Pixel Scroll 9/6/21 I Fought The Laws Of Newton, Thermodynamics, Robotics And Grammar, And All But One Of Them Laws Won

(1) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Ellen Klages and Mari Ness via livestream on Wednesday, September 15 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Link to come.

Ellen Klages

Ellen Klages is the author of three acclaimed MG novels: The Green Glass Sea, White Sands, Red Menace, and Out of Left Field, which won the New-York Historical Society’s Children’s History Book Prize.  Her adult short fiction — fantasy and some SF — has been translated into a dozen languages and been nominated for or won multiple genre awards. Ellen lives in San Francisco, in a small house full of strange and wondrous things.

Mari Ness

Mari Ness has published short fiction and poetry in Tor.com, Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Lightspeed, Nightmare, Fireside, Apex, Diabolical PlotsStrange Horizons, and Daily Science Fiction. Her poetry novella, Through Immortal Shadows Singing, is available from Papaveria Press, and an essay collection, Resistance and Transformation: On Fairy Tales, from Aqueduct Press.  She lives in central Florida under the direct supervision of two magnificent cats.

(2) COUNTING THE DOLLAR SIGNS FOR 2020 COMICS. Comichron has published its “Industry-wide Comics and Graphic Novel Sales for 2020”. Lots of stats and graphs at the link.

Combined comics and graphic novel sales hit a new high in the pandemic year of 2020, according to a new joint estimate by ICv2‘s Milton Griepp and Comichron‘s John Jackson Miller. Total comics and graphic novel sales to consumers in the U.S. and Canada were approximately $1.28 billion in 2020, a 6% increase over sales in 2019. The increase was due to strong sales of graphic novels online and in mass merchants and strong digital sales, which overcame big declines in comic and book store sales.

“The challenges of retailing in the pandemic had profound impacts on the market, including the acceleration of trends that have been in place for years,” Griepp said of the 2020 estimates. “The book channel increased its share dramatically vs. comic stores, and graphic novels increased their share vs. periodical comics, while digital sales were turbocharged.”

Numlock News also did a Q&A with the person who oversees the report: “John Jackson Miller on the huge growth of the comic book industry – by Walter Hickey”.

Comichron and your partners at ICV2 released your 2020 comic book sales report. It was a really surprising and very complex year in comics, very tumultuous to say the least, but the number was up year-over-year.

That’s right. Part of the key is it depends on where do you work in the business, what the business looked like, because not every part of the business was under the same constraints. The graphic novel part of the market, and, in particular, the young adult part of the market typified by books like Dog Man, these are all part of the book channel which never really shut down, those books continue to circulate and the best selling kids graphic novels had the additional advantage that the Walmarts of the world that are kind of like the music industry where they only stocks the hits.

Places like that, which had been declared essential services, which never shut down and had small selections of graphic novels, they continue to sell all through the pandemic and there’s a dynamic that happens where the best sellers became really best sellers. You have that part of the market, which was continuously running. Digital is a sector that has kind of, I don’t want to say stagnated, but it had reached its level a few years ago and had not really gone anywhere. But during the pandemic, there’s a stretch there where the physical comics aren’t coming out, people can’t get to the comic shops, and also you have some of the major publishers basically going direct to video.

They basically took their poor selling titles and didn’t even go to press at all with them, but they went directly to digital on those. That’s supplemented that part of the market and so we have a significant increase in digital downloads, the comics you can pay for and actually get to keep, as opposed to the subscription model comics that are digital. Then the direct market, which, for the first quarter of 2020 was doing fine, it was ahead for the year and then we have in succession, a few things that happened. We had DC’s printer Transcontinental had to close temporarily. Diamond, the exclusive distributor for at the time all of the major publishers, it judged that it needed to pause as well, because there were going to be comics piling up at stores that weren’t open….

(3) EVERYTHING’S UP TO DATE IN KANSAS CITY. Fanac.org has added video of the “MidAmeriCon (1976) Worldcon – Hugo and other Awards, with Bob Tucker & Pat Cadigan”.

MidAmeriCon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Kansas City in 1976. In this recording, Toastmaster Bob Tucker orchestrates a relatively compact ceremony, nevertheless with time and space for a little fannish humor, with the assistance of Pat Cadigan. The evening includes the awarding of the E. Everett Evans Big Heart Award, and a heartfelt presentation by Lester Del Rey of the First Fandom award given to Harry Bates. Ben Bova and Joe Haldeman are among the Hugo recipients accepting awards. The recording is a little damaged in places, but very watchable. Video and video restoration provided by David Dyer-Bennet and the Video Archeology Project.

(4) RU12? BBC Culture expounds on “The 100-year-old fiction that predicted today”.

One day in 1920, the Czech writer Karel Capek sought the advice of his older brother Josef, a painter. Karel was writing a play about artificial workers but he was struggling for a name. “I’d call them laborators, but it seems to me somewhat stilted,” he told Josef, who was hard at work on a canvas. “Call them robots then,” replied Josef, a paintbrush in his mouth. At the same time in Petrograd (formerly St Petersburg), a Russian writer named Yevgeny Zamyatin was writing a novel whose hi-tech future dictatorship would eventually prove as influential as ?apek’s robots.

Both works are celebrating a joint centenary, albeit a slippery one. Capek (pronounced Chap-ek) published his play, RUR, in 1920 but it wasn’t performed for the first time until January 2021. And although Zamyatin submitted the manuscript of his novel, We, in 1921, it was mostly written earlier and published later. Nonetheless, 1921 has become their shared birth date and thus the year that gave us both the robot and the mechanised dystopia – two concepts of which, it seems, we will never tire. As Capek wrote in 1920, “Some of the future can always be read in the palms of the present”….

(5) FRANK HERBERT Q&A. From Seventies video archives: “DUNE Author Frank Herbert on Environmentalism”.

Frank Herbert, author of the ‘Dune’ series, discusses environmentalism in this 1977 interview with WTTW’s John Callaway.

(6) JUDITH HANNA. Fanzine fan Judith Hanna died September 6 of cancer. She is survived by her husband, Joseph Nicholas. The Australian-born Hanna was a member of the Sydney University Tolkien Society. She emigrated to the UK in the early Eighties. She was a member of the Australia in ’83 bid committee. Hanna wrote for many fanzines, and with Nicholas published Fuck The Tories, which won the Nova Award in 1990.She was a reviewer for Vector and Paperback Inferno, among others. Her fanwriting was selected for Fanthology ’88, Fanthology ’89, and Fanthology ’93.  

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1953 – Sixty-eight years ago on this date, the first Science Fiction Achievement Awards, which would be nicknamed the Hugo Awards, are presented during the 11th World Science Fiction Convention. This Worldcon was informally known as Philcon II. Isaac Asimov was the Toastmaster that year. Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man won for Best Novel, The award for Best Professional Magazine went to Astounding Science Fiction as edited by John W. Campbell, Jr., Hanes Bok was voted Best Cover Artist, Virgil Finlay won for Best Interior Illustrator, Willy Ley won it for Excellence in Fact Articles, the Best New SF Author was Philip José Farmer and #1 Fan Personality was Forrest J Ackerman. 

(8) TODAY’S DAY.

  • September 6 – Read A Book Day

Sumiko Saulson says this is how “HWA Celebrates Read a Book Day”:

September 6 is National Read a Book Day, one day a year that is set aside to encourage all of us to curl up with a good book. The Horror Writers Association would like to take this time out to honor and celebrate the international horror writing community, and the book lovers all over the world who love to read the scary books we write.

Many of us have bookshelves filled with tomes of terrifying tale and bone chilling anthologies of monstrosities of every kind. But when it comes to books, we’re sure you will agree that there is really no such thing as too much of a good thing.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 6, 1904 — Groff Conklin. He edited some forty anthologies of genre fiction starting with The Best of Science Fiction fromCrown Publishers in 1946 to Seven Trips Through Time and Space on Fawcett Gold in 1968. The contents are a mix of the obscure and well-known as Heinlein, Niven, Simak, Dahl, Sturgeon, Lovecraft and Bradbury show up here. He was nominated at NyCon II  for Best Book Reviewer which Damon Knight won (there’s a category that got dropped later), and was nominated at Millennium Philcon for a Retro Hugo that went to John W. Campbell Jr. Exactly one of his anthologies, Great Stories of Space Travel, is available at the usual suspects. (Died 1968.)
  • Born September 6, 1943 — Roger Waters, 78. Ok, I might well be stretching it just a bit in saying that Pink Floyd is genre. Ok, The Wall isdefinitely genre I’d say. And quite possibly also The Division Bell with its themes of communication as well. Or maybe I just wanted to say Happy Birthday Roger! 
  • Born September 6, 1953 — Elizabeth Massie, 68. Ellen Datlow, who’s now doing the most excellent Year’s Best Horror anthology series, was the horror and dark fantasy editor for the multiple Hugo Award winning Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror where she selected Massie’s “Stephen” for the fourth edition. A horror writer by trade, Massie’s also dipped deeper into the genre by writing a female Phantom graphic novel, Julie Walker Is The Phantom in Race Against Death! and a Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Power of Persuasion novel. Massie is also a two-time Bram Stoker Award winner.
  • Born September 6, 1953 — Patti Yasutake, 68. She’s best remembered  for her portrayal of Nurse Alyssa Ogawa in the Trek universe where she had a recurring role on Next Generation and showed up as well in Star Trek Generations and Star Trek First Contact. In doing these Birthdays, I consulted a number of sites. Several of them declared that her character ended her time as a Doctor. Not true but it made for a nice if fictional coda on her story. She was cast as a doctor in episodes of several other non-genre series.
  • Born September 6, 1972 — China Miéville, 49. My favorite novels by him? The City & The City which won a Hugo at Aussiecon 4 is the one I’ve re-read the most followed closely by Kraken. Scariest by him? Oh, that’d King Rat by a long shot. And I’ll admit the dialect he used in Un Lun Dun frustrated me enough that I gave up on it. I’ll hold strongly that the New Crobuzon series doesn’t date as well as some of his other fiction does. Now his writing on the Dial H sort of horror series for DC was fantastic in all ways that word means.
  • Born September 6, 1972 — Idris Elba, 49. He was Heimdall in the Thor franchise, as well as the Avengers franchise. First genre role was as Captain Janek in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and later he was in Pacific Rim as Stacker Pentecost. He’s the Big Bad as Krall in Star Trek: Beyond. His latest genre role was as Robert DuBois / Bloodsport in last Suicide Squad film.
  • Born September 6, 1976 — Robin Atkin Downes, 45. Though he’s made his living being a voice actor in myriad video games and animated series, one of his first acting roles was as the rogue telepath Byron on Babylon 5. He later shows up as the Demon of Illusion in the “Chick Flick” episode of Charmed and he’s got an uncredited though apparently known role as Pockla in the “Dead End” episiode of Angel. He does the voice of Edward in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, and he‘s Angelo on the 2016 Suicide Squad. (There’s a small place in a database Hell for film makers who make films with the same name.) 
  • Born September 6, 1976 — Naomie Harris, 45. She’s Eve Moneypenny in SkyfallSpectre and the still forthcoming No Time to Die. This was the first time Moneypenny had a first name. She also appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End as Tia Dalma. And lastly I’ll note she played Elizabeth Lavenza in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at the National Theatre. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) GET YOUR KICKS IN YEAR ’66. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus tells us how things went at this year’s (1966) Worldcon in Cleveland: “[September 6, 1966] The Greatest (SF) show on Earth! (1966 Worldcon and Hugo Awards)”.

