet and unassuming fan, joined us in 1951 at Pittsburgh, then Washington, D.C., then Los Angeles where I met him.  Quiet, that is, unless something struck him as really funny, when he would collapse laughing, rolling on the floor and startling the cat.  I was like that in law school.  His letters to File 770 in paper days were gems, as Our Gracious Host has told us.  And OGH should know; he too served as LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) Secretary.  Luckily PC left a memoir, Who Knows What Ether Lurks in the Minds of Fen?  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1935 – Isidore Haiblum.  City College of New York with honors.  Eighteen novels, a good number; thirteen are ours, a good number for those of us among whom eighteen is a good number.  Roger Zelazny called Interworld a mix of hard-boiled and zany, and he should know.  Faster Than a Speeding Bullet (with Stuart Silver) about Golden Age radio.  Interviewed Isaac Bashevis Singer in Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1941 – Brenda Seabrooke, age 80.  Six novels for us.  “Believably weaves the supernatural elements into the story,” said one reviewer.  Here is the Dutch edition of The Vampire in My Bathtub.  [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1967 — Sean Williams, 54. Australian author who has been the recipient of a lot of Ditmar and Aurealis Awards. And I mean a lot. Most of his work has been co-authored with Shane Nix (such as Emergence and Orphans series, Star Wars: New Jedi Order novels) but I’d recommend The Books of the Cataclysm series wrote solely by him as it’s most excellent. He’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1974 – Sarah Beth Durst, age 47.  A score of fantasies.  Alex Award from American Lib’y Ass’n.  Mythopoeic Fantasy Award.  Drink, Slay, Love made into a Lifetime movie.  About The Reluctant Queen, here’s her Big Idea.  [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1979 — Brian James Freeman, 42. Horror author. Novels to date are Blue November StormsThis Painted Darkness and Black Fire (as James Kidman). He’s also done The Illustrated Stephen King Trivia Book (superbly done) which he co-authored with Bev Vincent and which is illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne. He publishes limited edition books here. (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1986 — Ryan Coogler, 35, Co-writer with Joe Robert Cole of Black Panther which he also was Director for as he will be for Black Panther 2. Producer, Space Jam 2 (pre-production) producer of the forthcoming Wankanda series on Disney+. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Ziggy makes a cartoon from an idea that goes back to the early days of television.

(11) THIS IS NOT THE BBC. Get a few more giggles from the pages of fandom’s antiquity while you listen to this recording of the broadcast spoof “1960 TAFF RACE: ELECTION NIGHT” at Rob Hansen’s THEN site.

Relive the excitement of the 1960 election courtesy of the Liverpool group as results for candidates Mal Ashworth, Eric Bentcliffe, and Sandy Sanderson pour in from across the country.

**********

Script by John Roles and Stan Nuttall.

Cast: Marjorie Dendon, Eddie Jones, Pat Milnes (formerly Doolan), Stan, Norman and Ina Shorrock, Norman Weedall, John Roles and Stan Nuttall.

(12) FASHION STATEMENT. In case you ever wondered, here are “All of Batgirl’s Costumes, Ranked” by Nerdist’s Eric Diaz.

Batgirl is finally getting her own feature film, coming to us from the Bad Boys for Life directing duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah. Barbara Gordon is one of DC Comics’ most famous heroes, and it’s about time she got her due. But just which costume is the heroine going to use when protecting Gotham City on screen?

Since 1967, Batgirl has worn several variations of her world-famous costume. Both in the comic book pages, and in other media. We’re sure her live-action suit will take inspiration from her entire wardrobe spanning the last five decades. And we’re here to rank them all, from least favorite to greatest…

In last place –

11. DC Super Hero Girls (2015)

The DC Super Hero Girls cartoon and toyline came out in 2015 and successfully sold the concept of DC heroines to young girls. All of their costumes were reinvented. Some more successfully than others. In the initial concept, Batgirl loses her famous cowl and cape, and replaces them with a hoodie and mini bat wings. It’s totally cute, but loses too many essential elements of the original costume’s silhouette. So for that reason, it comes in last.

(13) AUCTION SURPRISE. “Handwritten example of famous Einstein equation fetches $1.2 million” reports the Los Angeles Times.

A letter from Albert Einstein in which he writes out his famous E = mc2 equation has sold at auction for more than $1.2 million, about three times more than it was expected to get, Boston-based RR Auction said Friday.

Archivists at the Einstein Papers Project at Caltech and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem say there are only three other known examples of Einstein writing the world-changing equation in his own hand.

This fourth example, the only one in a private collection, became public only recently, according to RR Auction, which had expected it to sell for about $400,000.

“It’s an important letter from both a holographic and a physics point of view,” said Bobby Livingston, executive vice president at RR Auction, calling the equation the most famous in the world.

The equation — energy equals mass times the speed of light squared — changed physics by demonstrating that time was not absolute and that mass and energy were equivalent.

The one-page letter, written in German to Polish American physicist Ludwik Silberstein, is dated Oct. 26, 1946. Silberstein was a well-known critic and challenger to some of Einstein’s theories.

“Your question can be answered from the E = mc2 formula, without any erudition,” Einstein wrote in the letter on Princeton University letterhead, according to a translation provided by RR Auction.

(14) SECRET INGREDIENTS? “$100 Disneyland sandwich ranks as one of the world’s most expensive” – the Orange County Register may let you read the story if you do it very fast before the paywall crashes down. Maybe it’s a test of your superhero qualifications to eat this sandwich. (Even then, you’ll need Tony Stark to float you a loan.)

The new $99.99 Quantum-sized Pym-ini Sandwich coming to the Pym Test Kitchen when Avengers Campus debuts June 4 at Disney California Adventure ranks among the world’s most expensive sandwiches.

What’s in the sandwich? For that price, it better come with super powers and side of immortality.

(15) BOOK LOVE. Lela E. Buis does a “Review of ‘Little Free Library’ by Naomi Kritzer”, a 2021 Hugo finalist.  

…So, this is absorbing and really entertaining. Most of the story is made up of Meigan’s loving preparation and stocking of the library (attractive for book lovers), and the increasingly strange results as her books disappear and the odd gifts and correspondence begin to appear in their place….

(16) VIRGIN TEST FLIGHT. “Virgin Galactic rocket ship ascends from New Mexico” – a local CBS affiliate has the story.

Virgin Galactic on Saturday made its first rocket-powered flight from New Mexico to the fringe of space in a manned shuttle, as the company forges toward offering tourist flights to the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere.

High above the desert in a cloudless sky, the VSS Unity ignited its rocket to hurtle the ship and two pilots toward space. A live feed by NASASpaceFlight.com showed the ship accelerating upward and confirmed a landing later via radar.

Virgin Galactic announced that its VSS Unity shuttle accelerated to three times the speed of sound and reached an altitude of just over 55 miles (89 kilometers) above sea level before making its gliding return through the atmosphere.

… Virgin Galactic has reached space twice before. The first time was from California in December 2018.

The flights are designed to reach an altitude of at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) as the rocket motor is turned off and the crew prepares to reenter the atmosphere and glide to a landing.

As part of the return trip, a feathering system slows and stabilizes the craft as it re-enters the atmosphere.

New Mexico taxpayers have invested over $200 million in the Spaceport America hangar and launch facility, near Truth or Consequences, after Branson and then-Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, pitched the plan for the facility, with Virgin Galactic as the anchor tenant.

(17) DON’T GET LOST. “Europe plans sat-nav and telecoms network at the Moon”BBC has the plan.

The European Space Agency is proposing a precise navigation system at the Moon, much like the sat-nav technology we have here on Earth.

It would enable spacecraft and astronauts to know exactly where they are when moving around the lunar body and to land with precision.

The initiative, known as Moonlight, would also incorporate a telecommunications function.

A large flotilla of lunar missions will be launched this decade.

Chief among them will be the US space agency-led successor to Apollo. Called Project Artemis, this will put crews on the Moon for the first time in more than 50 years.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Netflix’s anime division dropped a trailer for Trese, based on an acclaimed Flilipino comic series.

 [Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jeffrey Jones with an assist from Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 5/13/21 Sympathy For The Pixel

(1) STRANGE DOINGS AT EBAY. The online sales site eBay has reorganized a large number of categories and reclassified products into them. The new U.S. table is here: US_Category_Changes_May2021_NFT-update.

If you do a search for “comics” on that page, you’ll find that eBay has decided to retire the categories for “Superhero,” “Platinum Age”, “Golden Age”, “Silver Age”, etc. All listings are being moved into a general Comics & Graphic Novels category.

(2) LEVAR BURTON BOOK CLUB. “LeVar Burton launches a new book club: See first three picks” reports Entertainment Weekly.

The LeVar Burton Book Club launches Tuesday via the “social reading app” Fable, with selections handpicked by the actor. To start off, he’s chosen three books that “represent how my identity as a reader has been shaped,” he says: James Baldwin‘s semi-autobiographical novel Go Tell It on the MountainOctavia Butler‘s modern sci-fi classic Parable of the Sower, and the essay and poetry collection The Fire This Time, edited by Jesmyn Ward. (Baldwin’s book will serve as the first month’s pick, with three new titles being revealed every three months.)

