Pixel Scroll 9/10/20 The Pixelways Will Scroll

(1) SOUNDING OFF. John Scalzi’s new novella in The Dispatcher series debuted today as an audiobook narrated by Zachary Quinto. You can hear the two of them discuss it via Whatever: “Here’s Me and Zachary Quinto Interviewing Each Other About ‘Murder By Other Means’”.

(2) THE SOUND AND THE FURRY. Maria Poletta, in the Arizona Republic story “On Cameo, Joe Arpaio welcomed a furry convention to Arizona. Hours later, he learned what it was”, says that Sheriff Joe Arpaio (famously pardoned by President Trump) recorded a message on Cameo welcoming a furry convention to Arizona although it’s not clear he knew what furries were(he pronounced furry “fury.”)

It seems former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has found a new gig after another unsuccessful bid for public office.

Unsurprisingly, it’s in front of the camera. 

For $30.99, users of Cameo — an app where singers, actors and other public figures record custom video messages for a fee — can request a personalized clip of the divisive figure saying whatever they want.

And supporters and critics alike are seizing the opportunity. 

Most of Arpaio’s Cameo videos appear to be standard fare, such as birthday greetings, thank-you messages, congratulatory comments. But one that began circulating on social media on Tuesday evening, an encouraging message for the organizers of an upcoming event, raised eyebrows. 

“Hey, good luck organizing the Arizona Furry convention,” Arpaio begins, though he pronounces it “Fury,” suggesting he’s not totally certain what he’s been asked to talk about. It’s “for animal lovers,” he adds by way of explanation.

“I’ve always loved animals, fought those that abused animals and will continue to do so,” he continues. “In any event, have a great convention.”

…Many members of the subculture have defined it as one dedicated to artistic expression and helping people come out of their shells, but they’ve long had to endure jokes from people who mock “fur-suiting” as a sexual fetish. 

Judging by the requester listed on Arpaio’s Cameo, the person who ordered the video may be one of them. The username: Sir Yiffs A Lot.

“Yiff” refers to furry-related sexual content or activity, which made Arpaio’s sign-off all the more cringeworthy. 

“As far as what animal I would like to be, I’m kind of partial to dogs,” he says after a pause, as if responding to a question included in the video request. “But I love all animals. Thanks.”

(3) LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FOR MOSLEY. Walter Mosley will be presented the  National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, presented by Edwidge Danticat. Winners of the award receive $10,000 and a solid brass medal.

“Mosley is a master of craft and narrative, and through his incredibly vibrant and diverse body of work, our literary heritage has truly been enriched,” said David Steinberger, chair of the NBA board of directors, in the release. “From mysteries to literary fiction to nonfiction, Mosley’s talent and memorable characters have captivated readers everywhere, and the Foundation is proud to honor such an illustrious voice whose work will be enjoyed for years to come.”

(4) MORE ROCK THAN ROLL. “Lafawndah’s The Fifth Season by Lily Sperry” profiles an album that draws on N.K. Jemisin’s trilogy.

At first glance, what surprises about Lafawndah’s new album, The Fifth Season, is the absence of her image on the cover. Instead of the regal, sometimes confrontational gazes adorning past works, such as Ancestor Boy (2019) and “Tan” (2016), here the listener is greeted with the empty eyes of an amorphous stone figure, kneeling, palms extended, on what seems to be the edge of the Earth. It’s unclear if this character is meant to represent Lafawndah herself, or something else entirely—but upon listening to the album, it almost doesn’t matter. As an artist who self-identifies as a “creative orphan,” shapeshifting is written into Lafawndah’s DNA. It’s only appropriate that her latest release takes it as its central mode.

Its core subject, however, marks a decisive break from past projects. Rather than looking inward, Lafawndah instead extends outward, drawing on the emotionally charged myths of N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy to guide her. Set in a far-future Earth rife with conflict and periodic disasters (“Seasons”) that threaten to destroy all human life, Jemisin’s Afrofuturist series tells tales of heartbreak, strife, and conflict from the perspectives of three different women. It’s only at the end the reader realizes that each character is the same person, at different points in her life….

(5) SUGGESTIONS NEEDED. “So what should do I with a half dozen signed limited edition posters by Charles Vess? Can you think of a worthy fan cause?” Cat Eldridge looks to Filers for suggestions.

“No, I don’t know why he sent them.” says Cat. “I think they’re twenty years old now but they’re in excellent shape.”

(6) VIBRANT VAMPIRES. “There Are Real Vampires in Texas. We Interviewed Them.” Fodors has the story.

The best little vampire court in Texas.