There are many science fiction conventions in the United States, from New York’s Lunacon to Westercon, held in San Diego this year!  But the granddaddy of them all is the annual Worldcon, which travels from city to city as various fan groups are able to submit a winning bid to the con’s members.

This year, Cleveland won the honor, and so the convention representing the three cities of Cleveland, Cincinatti, and Detroit was appropriately called “Tricon.”  More than 800 fen (plural of fan, natch) descended upon the Sheraton-Cleveland (the historic “Renaissance”) hotel for a long weekend of fun and fannery.  Even the best rooms at this ancient hotel were tiny, and several complained of dusty closets.  Luckily, we spent little time in our rooms!…

(12) IN A HOLE IN ITALY THERE LIVED A HOBBIT. Dream comes true: “‘What is this if not magic?’ The Italian man living as a hobbit” reports The Guardian.

Nicolas Gentile, a 37-year-old Italian pastry chef, did not just want to pretend to be a hobbit – he wanted to live like one. First, he bought a piece of land in the countryside of Bucchianico, near the town of Chieti in Abruzzo, where he and his wife started building their personal Shire from JRR Tolkien’s fictional Middle-earth.

Then, on 27 August, alongside a group of friends and Lord of the Rings fans dressed as an elf, a dwarf, a hobbit, a sorcerer and humans, he walked more than 120 miles (200km) from Chieti to Naples, crossing mountains and rivers, to throw the “One Ring”, a central plot element of The Lord of the Rings saga, into the volcano crater of Mount Vesuvius….

… In Bucchianico, the festival of the Banderesi is organised every year. It is one of the oldest festivals in Europe – celebrated for almost 500 years and in which people wear medieval clothes, sing songs, dance and prepare typical local dishes.

“Those are hobbit clothes,” says Gentile. ‘‘I realised that I have always lived in the Shire. The only thing missing was to become aware of it and build a village….”

(13) URBAN VISION. CNN covers somebody else’s idea of living the dream: “Plans for $400-billion new city in the American desert unveiled”.

The cleanliness of Tokyo, the diversity of New York and the social services of Stockholm: Billionaire Marc Lore has outlined his vision for a 5-million-person “new city in America” and appointed a world-famous architect to design it.

Now, he just needs somewhere to build it — and $400 billion in funding.

The former Walmart executive last week unveiled plans for Telosa, a sustainable metropolis that he hopes to create, from scratch, in the American desert. The ambitious 150,000-acre proposal promises eco-friendly architecture, sustainable energy production and a purportedly drought-resistant water system. A so-called “15-minute city design” will allow residents to access their workplaces, schools and amenities within a quarter-hour commute of their homes.

Although planners are still scouting for locations, possible targets include Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Texas and the Appalachian region, according to the project’s official website….

(14) ON THE GRIPPING HAND. Captain Toy has posted Michael Crawford’s “Review and photos of Captain Picard First Contact Star Trek sixth scale action figure”.

…We don’t get a ton of extras this time, but we get a couple key features.

He comes wearing a set of relaxed hands, and there’s a set of fists and two sets of specific gripping hands you can swap in. These are designed to work with the other accessories, and their sculpts are just about perfect for the purpose.

He also has the phaser and tricorder, specific in design to the film. I mentioned the fantastic details earlier, but it’s worth talking about again. If you have good enough eyes, you’ll be able to read the screen on the tricorder.

The tricorder has the same two piece design as the earlier releases, with a strong magnet that holds the top and bottom together. This is a fantastic design, allowing the tricorder to be open or closed without any hinge that would be obvious or easy to break.

They also use magnets to hold the tricorder and phaser holsters to the uniform. This is a design carried over from QMX, but they do it better, with stronger magnets that are pretty much invisible to the eye….

(15) STUNNING. NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day – description below. And here’s a key to everything that appears in the photo.

Firefly Milky Way over Russia
Image Credit & Copyright: Anton Komlev

Explanation: It started with a pine tree. The idea was to photograph a statuesque pine in front of the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy. And the plan, carried out two months ago, was successful — they both appear prominently. But the resulting 3-frame panorama captured much more. Colorful stars, for example, dot the distant background, with bright Altair visible on the upper left. The planet Saturn, a bit closer, was captured just over the horizon on the far left. Just beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, seen in the upper right, an Earth-orbiting satellite was caught leaving a streak during the 25-second exposure. The Earth’s atmosphere itself was surprisingly visible — as green airglow across the image top. Finally, just by chance, there was a firefly. Do you see it? Near the image bottom, the firefly blinked in yellow several times as it fluttered before the rolling hills above Milogradovka River in Primorsky KraiRussia.

(16) SEND IN YOUR MEDIA TO RODDENBERRY TRIBUTE. “’Star Trek’ Creator Gene Roddenberry To Be Honored With ‘Boldly Go’ Campaign”Deadline has the story.

The family foundation for Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry is launching a month-long campaign on Wednesday to inspire hope for the next 100 years.

In partnership with Paramount+ satellite company Planet and Academy Award-winning technology company OTOY, the campaign (“Boldly Go”) is part of the celebration of the legacy of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry in what would have been his centennial year.

The campaign will launch at Paramount+’s red carpet event on September 8, featuring Star Trek actors LeVar Burton, George Takei, Patrick Stewart, and others. Gene’s son Rod Roddenberry, founder of the Roddenberry Foundation and president of Roddenberry Entertainment, will appear on a panel about Star Trek’s legacy. The celebration will be live streamed for free at StarTrek.com/Day starting at 8:30 PM ET.

The “Boldly Go” campaign will call on Star Trek fans and citizens around the world to submit photos and videos describing their hopes for the next 100 years….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Youtuber LadyKnightTheBrave’sThrough The Gate: A Stargate SG-1 Retrospective.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/9/21 The Wards Are All In Place, But The Junes Are Busting Out All Over

(1) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matt Kressel will have Karen Lord & A.C. Wise on the line August 18.

The YouTube livestream starts August 18 at 7 pm. EDT. Link to come – will be posted here.

  • KAREN LORD

Barbadian writer Karen Lord is the award-winning author of Redemption in IndigoThe Best of All Possible WorldsThe Galaxy Game, and Unraveling, and the editor of the anthology New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean.

A.C. WISE

A.C. Wise is a multiple-award finalist for her science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction. Her debut novel, Wendy, Darling, was published by Titan Books in June 2021. Born and raised in Montreal, she currently lives in the Philadelphia area with her spouse, two adorable corgis, and a small cat who is clearly in charge of everyone.

(2) IN SPACE NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU TIPTOE. James Davis Nicoll identifies “Five Strategies for Sneaking Stealthy Space Hijinks Into SF” at Tor.com.

No doubt you are all so familiar with the reasons why stealth in space is very difficult to carry off that I need not explain… Here are five methods authors have used.

1: Ignore the science

This is perhaps the most popular solution, occasionally venturing into vigorous denial. After all, in a genre where such fundamentals such as relativity can be handwaved away for narrative convenience, why not simply handwave stealth in space and go full speed ahead?

An example that comes to mind is Chris Roberson’s 2008 novel The Dragon’s Nine Sons which sets a China that never suffered the Century of Humiliation against a malevolent Mexic Empire. The rivalry extends into the Solar System, which provides the pretext for a reprise of The Dirty Dozen…IN SPACE! Also, IN AN ALTERNATE HISTORY! Stealth being a key part of sneaking up on an enemy base, Roberson deals with the issue by ignoring it. Indeed, detecting other space craft, even ones at very short range, appears so difficult that it may be best to assume space is entirely filled with a very dense fog….

(3) DRINKING WITH AUTHORS. Joshua Palmatier’s interview series continues: “Drinking With Authors: Marshall Ryan Maresca” – an unlocked Patreon post and YouTube video.

It’s another “Drinking With Authors” interview! This time with Marshall Ryan Maresca. He’s best known for his twelve book set of interconnected trilogies called the “Maradaine Saga,” but he’s here today to talk about a standalone novel called THE VELOCITY OF REVOLUTION. Join us as we discuss what we’re drinking, his latest novel (go buy it right now!), and worldbuilding! And don’t miss his worldbuilding podcast. Enjoy!

(4) VOICE OF EXPERIENCE. The Odyssey Writing Workshop blog interviews “Graduate Arley Sorg”.

Arley Sorg is co-editor-in-chief at Fantasy Magazine, senior editor at Locus Magazine, associate editor at both Lightspeed and Nightmare Magazines, and a columnist for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction…. 

As Co-Editor-in-Chief of Fantasy Magazine and Senior Editor of Locus Magazine, you have the opportunity to read a lot of fiction. Where do you see short fiction going in the next ten years?

I see short fiction as the place where real experimentation happens. Not just in terms of form (which can sometimes be “gimmick” or “trend”) but also in terms of meaning, subject, content. Right now we are seeing more inclusivity. I hope that in ten years a lot of the narratives that are essentially arguments for the basic human rights of different kinds of people, or the beginnings of inclusivity of perspectives, shift baseline assumptions. This will allow a progression of stories from there.

The concerns of some stories are outside the lived experiences of some editors. They may not understand how good a story is because they don’t understand what the story is actually saying. Hopefully in ten years the things that many editors don’t get and need explained will be more broadly absorbed—and, the demographics of editors and publishers will be more diverse—again, allowing the conversations to progress.

I think there will be more experimentation in form, as well—including things I can’t predict. We see stories based on video games, messaging, Twitter. There’s interactive fiction, platforms that attempt different ways to make this work, including phone apps. Accessibility will be part of the key to proliferation, and technological shifts can open the way for new ideas. In the past, there were stories experimenting with hyperlinks. Maybe in the future there will be hybrids of text and audio, or other kinds of sensory input.

At the same time, the core elements that hit people in the feels seem to be somewhat timeless… so I think more “traditional” story structures will probably still be around….

(5) BRAM STOKER WINNER RETURNS. Lipstick Asylum is the next novel by Nzondi (pronounced En-Zon-Dee), an American urban fantasy and horror writer whose Oware Mosaic won a 2020 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Young Adult fiction.

The Scream Teens are hired to raise the dead as the necro-tainment for a zombie cruise, and the eighteen-year-old animator, Cozy Coleman, is bitten by a shapeshifting she-wolf. To Cozy’s surprise, she survives and with the aid of her friends, helps the government stop a human-extinction virus from spreading. Unfortunately, Cozy uncovers a secret so haunting, that her death is only the beginning of her problems.

Omnium Gatherum will release the book September 10.

(6) STICKING WITH IT. First Fandom Experience pieces together “Early Chicago Fandom, In Pictures” with a bit of detective work.

…The fanzine survived for nine issues, the last appearing in late Spring 1937. While some individual club members remained active, others pursued diverse interests. The Binder brothers relocated to New York to promote their writing careers. Fortunately for history, the final Fourteen Leaflet gives us a rare pictorial glimpse of early fandom.

Prior to the wider availability of lithography, photographs in fanzines required the inclusion of actual photo prints. This was beyond the capability and budget of most amateur publishers. In the rare instances where this was undertaken, it was common for the prints to be glued to a page. If the page has managed to survive, very often the glue has not. This decreases the likelihood that the photo continues to travel with the page.

In their fanzine’s 1937 swansong, Dellenback and his cohort undertook to publish nineteen separate photographs, all tiny prints attached to a single page…. 

(7) SPOTS DANCING BEFORE YOUR EYES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Karen Heller looks at Boston Dynamics’s doglike robot Spot and asks several experts (including Ed Finn of Arizona State’s Center for Science and the Imagination) if being doglike would influence the public’s acceptance of robots. “Spot is the $74,500 robot dog of our dystopian dreams”.

