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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TUESDAY

9-10 PM – LA BREA

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

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

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

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

(12) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 11/5/20 007 Of Nine

(1) TO PATREON, OR NOT TO PATREON. Artist Emily Hare gives creators a lot to think about in “Should You Start A Patreon Page?”

Where To Start

Here are some questions I think would be useful for someone starting their Patreon page to ask themselves: 

Do I have a consistent style or theme?

Do I have a project to share?

Am I comfortable being held accountable for my output?

Have I got an engaged online following (small or large)

Do you want this to be full time or part time?

Are you a good teacher?

1. I believe number 1 is an important one. If you have a recognisable look to your work or always choose specific themes (like I nearly always stick with fantasy and fairytale type things) then this will help enormously. People who are paying you regularly will want to be paying for the thing they sign up for. So for instance, if they sign up for cute fluffy bunny art and then when they’re signed up you occasionally post erotic horror for example, then they will not stay a patron unless they happen to be interested in both those things. This is a very silly and extreme example, but you get my meaning! This doesn’t mean that someone doing more than one thing can’t have success with Patreon, but it is going to be much harder. Know your audience and be aware of why they are following you. Humans like the familiar and predictable. We are creatures of habit!…

(2) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present William Gibson and Cat Rambo in a YouTube livestreamed reading on Wednesday, November 18, 2020, 7 p.m. Eastern. Link forthcoming.

William Gibson

William Gibson is the author of Neuromancer and other novels, most recently Agency, a sequel to The Peripheral. He lives in Vancouver, Canada.

Cat Rambo

Cat Rambo is the author of over two hundred stories and four novels, including upcoming space opera, You Sexy Thing, from Tor Macmillan in 2021. Her novelette Carpe Glitter won a Nebula Award earlier this year. She lives, writes, and teaches in Seattle.

(3) NATURALLY. “‘Some Version of the Apocalypse Is Inevitable’” – Kara Swisher interviews Jeff VanderMeer for an episode of the New York Times’ “Sway.”Transcript available.

Kara Swisher

This is a perfect way to get into your books because you sort of are creating your own Area X there, I guess.

Jeff Vandermeer

Well, people have varying ideas about what Area X is. At the end of the day, Area X is a very natural, nice, beautiful place as long as you don’t stay there too long. But I think what it is that in Area X, at least by the rules of that fictional construct, people who are more attuned to their environment and more already integrated with it have less of an issue. So it’s just like almost a metaphorical or a more direct embodiment of what we see in the real world because what is somebody — like a few streets down, I saw someone the other day doing something very disturbing. They were spraying herbicide across all their dead leaves under their pine trees. Well, they’re also increasing their own possibility of cancer. So by not living in harmony, they’re also killing themselves to some degree. So that’s kind of what I’m getting at in part there, but I also think that it’s important for Area X to have its own ultimately unknowable purpose to the point where, even though I know most of it, there are things I don’t know too.

(4) RECUSAL. Horror Writers Association President sends a message:

(5) SMILING IN THE PUBLIC EYE. Men’sHealth may not be known for its comedy, but they have unfurled “99 Star Wars Jokes That Would Even Make Darth Vader Laugh”. I don’t promise the other 97 are as good as these —

Why didn’t any of Luke Skywalker’s marriages last?
He always followed Obi-Wan’s advice: “Use divorce, Luke.”

What was Lando’s nickname before he became a skilled pilot?
Crashdo.

(6) A BIRD IN THE HAND. Heroes & Icons reminds fans that “The Original Romulan Bird Of Prey Model From Star Trek Was Trashed”.

“Balance of Terror” remains one of the most important episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series. After all, this was the tale that first introduced us to the Romulans. In the adventure, a Federation outpost located in the Romulan Neutral Zone comes under attack by a Romulan warship.

When filming began on “Balance of Terror,” producer Bob Justman placed a call to his ace up the sleeve — special effects designer Wah Chang. The uncredited artist was the brilliant creative mind behind the communicator, the Salt Vampire, the Tribbles and other iconic Trek costumes and props. Justman asked Chang to fabricate a new alien ship with a twist. He wanted something like a bird swooping down upon its enemy to wipe them out.

Chang did just that, decorating the underbelly of his Romulan Bird of Prey with a graphic fit for the hood of a vintage Pontiac Firebird. The model was put into action and became a vital part of the standout episode.

However, in a subsequent season, when another script called for the model to be pulled out of mothballs, a tragic fate had taken the bird from us.

Wah Chang was a non-union contractor. The Bird of Prey prop was returned to him after the production of “Balance of Terror.” Thinking it was a one-off use, Chang had disposed of the ship. After much back and forth, producers came to the revelation and determined the budget could not afford to rebuild the prop.

(7) HOLIDAY SPECIAL. Disney+ dropped a trailer for the Lego Star Wars Holiday Special.Begins streaming November 17.

“The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special” reunites Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie, Rose and the droids for a joyous feast on Life Day. Rey sets off on a new adventure with BB-8 to gain a deeper knowledge of the Force. At a mysterious Jedi Temple, she is hurled into a cross-timeline adventure through beloved moments in Star Wars cinematic history, coming into contact with Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Yoda, Obi-Wan and other iconic heroes and villains from all nine Skywalker saga films. But will she make it back in time for the Life Day feast and learn the true meaning of holiday spirit?