“For me, if I’m going to start a book club, I’m going to begin with who I am and my story as a reader,” Burton tells EW. “Obviously, there are hundreds of books that have shaped my identity as a reader, and these three are really representative of an important aspect of that journey for me.”

And while all three are by Black authors, Burton takes care to emphasize that to view his book club as an exclusively Black book club “does me and the literature that I promote a great disservice.”

“I know I have demonstrated over time that my attitude towards literature is ecumenical,” he says. “As it happens, the first three books are by people who look like me, and if one wants to pigeonhole that, then that would be, in my estimation, their shortcoming. It’s nothing more than a starting point that reflects who I am.”

(3) KENYAN BOOKTUBERS. SFF history is being made! Thread starts here.

(4) MACHADO Q&A. CBC Radio posted a transcript of their interview with Carmen Maria Machado: “Author fights to keep her queer memoir on a Texas high school reading list — dildo and all”.

A couple weeks ago, author Carmen Maria Machado got a message from a friend that a video was circulating online that involved her memoir and an angry mom wielding a pink strap-on dildo.

The clip was from a Feb. 25 school board meeting in Leander, Texas. The woman was upset that Machado’s memoir, In The Dream House, was on an approved reading list for high school students.

The book, which chronicles Machado’s experience of being in an abusive relationship with another woman, contains a sex scene involving a dildo. The protesting parent read it aloud during the meeting while waving the sex toy around, according to the Austin American Statesman

That’s how Machado learned that her book is one of several that are up for review in Leander because of parents’ complaints. They are part of a book club program that allows students to pick and read one book each semester from a list of 15 chosen by their teachers for their grade level.

The school board told KVUE ABC that it has already removed six books from the program and is devising a policy to exclude “inappropriate literature for the assigned students’ ages.”

Also on the potential chopping block are books by Margaret Atwood, Jodi Picoult and Jacqueline Woodson, who, along with Machado, have penned an open letter with the free expression organization PEN America demanding the books remain available to students.

Machado spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off on Wednesday. Here is part of their conversation….

After this particular meeting, there’s a spokesperson for Leander [Independent] School District who said: “Our goal is to explore what the community feels are age-appropriate materials for classroom reading.” Is there a valid argument? Do you think that In The Dream House is a book that is age-appropriate for that group?

Professional educators chose the book for their students. This all started because a bunch of teachers were like: We want this book on this list. And that is their job. That is what they’re supposed to be doing.

Certainly there are books that are appropriate for certain ages, but I think saying that students at 17 and 18 can’t read anything with sex in it, and that there’s no value in a book like that for those students when your teachers have said otherwise, the people who you pay to educate your kids, that strikes me as very odd and very disingenuous.

The community is also not a monolith. Like, there are gay teens at that school. There are gay people in Leander, Texas. There gay people in Texas…. And it feels a little, I think, strange that this very conservative religious group can sort of make the agenda for all the other students.

Because the parents who want this, their kids did not have to read the book. They could have chosen a different book. They’re trying to remove the book from the list for all the students. So I don’t think it’s really about age-appropriateness. I mean, there’s a reason they they target books with gay content.

(5) SFWA AUCTION. The “Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association Online Silent Auction!” is in progress and will continue through May 17. It has raised $5,060 so far.

In addition to autographed books and manuscripts and other collectibles, the featured items include virtual career coaching and manuscript feedback sessions like these:

  • Virtual Career Coaching from N. K. Jemisin

A one-on-one 30-minute virtual career session with 2020 MacArthur Fellow N. K. Jemisin, the first writer to ever to win three consecutive Hugo Awards for Best Novel.

  • Virtual Career Coaching from Catherynne M. Valente

A one-on-one 30-minute virtual career session with Catherynne M. Valente, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of fantasy and science fiction.

  • Virtual Manuscript Feedback from Mary Robinette Kowal

The winning bidder on this item will enjoy a 30 minute Zoom discussion providing feedback on a story or an excerpt of a longer work, up to 3,000 words. An amazing opportunity to receive personal feedback from Hugo and Nebula Award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Mary Robinette Kowal.

(6) CHAIR-ITABLE CAUSE: [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Colin Howard did much of the cover art for Doctor Who‘s VHS releases. See his covers here for “The Android Invasion” and “The Green Death”. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis ten years ago which has affected his mobility. Currently, there’s a fundraiser to help him: “Fundraiser by Michelle Howard : Please help me get Colin back outside in nature”.

… Colin was diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis 10 years ago, this ridiculously talented artist, nature lover and extrovert.

Progressively as MS does it has taken away his mobility, his confidence and he has become more and more isolated. Unable to get outside with ease, making everything he does exhausting and unenjoyable.

We did buy a manual wheel chair, however it is heavy and he is now unable to use his arms to self propel and it’s so cumbersome and there is no pleasure or enthusiasm for him to use it. It’s become easier for him to stay home…. not good.

After doing tons of research I stumbled across this amazing wheel chair. For those of you who know Col, you’ll know what a huge fan of formula one he is. So you’ll know why I’ve chosen this model of wheel chair…. it has formula one technology… carbon fibre and super light….

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

May 13, 1994 — On this day in 1994, The Crow premiered. It was directed by Alex Proyas, written by David J. Schow and John Shirley. It was produced by Jeff Most, Edward R. Pressman and Grant Hill.  It starred Brandon Lee in his final film appearance as he was killed in a tragic accident during filming. It’s based on James O’Barr’s The Crow comic book, and tells the story of Eric Draven (Lee), a rock musician who is revived to avenge the rape and murder of his fiancée, as well as his own death. Critics in general loved it, it did well at the box office and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a ninety percent rating. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 13, 1907 – Daphne du Maurier.  Two novels, a score of shorter stories for us; a dozen other novels, three dozen other shorter stories, three plays, nonfiction e.g. The Winding Stair about Francis Bacon, memoirs.  “There are few strains more intolerable in life than waiting for the arrival of unwelcome guests,” The House on the Strand ch.13 (1969) – quoted as a reader’s favorite line on her Website.  (Died 1989) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1937 — Roger Zelazny. Where do I start? The first half of The Amber Chronicles are a favorite as is The Isle of The Dead,  Eye Of The CatHome is The HangmanTo Die in Italbar, and well, there’s very there’s very little by him that I can’t pick him and enjoy for a night’s reading. There’s to my knowledge only one thing he recorded reading and that’s a book he said was one of his favorite works, A Night in the Lonesome October. (Died 1995.) (CE)
  • Born May 13, 1940 – Rachel Ingalls.  One novel, ten shorter stories for us.  British Authors’ Club Award.  British Book Marketing Council named one of those ten, the novella “Mrs. Caliban”, among the twenty greatest from America since World War II.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1945 – Maria Tatar, Ph.D., age 76.  Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages & Literatures, and Chair of the Committee on Degrees in Folklore & Mythology, at Harvard.  Among her publications, The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy TalesThe Annotated Hans Christian AndersenThe Annotated African American Folktales (with Henry Gates).  “Alice [notice I don’t have to identify it any further – JH] is the world’s greatest book.  It’s one of the deepest books.”  [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1946 — Marv Wolfman, 75. He worked for Marvel Comics on The Tomb of Dracula series for which he and artist Gene Colan created Blade, and the Crisis on Infinite Earths series in which he very temporarily untangled DC’s complicated history with George Pérez. And He worked with Pérez on the direct-to-DVD movie adaptation of the popular “Judas Contract” storyline from their tenure on Teen Titans. (I’m not going to list his IMDB credits here. Hell he even wrote a Reboot episode!) (CE) 
  • Born May 13, 1949 — Zoë Wanamaker, 72. She’s been Elle in amazing Raggedy Rawney which was a far better fantasy than Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone ever waswhere she was Madame Hooch. And she was Cassandra in two Ninth Doctor stories, ”The End of the World” and “New Earth”. (CE)
  • Born May 13, 1951 — Gregory Frost, 70. His retelling of The Tain is marvelous. Pair it with Ciaran Carson and China Miéville’s takes on the same legend taking an existing legend and making it fresh it through modern fiction writing is amazing. Fitcher’s Brides, his Bluebeard retelling is an fantastic novel though quite horrific. (CE) 
  • Born May 13, 1951 – A.J. Austin, age 70.  Two novels (with Ben Bova), nine shorter stories.  Interviewed Forry Ackerman and Mike Resnick for Thrust.  Ten years hosting a midday call-in radio program in Connecticut.  [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1957 — Frances Barber, 64. Madame Kovarian, a prime antagonist during the time of The Eleventh Doctor showing up in seven episodes in totality. Fittingly she played Lady Macbeth in Macbeth at the Royal Exchange in Manchester. I’ve got her doing one-offs on Space PrecinctRed Dwarf and The IT Crowd.  (CE) 
  • Born May 13, 1981 – Kieran Yanner, age 40.  A dozen covers, half a dozen interiors; games; Magic: the Gathering cards; concept art.  Here is Before They Were Giants.  Here is Demon in White.  Here is Ghen, Arcanum Weaver.  [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1983 – Nate Ball, age 38.  Mechanical engineer, pole vaulter, beatboxer.  Eight Alien in My Pocket science-adventure chapter books for kids.  Here is Blast Off!  Here is Ohm vs. Amp. [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) BBC VS. FANFIC? iNews says “Doctor Who fans feel ‘demonised’ by BBC crackdown on fan fiction”.