…Why is a robotic dog frightening to so many? Possibly because the Venn diagram intersection of robots and dogs remains whippet slim. Humans are irrational about both. Also, entirely reductive. Robots = Terrifying. Dogs = Goodness incarnate.

Dr. Frankenstein’s creature, a monster of man’s own making, is more than 200 years old, a response to the threat of the industrial revolution that machines might well replace us, making human existence seem utterly disposable and meaningless. The term “robot” is a century old, dating to Czech writer Karel Capek’s science-fiction play “R.U.R.,” in English short for “Rossum’s Universal Robots.”

How does the drama end? Not well.

Robots in our collective imagination have tended towardmenace, rapacious will and allegiance to none. With few exceptions (C-3PO, R2-D2, the Jetsons’ aproned Rosey), robots in popular culturetend to be Terminators possessed with the soul of HAL 9000.

Whereas our affection for dogs is overly sentimental, resulting in a fathomless ocean of slobbery drool. We never fear dogs will replace us. We believe they’re here to comfort and adore us unconditionally, despite what some have done to mail carriers. Spot challenges us to hold two opposing thoughts in one $74,500 place….

Heller also steered me to this video from June, in which Boston Dynamics celebrated being taken over by Hyundai Motor.

(8) BRIANT OBIT. The International Costumers Guild reports Bruce Briant has died. He was involved in the UCSD science fiction club in the Eighties. An active convention masquerader, he was part of the group that took Best in (Novice) Class at the 1993 Worldcon for “Chess: The Elegant Game of War,” and Best Journeyman at the 1995 Westercon with “Superhero Wedding,” and part of the vast group that won a Retro Master Award at the 1996 Worldcon for “The Wedding on Klovia,” just to name three appearances. He was Dean of the Costume Colleges of 1996 and 1997.

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1996 – On this date in 1996, John Carpenter’s Escape from L.A. as it was stylised on screen premiered fifteen years after Escape from New York came out. It was co-written, co-scored, and directed by John Carpenter, also co-written by Debra Hill who  produced it with Kurt Russell, with Russell again starring as Snake Plissken. It also co-stars Steve Buscemi, Stacy Keach, Bruce Campbell, and Pam Grier.  Reception was definitely a lot more mixed than Escape from New York with most critics thinking the script was uneven, the film bombed at the box office, and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a thirty nine percent rating as opposed to seventy seven percent for the first film.  Carpenter has said that, “Escape from L.A. is better than the first movie. Ten times better.” He might be the only one that holds that view.  

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 9, 1914 Tove Jansson. Swedish-speaking Finnish artist wrote the Moomin books for children, starting in 1945 with Småtrollen och den stora översvämninge (The Moomins and the Great Flood). Over the next decades, there would a total of nineteen books. Currently Moominvalley, the new animated series is playing, on Netflix. And Terry Pratchett in “My family and other Moomins: Rhianna Pratchett on her father’s love for Tove Jansson” credits her for him becoming a fiction writer. (Died 2001.)
  • Born August 9, 1920 Jack Speer. He is without doubt was one of the founders of fandom and perhaps the first true fan historian having Up to Now: A History of Science Fiction Fandom covering up to 1939 as well as the first Fancyclopedia in 1944. Filking and costume parties are also widely credited to him as well.  Mike has a proper remembrance here. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 9, 1927 Daniel Keyes. Flowers for Algernon was a novel that I read in my teens. Two of the teachers decided that SF was to be the assigned texts for that school year and that was one of them. I don’t now remember if I liked it or not (A Clockwork Orange was another text they assigned along with something by Heinlein that I don’t remember) nor have I ever seen Charly. I see he has three other genre novels, none that I’ve heard of. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 9, 1944 Sam Elliott, 77. Weirdly, the source for this Birthday thought he’d only been in one genre role, General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross in the 2003 Hulk film, but he’s got many other roles as well. His first was Duke in Westworld followed by being Luke Peck in Time Bandits, Flik Whistler in The Thing and Lock in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’s the Phantom Rider in Ghost Rider and Lee Scoresby in The Golden Compass. His latest genre is as the lead in The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot as Calvin Barr. Not even vaguely genre adjacent, but he’s in the exemplary Tombstone as Virgil Earp.
  • Born August 9, 1947 John Varley, 74. One of those authors that I’ve been meaning to read more of. I read both The Ophiuchi Hotline and Titan, the first novels respectively in his Eight Worlds and the Gaea Trilogy series, but didn’t go further. (See books, too many to read.) If you’ve read beyond the first novels, how are they as series? Worth pursuing now?
  • Born August 9, 1954 Victor Koman, 67. Three time winner of the Prometheus Award, his short stories have appeared in such publications as The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Galaxy and Fred Olen Ray’s Weird Menace. Kings of The High Frontier which won of those Prometheus Awards also was on the long list for a Nebula. 
  • Born August 9, 1956 Adam Nimoy, 65. Son of Leonard Nimoy and the actress Sandra Zober. His wife is Terry Farrell.  He’s directed episodes of Babylon 5Next GenerationThe Outer Limits (he directed his father in the “I, Robot” episode), and Sliders. He’s responsible for For the Love of Spock, the documentary about his father. 
  • Born August 9, 1968 Gillian Anderson, 53. The ever-skeptical (well, most of the time) Special Agent Dana Scully on X-Files. she played Media on the now cancelled American Gods. And she played Kate Flynn in Robot Overlords. Did you know she’s co-authored a X-File-ish trilogy, The EarthEnd Saga, with Jeff Rovin? 

(12) KEEP SOMEONE’S MT. TSUNDOKU FROM ERUPTING. Newcon Press publisher Ian Whates is running a “Make Room! Make Room! Sale” through August 15. Here’s why —

I’m hoping Helen and I can beg a small favour.

You see, once upon a time I had a library. It was my pride and joy, with a lifetime’s collection of books proudly displayed…

Then I became a publisher.

My collection is now largely inaccessible, hidden behind walls of cartons containing NewCon Press books. With over 150 titles and counting to our credit, the library has burst its seams, and stock has started to amass ominously in my office. I fear that soon we may not be able to reach the computer to work, or indeed the door…

In a desperate attempt to avert this disaster and reclaim our home, we have launched our biggest ever sale; for the next week, prices have been slashed on over 80 titles, including signed limited edition hardbacks and paperbacks, with prices starting as low as £1.00. In some instances we have plenty of stock remaining, in others just a few copies; when they’re gone, they’re gone.

Any assistance you could provide in boosting word of the sale on social media, blogs, etc, would be greatly appreciated…

Thank you. This has been a public service announcement on behalf of a beleaguered independent publisher.

(13) MARK BOOK. If not for his career as a steamboat pilot, that might have become his name instead. The Mark Twain House will host “Clemens Conversations: Mark Twain in the Margins” on Wednesday August 11 at 3 PM EDT. Register here.

Mark Twain had a lifelong habit of writing in the margins of the books he read – and it did not always matter whether the book actually belonged to him. He commented acerbically on the authors and their work – “by an ass” was a favorite phrase – and made other, longer comments that tell us about the man and his thoughts. His marginalia are his “conversations” with the books he was reading, and there are many examples of this in the library collection of The Mark Twain House & Museum.

(14) WAILING. Verlyn Klinkenborg recites a “Requiem for a Heavyweight” at The New York Review of Books. Most of the article is behind a paywall – sorry.

…Were those two whales, mother and calf, aware of us? Yes, I’d say, though surely without the elation we humans felt. Just how they might have been aware of us—what awareness might look like in a whale—is an undecided question having to do with cetacean physiology and the complexities of the aquatic environment, including its acoustic properties. (The most discernible thing about us may have been the thrum of our motor.) How human awareness works is also an undecided question, and not only because the price we often pay for consciousness is inattention. Since that encounter in Mozambique, I’ve found myself wondering: What happens when creatures from separate species become aware of each other? Is there something there, something shared or shaped between them? Or do their sensoriums simply overlap—like car alarms setting each other off—in isolation, without reciprocity?…

(15) IF YOU COOK IT THEY WILL COME. “Guy Fieri, Chevy sell Apple Pie Hot Dog at MLB Field of Dreams” reports The Takeout. Will those hot dogs be made from pork?I’ve been to Dyersville, and driving to the ballpark I remember passing a pen filled with hogs that looked the size of Volkswagens, so it would only be appropriate if the meat was local.

This Thursday, a very special and long-awaited baseball game will take place: the MLB at Field of Dreams. The White Sox will play the Yankees at the filming location for the 1989 film Field Of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa, a site that still draws a strong contingent of tourists each year. While it will count as a home game for Chicago, this will be the first Major League Baseball game ever to be played in the state of Iowa, and a momentous milestone like that calls for a momentous ballpark snack for spectators to gnaw on from their shiny new stadium seats built just for the occasion. Enter Guy Fieri, Chevrolet, and the (Fieri-tastic) Apple Pie Hot Dog.

According to a press release sent to The Takeout, the Apple Pie Hot Dog is a play on an old Chevrolet ad from 1975, which heralds a bunch of comically patriotic imagery: baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet “go together in the good old U.S.A.,” asserts the jingle.

They better have Doc Graham standing by, too, in case any of those hot dogs go down the wrong way.

(16) REAL FUNKO POP. How long has there been Funko Soda?

(17) TRAILER TIME. Netflix will air JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure STONE OCEAN in December.

2011, United States, Florida — When Jolyne Cujoh and her boyfriend get in an accident while out on a drive, she is framed for the crime and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Will she ever be free from this prison — this stone ocean? The final battle in the century-spanning, intertwining fate of the Joestar family and DIO begins!

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

Pixel Scroll 7/1/21 Scrolling By 40 Specially Trained Ecuadorian Mountain Pixels

(1) KGB IN TIMES TO COME. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Nancy Kress and Kim Stanley Robinson in a YouTube livestream event on Wednesday, July 21 at 7 p.m. EDT. Link to follow. 

  • Nancy Kress

Nancy Kress is the multiple-award winner of science fiction and the occasional fantasy.  Her most recent works are the stand-alone novella Sea Change, about the genetic engineering of crops, and the space-opera The Eleventh Gate. Based in Seattle with, Nancy divides her time between writing and trying to train a very stubborn Chihuahua puppy.

  • Kim Stanley Robinson

Kim Stanley Robinson is a multi-award winner of science fiction probably best known for his Mars trilogy. His most recent novels are Red Moon and The Ministry for the Future. He lives in Davis, California.

(2) JEMISIN’S STATEMENT. Following publication of the Vox article “How Twitter Can Ruin A Life”, based on an interview with Isabel Fall, author of “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter,” some of N. K. Jemisin’s tweets about the topic from 2020 (see the Wikipedia) have been criticized. Today Jemisin posted an explanatory “Statement on Isabel Fall comments” at her blog.

… The reporter also reached out to me while researching this article, because there’s been a lot of internet chatter about my involvement. I shared what I could with her (off the record), and since she let me know that she was in direct contact with Ms. Fall, I took the opportunity to send a private apology at that time. I had hesitated to do so publicly before this because I didn’t know if it would just bring more unwanted attention to Ms. Fall — but since we’re talking about all of this again, now seems like a good time….

Jemisin recaps in some detail what she was trying to say and what went wrong, followed by this short summary:

…I am deeply sorry that I contributed to Ms. Fall’s distress, and that I was not as thoughtful as I should have been in my response. Let me also apologize specifically to my trans and NB readers, some of whom caught flak because I RTed them, and others who may have been hurt or confused by what I said. I just should’ve done a better job of it.

