Pixel Scroll 1/29/21 By Glyer’s Hammer, By The Scrolls Of Trekfan, You Will Be Appertained

(1) ROBOT IS 100. The Czech Consulate of Los Angeles invites fans to the Robot is 100! Webinar on Thursday, February 4 at 12:00 PM Pacific exploring the influence of Karel Capek’s play “R.U.R.” on other forms of art, and the future of robotics. Register here.

[Note: WordPress does not support the proper character for the author’s last name, so the Latin C has been used. And a screenshot of the program description is used to work around the same problem.]

To further explore the past, present, and future of artificial intelligence, visit UCLA Library’s virtual exhibit Robot is 100! Karel Capek’s R.U.R. and the Robot in Pop Culture. You can learn more about Karel Capek’s life and R.U.R. in a complementary UCLA Library Research Guide.

Enjoy an audio created by the BBC Sounds: “The Robots are Us.” This BBC Radio Documentary features Jesse Brown O’Dell, PhD. graduate from the UCLA Department of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Languages and Cultures.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites everyone to settle in for bagels and a schmear with comics retailer Joel Pollack in Episode 137 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Joel Pollack has been a part of comics fandom even longer than I have — he attended one of Phil Seuling’s 4th of July Comic Art Conventions two years before I did — in 1968 — and founded Big Planet Comics in Bethesda, Maryland in 1986. That flagship store has expanded to other locations in Washington, D.C., College Park, MD, and Vienna VA, and I thought it would be fun to chat about the world of comics and comics fandom of the past half century, and how comics retailing has changed over the past three and a half decades.

We discussed what the pandemic has done to the comics shop business, the comic his mother bought him which changed his life, the card game which led to him getting his first piece of original art, how his run-in with a young Howard Chaykin convinced him he wasn’t cut out to be a professional comics artist, what opening day was like at the first of his Big Planet comic book stores, the biggest sales event he’s seen during his 35-year retailing career, what inspired Bernie Wrightson to draw a freaky issue of Swamp Thing, how he fights back against the Comic Book Guy cliche to makes his shops welcoming places, our joint distaste of slabbing, why he doesn’t like doing appraisals, and much more.

(3) INTERZONE UPDATE. [Item by PhilRM.] This week’s PS Publishing newsletter provides some more information on their take-over of Interzone (first mentioned in the 1/8/2021 Pixel Scroll) from Andy Cox and TTA Press (and note that Strahan’s post referenced there didn’t make the latter clear: not only is Ian Whates taking over as editor, but Interzone will be published by PS Publishing). Interzone will now appear on a quarterly schedule, and only in digital format. The first issue will appear in August, and will be free to current subscribers.

And heh, we’re kind of jazzed up a little right now where electronic reading matter is concerned . . . and it’s all thanks to our taking on board INTERZONE, which we’ll be running in digital format only, kicking off in August. Ian has already earmarked some 60/70 thousand words for the debut, and the special festive issue in December (always assuming we have a festive season, that is). So watch out as further details emerge and IZ takes its justified place in the pantheon of Science Fiction and Fantasy in digital format only. 

All queries/comments regarding the TTA Press Interzone should be directed to either Andy Cox or Roy Gray direct at andy@ttapress.com or roy@ttapress.com. In the meantime, by way of a goodwill gesture, the first electronic PS IZ (August 2021) will be sent free of charge to all previous subscribers. Subsequent issues will be sent quarterly on receipt of an email to be found in the magazine. Watch out for more information

(4) UP PERISCOPE ON SUBSTACK. Yudhanjaya Wijeratne tweeted a list of recommended newsletters. Thread starts here. I’m only familiar with the ones by sff writers and they’re good, so I expect you’ll find more gold in the rest of his list. Here are a few examples:

(5) STOCK MARKET NEWS. Cory Doctorow makes the information comprehensible with his own comments. Read it complete at Threadreader.

(6) DIANA PHO ON DVCON. DVCon 2021 is a free convention for marginalized writers happening online January 30-31.

DVcon, a product of #DVpit, is a free, two-day virtual writers conference for self-identifying marginalized book creators. The mission of DVcon is to educate and connect authors & illustrators who have been historically underrepresented and marginalized in the book publishing industry. Featuring a diverse faculty as well as #DVpit alum, DVcon will offer informative workshops, fun micro-content, and our additional focus will be on community-building and forging connections.

Editor Diana Pho is part of the Money Talks panel from 2:00-3:00 PM Eastern on January 30.

Money Talks.
2:00pm-3:00pm

Let’s face it: publishing doesn’t always pay. Between low advances, payment installments stretched out for years, and the uncertainty of royalties, authors and illustrators might need to get creative about making ends meet. Our panel will discuss different and unexpected ways that authors and illustrators can make money and still stay on the publishing track. It will also help explain some basics about how payments occur in publishing and how to hustle with your writing. Sponsored by the Authors Guild

Featuring: Rebecca Kuss, Thao Le, Diana Pho, Holly Root, Jennifer Ung, Rebekah Weatherspoon

(7) AMBITIOUS ANIME. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the January 25 Financial Times, Leo Lewis and Kana Inagaki look at whether Japanese anime producers can compete globally against Disney and Netflix.

For many industry executives, the stage is now set for Japanese animation to truly go global.  A newly invigorated Sony is competing with Netflix and global giants to uncover the untapped trove of lucrative anime content.  ‘We were forced to accelerate efforts on all three fronts of digitalization, global expansion and streaming services.  It became now or never,’ said George Wada, senior vice-president at Production IG, the company behind the anime hits Ghost In The Shell and Attack On Titan, ‘We are on the brink of whether Japanese animation becomes big or goes minor.’…

…The list of the world’s 25 most valuable franchises are topped by two Japanese giants–Pokemon and Hello Kitty with respective all-time sales of $92bn and $80bn–and include nine other Japanese names.But behind that success, say analysts, has been a tendency to under-exploit the anime gold mine and heavily criticized labour practices that are hidden behind the most popular titles.

(8) FRAZETTA COLLECTED. Print interviews J. David Spurlock, editor of the art book Fantastic Paintings of Frazetta: “The Daily Heller: Frank Frazetta, the Sci-Fi Rockwell”.

Frank Frazetta (1928–2010) may someday hang his paintings in the Guggenheim Museum (hey, whoever thought that Norman Rockwell would have a major exhibition in Frank Lloyd Wright’s temple of Modern?). False equivalency aside, anything is possible in the current what-is-art world (what’s more, Frazetta already has his own museum). Frazetta is to fantasy what Max Ernst is to surrealism (which is fantasy on another psychic and perceptual plane)….

Frazetta transformed the fantasy genre. What can you point to as his most emblematic work?