But recently a number of fanfic creators have received worrying demands from the BBC to remove their work from the public domain, arguing that they are infringing on copyright. Under the question “Can I create Doctor Who fan fiction?” on the show’s online FAQ page, the BBC advises that while anyone is “welcome to write Doctor Who fiction for your own enjoyment, but we should remind you that it is not permitted for you to publish this work either in print or online.”

The rules – which were published in 2014 – were unknown to the majority of creators but were widely shared on Twitter this week in response to the BBC’s demands. In response, 21-year-old student Jamie Cowan has started a petition calling for the BBC Studios, the production company behind Doctor Who to offer the fans a seat at the table in these decisions.

Cowan’s petition is at Change.org: “Petition of concern about BBC Studios approach to Doctor Who fan content”. His reference to video clips suggests the BBC’s issue is about more than written Who stories. The petition only has 166 signatures as of this moment.

… The current experience of BBC Studios staff contacting fanfiction and fan audioplays about the own original non-profit ventures – is concerning.

The manual targeting of those who use clips of the show for review purposes or for ‘Top 10’ videos that strongly promote the episodes that they are discussing – is concerning.

We, of the Doctor Who fandom – both creators and the viewers of said creators – call upon you to make a strong reconsideration of the actions you are taking against passionate fans who are doing no damage to the sales or marketability of the brand….

(11) DISNEY RIDES UPDATE HITS A BUMP. “Disney takes ‘woke’ steps toward inclusivity, but sparks a conservative backlash” finds Yahoo! Entertainment.

…The “wench auction” was among the first to go in the exodus of classic-but-problematic Disney scenes. In 2018, the popular Pirates of the Caribbean ride got an overhaul when a redhead who had once been sold as a bride became a pirate instead.

Two years later, the theme park giant announced it was overhauling the Splash Mountain flume ride to lose its story line inspired by “Song of the South” — an outdated Disney film that the company no longer makes available to view because of its rosy view of post-Civil War plantation life. More recently, the company announced updates to the classic Jungle Cruise ride to remove “negative depictions of ‘natives’” and add new elements, just in time for a new movie out this summer….

But these changes aren’t taking place without pushback. Fans created a petition to “save” Splash Mountain from the new theme. Disney-focused sites are full of users who decry what they see as a progressive agenda in the parks, and announcements about updates are typically greeted with threats of a boycott. People who vocally advocate for revisions are often subjected to abusive messages….

The updates in the parks follow a shift in the company’s films over the past several decades. Anne Zimmermann, a lecturer in the Rollins College English department in Winter Park, Florida, said Disney’s princesses started becoming more inclusive, assertive and even feminist over the past couple of decades.

“Today’s generation, they are kind of expecting this of Disney, and they will tell you it’s long overdue,” said Zimmermann, who uses Disney stories in her classes.

At the same time, Disney has recognized that some of its older films include outdated and racist cultural stereotypes and has added warnings on its streaming platform or removed those movies from children’s profiles.

“They’re moving not just toward not being racist, but anti-racist,” Zimmermann said. “Changing the parks continues their own narrative of change.”

Her students visit Disney parks for field research — or, more recently, explore rides online — and flag those that strike them as problematic.

For now, there’s a laundry list of other nominees for eventual updates: the Peter Pan ride for stereotypical depictions of Indigenous people; a ride in Epcot’s Mexico area that includes broad stereotypes; Dumbo, which is based on a movie that includes racist tropes. Fan sites circulate longer lists of what rides might be under the microscope next, occasionally with outraged remarks: It’s a Small World, Hall of Presidents, Country Bear Jamboree.

Disney isn’t saying what is next, but the company has dedicated a team to making sure that updates are done right.

“You create experiences that will make people feel welcome, seen and heard and to let them know that their stories are just as important,” Carmen Smith, creative development and inclusion strategies executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, said in a video. “And so my responsibility is to look at what do we have now and does it resonate with our guest in making them more reflective of the world we live in.”

(12) TOXIC AVOIDER. Alan Yu interviews Amy Ratcliffe about her book A Kid’s Guide to Fandom at NPR: “How Kids Can Avoid Toxic Fandoms”.

…So how do fans navigate these communities, to find the good parts while being aware of the bad? It’s about teaching kids that there are … many other people who like the same things that they do in the same enthusiastic ways and hopefully, helping kids feel more comfortable and confident.

Amy Ratcliffe, managing editor for the pop culture site Nerdist, addresses this as part of her new book, A Kid’s Guide to FandomShe says it’s the book that she wishes she could have had when she was a young fan looking for others like her. Ratcliffe remembers growing up as a fan of the Wheel of Time series, using her family’s dial-up internet to visit online forums.

She says her objective is for kids to be aware of fandom, “that other people like the same things that you like … even if it’s one other person, like you’re not alone.”

“I still hear stories about young girls being bullied because they like Star Wars; they think they’re the only kid,” she says. “It’s about teaching kids that there are … many other people who like the same things that they do in the same enthusiastic ways and hopefully, helping kids feel more comfortable and confident.”

No one gets to decide who is a “real” fan

Ratcliffe explains in her book that some fans can become gatekeepers, people who want to decide who is or is not a “real fan.” Fans, she says, should never have to prove themselves.Ratcliffe herself has run into gatekeepers; once, at a Star Wars convention, a man saw her Rebel Alliance tattoo, “looked at the tattoo, looked at my then-boyfriend who was with me, and was like … completely serious by the way, no sarcasm, like, ‘oh that was really nice of you to get that tattoo for your boyfriend.'”

Her advice for younger fans who want to find communities is to start with groups or places that they know: a local library, or a game shop they go to with their family; to trust their instincts when they feel something is off; and to get an older sibling, a parent, or guardian involved….

(13) HE FINALLY GOT TO SPACE. In Heritage Auctions’ May 21 – 22 Space Exploration Signature Auction one of the items up for bid is this Apollo-Soyuz Test Project Flown Silver Robbins Medallion with a lot of history behind it:

Apollo-Soyuz Test Project Flown Silver Robbins Medallion, Serial Number 43F, Personally Presented by Deke Slayton to and Directly from the Estate of NASA Legend Chris Kraft, with Slayton’s Signed COA and Handwritten Letter of Appreciation. This 35mm sterling silver medal is one of only ninety-three flown (of 285 minted) aboard the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, the first international manned space effort, July 17-19, 1975, with U.S. crewmembers Thomas Stafford, Vance Brand, & Deke Slayton and Soviet crewmembers Alexei Leonov & Valery Kubasov. The obverse features the mission insignia depicting the docking maneuver above the Earth and the names of the mission and crewmembers. The reverse features the title “First Joint U.S.-U.S.S.R. Space Flight” and the engraved dates. The serial number is on the rim along with the sterling and Robbins hallmarks. This mission effectively ended the “Space Race” between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. We seldom are able to offer flown examples of this mission’s medal and this one is likely the nicest we have ever handled. A great candidate for grading and encapsulation.

If this were just a Robbins medal with astronaut or even crewmember-provenance, it would be desirable and valuable. When the history behind it is revealed, it becomes a very special item indeed. Deke Slayton was one of the original “Mercury Seven” but was the only one who never flew into space due to being grounded in 1962 with an atrial fibrillation. Ten years later, he was cleared to fly on Apollo-Soyuz with Dr. Kraft’s blessings. On December 1, 1975, Slayton met with Kraft and presented this medal to him loose in an envelope hand-addressed ” Dr. Chris Kraft/ Personal“. Additionally, inside was a December 1st-dated typed letter signed on NASA letterhead that reads: “I hereby certify that Apollo-Soyuz medallion, serial number 43F, was flown in space aboard the Apollo Command Module from July 15, 1975, through July 17, 1975, and that this medallion was presented to Dr. Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., on December 1, 1975. [signed] D. K. Slayton“. 

 [Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Ben Bird Person, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Jason Sanford, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 5/8/21 And Strange At Ecbatan The File Takes Scroll By Scroll The Pixel Strange

(1) WHO? Gizmodo finds a new star in the constellation of talent around this production of Pratchett’s tale: “Terry Pratchett’s Amazing Maurice Animation Adds David Tennant”.

The animated adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Carnegie Medal-winning 2001 children’s book The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents has already commandeered a huge celebrity voice cast, but apparently there’s always room for more. Now Doctor Who’s David Tennant has joined the ranks, alongside Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke and House’s Hugh Laurie, among many others.

The Amazing Maurice novel is a comedic adaptation of the tale of the Pied Piper, who legendarily led the rats out of the town of Hamelin with his magic pipe, only to lead the town’s children away as well after the townsfolk failed to compensate him for his work. Pratchett’s book, which is part of his beloved Discworld series, is vastly different, featuring a sentient cat named Maurice, a pack of equally sentient rats, and a boy named Keith as they try to trick the town of Bad Blintz into hiring Keith to lead a newfound “rat infestation” away. Instead, they run into more malicious ratcatchers, a rat king with psychic powers, and more….

