Pixel Scroll 4/12/21 No Matter Where You Scroll, There You Pixel

(1) MUIR’S PROGRESS. Bence Pintér conducted a “Q&A with Tamsyn Muir” for the Hungarian magazine Spekulatív Zóna. (You can find the Hungarian version of the interview here.)

The Locked Tomb Trilogy seems like a pretty hard one to pitch to a publisher. How have you pitched it?

I never really pitched the trilogy as a trilogy. I pitched Gideon as more or less a murder mystery, because to me that’s still its most fundamental DNA: it’s the classic And Then There Were None set-up, a group of people in an isolated location start getting killed off one by one. I think I said it was a locked-room murder mystery with necromancers. But I was also deeply confused about a lot of things and thought it might be a Young Adult book, because I understood ‘young adult’ as a tag to mean ‘older teenagers would enjoy it’ and I firmly believed that older teenagers would enjoy Gideon! Someone I showed the story to at an early stage had to break it to me gently that this was not a Young Adult book, and never would be without very major re-writing and taking out 90% of the swearwords….

You signed a six-figure deal with Tordotcom Publishing. What will you work on after finishing Alecto the Ninth?

Lots of stuff. Next up is a novella about a gunslinger in a near-future dystopia, which is going to be a massive relief to write as it contains neither swords nor bones, thank God. Then I’ve got to start on the next full-length novel, which will probably have some swords and some bones but not at anywhere near the concentration Locked Tomb did, and will leaven the mixture by also having some motorbikes. And at some point I need to fit in the sequel to Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower, my novella from last year, which I’ve decided I’m not quite done with. Now if I could just get an extra four or five months added in to the year, maybe in summer when the weather’s OK, that would be fantastic.

(2) PRO TIPS. Odyssey Writing Workshop interviews Guest Lecturer Sheree Renée Thomas, now editing F&SF.

Congratulations on recently becoming editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction! What are the most common problems in the manuscript submissions you receive?

I just revised our submission guidelines to address that, because after reading 2,400 stories our first month in January, I noticed some patterns, particularly for people who have submitted work to the magazine in the past, and they probably don’t know that they’re doing some of these things.

The main thing I revised our submission guidelines to address is pacing. If you spend a long time setting up your story, or throat clearing, or giving us a long narrative exposition before we even get to the characters we’re supposed to be following and experiencing, you’re going to lose your readers’ interest right off the bat. One of the things people can do when they go back and look at the story is see if they started in the right place. As a writer, it’s not always easy to know that immediately. Sometimes we have to write the thing in order to know the thing; we have to write that first scene to get to the other one.

The other thing that a lot of writers do give us too much information that’s not naturally integrated into the storytelling, and so that becomes a little wearisome to read and hard to follow. People are not telling the story from the POV of the character who has the most to lose in the situation.

I don’t want to read about misogyny, whether it’s conscious or not in the story. I don’t particularly care for rape stories where rape is just a plot device and it’s not handled in a human way, where you don’t have the characters respond to it in a way that humans might. And F&SF is not the best market for super erotic work.

(3) TV DINNER. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination’s Science Fiction TV Dinner series is going virtual for 2020-2021, and they’ll  Zoom the next event on Tuesday, April 27 at 6 p.m. Pacific time. It features The Mailbox, a short film about time travel and Chinatowns. They’ll be talking with the director, Louis Yin, a writer and filmmaker based in Beijing, and Diane Wong, a professor at Rutgers University who studies the Asian diaspora and the urban immigrant experience. The event is free, and open to everyone. Register at the link.

We’re shifting the format slightly, presenting Science Fiction TV Small Bites: short films from talented creators that invite us to explore a range of possible futures.

…Each Small Bite event will also feature an exclusive segment on cuisine and cooking by Corey S. Pressman, an author, educator, anthropologist, visual artist, and member of CSI’s Imaginary College.

We would like to thank Storycom for their support and collaboration on this event. Storycom is the first professional story commercialization agency in China, and is dedicated to bringing excellent Chinese SF stories to domestic and global audiences in various formats. Storycom also presents The Shimmer Program to introduce new audiences to Chinese SF. Learn more at https://twitter.com/ShimmerProgram.

(4) ACE ON THE CASE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the April 7 Financial Times, Tom Faber looks at video games that combine the supernatural with detective stories.

…The first detective games I loved were the Ace Attorney trilogy, in which you play Phoenix Wright, an impossibly earnest lawyer who solves a trio of outlandish murders.  The tone is decidedly zany, with anime-style graphics and supernatural story beats. But the sharp characterisation makes them deeply affecting.  Each complex case is split into two parts:  the first has you talking to witnesses and gathering evidence from the crime scene, while the second takes you to court, where you cross-examine witnesses and poke holes in testimony…

…Perhaps the secret ingredient to a successful detective game is allowing players freedom to find the solution by themselves.  These qualities re best exemplified in last year’s indie hit Paradise Killer, which sets its supernatural mystery across an open world, allowing you to investigate at your own pace.  The game never tells you where to go next and you can set the final trial at any point, no matter how much evidence you’ve gathered.  Newcomers may be alarmed by the game’s high-concept fantasy, which tells of a group of social elites constructing a utopia by sacrificing the working classes to resurrect a pantheon of vanished gods.  Yet once you find your footing, the story resolves into a fantastically imaginative, richly compelling narrative with a superb soundtrack to boot.

(5) WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM CONFUSION. Ian Moore’s “ConFusion: Eastercon 2021” report at Secret Panda offers a lot of coverage of the panel programming.

… Many of the academic presenters at ConFusion seemed to be from creative writing rather than literary criticism programmes, which changed the focus somewhat: when they were examining a particular theme within science fiction, it was with a view to ultimately creating something in that area themselves, with several then presenting us with some of their own creative work in progress.

I enjoyed Hester Parr’s presentation on fanfic, though at times it did tend towards more of a stirring defence of fan fiction than an academic analysis of it. Particularly interesting was the discussion of how some fanfic writers use their writing to work out things about themselves and the revelation that the My Fair Lady musical is closer to the original Pygmalion myth than the George Bernard Shaw play it is adapted from. I did find myself thinking about whether there is a difference between something like Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad and other retellings of myths or sequels to others’ work by novelists on the one hand and fan fiction proper on the other hand. Part of Parr’s argument seemed to be that there is not really a difference, with the human tendency to retell and adapt stories meaning that fanfic is a universal thing with its origins in the mists of time. I have the nagging sense though that there is something different between a novel written by a professional writer and something a hobbyist has posted to an online fanfic platform. To me the fannishness of fanfic is what distinguishes it from non-fan writing drawing on pre-existing stories, though further investigation may be required here….

(6) GAGARIN AND THE POTATO FIELD. Sixty years ago today Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. Here’s the CNN story:

…Khrushchev’s answer came 60 years ago, on April 12, 1961, when Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin circled the Earth aboard a spacecraft called Vostok 1. After parachuting from the craft near the Russian village of Smelovka, Gagarin landed a hero — and a major embarrassment for the United States, already stung by the Soviet first-in-the-race launch of the Sputnik 1 satellite four years earlier….

And what goes up must come down – however unexpectedly that might be if you happen to be standing where they land.

(7) JOURNEY INTO SPACE. And the Journey Planet team bids everyone a Happy Cosmonautics Day. Ann Gry co-edited their “Russian Space – ” theme issue which came out in December.

Cover by Sara Felix

This unique issue of Journey Planet comes in two languages in parallel text, Russian and English. With bi-lingual text on every page we look at the Science, Engineering, Science Fiction, Films, Comics and poetry that the theme of Russian Space has to offer.

Muscovite Co-Editor Ann Gry (Anna Gryaznova) was committed to ensure the issue was as accessible as possible to the readers, interested in the subject and spent a tremendous amount of time working on translations as well as seeking out new voices, and hearing from voices who may be very new to Journey Planet readers. This issue is a curated glimpse into the creative realms mostly inaccessible due to the language barrier and is an attempt to give an idea of how space theme connects us all.

You can find the issue here:

(8) WE’LL MEET AGAIN. James Davis Nicoll extols “Five Stories Built Around the Threat of Nuclear Blackmail” to Tor.com readers. Not all of them are grim:

The Mouse that Roared by Leonard Wibberley (1955)

The tiny principality of Grand Fenwick had no intention of blackmailing the world with atomic doom. Faced with economic calamity (Americans had successfully copied Grand Fenwick’s principal export, Pinot Grand Fenwick wine), they came up with a simple but brilliant plan: declare war on the United States of America, lose, capitulate, and then wait for US to expend billions of dollars rebuilding Grand Fenwick (shades of the Marshall Plan). Since Grand Fenwick had not upgraded its military toolkit since the Hundred Years War, there was no way this cunning scheme could go wrong. Or so it seemed.

The handful of men-at-arms dispatched to New York City find a city abandoned thanks to a Cold War-era Civil Defense exercise. Hunting for someone to whom they might surrender, they stumble across Dr. Kokintz and his Q-bomb demonstration model. Both Kokintz and his device are carried off to Grand Fenwick, whereupon the astounded Grand Fenwickians discover to their alarm that they are now in possession of a weapon that could, if detonated, depopulate a continent. Still, having the eyes of the world on them has possibilities…provided nobody jostles the delicate Q-bomb.

(9) HAND MADE. The Dwrayger Dungeon makes a post from clips from a 1939 short in “13: PARAMOUNT Presents POPULAR SCIENCE”. See how a Popeye cartoon was made in the days of hand-painted animation cels.

Today we go behind the scenes of the making of the Popeye cartoon “Aladdin And His Wonderful Lamp” at the Fleischer Studios in Miami….

Here are the guys working on the storyboards for their upcoming Popeye cartoon. I swear, there are like 500 drawings pinned up on the wall….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 12, 1940 — On this day in 1940, Black Friday premiered. It was directed by Arthur Lubinfrom from a screenplay by Curt Siodmak (who won a Retro Hugo last year for Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man) and Eric Taylor. Though Boris Karloff and Béla Lugosi were co-billed, Lugosi only has a rather small part in the film and does not appear on screen with Karloff.  Universal had cast Lugosi as the Doctor and Karloff as the Professor, but Karloff insisted on playing the Doctor. So Lugosi was given the minor role of a rival gangster, while Stanley Ridges was brought in to play the Professor. Reception was mixed with some critics loving the double billing, but the NYT noted that “Lugosi’s terrifying talents are wasted”.  Over at Rotten Tomatoes, the audience reviewers give it a rating of forty nine percent.  It is in the the public domain now, so you can watch it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 12, 1884Bob Olsen. He wrote twenty-seven poems and stories that were published in Amazing Stories in the late 1920s early 1930s. He’s one of the first authors to use the term “space marines”. A search of both print and digital publishers does not show any indication that any of his genre or mystery fiction is now in-print. (Died 1956.) (CE) 
  • Born April 12, 1908 – Janie Lamb.  Edited the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n) National Fantasy Fan and Tightbeam.  Inspiring spark of Southern Fandom (southern U.S., not e.g. the Republic of South Africa, or London, or Spain despite Roses from the South, these other regions not typically so calling themselves); chaired DeepSouthCon 7.  Kaymar and Rebel service awards.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1915Emil Petaja. He considered his work to be part of an older tradition of ‘weird fiction.’  He published thirteen novels and some one hundred fifty short stories. His Otava series, published by Ace Books in the Sixties, is based on the Finnish national myth, The Kalevala. (Died 2000.) (CE) 
  • Born April 12, 1921Carol Emshwiller. I think her short stories are amazing and The Start of the End of It All and Other Stories collection won a World Fantasy Award. She’d later receive a Life Achievement award from the World Fantasy Awards Administration. I’ve not read her novels, so which would you recommend? Novel wise, she’s reasonably well stocked at the usual suspects but her collections are largely not there. (Died 2019.) (CE) 
  • Born April 12, 1936Charles Napier. Adam in Star Trek’s “The Way to Eden”. He had one-offs, and this is not a complete list, on Mission ImpossibleThe Incredible HulkKnight Rider, Tales of The Golden MonkeyThe Incredible Hulk ReturnsLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanDeep Space Nine and voiced Agent Zed in the animated Men in Black series. (Died 2011.) (CE) 
  • Born April 12, 1947 – Tom Clancy.  Regardless of whether Jack Ryan becomes President, and the author’s politics which as it happens I never liked much, I defiantly assert The Hunt for “Red October” – TC’s first novel! he’d been an insurance salesman! Deborah Grosvenor had to persuade the Naval Inst. to publish it! – is SF, and good SF too.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1952 – Pierre Stolze, Ph.D., age 69.  Dissertation at École Normale Supérieure on SF.  Seven novels, a score of shorter stories.  Will Francophone translators kindly address this man’s work?  [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1958 – Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink, age 63.  Canadian living in Los Angeles.  Active particularly with Art Shows; board member of the Southern Calif. Inst. for Fan Interests (yes, that’s what the initials spell, pronounced skiffy).  Her high-tech expertise permitted the annual Rotsler Award display at Worldcons to rise above the personal handicraft of one man in a propeller beanie, however helped by volunteers (hello, Murray), and thus reach Dublin (77th Worldcon) and Wellington (78th Worldcon, virtual-only).  [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1968 – Marah Searle-Kovacevic, age 53.  Head of Exhibits at Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon, credited by con chair with extra help at N4’s elaborate and successful First Night, see this detailed report.  Chaired SFContario 4-5.  Was assigned as head of Social Media for Westercon LXXIII.  [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1969 – Mike Jansen, age 52.  Ran Babel Publications for ten years with Roelof Goudriaan (hello, Roelof).  Three novels, fourscore shorter stories, a dozen poems, many available in English e.g. collection Ophelia in My Arms.  Website in eight languages including Arabic, Chinese, English. [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1979Jennifer Morrison, 42. Emma Swan in the Once Upon a Time series, and Winona Kirk, mother of James T. Kirk in Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness. She also paid her horror dues in Urban Legends: Final Cut as Amy Mayfield, the student videographer whose film goes terribly wrong. I’m intrigued to see that she’s the voice actor for the role of Selina Kyle / Catwoman in the Batman: Hush, a film that needs a R rating to be told properly and indeed did so. (CE) 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Macanudo reveals the ancestry of a certain popular character from The Mandalorian.

(13) THE ARRIVAL OF THE FUTURE. Eric Diaz analyzes “How the Year 1986 Changed Comic Books Forever” at Yahoo! Life. Here’s the first pair of reasons:

… Let’s get this double-whammy out of the way. 1986 saw the release of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, and Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. So much has been said about both of these comics already. Although much about them is different, each is a deconstruction of the superhero concept; and each elevated the medium to new levels of respectability.

Yes, their success has sown definite downsides. Too many creators take the wrong lessons from their popularity, veering “dark and edgy” for the sake of it. But this aside, both of these remain towering achievements in comic book storytelling…. 

(14) WONDER WOMAN WRITER REMEMBERED. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Mark Evanier and author/editor Anina Bennett about Joye Hummel Murchison Kelly’s appearance at the 2018 Comic-Con and how she enjoyed the recognition she got for her Wonder Woman work when she was 94. “She was the ‘secret’ Wonder Woman writer in the 1940s. Here’s how she finally got her due at 94”.

…“In all my years of Comic-Conning, I can’t recall another moment when the audience was so eager to give someone a long, loving ovation,” Evanier said Wednesday, “and the recipient was so delightfully surprised to be at an event like that receiving one.

“Joye told me it was the best weekend of her life, and I thought, ‘Imagine having the best weekend of your life when you’re 94!’”

(15) BIRD IS THE WORD. Jeff VanderMeer, in his essay “Hummingbirds and the Ecstatic Moment” for Orion Magazine, explains how birds provided comfort to him when he was sick in bed with asthma as a child and why birds play a crucial role in Hummingbird Salamander.

…I am not going to complain about my childhood—it was worse than some and better than many. But it was a sickly time for me. Transplanted to the Fiji Islands from Pennsylvania when my parents joined the Peace Corps, I discovered I was allergic to many flowering trees and also developed acute asthma. The practical effect of this meant that some mornings I would wake to birdsong hardly able to breathe or open my eyes.

Yet we lived in the cliché of a tropical paradise, a nature-rich country in which nothing separated you from the outdoors. An island nation that knew the limits of its resources and thus, at that time, treasured them.

At recess at school, in our drab gray uniforms, we would run across the road to the black sand beach at low tide and look for mudskippers, or walk along the edge of the reef, searching for starfish. I would stare into the alien eye of a sea turtle as my mother captured the detail in her biological illustrations. We would pile into a boat so my father could go to an outer island and observe the damage to coconut trees from rhinoceros beetles, for his research. Along the way, I would keep a birding journal and identify what I saw using a black-and-white stapled booklet showing the local Fijian species.

There could be no greater contrast between the beauty of that place and the realities of my condition…. 

(16) RESNICK ON SALE. There’s a Bundle of Holding with a flock of novels by Mike Resnick. It’s available for the next 21 days.

Adventurer! This Mike Resnick Bundle presents space opera and alternate-history fantasy ebook novels by Mike Resnick published by Pyr BooksMike Resnick (1942-2020) wrote more than 70 wide-ranging science fiction novels and hundreds of short stories that won many awards. This all-new fiction offer gives you DRM-free ebooks (in both ePub and Kindle formats) of a dozen Resnick novels: the four Weird West steampunk fantasies, the three Dead Enders adventures of interstellar espionage, and the five Starship military space operas. These three series showcase Resnick’s gift for fast pacing, engaging characters, snappy dialogue, and headlong action.

For just US$6.95 you get all three novels in our Mike Resnick Sampler (retail value $58) as DRM-free ebooks. Each of these novels — The Buntline Special, The Fortress in Orion, and Starship: Mutiny — launched a series.

And, if you pay more than the threshold price of $25.36, you’ll also get our Complete Collection with all the later books in each series — nine more novels worth an additional $180…

(17) DON’T DO IT. From an interview in The Guardian: “String theorist Michio Kaku: ‘Reaching out to aliens is a terrible idea’”.

You believe that within a century we will make contact with an alien civilisation. Are you worried about what they may entail?