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • November 1985 — Thirty-five years ago this month, Robert Heinlein’s The Cat Who Walks Through Walls: A Comedy of Manners was first published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons. (There’s a limited edition of fifty copies done at the same time.) The cover art for the trade edition is by Michael Whelan. It might be considered a sequel to The Number of the Beast. Or not. David Langford in his White Dwarf review said, “ it’s Heinlein self-indulgence time again.” 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 5, 1938 Jim Steranko, 82. His breakthrough series  was the Sixties’ “Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” featured in Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales and in the subsequent debut series. His design sensibility is widespread within and without the comics industry, affecting even Raiders of the Lost Ark and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, as he created the conceptual art and character designs for them. He was inducted into the comic-book industry’s Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006. (CE)
  • Born November 5, 1940 – Butch Honeck, 80.  Sculptor.  Guest of Honor at Archon 27, Capclave 2004, DucKon 13, Lunacon 48, ConClave XXX.  Archon Hall of Fame.  Magic Mountain bronze (with wife Susan Honeck), 1987 Chesley for Best Three-Dimensional; see here.  [JH]
  • Born November 5, 1942 – Frank Gasperik.  Singer and storyteller.  With Leslie Fish a novella and a short story.  This FG memorial page from a Larry Niven Website produced by LN fans has a note by Jerry Pournelle, a portrait by Kelly Freas, and several links of which some worked when (4 a.m. PST, 5 Nov 20) I tried them; about filk music, see here.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born November 5, 1944 Carole Nelson Douglas, 76. Although she has two inarguably genre series In the Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator and the Sword and Circlet novels, I’m here to pitch to you her Social Justice Warrior credential series instead (and dissenters can now go elsewhere) in the form of her Midnight Louie series.  Each novel is told in part from the point of view of Midnight Louie, the cat himself in a style some say is like that of a Damon Runyon character. Great dearies, lovely premise. (CE) 
  • Born November 5, 1946 – Barry Gold, 74.  Famed among filkers, more widely active in Los Angeles fandom e.g. his 2017 Evans-Freehafer award (for service to LASFS the L.A. Science Fantasy Society, in his case over five decades).  With wife Lee Gold, Along Fantasy Way (Tom Digby Fan Guest of Honor Book for ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon), Alarums and Excursions (role-playing-game apa), Xenofilkia (filkzine).  Both in the Filk Hall of Fame, Interfilk Guests at OVFF 16 (Ohio Valley Filk Fest), Featured Filkers at Boskone 44.  [JH]
  • Born November 5, 1949 Armin Shimerman, 71. Quark on Deep Space Nine. And Principal Snyder on Buffy the Vampire Slayer who if I remember correctly came to a very bad end.  He had the recurring role of Pascal on Beauty and the Beast. He also played Professor George Edward Challenger in the later Nineties Lost World film. (CE)
  • Born November 5, 1952 – Frankie Bailey, Ph.D., 68.  Professor, School of Criminal Justice, State University of NY at Albany.  Two novels for us; next door she has an essay in R. Lupoff’s One Murder at a Time, seven novels, shorter stories, nonfiction.  “The first speech I ever memorized was Patrick Henry’s fiery ‘Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death’ – which I later recalled with some irony when I learned the truth about the founding fathers and slavery.  However, I am still a proud Virginian.”  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born November 5, 1958 – Gary Farber, 62.  Indispensable outspoken fan in the 1970s-1990s; fanzine Drift (“Have you got Gary Farber’s Drift?”).  See him as he was then (YouTube; special bonus appearances by other well-known fans of the time).  Today by his own statement largely gafiated although occasionally appearing here.  [JH]
  • Born November 5, 1960 Tilda Swinton, 60. Her take as Rosetta/Ruby/Marinne/Olive in Teknolust might be the most weird genre role she’s done but I like her take as The White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as her best role to date. Mind you her Gabriel in Constantine was frelling strange… (CE)
  • Born November 5, 1961 Sam Rockwell, 59. First in our area of interest as the Head Thug in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’ve got him next being Francis Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not a role I knew. Ahhh Guy Fleegman on Galaxy Quest. And lastly, he was Zaphod Beeblebroxin The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (CE)
  • Born November 5, 1966 – Erik V. Olson, 54.  Chaired SMOFcon 21 (SMOF for “secret masters of fandom” as Bruce Pelz said a joke – nonjoke – joke; SMOFcon draws people who often do the work at SF conventions and want to do it better), Capricon 31.  See him in this story of how the (eventually successful) bid for Aussiecon IV the 68th Worldcon started (and note that the author K. Buehler, in much the same way, later chaired CoNZealand the 78th).  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) ALL IN COLOR FOR ALL THE MARKET WILL BEAR. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I saw Secret Origin: The History Of DC Comics, a 2010 documentary narrated by Ryan Reynolds and directed by Mac Carter.  This is a corporate history celebrating DC’s 75th anniversary.  Like a lot of corporate histories, the best part of it is the documentation. I didn’t realize so much footage of Siegel and Shuster from the 1930s survives.  The role of editors Mort Weisinger and Julie Schwartz is accurately described, including their origins in sf fandom of the 1930s.  There’s even an uncredited photo of L. Sprague de Camp.

Best line:  Neil Gaiman says that he told his high school guidance counselor, “I want to write American comics” and the counselor said, “Have you ever considered accountancy?”

I didn’t really learn anything from this documentary but I thought it was well-made and interesting and a good use of 90 minutes.

(12) PHONE HOME. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Saw it earlier today while there, took a picture of the cover, decided to borrow it… Hope Rides Again (Obama Biden Mysteries, #2)  by Andrew Shaffer:

“In the sequel to the New York Times best-selling novel Hope Never Dies, Obama and Biden reprise their roles as BFFs-turned-detectives as they chase Obama’s stolen cell phone through the mean streets of Chicago–and right into a vast conspiracy.”

(13) TALKING ANIMALS. Netflix dropped a trailer for Beastars Season 2.

Next year, BEASTARS returns with a brand-new season full of mystery, suspense, and never before seen beasts. Are you ready?

(14) KRAMER NEMESIS LOSES ELECTION. The Georgia county District Attorney who prosecuted Ed Kramer on various charges over the past decade, including child molestation, lost his re-election bid this week. (Kramer is a co-founder of Dragon Con, but has not been a co-owner since 2013.)

“After nearly 30 years in office, Danny Porter is out as Gwinnett County elects its first Black DA” reports the Gwinnett (GA) Daily Post.

DA Danny Porter had held the office for nearly 30 years, going back to 1992. His bid to serve one more term in the office came up short on Tuesday, however, after he was defeated by his Democratic challenger Patsy Austin-Gatson.

… Austin-Gatson, who is one of several Democrats and people of color who were ushered into office by voters on Tuesday, will make Gwinnett history as the county’s first Black district attorney.

The county also elected its first Black sheriff.

Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader, a co-defendant with Ed Kramer in a computer trespass case, had already been turned out of office by an election held in August

(15) POWER CHORD. “Great Scott! This Custom BACK TO THE FUTURE Bass Guitar Rocks” says Nerdist.

Back to the Future is, fittingly, quite timeless. It’s a perfect movie with an amazing premise. It also rocks. Not only does Marty bust out an amazing version of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” but the film features two of the best songs in the history of cinema: Alan Silvestri’s theme and Huey Lewis’s “Power of Love.” And we want to hear all three tracks performed with one of the coolest instruments ever made. Because great Scott! This Time Machine Bass guitar inspired by Doc Brown’s DeLorean is heavy.

And it was built to help out Michael J. Fox’s charity.

(16) ARCHEOMUPPETRY. “The Land of Gorch: The Forgotten Muppets Sketch That Ran During SNL’s First Season”. Forgotten is right. I watched that first season when I was in college, and sure don’t remember this.

When NBC executives decided to take a chance on Lorne Michaels’s live sketch comedy show in 1975, they were a little wary about what the budding young producer might actually end up airing. So they worked some safe territory into the contract—namely, Jim Henson and the Muppets.

Henson and Michaels shared a manager (Bernie Brillstein), and the collaboration seemed promising at first. Henson was looking to broaden his work beyond Sesame Street; and Michaels, already a Henson fan, “wanted as many different styles of comedy as [he] could possibly have.”

For his weekly sketch, Henson dreamed up “the Land of Gorch,” a mystical, craggy kingdom populated with creatures that scholar Jennifer Stoessner later described as “scaly, bloated, and licentious.” Among them were: the bombastic King Ploobis; his simpering wife, Queen Peuta, and their ne’er-do-well son, Wisss; a mistress named Vazh; a bumbling henchman named Scred; and the Mighty Favog, an omnipotent god-like oracle. Together, they tackled sex, drugs, and other adult themes.

Video linked from the article.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “STAR WARS Meets INDIANA JONES in Epic Fan Film”Nerdist points the way.

George Lucas drew upon two distinct styles of classic Saturday matinee serials when creating his two epics, Star Wars and Indiana JonesStar Wars’ inspiration is straight from the Flash Gordon outer space adventures, while mostly forgotten films like Secret of the Incas inspired Indy. Now, one fan has found a way to bring those two distinct worlds together. Filmmaker Phil Hawkins has created the most expensive fan film yet, with Star Wars: Origins. Blending the styles and storylines of both worlds, it’s the mashup you never knew you needed until now.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Nancy Collins, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Michal Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, N., John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Olav Rokne, Daniel Dern, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Judge Who Was Kramer’s
Co-Defendant Loses Election

Gwinnett County (GA) Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader, still awaiting retrial on charges of computer trespass, lost her bid for re-election in a runoff held August 11.

Ed Kramer earlier this year took a plea bargain on charges of computer trespass and in February testified against Schrader, his former co-defendant. Her trial ended in a hung jury. A new trial had originally been scheduled for April, but the court system has been shut down since March because of the pandemic.

Kramer is a co-founder of Dragon Con, but he has not been a co-owner since 2013.

Schrader polled 41% of the vote, the winner 59%.

[Thanks to Nancy Collins for the story.]

