Pixel Scroll 1/15/22 Pixelpunk Scrollcore

(1) SEND ME IN, COACH. Continuing yesterday’s “squeecore” discussion — John Scalzi is happy to be in the conversation anytime, but that doesn’t mean he agrees with the point he’s being used to illustrate. “Portrait of the Author As a Component of a ‘Punk-Or-Core’ Formulation” at Whatever. (Running the tweet, too, because I love the graphic.)

… My canal, as it turns out, runs across a lot of thematic ground, and does a fair amount of intersecting. Some of that is by design, since I am easily bored, as a human and a writer, and like to splash around in new places. Some of that is just following the lay of the land. At the end of the day, however, it means that depending one’s inclinations and rhetorical needs, and contingent on examples, I can be grouped in with the gun-humping dudes who write military science fiction, or the woke SJW scolds who are currently ruining the Hugos, or pretty much wherever else you need me to go to make your point.

And at least superficially you won’t be wrong. I mean, I did write that story that you’re pointing to, and it does exist in that sphere, and I’m not sorry I wrote that thing, and may write a thing like it again, if I have a mind to. But I suspect on a deeper level — the level that actually makes your point something more than a facile, half-baked thesis to burble out onto a blog post or podcast because content content content — using me as an example is not hugely useful….

(2) HER MILEAGE VARIED. Cora Buhlert also shared her thoughts about Rite Gud’s “squeecore” podcast and Camestros Felapton’s post in response: “Science Fiction Is Never Evenly Distributed”.

… The podcasters are not wrong, cause all of these trends definitely exist in current SFF, though they’re not one unifying trend, but several different trends. Uplifting and upbeat SFF is certainly a trend and it already has a name that is much less derogatory than “squeecore”, namely hopepunk. Reader-insert characters and a video-game/RPG feel is a trend as well and there is a term or rather two for it, namely LitRPG and gamelit.

I agree that there is a strong influence of YA fiction and a tendency to show younger characters gaining skills rather than being already fully developed in contemporary SFF, but that’s the result of the YA SFF boom of the past twenty-five years, which served as a gateway to the genre for countless readers….

As I explained in this postGalactic Journey is very good at showing how different trends as well as older and newer forms of SFF coexist in the same period, because we try to cover everything and not just the cherry-picked examples that later eras choose to remember.

Also, quite often works are shoehorned into a trend, because they vaguely match some characteristics thereof and came out around the same time, even though they don’t really fit. The Expanse novels by James S.A. Corey are a good example. They are often shoehorned into the 2010s space opera revival, even though The Expanse has nothing in common with the likes of the Imperial Radch trilogy, the Paradox trilogy, the Hexarchate series or A Memory Called Empire beyond being set in space. Meanwhile, The Expanse draws heavily on mundane science fiction (a movement that never really got beyond its manifesto), Cyberpunk, golden age science fiction and the 1990s “cast of thousands/everybody and the dog gets a POV” style of SFF epics that never got a name, even though it was very much a thing and still lingers on….

(3) STILL WRESTLING WITH AMAZON. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki told Facebook followers that he heard from Amazon KDP again. And he posted more screencaps of his correspondence with them.

Some more updates on the Amazon KDP fiasco, they called me again yesterday, to explain why I can’t edit my banking details. Must have seen my tweet on it. They said it’s a security issue. And offered some more assistance in replacing it and ensuring I can get the royalties.

On another note, though related, I’m trying to use the account of a friend that was in the US because well, they don’t accept Nigerian bank accounts. I was using Payoneer, a service that mimics US bank accounts and essentially reads as if you are in the US. It’s legit btw, and accepted by Amazon. I’m pointing this out because a number of people latched on to this when I mentioned it, amongst the methods I use to get past through these restrictions. They said oh yes see, it’s your fault. One of those methods you use must have broken the rules.

This is how people enable racism even when they don’t cause it. They look for anything to justify and deny your marginalization. It either doesn’t exist, it didn’t happen, or it’s your own fault. A number of players were on every platform that carried this, saying this. You don’t even know what those methods are. But it must be one of them & this must all be my fault & deserved. The world tries to lock you out, then punishes you viciously for trying to not be locked out. Then people blame you for even trying at all to circumvent those lockouts. Every publishing-payment platform I’ve tried to use to do anything has either banned, blocked me or doesn’t work here or allow payment systems. From Draft2Digital to Smash words to Kickstarter to Paypal to Amazon KDP, to even Gofundme. But it must all be my fault. I must have violated all their rules somehow. Even GoFundMe that’s supposed to be for people in need of help. I wasn’t even qualified to beg for money. I needed an American to beg for me. If I had even tried to insert myself at any point into the arrangement, it’d have crashed….

(4) EXPANDING ON THE EXPANSE? Den of Geek contemplates what could happen to keep the series from really being over: “The Expanse: The Possibility of a Season 7 or Sequel Series”. (Beware spoilers.)

The Possibility of an Expanse Movie

While The Expanse team went into Season 6 knowing it would almost certainly be the show’s last, they chose to tell the story that included a Laconia-set subplot adapted from Expanse novella Strange Dogs. Unlike basically every other the story in Season 6, the Laconia subplot about a girl named Cara and her efforts to save brother Xan with the help some alien creatures was very forward-focused. It also properly introduced Admiral Duarte, a character who becomes incredibly important in the remaining books in the series. The decision to give so much of Season 6’s precious narrative time could have been made as a way to expand the scope of this world, and to pay homage to these future book plots, and/or it could hint that the Expanse production team have not completely ruled out the possibility of a future for this adaptation…

(5) INSIDE THE SHELL. Den of Geek points out “The Expanse Series Finale Easter Eggs: The Sci-Fi Heroes Who Helped” (Beware spoilers.)

As the coalition forces prepare to storm the ring station in The Expanse series finale, the Rocinante crew is running through its systems check, and voices are heard in the background signaling their readiness. “Thrace ready!” we hear, and our ears perk up. How unusual to share the name of one of the most badass space dogfighters ever, Kara “Starbuck” Thrace of Battlestar Galactica. When that’s followed by “Ripley ready!” all doubt is removed. Naming yet another famous spacefarer, Ellen Ripley of Alien, can’t be a coincidence.

Fortunately, fans of Easter eggs like this are provided with a quick glimpse of the roster on Naomi’s screen, and it’s filled with the great heroes of space science fiction in movies and television. It’s fitting that, as The Expanse makes its final bow, the “Great Hunt” of sci-fi culture appears to assist in the battle to end all battles. It’s easy, in fact, to spot the rest of Ripley’s team from Aliens: Hudson, Hicks, and Vasquez. So who else is among the assault team?…

(6) EXPANSIVE ACTING. Forbes’ Rob Salkowitz poses the questions: “Shohreh Aghdashloo On ‘The Expanse’ Series Finale And The Show’s Stellar Legacy”. (Beware spoilers.)

RS: Were there times when you and the cast watched the finished shows where you were surprised by how certain scenes came out, or by the work of your castmates?

SA: Absolutely. Every season, the producers would screen the first two shows for the cast all together in a theatre. There was one moment, maybe from season four or five, where Amos [Wes Chatham] was talking about his mother, and it was so powerful that I just lost it. I had to leave the theatre crying, I couldn’t help myself. The other cast members, my friends, came up to me and asked me what happened and I said I was just overcome seeing that scene. But you know, there were so many scenes and moments that felt so real like that, which made me feel like we did a good job bringing this saga to life.

(7) SPLASH-A-BOOM. An underwater volcano eruption this morning near Tonga caused a small tsunami which hit the west coast of Central, North and South America, and the east coast of Hawai’i. Hawaiian fan Dave Rowe says, “Here it was only one foot high (three feet was expected).” And he passed along a link to an impressive 2-second video compiled from real-time satellite photos of the eruption: “Shockwave By Near-Tonga Eruption Captured From Himawari Satellite” at Space Weather Gallery.

(8) THE BIG TIME. M. John Harrison is one of the 2022 Booker Prize judges.

…He sold his first story in 1965, and in 1969 joined the staff of the UK speculative fiction magazine New Worlds, where he edited the books pages until 1978.

His novels include Climbers, which won the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature in 1989; Nova Swing, which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2007; and The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again, which won the 2020 Goldsmiths Prize for innovation in fiction…. 

(9) I’VE SEEN THAT FACE BEFORE. Jordan D. Smith, who runs The Dark Crusade, a Karl Edward Wagner podcast, lists three examples of Karl Edward Wagner showing up as a character in other people’s fiction: “Three for the Road: Karl Edward Wagner in Fiction”.

… Below are three stories from the past ten years that have contained characters loosely based on, or inspired by, Karl Edward Wagner….

(10) TWO CATS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE. Mark Evanier eulogized voice actor “Leo DeLyon, R.I.P.” at News From ME. DeLyon died September 21 at the age of 96.

…We are especially interested in him because he occasionally did voices for cartoons. In the original Top Cat series in 1961, he did the voices of the characters Spook and Brain. That’s them above with Leo between them. He did other voices now and then for Hanna-Barbera…on The Smurfs and Paw Paws, and on a few specials when they needed voice actors who could sing. He was also the voice of Flunkey the baboon in the Disney version of The Jungle Book

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1995 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-seven years ago on this evening, the very short lived sequel to the Sixties Get Smart series aired on Fox. It too was called Get Smart. And it had Don Adams and Barbara Feldon still playing Maxwell Smart and Agent 99. Edward Platt who played The Chief had died some twenty years earlier. 

The relative success of the reunion movie Get Smart, Again! six years earlier prompted the development of a weekly revival of Get Smart but the ratings were absolutely abysmal, so it was canned after seven episodes. Thirteen years later, the Get Smart film despite critics not particularly liking it was a great success. 

The Variety review was typical of what critics thought of it: “Would you believe there is very little to laugh about in this return of Get Smart, a decidedly unfunny undertaking that could have clearly benefited from some input from Buck Henry or at the very least a phone call from Mel Brooks.” 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 15, 1879 Ernest  Thesiger. He’s here because of his performance as Doctor Septimus Pretorius in James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein. He had a major role in Hitchcock’s not completed and now lost Number 13 (or Mrs. Peabody) which is even genre adjacent. He was also in The Ghoul which was an early Boris Karloff film. And he continued to show up in SFF films such as The Ghosts of Berkeley Square where he was Dr. Cruickshank of Psychical Research Society. (Died 1961.)
  • Born January 15, 1913 Lloyd Bridges. Though I’m reasonably sure Secret Agent X-9, a 1945 serial, isn’t genre, I’m listing it anyways because I’m impressed that it was based on a comic strip by Dashiell Hammett, Leslie Charteris and others. He’s the Pilot Col. Floyd Graham in Rocketship X-M, Dr. Doug Standish In Around the World Under the Sea, Aramis in The Fifth Musketeer, Clifford Sterling in Honey, I Blew Up the Kid and Grandfather in Peter and the Wolf. His television appearances are too many to list here. (Died 1998.)
  • Born January 15, 1928 Joanne Linville. Best remembered I’d say for being the unnamed Romulan Commander Spock get involved with on “The Enterprise Incident”. (Vulcan’s Heart by Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz, calls her Liviana Charvanek.)  She also starred in the Twilight Zone‘s “The Passersby” episode, and she starred in “I Kiss Your Shadow” which was the final episode of the Bus Stop series. The episode was based on the short story by Robert Bloch who wrote the script for it. This story is in The Early Fears Collection. (Died 2021.)
  • Born January 15, 1935 Robert Silverberg, 87. I know the first thing I read by him was The Stochastic Man a very long time ago. After that I’ve read all of the Majipoor series which is quite enjoyable, and I know I’ve read a lot of his short fiction down the years. He has three Hugos with the first at NyCon II for Most Promising New Author, the other two being for his novella “Gilgamesh in the Outback” at Conspiracy ’87, and novella “Nightwings” at St. Louiscon. His “Hawksbill Station” novella was nominated at Baycon, and his Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg was nominated at Worldcon 75. He picked up a Retro Hugo at the Millennium Philcon for Best Fan Writer.
  • Born January 15, 1944 Christopher Stasheff. A unique blending I’d say of fantasy and SF with a large if I find sometimes excessive dollop of humor. His best known novels are his Warlock in Spite of Himself series which I’ve read some of years ago. Who here has read his Starship Troupers series? It sounds potentially interesting. (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 15, 1945 Ron Bounds, 77. A fan who was one of the founders of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society in the Sixties. He co-chaired Discon 2, was a member of both the Baltimore in ’67 and Washington in ’77 bid committees.  He chaired Loscon 2.  He published the Quinine, a one-shot APA. He was President of the Great Wall of China SF, Marching & Chop Suey Society which is both a cool name and a great undertaking as well.
  • Born January 15, 1965 James Nesbitt, 57. Best genre role was as Tom Jackman and Hyde in Jekyll which was written by  Steven Moffat. He’s also appeared in Fairy TalesThe Young Indiana Jones ChroniclesStan Lee’s Lucky Man and Outcast. Yes, I know he played Bofur in the Hobbit films. I still consider Jekyll his better by far genre role.

(13) SIGNAL BOOST. Since Hulu’s bad at promoting their films of this type, N. sent along a tweet he saw for I’m Your Man:

(14) MAKING LEMONADE WITHOUT LEMONS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I saw Dear Mr. Watterson, a 2013 documentary by Joel Allen Schroeder on YouTube, which you can watch for free, as long as you are willing to have your film interrupted with ads,  Of course Bill Watterson refuses to be interviewed or even photographed, and has refused to license his characters. How do you make a film about him?

Well, in the first half-hour Schroeder blows it with all sorts of talking heads, many of them comic strip creators, telling how special Calvin and Hobbes was as a strip.  Schroeder even goes back to his boyhood home in Appleton, Wisconsin to see his bedroom where he posted Sunday strips on the wall when he was a kid.  Who cares?

Things pick up when Schroeder goes to Chagrin Falls, Ohio, where Watterson grew up, and goes to the local library to see early illustrations Watterson drew for the local paper and hold an original strip about overdue books that is in the head librarian’s office. He then goes to the Billy Ireland Library at Ohio State, where Watterson’s archive is stored, and I thought that was interesting.  I bet a good documentary could be made about that library.

Then in the final third we get to the real subject of the film which is whether Watterson’s decision to forego all licensing deals was a good idea.  Here Berkeley Breathed, Stephen Pastis, and Jean Schultz had intelligent things to say.  As Pastis notes, there is a difference between licensing a Snoopy stuffed animal a four-year old could hold and having Snoopy sell life insurance through Met Life.  Seth Green also makes an appearance to note that he made bootleg Calvin t-shirts.

But one result of only having Calvin and Hobbes available in books is that these books are in school libraries and six- and seven-year-old kids love reading them.  That might not have happened if their first exposure to Watterson’s characters was through animated cartoons.

Dear Mr. Watterson is worth watching but you might want to fast forward through the first half hour.

(15) TWENTY THOUSAND PENNIES UNTO THE FEE. If you’re in the market for an online course about Jules Verne, The Rosenbach would like to sign you up: “Jules Verne’s Scientific Imagination with Anastasia Klimchynskaya”. Four sessions. Tuition for this course is $200, $180 Delancey Society and Members.

Verne is often cited as one of the fathers of science fiction and a lover of both literature and technology. Verne combined the earlier genres of the extraordinary voyage, travel narrative, and adventure story with unprecedented scientific rigor, creating the scientific romance genre, or roman de la science. This course will explore Verne’s unique mix of science and imagination and how it helped solidify the genre.

(16) UNDERGROUND ECONOMY. Here’s an interesting piece by DM David about just why dungeons full of monsters and treasures are a thing in Dungeons and Dragons and other RPGs: “The Movies and Stories than Inspired Dave Arneson to Invent the Dungeon Crawl”.

Around 1971 Dave Arneson and his circle of Minneapolis gamers invented games where players controlled individual characters who grew with experience and who could try anything because dice and a referee determined the outcomes. The group tried this style of play in various settings, but Dave invented one that proved irresistible: the dungeon.

Dave’s Blackmoor game—the campaign that spawned Dungeons & Dragons—began with a gaming group playing fictional versions of themselves in a fantasy world. The characters became champions in a series of miniature battles featuring armies clashing above ground. Without dungeons, the Blackmoor game might have stayed miniature wargaming rather than becoming D&D and a game nearly as well known as Monopoly. But by creating the dungeon crawl, Dave invented a new activity that transformed the campaign and ultimately made a lasting addition to popular culture…

(17) SHINY. The Daily Beast has a rundown on “The Laser SETI Projects That Might Find Intelligent Alien Civilizations”.

For 62 years, scientists have pointed instruments toward outer space in hopes of finding some sign that we’re not alone in the universe. But those instruments always scanned just a tiny swath of sky for a short span of time, limited mainly to listening for stray radio waves and leaving us largely blind to any visual evidence of extraterrestrials in the darkness of space.

Until now.

As the space age enters its seventh decade, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) is getting a lot wider and more deliberate. And that could significantly boost our chances of actually finding something for the first time.

In mid-December, scientists with the SETI Institute in California finished installing a new laser instrument: an expensive lens-camera-computer combo at Haleakala Observatory, situated on a mountaintop on Maui, Hawaii, 10,000 feet above sea level.

The east-facing instrument, when combined with an identical west-facing system at the Robert Ferguson Observatory in Sonoma, California, scans a 150-degree arc of the night sky more than a thousand times a second, filtering the light and looking for the telltale signature of laser light—a possible sign of intelligent life. “We’re trying to cover all the sky all the time,” Eliot Gillum, the principal investigator for the LaserSETI project, told The Daily Beast.

(18) HIBERNATING ALIENS. Why can’t we find them? Isaac Arthur says it might be because they’re taking a kip… (Just like the Norwegian blue.)

One explanation for the Fermi Paradox is that aliens may be undetected because they slumber, quietly hidden away in the galaxy. But how and why might such Extraterrestrial Empires hibernate?

(19) QUITE A STRETCH. Nature says a “Giant hydrogen filament is one of the longest features of its type in the Galaxy and it could give birth to stars” in “A cloud named Maggie”.

A long filament-like cloud of hydrogen atoms lurking on the far side of the Milky Way is among the largest such structures in the Galaxy — and offers a rare glimpse into one of the earliest stages of star formation.

Scientists first reported evidence of the filament, which they nicknamed Maggie, in 2020. Now, some of those scientists, including Jonas Syed at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, along with more astronomers, have conducted a detailed follow-up investigation. It shows that the filament stretches some 1,200 parsecs, roughly 1,000 times the distance from the Sun to its nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri.

Theory predicts that, over time, the neutral hydrogen atoms in the filament will pair up, forming dense clouds of hydrogen molecules. Such clouds ultimately give birth to stars.

(20) COMING CATTRACTIONS. Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet may be hated by astronomers, but credentials love it: Gizmodo explains: “If I Fits, I Sits: Starlink’s Self-Heating Internet Satellite Dishes Are Attracting Cats”.

SpaceX’s Starlink has been making steady gains with its fledgling satellite internet service, surpassing 100,000 terminals shipped in 2021 and showing promising improvements in performance after initial speed tests produced lackluster results. However, the company’s run into an unforeseen hiccup with its dishes: Cats love them….

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: The Matrix Resurrections,” the Screen Junkies say that the fourth film asks, “Do you take the blue pill and reboot this with Tom Holland as Neo or do you take the red pill and see how far up its own ass the story will go?” Also, since the film has musical theatre greats Neil Patrick Harris and Jonathan Groff (who was King George in Hamilton, and has also been in Frozen, Frozen II, and “Glee’) when is The Matrix musical coming?

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chris Barkley, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Cora Buhlert, Dave Rowe, N., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 11/29/21 Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Read Me, When I Pixel Scroll?

(1) GET AN EARFUL. Today File 770 partnered with AudioFile Magazine to unveil “AudioFile’s 2021 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Audiobooks”. Here is the link to the complete AudioFile Magazine – Best Of 2021 list.

We love hearing a good story well told, and we know that you do, too: the comfort and intimacy of a voice in your ear, the pleasure of being completely swept up in a narrative. That’s why, every December, we are so glad to celebrate audio excellence by selecting AudioFile’s Best Audiobooks. Thank you to all of the narrators, directors, producers, and publishers who filled our year with good listening.

(2) A PAY SERVICE NIXES DISCON III. “WeChat Restrictions, We Tried, We Really Tried” says DisCon III:  

“We have had to remove WeChat as a payment option. Due to their restrictions on charitable giving, we are unable to use WeChat services at this time. Our tech team is working to find a workaround to help overseas fans who want to pay using WeChat. That said, all of our other avenues are still available, and there’s still time to join us at DisCon III. Please visit our member services page to purchase your membership.” said Mary Robinette Kowal, Chair of DisCon III. 