Soon we’ll have the Webb telescope up in orbit and we’ll have thousands of planets to look at, and that’s why I think the chances are quite high that we may make contact with an alien civilisation. There are some colleagues of mine that believe we should reach out to them. I think that’s a terrible idea. We all know what happened to Montezuma when he met Cortés in Mexico so many hundreds of years ago. Now, personally, I think that aliens out there would be friendly but we can’t gamble on it. So I think we will make contact but we should do it very carefully.

(18) IT’S A THEORY. “Prehistoric cavemen starved themselves of oxygen to induce hallucinations and inspire their ancient paintings, study finds”Yahoo! News has the story.

Prehistoric cave dwellers living in Europe purposefully starved themselves of oxygen to hallucinate while creating their decorative wall paintings, a groundbreaking new study has found.

Researchers have been questioning for years why so many of the world’s oldest paintings were located in often pitch-black tunnel systems, far away from cave entrances.

But a recent study by Tel Aviv University now reveals that the location was deliberate because it induced oxygen deprivation and caused cavemen to experience a state called hypoxia.

Hypoxia can bring about symptoms including shortness of breath, headaches, confusion, and rapid heartbeat, which can lead to feelings of euphoria, near-death experiences, and out-of-body sensations. The team of researchers believes it would have been “very similar to when you are taking drugs”, the Times reported.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Alien:  Covenant Pitch Meeting” on YouTube, both the producer and the screenwriter agree that the film’s plot is so ridiculous that the screenwriter says “the movie falls apart if any character stops being dumb” and the producer asks, “do all the characters have brain damage, or what’s up?”

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, rcade, John King Tarpinian, Joey Eschrich, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Rich Horton, James Davis Nicoll, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Contrarius.]

ConFusion 2021 Eastercon Report

By Jo Van Ekeren:

This past weekend, ConFusion 2021 (Eastercon) was held as a virtual convention. Guests of Honour were author Dan Abnett, author and editor Nik Vincent-Abnett, and fan Dave Lally. The online environment was primarily in an application called Gather Town, with some aspects of the con also available through the ConFusion 2021 website.

I had volunteered to staff a Virtual Fan Table for the Memphis in 2023 Worldcon bid at ConFusion 2021. Prior to the con, the Dealers Room head Melissa Taylor gave me a demo of the Gather Town environment so I’d have an idea what to expect. Melissa was really responsive to my requests for customisation to the fan table setup, which I greatly appreciated. The Memphis Fan Table area had a link to the website at a little kiosk on either side, a pop-up of the Memphis Q&A PDF (in the vending machine), and a whiteboard where people could write questions or messages (“back in 1/2 hour”, etc.). [N.B.: I wasn’t planning on writing this report until someone (ahem!) twisted my arm, and I didn’t think to take screenshots of the various rooms, so some of the images below are mockups.]

Confusion 2021 Eastercon Member Badge, with the ConFusion logo, member name, and member number

Right before the con, I received an e-mail with a virtual con badge, which was cool, even though I didn’t do anything with it. Members had the option of printing their badge off and wearing it, putting it in their virtual background, and/or posting it on social media.

Before dropping you into the environment, Gather Town required you to select an avatar from a variety of avatar choices and attire choices (some of the “attire” choices were wheelchairs, which was great). You also had the ability to add a line of text to your Profile with pronouns and/or bio info. After selecting their avatar, each person appeared in their current location in Gather Town with a small version of their avatar labeled with their badge name and membership number.

I was able to be present for around 6 hours each day Fri-Sat-Sun-Mon (since I live Down Under, the UK was 12 hours off from me, which made a pretty skewed schedule for me, but the fact that we have a 4-day Easter holiday weekend down here really helped). I spoke with people who stopped by the table in the Dealers Room, but I also took the opportunity on several occasions to go out and explore the VR environment and chat with other members I encountered. I had nice conversations with Leife Shallcross who was “next door” with the Australia in 2025 bid, and with David Stokes from Guardbridge Books on my other side.

I don’t know what the con’s membership total was (my membership, bought right before the convention, was number 438), but there was a small “people online” counter down in the corner on the Gather Town screen, and the highest number I noticed was 169 – which may or may not be close to the actual max usage of that environment during the convention.

There was a user profile bar at the bottom of the screen, which you could click on to toggle your green/red Status, change your text line, access a map to the entire Gather Town layout, change your video and audio hardware settings, and add an emoji to your profile. Unfortunately, though I tried it periodically, I could never get the map to load; the “loading” indicator just sat there, grinding. However, the designer, Alex Storer, posted a copy of the “spaceship” map on Facebook, and it’s really a clever design.

I liked the Gather Town virtual-reality environment much better than that of some other virtual conventions I’ve attended in the past year. It was simpler, very much like walking around at a real con inside a video game. There were potted trees and plants and chairs and couches. There was a large “Hangar” room where the Registration and Information Desk was located, with a bunch of shuttle-sized space vehicles parked in it. There were Easter Eggs like a fountain in the Arboretum having an unmarked entrance at one specific point which led to an observation deck.

There was an “invisible maze” accessed via an unmarked doorway (which I messed with for a bit, but I could not figure out how to get through it without being continually kicked back to the start). They did a Scavenger Hunt in the Dealers Hall which involved having to visit each dealer’s area and get a single pop-up word which you had to collect to form sentences and win a prize. There was a Gaming room which had a bunch of little stations where you could play video games, but I tried one and it appeared that the functionality was poor because it made an already resource-intensive application even more resource-intensive.

There was a virtual Art Show, which was viewable either through Gather Town, or through the browser from their website in an app called “Kunstmatrix”. I thought this was really well done. It’s available to the public for a couple more days, and you should go see it!

There was a nice variety on the Programme Schedule, with panels, readings, kaffeeklatsches, virtual author “signing” sessions, and presentations by various Dealers. Programming ranged across the gamut of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, for both printed and visual media – with even some cuisine-related events!

SMOFcon 2021 (SMOFcon Europe in Lisboa) presented a panel on “Managing the Crisis”, with Elizabeth McCarty, Marguerite Smith, and Matt Calvert, moderated by Vincent Docherty. The speakers talked about how to manage con-related crises in an age of instantaneous, fast-moving social media, and discussed some real-life examples. This was a really useful panel, and I hope that it can be put up on YouTube, or otherwise made available to conrunners outside of this convention. (Elizabeth McCarty and Colin Harris have authored a great resource document entitled “Social Media Response Guide“, which is publicly available to conrunners and other interested parties.)

When you got close to someone in Gather Town, a little video window for them would pop open at the top of your screen, and you could see and talk to each other (your own video screen was on the lower right side). If that person’s video was turned off, you could click a “Ring” button on their little video window, and it would ring like a telephone on their side so they knew you wanted to talk. You could set the video screen of the person with whom you were speaking to full-screen mode and see a larger image of them during your conversation.

People walking by too closely, or walking up to you, would cause their little video window to pop up and they could jump in on your conversation, but there were also private spaces you could go into and talk, where random passersby wouldn’t trigger interruptions. You also had the ability to turn your green Status light to red to indicate that you were not around or were doing something privately; this also tightened your proximity bubble and prevented interruptions from random passersby.

ConFusion 2021 Gather Town Chat Bar, where the message log can be read, and messages can be sent

ConFusion 2021 Gather Town Member List of all members currently online, ability to search for a member, follow a member, or message a member

There was a left-side menu which included a pop-up list of all attendees, showing their green/red Status and their text (pronouns, bio, etc.). You could do a search by Badge Name to find a specific attendee, or browse the whole list. You could click on an attendee’s name and Message them, or Follow them (which would “physically” take you to wherever their avatar was located). The system also included a “Block” function which you could use if there was someone you didn’t want to be able to see you or talk to you; it made you invisible to the blocked person.

There was also a popup menu item for a Discord-type Chat message feed, which included all messages to Everyone, People Nearby (if they were in the same room as you), and your exchanges with individual members. But you had to scroll back through it to read messages; there was no Search or Filter function by keyword or member.

Now for an in-depth discussion of the drawbacks:

1) Gather Town required a desktop device; you could use it in a browser or in the desktop app, but there was no functionality for mobile devices.

2) Gather Town was a resource hog and I had to pretty much shut everything down on my computer to keep it from periodically losing connection and having to reconnect (and even that didn’t always prevent glitching). I actually have a pretty powerful desktop device; I suspect people with basic laptops and desktop devices would have had a really poor experience. I’m guessing that the Gather Town developers and testers all have hardcore gaming tech hardware setups; I don’t think Gather Town will ever make it as a successful virtual venue unless they can resolve these high CPU usage problems.

3) The environment was laid out like a real convention space, which meant you had to use your left/right and up/down arrow buttons to travel through long empty hallways to get somewhere. (When I refer to “travel” in this summary, I mean holding down the arrow keys and navigating around obstacles.) This seemed like the result of an inability to re-imagine a virtual con as anything other than being the same layout as a physical con. Getting from one place to another could often take at least minute or two of using your keyboard to navigate to get there (and that was assuming you had a good idea of the route to take to get where you wanted to go). I think it would have been an especially difficult adjustment for people who have never played video games.

4) The interface needed the ability to click a specific room on a list of rooms and immediately be taken there. There were teleportals in the larger areas which would take you to a central teleporter hall with all of the main area teleportals labeled, so there was a bit of a shortcut by that method. But a way to instantly get from one Programming Panel to the next was sorely needed. And a setup where new entrants were deposited into the central registration area hub, with many labeled doors each leading immediately to different sections and not requiring travel time and extensive keyboard manipulation, would have been much better (and would have still permitted the ability to have “fun” exploration rooms like the Arboretum and the Gaming Room).

5) I went to a reading early on in one of the programming rooms. There were a dozen or so attendees, and it was set up so that video windows showed only for the person/people up front. You could also “attend” sessions outside of Gather Town by going to a section of their website and clicking on the video feed you wanted to see. But a lot of people reported having so many issues trying to attend panels in Gather Town that they just chose instead to access the video streams via the website. However, there were lots of problems with that, too, with things getting started very late, or the streaming not working during the actual panel, and the panels were only viewable later on as a recording, which prevented in-session Q&A interaction with the audience.

6) Programming sessions were recorded, and were available for later viewing via the convention’s website. The quality of these recordings was pretty good, but I had to set the video playback quality to the lowest level to avoid “hiccupping”. And strangely, though I tried several things, I was never able to route the audio from these recordings through headphones, either through an audio jack connection or through a USB headphone connection (although both of these worked just fine for me in Gather Town). There was no automated captioning on anything, and no transcripts for the panels. (Members still have access to these recordings until midnight [GMT+1] on 12 April.)

7) I think that the environment design for the convention was done with a goal of cleverness, cuteness, and “real-world emulation in a video game” – and there’s something to be said for that, parts of it were rather fun. But I’m very vision, hearing, and hand-dexterity abled, so it was easy for me. I thought the environment showed a real lack of awareness of the accessibility issues which accompany such an interface for those with impaired vision, hearing, or hand/finger dexterity. Labels on person icons were quite small, and navigation was by keyboard keys. (The accessibility problems with Gather Town are well known; ACM’s Ubicomp had to apologise after using it for their convention in September 2020.)

8) I saw someone somewhere say that Gather Town costs $1 per person for 2 hours (which would be $24,000/£12,300 for 500 people for 4 days). This meant that it was so expensive that everything was set up only right before the convention started, and there was no ability to do a “shakedown cruise” and revise things based on user feedback in the days leading up to the convention. Aside from the expensive cost and the poor performance quality, the inability to do that shakedown cruise without any additional cost would seem to me to be a real deal-breaker for using Gather Town.

Based on all of these considerations, my recommendation for a virtual convention would be for the environment to be something that is mainly text and menu-based with a little bit of artistic embellishment, but with the primary emphasis on functionality and accessibility, rather than on impressive visuals or virtual-reality effects.

I “attended” the Eastercon Bid session which was done over Zoom and moderated by Vincent Docherty. There was one bid for 2022 by Phil Dyson, to be called “Reclamation“, which they expect to be in-person but with some virtual aspects for members who can’t attend. It was selected in a vote by 98% of the members at the session. They then announced their Guests of Honour: Authors Zen Cho and Mary Robinette Kowal, Artist Philip Reeve, and Fan Nicholas Whyte.

There were two bids for the 2023 Eastercon. One, for “Persistence”, was by the current chair, who is understandably wanting to put on a real convention in 2 years because their convention last year had been cancelled at the last minute due to the burgeoning pandemic, and they’d been forced to do this one (its replacement) virtually. The first bid presentation lasted about 3 minutes and amounted to “I want to put on an in-person convention, and I promise to do a good job, but I don’t have any specifics yet”.

The second presentation was a spur-of-the-moment “bid” by Alison Scott, who wanted to speak at length regarding the other bid, but was told that she was required to be an official bid to do so. Scott’s presentation was civil but quite impassioned regarding the lack of consideration shown in the planning of the current convention, saying that it called into question whether the other bid was really a good choice without first being forced to address the problems with the current convention as part of their bid planning presentation, and without being willing to commit to at least planning for a partially virtual convention, because she thinks that will be necessary. She said the convention was incredibly expensive for what it actually delivered, due to lack of planning, poor choices (some of which were strongly opposed by committee members who resigned after being overruled), and no testing or feedback.

Scott made the case that the Eastercon convention should not be a fancy show, but rather a community-building and sharing enterprise with much better communication than had been done this year, and that members should either vote for her bid (with the promise that she really would put together a well-run convention should she be selected) – or more preferably, vote to defer the awarding of the 2023 convention to next year, so that the bid(s) presented could make use of the feedback and lessons learned from this convention to really do an excellent job of planning (and that bid might very well be the bid of the current chair, if they showed a marked improvement in their planning a year from now). There was a vote of the members attending the session, and the result was 16% for the current chair’s bid, 10% for Alison Scott’s “bid”, and 69% to defer to next year the selection of the 2023 bidcom.

Farah Mendlesohn and Pat McMurray announced they would be presenting a bid for the 2024 Eastercon at next year’s convention, with team members David Cooper, Fiona Scarlett, Jude Roberts, and John Coxon. Their slideshow and the audio of their presentation are available on Dropbox.

Further information on ConFusion 2021

In spite of the issues, I really enjoyed getting the chance to interact with European fans at ConFusion 2021, and even though I won’t be able to attend in person, I’m hoping that Reclamation 2022 will have a virtual component in which I can participate.

Pixel Scroll 4/6/21 A Pixel’s A Pixel, No Matter How Small

(1) CAN HORROR EXIST IN SPACE? [Item by Soon Lee.] It started with Freelance writer Elle Hunt’s Twitter poll on whether Alien is a horror film, and unsatisfied when most of the respondents ticked yes, said, “My argument: horror cannot be set in space.”

Unsurprisingly, it provoked a Tweetstorm of comments from people who disagreed. Amongst the responses was a wonderfully insightful thread by literary agent DongWon Song dissecting what we might mean by “genre”.

Thread starts here.

(2) FIVE THINGS. Alison Scott made one of the great aspirational speeches about what a convention chair should do, using disappointments about this year’s Eastercon as the text. Read the transcript at Ansible Links: “Eastercon 2023: What Really Matters to Us?”

Scott was compelled to deliver it as a bid presentation to gain the floor at the convention’s version of the annual open meeting.

…I was told that the only way I could speak here at this meeting was to bid. And so I’m bidding. Okay. I’ve had to tell the convention team very late that I was bidding; great apologies for that. But we have a 70 year tradition of this meeting, being an open meeting where any member of the convention can come and speak.

I felt that it was really important. We lost that last year because they had to do things very quickly. And I understand that. But I think that the fact that they haven’t given you a chance to speak in an open meeting this year, is actually disgraceful. It’s really undermining our community.

Then come the five things:

…I don’t think it’s possible to do a perfect job. I think it’s possible to do a good job in a lot of good ways and I see five things, which an Eastercon chair needs to do. And these are the five things that I think are really important.

(3) FIVE MORE THINGS. James Davis Nicoll has no trouble finding “Five Stories in Which Great Power Is Not Always Used Responsibly” for Tor.com readers. From the middle of the list —

Vicious by V.E. Schwab (2013)

Utterly convinced (despite the absence of concrete evidence) that ExtraOrdinary (EO) people—superhumans, to you and me—exist, ambitious college students Eli and Victor set out to determine how to artificially induce EO abilities. While trigging superpowers turns out to come with a good chance of simply killing the test subjects, neither Eli nor Victor are much inconvenienced by professional ethics or even ordinary caution. Victory is therefore assured!

Eventual success imbues both young men with abilities far beyond human ken. While Eli’s power of regeneration is self-focused and not immediately dangerous to others, Victor’s powers lend themselves to inadvertent misuse. Indeed, almost the first thing Victor does with his new power is accidentally kill Eli’s girlfriend Angie. The consequence? A vendetta of epic proportions.

(4) THE COLOR OF UBIK. LitHub encourages everyone to “Check out the Folio Society’s new (and very neon) Philip K. Dick box set”. My gosh!

The Folio Society‘s latest publication is a massive edition of all 118 of Philip K. Dick’s short stories, presented in this shockingly bright four-volume set. Their edition of The Complete Short Stories was designed by independent studio La Boca and includes original artworks commissioned from twenty-four different illustrators. 

(5) WINCING AT INVINCIBLE. “What Makes ‘Invincible’ a Superhero Show for Adults?” at The Ringer.

…The sequence is an awesome, grotesque (expensive-looking) demonstration of what a hacked-off Superman might actually do to the Flash once he caught up to him, among other things. It is a surprising explosion of violence, even in a violent show, made even more horrifying for the specificity of the sound design. Invincible emphatically earns its 18-plus rating in just under three minutes, and yet, outbursts like these are not what make Invincible feel “adult.”