By now I hope it’s clear that I never wanted to hurt Ms. Fall and was trying to offer support…. 

(3) ALIEN COMING TO TV. Vanity Fair interviews the showrunner: “New ‘Alien’ TV Series Will Be Class Warfare With Xenomorphs”.

…Now a new FX TV series based on the franchise is in the works from Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley—who says it’s about time for the facehuggers and xenomorphs to sink their claws into the white-collar executives who have been responsible for sending so many employees to their doom. 

In a conversation about the symbolism of season four of Fargo, Hawley also offered an update on the Alien series, as well as his new novel, Anthem. The show, however, will have to wait a little while, since the crush of new productions after the pandemic has consumed all of Hollywood’s resources. How appropriate….

Vanity Fair: What’s next for you? Is there a season five in the works for Fargo?

Noah Hawley: Yeah, I think so. I don’t have it yet. I have pieces that will have to survive. They’re not connected. I think it would be good to create an ending, and deliberately come to something, knowing it’s the last one and see how one might wrap up this anthology. What’s next for me, it looks like, is [an] Alien series for FX, taking on that franchise and those amazing films by Ridley Scott and James Cameron and David Fincher. Those are great monster movies, but they’re not just monster movies. They’re about humanity trapped between our primordial, parasitic past and our artificial intelligence future—and they’re both trying to kill us. Here you have human beings and they can’t go forward and they can’t go back. So I find that really interesting.

(4) SPEED READING. Cat Rambo will be part of the July 2 First Friday Quick Read Zoom event. It’s free – register at the link.

Join us for a lunchtime tasting menu of science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories written by women and non-binary authors. We’ll feature 6 authors who will each have 8 minutes to tempt and tantalizing you with their reading. Our readings are like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates – you never know what you’ll get!

(5) RADIO PLAY WINS KURD LAßWITZ AWARD. The radio play jury of Kurd Laßwitz Award has finished voting reports award trustee Udo Klotz. The winner is Der zweite Schlaf by Heinz Sommer.

  • Best German SF Radio Play First Broadcast In 2020

 (6) SFF AFTER MAO. There is a new book on Chinese sff in the 70s and 80s that readers might be interested in: Hua Li’s Chinese Science Fiction during the Post-Mao Cultural Thaw, from University of Toronto Press.

The late 1970s to the mid-1980s, a period commonly referred to as the post-Mao cultural thaw, was a key transitional phase in the evolution of Chinese science fiction. This period served as a bridge between science-popularization science fiction of the 1950s and 1960s and New Wave Chinese science fiction from the 1990s into the twenty-first century. Chinese Science Fiction during the Post-Mao Cultural Thaw surveys the field of Chinese science fiction and its multimedia practice, analysing and assessing science fiction works by well-known writers such as Ye Yonglie, Zheng Wenguang, Tong Enzheng, and Xiao Jianheng, as well as the often-overlooked tech–science fiction writers of the post-Mao thaw.

Exploring the socio-political and cultural dynamics of science-related Chinese literature during this period, Hua Li combines close readings of original Chinese literary texts with literary analysis informed by scholarship on science fiction as a genre, Chinese literary history, and media studies. Li argues that this science fiction of the post-Mao thaw began its rise as a type of government-backed literature, yet it often stirred up controversy and received pushback as a contentious and boundary-breaking genre. Topically structured and interdisciplinary in scope, Chinese Science Fiction during the Post-Mao Cultural Thaw will appeal to both scholars and fans of science fiction.

(7) TIME LIMIT. A trailer has dropped for the fourth and final installment of the Rebuild of EvangelionEvangelion: 3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon A Time.

The fourth and final installment of the Rebuild of Evangelion. Misato and her anti-Nerv group Wille arrive in Paris, a city now red from core-ization. Crew from the flagship Wunder land on a containment tower. They only have 720 seconds to restore the city. When a horde of Nerv Evas appear, Mari’s improved Eva Unit 8 must intercept. Meanwhile, Shinji, Asuka, and Rei wander around Japan.

(8) MARS IN CULTURE. “Exploring the Red Planet through History and Culture” with Nick Smith (past President of LASFS) will be hosted by the Pasadena Museum of History. This free virtual presentation* will be available for viewing Thursday, July 22 through Sunday, July 25. Sign up for email notification here.

The planet Mars has long been connected to humankind through religions, literature, and science. Join Nick Smith, guest curator of PMH’s 2018 exhibition Dreaming the Universe, to explore our fascination with Earth’s neighboring planet, and discover some of the many ways Mars is part of our culture. 

This free virtual presentation* will be available for viewing Thursday, July 22 through Sunday, July 25. An email with the link to the presentation will be sent to all of our email subscribers on Thursday, July 22.

*Pre-recorded presentation from Spring ArtNight 2021.

(9) RESOURCES FOR HORROR FICTION SCHOLARSHIP. The University of Pittsburgh library system announced the acquisition of the papers of Linda Addison, Kathe Koja, and the archives of the Horror Writers Association: “University of Pittsburgh Library System Acquires Additional Archives for its Horror Studies Collection”/

…The ULS has acquired the papers of Linda D. Addison, the most decorated horror poet today with a total of six Bram Stoker literary awards. Addison became the first African American writer to win a Stoker in 2001 for her collection, Consumed, Reduced to Beautiful Grey Ashes and has also received the Lifetime Achievement (2018) and Mentor of the Year (2016) Awards from the Horror Writers Association as well as the title Grand Master from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (2020). Her poetry explores themes of race, gender, loss, struggle, hope, and the resiliency of humanity through a lyrical style that employs both traditional horror tropes of the supernatural as well as stark realism. Her archive will include drafts and manuscripts of her poetry as well as ephemera such as convention programs and awards which help demonstrate her impact on the genre. On her hopes that her archive will inspire others, she says:

“Having my writing journey from journals, through edits to final versions, become part of the University of Pittsburgh Horror Studies Collection is a dream, I never imagined, come true! To think that others, studying my process, could find value and inspiration will allow my work to safely exist past the length of my life, is an incredible blessing.”

The ULS has also acquired the papers of Kathe Koja, who is a true iconoclast whose works push boundaries, expand our conceptions of horror, and prove that horror is indeed a true literary genre. Her first novel, The Cipher (1991), won both a Bram Stoker Award and Locus Award and solidified her impact as a force within new horror. She employs a striking and unique prose style to explore themes of alienation and social isolation as well as transcendence, often through art. Her collection will include drafts, manuscripts, and notes from her novels and short stories. On her decision to establish her archive at the University of Pittsburgh, Koja said:

“A book is its writing as well as its words: the thoughts and notes and drafts and edits (and edits, and edits) that comprise the final text. To have all that making made available for scholars, readers, and fans of horror literature is a real boon, and I’m beyond delighted that my own horror novels will now be available this way.”

Lastly, the ULS has acquired the archives of the Horror Writers Association (HWA), the premiere professional organization for writers working in the genre.  This collection, established by current HWA President John Palisano with support from former President Lisa Morton, documents the history of the organization through its newsletters, convention booklets and programs, and other published materials. Collectively, these materials illustrate the work of the HWA, as well as the community it has built. The HWA has been the main space for writers working within the genre to collect and collaborate since the late 1980s and has issued the Bram Stoker literary awards since 1987 at yearly conventions, such as the World Horror Convention and, since 2016, StokerCon.

(10) HUGO NOMINEE IS PLEASED. Best Professional Artist Hugo finalist Maurizio Manzieri tweeted –

(11) MEMORY LANE.

2003 – Eighteen years ago, Iain M. Banks’ only non-fiction book was published. It was Raw Spirit: In Search of The Perfect Dram. Of course he published it as Iain Banks as only his SF was under published under Iain M. Banks. It was his tour of the small whisky distilleries of Scotland in the small red sports coupe that he’d bought with the advance from the publisher who’d underwrote the entire affair on the word of Banks that it was a Great Idea. And being Banks about the Iraq War as well.  As he says in his introduction, “After doing extensive research, I can definitely tell you that single malt whiskies are good to drink”.  If you want to know more about this book, we reviewed it here at Green Man Review. And yes, it is available from the usual suspects. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 1, 1891 — Otis Adelbert Kline. Early pulp writer and and literary agent whose great claim to fame was a possibly apocryphal feud with fellow author Edgar Rice Burroughs, in which he supposedly raised the latter’s anger by producing close imitations of Burroughs’s Mars novels. Wollheim and Moskowitz believed in it having happened, Lupoff did not. (Died 1945.)
  • Born July 1, 1934 — Jean  Marsh, 87. She was married to Jon Pertwee but it was before either involved in Dr. Who. She first appeared alongside The First Doctor in “The Crusade” as Lady Joanna, the sister of Richard I (The Lionheart). She returned later that year as companion Sara Kingdom in “The Daleks’ Master Plan”. And she’d return yet again during the time of the Seventh Doctor in “Battlefield” as Morgana Le Fay. She’s also in Unearthly Stranger Dark PlacesReturn to OzWillow as Queen Bavmorda and The Changeling. (CE)
  • Born July 1, 1935 — David Prowse. The physical embodiment of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. Ok, it’s been  a very long time since I saw Casino Royale but what was Frankenstein’s Creation doing there, the character he played in his first ever role? That he played that role in The Horror of Frankenstein and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, Hammer Films a few later surprises me not. He shows up in Gilliam’s Jabberwocky according to IMDB as Red Herring and Black Knights (and no I’ve no idea what that means). Finally he’s the executioner in The People That Time Forgot, a film that’s very loosely based off of several Burroughs novels. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 1, 1952 — Dan Aykroyd, 69. Though best known as Dr. Raymond Stantz in the original Ghostbusters films (which he wrote with Harold Ramis), he actually shows up a year earlier in his first genre role in Twilight Zone: The Movie as Passenger / Ambulance Driver. He’s reprising his role in the recent Ghostbusters 2020
  • Celebrated July 1, 1955 — Robbie the Robot. On this date in 1955, Robby the Robot was born. Or more properly constructed. Or so claims the studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, that would release Forbidden Planet, where he had his first screen appearance, on March 3, 1956 when the movie had its US premiere. He would go on to be in a number of  series including Lost in Space twice plus on The Addams FamilyThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. twice,  Twilight Zone (five appearances , mostly as toys) and Holmes & Yo-Yo to name but a few of his other  appearances. His latest appearance was on The Big Bang Theory with other movie props in “The Misinterpretation Agitation” episode. He had a memorable appearance on The New Adventures of Wonder Woman where he was the Master of Ceremonies at one of our SF Cons!  
  • Born July 1, 1962 — Andre Braugher, 59. He’s the voice of Darkseid in Superman/Batman: Apocalypse which is why he makes the Birthday list. If there’s ever proof that a great voice actor can make an animated role, this is it. It’s also a superb film. His other major genre role is as General George W. Mancheck in The Andromeda Strain series that originally aired on A&E. 
  • Born July 1, 1964 — Charles Coleman Finlay, 57. The Traitor to the Crown series is his best known work. His first story, “Footnotes”, was published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction where many of his stories have since been published. Six years the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ending in February of this year.
  • Born July 1, 1981 — Genevieve Valentine, 40. Author of the superb  Persona novel and also she scripted a Catwoman series, working with artists Garry Brown and David Messina. Her first novel, Mechanique: A tale of the Circus Tresaulti, won the Crawford Award for a first fantasy novel. She scripted a run of Xena: Warrior Princess, and scripted Batman & Robin Eternal as well. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) HUGOS FROM THE HAGUE. Fanac.org now hosts a video of the ConFiction (1990) Worldcon Hugo Ceremony.  