Everything’s bigger in Texas—even the vampire scene. Television and film have catapulted vampires into the mainstream, cementing vampirism into pop culture. From the cult classic Interview with the Vampire to FXX series What We Do in the Shadows, there’s no shortage of fictional portrayals of vampire life and the people who crave to be like them. Life can be stranger than fiction, and real-life vampires exist. While they tend to have an affinity for the occult, they’ve sunk their fangs into philanthropy and social good during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Texas is one of many states that boasts of vibrant vampire communities, known as courts. Self-identifying vampires can apply for membership in their city. To an outsider, these vampire courts may sound eerie. For the vampires, the courts are a place they can find belonging….

(7) ON THE FRONT. Lauren Panepinto examines “Book Cover Trends Thru Time (Via Dune)” at Muddy Colors.

…One of my favorite ways to visualize how much book cover design has changed over the years is to track one classic book that tends to get redesigned every few years and see how the designs have evolved. Honestly the entire Penguin Classics imprint survives on this as an entire business model. There have been entire academic studies and books published on the design history of books like Lolita. But this is a SciFi Fantasy Art blog and it just so happens that the new Dune trailer finally came out today, so we’re going to be looking at the last few decades of book cover design through the lens of Dune by Frank Herbert….

PRE-BOOK HISTORY

The stories that would become Dune were first serialized in Analog Magazine starting in December 1963. John Schoenherr was commissioned on August 7, 1963 (great backstory on the blog kept by his son Ian Schoenherr here) to create images for the covers and interiors for “Dune World” 1, 2, and 3.

(8) PARDUE OBIT. Filker Naomi Pardue took her own life reports Tom Smith who said, “She had been very depressed for awhile now, after the death of a close friend.”

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

September 1990 — The 1991 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction Would go to Neil Gaiman’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” which was published thirty years ago this month in the nineteenth issue of Sandman. It features the beginning of Morpheus’ creative partnership with William Shakespeare, and is the only comic book to date to win a World Fantasy Award. It was drawn by Charles Vess and colored by Steve Oliff. The final issue of Sandman, number seventy five, “The Tempest”,  concerns the second of the two plays commissioned by Morpheus.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 10, 1860 – Margaret Armour.  Novelist, poet, translator.  Translated the Nibelungenlied into English prose (1887), then Wagner’s four Nibelungen operas The Rhine Gold and The ValkyrieSiegfried and Twilight of the Gods, illustrated by Arthur Rackham (1912); also Legerlotz’ Gudrun (1932).  Outside our field, tr. Heine with Leland and Brooksbank; and her own works. (Died 1943) [JH]
  • Born September 10, 1905 – Jay Jackson.  A hundred interiors for AmazingFantasticGolden FleeceWeird Tales.  Here is Robert Bloch’s “Secret of the Observatory”.  Here is “The Space Pirate”.  Here is “Planet of the Gods”.  Also outside our field: here is an image for World War II bonds.  He appears to have been the first black SF artist.  See this from the Chicago Defender.  (Died 1954) [JH]
  • Born September 10, 1911 – William Crawford.  Published and edited Fantasy Book (as Garret Ford; with wife Margaret Crawford), Marvel TalesUnusualSpaceway (i.e. not Harry Warner’s fanzine Spaceways).  Early LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) member.  Seven anthologies, some uncredited.  Started SF conventions.  Seen in Locus as late as 1981.  Helped many; received the Big Heart, our highest service award.  (Died 1984) [JH]
  • Born September 10, 1914 Robert Wise. Film director, producer, and editor. Among his accomplishments are directing The Curse of The Cat PeopleThe Day the Earth Stood StillThe HauntingThe Andromeda Strain and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Though not at all genre, he also directed West Side Story and edited Citizen Kane. (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born September 10, 1927 – Betty Levin, 93.  Ten novels for us; several others outside our field e.g. Starshine and Sunglow (“Grace and subtle humor” – Kirkus), Thorn (“Strongly lyrical writing, unusual & provocative themes” – Kirkus).  Judy Lopez Award, Hope Dean Award.  [JH]
  • Born September 10, 1952 Gerry Conway, 68. Writer who’s best known for co-creating with John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru the Punisher character and scripting the death of Gwen Stacy during his long run on The Amazing Spider-Man. I’m also fond of his work on Weird Western Tales at DC. (CE) 
  • Born September 10, 1953 Pat Cadigan, 67. Tea from an Empty Cup and Dervish is Digital are both amazing works. And I’m fascinated that she has co-written with Paul Dini, creator of Batman: The Animated Series, a DCU novel called Harley Quinn: Mad Love. (CE)
  • Born September 10, 1955 Victoria Strauss, 65. Author of the Burning Land trilogy, she should be praised unto high for being founder along with AC Crispin of the Committee on Writing Scams. She maintains the Writer Beware website and blog. (CE) 
  • Born September 10, 1959 Tara Ward, 61. She played Preston in the “Warriors of the Deep”, a Third Doctor story.  After Doctor Who, she shows up in one-offs in Star Cops and Dark Realm, the Eric Roberts as the Host with vampire teeth horror anthology series,beforehaving a very minor role in the Justice League film. (CE)
  • Born September 10, 1959 Nancy A. Collins, 61. Author of the Sonja Blue vampire novels, some of the best of that genre I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. She had a long run on Swamp Thing from issues #110 to #138, and it is generally considered a very good period in that narrative.  She also wrote Vampirella, the Forrest J Ackerman and Trina Robbins creation, for awhile. (CE)
  • Born September 10, 1964 – Chip Kidd, 56.  Some say he does 75 covers a year.  “Designing books is no laughing matter.  Okay, it is.”   Here is Jurassic Park.  Here is Was.  Here is The Elephant Vanishes.  Here is Loop.  Infinity Award for Design (Int’l Center of Photography), Nat’l Design Award for Communication, AIGA (Am. Inst. Graphic Arts) Medal.  “I’m very much against the idea that the cover will sell the book.  Marketing departments of publishing houses tend to latch onto this concept and they can’t let go.  But it’s about whether the book itself really connects with the public, and the cover is only a small part of that.”  [JH]
  • Born September 10, 1977 – Emily Snyder, 43.  Directed eleven Shakespeare plays, performed in twenty-five, including Brutus in Julius Caesar and Prospero in The Tempest.  Love and Death trilogy in blank verse Persephone Rises, The Seduction of Adonis and Cupid and Psyche.  Matter of Arthur plays The Table Round and The Siege Perilous.  Novels for us Niamh and the Hermit, Charming the Moon.  Feminist and Catholic.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) WONDERBEASTS. [Item by N.] Cartoon Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts premieres its third (three seasons in a single year!!) and as of this writing final season on October 12.