(3) ON BROADWAY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The opening of (Marvel) Hawkeye (new TV series) includes Clint “Hawkeye” Barton (and his 3 kids) going to a performance of Rogers The Musical (note that the signage looks very Hamiltonian), and we get to, delightfully, see about half of “I Can Do This All Day” about the NYC invasion, in the first Avengers movie.

Here’s one of many articles on this, including an audio with the full lyrics:  “Hear Hawkeye’s Rogers: The Musical song, and how Marvel pulled it off” at Polygon.

… Written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who have collaborated on other Broadway musical adaptations like Hairspray and Catch Me If You CanRogers is the MCU’s latest attempt to reminisce over past battles with a wink and nod. A little like the scene in Loki where the God of Mischief finds Infinity stones being used as paperweights, the silliness of Rogers asks the audience if they can remember what all the fuss was about….

(4) HE GAVE IT A SPIN. Camestros Felapton says “The Wheel of Time adaptation is looking good”.

…A strong cast gives the characters more weight and also pushes them closer to how Jordan intended them to be (from context) rather than how they come over in the books. Nynaeve in particular is clearly meant to be a strong-willed character in the books but comes over as just whiny and annoying (your impression may differ) in Jordan’s dialogue. However, the show’s Nynaeve is a really compelling character played by New Zealander Zoë Robins, full of intensity and suspicion of what she (correctly) perceives as a hostile world….

(5) FUTURE TENSE. The November 2021 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Ride,” by Linda Nagata, a story about climate, public transportation, and AI in Hawaii.

 …The boy waved at them, then turned again to Jasmine. “Give it a try,” he exhorted her in a conspiratorial whisper. “Promise you will?”

Those eyes.

Her smile brightened. She didn’t want to disappoint those eyes. So she played along, teasing, “I might.” And maybe she really would. It was just a little game, after all….

It was published along with a response essay by cities and transit journalist Henry Grabar: “What if an All-Knowing Algorithm Ran Traffic and Transit?”

I like to think of myself as deeply skeptical of the many internet algorithms telling me what I want and need. I turn off targeted advertising wherever I can. I use AdBlock to hide what’s left. Most of my YouTube recommendations are for concerts or sports highlights, but I know I’m just a few clicks away from a wild-eyed influencer telling me to gargle turpentine for a sore throat. Twitter trending topics? I regret clicking immediately.

But I make an exception for the sweet, all-knowing embrace of the Spotify algorithm, to whom I surrender my ears several times a day. This software doesn’t just know my taste in music better than my friends; it acts on it, with chains of songs that build off things that I know I like, or forgot I did….

(6) HARLAN IN THE WILDERNESS. Stephen Bowie interviewed Harlan Ellison in 1996 about his early days writing for television: “Harlan Hits Hollywood” at The Classic TV History Blog.

…I was going to ask you if you remembered watching “Memos From Purgatory” when it was first broadcast, but perhaps you don’t, since it wasn’t actually the first one.

It’s a moderately funny story about what happened the night it aired.  I was living in Beverly Glen, in this little treehouse. The television set that I had was a real small TV, with rabbit ears, and the antenna was up the side of the mountain behind the house.  I mean this house, literally and actually, sat half on a rock ledge and the other half sat in the crotch of a gigantic banyan tree. It was raining that night, it was raining terribly. And the antenna, which was up the hill – rabbit ears down in the house and an actual antenna up on the hill; I mean, there was no cable – well, the antenna fell over.  

I had invited all these people to come and see the show, and we couldn’t get any reception.  So a friend of mine volunteered to go up, and he put on my raincoat, and he stood up there in the pounding rain, a really torrential downpour.  He stood up there holding the fuckin’ antenna up. And I was kind of, you know, upset that he was up there, not to mention that there were cougars or mountain cats – really, there were catamounts or cougars or whatever the fuck they are – up there running loose, because it’s all watershed land.  And I was terrified that he was going to get eaten, or washed away, or drowned, or fall off the mountain, or something. So about midway through I went up and I took his place. And I came back drenched, soaking wet, I looked like a drowned rat, and everybody was raving about this thing, and I had only seen about half of it….

(7) DRAGON IT OUT. A new book says “George R.R. Martin flew to New York to ‘beg’ an HBO executive to make ‘Game of Thrones’ 10 seasons long, according to his agent” reports Yahoo!

HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones” came to an end in 2019 with two shortened seasons, which brought the total to eight seasons and 73 episodes. But the story’s original creator, the author George R.R. Martin, pushed for up to 10 seasons and 100 total episodes, according to a new book.

New accounts of Martin’s wishes can be found in a book titled “Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers” by the journalist James Andrew Miller.

Miller, who conducted 757 interviews for the book, spoke with Martin, Martin’s agent, Paul Haas, and Richard Plepler, HBO’s former CEO.

“George would fly to New York to have lunch with Plepler, to beg him to do ten seasons of ten episodes because there was enough material for it and to tell him it would be a more satisfying and more entertaining experience,” Haas told Miller.

(8) IN XANADU. Henry Farrell points to the availability of the video of a panel he was on with Paul Krugman, Ada Palmer, Noah Smith, and Jo Walton. And he has a few more things he’d like to say in his post “The Future Finds Its Own Uses for Things” at Crooked Timber.

So this event on the relationship between social science and science fiction went live late last week. It has Paul Krugman, Ada Palmer, Jo Walton, Noah Smith and … me. I’ve been wanting to say something a little bit more about this relationship for a while. Here is one take, which surely misses out on a lot, but maybe captures some stuff too.

…The Hume quote captures a particular – and very common – way of thinking about the world. It suggests that beneath the vast procession of history, the extraordinary profusion of ways in which human beings organize their society, their politics and their economies, lies a hidden and coherent unity. He emphasizes “the constant principles of human nature” – other social scientists have other notions about what the underlying unity involves and entails. But from this perspective all the ways in which things are different across time and space are really illustrations of how they are really deeply the same. This is a powerful lens for understanding the world and perhaps changing it.

When Marco Polo counters Kublai Khan, he points towards quite the opposite phenomenon; how an apparent unity -an abstract of plane forces – can be opened up to disclose the quiddity of things. A chessboard is a plane divided into sixty-four squares – yet it is also something physical, made out of joined-together pieces of wood, each with its own history. The apparently all encompassing abstract unity conceals a world of variation. Unless you understand how the squares were formed – a year of drought; a frosty night; a caterpillar’s appetite; you cannot understand how the chessboard came to be as it is.

It is a little too simple to say that social science is on Hume’s side of the dialectic, while science fiction is on Marco Polo’s. What makes more sense, I think is that very good social scientists and very good science fiction writers each work the tensions between the two understandings of the world, more from the one side than the other….

(9) NAME YOUR PRICE. Filer Jane Sand’s novelette “Not Poppy Nor Mandragora” is in the newly released Fusion Fragment issue #9. The publishers invite readers to “download Fusion Fragment #9 for free or pay what you want!”

(10) CIRCUMNAVIGATING THE SPOILERS. I say, this Ars Technica article gives away the entire story, never mind spoilers! “David Tennant makes a dashing Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days preview”. It wasn’t easy to find an excerpt that didn’t blab some important part!

…Verne’s story, in turn, inspired the late 19th-century journalist Nellie Bly to make her own world tour, completing the trip in 72 days. She even met Verne in Amiens and wrote her own bestselling book about her adventures. Monty Python alum Michael Palin made the charming TV travelogue, Around the World in 80 Days with Michael Palin, in 1988, detailing his recreation of Fogg’s journey, without resorting to airplanes….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2002 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Nineteen years ago on NBC, It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie first aired. It was the first film to be made for television by The Muppets franchise. It was directed by Kirk R. Thatcher (in his feature directorial debut though he earlier been hired by Nimoy to associate produce the Conspiracy ’87 Hugo-nominated Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) and written by Tom Martin and Jim Lewis.

It starred the usual Muppet puppeteers (Steve Whitmire, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta and Eric Jacobson) plus a number of human guests: David Arquette, Joan Cusack, Matthew Lillard, William H. Macy and Whoopi Goldberg. Executive producers Juliet Blake and Brian Henson, though the actual producers were Martin G. Baker and Warren Carr. 

This is also the final Muppets production from the Jim Henson Company, as The Muppets were in their final years of ownership by the Henson family before being sold to Disney in 2004.

Critics were generally very impressed by this film with such comments as the Canadian Movie News saying it “is a medley of familiar Christmas classics such as It’s a Wonderful LifeA Christmas Story and The Grinch, amongst others, with a distinct Muppet spin.” Interestingly audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes were less impressed giving a mediocre fifty-one percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 29, 1898 C S Lewis. I first encountered him when reading The Screwtape Letters in University. I later read of course The Chronicles of Narnia which I found most excellent though I’ll admit that I’ve not read his Space Trilogy. (Died 1963.)
  • Born November 29, 1910 Kendell Foster Crossen. He was the creator and writer of the Green Lama stories.  The character was a Buddhist crime fighter whose powers were activated upon the recitation of the Tibetan chant om mani padme hum. He also wrote Manning Draco series, an intergalactic insurance investigator, four of which are can be found in Once Upon a Star: A Novel of the Future. The usual suspects has a really deep catalog of his genre work, and the Green Lama stories have been made into audio works as well. (Died 1981.)
  • Born November 29, 1918 Madeleine L’Engle. Writer whose genre work included the splendid YA sequence starting off with A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels: A Wind in the DoorA Swiftly Tilting PlanetMany Waters, and An Acceptable Time. One of her non-genre works that I recommend strongly is the Katherine Forrester Vigneras series. She has a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 29, 1950 Peter Hooten, 71. He played the title character in the late Seveties Dr. Strange film, well before the present MCU film reality existed. His other genre appearances are all in definitely low-grade horror films such as OrcaHouse of Blood and Souleater. And one Italian film that had so many name changes that I’d accused it of name laundering, including 2020 Texas Gladiators
  • Born November 29, 1955 Howie Mandel, 66. He was the voice of Gizmo in Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch. His longest voice acting gig was on the Muppet Babies where he did a lot of different voices, and he voiced Sam-I-Am in In Search of Dr. Seuss which is not nearly as serious as it sounds.
  • Born November 29, 1969 Greg Rucka, 52. Comic book writer and novelist, known for his work on Action ComicsBatwoman and Detective Comics. If you’ve not read it, I recommend reading Gotham Central which he co-created with Ed Brubaker, and over at Marvel, the four-issue Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra which he wrote is quite excellent as well. I’ve read none of his novels, so will leave y’all to comment on those. He’s a character in the CSI comic book Dying in the Gutters miniseries as someone who accidentally killed a comics gossip columnist while attempting to kill Joe Quesada over his perceived role in the cancellation of Gotham Central.
  • Born November 29, 1976 Chadwick Boseman. Another death that damn near broke my heart. The Black Panther alias Challa in the Marvel metaverse. The same year that he was first this being, he was Thoth in Gods of Egypt. (If you’ve not heard of this, no one else did either as it bombed quite nicely at the box office.) He was Sergeant McNair on Persons Unknown which is at least genre adjacent I would say.  And he even appeared on Fringe in the “Subject 9” episode as Mark Little / Cameron James. (Died 2020.)

(13) IT’S NOT SURPRISING. “‘The Simpsons’ Tiananmen Square Episode Missing From Disney+ Hong Kong; Discovery Leads to Censorship Concerns” reports Deadline.

An episode of The Simpsons during which the family visits Tiananmen Square is missing from Disney+’s Hong Kong platform.

Episode 12 of season 16 was found today to be absent from the streamer’s catalogue in the nation, having launched in Hong Kong earlier this month.

The episode features the family going to China to try to adopt a baby. At one point, they visit Tiananmen Square, which was the site of a deadly crackdown in 1989 against democracy protestors. A satirical sign in the cartoon square reads “On this site, in 1989, nothing happened.”

At time of publication, it is not clear whether Disney+ removed the episode or was ordered to by the authorities and Disney has not responded to requests for comment.

The discovery will lead to further concerns over censorship in Hong Kong….

(14) D&D DIVERSITY. “‘A safe haven’: how Dungeons & Dragons is slaying social anxiety” – the Guardian runs the numbers.

… Since its inception in the mid-1970s, the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) has brought together a far more diverse array of players than its stereotypes suggest. Earlier this year, the game’s publisher, Wizards of the Coast, released a report showing that, of its estimated 50 million players, 54% were younger than 30 and 40% identified as female. What it didn’t reveal was the rise in visibility of queer and neurodiverse players.

…For people such as Shadia Hancock, the founder of advocacy group Autism Actually and Dungeon Master to a group of young neurodiverse players, the therapeutic potential of the game has always been clear.

“It’s about creating a sense of community,” Hancock says. “I work out the players’ expectations at the beginning of a game. Some get really into creating their characters, some are more interested in finding items and exploring the world, others are really interested in how the characters met. We all have a mutual love of gaming, but we all want something different from the session.”

Some characteristics expressed by some of Hancock’s players – social anxiety, increased empathy, difficulty adapting to change, feeling overwhelmed in noisy environments – have become familiar to many Australians in the wake of lockdowns. Studies cited by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found reported levels of social anxiety increased over the past two years among all age groups, with young neurodiverse Australians even more likely to have experienced a decline in wellbeing.

“While other people are excited about going out, I’m filled with dread,” Hancock tells me. “With Covid, we [autistic communities] had all these sudden changes, often with short notice, and there was this need to constantly adapt to new rules. Not knowing what is coming up is really anxiety-inducing. During the pandemic, that became a shared experience.”

(15) NEXT TIME, TAKE THE TRAIN. John Holbo’s “The Ones Who Take the Train to Omelas” is adorned with a big Omelas-themed travel poster (which you can see at the link.)

*Confused? This page contains a parody of a famous story, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, by Ursula K. Le Guin. I’d point you to it, but there are no versions legally free on the web. Buy a book! Read Wikipedia. If you are somehow here about the BTS song – sorry, I don’t know about that. (But with half a billion hits, somebody probably does.)

I’ve written notes on my take on Le Guin. An essay! That’s here

Also, once I made the graphics I tossed ’em on Redbubble. Forgive me. It seemed funny.

“I incline to think that people from towns up and down the coast have been coming in to Omelas during the last days before the Festival on very fast little trains and double-decked trams.”

– Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”

(16) DS9 ON NFT. Voice actor Joshua Martin put together a parody video where Deep Space Nine’s “Quark and Odo discuss NFTs and Crypto Currency”. There’s also a Twitter thread that starts here.

(17) I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM. SlashFilm reveals “This Is What You’re Really Hearing When R2-D2 Screams In Star Wars”.

…One fateful moment of stress managed to help define a character through more than four decades and nine movies in the Skywalker saga — and counting.

(18) STAND BY TO ENTER HYPE-SPACE. Gizmodo’s Rob Bricken pans Disney World’s effort to sell people on its new theme hotel: “Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Hotel Preview Looks Unimpressive”.

If you’ve been slavering for your chance to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to head to Walt Disney World’s upcoming Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser experience, might I suggest you towel off your chin for the time being? Disney has released a video preview of some of what awaits families who come aboard the Halcyon, and it doesn’t look particularly enticing.

The first thing you should know about this video is that it stars Disney Parks Imagineer Ann Morrow Johnson and The Goldbergs’ sitcom actor Sean Giambrone. The two take a very short tour of the Starcruiser, but instead of them just talking like normal people about what people who come to the Halcyon can expect, it’s scripted and painfully unfunny. You’ve been warned. But this video also raises an important question, which is: Disney wants $6,000 for this?

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Danny Sichel, Jayn, Bill, Joey Eschrich, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 11/20/21 Down Slupps The Pixel-Ma-Phone To Your Ear

(1) NAVIGATING LITERATURE. The Huntington Library’s “Mapping Fiction” exhibit will run January 15-May 2. The Pasadena, CA institution timed the event to coincide with the centennial of the publication of James Joyce’s groundbreaking 1922 modernist novel, Ulysses. Maps from J.R.R. Tolkien, Octavia Butler and other creators will also be displayed.

Octavia E. Butler, Map of Acorn from notes for Parable of the Talents, ca. 1994. (Detail)

“Mapping Fiction” is an exhibition focused on the ways authors and mapmakers have built compelling fictional worlds.

Drawn entirely from The Huntington’s collections, “Mapping Fiction” includes a first edition of Joyce’s novel and a typescript draft of one of its chapters, cartographically inspired intaglio prints of Dublin as described in the book, other mappings of the novel and the famous texts to which it alludes, and materials related to the annual celebration of Bloomsday in Dublin on June 16—the single day in 1904 during which the novel takes place.

About 70 items will be on view, focused on novels and maps from the 16th through the 20th century—largely early editions of books that include elaborate maps of imaginary worlds. Among the highlights are Lewis Carroll’s 1876 edition of The Hunting of the Snark, Robert Louis Stevenson’s maps from Treasure Island and Kidnapped, J. R. R. Tolkien’s map from the trilogy The Lord of the Rings, and science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler’s hand-drawn maps from notes for Parable of the Talents (1998) and her unpublished novel Parable of the Trickster. In addition to Butler’s archives, the show draws on The Huntington’s archival collections of Jack and Charmian London, Christopher Isherwood, and others, as well as the institution’s rich print holdings in travel narratives, English literature, and the history of science.

There will be related events, including this Butler-themed tour of Pasadena.

Revisiting Octavia E. Butler’s Pasadena
March 19 and April 23, 2022
2–3:30 p.m.
In conjunction with “Mapping Fiction,” The Huntington has produced a map of Octavia E. Butler’s Pasadena. Visitors can take a self-guided walking or driving tour of the locations around Pasadena where Butler lived, visited, and often found inspiration. Tour maps will be available online and in the “Mapping Fiction” exhibition gallery. On two Saturdays this spring, Ayana Jamieson, founder of the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network, will lead a moderated conversation about our desire to locate Butler’s Pasadena. Registration information and locations to come.

(2) TALKING TOONS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this podcast by Leonard Maltin with cartoon historians Jerry Beck and Mark Evanier — Maltin on Movies: “Talking Toons with Jerry Beck and Mark Evanier”. Jessie Maltin wasn’t on the podcast because she just gave birth to Maltin’s first grandchild.  (Playing with his granddaughter, Maltin joked, was “more fun than television!”

All three men are Boomers whose love of cartoons went back to when they were kids and Channel 9 in New York City and Channel 11 in Los Angeles would show anything (remember Colonel Bleep? They do.)  They have deep knowledge of animation history.  Did you know that the first Peanuts cartoons were done for the Tennessee Ernie Ford show?  Or that when The Bugs Bunny Show aired in prime time for two seasons on ABC in the early 1960s it had all sorts of original footage, including work by Chuck Jones and Bob McKimson, that no one has seen in 50 years?)

Jerry Beck is involved with the international animation association ACIFA, and discussed his efforts at cartoon preservation.  He noted that Paramount, unlike Disney and Warner Bros., doesn’t think they can make money from old cartoons.  ACIFA is working with the UCLA and Library of Congress archives to preserve significant work by Terrytoons and Max Fleischer that only exist in flammable negatives.  ACIFA also helped restore a 16-minute Smell-O-Vision cartoon (with voice work by Bert Lahr) that was shown before the smelly The Scent Of Mystery.

The best find in previously lost cartoons was when Maltin’s classic Of Mice And Magic was translated into Russian, and Russian cartoon fans reported they discovered the last lost Betty Boop cartoon, featuring Boop’s nephew, Buzzy Boop.  The cartoon is currently being restored.

This was a fun hour.

(3) ERASMUSCON. There’s a Dutch bid for Eurocon 2024. They propose to hold the con in Rotterdam in August 2024. They are taking presupports:

Become a supporter of the bid for €25,-
or a Friend of the bid for €100,-

(4) BIG SIX. Nerds of a Feather’s Paul Weimer gets recommendations in “6 Books with Marjorie B. Kellogg”, who’s the author of Lear’s Daughters, Harmony, and The Dragon Quartet series.

4. A book that you love and wish that you yourself had written.

The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula LeGuin. 

This book I have reread, more than once, and still find moving and magical. Her portrayal of an alien civilization is so deeply drawn, so compassionate, so non-comic-booky, and yet so relevant and relatable to our own Earth-bound issues and selves. It’s what Science Fiction can do like no other genre.

(5) TALKIN’ ABOUT MY REGENERATION. Jessica Holmes tries to figure out who this confused fellow is who sees Doctor Who’s face in his mirror…in 1966. That year isn’t a trick of the TARDIS — it’s today’s date at Galactic Journey! “[November 20 1966] Doctor…Who? (Doctor Who: The Power Of The Daleks [Part 1])”

It was with a mix of curiosity and trepidation that I tuned into Doctor Who this month. The character we know and love has vanished forever, and in his place is a stranger– A stranger who calls himself the Doctor. But is it really the same man? Once again, we have to ask the essential question that the programme was founded on. Doctor…who?