(2) THE ANSWERS. Rich Horton has posted the answers to his “Quiz about SF Aliens” on Strange at Ecbatan.

1. There are many aliens depicted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This alien race may be hard to depict definitively, as they are shapeshifters, but they do have a typical form. They appeared in Captain Marvel in the MCU, and in the comics as early as an issue of Fantastic Four in 1962. What is the name of this alien raceClick here

Answer: SKRULL 

(3) LONELY PLANET. James Davis Nicoll has read about how cold it is out there on your own: “Far From Any Star: 5 Stories About Rogue Worlds” at Tor.com.

It’s been weeks since you last socialized (in the flesh) with anyone outside your household…or with anyone, if you live alone. Loneliness is tough. But things could be worse: you could be a rogue world, ejected from your home system billions of years ago. You could be a pitiful world formed far from any star. Such worlds are commonplace in our galaxy. They are not quite so common in science fiction. Still, a few of them feature in books that you may have read…

(4) BACKLOG. “Wondering How Much Your Pokemon Cards Are Worth? You May Need To Wait” reports NPR.

There has been a trading card accreditation bonanza that is leading to massive backlogs, hiring shortages, and big money as people seek to determine the worth of their Pokemon cards.

… SIMON: A trading card bonanza. These card-grading businesses are getting more cards over a couple of weekends than they used to get in an entire year. People are sending other cards, too. Baseball cards, of course, Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh. But Pokemon is still the main attraction.

KOEBLER: Many of these companies have been overwhelmed to the point where they’re no longer even accepting the cards because they have wait times of between, like, 10 months and a year for new cards that are mailed to them….

(5) TAKE THE 101 TO THE 451. Bradburymedia’s Phil Nichols has released another episode of his YouTube series Bradbury 101: “Fahrenheit 451”.

We’ve now reached the year 1953, and the release of Ray Bradbury’s first true novel, Fahrenheit 451. Except…

The first appearance of Fahrenheit was actually a collection rather than a novel!

Confused? You will be! Watch and learn below.

(6) MUPPET VISITS OLD HAUNT. SYFY Wire hypes the “’Muppets Haunted Mansion’ special coming to Disney+ this fall”.

…To ring in Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products’ “Halfway to Halloween” campaign, the Mouse House dropped a short teaser for Muppets Haunted Mansion, which arrives on Disney+ sometime this fall. The comedic announcement, made by Gonzo and Pepe the King Prawn, was short on details, but the official release promises “a star-studded Muppets cast, celebrity cameos, all-new music, and spooky fun for families to enjoy together.”

In terms of story, the plot revolves around Gonzo being challenged to spend one night in the scariest place on Earth: Disney’s Haunted Mansion….

(7) KITAEN OBIT. [Item by Dann.] Actress Tawny Kitaen died May 7 at age 59.  The cause of death was not revealed.

Her early fame came from appearing in Whitesnake and Ratt videos. Her first genre role came in Witchboard in 1986 and was followed by an appearance in one episode of the short-lived They Came From Outerspace.

Tawny’s most prominent genre role was taht of Deianeira in the Hercules series.  She appeared in all three Hercules movies (Hercules: The Legendary Journeys – Hercules and the Circle of Fire, Hercules in the Underworld, Hercules in the Maze of the Minotaur) as well as in the TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys from 1995 to 1997.

She also provided the voice of Annabelle in the animated series Eek! The Cat.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 8, 1955 — On this night in 1955, X Minus One’s “Mars is Heaven“ first aired on radio stations. It’s based on the Bradbury story of that name which was originally published in 1948 in Planet Stories. It later appears as the sixth chapter of The Martian Chronicles, retitled “The Third Expedition”.  The premise is that this expedition discovers on Mars a small town spookily akin to that which they left behind on Earth. The people in the town believe it is 1926. Crew members soon discover there are old friends and deceased relatives there as well. The cast includes  Wendell Holmes, Peter Kapell, Bill   Zuckert, Bill Lipton, Margaret Curlen, Bill Griffis, Ken Williams, Ethel Everett and Edwin Jerome. You can hear it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 8, 1925 – Roy Tackett.  Active fan from 1936; drifted away in the late 1950s, happened across Yandro and returned.  His own fanzine Dynatron.  Bruce Pelz managed to get him nicknamed HORT so we’d be cued to pipe up, when we heard it explained as Horrible Old Roy Tackett, “Oh, I know Roy Tackett.  He’s not that old!”  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 22, MileHiCon 12, LoneStarCon 2 the 55th Worldcon.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1938 Jean Giraud. Better to y’all as Moebius. He contributed storyboards and concept designs to myriad science fiction and fantasy films including AlienThe Fifth Element, The Abyss and the original Tron film. He also collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for an unproduced adaptation of Dune. Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that!  And no, I’m not forgetting his work on both Heavy Metal and Marvel Comics but I’ll let you detail those endeavors. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born May 8, 1940 Peter  Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film as White Shark which has absolutely nothing to do with sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born May 8, 1945 – Stanislaw Fernandes, age 76. Fourscore covers, a dozen interiors for us; much else.  Here is Reach for Tomorrow.  Here is the Feb 87 Omni.  Here is the Mar 88 Asimov’s.  Here is The Wheel of Darkness.  Elsewhere, here is e.g. the 15 Jan 79 Business Week.  I picked these from the past for a sense of scope; don’t think he hasn’t been busy.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1947 – Ron Miller, age 74.  Five novels; a hundred seventy covers, a hundred thirty interiors; a dozen artbooks.  Here is the Apr 74 Amazing.  Here is The Grand Tour.  Here is the Jan 01 Asimov’s.  Here is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  Here is The Art of Chesley Bonestell (with F. Durant; cover by CB; Hugo for Best Related Book).  Here is Up the Rainbow.  [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1954 Stephen Furst. Stephen is dead, damn it all. The saddest part of doing these Birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know him most likely as Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill-prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon StormPath of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017.) (CE) 
  • Born May 8, 1955 Della Van Hise. Author was a prolific Trek fanwriter who later published an official Trek novel, Killing Time which in its first printing implied a sexual relationship between Spock and Kirk. Later printings didn’t include this passage as the copyright objected according to several sources. It’s available at all the usual digital suspects. (Died 2021.) (CE) 
  • Born May 8, 1957 – Jenny Blackford, age 64.  Co-edited Australian SF Review.  A score of stories, two dozen poems; essays, letters, reviews in FoundationNY Rev SFSF Commentary.  Elsewhere, e.g. 2020 Davitt Award for Best Children’s Crime Novel.  “I have forgotten more Sanskrit than I ever learned, but I still recite Catullus, and my favorite playwright is of course Euripides.”  [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1968 – LeAnn Neal Reilly, age 53.  Five novels.  Has read The SilmarillionIvanhoe, Norwich’s Short History of ByzantiumCrime & PunishmentCatch-22, Chesterton’s St. Augustine and 2 vols. of Father Brown stories, all six Jane Austen novels, The Sound and the FuryThe Little Prince.  She writes, says Kirkus Reviews, “about resilient women caught in magical, otherworldly circumstances.”  [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1982 – Leah Bobet, age 39.  Two novels, twoscore short stories, two dozen poems.  Founding editor of Abyss & Apex; edited Ideomancer.  Aurora, Sunburst, Copper Cylinder Awards.  Makes jam, climbs mulberry trees, plants gardens in back alleys, and contributes to access-to-democracy initiatives. [JH]

(10) HEAR ME ROAR. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Now this is some cool crap. For the first time ever, one spacecraft has been used to record a “talkie” of another spacecraft.

The Mars rover Perseverance took a video of Ingenuity — the helicopter — during a test flight with sound. The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory has released the video which can be seen on YouTube. The sound is pretty low frequency (~84 Hz) so it’s recommended you watch the video on something with speakers that have decent base response. 

The AP has the story — “NASA Mars helicopter heard humming through planet’s thin air”.

… NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California released this first-ever audio Friday, just before Ingenuity made its fifth test flight, a short one-way trip to a new airfield.

During the fourth flight a week earlier, the low hum from the helicopter blades spinning at more than 2,500 revolutions per minute is barely audible. It almost sounds like a low-pitched, faraway mosquito or other flying insect.

That’s because the 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) helicopter was more than 260 feet (80 meters) from the microphone on the Perseverance rover. The rumbling wind gusts also obscured the chopper’s sound.

Scientists isolated the sound of the whirring blades and magnified it, making it easier to hear….

(11) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES. Kris Vyas-Myall reviews the film adaptation of Modesty Blaise for Galactic Journey: “[MAY 6, 1966] BLAISE-ING WRECKAGE (MODESTY BLAISE).

…After Romeo Brown finished, Peter O’Donnell decided to create a more serious strip where a woman would be a capable hero rather than simply an object of desire or a damsel for the man to rescue. Apparently inspired by an orphan girl he met when stationed in Persia during the war, he teamed up once again with Holdaway to create Modesty Blaise.

