Pixel Scroll 3/7/21 You’ve Got Tribbles! Right Here In Riverworld City!

(1) WHEN WILL YOU MAKE AN END? Unlike other recent kerfuffles, John Scalzi has a good deal to say about the copyright controversy in “Two Tweet Threads About Copyright” at Whatever.

Background: Writer Matthew Yglesias, who should have known better but I guess needed the clicks, offered up the opinion that the term of copyright should be shortened to 30 years (currently in the US it’s Life+70 years). This naturally outraged other writers, because copyrights let them make money. This caused a writer by the name of Tim Lee to wonder why people were annoyed by Yglesias’ thought exercise, since he thought 30 years was more than enough time for people to benefit from their books (NB: Lee has not written a book himself), and anyway, as he said in a follow up tweet: “Nobody writes a book so that the royalties will support them in retirement decades later. They’re mostly thinking about the money they’ll make in the next few years.”

This is where I come in….

6. The moral/ethical case is ironically the easiest to make: think of the public good! And indeed the public domain is a vital good, which should be celebrated and protected — no copyright should run forever. It should be tied to the benefit of the creator, then to the public.

7. Where you run into trouble is arguing to a creator that *their* copyright should be *less* than the term of their life (plus a little bit for family). It’s difficult enough to make money as a creator; arguing that tap should be stoppered in old age, is, well. *Unconvincing.*

8. Likewise, limiting that term limits a creator’s ability to earn from their work in less effable ways. If there’s a 30-year term of copyright and my work is at year 25, selling a movie/tv option is likely harder, not only because production takes a long time (trust me)…

9. …but also because after a certain point, it would make sense to just wait out the copyright and exclude the originator entirely. A too-short copyright term has an even *shorter* economic shelf-life than the term, basically. Why on earth would creators agree to that?

The comments at Whatever include this one by Kurt Busiek distinguishing patent and copyright protections:

“I’m not sure I understand why copyright and patent terms are such different lengths. My father is an electronic engineer who designed an extremely successful glassbreak sensor (e.g. for home security systems). Guess how long a patent term is at max? Twenty years from date of filing. It’s a far cry from 120 years or life+70 for copyright.”

Because patents and copyrights cover different kinds of things.

On the one hand, patents are often more crucial — if we had to wait 120 years for penicillin to go into the public domain, that hampers researchers and harms the public much more than if we had to wait that long for James Bond. The public domain needs that stuff sooner.
If you patent a process that allows solar radiation to be collected and stored by a chip, then anyone who wants to do that has to license the process from you, even if they came up with it independently. You’ve got a monopoly on the whole thing.

But if you write a book about hobbits on a quest to dunk some dangerous mystic bling in lava, well, people can’t reprint your book or make a movie out of it without securing permission. But they can still write a book about halflings out to feed some dangerous mystic bling to the ice gnoles — what’s protected by copyright is that particular story, not the underlying plot structure. Tolkien gets a monopoly on his particular specific expression of those ideas, not on piece of science that can be used a zillion different ways.

I’m sure there are other reasons, but those two illustrate the basic idea, I hope.

(2) RIGHTS MAKE MIGHT. Elizabeth Bear’s contribution to the dialog about copyrights is pointing her Throwanotherbearinthecanoe newsletter audience at three installments of NPR’s Planet Money podcast that follows the process of gaining rights to a superhero. At the link you can hear the audio or read a transcript.

Here’s an excerpt from the third podcast:

…SMITH: The daughter of the original artist who created Micro-Face, Al Ulmer. Maybe we should have our lawyers here just in case it gets a little litigious. After the break.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MALONE: You want to start by just telling us your name and who you are?

LOUCKS: Hi. Yes. I’m Peggy Loucks (ph), and I’m 83 years old. And I’m a retired librarian. And I’m the daughter of Allen Ulmer – U-L-M-E-R.

SMITH: When we found out that Al Ulmer’s daughter, Peggy, was still alive, I was thinking, yes. I have so many questions for her.

MALONE: I, on the other hand, was nervous because, look; we don’t need Peggy’s permission to do anything with her father’s character, Micro-Face, since he is in the public domain. But like, look; if she hates this project, I mean…

SMITH: Yeah, it would be a jerk move to be like, tough luck, lady; we’re taking your father’s idea and completely changing it and making a fortune off of it. So we started off with some easy questions for Peggy.

MALONE: Do you know what he thought about drawing superheroes? Did he enjoy doing superheroes in particular, creating them?

LOUCKS: Oh, yes. You know, the – especially some of these characters, they were always in tights with capes and, you know, some kind of headgear or masks.

SMITH: So what was your father like as a person?

LOUCKS: You know, he would’ve been really someone you would like to have known and been in their company. You know, he was a gourmet cook. His beef Wellington was to die for. We always waited for that….

(3) STAY TUNED TO THIS STATION. Amazon dropped a trailer for The Underground Railroad, based on Colson Whitehead’s alternate history novel. All episodes begin streaming on Amazon Prime Video on May 14.

From Academy Award® winner Barry Jenkins and based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Colson Whitehead, “The Underground Railroad” chronicles Cora Randall’s desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. After escaping a Georgia plantation for the rumored Underground Railroad, Cora discovers no mere metaphor, but an actual railroad beneath the Southern soil.

(4) AURORA AWARDS. The Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association has announced an updated Aurora Awards calendar.

Nominations will now open on March 27th, 2021. Nominations will now close on April 24th, 2021. The ballot will now be announced on May 8th, 2021.

The Voter’s Package will now be available on May 29th, 2021.

After that date, the calendar will be back on track.

Voting will open July 31st, 2021. Voting will close September 4th, 2021.

The Aurora Awards will be announced at Can*Con in Ottawa, held October 16-18. 

(5) PAYING IT FORWARD. In this video Cat Rambo reads aloud her contribution to the collection Pocket Workshop: Essays on Living as a Writer.

One of the great traditions in fantasy and science fiction writing is that of the mentor/mentee relationship. We’re told of many of the earlier writers mentoring newer ones offering advice passing along opportunities and sometimes collaborating…

(6) IT GETS VERSE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In Isaac Asimov’s autobiography In Joy Still Felt, he reprints part of a poem called “Rejection Slips” where he discusses being rejected by Galaxy editor H.L. Gold.

Dear Ike, I was prepared
(And boy, I really cared)
To swallow almost everything you wrote.
But Ike, you’re just plain shot,
Your writing’s gone to pot,
There’s nothing left but hack and mental bloat.
Take past this piece of junk,
It smelled; it reeked, it stunk;
Just glancing through it once was deadly rough.
But Ike, boy, by and by,
Just try another try
I need some yarns and kid, I love your stuff.

(7) BURIED IN CASH. “How Dr. Seuss became the second highest-paid dead celebrity” at the Boston Globe – where you may run into a paywall, which somehow seems appropriate.

…In fact, according to Forbes.com’s annual inventory of the highest-paid dead celebrities, the guy who grew up Theodor Geisel in Springfield ranks No. 2 — behind only Michael Jackson — with earnings last year of $33 million. In other words, the Vipper of Vipp, Flummox, and Fox in Sox generated more dough in 2020 than the songs of Elvis Presley or Prince, or the panels of “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz.

And Dr. Seuss stands to make even more money now. That’s because the announcement that six of his 60 or so books will no longer be published has sent people scurrying to buy his back catalog. On Thursday, nine of the top 10 spots on Amazon’s best-sellers list were occupied by Dr. Seuss, including classics “The Cat in the Hat,” “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” and “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

A fortune’s a fortune, no matter how small, but $33 million is a mountain that’s tall. So how does Dr. Seuss continue to accumulate such wealth? It turns out Geisel, who died in 1991 at the age of 87, doesn’t deserve the credit. His wife does. Two years after the author died, Seuss’s spouse, Audrey Geisel, founded Dr. Seuss Enterprises to handle licensing and film deals for her husband’s work….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 7, 1980 — On this day in 1980, the Brave New World film premiered on NBC. (It would show on BBC as well.) It was adapted from the novel by Aldous Huxley by Robert E. Thompson and Doran William Cannon, and was directed by Burt Brinckerhoff. It starred Kristoffer Tabori, Julie Cobb and Budd Cort. It has a forty-six percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 7, 1944 Stanley Schmidt, 77. Between 1978 and 2012 he served as editor of Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine, an amazing feat by any standard! He was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor every year from 1980 through 2006 (its final year), and for the Hugo Award for Best Editor Short Form every year from 2007 (its first year) through 2013 with him winning in 2013.  He’s also an accomplished author. (CE) 
  • Born March 7, 1945 Elizabeth Moon, 76. I’ll let JJ have the say on her: “I’ve got all of the Serrano books waiting for when I’m ready to read them.   But I have read all of the Kylara Vatta books — the first quintology which are Vatta’s War, and the two that have been published so far in Vatta’s Peace. I absolutely loved them — enough that I might be willing to break my ‘no re-reads’ rule to do the first 5 again at some point. Vatta is a competent but flawed character, with smarts and courage and integrity, and Moon has built a large, complex universe to hold her adventures. The stories also feature a secondary character who is an older woman; age-wise she is ‘elderly,’ but in terms of intelligence and capability, she is extremely smart and competent — and such characters are pretty rare in science fiction, and much to be appreciated.” (CE)
  • Born March 7, 1959 Nick Searcy, 62. He was Nathan Ramsey in Seven Days which I personally think is the best damn time travel series ever done. And he was in 11.22.63 as Deke Simmons, based off the Stephen King novel. He was in Intelligence, a show I never knew existed, for one episode as General Greg Carter, and in The Shape of Water film, he played yet another General, this one named Frank Hoyt. And finally, I’d be remiss to overlook his run in horror as he was in American Gothic as Deputy Ben Healy. (CE)
  • Born March 7, 1966 Jonathan Del Arco, 55. He played Hugh the Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation and in Star Trek: Picard. That is way cool. He also showed up as on Star Trek: Voyager as Fantôme in “The Void” episode. (CE)
  • Born March 7, 1970 Rachel Weisz, 51. Though better known for The Mummy films which I really, really love (well the first two with her), her first genre film was Death Machine, a British-Japanese cyberpunk horror film which score a rather well fifty one percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. I’ve also got her in Chain Reaction and The Lobster. (CE) 
  • Born March 7, 1974 Tobias Menzies, 47. First off is he’s got Doctor Who creds by being Lieutenant Stepashin in the Eleventh Doctor story, “Cold War”. He was also on the Game of Thrones where he played Edmure Tully. He is probably best known for his dual role as Frank Randall and Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall in Outlander. He was in Finding Neverland as a Theatre Patron, in Casino Royale as Villierse who was M’s assistant, showed  up in The Genius of Christopher Marlowe as the demon Mephistophilis, voiced Captain English in the all puppet Jackboots on Whitehall film and played Marius in Underworld: Blood Wars. (CE)
  • Born March 7, 1903 – Bernarda Bryson.  Painter, lithographer; outside our field, illustrations for the Resettlement Administration, like this.  Here is Gilgamesh.  Here is The Twenty Miracles of St. Nicholas.  Here is Bright Hunter of the Skies.  Here is The Death of Lady Mondegreen (hello, Seanan McGuire).  (Died 2004) [JH] 
  • Born March 7, 1934 – Gray Morrow.  Two hundred fifty covers, fifty of them for Perry Rhodan; four hundred interiors.  Also Classics Illustrated; Bobbs-Merrill Childhoods of Famous Americans e.g. Crispus Attucks, Teddy Roosevelt, Abner Doubleday; DC Comics, Marvel; Rip KirbyTarzan; Aardwolf, Dark Horse.  Oklahoma Cartoonists Associates Hall of Fame.  Here is Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.  Here is the NyCon 3 (25th Worldcon) Program & Memory Book.  Here is The Languages of Pao.  Here is The Best of Judith Merrill.  Here is Norstrilia.  Here is a page from “The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth” in GM’s Illustrated Roger Zelazny.  (Died 2001) [JH] 
  • Born March 7, 1952 – John Lorentz, age 69.  Active, reliable in the excruciating, exhilarating, alas too often thankless work of putting on our SF conventions, e.g. chaired Westercon 43 & 48, SMOFcon 8 (Secret Masters Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke; a con annually hoping to learn from experience); administered Hugo Awards, sometimes with others, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2015; finance head, Renovation (69th Worldcon).  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 53, Norwescon XXI (with wife Ruth Sachter).  [JH]
  • Born March 7, 1954 – Elayne Pelz, age 67.  Another indispensable fan.  Currently Treasurer and Corresponding Secretary of the Southern Cal. Inst. for Fan Interests (yes, that’s what the initials spell; pronounced skiffy), which has produced Westercons, Worldcons, and a NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas).  Widow of B. Pelz; I danced at their wedding; E chaired Westercon 55 upon B’s death.  Twice given LASFS’ Evans-Freehafer Award (service; L.A. Science Fantasy Soc., unrelated to SCIFI but with some directors in common).  Fan Guest of Honor at Leprecon 9, Loscon 13 (with B), Westercon 48, Baycon 2004.  Several terms as LASFS Treasurer, proverbially reporting Yes, we have money; no, you can’t spend it.  [JH]
  • Born March 7, 1967 – Donato Giancola, age 54.  Gifted with, or achieving, accessibility, productivity, early; Jack Gaughan Award, three Hugos, twenty Chesleys, two Spectrum Gold Awards and Grandmaster.  Two hundred seventy covers, four hundred forty interiors.  Here is Otherness.  Here is The Ringworld Engineers.  Here is his artbook Visit My Alien Worlds (with Marc Gave).  Here is the Sep 06 Asimov’s.  Here is the May 15 Analog.  Two Middle-Earth books, Visions of a Modern Myth and Journeys in Myth and Legend.  [JH]
  • Born March 7, 1977 – Brent Weeks, age 44.  Nine novels, a couple of shorter stories.  The Way of Shadows and sequels each NY Times Best-Sellers; four million copies of his books in print.  Cites Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Yeats, Tolkien.  “I do laugh at my own jokes…. scowl, change the word order to see if it makes it funnier, scowl again … try three more times…. occasionally cackle….  This is why I can’t write in coffee shops.”  [JH]

(10) LIADEN. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have issued Liaden Universe® InfoDump Number 127 with info about the availability of a new Adventures in the Liaden Universe® chapbook. Also:

LEE AND MILLER PANELISTS AT MARSCON
Sharon and Steve will attending the virtual MarsCon, to be held March 12-14 (that’s this weekend!) Here’s the convention link.

DISCON III
Steve and Sharon hope to attend DisCon III virtually. We have no plans to attend in-person, as much as we’d been looking forward to doing so.

ALBACON 2021
Sharon and Steve will be Writer Guests of Honor at the virtual AlbaCon, September 17-18, 2021.  Here’s the link to the convention site

UPCOMING PUBLICATIONS
The Trader’s Leap audiobook, narrated by Eileen Stevens, is tentatively scheduled for April 11, 2021

(11) PROPS TO THE CHEF. Ben Bird Person shared “My last commission with food illustrator Itadaki Yasu. It’s an illustration of the prop food featured in the original star trek episode ‘The Conscience of the King’ (1966).”

(12) THE BURNING DECK. Your good cat news of the day, from the Washington Post. “Thai navy saves four cats stranded on capsized boat in Andaman sea”. (The article does not say whether the boat’s color was a “beautiful pea green.”)

The four small cats trapped on a sinking boat needed a miracle. The abandoned ship, near the Thai island of Koh Adang, was on fire — sending plumes of thick black smoke into the air as the waters of the Andaman sea rose around them. The ship was not just burning: It was sinking. And it would not be long until it disappeared beneath the surface.Wide-eyed and panicked, the felines huddled together. When the help they so desperately needed arrived, it came in the form of a 23-year-old sailor and his team of Thai navy officials….

(13) GOOD DOG. In the Washington Post, Steven Wright says video game developers are making an effort to have animals in the games that you can pet and interact with but that it takes up a lot of additional pixels since the designers are trying to make the games realistic and are using tons of pixels having characters run and blast foes. “The ‘Can You Pet The Dog’ Twitter account is having a big impact”.

… Tristan Cooper, who owns the Twitter account “Can You Pet the Dog?,” never set out to create a social media juggernaut. Rather, he was just trying to point out what he felt was a common quirk of many high-profile games: While many featured dogs, wolves and other furry creatures as hostile foes of the protagonist, those that did feature cuddly animal friends rarely let you pet them. Cooper says the account was particularly inspired by his early experience with online shooter “The Division 2.”

… However, as the account quickly began to grow in popularity, Cooper and others began to notice a subtle increase in the number of games that featured animals with which players can interact. To be clear, Cooper doesn’t wish to take any credit for the proliferation of the concept, despite the obvious popularity of the account. (“Video games had pettable dogs long before I logged onto Twitter, after all,” he wrote. “That’s the whole reason I created the account.”)

However, he and the account’s fans do sometimes note the timing of these additions, particularly when it comes to certain massive games. For example, he notes that battle royale phenomenon “Fortnite” patched in pettable dogs only a few weeks after the account tweeted about the game. And “The Division 2” finally let you nuzzle the city’s wandering canines in its “Warlords of New York” expansion, which came out in March 2020 — around the same time Cooper was celebrating the year anniversary of the Can You Pet The Dog? account….

(14) WHAT’S THE VISION FOR NASA? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport says that the increasing rise of private spacecraft with a wide range of astronauts  as well as cost overruns in its rocket development programs is leading the agency to do a lot of thinking about what its role in manned spaceflight should be.  Davenport reports a future SpaceX mission will include billionaire Jared Isaacman and will be in part a gigantic fundraiser for St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital (a St. Jude’s physician assistant will be an astronaut as will the winner of a raffle for another seat). “NASA doesn’t pick the astronauts in a commercialized space future”.