…So far, Invincible also seems to be interested in whether the emissary of a hyper-advanced alien civilization, meant to be Earth’s “sole protector,” might have a bit of a god complex. JK Simmons is part of an incredible voice acting cast that includes the likes of Sandra Oh, Walton Goggins, and Mahershala Ali, and there are shades of Terence Fletcher in Simmons’s performance as Omni-Man. Consider how Fletcher first enters the dimly lit practice hall in Whiplash—he hangs his suit jacket on the door, revealing a tight black tee and an imposing physical stature. You immediately understand that his suggestions are demands, and that he enjoys being a big fish in a small pond. It’s the smirking gaze and the visible vein on his temple. Simmons brings the same kind of lurking monomania to Invincible, and it causes me to consider the paroxysm of force not just when Omni-Man is on the job, but when he’s at home, and when he’s speaking to service workers too. He yells at a hospital clerk and you wonder if he thinks she’s disposable. He makes demands on his wife’s time and you wonder whether he thinks of her as an accessory. He hits his newly superpowered son a little too hard while sparring and you wonder whether he feels somewhat threatened—perhaps afraid of obsolescence…. 

(6) TIME FOR WONDER. “Mexicanx on the Rise” is the theme of this week’s Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron. Register at the link.

Catch a rising star as five of the Mexicanx Initiative’s leaders spotlight some of the brightest new literary and art phenoms. They’ll share their latest endeavors furthering Mexicanx representation in SFF and the world at large. Joining Gadi and Karen will be John Picacio, Libia Brenda, Julia Rios, Andrea Chapela, and Héctor González. This Saturday, April 10th, at 3 PM Eastern Time.

(7) BEWITCHED, BOTHERED, AND BAUMANN. The Pink Smoke podcast’s sixty-sixth episode is a “Fritz Leiber Double Feature” with guest Rebecca Baumann, head of public services at Lilly Library, curator of the 2018 exhibition “Frankenstein 200: The Birth, Life and Resurrection of Mary Shelley’s Monster.”

“She is all merciless night animal…yet with a wisdom that goes back to Egypt and beyond – and which is invaluable to me. For she is my spy on buildings, you see, my intelligencer on metropolitan megastructures. She knows their secrets and their secret weaknesses, their ponderous rhythms and dark songs. And she herself is secret as their shadows. She is my Queen of Night, Our Lady of Darkness.”

In two books written nearly 25 years apart, “weird fiction” guru Fritz Leiber examined how ancient witchcraft and black magic continue to prey malignantly on unsuspecting contemporary characters deeply entrenched in the rational. Whether it’s faculty wives hexing a sociology professor in CONJURE WIFE or the paramental entities tormenting a writer in San Francisco in OUR LADY OF DARKNESS, Leiber sees modern life as a conduit for a “new science” of the supernatural, which we dig into with this horror-themed October episode!

Our guest is Rebecca Baumann, head of public services at Lilly Library, curator of the 2018 exhibition Frankenstein 200: The Birth, Life and Resurrection of Mary Shelley’s Monster and avid collector of genre fiction. Baumann shares her take on these essential “weird” tales as well as details of Leiber’s life that offer rare insight into his perspective on femininity. (Also on how to pronounce his name, which John gets wrong through most of the episode.)

(8) SPECTRAL DELIVERY. In “Ghosts and Narrators” on CrimeReads, Jessica Hamilton explains why she used a ghost as the first-person narrator of her novel What You Never Knew and the problems writers have writing fiction from the ghost’s viewpoint.

…For me, creating a dead protagonist was not what fueled me to write my novel What You Never Knew. It was necessary for me to kill off a character within the first few pages of the book, as it’s this event that sets everything else in motion. My only problem was that I still needed the perspective of the deceased character throughout the rest of the novel, which meant I had a dead narrator on my hands.

Using a dead narrator comes with its own special challenges. A hurdle that I found to be quite difficult was dealing with the spirituality that is connected to death and the afterlife. The religion behind dying is a big topic to tackle. Beliefs around it are varied, often tied to religious convictions and highly debatable, which makes it fragile ground to tread upon. I think the question authors must ask themselves before writing a deceased character, is whether they want to avoid using specific spiritual elements in their versions of death or reference them directly…

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 6, 1967 — On this day in 1967, Star Trek’s “City of the Edge of Forever” first aired on NBC. Though Harlan Ellison wrote the original script, the episode had several writers contribute to it including Steven W. Carabatsos, D. C. Fontana and Gene L. Coon with Gene Roddenberry making the final script re-write. Roddenberry and Fontana both consider it one of their favorite episodes, the latter ranking it up with “The Trouble with Tribbles”. Critics in general consider it one of the best Trek episodes done and many consider it one of the best SF series episodes ever.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 6, 1849 – John Waterhouse.  Known for painting women of Greek legend and the Matter of Arthur.  Here is The Magic Circle.  Here is Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus.  Here is Pandora.  Here is The Lady of Shalott.  (Died 1917) [JH]
  • Born April 6, 1924 – Sonya Dorman.  One novel, a score of shorter stories (one in Dangerous Visions), a score of poems.  Four contributions to Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking Out of This World.  Three reviews in Analog.  Outside our field in RedbookThe Saturday Evening Post; four collections of poetry that I know of.  Rhysling Award.  Tiptree Award (as it then was).  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born April 6, 1926 Gil Kane. Artist who created the modern look and feel of Green Lantern and the Atom for DC, and co-created Iron Fist with Roy Thomas for Marvel. I’m going to single him out for his work on the House of Mystery and the House of Secrets in the Sixties and Seventies which you can find on the revamped DC Universe app. (Died 2000.) (CE) 
  • Born April 6, 1937 Billy Dee Williams, 84. He is best known for his role as Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars franchise, first appearing in The Empire Strikes Back. Other genre appearances include being Harvey Dent in Batman and voicing Two Face In The Lego Batman Movie. He also co-wrote with Rob MacGregor two SF novels, PSI/ Net and Just/In Time. (CE)
  • Born April 6, 1938 Roy Thinnes, 83. Best remembered for his role of David Vincent in The Invaders. He was also in The Horror at 37,000 FeetThe Norliss TapesSatan’s School for GirlsBattlestar GalacticaDark Shadows (recurring role as Roger Collins) and Poltergeist: The Legacy. (CE) 
  • Born April 6, 1948 Larry Todd, 73. Writer and cartoonist, best known for the decidedly adult  Dr. Atomic strips that originally appeared in the underground newspaper The Sunday Paper and his other work in underground comics, often with a SF bent. In our circles, Galaxy Science FictionAmazing Science Fiction and Imagination were three of his venues. He also did some writing for If. He also did, and it’s really weird art, the cover art and interior illustrations for Harlan Ellison’s Chocolate Alphabet. (CE)
  • Born April 6, 1948 – Sherry Gottlieb, age 73.  Two decades proprietor of “A Change of Hobbit” bookstore.  Three novels, one collection of shorter stories.  Special Guest at Westercon 32.  [JH]
  • Born April 6, 1953 – Jerdine Nolan, age 68.  Half a dozen novels; several others outside our field, like this.  I. & J. Black Award, Christopher Award, Kirkus Best Book of the Year.  “It takes patience to get the right story…. to revisit and revise the work to make it the best that it could be…. so the words on the page have enough life … could stand up and walk around all on their own.”  [JH]
  • Born April 6, 1959 Mark Strickson, 62. Turlough, companion to the Fifth Doctor. He didn’t do much genre but he was a young Scrooge in an Eighties film version of A Christmas Carol. And like many Who performers, he’d reprise his character on Big Finish audio dramas. (CE)
  • Born April 6, 1976 – Tara McPherson, age 45.  Two covers, four interiors.  Four artbooks.  Posters, murals, Designer Toys.  In ElleEsquire (Esky Award for Beck in the Netherlands concert poster), Hi-FructoseJuxtapozLos Angeles TimesMarie ClaireNew York Times, Vanity Fair.  Designer Toy Award for a 10-inch (25 cm) Wonder Woman (“I even have her golden lasso of truth tattooed around my wrists”).  [JH]
  • Born April 6, 1977 Karin Tidbeck, 44. Their first work in English, Jagannath, a short story collection, made the shortlist for the Otherwise Award and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award. Their short story “Augusta Prima” was originally written in Swedish, then translated into English by them, winning a Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Award in the Short Form category. (CE) 
  • Born April 6, 1983 – Michael Boccacino, age 38.  Début novel got starred review in Publishers Weekly.  Avid baker.  Blames love of books on his father.  Has read Pride and PrejudiceFrankensteinJane EyreWe Have Always Lived in the Castle. [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) INSPIRED BY WHO. Animator/illustrator Elizabeth Fijalkowski did this piece on the 2003 animated “Scream of the Shalka” written by Paul Cornell and starring Richard E. Grant as Doctor Who.

(13) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter eyeballed this result on tonight’s installment of Jeopardy!

Category: Literary settings.

Answer: This Edgar Rice Burroughs hero first visited Barsoom, also known as Mars, in a 1912 tale.

Wrong question: “Who is Tarzan?”

No one else got, “Who is John Carter?”

(14) LUIGI MUST BE PROUD. “Sealed copy of ‘Super Mario Bros.’ sells for record price of $660,000” reports UPI.

… The classic Nintendo video game was purchased in late 1986 as a Christmas gift, but ended up being placed inside a desk drawer, where it remained untouched for 35 years, before being discovered earlier this year.

“It stayed in the bottom of my office desk this whole time since the day I bought it,” said the seller, who asked not to be identified. “I never thought anything about it.”

… Heritage Auctions, based in Dallas, said the copy of Super Mario Bros. that was sold as part of the Comics & Comic Art Auction during the weekend was part of a short run that was produced in 1986, before Nintendo switched from shrink-wrapped packaging to a sticker seal.

“Since the production window for this copy and others like it was so short, finding another copy from this same production run in similar condition would be akin to looking for single drop of water in an ocean. Never say never, but there’s a good chance it can’t be done,” Valarie McLeckie, video games director for Heritage Auctions, said in a statement.

(15) GAME OF THRONES 10TH ANNIVERSARY. Shelf Awareness says the celebration begins April 10 on HBO Max’s Game of Thrones Spotlight Page, “an in-app experience with curations for every level of fandom.”

Beginning April 10, HBO will launch the Game of Thrones MaraThrone, with all episodes of season one airing on HBO2, “challenging fans to continue to binge watch all 73 episodes of the series on HBO Max while raising money for select global charities,” HBO noted. For two weeks, GOT cast members will rally the fandom to contribute to one of 10 causes: Women for Women International, World Central Kitchen, Conservation International, International Rescue Committee, UNICEF, FilmAid International, SameYou, Royal Mencap Society, National Urban League and the Trevor Project.

Later in the month, HBO will surprise three couples who were married in Westeros-themed ceremonies with special anniversary gifts: GOT-branded barrels of wine, custom chalices and elaborate cakes designed in partnership with local bakeries to represent the GOT houses of Targaryen, Stark and Lannister. In addition, Warner Bros. Consumer Products and its licensing partners have teamed up to create a variety of special-edition products kicking off the Iron Anniversary. 

(16) HONEST GAME TRAILER. In “Ghosts n’ Goblins:  Resurrection” on YouTube, Fandom Games says this game is “one of the most unnecessary sequels of all time” to the classic arcade game of the ;80s and it’s so tough that playing it is like “running a triathlon after drinking three bottles of Nyquil.”

(17) HOW THEY DO THINGS DOWNTOWN. What will your stomach think? In the past week Downtown Disney has got patrons’ stomachs rumbling with the fried pickle corn dog! “Disneyland’s corn dog stuffed with a pickle is its new hot dog” at Today.

The parks of Disneyland Resort may be waiting to reopen, but at the Downtown Disney District, plenty of magic is being made.

Most notable is the commotion over the fried pickle corn dog, a hot dog stuffed into a dill pickle, then battered, panko-crusted, fried and served with a side of … wait for it … peanut butter.

While Disneyland closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Downtown Disney area, a space with retail and dining locations that does not require a park ticket, was able to reopen some locations in July 2020.

In April 2021, the Disney Parks Blog announced the fried pickle corn dog would make its grand entrance at Downtown Disney’s Blue Ribbon Corn Dogs cart. 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Golem and the Jewish Superhero” on YouTube, Jacob Geller looks at the myth of the Golem throughout history, including adaptations o the legend by Ted Chiang, Jorge Luis Borges, Marvel Comics (particularly The Thing) and The Iron Giant.

[Thanks to Will R., Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Ben Bird Person, Mike Kennedy, James Davis Nicoll, rcade, Nicholas Whyte, Andrew Porter, Rob Thornton, John Hertz, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Alison Scott Wins Doc Weir Award

The Doc Weir Award for service to fandom was presented to Alison Scott during Confusion, the virtual Eastercon, this past weekend.

eFanzine’s complete history of the Doc Weir Award begins:

The Doc Weir Award was set up in 1963 in memory of fan Arthur Rose (Doc) Weir, who had died two years previously. Weir was a relative newcomer to fandom, he discovered it late in life – but in the short time of his involvement he was active in a number of fannish areas. In recognition of this, the Award is sometimes seen as the “Good Guy” Award; something for “The Unsung Heroes”.

The award, voted by attending members of Eastercon and presented at the convention, is a silver cup which each winner keeps for a year. It is engraved with the earliest winners’ names, and since space on the cup itself ran out other names have been engraved on silver plates mounted on the cup’s storage box.

Pixel Scroll 4/5/21 You Say Pixels Go, I Say Here We Scroll

(1) IS CLI-FI PART OF THE PROBLEM? BBC World Service’s The Climate Question asks a panel including Ken Liu “Is science fiction holding back climate action?” (23 minute audio.)

For centuries, we’ve been reading, watching and listening to science fiction. And all too often, it’s pretty pessimistic about our future, especially when it touches on the topic of climate change.

This is leading some to ask whether these doom and gloom stories are doing the climate fight more harm than good – causing us to feel so anxious and powerless that we don’t take action.

So for this week’s climate question, we’re asking: Is sci-fi holding us back?

Graihagh Jackson is joined by: 

Amy Brady, editor-in-chief of the Chicago Review of Books, where she writes a monthly column called Burning Worlds. In it she explores how fiction addresses climate change.

Cheryl Slean is a playwright, filmmaker and educator working with the National Resource Defense Council’s Re-write the Future campaign to increase accurate climate stories in film and television.

Ken Liu is a futurist and author of speculative fiction. He has won the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy awards. His debut novel, The Grace of Kings, is the first volume in a silkpunk epic fantasy series.

(2) LAWSUIT EVAPORATES. The case has now been dismissed: “Guillermo del Toro named ‘true creator’ of The Shape of Water as plagiarism suit ends” reports Entertainment Weekly. Del Toro had won the lower court decision, which the plaintiff appealed in the federal Ninth Circuit.

Guillermo del Toro and his Oscar-winning Shape of Water team have emerged unscathed from the depths of a copyright lawsuit claiming that the Best Picture winner plagiarized the work of the late playwright Paul Zindel.

In a statement provided to EW, film distributor and production company Searchlight Pictures (formerly Fox Searchlight) indicated that the legal action against del Toro and associate producer Daniel Kraus had been dismissed after the Zindel estate’s attorney, Marc Toberoff, previously cited 69 points of alleged similarities between the 1969 stage play Let Me Hear You Whisper (about a woman who bonds with a lab dolphin) and del Toro’s movie (about a woman, played by Sally Hawkins, who bonds with a humanoid sea creature, played by Doug Jones, in a research facility).

“David Zindel, the son of Paul Zindel, author of Let Me Hear You Whisper, acknowledges, based on confidential information obtained during the litigation process, that his claims of plagiarism are unfounded,” the statement said. “He acknowledges Guillermo del Toro as the true creator of The Shape of Water. Any similarity between the two works is coincidental.”

… Both sides were reportedly slated to present additional information this year, and a trial had been set for July before the case was dropped.

(3) HOMETOWN PAPER SALUTES NEW F&SF EDITOR. The Daily Memphian profiles Sheree Renée Thomas: “Memphis writer emerges as a major player in the sci-fi world”.

… She says her family’s gathering and bonding time was spent watching movies and television, and they were big horror fans. And then she would realize that movies that she watched had sometimes been classic books. Then she would read those.

“That’s what I remember getting really excited about early on,” she said. “And then I started reading more science fiction work. And the writer that stood out the most for me, that I enjoyed consistently, was Ray Bradbury.”

Bradbury told stories in clear, sometimes lyrical prose, she said. And he had a great sense for characterization. 

“People came alive in his writing,” Thomas said.

She can’t pinpoint when she moved from reading to writing, too. “I don’t know if it was a conscious thing. I felt like, ‘I’m consuming these other stories, whether it was a movie or I’m reading it, someone sat down to write those and my head was full of thoughts.’”

Thomas recalls that her interest in science fiction waned for a time because of the way Black people were depicted in the stories: “Either we weren’t in the future, or if we were present in the storytelling it wasn’t in a very complimentary light or wasn’t in a way which characters had agency, or operated or moved in ways that you could recognize as having been a person that is part of the Black community or a community at all.”

So she started reading mostly Black literature, specifically Black women writers, from her mother’s shelves and the public library. Reading work by Alice Walker, Gayle Jones, Gloria Naylor and Toni Morrison was formative to her….

(4) SECOND SEASON OF PICARD. Paramount + dropped a trailer for Star Trek: Picard, Season 2 which includes the return of Q.

(5) IS IT A PEARL? In the latest Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll turns his readers loose on “All the Seas with Oysters,” a 1958 story that won a Hugo the same year (because those wacky LA fans running Solacon set the eligibility period from July 1957 to July 1958.)

Avram Davidson (April 23, 1923 – May 8, 1993) was (as so often true for authors of his vintage) prolific across an expanse of genres, including fantasy, science fiction, and mysteries, to name a few. His SFF awards include a World Fantasy Life Achievement award, World Fantasy Awards for The Enquiries of Doctor Eszterhazy, and ?“Naples”, and the Hugo Award for ?“All the Seas with Oysters”, not coincidentally the subject of this month’s Young People Read Old SFF.

… Young readers encountering the tale for the first time do so without the rosy patina of uncritical nostalgia concealing whatever issues the story might have. Still, this is a widely loved classic. What are the odds generations of SF readers overlooked something? Let’s find out! 

(6) SECOND LOKI TRAILER. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Not that I wasn’t already psyched to watch this…

Loki’s time has come. Watch the brand-new trailer for “Loki,” and start streaming the Marvel Studios Original Series June 11 on Disney+.

And the first trailer, I believe.