(13) CAN YOU DIG IT? An archeology-inspired adventure is the big idea at Whatever today: “The Big Idea: Dan Hanks”.

“It belongs in a museum.”

That’s the quote we all know and love, uttered as the bad guys try to steal the priceless artifact away from Indiana Jones. And when he says it, the audience is usually cheering him on. He’s the scientist with the archaeological smarts after all. He knows how much these artifacts could benefit the world, so he’s going to risk his life to give us the chance to see them. Pretty damn noble if you ask me.

Except.

That’s not really the whole story, is it? 

Captain Moxley and the Embers of the Empire, was always meant to be a fast, fun, action-packed adventure in the Indiana Jones style. An entertaining beach read (or, I guess, ‘pandemic read’ now). However, it was also important to me to address some serious archaeological issues, in particular the colonial elements of these types of stories. I wanted to pull that aspect into the torch light and inspect it properly (while hoping it didn’t set off a trap). 

The big idea here is that the famous “it belongs in a museum” line is only half complete. In a world where archaeologists and museums are being nudged to move beyond their colonial past, it deserves a follow-up: 

Whose?

(14) ANGER BENEATH THE WHIMSY. In an essay for the New York Times, James Traub contends “Doctor Dolittle’s Talking Animals Still Have Much to Say”.

…No one could say that the books have grown quaint or stale; just ask my third graders. Nor was Walpole indulging in hyperbole. Doctor Dolittle is a wonderful creation: a Victorian eccentric from the pages of Dickens; a perpetual bachelor who drives conventional humans from his life but is much loved by the poor and the marginal; a gentleman whose exquisite politesse never falters, even before sharks and pirates; a peace-loving naturalist prepared to wage war to defend his friends from evil depredations. Only by the standards of the world of grown-ups does he “do little.”

… Lofting really was a genius of children’s literature. But he was also a product of the British Empire. When Doctor Dolittle goes to Africa to cure the monkeys, he stumbles into the Kingdom of Jolliginki. Prince Bumpo, the heir to the throne, is a mooncalf who mistakes fairy tales for real life, speaks in Elizabethan periphrasis and murmurs to himself: “If only I were a white prince!” In the pencil sketches with which Lofting illustrates his texts, Prince Bumpo looks like the missing link between man and ape. Lofting’s biographer, Gary D. Schmidt, defensively notes that Doctor Dolittle himself rarely utters a bigoted word. But the doctor is only a character; the narrator and the illustrator are none other than our author. While Lofting never fails to give his Africans a measure of nobility, he is also quite certain of their savagery.

… The edition I read was probably published in 1950, three years after Lofting’s death. By the 1970s, he had gone into eclipse. Over the years, new editions appeared that attempted to address the racism, including one in 1988 from which all pictures of Prince Bumpo and his parents had been removed, along with all references to their skin color, not to mention their wish to change it. “If this verbal and visual caution occasionally seems almost craven,” a reviewer for The New York Times Book Review wrote, the blind spots for which it sought to compensate were real.

(15) SET DECORATION BY NATURE. Yeah, this is how San Francisco looked yesterday.