… And it comes as NASA confronts some of the largest changes it has faced since it was founded in 1958 when the United States’ world standing was challenged by the Soviet Union’s surprise launch of the first Sputnik into orbit. Now it is NASA’s unrivaled primacy in human spaceflight that is under challenge.

… In an interview, Steve Jurczyk, NASA’s acting administrator, said the agency is well aware of how its identity and role are changing, and he likened the agency’s role to how the U.S. government fostered the commercial aviation industry in the early 20th century.

NASA’s predecessor, NACA, or the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, “did research, technology development to initially support defense … but also later on supporting a burgeoning commercial aircraft industry and aviation industry,” he said. “So that may be how we evolve, moving forward on the space side. We’re going to do the research and the technology development and be the enablers for continuing to support the commercial space sector.”

… But NASA officials are concerned that much of the future workforce is going to be attracted to a growing number of commercial companies doing amazing things. There is Planet, for example, which is putting up constellations of small satellites that take an image of Earth every day. Or Relativity Space, which is 3-D printing entire rockets. Or Axiom Space, which is building a commercial space station. Or Astrobotic, which intends to land a spacecraft on the moon later this year.

The question NASA faces, then, is an urgent one: “How do you maintain that NASA technical expertise?” Jurczyk said.

The agency does not know….

(15) YOU COULD BE SWINGING ON A STAR. OR — Ursula Vernon could no longer maintain what critics call “a willing suspension of disbelief.”

Commenters on her thread had doubts, too. One asked: “Were any special herbs or fungi involved before this message was received?”

As for the possibility of putting this phenomenon to a local test —

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

Pixel Scroll 2/11/21 The Englishfan Who Filed Up To-Be-Read Hill But Scrolled Down Mount Tsundoku

(1) CHANGING OF THE GUARDIAN. Lisa Tuttle has taken the handoff from The Guardian’s SF/Fantasy reviewer Eric Brown who ended his fifteen-year run in January. Tuttle’s first genre round-up will appear in The Guardian’s books section on Saturday, February 13.

(2) MANDALORIAN ACTRESS OUT. Deadline reports “Gina Carano Off ‘The Mandalorian’ After Social Media Comments”. Their article quotes from the posts she made immediately following this excerpt:

In the wake of Gina Carano’s controversial social media posts, Lucasfilm has released a statement Wednesday night, with a spokesperson saying “Gina Carano is not currently employed by Lucasfilm and there are no plans for her to be in the future. Nevertheless, her social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities are abhorrent and unacceptable.”

Carano played bounty hunter Cara Dune on the first two seasons Lucasfilm and Disney+’s The Mandalorianand it looked like we’d be seeing more of her. It appears not….

(3) ROBORIGHTS. A film based on the short story “Dolly” by Elizabeth Bear is in development: “Apple TV+ Lands Hot Package ‘Dolly’ With Florence Pugh On Board To Star” at Deadline.

Following competitive bidding war, Apple Studios has landed Dolly, a new feature film with Academy Award-nominee Florence Pugh attached to star with Vanessa Taylor and Drew Pearce Penning the script. Insiders close to the project stress the project is not greenlit at this time as the script still needs to penned and a director still needs to be attached. Insiders go on to add that the package caught the interest of a total of four bidders that included multiple studios and another streamer with Apple TV+ emerging as the winner earlier this week.

The film is a sci-fi courtroom drama in which a robotic “companion doll” kills its owner and then shocks the world by claiming that she is not guilty and asking for a lawyer. The film, which is inspired by Elizabeth Bear’s short story of the same name, has elements of both classic courtroom drama and sci-fi….

(4) FOURTH COMING. In “The Four Types of Time Travel (And What They Say About Ourselves and the World Around Us)” at CrimeReads, Dan Frey looks at whether time travel novels have characters going forwards or backwards in time and whether they retrieve objects.

Time travel is a genre unto itself, one that spans sci-fi, mystery, fantasy, history and more. But there are distinct categories of time travel narratives, each with its own set of rules—and each with a different baked-in outlook.

Getting to a taxonomy of time travel stories, the first question is—who or what is actually time-traveling? Because while the first stories we think of involve spaceships and Deloreans, the oldest time travel stories are stories about…

1. SEEING THE FUTURE

In these stories, it is actually INFORMATION that travels through time. And this might be the most scientifically plausible form of time travel, one that is already happening all the time on the quantum level….

(5) WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN. Robert J. Sawyer tells Facebook readers that 26 years ago Ace Science Fiction thought they were going to land a contract with Lucasfilm to produce a trilogy of novels outlining the origins of the alien races from the Star Wars universe:

Ace editor Ginjer Buchanan approached me to write those books, and before the license was finalized I produced an 11,000-word outline and also the first 11,000 words of the manuscript of volume one. But the deal fell apart — yes, they’d get a Lucasfilm license, but, no, I couldn’t use any of the actual STAR WARS races, and so I walked away. Since I was never paid for the work, I posted the material on my website as fan fiction.

Sawyer mentioned this because the Yub Nub podcast episode “Hollywood Dinners and Alien Exodus”, which dropped today, discusses that project beginning at the 36:30 mark.

Sawyer reminds fans that the outline for the whole book is here: “Alien Exodus Outline”. And his opening chapters are here: “Alien Exodus Chapters”.

(6) THE WORDS OF SFF. In the February 6 Financial Times, book columnist Nilanjana Roy discusses the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction website.

Skipping from ‘ecotopia’ (first used back in 1975) to ‘Frankenstein complex ‘(coined by Isaac Asimov in 1947 to describe the anxiety and distrust held by humans towards robots), a living history of science fiction began to take shape in my mind.  The HDSF records language coined by eminent figures from the realms of literature and science, but also long-forgotten hacks who wrote stories for the pulps…

…The HDSF is full of surprises, even to an unabashed sf fan.  Many entries are older than I imagined:  ‘teleport’ might seem like a word dreamt up in the 1950s, for instance, but the first recorded instance comes from an 1878 mention in the Times Of India:  ‘The teleport,.an apparatus by which men can be reduced to infinitessimal (sic) atoms, transmitted through the wire, and reproduced safe and sound on the other end!’ While “infodump” was first used in a 1978 conference on science.

(7) BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR. Someone who dismissed the Locus Recommended Reading List as “useless” was pointed at the Tangent Online 2020 Recommended Reading List” which contains these introductory remarks by Dave Truesdale:

Looking at short fiction over at least the past 10 years, a general observation can be made. It would appear that Woke Culture is as pervasive and cancerous as it has ever been for at least the past 10 years. The dearth of true originality when it comes to political or socially themed short fiction is becoming more and more apparent to those of us who have observed and studied the field for decades. Political Correctness has now infiltrated the field like a metastazing cancer, to the point where long time readers are beginning to voice complaints. The complaints arise not from what is published in the magazines or some of the original anthologies, but what is not being published. Identity Politics and the Cancel Culture have inserted themselves into the field to the extent that not only magazine fiction editors, but other areas of the SF field are bowing to intimidation and peer pressure to conform to the total obeisance the Woke doctrine demands….

(8) PRESENT AT THE CREATION. The documentary Marvel’s Behind the Mask premieres tomorrow on Disney+. Variety has an exclusive clip, and homes in on one topic — how the “Black Panther’s ‘Perfect’ Marvel Comic Book Launch Had One Major Flaw”.

When Marvel Comics first launched the character of Black Panther, it was in the July 1966 issue of “Fantastic Four.” As explained in this exclusive clip from the upcoming Disney Plus documentary “Marvel’s Behind the Mask,” premiering Feb. 12, the character of T’Challa, the King of Wakanda, was presented just like any other Marvel superhero — attention wasn’t paid to the color of his skin, but rather to the supreme quality of his abilities.

“The first Black superhero, Black Panther, comes out perfect,” says writer-director Reginald Hudlin, who wrote a run of Black Panther comics in the 2000s. “He’s this cool, elegant, handsome guy who’s just got it on lock.”

But as the clip also demonstrates, there’s one essential element of Black Panther that was glaringly incorrect: His skin is grey, not brown.

…Rather than shy away from its less than admirable history, the “Behind the Mask” filmmakers say Marvel’s executives were on board with a warts-and-all look at the company’s efforts with representation. “They were complete partners,” says Gary. “They accepted the fact that we were going to make some things uncomfortable.” The company even opened up its vault so the filmmakers could access the full range of its history.

“There were certain things that we needed to scan that weren’t part of the digital history, that were important to the storytelling,” says Simon. “We needed to get that older imagery out of the vault.”…

(9) NYT JAMES GUNN OBITUARY. The New York Times paid their respects today: “James Gunn, Prizewinning Science Fiction Author, Dies at 97”.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1971 — Fifty years ago at Noreascon I, Fritz Leiber wins the Hugo for Best Novella with “Ill Met in Lankhmar”, one of his Fafhrd and The Grey Mouser tales. It was originally published in the April issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction. The other nominees were “The Thing in the Stone” by Clifford D. Simak,  “The Region Between” by Harlan Ellison.  “The World Outside” by Robert Silverberg and “Beastchild” by Dean R. Koontz.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 11, 1898 – Leo Szilard.  Vital in the Manhattan Project; first to connect thermodynamics and information theory; filed earliest known patent applications for the electron microscope, the linear accelerator, and the cyclotron (but did not build all these, nor publish in scientific journals, so credit went to others; Lawrence had the Nobel Prize for the cyclotron, Ruska for the electron microscope).  Present when the first man-made self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction was achieved in the first nuclear reactor; shook Fermi’s hand.  Credited with coining the term “breeder reactor”.  Half a dozen short stories for us.  To him is attributed “We are among you.  We call ourselves Hungarians.”  (Died 1964) [JH]
  • Born February 11, 1910 L. T. C. Rolt. English writer whose enthusiasm for heritage railways is writ large in his 1948 Sleep No More collection of supernatural horror stories which tend to be set in rural railways. (Simon R. Green may be influenced by him in his Ghost Finders series which often uses these railways as a setting.)  Some of these stories were adapted as radio dramas.  Sleep No More isavailable from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1974.) (CE) 
  • Born February 11, 1915 – Mabel Allan.  Four novels, one shorter story for us; a hundred seventy books all told, some under other names; some in series e.g. a dozen about Drina Adams who at age 10 wants to be a ballerina and finally is.  Here is the Mabel Project for reading MA’s books in chronological order.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born February 11, 1920 – Daniel Galouye.  (“Ga-lou-ey”)  Navy pilot during World War II; journalist; New Orleans fan who developed a pro career.  Half a dozen novels, five dozen shorter stories.  Guest of Honor at Consolacon, DeepSouthCon 6.  Interviewed in Speculation.  Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born February 11, 1926 Leslie Nielsen. I know the comic, bumbling fool who delighted generations of film goers. But his first starring role was as Commander John J. Adams in one of the finest SF films of all time Forbidden Planet. I am most decidedly not a fan of his later films but I think he’s brilliant here. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born February 11, 1939 Jane Yolen, 82. She loves dark chocolate so I send her some from time to time. She wrote me into a novel as a character, an ethnomusicologist in One-Armed Queen to be precise in exchange for finding her a fairytale collection she wanted. Don’t remember now what it was other than it was very old and very rare. My favorite book by her is The Wild Hunt which she’s signing a copy for me now, and I love that she financed the production of Boiled of Lead’s Antler Dance which her son Adam Stemple was lead vocalist on. (CE) 
  • Born February 11, 1948 Robert Reginald. He’s here because of two Phantom Detective novels he wrote late in his career which are most popcorn literature. (The Phantom Detective series started in 1936 so he used the Robert Wallace house name.) He has two series of some length, the Nova Europa Fantasy Saga and War of Two Worlds. Much of what he wrote is available from the usual digital sources. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born February 11, 1950 Alain Bergeron, 70. He received an Aurora Award for Best Short Story for “Les Crabes de Vénus regardent le ciel” published In Solaris number 73, and a Sideways Award for Alternate History for  “Le huitième registre” (translated in English as “The Eighth Register” by Howard Scott). (CE) 
  • Born February 11, 1953 Wayne Hammond, 68. He’s married to fellow Tolkien scholar Christina Scull. Together they’ve done some of the finest work on him that’s been done including J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s CompanionThe Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book and The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide. (CE)
  • Born February 11, 1965 – John Zeleznik, age 56.  A dozen covers, a score of interiors.  Here is Find Your Own Truth.  Here is The Heart of Sparrill.  Here is his Rifts Coloring Book.  Here is a Magic: the Gathering card.  Ten years in Spectrum anthologies.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born February 11, 1970 – Reinhard Kleist, age 51.  Half a dozen covers, as many interiors.  Here is Asimov’s collection Azazel.  Here is Das Böse kommt auf leisen Sohlen (German, “Evil comes on quiet feet” – more literally Sohlen are soles – tr. Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes).  [JH]
  • Born February 11, 1975 – Kathy McMillan, age 46.  Two novels for us, four others (one got an Indies Award); eight resource books for educators, librarians, parents. ASL (American Sign Language) Interpreter.  Website says Author & Language Geek.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) UNFORGOTTEN LORE. Gene Luen Yang fills readers in  “On the Connection Between Chinese Folktales and American Comic Book Heroes” at Literary Hub.

I first heard about the monkey king from my mom.

When I was a kid, my mother used to tell me Chinese folktales before bedtime. My mother is an immigrant. She was born in mainland China and eventually made her way to the United States for graduate school.

She told me those stories so that I wouldn’t forget the culture that she had left. Even though I hadn’t ever experienced that culture firsthand, she wanted me to remember it.

Of all her stories, my favorites by far were about Sun Wukong, the monkey king. Here was a monkey who was so good at kung fu that his fighting skills leveled up to superpowers. He could call a cloud down from the sky and ride it like a surfboard. He could change his shape into anything he wanted. He could grow and shrink with the slightest thought. And he could clone himself by plucking hairs from his head and then breathing on them. How cool was that?…

…Turns out, my mother was pretty faithful. As I read it, I realized that American superheroes hadn’t replaced Sun Wukong in my heart after all. Superman, Spider?Man, and Captain America were simply Western expressions of everything I loved about the monkey king….

(14) THE MILLENNIUM HAS ARRIVED. The thousandth book by a woman reviewed on James Nicoll Reviews: “Just Keep Listening”.

K.B. Spangler’s 2021 coming-of-age space opera The Blackwing War is the first book in her Deep Witches Trilogy. It is set in the same universe as Spangler’s 2017 Stoneskin .

Tembi Stoneskin was rescued from abject poverty when the Deep, the vast, enigmatic entity that facilitates transgalactic teleportation, took a shine to her. As long as the Deep retains its affection for Tembi, she will be an ageless Witch, stepping from world to world as it pleases her. There is little chance Tembi will alienate the Deep. 

There is, however, every chance she will alienate her superiors in the Witch hierarchy. Youthful Tembi is that most dreaded of beings, an idealist…. 

(15) YOU DON’T HAVE TO DIAL M ANYMORE. In “The Rise of the Digital Gothic” on CrimeReads, Katie Lowe says many of today’s Gothic novelists are coming up with plots that involve apparitions or other supernatural phenomena coming out of characters’ smartphones.

…But for all that this new technology gives, there’s also the sense of our personal spaces—the physical homes we inhabit—seeming always invaded by others, both strangers and not. They wander through, startling us with questions as we brew our morning coffee; scanning our living rooms while we’re on Zoom; liking our family photos as we crawl into bed. Our daily lives are interrupted constantly by apparitions: by the voices and figures of people who simply are not there.

This is not, however, a state of being sprung entirely from the pandemic—nor is it unique to fiction. In her 2014 essay “Return of the Gothic: Digital Anxiety in the Domestic Sphere,” critic Melissa Gronlund observed similarities between recent work in the visual arts. She suggests that artists using “the Gothic tropes of the uncanny, the undead, and intrusions into the home” in their work are searching for “a way to wrestle with daunting, ongoing questions prompted by current technological shifts: How has the internet affected our sense of self? Our interaction with others? The structures of family and kinship?”

(16) MARS MERCH. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum told people on its mailing list that the limited edition Mars Perseverance merchandise collection will only be available until February 21. (Click for larger images.)

(17) MR. SCOTT’S SECRET STUFF. Say, we just mentioned this substance the other day: “The Science Behind Transparent Aluminum on ‘Star Trek’” at Heavy.

Forbes reports that there are two methods of creating transparent aluminum in common use today. The first method involves taking a powdered aluminum-magnesium compound that is subjected to high pressure and heated, a method used by the US Military, specifically the US Naval Laboratory. This method produces a somewhat cloudy material that needs to be polished prior to use. An alternative method, which creates a slightly stronger and much clearer material, also exists. This end-product is called aluminium oxynitride, sold under the name ALON.

(18) UNBELIEVABLE TAZ. MeTV remembers how “Taz was so crazy, he convinced the world that Tasmanian devils didn’t exist”. And the iconic character has been used to help the real ones avoid extinction.

People accept that fantasy creatures like unicorns and dragons do not really exist, and it was that kind of categorical thinking that led many Looney Tunes fans around the world to assume that a Tasmanian devil is not a real animal.

They’d never seen one before. They’d never heard of one before. It must be a made-up animal!

When the cartoon devil called “Taz” was introduced in cartoons in the 1950s, creator Robert McKinson had no idea he would be creating so much confusion with his brand-new character, which he never foresaw becoming such an icon….

(19) THAT’S CAT. They’re everywhere – on these altered versions of book covers – like the ferocious feline on the front of Arkady Martine’s A Desolation Called Peace.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Mask Up America” on YouTube is a PSA from WarnerMedia in which Wonder Woman, Harry Potter, and Humphrey Bogart urge you to wear masks.

[Thanks to Joel Zakem, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Danny Sichel, Iphinome, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 11/23/20 Not One Of These Pixels Will Scry For Me

(1) YOU CONTROL THE HORIZONTAL, YOU CONTROL THE VERTICAL. Adam Whitehead has commentary on the newly announced 2021 Best Video Game Hugo in “Hugo Awards add a video game category for 2021” at The Wertzone. Includes a list of eligible prospects.