This video, captured with a hand held camera, covers the Hugo Awards, as well as the Campbell Award for New Writers, and the fannish Big Heart and First Fandom awards. Many awards were accepted by designees for the recipients, and we see Anne McCaffrey and Jack Chalker among those accepting for others. There’s a bit of humor from Dave Langford, and appearances by the American Ambassador to the Netherlands, C. Howard Wilkins. The World Science Fiction Society Banner, first hung at NyCon II in 1956, makes its appearance, and the video ends with the traditional view of all the recipients on stage. The video was recorded by John Cramer, provided by Tom Whitmore and used with the permission of Kees van Toorn, Chairman of ConFiction.

(15) SHAT TRADES SMACK. Shat gets into trouble by being a host on Russian propaganda network RT.“Star Trek Icon William Shatner Spars With Journalists About His New Show on Kremlin TV” says The Daily Beast.

Star Trek star William Shatner has taken to Twitter to trade blows with journalists who called him out for hosting a new show on the Kremlin’s notorious state-funded network, RT.

Earlier this week, the 90-year-old Canadian actor—known for taking on the legendary role Captain James Kirk in the Star Trek saga—announced he would be hosting a new general talk show on the American branch of RT called “I Don’t Understand,” where he’ll be posing questions to guests on a variety topics. The show is set to debut later this month.

Alexey Kovalev, an investigative editor for Meduza—one of the most popular independent Russian-language news outlets—had some choice words for Shatner on his work with the network.

“Quick reminder about [RT’s] views and editorial policies @WilliamShatner is now endorsing (whether he wants to or not),” he tweeted on Thursday, linking to a thread that ends with “Don’t go on RT, unless you are okay with sharing a mic with some of the most vile racist degenerates out there. It’s not a legitimate media platform. It has no redeeming qualities. And if no other platform will have you, then you really shouldn’t have *any* platform.”

Those comments seem to have hit a nerve with Shatner, who wrote back, “Perhaps instead of rebuking me with facts that have zero influence on my show, a better use of your time would be to move? It seems that you being in Moscow means you are directly supporting the very regime you are berating me about. #hypocrite.”…

(16) POE’S SCIENCE REPORTING. Daniel Engber reviews John Tesch’s Poe biography The Reason for the Darkness of the Night: Edgar Allan Poe and the Forging of American Science in “Edgar Allan Poe’s Other Obsession” at The Atlantic.

…By 1840, Poe was working at a men’s magazine, where he launched a feature called “A Chapter on Science and Art,” consisting of the sorts of squibs on innovation later found in Popular Mechanics. (“A gentleman of Liverpool announces that he has invented a new engine,” one entry started.) With this column, Tresch suggests, “Poe made himself one of America’s first science reporters.” He also made himself one of America’s first popular skeptics—a puzzle master and a debunker, in the vein of Martin Gardner. Poe wrote a column on riddles and enigmas, and he made a gleeful habit of exposing pseudoscience quacks….

(17) RAILGUN R.I.P. The idea got a lot of media attention, however, they’re going another direction: “Navy ditches futuristic railgun, eyes hypersonic missiles” reports the AP.

The U.S. Navy pulled the plug, for now, on a futuristic weapon that fires projectiles at up to seven times the speed of sound using electricity.

The Navy spent more than a decade developing the electromagnetic railgun and once considered putting them on the stealthy new Zumwalt-class destroyers built at Maine’s Bath Iron Works.

But the Defense Department is turning its attention to hypersonic missiles to keep up with China and Russia, and the Navy cut funding for railgun research from its latest budget proposal.

“The railgun is, for the moment, dead,” said Matthew Caris, a defense analyst at Avascent Group, a consulting firm.

(18) PUNCH, BROTHERS, PUNCH WITH CARE. At the link, another fabulous Middle-Earth transit map, from 2018 – “One does not simply walk into Mordor” by artist Christian Tate.

Middle Earth map commissioned for Empire Magazine plotting the journeys of Tolkien’s key characters through Peter Jackson’s six films of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies.

(19) A REALLY SHORT HOBBIT. Brenton Dickieson introduces readers to “The First Animated Hobbit, and Other Notes of Tolkienish Nonsense” at A Pilgrim in Narnia. The film runs about 11 minutes.

…Rembrandt Films had purchased film rights to produce a film by 1967, but a Hollywood feature-length deal fell apart. According to the Wikipedia page, the film was produced cheaply and quickly–Mythmoot lore places it at 7-10 days–and premiered on the last day that the contract, paying people to see the film. Having fulfilled the contract, they were able to return rights to Tolkien, opening possibilities for future adaptations, including the 1977 animation (which I call “the cute Hobbit” in my mind), and the trilogy epic of the fairy tale in the early 2010s by Peter Jackson, which some may have heard about….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The HISHE series says this is “How Godzilla vs Kong Should Have Ended”.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Shao Ping, N., Tom Becker, Daniel Dern, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

DisCon III Explains Why It Isn’t Posting a Membership List

DisCon III fielded a question Ellen Datlow posted in their Facebook group asking why they are not making a membership list available. Here are screencaps from the dialog.

Because DisCon III made an ambiguous reply about whether the harassers are members, there remains an open question whether the committee should be enforcing their Code of Conduct against the individuals.

Pixel Scroll 2/12/21 A Series Of Unfortunate Event Horizons

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman offers listeners a chance to “Nibble hors d’oeuvres with Mary Robinette Kowal” in Episode 138 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of the Lady Astronaut series — which so far includes the novels The Calculating StarsThe Fated Sky, and The Relentless Moon — as well as the historical fantasy novels in The Glamourist Histories series plus Ghost Talkers. Her short stories have appeared in Strange HorizonsAsimov’s, and other magazines and anthologies, and her collections include Word Puppets and Scenting the Dark and Other Stories.

She’s currently the President of SFWA, a member of the award-winning podcast Writing Excuses, and has received the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, four Hugo awards, the RT Reviews award for Best Fantasy Novel, the Nebula, and Locus awards. Her novel The Calculating Stars is one of only 18 novels to win the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards in a single year. She’s also a professional puppeteer and voice actor, and has won two UNIMA-USA Citations of Excellence, the highest award an American puppeteer can achieve.

We discussed the temporal differences between puppetry and science fiction conventions, how she transitioned from writing magical Regency novels to the Lady Astronaut series, why unlike many writers, she reads her reviews (albeit selectively), the reason she’s able to write relationships between reasonable people so well, how she constructs a science fiction mystery, why it’s so important she likes her characters’ clothing when she picks a project, the meaning of science fiction itself within her science fiction universe, the way she uses sensitivity readers to make her work better, how a novel is like a clear glass pitcher, and much more.

(2) TUTTLE BEGINS. Lisa Tuttle’s inaugural column for The Guardian has posted: “The best recent science fiction and fantasy – review roundup”.

… Adam Roberts is one of the most intellectually daring British science fiction writers, trying something different in every book. Purgatory Mount (Gollancz, £16.99) starts off like classic space opera, on board a spaceship crewed by five quasi-immortal superhumans. On an empty planet they discover an enormous tower-like structure, possibly the remains of a space elevator, in which they perceive a resemblance to Dante’s mountain of Purgatory. However, this is not the real story….

(3) STURGEON AWARD CONSIDERATION. Nominations are open for the 2021 Sturgeon Award through March 15. Eligible works are science fiction short stories, novelettes, or novellas originally published in English during 2020, in a magazine, anthology, website, or other format.

If you are a reader/reviewer/critic:

If you are interested in participating, please submit via email (gunn.sf.center@gmail.com) your list of up to ten (10) nominations for what you consider to be the top science-fiction short works of the year, ranked from 1 to 10, with 1 being your top pick. If possible, please include publication information and date of publication. If published online, please include a link. Include in the header:  2021 STURGEON NOMINATIONS LIST.  

If you are an editor:

Please submit via email (gunn.sf.center@gmail.com) a list of the three (3) best science fiction stories from your year’s editorial work. You do not need to rank these. Please include publication information and date of publication. If published online, please include a link. Include in the header:  2021 STURGEON EDITORIAL NOMINATIONS.  

This year’s Sturgeon Award Jury members are Sarah Pinsker, Elizabeth Bear, Taryne Taylor, and Kij Johnson, and they will also involve Noel Sturgeon in the selection process. Noel is Trustee of the Theodore Sturgeon Literary Trust and one of Theodore Sturgeon’s children. 

(4) SF POETRY PODCAST. Outskirts Poetry has launched The Outskirts Poetry Podcast, a “bi-weekly podcast beaming straight out of an underground bunker that perfectly marries SF Poetry/Fiction and the counterculture.”

The podcast is geared toward writers and readers of speculative genre poetry and fiction “who enjoy art that thrives at the fringes of society.” Season 1 guests include interviews with Catherynne M. Valente, space poet; Josh Pearce, Afrosurrealist; D. Scot Miller; and Augur Magazine Editor, Terese Mason Pierre. Outskirts Poetry is a creative media collaboration between Post-apocalyptic poet, Jake Tringali, who hosts the podcast, and fellow SFPA spec-fic writer and media specialist, Melanie Stormm.

Go to the link above to listen, or access the podcast at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Stitcher.

Outskirts Poetry Podcast covers the margins: science fiction, fantasy, weird, the things listeners should be in on, but might not be yet. Our main exports are badly behaved.

(5) FINANCIAL HELP NEEDED. A GoFundMe has been started to “Help Alma Alexander With The Loss of her Husband”. The reason for the appeal —  

Alma Alexander, fantasy writer and all-around good egg, is facing the devastating loss of her husband, coupled with medical and funeral expenses, and the possible loss of her home.

We are trying to raise some funds to give her husband, Deck, a proper send-off, and ease the burden on Alma.  The campaign is being organized by Tim Dunn of Nerdy Origami, and all monies raised will go directly to Alma.

Alexander was interviewed by File 770’s Carl Slaughter in 2017.

(6) GRRM APPEARS FOR CHARITY. [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] Saturday night: “Food for Love – Join us Valentine’s Eve for a STAR-STUDDED VIRTUAL CONCERT to end hunger in New Mexico”. There’s some serious talent on the bill, and between George R.R. Martin and David Byrne, its genre-relevance hops the bar, in my opinion.

(7) NIVEN’S WORLDBUILDING. Dominic Noble devotes a video to “The Absolutely Crazy Worlds And Aliens Of Known Space”.

…Pearson’s Puppeteers — the name makes sense in the book — are a fascinating non-humanoid race known for several unusual physical and psychological characteristics. For starters they have three legs and two heads, neither of which contain their brain, which is located in their torso. Their heads serve as multi-function limbs encompassing all the usual activities of seeing, eating, breathing, and speaking, while also being their primary manipulators. They’re also known for being incredibly intelligent and almost comically cowardly — everything scares the heck out of these creatures no matter how unlikely the threats. So their entire culture is based around making things as safe as possible for themselves. It’s such a part of their core being that any Puppeteer who shows even a little courage is considered certifiably insane. The absolute best example of this is the reason that no human has seen a Puppeteer for centuries at the start of the story. “We need to evacuate this entire section of the galaxy! The galactic core has exploded!” “What? When?” “10 000 years ago.” “Um, okay, and when is the blast wave going to reach us?” “20 000 years. We’re wasting time talking. Run!”