There was a gradual building, including comic book covers in the early ’50s, which influenced George Lucas and Star Wars. Then Frank’s early 1960s illustrations for Edgar Rice Burroughs books, including Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. And Frank had a good run, painting big studio, humorous caricature-based movie posters in the mid-’60s. Most illustrators would consider movie poster work as a dream come true. But Frank walked away from them for what he felt was more uniquely his own, with his Sword & Sorcery heroic fantasy art. A shortlist of pieces that I cite as rocking the public’s collective consciousness would include “The Barbarian,” which first ran as the cover to the Conan the Adventurer paperback in 1966. Also “Death Dealer,” which first appeared on an early-’70s paperback but inspired American Artist magazine to break their own traditions to produce a special issue devoted to illustration, including coverage of Frazetta and covered with the Death Dealer. “Dark Kingdom” is another, which most people recall as running on a multi-million–selling Molly Hatchet album cover….

(9) NZ MENTORS. SFFANZ News applauds the “Recognition for Genre Authors Encouraging Young Writers” in a New Zealand magazine:

Check out this item in the forthcoming Focus Magazine. It gives hugely well deserved recognition to well known local SF/Fantasy authors Piper Mejia, Lee Murray, Jean Gilbert and the many other genre authors around NZ who have helped with their efforts in teaching and mentoring and publishing young students.

(10) SF FROM CALIFORNIA. Peter Larsen of the San Jose Mercury-News talks about Bradbury, PKD, Le Guin, and Kim Stanley Robinson in “Dive into California’s science fiction scene — from LeGuin to Philip K. Dick”. Even LASFS gets a shout-out.

…Two years ago, Nick Smith, a Pasadena library technician, curated a “Dreaming the Universe: The Intersection of Science, Fiction & Southern California” exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of History. His observation: While the creators of science fiction are rightly lauded, the history of the sci-fi fandom here is also worth acknowledgment.

“I think that’s part of why this has been home to a lot of science fiction,” says Smith, who is the former president of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. Founded in 1934, it’s the oldest such fan group in the world, with a teenage Ray Bradbury one of its early members.

California appealed to science-fiction writers in the same way it appealed to anyone, Smith says. There were jobs to be had here, the promise of a better life and more opportunity or acceptance for people who might be discriminated against in other parts of the nation.

“Hollywood and television also contributed,” he says. “They provided a steady extra income for some of the writers.”

(11) DARROLL PARDOE OBIT. UK fanzine fan Darroll Pardoe (1943-2021) died January 28 at the age of 77 from COVID-19. Pardoe joined the Birmingham (UK) Science Fiction Group in 1965. He took over Les Spinge from Ken Cheslin and Dave Hale in 1966 and published it until 1979. He also was noted for editing the newzine Checkpoint for a year in the Seventies, and an issue of the British Science Fiction Association’s Vector.

He is survived by his wife, Rosemary Pardoe, co-founder of the British Fantasy Society.

(12) CHRISTOPHER LITTLE OBIT. The agent who handled Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Christopher Little, died January 7. The New York Times obituary is here.

Christopher Little, who as a struggling literary agent took a chance on a scrappy submission about tween-age wizards — even though he once disdained children’s fiction as a money-loser — and built it into the most successful literary empire in history on the strength of its lead character, Harry Potter, died on Jan. 7 at his home in London. He was 79.

His death, from cancer, was announced by his firm, the Christopher Little Literary Agency.

J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, was an unpublished, unemployed single mother in Edinburgh in 1995 when she sent Mr. Little the first three chapters of her first book after finding his name in a directory of literary agents. Knowing nothing about the business, she picked him because his name made him sound like a character from a children’s book.

Mr. Little submitted the manuscript for “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” to 12 publishers. He received 12 rejections in response, before selling it for £2,500, or about $3,400 (the equivalent of about $5,800 today). It was a meager amount, but his genius was in the details: He sold only the rights to publish it in Britain and the Commonwealth, and he asked for high royalties….

Mr. Little did more than launch Ms. Rowling’s career. He was the architect of the entertainment powerhouse that grew up around Harry Potter, helping line up everything from Legos to amusement parks.

Ms. Rowling was the first author to earn more than $1 billion off her work, and it’s no surprise that her agent did well too: By some estimates Mr. Little made over $60 million from the Harry Potter franchise. He never claimed credit for her success, but he was ever-present in the background, appearing alongside his client at book launches and movie premieres, enjoying those brief moments in the limelight….

(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

January 29, 1964 Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb premiered. Starring a stellar cast of Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, James Earl Jones and Slim Pickens, it was directed, produced, and co-written by Stanley Kubrick. 

It was not the original title as Kubrick considered Dr. Strangelove’s Secret Uses of Uranus as well as Dr. Doomsday or: How to Start World War III Without Even Trying, and the much shorter Wonderful Bomb.

The film is somewhat based on Peter George’s political thriller Red Alert novel. (Originally called Two Hours To Doom.) Curiously Dr. Strangelove did not appear in the book. This novel’s available on at usual digital suspects. And George’s novelization of the film is on all digital sources. If you purchase it, it has an expanded section on Strangelove’s early career. 

It would not surprisingly win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Loncon II in London in 1965 with The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao being the only other film on the final ballot.

The film was a box office success. Critics were universal in their belief that it was one of the best films ever done with Ebert saying it was “arguably the best political satire of the century”. At Rotten Tomatoes, it currently holds a ninety four percent rating with over two hundred thousand audience reviewers casting a vote. 

A sequel was planned by Kurbrick with Gilliam directing though he was never told this by Kurbrick and only discovered this after Kurbrick died and he later said “I never knew about that until after he died but I would have loved to.”

The original theatrical trailer is here.(CE)