…Many, if not most, video games fall into the science fiction or fantasy. Seven years ago, I made a post about video games that engage with their SFF themes in a bit more detail (it’s probably about time I did a follow-up). With video games having been commercially available for forty-five years, and having been more popular than either the film or music mediums for more than twenty years, it is probably past time this move was made. I suspect far more people voting in the Hugos have played an eligible video game in any given year than have read a semiprozine or read a novelette, for example.

Assuming normal rules of eligibility, the following video games would be among those eligible for the award in 2021…

For the announcement, see File 770’s post “Ready Nominator One: Best Video Game Special Hugo Award Category Announced for 2021”.

(2) UNDERAPPRECIATED ARTWORK. Doug Ellis has launched a new series on the art of the Science Fiction Book Club’s bulletin Things to Comeat Black Gate: “The Art of Things to Come, Part 1: 1953-1957”.

… Like tens of thousands of science fiction fans before and after me, I was at one time a member of the Science Fiction Book Club (or SFBC for short). I joined just as I entered my teen years, in the fall of 1976, shortly after I discovered the wonder of science fiction digests.

I remember the bulletin of the SFBC, Things to Come, arriving in our mailbox every month, and eagerly perusing the offerings to see if I wanted grab any of the featured selections or alternates, or something from the backlist. The SFBC purchase I most vividly recall reading was the Isaac Asimov edited anthology, Before the Golden Age, which was filled with great stories as well as fascinating biographical material by Asimov on his early days as a fan. Other favorite volumes include Leigh Brackett’s The Book of Skaith, Damon Knight’s Science Fiction of the Thirties and The Futurians, Frederik Pohl’s The Early Pohl, Frank Herbert’s Duneseries and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars books, among many others. I remained a member through college before finally letting my membership lapse.

One of the benefits of being a member of the SFBC was receiving their bulletin, Things to Come. While the art inside sometimes just reproduced the dust jacket art, in many cases the art was created solely for the bulletin, and was not used in the book or anywhere else. Because one can never collect enough things, I gradually started collecting back issues of Things to Come for the art, particularly for the art of Virgil Finlay which began appearing in the bulletin in 1959. In 2005, I gathered those Finlay illos from the bulletins that I’d collected and published a small press booklet, Virgil Finlay: The Art of Things to Come.

(3) CONSENSUS 2019 HIGH FANTASY. [Item by Eric Wong.] Rocket Stack Rank has posted its annual Outstanding High Fantasy of 2019, with 35 stories that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.

Included are some observations obtained from highlighting specific recommenders and pivoting the table by publication, author, awards, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers.

As for RSR, we recommended 13 stories (2 award worthy), were neutral on 17 stories, and only recommended against 5 stories (view by RSR rating).

(4) STATE OF THE ART. “Sci-fi’s Elizabeth Bear on Diversity, Mental Health, and Queers in Space” in a wide-ranging PopMatters interview.

…Bear is attentive to gender diversity in her work, incorporating not only female-identified protagonists but also gender fluid and non-binary characters. Given the fuss that contemporary politicians still make against efforts to render public discourse more inclusive in that respect, Bear’s efforts are especially useful in revealing how easy and natural the incorporation of non-binary pronouns and ideas can be. (See “Can a Bill Have a Gender? Feminine Wording Exposes a Rift”, by Christopher F. SchuetzeThe New York Times, 15 October 2020.)

“The first author who I ever consciously was aware of putting a non-gendered character into their books was Vonda McIntyre in Dreamsnake [1978]. Vonda did it by just never using pronouns for that character. I didn’t realize it until the third or fourth time I reread the book! I went like, ‘Wait a minute. Oh!’

“And then I started thinking about that. I have friends who identify as non-binary, I have trans friends, and it’s just common politeness. It’s like using somebody’s preferred form of their name. I mean obviously everybody makes mistakes, sometimes you don’t know what a person’s pronouns are. I’ve been trying to default to neutral pronouns until I know what the preferred ones are, which also offends some people, but you got to pick a hill to die on, I guess. Again, it’s a thing that just reflects the world as it is, rather than reflecting the world through a series of stereotypes that we’ve been told to expect as normal.

“I grew up in a queer family, steeped in the queer culture of the 1980s which was very gendered and not particularly trans-friendly, so I guess I started interrogating a lot of that at an earlier age than a lot of my peers. The first time I was consciously aware of having a friend who was trans was in my mid-twenties, I had a friend who transitioned. The thing happened that I think happens to everyone when a friend comes out to them–they realize that it’s not a big deal. I mean you can be a horrible bigot and make it a big deal, but that person is still your friend, or your relative, or your child, or your parent, or whatever it is that they are.

“What I realized at that point was that we as a culture were incredibly hung up on gender and enforcing gender stereotypes on people. This would have been in the mid-’90s, when everything was frickin’ pink and blue. In the ’70s and ’80s, when I was a kid, stuff was much less gendered. Everybody played with the same Legos and the same Lincoln Logs. There were some girl toys and some boy toys, but mostly there were just toys. By the time my friends were having kids, it was all either girl toys or boy toys. So that extreme gendering of things–it’s a natural reaction to push back against that.

“The real strength of my generation of science fiction writers, and the current generation of science fiction writers…is that we are much more diverse. And much more global. A lot of that is technology, obviously. I can text a friend in Paris, France and have an hour-long conversation with them for free and only pay for it by putting up with advertising, you know? So those connections are much stronger. That diversity of voices is incredibly, incredibly useful and is creating a much broader and more heterogeneous field than we previously had.”

(5) ALSO SPRACH UTAH. “Helicopter pilot finds ‘strange’ monolith in remote part of Utah”Yahoo! News has the story.

A mysterious monolith has been discovered in a remote part of Utah, after being spotted by state employees counting sheep from a helicopter.

The structure, estimated at between 10ft and 12ft high (about 3 metres), appeared to be planted in the ground. It was made from some sort of metal, its shine in sharp contrast to the enormous red rocks which surrounded it.

…Hutchings said the object looked manmade and appeared to have been firmly planted in the ground, not dropped from the sky.

“I’m assuming it’s some new wave artist or something or, you know, somebody that was a big 2001: A Space Odyssey fan,” Hutchings said.

(6) AI AI OH! [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the November 14 Financial Times, Tom Faber profiles multimedia artist Lawrence Lek, whose work includes sf tropes.

The first film in the (Sinofuturism) series was showing that night (in 2017) at Corsica Studios.  Made in 2016, Sinofuturism (1839-2046 AD) draws parallels between western stereotypes of Chinese culture (such as computing, copying, and cheap labour) and our anxieties about the rise of artificial intelligence.  Its 2017 follow-up, Geomancer, uses game-like digital simulation to spin a wilder narrative about a sentient weather satellite about a sentient weather satellite which longs to be an artist.

With his newest work AIDOL (a play on “AI” and “Idol”) which debuted at Gallery Sadie Coles HQ last year, Lek sets his sights on the music industry.  The year is 2065, and in Malaysia waning pop star Diva enlists an AI ghostwriter to help her mount a comeback show at the eSports video game Olympics.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • November 23, 1963 Doctor Who premiered with “An Unearthly Child”.  Starring William Hartnell as the First Doctor plus His Companions played by Carole Ann Ford as Susan Foreman, Jacqueline Hill as Barbara Wright and William Russell as Ian Chesterton. It was directed by Waris Hussein, with Verity Lambert and Mervyn Pinfield as producers. The story was written by Anthony Coburn and C. E. Webber. Most contemporary critics were pleased by “An Unearthly Child” but Variety oddly thought it had to be more realistic.  It has a respectable seventy percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 23, 1863 – Katharine Pyle.  Author, illustrator, poet.  A dozen books for us; at least fifty in all, some children’s.  Collected and retold fairy tales.  Poems and drawings for The Wonder Clock by her brother Howard.  Local history for children, Once Upon a Time in Delaware.  Here is The Counterpane Fairy.  This is for Granny’s Wonderful Chair.  This is for As the Goose Flies.  For Tales from Norse Mythology see here.  (Died 1938) [JH]
  • Born November 23, 1908 – Nelson Bond.  Four novels, a hundred fifty shorter stories – at which he was masterly: not least Lancelot Biggs, Spaceman; Meg, the priestess who rebelled; Pat Pending, who – yes.  Also radio & television.  Philatelist.  Rare-book dealer.  Correspondent of James Branch Cabell(“Tell the rabble my name is Cabell”).  Nebula Author Emeritus.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born November 23, 1914 – Wilson “Bob” Tucker.  Mostly Wilson to the world – two dozen novels, as many shorter stories – mostly Bob to us.  Among our great fanwriters.  Le Zombie (so named after several Tucker Death Hoaxes) and then e-Zombie ran fifty years.  Fan Guest of Honor at Torcon I the 6th Worldcon and NyCon 3 the 25th.  A Hugo and a Retrospective Hugo as Best Fanwriter.  Often a toastmaster.  Coined “space opera”.  Tuckerization, putting into fiction the names (or nearly, like “Mike Glider”) or descriptions of people the author knows, or who won the privilege in some fannish fund-raiser, is named for him.  You can see four editions of his Neo-Fan’s Guide here, including one Our Gracious Host helped produce.  SF Commentary 43 (PDF) is the Tucker Issue; No. 79 (PDF) is the Tucker Issue, Second Edition; No. 80 (PDF) has many appreciations including mine.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born November 23, 1916 Michael Gough. Best known for his roles in the Hammer Horror Films from the late Fifties and for his recurring role as Alfred Pennyworth in all four films of the Tim Burton / Joel Schumacher Batman series. His Hammer Horror Films saw him cast usually as the evil, and I mean EVIL! Not to mention SLIMY, villain in such films as Horrors of the Black MuseumThe Phantom of the OperaThe Corpse and Horror Hospital, not to overlook Satan’s Slave. In Doctor Who, Gough appeared as the villain in “The Celestial Toymaker” (1966) and then again as Councilor Hedin in “Arc of Infinity” (1983). He also played Dr. Armstrong in “The Cybernauts” in The Avengers (1965) returning the very next season as the Russian spymaster Nutski in “The Correct Way to Kill”. Gough worked for Tim Burton again in 1999’s Sleepy Hollow and later voice Elder Gutknecht in Corpse Bride. He would mostly retire that year from performing though he would voice later that Corpse Bride role and the Dodo in Burton’s Alice in Winderland. (Died 2011.) (CE) 
  • Born November 23, 1927 – Guy Davenport, Ph.D.  His being given the Introduction to Davidson’s unparalleled “Or All the Seas With Oysters” in The Avram Davidson Treasury will give you a clue.  His dissertation, on Ezra Pound – there’s a complicated man – was published as Cities on Hills.  While a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, studied Old English under Tolkien.  Translated Heraclitus, Diogenes, Sappho, Anacreon.  About his collection Tatlin! (which he illustrated; no, not gossip, this one) see here.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born November 23, 1951 David Rappaport. I remember him best as Randall, the leader of the gang of comically inept dwarves in Time Bandits who steal the map to Universe. I’m reasonably sure that it’s the only thing he’ll be remembered for of a genre nature having looked up his other works and found them to be decidedly minor in nature. Most of them such as The Bride, a low budget horror film, were artistic and commercial disasters. It is said that his death by suicide in 1990 is one of the reasons cited by Gilliam for there not being a sequel to Time Bandits. (Died 1990.) (CE) 
  • Born November 23, 1955 Steven Brust, 65. Of Hungarian descendant, something that figures into his fiction which he says is neither fantasy nor SF. He is perhaps best known for his novels about the assassin Vlad Taltos, one of a scorned group of humans living on a world called Dragaera. All are great reads.  His recent novels also include The Incrementalists and its sequel The Skill of Our Hands, with co-author Skyler White. Both are superb. His finest novel? Brokedown Palace. Oh, just go read it. It’s amazing. And no, I don’t love everything he’s done. I wrote a scathing scathing reviewing of Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille and he told us at Green Man that he might be the only person who liked the novel. Freedom & Necessity with Emma Bull is decidedly different but good none the less and his Firefly novel, My Own Kind of Freedom, stays true to that series. He’s quite the musician too with two albums with Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull, Jane Yolen (lyrics) and others. The band in turn shows up in Marvel comics. A Rose For Iconoclastes is his solo album and “The title, for those who don’t know, is a play off the brilliant story by Roger Zelazny, “A Rose For Ecclesiastes,” which you should read if you haven’t yet. Quoting him again, “’Songs From The Gypsy’ is the recording of a cycle of songs I wrote with ex-Boiled-in-Lead guitarist Adam Stemple, which cycle turned into a novel I wrote with Megan Lindholm, one of my favorite writers.” The album and book are quite amazing! (CE) 
  • Born November 23, 1960 – John Bunnell, 60.  Nine short stories.  Book reviews in three incarnations of Amazing; also Dragon.  When the English translation of The Name of the Rose came out, he told role-playing gamers “For all its erudite trappings and intimidating size… a tension-filled tale of precisely the sort that referees are so fond of weaving into gaming campaigns.”  True.  [JH]
  • Born November 23, 1966 Michelle Gomez, 54. Best known genre role is as playing Missy, a female version of The Master on Doctor Who from 2014 to 2017, for which she was nominated for the 2016 BAFTA TV Award for Best Supporting Actress. I admit having grown up with Roger Delgado as The Master so later performers playing this role took a bit of getting used to but she made a fine one.  She is also Mary Wardwell in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and she plays Talia Bauerin in Highlander: The Raven which apparently is a very short-live spinoff from the Highlander series. Finally, she shows up in the Gotham series for two episodes simply as The Lady. (CE) 
  • Born November 23, 1967 Salli Richardson-Whitfield, 53. Best known genre role is as Dr. Allison Blake on Eureka which apparently in syndication is now called A Town Called Eureka. H’h? I’m reasonably sure her first genre role was as Fenna / Nidell in the “Second Sight” of Deep Space Nine but charmingly voiced Eliza Mazda,  the main human character, on the Gargoyles series!  She’s shows up as character named Dray’auc in “Bloodlines” on Stargate Sg-1 and had a role on a series called Secret Agent Man that may or may have existed. She’s was Maggie Baptiste in Stitchers, a series that lasted longer than I expected it would. (CE)
  • Born November 23, 1970 Oded Fehr, 50. Actor from Israel whose most well-known genre roles are as the mysterious warrior Ardeth Bay in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, and as Carlos Oliveira (or his clone) in three of the Resident Evil films: ApocalypseExtinction, and Retribution. (His Mummy roles no doubt led to his casting in voice roles in Scooby-Doo in Where’s My Mummy? and as The Living Mummy in the animated Ultimate Spider-Man and Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.) On Charmed, he played the demon Zankou, the main villain of the show’s seventh season. He’s had an impressively long list of appearances on TV series, including recurring roles on Once Upon A Time, StitchersV, and The First, a series about the first mission to Mars. He has also voiced characters on numerous other animated features and series. (CE) 
  • Born November 23, 1979 – Rachel Hawkins, 41.  Nine novels, two shorter stories.  “Taught high school English for three years, and … still capable of teaching you The Canterbury Tales if you’re into that kind of thing.”  Married to a geologist.  [JH]

(9) SOME FREE READS. Marvel is ramping up to a December release — encouraging some pre-reading by making it free reading.

Starting today, Marvel Unlimited, Marvel’s award-winning digital comics subscription service, is preparing for the King In Black! To celebrate the highly anticipated arrival of Marvel’s next epic comic event in December, Marvel Unlimited is unlocking access to the first five issues of Venom and the first two issues of Absolute Carnage – all FREE for fans everywhere, no subscription required.

To read these free issues, fans only need to download the Marvel Unlimited app, available on iPhone®iPad® and select Android™ devices, and dive right in. Venom #1-5 (2018) and Absolute Carnage #1-2 (2019) will be available today through December 14. Download the app and enjoy these issues today!

… A threat years in the making, Knull’s death march across the galaxy finally hits Earth in KING IN BLACK—with an army of thousands of symbiote dragons at his beck and call. Eddie Brock, AKA Venom, has seen firsthand the chaos that even one of Knull’s symbiotic monsters can wreak—will he survive an encounter with the God of the Abyss himself?

(10) FOSTER, A FURRY INSPIRATION. Patch O’Furr looks into a special corner of the big story — furry fan ties with Alan Dean Foster’s loved original series Spellsinger, and how it was optioned for a movie: “#DisneyMustPay Alan Dean Foster — A fight with furry fandom influence” at Dogpatch Press.

First published in 1983-1987, Alan Dean Foster’s Spellsinger fantasy series struck a chord for a burgeoning fandom. It features a law student, Jon-Tom, with janitor work and rock and roll dreams. He wakes up in a strange land after smoking something weird to escape mundanity, where he meets a rabble-rousing otter (Mudge) and turtle wizard (Clothahump). His new talking-animal world sets a stage for learning to channel magic with music… but only once per song. Playing Pink Floyd’s Money on his “Duar” guitar can solve a problem once… if he even gets it right.

Loaded with epic fantasy, humor, cartoonish characters, and even moments to make an imaginative reader read extra hard (hot tiger-women and gay unicorns!) — It was the right kind of story that reached the right fans at the right time. The animals weren’t just for kids; they drank, stabbed, screwed, and swore! It made me a 90’s furry before I knew there was a fandom for it.

Foster’s writing was pure fun, spiked with a threat of apocalyptic invasion and a race to defeat it in classic quest mode. I’d assume this was mid-list bookstore fare; not bestselling but solid original work for a productive author. Bigger pay would come with franchise adaptations — his novels for Star Wars, the Aliens movies, and Star Trek.

Making canon work for such big properties should earn secure income for a challenging career of genre writing. That is, if Disney would honor what Lucasfilm agreed to owe, after they acquired the company in 2012 for several billion dollars….