Ed Kramer Sues For Libel

Ed Kramer, who earlier this year took a plea bargain on charges of computer trespass and testified against his former co-defendant, Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader, has sued one of the judge’s electoral challengers over a campaign flyer labeling him a “convicted sex offender.”

Schrader’s February trial ended in a hung jury and due to the pandemic the retrial has yet to be scheduled. Meantime, Schrader is running for re-election, and outpolled the other candidates for her seat on the court in the June 9 primary. She now faces a runoff against Magistrate Judge Deborah Fluker.

Eliminated judicial candidate Christa Kirk is the defendant in Kramer’s suit. Her campaign distributed a flyer showing photos of Kramer and Schrader under a heading of “Indicted,” and said Schrader’s case involves “a convicted sex offender.”

Kramer’s lawsuit contends this is a libel because when he was in court on three counts of child molestation in 2013 he entered an Alford plea — which allowed him to maintain his innocence while accepting guilt for the charges. And as Law.com explains in “Gwinnett Judge Races Sparks Libel Lawsuit by Incumbent’s Former Co-Defendant”, if the sentence is completed with no further offenses, no conviction is entered on the defendant’s record. “[Kramer], who has always maintained his innocence, was sentenced under this First Offender statute in 2013 and has been, and is still, serving a First Offender sentence,” his lawsuit says. “Consequently, [he] is not ‘convicted’ and has never been ‘convicted’.”

Kramer is, however, listed as a “sexually dangerous predator” in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Sexual Offender Registry.

The lawsuit argues that the flyer harmed Kramer in the following ways:

While [Kramer] has suffered economic loss in the form of missed business opportunities and has been exposed to public hatred, contempt and ridicule, he has also suffered grave prejudice in a jurisdiction where he has pending criminal matters that may go to trial.

This act by Defendants was not only a violation of civil rights, defamatory, and libelous, it was a highly unethical act in the pursuit of a seat on the Gwinnett County Superior Court bench.

The suit asks for an order “enjoining defendants from making defamatory and libelous statements against [Kramer] and to redress the defamatory and libelous statement already made,  including the disclosure of any and all parties who received the defamatory and libelous statement.”

The suit also seeks unspecified monetary and punitive damages.

Kramer is a co-founder of Dragon Con, but has not been a co-owner since 2013.

[Thanks to Nancy Collins for the story.]

Ed Kramer Takes Plea Bargain in Computer Trespassing Case

Ed Kramer entered an Alford plea — which allows a defendant to enter a plea without admitting any guilt — to computer trespassing during a hearing in Gwinnett (GA) Superior Court on February 3. Kramer is a co-founder of Dragon Con, but has not been a co-owner since 2013.

Kramer received a sentence of 10 years of probation for one count of computer trespassing. Related additional counts were dropped.

Kramer was one of four co-defendants in the hacking case, together with private investigator TJ Ward, Ward’s employee Frank Karic, and Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader. They had been indicted on three counts of felony computer trespass. GBI investigators allege that Judge Schrader hired Ward to investigate her concerns that DA Danny Porter was trying to hack into her computer. It has yet to be shared why the judge believed that, and Porter has denied the claim. Kramer worked for Ward tracking the activity on a monitoring system installed on the judge’s computer.

T.J. Ward pleaded guilty to two counts of computer trespassing last fall and received a 24-month probation sentence. Frank Karic reached an agreement with prosecutors last week to enter a one-year pre-trial diversion program. With Kramer having accepted a plea bargain, Judge Schrader will proceed to trial alone next week on charges of computer trespassing. Karic and Kramer are expected to testify at the trial, according to John Regan, a prosecutor handling the case for the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia.

The hacking case came to light following Kramer’s unrelated arrest in February 2019, when he was accused of taking a photograph of a child in a Lawrenceville doctor’s office. Investigators searching Kramer’s home computer reportedly found a folder with Judge Schrader’s name on it, and discovered Kramer allegedly had gained the ability to access the computer system for the county’s courthouse. On his home computer they also found controversial images which led to a child porn charge against Kramer, although his attorney argued in a court hearing that the image isn’t pornographic. These other charges are still pending.

[Thanks to Nancy Collins for the story.]

Kramer’s Attorney Argues Image Isn’t Pornographic

Stephen Reba, defense attorney for Dragon Con co-founder Ed Kramer, has moved to have Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter thrown off all cases involving his client.

The October 10 motion filed in Gwinnett Superior Court accuses Porter of prosecutorial misconduct — in part because a recent child porn charge filed against Kramer was based on his possession of a published photograph from a well-known, albeit controversial, artist.

Reba contends DA Poter misled the grand jury about the nature of the photo in order to secure an indictment and prevent Kramer from possibly getting bond in another case. On September 30, two hours after Reba was in court asking for bond to secure Kramer’s release from jail, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation issued a warrant against Kramer on a new felony count of child pornography.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution article “Attorney disputes child porn charge based on artist’s photograph” explains:

…The photo in question is titled “Popsicle Drips, 1985” and comes from a provocative 1992 collection published in the book “Immediate Family”by photographer Sally Mann. It depicts the genitalia of Mann’s young son.

“The claim that the image qualifies as child pornography … cannot be supported under any legal interpretation,” Reba wrote in his motion.

Porter has not yet filed a formal response. But he denied any abuse of power and defended the most recent charge against Kramer, a registered sex offender and longtime legal nemesis who Porter first charged with child molestation in 2000.

Porter said to qualify as child pornography a photograph “has to be of a naked child, a lewd display of a naked child.” He said the fact that Mann’s photo is a published work of art was “not part of the analysis” in bringing charges.

The question of whether the photograph constitutes child porn is ultimately one for a jury, Porter said.

Mann’s photography — a collection of which will be on display at the High Museum in Atlanta starting this weekend — includes hundreds, if not thousands, of images.

“Kramer selected the ones of naked children and put them in his own file,” Porter said.

Reba’s motion argues, “The image is a copyrighted piece of art that has been possessed and displayed by famous museums, universities, public libraries, major retail bookstores, and citizens alike – in fact, Mann’s work is featured in a world-traveling exhibit at the High Museum in less than two weeks. If there is probable cause to arrest and charge Defendant for the possession of this image, so too must there be probable cause to arrest and charge the aforementioned institutions and businesses.”

The latest round in Kramer’s case also has been written up by the Associated Press in a story that ran on the New York Times website.

Porter justified his conduct before the grand just to the Gwinnett Daily Post: “Gwinnett DA Danny Porter refutes claims by DragonCon founder’s attorney of prosecutorial misconduct”.

…“That fact that an image has been published is not in and of itself controlling on whether or not it’s child pornography,”Porter said. “It’s a question for the jury, and we’ll leave that question to the jury when the case goes to trial.”

The prosecutor also denied there was any manipulation of the grand jury. Kramer was already in jail on other charges related to accessing the county’s computer network.

“The whole thing about manipulating a grand jury — we routinely, particularly in a situation where, if we had a preliminary hearing and it’s dismissed, we still could have presented the case to the grand jury,” Porter said. “In this case, with him in custody, there was no reason to have a preliminary hearing and even if this speculation that he was going to succeed was true, we still could have presented the case to the grand jury and he would have been re-arrested.”

Although that indictment is listed as the reason for the motion, there are several other complicated layers of issues looming over this matter. One of them is another indictment, for making false statement, that was handed against Kramer on the same day as the sexual exploitation charge.

Kramer had accused Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Lou Solis of physically assaulting him, but Porter said video evidence contradicted that claim. That led to the false statements charge, which Porter said he did not know about until the Sheriff’s Office sought a warrant for Kramer’s arrest. That is one of the cases Reba is trying to get Porter recused from.

Meanwhile, there have been new developments in the computer hacking case where Kramer is a defendant.