BTW, the TVA (Time Variance Authority) is an established Marvel Comics organization. My main memories are from Walt Simonson’s fabulous run in Fantastic Four with the TVA. (Simonson also brought us Beta Ray Bill, and Thor as Frog, among many, many other delightful creations)

Wikipedia: The Time Variance Authority

The Time Variance Authority (or TVA) is a fictional organization, a group of timeline monitors appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. They first appeared in Thor vol. 1 #372 (October 1986). Created by Walt Simonson and Sal Buscema, the TVA originally paid homage to long-time Marvel writer/editor, and continuity expert, Mark Gruenwald: the TVA staff were all clones of Gruenwald.

Other resources:

(7) NYRSF READINGS. Ilana C. Myer will read from the third book in her Harp and Ring Sequence, The Poet King, and will talk will host Amy Goldschlager at the next NYRSF Readings on Facebook on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 at 7 p.m. Eastern. Viewers can ask questions and comment via the chat channel.  Will be available later on YouTube.

Ilana C. Myer has worked as a journalist in Jerusalem and a cultural critic for various publications. As Ilana Teitelbaum she has written book reviews and critical essays for The Globe and Mail, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon, and the Huffington Post. Last Song Before Night was her first novel, followed by Fire Dance and The Poet King. A native New Yorker and longtime Jerusalem resident, she now lives in the mountains of Pennsylvania.

(8) CONFUSION AFTER ACTION REPORT. Farah Mendlesohn’s writeup about last weekend’s virtual Eastercon (UK) — “ConFusion FM’s con report” [PDF file] – covers the positive and negative con experiences, including how it was to use the Gather Town app, and delivers a withering comments about accessibility issues.

… I am not going to pretend here. I felt utterly betrayed. My sneaking feeling at other conventions that ‘only wheelchair users really mattered’, a feeling for which I’d berated myself, was utterly confirmed. Hearing, sight, neurodivergence, hand or co-ordination issues…. None of these things apparently mattered, yet all of them could have been addressed with good design, a careful choice of discussion platforms, and over and above all with conversation.

I didn’t go to the Feedback meetings because for much of the convention I was too angry. What would I have asked after all; “will the convention chair make a full and unqualified apology for the utter disregard of issues of accessibility in the planning and delivery of this convention?”

In future I will not vote for any bid that does not have a clear statement on access and inclusion. I will not go to a convention that does not support access and inclusion (I began declining conferences for this reason some time ago).

(9) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present via livestream Nalo Hopkinson and Bruce McAllister on April 21 at 7 p.m. Eastern. Check back for the link here.

Bruce McAllister

Bruce McAllister has been writing science fiction, fantasy and horror for some decades.  He began as an sf writer but these days writes more fantasy of the uncanny kind. His most recent novel is a little thing called The Village Sang to the Sea: A Memoir of Magic. His Hugo-nominee short story “Kin” launched the new podcast Levar Burton Reads.

Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson is a Jamaican-born Canadian author and maker of objects. She has won the World Fantasy Award, the Andre Norton Nebula Award, and the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. She authored and co-authored the series “House of Whispers” for DC Comics, set in Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” universe. SFWA recently honored her with the “Grand Master” award for lifetime achievement.

(10) SOVIET LOTR VIDEO AVAILABLE. Ars Technica surprises with news that a“30-year-old Soviet TV adaptation of The Lord of the Rings surfaces on YouTube”.

After 30 years, a TV adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings long thought lost has resurfaced. The 1991 Soviet television adaptation has been uploaded to YouTube in two one-hour videos.

The film focuses on the events of the first book in the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, and features many elements that were excluded from the popular global theatrical release by director Peter Jackson, including an extended sequence featuring the character Tom Bombadil—one of the biggest omissions by the bigger-budget 2001 film far more of us have seen.

Originally broadcast on TV in 1991 (and then never aired again), the film was thought lost to time by those who had seen it. But as reported in The Guardian, Leningrad Television successor Channel 5 uploaded the film to its YouTube page with little fanfare, surprising fans who had given up on seeing the production again. It is believed to be the only adaptation of these books produced in the Soviet Union….

(11) TODAY’S DAY.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 5, 1992 — On this day in 1992, Mann & Machine premiered on 1992. It would last for only nine episodes. Starring David Andrews, Yancy Butler and S. Epatha Merkerson, it was a Dick Wolf production, he of the eventually myriad Law & Order series. Yancy Butler would go on to be the lead a decade late in Witchblade. It has no audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes but the critic rating there is 20%.  NBC has the pilot available here for your viewing. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 5, 1526 – Giuseppe Arcimboldo.  More than his work as a court painter, like this, his portraits composed of pertinent objects appeal to our fantasy.  Here is the Emperor Rudolf II portrayed as Vertumnus, the god of plant growth and fruit trees.  Here is a librarian.  Here is a waiter.  (Died 1593) [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1867 – Helen Stratton.  Illustrator in monochrome and color.  Three editions of H.C. Andersen, three of The Arabian Nights, three of Grimm, The Princess and the Goblin (G. MacDonald), Marie of Romania’s Lily of Life, many more.  Here is The Wild Swans.  This is from “The Tinderbox”.  This is from “The Snow Queen”.  (Died 1961) [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1917 Robert Bloch. His Wiki Page says he’s best known as the writer of Psycho, but I’ll guarantee that only film geeks and many of y’all know that. I know him best as the writer of the Trek “Wolf in the Fold” episode. His Night of the Ripper novel is highly recommended by me. And I know that “That Hellbound Train” which won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story is the piece of fiction by him that I’ve read the most. He’s not well represented at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1994.) (CE) 
  • Born April 5, 1926 Roger Corman, 95. Ahhhh, popcorn films! (See popcorn literature for I mean.) Monster from the Ocean Floor in the early Fifties was his first such film and Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf on Syfy just a few years back was another such film. He’s a man who even produced such a film called, errr, Munchies. A Worldcon guest of honor in 1996. (CE) 
  • Born April 5, 1931 – Al haLevy, age 90.  Chaired Westercon 16 (2nd appearance of B. Trimble’s Project Art Show! rumor – false – that F. Pohl lost Galaxy to B. Bernard at late-night poker!), co-chaired Pacificon II the 22nd Worldcon.  Revived Rhodomagnetic Digest awhile.  [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1935 – Helen M. Hoover.  A dozen novels for us, two others.  Golden Duck Award.  Two American Lib’y Ass’n Best Books.  Alas, Children of Morrow and Treasures of Morrow are about a person, not a place, although come to think of it one could still tell people “Go to Morrow.”  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1950 A.C. Crispin. She wrote several Trek and Star Wars novelizations and created her own series called Starbridge which was heavily influenced by Trek. She also co-wrote several Witch World novels, Gryphon’s Eyrie and Songsmith, with Andre Norton.  Pirates of the Caribbean: The Price of Freedom was her last novel prior to her death from bladder cancer while in hospice care. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born April 5, 1955 – Toriyama Akira, age 66.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  So successful in manga and animé that he won not only Shogakukan Publishing’s Manga Award, but also the 40th Anniversary Festival Award at the Angoulême Int’l Comics Festival, and was made a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.  Dragon Ball has sold 300 million copies worldwide, plus animé, video games.  See more here. [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1963 – Arthur Adams, age 58.  Artist and writer for Marvel, Legend (Monkeyman and O’Brien still appears here and there), DC, Wildstorm.  Diana Schutz got him to draw Gumby Summer Fun Special 1, so of course he drew this – and won an Eisner.  Front and back covers for Ron Goulart’s Great Comic Book Artists vol. 2.  Frequently in Spectrum.  Inkpot Award.  Here is Wolverine.  Here is Phoenix.  [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1965 Deborah Harkness, 56. She’s the author of the All Souls Trilogy, which consists of A Discovery of Witches and its sequels Shadow of Night and The Book of Life. I listened to the Jennifer Ikeda-narrated audiobooks which are an amazing experience. Highly recommended as Harkness tells a remarkable story here. I’m not even fond ’tall of vampires in any form and hers actually are both appealing and make sense. I’ve not seen the series made from the novels. (CE) 
  • Born April 5, 1982 Hayley Atwell, 39. Agent Carter with her as Peggy Carter I’ll freely admit has been the only series or film in the MCU repertoire save the first Iron Man and Avengers films being the ones that I’ve flat out enjoyed so far. Even the misogyny of the males though irritating in that setting made sense. Oh and I’m interested to see her in Christopher Robin as Evelyn Robin. (CE) 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side has a different opinion about what really happened to Godzilla. (OK, you’re right. That’s not really what it’s about.)

(15) LIVING UNDER A CLOUD. [Item by rcade.] A Brazilian science fiction film that presciently anticipated the Covid-19 pandemic has won the top prize at the Sofia International Film Festival. “Brazil’s ‘The Pink Cloud’ wins top prize at lockdown-hit Sofia film festival” at Screen Daily.

The Pink Cloud, written and directed by Iuli Gerbase, is about a couple whose one-night stand becomes a permanent arrangement when a killer cloud drifts into cities across the globe and forces people to shut their windows and quarantine at home. A film that seems like a painfully obvious metaphor for the pandemic was written in 2017 and filmed in 2019, according to a disclaimer that precedes the opening credits.

Guy Lodge writes in Variety (“’The Pink Cloud’ Review: Brazil’s Effective, Accidental Lockdown Drama”:

It’s not often one sees a film arguing against its own topicality, but that’s what happens at the outset of The Pink Cloud, a subtly fevered quarantine drama that is so of the moment, you all but wonder how they had time to shoot and cut it just last week. But they didn’t …

 Not even sure they like each other to begin with, Giovana and Yago try things out as platonic roommates, friends with benefits and eventually lovers, never comfortable settling into any of those modes. Early in the lockdown, Giovana jokes that their setup is akin to an arranged marriage: It’s a comparison that seems less amusing as weeks turn to months, and months to years.

Public screenings at the film festival were stopped by a new pandemic lockdown caused by surging cases in Bulgaria.

(16) THE WAIT IS OVER. A.V. Club introduces readers to a Korean sff author: “I’m Waiting For You by Kim Bo-Young review: Cosmic tales of love, loss”.

In the title story of I’m Waiting For You, the first of Korean science fiction writer Kim Bo-Young’s works to be translated into English, the unnamed protagonist says he felt he was prepared for solo space travel because he’d once spent a few months without leaving his home. After a year in which so much of the world has experienced an even more extreme version of such isolation, that idea might seem trite. But then the character goes on to explain how wrong he was:

That wasn’t actually living alone. I have never once really lived alone. Someone cleared away the trash I left out for collection, and emptied the septic tank… In another place they boiled noodles and put them in a dish and delivered them… I had never lived alone, not once. How would really living alone even be possible?

“I’m Waiting For You” was originally written in 2015 at the request of a fan who wanted Kim to write a story he could use to propose to his girlfriend. The tale of a man journeying through time and space in an increasingly desperate and unlikely attempt to reunite with his fiancée has taken on new power as we look toward the end of more than a year of isolation that has also produced a newfound understanding of how connected we are to the communities around us….

(17) HISTORIC WARNING. “Ghosts of the Future: A Conversation with Larry Achiampong” is a Critierion Channel Q&A with the maker of the Relic film series.

The London-based, British Ghanaian artist and filmmaker Larry Achiampong explores race, class, and history in a multidisciplinary practice that, as described in the biography on his website, seeks to “examine his communal and personal heritage—in particular, the intersection between pop culture and the postcolonial position.” First devised in 2016, partially as a response to the sociopolitical shock of Brexit, Achiampong’s Relic Traveller is an ambitious project that has manifested as performance, sound installation, moving image, prose, and a remarkable public commission in which Achiampong reimagined London Underground’s iconic roundel in Pan-African colors—green, black, and red—that spoke symbolically to various African diasporic identities.

A central pillar of the project is a suite of four science fiction–inflected short films—Relic 0, Relic 1, Relic 2, and Relic 3—now streaming on the Criterion Channel.

… Clearly, these films engage deeply with long, painful histories and would be resonant at any time. But in the past few years, particularly in the UK, there’s been a real resurgence of empire fetishism, and seemingly more reluctance than ever among the media and ruling classes to address the reality of this history. To what extent are the films a reaction to that context?

For me, the films represent a warning to the West about its negligence, ignorance, mythical approach to history, omission of the histories and legacies of empire, slavery and colonization, and how those things affect the way that we live today: the way that Black people are still disenfranchised. They’re a stark warning that the West will undo itself as a result of the lies it has celebrated, taught, and disseminated for a while. It’s almost as if it will eat itself unless an understanding of the truth—or what has not been allowed to be revealed as the truth—is opened up….

(18) CURB APPEAL. SYFY Wire says “We might need to see the Earth like aliens would if we intend to find them”.

Suppose there really are aliens out there who are creeping around on the surface of some faraway planet and have managed to survive everything space has thrown at them so far. How could we find out they exist?

The answer might lie in how they would (hypothetically) see us. We may never know whether there really are intelligent beings who have spotted our planet as it passed by the sun, but observing it from their perspective could help us see through extraterrestrial eyes. This is the objective of the Earth Transit Observer (ETO) mission concept. Led by a research team from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), ETO will watch Earth in transit as if it was a spacecraft sent out here by other intelligent beings.

Researchers Noam Izenberg and Kevin Stevenson, who will be the project leads if this mission becomes reality, and co-led a study recently presented at the 52nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, and Laura Mayorga, who also co-led the study, believe that observing Earth from the perspective of a being who never knew it existed could give us new insight on how to look for habitable—and possibly inhabited—planets….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Godzilla vs. Kong Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George’s screenwriter tells the producer, “We’re just going to keep cutting to monsters punching each other so that no one has time to digest the mumbo-jumbo we use as explanation” for why Godzilla and King Kong fight each other. SPOILER WARNING.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, N., Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Mike Kennedy, rcade, Daniel Dern, Nicholas Whyte, Andrew Porter, John Hertz,John King Tarpinian, Rich Lynch, Nina Shepardson, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bruce Baugh.]

Eastercon 2022 Announced

Eastercon, the UK’s longest running science fiction convention, will be called Reclamation in 2022. The committee’s intention is to return Eastercon to an in-person event if possible. However, the announcement does not say where it would be held. The convention dates are Friday, April 15 to Monday, April 18, 2022.

The Guests of Honor are Mary Robinette Kowal, Zen Cho, Philip Reeve and Nicholas Whyte.

Memberships are available now, from the reclamation2022 website. The committee says they are “considering all options for the convention, whether it has to be online only, in person or a hybrid event. They are watching other conventions closely to find the best possible solutions for hybrid and virtual events.”

The committee consists of Chair: Phil Dyson; Treasurer: Phil Nanson, Programme: Ali Baker and Virginia Preston; Secretary: Clare Boothby; Registration: James Shields; and Communications (Web & PRs): Emma Kalson.

Update: The Eastercon 2022 committee added in response to my question:

The venue is currently not confirmed due to complications caused by the global pandemic, but the plans for the event are very much underway. Currently event organisers have not been able to visit the site; it will be one that Eastercon has been held at in the past (though not too recently) and will be in the South of England.

Pixel Scroll 7/13/20 Pixel Number 8 Will Make You Cry. Pixel Number 2 Has Surprised Us All

(1) COLSON WHITEHEAD FETED BY LOC. He’s the youngest person to get this recognition: “Library of Congress to honor author Colson Whitehead.

Already this year’s recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the Orwell Prize for political fiction, Whitehead is now being honored by the Library of Congress. On Monday, it announced that he had won the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction.

Whitehead, 50, is the youngest winner of the lifetime achievement prize, which the library has previously given to Toni Morrison, Philip Roth and Denis Johnson, among others. He is the first author to win Pulitzers for consecutive works of fiction — “The Underground Railroad” and “The Nickel Boys,” for which he won in April.

(2) WHY HE HAD TO LEAVE. Edmund Schluessel reports on his experiences with Finncon 2020, which took place this past Friday-Sunday online and was based in Tampere, Finland. “Finncon 2020. So.”

I was quite sanguine about Finncon 2019. I praised the “more thriving, more diverse, more accepting community” I had found in Finland.

Thus this post is difficult to write. I’ll start with the part of Finncon 2020 I was there for, then talk about why I had to leave….

(3) HOLIDAY ON KLENDATHU. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Writing at The Verge, Joshua Rivera examines the legacy and impact of Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 film adaptation of Starship Troopers, linking to several other articles that examine the movie’s newfound relevance to America’s current political divisions. I know this film gets debated endlessly around these parts, but to my eye, the fact that a quarter century later people outside the SFF community are still debating its meaning and parsing its subtext is a good indication that Starship Troopers has enduring value. “The world is finally coming around to Starship Troopers”

I’m here to see the fireworks, and rare is the blockbuster that is interested in forcing me to question that.

(4) SAME BAT-TIME, SAME BAT-DISTANCE. Shelf Awareness shows how it’s done genre-style in “Social Distancing at Atomic Books”.

(5) SWEDISH HOPES UP. Fantastika, the Swedish national con or Swecon, is off for this year so they’ve named a date for the event in 2021. (We had the cancellation a few days ago, but not the new date.)

The Committee has decided to cancel the convention in October due to the corona pandemic. We have instead booked the venue, Dieselverkstaden, for the weekend April 9-11, 2021, i e the weekend after Easter. We sincerely hope that it will be possible to have the convention at that time. Please note that this is not the same date as the one that we previously considered.

If you wish to have the membership refunded you need to send me an e-mail with information on how I should send it, e g via PayPal. If you have already got a refund you are of course welcome to pay the membership again.

Please see further information on https://fantastika2020.com/

(6) DEEPSOUTHCON HOPES DOWN BUT NOT OUT. CONtraflow chair Frank Schiavo told Facebook followers the event (which is also this year’s DeepSouthCon) has been postponed to 2021. But there may be a virtual DeepSouthCon on the original weekend.

After much discussion, long board meetings, working back and forth with the host hotel, city/parish/state leadership, and Southern Fandom Confederation/Deep South Con representatives , the board of directors of CONtraflow has come to the following conclusion: under current conditions, we cannot give you the amazing Fan experience that you all have come to expect from the previous nine years of CONtraflow. We must reschedule CONtraflow 10, originally scheduled for this coming November 13-15.  Hosting our convention as usual in 2020 is impossible in these pandemic conditions, as they currently are and will be for the foreseeable future.  There are simply too many unknowns at play at this time.  Our only responsible, reasonable, and possible choice is to reschedule CONtraflow 10.  Please know this decision is as tough and painful for us as it is for all of you.  We didn’t make it lightly and hope you will support our decision.