(11) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. “Bruce” the fiberglass shark from Jaws is now a museum exhibit – although floating on air he looks more like a tribute to Sharknado.

 The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures completed installation of one of the most iconic objects from its permanent collection, the only surviving full scale shark model from the 1975 Oscar®-winning film Jaws. This moment signals exciting momentum toward the Academy Museum’s much-anticipated opening on April 30,2021, where the 25-foot model (nicknamed “Bruce the Shark”) will be on view, free to the public. Jaws, directed by Steven Spielberg, won Oscars® for Film Editing, Sound and Original Score, and was nominated for Best Picture at the 48th Academy Awards® in 1976. 

… The monumental model is the fourth, final, and only surviving version of the shark model derived from the original Jaws mold. The creation of the infamous mechanical shark—which Spielberg is rumored to have named “Bruce” after his lawyer—was tasked to art director Joe Alves, whose original schematics depict the 25-foot long body, 400-pound head, and jaws nearly five feet wide. The three screen-used production molds cast in latex and rubber rotted and were destroyed. The Academy Museum’s version, cast in fiberglass for photo opportunities at Universal Studios Hollywood surrounding the film’s 1975 release, survived at Universal until 1990 when it found its way to Nathan Adlen’s family’s junkyard business in Sun Valley, California. In 2010, it was authenticated by Roy Arbogast, a member of the original Jaws film’s special effects crew, and in 2016, the Academy Museum acquired the shark model through a contribution by Nathan Adlen. The museum worked with special effects and make-up artist Greg Nicotero, co-founder of KNB EFX, to meticulously restore the fiberglass shark which had deteriorated from being outdoors for 25 years. 

(12) BUT LEADING UP TO WHAT? “Trader Joe’s Is Selling an Advent Calendar for Cats This Year”Taste of Home is sure this product will give your cat a religious experience.

…You will find 25 soft treats for your feline friend. The snacks are made of antibiotic-free Atlantic salmon and dried seaweed, according to the packaging. You can rest assured knowing that your cat will be enjoying high-quality ingredients. Plus, the drawings on the front of the calendar are just too cute.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Back To The Future Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George says this is a special episode because his whole idea for pitch meetings happened because of a sketch by John Mulaney about how wild a pitch meeting for Back To The Future would be.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Doug Ellis, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Patch O’Furr, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/23/20 Pixels Should Scroll A Minimum Of Six Feet Apart

(1) OVERVIEW OF SF IN CHINA. A lot of good information in Regina Kanyu Wang’s “Chinese Science Fiction Goes Global”, available in English at Korean Literature Now.

…Back in 1991, 1997, and 2007, Science Fiction World, the largest SF magazine and publisher in China, convened for international conventions that not only received government support, but featured government leaders in attendance. Since 2016, the China Association for Science and Technology has sponsored the China SF Convention in Beijing, Chengdu, and Shenzhen. Not only was the opening ceremony attended by the Chinese vice president, but association leaders and local officials have attended every year since then. In 2017, Chengdu, Sichuan Province, co-hosted the 2017 China SF Con as well as the China International SF Conference, and it was declared that the latter event would, in perpetuity, become biennial and be held in Chengdu.

The aforementioned names and their linkages may be a complicated matter, but suffice it to say, the two major SF conventions in contemporary China are led by the China Association for Science and Technology and the Sichuan Province Association for Science and Technology. Another grassroots science fiction event—the Xingyun (Nebula) Awards for Global Chinese Science Fiction ceremony—gained government support and commercial viability a few years after being financially sponsored by its founders. Unlike the fan-fueled activities of their international counterparts, the major SF conventions within China are tied to the popularization of science and development of the SF industry and rarely do without speeches from officials, high-level summits, laser light shows, closed-door banquets, and the like. To solidify the connection between domestic and foreign conventions, the science and technology associations and local governments have regularly sent representatives to Worldcon in recent years, heading overseas to study how to hold international SF conventions, with panel discussions, marketplaces, exhibitions, and parties—and various other activities that have since become commonplace. Relatively speaking, China’s science fiction conventions have become fancier, as well as more commercial, whereas overseas science fiction conventions have generally become more grassroots.

Particularly noteworthy is the case of Chengdu, Sichuan Province, home of the longstanding Chinese SF institution, Science Fiction World magazine. Today, Chengdu is competing with Memphis in the United States to host the 2023 Worldcon. This is but one such initiative designed to cement Chengdu’s reputation as the Capital of Science Fiction. According to the 2019 Chinese Science Fiction Industry Report: “In order to develop the city’s ‘Silicon Valley’ for science fiction film and television industry, Chengdu plans to invest more than 2 billion yuan and add another 200,000 square meters to its current size of 150,000 square meters, for a total gross investment of 26 billion yuan.” Chengdu is not the only local government to invest in science fiction as a growth sector. In the city of Mianyang, also in Sichuan Province, the Pisces Dome Sci-Fi World is a project that spans about 2500 Chinese mu—or 412 acres—and calls for a total gross investment of 5 billion RMB to implement cutting-edge VR/AR (virtual reality and augmented reality) technology, establishing the city as a science and technology tourist destination. In Qianjiang, Hubei Province, plans are underway for the construction of the so-called Chinese Sci-Fi Author Village, where authors will be invited to assume the post of village head and write works on the theme of the Qianjiang crawfish (a local delicacy), and engage in other related commercial activities.

Thus, it should be clear that to the Chinese government, science fiction is not only literature, but a lucrative industry…. 

(2) CONTRADICTING THE RECEIVED WISDOM. From [link to pirate site removed.]

HALDERMAN: You do invent wonderful landscapes. The Earthsea trilogy creates such a vivid picture of the sea—have you done a lot of sailing?

LE GUIN: All that sailing is complete fakery. It’s amazing what you can fake. I’ve never sailed anything in my life except a nine-foot catboat, and that was in the Berkeley basin in about three feet of water. And we managed to sink it. The sail got wet and it went down while we sang “Nearer My God to Thee.” We had to wade to shore, and go back to the place we’d rented it and tell them. They couldn’t believe it. “You did what?” You know, it’s interesting, they always tell people to write about what they know about. But you don’t have to know about things, you just have to be able to imagine them really well.

(3) MORE ABOUT LUPOFF. The Wikipedia reminds us:

Starting in 1977, Lupoff co-hosted a program on Pacifica Radio station KPFA-FM in Berkeley, California that featured book reviews and interviews, primarily with science fiction (and mystery) authors. Originally an occasional one-hour program called Probabilities Unlimited, after several months it became a regular weekly, half-hour program called simply Probabilities, which aired until 1995. The program relaunched that year as Cover to Cover; Lupoff departed in 2001 to focus on his writing career. Among the notable authors interviewed by Lupoff and his co-host, Richard Wolinsky, were such luminaries as Ray BradburyOctavia ButlerRichard AdamsUrsula K. Le Guin, and Kurt Vonnegut.

Andrew Porter says all of Dick’s interviews on KPFA are still on the Internet here. And he sent three photos he took of Lupoff over the years. [Credit: Photos by and copyright © Andrew Porter.]

(4) NYRSF READINGS. The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings for November 2 features James Morrow. The online event and starts at 7:00 Eastern. Jim Freund says —

Normally we convene (virtually or not) on the first Tuesday of each month, but this November that would mean Election Eve, and it was pointed out that may be a wee bit distracting. But you can’t ask for a better distraction than James Morrow, who will read from his latest published novella, “The Purloined Nation,” from the anthology “And the Last Trump Shall Sound.”

James Morrow is the award-winning author of over ten novels, as well as novellas and short-story collections. His critically acclaimed works include Blameless in Abaddon, New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and The Last Witchfinder called “provocative book-club bait” and “an inventive feat” by critic Janet Maslin. He has twice received the World Fantasy Award, for Only Begotten Daughter and Towing Jehovah, and has also won the Nebula Award and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. He lives in State College, Pennsylvania, with his wife and their two enigmatic dogs.

Arc Manor Books is generously offering a 40% discount to attendees through the end of November. the other contributors are Cat Rambo and Harry Turtledove, so you’ll want to take advantage.

(5) BEST BOOKS OF 2020. Locus Online has extracted the works of genre interest from the list of “Publishers Weekly Best Books 2020” (see the full list at PW.) Their coverage begins with the SF/Fantasy/Horror category.

  • The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
  • Everyone on the Moon Is Essential Personnel, Julian K. Jarboe (Lethe)
  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, V.E. Schwab (Tor)
  • The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, Natasha Pulley (Bloomsbury)
  • The Only Good Indians, Stephen Graham Jones (Saga)
  • Riot Baby, Tochi Onyebuchi (Tor.com publishing)
  • Strange Labour, Robert G. Penner (Radiant)

There are also works of genre interest in other categories.

(6) IT’S PERSONAL. Anna Martino tells why we should remember Captain Nemo in “Personal Canons: Jules Verne”.

…My 10th birthday, in January of 1991, was a special occasion for two very different reasons. There was a war going on in Iraq, and the adults at the party talked of little else. And my maternal grandmother — a Brazilian-Italian lady who had never been the warmest of women — gave me a collection of Jules Verne’s books as a present.

Those eleven hardcover books had once belonged to my mother. They were first published in Brazil in the early 1960s, with proper names translated into Portuguese (Conseil became Conselho and the Times of London became O Tempo) — but, other than that, they were completely unabridged.

These two facts moulded my life. I was curious about that strange, televised war — even moreso when my father explained there were rules to the battle. This led me, many years later, to a Master’s Degree in International Relations, focusing on conflict and news reception (namely, how do you know what you think you know about other countries?)

And then there was Captain Nemo.

Whenever someone talks about “The Great Canon of SFF”, I notice more of what’s not being said than what is. I’m Brazilian: my canon isn’t your canon. There’s the language barrier and the cultural perspective to consider. More’s the pity if you can’t read in Portuguese: you are missing out on fantastic stuff (but that’s a topic for another moment.)…

(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites everyone to “Get crunchy with Robert Shearman” in Episode 130 of Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Robert Shearman has won the World Fantasy Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, and multiple British Fantasy Awards for his fiction, some of which has been gathered in such collections as Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical (2009), Remember Why You Fear Me (2012), They Do the Same Things Different There (2014), and earlier this year, a massive three-volume collection We All Hear Stories in the Dark. His writings for television, radio, and the stage have won him the Sophie Winter Memorial Trust Award, the Sunday Times Playwriting Award, the World Drama Trust Award, and the Guinness Award for Theatre Ingenuity. He also wrote the Hugo Award-nominated Doctor Who episode “Dalek” at the request of producer Russell T. Davies.

We discussed the reason we’re lucky we each survived to adulthood, how he almost talked his way out of selling his first short story, the way he starts every story thinking it’s funny even as things turn horrific, why some readers find his new collection offensive and others uplifting, how he’s following up that three-volume, 2,000-page, 650,000-word, 101-story collection, the way his brush with COVID-19 has affected his writing, and much more.

(8) WILLETT’S NEW BOOKS. In September, Saskatchewan author, Edward Willett released two books.

The Moonlit World from DAW is the third novel in his Worldshaper series

In The Moonlit World, fresh from their adventures in Master of the World in a world inspired by Jules Verne, Shawna Keys and Karl Yatsar find themselves in a world that mirrors much darker tales. Beneath a full moon that hangs motionless in the sky, they’re forced to flee terrifying creatures that can only be vampires…only to run straight into a pack of werewolves….

His second release, Shapers of Worlds, is an anthology project that Willett took on himself with his own press and features stories from multiple award winners and international best sellers in the science fiction genre.  Shapers of Worlds was successfully Kickstarted earlier this year, raising $15,700 from more than 330 backers and the book will be available through all major retailers. The ebook came out September 22, and the print edition is coming out November 14 Regina’s Shadowpaw Press.

Shapers of Worlds features new stories from Seanan McGuire, Tanya Huff, David Weber, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., D.J. Butler, Christopher Ruocchio, John C. Wright, Shelley Adina, and Willett himself, plus reprints from John Scalzi, David Brin, Joe Haldeman, Julie E. Czerneda, Fonda Lee, Dr. Charles E. Gannon, Gareth L. Powell, Derek Künsken, and Thoraiya Dyer.

All of the featured authors were guests during the first year of Willett’s podcast, The Worldshapers, winner of the 2019 Aurora Award (Canada’s top award for science fiction and fantasy) for Best Fan Related Work.

Willett is himself an award-winning author of more than sixty books of fantasy, science fiction, and non-fiction for readers of all ages.

(9) PAINSTAKING. Elizabeth Bear is interviewed about her new book, Machine, a sequel to Ancestral Night, at Fantasy Hive.

Dr. Jens in Machine has a chronic pain condition. And that’s one of the things that mediates the way through which she interacts with the world around her. What was it like writing for a character with this condition?

I have an autoimmune condition myself. So I do have a certain amount of chronic pain. It’s not as debilitating as Jens’ chronic pain. It occurred to me while I was writing this book that I have, throughout my career, actually tended to write a lot of characters with some sort of chronic pain disability. All the way back to my first published novel, Hammered, the protagonist of which is a military veteran with some long-term damage from her combat experience. This is the first time though that I’ve really been conscious of the fact that I was writing something like that out of my own experience. 

It’s odd how your brain compartmentalizes things. 

This is very personal, but I think it’s because I had a really bad autoimmune flare starting in about the summer of 2015. That has really changed my ability to do a lot of things that I took for granted. We all process our trauma through our art. If you try not to do it, you’re just going to be writing very two-dimensional art. And so, it was in some ways cathartic. It was in some ways difficult and emotional. But also, I feel very strongly that there need to be narratives about marginalized people that do not center that marginalization. That there need to be narratives about queer people where the entire point of the narrative is not to problematize their queerness. And having grown up very rarely seeing somebody who I felt reflected me in the books that I was reading, I like to be able to widen the door to different kinds of protagonists. 

I think the real strength of science fiction and fantasy right now, my generation of writers and the generation of writers that are right after us, is that we are very diverse in our backgrounds and outlooks. And that… that is making science fiction and fantasy a much wilder and more interesting place.

(10) CHAMPION OBIT. Marge Champion, a great dancer in the 1940s and 1950s who was also a model that Disney animators used as Snow White and a hippopotamus in Fantasia died October 21 reports SYFY Wire. She was 101 years old. The Hollywood Reporter adds:

…Marge even danced for them as the dwarf Dopey, she recalled. She also served as a Disney model for the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio (1940), for Hyacinth Hippo in Fantasia (1940) and for Mr. Stock in Dumbo (1941).

…In 1936, she performed before large crowds with the Los Angeles Civic Opera and a year later married Art Babbitt, the Disney animator who created Goofy (she was 17 and he was 29; they divorced in 1940). She then played Snow White in a touring vaudeville act with The Three Stooges.

(11) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

1970 — Fifty years ago at Heicon ’70 which had John Brunner as Toastmaster, The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin won the Hugo for Best Novel. Runner-ups were Robert Silverberg’s Up the Line, Piers Anthony’s Macroscope, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr’s Slaughterhouse-Five and Norman Spinrad’s Bug Jack Barron. She would also win the Nebula for this novel. In all, she would garner nine Hugos with her final one being for the superlative The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition for Best Art Book as illustrated by Charles Vess.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 23, 1919 – Roy Lavender.  Engineer.  First Fandom (active at least as early as the first Worldcon, 1939; few still alive; a First Fandom organization continues).  Cincinnati Fantasy Group.  Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society.  Fan Guest of Honor, Kubla Khatch 22.  Memoir here.  Len Moffatt’s appreciation here (PDF).  “When the Apollo circled the Moon and the astronauts reached into B-3 locker for their cameras, they pulled them from the shock absorbing sheath I designed.  On the test stand for the Saturn rockets, cameras look up into the flame to photograph the performance (or failure) of the engines.  They survive in a protective box I designed.”  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born October 23, 1935 Bruce Mars, 85. He was on Trek three times, one uncredited, with his best remembered being in the most excellent Shore Leave as Finnegan. He also had one-offs in The Time Tunnel, Voyage to the Bottom of The Sea, and Mission: Impossible. (CE) 
  • Born October 23, 1938 Christopher Lloyd, 82. He has starred as Commander Kruge in The Search for Spock, Emmett “Doc” Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy, Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Uncle Fester in The Addams Family and the Addams Family Values. (Huh. I didn’t spot him in those.) Let’s not forget that he was in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as John Bigbooté, and he played Dr. Cletus Poffenberger in a recurring role on Tremors. (CE) 
  • Born October 23, 1938 – Bob Pepper.  Ten dozen covers.  Here is Titus Groan.  Here is a Fahrenheit 451.  Here is a Demolished Man.  Here is Lord Tyger.  Here is The Continent Makers.  Here is Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born October 23, 1940 Terry Gilliam, 80. He’s directed many films of which the vast majority are firmly genre. I think I’ve seen most of them though I though I’ve not seen The Man Who Killed Don QuixoteTidelandThe Zero Theorem or The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. I’ve seen everything else. Yes, I skipped past his start as the animator for Monty Python’s Flying Circus which grew out of his for the children’s series Do Not Adjust Your Set which had staff of Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin.  Though he largely was the animator in the series and the films, he did occasionally take acting roles according to his autobiography, particularly roles no one else wanted such those requiring extensive makeup.  He’s also co-directed a number of scenes.  Awards? Of course. Twelve Monkeys is the most decorated followed by Brazil with two and Time Bandits and The Fisher King which each have but one.  My favorite films by him? Oh, the one I’ve watched the most is The Adventures of Baron Munchausen followed by Time Bandits. (CE)
  • Born October 23, 1948 – Kent Bloom, 72.  Chaired Denvention 3 the 66th Worldcon.  Earlier, living in Washington, DC, chaired DatClave 1 (Jack Chalker’s con report here); after moving to Denver, Smofcon 16 (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).  Host (with wife Mary Morman) of First Friday Fandom.  Fan Guest of Honor (with Mary), Westercon 71.  [JH]
  • Born October 23, 1952 – Donna Andrews, 68.  A detective-fiction novel about an Artificial Intelligence personality that became sapient (I don’t know why people keep misusing “sentient” which means having senses – plants and animals are sentient, but so far as we can now perceive aren’t sapient, a distinction which makes a difference), named Turing Hopper, won the Agatha Christie award for best mystery of the year (You’ve Got Murder, 2002); three more.  Many other novels and shorter stories in that genre.  See her Website.  [JH]
  • Born October 23, 1953 Ira Steven Behr, 67. Best remembered for his work on the Trek franchise, particularly Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, on which he served as showrunner and executive producer. As writer and or producer, he been in involved in Beyond RealityDark AngelThe Twilight ZoneThe 4400Alphas, and Outlander. (CE) 
  • Born October 23, 1957 – Olga Slavnikova, 63.  Won the Russian Booker Prize for her novel 2017 (tr. English 2010); also for us A Light Head (2010; Eng. Light-headed 2015).  Five other novels.  Director since 2001 of the Debut Prize; see this 2012 New Yorker interview.  [JH]
  • Born October 23, 1959 Sam Raimi, 61. Responsible for, and this is not a complete listing, the Darkman franchise , M.A.N.T.I.S., the Jack of All Trades series that Kage loved, the Cleopatra 2525 series, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess series and the Spider-Man trilogy. (CE)
  • Born October 23, 1983 – Dan Salmieri, 37.  Illustrator, sometimes for us.  Here is his note about his book Bear and Wolf.  Here is a sketch from the New York Times about the Twins Study brothers Mark & Scott Kelly.  Here is one from Data Collector.  Here is one from Brain Pickings.  Here is a cover for What Do Dragons Like Best to Eat? (in Dutch).  [JH]
  • Born October 23, 2007 Lilly Aspell, 13. She’s a Scottish-born performer best known so far for portraying the young Diana in Wonder Woman. She was Newschild in Holmes & Watson, and Megan in the alien invasion flick Extinction. (CE) 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close To Home says this is about Halloween but it reminds me of Dr. Moreau.