(16) BOOKS ON TAP. Baen Books authors will make two livestreaming appearances Publishers Weekly’s Books on Tap LIVE series in the coming months.  The authors will be interviewed with the opportunity to answer questions at the end of the segment.

The first, featuring Larry Correia, will air on Wednesday, September 23rd at 4:00 PM EDT. Larry Correia is the bestselling author of the Monster Hunter International urban fantasy series, the Grimnoir trilogy, and the Saga of the Forgotten Warrior military epic fantasy series with the latest novel Destroyer of Worlds, on sale September 1st.

David Weber & Jacob Holo will be teaming up for an event on Wednesday, October 7th at 4:00 PM EDT to celebrate the release of The Valkyrie Protocol, the second book in their Gordian Division time travel adventure series. David Weber is a multiple New York Times best-selling author, the creator of the Honor Harrington military science fiction series, as well as Path of the Fury, the Hell’s Gate multiverse series, the Dahak Saga, and many more. The Valkyrie Protocol is on sale October 6th.

The authors are known for lively dialogue, interesting backstories, and enjoying interaction with guests.  These events are free to the public.  To sign up for these special events go here September 23rd at 4:00 for Larry Correia; and a link will be forthcoming for the event on October 7th at 4:00 for David Weber and Jacob Holo.

(17) MALTIN ON MOVIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to a 2019 podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

Lord and Miller met at Dartmouth, where they wrote a comic strip about a chain-smoking squirrel that was turned into a feature in the Dartmouth alumni magazine.  That magazine ended up on Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s corporate jet, which led to a phone call the undergraduates got asking them to come to Hollywood and take a meeting, which they declined because they were doing mid-term exams. 

After they were graduated, Disney hired them but their first great success came with the MTV series “Clone High,” which was banned in India because Gandhi was one of the clones.  Most of the podcast includes discussion of the Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs movies and The Lego Movie.  The podcast was produced before The Lego Movie 2 came out.  There is much discussion about why it’s so much harder to come up with a good script for an animated film than for a feature film, with Leonard Maltin noting that Walt Disney threw out six months’ work on Pinocchio.

There was one question about SOLO, the Star Wars project that Lord and Miller were sacked from.

(18) RICK AND MORTY CUISINE. “Pringles Has Brought Back Its Pickle Rick Chips, and Launched Two New ‘Rick and Morty’ Flavors” – let Yahoo! Life tell you all about it.

Earlier this year, we were introduced to the Pringles and Rick and Morty collaboration that resulted in Pickle Rick pickle-flavored chips. Not only are the chips — which were released in honor of the Super Bowl — available again, but there are two new varieties that were inspired by the Adult Swim series.

The special-edition Pickle Rick flavor is joined by Honey Mustard Morty and Look at Me! I’m Cheddar & Sour Cream. While the flavors are self-explanatory (hello, honey mustard-flavored and cheddar-and-sour-cream-flavored chips!), there’s a reason these three were chosen. Stacking Pringles flavors, which fit so perfectly together, has been gaining popularity over the past couple of years, according to the brand. The idea here is that you take one of each chip and eat them together for an insane flavor combination….

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

Pixel Scroll 1/17/20 The Longer A Scroll Title, The More Likely It Is Antidisestablishmentarian

(1) DOWN THE TUBES. City A.M. shows off new signage created to advertise the forthcoming series: “PICARDilly Circus: TfL renames Tube station to celebrate Star Trek launch”. More photos at the link.

The move will see Star Trek branding and signage plastered on roundels in the ticket hall and platforms throughout the Grade II listed station

Commuters will also hear special public service announcements advising them to “take care when using stairs, escalators or transporters” while travelling through the station.

The two-day marketing campaign, created with TfL’s advertising partner Global, forms part of the transport body’s efforts to generate more revenue by offering brands station takeovers.

(2) AND DOWN THE HATCH. Joe Otterson, in the Variety story “‘Picard’ Stars Reveal Which ‘Star Trek’ Character They Would Get Drunk With”, finds executive producer Rod Roddenberry voting for his father Gene and Sir Patrick Stewart saying that there were so many interesting new characters in the show that having “a glass or two of something pleasant” with them “would be a treat.”

(3) COLLECTIVE THOUGHTS. Camestros Felapton identifies and analyzes many of what I (not necessarily Camestros) term the ethical issues surrounding the publication and response to Isabel Fall’s story: “Well I guess I’m writing about Clarkesworld again”.