Kramer and his three hacking case co-defendants all entered not guilty pleas at their Oct. 10 arraignment hearing. Kramer, private investigator TJ Ward, Ward’s employee Frank Karic, and Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader have been indicted on three counts of felony computer trespass. GBI investigators allege that Schrader hired Ward to investigate her concerns that DA Danny Porter was trying to hack into her computer. It has yet to be shared why the judge believed that, and Porter has denied the claim. Kramer worked for Ward tracking the activity on a WireShark monitoring system installed on the judge’s computer.

Today, a Georgia state panel officially suspended Judge Schrader. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:

Georgia’s Judicial Qualifications Commission handed down its ruling against Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader on Wednesday, nearly a month after she and three co-defendants were indicted on felony computer trespass charges. Schrader is accused of triggering a strange — and illegal — series of events by hiring a private investigator to look into her fears that someone was trying to access her work computer. 

In its ruling, the JQC’s hearing panel wrote that Schrader’s alleged actions and the subsequent criminal charges had adversely affected her ability to do her job.

“The Panel further finds that Judge Schrader’s personal decision to allow an outside third party to gain access to the County’s network — with its many subsequent repercussions, including the discovery that Judge Schrader’s actions allegedly enabled a convicted child molester to have access to Court data — also adversely affects the administration of that office, as well as the rights and interests of the public,” wrote Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, the presiding officer of the JQC panel.

The next hearing in Kramer’s criminal case is scheduled for Nov. 7.

Pixel Scroll 10/12/19 “Have Fifth, Will Godstalk,” Reads The File Of A Man, A Scroll Without Pixels In A Fannish Land

(1) NYRSF READINGS. The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings presents “An Evening of ‘Reckoning’” — creative writing on environmental justice – on October 14 with guest curator Michael J. DeLuca, featuring Emily Houk, Yukyan Lam, Krista Hoeppner Leahy, Marissa Lingen, Emery Robin, and Brian Francis Slattery. The event begins at 7:00 p.m. at The Brooklyn Commons Café, 388 Atlantic Avenue  (between Hoyt & Bond St.). Full info on Facebook.

Michael J. DeLuca‘s roots are mycorrhizal with sugar maple and Eastern white pine. He’s the publisher of Reckoning, an annual journal of creative writing on environmental justice. His fiction has appeared most recently in Beneath Ceaseless SkiesThree-Lobed Burning EyeStrangelet and Middle Planet

Emily Houk’s short fiction has appeared previously in Conjunctions, and she has just finished her first novel. She is coeditor of Ninepin Press, and she thrives in the shade of the library stacks of Western Massachusetts.

Yukyan Lam is based in New York, NY, and works for a non-profit on environmental health and social justice. Her scientific writing has appeared in various academic journals. She loves reading and writing creative non-fiction and short stories, and currently serves as a prose editor for Typehouse Literary Magazine. Follow her @yukyan_etc

Krista Hoeppner Leahy is a poet, writer, and actor. Her work has appeared in ClarkesworldFarrago’s WainscotLady Churchill’s Rosebud WristletRaritanShimmerTin HouseYear’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy and elsewhere. Born in Colorado, Krista currently resides in Brooklyn with her family.

Marissa Lingen is a freelance writer living in the suburbs of Minneapolis with two large men and one small dog. Mostly she writes speculative fiction. She has a large collection of foliage-themed jewelry.

Emery Robin is an Oakland-born and New York-based writer, previously published on Tor.com and in Spark: A Creative Anthology. When not busy reading, Emery is interested in propaganda, marginalia, and rock ‘n’ roll, and can be found on Twitter @ emwrobin .

Brian Francis Slattery is the arts editor and a reporter for the New Haven Independent. He has written four novels and is currently on the writing team of Bookburners, a serial fiction project. He’s also a musician and for a week out of every year, lives without electricity.

(2) JUNGLE CRUISE. Andrew Petersen, a student I met at Azusa Pacific University’s Yosemite Semester in 2001, achieved his goal of becoming a driver on the Jungle Cruise Ride. If only he hadn’t died last year – he would have gotten a kick out of this movie.  

Inspired by the famous Disneyland theme park ride, Disney’s JUNGLE CRUISE is an adventure-filled, Amazon-jungle expedition starring Dwayne Johnson as the charismatic riverboat captain and Emily Blunt as a determined explorer on a research mission. Also starring in the film are Edgar Ramirez, Jack Whitehall, with Jesse Plemons, and Paul Giamatti. Jaume Collet-Serra is the director and John Davis, John Fox, Dwayne Johnson, Hiram Garcia, Dany Garcia and Beau Flynn are the producers, with Doug Merrifield serving as executive producer. Disney’s JUNGLE CRUISE opens in U.S. theaters on July 24, 2020.

(3) PRINCIPLES OF WARFARE. At The Angry Staff Officer, Matthew Ader exercises 20/20 hindsight in “Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory on Wakanda”.

Captain Roger’s performance at the Battle of Wakanda has been widely and rightly panned. But nothing has been said about the profound failures of his enemy, the Thanosians. Despite every possible advantage in manpower, materiel, and circumstance, they still failed. All students of the military art should examine how they so masterfully snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. 

Terrain Analysis 

The Thanosians had complete freedom in the approach to battle. Nevertheless, they committed two grievous and unforced errors. First, they failed to identify the large energy shield protecting Benin Zana and its immediate environs. This information would have been known with even the most cursory reconnaissance. The mistake cost them at least a battalion worth of troops, when their dropship smashed into it. It is generally agreed that losing a sixth of your force before battle commences is a bad thing. ..

(4) KRAMER PLEADS NOT GUILTY. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports “Judge, others charged in Gwinnett hacking case enter not guilty pleas”.

All four defendants charged in Gwinnett County’s convoluted courthouse hacking saga entered not guilty pleas Thursday afternoon.

Each of the defendants — including sitting Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader and DragonCon co-founder Ed Kramer — were present for a brief arraignment hearing, scattered across the courtroom gallery as attorneys spoke on their behalf. Their not guilty pleas mean the case against them will move forward. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Nov. 7….

(5) IMPERIAL SPONGEBOB. Holly M. Barker’s article for The Contemporary Pacific, “Unsettling SpongeBob and the Legacies of Violence on Bikini Bottom”, asserts the cartoon series normalizes an array or moral and ethical problems. Most of the piece is behind a paywall. Here is the abstract:

Billions of people around the globe are well-acquainted with SpongeBob Squarepants and the antics of the title character and his friends on Bikini Bottom. By the same token, there is an absence of public discourse about the whitewashing of violent American military activities through SpongeBob’s occupation and reclaiming of the bottom of Bikini Atoll’s lagoon. SpongeBob Squarepants and his friends play a role in normalizing the settler colonial takings of Indigenous lands while erasing the ancestral Bikinian people from their nonfictional homeland. This article exposes the complicity of popular culture in maintaining American military hegemonies in Oceania while amplifying the enduring indigeneity (Kauanui 2016) of the Marshallese people, who maintain deeply spiritual and historical connections to land—even land they cannot occupy due to residual radiation contamination from US nuclear weapons testing—through a range of cultural practices, including language, song, and weaving. This article also considers the gendered violence of nuclear colonialism and the resilience of Marshallese women.

Campus Reform’s post “Prof: SpongeBob perpetuates ‘violent, racist’ acts against indigenous people” elaborates on some of the issues, for example:  

… While Barker admits that the show’s creators likely did not have “U.S. colonialism” in mind while developing the cartoon, she calls it “disturbing” that they did not realize that “Bikini Bottom and Bikini Atoll were not theirs for the taking.” Consequently, Barker suggests that “millions of children” have “become acculturated to an ideology that includes the US character SpongeBob residing on another people’s homeland.” 