(14) CHECKING IN. Andrew Porter tears himself away from the TV to share a moment from tonight’s Jeopardy! He says, “Not SF/F, but memorable!”

Category: Movie Sum-Up

Answer: Death takes a chess holiday; your move, Max Von Sydow.

Wrong questions: “What is Checkmate?” “What is Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey?”

Correct question: “What is ‘The Seventh Seal’?”

(15) FROM BUS STOP FLOP TO TOP. The Guardian alerts viewers “Documentary to tell how Dorset bus drivers took Alien to West End”.

When they came up with the idea of adapting the classic sci-fi horror film Alien for the stage, a troupe of amateur actors from deepest Dorset intended it to be faithful to the terrifying original.

It did not quite work out as as planned. The sets were shaky, the monsters not very scary and the acting not up to Hollywood standards – only one of the cast went with an American accent, the rest stuck with English west country. Nobody was frightened.

Alien on Stage, put on by a group of bus drivers and their friends, would have sunk without a trace had it not been noticed by a couple of London-based artistic types who had the madcap idea of transferring it to the West End of London.

The weird and wonderful tale of how Alien on Stage came to be performed in the West End is being told in a documentary to be premiered on Saturday at FrightFest in London…

(16) BRIDGE OVER RUBBLED WATERS. When Twisted Sifter says “This Animation of How Bridges Were Constructed in 14th Century Prague is Amazing” they speak sooth!

In this informative animation we learn how the iconic Charles Bridge was constructed in 1357. The historic bridge crosses the Vltava (Moldau) river in Prague, Czech Republic and is 516 metres (1,693 ft) long and nearly 10 metres (33 ft) wide. It was built as a bow bridge with 16 arches shielded by ice guards.

(17) ALL AIN’TS DAY. James Davis Nicoll’s “Five SF Tales About Dead or Dying Worlds” is not a Halloween-themed piece, but it does contain the word candy.

Life on Earth is most likely doomed…in a billion years or so. The Sun’s slowly increasing luminosity will trigger a runaway greenhouse effect like that seen on Venus. Later stages in stellar evolution will further sear the Earth into an airless husk (unless the red giant sun simply gobbles up the planet like a piece of candy). Oh woe is us!

The following five tales of dying worlds might be of some interest during this interesting time. Remember: when the prospect of yet another Zoom meeting provokes anxiety and loathing, we can always tell ourselves that it could be worse…

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “If A Ghost Possessed Someone in 2020” on YouTube, Ryan George explains that demonic possession just isn’t scary in tumultuous 2020.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Mlex, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Scott Edelman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day C.A. Collins.]

Pixel Scroll 8/15/20 To Clickfinity And Beyond!

(1) RECONVENE REPORT. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] ReCONvene, the one-day virtual con of NESFA, was this afternoon, so I paid my ten dollars and attended via Zoom. 

It was worth devoting much of the afternoon to it for just one conversation, the Worldbuilding in Speculative Fiction panel which had Ellen Kushner as moderator with P. Djèlí Clark, Cerece Rennie Murphy, Carlos Hernandez and, to my utter delight, Aliette de Bodard. I learned much about the writers and their worlds that I didn’t know. Like all items it allowed conversations among the fans as a text feed — I didn’t listen in too very much of that but they were getting a lot of participation. 

Earlier on, Modernizing Fairy Tales and Myths with Adam Stemple as moderator had Victor Lavalle, Seanan McGuire, Catherynne Valente and Rebecca Roanhorse as panelists. Like the other Zoom groups I listened to, it was flawless in its sound and video. Lots of personal ethnic background here as basis for storytelling — most excellent.

The panels were good and they used Discord for follow up chats which I’ll admit I skipped. There was a tour of the art show which is less interesting than being there, but the writers were the reason to be there and they even did Kaffeeklatsches, solo conversations with authors, so I listened to Justina Ireland who I was hearing of for the first time and turned out to be fascinating.

All in all, it was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. If Boskone is virtual next February (and I wouldn’t count against it being so), I’ll certainly pay for a virtual membership based on his trial run which was organized well and easy to use.  

(2) THE ANSWER. Robert J. Sawyer has a piece in The Star today: “Robert J. Sawyer: We’re all living in a science-fiction novel now”.

As soon as Toronto let customers eat on restaurant patios again, I made a beeline for Orwell’s Pub — best dang chicken wings in the city. The indoor restaurant was closed, and Chris, the guy who usually tends bar, was serving. When he came by my table, he quipped, “Seems like we’re all living in a Robert J. Sawyer novel now.”

I was surprised he knew who I was. Despite Orwell’s being a cosy “Cheers”-style “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” place, as a non-drinker, I’m usually invisible to bartenders. But Chris was right: we are living in a science-fiction novel now, and a dystopian one at that.

Since my latest novel, “The Oppenheimer Alternative,” is about the Manhattan Project, I often get asked what should be the next big-science undertaking with an all-but-unlimited budget bringing together our brightest minds.

My answer: developing a general antiviral technique, rather than an endless succession of vaccines targeting one, and only one, specific virus. The old method is why our annual flu shots are sometimes ineffective; we’d guessed wrong about which strain of flu would become prevalent. It’s also why we’ve never had a vaccine against the common cold, which is caused by a vast, ever-mutating range of coronaviruses.

Viruses aren’t even alive. They’re just bits of genetic code encased in a protein shell, sometimes (as with the novel coronavirus plaguing us now) slicked down with a fatty coating. And that’s it.

(3) FREEDOM AT MIDNGHT. Somtow Sucharitkul will give away free eBook versions of three of his YA novels from August 17-19, starting at midnight Pacific time.

(4) FUTURE FREE READS. Ellen Datlow told HWA today about the dark fantasy reading coming out for free on the Tor.com website in the next few weeks:

  • “Wait for Night” by Stephen Graham Jones, a horror story -September 2 (which is when his novella Night Of The Mannequins will also be out).
  • “The Little Witch” by M. Rickert, a dark fantasy novelette-October 28
  • “On Safari in R’lyeh and Carcosa with Gun and Camera” by Elizabeth Bear, a dark fantasy novelette-November 18

(5) THE REINVENTED COUNTRY. “HBO’s ‘Lovecraft Country’ Brings Viewers To A World Of Monsters, Magic and Racism” – an NPR Morning Edition transcript.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Here’s the thing about being a Black nerd who loves science fiction, fantasy and superhero stories. Often, you wind up admiring work created to glorify people who are the exact opposite of you. That’s something the aptly-named bookworm Atticus Freeman tries to explain while telling a female friend about the latest novel he was reading on a long bus ride, the 1912 book “A Princess Of Mars” and its star, planet-jumping hero John Carter.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “LOVECRAFT COUNTRY”)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) You said the hero was a Confederate officer.

JONATHAN MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Ex-Confederate.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) He fought for slavery. You don’t get to put a ex in front of that.

MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Stories are like people. Loving them doesn’t make them perfect. You just try to cherish them and overlook their flaws.

DEGGANS: That could be something of a mission statement for the “Lovecraft Country,” a series based on the recent novel of the same name. The book and series reference the work of renowned horror novelist H.P. Lovecraft, known to have racist views about African Americans. The show compares the work of Lovecraftian (ph) supernatural beings which could have sprung from his books to the racism Black people faced in 1950s-era America.

Atticus Freeman, played by “Da 5 Bloods” costar Jonathan Majors, is a Korean War veteran who returns home to find his missing father. Before long, he’s enlisted help from his Uncle George, played by Courtney B. Vance, and his friend Letitia, played by Jurnee Smollett. They must travel across the country from Chicago to follow a clue. And along the way, they run into a not-too-helpful police officer who informs them Black people aren’t allowed in the area after dark.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “LOVECRAFT COUNTRY”)

JAMIE HARRIS: (As Sheriff Eustace Hunt) Any of y’all know what a sundown town is?

MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Yes, sir. We do.

HARRIS: (As Sheriff Eustace Hunt) Well, this is a sundown county. If I’d have found you after dark, it would have been my sworn duty to hang every single one of you from them trees.

MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) It’s not sundown yet.

DEGGANS: But when the police officer and his buddies try to lynch the trio, everyone is attacked by huge, teethy, flesh-eating monsters who chase them into a cabin. Uncle George, who’s just as much of a bookworm as Atticus, has an idea of what they might be facing.

…At a time when the world is still reeling from seeing a Black man die with a white policeman’s knee on his neck, there is no better moment for HBO’s gripping “Lovecraft Country” to reinvent a supernatural tale.

(6) FLOURISHNG MAGIC. Rebecca Roanhorse tells the New York Times: “‘We’ve Already Survived an Apocalypse’: Indigenous Writers Are Changing Sci-Fi”. Tagline: “Long underrepresented in genre fiction, Native American and First Nations authors are reshaping its otherworldly (but still often Eurocentric) worlds.”

When Cherie Dimaline was growing up near Penetanguishene, a small town on the Georgian Bay in Ontario, her grandmother and great-aunts told her stories about a werewolf-like monster called the rogarou. It wasn’t spoken of as a mythical creature but as an actual threat, the embodiment of danger in a place where Indigenous women face heightened risk of violence.

“This wasn’t like, here’s a metaphor,” she said. “They would say, ‘The rogarou’s out, and he’s really hungry.’”

Decades later, Dimaline, a member of the Métis Nation in Canada, was working on a novel about a woman whose missing husband reappears with no memory of her, seemingly under a spell. She needed a charismatic villain, and when the rogarou — a wily trickster figure in Métis oral traditions — popped into her head, she realized the creature had never been given its due in popular culture.

That flash of inspiration turned into “Empire of Wild,” a genre-bending novel whose modern Indigenous characters confront environmental degradation, discrimination and the threat of cultural erasure, all while battling a devious monster….

(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman hopes you all will accept his invitation to polish off prawn pizza with Stephen Dedman on Episode 125 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

This episode I have breakfast while Australian writer Stephen Dedman has dinner 12 hours in my future.

Stephen has published more than 100 short stories, some of which I was privileged to publish back when I was editing Science Fiction Age magazine. You can find many of those stories in his collections The Lady of Situations (1999) and Never Seen by Waking Eyes (2005). His novels, which include The Art of Arrow Cutting (1997), Foreign Bodies (1999), Shadows Bite (2001), and others, have been Bram Stoker, Aurealis, William L. Crawford, and Ditmar Award nominees. He’s also written role-playing games, stageplays, erotica, and westerns. And he at one time worked as a “used dinosaur parts salesman,” a job which had me extremely curious — and as you listen to us chat and chew, you’ll find out all about it.

We discussed how the Apollo 11 moon landing introduced him to science fiction, what his father told him which changed his plan to become a cartoonist, the huge difference the Internet made in the lives of Australian writers, his creative trick for getting his first poem published, what acting taught him about being funny in the midst of tragedy, his former job as a used dinosaur parts salesman, the way page one tells him whether he’s got a short story or novel idea, how Harlan Ellison became the first American editor to buy one of his stories, and much more.

(8) MIND’S EYE. At LitHub, Kathleen Rooney discusses “How Fiction Allows Us to Inhabit Animal Consciousness”.

For centuries, human thinking—at least in the West—has been dominated by the notion, said to have originated with Aristotle, of the Scala Naturae, or the Ladder of Life. Also known as the Great Chain of Being, this concept establishes a hierarchy in which all life forms can be arranged in ascending degrees of perfection with humans, conveniently, at the topmost rung. Even after Darwin came along and replaced this model with his considerably less vertical Tree of Life, the idea of the human mind as the apex of biological consciousness has persisted.

Increasingly, in the face of climate catastrophe, more humans are beginning to question their hubris. In the introduction to their 2017 book Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene, the editors note: “Some scientists argue that the rate of biological extinction is now several hundred times beyond its historical levels. We might lose a majority of all species by the end of the 21st century.” This, the arguable point of no return, affords a chance to examine the received belief in human exceptionalism. Science writing in particular and nonfiction in general have much to say regarding the similarities between human and non-human minds, but fiction offers opportunities to explore this interconnectedness as well. After all, if fiction has the power to show us another individual’s private and interior uniqueness, then why not depict animals possessing such interiority?

(9) YOU KNOW IT IN YOUR BONES. Skeleton Hour is a new monthly horror literature webinar series presented as an Horror Writers Association event in collaboration with The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles.

Each panel will be an hour long and bring together 3-5 authors to discuss a specific topic in horror with a moderator guiding the discussion. Panels will take place on Zoom, with the audience able to ask questions in the chat window. The series launches Friday, August 28th, with the first panel focused on 70s-90s throwback horror including authors of novellas from the Rewind or Die series published by Unnerving Press: Mackenzie Kiera, Stephen Graham Jones, Lisa Quigley, and Jessica Guess, as well as noted subject matter expert Grady Hendrix!

Register for the Zoom webinar here: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_2C6hfS-ARoGvvNontWmiqg. The event will also be live streamed by HWA on Facebook and YouTube.

(10) PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT. Be sure to consult NASA’s Guide to Near-light-speed Travel before blasting off.