…Again, that’s not Isabel Fall’s fault and it shouldn’t have been her problem because the source of the trust should have not rested with her but with Clarkesworld. The answer to the question “is this story intended to be in good-faith” should have been “yes, because Clarkesworld wouldn’t have published it otherwise”. Unfortunately, that wasn’t a sufficient answer for many people and I don’t think we can fault people for not seeing it as a sufficient answer. The key question Clarkesworld need to answer before publication is whether people in wider fandom (i.e. not just their regular readers) is whether they had sufficient trust both in fandom in general and among transgender fans in particular for Clarkesworld (not Isabel Fall) to attempt to away some of the power of a very hurtful meme. The answer would have been “no”. Clearly, the magazine doesn’t have that level of trust, as demonstrated but also, I think it was obvious before hand.

Am I being wise after the event in saying so? No, really I don’t think so. Multiple people, from varying backgrounds were asking me privately before I wrote a review whether I thought the story was some sort of hoax or other shenanigans. In the context it had then (which isn’t the context it had now) sensible, rational people genuinely couldn’t tell. My main reason for thinking that it wasn’t a hoax was that I don’t think any of the usual suspects are that smart or intellectually adept (or, lets be frank, capable of writing that well). That’s an editorial failure not a failure on the part of the author….

(4) BIG MANDALORIAN IRON. An instant Country/Western classic. Riding a Blurrg ain’t that bleepin’ easy!

From a planet they call Mandalore came a stranger one fine day…

(5) HI GRANDPA. Jon Favreau tweeted a photo of George Lucas holding Baby Yoda.

(6) EPIC FAIL. NPR’s Scott Tobias reports that “‘Dolittle’ Does A Lot, All Of It Terribly”

Dolittle is not a film. Dolittle is a crime scene in need of forensic analysis. Something happened here. Something terrible. Something inexplicable. Watching the film doesn’t tell the whole story, because it doesn’t behave like the usual errant vision, which might be chalked up to a poor conceit or some hiccups in execution. This one has been stabbed multiple times, and only a thorough behind-the-scenes examination could sort out whose fingerprints are on what hilt.

Some details have already emerged: The credited director of Dolittle is Stephen Gaghan, who won an Oscar for scripting Traffic and wrote and directed the oil thriller Syriana — an odd résumé for a children’s film to say the least. After poor test screenings, the film’s release date was pushed from spring of 2019 to January of 2020, and it underwent extensive reshoots under director Jonathan Liebesman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and writer Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie), who reportedly punched up the script. During that same period, the name of the film changed from The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, referencing the second book in Hugh Lofting’s series about an eccentric animal doctor, to simply Dolittle, stripped even of the honorarium.

Normally, such trips to the sausage factory are not necessary to understand why a film works or it doesn’t, but Dolittle is so incoherent that it can’t be unpacked on its own. Certain baseline elements of a professional Hollywood production — this one budgeted upwards of $175 million — are simply not present here: The filmmakers have been stymied by the technical challenge of having human actors interact with CGI animals, so eye-lines don’t meet and the editing within scenes lacks continuity. Robert Downey Jr. is off mumbling incoherently in one part of the frame, an all-star voice cast is making wisecracks as a polar bear or an ostrich or a squirrel in another, and only occasionally do they look like they’re on speaking terms…

(7) STARKWEATHER OBIT. Hey, I still own one of these. “Gary Starkweather, Inventor of the Laser Printer, Dies at 81” – the New York Times paid tribute:

…Mr. Starkweather was working as a junior engineer in the offices of the Xerox Corporation in Rochester, N.Y., in 1964 — several years after the company had introduced the photocopier to American office buildings — when he began working on a version that could transmit information between two distant copiers, so that a person could scan a document in one place and send a copy to someone else in another.

He decided that this could best be done with the precision of a laser, another recent invention, which can use amplified light to transfer images onto paper. But then he had a better idea: Rather than sending grainy images of paper documents from place to place, what if he used the precision of a laser to print more refined images straight from a computer?

“What you have to do is not just look at the marble,” he said in a talk at the University of South Florida in 2017. “You have to see the angel in the marble.”

Because his idea ventured away from the company’s core business, copiers, his boss hated it. At one point Mr. Starkweather was told that if he did not stop working on the project, his entire team would be laid off.