(6) I’M FEELING BETTER. James Davis Nicoll is in tune with “I Will Survive: Five Stories About Living to See Another Day” at Tor.com.

This year Canadian Thanksgiving was celebrated on October 11th. American Thanksgiving will fall on November 25th. In both cases, they are glorious feasts celebrating the end of harvest season. However, the first European Thanksgiving in the New World may have been Martin Frobisher’s on May 27th, 1578. As you might guess from the date, Frobisher and his crew were not giving thanks for a bountiful harvest. They were grateful to have survived their latest quest for the Northwest Passage. And isn’t simple survival something for which to be grateful?

The characters in the following five works would no doubt agree that while survival has its challenges, it is far superior to the alternative….

(7) TUNE IN. “Pee-Wee Herman to Host Radio Show on KCRW” reports Variety.

The short version is that legendary star of the screen Pee-Wee Herman will launch a radio show on KCRW, the popular National Public Radio station based in Santa Monica, Calif., and will be accompanied by his pals Chairry, Magic Screen and Miss Yvonne. A rep for the station tells Variety that for now, it will be just one show on Nov. 26 at 6 p.m. PT (and available on demand for one week after airing), but who knows?

(8) LEFLEUR OBIT. Actor Art LaFleur died at the age of 78 on November 17 reports Deadline. The character actor had many genre roles in his resume: Jekyll and Hyde . . . Together Again, The Invisible Woman, WarGames, Trancers and Trancers II, Zone Troopers, The Blob (1988), Field of Dreams (he’s the one who tells Moonlight Graham “Don’t wink, kid”), Forever Young, The Santa Clause 2 and The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (as the “Tooth Fairy”), Speed Racer.  On TV, LaFleur appeared in episodes of The Incredible Hulk, Wizards and Warriors, Tales from the Crypt, Space Rangers, Strange Luck, A.J.’s Time Travelers, Angel and Night Stalker (2005).

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1964 — Fifty-seven years ago, the second adaptation of H.G. Wells’ First Men in the Moon was released into theatres, this one complete with the superb special effects of Ray Harryhausen. The first time it was adapted was a 1919 British black-and-white silent film version, directed by Bruce Gordon and J. L. V. Leigh. (It is currently lost with film prints known to exist.) This screenplay was by Nigel Kneale and Jan Read. The primary cast was Edward Judd, Martha Hyer and Lionel Jeffries.

I have no idea what it cost as that’s not recorded but it only made one point three million. Most critics liked with Variety saying that “Ray Harryhausen and his special effects men have another high old time in this piece of science-fiction hokum”, though the New York Times called it “tedious, heavyhanded science-fiction vehicle that arrived yesterday from England”. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are currently lukewarm on it giving it a fifty-three percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 20, 1923 Len Moffatt. He’s a member of First Fandom. Len and his second wife June helped organize many of the early Bouchercons for which he and June received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bouchercon staff. He was a member of LASFS. He wrote far too many zines to list here. Mike has an excellent look at his memorial here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born November 20, 1923 Nadine Gordimer. South African writer and political activist. Her one genre novel was July’s People which was banned in her native country under both governments. Her three stories are collected in Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black and Other Stories. She received the Nobel Prize in Literature, recognized as a writer “who through her magnificent epic writing has been of very great benefit to humanity”. (Died 2014.)
  • Born November 20, 1926 John Gardner. Author of more Bond novels than one would think possible. He’d write fourteen original James Bond novels, more than Fleming wrote, and the novelized versions of two Bond films, License to Kill and GoldenEye. He’d also dip into the Sherlock universe, writing three novels around the character of Professor Moriarty. Rights to film them were optioned but never developed due to a lack of funding. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 20, 1929 Jerry Hardin, 92. He’s best known for playing Deep Throat on The X-Files. He’s also been on Quantum LeapStarmanBrimstone and Strange World, plus he was in the Doomsday Virus miniseries. And he made a rather good Samuel Clemens in the two part “Time’s Arrow” story on Next Gen
  • Born November 20, 1932 Richard Dawson. Usually one appearance in a genre film or show isn’t enough to make the Birthday list but he was Damon Killian on The Running Man, a juicy enough role to ensure his making this list, and twenty years earlier he was Joey on Munster, Go Home! He’d voice Long John Silver on an animated Treasure Island film in the Seventies. And he had a one-off on the classic Fantasy Island as well. (Died 2012.)
  • Born November 20, 1944 Molly Gloss, 77. Her novel Wild Life won the 2000 James Tiptree, Jr. Award. She has two more SF novels, The Dazzle of Day and Outside the Gates. Her “Lambing season” short story was nominated for a Hugo at Torcon 3, and “The Grinnell Method” won a Sturgeon. 
  • Born November 20, 1956 Bo Derek, 65. She makes the Birthday list for being Jane Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man. There’s also Ghosts Can’t Do It and Horror 101 as well as the two Sharknado films she just did. A friend of Ray Bradbury, she was the presenter when Kirk Douglas received the 2012 Ray Bradbury Creativity Award.
  • Born November 20, 1959 Sean Young, 62. Rachael and her clone in the original Blade Runner and the sequel. More intriguingly she played Chani in the original Dune which I’d completely forgotten. A bit old for the role, wasn’t she? She was the lead, Helen Hyde, in Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde. And she’s a Trekkie as she was in the Star Trek: Renegades video fanfic pilot as Dr. Lucien. But who isn’t? 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe has a little wizardry joke.
  • The Flying McCoys depicts a super embarrassment.
  • I was today years old when I discovered Bogart Creek.

(12) A BOOKTUBE PODCAST. Cora Buhlert’s latest Fancast Spotlight interviews Robin Rose Graves of The Book Wormhole:“Fancast Spotlight: The Book Wormhole”.

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

The Book Wormhole is a monthly updating BookTube channel where I provide spoiler free reviews and discussions of the books I read. Science Fiction makes up the majority of what I cover on the channel, and while I lean more towards female, POC and/or LGBT authors, I read both classics as well as contemporary releases. I balance popular books with indie and underrated titles. I promise there will be at least one book you’ve never heard of before on my channel.

(13) EIGHTIES HIT POINT PARADE. Meaghan Ball recalls three D&D Choose Your Own Adventure-style fantasy romance novels from days gone by: “Roll for Romance: The Forgotten D&D Romance Novels of 1983” at Tor.com.

… Seeking a way to get more young women involved in the roleplaying game (despite the fact that girls have been playing since the beginning, but that’s another story entirely), Dungeons & Dragons also branched out and commissioned a series of Choose Your Own Adventure-style romance novels. Since you probably haven’t heard of them, you can rightly assume they didn’t set the publishing world on fire—but they are fascinating relics, especially for fans of D&D and/or ’80s romance novels…. 

(14) BIG WINNER. Lela E. Buis covers Amazon’s sf book of 2021 and a Dragon Award winner: “Review of Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir”.

…Weir fuels a constantly rising action line with various emergencies that go wrong and have to be solved by the application of science and engineering expertise. This is brilliantly plotted; the ship and the characters are well developed, and the science is well-research and applied….

(15) A BOOK WITH CHARACTER(S). Paul Weimer tells what makes this humorous sff book work in “Microreview [book]: Obviously, Aliens by Jennie Goloboy” at Nerds of a Feather.

…The novel also has a lot of heart. It treats its characters, even the ostensible antagonists, rather gently and with love and respect. You will get to know Dana, Adam, Jay, Sophie and the rest and get to know them, road trip style. (If this book were ever turned into an audiobook, this novel would be really fun to listen to on a driving adventure). Sure, the characters go through all sorts of disasters, reversals, and “can you believe THIS?”  but it is a very lighthearted tone….

(16) FORWARD PROGRESS. There’s a new form of space propulsion that could change the satellite and space probe game. From Nature’s “News & Views” overview: “Iodine powers low-cost engines for satellites”.

Satellites organized in flexible networks known as constellations are more agile and resilient than are those operating alone. Manoeuvring satellites into such constellations requires inexpensive, reliable and efficient engines. Many networked satellites have electric propulsion thrusters, which generate thrust by using electrical energy to accelerate the ions of a propellant gas. However, the choice of gas presents a problem. Ionizing xenon requires a relatively small amount of energy, but xenon gas is expensive and needs to be compressed in high-pressure tanks to fit on board a satellite. Krypton is cheaper, but still requires a complex and heavy gas-storage and -supply system. …Rafalskyi et al. report a successful demonstration of an iodine-ion thruster in space — offering a cheaper and simpler alternative to xenon or krypton…

Research paper here (Open access).

(17) HEARTWARMING AND OTHERWISE. “10 Weirdest Charlie Brown Parodies Of All Time”is a roundup of YouTube videos at Yahoo!

This special, along with the Halloween and Christmas productions featuring Charles M. Schulz’s beloved Peanuts characters, have become staples of pop culture. They also inspired a genre of parody productions that frequently reconfigure Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy and the others in ways that Schultz would never have imagined, let alone condoned.

For those with a warped sense of humor and no squeamishness over occasional deep-dives into NSFW entertainment, here are the 10 weirdest Charlie Brown parodies that you’ll be able to find online.

“Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown.” One of the earliest works by Jim Reardon of “The Simpsons” fame was this 1986 cartoon made during his studies at the California Institute of Arts. Reardon spoofs Sam Peckinpah’s “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia” in a comically violent tale that shows Charlie Brown being ruthlessly hunted by his many antagonists before he gets his revenge in a massive shootout….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy,” Fandom Games says this game answers the question, “What if Cowboy Bebop was written by Joss Whedon?” and its premise is “you love these characters so much you’d pay $60 to have them talk for 15-20 hours.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 8/7/21 Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Scroll

(1) STAR POWER. Nicholas Whyte puts “Contact, film and book” in perspective at From the Heart of Europe.

Contact won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1997, beating four other films (the first time since 1992 that no TV episode was on the ballot, and only the second time since 1992 that a cinematic film won). The losers were, in order, Men in BlackGattacaThe Fifth Element and Starship Troopers. I have seen Men in Black and Starship Troopers, and I really like them both, but I actually think Contact is better. IMDB users are not as impressed, rating it 13th of the year’s films on one system and 19th on the other, with all the other Hugo finalists ahead of it on the latter ranking and all but one on the former. Top IMDB spot for the year goes, of course, to Oscar-winner Titanic, on both rankings….

(2) NEXT TOLKIEN SEMINAR. The Tolkien Society has announced a call for papers for its third online seminar of the year: “Autumn Seminar: Translating and Illustrating Tolkien” which will be held November 6. (Probably won’t get as much press as the second, “Tolkien and Diversity.”) The event will be free for all. See the full guidelines at the link.

Tolkien’s appeal has led to his fiction and non-fiction being translated into over fifty languages. The art of translation is immensely complex and when discussing the Dutch translation of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien himself saw the task as “formidable”, offering his own supportive intervention to achieve a satisfactory result…..

Papers may consider, but are not limited to the following:

  • Translations/illustrations of Tolkien’s fiction/non-fiction
  • The role of the translator/illustrator
  • Translations/illustrations and their context
  • Translations’/illustrations’ reception

(3) PLAYING WITH YOUR HEADLINES. “Fake news video gives taste of what we’ll see in Season 3 of Amazon’s ‘The Boys’”SYFY Wire frames the picture:

Amazon gave us a tease today, however, of what we can expect for the Seven, Vought’s handpicked superheroes that help bolster their corporate image.

The five-minute clip is a newscast from Vought’s own channel, the Vought News Network (VNN for short). In a style that evokes Fox News, the “reporter” provides an update on its parent company’s Seven superheroes.

(4) READING OF THE WILL. Scholastic Corporation CEO M. Richard Robinson Jr., who died in June, had an unexpected heir: “Children’s book publishing tycoon wills $1.2B company to Toronto woman instead of his family” reports National Post.

The unexpected death of the head of the children’s book publishing giant behind Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Clifford the Big Red Dog, produced a surprise ending of his own: He left control of his $1.2 billion company and all his possessions to the company’s chief strategy officer, a Toronto woman he reportedly had a romance with.

That M. Richard (Dick) Robinson Jr. left everything to Iole Lucchese rather than to his former wife, two sons, or his four siblings is causing alarm, family drama and potential high-stakes legal action, which is more than enough for a sequel to any story, according to reporting in The Wall Street Journal.

(5) ORVILLE HAILS HULU. Deadline says the show has finally broken radio silence: “’The Orville’: Hulu Scripted Chief Jordan Helman Gives Update On Seth MacFarlane’s Sci-Fi Drama”.

Seth MacFarlane’s sci-fi drama, which moved from Fox to Hulu in 2019 for its third season, was hit by the pandemic disrupting production, meaning fans were in for a pretty long wait after the second season premiered in 2018.

However, Jordan Helman, head of scripted originals at Hulu, has provided an update on progress. He said that he’s seen cuts of the show coming in and is hopeful of a premiere sooner rather than later.

“The past year and a half has been complicated on a variety of levels as it pertains to production,” he told Deadline. “I can’t share a launch date, but we’re really excited about what we’ve seen thus far.”

MacFarlane and Jon Cassar are directing episodes of the third season. Filming initially began in October 2019 but was halted in March 2020 with the arrival of Covid-19 with around half of production completed. Production resumed in December 2020 but was suspended again in January 2021 due to a surge. Filming resumed in February….

(6) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1986 – Thirty-five years ago this weekend, Knight Rider ended its four-year, ninety-episode run on NBC. Arguably a more successful talking car series than My Mother the Car was in the Sixties which lasted but a single season, it had as its leads KITT the AI controlled car (voiced uncredited by William Daniels) and David Hasslehoff as Michael Knight. (You can decide which had a more vibrant personality.) This was his first genre role though he’d later play Nick Fury in Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., a rather awful version of that character I’d add. It was created by Gary Larson who also responsible for Battlestar GalacticaBattlestar Galactica 1980,  Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Caprica,  AutomanMagnum, P.I (which some of you have argued here is genre) and Manimal. Yes, Manimal.  If you watched the series and had the jones for more fiction set in that universe, Larson and co-writer Roger Hill wrote five novels set there. The series somewhat inexplicably holds a ninety-nine percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 7, 1918 Jane Adams. Actress who showed in the Forties Batman and Robin film as Vickie Vale, Girl Reporter. (That’s how she’s created at the time.) Other genre credits were House of DraculaTarzan’s Magic FountainMaster Minds (eat too much sugar and you can see the future) and the Adventures of Superman series. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 7, 1933 Jerry Pournelle. I first encountered not his fiction but his BYTE column for computer users. That said, I did read a lot of his CoDominium Universe though I suspect the Suck Fairy might judge it harshly now. His best work certainly is the one he co-wrote with Larry Niven, The Mote in God’s Eye, which was nominated for a Hugo at Aussiecon One. Did you know he won a Astounding Award for Best New Writer? Well he did. And he and Niven were joint winners of the Robert A. Heinlein Award from the Baltimore SF Society. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 7, 1944 John Glover, 77. He’s got a wealth of genre roles, so I’m going to be highly selective. (Go ahead and complain.) he was Brice Cummings in the Bill Murray fronted Scrooged, he voiced a great Edward Nygma who was The Riddler in Batman: The Animated Series, in Brimstone, he was both The Devil and The Angel. 
  • Born August 7, 1957 Paul Dini, 64. First he is largely responsible for the existence  of Batman: The Animated SeriesSuperman: The Animated SeriesThe New Batman/Superman AdventuresBatman Beyond, and yes, Duck Dodgers and Tiny Toons as well. He’s recently been writing for the Ultimate Spider-Man series which is quite good. He co-authored with Pat Cardigan, Harley Quinn: Mad Love. He’s responsible for the single best animated Batman film, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, as he wrote it.
  • Born August 7, 1960 David Duchovny, 61. Obviously Fox Mulder on X-Files. Now has he done any other genre? Well he was Dr. Ira Kane in Evolution, a comic SF film, and then there’s Denise Bryson, formerly Dennis Bryson, played by him, who’s a transgender DEA agent on the Twin Peaks series. He also voices Ethan Cole in Area 51, a first person video game shooter.
  • Born August 7, 1960 Melissa Scott, 61. I think the first work I read by her was Trouble and Her Friends which holds up well even now. I’m also fond of Night Sky Mine and The Jazz. I see that she has an entire series set in the Stargate Atlantis universe. She won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and four Lambda Awards, the first for Trouble and Her Friends, a second for Shadow Man, a third for Point of Dreams and a fourth for Death by Silver
  • Born August 7, 1979 Eric Johnson, 42. Scifi’s Flash Gordon on the series of that name that aired from  August 10, 2007 to February 8, 2008. Look I’m used to Flash Gordon series that are nearly a century old so I had no idea no one had been done recently. Anyone see this? I’ll be writing it up as the Anniversary in a few days.
  • Born August 7, 1957 —  Lis Carey, 64. A prolific reader whose reviews fill the shelves at Lis Carey’s Library. She is also a frequent Filer, contributor of numerous cat photos and even more book reviews. She is a longtime member of NESFA, and chaired Boskone 46 in 2009. (OGH)

(8) D&D GETS A MUSEUM. “Lake Geneva Dungeons & Dragons-themed museum officially open to the public” – Wisconsin’s Lake Geneva Regional News has the story.

Artifacts and memorabilia related to Dungeons & Dragons are now available for public viewing in the city where the popular roleplaying game was created.

The Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum, 723 Williams St. in Lake Geneva, officially opened, July 21. The museum features books, games, figurines, magazines, artwork, gaming dice and merchandise related to Dungeons & Dragons.

Jeff Leason, curator, said many Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts have toured the museum since it has been open to the public.

“We had a newlywed couple on their honeymoon, and they said, ‘We can’t believe we walked by and you were open.’ They were so excited,” Leason said. “It’s been wonderful. There hasn’t been anything negative that I’ve heard.”

…Most of the items either were donated by museum staff or former Tactical Studies Rules (TSR) employees. The museum building was TSR’s first commercial location for Dungeons & Dragons.

Leason said one of the more rare items at the museum is a boxset of the original Dungeons & Dragons game, which is worth about $10,000. He said another notable item is a full set of “Strategic Review,” which was an early Dungeons & Dragons publication….

(9) EXPLICATE! EXPLICATE! On Twitter, @Dunemovie challenged people to “Explain Dune in one sentence.” About one-third of the responses took it seriously, for example –

And about two-thirds did not. An example of those —

(10) SELECTED LONG AND SHORT SUBJECTS. Todd Mason, curator of “A night at the movies…”, seeks an audience for his repaired 2014 post, full of (mostly somewhat macabre) cartoons and such wrapped around a double-feature of Night Of The Eagle and The City Of The Dead (and links to “alternate” features Castaway with Amanda Donohoe and Oliver Reed and Testament Of Orpheus), with Harlan Ellison in-joke references at the headnotes…

(11) A SWING AND A MISS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA has announced that Perseverance’s first attempt to gather a rock sample apparently failed. The titanium sample tube was left empty. There are 42 more tubes available to try to find the ultimate answer. “NASA’s Perseverance Team Assessing First Mars Sampling Attempt”.

“While this is not the ‘hole-in-one’ we hoped for, there is always risk with breaking new ground,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “I’m confident we have the right team working this, and we will persevere toward a solution to ensure future success.”

Perseverance’s Sampling and Caching System uses a hollow coring bit and a percussive drill at the end of its 7-foot-long (2-meter-long) robotic arm to extract samples. Telemetry from the rover indicates that during its first coring attempt, the drill and bit were engaged as planned, and post-coring the sample tube was processed as intended.

“The sampling process is autonomous from beginning to end,” said Jessica Samuels, the surface mission manager for Perseverance at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “One of the steps that occurs after placing a probe into the collection tube is to measure the volume of the sample. The probe did not encounter the expected resistance that would be there if a sample were inside the tube.”

(12) WE’RE NOTHING SPECIAL? MIT Press book offers an excerpt from Wade Roush’s new book Extraterrestrials in “Alien Dreams: The Surprisingly Long History of Speculation About Extraterrestrials”.

… Materialist interpretations of the cosmos eventually began to take the place of mythological ones. But the idea that there might be other beings in the sky has stayed with us, and it found its first protoscientific roots in Greece in the sixth century BCE.

Anaximander, a philosopher who lived in Miletus in modern-day Turkey, contributed one key idea. He was the first to propose that Earth is a body floating in an infinite void, held up by nothing. For someone who lived 2,200 years before Isaac Newton, this was a stunning insight. The philosopher Karl Popper called it “one of the boldest, most revolutionary, and most portentous ideas in the whole history of human thought.” Anaximander also thought Earth was a cylinder with the continents arrayed on one flat end, so he wasn’t right about everything. But he did invent the idea of space, a place with no absolute up or down. And just as important, Anaximander’s system was the first to leave open the possibility that there are other worlds like ours. (Though, to be clear, he may not have believed that these worlds existed elsewhere in space. He may have thought they preceded or would succeed Earth in time or perhaps coexisted in some parallel universe.)…

(13) SHARP POINTY TEETH. The second Venom: Let There Be Carnage trailer has dropped. In theaters this Fall.