In this way, colonialism is supposedly “produced, reproduced, and normalized” through the cartoon

As if fictionally “occupying” nonfictional land was not enough, Barker also accuses the cartoon of being biased against women. 

The professor complains that “all of the main characters on the show are male,” except for Sandy Cheeks the squirrel, whom she suggests was only created in order to boost the gender diversity of the show. 

“The name ‘Bob’ represents the everyday man, a common American male, much like a ‘Joe,'” Barker observes, concluding that “our gaze into the world of Bikini Bottom, as well as the surface of Bikini, is thus filtered through the activities of men.”

Barker concludes her article by insisting that even though SpongeBob’s writers likely did not mean “to infuse a children’s show with racist, violent colonial practices,” the show is part of a larger issue, an “insidious practice of disappearing Indigenous communities.”

(6) DANIUS OBIT. Sara Danius has died due to breast cancer. She was the permanent secretary for the Swedish Academy during the MeToo era and who was forced out from it due to her determination to get rid of its toxic patriarchal working culture. She was 57 years old. (Swedish language news article here.)

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 12, 1987 Ultraman: The Adventure Begins. This Japanese animated film stars the English voice lead talents of Adrienne Barbeau and Stacy Keach.  Jr.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 12, 1875 Aleister Crowley. Genre writer? You decide. But I’ve no doubt that he had a great influence upon the genre as I’m betting many of you can note works in which he figures. One of the earliest such cases is Land of Mist, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle which was published in 1926. (Died 1947.)
  • Born October 12, 1903 Josephine Hutchinson. She was Elsa von Frankenstein with Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff in Son of Frankenstein. She was in “I Sing the Body Electric”, The Twilight Zone episode written by Bradbury that he turned into a short story. (Died 1998.)
  • Born October 12, 1904 Lester Dent. Pulp-fiction author who was best known as the creator and main author of the series of novels chronicling Doc Savage. Of the one hundred and eighty-one  Doc Savage novels published by Street and Smith, one hundred and seventy-nine were credited to Kenneth Robeson; and all but twenty were written by Dent. (Died 1959.)
  • Born October 12, 1916 Lock Martin. His claim to fame was that he was one of the tallest humans that ever lived.  At seven feet and seven inches (though this was dispute by some), he was also quite stocky.  He had the distinction of playing Gort in The Day The Earth Stood Still. He was also in The Incredible Shrinking Man as a giant, but his scenes were deleted. And he shows up in Invaders from Mars as the Mutant carrying David to the Intelligence though he goes uncredited in the film. (Died 1959.)
  • Born October 12, 1924 Randy Stuart. She’s best remembered as Louise Carey, the wife of Scott Carey, in The Incredible Shrinking Man. She was also Frances Hiller in “Anniversary of a Murder“ on One Step Beyond which conceived as a companion series to the Twilight Zone. (Died 1996.)
  • Born October 12, 1942 Daliah Lavi. She’s in Casino Royale as The Detainer, a secret agent. In the same year, she was in Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon as Madelaine. She was Purificata in The Demon, an Italian horror film.  If you’re into German popular music, you might recognize her as she was successful there in Seventies and Eighties. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 12, 1943 Linda Shaye, 76. She’s been an actress for over forty years and has appeared in over ninety films, mostly horror. Among them is A Nightmare on Elm StreetCritters, Insidious, Dead End2001 Maniacs and its sequel 2001 Maniacs: Field of ScreamsJekyll and Hyde… Together AgainAmityville: A New GenerationOuija, and its prequel Ouija: Origin of Evil. She even appeared in The Running Man as a Propaganda Officer
  • Born October 12, 1965 Dan Abnett, 54. His earlier work was actually on Doctor Who Magazine,  but I’ll single out his co-writing Guardians of the Galaxy #1–6 with Andy Lanning, The Authority: Rule Britannia and his Border Princes novel he did in the Torchwood universe as great looks at him as a writer. 
  • Born October 12, 1968 Hugh Jackman, 51. Obviously Wolverine in the Marvel film franchise. He’s also been the lead character in Van Helsing as well as voicing him in the animated prequel Van Helsing: The London Assignment. One of his most charming roles was voicing The Easter Bunny in The Rise of The Guardians. And he played Robert Angier in The Prestige based off the novel written by the real Christopher Priest.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Rich Horton says about today’s Dilbert: “I don’t know if Scott Adams nicked this idea from Fred Pohl or Greg Egan or someone else, but I think of Daniel Galouye’s Simulacron-3 (filmed as The Thirteenth Floor).”

(10) THE ANSWER IS. Heather Rose Jones replies to the latest question on the Alpennia FAQ: “Are the Alpennia books historical?”

The setting deviates from real-world history in two major ways. Magic exists. And the country of Alpennia does not correspond to any real-world place or nation…. [More at the link.]

(11) WITH RESERVATIONS. CNET: “Addams Family fans can book ‘creepy, kooky’ night in replica mansion”. The “mansion” is in Brooklyn. Tagline: “Booking.com is offering a scary stay. Get a witch’s shawl on and a broomstick you can crawl on.”

…The exterior of Booking.com‘s Addams Family mansion doesn’t look spooky, but the inside makes up for it.

The [3700 square foot] mansion rents for just $101.10 per night, but not everyone interested will get in. [It will be available for only four one-night bookings starting the 29th of this month.] Mark your calendars now if you want to try to be one of the lucky ones. Bookings open on Oct. 28 at 9 a.m. PT, and they’ll probably disappear as fast as you can snap your fingers.

(12) KINGS AND MONSTERS. LitHub learns from Joe Hill, “When Stephen King is Your Father, the World is Full of Monsters”.

We had a new monster every night.

I had this book I loved, Bring on the Bad Guys. It was a big, chunky paperback collection of comic-book stories, and as you might guess from the title, it wasn’t much concerned with heroes. It was instead an anthology of tales about the worst of the worst, vile psychopaths with names like The Abomination and faces to match.

My dad had to read that book to me every night. He didn’t have a choice. It was one of these Scheherazade-type deals. If he didn’t read to me, I wouldn’t stay in bed. I’d slip out from under my Empire Strikes Back quilt and roam the house in my Spider-Man Underoos, soggy thumb in my mouth and my filthy comfort blanket tossed over one shoulder. I could roam all night if the mood took me. My father had to keep reading until my eyes were barely open, and even then, he could only escape by saying he was going to step out for a smoke and he’d be right back.

(13) THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW. Behind a paywall at The Wall Street Journal: “Streaming Is Killing Physical Media. Here’s Why You Won’t Miss It “. Tagline: “With Samsung’s decision to stop making Blu-ray players, now even discs are going extinct. One writer reminisces about all we’ll lose. Another looks forward to an all-digital future.”

(14) FUTURIUM. Aa “house of futures” museum opened in Berlin last month called the Futurium, and their website is futurium.de. The home site is in German, however, they also offer an English language version.

Futurium celebrated its opening on 05 September 2019. Since then, the interest in the house of futures has exceeded all expectations. In the first month, 100,000 visitors already came to Futurium and devoted themselves to the question: How do we want to live?

(15) NOSFERATU. [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] Every generation has its incarnation of the vampire mythos – Dark Shadows, Twilight, True Blood, and more. But it all cinematically began with F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent movie masterpiece Nosferatu. Ninety-four years after its inception, North Hollywood’s Crown City Theater Company unleashed an astonishing live stage presentation entitled Nosferatu: A Symphony in Terror. In Nosferatu”, film historian Steve Vertlieb takes us aboard a dark yet wonderful cinematic time machine, delving into the creation of Murnau’s seminal horror film, examining it’s influence on generations (from Lugosi and Lee, to Salem’s Lot, Harry Potter and more), then reviews the startling stage presentation from a few years ago.