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 29, 1835 – Susan Coolidge.  Known for What Katy Did and two sequels.  Edited Diary and Letters of Frances Burney.  Louisa May Alcott edited Coolidge’s collection New-Year’s Bargain, which is ours; three dozen books all told; short stories, poems.  Alice Dalgliesh edited a posthumous Coolidge coll’n Toinette and the Elves.  (Died 1905) [JH]
  • Born January 29, 1860 – Anton Chekhov.  (Note that kh in the usual Roman-alphabet spelling of his name represents a single consonant in Russian: the pronunciation is near to “che-hoff”).  A dozen stories have fantastic elements making them particularly for us; stories, plays, generally, for everyone.  You can see Nabokov’s discussion of “The Lady with the Little Dog” here.  (Died 1904) [JH]
  • Born January 29, 1907 – John Clymer.  Illustrator of the American West (worked in U.S. and Canada); Prix de West, Rungius Medal, Royal Canadian Acad. of Arts.  Also ArgosyMarine Corps GazetteSaturday Evening Post (eighty covers), Woman’s Day, Chrysler, White Horse whisky; some for us.  Clymer Museum in Ellensburg, Washington.  Here is the Aug-Sep 37 Romance; it and more about him here.  (Died 1989) [JH]
  • Born January 29, 1918 Robert Pastene. He played the title role in the first televised Buck Rogers series on ABC that also had Kem Dibbs and Eric Hammond in that role. 35 episodes were made, none survive. As near as I can tell, his only other SFF performance was on the Out There and Lights Out series. (Died 1991.) (CE)
  • Born January 29, 1932 Paddy Chayefsky. In our circles known as the writer of the Altered States novel that he also wrote the screenplay for. He is the only person to have won three solo Academy Awards for Best Screenplay. The other winners of three Awards shared theirs. He did not win for Altered States though he did win for Network which I adore. (Died 1981.) (CE) 
  • Born January 29, 1938 Ralph Bakshi, 83. Started as low-level worker at Terrytoons, studio of characters such as Heckle and Jeckle and Mighty Mouse. His first major break would be on CBS  as creative director of Mighty Mouse and the Mighty Heroes. Fast forwarding to Fritz the Cat, which may or may not be genre but it’s got a foul-mouthed talking cat.  Genre wise, I’d say War Wizards which features voice work by Mark Hamill and given a title with the last word Wizards so it wouldn’t be confused with you-know-what film. Next up was The Lord of the Rings, a very odd affair. That was followed by Fire and Ice, a collaboration with Frank Frazetta. Then came what I considered his finest work, the Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures series!  Then there’s Cool World… (CE) 
  • Born January 29, 1942 – Rosemary Wells, age 79.  Five novels for us, counting Voyage to the Bunny Planet and two sequels; ten dozen all told.  Illustrator too.  Daughter of a ballerina and a playwright, who “praised what I did well and didn’t care much about what I didn’t do well….  I drew uncannily for a youngster….  hunted rats with a bow and arrows….  fierce and devoted Brooklyn Dodger fan.”  [JH]
  • Born January 29, 1945 Tom Selleck, 76. Setting aside the matter of if Magnum P.I. is genre which some of you hold to be true, he was Sgt. Jack R. Ramsay in Runaway which is most definitely SF.  He recently did some voice acting by being Cornelius, Lewis’ older self, in the animated Meet the Robinsons film, and he showed up as himself in the “What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?” of the Muppet Babies nearly forty years ago. (CE)
  • Born January 29, 1958 – Nic Farey, age 63.  Irreverent and valuable (sorry, Nic, but it’s true) fanziner.  Two first-rate fanzines, Beam with Ulrika O’Brien, This Here solo (I omit the TH ellipsis mark lest you think I’m eliding, but it’s there); both have won FAAn (Fannish Activity Achievement) Awards.  Chaired fanziners’ convention Corflu (named for mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable) 19, co-chaired Corflu 31.  Likes association football.  [JH]
  • Born January 29, 1970 Heather Graham, 51. Best known SF role was no doubt Dr. Judy Robinson on the Lost on Space film. She played also Felicity Shagwell that same year in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. And she was Annie Blackburn on Twin Peaks. (CE)
  • Born January 29, 1985 – Giovanna Fletcher, age 36.  Among writing, singing, acting, blogging and vlogging (I am not making this up), two novels for us with husband Tom Fletcher.  Sang “Moon River” with him.  Won Series 20 of I’m a Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here.  Nine other books, some nonfiction.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born January 29, 1988 Catrin Stewart, 33. Jenny Flint in five episodes of Doctor Who. She was the wife of Madame Vastra and the friend of Strax with the three known as the Paternoster Gang who appeared first during the Eleventh Doctor and last during the Twelfth Doctor. Big Finish has continued them in their audiobooks. She also played Stella in two episodes of the Misfits series, and was Julia in a performance of 1984 done at London Playhouse a few years back. (CE)

(15) HAS THERE EVER BEEN SUCH A JOB? [Item by Bill Higgins.] Friends have alerted me to the announcement that Georgia Tech has a job opening for an Assistant or Associate Professor of Science Fiction Film Studies.

There are lots of professors of Film Studies or equivalent, and plenty of them have turned their attention to SF. But a hasty google does not reveal the exact title “Professor of Science Fiction Film Studies” at any other institutions.  Could this be the world’s first? And science fiction’s first?  Further research may be needed.

Though I myself am capable of droning on for hours and hours about SF films, the job requires “Ph.D in film studies or a related field,” which lets me out.  Also, they probably don’t want to hire someone with the “ink-and-paper SF is better” prejudice.

Thanks to Fred Scharmen and Bill Leininger for bringing this to my attention.

(16) SOUTHERN FANDOM STORIES. Fanac.org has announced another FanHistory Zoom session (in addition to the second Ted White segment already reported in the Scroll). RSVP to fanac@fanac.org for the Zoom link.

February 20, 2021, 7PM EST (4PM PST, 12:00 AM London, 11AM Sunday in Sydney) – An Anecdotal History of Southern US Fandom, with Toni Weisskopf, Janice Gelb and Guy Lillian III. Get a perspective on Southern Fandom from the inside. Topics expected to include history and impact of conventions and Worldcons, clubs and fanzines, and bigger than life individuals.

(17) CALDECOTT WINNER. Publishers Weekly’s “When They Got the Call: PW Speaks with the 2021 Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz Winners” includes this quote from an author genre interest:

Michaela Goade, illustrator of We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, reflected on the experience of winning the 2021 Caldecott Medal; she is the first BIPOC woman and the first Indigenous artist to receive the award. “I felt a bit like a deer in the headlights and did not know what to say!,” Goade told PW.

(18) BIDEN CAN SEE THE MOON (ROCK) FROM HERE. CollectSpace shares the view —“A moon rock in the Oval Office: President Joe Biden’s lunar display”. Photos at the link.

Joe Biden was three weeks from taking office as a freshman U.S. senator when the moon rock that is now newly on display in the White House was collected by astronauts on the lunar surface.

Six terms in Congress, two terms as the Vice President of the United States and one presidential inauguration later, Biden and the lunar sample 76015,143 will now share the Oval Office.

The Biden Administration requested an Apollo-recovered moon rock for display as “a symbolic recognition of earlier generations’ ambitions and accomplishments, and support for America’s current moon to Mars exploration approach,” according to NASA. The 0.7-pound (333-gram) rock, held by a metal clamp and encased in glass, sits on the bottom shelf of a recessed bookcase beside a painted portrait of Ben Franklin and adjacent to the Resolute desk.

(19) THEY LOST ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter’s ears perked up when they had a Star Trek-related item on tonight’s Jeopardy! A contestant missed it.

Category: Poet-Pourri

Answer: George Herbert’s poetic query “Is there there in truth no” this? became the title of the “Star Trek” episode with the Medusans.

Wrong question: “What is stone?”

Correct question: “Is there in truth no beauty?”

(20) UNEXPECTED RING. Click through to see the intriguing image A Moon Dressed Like Saturn on the NASA website, photo by Francisco Sojuel.