Modesty reassures Willie’s girlfriend Marjorie that she has no romantic feelings for him.

Starting in 1963, Blaise feels like a totally new type of hero. Both Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin (her loyal sidekick) are both former criminals neither from privileged backgrounds. Modesty grew up in refugee camps in Persia and other Middle Eastern countries, whilst Willie is very much a working-class character. There is also no suggestion that she has any romantic interaction with Willie, instead they are loyal professional colleagues.

An excellent action sequence where Willie rams a lorry into Gabriel’s mansion

It is not just the initial concept that is fresh, the quality of the strip feels ahead of anything else I could easily pick up. O’Donnell’s plots feel fresh and complex, varying significantly from story to story. One week she will be investigating drug running in the Vietnam war, the next dealing with psychic espionage. These are combined with characters that feel deep and real. O’Donnell’s writing and Holdaway’s art also come together to give a really cinematic presentation with a real eye for direction….

(12) SCIENTIFIC CREDENTIALS. Gizmodo has discovered that “Cats Love to Sit Inside Squares—Even Fake Ones”.

…Cats, like people, can be fooled by optical illusions, nifty new research out this week suggests. The study, based on experiments conducted by pet owners at home, found that cats tend to sit inside 2D shapes that only look like squares about as often as they’ll sit inside a real square. The findings might give us a little more insight into cat cognition.

Whether they’re big tigers or domestic felines, cats just seem to love wedging themselves into boxes, crates, or other four-sided objects. This fascination doesn’t stop at 3D objects either, as the social media hashtag #CatSquare showed a few years ago; even using tape to make the outline of a square on the floor will entice cats ready to plop down at a moment’s notice….

(13) OVER THE WAVES. “UK Sci-Fi Series Intergalactic Gets Trailer and Peacock Release”. Io9 knows:

…The entire eight-episode first season debuted across the pond on April 30 to little fanfare, but streaming services are so hungry for content that was clearly not the issue…. 

The YouTube intro says —

Written by award-winning showrunner, Julie Gearey (“Prisoners’ Wives,” “Cuffs,” “Secret Diary of a Call Girl”), the series tells the story of fearless young cop and galactic pilot, Ash Harper (“Savannah Steyn”), who has her glittering career ripped away from her after being wrongly convicted of a treasonous crime and exiled to a distant prison colony. But on the way there, Ash’s fellow convicts stage a mutiny and seize control of their prison transfer ship. With the flight crew dead, mob leader Tula Quik (“Sharon Duncan-Brewster”), is intent on reaching the free world – Arcadia – with her gang; and Ash is the only pilot who can get them there. Ash is forced to join them on the run towards a distant galaxy and an uncertain future.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/2/21 With Cat-Filled Files, Upon Pixels We Scroll

(1) CROWDSOURCING DURING COVID. Monica Louzon pulled together data about “Kickstarter Anthologies in 2020”, analyzed, and graphed it. Among the things she learned —

…43.94% of the projects I reviewed were granted “Projects We Love” status by Kickstarter. To my surprise, this didn’t actually seem to impact the success of a campaign…

(2) WHAT IS FICTION FOR? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Novelist Eliot Peper (Veil, et al.) and TechCrunch Managing Editor Danny Crichton had a conversation (via gmail) recently on what, if anything, speculative fiction can tell us about humanity and this past year: “Can speculative fiction teach us anything in a world this crazy?”

There’s an old saw from Mark Twain about how truth is stranger than fiction, and I think it’s fair to say we’ve lived through a very strange reality this past year. With all the chaos and change, we’re led to a foundational question: what’s the purpose of speculative fiction and its adjacent genres of science fiction and fantasy when so much of our world seems to already embody the fantastical worlds these works depict?

(3) MR. A MEETS MR. B. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In his autobiography In Joy Still Felt, Isaac Asimov discusses how he met Ray Bradbury for the first time on October 8, 1965.

I went to Newark to tape a talk show with David Susskind.  It was my first nationally televised talk show since ‘The Last Word’ with Bergen Evans six years before.

This one was devoted to science fiction, and along with me were Lester del Rey and Ray Bradbury.  It was the first time I had ever met Ray Bradbury, though of course we knew each other from our writings well enough to be on a first-name basis at once. Neither he nor I would fly on airplanes, so since I lived in Newton (Massachusetts) and he in Los Angeles it was clear that we wouldn’t meet often.

The session was not successful.  Lester was in one of his talkative moods and gave neither Ray or myself much to do anything except stare at the ceiling, and Susskind had a list of questions, silly in themselves, from which he lacked the wit to depart.  It meant all the interesting starts we made were muffled or killed when he asked the next silly question.

(4) MOST INFLUENTIAL SF MOVIES. ScreenRant calls these the “10 Most Influential Sci-Fi Movies Of All Time”. John King Tarpinian sent the link with a comment: “I would have rated number six and number seven as number one and number two.” And I personally think their #1 choice is nuts.

… Within the world of movies, the sci-fi genre has given audiences some of the most unforgettable films, some of which are considered among the best ever made.

But behind some of the most popular sci-fi movies are the movies that helped to inspire them. Many of these movies remain classics in their own rights, but fans might not be aware of how influential they have been to the genre. These ambitious projects broke new ground and paved the way for beloved movies that followed….

1/10 The Matrix (1999)

The Matrix is another movie that clearly drew from a lot of different sources, but eventually became something that would in turn inspire future movies. The movie really represented what the sci-fi genre could do, which is to show the audience something they have never seen before.

It has been parodied countless times but also inspired big-budget movies to be bold and original. From the action to the special effects to the ideas of the movie, The Matrix was all about proving the impossible to be possible.

(5) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 2, 2008 — On this day in 2008, the first Iron Man film premiered in the United States. It was directed by Jon Favreau from a screenplay by Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway. It was produced by Avi Arad and Kevin Feige. The film stars Robert Downey Jr. , Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Shaun Toub, and Gwyneth Paltrow. It was nominated for a Hugo at Anticipation but lost out to WALL-E. Critics in general really loved it, it won a lot of awards other than a Hugo, it did great at the box office and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an exceptional rating of ninety-four percent.  

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 2, 1890 – E.E. Smith, Ph.D.  Arrived to great applause for The Skylark of Space (three sequels), likewise Galactic Patrol (two prequels, three sequels).  Four more novels, ten shorter stories; more released posthumously, some with co-authors.  First author named a Worldcon Guest of Honor (Chicon I the 2nd Worldcon).  Helpful to all; first to receive the Big Heart (our highest service award).  First Fandom Hall of Fame; SF Hall of Fame; Life Member of N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n).  In college (Univ. Idaho) president of Chemistry, Chess, Mandolin & Guitar Clubs; sang bass in Gilbert & Sullivan.  Super-science so dramatic in his work, adventure-story tone of his time so resonant, that his literary ability – including characterization – was neglected then and is disregarded now, alas for SF which in seeking to do what he left untried could still learn from him.  (Died 1965) [JH]
  • Born May 2, 1921 Satyajit Ray. Bengali filmmaker, screenwriter, graphic artist, lyricist, music composer and writer who is here for his genre fiction which fortunately has been translated into English for those like me who don’t read Bengali. Over a decade recently, three collections came in English The Diary of a Space Traveller and Other StoriesClassic Satyajit Ray and The Collected Short Stories) with most of his genre work in the collection. There are nine stories involving Professor Shonku, his most popular SF character. (Died 1992.) (CE) 
  • Born May 2, 1924 Theodore Bikel. I was listening the other evening to him playing Tevye in the Fiddler on the Roof (“Light One Candle” to be specific) and as always was amazed by his singing voice.  He was on Next Generation in order to play the foster parent to Worf in the “Family” episode playing CPO Sergey Rozhenko, Retired. That and playing Lenonn in Babylon 5: In the Beginning are the roles I want to note. Bikel also guest-appeared on The Twilight Zone in the “Four O’Clock” as Oliver Crangle. Well there is one minor other role he did — he voiced Aragon in the animated The Return of the King. By the way, Theodore Bikel’s Treasury of Yiddish Folk & Theatre Songs is quite excellent. (Died 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born May 2, 1925 John Neville. I’ve mentioned before that Kage considered Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen to be one of her favorite films and John Neville was one of the reasons that she did so. You can read her review here. Among his other genre roles, Neville had a prominent recurring role in The X-Files as The Well Manicured Man. And he showed up playing Sir Isaac Newton on The Next Generation in the “Descent” episode. (Died 2011 (CE) 
  • Born May 2, 1938 – Bob Null.  Served twenty terms as LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.) vice-president.  Often handled Logistics for Loscons (local convention), local Worldcons.  Fan Guest of Honor at Loscon XXIII.  Three-time recipient of Evans-Freehafer Award (service to LASFS); only one other person (Elayne Pelz) has done this since 1959 when the Award was first given.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born May 2, 1942 Alexis Kanner. His first genre appearance was on The Prisoner where he so impressed McGoohan in the “Living in Harmony” episode that he created a specific role for him in the series finale, “Fall Out” where he stands trial. He also has an uncredited role in “The Girl Who Was Death” in that series. His final known acting role was as Sor in Nightfall based off the Asimov story of the same name. (Died 2003.) (CE) 
  • Born May 2, 1946 David Suchet, 75. Though rather obviously better remembered as Hercule Poirot, he does show up on in a Twelfth Doctor story, “Knock Knock”, simply called Landlord.  Don’t let that deceive you. He’s appeared in some other genre work from time times to time including Greystoke — The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the ApesHarry and the HendersonsDr. No — The Radio PlayWing CommanderTales of the Unexpected and Peter Pan Goes Wrong. (CE) 
  • Born May 2, 1948 – Anne Stuart, age 73.  Ten novels, two shorter stories for us; a hundred novels all told.  Three Ritas.  Romance Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award.  Has five sewing machines, that’s not too many.  [JH]
  • Born May 2, 1961 – Tom Arden.  Eight novels, two shorter stories.  Twoscore reviews for Interzone.  Ph.D. under another name, dissertation on Clarissa.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born May 2, 1972 Dwayne Johnson, 49. Ok I wasn’t going to include him until stumbled across the fact that he’d been on Star Trek: Voyager as The Champion in the “Tsunkatse” episode. Who saw him there? Of course it’s not his only genre role as he was the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns, played Agent 23 in Get Smart, voiced Captain Charles T. Baker In Planet 51, was the tooth fairy in, errr, the Tooth Fairy, was Hank Parsons in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, was Roadblock in G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Anyone watch these?), was a very buff Hercules in Hercules, voiced Maui in Moana, was Dr. Smolder Bravestone in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (not on my bucket list) and was one of the Executive Producers of Shazam! which gets a Huh from me. (CE) 
  • Born May 2, 1977 – Jessica Douglas, age 44.  One cover, half a dozen interiors for us.  “I show in galleries and museums around the world….  I primarily work in watercolors with gemstone additions.  Most of my gemstones are bought from fellow rockhounders.”  Here is Double Yule Dragon.  Here is a narwhal.  She made this Oroboros for Conduit 25 where she was a Guest of Honor.  Here is No Place Like London.  Here is The Grain Moon.  [JH]
  • Born May 2, 1980 – Rachel Harris, age 41.  Three novels for us; a dozen others.  Drinks Diet Mountain Dew.  Homeschool mom.  “Bookish people are the best people in the world.”  [JH]
  • Born May 2, 1983 – Jodi Meadows, age 38.  A dozen novels (three with co-authors), half a dozen shorter stories.  “I love crocheting, knitting, and spinning.  In addition to several hand spindles, I share my office with three spinning wheels, named Bob, Rose, and Gideon.”  Has read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, five by Jane Austen, Of Mice and MenThe Martian Chronicles.  [JH]