I am sure most of you have questions about the rescheduled event. I’ll try to answer a few of the big ones.

The new date for CONtraflow 10 is October 1-3, 2021 at the Airport Hilton in Kenner, Louisiana.   We are currently working on guests and speakers for the new convention dates.  We’ll have a first flier about the new dates up on social media for you to share in the next few days. We are planning to have a more detailed flier with guests and major events up and out there online before the end of September.

…As for the DeepSouthCon 58 (2020) to be hosted by CONtraflow this year,  there are plans for a virtual DeepSouthCon 58 mini convention featuring panels, programming, the annual SFC meeting and the Hearts tournament, and more on the Saturday of the original convention weekend (November 14, 2020).  We are working out the details of online hosting and any possible costs and will be updating you with details of the virtual DSC in the coming weeks….

(7) A STRANGE PROLOGUE. Rob Hansen has added “THE 1971 EASTERCON” to his THEN British fanhistory website, complete with the usual cornucopia of photos. It includes this account of a bizarre chain of events:

THE BRIAN ALDISS GoH SAGA – Peter Weston

At SCI-CON 70:

Brian confided that this was the second time he had been asked to be Guest of Honour but had then been required to step down. We were suitably shocked, as he went on to explain how he had been invited as GoH for 1969 in Oxford, but when a new committee had taken over, headed by John Brunner, they had wanted to have Judith Merril instead. George Hay had heard about this, thought it was a bit poor, and so he had asked Brian to be GoH in 1970, which he had accepted. Then George heard that James Blish was moving to England and he did exactly the same thing, pushing out Brian once again in favour of a supposed bigger “name.” Rog and I were suitably disgusted, and promptly offered to make amends. We would bid for the 1971 Eastercon and would do it properly. We promised to find a decent hotel and make Brian our Guest of Honour. (p.191)

***

Suddenly, however, we hit double trouble. Brian Aldiss resigned as Guest of Honour, and this was immediately followed by the start of a postal strike. Brian’s letter was a bombshell! The only reason Rog and I had taken on the convention was to do justice to him, and now he was dropping out for no very good reason, saying vaguely that he “might be living in Hong Kong for a while.”

(8) INSIDE THE STORY. The Odyssey Writing Workshop does a Q&A with a graduate: “Interview: Graduate Corry L. Lee”.

What’s the biggest weakness in your writing these days, and how do you cope with it?

I mentioned cross-tension earlier, which I love. The thorn in my side, however, is forward tension.

To start us on the same page, by forward tension I mean the often external plot tension that pulls a reader through the story. In my Bourshkanya Trilogy, this tends to be resistance activities to weaken or tear down the fascist state. In general, fighting the big bad, and the sequence of events that leads to it, tends to be high in forward tension as the characters try and fail, as the villain pursues them, etc.

Cross-tension, by contrast, occurs between characters who have opposing, potentially unreconcilable beliefs. Both characters may try to do what they believe is right or necessary, may even care deeply for one another, but with the underpinnings of their belief structures in conflict, they’re forced onto opposite sides, e.g., a resistance fighter and a loyal State soldier. Secrets flourish in this soil, as do the juiciest (in my opinion) of all fiction elements: well-motivated, understandable yet heartbreaking betrayals. Or not. Opposing beliefs can be reconciled, which is part of what makes them so delightful. Cross-tension can also arise between a character and elements of the world, e.g., a resistance fighter who has to pretend loyalty to the State.

From my description, you can probably tell how much I love cross-tension. It makes my brain sing and is one reason I love having multiple POVs on both sides of a tricky moral line.

(9) HELP NEEDED. Jenny Parks, the author of Star Trek Cats (2017) and Star Trek: The Next Generation Cats (2018) has an online fundraiser for treatment of her Hodgkin’s lymphoma: “Jenny Parks Cancer Relief Fund”. As of today, people have donated $10,462 of the $25,000 goal. Ben Bird Person submitted the item with these images of “some of her art she’s done for me!”

(10) PRESTON OBIT. Actress Kelly Preston, whose best-known sff role was in the 1986 film Space Camp, died July 12 of cancer. (The New York Times tribute is here.)  She had a brief cameo with her husband John Travolta in Battlefield Earth (2000). On This Date In Science Fiction History takes an extended look at her genre resume in “Stardate 07.13.2020.A: In Memoriam – Kelly Preston”.

(11) CRAWFORD OBIT. Small press publisher Gary William Crawford (1953-2020) died July 9.He founded Gothic Press in 1979, serving as its editor, as well as the author of many published works in Gothic literature. 

From 1979 to 1987, Crawford produced six issues of the journal Gothic, and later, the press published the horror poetry magazine Night Songs. Crawford recently began the online journal, Le Fanu Studies.

(12) BRECHA OBIT. Sff writer F. Alexander Brejcha (1957-2019), whose first story was published in Analog in 1992, died in February 2019 it was recently learned. A collection of his short fiction, People First!!, was released in 2004, as was a collection of three novellas, No World Warranty.

(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 13, 1960 — Irwin Allen’s version of The Lost World premiered. Based on the Arthur Conan Doyle novel. It was directed by him, produced by him with the assistance of Cliff Reid, and he wrote the screenplay with the help of Charles Bennett. The cast included Claude Rains, David Hedison, Fernando Lamas, Jill St. John, and Michael Rennie. Financing was so limited that the monsters were monitor lizards, iguanas, and crocodiles affixed with miniature horns and fins. Critics weren’t fond of it, it did poorly at the box office, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a scathingly poor 20% rating. 

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 13, 1796 – William Harvey.  Engraver and designer.  Woodblocks for e.g. Bewick’s Aesop, Northcote’s Fables, Lane’s Arabian Nights.  Here is “Ali of Cairo”; here is “The Merchant and the Jinni” (note, jinni is the singular, jinn the plural); here is “Sayf al-Muluk and Badi’a al-Jamal”.  Here is a portrait of Defoe, and title page, for Robinson Crusoe.  (Died 1866) [JH]
  • Born July 13, 1864 – John Astor IV.  Possibly the richest man in the world when he went down with the Titanic; wrote A Journey in Other Worlds set in what is now our past, the year 2000, with travel to Jupiter and Saturn powered by antigravity. (Died 1912) [JH]
  • Born July 13, 1904 Norvell W. Page. Chief writer of The Spider pulp series as Grant Stockbridge. He started out by writing a backup story in the first issue of The Spider pulp: “Murder Undercover” and by the third issue was writing the main Spider stories which he did for some seventy stories. He also wrote The Black Bat and The Phantom Detective pulps.  (Died 1961.) (CE)
  • Born July 13, 1926 Robert H. Justman. Producer and director who worked on many a genre series including Adventures of SupermanThe Outer LimitsStar TrekMission: ImpossibleMan from Atlantis and Star Trek: The Next Generation.  He was the assistant director for the first two Star Trek episodes: “The Cage” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born July 13, 1926 – Dik Daniels.  For years a prominent photographer, to whom we owe many such records.  Widely, long, and uncelebratedly enough helpful that he was given the Big Heart, our highest service award. Some photos 1968-2001 on this Website.   (Died about 2001) [JH]
  • Born July 13, 1937 Jack Purvis. He appeared in three of director Terry Gilliam’s early fantasy films, with roles in Time BanditsThe Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Brazil. He’s in three of the Star Wars films, the only actor he claims to have played three different roles, and he’s also in Wombling Free (based on The Womblies, a UK Children’s series), The Dark Crystal and Willow. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born July 13, 1940 Sir Patrick Stewart OBE, 80. Jean-Luc Picard, starting with being Captain of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) on Star Trek: The Next Generation up though the current Star Trek: Picard. Also had some minor role in the MCU as Professor Charles Xavier, and played Leodegrance in Excalibur. Though not even genre adjacent, I’m fond of his role as King Henry II in The Lion in Winter. (CE)
  • Born July 13, 1942 Harrison Ford, 78. Three great roles of course. First, being Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones, Jr. in the Indiana Jones franchise which is four films deep with a fifth on the way. The second, of course, being Han Solo in the Star Wars franchise, a role he’s done four times plus a brief cameo in The Rise of Skywalker. And the third being Rick Deckard in Blade Runner, a role he reprised for Blade Runner 2049. Oh ,and he played the older Indy at age fifty in the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in the “Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues” episode. (CE)
  • Born July 13, 1953 Chip Hitchcock, 67. To quote Fancyclopedia, Chip Hitchcock “is a con-running fan living in the Boston area. He is a member of NESFA and MCFI and has worked on a great many conventions including Worldcons at the Division Head level, Boskones and numerous other regionals.“ Happy Birthday, Chip!  (CE)
  • Born July 13, 1954 – Gary Feldbaum, 66.  First SF con, Boskone 15 (Fancyclopedia 3 and some others call the first Boskones I-V i.e. through 1945; the current ones, starting in 1965, 1-57 so far).  Moved to Philadelphia; happening to be a lawyer when one was wanted incorporated the Philadelphia SF Soc. (PSFS); chaired six Philcons.  Has worked on Worldcons on three continents.  Might be found heading a Division or ushering for the Masquerade.  [JH]
  • Born July 13, 1965 – Tomoyuki Hoshino, 55.  Two novels, a dozen shorter stories for us; nine more novels.  Bungei, Mishima, Noma, Ôe, Yomiuri, Tanizaki Prizes.  Born in Los Angeles, lived in Mexico long enough to get work in Japan translating Spanish-language movies.  Teaches creative writing at his alma mater Waseda U.  Me and the collection We, the Children of Cats are available in English.  [JH]
  • Born July 13, 1981 – Monica Byrne, 39.  The Girl in the Road won a Tiptree Award (as it then was); translated into German. Nine shorter stories in, on, or at Electric VelocipedeFantasyThe Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionShimmer.  Plays.  A TED Talk (Technology, Entertainment, Design).  Non-fiction in The AtlanticHuffington PostVirginia Quarterly Review.  Website.  [JH]

(15) COMICS SECTION.

  • Farcus has a toy that’s too big for the playroom.
  • Something Positive finds it’s too hard to separate the work from the artist.

(16) FULL LID. Alasdair Stuart fills readers in about The Full Lid for 10th July 2020:

This week in The Full Lid we have a first!! Matt Wallace’s Savage Legion is out in a couple of weeks and as part of the coverage for it, I’m delighted to run an original flash fiction piece by Matt, along with one by myself. Matt’s one of my favorite writers and people and it’s a delight to see him doing excellent work like this piece and the upcoming novel.

Elsewhere I take a look at the graphic novel new Netflix movie The Old Guard was adapted from. Finally, I take a look at unfairly overlooked crime/science fiction/magic movie Sleight.

(17) KOWAL Q&A. Andrew Liptak’s Reading List has a substantial “Interview with Mary Robinette Kowal” filled with insights like this:

How did this all dovetail with your interest in science fiction?

There’s no point in my life when I don’t remember reading science fiction. My dad and I would — actually the whole family, but dad and I particularly — would listen to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when it was on the radio. We’d watch Star TrekBattlestar Galactica; I read all of the things. But it is for me again, the thing that I said at the beginning about the ways science fiction and fantasy for me allows us to ask big questions.

Connie Willis set a thing once, which made me go “Oh, yes, that’s why I like it so much.” She said that she thinks that the difference between science fiction and fantasy and mimetic fiction or everyday fiction is that in mimetic fiction, you have ordinary problems, but then your character has to have an outsized or an extraordinary response to an ordinary problem. Like, someone’s husband is cheating on them, it’s not just, that they go stay with a family member; they go to the PTA and they stand on the table and they confront the person that he was having an affair with in order to drive the plot — you have to have this extraordinary reaction to cause the plot to move forward.

Whereas in science fiction and fantasy, we have extraordinary events taking place, which allows people to have normal, proportionate responses. And that made me understand part of why I like science fiction and fantasy, but it also made me realize that it gives us an opportunity to present a much more faithful representation of honest human emotion. The things that happen to us in our real world can be as as rocking or earth-shattering as a meteor hitting. There can be things that are as deeply traumatic. But most of those things aren’t enough to drive a plot. I feel like that’s doing a disservice to people who write mimetic naturalistic fiction, because I certainly have read stuff where people are having completely normal responses to completely normal events, but speaking in very general terms, it is an opportunity that science fiction offers.

(18) WITNESS SELF-PROTECTION PROGRAM. Frank Robinson’s early story, “Hunting Season” has been discovered and is going into production says The Hollywood Reporter: “James Wan, ‘John Wick’ Writer Derek Kolstad Team for Sci-Fi Time Travel Tale ‘Hunting Season'”.

…Robinson was one of the figures to come out of the mid-20th century sci-fi short story scene, penning techno-thrillers for various pulp publications. His thriller The Glass Inferno, written with Thomas Scortia, was one of two books that were combined to make the classic 1974 disaster film The Towering Inferno. He also was known for being the speechwriter for Harvey Milk, the gay San Francisco politician who was assassinated in 1978.

Hunting Season will follow a law officer from the future who is declared an enemy of the state and sentenced to be executed by being sent to the past and stalked by a posse. The man has three days to acclimate to his new era and find a way to survive.

(19) NO NORMAL CONQUEST. Steven H Silver’s new novel After Hastings is behind today’s Big Idea feature at Whatever: “The Big Idea: Steven H. Silver”.

While in grad school, one of the things my professors constantly warned against during discussions was falling into the trap of counterfactual speculation. When discussing and debating the causes and events of the medieval period, we were to confine ourselves to theories that could be supported by the primary sources and archaeological evidence. The fact that I did not become an historian and founded the Sidewise Award for Alternate History may give some indication of how well I adhered to those rules.

(20) PAGING DR. HOWARD, DR. FINE, DR. HOWARD… [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Pick six of your most intelligent, fittest friends. Now imagine the seven of you are on a mission to Mars & you have appendicitis. Which friend do you pick to be your surgeon? Mind you, none of them have medical training. “From floating guts to ‘sticky’ blood – here’s how to do surgery in space” at The Conversation.

… Surgery in microgravity is possible and has already been been carried out, albeit not on humans yet. For example, astronauts have managed to repair rat tails and perform laparoscopy – a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to examine and repair the organs inside the abdomen – on animals, while in microgravity.

These surgeries have led to new innovations and improvements such as magnetising surgical tools so they stick to the table, and restraining the “surgeonaut” too.

One problem was that, during open surgery, the intestines would float around, obscuring view of the surgical field. To deal with this, space travellers should opt for minimally invasive surgical techniques, such as keyhole surgery, ideally occurring within patients’ internal cavities through small incisions using a camera and instruments.

(21) DON’T LESNERIZE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Simon Denyer, Akiko Kashiwagi, and Min Joo Kim discuss how robots are being used in the pandemic in Japan and South Korea,  including Avatarin’s use of avatars and the robot in South Korean elementary schools who takes kids temperatures and maskshames them if their masks aren’t over their noses. “No masks, no coughs: Robots can be just what the doctor ordered in time of social distancing”.

Now, the patrol robot has been adapted so it can also disinfect surfaces as it patrols, and is attracting interest from Tokyo’s Metro stations as well as other businesses.

In May, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe noted surging demand for unmanned deliveries and pledged to carry out tests to see if delivery robots were safe to use on roads and sidewalks by the end of the year.

Even the self-driving wheelchair can come into its own amid a coronavirus-filled world, the company said, potentially helping elderly people move around more independently without a helper who might be a vector for the virus.

(22) OVERTAKING. “Female gamers are on the rise in the ‘world capital of gaming'”.

The number of females playing video games in Asia is growing at a faster rate than their male rivals, according to the latest research.

Women are levelling the playing field across all of Asia’s key markets including China, India and Japan.

The female video gaming community grew by 19% last year, according to data commissioned by Google.

Asia is regarded as the global capital of video games, accounting for 48% of the world’s total gaming revenue.

…There are a number of factors that are contributing to this rise, with storylines becoming more inclusive and connectivity improving across the region.

For 2019, the numbers of female gamers had grown to 38% of the 1.33bn global gaming population, according to Google which collaborated with market researchers Niko Partners.

But for Asia, the proportion of female gamers is much higher. In China, they now account for 45%, while for South Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia the figure is 40%.

(23) ENVIRONMENTAL DRINKING. “Johnnie Walker whisky to be sold in paper bottles”. If this was Beam’s, could you imagine “Smooooth”-ing with a paper bottle?

Johnnie Walker, the whisky which traces its roots back 200 years, will soon be available in paper bottles.

Diageo, the drinks giant that owns the brand, said it plans to run a trial of the new environmentally-friendly packaging from next year.

While most Johnnie Walker is sold in glass bottles, the firm is looking for ways of using less plastic across its brands.

Making bottles from glass also consumes energy and creates carbon emissions.

To make the bottles, Diageo will co-launch a firm called Pulpex, which will also produce packaging for the likes of Unilever and PepsiCo.

Diageo’s paper whisky bottle, which will be trialled in spring 2021, will be made from wood pulp and will be fully recyclable, the company said.

The idea is that customers would be able to drop them straight into the recycling.

(24) TUCKER INTERVIEW, PART DEUX. Fanac.org has posted the second segment of the Bob Tucker interview done for Chicon 2000.

Dick Smith’s interview of Wilson “Bob” Tucker was done for Chicon 2000, that year’s World SF Convention. Here in Part 2, the stories keep coming (and Bob is an excellent storyteller). Tucker talks about Claude Degler’s first appearance in fandom and how Jack Speer (later Judge Speer) got into trouble. There’s more about Chicon 1, how he learned about the internet and how fandom has changed in the preceding 60 years. You’ll even hear how Bob ended up joining the N3F after decades in fandom.  Videography by Tom Veal, Chairman of Chicon 2000.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Mlex, Olav Rokne, “Orange Mike” Lowrey, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Ben Bird Person, John King Tarpinian, Rich Lynch, Steven H Silver, Michael Toman, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 6/23/20 Nobody Would Have Come If I’d Yelled Chocolate

(1) ON THE DOUBLE. Connie Willis took a much-needed break from the news and devised this recommendation list: “Books And Movies: Doubling Your Pleasure”.