Yeah, they evacuated their entire species and started a mass exodus out of the galaxy 20 000 years in advance just to be safe. This conveniently leads up to the setup for the plot of this book…

(8) DATLOW ON EDITING. Tor Nightfire’s Tonia Ransom supplies the questions in “Interviewing Ellen Datlow, the Doyenne of Short Horror Fiction”.

TR: What advice would you give aspiring editors?

ED: The key to good editing is asking questions and not imposing your own bias/style (if you’re also a writer) on someone else’s story. If you like a story and think you might want to acquire and edit it but believe it needs work, don’t be afraid to make suggestions, and if something isn’t clear, you might ask the writer to tell you what they think is going on––and if their vision is not coming through on the page, tell them that. But always remember: it’s not your story. It’s the writer’s. If you can’t agree on revisions, let it go. Learn to say “no.” Never feel obliged to buy stories by friends or big names if you don’t like the story or don’t think it works for the venue for which you’re editing.

(9) GET THE POINT? James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers where to find “Blades for Hire: Five Fictional Duellists”. This first one should be familiar —

The Princess Bride by William Goldman (1973)

Inigo Montoya trained to become a master swordsman for one driving purpose: to slay the six-fingered man who murdered Inigo’s father. Once he had become a master swordsman, Inigo discovered that his plan was flawed: Inigo had no idea who the six-fingered man might be or where he might be found. Years of searching turned into decades. A penniless Inigo had no choice but to hire himself out as a duellist. Alas, this meant he must work for evil men like master criminal Vizinni. Will he ever find the six-fingered man?

(10) INA SHORROCK OBIT. Liverpool fan Ina Shorrock (1928-2021) has died of a heart attack at the age of 92. She discovered fandom in 1950, was a member of the Liverpool Group, and generally acted as a social director for Liverpool fandom. Eric Bentcliffe in 1959 called her “British fandom’s ‘Hostess with the mostess’. Ina has superabundant energy, and a gift for making people both ‘at home’ and happy.” She belonged to the BSFA (which she chaired). She was married to fellow fan Norman Shorrock.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 12, 1940 — On this day in 1940, The Adventures Of Superman radio program began with the airing on New York City’s WOR of its first episode, “The Baby from Krypton”. The story is what you expect it to be. It would air until March 1951 with 2,088 original episodes of the program airing. It starred Bud Collyer as Clark Kent / Superman and Joan Alexander as Lois Lane. You can hear it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 12, 1920 – Russell Chauvenet.  Had he only coined the word fanzine (in his zine Detours; also generally credited with prozine) it would have been enough for us.  He co-founded the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n; with Damon Knight and Art Widner) and served a term as President.  Another zine Sardonyx was originally mimeographed but I feel sure I had in my hand a later multi-color issue, produced by spirit duplicator, in the Fanzine Lounge at Chicon VI the 58th Worldcon.  Next door to us he was rated Expert at chess; also built his own Windmill-class sailboat, and was a medal-winning runner.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born February 12, 1929 Donald Kingsbury, 92. He’s written three novels (Courtship RiteThe Moon Goddess and the Son and Psychohistorical Crisis) that could be akin to the Asimov’s Foundation novels. Clute at EOSF says that the Asimov estate explicitly refused him permission to set Psychohistorical Crisis in the Foundation universe. (CE)
  • Born February 12, 1933 – Juanita Coulson, age 88.  Co-edited the Hugo-winning fanzine Yandro with husband Buck Coulson; you can see a lot of issues here; you can go directly to her cover for Y92 here.  First-rate filker; won a Pegasus; Filk Hall of Fame.  A dozen novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  She and Buck were Fan Guests of Honor at L.A.Con the 30th Worldcon; the Coulsons to Newcastle fan fund sent them to Seacon ’79, the 37th; after Buck left, she was Fan Guest of Honor at Reconstruction the 10th NASFiC (North America SF Con; since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas).  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  [JH]
  • Born February 12, 1942 Terry  Bisson, 79. He’s best known for his short stories including “Bears Discover Fire”, which won the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award and “They’re Made Out of Meat”. His  genre novels includes Talking ManWyrldmaker and a rather cool expansion of  Galaxy Quest into novel form. (CE)
  • Born February 12, 1945 Gareth Daniel Thomas. His best known genre role was as of Roj Blake on Blake’s 7 for the first two series of that British show. He also had a minor role in Quatermass and the Pit, and had one-offs in The AvengersStar MaidensHammer House of Horror, The Adventures Of Sherlock HolmesTales of the UnexpectedRandall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and Torchwood. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born February 12, 1945 Maud Adams, 76. Best remembered for being two different Bond girls, first for being in The Man with the Golden Gun where she was Andrea Anders, and as the title character in Octopussy. She shows up a few years later uncredited in a third Bond film, A View to Kill, as A Woman in Fisherman’s Wharf Crowd. (CE)
  • Born February 12, 1945 – David Friedman, Ph.D., age 76.  Two novels from this man schooled as a physicist who taught law a dozen years at Santa Clara Univ. (now emeritus) and earned the rank of Duke in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism); it is said he while king of the Middle Kingdom challenged the East, later as king of the East accepted the challenge and lost (to himself).  He is an incrementalist consequentialist anarcho-capitalist, and yes, I think all those terms are needed.  [JH]
  • Born February 12, 1950 Michael Ironside, 71. Ahhhh, he of Starship Troopers fame. His first SF role was actually as Darryl Revok in Scanners. Later roles included Overdog in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, Ricther In Total Recall, General Katana in Highlander II: The Quickening and of course Lt. Jean Rasczak In Starship Troopers. Now he also did some series work as well including being Ham Tyler on V The Final Battle and V The SeriesseaQuest 2032 as Captain Oliver Hudson which I really liked, General Sam Lane on Smallville and on the Young Blades series as Cardinal Mazarin. (CE) 
  • Born February 12, 1954 – Stu Shiffman.  Long-time fanartist; won a Hugo; was given the Rotsler Award.  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Fan Guest of Honor at WisCon 12, Minicon 20, Lunacon 43.  Four stories.  Here are covers for Chunga 1 and 19.  Here is Taral Wayne’s tributezine The Slan of Baker Street (alluding to Van Vogt’s novel Slan and SS’ Sherlock Holmes hobby).  One of my favorite photos of him is here.  Randy Byers’ appreciation is here.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation is here.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born February 12, 1962 – Katherine Roberts, age 59.  Welsh and Spanish.  A score of novels, as many shorter stories.  First class degree in mathematics.  Boase Award.  Correspondent of Vector.  Contributed a “Top 10 SF Novels” to The Zone and Premonitions 6.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born February 12, 1981 – Lucy Christopher, age 40.  Australian now in England.  Five novels, one shorter story.  Boase Award.  Gold Inky.  Teacher, horsewoman.  “We are all storytellers….  Thinking about this is my life’s work.”  [JH]

(13) TOMORROW’S MEREDITH MOMENT. The ebook edition of Return to Nevèrÿon, a four-volume “postmodern sword-and-sorcery” epic from Samuel R. Delany will be downpriced to $1.99 across all US and Canadian retailers on February 13 the author announced on Facebook. He provided this Amazon link.

(14) EBOOK$. Protocol investigates how an app that assists libraries also poses financial challenges: “Libby is stuck between libraries and e-book publishers”.

On the surface, there couldn’t be a more wholesome story than the meteoric rise of the Libby app. A user-friendly reading app becomes popular during the pandemic, making books cool again for young readers, multiplying e-book circulation and saving public libraries from sudden obsolescence.

But the Libby story is also a parable for how the best-intentioned people can build a beloved technological tool and accidentally create a financial crisis for those who need the tech most. Public librarians depend on Libby, but they also worry that its newfound popularity could seriously strain their budgets.

… Libby downloads increased three times their usual amount beginning in late March. E-book checkout growth and new users on Overdrive both increased more than 50%.

Libby had helped to save libraries.

It had also accelerated a funding crisis. Public library budgets have never been luxe, and book acquisition budgets in particular have always been tight. Though it may seem counterintuitive to readers, e-books cost far more than physical books for libraries, meaning that increased demand for digital editions put libraries in a financial bind….

(15) NO MOSS WAS GATHERED. “Stonehenge may be a rebuilt Welsh stone circle, new research shows”Yahoo! has the story.

…Scholars have known for decades that most of Stonehenge’s bluestones were carried, dragged or rolled to Salisbury Plain from the Preseli Hills. In 2019, Parker Pearson and his team provided evidence of the exact locations of two of the bluestone quarries. And last year, another team of researchers led by David Nash of the University of Brighton revealed that most of Stonehenge’s sarsens hail from a woodland area in Wiltshire, some 15 miles from where they stand on Salisbury Plain.

The bluestones are thought to have been the first to be erected at Stonehenge some 5,000 years ago, centuries before the larger sarsen stones were brought there. The discovery by Parker Pearson and his team that the bluestones had been extracted from two quarries in the Preseli Hills before the first stage of Stonehenge was built in 3000 BC prompted them to reinvestigate the nearby Waun Mawn site to determine whether those monoliths were the remains of a stone circle supplied by the quarries that was then dismantled to build Stonehenge….

(16) THE WEB, ER, WEED OF CRIME BEARS BITTER FRUIT. Talk about “going bad.” Let the Wikipedia tell you the fate of “Saturn (magazine)”.

Saturn was an American magazine published from 1957 to 1965. It was launched as a science fiction magazine, but sales were weak, and after five issues the publisher, Robert C. Sproul, switched the magazine to hardboiled detective fiction that emphasized sex and sadism. Sproul retitled the magazine Saturn Web Detective Story Magazine to support the change, and shortened the title to Web Detective Stories the following year. In 1962, the title was changed yet again, this time to Web Terror Stories, and the contents became mostly weird menace tales—a genre in which apparently supernatural powers are revealed to have a logical explanation at the end of the story.

Donald A. Wollheim was the editor for the first five issues; he published material by several well-known authors, including Robert A. HeinleinH. P. Lovecraft, and Harlan Ellison, but was given a low budget and could not always find good-quality stories. It is not known who edited the magazine after the science fiction issues…

(17) SPAIN RODRIGUEZ DOCUMENTARY. In “A New Film Plumbs the Depths of Spain’s Underground Comix”, Print Magazine interviews documentary filmmaker Susan Stern.

I met Spain and followed “Trashman,” his signature comic, at The East Village Other. He was a groundbreaker. What inspired you to make this film?

I made Bad Attitude because I wanted more people to see Spain’s bold, original pen-and-ink art. Just as the 1960s have a soundtrack, I’ve always thought Spain’s art helped design the “look” of the ’60s. When I began the film in 2012, it was a time of relative political complacency. I also wanted to rouse people with Spain’s fiery—yet self-satirizing—left-wing radicalism. As it turned out, Bad Attitude is perfect for the political ferment of 2021. Spain’s “anti-racist” work with the white working-class bikers of Buffalo in the early 1960s is a revealing part of the film….

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

Glitter and Virtual Darkness: Not at the KGB Bar Reading Series Features Gibson and Rambo

By Mark L. Blackman On the night of Wednesday, November 18, the Fantastic Fiction at KGB Reading Series, hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, presented authors William Gibson and Cat Rambo in YouTube livestreamed readings. This was the Series’ ninth virtual event. (Its longtime venue, the KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village, had shut down due to the pandemic, but the Soviet era-themed dive bar has sporadically reopened with limited capacity, and its fans are invited to help it out with donations.) The current setup, Kressel noted, offers the advantage of allowing readings from writers not living in or visiting New York; both readers were “in” from the West Coast (Rambo lives in Seattle and Gibson Vancouver). It has also enabled a larger audience than could have fit into the bar (at one point, 120 people were watching).