 (16) ONE LESS BRICK IN THE WALL. CNN says “You can feel good about ditching your LEGO bricks thanks to this new program”.

…Gather the LEGO bricks, sets or elements that you want to part with; put them in a cardboard box; and print out a free shipping label from the LEGO Replay website. At the Give Back Box facility, they’ll be sorted, inspected and cleaned.

“We know people don’t throw away their LEGO bricks,” Tim Brooks, vice president of environmental responsibility at the LEGO Group, said in a Tuesday news release. “The vast majority hand them down to their children or grandchildren. But others have asked us for a safe way to dispose of or to donate their bricks. With Replay, they have an easy option that’s both sustainable and socially impactful.”

(17) MUSHROOM MANAGEMENT. Car ownership and use are dropping, so they’re “Turning Paris’s underground car parks into mushrooms farms” – the BBC has video.

What do you do with an old car park that no-one wants to park in? Why not use them to grow mushrooms – or even salad?

Paris built too many underground car parks in the 1960s and 70s. Falling car ownership means many are standing empty, or finding new and surprising uses.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Lauren Gunderson Is Taking On J.M. Barrie” on YouTube, Lauren Gunderson discusses her adaptation of Peter Pan, which will be produced by the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington in December.

[Thanks to Nancy Collins, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Karl-Johan Norén, Steve Vertlieb, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anne Sheller.]

New Child Porn Charge
Against Ed Kramer

On September 30, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation issued a warrant against Ed Kramer on a new felony count of child pornography.

Only two hours before, reports WSB-TV, Kramer and his attorney had been in court trying to get bond on another case, “insisting he had just been sitting at home, obeying the law.”

With an oxygen tank attached to his wheelchair, Kramer described to a judge his urgent need for getting out of jail for an upcoming spine surgery.

“We will be here, we will be at every court appearance. He is not going to reoffend,” defense attorney Stephen Reba said.

But just after Kramer’s lawyer offered that promise, prosecutors dropped a new charge — more child pornography.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution details the new find in “Hacking probe leads to new child porn charges for DragonCon co-founder”:

…Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said about five pornographic images were discovered among the mountains of computer data GBI officials are pulling from Kramer’s computer in connection with the ongoing hacking case, which has also ensnared a private investigator and a sitting Superior Court judge.

The GBI took out a new warrant Monday afternoon charging Kramer — whose long, complicated legal history includes a 2013 child molestation plea — with a single count of possession of child pornography. The warrant describes one image in detail and said “additional digital image files were found of child sexual exploitation.”

The judge did not rule on the bond motion during Monday’s hearing.

Kramer and his three hacking case co-defendants are scheduled for arraignment in that case on October 10.

Two weeks ago, Kramer, private investigator TJ Ward, Ward’s employee Frank Karic, and Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader were all indicted on three counts of felony computer trespass. GBI investigators allege that Schrader hired Ward to investigate her concerns that DA Danny Porter was trying to hack into her computer. It has yet to be shared why the judge believed that, and Porter has denied the claim. Kramer worked for Ward tracking the activity on a WireShark monitoring system installed on the judge’s computer.

The AJC story continues:

Indictments accuse the quartet of using that access to interfere with, remove data from and otherwise “alter” Gwinnett County’s computer network.

Ward, Karic and Schrader have all bonded out of the Gwinnett County jail since their arrest.

Kramer had remained incarcerated — even before the child porn charge was filed.

The hacking case came to light when authorities seized Kramer’s home computers following a Feb. 26 arrest for allegedly taking a photo of a young boy at a Lawrenceville doctor’s office. Following that arrest, Kramer was let out of jail and placed under house arrest at his Duluth home, where he wore an ankle monitor and had no internet access.

[Thanks to Nancy Collins for the story.]

Ed Kramer Indicted in Hacking Case

A Gwinnett County (GA) jury has indicted Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader, and three men — private investigator T.J. Ward, former Forsyth County sheriff’s detective Frank Karic, and Dragon Con co-founder Ed Kramer — on three counts of computer trespass reports the Gwinnett Daily Post (“Gwinnett Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader, three others indicted for computer trespassing”.)

The indictments handed down Wednesday said Schrader and her three co-defendants “knowingly use[d] a computer network without authority and with the intent to interfere with the use of the Gwinnett County Justice Center computer network” without authority and “with the intent to alter the computer network” in violation of Georgia’s computer trespass statute. Each felony count carries a maximum of 15 years in prison.

Kramer was denied bond and remains in jail. Judge Schrader was released without having to pay bond after turning herself in. Ward and Karic’s bonds have been set at $25,000.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution story, “Gwinnett judge, DragonCon co-founder indicted in hacking case”,

The case is being handled by the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia because Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter is considered a witness in this case. He had previously turned the investigation over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for the same reason.

Porter has said the judge claimed that he hacked her computer. Porter has vehemently denied having tried to access Schrader’s computer and said in an April hearing that her accusation raises questions about her ability to be impartial at the bench.

Court documents allege Schrader hired a private investigator in February because she suspected someone was trying to remotely access her county-issued computer outside of business hours. The investigator, T.J. Ward, hired Ed Kramer to monitor activity on Schrader’s computer.

Kramer, who hasn’t been involved with DragonCon for years, had previously worked for Ward as a computer forensic analyst. A “WireShark” monitoring device was placed on Schrader’s computer, which allowed Kramer to monitor it for any suspicious activity.

Investigators first discovered Kramer was working with Schrader after Kramer’s February arrest on unrelated charges. Kramer allegedly took a photo of a child at a doctor’s office, which is illegal because he is a registered sex offender. It also violated his probation related to a 2013 child molestation conviction. When police searched Kramer’s computer, officers found a file with Schrader’s name on it.

Judge Schrader has been recused from criminal cases since April, as DA Porter’s office handles those prosecutions, but she continued to oversee civil cases. The state Judicial Qualifications Commission will determine if she is allowed to stay on the bench while her own criminal case proceeds.

[Thanks to Nancy Collins and Ray Radlein for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 9/2/19 File Me A Scroll, You’re The Pixel Man

(1) ASTOUNDING AWARD. CoNZealand will use the new name immediately. (At least one very well-known business meeting regular has been trying behind the scenes to convince other conrunners they don’t have the authority to make the change, and failed.)

And now the change has been covered by the New York Times. “John W. Campbell Award Is Renamed After Winner Criticizes Him”

Ng, who wrote the fantasy novel “Under the Pendulum Sun,” said in an interview on Wednesday that she was delighted by the decision. “It’s a good move away from honoring a completely obnoxious man who kept a lot of people out of the genre, who kept a lot of people from writing, who shaped the genre to his own image.” Thanks to the change, she added, “we’re now celebrating a little more neutrally a piece of history that’s not attached to his name.”

(2) CONGRATULATIONS! Andrew Liptak’s book column has a new home: Polygon“13 New science fiction and fantasy books to check out this September”. The September 3rd entry is —

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

Becky Chambers just earned a Hugo Award for her blisteringly optimistic Wayfarers trilogy, and coming off that win, she’s shifting gears with a new, standalone novella, To Be Taught, If Fortunate. In the 22nd century, scientists make a big breakthrough that will help astronauts adapt to the harsh realities of space, opening up distant destinations in the cosmos to human explorers.

One team of astronauts ventures out to a solar system 15 light years away, and as they transform and adapt to their new home, so too is Earth. Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that “Chambers packs an immense amount of story into a novella worthy of full-length praise.”

(3) WORLDCON TAKEAWAYS. Eric Wong and Greg Hullender cover their Ireland tour and Dublin 2019 in “Dublin 2019 Recap “. Says Greg, “Yeah, it had a few issues, but we had fun.”