Explanation: Why does Saturn appear so big? It doesn’t — what is pictured are foreground clouds on Earth crossing in front of the Moon. The Moon shows a slight crescent phase with most of its surface visible by reflected Earthlight known as ashen glow. The Sun directly illuminates the brightly lit lunar crescent from the bottom, which means that the Sun must be below the horizon and so the image was taken before sunrise. This double take-inducing picture was captured on 2019 December 24, two days before the Moon slid in front of the Sun to create a solar eclipse. In the foreground, lights from small Guatemalan towns are visible behind the huge volcano Pacaya.

(21) FRINGE PRODUCER’S NEXT SERIES. “’Debris’ Sets Premiere Date As Creator Of New NBC Sci-Fi Drama Draws Parallels To ‘Fringe’” reports Deadline.

Debris will premiere on Monday, March 1 at 10 p.m. ET/PT, NBC announced during its first TCA panel on Tuesday. In addition to teasing the upcoming series and unveiling the premiere date, the Debris team also talked parallels to Fringe. 

“There’s always going to be my DNA in the show,” [J.H.] Wyman, who serves as executive producer and showrunner said. “But it’s definitely its own thing.”

Like FringeDebris follows government officials as they investigate when wreckage from a destroyed alien spacecraft has mysterious effects on humankind. Riann Steele will star as MI6’s Finola Jones and Jonathan Tucker as the CIA’s Bryan Beneventi.

While the series will feature different stories driven by the odd effects of the alien leftovers, Debris will see the relationship between the two leads develop and gain complexity as the show continues.

(22) BREAK TIME. “30 Minutes of Relaxing Visuals From Studio Ghibli” on YouTube is a compilation of short clips about nature from Studio Ghibli films prepared by HBO Max.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/10/20 She Scrolls Like A Pixel, Dances Like A Nipped Out Cat

(1) SOUND CHOICES. AudioFile’s Candace Levy helps listeners “Discover 5 New Fantasy Audiobook Series”.

Feeling down because you’re all caught up with your current fantasy series? Be sad no more, because 2020 is overflowing with new characters and new adventures for audiobook lovers.

First on the list –

Camille Peters’s PATHWAYS, the first in the Kingdom Chronicles series, finds its roots in two classic stories—“The Princess and the Pea” and “Rumpelstilskin”—and contains many familiar fairy tale elements, such as an enchanted forest and a peasant girl who meets a prince. At the same time, the plot includes fresh twists, making it easy for teen listeners to relate to the budding romance, the magical woods, the secrets and betrayals, and the hope for redemption and a happily ever after. Our reviewer praised narrator Shiromi Arserio for her skill in conveying the full range of emotions felt by our heroine as she follows her destiny.

(2) WHAT THE SHOW’S ABOUT. Abigail Nussbaum, in “Deus Ex: Thoughts on Westworld’s Third Season”, begins her summary with an example:

There’s a moment in the third season premiere of Westworld that, though incidental, also feels like it encapsulates the entire show. Dolores, the former “host” at the titular park, who has gained awareness, escaped her enslavement, and vowed to destroy humanity in her pursuit of safety for her people, has arrived at a swanky party wearing a classic Little Black Dress. Striding onto the scene with elegant purpose as only the statuesque Evan Rachel Wood can, she tugs at a bit of fabric, and the dress transforms, unfolding and draping itself around her to become a glittery ballgown. It’s very pretty, and an impressive feat of dressmaking (presumably vying for an Emmy nomination for costuming, the show has even released footage of a test run for the dress transformation). But a moment’s thought can only leave you wondering what it was all for. Both dresses are appropriate evening attire. Neither one makes Dolores more or less noticeable. Neither one conceals her from pursuit (of which there appears to be none). It’s not even as if the LBD was particularly “practical”. The whole thing exists purely for the cool moment. Which is not a bad thing in itself, of course–what is on-screen science fiction for, after all, if not providing us with cool moments to GIF and meme? But it also feels like Westworld in a nutshell: it looks super-dramatic, but when you give it a moment’s thought, it means nothing….

(3) SPFBO BEHIND THE SCENES. Mihir Wanchoo’s post about the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off at Fantasy Book Critic, “SPFBO 5: Conclusion & Some Thoughts”, includes a lot of “inside baseball,” but ends with these passionate thoughts about the contest’s mission —

Lastly I would like to clarify what the point of the contest is… Here’s what I think:
– It’s NOT about the authors.
– It’s NOT about the bloggers
– IT’S ABOUT THE READERS
– It’s about shining a spotlight on books that readers might have overlooked or never heard about. It doesn’t matter whether a book has a single Goodreads rating or 5K-plus because it can still reach more people by being in the contest.

I vehemently believe that every book should be judged on its own merit and not whether its author has won SPFBO or been a previous finalist or is a famous one (either traditionally published or self-published). Yes we can have rules about how frequently a previous winner or finalist can re-enter their new books (maybe with a cooling period of 2/3 years for a winner and a year for the finalist) but that’s a discussion to be had.

(4) THERE’S AN ART TO THIS KIND OF WRITING. Add NPR’s Steve Mullis to the list of people who adore the series: “Murderbot Makes A Triumphant (And Cranky) Return In ‘Network Effect'”.

…Wells’ latest, Network Effect, is the first full-sized novel featuring our favorite cranky, cynical, sentient, artificially intelligent robot. For those unfamiliar, I’ll give you a few minutes to catch up on the first four books. Done? OK, well that might not be long enough for a simple human, but for Murderbot, it would have been plenty of time to read the previous four volumes, watch an episode of future soap opera The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon and break into a security system to complete a mission.

(5) WRITE-IN. Marc Scott Zicree, creator of Space Command, makes headlines when Neil deGrasse Tyson joins the cast!

Mr. Sci-Fi shares how famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson suggested a story for Space Command and now is a character in the show!

(6) REGISTER FOR VIRTUAL WISCON. WisCon, the world’s first feminist sff convention, is preparing to hold its first ever all-online edition. WisCon 44 will run virtually over U.S. Memorial Day Weekend — May 22-25, 2020. Registration is now open.

Aqueduct Press is collaborating with the organizers to encourage registration with a book giveaway: the first 100 people to register for the online con will receive a digital copy of this year’s volume of The WisCon Chronicles (Vol. 12): Boundaries and Bridges. This year’s volume of the traditional series, which gathers thoughts and creations by WisCon attendees, is edited by Isabel Schechter and Michi Trota.

The volume features Charlie Jane Anders’s and G. Willow Wilson’s WisCon 43 Guest of Honor speeches and the Tiptree (now Otherwise) award winner Gabriela Damián Miravete’s speech and fiction, as well as essays by Alexandra Erin, Julia Rios, Nisi Shawl, John Scalzi, and more.

(7) COMPANY CLOSES AFTER COFOUNDER DIES. [Item by Steve Green.] Twilight Time, the boutique home video label founded in 2011 by Brian Jamieson and the late Nick Redman, announced today (May 10) that it will be shutting down this summer and has begun a ‘closing down’ sale of warehouse stock. Effective July 1, Screen Archives will be taking over remaining inventory. Press release: “It’s Twilight Time For Us!”