“If you have a good idea, you can bet someone else doesn’t think it’s good,” Mr. Starkweather would say in 1997 in a lecture for the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 17, 1982 The Electric Grandmother  premiered on NBC.  The film starred Maureen Stapleton, Paul Benedict and Edward Herrmann. It was penned by Ray Bradbury as “I Sing the Body Electric” in his 1969 collection of the same name. (It’s the title of a Walt Whitman poem.) School Library Journal said that fans of Bradbury would be fascinated by this film. This is the second dramatisation of his story as the first was presented on The Twilight Zone. It does doesn’t appeared to be out on DVD.
  • January 17, 1992 Freejack premiered. It starred Emilio Estevez, Mick Jagger, Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins. The screenplay was written by Steven Pressfield, Ronald Shusett (who was also the producer) and Dan Gilroy. We consider it to be very loosely adapted from Robert Sheckley’s Immortality, Inc. (Great work. The serialised version as “Time Killer” in Galaxy was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel.) It was not at the time well-liked by either critics or reviewers. Currently it’s carrying a 25% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes and there’s a lot who have expressed an opinion — over fourteen thousand so far. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 17, 1899 Nevil Shute. Author of On the Beach. It originally appeared as a four-part series, The Last Days on Earth, in the London weekly Sunday Graphic in April 1957. It was twice a film. He has other SF novels including An Old Captivity which involves time travel and No Highway which gets a review by Pohl in Super Science Stories, April 1949. There’s In the Wet and Vinland the Good as well. (Died 1960.)
  • Born January 17, 1910 Carol Hughes. Genre fans will no doubt best recognize her as Dale Arden in Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe from sixty years ago. Other than The Red Dragon, a Charlie Chan film done in the Forties if I remember correctly, I’m not seeing anything that’s even genre adjacent for her though I’m assuming that the Fifties Ghost Buster short she was in should be a genre production. (Died 1995.)
  • Born January 17, 1922 Betty White, 98. She voiced Gretchen Claus in The Story of Santa Claus which is enough for Birthday Honors, and she was Mrs. Delores Bickerman in Lake Placid as well according to keen eyes of John King Tarpinian. She had a cameo as herself in (I’m not kidding) Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt. and I’ll finish off by that she’s still active at nearly a hundred, bless her!, by voicing Bitey White in Toy Story 4.
  • Born January 17, 1925 Patricia Owens. She was Hélène Delambre in The Fly. No offense to Cronenberg’s The Fly but this one is far more horrific. Her one of her last appearances was as Charlie in The Destructors which is sort of SFF. Ghost Ship where she was an uncredited party girl is definitely SFF, and her appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents falls under my rule that everything he did counts. (Died 2000.)
  • Born January 17, 1927 Eartha Kitt. Though you’ll have lots of folks remembering her as Catwoman from the original Batman, she appeared in but four episodes there. Genre wise, she was in such series as I-SpyMission: ImpossibleMatrix, the animated Space Ghost Coast to Coast and the animated My Life as a Teenage Robot. Film wise, she played Freya in Erik the Viking, voiced Bagheera in The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story and was Madame Zeroni In Holes. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 17, 1931 James Earl Jones, 89. His first SF appearance was in Dr. Strangelove as Lt. Lothar Zogg.  And I think I need not list all his appearances as Darth Vader here. Some genre appearances include Exorcist II: The HereticThe Flight of DragonsConan the Barbarian as Thulsa Doom and I actually remember him in that role, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, did you know the 1995 Judge Dredd had a Narrator? Well he’s listed as doing it, and Fantasia 2000 as well.
  • Born January 17, 1935 Paul O. Williams. A poet won the Austonding Award for Best New Writer in 1983 for The Breaking of Northwall and The Ends of the Circle which are the first two novels of  his Pelbar Cycle. I’ve not read these, so be interested in your opinions, of course. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 17, 1962 Jim Carrey, 58. His first genre film is Once Bitten whose content is obvious from its name. The ‘dorable Earth Girls Are Easy was next followed up by Batman Forever in which he played a manic Riddler that I really liked, then there’s The Truman Show which was way cool. So may we not talk about How the Grinch Stole Christmas?  (SHUDDER!) We settled last year that we think that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is genre.  And I think I’ll stop there this time. 
  • Born January 17, 1970 Genndy Tartakovsky, 50. Like Romulnan Ale, animation style is a matter of taste. So while I like his work on Samurai Jack and Star Wars: Clone Wars, I can understand why many SW fans don’t as it’s definitely an acquired taste.  He also is responsible for directing the animated Hotel Transylvania franchise. 
  • Born January 17, 1989 Kelly Marie Tran, 31. Best known as Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. She voices the same character in the Star Wars Forces of Destiny animated series.

(10) CLOCKING IN. Flickering Myth shares “First images from the BBC’s Discworld series The Watch”.

The BBC has released five first look images from The Watch, the upcoming fantasy series inspired by Terry Pratchett’s bestselling Discworld novels featuring  Richard Dormer (Captain Sam Vimes),  Lara Rossi (Lady Sybil Ramkin), Adam Hugill (Constable Carrot), Jo Eaton-Kent (Constable Cheery), Sam Adewunmi (Carcer Dun), and Marama Corlett (Corporal Angua); check them out here…

(11) FOR THE RECORD. Classic fm reports “Mark Hamill reunited with missing Star Wars soundtrack signed by John Williams, 20 years later”.

…The incredible discovery came about after staff at an Arizona bookshop came into possession of the record and were keen to return the record to its rightful owner.

It was certainly a noble gesture; despite the Bookmans’ team knowing the album was worth large sums of money, its personalised autograph suggested it should only belong to the Return of the Jedi star.