Okay, the world continues to go mad, with Covid-19, racism, and social injustice rampant. (Tonight, for instance, they’re tear-gassing people in D.C. again, coronavirus cases in Arizona are spiking, and two megachurch conmen are claiming they’ve invented a new air conditioning that kills 99.9 per cent of the virus. Note: They haven’t.)

I spend most of my days yelling and/or screaming at the TV and obsessing about how nuts everything is and how many things need to be fixed, and today’s no exception, but some of the time, just to keep a tenuous hold on our sanity, my family and I try to think about stuff that has nothing to do with the mayhem around us. To that end, my husband quilts, my daughter does the Getty Art Challenge, I read Agatha Christie mysteries, and together my daughter and I make up lists of favorite books and movies.

We thought you might need to take a mental break occasionally, too, so we’re sharing this, but I don’t want you to think that we’re not still VERY AWARE of how much is wrong and how much we need to do to rescue the world from its current messes.

So, in that spirit…

My daughter Cord and I had so much fun coming up with our lists of books that we reread over and over again, that we decided to put together another list, this one of movies and books that you should definitely read and/or watch….

For example:

5. BOOK: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen
MOVIE: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY (with Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, and Hugh Grant)

It’s impossible to improve on Jane Austen, but Emma Thompson almost pulls it off in her brilliant script for the 1995 movie, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. She got rid of a bunch of extraneous characters and equally extraneous scenes and made the younger sister Margaret (a mere cipher in the novel) into a charming and fully-developed character who by the end was my favorite: “He’s kneeling down!”

(2) IGNORE THOSE CLICKBAIT WEBSITES. That’s what George R.R. Martin says. He means the other ones, not mine, I’m sure. Even if I am also linking to his Winds of Winter progress report. Because we all want to know!

…If nothing else, the enforced isolation [of the pandemic] has helped me write.   I am spending long hours every day on THE WINDS OF WINTER, and making steady progress.   I finished a new chapter yesterday, another one three days ago, another one the previous week.   But no, this does not mean that the book will be finished tomorrow or published next week.   It’s going to be a huge book, and I still have a long way to go.   Please do not give any credence to any of the click-bait websites that like to parse every word of my posts as if they were papal encyclicals to divine hidden meanings.

… Of late I have been visiting with Cersei, Asha, Tyrion, Ser Barristan, and Areo Hotah.   I will be dropping back into Braavos next week.    I have bad days, which get me down, and good days, which lift me up, but all in all I am pleased with the way things are doing.

I do wish they would go faster, of course.   Way way back in 1999, when I was deep in the writing of A STORM OF SWORDS, I was averaging about 150 pages of manuscript a month.   I fear I shall never recapture that pace again.   Looking back, I am not sure how I did it then.    

George is also preparing to participate in the virtual Worldcon.

…I still plan to host the Hugo Awards and fulfill all the rest of my toastmasterly duties for worldcon, and have started pre-recording some bits for the ceremony (a wise precaution, since I am hopeless with Zoom and Skype and like things), but that is a lot less time-consuming and distracting than flying to the other end of the world.   In between tapings, I return to Westeros.  

(3) DOCTORS IN THE HOUSE. SYFY Wire lets you “Watch Jodie Whittaker & David Tennant Judge Stay-At-Home Doctor Who Cosplay Challenge”.

Some inventive Doctor Who fans — and Nate — showed off their costume-making talents to the world, with The Doctors themselves assessing the results. 

The Late Late Show host and former Who cast member James Corden put out a call to Doctor Who fans to compete in a cosplay challenge where they would have some 24 hours to create a costume from the show “using only objects from around their homes.” This is, in fact, keeping with the tradition of the classic series, which has often been teased for its wobbly sets and very low-budget aesthetic. (Seriously, some of the creatures were clearly made from bubble wrap.)  

James Corden also did an interview segment with the two actors.

(4) A KIND OF REALITY. Leslie Klinger, who has annotated Gaiman’s American Gods, is the subject of a LitHub Q&A. “American Gods has a new annotated version with a Sherlockian twist.”

Aaron Robertson: I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek, poetic quality of the annotations. I wonder if you have any literary influences of your own with those?

Leslie Klinger: The big “literary influence” on me is the best Sherlockian scholarship, written by hundreds of amateur scholars who love the world of Holmes and Doyle. Dorothy Sayers famously explained how Sherlockians approach the stories in their scholarship: “The rule of the game is that it must be played as solemnly as a county cricket match at Lord’s; the slightest touch of extravagance or burlesque ruins the atmosphere.”

I have carried that approach—the Sherlockian “game”—over to other books that I’ve annotated, pretending (or “pretending”) that the stories are true and analyzing them from a biographical/historical perspective. Could the character have really done that? Are the historical aspects presented true or made up?

Neil—no mean Sherlockian himself—is especially adept at weaving reality into his fiction. I discovered that in detail in the course of annotating Gaiman’s Sandman and so fully expected to find a wealth of historical underpinnings here.

(5) THE LADY IN THE MOON. “‘Over the Moon’ Cast and Filmmakers Debut Trailer, Discuss Animated Musical” in Variety.

…Actors Sandra OhPhillipa SooJohn Cho, Ruthie Ann Miles and newcomer Cathy Ang joined producers Gennie Rim and Peilin Chou, along with director Glen Keane, to discuss the making of the movie, a musical adventure about a young Chinese girl named Fei Fei (Ang), who builds her own rocket ship to travel to the moon in order to prove the existence of the legendary Moon goddess Chang’e (Soo). 

Soo, a Tony Award nominee for her work in “Hamilton,” noted that she has known about the story of Chang’e since childhood, through a children’s book written by Amy Tan. “I remember as a kid, asking my dad to read it over and over and over to me. Because I was just obsessed with this idea of the moon lady,” Soo said. “And when I was asked to play her, I was of course honored because it’s so infrequent that I’m being asked to play specifically Chinese characters. And also even more rare that I get to be in a film with incredible Asian actors who are surrounding me. So when I read the script and they invited me to come join them to create this beautiful story, I was, of course, immediately on board and so excited.”

(6) AGENT DROPS KRUEGER DUE TO ALLEGATIONS. Publishers Lunch reported today:

Agent DongWon Song announced that he was dropping Filipino-American fantasy author Paul Krueger as a client after allegations were made on Twitter that Krueger had harassed multiple women in publishing, although the specifics of the complaints available on that platform were unclear and mostly second-hand. Krueger posted a vague apology but has since deleted his Twitter account, and one person who publicly accused Krueger subsequently made her account private. DongWon said in his tweet, “I have terminated my professional relationship with Paul Krueger. This was a difficult decision to make but it is the right one.” He referred to “new information coming to light” in the past week and said he had “spoken to several people directly impacted by Paul’s behavior,” later adding, “Thank you to those of you who spoke up. That took courage and I am grateful to you all.”

(7) YOU THINK YOU HAVE TOO MANY BOOKS? “12 million books and a cherry-picker: Graduate Trainee visit to the Bodleian Storage Facility” — a Bodleian Libraries weblog invites you to see the BSF lift in action. You’ll wish one would fit in your home library!

… So how do you store 12.5 million books — and not only books, but maps, manuscripts, microfilms, periodicals and newspapers too? By 2009, the New Bodleian (which had 11 floors of space) as well as facilities at Nuneham Courtenay and a salt mine in Cheshire (yes, really) were at capacity. Costing approximately £25 million, and involving the biggest book-move in the Bodleian’s history (6.5 million items!), the BSF needed some serious storage. As we entered the main warehouse, it became clear that they really pulled it off.

… The BSF is huge. Its shelves are 11 metres high and over 70 metres long. Before the automatic lights kick in, the narrow aisles seem to converge into darkness. We wore high-visibility jackets to alert staff driving the book-retrieval vehicles to our presence. A cross between a cherry-picker and a forklift, these vehicles are configured to fit exactly between the shelves, allowing staff to retrieve an impressive average of one book per minute. Although I personally wouldn’t like to be 11 metres up in the air, Boyd assured us it’s a very safe operation!

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 23, 1983 Twilight Zone: The Movie premiered. It was produced by Steven Spielberg and John Landis who says they conceived it as a cinematic interpretation of the 1959–1964 TV series at created by Rod Serling. The film stars Vic Morrow, Scatman Crothers, Kathleen Quinlan, and John Lithgow, with Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks in the prologue segment. Burgess Meredith took over as Host, the position of Rod Serling, in the series. So how did it fare? Critics were generally lukewarm, although some like as New York Times‘ media critic Vincent Canby, who called the movie a “flabby, mini-minded behemoth” were almost angry. The audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 54% rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 23, 1945 Eileen Gunn, 75. Her story “Coming to Terms” based on her friendship with Avram Davidson won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Her stories are in Stable Strategies and OthersSteampunk Quartet and Questionable Practices. With L. Timmel Duchamp, she penned The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 2: Provocative Essays on Feminism, Race, Revolution, and the Future. (CE)
  • Born June 23, 1946 Ted Shackelford, 74. He’s mostly remembered as Lieutenant Patrick Brogan on Space Precinct which lasted a single season of thirty-four episodes. It was created and produced by Gerry Anderson. It combined live action, full-body prosthetics, puppetry, and Supermacromation techniques. The writing crew likewise was huge — thirty-seven are listed at IMDB. Likewise the cast was immense, Ted Shackelford, Simone Bendix, Lou Hirsch and Richard James who a cast of thirty-seven actors according ISFDB! He had the usual one-offs in Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Twilight ZoneDeadman’s Gun and The Outer Limits. (CE) 
  • Born June 23, 1951 Greg Bear, 69. Blood Music which won both a Nebula Award for Best Novelette and a Hugo Award for Best Novelette is an amazing read. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery. (CE) 
  • Born June 23, 1953 Russell Mulcahy, 67. You’ll likely remember him as directing Highlander, but he was responsible also for Highlander II: The Quickening, but disowned it after the completion-bond company meddled with production. He would later release this film as Highlander II: The Renegade Version. He also directed several episodes of The HungerOn The BeachPerversions of Science and Tales from The Crypt. (CE)
  • Born June 23, 1963 Cixin Liu, 57. He won a Hugo Award for The Three-Body Problem and a Locus Award for Death’s End. He also a nine-time recipient of the Galaxy Award, China’s SFF awards. Anyone got a clue what’s going on with the alleged Amazon production of The Three-Body Problem as a film? (CE)
  • Born June 23, 1972 Selma Blair, 48. Liz Sherman in Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. She voiced the character also in the animated Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood and Iron as well. She’s Stevie Wayne in The Fog, a slasher film a few years later and was Cyane on the “Lifeblood” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. Later on, she’d be Jessica Harris in the “Infestation” episode of Lost in Space. (CE)
  • Born June 23, 2000 Caitlin Blackwood, 20. She was the young Amelia Pond in these Doctor Who episodes; “The Eleventh Hour”, “The Big Bang”, “Let’s Kill Hitler”, and “The God Complex”, and had a cameo in “The Angels Take Manhattan”.  She’s the cousin of Karen Gillan who plays the adult Pond. No idea how she was cast in the role but it was brilliantly inspired!  (CE)
  • Born June 23, 1896  – Paul Orban.  His first sale was a watercolor at age 14 for $5 – about $135 in money of 2020.  Fifty years later he had done a dozen covers, some fourteen hundred interiors.  Brian Aldiss said he expressed “perennial things – unending quests, great aspirations, long farewells, and a welcoming pair of arms on the far side of light.”  Here is a cover for Astounding magazine.  Here is a cover for Marooned on Mars.  Here is an interior for The World of Null-A.  Here is an interior for Norman Menasco’s “Trigger Tale”.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born June 23, 1931 – Nancy Share. With her sister Marie-Louise Share produced the fanzine Hodge-Podge for SAPS (the Spectator Amateur Press Society); with Larry Touzinsky, Fan To See (she was Art Director) which had contributions and letters from Robert Bloch, Terry Carr, Harlan Ellison, Juanita Wellons (later J. Coulson).  When Wrai Ballard wrote Non-Poetry that poetry-haters might like, NS countered with Am-So Poetry.  After the revelations of Ghu, Foo (or Foofoo), and Roscoe, NS proclaimed Ignatz.  She married Art Rapp, the first Rosconian.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born June 23, 1937 – Richard Curtis, age 83.  Edited the anthology Future Tense; audio anthology Best of Science Fiction and Fantasy; wrote Squirm, a movie novelization; a few shorter stories.  Best known as a literary agent; contributed “Agent’s Corner” to Locus 1980-1992, collected as Mastering the Business of Writing (rev. 1996).  [JH]
  • Born June 23, 1947 – Mark Olson, F.N., age 73 Active Boston fan; has been President and Treasurer of both NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) and MCFI (Massachusetts Convention Fandom, Inc., which has produced three Worldcons, four Smofcons).  Chaired Boskone 23 and Noreascon 3 (47th Worldcon).  Fan Guest of Honor at ArmadilloCon 9, Minicon 34, WindyCon 33. Fellow of NESFA, a service honor.  Active with fanhistory Website fanac.org (fanac fan activity; FANAC = Florida Ass’n for Nucleation And Conventions ran the 50th Worldcon, then started the Website); oversees Fancyclopedia 3.  Fanzine, The Typo Machein.  [JH]
  • Born June 23, 1967– Tommy Ferguson, age 53.  Founded the Queen’s University of Belfast Science Fiction & Fantasy Society.  Lived in Belfast, Toronto, Belfast.  Long-time fanzine Tommyworld – TF beat Claire Brialey, Tom Digby, Mike Glyer, Cheryl Morgan, Ted White, and me for Best Fanwriter in the 1998 FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards – now a Website.  [JH]
  • Born June 23, 1981 – Ertaç Altinöz, age 39.  Digital artist (his name actually uses a dotless-i character which in Turkish stands for a sound different from i, but the software won’t show it).  Here is a cover for Clarkesworld 49.  Here is Shireen Baratheon teaching Ser Davos to read.  Here is “The Pointy End”, which for me recalls Princess Langwidere in Ozma of Oz.  [JH]

(10) FREE COMIC BOOK SUMMER. The revived event will last the summer, with 45 titles for readers to choose from. “Free Comic Book Day Changed to Weekly Event Lasting All Summer” reports Comicbook.com.

After being officially cancelled earlier this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Free Comic Book Day is back! Though usually scheduled for the first Saturday in May each year, Diamond Comic Distributors have announced the event will take place in comic shops around the country with brand new free comics every week starting in July and running through September. Due to the length of the event now, it’s being rebranded as Free Comic Book Summer for this year. Retailers will receive five to six Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) titles in their weekly shipments during each week of the promotional window, the full slate of which you can find below.

“Every year, Free Comic Book Day is our big event to thank current comics fans, welcome back former fans and invite those new to comics to join the fun,” said Joe Field, originator of FCBD, and owner of Flying Colors Comics in Concord, CA. “In this very different year, Free Comic Book Day is more like Free Comic Book Summer… and there’s so much fun to discover in this year’s FCBD comics! So many cool stories are available for this stretched-out Free Comic Book Day 2020. I’m confident long-time fans and newcomers alike are going to find a story that’ll make them want to visit their local comic shop every week! Fans, bring your friends and family and head to your local comic shop every week starting July 15 through September 9 to check out the new, and fantastic, free comics available that week!”

(11) A RECORD NO ONE WANTS TO SURPASS. Rob Hansen has added a section on the 1970 UK Eastercon to his THEN fanhistory website, with photos and links to audiofiles.

SCI-CON the 1970 UK National Science Fiction Convention took place over the weekend of Friday, 27th March to Monday, 30th March. It was held in London at the Royal Hotel, Russell Square (located a hundred yards or so from Russell Square Underground station). It’s widely regarded as being the worst Eastercon ever held.

Well, I guess that’s frank enough!

Bill Burns’ Prologue gives immediate hints about why things didn’t go well.

…At the Oxford Eastercon in 1969, George Hay proposed with his then-usual enthusiasm that the 1970 convention should be held in London – without having done any prep work on finding a hotel (or indeed on anything else). In the absence of any other bids, George was awarded the con. At the time he was also starting something called “The Environmental Consortium” with an office in central London, whose aims were never quite clear to me, but which an on-line reference notes was one of George’s organisations to promote “applied science fiction”.

Despite winning the bid, George had no hotel, no committee, and no idea how to run a con. Derek Stokes and I looked at each other in dismay, and volunteered for the committee in the hope of steering the con at least partially along traditional lines, but George had his own agenda and couldn’t be restrained….

(12) HAMILTON. Some inside baseball about the Disney+ release of Hamilton.

(13) MIND THE GAP. Yahoo! News reports “‘Black neutron star’ discovery changes astronomy”.

Scientists have discovered an astronomical object that has never been observed before.

It is more massive than collapsed stars, known as “neutron stars”, but has less mass than black holes.

Such “black neutron stars” were not thought possible and will mean ideas for how neutron stars and black holes form will need to be rethought.

The discovery was made by an international team using gravitational wave detectors in the US and Italy.

(14) CATCH ‘EM ALL. Peel a Woodrow Wilson from your money roll and this could be yours: “Ultra rare Pokemon card expected to fetch up to $100,000”.

An extremely rare Pokemon card, thought to be one of only seven ever produced, is up for auction online and experts said it could sell for up to $100,000.

The Pokemon Super Secret Battle No. 1 Trainer card, being sold by Heritage Auctions, is billed by the auction house as the “holy grail” of collectible cards and its condition was rated a perfect 10 by experts at PSA Card.

(15) TURNING OVER NEW ROCKS. Now that a large number of exoplanets are known, NASA is chipping in some bucks toward SETI. From USA Today, via Yahoo! — “Scientists are searching the universe for signs of alien civilizations: ‘Now we know where to look'”.

For the first time in more than three decades, research scientists have received grant money from NASA to search for intelligent life in outer space.

Specifically, the [$278K, 2 year ] grant will provide funding for a project to search for signs of life via “technosignatures.”