Tom Hardy returns to the big screen as the lethal protector Venom, one of MARVEL’s greatest and most complex characters. Directed by Andy Serkis, the film also stars Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris and Woody Harrelson, in the role of the villain Cletus Kasady/Carnage.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, StephenfromOttawa, Jennifer Hawthorne, Todd Mason, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 7/26/21 I Am Just A Filer, Though My Story’s Seldom Scrolled

(1) COZY CATASTROPHES. James Davis Nicoll told me this is “A happy Monday piece.” Makes me worry about what the rest of the week is going to look like: “Five Classic SFF Novels About Environmental Disaster” at Tor.com.

The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham (1953)

This cozy catastrophe stands out because it’s a rare book in which humans are not to blame for deadly environmental changes. The novel begins quietly, as a meteor shower splashes down in Earth’s oceans. English Broadcasting Company reporters Mike and Phyllis Watson, who document the escalating crisis, see nothing alarming. Initially.

Unfortunately for the former rulers of Earth, the objects were spacecraft, delivering the planet’s new owners to Earth’s oceans. At first these enigmatic beings limit themselves to sampling the inhabitants of an occasional village to better understand their new home. Once they’ve settled in—and particularly once humans attempt to nuke the settlers—the aquatic aliens decide to conduct planetary improvements. Which is to say, they begin melting ice caps, providing themselves with more aquatic lebensraum. This also drowns the coastlines where atom bomb-wielding, land-dwelling pests tend to congregate.

(2) TWICE THE SPICE. Boing Boing spotted an Instagram post that edits the new Dune trailer into a comparison with David Lynch’s adaptation from the Eighties: “Watch: A spicy side-by-side of Dune (1984) and Dune (2021)”. See it at the link.

The newest sci-fi spectacular that is Dennis Villeneuve’s Dune might not include David Lynch’s battle pugs, but it does include some startling similarities with the original 1984 film.

(3) UNTRUE GRIT. A ZDnet writer says he got suspended for this: “On Facebook, quoting ‘Dune’ gets you suspended while posting COVID and vaccine misinformation gets you recommended”.

…[A] managing editor for commerce of our sister site, CNET, was beaming on Facebook about how he was able to get in to see a sneak preview of Dune, the Denis Villeneuve-directed film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi epic that is due for a late October release.

I’m sure many other people are as excited as I am about this movie. So I quoted [in reply] the duel scene in question, in which Sting, playing the charismatic and psychotic Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, shouts, “I -WILL- kill you.” I even put it in quotes so that there was no question I was quoting the film.

I thought nothing of it. I went about the rest of my evening. About an hour later, I was notified by Facebook that I was suspended for three days due to violating Community Standards.

I was shocked. Suspended for quoting a film? Without even using any obscenities? This seems… extreme.

Obviously, I had no intention of killing Russell Holly, envious as I was that he got to see this film months before anyone else. I am also not in the practice of murdering my editorial colleagues with poisoned daggers, as anyone at ZDNet will tell you….

(4) LEVY HASKELL HONORED. Stinson, a nationwide legal firm, recognized employee Fred Levy Haskell, a Minneapolis fan, with an award: “Stinson Staff Honored as Unsung Legal Heroes in Missouri and Minnesota: Stinson LLP Law Firm”

Stinson LLP is proud to announce 2021 Unsung Legal Heroes award recipients for Missouri and Minnesota. 

…Levy Haskell, work product support specialist, is based in Minneapolis. He is recognized for the guidance and optimism he provided to his team, as well as the complex tools he implemented during the transition to working remotely. Fred is appreciated for his upbeat nature and willingness to help anyone at the firm.  

(5) J.K. ON THE BBC. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] J. K. Rowling seriously considered writing Harry Potter under a pseudonym and confirmed she conceived his series on a delayed, crowded rail train.  The Poet Laureate Has Gone to His Shed is a BBC Radio 4 series in which the Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, talks to poets and writers in his garden shed.  An episode this weekend had J.K. Rowling as the guest. (You can also listen to extended version.)

She revealed that she too writes in a shed-like outhouse in her garden. Like Simon’s, it too is devoid of internet access so as to rid distraction.  She revealed that she had seriously considered writing Harry Potter under a pseudonym using the name ‘Oliver’. She also said that she and her publisher decided to use the gender neutral ‘J. K.’ abbreviation.  She confirmed the story that the idea for Harry Potter came to her on a long-delayed and crowded train from Manchester to London.

She said that she always wanted to be a writer ever since she realised that the stories her mother read to her were written by someone.

With regards to writing, she says that her drafts are all hand written and outlines are in notebooks (which nobody has ever seen). The advantage, she said, of hand writing drafts is that using a word processor sees early versions deleted and once gone, are gone. The problem here is that sometimes she finds dialogue or a scene simply has not worked and that she realised that an earlier version had a better staring point for taking in a slightly different direction. Hand-written records are therefore very valuable. Simon Armitage confirmed that he too writes by hand. He said it was important for a writer to access the archaeology of the writing process.

Subsequent to the ‘Potter’ books, J. K. Rowling had been writing crime novels as Robert Galbraith. (The lawyer who outed her was fined £1,000 for breaching privacy rules.) Initially, though the Galbraith books had had critical acclaim, they had no commercial success, that came following the outing.  Simon Armitage asked Rowling as to choose her favourite of two other well-known crime writers: Ruth Rendall or P. D. James. Rowling, with difficulty went for P. D. James.

(6) SHELL GAME. Atlas Obscura ponders “Why Is the World Always on the Back of a Turtle?” Yes, Discworld gets mentioned.

ANYONE WHO’S EVER HEARD THE expression “it’s turtles all the way down” is probably familiar with the image of the world being carried on the back of a giant turtle. While that philosophical one-liner is of relatively modern vintage, the cosmic turtle mytheme has appeared in disparate cultures across the globe for millennia. In honor of everyone’s favorite intellectual quandary, let’s take a moment to celebrate the tortoises that hold up the world.

In his book Researches Into the Early History of Mankind and the Development of Civilization, the turn-of-the-20th-century anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor writes that the world turtle concept likely first appeared in Hindu mythology. In one Vedic story, the form of the god Vishnu’s second avatar, Kurma, is a great turtle, which provides a celestial foundation upon which a mountain is balanced….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2008 – Thirteen years ago this month, Robert Holdstock’s Avilion would be published. Set in his Ryhope Wood series, it was nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. It would be the final work from this author as he died in-hospital at the age of sixty-one from an E. coli infection on the 29th of November 2009. He would be honored with The Karl Edward Wagner Award from the British Fantasy Society the following year.  And they would rename their best fantasy novel award in his honor – now called the BFS Robert Holdstock Award. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 26, 1894 Aldous Huxley. Brave New World is fascinating. I knew I had it assigned and sort of discussed in a High School class and at least one Uni class a very long time ago. So what else is genre by him and worth reading? I see his Time Must Have a Stop novel was on the long list at CoNZealand. (Died 1963.)
  • Born July 26, 1928 Stanley Kubrick. I’m reasonably sure 2001: A Space Odyssey was the first film I saw by him but Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was the one that impressed me the most. A Clockwork Orange was just too damn depressing. And I’m not a horror fan as such so I never saw The ShiningBarry Lyndon is great but it’s not genre by any means. (Died 1999.)
  • Born July 26, 1945 Helen Mirren, 76. She first graces our presence as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She next shows up in a genre role as Alice Rage in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, Peter Sellar’s last film. She’s an ever so delicious Morgana in Excalibur and then leaps into the future as Tanya Kirbuk in 2010: The Year We Make Contact. She voices the evil lead role in The Snow Queen, and likewise is Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. She was recently in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms as Mother Ginger, regent of the Land of Amusements. Her next genre role is in the forthcoming Shazam! Fury of the Gods as Hespera.
  • Born July 26, 1945 M. John Harrison, 76. Winner of the Otherwise Award. TheViriconium sequence, I hesitate to call it a series, starting with The Pastel City, is some of the most elegant fantasy I’ve read. And I see he’s a SJW as he’s written the Tag, the Cat series which I need to take a look at. He’s also a major critic for the past thirty years reviewing fiction and nonfiction for The GuardianThe Daily Telegraph, the Times Literary Supplement and The New York Times. He’s lightly stocked at the usual suspects though TheViriconium sequence is there at a very reasonable price. 
  • Born July 26, 1954 Lawrence Watt-Evans, 67. Ok I’ll admit that I’ve not read “Why I Left Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers” which won him a short fiction Hugo at Conspiracy ’87. It also was nominated for a Nebula and won an Asimov’s Reader’s Poll that year. It’d be his only Hugo. So I’m curious what Hugo voters saw in it. Yes, I’ve read him — his War Surplus series is quite excellent.
  • Born July 26, 1957 Nana Visitor, 64. Kira Nerys on Deep Space Nine which for my money is the second best of the Trek series to date and I’m including the present series in that assessment. After DS9 ended, Visitor had a recurring role as villain Dr. Elizabeth Renfro on Dark Angel. In 1987, Visitor appeared as Ellen Dolan in a never developed series pilot for Will Eisner’s The Spirit with Sam J. Jones as The Spirit. And she had a brief role in Torchwood: Miracle Day.
  • Born July 26, 1964 Sandra Bullock, 57. First film role was in, I kid you not, Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, also Demolition Man, Practical Magic and Gravity to name but three of her other genre appearances.
  • Born July 26, 1969 Tim Lebbon, 52. For my money, his best series is The Hidden Cities one he did with Christopher Golden though his Relics series with protagonist Angela Gough is quite superb as well. He dips into the Hellboy universe with two novels, Unnatural Selection and Fire Wolves, rather capably. I’ve got his Firefly novel, Generations, in my Audible queue.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side depends on a literary reference – which I’m confident you’ll all get.

(10) WORKING TOGETHER. Literary agent Mark Gottlieb posted the interview that he conducted with Willam F. Nolan and Jason Brock shortly before Nolan’s death on July 15: “In Memory of Award-winning Author and Creator of Logan’s Run William F. Nolan”.

What is it like working together in a collaboration as two authors?

Nolan: Well, I have collaborated quite a bit in my career. I worked on the screenplay to Burnt Offerings with producer/director Dan Curtis, for example. I did most of the adaptation of Marasco’s novel, but Dan and I worked on other elements together. Of course, I co-wrote Logan’s Run with my dear friend George Clayton Johnson. That started as an idea of mine, but as the book took shape George added some fine elements. We literally typed the whole thing from notes in three weeks! We spelled one another on the typewriter in a hotel. I did the final polish later. Jason and I have worked on a lot of pieces together, also, but I’ll let him talk about that.

Brock: I come from a background in music, and having a band is quite collaborative. Also, I am a filmmaker, having completed two documentaries and working on others, and film in general is extremely collaborative. So, writing is a pretty easy way to work together as there are fewer people involved, at least in the active writing phase, as opposed to editing and preparing for publication. As long as the coauthors share roughly the same vision for the outcome, getting there can be a lot of fun, actually. It’s surprising the places a piece can go when you write something, then have the other person take your concepts and spin them, then you do that to theirs, etc. It’s a rush.

(11) A DIFFERENT TAKE ON D&D. Areo’s Christopher Ferguson restrains his enthusiasm, but what do you think? “Sensitive Masters and Wheelchair Accessible Torture Chambers: Dungeons & Dragons in the Culture War Era”.

…The collection is, indeed, progressive in tone. It has been noted that it includes a wheelchair accessible dungeon (a cause celebre for progressive members of gaming communities, though wheelchairs aren’t specifically mentioned in the book) and numerous nonplayer characters who use they/them pronouns. The collection also signals progressivism in other ways—for example, the new adventures de-emphasise the idea that good or evil motives are inherent traits of monster races. (This is a response to those who have protested that the attribution of inherent bad traits to this group is analogous to racism in real life.) And it includes a trigger warning of sorts: the accompanying book begins with a section titled “Be a Sensitive Dungeon Master,” which uses progressive buzzwords such as trigger and unsafe….

(12) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Let the BBC break it to you: “Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson may not be astronauts, US says”.

…The Commercial Astronaut Wings programme updates were announced on Tuesday – the same day that Amazon’s Mr Bezos flew aboard a Blue Origin rocket to the edge of space.

To qualify as commercial astronauts, space-goers must travel 50 miles (80km) above the Earth’s surface, which both Mr Bezos and Mr Branson accomplished.

But altitude aside, the agency says would-be astronauts must have also “demonstrated activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety”….

I think this reminds me of a scene in The Right Stuff where test pilots insisted the Mercury capsule needed a window and some flight control capability. Because they weren’t just the human counterparts of the monkeys that had been shot into space.

(13) HEY, I GREW UP HERE. “This quirky L.A. museum is dedicated to San Fernando Valley history” – the Washington Post has the story.

…Of the thousands of artifacts displayed here, Gelinas says, it’s the extensive collection of electric and neon signs, some with graffiti still intact, that are the museum’s biggest draw. A neon sign from the now-defunct, iconic, Palomino Club, a famed North Hollywood country music venue that hosted talent such as Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and Tanya Tucker, is a crowd favorite, he reports. Other signs in the extensive collection include one from a Jewish deli, a Van de Kamp’s Holland Dutch Bakery complete with windmill and a galloping horse that once advertised a local liquor store.

…Of the collection, Gelinas says, 25 percent is donated while the other 75 percent is “rescued,” as in Gelinas and his team get a call to come take an item that might be destroyed. These “History Watchdogs,” as he refers to them, call when beloved area signage or iconography is in danger of being torn down. When that happens, Gelinas says, he and his team of loyal museum volunteers, many of whom have been specially trained in removal techniques, take great pains to make sure things are done well.

(14) DC AT SDCC. During the DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow Comic-Con@Home panel on Sunday, the cast and showrunners unveiled a sneak peek at the remainder of the show’s sixth season — think bowling, board games, aliens, weddings, magic mushrooms, and a whole lot of dark drama involving John Constantine.

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, James Davis Nicoll, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 4/30/21 This Is The Way The Scroll Ends, Not With A File But A Pixel

(1) ON THE CORPORATE RIM. Tesla, The Lego Group, Netflix, Zoom, and SpaceX are on the TIME100 Most Influential Companies 2021 list. So is Roblox —

When adults turned to Zoom for pandemic-era happy hours, kids filled the social void with Roblox. In 2020, Roblox Corporation’s free-to-play game—which allows users to construct original, three-dimensional online worlds—grew its daily user base 85% to more than 32.6 million. Players can do everything from delivering pizzas to exploring ancient Rome to shelling out real money for virtual Robux to outfit their blocky avatars. (As in many online communities, some have faced harassment.) “Futurists and science-fiction writers have been imagining the Metaverse for decades,” says CEO David Baszucki, referring to the concept of a persistent, shared, 3-D virtual space. Roblox is making it a reality.

(2) ANOTHER CONVENTION CASUALTY. Jo Walton’s Scintillation con — planned for October 2021 in Montreal — is canceled. Current plans are to hope for 2022. “2021 is also cancelled”.

There will be no Scintillation in 2021. There’s no word about the border opening. Vaccinations are happening, but unevenly, and it’s not possible to get any guidance as to whether it will be legal to have events in Quebec in October. We thought about pushing it back, but then it runs into both World Fantasy (still planned to be in Montreal, still planned to be at least partly in person) and winter. The hotel are very reluctant to commit, and keeping the whole thing as a possibility was making us anxious, and of course the closer it gets the harder it is for people to commit. The worst result would be having a con and losing money so we can’t do it other years. So I decided we’d be better to just cancel again, and have the best Scintillation ever in 2022….

(3) 2021 SEIUN AWARDS FINALISTS. Locus Online’s 2021 Seiun Awards Nominees post has translations into English of all the titles up for Best Japanese Novel and Best Japanese Story, as well as the correct English titles of the works nominated for Best Translated Novel and Best Translated Story (i.e. of works into the Japanese language.) And I don’t! So hie thee hence.

The award’s own official website also lists the nominees in Multimedia, Comic, Artist, Non-Fiction, and “Free” (other) categories.

The awards will be presented at SF60, the 60th Japan SF Convention, scheduled for August 21-22, 2021 in Takamatsu city, Kagawa prefecture.

(4) ACTOR NOEL CLARKE FACES HARASSMENT ALLEGATIONS. BAFTA, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, has suspended British actor and producer Noel Clarke following allegations of sexual misconduct reports CNN. He’s known to sff fans for playing Mickey Smith in 15 episodes of Doctor Who, and appearing in Star Trek: Into Darkness.

The body told CNN in a statement on Friday that it had made the decision to suspend Clarke’s membership, along with his recent award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema, “in light of the allegations of serious misconduct” leveled against him in the Guardian newspaper.

“BAFTA has taken the decision to suspend his membership and the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema award immediately and until further notice,” it added.

The suspension comes just weeks after Clarke was given the award — one of the academy’s most prestigious honors — at its annual ceremony on April 10.

According to the Guardian, claims of sexual harassment and bullying were made against Clarke by 20 women, all of whom knew him in a professional capacity between 2004 and 2019.

(5) MANY I BUY ANOTHER VOWEL, PLEASE? James Davis Nicoll would like to point you at “The Single Best Bibliographical Resource There Is (if You Like SFF)” at Tor.com.

The ISFDB’s roots can be found in USENET, a now archaic decentralized worldwide distributed discussion system intended to be sufficiently robust enough that in the event of a global thermonuclear war, surviving users would still be able to exchange angry barbs about the latest Robert A. Heinlein novel even as deadly fallout collected in deep drifts around the furious posters. By its nature, however, USENET posts tend to be ephemeral. Thus, in the mid-1990s, Al von Ruff and the entity known as Ahasuerus created the web-based ISFDB….

(6) 124C41+. SF2 Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie sent another update about prospects for UK fan groups resuming in-person meetings in the foreseeable future.

I have almost finished downloading five months of Nature PDFs that accrued during my “digital lockdown”, fortunately I had paper subscriptions so I was kept up-to-date during this time. Next is ScienceBMJ, etc. And I’ve not yet looked at the backlog e-mails December 2020 to March ’21…

As lockdown over here in Brit Cit eases, our local Northumberland Heath DA8 Science Fiction Group is hoping for a members-only meet in June before resuming regular open meetings. Before then a few of us may though have a garden
gathering as under CoVID rules, before late May, six are allowed to gather outside. (We hope Buffy the dog doesn’t count as one of the six: she slays vampires you know.)

Whether or not our SF group will have a larger barbecue this summer remains to be seen.

As for larger UK meetings, such as the Birmingham SF Group or the London SF Circle, getting to these will involve public transport and that may put off some. We will see. For now, the London SF Circle is virtual.

Fortunately, over here, both the weekly rates of infection and fatalities seem to be in steady decline, for which we have the vaccines to thank. (All hail the UK Science Base, AstraZeneca and Pfizer.)

Trusting things are going well for you over in the rebel colonies? News from some places elsewhere is depressing. Hopefully we can speed up vaccinating the world.

?

(7) DOWN FOR THE COUNT. Dream Foundry has made Cassie Alexander’s seminar “Injuries in Fiction and Writing About Other Medical Topics” available on their YouTube channel.

Have you ever needed to incapacitate a character and gotten stuck wondering what was real versus what was functional for your project? As an author and RN, Cassie understands the way we need to sometimes bend things for fiction — but also the thrill of making fiction as truthful as possible. The first half of the talk will include an overview of such topics as: blows to the head, strokes, burns, gunshots/arrowshots, what’s “life support,” infectious processes, heart attacks, etc., and the second half of the talk will be audience questions about their WIPs.

(8) WAIT UNTIL I PRODUCE THE SILMARILLION. Uh, yeah. At Literary Hub, Emily Temple documents “How J.R.R. Tolkien Blocked W.H. Auden From Writing a Book About Him”.

…Of course, without Tolkien’s cooperation, the book never materialized—though I have to say I’m sorry. I personally would love to read what was, judging by the above, sure to be Auden’s half-catty, half-worshipful book on Tolkien. We’ll all just have to imagine it, I suppose.

(9) CHEAP CHEAP. The Independent’s Ed Cumming knows how it happened and is willing to explain: “Intergalactic: How Britain fell in love with the rickety, low-budget sci-fi show”.

Blame Doctor Who. When they arrived in 1963, the Time Lord and his chums didn’t merely create a franchise that would dominate British TV for more than 50 years – they spawned an entire universe of tonally imitative series set in space. From Blake’s 7 and Space Island One to Star Cops and Outcasts, UK TV schedules have been littered with these curiosities. With their rattling sets, iffy costumes and eccentric English charm, we might fondly call such shows “Mibs”, or Mostly Indoors British Sci-fi.