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) TROTS AND BONNIE. [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] She was my favorite of the National Lampoon comic artists. Now her collection is being published by the New York Review of Books! I’m not buying much, but I will buy this: “For 20 years, Shary Flenniken of Seattle lampooned her hometown in hilarious comic ‘Trots and Bonnie’” in the Seattle Times.

As a teenager growing up in the wildest days of the 1960s counterculture, Shary Flenniken bristled at the sleepy Magnolia neighborhood where her family had settled. She dreamed of finding adventure in far-off New York City and San Francisco, and her Seattle upbringing felt like a dreary dead end in comparison.

To while away the time until she could leave Magnolia behind, Flenniken told me over the phone recently, she got lost in her parents’ bookshelves. “They had really nice, big collections of New Yorker cartoons and Superman comics,” Flenniken says, and she’d soak up every line. “I just devoured that stuff. I was a super-reader.” Her father, a Navy admiral, was an amateur cartoonist, but his tolerance for irreverence only went so far. “My dad pretty much ripped up my early MAD magazines,” Flenniken says. “He was like that.”

… “Having a regular character is very important if you want to be successful doing comics, so your work should be character-driven,” she says. Flenniken decided to center her strip on a rebellious teenage girl not unlike herself. “I named her Bonnie, after a dog I had as a child,” she says. But every protagonist needs a sidekick to talk to, and so Flenniken sketched out Bonnie’s sardonic talking dog and named him Trots, “which had something to do with, um, pooping,” she says.

“Trots and Bonnie” ran in National Lampoon for 18 years, and the strip’s juxtaposition of elegant old-fashioned cartooning skill and filthy ultramodern comedy attracted a rabid fan base of cartooning aficionados. Bonnie and her faithful pup represent Flenniken’s raging id, let loose in retrospect on the manicured lawns of Magnolia….

(9) FOUR ON THE FLOOR. CNN reports “SpaceX mission: Four astronauts to return from five-month ISS mission”. In fact, they made it!

… On Saturday evening, the crew climbed aboard their spacecraft, which had remained fixed to the space station’s docking ports since the astronauts arrived in November. They undocked from the ISS at 8:37 pm ET, and will spend the night aboard their capsule as it freeflies through orbit. The spacecraft fire up its on-board engines to start safely descending back into the Earth’s thick atmosphere, and it’ll use a series of parachutes to slow its decent before splashing down off the coast Florida Sunday morning around 2:57 am ET….

In “SpaceX returns four astronauts to Earth in darkness” The Guardian covered their arrival.

…“We welcome you back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX,” mission control radioed moments after splashdown. “For those of you enrolled in our frequent flyer programme, you’ve earned 68m miles on this voyage.”

“We’ll take those miles,” said spacecraft commander Mike Hopkins. “Are they transferrable?” SpaceX replied that the astronauts would have to check with the company’s marketing department….

(10) TO MARS WITH TINKERBELL. The Adventurelandia.tumblr has photos and GIFs from Disneyland’s 1957 Mars and Beyond TV episode.

#my gif from Adventurelandia

(11) THE WAIT IS ALMOST OVER. Wendy Whitman Cobb has a roundup of the coming possibilities at The Conversation: “Space tourism – 20 years in the making – is finally ready for launch”.

For most people, getting to the stars is nothing more than a dream. On April 28, 2001, Dennis Tito achieved that lifelong goal – but he wasn’t a typical astronaut. Tito, a wealthy businessman, paid US$20 million for a seat on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to be the first tourist to visit the International Space Station. Only seven people have followed suit in the 20 years since, but that number is poised to double in the next 12 months alone.

NASA has long been hesitant to play host to space tourists, so Russia – looking for sources of money post-Cold War in the 1990s and 2000s – has been the only option available for those looking for this kind of extreme adventure. However, it seems the rise of private space companies is going to make it easier for regular people to experience space.

From my perspective as a space policy analyst, I see the beginning of an era in which more people can experience space. With companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin hoping to build a future for humanity in space, space tourism is a way to demonstrate both the safety and reliability of space travel to the general public….

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

Pixel Scroll 4/8/21 Illinois Pixels! I Hate Illinois Pixels.

(1) AMAZING STORIES ON HIATUS. Steve Davidson’s Amazing Stories issued a press release announcing that “A major licensing agreement using the Amazing Stories name has been terminated owing to non-payment.” As a result, the magazine won’t be coming out. (The website will remain active.)

… Due to the failure to pay and due to the many other costs directly related to this contract, Experimenter Publisher is currently no longer able to maintain the publishing schedule of Amazing Stories magazine, and that publication has been placed in hiatus pending the resolution of these issues…

The licensee is not named, although curiously the press release criticizes another company, Disney, by name. (Disney isn’t the licensee. And you don’t need to tell me in comments who you think it is – I know who it is. The point is this press release announces litigation yet refuses to speak the target’s name out loud.)  

The Amazing Stories’ Patreon page is slightly more forthcoming than the press release.

We licensed a major corporation several years ago and factored licensing fees into our budget.  Unfortunately, those fees have not been received, which places us behind the 8-ball.

Our licensee has been formally notified of numerous breeches of our contract and our intention to terminate that contract.  Service was sent to the contractually designated addresses and we have received no response, not even an acknowledgement of our notice to them.

This strongly suggests that they are planning on waiting to see what we are going to do and then will use their enormous budget and other assets to continue to ignore the fact that they no longer have the rights to use the name, or, perhaps even more problematic, sue us in order to remove us from the picture.

We can not afford to defend ourselves from such an unjustified action at this point in time.  Further, the current state of limbo discourages any other studio from working with the property, preventing us from developing other potential revenue sources.

Perhaps “encouraging” us to go away was the plan all along – but given the lack of communication, we doubt we’ll ever know the real reasons behind why they have chosen not to honor their contractual obligations.

What we DO know is, fighting this fight has put us in a deep hole and if the licensee decides to fight (likely), we’ll be in an even deeper hole.

We need your help to keep this dream alive.

(2) VANDERMEER’S LATEST. Paul Di Filippo reviews “’Hummingbird Salamander,’ by Jeff VanderMeer for the Washington Post.

… Now from this daring and ever-shifting author comes “Hummingbird Salamander,” a volume more naturalistic, more like a traditional thriller than its predecessors, but one that also features hooks into the literary novel of paranoid conspiracy, a genre best exemplified by Thomas Pynchon’s “The Crying of Lot 49.” In fact, our doughty and frankly terrifying heroine, “Jane Smith,” might be the Oedipa Maas the 21st century needs.