Grant recipient Avi Loeb of Harvard is quoted as saying:

“Such signatures might include industrial pollution of atmospheres, city lights, photovoltaic cells (solar panels), megastructures or swarms of satellites.”

Anogher grantee, Adam Frank (University of Rochester) said:

“The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence has always faced the challenge of figuring out where to look. Which stars do you point your telescope at and look for signals? Now we know where to look. We have thousands of exoplanets including planets in the habitable zone where life can form. The game has changed.”

(16) TUBULAR. “Nasa Mars rover: Key questions about Perseverance” – BBC has the answers.

On 20 July, Nasa will get its first opportunity to launch the Perseverance rover to Mars. Here, we answer some common questions about the mission.

What will the rover do?

The Perseverance rover will land on Mars to search out signs of past microbial life, if it ever existed. It will be the first Nasa mission to hunt directly for these “biosignatures” since the Viking missions in the 1970s.

The rover will collect samples of rock and soil, encase them in tubes, and leave them on the planet’s surface for return to Earth at a future date. Perseverance will also study Martian geology and test out a way for future astronauts to produce oxygen for breathing and fuel from CO2 in the atmosphere.

In addition, a drone-like helicopter will be deployed to demonstrate the first powered flight on Mars. Perseverance will explore Mars’ Jezero Crater for at least one Martian year (about 687 Earth days).

(17) PETAFLOPSWEAT. The U.S. is nudged out of first place. “Japanese supercomputer, crowned world’s fastest, is fighting coronavirus”.

The newly crowned world’s fastest supercomputer is being deployed in the fight against the coronavirus.

Japan’s Fugaku supercomputer claimed the top spot on Monday, carrying out 2.8 times more calculations per second than an IBM machine in the US.

The US machine, called Summit, came top of the bi-annual Top500 list the previous four times.

Fugaku’s victory broke a long run of US-China dominance, returning Japan to the top for the first time in 11 years.

Top500 ranks the world’s most powerful non-distributed computer systems.

Fugaku has already been put to work on fighting the coronavirus, simulating how droplets would spread in office spaces with partitions installed or in packed trains with the windows open.

When it is fully operational next year, experts are hoping the machine will also be able to help narrow down the search for effective treatments for the virus.

The room-sized machine lives in the city of Kobe and was developed over six years by Japanese technology firm Fujitsu and the government-backed Riken Institute. Its name is another way of saying Mount Fuji.

Its performance was measured at 415.53 petaflops, 2.8 times faster than second-place Summit’s 148.6 petaflops. The US machine is housed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. A supercomputer is classified by being more than 1,000 times faster than a regular computer.

(18) SWIPER, NO SWIPING. Not as attention-grabbing as politics, but with long-term consequences: “Facebook bans ‘loot-to-order’ antiquities trade”.

Facebook has banned users trading in historical artefacts on the site.

It follows a campaign by academic researchers and an investigation by BBC News, exposing how items looted from Iraq and Syria were sold on Facebook.

One expert welcomed the move but said for anything to change, Facebook should invest in “teams of experts to identify and remove networks rather than playing whack-a-mole with individual posts”.

Facebook says all trade in ancient artefacts is banned on its platforms.

(19) PLAIN GOOFY. The Screen Junkies continue their look at older movies with their “Honest Trailer” on A Goofy Movie.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/18/20 You Can’t File All Of The Pixels All Of The Time

(1) EASTERCON 2021. Next year’s UK Eastercon site has been selected reports the Friends of Eastercon blog.

ConFusion 2021 won an online bidding session for the 2021 Eastercon, to be held at the Birmingham NEC again, with 95% of the vote. Permission to record the session was refused.

(2) AID FOR ARTISTS. Publishers Lunch linked to the newly announced  “Maurice Sendak Emergency Relief Fund”.

The Maurice Sendak Foundation has granted $100,000 to the New York Foundation for the Arts for an emergency relief grant program “to support children’s picture book artists and writers impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.” They will provide grants of up to $2,500 a person, and hope to raise at least another $150,000 in the initial phase.

(3) AND RESCUE FOR RETAILERS. The New York Times tells how “Comic Creators Unite to Benefit Stores”.

A large group of comic book creators are banding together to help support comic book retailers whose business have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Using the Twitter hashtag #Creators4Comics, more than 120 creators will be auctioning comic books, artwork and one-of-a-kind experiences. The auctions will run from Wednesday through Monday and will benefit the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, which is accepting applications from comic book shops and bookstores for emergency relief.

The effort was organized by the comic book writers Sam Humphries and Brian Michael Bendis, along with Kami Garcia, Gwenda Bond and Phil Jimenez. Humphries will be auctioning “How to Break Into Comics by Making Your Own Comics,” which are video-chat sessions with aspiring writers. “It mirrors my own comic book secret origin story,” he said in an email. More information can be found at the Creators 4 Comics website….

(4) CONZEALAND VIRTUAL ATTENDING MEMBERSHIPS. The 2020 Worldcon website has been updated with information about attending memberships for its Virtual Convention.

An Attending Membership is for people who will engage in the live, interactive Virtual Convention. There are a number of different types of Attending Memberships. Attending Memberships are all inclusive. You do not have to pay anything more for access to any of our online activity.

You will receive all our publications. This also comes with the right to nominate and vote in the Hugo Awards in 2020. You can also vote in Site Selection for the 2022 Worldcon.

  • Young Adult Attending is based on being born in 2000.
  • Unwaged Attending is a NZ resident of any age who does not have a consistent wage. This includes students, retirees, beneficiaries etc. Please contact us if you have questions about this.
    • We will trust that if you become waged by the convention, that you will upgrade to a Full Attending.

(5) RE-VOYAGER. “Garrett Wang And Robert Duncan McNeill Are Launching A ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ Rewatch Podcast” reports TrekMovie.com. The podcast’s twitter account is @TheDeltaFlyers.

This morning, Star Trek: Voyager star Robert Duncan McNeill (Tom Paris) announced that he has teamed up with co-star Garrett Wang (Harry Kim) on a new podcast called The Delta Flyers. The new pod promises inside stories as the pair plan to rewatch every episode of Voyager, with the first episode arriving in early May. 

(6) EISNER AWARDS. Newsarama reassures that “2020 Eisner Awards Going Forward Despite SDCC Cancellation”.

“I’m happy to report that the judging has been handled mostly virtually to date,” SDCC’s Chief Communications and Strategy Officer David Glanzer told Newsarama. “Things are in flux as you can imagine but our hope is to be able to have a list of Eisner winners for 2020.”

Longtime awards administrator Jackie Estrada is working with this year’s judges Martha Cornog, Jamie Coville, Michael Dooley, Alex Grecian, Simon Jimenez, and Laura O’Meara.

(7) OUT OF PRINT. In “This Is The Book That Outsold Dracula In 1897″, CrimeReads’  Olivia Rutigliano shows why an old bestseller is likely to remain in obscurity despite that singular achievement.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula has remained in print since it was first published in April 1897. A bestseller in its day, it has gone on to spawn countless derivatives and become one of the most indelible pop-cultural touchstones in recent history. Obviously. But, upon its first release, it was seriously outsold by another novel, a supernatural tale of possession and revenge called The Beetle, which fell out of print after 1960. And let me tell you, it’s something else.

Written by Richard Marsh, the author of extremely successful commercial short fiction during this era, The Beetle is actually rather like Dracula in form and plot. In addition to its being an epistolary novel, it is similarly about a seductive, inhuman, shape-shifting monster who arrives in England from the East, entrances a citizen into becoming its slave, and wages an attack on London society. And civilization’s only hope against this invader is a motley group of middle-class individuals (including one forward-thinking young woman and one expert on the supernatural), who must figure out what the creature actually is and ascertain why it has arrived to England, before finally destroying it….

(8) A FRIGID FORMULATION. Dann is “Re-Visiting Those Damned Cold Equations” at Liberty at all Costs.

… There is a forthcoming anthology of rebuttals to The Cold Equations.  I expect many essayists to add elements that are not present in the original story to reach their own preferred conclusions.  Rather than address the story as written, they will probably add in a factor that is not otherwise evident as a lever to be used against the main purpose of the story.

Rather than discussing the merits and criticism of the story, I’m first going to travel to Texas, rhetorically.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick implied that he was willing to die to ensure the survival of his children and grandchildren.  He went on to suggest that lots of grandparents would make the same choice.  The context of his comments was the “choice” between maintaining our self-quarantine that is significantly damaging our economy or resuming normal social habits at the demonstrable risk of killing off a substantial number of our elderly.

…We are not currently at the point where we need to be deciding who lives and who dies.  We are most certainly not at the point where we need to risk the lives of senior citizens by prematurely restarting the economy.

That being said, we do have to make choices; sometimes hard choices….

…The fact is that we all have to make choices based on what we hope is the best of information.  We are all learning now about the importance of certain types of medical and personal protective equipment.  We are learning that we had manufacturing and import capacity to cover the usual needs of society, but not enough to cover our needs during a pandemic.  We are learning that we had stockpiles sufficient to cover a few significant regional calamities, but such stockpiles were entirely insufficient for a larger catastrophe.

…Will the critics of The Cold Equations pause in their rush to suggest alternative conclusions to acknowledge the practical limitations, however ham-handedly presented, that were in play?

(9) WHAT BOX? In a review of Bishakh Som’s new collection, NPR’s Etelka Lehoczky reports that “‘Apsara Engine’ Doesn’t Break The Graphic Novel Rules — It Ignores Them”.

There’s something a bit uncanny about Apsara Engine, the new comics collection by Bishakh Som. The world of comics is all about genre — superhero, sci-fi, fantasy, horror — and most of the time it’s pretty easy to match any book to its proper slot. Even highbrow graphic novels tend to categorize themselves through the style of art they employ and the types of stories they tell. Not this book, though. Its images and concepts seem to come from a place all their own. Som’s imagination is science-fictiony, without being particularly technological, mythic without being particularly traditional, and humanistic without cherishing any particular assumptions about where we, as a species, are headed.

You might classify these comics as “literary,” but Som’s approach to storytelling is as uncanny as her style and themes. Even the book’s structure keeps the reader off-balance. Som intersperses tales of future civilizations and half-human hybrid beasts with vignettes of run-of-the-mill contemporary life, so the reader never knows if something odd is about to happen.

You might classify these comics as “literary,” but Som’s approach to storytelling is as uncanny as her style and themes.

…Som’s artistic style breaks boundaries, too. She’ll employ traditional comic-book techniques for page layouts and character designs, then toss them aside with the turn of a page. A character who’s drawn iconically, with just a few efficient lines defining her features, will become lushly realistic at a pivotal moment. A story drawn in the usual square panels will suddenly burst forth into a series of flowing, uncontained two-page spreads.

Such moments of explosive transition provide the book’s heartbeat. It’s a mesmerizing arrythmia. The deceptiveness of what we think of as “ordinary life” is a running motif, one Som explores through unexpected juxtapositions. In “Come Back to Me,” a pretty young woman engages in an utterly mundane inner monologue while walking on the beach. Her reminiscences about the time she cheated on her boyfriend, which appear above and below the drawings, continue to unspool implacably even as she’s pulled into the ocean by a mermaid….

(10) BINNS OBIT. Merv Binns’ obituary, written by Leigh Edmonds, has appeared in The Age: “A luminary of Australian science fiction”. An excerpt:

In 1970, Binns established Space Age Books, with the help of his friends Lee Harding and Paul Stevens. It soon established a reputation as the best source of science fiction, fantasy and counter-culture literature in Melbourne, and probably Australia.

Space Age became the hub of a growing science fiction community and Binns became associated with leading authors, editors and publishers, as well the growing number of fans, in Australia and internationally.

As a result, Binns and Space Age were integral to the hosting of World Science Fiction Conventions in Melbourne in 1975 and 1985. 

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 18, 1938 — Superman first appeared in Action Comics #1, a comic book published by National Allied Publications even though the cover said June. The character was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster. This was actually an anthology, and contained eleven features with the Superman feature being the first thirteen inside pages. Five years ago, a pristine copy  of this comic sold for a record $3,207,852 on an eBay auction. It was one of two hundred thousand that were printed. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 18, 1884 Frank R. Paul. An employee of editor Hugo Gernsback, he largely defined the look of both cover art and interior illustrations in the pulps of the Twenties from Amazing Stories at first and later for Planet StoriesSuperworld Comics and Science Fiction. He also illustrated the cover of Gernsback’s own novel, Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660. You can see his cover for Amazing Stories, August 1927 issue , illustrating The War of the Worlds here. (Died 1963.)  
  • Born April 18, 1922 Nigel Kneale. Writer of novels and scripts merging horror and SF, he’s  best remembered  for the creation of the character Professor Bernard Quatermass. Though he was a prolific British producer and writer, he had only one Hollywood movie script, Halloween III: Season of the Witch. (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 18, 1945 Karen Wynn Fonstad. She designed several atlases of fictional worlds including The Atlas of Middle-earthThe Atlas of Pern and The Atlas of the Dragonlance World. (Died 2005.)
  • Born April 18, 1946 Janet Kagan. “The Nutcracker Coup” was nominated for both the Hugo Award for Best Novelette and the Nebula Award for Best Novelette, winning the Hugo at ConFrancisco. She has but two novels, one being Uhura’s Song, a Trek novel, and quite a bit of short fiction which is out in The Complete Kagan from Baen Books and is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 18, 1952 Martin Hoare. I’m not going to attempt to restate what Mike stares much better in his obituary here. (Died 2019.) 
  • Born April 18, 1965 Stephen Player, 55. He’s deep into Pratchett’s Discworld and the fandom that sprung up around it. He illustrated the first two Discworld Maps, and quite a number of the books including the25th Anniversary Edition of The Light Fantastic and The Illustrated Wee Free Men. Oh but that’s just a mere wee taste of he’s done as he did the production design for the Sky One production of Hogfather and The Colour of Magic. He did box art and card illustrations for Guards! Guards! A Discworld Boardgame. Finally he contributed to some Discworld Calendars, games books, money for the Discworld convention. I want that money. 
  • Born April 18, 1969 Keith R. A. DeCandido, 51. I found him with working in these genre media franchises: such as Supernatural, Andromeda, FarscapeFireflyAliensStar Trek In its various permutations, Buffy the Vampire SlayerDoctor WhoSpider-ManX-MenHerculesThorSleepy Hollow,and Stargate SG-1. Has he ever written a novel that was a media tie-in? 
  • Born April 18, 1971 David Tennant, 49. Eleventh Doctor and my favorite of the modern Doctors along with Thirteen whom I’m also very fond of. There are some episodes such as the “The Unicorn and The Wasp” that I’ve watched repeatedly.  He’s also done other spectacular genre work such as the downright creepy Kilgrave in Jessica Jones, and and Barty Crouch, Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He’s also in the Beeb’s remake of the The Quatermass Experiment as Dr. Gordon Briscoe.
  • Born April 18, 1973 Cora Buhlert, 47. With Jessica Rydill, she edits the Speculative Fiction Showcase, a most excellent site. She has a generous handful of short fiction professionally published, and she’s also a finalist for the Best Fan Writer Hugo this year. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro tells us what monsters sing.

(14) TOUGHER THAN DIAMOND? “DC to Sell New Comics. Here’s Why it Matters” is a Nerdist analysis of a potentially revolutionary development.

It’s been a wild month for comic book fans everywhere. Since the COVID-19 crisis fully took hold we’ve been getting used to new ways of living, working, and accessing our favorite art, even SDCC has been canceled! It was only a few weeks ago that Diamond–the comic book industry’s only physical distributor–would stop distributing single issues to comic shops. Since then, there have been plenty of rumors, failed plans, and new ideas. But now DC Comics has announced they will be selling comics directly to shops via two new distributors.

It’s great news for comics fans but also has massive implications for the future of the industry as a whole. We’re here to break down why.

… The fact that DC Comics is breaking with the exclusive deal Diamond has had with them for decades means that they are introducing two new distributors into the market for the first time in 20 years. It could essentially break the monopoly that Diamond has had on the industry. Possibly freeing up the proverbial trade routes that have long been under the control of one massive company….

(15) LEGACY OF THE PLAGUE. Sari Feldman looks ahead to “Public Libraries After the Pandemic” at Publishers Weekly.

…In a previous column, I wrote about the unprecedented library closures around the country in the wake of the pandemic. The value of public libraries is rarely questioned in times of crisis—think of the New Orleans Public Library after Hurricane Katrina, or the Ferguson Municipal Public Library during the unrest there. But this crisis—more specifically, the social distancing required to address this crisis—strikes at the very foundation on which the modern public library rests. And as the days go by, I find myself increasingly concerned about how libraries come back from these closures.

For one, I suspect that Covid-19 will change some people’s perspective on what can and should be shared. I fear many people will begin to overthink materials handling and the circulation of physical library collections, including books. It’s a reasonable assumption that people will emerge from this public health crisis with a heightened sense of risk related to germ exposure. How many of our patrons—particularly those with means—will begin to question the safety of borrowing books and other items from the library?

In terms of our buildings, open access for everyone has long been a celebrated library value. Public libraries have evolved, survived, and have even managed to thrive through a digital transformation by reconfiguring our spaces to be more social, more functional, and by offering more programs and classes. Can we maintain that in an age of social distancing? Will libraries need to supply gloves for shared keyboards? Will parents and caregivers still want to bring their children to a “Baby and Me” program? Will seniors still find respite in a library community?

(16) ONE PICTURE AND A THOUSAND WORDS. In “Revisiting Ursula K. Le Guin’s Novella About Interplanetary Racism” at New York Times Books, artist Ben Passmore visually comments on a Le Guin story.

A graphic novelist renders “The Word for World Is Forest,” a work that mixed the reality of racism with the fantasy of retribution.

(17) COUNTDOWN. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport says NASA has authorized the first human spaceflight launching from the U.S. since 2011, with veterans Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley scheduled to go to the International Space Station on a SpaceX craft. “NASA sets a date for historic SpaceX launch, the first flight of NASA crews from U.S. in nearly a decade”.

…This time, though, the launch will be markedly different from any other in the history of the space agency. Unlike Mercury, Gemini, Apollo or the space shuttle era, the rocket will be owned and operated not by NASA, but by a private company — SpaceX, the hard-charging commercial space company founded by Elon Musk.