New Fanzines

Greg was on the “Fanzines Now!” panel, and that was the only panel we participated in this year. This panel was a discussion about the state of fanzines today. We had a good mix of people doing online fanzines (Rocket Stack Rank, Journey Planet, and Nerds of a Feather Flock Together) as well as Joe Siclari, who runs the Fanac History Project.

As usual for fanzine panels, the audience included lots of people involved with the traditional paper-based fanzines. Somewhat to our surprise, they were broadly supportive of modern online efforts. Joe remarked at one point that he had thought he’d be the conservative one on the panel, but he found himself standing up for the idea that “a blog is a fanzine, even if it only has one contributor, and even if no one ever comments on it.”

(4) CLASSIC EDITIONS. Steven H Silver profiles a small press publisher at Black Gate: “The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Donald M. Grant”.

In 1979, the year before he was awarded the World Fantasy Professional Award, DMG published Acts of Providence, The Road of Azrael, Lack Colossus, The Black Wolf, Tales of the Werewolf Clan, Jewels of Gwahlur, Lovecraft’s Providence and Adjacent Parts, Mayhem on Bear Creek, and Hawks of Outremer.

The year after Grant won the award, Stephen King approached him with the rights to publish the first edition of any and all books in the Dark Tower series. King didn’t believe they would have a wide appeal among his general audience.

(5) TIPTREE DISCUSSION. Geoff Ryman’s thoughts about the call to rename the award (which the Motherboard today declined to do) is here on Facebook and attracted comments from writers including David Gerrold, Nisi Shawl and Eileen Gunn.

(6) MONGOLIAN HANDMAID. Ferret Bueller checks in from a Mongolian bookstore once again. (Eat your heart out Locus!)

I don’t think I’ve had free time to visit File770 more than three times the past several months, but I saw the newest Mongolian SFF translation at the bookstore near my office today and immediately thought I’d pass on a picture if anyone was interested?. First is the full view and then the picture cropped to give a good look at the book at the top left, Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale (the translation of the title is exact). It’s next to Michelle Obama’s Becoming and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in a Time of Cholera (though that title is rendered in Mongolian as Love in a Time of Plague), both of which were released about a month or two ago, maybe longer.

(7) DICKS OBIT. Perhaps the most prolific contributor to Doctor Who, Terence Dicks (1935-2019) died August 29. Working as a writer and also serving as the program’s script editor from 1968 to 1974, he was credited in 156 episodes of Doctor Who. He wrote several Doctor Who serials and scores of novelizations. His final short story Save Yourself will be published next month in BBC Books’ Doctor Who: The Target Storybook. He wrote for TV’s The Avengers, the soap opera Crossroads, and co-created and wrote for the series Moonbase 3. He also worked as a producer on Sunday Classics. He authored several children’s series, including about a cat call Magnificent Max and, his longest running, another about a golden retriever The Adventures of Goliath. He received the 2015 Scribe Grandmaster career award for tie-in works.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 2, 1899 Martin Miller. He’s in Doctor Who with the First Doctor as Kublai Khan in “Mighty Kublai Khan” and “Assassin at Peking”. He’s Professor Spencer in The Avengers in “The Master Minds” and he shows up in The Prisoner as Number Fifty Four in “It’s Your Funeral”.  He also showed up as Dutrov in Department S in the series finale, “The Perfect Operation”. (Died 1969)
  • Born September 2, 1909 David Stern III. Creator of the Francis the Talking Mule character that became the star of seven popular Universal-International film comedies. Stern adapting his own script for the first entry, simply titled Francis. (Died 2003.)
  • Born September 2, 1911 Eileen  Way. She appeared on Doctor Who in An Unearthly Child, a First Doctor story, as Old Mother Karela  the series first on-screen death,  and in The Creature from the Pit, a Fourth Doctor story, as Karela. She would appear yet again in the 1966 Peter Cushing film Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (as Old Woman), based on the serial The Dalek Invasion of Earth. (Died 1994.)
  • Born September 2, 1936 Gwyn Thomas. Welsh poet and academic who translated Tales from the Mabinogion with Kevin Crossley-Holland. “Chwedl Taliesin”, “The Tale of Taliesin” was a short story by them as well. By the way my SJW credit is named Taliesin. And he tells a lots of tales. (Died 2016.)
  • Born September 2, 1964 Keanu Reeves, 55. Ok Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a lot better film than its sequel. And I find the Matrix franchiseto be a pretentious mess that almost works. And let’s not talk about Johnny Mnemonic which bore little resemblance to the brilliant Gibson story.
  • Born September 2, 1966 Salma Hayek, 53. Her performance as Santanico Pandemonium in From Dusk till Dawn is quite excellent. I can’t say the same for her performance as Rita Escobar in Wild Wild Wild West which got her nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress.  I do like her as Francesca Giggles in Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over
  • Born September 2, 1968 Kristen Cloke, 51. Captain Shane Vansen in the unfortunately short-lived Space: Above and Beyond, a damn fine series. She has one-offs in Quantum LeapThe X-FilesMillennium and The  Others. She co-wrote with Shannon Hamblin an episode of The X-Files, “Rm9sbG93ZXJz” which is base64 code for “Followers”. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) NO JOKE. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber reports on Joker from the Venice Film Festival.

Joaquin Phoenix stars as Batman’s arch-nemesis in a new origin-story movie. But is this dark, dingy drama any better than any of the other supervillain films?

Now that Hollywood studios are running out of superheroes to make films about, they’re turning to supervillains instead, starting with Suicide Squad and Venom, and moving onto Batman’s smiley-faced arch enemy, the Joker. Todd Phillips’ revisionist origin story is different from those other entries in the bad-guy sub-genre, though. Devoid of fist fights and bank robberies, Batcaves and Batmobiles, Joker is a dark, dingy drama about urban decay, alienation, and anti-capitalist protests, with a distinctive retro vision and a riveting central performance by Joaquin Phoenix. Whether these differences make it much better than other supervillain movies, however, is open to question.

The film doesn’t specify when it is set, but its Gotham City is modelled on the graffiti-sprayed, litter-strewn pre-gentrification New York of Taxi Driver and Midnight Cowboy. This is the home of Arthur Fleck, played by Phoenix as a greasy, disturbingly emaciated figure with ribs and vertebrae poking out at all angles. No male actor has been this skinny since Christian Bale – yes, Batman himself – starved himself to stick-insect proportions for The Machinist.

…The film traces his gradual uncovering of family secrets, and his slow descent into homicidal mania – and I do mean slow. Joker doesn’t have much of a plot, let alone any subplots, so there are only a couple of major sequences that haven’t already been in the trailers. Phoenix is a magnificent presence – always believable, how outrageous he becomes – and I was quite happy to sit and watch him skipping around in his outsized shoes and striking balletic poses on beautifully grimy staircases. But, however unusual its grungy 70s styling may be, Joker is ultimately nothing but a flimsy, two-hour supervillain origin movie, so the viewer is just waiting for Arthur to become the fully-fledged Clown Prince of Crime. If it had been chopped down to an hour and then intercut with a Batman plot, what a film that might have been.

(11) OTHER ASSESSMENTS. BBC does a roundup — “Joker film: ‘daring’ yet ‘pernicious’ origin story divides critics”.

A new film exploring the origins of DC comic book villain The Joker has left many critics grinning from ear to ear – but not all of them are amused.

The Guardian called Joker “gloriously daring”, while Total Film said it was “challenging [and] subversive”.

Joaquin Phoenix’s lead performance has been variously described as “fearsome”, “astonishing” and “mesmerising”.

According to another reviewer, though, the film is guilty of “aggressive and possibly irresponsible idiocy”.