Another may be on the way in the form of Sky One’s space-prison drama Intergalactic, which begins tonight. While they differ in their specifics, these programmes share a love of big themes delivered on tight budgets. They’re also more liked than initial critical reception tends to suggest.

It stems from a paradox at the heart of the genre. For audiences, a futuristic setting conjures visions of spectacle, elaborate costumes and faraway locations, all augmented with cutting edge technology and special effects. In Hollywood, sci-fi has long pushed the envelope of what is possible in filmmaking. For TV producers on a tight leash, however, mostly indoor sci-fis have a different quality. When outside movement is limited by an infinite hostile void, you can film the whole thing in a tiny studio. Viewers get big ideas. You get great value. Everyone wins.

(10) LIGHTING UP THE TV. Netflix dropped a trailer for the second half of Season 5 of Lucifer.  

It’s time to meet your new maker! Lucifer is back with eight thrilling new episodes. Season 5 Part 2 premieres May 28th.

(11) MY ILIAD SCORE WAS AN ODDITY. “How Well Do You Know An Iliad?” Take the quiz. I scored six out of seven, but I predict many Filers will get perfect marks!

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 30, 1839 – Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.  (Personal name last, Japanese-style.)  Possibly the last great Japanese woodblock artist.  Some of his work is fantasy.  Here is the cover of Higashi ed., Kaiki [“fantastic”], Uncanny Tales from Japan vol. 1 (showing Minamoto no Yorimitsu Cuts at the Earth Spider).  Here is Midnight Moon at Mount Yoshino (Lady Iga no Tsubone confronting the ghost of Sadaki no Kiyotaka, see here).  (Died 1892) [JH]
  • Born April 30, 1926 Cloris Leachman. I’ve got her first in the genre in Young Frankenstein as Frau Blücher. (Strange film.) She does her obligatory mouse role when she voices Euterpe in The Mouse and His Child. Next up is being The Lord’s Secretary in The Muppet Movie. (Always a fun time.) Hmmm… she’s Millie Crown in Shadow Play, a horror film that I don’t plan on seeing. Not my cup of tea. Lots of voice work from there out and I will only note her as Mrs. Tensedge in The Iron Giant, a great film indeed. She in the live action and I assume disgusting Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse as Ms. Fielder. (Died 2021.) (CE) 
  • Born April 30, 1934 – Baird Searles.  Book reviewer for Asimov’s.  Film reviewer for Amazing and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Co-wrote A Reader’s Guide to Science Fiction and A Reader’s Guide to FantasyFilms of Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Co-founded the SF Shop, New York.  Drama and Literature director at Radio Station WBAI; weekly program “Of Unicorns and Universes”; 100-minute reading of “The Council of Elrond”, pronunciations verified with Tolkien by telephone; complete (serialized) reading of Last and First Men.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born April 30, 1938 Larry Niven, 83. One of my favorite authors to read, be it the Gil Hamilton the Arm stories, Ringworld, Protector, The Mote in God’s Eye with Jerry Pournelle (The Gripping Hand alas didn’t work for me at all), or the the Rainbow Mars stories which I love in the audiobook version. What’s your favorite Niven story? And yes, I did look up his Hugos. “Neutron Star” was his first at NyCon followed by Ringworld at Noreascon 1 and in turn by “Inconstant Moon” (lovely story) the following year at L.A. Con I,  “The Hole Man” (which I don’t remember reading) at Aussiecon 1 and finally “The Borderland of Sol” novelette at MidAmericaCon. He’s not won a Hugo since 1976 which I admit surprised me. (CE) 
  • Born April 30, 1947 – Melinda Murdock, age 74.  Ten novels, one shorter story, three covers.  Here is Timegatehere is A Sea of Troubles.  [JH]
  • Born April 30, 1959 – Bill Congreve, age 62.  Two dozen short stories.  Three Ditmars.  Book reviewer for Aurealis.  Edited four Year’s Best Australian Science Fiction & Fantasy (three with Michelle Marquardt), four more anthologies.  Small press, MirrorDanse Books.  Favourite (he’s Australian) meal: tabouli, roast chicken, Guinness, and Street’s Blue Ribbon ice cream.  [JH]
  • Born April 30, 1960 – P.C. Cast, age 61.  Three dozen novels, nine shorter stories, some edited by daughter Kristin Cast.   In high school fell in love with mythology and Quarter Horses.  Served in the Air Force, taught high school herself.  NY Times and USA Today best-selling author.  Prism, Holt Medallion, Laurel Wreath, Oklahoma Book awards.  Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame.  [JH]
  • Born April 30, 1968 Adam Stemple, 53. Son of Jane Yolen. One-time vocalist of Boiled in Lead. With Yolen, he’s written the Rock ‘n’ Roll Fairy TalesPay the Piper and Troll Bridge which are worth reading, plus the Seelie Wars trilogy which I’ve not read. He’s also written two Singer of Souls urban fantasies which I remember as engaging. (CE) 
  • Born April 30, 1968 David Goldfarb, 53. Worked part-time at The Other Change of Hobbit, when it was in its first location in Berkeley. Has been Tuckerized by Jo Walton in Ha’Penny and Half a Crown, and by Mark Waid in the comic book Legion of Super-Heroes. At ConJosé co-accepted Jo’s Astounding (then-Campbell) Award. He’s five-for-five in Mark and Priscilla Olson’s “Trivia for Chocolate” game at Worldcons he’s attended. He competed in “Win Tom Whitmore’s Books” at Denvention 3 and beat Tom and won a rare Bujold hardcover from him. [OGH]
  • Born April 30, 1973 Naomi Novik, 48. She wrote the Temeraire series which runs to nine novels so far. Her first book, His Majesty’s Dragon, won the Astounding Award. She most deservedly won the Nebula Award for Best Novel for Uprooted which is a most excellent read. I’ve not yet read her Spinning Silver novel which won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, so opinions are welcome. (CE)
  • Born April 30, 1973 – Jeanine Hall Gailey, age 48. Ten dozen poems; five collections.  Co-edited Dwarf Stars 11 (annual anthology, DS Award finalists, SF Poetry Ass’n; poems of at most 10 lines).  Two top prizes from Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Memorial Fund (2007, 2011).  Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington.  Elgin Award.  Moon City Poetry Award.  [JH]
  • Born April 30, 1982 Kirsten Dunst, 38. Her first genre role was as Claudio in  Interview with the Vampire. Later genre roles include Judy Shepherd in Jumanji, voicing Christy Fimple in Small Soldiers, voicing Becky Thatcher in The Animated Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man franchise,  voicing Kaena in Kaena: The Prophecy, and showing up on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Hedrilin in the “Dark Page” episode. She would have been nine years old in that episode! (CE) 
  • Born April 30, 1985 Gal Gadot, 36. Wonder Woman of course in the DC film universe. Other genre work, well, other than voicing Shank on Ralph Breaks the Internet, there really isn’t any. (CE) 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows cops tracing a witch’s missing sibling. You’ll probably solve this disappearance before they do.

(14) IN CHARACTER. Keith Houston, in “Miscellany #90: The Grawlix” on his blog Shady Characters explains that the bunch of random typography in comics used to portray obscenity is called “The Grawlix” and was invented by Mort Walker for Beetle Bailey in the 1950s.

…But here’s the thing. A grawlix is not a col­lec­tion of ty­po­graphic char­ac­ters — at least not the way that Walker defined it. In Lex­icon, he writes:

“A vari­ety of ac­cept­able curse words are at the car­toon­ist’s dis­posal. He may throw in a new one from time to time, but the real meat of the epi­thet must al­ways con­tain plenty of jarns, quimps, nittles, and grawlixes[.]”…

(15) MAY THE FOURTH ITH NEXT WEEK. SYFY Wire thinks you should spare no expense to celebrate — “May the 4th, Star Wars Day 2021: Bad Batch premiere, events, merchandise, more”. A roundup of several dozen thematic products.

… After more than a year of shutdowns and delays, cantinas and gangster hideouts throughout the galaxy are finally opening their doors to more and more clientele. We haven’t felt this giddy and hopeful since Vader tossed Palpatine into the reactor of the Death Star. It’s only fitting that Star Wars Day 2021 should ring in a new era of optimism. After all, the entire franchise is rooted in the concept of sparking hope in dark times.

So, cash in those galactic credits and clear your schedule for Tuesday, May 4, because we’ve got your guide on how to party like it’s the days of the Old Republic. (Be sure to check back in with SYFY WIRE as more May the 4th goodies are revealed over the next week.)…

(16) URSA PASSES ORSON. In the Washington Post, Brittany Shammas says that a negative review of Citizen Kane from the Chicago Tribune has been unearthed, which makes Paddington 2 the highest ranking film on Rotten Tomatoes with uniformly positive reviews. “Rotten Tomatoes downgrades Citizen Kane’s perfect score”.

… A thousand memes and jokes were born of the news that the talking-bear sequel’s score of “100 percent Fresh” had bested the “99 percent Fresh” now assigned to the film widely hailed as the greatest ever made.

“please don’t misinterpret the adjusted Rotten Tomatoes rankings to mean that ‘Paddington 2 is now the best movie of all time.’ Paddington 2 *already was* the best movie of all time,” quipped David Ehrlich, a senior film critic at Indie Wire. “thank you.”…

(17) NOT FOREVER, JUST TOMORROW. Variety introduces “’The Tomorrow War’ Trailer: Chris Pratt’s Time-Traveling Sci-Fi Film”.

Amazon has released a trailer for the upcoming sci-fi thriller “The Tomorrow War,” debuting this summer.

The movie, out July 2, stars Chris Pratt as Dan Forester, a high school teacher who is recruited by a group of time travelers to fight a war in the future. As an alien species threatens life on Earth, the only hope for survival is for soldiers and civilians from the present to travel to the year 2051 and help save the planet. Dan teams up with his estranged father, played by J.K. Simmons, and a brilliant scientist, played by Yvonne Strahovski, to rewrite the fate of mankind.

(18) HIS GREATEST ROLL. “Hear Jeff Goldblum play D&D, because life finds a way” at Polygon.

Actor Jeff Goldblum is joining the cast of a fan-made Dungeons & Dragons podcast called Dark Dice, created and written by Fool and Scholar Productions. The high-concept audio drama starts out as a traditional session of D&D, complete with dice and a Dungeon Master. Sequences are then cut, condensed, and performed with additional voice acting, original music, and sound effects. Episodes featuring the Jurassic Park actor will begin airing for free on May 12. The announcement was made Wednesday by Deadline.

(19) STUCK. “NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter just failed to lift off from the Martian surface, but it will try again on Friday”Yahoo! has the story.

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter was scheduled to embark on its most daring flight yet on Thursday. But it failed to lift off, so NASA plans to try again on Friday.

Ingenuity made history when it flew for the first time on April 19 – a 10-foot hover that marked the first controlled, powered flight ever conducted on another planet. Since then, the 4-pound drone has completed two more flights, venturing farther and flying faster each time.

Ingenuity was in good shape after its last flight, in which it traveled roughly 330 feet out and back. It was set to attempt an even more ambitious adventure on Thursday: a 117-second flight in which the little drone was supposed to reach a record speed of 3.5 meters per second. The plan was for the helicopter to climb 16 feet into the air, fly south for about 436 feet, and snap photos of the Martian surface along the way. It was then supposed to hover for more photos, turn around, and fly back to its original spot for landing.

But Ingenuity’s rotor blades didn’t lift it up at all.

The culprit is probably a software issue that first showed up during a high-speed spin test ahead of the chopper’s first flight…. 

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. I’m sure I can’t explain Captain Yajima but it’s pretty amusing.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/10/21 You Spin Me Right ’Round, Breqi, Right ’Round Like Radchaai, Breqi

(1) ROBOT IN MY I. Louder revisits the Seventies to find out “How Alan Parsons made I Robot, his science fiction masterpiece”.

It was June 1977, and the US was being invaded by robots. Leading the charge were R2-D2, C-3PO and the glass-domed dynamo that stared from the cover of the Alan Parsons Project’s album I Robot

“It was impeccable timing by George Lucas,” Parsons recalls with a chuckle, “to be so considerate to bring out Star Wars at the same time as our album.” The previous year, Parsons, the audio engineer behind Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon, had turned auteur, mining the works of Edgar Allan Poe on his debut album Tales Of Mystery And Imagination (“It didn’t set the world alight,” Parsons says). 

Now, Parsons and his creative partner Eric Woolfson had found literary inspiration in Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot. The sci-fi writer’s morality-based story collection was built around his Three Laws of Robotics – robots must obey, protect and never harm humans. 

Woolfson had a “pleasant conversation” with Asimov, who loved the idea of musicalising his book. Unfortunately the author had already sold the rights to a film/TV company. Undeterred, the duo dropped the titular comma, then wrote their own version…. 

(2) FIRST REDWALL MOVIE. “’Redwall’ Animated Feature & Series Questing to Netflix”Animation Magazine says it’s in development. My daughter read the whole series.  

Brian Jacques’ Redwall fantasy book series will be reimagined in animation thanks to a rights deal between Penguin Random House Children’s U.K. and Netflix: A feature film based on Jacques’ first book in the series, Redwall, is currently in development with writer Patrick McHale (Over the Garden Wall, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio), as well as an event series based on the character of Martin the Warrior.

The deal marks the first time that the film rights to the entire book series have been held by the same company and the first time a feature film of any of Jacques’ works will be made….

(3) SFWA STORYBUNDLE.  The Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) released its newest StoryBundle, Expansive Futures, a curated collection of books offered at a steeply discounted price. Readers who purchase Expansive Futures can opt to donate part of their purchase price to support SFWA’s ongoing work. The Expansive Futures StoryBundle will be available from February 10 to March 4, here.

Readers choose what price they want to pay for the initial five books. Spending $15 unlocks thirteen more books that they can receive with their purchase. Further details about how StoryBundle operates are available here

The books in the bundle are:

  • Starship Hope: Exodus by T.S. Valmond
  • Raptor by John G. Hartness
  • The Chiral Conspiracy by L.L. Richman
  • Ganymede by Jason Taylor
  • The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth
  • Eternity’s End by Jeffrey A. Carver
  • When You Had Power by Susan Kaye Quinn
  •  Annihilation Aria by Michael R. Underwood
  • The Solar Sea by David Lee Summers
  • The Cost of Survival by J. L. Stowers
  • Claiming T-MO by Eugen Bacon
  • The Hammer Falls by Travis Heermann
  • Warrior Wench by Marie Andreas
  • Glitch Mitchell and the Unseen Planet by Philip Harris
  • Iron Truth by S.A. Tholin
  • Knight Errant by Paul Barrett & Steve Murphy 
  • A Fall in Autumn by Michael G. Williams
  • Two Suns at Sunset by Gene Doucette

(4) COMEDY COMPANION. “Doctor Who’s Chris Chibnall: ‘John Bishop brings a different flavour’”, as he explains to Radio Times.

Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall has praised comedian and actor John Bishop for “bringing a different flavour and a different humour” in his role as companion Dan in series 13 of the BBC sci-fi show.

Bishop was unveiled in a special teaser at the end of New Year’s special Revolution of the Daleks on January 1st and, according to the BBC, his character will become “embroiled in the Doctor’s adventures” in the now-filming series 13, where he’ll “quickly learn there’s more to the Universe(s) than he could ever believe”.

Explaining why he cast Bishop in the new series, Chibnall told Doctor Who Magazine: “I’ve always got my eye out for performers who are loved, and wondering how good they might be as actors. There’s such a great history of performers who start out as comedians transitioning into becoming terrific actors – the best example being Robbie Coltrane in Cracker. John’s somebody I’ve been keeping a beady eye on for years….”

(5) D&D SURPASSED. “Horror RPG Call of Cthulhu is bigger than D&D in Japan”Dicebreaker delves into the numbers.

Horror roleplaying game Call of Cthulhu has overtaken Dungeons & Dragons’ popularity in Japan, with its success driven by an explosion in interest among younger fans and a growing audience of female players over the last decade….

According to the game’s production studio Arclight, most Call of Cthulhu players in Japan are women aged between 17 and 35. By way of comparison, Wizards of the Coast revealed last year that most Dungeons & Dragons players are under 30, with 40% aged 24 or younger and around a fifth aged between 30 and 34. The majority of D&D players – more than three-fifths – identified as male, with 39% identifying as female. Players who identified as non-binary or “other” comprised less than 1% of the audience.

(6) FOR THIS THEY GET PAID. Fox Meadows lights into Locus reviewer Katharine Coldiron in “Sequel Rights: A Review of Locus Reviews”.

… The absolute gall of any reviewer to start with the second book in a series and then complain that they don’t understand what’s going on, as though this is somehow the fault of the text! It shouldn’t need to be said, but I’ve read The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, a book whose plots and politics are both deep and intricate – as, indeed, one might expect from the first book of a projected series! Of course Coldiron had no idea what was going on. Which begs the question: why, if she had no intention of reading the first book in the series, did Coldiron feel the need to review the sequel – and why, even more pressingly, did Locus decide such an abysmal review was worth publishing in the first place?

With such a terrible starting point, it’s hardly a surprise that the full review – which is not yet available online – gets worse as it goes on. That Coldiron repeatedly gets a main character’s name wrong (Rayyan instead of Rayyal) is a minor sin in comparison to describing a book whose setting is explicitly based on the pre-colonial Philippines as a “richly imagined world [that] resembles England before the Norman Conquest.” That Coldiron somehow made this error this despite the customs, nomenclature and general everything about Villoso’s world is bizarre; to quote a different review, “This world isn’t your pseudo-medieval European world. It’s unequivocally Filipino with inspiration from other sources in Southeast Asia. Not once does Villoso allow you to believe this is anything but a fantasy set in a world inspired by the Philippines.”

Over and over, Coldiron talks about how difficult it is to keep track of various details of a narrative which – and I cannot stress this enough – is the sequel to a book she has not read, without ever stopping to consider that this is her problem rather than the author’s…. 

After Meadows analyzes several more examples of Coldiron’s reviews, Meadows says:

… If Coldiron was posting her reviews on a private blog, or at any venue less esteemed than Locus, it’s doubtful that I’d have bothered to write this piece; or at the very least, to have written this much. The real problem, though, is not Coldiron herself: it’s that Locus has failed to notice the regularity with which her reviews rebuke POC for things she either praises or lets pass when written by white authors; has allowed the inclusion of racism and microaggressions within her work without apparent editorial oversight; and has now seen nothing wrong with publishing a wildly unprofessional review that blames a sequel volume for the reviewer’s failure to have read the first instalment. It’s maddening and upsetting in equal measure, and at a time when both SFF and the wider literary community are ostensibly trying to do better by marginalised writers, it’s a sign of how thoroughly white privilege still blinds so much of the industry to its failings, even among those who consider themselves well-intentioned.

(7) EIGHT GREAT. Radio Times unveils the “RadioTimes.com Awards 2021 – Vote for the Best Sci-Fi Show”. Voting is open until February 14. The results of the RadioTimes.com Awards will be announced on 7th March 2021.

The choices on the ballot are —

  • Devs – BBC
  • Doctor Who – BBC
  • His Dark Materials – BBC
  • Lucifer – Netflix
  • The Boys – Amazon
  • The Haunting of Bly Manor – Netflix
  • The Mandalorian – Disney Plus
  • The Umbrella Academy – Netflix

(8) PLENTY OF DOOMS TO GO AROUND. James Davis Nicoll singles out “Five Books Showcasing Humanity’s Talent for Self-Extinction” for Tor.com.

…To put it more simply, perhaps the Great Silence isn’t due to galactic civilizations shunning us, but rather due to the sad probability that no civilizations last long enough to communicate before they find some innovative way to remove themselves from the playing board….

Even the perennially upbeat Clifford Simak can see how it might happen!

City by Clifford Simak (1953)

Humanity at the beginning of the 21st century had so much promise. Famine and energy shortages were vanquished; humans had acquired the basic toolkit to construct a utopia. Yet a handful of centuries later, humans were all but extinct, save for one small, irrelevant city of dreamers in suspended animation. Between those two moments lies an endless cavalcade of good intentions gone horribly awry, each one leading well-intentioned humans towards total extinction.

(9) PRO TIPS. “Interview: Guest Lecturer Melissa Scott” at the Odyssey Writing Workshop Blog.

You have collaborated with several authors. What advice do you have for writers who are interested in collaborating on fiction? What pitfalls are there to avoid?

First, the obligatory practical advice: if you’re going to collaborate, get the terms of the collaboration down in writing. Assume that one or both of you will drop dead, and your heirs will hate each other, and put your arrangements into at least a letter of agreement that all parties involved sign. I have only had to invoke this once, and it was utterly crucial to have the signed letter. It made what could have been a protracted legal mess merely unpleasant and saved the project. Get things in writing. Always.