Redman died on January 17, aged 63, following a lengthy illness. During his time at the Fox Music Group, he oversaw such movie soundtracks as the 1996 boxset Star Wars Trilogy and the following year’s Star Wars: A New Hope. Thanks to his input, most of the Twilight Time releases had isolated music tracks.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 10, 1945  — Green Hornet’s “An Armistice From Death” was broadcast on WXYZ in Detroit. It has a cast of Bob Hall as the Green Hornet and Rollon Parker as Kato. The latter actor also voiced The Newsboy at the end of each episode who hawked the Extra edition of The Sentinel that carried the story of the weekly racket or spy ring being smashed. The story this time was that though the Nazis have surrendered, a team of a German agent and a Japanese spy plan to carry on the fight against America. The Japanese spy says, “Honorable Hitler never admit defeat!” The first step is to kidnap Kato, Next, they leave a bio weapon in the form of a fatal virus to attack the celebrating Americans. This broadcast followed the actual V-E Day by only 2 days! You can hear it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 10, 1863 Cornelius Shea. As SFE puts it, “author for the silent screen and author of dime novels (see Dime-Novel SF), prolific in many categories but best remembered for marvel stories using a fairly consistent ’mythology’ of dwarfs, subterranean eruptions, and stage illusion masquerading as supernatural magic.” To my surprise, only two of his novels are in the Internet Archive, though Complete Mystery Science Stories of Cornelius Shea which includes two of these Novels is available from iBooks  and Kobo. (Died 1920.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1870 Evoe. Brother of Ronald Knox, husband of Mary Shepard who illustrated Mary Poppins and whose father illustrated Winnie the Pooh and The Wind in the Willows.  Edited Punch 1932-1949 after contributing for years.  When in 1960 Punch ran a series “Authors in Space” – “Dickens in Space”, “Kipling in Space”, “Joyce in Space” – Evoe (a pen name) wrote “Conan Doyle in Space”. (Died 1970.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1886 Olaf Stapledon. Original and almost unimaginable. Last and First Men, his first novel (!) extends over two billion years – written in 1930.  Who could follow that?  He did, with Star Maker, over 100 billion years. Their range, imagination, and grandeur may still be unequaled.  He was, however – or to his credit – depending on how you see things – an avowed atheist.  Odd John, about a spiritual-intellectual superman, may be tragic, or heroic, or both; likewise Sirius, about a superdog, on this year’s Retro-Hugo ballot.  First recipient of the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, 2001.  Science Fiction Hall of Fame, 2014. (Died 1950.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1895 Earl Askam. He played Officer Torch, the captain of Ming the Merciless’s guards, in the 1936 Flash Gordon serial. It’s his only genre appearance though he did have an uncredited role in a Perry Mason film, The Case of Black Cat, which is at least genre adjacent as the defendant is a feline! (Died 1940.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1899 Fred Astaire. Yes, that actor. He showed up on the original Battlestar Galactica as Chameleon / Captain Dimitri In “The Man with Nine Lives” episode. Stunt casting I assume.  He had only two genre roles as near as I can tell which were voicing The Wasp in the English language adaptation of the Japanese Wasp anime series, and being in a film called Ghost Story. They came nearly twenty years apart and were the last acting roles that he did. (Died 1987.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1900 Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin. Groundbreakingly proposed in her doctoral dissertation (first Ph.D. from Radcliffe, at the time women-only) that the Sun was mainly hydrogen and helium; proved right four years later.  First woman to head a department at Harvard.  Six honorary degrees.  Stars in the Making (non-fiction) reviewed by Schuyler Miller in the July 1953 Astounding. Biography, What Stars Are Made Of (D. Moore; just published 2020). (Died 1979) [JH]  
  • Born May 10, 1905 Alex Schomburg. One of our finest graphic artists. 130 covers 1939-1993 from Startling to Tomorrow, including Amazing, Astounding and AnalogF & SFGalaxyAsimov’s, books – and the Westercon 37 Program Book; 250 interiors; not that numbers are supreme. Worldcon Special Committee Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1989, and Chesley Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1987; First Fandom Hall of Fame, 1990.  Six years an Illustrators of the Future judge.  See him in Di Fate’s Infinite Worlds. (Died 1998.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1935 Terrance Dicks. He had a long association with Doctor Who, working as a writer and also serving as the programme’s script editor from 1968 to 1974. He also wrote many of its scripts including The War Games which ended the Second Doctor’s reign and The Five Doctors, produced for the 20th year celebration of the program. He also wrote novelizations of more than sixty of the Doctor Who shows. Yes sixty! Prior to working on this series, he wrote four episodes of The Avengers and after this show he wrote a single episode of Space: 1999 and likewise for Moonbase 3, a very short-lived BBC series. (Died 2019.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1963 Rich Moore, 57. He’s directed Wreck-It Ralph and co-directed Zootopia and Ralph Breaks the Internet; he’s has worked on Futurama. It’s not really stretching the definition of genre , so I’ll note that he did the animation for the most excellent Spy vs. Spy series for MADtv. You can see the first one here. [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1969 John Scalzi, 51. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever read by him. What would I recommend if you hadn’t read him? The Old Man’s War series certainly is fantastic with Zoe’s Tale bringing tears to my eyes as well as the Interdependency series are excellent. I really have mixed feelings about Redshirts in that it’s too jokeyfor my taste. I will note that his blog is one of a very few which I read every post of. [CE]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz wonders what else is in the universe.
  • Garfield enjoys a fan favorite.
  • Free Range plays with a skeptical rock climber.

(11) LINE BY LINE. Gideon Marcus surveys the state of the computing arts – in 1965 – for Galactic Journey: “[MAY 10, 1965] A LANGUAGE FOR THE MASSES (TALKING TO A MACHINE, PART THREE)”.

This is part three of our series on programming in the modern computer age.  Last time, we discussed the rise of user-oriented languages.  We now report on the latest of them and why it’s so exciting.

…These days, thanks to companies like IBM, Rand, and CDC, digital computers have become commonplace — more than 10,000 are currently in use!  While these machines have replaced de Prony’s human calculators, they have created their own manpower shortage.  With computation so cheap and quick, and application of these computations so legion, the bottleneck is now in programmers.  What good does it do to have a hundred thousand computers in the world (a number being casually bandied about for near future years like 1972) if they sit idle with no one to feed them code?

(12) WHEN JUPITER COLLIDES WITH MARS. Yahoo! News asks “Will Coronavirus Kill Astrology?” Are they kidding?

If ever there was one, Susan Miller would be a blue-chip astrologer. So in January, when she appeared on CBS New York and predicted that 2020 would “be a great year, and it will be a prosperous year,” people listened.

People listened when she said Capricorn would be the year’s “celestial favorite,” Cancer was the most likely to wed, Libra was set to score in real estate, and Taurus could expect a calendar full of international travel.

And then people got mad because — it probably doesn’t need pointing out — things didn’t exactly go according to the stars’ plan….