So, you’ve just put the finishing touches on upgrades to your spaceship, and now it can fly at almost the speed of light. We’re not quite sure how you pulled it off, but congratulations! Before you fly off on your next vacation, however, watch this handy video to learn more about near-light-speed safety considerations, travel times, and distances between some popular destinations around the universe.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 15, 1984 The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension premiered. Directed by and produced by W.D. Richter (with co-production by Neil Canton), the screenplay was by Earl Mac Rauch who did nothing else of a genre nature. Primary cast was Peter Weller, Ellen Barkin, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Lloyd. Initial critical response was generally negative with a few claiming the script was unintelligible. More than one said it was too hip for its good. No, it didn’t do well at the box office but has since become a cult film, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give an excellent 70% rating. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 15, 1771 – Sir Walter Scott, Bt.  Lawyer, reviewer, antiquarian, poet, novelist; in the last three, fantastic elements recur; in the last two, by his doing; his reputation has soared, fallen, soared again.  He may yet prove timeless.  He wrote “Breathes there the man with soul so dead” and “Oh, what a tangled web we weave / When first we practice to deceive!”  RossiniDonizettiSchubertBeethoven set his words to music.  His baronetcy became extinct upon the death of his son.  (Died 1832) [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1858 E. Nesbit. She wrote or collaborated on more than sixty books of children’s literature including the Five Children Universe series. She was also a political activist and co-founded the Fabian Society, a socialist organization later affiliated to the Labour Party. (Died 1924.) (CE) 
  • Born August 15, 1907 – Jack Snow. Wrote Who’s Who in Oz (1954), rightly praised by Anthony Boucher (“Recommended Reading”, Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Mar 55).  By then JS had written two Oz novels of his own, five darker short stories for Weird Tales.  When Frank Baum, the first and arguably best Oztorian, died in 1919, JS offered to succeed him – age 12; he was turned down.  Matching or at least harmonizing with Baum’s style has been elusive ever since; Who’s Who which could neither treat at length nor argue is masterly, as Boucher noted.  (Died 1956) [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1917 John Joseph McGuire. Best remembered as a co-writer with H. Beam Piper of A Planet for TexansHunter PatrolCrisis in 2140 and The Return, all of which I’ve read. His solo fiction was a bare handful and I don’t think I’ve encountered it. The works with Piper are available from the usual digital suspects as is a novella of his called The Reason Prisoner. It’s listed as being public domain, so’s free there. (Died 1981.) (CE)
  • Born August 15, 1932 Robert L. Forward. Physicist and SF writer whose eleven novels I find are often quite great on ideas and quite thin on character development. Dragon’s Egg is fascinating as a first contact novel, and Saturn Rukh is another first contact novel that’s just as interesting. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born August 15, 1933 – Bjo Trimble, 86.  (There should be a circumflex over the j, an Esperantism indicating the pronunciation “bee-joe”, but the software won’t allow it.)  Omnifan preceding Bruce Pelz.  Her vitality and wit sparked LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) out of a slump, authored SF con Art Shows (for which she still refuses credit), led a letter-writing campaign that saved Star Trek from being scrapped (see On the Good Ship “Enterprise”), flourished in fanart, concocted cons and costumes.  Received the Big Heart (our highest service award) in 1964, possibly the youngest ever; Inkpot, 1974 (its first year); Fan Guest of Honor at Dragon*Con 1995 the 6th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas).  She and husband John have the Life Achievement Award from the Int’l Costumers Guild.  They were early Baroness and Baron in the Society for Creative Anachronism, where she has the Order of the Laurel (arts & sciences), both the Order of the Pelican (service).  Together co-chaired Westercon 23; were Fan Guests of Honor at ConJosé the 60th Worldcon.  [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1934 – Darrell K. Sweet.  Three hundred fifty covers for us, seventy-five interiors; perhaps 3,000 images all told.  Here is Space Cadet.  Here is Beyond the Blue Event Horizon.  Here is The Dictionary of SF Places.  Here is The Eye of the World.  Here is “The Gap Dragon and Princess Ivy”.  Artbook, Beyond Fantasy.  Graphic Artist Guest of Honor at Tuckercon the 9th NASFiC; World Fantasy Con 2010; LoneStarCon 3 the 71st Worldcon which had to celebrate him posthumously.  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1943 Barbara Bouchet, 77. Yes, I’ve a weakness for performers who’ve shown up on the original Trek. She plays Kelinda in “By Any Other Name”.  She also appeared in Casino Royale as Miss Moneypenny, a role always noting, and is Ava Vestok in Agent for H.A.R.M. which sounds like someone was rather unsuccessfully emulating The Man from U.N.C.L.E. It will be commented upon by Mystery Science Theater 3000. (CE)
  • Born August 15, 1945 Nigel Terry. His first role was John in A Lion in Winter which is at least genre adjacent, with his first genre role being King Arthur in Excalibur. Now there’s a bloody telling of the Arthurian myth.  He’s General Cobb in the Tenth Doctor story, “The Doctor’s Daughter”, and on the Highlander series as Gabriel Piton in the “Eye of the Beholder” episode. He even played Harold Latimer in “The Greek Interpreter” on Sherlock Holmes. (Did 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born August 15, 1952 – Louise Marley, 68.  A score of novels (some under other names) including both a Glass Harmonica and a Mozart’s Blood, as many shorter stories.  Interviewed in FantasyLocusStrange HorizonsTalebones.  Two Endeavour Awards (note spelling; named for Captain Cook’s ship).  Before authoring, sang with the Seattle Opera.  See this autobiographical note.  [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1958 Stephen Haffner,  62. Proprietor of Haffner Press which appears to be largely a mystery and genre reprint endeavor though he’s published such original anthologies as Edmond Hamilton & Leigh Brackett Day, October 16, 2010 and the non-fiction work Thirty-Five Years of the Jack Williamson Lectureship which he did with Patric Caldwell. (CE)
  • Born August 15, 1964 – Carla Sinclair, 56.  Editor of Net Chick.  Author of Signal to Noise.  Co-founder of bOING bOING.  [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1972 Matthew Wood, 48. He started out as, and still is, a sound engineer but he also became a voice actor with his best know role being that of General Grievous in The Revenge of the Sith and The Clone Wars. He often does both at the same time as on the  2013 Star Trek into Darkness where he was the surviving sound editor and provided the ever so vague additional voices. (CE)

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) SETTING DOWN THE S.H.I.E.L.D. “‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’: Behind the Scenes of the Emotional Series Finale” – a New York Times Q&A with showrunners Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon.

…The resulting series, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” went on to have a successful seven-season run on ABC, which ended Wednesday with a complex two-hour series finale. That didn’t seem especially likely after its rough debut in 2013. Some critics wanted flashier connections to Marvel cinema — where was Iron Man? — and the show had to operate in the shadow of the movies: The existence of magic couldn’t be acknowledged until it was first revealed by the 2016 film “Doctor Strange” first; “life-model decoys,” a kind of android, weren’t permissible until an android character appeared in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

But about halfway through its run, the show began reinventing itself, with characters ping-ponging through space, time and alternative realities. Once the writers freed themselves of the timeline and narrative restraints established by the movies (and even ignored a few), the series started to soar.

“We could just make up our own stories,” said Jed Whedon. “It was liberating.”

In the final season, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents hopped around different decades, with a pit stop in the 1980s that provided pure pop-geek joy. (Agent Coulson as Max Headroom? Check.)

But the show never lost its emotional core: the relationship between Agents Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), who crossed the galaxy more than once to be together, only to be repeatedly pulled apart. In the finale, they reunited, as Fitz helped the ragtag team save both S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Earth from a takeover by an alien android race.

(15) IT ONLY MAKES HIM MAD. “Bald Eagle Sends Government Drone Into Lake Michigan” reports the New York Times.

… A squabble in the sky over Lake Michigan left one bald eagle victorious and one government drone mangled and sunken.

Hunter King, a drone pilot at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, was surveying an area of the lake near the state’s Upper Peninsula last month when the drone started “twirling furiously” after it indicated that a propeller had been torn off.

“When he looked up, the drone was gone, and an eagle was flying away,” said the department, whose name is abbreviated E.G.L.E.

A couple who regularly spends time watching eagles go after sea gulls in the area witnessed the battle but were surprised when they learned that it was a drone that had been downed in the fight, the department said….

The department speculated that the eagle could have attacked because of a territorial dispute, because it was hungry “or maybe it did not like its name being misspelled.”

(16) THE WORM TURNS. NPR asks“Could Giving Kids A 50-Cent Pill Massively Boost Their Income Years Later?”

It’s one of the cheapest ways to help kids in extremely poor countries: Twice a year, give them a 50-cent pill to kill off nasty intestinal parasites. Now, a landmark study finds the benefits carry over long into adulthood — and the impact is massive. But dig deeper and the issue quickly becomes more complicated — and controversial.

To understand why, it helps to start at the beginning, when newly minted economist — and future Nobel prize winner — Michael Kremer says he stumbled into this study by lucky happenstance.

It was the mid-1990s and Kremer was visiting Kenya. “I mean I was on vacation. I wasn’t there for a research trip or something,” he recalls.

Kremer, who had spent a year after college teaching at a school in Kenya, decided to look up a friend from that project. And at their get-together, the friend mentioned to Kremer that he was about to start a new aid program to help elementary school children — including by giving them deworming pills.

The parasites aren’t just bad for kids’ health. They can make a child too listless to pay proper attention in school or so sick she misses many school days.

Kremer, who had recently gotten his doctorate in economics, says he was struck by an idea: “I suggested that if he chose twice as many schools and then they initially started working in half of them and then later expanded [the deworming to the other half], I could measure the impact of what they were doing.”

…The experiment, which involved about 32,000 children, also turned deworming into a popular form of aid. That’s because the first set of results, released in 2004 by Kremer and a collaborator, Edward Miguel of University of California, Berkeley, showed that giving the kids the pills reduced absenteeism and dropping out of elementary school by a fourth — from 28% to 21%.

(17) WE INTERRUPT THIS DESSERT. Serious Eats reminds people of “The History of Astronaut Ice Cream”.

There may be no novelty sweet more polarizing than astronaut ice cream. Those who adore it praise its light, crunchy texture, and a flavor that is still unmistakably creamy and sweet. Its detractors will say biting into it is akin to chomping down on a piece of chalk: powdery and unnatural. And for those who have never tried it, the entire concept of eating ice cream stripped of all liquid may seem downright bizarre. But even though so-called astronaut (or to be more precise, freeze-dried) ice cream isn’t the most popular of novelty treats, its longevity proves that it has found a small, but fiercely loyal fan base.

Even its creator has been a little surprised at the product’s staying power….

[Thanks to amk, Andrew “Eagle Eye” Porter, Somtow Sucharitkul, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, Michael Toman, Dan Bloch, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 6/24/20 Pretty Pixels In The File, They Twinkle On The Screen, And Then Get Refreshed So That New Ones Are Seen

(1) JUMP ON THE TRUCK. In the Washington Post, Robert Zubrin and Homer Hickam have an opinion piece where they say that SpaceX Dragon’s success should make the preferred launch vehicle for a return to the Moon and NASA should shelve the Orion rocket as too unwieldy. “Send the SpaceX Dragon to the moon”.

In March 2019, Vice President Pence challenged NASA to land astronauts on the moon by 2024 “by any means necessary.” This was a potential breakthrough, because after nearly 50 years of drift, the White House was finally giving NASA’s human spaceflight program a concrete goal with a clear timeline and forceful support — a necessity for any progress and the restoration of the agency’s can-do spirit. The purpose for the mission itself is a blend of economic, scientific and world leadership goals designed to make the investment worthwhile to all Americans.

NASA’s response to Pence’s challenge was to proceed with what it already had in the pipeline: the Orion crewed spacecraft and the massive shuttle-derived Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift expendable booster rocket. SLS has been in slow-walk development since 2006, with more than $18 billion spent, but it is still years away from launch. Considering this track record, we unhappily doubt the SLS/Orion combination will meet the vice president’s challenge.

But now we have an alternative. The contract that resulted in the Dragon crewed spacecraft was issued by NASA in 2014. Six years and $3 billion later, it has flown astronauts into orbit. What SpaceX did was show that a well-led entrepreneurial team can achieve results that were previously thought to require the efforts of superpowers, and in a small fraction of the time and cost, and even — as demonstrated by its reusable Falcon launch vehicles — do things deemed impossible altogether. This is a revolution….

(2) RWA. The Romance Writers of America will hold a virtual RWA Conference from August 28-30. A full list of the RWA 2020 Conference Scholarships are at the link. Some new ones have been added.

RWA also has clarified a recent announcement about Dreamspinner Press to say they are available to advocate for non-members, too. Thread starts here.

(3) FROM THE CANOE. Elizabeth Bear posted “an open letter to my friends and acquaintances in the publishing community who have been outed as serial harassers, and to the ones who still think they’re getting away with something.”

It begins:

Hey there. I know you’re having a rough time right now, and I’m sorry to say you earned it. I wish I had known about your behavior sooner; I wish I had known that you weren’t just making rank jokes among friends, as we all do once in a while, but engaged in serious abuses of your power, engaged in harming people.

I am, needless to say, very very disappointed in you.

I’m saddened for the people you have hurt, and I’m really disappointed that you have turned out not to be the person I thought you were. Even more, I’m wondering if you even have the self-awareness to realize how much you have harmed not just the people you harassed or gaslit or backstabbed, but also the communities you were a part of. How much you have damaged the people who care about you and who have tried to be your friends, as well….

(4) STOKERCON UK. The StokerCon UK committee has announced a new set of dates for the Horror Writers Association event which has been chased around the calendar by the coronavirus. The post is here.

…Secondly, we are grateful to the majority of you who, since our previous announcement, have allowed us to get on with trying to save the convention—or at least a version of it—by rescheduling it.

To that end, we are pleased to let you know that, at the moment, we have agreed tentative dates for the event with the two convention hotels of 28-31 January 2021. With events and advice changing so quickly, the hotels have agreed to follow UK Government advice and are prepared to reassess or postpone the event once again nearer the time, depending on the spread and hopeful containment of the virus.

(5) YOU ARE HERE. Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes about this moment with empathy and wisdom: “Business Musings: Shock, Survival, and Forgiveness”.

… We now know where we are. We’re in that prolonged change. It’s a transition, and we’ve finally hit it. All of 2020 will be a year of half-measures, making do, and getting through.

Frankly, I find knowing where we are calming. I now know how to proceed day to day. I don’t like it, but I don’t have to like it.

I, you, all of us just have to survive it.

The knowledge of where we’re at, though, took me out of survival mode. I’m no longer obsessively reading the news every day, trying to figure out where we are. I’m donning my mask when I go out. I make that daily calculation—is it worth the risk to my health (and Dean’s health) to do whatever it is I am planning to do?

I can calculate risk now. And, more importantly, Dean and I are agreed. We consult if we’re going to do something outside of our usual schedule, based on the level of risk.

We are more or less staying home, but we did anyway, since we work here.  That sense of ease, that feeling of no longer being on the knife’s edge, has made it easier to focus, although not always easier to work.

I’m one of the few people I know who has made the mental transition out of survival mode. (If one of us gets sick, I know I’ll head right back into it.) Now that I know how we’re going to be living day to day, I’m willing to live day to day. I don’t need to be ever vigilante for another tow truck, coming at us out of the dark.

Because I’ve made this transition, I can see other folks who haven’t. In my various social media feeds, I’m watching writers talk about their process or their lack of one. Writers, discussing how their work has changed or just plain stopped. Writers, who can’t face any of their usual projects, and who are feeling lost and don’t exactly know why.

Everyone knows the changes in their writing habits come from the pandemic, but most don’t understand what to do. And many people are worried that the changes to their writing methods are permanent.

Are those changes permanent? It depends on the change. They seem to fall into two categories…

… We are in a new place. Like any new place, it will take time to learn all its ins and outs. We have to explore it and understand it—and survive the transition into it.

If you’re dealing with actual life and death issues, from someone being very ill in your life to a major loss of income or career, then give yourself time to recover. Take the pressure off your writing. There’s enough pressure in your life….

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY,

  • June 24, 1982 Blade Runner premiered. It was directed by Ridley Scott, and was written by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples. It starred Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Edward James Olmos and Sean Young. It was based very loosely on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It would win the Best Dramatic Presentation at ConStellation, beating out The Wrath of KhanE.T.The Dark Crystal and The Road Warrior. Critics were puzzled by it and t generated little street buzz nearly thirty years ago. It would vastly raise its stature over the years, now being considered one of the Best SF works ever done. It’s worth Warner Bros. released The Final Cut, a 25th-anniversary digitally remastered version; this is the only version over which Scott retained full artistic control.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 24, 1842 – Ambrose Bierce.  Four hundred short pieces, sixty poems.  A pioneer in realistic fiction; a great fantasist; a biting satirist.  When William Dean Howells said AB was among our three greatest writers, AB said “I am sure Mr. Howells is the other two.”  Translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Swedish.  (Died 1914, maybe) [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1915 – Sir Frederick Hoyle.  Coined the expression “Big Bang”, rejected the theory.  Radar research in World War II with more personnel than the Manhattan Project. Mayhew Prize, Balzan Prize, Crafoord Prize.  Founded the Cambridge Institute of Astronomy and resigned from it.  A dozen SF novels, two dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors; translated into Danish, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Japanese, Portuguese, Romanian, Serbian,  Spanish, Swedish.  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1937 – Charles Brown.  Founded Locus (with Ed Meskys and Dave Vanderwerf) as a fanzine; it grew, changed, and “semiprozine” was invented to describe it; 29 Hugos by the time of his death.  You could disagree with him; on panels with him I opposed his “mainstream literature is about the past, science fiction is about the present, nobody can write about the future”; no one has outdone him.  Writers & Illustrators of the Future Award for lifetime achievement.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1947 Peter Weller, 73. Yes it’s his Birthday today too. Robocop obviously with my favorite scene being him pulling out and smashing Cain’s brain, but let’s see what else he’s done. Well there’s The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, a film I adore. And then there’s Leviathan which you I’m guessing a lot of you never heard of. Is it of the Naked Lunch genre? Well, Screamers based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “Second Variety” certainly is. Even if the reviews sucked.  And Star Trek Into Darkness certainlyqualifies. Hey he showed up in Star Trek: Enterprise! (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1948 – Kris Neri, age 72.Two novels for us; four more, sixty shorter stories.  After living in San Francisco, and Southern California, moved to Sedona (Arizona); now at home in Silver City (New Mexico).  Teaches writing through the U. Cal. L.A. Extension School.  Says her Samantha Brennan and Annabelle Haggerty magical mysteries feature “a questionable psychic who teams up with a modern goddess/FBI agent”.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1950 Mercedes Lackey, 70. There’s a line on the Wiki page that says she writes nearly six books a year. Impressive. She’s certainly got a lot of really good series out there including the vast number that are set in the Valdemar universe. I like her Bedlam’s Bard series better. She wrote the first few in this series with Ellen Gunn and the latter in the series with Rosemary Edghill. The SERRAted Edge series, Elves with race cars, is kinda fun too. Larry Dixon, her husband, and Mark Shepherd were co-writers of these. Lackey and Dixon are GoHs of this year’s Worldcon, CoNZealand. (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1950 Nancy Allen, 70. Officer Anne Lewis in the Robocop franchise. (I like all three films.) Her first genre role was not in Carrie as Chris Hargensen, but in a best forgotten a film year earlier (Forced Entry) as a unnamed hitchhiker. She shows up in fan favorite The Philadelphia Experiment as Allison Hayes and I see her in Poltergeist III as Patricia Wilson-Gardner (seriously — a third film in this franchise?). She’s in the direct-to-video Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return as Rachel Colby. (Oh, that sounds awful.) And she was in an Outer Limits episode, “Valerie 23”, as Rachel Rose. (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1961 Iain Glen, 59. Scots actor who played as Ser Jorah Mormont in Game of Thrones, he’s also  well known for his roles as Dr. Alexander Isaacs/Tyrant in the Resident Evil franchise; and he played the role of Father Octavian, leader of a sect of clerics who were on a mission against the Weeping Angels in “The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone”, all Eleventh Doctor stories. (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1970 – Nicolas Fructus, age 50.  Recently, comics and storyboard art for animated films and video games.  Worked with Moebius, Philippe Druillet; founded Delcourt publishing house.  Here is a cover for Bifrost.  Here is one for Kij Johnson’s novella “The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe”.  Here is A Year in the Air.  [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1982 Lotte Verbeek, 38. You most likely know her as Ana Jarvis, the wife of Edwin Jarvis, who befriends Carter on Agent Carter. She got interesting genre history including being Geillis Duncan on the Outlander series, Helena in The Last Witch Hunter, Aisha in the dystopian political thriller Division 19 film and a deliberately undefined role in the now-concluded cross-world Counterpart series. (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1988 – Kasey Lansdale, age 32. Country music singer-songwriter who has been writing in our field with her father Joe Lansdale; six short stories with him, two alone; edited two anthologies, recently Impossible Monsters.  “Tremble” with JL was in Pop the Clutch from Dark Moon last year.   Website here.  [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1994 Nicole Muñoz, 26. You’ll perhaps best remember her for role as Christie Tarr (née McCawley) in the Defiance series. Her first role was playing a Little Girl in Fantastic Four. Likewise she was A Kid with Braces in The Last Mimzy, and yes, Another Girl, in Hardwired. The latter was written by Michael Hurst, and has apparently nothing to with the Walter Jon Williams novel of the same same. (CE) 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) STICK WITH IT. USPS announced “New Stamps Celebrating Bugs Bunny’s 80th Birthday Coming Soon to a Post Office Near You”.