As the evening’s livestream began, Gibson and Rambo schmoozed with Datlow and Kressel about everything from what they were drinking (hydration is important) to the scary Michelin Man, Gene Wolfe’s role at Pringle’s (the logo character is probably based on him), Oreos, and the previous week’s tornado in New York.

The first reader, Cat Rambo, is the author of over 200 stories, among them the novelette Carpe Glitter, which received a Nebula Award earlier this year, and four novels, including the upcoming space opera, You Sexy Thing. She is a past President of SFWA, and, as it happens, was in that position when Gibson was named a Grand Master. She opened with a selection from Carpe Glitter – “seize the glitter.” A woman is cleaning out the home of her eccentric late grandmother (“Carpe glitter” is something the old lady used to say), a former stage magician and a hoarder. It is an inheritance that she chose (to her mother’s disappointment) over cash, excavating and treasure-hunting (a friend has referred to it as “urban archeology”) through rancid furs, piles of multiple copies of magazines with her old notices and her doll collection.

She then read a flash story (“one of my favorite forms”) that ran on Daily Science Fiction, “I Decline.” An old man turns down government-offered technology that can preserve – and even edit out – his memories. (The spoiler is in the title.)

A short break followed.

William Gibson is best known as the creator (or, at minimum, co-creator) of an entire subgenre of speculative fiction, Cyberpunk. He is the author of the award-winning Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive, Virtual Light, Idoku, Spook Country, and other novels, most recently Agency, a sequel to The Peripheral.

He offered “a blended reading,” selections from the latter two novels, both of which center around “The Jackpot,” a multicausal, slow, androgenic process over 40 years rather than a solitary apocalyptic event, described by one character as “seriously bad shit.” Climate change and too much carbon results in droughts and water shortages, and pandemics that lead ultimately to the death of 80% of everyone (in other words, as we’ve heard too often on the news this year, “a perfect storm”). There is nanotechnology and cheaper energy sources, but the world is run by hereditary oligarchs. The protagonist is reached by a posse from the 22nd century who tell her about it. From Chapter 79 of The Peripheral, “The Jackpot,” he turned to Chapter 75 of Agency, “Jackpot.” The novel is set in an alternate continuum in which Hillary Clinton won in 2016, but that, he said, “doesn’t have the effect it might have, doesn’t prevent the Jackpot from happening.” Here too the protagonist is contacted by people from the future. Gibson is currently working on Jackpot, the conclusion of the trilogy.

Datlow described both selections as “greatly depressing reads, but optimistic” somehow. The Peripheral, was published in 2014 and Agency, appeared in early 2020, effectively pre-Covid-19. Trump’s election caused him to rewrite large parts of Agency, but the Coronavirus hasn’t derailed it. Both novels refer to “the pandemics,” plural.

Datlow asked how the writers are faring during the Pandemic. Rambo is staying productive with co-writing sessions, while Gibson has been “doing domestic stuff,” and “watching and reacting, and taking the measure of the fuckedness quotient and applying some of it to Jackpot #3.”

A Q&A with the audience ensued. Asked what classic sf stands up or stands out, Rambo replied that she’d been reading a number of ’70s short stories, particularly from women writers. Gibson cited J.G. Ballard and Brunner (who “got it astonishingly right,” notably Stand on Zanzibar), and we can feel like we’re in 1984. How do they decide the genders of their protagonists? Rambo said that if she didn’t know, she would return to her “D&D roots” and roll dice. Gibson noted that he had male and female protagonists in the same book; there are maybe four female protagonists in Jackpot. When he started out, he consulted Joanna Russ’s circle about handling women characters. Females, he opined, “better comprehend their world.”

What about the current milieu do they find surprising? Rambo finds social media both “horrifying and fascinating.” The only social media Gibson does is Twitter (Rambo also is on Twitter). In a digression, he observed (to laughter) that one thing that we don’t see in zombie apocalyptic fiction in books, movies and tv is people calling zombies a hoax. Kressel likened our polarized world to China Miéville’s The City and the City, with people “literally living in two realities,” pretending the others don’t exist. What are Rambo and Gibson finding to be optimistic about? Rambo likes “the informal nature of things,” and hopes that sf conventions have “a strong virtual component going forward.”

Would Gibson ever write in anyone else’s world? No, he has “never understood the impulse to write fan fiction.” What are their research methods? Gibson “Google[s] blindly,” and Rambo also relies on Google or “a good university library.” She is currently reading Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October, and Gibson recommended M. John Harrison’s latest.

After a brief and reluctant cameo by her cat Jack, Datlow concluded by announcing upcoming readers:

  • December 16: Priya Sharma and Justin Key
  • January 20, 2021: Lauren Beukes and Usman T. Malik
  • February 17: Kathleen Jennings and Shveta Thakrar

All dates are the third Wednesday of the month (“come rain or shine or Covid”).

Pixel Scroll 9/25/20 The Scrollwave Pixel

(1) GUIDING LIGHTS. “Personal Canons: Young Wizards” is Erin Maier’s guest post in a series at Sarah Gailey’s blog.

…Here Young Wizards says: it’s never too late to change. Diane Duane comes back to this idea again and again throughout the series. Wizardry is always about choosing to change or not, in one way or another. Of course, change is never without a price: wizardry gives only so much as it is given. But if you are willing, if you choose, you can change more than you ever dreamed.

“This is a business for saints, not children!” Nita’s father exclaims to Tom and Carl in High Wizardry, upon learning Nita’s younger sister Dairine has also become a wizard. “Even saints have to start somewhere,” they tell him. The youngest wizards have the most power, because they aren’t yet so confined by the idea of “possible.”

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman says “Uh-oh! It’s Spider-Man SpaghettiOs with comics writer/editor/historian Danny Fingeroth” in Episode 128 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Danny Fingeroth

I’ve known that guest, Danny Fingeroth, for more than 40 years. A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee, his biography of “The Man,” has just been released in paperback. That’s but the latest of his many accomplishments since he started in comics back in the ’70s as an assistant at Marvel to previous guest Larry Lieber.

Danny went on to become group editor for all the Spider-Man titles, and writer of the Deadly Foes of Spider-Man and Lethal Foes of Spider-Man mini-series, plus long runs on Dazzler and Darkhawk. His other books in addition to that Stan Lee bio include Superman On The Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us About Ourselves and Society and Disguised as Clark Kent: Jews, Comics, and the Creation of the Superhero.

As for dinner … our multi-course meal was made up of nothing but Marvel-branded food — which clearly should be ingested for their novelty value only — about which you’ll hear us kibitz during our conversation.

We discussed his start (like mine) in the Marvel British reprint department, what was wrong with the early letters he wrote to comics as a kid, his admittedly over-generalized theory that there were only two kinds of people on staff at Marvel, our differing reactions to the same first comic book convention in 1970, our somewhat similar regrets about the old-timers we worked beside during our early days in comics, the reason working in comics was wonderful and heartbreaking at the same time, why he wanted to be not only Stan Lee, but both Stan and Jack Kirby, how he was able to interview “The Man” and get him to say things he’d never said before, why comics was the perfect medium for Stan Lee, and much more.

(3) IT’S NO SECRET. Mythaxis casts their “Editor Spotlight on Ellen Datlow”.

DSW: What’s your secret to being so successful as an editor of anthologies?

ED: It depends on what one means by success. I’ve been lucky to continue to propose anthologies that are of interest to enough publishers and readers that they sell OK (usually, but not always).

But basically I only edit anthologies on themes that are broad enough that I can get the writers I solicit stories from to push the envelope of that theme. I’ll be living with the “theme” for at least two years from conception to publication so I have to love it.

I’d very much like to edit more non-themed anthologies but they’re a very hard sell.

(4) THE BOMB PICTURE BOOM OF 1947. Leonard Maltin rolls out his list of “New And Notable Film Books  September 2020”.

THE BEGINNING OR THE END: HOW HOLLYWOOD—AND AMERICA—LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB by Greg Mitchell (The New Press)

A letter to Donna Reed from a former schoolteacher led to MGM making the first film about the development of the atomic bomb. That’s the first nugget in this scrupulously researched tale of The Beginning or the End (1947), a film that tried to keep everyone from J. Robert Oppenheimer and President Harry S. Truman happy and wound up pleasing almost no one. Author Greg Mitchell appears shocked—shocked!—that Washington exerted such power over a movie studio, but threads his story with documentation that is beyond dispute. An experienced author and researcher (whose earlier book The Campaign of the Century: Upton Sinclair’s Race for Governor of California and the Birth of Media Politics is a longtime favorite of mine) he reveals his ignorance of old movies when he badly summarizes the career of Brian Donlevy—who was chosen to play General Leslie Groves in this film—but stays on solid ground when he details the endless negotiations that won the government’s approval of the finished picture. It’s an interesting saga that has particular relevance as we reevaluate the consequences of the bombs that dropped on Japan 75 years ago.

(5) HOSTS OF GHOSTS. Amy Shearn analyzes “How Literary Ghosts Can Help Us All Be a Little More Human” at LitHub.

…Or, okay, at the very least, we can all agree that hauntings are a very useful metaphor. “Whether or not ghosts are real,” writes Erica Wright, “their stories give us inspiration, a way to live more alert to possibilities.” A ghost in a story can deliver information living characters lack access to, so it’s no wonder spirits have apparated throughout Western literature, from Hamlet’s truth-telling father to the psychological spirits of Henry James’s The Turn of the ScrewA literary ghost can also be a neat way to link a story’s present with the past, a seductive trick for the expansively-minded novelist. The contemporary American ghost tends to be a little more complicated, however, than a Dickensian Ghost of Christmas Past rattling around in a nightgown. As Parul Sehgal writes in the New York Times, “The ghost story shape-shifts because ghosts themselves are so protean—they emanate from specific cultural fears and fantasies… They are social critiques camouflaged with cobwebs; the past clamoring for redress.” She notes that America is a haunted country, despite, or maybe because of, our “energetic amnesia.”