(13) ONE PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND BRICKS. Apartment Therapy introduces fans to “The New Harry Potter LEGO Collection [which] Includes Tiny Mandrake Plants and a Giant Hedwig”.

The Harry Potter universe is expanding, with six new LEGO sets coming this summer. They include scenes from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as well as the house on Privet Drive where Harry spent his childhood and a large Hedwig that can move its wings with the turn of a crank.

The LEGO world of Harry Potter is already vast. The first sets came out in 2001 along with the first film, and 19 years later, you can find LEGO versions of everything from the Hogwarts Castle to Diagon Alley, with niche sets dedicated to moments in the books and films.

See them all at the LEGO site, including the Hogwarts Astronomy Tower.

(14) CAPALDI PITCHES IN. “Peter Capaldi on For The Love of Scotland Livestream 22/4/2020” is a segment Capaldi did (including reading Kurt Vonnegut) for the “Masks for Scotland” fundraiser held on April 22. He quips, “My life is mostly unchanged because i avoid people anyway.”

(15) LEM BACK IN PRINT. Brendan Byrne makes “The Case for Stanislaw Lem, One of Science Fiction’s Unsung Giants” at Medium.

Since his death in 2006, the work of Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem has slowly slid from view. While his impact upon on American audiences was always softened by the Iron Curtain — he was was in peak form during the ’60s and ’70s — and an often tortured translation process, Lem was at one point “the most widely read science fiction writer in the world,” at least according to Theodore Sturgeon, an eminent writer of SF’s so-called Golden Age.

Lem was acknowledged, especially by fellow authors, as an especially important figure in the genre, but of late he seems to be primarily remembered as the author of the novel Solaris, the base material for the 1972 film by Andrei Tarkovsky and the 2002 version by Steven Soderbergh. This is a poor fate for an author who, for the latter half of the 20th century, skipped nimbly between SF sub-genres, with occasional excursions outside SF. While his sphere of influence was massive — he sold 45 million books worldwide — Lem’s refusal to settle into some comfortable little niche is distinctly unusual in a contemporary marketplace which today sections writers into increasingly sub-sub-genres.

Lem was simultaneously a moralist, stylist, and semi-professional scientist (a teenage inventor who trained as a physician). He managed to write hard science fiction that engaged with contemporary developments in science, medicine, and philosophy without ever condescending to his audience or engaging in specialist-speak (unless he was satirizing it).

Fortunately, the MIT Press has seen fit to help rejuvenate Lem’s oeuvre — they recently republished six of his key books, and, in the process, made the case for a Lemian resurgence — just in time for his 2021 centenary….

(16) THE END IS NEAR. The wait is over. “Here Comes the Droughtlander! Everything You Need to Know About Outlander Heading into the Season 5 Finale” in Parade.

…“Almost anybody can write a good love story, in which people meet and fall in love and get married or run off together,” Gabaldon says, adding, “It’s much harder and thus more interesting to find out what it takes to be married for 50 years. I had never seen anybody do that, so that’s what I decided I’d like to do.”

The Starz series that follows the heroic journey of Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is such a success that the term “Droughtlander” has been coined for the period of time in between seasons. And we will be heading there shortly. The season five finale airs May 10, and according to Heughan, it’s going to be “big.”

(17) NOT QUITE AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT. [Item by David Doering.] From the Truth is Stranger than Fiction department, here’s the tale of how SF turned fact gave us the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution and banned slavery. “The $60,000 Telegram That Helped Lincoln End Slavery”.

…Statehood looked promising, particularly for Nye, who had great political ambitions. He preferred living on the East Coast and saw his post in Nevada as a way to launch himself into what he really wanted to be — a Senator. Nye was charismatic and known for his “winning friendly face,” but his countenance changed rapidly when a telegram arrived the evening of Tuesday, October 25, 1864. The head of the California Pacific Telegraph passed on a telegram to him, which said, “The President has not received a copy of your constitution.” The deadline for the materials was just a few days away. There wasn’t enough time to mail it to the President. If Nye was going to get 175 pages of this official document to Abraham Lincoln, he was going to have to use the new technology that was just installed three years prior — the telegraph.

…When these electrical impulses finally reached the last leg of their journey, they were sent to the telegraph office of the War Department. This transmission was of such importance that intelligence from the warfront was put on hold for five hours to make way for Nevada’s telegram. Hodge’s and Ward’s message took two days to get to Lincoln and the cost of sending the message was $4,303.27 ($60,000 today). Nevada’s electric constitution reached Lincoln on the evening of October 28 and he proclaimed it a state on the 30th. On the 31st of October, Nevada officially celebrated its statehood, which gave it the right to participate in the election a week later on November 8….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Inside The Making of Dr. Strangelove” on YouTube is a 2000 documentary about Dr. Strangelove that includes interviews with production designer Sir Ken Adam, Kubrick biographer John Baxter, and James Earl Jones, who made his debut in the film.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/29/20 That Is Not Dead Which Can Eternal Scroll, And With Strange Pixels Even Death May File

(1) FUTURE TENSE. The January 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “The Truth Is All There Is,” by Emily Parker, a short story about a world in which everyone is happily chained to the blockchain.

Mila sits at her desk, watching a dancer twirl around on her screen. Then she records an audio prediction.

“Retro, contrarian, but still ballet. How much can you watch?” she tells her audience. “I give her 2.68 more days of hype.”

That’s the entire story. By late afternoon Mila’s words have reached more than 3 million people, which she predicted as well. End-of-hype predictions track well and bring automatic bonuses if they turn out be true. 

It was published along with a response essay, “Trust No One. Not Even a Blockchain.”, by blockchain expert Jill Carlson.

 …Blockchain devotees say the technology can solve our trust issues—that it is trustless, that it requires no trust. This is the phrase that has launched a thousand corporate projects and startup companies. These startups purport that their blockchain technology will enable us to ensure that our vegetables are organically sourced, our diamonds conflict-free, and our data securely our own. The authorities making these promises present the technology in opaque terms and emphasize its complexity. Ironically, this technology that promises transparency and verifiability is presented as completely inscrutable.

(2) SHATNER DIVORCE SETTLED. The Daily Mail reports William Shatner is free again.

William Shatner, 88, has finalized his divorce from his fourth wife, Elizabeth Martin, after nearly 19 years of marriage.

Going into the legal proceedings, the legendary actor, who played Captain Kirk on Star Trek, had a net worth of over $100 million. 

In the end, the actor was able to keep the bulk of his fortune because he had an iron-clad pre-nuptial agreement in place before they were married in 2001.

That puts Bill back in play, just like Jeff Goldblum’s Jurassic Park character who says, “I’m always on the lookout for a future ex-Mrs. Malcolm.”

(3) WFC 2020 RATES GOING UP. World Fantasy Con 2020’s registration rate goes up to $250 on February 17. Take advantage of it today by visiting the WFC 2020 website.