The U.S. Postal Service will issue commemorative Forever stamps celebrating Bugs Bunny’s 80th birthday. The Postal Service and Warner Bros. Consumer Products are excited to dedicate these stamps at a virtual ceremony on July 27, the 80th anniversary of Bugs Bunny’s official screen debut.

Bugs has always been known for his impeccable impersonations and his masterful masquerades, so the soon-to-be-revealed 10 designs on this pane of 20 stamps each showcase a costumed Bugs Bunny in some of his most memorable getups.

(10) A BIG IDEA. Rosamund Lannin is “Searching for Body Positivity in Fantasy” at Tor.com.

I remember the first time I encountered an attractive fat woman in a fantasy novel. My heart flipped a little as I read about a woman was for-real fat. She wasn’t your usual fictional overweight woman, either: there was no zaftig or curvy or voluptuous to be found near the Scientist’s Daughter in Haruki Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. But she was definitely attractive. The narrator describes her as follows:

“A white scarf swirled around the collar of her chic pink suit. From the fullness of her earlobes dangled square gold earrings, glinting with every step she took. Actually, she moved quite lightly for her weight. She may have strapped herself into a girdle or other paraphernalia for maximum visual effect, but that didn’t alter the fact that her wiggle was tight and cute. In fact, it turned me on. She was my kind of chubby.”

(11) THE NEXT SHIFT. At The Mary Sue, Cree Myles advises: “If You Really Want to Unlearn Racism, Read Black Sci-Fi Authors”.

… Society generally views the science fiction genre as one of leisure. You read it because you have time, not because you want to learn something. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. While all writers are charged with the task of creating a more empathetic society, science fiction writers have the additional burden of telling us what happens next.

Some of our best thinkers, and certainly our most comprehensive hopers, have been sci-fi writers. N.K. Jemisin has given us black female demigods who, despite their powers, still somehow suffer at the hands of an oppressive society. Octavia Butler has given us shapeshifters, time travelers, and voyagers who all had to react and survive under patriarchy and racism. Ursula K. Le Guin was creating entire non-binary societies … in the 1960s.

(12) IT’S IN THE OH! E. D. Ursula Vernon coins a word:

(13) BACK FROM THE FUTURE. “Segway: End of the road for the much-hyped two-wheeler”

Segway is ending production of its original two-wheeler, which was popular with city tour guides and some police forces – but not the public.

Launched in 2001, the much-hyped self-balancing vehicle promised to revolutionise personal transport.

The Segway, invented by US engineer Dean Kamen, debuted with much fanfare, but struggled to make a profit.

Accidents didn’t help with the Segway’s popularity, and the company was bought by Chinese rival Ninebot in 2015.

Made at a factory in New Hampshire, in the US, production of the Segway Personal Transporter will end on 15 July.

Announcing the news, Segway president Judy Cai said: “Within its first decade, the Segway PT became a staple in security and law enforcement, viewed as an effective and efficient personal vehicle.”

However, in the vehicle’s almost two decade-long history it has also been the subject of mockery and high-profile collisions as well as a tragic death.

(14) THE PASSENGER PIGEON OF VIDEO STORES. Atlas Obscura leads readers to something that’s the last of its kind: “Bend Blockbuster Video”.

In early summer of 2018, there were two Blockbusters left in Alaska and one in Oregon. The Alaska stores finally closed that summer, leaving the Bend store as the last one standing. National media attention soon followed and the Bend Blockbuster became a tourist site as well. And after the last Blockbuster Video in Australia closed in 2019, the Bend store became the only one left in the world. 

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

Pixel Scroll 3/19/20 Using The Robotic Arm To Push The Mole

(1) JEMISIN EVENT CONVERTED TO LIVESTREAM. N.K. Jemisin’s in-person appearance at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination has been converted to a virtual event, due to steps being taken to protect the health of the UC San Diego community and slow the spread of COVID-19. Use the Eventbrite link to secure access.

N.K. Jemisin’s in-person event for The City We Became has, unfortunately, had to be canceled, but we are pleased to be able to offer you access to an exclusive virtual event streamed live. You’ll get a chance to hear about The City We Became and ask Jemisin questions. Only ticket-holders will have access-plus, you will still receive a copy of the book, with an option to sign up for a signed bookplate from Orbit during the event.

The virtual event will take place at the same time as the original event, 7pm on Friday, April 3rd. Tickets are still available through Eventbrite. If you have already purchased a ticket and would like to request a refund, you may do so through Eventbrite. However we hope you choose to join us in celebrating The City We Became! All ticket purchases help support the author, Mysterious Galaxy bookstore, the publisher, and this thing we call human imagination.

And you have to buy the magazine to see this next Jemisin-related item. Kevin Hogan reports: “I was surprised but pleased to see a one-page The Making of the Book segment in Entertainment Weekly (April 2020, issue # 1586, page 90) on N.K. Jemisin and her upcoming novel, The City We Became. It’s always nice to see genre covered in ‘popular media’-type publications.”

(2) BALTICON NEWS. Dale S. Arnold, the Balticon 54 Hotel Liaison, asks for understanding about how reservation cancellations were sent by the hotel before the con could notify its members.

We sent a letter to the Balticon hotel asking for their opinion as to if they would be able to host Balticon this year and if they could not do so we would need to cancel the event.

The hotel management determined that it was very unlikely they would be able to host Balticon 54 and at a staff meeting on the morning of 03/18/2020 the general manager told his staff to send us an email explaining that it was unlikely they would be able to host Balticon and to cancel reservations once we confirmed we had told our people. Apparently, the head of reservations did not hear the part about waiting for us to send out notice and took immediate action by using an automated cancellation program.

Cancellations from the reservations department went out several hours before the email to us from the general manager letting us know they could not host Balticon 54 and would not attempt to collect cancellation fees and that they hope to see us next year was sent. A follow up email with apology for sending the cancellations before we told the hotel we had announced the cancellation of Balticon has already been received from the hotel. Given the stress many people are under during this pandemic I hope we can all forgive the hotel reservations department jumping the gun by a day or so.

A message concerning membership refunds (and roll-overs if you want to Balticon 55) and dealers tables refunds  etc. with the process to let us know what you want to do will be sent out soon.

(3) THE MAN WHO LEARNS BETTER. “Heinlein’s Juveniles, Pt. 1” is a fine article by Sourdough Jackson in the latest DASFAx clubzine. Click here – then scroll down to the March (202003) issue. Starts on page 2.

…When discussing the juveniles, I’ll be taking them two books per column. The first pair are Rocket Ship Galileo(1947) and Space Cadet (1948), both products of a troubled time in the author’s life—a typhoon was blowing his marriage toward the rocks, and the prospects for his writing career weren’t much better. Among his attempts to claw off that marital and literary lee shore was a projected series of books for boys: The Young Atomic Engineers. He thought to begin with a blockbuster—a trip to the Moon.

(4) MONSTROUS DISCOVERIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the March 16 Financial Times, Simon Ings reviews “Monsters of The Deep,” a show about giant aquatic creatures that will be at Britain’s National Maritime Museum through January.

Back in 1893, the biologist Thomas Henry Huxley wrote in The Times:  ‘There is not an a priori reason that I know of why snake-bodied reptiles, from fifty feet long and upwards, should not disport themselves to our seas as they did those of the cretaceous epoch, which, geologically speaking, is a mere yesterday.’

Palaentologist Darren Naish, who is lead curator of the Falmouth exhibition,, is willing to entertain Huxley’s theory.  “His was the right attitude at the time, because the life of the deep oceans was only just being discovered. (Monsters of the Deep makes much of the ground-breaking research led by HMS Challenger, which between 1872 and 1876 discovered 4,700 species of marine life.) Large fossil dinosaurs and early whales, and amazing gigantic living animals, had been discovered only relatively recently,’ Naish pints out.’The whale shark, the world’s biggest fish, was a mid 19th century discovery.

(5) AGAINST THE LAW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Six Great Novels About Crime That Aren’t Quite Crime Novels” on CrimeReads, Mat Osman looks at six novels, two of which, China Mieville’s The City & The City and Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, are Hugo winners.  He also writes about Michel Faber’s Under The Skin, noting the novel is a “very different beast” than the filmed version.

The joy of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is the way it lures you in with the most comforting of literary tropes. It’s a hard-bitten detective story about a boozy, lovelorn policeman with a seemingly unsolvable case. There are hard-drinking cops. There are underworld kingpins. There are unspoken codes of honor. So far, so Raymond Chandler. But under the surface another kind of book is flexing its muscles. It’s a what-if novel in which the post-WWII Jewish homeland is Alaska rather than Israel and the Messiah may (or may not) be on his way. It’s a setting that lets Chabon riff on his favored themes. Tall tales are told, language is toyed with (the Alaskan Jews call themselves The Frozen Chosen) and it builds to a denouement as vast as it is unexpected.

(6) BABY YODA ON THE COVER. That made me 1000% more interested. On sale May 26 from Titan Comics, Star Wars: The Mandalorian The Art & Imagery–Collector’s Edition Vol.1.

This deluxe edition collects the stunning artwork from the first four chapters of the Disney+ smash hit, highlighting the characters, creatures, allies, enemies and environments of this all-new Star Wars story.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 19, 1990 Repo Men premiered. It was directed by Miguel Sapochnik. It starred Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Liev Schreiber and Alice Braga. It was based on Eric Garcia’s The Repossession Mambo who co-wrote the screenplay with Garrett Lerner. It wasn’t well-received by critics at the time, nor does the audience over at Rotten Tomatoes care for it giving it a 21% rating.
  • March 19, 1999 Farscape premiered on Syfy. The series was conceived by Rockne S. O’Bannon and produced by The Jim Henson Company and Hallmark Entertainment.  The Jim Henson Company was responsible for the various alien make-up and prosthetics, and two regular characters, Rygel and Pilot were completely Creature Shop creations. Filmed in Australia, it would would last for four seasons ending in The Peacekeeper Wars.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 19, 1821 Sir Richard Francis Burton KCMG FRGS. He was a geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist when that term wasn’t a curse word, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer and diplomat. And the translator of an unexpurgated translation of One Thousand and One Nights. Along with Vikram and the Vampire or Tales of Hindu Devilry. Mind you, he was also the publisher of both Kama Sutra and The Perfume Garden. (Died 1890.)
  • Born March 19, 1919 Patricia Laffan. She was the alien Nyah in Devil Girl from Mars, a Fifties pulp film which you can see here. (Died 2014.)
  • Born March 19, 1926 Joe L. Hensley. He was a First Fandom Dinosaur which is to say he was  active in fandom prior to July 4, 1939 and he received the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. He is also a published genre author with ”And Not Quite Human” in the September 1953 issue of Beyond Fantasy Fiction being his first published work, and The Black Roads being his only genre novel. It does not appear that his genre works are available in digital editions. (Died 2007.)
  • Born March 19, 1928 Patrick McGoohan. Creator, along with George Markstein, of The Prisoner series with him playing the main role of Number Six. I’ve watched it at least several times down the years. It never gets any clearer but it’s always interesting and always weird.  Other genre credits do not include Danger Man but does comprise a short list of The Phantom where he played The Phantom’s father, Treasure Planet where he voiced Billy Bones and Journey into Darkness where he was The Host. (Died 2009.)
  • Born March 19, 1936 Ursula Andress, 84. I’msure I’ve seen all of the original Bond films though I’ll be damned I remember where or when I saw them. Which is my way of leading up to saying that I don’t remember her in her roles as either as Honey Ryder in the very first Bond film, Dr. No, or as as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. Bond girls aren’t that memorable to me it seems. Hmmm… let’s see if she’s done any other genre work… well her first was The Tenth Victim based on Sheckley’s 1953 short story “Seventh Victim”. She also appeared in L’Infermiera, oops wrong genre, The Mountain of the Cannibal GodThe Fifth MusketeerClash of the Titans where she played of course Aphrodite, on the Manimal series, The Love Boat series and the two Fantaghirò films. 
  • Born March 19, 1945 Jim Turner. Turner was editor for Arkham House after the death of August Derleth, founder of that press. After leaving Arkham House for reasons that are not at all clear, he founded Golden Gryphon Press which published really lovely books until it went out of existence. Too bad their original website doesn’t exist anymore, but you can still view captures at the Wayback Machine. (Died 1999.)
  • Born March 19, 1955 Bruce Willis, 65. So do any of the Die Hard franchise count as genre? So even setting them aside, he has a very long  genre list, to wit Death Becomes Her (bit of macabre fun), 12 Monkeys (weird shit), The Fifth Element (damn great), Armageddon (eight tentacles down),  Looper (most excellent), The Sixth Sense (not at all bad), Sin City (typical Miller overkill) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (yet more Miller overkill). 
  • Born March 19, 1964 Marjorie Monaghan, 56. JoJo on all six episodes of Space Rangers. My brain keeps insisting it lasted much, much longer. She also was on Babylon 5 as the Mars Resistance leader during the Earth Alliance Civil War, where she was known as Number One. She’s also appeared on Quantum Leap, in the cyberpunk Nemesis film, in The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy film, on Andromeda series, and on The Great War of Magellan film. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) CORONAVIRUS IMPACT ON COMICS MARKETING. “Image Comics Publisher Asks for Retailer Relief Amid Coronavirus Pandemic”. The Hollywood Reporter explains the new returns strategy adopted by the publisher of Saga, The Walking Dead, Monstress and many other famous titles.

As the comics industry reacts to the social isolation response to the coronavirus, Image Comics publisher and CEO Eric Stephenson has released an open letter about what his company — the third-largest publisher in the U.S. market — is doing to lessen pressure on retailers struggling with reduced traffic to stores and enforced closures. He is also asking other publishers to follow suit.

In normal times, comic book stores must estimate how many issues of each comic they will sell, and pay upfront for inventory from publishers. However, as the coronavirus has dramatically shifted how many customers are coming into shops, Stephenson said Image will allow comic book stores to return orders for the next 60 days. 

(11) THE WAY THROUGH. Elizabeth Bear, in her latest newsletter, looks for the tunnel that has the light at the end of it: “Adapt, improvise, overcome. And some strategies for coping with that cabinet full of shelf-stable STUFF.”

One of the precepts of emergency response is the title of this email: Adapt, improvise, overcome. It’s a phrase that gets mentioned several times in Machine, and I found myself thinking of it last night as I chatted with friends in various corners of the internet about the economic repercussions of the current xombie apocalypse. I see a lot of fear, and a lot of people saying “If we have to do this quarantine bullshit for 18 months the economy will never recover.”

A problem here is that we’ve been taught (by entertainment) to think of massive catastrophes as The End Of The World because that makes a better story. And I don’t want to minimize the grief and suffering that we endure in a catastrophe, be it a hurricane or an earthquake or a war or a pandemic. That is real.

But it’s also true that we adapt….

(12) AS CHAYKIN SEES IT. “Graphic Content: At The Intersection Of Comics And Crime With Howard Chaykin” is a fascinating profile by CrimeReads’ Alex Segura.

….Like the best crime fiction, Chaykin’s work is well versed in the morally ambiguous protagonist, as opposed to the steel-jawed, superheroic superman.

“My work more often than not betrays that hero with a wound thing, with a protagonist who is far from morally sound—and informs my interest in telling stories without a hero who does the right thing, that right thing as defined by an audience trained to love this romantic vision of the world,” Chaykin said. “And don’t get me started with the “rich guy who had a bad day when he was eight and turns to wage war on crime” model, either.”

(13) COME TIME TRAVEL WITH ME. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus will be doing a “Come Time Travel with Me” show on March 27. Sign up online.

It’s been a pretty difficult set of weeks lately.  In addition to normal life grinding to a halt, conventions and gatherings have been canceled.  Galactic Journey was scheduled to present at a number of venues over the next several months.  That’s all fallen by the wayside.

But!

Thanks to the miracle of TELSTAR, SYNCOM, and RELAY, Galactic Journey can still perform for you, coming to you Live, Coast to Coast, in the comfort of your own living rooms!

That’s right — we are reviving Galactic Journey’s “Come Time Travel with Me” show, an hour-long (more or less) trip back in time exactly 55 years.

We’ll be covering science fiction, the Space Race, the recent civil rights march in Alabama, fashion, politics — you name it.  And we mean YOU.  After our introduction, it’ll be your questions that guide the course of the program.  And the best questions will win a prize!

So come join us, March 27, 1965 (2020) at 6PM PDT.  All you need is a screen and an hour.  We’ll provide the rest.

See you there!

(14) IT FEELS SO GOOD WHEN I STOP. “At long last, NASA’s probe finally digs in on Mars” – the PopSci version.

NASA unsticks its Martian digging probe by whacking it with a shovel.