Williams had gifted the record to Hamill ahead of the 1977 release of the first Star Wars movie, and had signed the sleeve with the inscription: ‘Dear Mark Hamill, May the Force always be with us.’

Amazingly, the 68-year-old actor wasn’t even aware the record was missing and believed it to still be in the basement of his California home, along with his other vinyl….

(12) TOURIST SPOT. Nice of them to fit it in between nearish Worldcons: “Glenfinnan’s Harry Potter viaduct focus of £1.7m upgrade”.

Improvements are being made to areas around a railway viaduct famed for its picturesque setting and appearances in the Harry Potter films.

Network Rail is investing £1.7m to remove loose vegetation, including “dangerous” trees, from slopes above the railway at the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

Parts of a fence put up to protect visitors on a tourist path at the site are also being renewed.

Thousands of Potter fans and railway enthusiasts visit the viaduct.

(13) LIVING FOSSILS SURVIVE. NPR has some good news — “Aussie Firefighters Save World’s Only Groves Of Prehistoric Wollemi Pines”.

It was a lifesaving mission as dramatic as any in the months-long battle against the wildfires that have torn through the Australian bush.

But instead of a race to save humans or animals, a specialized team of Australian firefighters was bent on saving invaluable plant life: hidden groves of the Wollemi pine, a prehistoric tree species that has outlived the dinosaurs.

Wollemia nobilis peaked in abundance 34 million to 65 million years ago, before a steady decline. Today, only 200 of the trees exist in their natural environment — all within the canyons of Wollemi National Park, just 100 miles west of Sydney.

The trees are so rare that they were thought to be extinct until 1994.

…when Australia’s wildfires started burning toward Wollemi National Park in recent weeks, firefighters from the parks and wildlife service and the New South Wales Rural Fire Service put a carefully planned operation into motion.

“This is a key asset, not only for the national parks, but for our entire country,” Matt Kean, New South Wales’ environment minister, said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

(14) IN CASE YOU WONDERED. As for the fossils that didn’t survive: “Dinosaur extinction: ‘Asteroid strike was real culprit'”. The latest “final verdict.”

Was it the asteroid or colossal volcanism that initiated the demise of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago?

This has been a bit of a “to and fro” argument of late, but now a group of scientists has weighed in with what they claim is the definitive answer.

“It was the asteroid ‘wot dun it’!” Prof Paul Wilson told the BBC.

His team’s analysis of ocean sediments shows that huge volcanoes that erupted in India did not change the climate enough to drive the extinction.

Volcanoes can spew enormous volumes of gases into the atmosphere that can both cool and warm the planet.

And the Deccan Traps, as the volcanic terrain in India is known, certainly had massive scale – hundreds of thousands of cubic km of molten rock were erupted onto the land surface over thousands of years.

But the new research from Southampton University’s Prof Wilson, and colleagues from elsewhere in Europe and the US, indicates there is a mismatch in both the effect and timing of the volcanism’s influence.

(15) REDUCTION IN FORCE. This probably wasn’t the cat’s personal New Year’s resolution, I realize… “35-pound cat named Bazooka begins epic weight loss journey”.

A 35-pound orange tabby cat – appropriately named Bazooka – has arrived with pomp and circumstance at a North Carolina shelter this week in preparation to begin his epic weight loss journey.

Bazooka, who was transferred from another shelter about two hours away in Davidson County, arrived at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Wake County earlier this week, requiring two people to carry him in his crate….

(16) PROHIBITION. Food historian Rick Foss, a longtime LASFS member, has an article on the website for BBC History Magazine: “Wet vs Dry: how prohibition fractured America”.

 …When Europeans first settled in America in the 17th century and into the 18th, alcohol was regarded as not merely a beverage, but a medicine. Many of the country’s founding fathers were enthusiastic consumers of beer and rum: George Washington owned a distillery; Thomas Jefferson was a wine enthusiast; and in their era, anyone who didn’t drink alcohol would have been regarded as peculiar. Late into the 19th century beer and cider were the everyday drink of most Americans, and wine production was gaining in quality and quantity. How, then, did the prohibition movement, which was politically insignificant as late as the 1860s, grow to be so powerful?

(17) X-MEN RATED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Have you ever wondered what kind of underwear Wolverine wears? Apparently JP “Pat” Huddlestuff has… and he has the answer for you if you’re willing to venture into the bathroom with him. Creative Bloq: “Illustration series depicts superheroes’ bathroom habits – and it’s genius”.

Superhero fan art is no new thing. From Spiderman and Wolverine to the Hulk and DeadPool, these popular characters have been reimagined by artists in all manner of ways over the years. But just when we think we’ve seen it all, a project like Bathroom Heroes comes along. 

The brainchild of artist JP “Pat” Huddleston, this series of illustrations depicts how superheroes might look while using the bathroom; and, more importantly, how they might manage their superpowers. 