(3) THAT DIDN’T TAKE LONG. Joel Hodgson is running a Kickstarter — “Let’s Make More MST3K & Build THE GIZMOPLEX!” Did people think that was a good idea? Yes! In the first 24 hours they’ve raised $2,162,492 of their $2,000,000 goal. The reasons for returning to crowdfunding the series include —

In the not-too-distant past – about 6 years ago, November 2015 AD – we ran a Kickstarter to BRING BACK MST3K after 15 years in hibernation.

It was a little bit stressful, and a lot of work, but I’ve gotta tell you… the whole experience went better than we had ever hoped:

  • Thanks to you, our campaign broke a bunch of Kickstarter records.
  • Over 48,000 of you took up the cause… and together, we raised over $6 million.
  • With your help, we got picked up on Netflix and made 20 new episodes!

And you know, you can’t ever please everybody, but it seems like most of you were pretty happy with ’em…. and the critics were too: 

Also, having those new episodes on Netflix, along with a lot of our “classic” episodes, helped a lot of folks discover Mystery Science Theater for the first time. So, if you weren’t there to help #BringBackMST3K… Welcome! We’re glad you’re here to help  #MakeMoreMST3K.

Anyway: as you know, nothing good lasts forever.  Sometime in late 2019, during our third live tour, we got word: even though Netflix liked how our new episodes came out, they wouldn’t be renewing us for a third new season….

2. It’s time to try something new.

  • If enough of you want more MST3K, maybe we don’t need anyone to renew us.
  • From now on, we want you to decide how long MST3K keeps going.
  • We don’t need a network to “let us” make more MST3K. We can make it for you. 
  • When we do, you should be the first ones to see it.

(4) A LAND OF MARVELS. “Avengers Campus at Disneyland Resort Set to Open and Recruit Super Heroes June 4”Disney Parks Blog has a preview.

Super Heroes Assemble! As we’ve all been anticipating, I’m pleased to share that Avengers Campus – an entirely new land dedicated to discovering, recruiting and training the next generation of Super Heroes – will open June 4, 2021 at the Disneyland Resort!

…The first key area is the Worldwide Engineering Brigade – also known as WEB. It brings together bright innovators like Peter Parker who have been assembled by Tony Stark to invent new technologies and equip everyday people to become Super Heroes like the Avengers. WEB will house the new WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure, the first Disney ride-through attraction to feature the iconic friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!

We previously shared that Tom Holland will reprise his role as Spider-Man in the new family-friendly attraction, which invites you to put your web-slinging skills to the test and experience what it’s like to have powers alongside Spider-Man – a feat accomplished with innovative technology adapted specifically for this attraction, perfect for up-and-coming recruits of all ages.

The second anchor attraction looms high above the land, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!, a fan-favorite that opened in 2017….

(5) FEARS FOR WHAT AILS YOU. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In“Scary Times Call for Scary Reads” on CrimeReads, Jennifer MacMahon says that scary books are what you should be reading during the pandemic.

Recently, I was talking with a friend who was excited to hear I had a new book coming out soon. “But is it scary?” she asked apprehensively. I told her a little about it: a woman returns to her old family home after her sister drowns in the spring fed pool—oh, and the pool is rumored to be bottomless and her sister believed there was something lurking in the water. So yeah, it’s a little creepy. My friend apologized and said that she just couldn’t read unsettling books because of how unsettling the world is right now. I would argue (and did!) that that is exactly when we need these books the most; they take us to dark places and help us explore our fears from the relative safety of our favorite reading spot…

(6) DON’T ASK. “Yahoo Answers, a Haven for the Confused, Is Shutting Down” reports the New York Times.

At times on Yahoo Answers, the people asking questions of strangers lunged for the hallucinatory limits of human curiosity: What would a heaven for elephants be like? Should scientists give octopi bones?

It helped people identify their sense of self: Why do people with baguettes think they are better than me? Is being popular in high school a good skill I can use in a job interview?

It sought explanations for the unexplainable: Smoke coming from my belly button? Why is everything at my grandma’s house moist?

And it gave air to gaps in knowledge and admissions that perhaps had nowhere else to go: What does a hug feel like?

Yahoo, which is owned by Verizon Media, will be shutting down the question-and-answer service and deleting its archives on May 4, erasing a corner of the internet that will be widely remembered for its — to be charitable — less-than-enriching contributions to human knowledge since its arrival in 2005.

Less charitably, BuzzFeed News this week called it “one of the dumbest places on the internet.” Vulture said it was “populated entirely with Batman villains, aliens pretending to be human, and that one weird neighbor you’d rather climb down your fire escape in a blizzard than get caught in a conversation with.”

There is plenty of evidence for that position. People asked: Can you milk Gushers to make fruit juice? Can I cook raw chicken in the Michael wave? I forgot when my job interview is? What animal is Sonic the hedgehog? IS THIS YAHOO EMAIL SUPPORT?

Most famously, in a question that launched a meme, a confused soul who had learned little about reproductive science or spelling asked: How is babby formed?

It was never known how many of the questions were based in earnest ignorance and curiosity, and how much was intentional trolling. Answering required no expertise, and often displayed little of it.

But the site clearly was seen by some people, including children, as a comfortable space to ask the questions — sometimes important ones — they’d never dare to ask friends, families and teachers….

(7) ZOOMING INTO FANHISTORY. [Item by Joe Siclari.] The Fanac Fan History Project has three more Zoom Programs coming up over the next two months.

April 17, Saturday – 2pm EDT, 11AM PDT, 7PM London –  Early Star Trek Fandom, with Ruth Berman and Devra Langsam.  Stories and anecdotes from Ruth and Devra about their entry into fandom, about the origins of Star Trek fandom, and how they came to publish T-Negative and Spockanallia. For those of us that came into fandom later, here’s a chance to hear how Star Trek was received in general fandom, how Trek fandom got started, who the BNFs were and what they were they like.  How did the first Trek fanzines and Trek conventions affect fandom, and how did Trek fandom grow  and become its own thing. RSVP to fanac@fanac.org.

April 27, Tuesday – 4pm EDT, 1pm PDT,  9PM London. An Interview with Erle Korshak by Joe Siclari. Erle Korshak is one of our remaining FIrst Fans (inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1996) and a Guest of Honor at Chicon 8 (2022 Worldcon). Erle was an organizer of the first Chicon,  the 1940 Worldcon, and was one of the Worldcon auctioneers for many years. He started Shasta Publishers, one of the first successful specialty SF publishers.  He was also involved with early SF movies. In this session, fan historian Joe Siclari  will interview Erle and his son Steve about early fandom, early conventions (including Worldcons), Shasta, and both Erle and Steve’s continuing interest in illustration art. Note: this is a midweek session. RSVP to fanac@fanac.org.

May 22, Saturday – 2pm EDT, 11AM PDT, 7PM London – An Interview with Bjo and John Trimble. Bjo and John Trimble have had an enormous impact on fandom from the 1950s onward. They’ve pubbed their ish, and some of the zines are available on FANAC.org. Bjo created the convention art show as we know it today (pre-pandemic) with Project Art Show, and published PAS-tell to share info with interested fans everywhere. In LASFS,  Bjo had a large role in reviving a flagging LASFS in the late 50s. Her most famous contribution was the successful Save Star Trek campaign which resulted in a 3rd year of the original series. Bjo was one of the organziers of Los Angeles fandom’s film making endeavors.  John is a co-founder of the LASFS clubzine, De Profundis and an editor of Shangri-L’Affaires. Bjo and John were Fan Guests of Honor at ConJose (2002), and were nominated twice for Best Fanzine Hugos. Bjo was nominated for the Best Fan Artist Hugo. In this interview, expect stories and anecdotes of Los Angeles fandom, how the art show came to be, Save Star Trek and much more.  RSVP to fanac@fanac.org.

(8) SPEAKING OF MATH. Although James Davis Nicoll is aTor.com blogging machine, after he ran the numbers he realized, “I still won’t hit 1000 tor essays until 2032 or 2033….” Whichever number this is, the title is: “Five SF Stories That Embrace the Scientifically Improbable Reactionless Drive”.

… The rocket equation is vexatious for SF authors for a couple of reasons: 1) It’s math. 2) It imposes enormous constraints on the sort of stories the sort of author who cares about math can tell.   Drives that produce thrust without emitting mass are therefore very attractive.  Small surprise that persons with an enthusiasm for space travel and a weakness for crank science leap on each iteration of the reactionless drive as it bubbles up in the zeitgeist.

One such crank was John W. Campbell, Jr., the notorious editor of Astounding/Analog (for whom a dwindling number of awards are named). Because of his position and because authors, forever addicted to luxuries like clothing, food, and shelter, wanted to sell stories to Campbell, Campbell’s love of reactionless drives like the Dean Drive created an environment in which stories featuring such drives could flourish, at Analog and elsewhere….