Every day, the InSight lander’s suite of instruments sends back data proving that the Red Planet isn’t really dead. Marsquakes rumble the seismometer. Swirling vortices register on onboard pressure sensor. And temperature sensors help track the weather and changing of the seasons.

Despite the lander’s successes, however, one gauge has met with resistance from the Martian environment while trying to carry out its mission. Something has stopped InSight’s 15-inch digging probe, dubbed “the mole” for its burrowing prowess. Instead of diving deep into the Martian sand where it could take the planet’s temperature, it’s been stuck half-buried. An intercontinental team of MacGyvers has spent a year devising successively daring plans to get the mole digging again, but still it flounders on the surface. Now their final gambit—directly pushing the mole into the soil—has shown tentative signs of success, NASA announced Friday on Twitter.

The goal of the mole, which is the measurement probe of InSight’s Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (or HP3), is to track the temperature variations of Mars itself. This heat comes from Mars’s core, which, like Earth’s core, remains warm from the planet’s birth. By measuring it, researchers hope to learn about Mars’s formation—but from the rod-shaped mole’s current position they can get readings only of the surface temperature. Mission planners hope to ideally reach 15 feet underground to escape the warming and cooling from the Martian seasons that would interfere with reading the planet’s true temperature.

“I always thought, ‘let’s ask Mark Watney [the fictional protagonist of the book The Martian] to just go over there and just push a little bit on the mole,’” said Tilman Spohn, the HP3’s principle investigator.

But without any Martian explorers to lend a hand, Spohn and his colleagues on the “anomaly response team” have had to improvise with the only tool available—a small shovel-like “scoop” on the end of InSight’s robotic arm. Over the last year they’ve tried to punch down the walls of the hole around the mole, to fill in the hole with nearby sand, and to give the mole more purchase by pinning it against the side of the hole with the scoop. But to no avail.

(15) UNDER DEADLINE. Nature reports “How China is planning to go to Mars amid the coronavirus outbreak”.

China’s first journey to Mars is one of the most anticipated space missions of the year. But with parts of the country in some form of lockdown because of the coronavirus, the mission teams have had to find creative ways to continue their work. Researchers involved in the mission remain tight-lipped about its key aspects, but several reports from Chinese state media say that the outbreak will not affect the July launch — the only window for another two years…

(16) BEHIND THE SCENES. “We Spent 24 Hours Searching for the Elusive ‘Butthole Cut’ of Cats”. You probably don’t really need the Vanity Fair article – you intuited the whole story immediately.

You can blame—or thank—Seth Rogen.

On Tuesday, the actor and writer partook in the ancient theatrical tradition that is trying to understand the baffling, inscrutable movie-musical Cats (recently available on digital). Rogen wrote a long Twitter thread about the experience, marveling at the impossibly small cat shoes worn by several characters and wondering what the hell a “Jellicle” is, anyway. (For the record, that made-up word is a play on how posh Brits pronounce “dear little” cats).

In the process, Rogen also tweet-quoted a post from screenwriter Jack Waz, who claimed to know a visual effects artist who had been tapped to work on Cats back in November. That VFX person’s job? “To remove CGI buttholes that had been inserted a few months before,” Waz wrote. “Which means that, somewhere out there, there exists a butthole cut of Cats.”

(17) AREA 51. “Rise of Skywalker Has An Awesome John Williams Easter Egg You Missed”ScreenRant points the way.

…With The Rise of Skywalker concluding the iconic Skywalker saga and wrapping up Williams’ time in a galaxy far, far away, J.J. Abrams made sure to put Williams in front of the camera in the film. Williams has a minor Rise of Skywalker cameo, appearing in a seedy establishment on Kijimi as the Resistance heroes make their way to meet Babu Frik. Getting the opportunity to see Williams onscreen was thrilling enough for fans, but the scene also includes several nods to his unparalleled career.

The making-of documentary in the Rise of Skywalker home media release has a segment focused on Williams. In it, Abrams reveals each of the props surrounding Williams represents the 51 Oscar nominations Williams received up to that point. Examples include Indiana Jones’ whip from Raiders of the Lost Ark, the barrels from Jaws, and the iron from Home Alone….

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

2019 Novellapalooza

stack of books ©canstockphoto / pjgon71

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2019 Novellas. What did you think?

I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:

  • 31 of the novellas published in 2015,
  • 35 of the novellas published in 2016,
  • 46 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • and 38 of the 2018 novellas.
  • (and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 55!)

The result of these reading sprees were

I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

The success and popularity of novellas in the last 5 years seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. By necessity, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis being of interest to me.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.

Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

Novellas I’ve read appear in order based on how much I liked them (best to least), followed by the novellas I haven’t read in alphabetical order.

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included.

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2019 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

(Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 12/20/19 Return
of the Judi: The Force And The Furry-est

(1) STAR TREK: PICARD. A third teaser has dropped – but it’s been blocked on some sites, so we’ll find out together if this still works by the time I post today’s Scroll.

(2) UPROAR AFTER ROWLING OPINES ON TRANS IDENTITY. Maya Forstater was an employee of the British think tank Centre for Global Development. She tweeted some trans-exclusionary radical feminist views and got fired.  Rowling supported her.

Vox (the pop culture site) responded “JKR just ruined Harry Potter, Merry Christmas.” — “J.K. Rowling’s latest tweet seems like transphobic BS. Her fans are heartbroken”.

Rowling is customarily outspoken about her politics, which can be generalized as ranging from moderately liberal to progressive — though over time, she’s seemed increasingly less so than her fans. On Thursday morning, many of them woke up to a tweet from Rowling, which might seem at first to be a typical example of Rowling’s broadly liberal feminism.

In context, however, Rowling’s tweet reveals itself as a shocking dismissal of transgender identity: its first three lines seem to directly attack trans identity, while its final line mischaracterizes the facts surrounding a court case that involves significant transphobia.

Many fans have found Rowling’s statement deeply disturbing — so much so that the reaction to it was trending on Twitter on early Thursday morning, ahead of the historic impeachment of Donald Trump….

(3) YEAR’S TOP BOOKS. Cat Eldridge says he counts eight SFF novels on Paste’s list of “The 19 Best Novels of 2019”. This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone clocks in at number 2.

Whether you’re looking for a story about necromancers fighting in space or boys surviving a reform school in Florida, you’ll find something to love on our ranked list of the year’s best novels. These 19 books promise an escape from reality while still tackling real-world issues in creative ways, exploring everything from grief to mother-child relationships to spirituality. We loved these stories, and we believe you will, too.

There are also genre books, but not quite as many in PopMatters’ “The Best Books of 2019: Fiction”. The list begins with –

Ancestral Night, by Elizabeth Bear [Saga Press / Simon & Schuster]

Elizabeth Bear’s Ancestral Night immerses readers in a strange, futuristic universe from the very first pages, and while some of the concepts and language may be difficult at first for readers who want simple, unchallenging texts or are not used to the more speculative side of the genre, those who persevere will quickly be hooked. The book’s sweeping sense of mystery and discovery is what initially hooks, but it’s the speculative and complex world Bear has constructed which is most rewarding in the end.

Ancestral Night is a wise, intelligent book for modern-minded, thinking readers. Bear has dabbled in the steampunk and fantasy vein in the past, and while elements of that are recognizable here, for the most part this is hard sci-fi combined with brilliantly imagined speculative fiction. Bear has constructed a fascinating, absorbing universe populated with compelling and intelligent characters who conform to neither clichés nor stereotypes. It’s sci-fi of the top order, and here’s hoping we see more of it. – Hans Rollmann

Read more about this book here on PopMatters.

(4) CHANNELING GENRE. WIRED thinks “The 5 Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy TV Shows of 2019” were pretty much the top television shows, period.

We don’t only watch nerd TV here at WIRED. Fleabag’s fabulous. More Pose now. Ship a box of Emmys to Big Little Lies.

It’s just that, this year, when it came to new shows, genre kind of kicked all the butts. In fact, we could’ve left off the sci-fi/fantasy qualifier and called this list “The 5 Best TV Shows of 2019,” period. (We didn’t, because we thought you’d appreciate a bit of what’s known in the biz as framing.) Sure, there was some commodity crapola. The Boys wasn’t half as edgy as it thought. Baby Yoda swallowed The Mandalorian whole. His Dark Materials verged, at times, on the soulless (ironic, for a show about souls). (But Ruth Wilson as Mrs. Coulter—that slightly flared, froglike upper lip!—gives the best performance of 2019.)

(5) ANCIENT ADVICE. “Throw your testicles” at the London Review of Books is a review by Tom Shippey of the Getty Museum’s book about its exhibition of bestiaries. SJWs will not like what medieval people thought about cats! (Fortunately, the title does not come from the section about them.)

Sometimes ordinary life intrudes. A text from Bodley 764 (c.1225-50) neatly describes the cat: ‘This creature is called mouser because he kills mice. The common word is cat because he captures [captat] them … Catus is the Greek word for cunning.’ The mice the cat catches are ‘greedy men who seek earthly goods’, but, as Susan Crane comments, the accompanying pictures show an artist ‘speculat[ing] imaginatively on the hidden life of cats at night’. There are three cats: one curled up in front of a fire (apparently cleaning his behind), another with a mouse in his paws, and a third on his hind legs, trying to reach into a birdcage – almost a Breughel before its time.

(6) MARKET LIGHTLY KILLED. Sorry, you can’t resell pixels in Europe… Publishers Lunch has the story —

The European Court of Justice agreed with the non-binding opinion from their Advocate General that reselling “used” ebooks is a violation of copyright. The ruling was made in a case brought by Dutch publisher associations against the website Tom Kabinet, which has tried to establish a marketplace for individuals to resell their ebooks.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 20, 1961 Mysterious Island premiered. Based on the novel by Jules Verne, the film was produced by Charles H. Schneer and directed by Cy Endfield, it was a visual feast of Ray Harryhausen special effects with music as often was in his films by Bernard Herrmann. Critics loved it, the box office was more than successful and the current Rotten Tomatoes rating among reviewers is an excellent 63%. 
  • December 20, 1985 Enemy Mine premiered. It was directed by Wolfgang Petersen as  the script by Edward Khmara off of Barry B. Longyear’s novella which won a Hugo Award for Best Novella and a Nebula Award for the same as well. The film stars Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett, Jr. as you well know.  It wasn’t well received at the time, one critic called it “This season’s Dune”,  but it has a 68% rating over at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 20, 2002 — The Firefly series premiered on FOX. The Browncoats among us  know more about it than we could say about it, so tell us what you think about it. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge]

  • Born December 20, 1925 Nicole Maure. She appeared in The Day of the Triffids as Christine Durrant, and was  Elena Antonescu in Secret of the Incas, a film its Wiki page claims was the inspiration for Raiders of the Lost Ark. (Died 2016.)
  • Born December 20, 1943 Jacqueline Pearce. She’s best known as the villain Servalan on Blake’s 7. She appeared in “The Two Doctors”, a Second and Sixth Doctor story  as Chessene, and she’d voice Admiral Mettna in “Death Comes to Time”, a Seventh Doctor story. I’d be remiss not to note her one-offs in Danger Man, The Avengers, The Chronicles of Young Indiana Jones and The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 20, 1952 Jenny Agutter, 67. Her first SF role was Jessica 6, the female lead in Logan’s Run. Later genre roles include Nurse Alex Price In An American Werewolf in London (fantastic film), Carolyn Page in Dark Tower which is not  a Stephen King based film, an uncredited cameo as a burn doctor in one of my all time fav films which is Darkman and finally Councilwoman Hawley in The Avengers and The Winter Soldier.  
  • Born December 20, 1952 Kate Atkinson, 67. A strong case can be made that her Jackson Brodie detective novels are at least genre adjacent with their level of Universe assisting metanarrative. The Life After Life douology is definitely SF and pretty good reading. She’s well stocked on all of the digital book vendors. 
  • Born December 20, 1960 Nalo Hopkinson, 59. First novel I ever read by her was Brown Girl in The Ring, a truly amazing novel. Like most of  her work, it draws on Afro-Caribbean history and language, and its intertwined traditions of oral and written storytelling. I’d also single out  Mojo: Conjure Stories and  Falling in Love With Hominids collections as they are both wonderful and challenging reading. Worth seeking out out out is her edited Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction.  She was a Guest of Honor at Wiscon thrice. Is that unusual?

(9) COMICS SECTION.

Two from The Argyle Sweater:

(10) TAKE-HOME TEST. Camestros Felapton studies all the angles science fiction has come up with to get stories out of the idea of identical human copies in “How to duplicate people”.

So while the term ‘clone’ is what is used, actual cloning does not get at the concept which is more about duplication or near duplication. Creating another copy of a person is the essence of the science-fiction concept. Duplication of genes is just a handy hook on to which the idea can be hung. Practically we have always known that monozygotic twins are not literally identical even at a superficial level and certainly not at the level of character or personality.

So plot wise how do people get duplicated? …

(11) RUMP ROAST. “‘A Christmas Carol’: TV Review”The Hollywood Reporter’s critic is not a fan.

…There have certainly been attempts at gritty and dark interpretations of the Dickens text, but few as random and gratuitous as Steven Knight brings to the table in his new take for FX and BBC. Finally, we have a Christmas Carol in which Ebenezer Scrooge can bellow “Fuck!!!” several times for limited reason and where viewers can be exposed to one fleeting — not prurient, mind you — bare rump, as FX endeavors finally to put the “ass” in “Christmass.”

The result is that FX has made a Christmas Carol that very much isn’t for children — seriously, the wee ones will be either bored or scandalized — and probably isn’t really for adults either. At its very best, it’s an attempted in-depth character study of Scrooge, one that meshes very poorly with the inspiring structure of the story, while at its worst it’s an ill-paced, ill-focused version of A Christmas Carol that doesn’t even get up to the arrival of Jacob Marley until over an hour into its three-hour running time. At least FX is airing A Christmas Carol all at once. On BBC One, it’s airing over three nights, and I’m betting the lack of incident in the first hour will lead to ample tune-out.

(12) NOW THAT’S TALENT. “Miss America 2020: Biochemist wins crown after on-stage experiment” — includes video of experiment and narration.

A Virginian biochemist has been named winner of Miss America 2020 after performing a live science experiment that defied stereotypes of the contest.

Camille Schrier defeated 50 women to take the crown at Thursday’s final in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Wearing a lab coat, the 24-year-old impressed judges with a chemistry demonstration in the talent show.

(13) GOOD QUESTION. Jon Del Arroz has made seven consecutive blog posts about one Star Wars subject or another, including the piece de resistance — “Why Are So Many People Unhealthily Obsessed With Star Wars?”

(14) THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. “Review: Star Wars Memories by Craig Miller” — Charon Dunn enjoyed the book.

…If you were there back in the ’70s, anticipating the Empire Strikes Back the way kids long for Santa, you’re going to enjoy this book immensely. It’s like time traveling back to your glorious misspent youth, back in the days of feathered hair and innocence.

Star Wars unlocked science fiction for me. I still run into folks who aren’t shy about letting me know they don’t consider it as *real* a franchise as some of the others. The science is wonky (explosions in space???) and the dialogue is nuts (nerfherder!!!) and some of the storytelling details remain as nebulous as Schroedinger’s cat (Han shot first dang it)….

(15) JUJU. Kwei Quartey analyzes “The Role of the Spiritual in African Crime Fiction” at CrimeReads.

… While supernatural phenomena in Ghana’s daily life serve as a unique background for much of the crime fiction I set in that West African country, it can also be a challenge. For logistic reasons too complex to go into now, my novels are not distributed to a significant degree in Africa in general and Ghana in particular. Western readers, primarily those in the United States, are and will remain my main market for the foreseeable future. So how do I introduce these unfamiliar beliefs and concepts like juju to my readers? Very carefully. It should appear seamless, which is not as simple as it may sound. Whenever I describe or highlight a supernatural phenomenon in my novel, I follow some general rules.

  • It should play an important part in the plot and not be tangential to the story.
  • I avoid making it seem gratuitous.
  • I avoid making it seem didactic.
  • I leave criticisms or praise of the custom to characters in the novel, not the narrator.

(16) MISSION NOT ACCOMPLISHED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA Press Release: “NASA Statement on Boeing Orbital Flight Test”.

BLUF: Things were, as they say in the space biz, “off nominal.” At least nothing exploded. The entire press release is reproduced below.

FYI: BLUF means Bottom Line Up Front—one preferred method of briefing high-ranking personnel in case their attention wanders or they cut the briefing off short.

“Early this morning, NASA and Boeing successfully launched Starliner on the first human-rated United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida.

“The plan was for Starliner to rendezvous and dock with the International Space Station and return home safely to Earth. While a lot of things went right, the uncrewed spacecraft did not reach the planned orbit and will not dock to the International Space Station.

“This is in fact why we test. Teams worked quickly to ensure the spacecraft was in a stable orbit and preserved enough fuel to ensure a landing opportunity.

“Boeing, in coordination with NASA, is working to return Starliner to White Sands, New Mexico, Sunday.

“At NASA we do really difficult things, and we do them all the time. I spoke to Vice President Pence, Chairman of the National Space Council, and he remains very optimistic in our ability to safely launch American astronauts from American soil. We remain positive even though we did face challenges today. We’ll be getting a lot more data in the coming days….

(17) MORE THAN ONE WAY TO SKIN A CATS.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Peace on Earth” on Vimeo is a 1939 cartoon by Hugh Harman about how the world is wiped out by a global apocalypse and humanity is replaced by cuddly carol-loving animals.

[Thanks to Joel Zakem, Martin Morse Wooster, Bill, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcok, JJ, N., Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Deuteronomy Dern.]

Daniel Dern’s Thursday Dublin 2019 Photos

Let’s begin with Peter S. Beagle here and post the rest of Daniel Dern’s gallery after the jump —

Peter S. Beagle

Peter S. Beagle
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