Beyond that, my most successful collaborations have been with people who shared the same approach toward storytelling. I focus on story and character over theme or message; I get excited about my work and can spend hours making notes on the possible plot(s) and figuring out the connections among the characters and the ways they work in their worlds. I work best with people who share that interest in story and character, and with people who are also enthusiasts. (For me, there’s nothing better than getting an email from a collaborator with six links to videos of reconstructed Renaissance transitional fencing styles to illustrate a point. Your mileage may vary.) It’s basically a matter of understanding your own working style and trying to find a collaborator whose style meshes well with yours.

(10) ONE-MINUTE READ. “‘I basically had a midlife crisis’: Author N.K. Jemisin explains why it’s never too late to quit your day job” at Fast Company.

I didn’t try to publish anything until I was 30, when I basically had a midlife crisis. I was in a city I didn’t like, had not reached various milestones I wanted to reach, and was in student loan debt up to my eyeballs…

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2001 — Twenty years ago, China Miéville ‘s Perdido Street Station wins the Arthur C. Clarke Award. The other nominees that year were Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Talents, Mary Gentle’s Ash: A Secret History, Ken MacLeod’s Cosmonaut Keep, Alastair Reynolds’s Revelation Space and Adam Roberts’ SaltPerdido Street Station would also win a BFA and be nominated for the BSFA, Otherwise and Nebula Awards.  (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 10, 1904 – Lurton Blassingame.  Literary agent to John Barth, Robert A. Heinlein, Frank Herbert, William F. Nolan.  More letters to him in Grumbles from the Grave than anyone else; some from him too.  Loved fishing, hunting, playing bridge, watching opera and ballet.  After half a century his firm sold to Eleanor Wood’s Spectrum Literary Agency, 1979.  His wife died the next year.  His papers are at Univ. Oregon.  (Died 1988) [JH]
  • Born February 10, 1906 Lon Chaney Jr. I certainly best remember him as  playing Larry Talbot in The Wolf Man but he has a lot of other roles as well: The Ghost of Frankenstein as The Monster (look, correct billing!), The Mummy’s Tomb as The Mummy Kharis or Son of Dracula as Count Dracula, he played all the great monsters, often multiple times. (Died 1973.) (CE) 
  • Born February 10, 1920 Alex Comfort. No smirking please as we’re supposed to be adults here. Yes he’s the author of The Joy of Sex but he did do some decidedly odd genre work as well. Clute at EoSF notes  that his “first genuine sf novel, Come Out to Play (1961), is a near-future Satire on scientism narrated by a smug sexologist, whose Invention – a potent sexual disinhibitor jokingly called 3-blindmycin (see Drugs) – is accidentally released over Buckingham Palace at the Slingshot Ending, presumably causing the English to act differently than before.” ISFDB lists only a few genre works by him but EoSF has a generous lists of works. (Died 2000.) (CE) 
  • Born February 10, 1920 – Robert P. Mills.  Edited The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (managing editor since F&SF began; editor, after Tony Boucher; succeeded in turn by Avram Davidson) and Venture.  Ten years managing editor of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.  Five F&SF anthologies: Best of F&SF 9th, 10th, 11th Series; A Decade of F&SFTwenty Years of F&SF (with Edward Ferman).  Also The Worlds of SF.  Three Hugos (Best Magazine to F&SF under RPM).  One short story.  After F&SF, a literary agent; sold firm to Richard Curtis, 1984.  Papers at Univ. Texas.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born February 10, 1934 – Fleur Adcock, age 87.  Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.  Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.  Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.  Fellow, Royal Soc. Literature. Cholmondely Award.  One short story for us.  A score of poetry collections; tr. The Virgin and the Nightingale (medieval Latin poems); ed. (with Jacqueline Simms) The Oxford Book of Creatures (verse & prose).  [JH]
  • Born February 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 novelization 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 that I’ve never heard of. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born February 10, 1953 John Shirley, 68. I’m not going to even attempt a complete précis of his career. I read and much enjoyed his first novel City Come A-Walkin and oddly enough his Grimm: The Icy Touch is damn good too in way many of those sharecropped novels aren’t. I see that to my surprise he wrote a episode of Deep Space Nine, “Visionary” and also wrote three episodes of the ‘12 series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (CE)
  • Born February 10, 1953 – Tom Whitmore, age 68.  Three decades a partner in “The Other Change of Hobbit” bookshop.  Chaired Potlatch 2, SMOFcon 2 (SMOF is Secret Master Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke); co-chaired ConJosé the 60th Worldcon, Fan Guest of Honor at Denvention 3 the 66th; also Fan GoH at Westercon 36, Loscon XIV, Boskone 26 (as Special Guest, Boskone has no Fan GoH; anyway, see Debbie Notkin’s appreciation), Capclave 2006.  Book reviews in Locus.  Morris dancer.  [JH]
  • Born February 10, 1967 Laura Dern, 54. I’m going to note she’s in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet as Sandy Williams which is not genre but which is one fucking weird film. Jurassic Park where she is Dr. Ellie Sattler is her first SF film followed by Jurassic Park III and a name change to Dr. Ellie Degler.  Such are the things movie trivia is made of. Star Wars: The Last Jedi has her showing as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo.  I think her first genre appearance was on Shelley Duvall’s Nightmare Classic. (CE)
  • Born February 10, 1970 – Robert Shearman, age 51.  Fourscore short stories.  Two of them Doctor Who; ed. The Shooting Scripts (with Paul Cornell, Russell Davis, Mark Gatiss); Rob and Tony’s Marathon Watch of “Doctor Who” vols. 1-2 (with Toby Hadoke).  Interviewed in Nightmare.  [JH]
  • Born February 10, 1976 Keeley Hawes, 45. Ms Delphox/Madame Karabraxos in the most excellent Twelth Doctor story “Time Heist”.  It wasn’t her first genre role as that would’ve been Tamara in that incredibly awful Avengers film. She also played Zoe Reynolds in MI5 which is at least genre adjacent given where the story went. She has also provided the voice of Lara Croft in a series of Tomb Raider video games.  (CE)
  • Born February 10, 1987 – Cody Martin, age 34.  Four novels, three shorter stories, with Mercedes Lackey (whose name, incidentally, means servant of mercy); five novels and a shorter story in the Secret World Chronicles (which is also a podcast) with Lackey, Veronica Giguere, Dennis Lee, Steve Libby.  Eagle Scout.  Gamer.  “After I started writing him, John Murdock drifted away from me….  It surprised me, pleasantly.”  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) MILESTONES. In “The Animation That Changed Cinema” on YouTube, Lewis Bond and Luiza Liz Bond look at how great artists like Lotte Reininger, Jan Svankmajer, and Brad Bird changed and improved animation.

(15) WORLD OF TOMORROW KICKSTARTER. Don Hertzfeldt’s Kickstarter to fund “World of Tomorrow: The First Three Episodes” on Blu-ray has raised $218,446 of its $30,000 goal in the first two days. People who pledge $20 get a copy. There are incentives for higher pledges.

WHAT WILL BE ON THE NEW BLU-RAY?

  • the first three episodes of the series: “world of tomorrow”, “world of tomorrow episode two: the burden of other people’s thoughts”, and “world of tomorrow episode three: the absent destinations of david prime”
  • “intro”, a short cartoon that was created for the 2017 tour and has only ever been seen in theaters
  •  a 32 page booklet, including brand new liner notes for all the titles
  •  additional bells and whistles TBD 

(16) HOW THE WEST WAS WEIRD. “Wynonna Earp: New trailer shows her back on the hunt in Purgatory”: SYFY Wire sets the frame:

…“All I want is to stop feeling guilty for what I am, when what I am is necessary,” Wynonna, played by Melanie Scrofano, says at the beginning of the clip. The trailer then goes on to show Wynonna on a bit of a bender — killing demons, getting drunk, hooking up, and passing out, all with Peacemaker back by her side.

(17) DERAILED BY DISNEY DEAL. Disney bought the studio, Blue Sky, that was making the Nimona cartoon (and other things) and has fired all the staff on Nimona and other projects. “Nimona Movie Cancelled by Disney Less Than a Year Before Release”Comicbook.com has the story.

Fans of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power creator Noelle Stevenson and her original comics were saddened today when news came that Disney is shutting down the former 20th Century Fox animation studio Blue Sky and with it cancelling their feature film adaptation of Stevenson’s Nimona. The movie was less than a year away and had been in development since around 2015, with a release date already scheduled for release on January 14th of 2022. According to The Hollywood Reporter’s Borys Kit, sources indicated that the movie was “about 75% complete” and theorized that perhaps another studio could step in and finish the project.

… This marks the latest project that was in development at Fox or one of its subsidiaries that had fans excited and was subsequently cancelled by Disney….

(18) WOULD YOU LIKE FRIES PRINTED WITH THAT? In the Washington Post, Laura Reiley says that Israeli firm Aleph Farms says it has a process for 3-D printing steaks, and discussed other companies that are coming up with “cultivated: meat and fish. “The world’s first lab-grown rib-eye prompts questions about how cultivated meat will be regulated”.

… Aleph Farms’ new 3-D bioprinting technology— which uses living animal cells as opposed to plant-based alternatives — allows for premium whole-muscle cuts to come to market, broadening the scope of alt-meat in what is expected to be a rich area of expansion for food companies.

Several other companies are sprinting to capture what is expected to be a robust appetite for what is often called “cultivated meat.” San Diego-based BlueNalu has announced its intent to bring cell-based seafood products to market in the second half of this year; Israel-based Future Meat Technologies and Dutch companies Meatable and Mosa Meat aim to have cultivated meat products in the market by 2022, each with proprietary methods of growing meat tissues from punch biopsies from live or slaughtered animals.

But the lack of a regulatory framework could stymie the companies’ race to market. In December, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became the world’s first head of state to eat cultivated meat, and that same month Singapore became the first country in the world to grant regulatory approval for the sale of cultivated meat. It remains unclear when other countries will follow suit. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has not set a date for when it will rule on the matter….

(19) AREN’T YOU SHORT FOR AN IMPERIAL WALKER? SYFY Wire shows “Walking car proven possible by Hyundai TIGER concept”.

It’s probably safe to say that Hyundai is betting big on the future of transportation. Last week, we got wind of their plan to build the world’s smallest airport for flying cars, and then yesterday, the South Korean company just went even more futuristic by presenting its “walking car” concept, TIGER, aka the transforming intelligent ground excursion robot.

Branded as the company’s first uncrewed ultimate mobility vehicle (UMV), TIGER is meant to transform from a four-wheel drive vehicle to a four-legged walking machine….

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

Pixel Scroll 2/3/21 A Round Pixel In A Square Scroll

(1) HE IS THE CHAMPION. LeVar Burton is the inaugural PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion. [H/t to Locus Online.]

We are excited to announce that LeVar Burton, award-winning actor and longtime host of Reading Rainbow, has been named the inaugural PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion. Launched in conjunction with the PEN/Faulkner Foundation’s 40th Anniversary, this annual commendation will recognize devoted literary advocacy and a commitment to inspiring new generations of readers and writers.

…PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion LeVar Burton will be honored, along with this year’s PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction winner and finalists, in a virtual celebration to be held on May 10, 2021.

(2) INTERZONE REVERSES COURSE. Today Andy Cox announced “Interzone Does Not Have A New Publisher…” Plans to turn the magazine over to PS Publishing have been revoked.

Following concerns expressed by subscribers and the increasing confusion about what the new publisher intended to do with the magazine, we sought some clarity. The deal we had was a very simple one and they had to commit to just one thing, but as soon as it became obvious they weren’t going to honour it we had no choice but to withdraw the magazine, along with the various parts of it we’d already handed over. In other words, we are still the publisher of Interzone.

Admittedly this does throw a spanner into the TTA works. We’d already made plans for Black Static and other things – including my own “retirement” – based on Interzone being given to a new publisher. So I’d like to ask for some time to get things back into place, and to make any changes that have to be made in order to fulfil our commitments to you. We will do everything we can to fill subscriptions, but stuff like format and schedule may have to change. We might even have to stop taking new subscriptions and follow the winding-down Black Static route. Meanwhile we will continue to try to find a trustworthy publisher who is right for Interzone.

Your input on all of this and more is always welcome so please don’t hesitate to contact me.

I’d like to finish this update by thanking everybody for the heartwarming messages received over the past few weeks. I’ve tried to reply to everybody but if I missed you please don’t think for an instant that I’m ungrateful. Like I said before, it really has been an honour.

(3) BUTLER AS VISIONARY. [Item by Joel Zakem.] In honor of Black History Month, the NPR podcast radio show Throughline is looking at the lives and legacies of three Black visionaries including Octavia Butler, whom they describe as follows:

Octavia Butler was a deep observer of the human condition, perplexed and inspired by our propensity towards self-destruction. She described herself as a pessimist, “if I’m not careful.” As an award winning science fiction writer and ‘mother of Afrofuturism,’ her visionary works of alternate realities reveal striking, and often devastating parallels to the world we live in today. Butler was fascinated by the cyclical nature of history, and often looked to the past when writing about the future. Along with her warnings is her message of hope – a hope conjured by centuries of survival and persistence. For every society that perished in her books, came a story of rebuilding, of repair. These are themes Butler was intimately familiar with in her life. She broke on to the science fiction scene at a time when she knew of no other Black woman in the field, saying she simply had to “write herself in.”

While the show is scheduled to debut on February 18, 2021, you should, as they say, check your local listings. My local NPR news station (WFPL in Louisville)  is running the show on Saturday, February 27 at noon.

(4) PLAYABLE DOOMS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the January 27 Financial Times, gaming columnist Tom Faber looks at why gamers love apocalypses.

You know how it looks.  Even though the original cataclysmic text, The Book Of Revelation, is extraordinarily vivid, with the sun turning black, stars falling to earth, and a pregnant woman fighting a seven-headed dragon across the sky, gaming apocalypses are drab affairs. You trudge past areas of grey and brown wreckage, shattered cities and crumbling landmarks.  You wear tattered, colourless clothes, eat out of cans and sleep in bunkers and dirty mattresses. The Whore of Babylon never swoops down on unbelievers the way she does in the Bible, drunk on the blood of slain martyrs.  Clearly the apocalypse just isn’t what it used to be.”

…While the aesthetics of the gaming apocalypse are mostly tired, there are a few exceptions.  Horizon Zero Dawn and Zelda:  Breath Of The Wild argue that the end might look colourful and lush,  Meanwhile, The Last Of Us series offers evocative dioramas of lives lived in abandoned American homes following a zombie outbreak.  There are the crops on a deserted farm left to wither on the vine, and the diary entries of a girl who cannot understand why her father never comes home.

(5) THE WINTER OF OUR CONTENT – MUCH CONTENT. George R.R. Martin’s “Reflections on a Bad Year” at Not A Blog talks about the pandemic, isolation, and loss. On the other hand —  

What was good about 2020?   Besides the election?

Well… for me… there was work.

I wrote hundreds and hundreds of pages of THE WINDS OF WINTER in 2020.   The best year I’ve had on WOW since I began it.    Why?  I don’t know.   Maybe the isolation.   Or maybe I just got on a roll.   Sometimes I do get on a roll.

I need to keep rolling, though.   I still have hundreds of more pages to write to bring the novel to a satisfactory conclusion.

That’s what 2021 is for, I hope.

I will make no predictions on when I will finish.   Every time I do, assholes on the internet take that as a “promise,” and then wait eagerly to crucify me when I miss the deadline.   All I will say is that I am hopeful.

(6) THE NEXT MIDDLE AGES. You won’t have to go back in time to get to the Middle Ages. Tribes of Europa premieres on Netflix on February 19.

2074. In the wake of a mysterious global disaster, war rages between the Tribes that have emerged from the wreckage of Europe. Three siblings from the peaceful Origines tribe – Kiano (Emilio Sakraya), Liv (Henriette Confurius) and Elja (David Ali Rashed) – are separated and forced to forge their own paths in an action-packed fight for the future of this new Europa.

(7) RAISED BY WOLVES. South African reviewer Elene Botha is enthusiastic about the series; not everybody is. “Hard core sci-fi fans rejoice: Raised by Wolves is live on Showmax” at 9Lives.

…If you do not enjoy sci-fi, turn around now. Raised by Wolves is modern sci-fi at its best. The production value is very high and the scenes are beautifully shot and executed. The actors they have chosen have extremely interesting features that kind of picks up on the modernity of the entire series.

Despite being quite modern in both look and feel, it is definitely reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s earlier interests (like the first Bladerunner or Alien) which actually gives it a very retro-modern feel. We had a sneak-peek of the first two episodes, and the use of the barren landscapes and hostile environments are contrasted against the technological advances that Scott, who produced the first two episodes, fully leans into.

(8) THE NARRATIVE. “Interview with Kurt Vonnegut” at Robert Caro’s website is a terrific roundtable interview LBJ biographer Caro, Barbara Stone and Daniel Stern conducted with Kurt Vonnegut in 2012.

VONNEGUT
Let’s just use a simple word here: truth. In Slaughterhouse Five I wanted a person who dies of carbon monoxide poisoning to be a beautiful blue, and then you know I wanted a sort of swooning with the beauty of this corpse. Well, that was a mistake and I got a letter from a doctor who said a person who is a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning is rosey and it’s often commented on how well the person looks. I got letter after letter about that for about two or three years.

CARO
To my mind, the prose in a non-fiction work that’s going to endure has to be of the same quality as the prose in a work of fiction that endures. And I actually tested this out for myself. I read one hunk of Gibbon ‘s Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, then I read a part of War and Peace which is a grand historical novel, right, so I figured that’s the closest to Gibbon. So I would read a part of one then apart of the other. I did this all summer. And the writing in Gibbon is at the same level, you know, they don’t read at the same cadences but it’s at the same intensity and level as in War and Peace. I’ve always felt that no one understands why some books of non-fiction endure and some don’t, because there’s not much understanding among many non-fiction writers that the narrative is terribly important. I would say what we both do that is the same is the narrative. I mean history is narrative, just like your books are narrative.

VONNEGUT
Or the reader will stop reading….

(9) JRRT. Shelf Awarenessfeature “Reading with… John Hart” – a multiple Edgar Award winner – includes these fond memories of Tolkien.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien was a birthday gift when I turned 15, and I read the entirety of it in two days, mostly sprawled out on the living room floor, or in bed until the wee small hours. This was before the movies, of course, so the experience was one of raw imagination and total immersion. Few people build worlds the way Tolkien did. I still see it my way, and not as Peter Jackson brought it to the screen….

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Is it sad that I keep coming back to The Lord of the Rings? As an adult, I read very little fantasy. As a child, though, I was transported by the remarkable depth of this imaginary world, the complex interweaving of multiple geographies, religions, histories, cultures and interests, the peoples and places, and how they’d evolved, fought and co-existed for thousands of years. Tolkien created a foreign, remarkable, unforgettable world, yet made it entirely real to me. Total conviction. I read those stories with childlike wonder, and would pay dearly to have the experience again. I’m too old and jaded, I’m sure, but if anyone could make it happen, Tolkien would be the one to do it.

(10) WILLIAMS OBIT. Film publicist Karl Williams died January 31. Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro has an extended profile of this genre expert: “Karl Williams Dead: Longtime Paramount Film Publicist Was 52”.

…Karl worked for Paramount for roughly 15 years, … an integral part of the campaigns for the first two Transformers movies, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Star Trek, Paramount’s early Marvel movies Iron Man and Iron Man 2, Thor and the Shia LaBeouf pics Disturbia and Eagle Eye. 

Post-Paramount, Karl served as the Head of Publicity for Digital Domain as well as serving various PR stints with 20th Century Fox, CBS Films and most recently Amazon…

Paramount’s Waldman told me today: “Karl was the original fanboy digital publicist. He was friendly with all the fanboy-site guys and could talk the talk. He was an integral part of Paramount’s most successful movies like the Transformers launch in 2007, Iron Man in 2008 and so many more. When we had Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, he knew Lucasfilm left, right and center. When it came to that incredible Comic-Con when we assembled The Avengers in 2010Karl was there.”