(9) BONANNO OBIT. Author Margaret Wander Bonanno (1950-2021) has died reports Keith R.A. DeCandido. She wrote seven Star Trek novels, several science fiction novels set in her own worlds, including The Others, a collaborative novel with Nichelle Nichols, a biography, and other works. Her novel Preternatural was a New York Times Notable Book for 1997.[

DeCandido’s tribute “Margaret Wander Bonanno, RIP” says in part:

…We remained friends over the years, and when she came back to writing Trek fiction in the 2000s, I got to work with her a few times: I served as the line editor on her Christopher Pike novel Burning Dreams, I was the continuity editor on her Lost Era novel Catalyst of Sorrows, and best of all, I commissioned her to write the conclusion to the Mere Anarchy eBook series that celebrated Trek‘s 40th anniversary in 2006. Margaret did a superb job with the conclusion of this miniseries, which was entitled Its Hour Come Round, and which included one of my favorite scenes in any work of Trek fiction, a conversation between Raya elMora (one of the recurring characters in Mere Anarchy) and Klingon Chancellor Azetbur (from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • April 8, 1887 Hope Mirrlees. She is best known for the 1926 Lud-in-the-Mist, a fantasy novel apparently beloved by many. (I’m not one of them.) In 1970, an American reprint was published without the author’s permission, as part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. (Died 1978.) (CE) 
  • Born April 8, 1907 – Vincent Napoli.  Four covers, two hundred forty interiors for us; WPA (Works Progress Adm’n) muralist, e.g. this.  Here is an interior for “Time and Time Again” – H. Beam Piper, Apr 47 Astounding.  Here is one for “The Earth Men” – R. Bradbury, Aug 48 Thrilling Wonder Stories.  Here is one for ”Dark o’ the Moon” – S. Quinn, Jul 49 Weird Tales.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born April 8, 1912 –Ted Carnell.  Fan Guest of Honor at Cinvention the 7th Worldcon, brought by the Big Pond Fund.  Chaired Loncon I the 15th Worldcon.  Guest of Honour at Eastercon 11.  Developed a pro career, editing New Worlds, Science FantasySF AdventuresNew Writing in SF; five dozen author profiles.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  (Died 1972) [JH]
  • Born April 8, 1933 – Cele Goldsmith.  Edited Amazing and Fantastic – both at once – living up to those names.  Special Committee Award form Chicon III the 20th Worldcon.  Amazing memoir years later in the Mar 83 issue.  Andrew Porter’s appreciation here.  Mike Ashley’s here.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born April 8, 1939 – Trina Hyman. Twoscore covers, a score of interiors for us; illustrated a hundred fifty books all told, e.g. A Room Made of Windows.  Here is Peter Pan.  Here is the Aug 88 F & SF.  Here is The Serpent Slayer.  Caldecott Medal, Boston Globe – Horn Book and Golden Kite Awards.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • April 8, 1942 Douglas Trumbull, 79. Let’s call him a genius and leave it at that. He contributed to, or was fully responsible for, the special photographic effects of Close Encounters of the Third Kind2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Blade Runner, and directed the movies Silent Running and Brainstorm. And Trumbull was executive producer for Starlost. (CE) 
  • April 8, 1967 Cecilia Tan, 54. Editor, writer and founder of Circlet Press, which she says is the first press devoted to erotic genre fiction. It has published well over a hundred digital book to date with such titles as Telepaths Don’t Need Safewords and Other Stories from the Erotic Edge of SF/Fantasy (Wouldn’t Bester be surprised to learn that. I digress), Sex in the System: Stories of Erotic Futures, Technological Stimulation, and the Sensual Life of Machines and Genderflex: Sexy Stories on the Edge and In-Between. She has two series, Magic University and The Prince’s Boy. (CE) 
  • Born April 8, 1968 – Alex Toader, age 53.  (Romanian name, “toe-AH-derr”.)  Here is The Day Dreamer.  Here is the Predator drop ship (Predators, N. Antal dir. 2010).  Here is a Terra-to-Mars spaceport.  Here is Tractor Beams Engaged.  [JH]
  • April 8, 1974 Nnedi Okorafor, 47. Who Fears Death won a World Fantasy Award for Best Novel.  Lagoon which is an Africanfuturism or Africanjujuism novel (her terms) was followed by her amazing Binti trilogy. Binti which led it off that trilogy won both a Nebula Award and a Hugo Award for best novella. Several of her works have been adapted for video, both in Africa and in North America. (CE) 
  • Born April 8, 1978 – Natasha Rhodes, age 43.  Eight novels, one shorter story.  Motion pictures too, some of the novels are tie-ins.  Interview here; among much else she says “There were a lot of male sulky faces and pouty lips when women’s rights came in and became the norm rather than the exception.” [JH]
  • April 8, 1980 Katee Sackhoff, 41. Being noted here  for playing Lieutenant Kara “Starbuck” Thrace on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica though I must confess I’ve only seen in her excellent role as Deputy Sheriff Victoria “Vic” Moretti on Longmire. She also played Amunet Black, a recurring character who showed up on the fourth season of The Flash. To my pleasant surprise, I see her on Star Wars: The Clone Wars in a recurring role voicing Bo-Katan Kryze. (CE)
  • April 8, 1981 Taylor Kitsch, 40. You’ll possibly remember him  as the lead in John Carter which I swear was originally titled John Carter of Mars. He also played Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and was Lieutenant Commander Alex Hopper in Battleship which was based off the board game but had absolutely nothing to with that game. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) ANSIBLE LINKS. David Langford, in the wake of hosting of Alison Scott’s Eastercon bid speech and Farah Mendlesohn’s ConFusion polemic, has added two more items of interest to the Ansible site:

Alison’s brief Doc Weir Award acceptance speech.

And, Jerry Kaufman’s presentation speech for the “FAAn Award for Lifetime Achievement”, virtually presented to Langford during the recent FAAn Awards ceremony.

… When I share the least fragment of this person’s extensive contributions to fanzines, science fiction, and fan culture, you’ll know immediately who I am talking about. But let’s pretend we don’t. He discovered science fiction at an early age in Wales (how green was his Soylent), and found fandom at the Oxford University SF Group…. 

(13) MARS WAVES HELO. Space.com’s opinion is “These selfies of NASA’s Mars helicopter with the Perseverance rover are just amazing”.

Seán Doran created this mosaic of Perseverance and the Ingenuity helicopter together using 62 images captured by the rover on its 46th Martian sol.

And also – “Perseverance snaps headshots on Mars in latest pics”.

Perseverance’s SHERLOC WATSON camera captured imagery of the Mast ‘head’ of the rover on April 6, 2021 (Sol 45). The imagery is combined with Martian wind audio captured by Perseverance on Sol 4.

(14) AN UNUSED SCROLL TITLE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] As someone who didn’t watch TNG as it happened, only random in returns over the decades since, and who finds Q annoying at best, my thought is, potential title-wise:

Q? Feh

(15) SACRE BLEU! Andrew Porter was tuned into tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! and witnessed this:

Category: Books by the number

Answer: Jules Verne’s first novel was “Cinq Semaines en Ballon”, or this long “In a Balloon”

Wrong question: What is 80 days?

Right question: What is five weeks?

John King Tarpinian, meanwhile, was pleased the show had a Bradbury reference, and sent this screenshot.

(16) HERE’S A CLUE. In “The 100 Best, Worst, and Strangest Sherlock Holmes Portrayals of All-Time, Ranked” on CrimeReads, Olivia Rutligiano ranks 100 actors (99 humans and one dog) who have portrayed Sherlock Holmes.  She includes characters who think they’re Sherlock Holmes, so Data and Stewie from Family Guy are here.  The actors include two who played Doctor Who and three from various versions of Star Trek.

…What are the criteria we’re using to rank these portrayals? Fidelity to the source text? Creativeness of the interpretations? Resemblance to Sidney Paget’s illustrations? Quality of acting? Kind of. Simply put, portrayals are ranked in their ability to present a Holmes who makes sense as a derivation of the original character while exploring, interrogating, and expanding the character’s qualities in a thoughtful and meaningful way. And of course, yes, the quality of the performance itself matters.

The dog ranks ahead of Data! And the new number two is —

2. Basil Rathbone, The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939), etc.

The consummate actor Basil Rathbone, besides having my favorite name ever, is often considered to be the gold-standard for Holmes portrayals, having played Holmes in fourteen films in the 1930s and 40s. For many out there, he is *the* Holmes, and this is more than fair. Rathbone’s Holmes is an interesting take… very logical, though not wry, but also very vigorous. While he’s certainly very affable, there is little whimsy, nothing too nonconformist about him. It’s truly marvelous to behold (though more marvelous is how he never once turns around to flick Nigel Bruce’s idiot Watson on the head).

(17) VIDEOS OF THE DAY. “Leonard Nimoy As Sherlock Holmes:  The Interior Motive (1976) Full Version” on YouTube is a 1976 episode of the PBS show “The Universe and I” in which Leonard Nimoy, as Sherlock Holmes, provides a science lesson about the nature of the earth’s core.

And here’s a clip featuring Peter Capaldi’s performance as Holmes — because you can never have enough Peter Capaldi.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Joe Siclari, James Davis Nicoll, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Ben Bird Person, John Hertz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]