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

Wandering Through the Public Domain #26

A regular exploration of public domain genre work available through Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and Librivox.

By Colleen McMahon:

I took a hiatus for the holiday season but I’m back and ready to dig into some more of the public domain treasures out there for fans of old-time science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

Since the new Robert Downey Jr. version of Dolittle is coming out this week, I thought it might be a good time to take a look at Hugh Lofting, the originator of the Dr. Dolittle character and stories.

Hugh Lofting (1886-1947) didn’t set out to be a writer. Born in Berkshire, England, he studied civil engineering at MIT and London Polytechnic and spent several years traveling the world doing engineering work. When World War I began, he enlisted and served in France for several years before being wounded and invalided out.

The character of Doctor Dolittle, a Victorian physician who can talk to animals and ministers to them instead of humans, originated in the trenches during the war. Lofting later explained that his actual experiences were either too horrible or too dull to include in letters home to his children, so he began writing stories about Dolittle and illustrating them with pen-and-ink line drawings instead.

He collected those stories into his first book, The Story of Doctor Dolittle, which was published in 1920 to immediate acclaim. He wrote seven more Dolittle books between 1920 and 1928, when he tried to end the series by sending Doctor Dolittle off planet in Doctor Dolittle in the Moon

Popular demand led him to write four more Dolittle books in the 1930s and 1940s, and two additional collections were published posthumously in the 1950s. He also wrote several works for children that were not in the Dolittle series, and a book-length anti-war poem called Victory for the Slain, published in 1942.

The first few Doctor Dolittle books are in the public domain now and are available at Project Gutenberg:

Doctor Dolittle’s Circus was published in 1924 and thus entered the public domain in the United States on January 1 of this year. It will likely be released by Project Gutenberg in the next few months.

A non-Dolittle picture book, The Story of Mrs. Tubbs, was also published in 1923 and is on Internet Archive.

Librivox has multiple versions of The Story of Doctor Dolittle and The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, including dramatic readings (where different volunteers voice the various characters) of both. Two versions of Doctor Dolittle’s Post Office are in progress, a solo version and a dramatic reading, and will be released in the next few months.

Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961) came up in the birthday lists this week. He’s best remembered now as a fiction writer — one of the “Big Three” of the early years of Weird Tales (the other two being H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard), but he began his writing career as a poet.

Project Gutenberg has two volumes of poetry by Clark Ashton Smith:

Ebony and Crystal contains a long blank-verse poem called “The Hashish Eater, or the Apocalypse of Evil”. This poem caught Lovecraft’s attention and his fan letter to Smith initiated years of correspondence and collaboration. 

This poem and nineteen other works are included in a recent Librivox release, Lovecraft’s Influences and Favorites. The compilation was inspired by Lovecraft’s 1927 essay, “Supernatural Horror in Literature”, and collects the stories and poems Lovecraft mentions, from Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher” to “Seaton’s Aunt” by Walter de la Mare.

Ron Goulart (1933- ) shares his birthday with Clark Ashton Smith, and is represented at Project Gutenberg by three short stories:

None of these have been recorded for Librivox yet.

Recent Librivox releases:

  • The Clockwork Man by E.V. Odle (1890-1942)

    In the future, people will be fitted with clockwork devices in their heads which, among other things, allows them to travel through time. Well, it seems one of these devices has frizzed-out, and a Clockwork man appears in the middle of a cricket match in 1923. The Clockwork Man by E.V. Odle is believed to be the first instance of a human-machine cyborg appearing in literature.

  • The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany (1878-1957)

    This is a 1924 fantasy novel by Anglo-Irish writer Lord Dunsany, which became public domain in January 2020. It is widely recognized as one of the most acclaimed works in all of fantasy literature. Highly influential upon the fantasy genre as a whole, the novel was particularly formative in the subgenres of “fairytale fantasy” and “high fantasy”. And yet, it deals always with the truth: the power of love, the allure of nature, the yearning for contentment, the desire for fame, the quest for immortality, and the lure and the fear of magic. Arthur C. Clarke said this novel helped cement Dunsany as “one of the greatest writers of this century”.

  • Crossings: A Fairy Play by Walter de la Mare (1873-1956)

    Under the terms of a will, the Wildersham children have to relocate from the family house in the city to “Crossings” in the country, and to spend the first fortnight alone fending for themselves in the house. The children encounter interesting country neighbors, including ghosts and fairies. Or are they dreaming? Walter De La Mare was a poet, and we have a number of his poems available at Librivox. This is his only play.

  • The Phantom Death and Other Stories by William Clark Russell (1844-1911)

    This is a book of remarkable nautical ghost and horror stories written by William Clark Russell in 1893. The stories are for the most part set on ships and bring the reader on board for ghostly nights, wonderful sights, and strange occurrences.