(11) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2016 — Fifteen years ago, the Sidewise Award went to Charles Stross to Merchant Princes series for the Best Long Form Alternate History for the first three novels, The Family TradeThe Hidden Family, and The Clan Corporate. (Stross on his blog tells the story of reediting the early books in this series for republication on Tor in substantially different form. It’s well worth reading.) Invisible Sun, the next novel in the series, is due out in September of this year after being delayed several times. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 3, 1870 – Beatrice Grimshaw.  Journalist with three decades in the South Pacific.  Two novels and thirty shorter stories for us; a dozen novels all told, essays, a memoir.  You might be able to read The Sorcerer’s Stone here.  (Died 1953) [JH]
  • Born February 3, 1907 – James Michener.  Pulitzer Prize.  Tales of the South Pacific became a Broadway musical and two feature films.  From best-selling novels and nonfiction (75 million copies sold during his life, e.g. HawaiiCaravansCentennial; nonfiction IberiaThe Floating World on Japanese prints; A Century of Sonnets, his; memoirs) a major philanthropist.  Space (1982) starting with the Space program as it then existed becomes SF and is worth attention.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born February 3, 1925 John Fiedler. He’s solely here as he played the ever so bland bureaucrat who gets possessed by the spirit of Jack the Ripper on the Trek episode “Wolf in the Fold”. I’m less interested in him than who wrote that screenplay. It was written by Robert Bloch, a master of horror who would write two other Trek episodes, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” and “Catspaw”. (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born February 3, 1938 Victor Buono. I remember him best in his recurring role of Count Manzeppi in The Wild Wild West. In his very short life, he showed up in a number of other genre roles as well including as a scientist bent on world domination in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea in an episode titled “The Cyborg”, as Adiposo / Fat man in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Colonel Hubris in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Professor William McElroy / King Tut in Batman, Sir Cecil Seabrook in The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and Mr. Schubert on Man from Atlantis. (Died 1982.) (CE) 
  • Born February 3, 1946 – Eclare Hannifen, age 75.  (Personal name pronounced “ee-klar-ee”.)  As Hilda Hoffman, grew interested in SF and fandom, married Owen Hannifen; active awhile as Hilda Hannifen; changed her name.  Learned Dungeons & Dragons, introduced it to many West Coast fans; she and O conducted Lee Gold’s first session.  Part of Sampo Productions with O and the late great Jerry Jacks.  [JH]
  • Born February 3, 1954 – Shawna McCarthy, age 67.  One story with Charles Platt.  Edited SF Digest.  Followed Kathleen Moloney at Asimov’s, promptly won a Hugo as Best Pro Editor; four anthologies, Isaac Asimov’s Wonders of the WorldIA’s Aliens & OutworldersIA’s Space of Her OwnIA’s Fantasy; succeeded by Gardner Dozois.  SF editor at Bantam.  Co-edited two Full Spectrum anthologies.  Fiction editor at Realms of Fantasy.  Then a career as an agent.  Guest of Honor at ArmadilloCon 21, WindyCon XXIX, World Fantasy Convention 2011.  [JH]
  • Born February 3, 1963 Alex Bledsoe, 57. I highly recommend his Tales of The Tufa which can sort of be described as Appalachian Fae though that’s stretching it. His Eddie LaCrosse novels remind me of Cook’s Garrett PI series and that’s a high compliment as that’s one of my favorite fantasy PI series. Anyone read his Firefly Witch series? (CE) 
  • Born February 3, 1964 – Rita Murphy, age 57.  Five novels. Taught awhile at Monteverde Friends School in Costa Rica.  Delacorte Press Prize, starting with two pages in mid-September and turning in her book by December 31.  “I sometimes feel that I have very little to do with the setting of the story or the characters that emerge.”  For Harmony, “I contacted the Cherokee Heritage Center in Oklahoma, spoke with a man there of Cherokee descent, and used their online Cherokee dictionary.”  [JH]
  • Born February 3, 1970 Warwick Davis, 51. Nearly fifty live and voice appearances since first appearing in the Return of the Jedi in place of Kenny Baker who was going to be an Ewok before he fell ill. Did you know he’s in Labyrinth as a member of the Goblin Corps? I certainly didn’t. Or that he did a series of humorous horror films centered around him as an evil Leprechaun? They did well enough that there was six of them. Hell he even shows up in Doctor Who in the “Nightmare in Silver” episode. (CE) 
  • Born February 3, 1979 Ransom Riggs, 42. He’s best known for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children which I’ll confess I know absolutely nothing about, so educate me. I know it was turned into a film by Tim Burton which could a Very Good Thing. His first book btw was The Sherlock Holmes Handbook: The Methods and Mysteries of the World’s Greatest Detective. (CE)
  • Born February 3, 1984 – Rodrigo Adolfo, age 37.  Ten covers for us.  Here is Trial by Fire.  Here is Sunker’s Deep.  Two DeviantArt sites, one pro, one for his hobbyist photography.  [JH]

(13) BOOK WILL BENEFIT DWAYNE MCDUFFIE FOUNDATION. Publishers Weekly previews “A New Guide to the Black Comic Book Community”.

Three comics industry veterans have joined together to produce The Access Guide to the Black Comic Book Community 2020-2021. The title is the first in a series of reference works that will introduce creators of color who released books in 2020 as well as industry institutions and events that spotlight their works.

The reference work will be released on February 17 and all proceeds will be donated to the Dwayne McDuffie Foundation to be used to subsidize academic scholarships for diverse students. The foundation is named after the late McDuffie, an Eisner-award winning comics writer, animator and a cofounder of Milestone Media, a celebrated Black superhero publishing venture that focused on minority representation in comics….

(14) TBR ASAP. So says Book Riot about “8 of the Best Queer Science Fiction Books”, a list that includes:

CHILLING EFFECT BY VALERIE VALDES

In this adult and humorous space opera, Captain Eva Innocente and the crew of La Sirena Negra cruise the galaxy delivering small cargo for even smaller profits. When her sister Mari is kidnapped by The Fridge, a shadowy syndicate that holds people hostage in cryostasis, Eva must undergo a series of unpleasant, dangerous missions to pay the ransom.

But Eva may lose her mind before she can raise the money. The ship’s hold is full of psychic cats, an amorous fish-faced emperor wants her dead after she rejects his advances, and her sweet engineer is giving her a pesky case of feelings. The worse things get, the more she lies, raising suspicions and testing her loyalty to her found family….

(15) TODAY’S WILD-ASS THEORY. Film Theory, to be specific: “Titanic is about Time Travel… No REALLY!”

Titanic is a movie that has stood the test of time… and has one of the BIGGEST unanswered questions of any movie. No, I don’t mean could they both fit on the door if Rose had just moved over a little. I mean the question is Jack a time traveler sent to make sure the Titanic sinks? Yes, that age old question. Well Theorists, today we are going to answer that once and for all!

(16) HOT OFF THE PRESS. Peeps are not genre, or even genre adjacent. Why do I feel compelled to write about them? These new flavors must spark a connection between “exotic” and “alien” in my imagination. “Holiday Peeps Are Back in Time for Easter”.

In addition to returning fan-favorite flavors, Peeps-lovers can look forward to two “delectable new flavors” — Hot Tamales Fierce Cinnamon Flavored Marshmallow Chicks and the Froot Loops Flavored Pop — which will be available nationwide….

(17) AFROFUTURISTIC SERIES ON THE WAY. “Idris and Sabrina Elba Working on Afrofuturistic Sci-Fi Series for Crunchyroll” Slanted has the story.

… The Afro-futuristic science fiction series, which is currently in development, will be set in a city where the rise of biotechnology has created an ever-widening gap between the haves and have-nots. Two rising stars from either side of this divide are pitted against each other in a story that will ultimately explore equality and kinship within a corrupt society.

“We’re thrilled to be collaborating with Idris and Sabrina to develop this anime-inspired sci-fi epic,” said Sarah Victor, Head of Development, Crunchyroll. “It is a privilege to work with such talented, creative partners and we look forward to bringing this exciting project to life.”

(18) IMMATERIAL PLANET. “Fans petition NASA to name planet TOI-1338 b in SOPHIE’s memory” reports The Fader.

As the world continues to mourn the tremendous loss of SOPHIE, who passed away this weekend following an accident in Athens, fans are asking for the Scottish producer’s otherworldly legacy to be honored in space. A new petition created by Christian Arroyo asks for NASA to consider naming the recently discovered planet TOI 1339 b after SOPHIE, due to the aesthetic similarities between the planet and SOPHIE’s visual lexicon….

Here’s the link to the petition at Change.org – ”NASA, name TOI-1338 b in honor of SOPHIE”.

…When artist renditions of TOI 1338 b (a circumbinary exoplanet discovered by Wolf Cukier and fellow scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center) were featured in the press following the 235th American Astronomical Society meeting in Honolulu, many fans noticed the similarities between the interpretations and the aesthetic sense of SOPHIE’s visual work, specifically the cover for her 2018 album Oil of Every Pearl’s UnInsides.

I am requesting, at the discretion of the incredible scientists who discovered the planet, that TOI 1338 b be named in honor of the great LGBT+ influence, SOPHIE. Her fans would love to pay homage by having her name be remembered in this way and for her influence to continue to flourish for years to come.

(19) ROLLING MORE THAN THE DICE. “Dungeons and Diversity brings phenomenal wheelchair minis to D&D”All Gamers has the story.

Dungeons and Dragons sells itself on the principle of creativity, allowing you the freedom to imagine someone entirely different to play, or design a fantastical version of yourself. Yet for all the innovation encouraged in its play, the game’s core rules have proven somewhat restrictive, or non inclusive for many. 

Dungeons and Diversity is hoping to change that, starting with the creation of some seriously impressive combat wheelchair miniatures. Created by Strata Miniatures, the models include a Human Druid, Elf Rogue, Tiefling Cleric and Dwarf Barbarian. Each is intricately detailed, with equipment loaded across the sides and back…

(20) FANTASTIC FOUR AT 60. Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, and now the company will present their saga in a radical new way in Fantastic Four: Life Story.

Written by acclaimed writer Mark Russell (Second ComingWonder Twins) and drawn by Sean Izaakse (Fantastic FourAvengers No Road Home) , Fantastic Four: Life Story …will tell the entire history of the Fantastic Four from beginning to end, set against the key events of the decades through which their stories were published.

Fantastic Four: Life Story #1 will take place in the “Swinging Sixties” when Reed, Ben, Sue, and Johnny took that fateful journey to space that changed the face of comic book storytelling forever. Against the backdrop of the Cold War and the Space Race, a terrible accident occurs that gives them great powers and a terrible secret, entangling them in Earth’s history forever as they transform into the world’s premiere super hero team.

“What I’ve always loved about the Fantastic Four is how it reduces the cosmic struggle of human survival to the scale of a family squabble while treating personal relationships as a matter of truly galactic importance,” Russell said. “Weaving their story and their world into our story and what’s happened in our world over the last sixty years was an important reminder to me of how smart it is to approach life like that.”

Click to view larger images:

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

Pixel Scroll 1/13/21 The Scroll Is A Harsh Mistress

(1) OVERVIEW OF THE NEW LOTR SERIES. Amazon just unloaded Parler but now they’re bringing back Sauron? What are they thinking? io9 has the story: “Amazon Reveals Lord of the Rings TV Show Details—Sauron Returns”.

…Confirmed via a synopsis provided to TheOneRing.net, Amazon Studios revealed that the series—currently filming in New Zealand with a cast that seems about as large as the population of a small country on top of that—is indeed set in the Second Age, “thousands” of years before the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The show will concern itself with characters “both familiar and new” as they reckon with the fact that the Dark Lord Sauron has returned to cast shadow and flame across Middle-earth.

(2) WORLDCON HOTEL NEWS. “Owner of DC’s Wardman Park Hotel files for bankruptcy” reports WTOP. The hotel is where DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon, would be held if an in-person 2021 Worldcon is possible:

Wardman Hotel Owner LLC, an affiliate of Pacific Life Insurance Co., has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and has ended its management contract with Marriott International.

The 1,152-room Wardman Park, one of the largest hotels in D.C., opened in 1918, during the Spanish Flu pandemic.

Pacific Life permanently closed the hotel just before filing for bankruptcy protection, and is seeking to sell the property, which could clear the way for the property’s redevelopment.

The Chapter 11 petition was filed Jan. 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.

Marriott and Pacific Life have been locked in legal disputes since shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic led to the hotel’s temporary closure in March 2020.

…The owner’s bankruptcy filing Monday came the same day that neighboring historic hotel the Omni Shoreham reopened.

The DisCon III committee hasn’t posted a response to the latest development, but last October they did address their plans for an alternative to the Wardman Park if needed. The chairs wrote in the convention’s newsletter [PDF file]:

As you can imagine, we have uncertainty related to the Coronavirus but planning and activities continue. The status of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel is unclear. Litigation between the owners was filed 2 September and settled at the end of September. At the start of October, Marriott filed a lawsuit against one of the entities that owns the hotel. What a mess! The hotel itself does not have an official statement at this time, and we are in close touch. Our Facilities team does have the room blocks for both the Marriott and the Omni Shoreham set up, and our current plan is to release those in January 2021.

(3) BOOM BOOM BOOM. James Davis Nicoll names “Five Books Featuring Space Travel Powered by Atomic Bombs”. Strange that I’ve read four of these but only remembered the nukes from one of them.

Nuclear explosives can be used to address many urgent issues: a shortage of mildly radioactive harbours, for example, or the problem of having too many wealthy, industrialized nations not populated by survivors who envy the dead. The most pressing issue—the need for a fast, affordable space drive—wasn’t solved until the late 1950s. Theodore B. Taylor and others proposed that the Bomb could be used to facilitate rapid space travel across the Solar System. Thus, Project Orion was born….

(4) SOMETHING ELSE THAT’S SURGING. “Online D&D provides relief during the COVID-19 pandemic” – the Los Angeles Times profiled D&D players.

… Players and scholars attribute the game’s resurgent popularity not only to the longueurs of the pandemic, but also to its reemergence in pop culture — on the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” whose main characters play D&D in a basement; on the sitcom “The Big Bang Theory”; or via the host of celebrities who display their love for the game online.

Liz Schuh, head of publishing and licensing for Dungeons & Dragons, isn’t surprised by the game’s reanimated popularity. Revenue was up 35% in 2020 compared with 2019, the seventh consecutive year of growth, she said.

Many newcomers purchase starter kits packed with character sheets, a rule book, a set of dice and a story line. New dungeon masters may buy a foldable screen to hide their rolls and anything else they’d like to keep from the player-characters. Once the introductory journey ends, players pore through other adventure books for sale — or conjure an original odyssey.

“The first few days of news [of the virus] coming out globally, at the top of every hour all the alarms were going off at the company,” said Dean Bigbee, director of operations for Roll20, an online tabletop gaming platform. “The amount of new account requests were so high that the systems thought that we were under a denial-of-service attack. But they were legitimate. They were accounts from Italy, and then France, following the paths of lockdowns across the world.”

(5) FORTIES SF’S POWER COUPLE SPEAKS. G.W. Thomas at Dark Worlds Quarterly put together a fine link compilation: “In Their Own Words: Interviews with Leigh Brackett & Edmond Hamilton”, who married in 1946 and put Kinsman, Ohio on the map.

Here are some interviews given by Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton. They range from artsy film magazines to the cheapest of fanzines. My favorite is the audio clip from Youtube when Leigh and Ed were the guests of honor at the 1964 (PacifiCon) WorldCon. It is somehow revealing to hear what their voices sounded like and to glean a little of their personalities beyond the printed page….

Included are Q&A’s conducted by one of fandom’s best interviewers, Paul Walker, such as his Leigh Brackett interview from Luna Monthly #61 [1976] [Internet archive link].

(6) STRAIN OBIT. Actress Julie Strain, whose genre resume is mostly erotic horror movies, has died reports Joblo.com: “R.I.P.: Julie Strain, B-movie legend and Penthouse Pet, has died at age 58”. This is the third time her death has been announced, however, news sources are satisfied this time the news is accurate.

Last January, it was mistakenly announced that B-movie legend and 1993 Penthouse Pet of the Year Julie Strain had passed away. The announcement was quickly retracted – but in a sad twist of fate, friends and family are confirming that Strain has passed away almost one year to the day after that erroneous report. She was 58 years old.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1991 — Thirty years ago at Chicon V, Lois McMaster Bujold‘s The Vor Game  as published by Baen Books wins the Hugo for Best Novel. Runners-ups were David Brin‘s Earth, Dan Simmons’ The Fall of Hyperion, Michael P. Kube-McDowell’s The Quiet Pools and Greag Bear’s Queen of Angels. It would nominated for the HOMer as well.  A portion of this novel had appeared in the February 1990 issue of  Analog magazine in slightly different form as the “Weatherman” story.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 13, 1893 – Clark Ashton Smith.  Poetry, prose, graphic art, sculpture.  One novel, two hundred thirty shorter stories, seven hundred poems; a dozen covers, a hundred thirty interiors; five dozen posthumous collections.  Pillar of Weird Tales with Howard and Lovecraft.  “I make use of prose-rhythm, metaphor, simile, tone-color, counter-point, and other stylistic resources, like a sort of incantation.”  (Died 1961) [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1933 – Ron Goulart, age 88.  Eighty novels, a hundred fifty shorter stories.  Book reviews for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Venture.  Comic-book stories and prose about The Phantom; scripts for Marvel.  Inkpot Award.  Detective fiction, including half a dozen books featuring Groucho Marx.  Nonfiction, e.g. The Great Comic Book ArtistsComic Book Encyclopedia.  [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1937 – George Barr, age 84.  Decades-long career as a fanartist; here is a cover for Amrahere is one for Trumpet; two Hugos as Best Fanartist; Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon XXVI, at MidAmeriCon the 34th Worldcon.  Also developed a career as a pro.  Here is The Dying Earth.  Here is the Sep 86 Amazing.  Here is Adventures in Unhistory.  Artist GoH at ConAdian the 52nd Worldcon.  Fifty illustrated limericks for Weird Tales.  Fan and pro, two hundred covers, seven hundred interiors.  Artbook Upon the Winds of Yesterday.  [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1938 Charlie Brill, 83. His best remembered role, well at least among us, is as the Klingon spy Arne Darvin in “The Trouble with Tribbles”. And yes, he’ll show in the DS9 episode that repurposed this episode to great effect. He was the voice of Grimmy in the animated Mother Goose and Grimm series, as well having one-offs in They Came from Outer SpaceThe Munsters TodaySlidersThe Incredible HulkWonder Woman and Super Train. Not even genre adjacent but he was a recurring performer on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1945 Joy Chant, 76. Chant is an odd case as she only wrote for a short period between 1970 and 1983 but she produced the brilliant House of Kendreth trilogy, consisting of  Red Moon and Black MountainThe Grey Mane of Morning and When Voiha Wakes.  Her other main work, and it is without doubt absolutely brilliant, is The High Kings, illustrated lavishly by George Sharp and  designed by David Larkin with editing by Ian and Betty Ballantine. It is intended as a reference work on the Arthurian legends and the Matter of Britain with her amazing retellings of the legends.  I’ve got one reference to her writing Fantasy and Allegory in Literature for Young Readers but no cites for it elsewhere. Has anyone actually read it? (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1957 – Claudia Emerson.  Five poems for us in Son and Foe.  Eight collections.  Poetry editor for Greensboro Review.  Pulitzer Prize.  Acad. Amer. Poets Prize.  Poet Laureate of Virginia.  Elected to Fellowship of Southern Writers.  Donald Justice Award.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1960 Mark Chadbourn, 61. I’ve read his Age of Misrule series in which the Celtic Old Gods are returning in modern times and they’re not very nice but they make for very entertaining reading. It’s followed by the Dark Age series which is just as well crafted. His two Hellboy novels are actually worth reading as well. (CE)
  • Born January 13, 1968 Ken Scholes, 53. His major series, and it’s quite worth reading, is The Psalms of Isaak.  His short stories, collected so far in three volumes, are also worth your precious reading time. He wrote the superb “The Wings We Dare Aspire” for METAtropolis: Green Space. (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1972 Una McCormack, 49. She’s the author of The Baba Yaga and The Star of the Sea, two novels  in the delightful Weird Space series. She’s also written myriad Trek novels including a Discovery novel, The Way to the Stars, and the first Picard novel, The Last Best Hope. She’s also a writer of Who novels having five so far, plus writing for Big Finish Productions. (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1979 – Bree Despain, age 42.  Six novels, a couple of shorter stories.  Took a semester off college to write and direct plays for inner-city teens.  Felt she wasn’t special enough to be a writer, decided to study law.  Hit by a pickup truck.  Thought it out again.  First book sold on 6th anniversary of collision.  [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1980 Beth Cato, 41. Her first series, the Clockwork Dagger sequence beginning with The Clockwork Dagger novel is most excellent popcorn literature. She’s fine a considerable amount of excellent short fiction which has been mostly collected in  Deep Roots and Red Dust and Dancing Horses and Other Stories. Her website features a number of quite tasty cake recipes including Browned Butter Coffee Bundt Cake. Really I kid you not. (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1981 – Ieva Melgave, age 40.  Her “Siren’s Song” has been translated from Latvian into English.  Interviewed (in English) in Vector 281.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) ALIENS OMNIBUS. Marvel invites fans to jump on the Aliens Omnibus when the volumes arrive in April and August.