(4) READ FAFNIR. The 2/2019 issue of “Fafnir – Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research” is online, a Special Edition on Speculative Climate Fiction. In addition to the topical articles you’ll find Jani Ylönen’s report on the “Worldcon 77 Academic Track” and Janice M. Bogstad’s review of Iain M. Banks by Paul Kincaid.

(5) HAPPY BIRTHDAY DR. STRANGELOVE. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] On January 29, 1964, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb premiered. With a stellar cast of Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, James Earl Jones and Slim Pickens, it was directed by directed, produced, and co-written by Stanley Kubrick. 

It was not the original title, as Kubrick considered Dr. Strangelove’s Secret Uses of Uranus as well as Dr. Doomsday or: How to Start World War III Without Even Trying, and the much shorter Wonderful Bomb.

The film is somewhat based on Peter George’s political thriller Red Alert. (Originally called Two Hours To Doom.)Curiously Dr. Strangelove did not appear in the book. This novel’s available on Kindle. And George’s novelization of the film is on all digital sources. If you purchase it, it has an expanded section on Strangelove’s early career. 

It would not surprisingly win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Loncon II in London in 1965 with The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao being the only other film on the final ballot.

The film was a box office success. Critics were universal in their belief that it was one of the best films ever done with Ebert saying it was “arguably the best political satire of the century”. At Rotten Tomatoes, it currently holds a 94% rating with over 200,000 reviewers casting a vote. 

A sequel was planned by Kubrick with Gilliam directing though he was never told this by Kubrick and only discovered this after Kubrick died and he later said “I never knew about that until after he died but I would have loved to.”

The original theatrical trailer is here.

(6) MUTUALLY ASSURED DESTRUCTION. In “Fail Safe: Very Little Left of the World”, Bilge Ebiri contrasts and compares Dr. Strangelove and Fail Safe for readers at The Criterion Collection.

Both movies show men operating within remorseless systems (in fact, both show men operating within the same remorseless system, namely the United States nuclear apparatus), but in Strangelove’s case, there’s a liberating nihilism to Kubrick’s vision, as the system unleashes the characters’ monstrosity—their zeal for war, their twisted notions of civilization, their fantasies of survival. With Fail Safe, while the system defeats the characters, the film allows them to assert their humanity in small yet profound ways, as Lumet puts us in the middle of this drama with an immediacy that evokes the title of one of the CBS television shows on which he cut his teeth in the fifties: You Are There. Kubrick may still make us weep for the world (albeit by first making us laugh at it), but Lumet makes us weep for ourselves and our loved ones.

(7) HEY BOOMER. The Ohio Light Opera will be doing a production of an operetta based on the Jules Verne novel From the Earth to the Moon. How will they fit that cannon on stage?

VOYAGE TO THE MOON

(1875)
Music by Jacques Offenbach
Original French Libretto by Albert Vanloo, Eugène Leterrier, and Arnold Mortier
English Libretto by Steven A. Daigle, Henry S. Leigh, and Eric Beheim

Over 41 seasons, OLO shows have been set in such exotic locales as Peru, Russia, Madrid, Indonesia, China, Greece, and even Hades. So, what’s left, you may ask? How about the moon! Inspired by Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, Jacques Offenbach and his librettists created, in Voyage to the Moon, a wonderfully wacky work, but with some of the composer’s most exalted operettic music. Prince Caprice, bored with life on Earth, has no interest in inheriting the crown from his father, King V’lan—he wants to go to the moon for some excitement. He engages the King’s scholar, Microscope, to find a way of getting him there. The sage returns days later with a 20-mile-long cannon, which propels him, Caprice, and V’lan to the lunar surface. There they meet their equivalents: King Cosmos, his advisor Cactus, and the Princess Fantasia. Among other “adjustments,” the earthlings must deal with the reality that, on the moon, love is considered a disease. Caprice has fallen hard for Fantasia, but, for obvious reasons, she shuns him. But Caprice has brought with him some apples … get it?

(8) CAPLAN OBIT. Freida Caplan, who introduced kiwis to the U.S. market, also had a science fiction connection — she supplied the “alien” fruits for Star Trek episodes, which helped boost sales: “‘Kiwi Queen’ Frieda Caplan, produce-industry pioneer, dies at 96”.

She was Frieda Rapoport Caplan, a tenacious maven credited for introducing kiwis, mangoes, habanero and shishito peppers, passion fruit, bean and alfalfa sprouts, baby carrots, sugar snap peas, starfruit, blood oranges, shiitake mushrooms, turmeric, and hundreds more fruits and vegetables into the supermarket mainstream. Into the bellies of American consumers.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 29, 1989 — Lobster Man from Mars premiered. This comedy was a spoof of Fifties SF films. It was directed by Stanley Sheff, and it starred Tony Curtis and Patrick Macnee. It was shot on a shoestring budget of less than a million dollars. It had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 1989. When it went into general release is uncertain. No reviews from critics were but it does have a 43% rating by reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 29, 1913 Victor Mature. He’s best remembered for his first leading role, as a fur-clad caveman in One Million B.C., and until he showed up on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Sparks in the “Deadly Creatures Below!” episode, his only genre role. (Died 1999.)
  • Born January 29, 1918 Robert Pastene. He played the title role in the first televised Buck Rogers series on ABC that also had Kem Dibbs and Eric Hammond in that role. 35 episodes were made, none survive. As near as I can tell, his only other SFF performance was on the Out There and Lights Out series. (Died 1991.)
  • Born January 29, 1932 Paddy Chayefsky. In our circles known as the writer of the Altered States novel that he also wrote the screenplay for. He is the only person to have won three solo Academy Awards for Best Screenplay. The other winners of three Awards shared theirs. He did not win for Altered States though he did win for Network which I adore. (Died 1981.)
  • Born January 29, 1940 Katharine Ross, 80. Her first genre work was as Joanna Eberhart in The Stepford Wives, scary film that. She shows up next as Helena in The Swarm and plays Margaret Walsh in The Legacy, both horror films. The Final Countdown sees her in the character of Laurel Scott.  And Dr. Lilian Thurman is her character in the cult favorite Donnie Darko. I’m fairly sure that the only genre series she’s done is on The Wild Wild West as Sheila Parnell in “The Night of the Double-Edged Knife”, and she did an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents as well. 
  • Born January 29, 1945 Tom Selleck, 75. Setting aside the matter of whether Magnum P.I. is genre which some of you hold to be true, he was Sgt. Jack R. Ramsay in Runaway which is most definitely SF. He recently did some voice acting by being Cornelius, Lewis’ older self, in the animated Meet the Robinsons film, and he showed up s himself in the “What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?” of the Muppet Babies nearly forty years ago.
  • Born January 29, 1958 Jeph Loeb, 62. His first comic writing work was on the Challengers of the Unknown vol. 2 #1 in 1991 with Tim Sale. I’m pleased to say that it was in the DC Universe app so I just read it and it’s superb. He’d go on to win three Eisners for his work for Batman/The Spirit #1, Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: Dark Victory. And he’s also a producer/writer on such genre series such as Smallville, Lost, Heroes and Teen Wolf.
  • Born January 29, 1970 Heather Graham, 50. Best known SF role was no doubt Dr. Judy Robinson on the Lost on Space film. She played also Felicity Shagwell that year in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. And she was Annie Blackburn on Twin Peaks.
  • Born January 29, 1988 Catrin Stewart, 32. Jenny Flint in five episodes of Doctor Who. She was friends with Madame Vastra and Strax (informally known as the Paternoster Gang) who appeared first during the Eleventh Doctor and last during the Twelfth Doctor. Big Finish has continued them in their audiobooks. She also played Stella in two episodes of the Misfits series, and was Julia in a performance of 1984 done at London Playhouse a few years back.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) OSCAR TIME. “Avengers: Endgame – How we made the visual effects” – the BBC video shows how little of what we saw was actually shot as we saw it.