(18) KEEP YOUR DISTANCE. The Washington Post’s Travis M. Andrews says that last Saturday a giant music festival was held “featuring emo titans American Football, chiptune pioneers Anamanaguchi and electropop pioneer Baths,” but social distancing protocols were followed because this was a virtual festival that took place inside Minecraft. “Thousands gathered Saturday for a music festival. Don’t worry: It was in Minecraft.”

… Interested parties could “attend” in a few different ways. Some watched on the video game streaming site Twitch. To really get into the action, though, you needed to log into Minecraft, plug in the proper server info and, voilà!, you’d pop to life in a hallway and then explore the venue through your first-person viewpoint.

Purchasing a VIP pass (with real money) allowed access to special cordoned-off parts of the venue and the chance to chat with the artists on the gamer hangout app Discord. Meanwhile, the nearly 100,000 unique viewers on Twitch were encouraged to donate money to disaster recovery org Good360, which ended up with roughly $8,000 in proceeds.

(19) BIG SQUEEZE. “‘Bath sponge’ breakthrough could boost cleaner cars”

A new material developed, by scientists could give a significant boost to a new generation of hydrogen-powered cars.

Like a bath sponge, the product is able to hold and release large quantities of the gas at lower pressure and cost.

Made up of billions of tiny pores, a single gram of the new aluminium-based material has a surface area the size of a football pitch.

The authors say it can store the large volume of gas needed for practical travel without needing expensive tanks.

…As well as developing electric vehicles, much focus has been on hydrogen as a zero emissions source of power for cars.

The gas is used to power a fuel cell in cars and trucks, and if it is made from renewable energy it is a much greener fuel.

However, hydrogen vehicles suffer from some drawbacks.

The gas is extremely light – In normal atmospheric pressure, to carry 1kg of hydrogen which might power your car for over 100km, you’d need a tank capable of holding around 11,000 litres.

To get around this problem, the gas is stored at high pressure, around 700 bar, so cars can carry 4-5kg of the gas and travel up to 500km before refilling.

That level of pressure is around 300 times greater than in a car’s tyres, and necessitates specially made tanks, all of which add to the cost of the vehicles.

Now researchers believe they have developed an alternative method that would allow the storage of high volumes of hydrogen under much lower pressure.

The team have designed a highly porous new material, described as a metal-organic framework.

(20) CREDENTIAL TO KILL. NPR reveals what your SJW credential already knew — nature is full of self-propelled cat food: “The Killer At Home: House Cats Have More Impact On Local Wildlife Than Wild Predators”.

What does an outdoor cat do all day? According to new research, it could be taking a heavy toll on local wildlife.

A tracking study of more than 900 house cats shows when they kill small birds and mammals, their impact is concentrated in a small area, having a bigger effect than wild predators do….

“Even though it seems like their cat isn’t killing that many, it really starts to add up,” said Roland Kays, a scientist at North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. (Full disclosure: Kays isn’t a cat or dog person but a “ferret person.”)

Kays and colleagues collected GPS data from cats in six countries and found most cats aren’t venturing very far from home.

“These cats are moving around their own backyard and a couple of their neighbors’ backyards, but most of them are not ranging very much further,” Kays said. “So initially I thought: ‘Oh, this is good news. They’re not going out into the nature preserves.’ “

Then Kays factored in how much cats kill in that small area. Some cats in the study were bringing home up to 11 dead birds, rodents or lizards a month, which doesn’t include what they ate or didn’t bring home to their owners.

“It actually ends up being a really intense rate of predation on any unfortunate prey species that’s going to live near that cat’s house,” he said.

(21) FLASHER. “Deep Sea Squid Communicate by Glowing Like E-Readers”NPR item includes video so readers can test whether they see the patterns.

Deep in the Pacific Ocean, six-foot-long Humboldt squid are known for being aggressive, cannibalistic and, according to new research, good communicators.

Known as “red devils,” the squid can rapidly change the color of their skin, making different patterns to communicate, something other squid species are known to do.

But Humboldt squid live in almost total darkness more than 1,000 feet below the surface, so their patterns aren’t very visible. Instead, according to a new study, they create backlighting for the patterns by making their bodies glow, like the screen of an e-reader.

“Right now, what blows my mind is there’s probably squid talking to each other in the deep ocean and they’re probably sharing all sorts of cool information,” said Ben Burford, a graduate student at Stanford University.

Humboldt squid crowd together in large, fast-moving groups to feed on small fish and other prey.

“When you watch them it looks like frenzy,” Burford said. “But if you pay close attention, they’re not touching each other. They’re not bumping into each other.”

(22) THE HORROR. Consequence of Sound introduces a video publicizing Stephen King’s novella collection — “Stephen King Reads From New Book If It Bleeds: Watch”.

Stephen King jumped into the live stream game on Friday afternoon. The Master of Horror flipped on the camera to read the first chapter from his new book If It BleedsAs previously reported, the book collects four different novellas — similar to Different Seasons or Four Past Midnight — and is available for Constant Readers on April 21st.

Wearing a Loser/Lover shirt from It: Chapter One, which is just all kinds of charming, King read from the first novel Mr. Harrigans Phone. The story continues the author’s mistrust of technology in the vein of Cell, and should make us all think twice about our respective smart phones. So, think about that as you watch King from your couch.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/21/20 Social Distancing Warriors

(1) UK EASTERCON CANCELLED. Concentric, the 2020 Eastercon, was cancelled today. The con was to have been held April 10-13 in Birmingham, UK. Thread starts here.

(2) SERLING’S BASEBALL DRAMA TO AIR. “Rod Serling’s lost baseball show to make return” – the Fifties show has been re-created by students and Anne Serling will narrate.

If there’s one thing we could all use right now, it’s baseball — in any form. Well, how about a baseball story written by none other than “The Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling?

On March 25, when we would otherwise be preparing for Opening Day, Cincinnati’s WVXU-FM will be streaming Serling’s radio drama, “O’Toole From Moscow.”

Written in 1955 — four years before “The Twilight Zone” debuted — the show is set during the Cold War and follows a Soviet Embassy worker who loves the Brooklyn Dodgers and skips town with a “comrade who suddenly becomes the greatest slugger ever for the Cincinnati Reds” — no word on if this slugger also ripped off his sleeves the way Ted Kluszewski did.

… The drama, which featured an appearance from Hall of Fame manager Leo Durocher, only aired once on NBC, and no recordings were ever made. Fortunately, Cincinnati journalist John Kiesewetter managed to hunt down the original script, and then edit it into a radio drama. With help from actors at University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and Anne Serling — Rod’s daughter — to provide the narration, the show was recorded in November and now awaits its debut.

(3) FILLING THE VACANCY. K. Tempest Bradford and Lou Antonelli have been exchanging barbs over his write-in candidacy to become a SFWA director-at-large. Bradford’s thread starts here.

Antonelli’s comments include —

(4) BOOKSTORE GOFUNDME. Nancy Hanger’s Star Cats Books in Vermont hopes to raise $7,500: “Save Star Cat Books in the time of Covid-19”.

Don’t let Covid-19 kill this bookstore!

Most Vermonters have already decided to shelter at home, and even at mid-day roads are close to empty. Fixed costs continue. The owner of Star Cat Books has a compromised immune system, but fears she must stay open for the few people who are looking for books for their kids or themselves. “Just closing” for two months, which is the shortest period the experts project this to last, guarantees the store will close forever. Even if two months is enough to end the risk, business will not return to normal at once.

(5) ORDER UP. Meanwhile, Jeff VanderMeer is lending a hand to his local Tallahassee bookstore Midtown Reader with sales of signed copies of his books, plus this special offer to receive a unique autographed item —

(6) TIME AGAIN TO POP THE LID. Alasdair Stuart’s The Full Lid barrels onward – here a link to the issue for 20th March 2020.

This week, there’s a look at how Netflix often write genre fiction kids very well, focusing on Lost in Space, Locke & Key and October Faction. We’ve also got a look at Marieke Nijkamp, Manuel Preitano, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles’ excellent Barbara Gordon YA graphic novel The Oracle Code. An interview with Marieke is planned for a future issue too (Although it did sneak into the Contents page here. Barbara Gordon folks, best hacker in the business). 

We’re also ramping up Signal Boost as multiple creatives and creative industries struggle under the growing changes to the fabric of modern life. If you have a project you’d like over 500 extra sets of eyes on, do get in touch.

(7) FREE PUBLISHERS WEEKLY. Forthcoming issues and a lot of digital archives can be accessed free announced PW’s President, George Slowik.

We will make the digital magazine available to everyone regardless of whether you subscribe starting with the current issue (March 16, 2020).

Everyone can now access the digital edition of PW from www.digitalpw.com or from the PW app on iOS and Android.

Additionally, articles, past bestsellers lists and the reviews database, which includes a search feature and the reviews listed by genre, will be made available to all.

And last, I am very pleased to share access to our recently launched archive database. The archive includes 7,597 past issues, 676,133 pages, 400,000 book reviews, 5,000 author profiles and interviews and, beginning in 1895, bestseller lists.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 21, 1989 Gor II, also known as Outlaw of Gor, premiered. It is a sequel to Gor and is directed this time by John Cardos. It is based on the Gor series by John Norman, but varies quite a bit from the original Outlaw of Gor novel. It starred Urbano Barberini, Rebecca Ferratti, Donna Denton, Russell Savadier and, yes, Jack Palance. You can see it here as lovingly critiqued on Mystery Science Theatre 3000. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 21, 1915 Ian Stuart Black. British screenplay writer best known for scripting two First Doctor stories, “The Savages” and “The War Machines” (with Kit Pedler and Pat Dunlop) and a Third Doctor story, “The Macra Terror”. He wrote thirteen episodes of The Invisible Man as well as episodes of One Step BeyondThe SaintStar Maidens and Danger Man. (Died 1997.)
  • Born March 21, 1931 Al Williamson. Cartoonist who was best known for his work for EC Comics in the ’50s, including titles like Weird Science and Weird Fantasy, and for his work on Flash Gordon in the Sixties. He won eight Harvey Awards, and an Eisner Hall of Fame Award. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 21, 1944 Lorene Yarnell. She was actually part of Shields and Yarnell, a well-known mime team, but you will know her as Dot Matrix on Spaceballs. She had a few previous genre appearances including being a villain named Forimicida on Wonder Women, and Sonia on The Wild Wild West Revisted. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 21, 1944 — Hilary Minster. He appeared twice on Doctor Who, one in a Third Doctor story, “Planet of the Daleks” and before that in a Second Doctor story, “Genesis of the Daleks.” He also was in “Achilles Heel”, an episode of The Tomorrow People, and he had a minor role in The Girl in a Swing film based on the Richard Adams novel. Finally, he was Fritz, a German soldier, in Timeslip, a children’s SF series. (Died 1999.)
  • Born March 21, 1946 Timothy Dalton, 74. He is best known for portraying James Bond in The Living Daylights and License to Kill but is currently in The Doom Patrol as Niles Caulder, The Chief. As I’ve said before, go watch it now!  He also was Damian Drake in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Sir Malcolm on the Penny Dreadful series and Lord President of the Time Lords (Rassilon) during the time of Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. He went to theatre to play Lord Asriel in the stage version of His Dark Materials.
  • Born March 21, 1946 Terry Dowling, 74. I was trying to remember exactly what it was by him that I read and it turned out to be Amberjack: Tales of Fear and Wonder, an offering from Subterranean Press a decade ago. Oh, it was tasty! If it’s at all representative of his other short stories, he’s a master at them. And I see he’s got just one novel, Clowns at Minnight which I’ve not read. He’s not at all deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects but Kindle has this plus several story collections. 
  • Born March 21, 1947 Don Markstein. He was the creator and sole maintainer of Don Markstein’s Toonpedia which is subtitled A Vast Repository of Toonological Knowledge. It is an encyclopedia of print cartoons, comic strips and animation started in  2001. He said, “The basic idea is to cover the entire spectrum of American cartoonery.” (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 21, 1956 Teresa Nielsen Hayden, 64. She is a consulting editor for Tor Books and is well known for her and husband, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Making Light superb weblog, Back in the Eighties, they published the Izzard fanzine. And she has three pieces in The Essential Bordertown, edited by Delia Sherman and Terri Windling. 
  • Born March 21, 1985 Sonequa Martin-Green, 35. She currently plays Michael Burnham on Discovery which is now I believe in its third series. She had a brief recurring role as Tamara in Once Upon a Time, and a much longer recurring role on The Walking Dead as Sasha Williams but I’ve never seen her there as zombies hold no interest to me. Well Solomon Grundy does…  And she was in the Shockwave, Darkside film.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) COMIC BOOK EVENT POSTPONED. Free Comic Book Day is also a casualty of the coronavirus outbreak — “Free Comic Book Day 2020 Postponed”.

As the impact and spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to evolve, Diamond Comic Distributors is aware that Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) will be impacted to varying degrees throughout the world. With that in mind, Diamond Comic Distributors has made the difficult decision to postpone the event to a date later in the Summer.

“The severity and timing of the impact of the COVID-19 virus can’t be predicted with any certainty, but the safety of our retailer partners and comic book fans is too important to risk. As always, we appreciate your enthusiasm for and support of the comic industry’s best event and look forward to celebrating with you later in the Summer,” said Diamond Founder and CEO, Steve Geppi.

Free Comic Book Day 2020 offers a selection of 47 titles available absolutely free at participating local comic shops across the United States and around the world….

(12) TOO LATE THE PHYSICIAN. AP reports: “China exonerates doctor reprimanded for warning of virus”.

China has exonerated a doctor who was officially reprimanded for warning about the coronavirus outbreak and later died of the disease, a startling admission of error by the ruling Communist Party that generally bodes no challenges to its authority.

The party’s top disciplinary body said the police force in Wuhan had revoked its admonishment of Dr. Li Wenliang that had included a threat of arrest.

It also said a “solemn apology” had been issued to Li’s family and that two police officers, identified only by their surnames, had been issued “disciplinary punishments” for the original handling of the matter.

(13) ESCAPE. Atlas Obscura illustrates “How Soviet Science Magazines Fantasized About Life in Outer Space”.

A tall stele rises from a deeply cratered surface, casting a long, ominous shadow past a row of smaller towers. Straight lines connect the structures to each other, like streets on a map or the projected moves in a game of cosmic chess. The Earth floats serenely in the dark sky, next to the logo that reads Tekhnika—molodezhi, Russian for Technology for the Youth, a Soviet popular science magazine that launched in 1933. The magazine cover, from 1969, illustrated an article highlighting photographs from Luna 9, the Soviet unmanned spacecraft that was the first to survive a landing on the Moon a few years earlier.

This imagined moonscape is one of more than 250 otherworldly images from the upcoming, visually delightful book, Soviet Space Graphics: Cosmic Visions from the USSR, by Alexandra Sankova, director and founder of the Moscow Design Museum, which collaborated on the book with her. 

(14) SEEN YOU SOMEWHERE BEFORE. ScreenRant matches up “10 Pairs of Famous Movies That Used The Same Set”.

5 Blazing Saddles & John Carter – Vasquez Rocks

Key examples of both include Blazing Saddles, which used the rocks to portray the harsh terrain of the Western desert, and John Carter, which used them to convey the harsh terrain of Mars.

Speaking of Star Trek, one of the first uses of this location was in the original series, when Kirk had to go down to an alien planet and battle a lizard-human to death. The episode made the locale a common go-to for Westerns and science fiction films looking to create foreign landscapes.

(15) LAURENTIANS, REASSEMBLE! BBC reports “Diamond samples in Canada reveal size of lost continent”.

Canadian scientists have discovered a fragment of an ancient continent, suggesting that it was 10% larger than previously thought.

They were studying diamond samples from Baffin Island, a glacier-covered land mass near Greenland, when they noticed a remnant of North Atlantic Craton.

Cratons are ancient, stable parts of the Earth’s continental crust.

The North American Craton stretched from present-day Scotland to North America and broke apart 150m years ago.

Scientists chanced on the latest evidence as they examined exploration samples of kimberlite, a rock that often contains diamonds, from Baffin Island.

(16) YIELD OF THOUGHT EXPERIMENTS. The outbreak inspired France24’s English-language service to look at the ways genre creators have already thought about the problem in “Dystopia vs reality: Sci-fi movies are helping us gain a critical outlook on society.”

As COVID-19 spreads throughout the world, we take at a look at certain sci-fi movies and dystopian novels that had perhaps predicted certain consequences of such an outbreak. In this edition, we also explore the influence and the critical outlook that TV series can have on science and innovation but also politics and society at large.

(17) NO STATUE OF LIMITATIONS? I don’t feel too broken up about the predicament as stated in the NBC Sports headline, but they did get me to click and find out about the “curse” – maybe you will too. “Coronavirus could prevent Hanshin Tigers from breaking the Curse of the Colonel”.

…The finger-lickin’ curse was placed on the team following their triumph in the 1985 Japan Series over the Seibu Lions. Revelers took to the streets of Osaka in celebration of their favorite team’s first championship, and many of them gathered on Ebisu Bridge for a familiar ritual.

Japanese baseball fans are like soccer fans. They don’t stoically sit in the grandstand and only make noise when prompted to by organ players or jumbotrons. They have chants and songs for all sorts of occasions and for every player, with brass instrumental accompaniments. Japanese baseball, you see, actually encourages fun.

So there upon the bridge, they sang the songs for each of the victorious players and selected a member of the crowd who most looked like each of the players, and gave them the honor of jumping down into the canal below. This was all well and good until they got to Randy Bass, who had just won the series MVP award for the Tigers. There weren’t any Caucasian guys in the crowd, so the revelers purloined a statue of Colonel Sanders from outside of a nearby KFC and tossed it into the canal.

This has since been regarded as a karmically poor decision, as the Tigers proceeded to finish under .500 for the next 18 years.

The idea that the team had been cursed by making the Colonel sleep with the fishes quickly spread. Numerous attempts were made to recover the statue to no avail, and the proprietor of the KFC outlet was apologized to, but nothing could seem to cure the team’s misfortune….

[Thank to Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kenned, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Rich Lynch, Alan Baumler, Mlex, Alasdair Stuart, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]