Cover by Mahmud Asrar

The classic comic book tales set in the iconic—and terrifying—world of the Alien franchise are being collected in brand-new hardcover collection starting in April with Aliens Omnibus Volume 1. And in August, fans of the iconic franchise can enjoy even more of these thrilling comic book stories with Aliens: The Original Years Omnibus Vol. 2.

A rogue scientist’s genetic experiments create a horrific new alien king! A ragtag unit of Colonial Marines battles a xenomorph infestation on a space station — and the survivors face a pack of bizarre hybrids! An investigator must solve a murder on a deep-space alien-research station! But what dread music will a deranged composer make with an alien’s screams? And can a synthetic xenomorph rebel against its sadistic creator? Plus: Flash back to an alien attack in the 1950s! And witness the fate of England as aliens overrun the Earth! This rare collection includes: Aliens: Rogue #1-4, Aliens: Colonial Marines #1-10, Aliens: Labyrinth #1-4, Aliens: Salvation, Aliens: Music Of The Spears #1-4 and Aliens: Stronghold #1-4 — plus material from Dark Horse Comics #3-5, #11-13 And #15-19; Previews (1993) #1-12; Previews (1994) #1; and Aliens Magazine (1992) #9-20.

Exclusive direct market variant cover by Paul Mendoza

(11) THE REAL SPACE COMMAND. “U.S. Space Command to be headquartered in Huntsville, Ala.” reports station WAFF.

The permanent headquarters of U.S. Space Command will be located at Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal.

According to a statement from the Secretary of the Air Force, Huntsville was confirmed as the preferred location for the U.S. Space Command Headquarters.

The Department of the Air Force conducted both virtual and on-site visits to assess which of six candidate locations would be best suited to host the U.S. Space Command Headquarters. The decision was based on factors related to mission, infrastructure capacity, community support and costs to the Department of Defense.

(12) AUDIOBOOK NARRATION. In AudioFile’s latest Behind the Mic, narrator Joniece Abbott-Pratt shares her thoughts about recording Jordan Ifueko’s Raybearer, on AudioFile’s list of the 2020 Best Young Adult Audiobooks.

Listeners meet Tarisai as a lonely younger girl growing up with a distant mother, and we feel her astonishment when she’s brought to the palace in Aristar and meets the prince — and discovers her new friend is the person her mother cursed her to kill. This vibrant and multilayered fantasy audiobook comes to life with Joniece’s evocative narration.

“You watch her save the world… and that was really cool, to be inside of a story of a young woman that got to stand in her truth and in her power. You watch a princess mature into a queen.”—Narrator Joniece Abbott-Pratt

Read AudioFile Magazine’s review of Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko.

(13) COOK BOOKS. Get stacks of Glen Cook novels via this new Bundle of Holding deal.

Adventurer! This Glen Cook Bundle presents novels by fantasy and science fiction author Glen Cook from Night Shade Books. Best known for his Black Company dark military fantasies, Cook has also written the eight-book Dread Empire epic fantasy series, the Starfishers and Darkwar trilogies, and many free-standing novels. This all-new fiction offer gives you nearly two dozen Glen Cook novels in both ePub and Kindle ebook formats for an unbeatable bargain price.

For just US$7.95 you get all five titles in our Glen Cook Sampler (retail value $69) as DRM-free ePub and Kindle ebooks

… And if you pay more than the threshold price of $25.97, you’ll level up and also get our entire Complete Collection with eight more titles…

(14) ON SECOND THOUGHT. He’s a busy man, you know.

(15) HELICONIA WINTER. Richard Paolinelli handed out the 2021 Helicon Awards [Internet archive link] yesterday, some to bestselling sff writers, two to L. Jagi Lamplighter and Declan Finn, but if you want to know what’s really on Richard’s mind look at this entry on the list:

  • John W. Campbell Diversity in SF/F Award – J.K. Rowling

Paolinelli also presented awards named for Melvil Dewey and Laura Ingalls Wilder, which he created after their names were removed from two American Library Association awards in recent years.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Cyberpunk 2077” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that Cyberpunk 2077 is “the most anticipated release since Cup And Ball 2″ and that it lets gamers wallow in a world which is “not cool, not fun, and everything’s broken.”

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

Pixel Scroll 6/19/20 Hey, Mister! You Missed A Pixel!

(1) FAN HISTORY PROJECT SPOTLIGHT. File 770 is late to pass on the great news, but last October Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari told everyone on his list “that we have received a request from the Library of Congress to archive our site.”

…From the letter: “The Library of Congress preserves important cultural artifacts and provides enduring access to them…The Library will make this collection available to researchers at Library facilities and by special arrangement.” They may later make it publicly available as well. We’ve all seen the loss of many websites that showcase the hard work and outstanding accomplishments of fans and historians in our field. This archiving request from the Library of Congress will ensure that the work we’ve been doing with your help will be available, even after the current class of fan historians has bit the dust. Color us ecstatic. We’ll let you know when the process has completed.

The Library of Congress gives an overview of its web archiving program here.

The Library of Congress Web Archive manages, preserves, and provides access to archived web content selected by subject experts from across the Library, so that it will be available for researchers today and in the future. Websites are ephemeral and often considered at-risk born-digital content. New websites form constantly, URLs change, content changes, and websites sometimes disappear entirely. Websites document current events, organizations, public reactions, government information, and cultural and scholarly information on a wide variety of topics. Materials that used to appear in print are increasingly published online.

(2) COMPLETING THE SET. The 2020 Kurd Laßwitz Preis  (German SF Award) winners now have all been named following this late selection:

Best German language audio drama first broadcast in 2019

  • Unser Leben in den Wäldern by Marie Darrieussecq and Gerrit Booms, WDR

(3) D&D GETTING ANOTHER LOOK. From io9: “Dungeons & Dragons Team Announces New Plans to Address Race and Inclusivity in the Game”.

….in a new blog post on the official D&D website the development studio detailed what it has been doing to tackle the game’s own history of racist stereotyping, and what will be done going forward to ensure the game tastefully represents its fantasy world.

“Throughout the 50-year history of D&D, some of the peoples in the game—orcs and drow being two of the prime examples—have been characterized as monstrous and evil, using descriptions that are painfully reminiscent of how real-world ethnic groups have been and continue to be denigrated,” the new statement reads in part. “That’s just not right, and it’s not something we believe in. Despite our conscious efforts to the contrary, we have allowed some of those old descriptions to reappear in the game. We recognize that to live our values, we have to do an even better job in handling these issues. If we make mistakes, our priority is to make things right.”

Going forward, D&D will be making those things right with a six-point plan. Outside of the game itself, these include the use of sensitivity readers on upcoming and current Dungeons & Dragons sourcebooks as part of the creative process, and a commitment to “proactively seeking new, diverse talent to join our staff and our pool of freelance writers and artists,” a move already made for products set to release in the next year, but a policy being maintained going forward.

…From an editorial standpoint, the D&D team will also go back through material as it is being prepared for reprints, and update them to modify and remove any racially insensitive material. The adventures Tomb of Annihilation and The Curse of Strahd were cited as particular examples, with Curse of Strahd being called out specifically for its use of Romani sterotypes in the background of the Vistani, a nomadic group of travelers that primarily resided in Barovia before the death of Count Strahd von Zarovich. In the editorial process for Strahd’s reprint, as well as two upcoming products, Wizards worked with a Romani consultant to present the Vistani without using reductive tropes.

But some of the points delve into the game itself—for example, the aforementioned ongoing exploration and re-examination of Drow and Orcish cultures in the game’s fiction, beings that were long described as beastly and villainous by nature while also being approximations of non-white cultures….

(4) FATE OF LIBRARIES. Publishers Weekly warns “Changes Loom as Public Libraries Begin to Reopen”.

…But whenever that happens, the public libraries that will emerge from this historic pause will be changed from the ones that closed their doors in March, librarians tell PW, both in the short term, and into the future.

The most pressing issue facing libraries, of course, is how to reopen safely, for both library staff and the public. For most libraries, that means services like curbside pickup or limits on patron visits to start. It means ensuring library workers have appropriate personal protective equipment, and reconfiguring the library space: less furniture, distance between computer stations, more hand sanitizer stations, spit guards, and plexiglass dividers. It means contactless checkout, new cleaning procedures, and 72-hour materials quarantines.

It also means enormous pressure on library staff, including new rules to enforce, such as physical distancing and wearing masks. None of it will be easy. And all of it will be done under the threat of job cuts, a potential second wave of Covid-19 infections, immense budget pressure, and worsening political dysfunction….

(5) NO SMOKING. During last autumn’s round of California wildfires, a Washington Post writer accompanied a salesman for treating houses with fire retardant on a visit to Dean Koontz’ estate. “California will never stop burning”.

…Thirty miles southwest of the 46 Fire, Dean Koontz, the mega­selling novelist, was standing outside his enormous new home the morning after Halloween.

“We had friends who wouldn’t move to California because of earthquakes.”

Like other Californians, he has stood on a roof with a garden hose and a stance of defiance.

“They moved to the Gulf Coast and got hit by a hurricane.”

It costs a fortune to insure some homes in California. This is why Koontz invited Moseley and his team for a consultation about a defensive sprinkler system and his SPF3000 spray. Local authorities have challenged the effectiveness and safety of the product, but Moseley has testimonials from grateful clients and documentation of test results.

He also has his on-the-go demonstration. On Koontz’s front stoop, Moseley blowtorches one end of a piece of wood. It ignites, burns, starts to disintegrate. Then he torches the other side, which has been treated with SPF3000. It blackens but does not ignite. Then Moseley scrapes the charred veneer with a car key to reveal intact wood underneath….

“Impressive,” Koontz says. His Tuscan-style villa is in a gated community near Irvine. This is a place of Bentleys and catering trucks, and an air of invincibility. Koontz knows that nothing is invincible. If he were younger, maybe he’d move to a place that wasn’t quaking and conflagrating so much. Arizona, perhaps. But he loves it here.

“None of us live forever,” he says. “And you have to weigh the quality of life with the risk.”

(6) ZAFÓN OBIT. “Carlos Ruiz Zafón, author of The Shadow of the Wind, dies aged 55”The Guardian marked the passing of this best-selling Spanish-language author.

….Born in Barcelona, Ruiz Zafón worked in advertising before he made his debut as an author in 1993 with young adult novel The Prince of Mist. In 2001, he published The Shadow of the Wind, which followed a boy called Daniel who is taken to the Cemetery of Lost Books in Barcelona and becomes fascinated by the author Julian Carax and the shadowy figure trying to eradicate every last copy of Carax’s books. The novel was translated into English by Lucia Graves in 2004, and became an international hit. “If you thought the true gothic novel died with the 19th century, this will change your mind,” said Stephen King in a review. “Shadow is the real deal, a novel full of cheesy splendour and creaking trapdoors, a novel where even the subplots have subplots.”

Ruiz Zafón, who moved to Los Angeles in the 1990s, and divided his time between Spain and the US, has said that while he had written “pretty successful” young adult novels for 10 years, with The Shadow of the Wind he “wanted to create something very special”.

“So what I did was take what for me is very important, which is take all the great ambition in all those 19th-century novels, but try to reconstruct those big novels – the Tolstoy, the Dickens, the Wilkie Collins – but try to reconstruct all of that with all the narrative elements that the 20th century has given us, from the grammar of cinema, from multimedia, from general fiction, from everything that is out there, to create a much more intense reading experience for the readers,” he said.

He followed the bestseller up with three more novels in the series, The Angel’s Game, The Prisoner of Heaven and The Labyrinth of Spirits. Completing the tetralogy, he told Spanish press in 2016 that he had “the feeling of the job done”….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

June 19, 1964 The Twilight Zone finale aired. 

“A swimming pool not unlike any other pool, a structure built of tile and cement and money, a backyard toy for the affluent.” — Rod Serling in his opening narration to this episode.

The Twilight Zone series finale: “The Bewitchin’ Pool” was the thirty-sixth episode of the fifth and final season. Earl Hamner, Jr., got the idea for this episode while living in the San Fernando Valley region and witnessing an alarming divorce rate and the effect it had on children. The episode was one of the first shows on television to really address the problem of divorce and bad parenting, and in part it represents wish fulfillment for children in such situations.  It was directed by Joseph M. Newman from the script by Earl Hamner, Jr. 

It had an unusually large cast: Mary Badham as Sport Sharewood, June Foray as Sport Sharewood (voice, outdoor scenes), Kim Hector as Witt,  Dee Hartford as Gloria Sharewood, Jeffrey Byron as Jeb Sharewood, Georgia Simmons as Aunt T and Tod Andrews as Gil Sharewood. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 19, 1824 – Henri Hildibrand.  Wood engraver for Hetzel, who did so much good and bad for Verne; those editions were lavishly illustrated, anyhow.  This cover for Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is a composite of a Peter Gimbel photo and a de Neuville print Hildibrand engraved.  Here is Aronnax studying the giant squid.  Here is the underwater destroyed town (note de Neuville’s signature at lower left).  (Died 1897) [JH]
  • Born June 19, 1872 – Sutton Griggs.  Son of a slave; Baptist minister; active in the Nat’l Ass’n for the Advancement of Colored People; published and distributed his own books and pamphlets, thirty of them. Imperium in Imperio has a black nation hidden in Texas, outsold many contemporaries to whom he was invisible.  (Died 1933) [JH]
  • Born June 19, 1881 – Maginel Enright.  Younger sister of Frank Lloyd Wright (Maginel a contraction of Margaret Ellen).  Illustrated Frank Baum’s Twinkle TalesPoliceman BluejayJuvenile Speaker; five dozen by others.  See here and here and here.  Memoir, The Valley of the God-Almighty Joneses.  (Died 1966) [JH]
  • Born June 19, 1915 – Julius Schwartz.  Co-published pioneer fanzine The Time Traveller. Helped organize NyCon I the first Worldcon.  Co-founded Solar Sales Service, representing Bester, Bloch, Bradbury.  In reviving or re-creating the Flash, Green Lantern, and like that, instrumental in opening Silver Age of Comics.  Edited BatmanSuperman, fifteen years each; dozens more.  Memoir Man of Two Worlds subtitled “my life in science fiction and comics”; also he was active as fan and pro; also “Man of Two Worlds” was his creation Adam Strange – in whose stories Alanna’s father Sardath looked like him. Inkpot, Jack Kirby Hall of Fame, Will Eisner Hall of Fame.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • Born June 19, 1921 Louis Jourdan. Fear No Evil and Ritual of Evil, two tv horror films in the late Sixties, appear to be his first venture into our realm. He’d play Count Dracula in, errr, Count Dracula a few years later. And then comes the role you most likely remember him for, Dr. Anton Arcane in Swamp Thing which he reprised in The Return of Swamp Thing. Definitely popcorn films at their very best. Oh and let’s not forget he was Kamal Khan, the villain in Octopussy! (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born June 19, 1926 Josef Nesvadba.A Czech writer, best known in his SF short stories, many of which have appeared in English translation. ISFDB lists a number of stories as appearing in English and two collections of his translated stories were published, In The Footsteps of the Abominable Snowman: Stories of Science and Fantasy and Vampires Ltd.: Stories of Science and Fantasy. Neither’s available in digital format. (Died 2005.) (CE)
  • Born June 19, 1947 Salman Rushdie, 73. Everything he does has some elements of magic realism in it. (Let the arguments begin on that statement.) So which of his novels are really genre? I’d say The Ground Beneath Her FeetGrimus (his first and largely forgotten sf novel), Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights and Haroun and the Sea of Stories. If you’ve not read anything by him, I’d start with The Ground Beneath Her Feet which is by far both one of his best works and one of his most understandable ones as well. (CE)
  • Born June 19, 1949 – Marilyn Kaye.  Taught twenty years at St. John’s University (New York), now lives in Paris.  A hundred children’s and young-adult books, four dozen ours.  In her Replica series, teenage Amy’s discovering she is a clone, genetically modified for superhuman abilities, is only the beginning.  In her Gifted series, each in a small middle-school class has a superhuman ability; an outside group seeks to manipulate them and their abilities for profit; the students dislike their abilities and one another.  [JH]
  • Born June 19, 1953 Virginia Hey, 67. Best-remembered  for her role as Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan in the fabulous Farscape series and playing the Warrior Woman in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. She’s also Rubavitch, the mistress of the KGB Head, General Pushkin, in The Living Daylights. She also had a brief appearance as a beautician in The Return of Captain Invincible, an Australian musical comedy superhero film. No, I’ve not seen it. (CE)
  • Born June 19, 1957 Jean Rabe, 63. She’s a genre author and editor who has worked on the DragonlanceForgotten RealmsRogue Angel and BattleTech series, as well as many others. Ok I admit to a degree of fascination with such writers as I’m a devotee of the Rogue Angel audiobooks that GraphicAudio does and she’s written according to ISFDB five of the source novels under the house name of Alex Archer. (CE)
  • June 19, 1963 – Aleksandar Žiljak.  A dozen short stories; some covers and interiors, see here (his collection Blind Birds).  Co-edited Ad Astra anthology of Croatian SF 1976-2006; co-edits literary SF journal Ubiq.  Six SFera Awards: three for Best Story, two for Best Illustration, one (shared) for Ad Astra.  The Wayback Machine has this interview.  [JH]
  • Born June 19, 1978 Zoe Saldana, 42, born with the lovely birth name of Zoë Yadira Saldaña Nazario. First genre role was Anamaria in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. She’s Nyota Uhura in the new Trek series, and she’s also Neytiri in the Avatar franchise. She portrays Gamora in the MCU, beginning with Guardians of the Galaxy, a truly great film though I’m less impressed with the second film by far. (CE)

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) THE GREATEST. “Panel Mania: Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics by Tom Scioli”Publishers Weekly has an 11-page excerpt. The book will be released in July.

There’s a reason why Jack Kirby, co-creator of such iconic comics characters as the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, and Captain America, is called the “King of Comics.” Considered one of the great innovators in the history of American comics, Jack Kirby (1917-1994) is arguably the greatest superhero comic book artist of all time. 

In the new graphic biography, Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics, comics artist and biographer Tom Scioli pays tribute to Kirby in a vividly illustrated and comprehensively researched examination of Kirby’s life and career from his rough and tumble childhood growing up on the Lower East Side of New York in the early 20th century to his military service in WWII to the transformative comics he created for Marvel and later for DC Comics…. 

(11) SACKY HACK. This is real thinking outside the box.

(12) MARCH OF TIME. At the LA Review of Books, Aleida Rodriguez’s autobiographical essay “Time Machine”, in addition to Wells and Borges, even mentions Clyde Crashcup from the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show.

WHEN I LANDED in the US as a child of nine, I felt I had not only traveled in space but also in time. Though it was 1962, behind me lay a 19th-century world of oil lamps, muddy rutted roads, and horse-drawn carts, while before me flickered a vision so sleek and modern there were no shadows and bright-green lawns sprouted cones of mist.

Time traveler became my invisible identity. Secretly, I searched for mentors in movies like The Time Machine (1960), envying Rod Taylor his ability to go back and forth, to witness and control the passage of time. Propelled and buoyed by a utopian vision of the future, he set off, watching the rising hemline on a mannequin in a shop window, then the shop itself disintegrating to dust in an instant, the surrounding buildings crumbling and disappearing, replaced by insect-like cranes scampering on skyscrapers. His present had succumbed to shattered shards. But by moving a crystal-topped lever sharpened to a point like a pen, he could also reverse direction and return to his intact and cloistered world of waistcoats.

I yearned for that, a trip back — not to Bountiful but to a prelapsarian time, before the rupture in my family caused by the Cuban revolution….

(13) X FACTOR. BBC has a picture of a “Breathtaking new map of the X-ray Universe”.

Behold the hot, energetic Universe.

A German-Russian space telescope has just acquired a breakthrough map of the sky that traces the heavens in X-rays.

The image records a lot of the violent action in the cosmos – instances where matter is being accelerated, heated and shredded.

Feasting black holes, exploding stars, and searingly hot gas.

The data comes from the eRosita instrument mounted on Spektr-RG.

This orbiting telescope was launched in July last year and despatched to an observing position some 1.5 million km from Earth. Once commissioned and declared fully operational in December, it was left to slowly rotate and scan the depths of space.

eRosita’s first all-sky data-set, represented in the image at the top of this page, was completed only last week. It records over a million sources of X-rays.

“That’s actually pretty much the same number as had been detected in the whole history of X-ray astronomy going back 60 years. We’ve basically doubled the known sources in just six months,” said Kirpal Nandra, who heads the high-energy astrophysics group at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching, Germany.

(14) QUARANTINE CAT FILM FESTIVAL. This looks promising!

The most purr-fect, a-meow-zing, and totally fur-tastic cat videos anyone has ever seen!

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