Avengers: Endgame is one of five movies competing at the 2020 Oscars for best visual effects.

Al Moloney spoke to Framestore’s Stuart Penn about the challenges of creating the effects for the film.

(13) RARA AVIS. The BBC’s Melissa Hogenboom asks “How did the last Neanderthals live?”

In many ways, the last surviving Neanderthals are a mystery. But four caves in Gibraltar have given an unprecedented insight into what their lives might have been like.

Forty thousand years ago in Europe, we were not the only human species alive – there were at least three others. Many of us are familiar with one of these, the Neanderthals. Distinguished by their stocky frames and heavy brows, they were remarkably like us and lived in many pockets of Europe for more than 300,000 years.

For the most part, Neanderthals were a resilient group. They existed for about 200,000 years longer than we modern humans (Homo sapiens) have been alive. Evidence of their existence vanishes around 28,000 years ago – giving us an estimate for when they may, finally, have died off.

Fossil evidence shows that, towards the end, the final few were clinging onto survival in places like Gibraltar. Findings from this British overseas territory, located at the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula, are helping us to understand more about what these last living Neanderthals were really like. And new insights reveal that they were much more like us than we once believed.

In recognition of this, Gibraltar received Unesco world heritage status in 2016. Of particular interest are four large caves. Three of these caves have barely been explored. But one of them, Gorham’s cave, is a site of yearly excavations. “They weren’t just surviving,” the Gibraltar museum’s director of archaeology Clive Finlayson tells me of its inhabitants.

…The remains of more than 150 different species of bird have also been uncovered in Gorham’s cave, many with tooth and cut marks, which suggests Neanderthals ate them.

There is even evidence they caught birds of prey, including golden eagles and vultures. We don’t know if they laid out meat and then waited for the right opportunity to go in for the kill, or whether they actively hunted birds, a much more difficult task. What we do know is that they didn’t necessarily eat all the birds they were hunting, especially not the birds of prey like vultures – which are full of acid.

“Most of the cut marks are on the wing bones with little flesh. It seems they were catching these to wear the feathers,” says Clive Finlayson. They seem to have preferred birds with black feathers. This indicates they may have used them for decorative purposes such as jewelry.

(14) SPACE CONNECTION. “How worried should we be about ‘Big Brother’ technology?”

Peenemünde is a port in northern Germany, where the River Peene meets the Baltic Sea.

There, in October 1942, German engineers sat in a control room watching a television screen. It showed live, close-up images of a prototype weapon on its launch pad some 2.5km (1.5 miles) away. On another screen, with a wide-angle view, they saw the weapon surge skywards.

The test had succeeded. They were looking at something that would shape the future – but perhaps not in the way they imagined.

…Wernher von Braun, the brilliant young engineer behind the V2, surrendered to the Americans as the Third Reich fell, then helped them win the space race.

If you had told him that his rocket test would be the first step towards putting a man on the Moon, he would not have been surprised. That is exactly what motivated him.

At one point, he was briefly arrested after someone on a train overheard him say that he wished he could build spaceships instead of weapons, and reported this suspiciously non-conforming thought to the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police.

But von Braun might not have anticipated that he was also witnessing the birth of another hugely influential technology – one the Gestapo would have loved in its modern form – closed-circuit television, better known as CCTV.

(15) WHERE IS IT NOW. The BBC tells of “An atomic marker hidden in plain sight”.

In the courtyard of a gift shop decorated with colourful ceramic frogs and dragonflies, it’s easy to overlook the historic marker.

Perhaps that’s fitting for a secret site.

In the early 1940s, the world’s top scientists and their families trudged through this patio, bedraggled from a cross-country train trip. Most didn’t know where they were headed. All they had were classified orders to report to the address “109 East Palace, Santa Fe, New Mexico”. When they opened the wrought iron gate, they entered what the National Historical Landmark plaque calls a “portal to their secret mission”, which was to build the atomic bomb.

“They came in through the courtyard,” said Marianne Kapoun, who with her husband owns The Rainbow Man gift shop, which occupies the formerly classified facility. Visitors now enter the shop through a front door; the historical entrance where scientists like Enrico Fermi and Richard Feynman once passed, is blocked, and the walkway cluttered with dangling ceramic chillies and hand-painted jack-o-lantern gourds.

The newcomers, which included a contingent of British scientists, were issued security passes and loaded from the facility onto a bus or a Jeep for the last leg of their journey. Their destination lay 35 miles away, up tortuous, unpaved mountain roads, in the hidden settlement of Los Alamos. And what they eventually accomplished, the plaque says, was “one of the greatest scientific achievements in human history”.

But few modern visitors to Santa Fe, a Spanish colonial city known for its adobe buildings and art galleries, realise they’re crossing paths with Nobel laureates – and a nest of spies.

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

Colbert Farewell Number Doesn’t Bomb

George Lucas, Sir Patrick Stewart, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Elijah Wood, J.J. Abrams and Smaug represented sf and fantasy in the musical finale of The Colbert Report , coming to an end so its host can replace Letterman on CBS.

An army of celebrities emerged from the wings to join Colbert in singing “We’ll Meet Again,” beginning with his Comedy Central colleague Jon Stewart, then Willie Nelson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Henry Kissinger and dozens of others — the full array of cameo appearances is listed here.

James Franco, Andy Cohen, Sir Patrick Stewart, Elijah Wood, Henry Kissinger, Mike Huckabee, Bob Costas, Tim Meadows.

James Franco, Andy Cohen, Sir Patrick Stewart, Elijah Wood, Henry Kissinger, Mike Huckabee, Bob Costas, Tim Meadows.

Others of genre interest for one reason or another, scientist Francis Collins, economist Paul Krugman, an astronaut on the International Space Station and Marvel Comics’ Joe Quesada.

Even “We’ll Meet Again” is an sf reference — it’s the song played at the end of Dr. Strangelove while the nukes are going off.