Director Todd Phillips, writes Time magazine’s Stephanie Zacharek, “may want us to think he’s giving us a movie all about the emptiness of our culture”.

“But really,” she continues, “he’s just offering a prime example of it”.

(12) TIME PASSAGES. Campbell told a friend how he became editor of Astounding in 1937 in a letter that has been preserved. First Fandom Experience recently posted a scan of the letter with detailed commentary: “A Remarkable Letter — John W. Campbell’s 1937 Job Search”.

In May 1937, John W. Campbell, Jr. was looking for work. He was in good company — the unemployment rate in the United States was fluctuating around 15%, reflecting the lingering economic malaise of the Great Depression. Despite his degree in Physics and some success as a writer of science fiction stories, Campbell hadn’t found a steady gig.

This was to change in the Fall of that year when Campbell was hired as the Editor of Astounding Stories, where he reigned until his death in 1971….

The bottom of this page begins a critical passage that relates Campbell’s relationship with Mort Weisinger, a former editor of Science Fiction Digest / Fantasy Manazine, the most prominent fanzine of the mid-1930s. At the time of this letter, Weisinger had crossed into the professional ranks as Editor of Thrilling Wonder Stories.

This page essentially says that Weisinger taught Campbell how to be an editor, and wrote a letter of recommendation for him in that vein. It seems likely that both the advice and the reference played key roles in Campbell acquiring his job at Astounding. This is a tremendous testament to the role that prominent fans played in establishing science fiction as an industry during this period.

(13) ETERNAL LIFE. Gizmodo invites experts to address the question, “What’s My Best Chance of Living Forever?

               What do hideous mall t-shirts, emo bands from the mid-aughts, and gorgeously-wrought realist novels about dissolving marriages have in common? Simply this assertion: Life Sucks. And it does suck, undoubtedly, even for the happiest and/or richest among us, not one of whom is immune from heartbreak, hemorrhoids, or getting mercilessly ridiculed online.

               Still, at certain points in life’s parade of humiliation and physical decay almost all of us feel a longing—sometimes fleeting, sometimes sustained—for it to never actually end. The live-forever impulse is, we know, driving all manner of frantic, crackpot-ish behavior in the fringier corners of the tech-world; but will the nerds really pull through for us on this one? What are our actual chances, at this moment in time, of living forever? For this week’s Giz Asks, we spoke with a number of experts to find out.

Answers are essayed by Alice Parker (“Dean’s Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Southern California, whose research focuses on reverse-engineering the human brain, among other things”), Lindsay Wu (“Senior Research Fellow and Co-Head of the Laboratory for Ageing Research at the University of New South Wales, Sydney”), David Sinclair (“Professor of Genetics and co-Director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging at Harvard Medical School, whose research focuses on why we age and how to slow its effects”), and Mark McCormick (“Assistant Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center”).

(14) LOTS OF FACTS. Snopes.com has run an AP service news story profiling the “Strange Twists” in the Ed Kramer story. Snopes?“Possibly worth linking in Pixel Scroll is Snopes.com survey of the “Strange Twists” in the Ed Kramer story:”.

In the nearly two decades since a co-founder of Dragon Con was accused of molesting teenage boys, a strange legal odyssey has unfolded, including a proposed move to Israel, a trial delay because of a presidential election and an extradition by air ambulance.

Now, Ed Kramer faces new charges that could send him to prison for the rest of his life.

(15) B.O. The movie is only 13th on the domestic record chart but is now #7 worldwideL “The Lion King Topples Marvel’s The Avengers on All-Time Box Office Chart”.

As one Disney movie continues succeeding at the box office, another falls another spot down on the all-time charts. Thanks to another steady weekend at the box office, The Lion King hyper-realistic reimagining has passed Joss Whedon’s fan-favorite The Avengers on the worldwide all-time box office chart. The Lion King is now seventh on the chart with $1.56 billion while the Marvel Studios hit drops to eighth with $1.52b.

It appears that’s the highest Jon Favreau’s remake will go on the worldwide charts as Jurassic World is sixth with a hefty $1.67b.

(16) THAT’S A WRAP. BBC is there when “‘Mission Jurassic’ fossil dinosaur dig closes for winter”.

Three full truck loads of dinosaur fossils were shipped out of the “Mission Jurassic” dig site in North Wyoming as scientists brought the 80-day excavation season to an end.

The specimens included skeletal parts from giant herbivorous sauropods and meat-eating theropods.

The fossils will now be cleaned to see precisely which species they represent.

Mission Jurassic is a major undertaking involving researchers from the US, the UK and the Netherlands.

It is led by The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (TCMI) which has taken out a 20-year lease on a square mile (260 hectares) of ranch land.

The BBC was given special access to the site in July.

The fossil beds exposed at the secret location in the Big Horn Basin record dinosaur activity around 150 million years ago – and the summer’s work confirms the site is particularly rich.

One three-tonne block of rock lifted on the final day last week was embedded with multiple remains all stacked one on top of the other.

“Overall we must have moved something like 500-600 bones; it’s just a huge amount of material we’ve been able to shift in one year,” said Prof Phil Manning, a University of Manchester palaeontologist and TCMI scientist in residence.

(17) IRON MAN BRANCHES OUT. Marvel killed off the character, but remember actors, there’s always good work at the post office. “British inventor flies letter to Isle of Wight”. [Video.]

A British inventor has taken up the challenge to deliver a letter across open water through donning a jet engine-powered suit, 85 years after the idea of rocket post failed.

Richard Browning has followed in the footsteps of German entrepreneur Gerhard Zucker, who tried to send mail by rocket to the Isle of Wight, in 1934.

The distance from Hurst Castle in Lymington to Fort Albert in Freshwater is 1.3 km, and is the furthest Richard has ever flown.

(18) MEANWHILE, IN THE REAL WORLD. BBC reminds everyone about “The ‘ghost work’ powering tech magic”. Chip Hitchcock notes, “It’s ironic that Amazon’s collaborative tool is named Mechanical Turk, considering the fraud behind the original.”

Armies of workers help power the technological wizardry that is reshaping our lives – but they are invisible and their jobs are precarious.

Next time you ask Alexa a question, your voice might fly halfway round the world to Chennai, India, where human workers toil away to fine tune her artificial intelligence- (AI-) powered responses.

In nine-hour shifts workers transcribe audio, classify words and phrases into categories, and evaluate responses from Amazon’s digital assistant. It’s one of many Amazon centres around the world where “data associates” prepare millions of chunks of data to train Alexa’s AI.

The work can be relentless, says a former employee. He was crunching roughly 700 Alexa questions a day with strict benchmarks for how long each should take. Workers’ performance figures were circulated daily and targets crept up over the time he spent there. The work was monotonous, but the volume and pace were mentally exhausting, and he eventually quit.

“It’s not possible to work like a machine every day,” he says. “The system is built in such a way that every time you have to give 100%. From the point of a human, it’s not possible.”

To users, digital assistants, search engines, social media and streaming services seem like software wizardry, but their smooth running relies on armies of humans whose contribution often goes unrecognised.

(19) WIKIPEDIA TODAY. When he saw the Wikipedia had selected “the Nebula Award for Best Short story” for on Today’s Featured Article, John King Tarpinian snapped his screen. So to speak.

(20) NEWS TO ME. Io9’s 2014 article tells you about “31 Essential Science Fiction Terms And Where They Came From”

There are so many words and phrases that we use in science fiction—and even science—without giving it much thought. But where did we get terms like “death ray,” “terraforming,” “hive mind,” “telepathy,” and “parallel universe”?

…Key sources for this post include Jeff Prucher’s wonderful Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Egg” on YouTube is an animated adaptation of a short story by Andy Weir about the meaning of life

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Rich Horton, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Darrah Chavey, Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Contrarius.]