(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • Twenty-five years ago, Greg Bear’s Moving Mars, the third novel in his Quantum Logic series, won the Nebula Award beating out works by Octavia E. Butler, Jonathan Lethem, James K. Morrow, Rachel Pollack, Kim Stanley Robinson and Roger Zelazny. It would also be nominated for the Hugo, Locus, and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards. It would lose in the Hugo race for Best Novel at ConAdian to Kim Stanley Robinson’s Green Mars.  (CE)

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 25, 1919 – Betty Ballantine.  With husband Ian (1916-1995) established Bantam Books, then Ballantine Books which they led to a fine SF publishing history: Blish, Bradbury, Clarke, Kornbluth, Leiber, Niven, Pohl, Tolkien; a hundred covers by Richard Powers, a distinctive genius.  SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) President’s Award; Special Committee Award from the 64th Worldcon; World Fantasy Award for life achievement; SF Hall of Fame (Betty & Ian jointly).  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1930 – Shel Silverstein.  Cartoonist, journalist, poet, songster.  Introduced to most by the Ballantines.  Here is one of his collections.  Here is another.  Is he jolly, or melancholy?  Have you sung “The Boa Constrictor”, by golly?  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1932 J. Carol Holly. Her various book dedications showed she had a strong love of cats. I’ve not encountered her novels but she wrote a fair number of them including ten genre novel plus The Assassination Affair, a novel in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. franchise. Only The Flying Eyes novel by her is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1982.) (CE) 
  • Born September 25, 1946 – John D. Owen, 74.  Fanziner noted particularly for Crystal Ship, which you can see here, and Shipyard Blues, which you can see here (both in archived copies).  [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1951 Mark Hamill, 69. I’ll confess that my favorite role of his is that he voices The Joker in the DC Universe. He started doing this way back on Batman: The Animated Series and has even been doing on other such series as well. Pure comic evilness! Oh, and did you know he voices Chucky in the new Child’s Play film? Now that’s creepy. (CE)
  • Born September 25, 1957 – Christine Morton-Shaw, 63.  Two novels for us; a half dozen picture books for young children which have been found fun.  You may already know her teen fantasy The Riddles of Epsilon.  [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1960 – Kristin Hannah, 60. Lawyer and fictionist.  Two novels for us; a score of others (historical fiction The Nightingale sold 2 million copies).  “The mall?  I live on an island.”  Website.  [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1961 Heather Locklear, 59. Her first genre role was Victoria ‘Vicky’ Tomlinson McGee in Stephen King’s Firestarter followed by being Abby Arcane in The Return of Swamp Thing. She was also Dusty Tails in Looney Tunes: Back in Action. She’s had one-offs in Tales of the UnexpectedFantasy IslandMuppets Tonight and she voiced Lisa Clark “Prophecy of Doom” on Batman: The Animated Series. (CE)
  • Born September 25, 1962 Beth Toussaint, 58. She was Ishara Yar in the “Legacy” episode of Next Gen and she’s been in a lot of genre series and films including BerserkerBabylon 5, the Monsters anthology series, the very short-lived Nightmare CafeMann & MachineProject Shadowchaser IILegend and Fortress 2: Re-Entry. (CE)
  • Born September 25, 1964 Maria Doyle Kennedy, 56. She was Siobhán Sadler in Orphan Black, and currently is Jocasta Cameron in Outlander. She’s been cast as Illa in the soon to be filmed The Wheel of Time series. (CE) 
  • Born September 25, 1969Catherine Zeta-Jones, 51. Her first role ever was as Scheherazade in the French short 1001 Nights. The Daily Telegraph noted it’s remembered only for its “enjoyable nude scenes”.  Her next role was Sala in The Phantom. Does Zorro count as genre? If go, she appeared as Eléna Montero in The Mask of Zorro and Eléna De La Vega in The Legend of Zorro. She was Theodorain The Haunting, a riff off of The Haunting of Hill House. And finally she was in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as Maya in “Palestine, October 1917”. (CE) 
  • Born September 25, 1989 – Élodie Serrano, 31.  Two novels, collection The Die Is Cast, twenty more stories (e.g. “Muse for Sale, Accepts Souls”, “The Word Thief”, “At the Heart of Plants”), in French.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) TAKING FLIGHT. Lyles Movie Files reports “Aldis Hodge joins Black Adam cast to play Hawkman”.

If you’ve been reading my comic book reviews, you know Hawkman is one of my favorite comics out right now. Robert Venditti has written an excellent take on the character and he’s reached new heights (sorry) of what’s possible with him.

It was kind of fitting then that I saw the news about Aldis Hodge (The Invisible Man) being cast as Hawkman in the Black Adam movie from Venditti’s Twitter feed….

Hodge joins Dwayne Johnson, who plays the title character Black Adam, and Noah Centineo (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before) who will be Atom Smasher. The Black Adam version of the JSA is small with only Doctor Fate and Cyclone revealed although their casting have yet to be announced.

(10) LEARN WHILE YOU BURN. James Davis Nicoll pulled from the shelf “Five Fantasy Novels Starring Self-Taught Protagonists” at Tor.com. One of them is –

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher (2020)

Riverbraid prides itself on its toleration of magickers, even minor ones like Mona, whose talents are limited to baked goods. Because Mona is poor and her magic has no obvious military applications, she’s left to work in her aunt’s bakery. It’s not a bad life, really. Everything changes the morning that Mona finds a corpse sprawled on the floor of the bakery.

The victim is a another magicker. It soon becomes apparent that someone is hunting down the magically talented. Mona’s attempts to unravel the mystery involve her in a desperate resistance against high-level scheming and barbarian invasion. Only a baker can save the day.

(11) ROAMING CHARGES. LitHub reports “$3.2 million worth of rare stolen books have been found under a house in rural Romania.”

When a group of thieves stole $3.2 million worth of rare books from a London warehouse in 2017, including seminal scientific texts by Isaac Newton and Galileo, they shocked the antiquarian book world and inspired a number of theories about what had happened. Who would target such rare titles—including a 1566 edition of On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres by Nicolaus Copernicus, worth $268,000—that they would be essentially impossible to sell on the black market?

An anonymous source told The Guardian that the heist “must be for some one specialist. There must be a collector behind it.” One source, in Smithsonian, said that “a wealthy collector known as ‘The Astronomer’ may have hired the thieves to steal the books for him.” Other texts in the collection included those by Leonardo da Vinci and a copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy from 1569.

Now, British, Romanian, and Italian investigators working together have found them: they were “in a concealed space under a house in rural Romania,” the Associated Press reports. The main suspects are members of a Romanian organized crime group, and police have already arrested 13 people in connection with this heist and a string of other high-profile burglaries.

(12) RUSSIAN VACCINE DATA SUSPICIOUS SAY RESEARCHERS. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Putin is rushing out a vaccine – Sputnik V – against SARS-CoV-2 / CoVID-9 but it has not had mass testing, though it has had a small trial on 76 volunteers. The immune response of this small trial has been reported in The Lancet.

This rushed approval (by Russia only – as the approval does not meet international standards) has previously been criticised.  However, now, the Russian paper in The Lancet reporting the trial has also been criticised in an open letter by 40 biomedical research scientists.

The Lancet paper does not include in the on-line version the underlying data. Conversely, the Oxford University and Astra Zeneca vaccine paper previously published in The Lancet had the underlying data included.  Without it, it is impossible to check the headline data in the paper.

Further, in the headline data that was included in the Sputnik V vaccine paper in The Lancet, there were seeming repetitions. While these repetitions could be purely coincidence, they are unlikely.

The journal Nature became intrigued and their news team investigated. The Russian researchers  are standing by their paper and have not responded to Nature’s news team’s queries.  Nor has The Lancet commented why it failed to insist that the underlying data be included in the Sputnik V vaccine paper as it was for the British vaccine.

The news article in Nature is open access and can be found here: “Researchers Question Russian Covid Vaccination Trial Reults”.

(13) ANTARCTICA IS CLOSE TO THE POINT WHERE FURTHER WARMING WILL SEE A COMMITMENT TO ICE SHEET COLLAPSE. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Researchers have looked at how the Antarctic has responded in the past and compared this with an ice sheet model that includes a number of feedbacks.  For example, with ice surface melt, the surface becomes less reflective and so absorbs more sunlight. So enhancing future warming. Also with surface melt, the melted ice drains away lowering the surface and low altitude surfaces are warmer.  There are other feedbacks, both positive and negative.

We have already warmed the planet by 1.25°C above pre-industrial era temperatures. The researchers have found that up to 2°C above pre-industrial  there is some stability in both the West and East Antarctic ice sheets.  However, above 2°C warming (which we are currently on track to reach before the mid-21st century) the West Antarctic ice sheet becomes committed to partial collapse. Also, above 2°C warming sea level rise from Antarctic melt almost doubles to 2.4 metres per degree of warming.  Above 6°C, melt soars to 10 metres per degree of warming up to 9°C above pre-industrial.

Worse, once each threshold level is reached, it is harder to reverse.  That is to say cooling to temperatures back to the threshold point will not reverse matters: still further cooling is required.

The paper’s abstract is here. (The full paper is behind a pay wall.)

(14) SHIP AHOY. Gizmodo effuses that “The Mandalorian’s Razor Crest Is Hasbro’s Next Magnificent Crowdfunding Toy”.

With a handful of successfully funded projects under its belt, including a towering X-Men Sentinel robot, Hasbro’s HasLab crowdfunding platform is returning to its Star Wars roots with another Vintage Collection spaceship: an incredibly detailed, 30-inch long replica of the Razor Crest from The Mandalorian. Now this is the way.

Designed to be perfectly scaled to Hasbro’s 3.75-inch action figures, the Star Wars: The Vintage Collection Razor Crest also measures in at an impressive 20-inches wide and 10.5-inches tall when perched on its functional retractable landing gear…. 

(15) OVER THE RIVER. A comedy mini-series earns raves from The Guardian: “Zomboat! A surprisingly clever and refreshingly upbeat zombie apocalypse”.

If you’re craving a zombie series that ditches the cynicism and has some good old-fashioned fun with the idea, then allow me to introduce you to Zomboat!, a short, six-episode British comedy with a silly title but a surprisingly clever premise.

The series follows sisters Kat and Jo (Leah Brotherhead and Crazyhead’s Cara Theobold) after they wake up one Sunday to find Birmingham under attack by zombies. As a gamer nerd who knows her zombie lore, Kat already has a plan for this scenario – steal a canal boat and escape to Eel Pie Island in London, because zombies can’t swim. And, as Kat puts it, “The Walking Dead would have been over in one season if Rick Grimes had gone to the Everglades.”

After stealing said canal boat, the sisters find two stowaways in the bathroom: misanthropic Sunny (Hamza Jeetooa) and his sensitive gym bro buddy Amar (Ryan McKen), who are stranded in the city after a stag weekend. Though they clash at first, the group decides to team up for survival, leading to plenty of bickering, bonding and snogs. As a result, the series avoids falling into the same style-over-substance trap that spoiled other recent zombie comedies (like Netflix’s Daybreak); instead, it benefits from the kind of found-family warmth that made Zombieland so charming.

(16) COMPOUND INTEREST. “A Student Just Proved Paradox-Free Time Travel Is Possible” – but why am I learning about this from Yahoo! Finance?

…In a new peer-reviewed paper, a senior honors undergraduate says he has mathematically proven the physical feasibility of a specific kind of time travel. The paper appears in Classical and Quantum Gravity….

The math itself is complex, but it boils down to something fairly simple. Time travel discussion focuses on closed time-like curves (CTCs), something Albert Einstein first posited. And Tobar and Costa say that as long as just two pieces of an entire scenario within a CTC are still in “causal order” when you leave, the rest is subject to local free will.

“Our results show that CTCs are not only compatible with determinism and with the local ‘free choice’ of operations, but also with a rich and diverse range of scenarios and dynamical processes,” their paper concludes….

(17) ATTENTION ELEANOR CAMERON FANS. Lehman College Multimedia Music Theater and Dance department presents Wonderful Flight To The Mushroom Planet. A musical composed by Penny Prince.

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michal Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Rich Horton, Andrew Porter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 8/29/20 I Know I Filed This Pixel Somewhere

(1) DATLOW TAKES QUESTIONS. On the Full Contact Nerd podcastCris Alvarez does a Q&A: “Ellen Datlow Interview- Horror, Fantasy, Sci-Fi Fiction – ‘Edited By’ (Subterranean, 2020)”

Ellen Datlow has been editing horror, fantasy, and science fiction short stories and novellas for over forty years. She’s won numerous awards and accolades for her work and has edited numerous best of anthologies along with short stories for magazine and book publishers. Subterranean Press is releasing a book on some of the best stories she’s edited. I spoke to Ellen about her work as an editor, about genre fiction, and about the business in general.

0:32: Ellen talks about how she got into editing and editing anthologies….

(2) COPING WITH ALS. Sara Hendren tells Slate readers about “The Truest Cyborg I Know”.

For the last couple of years, I’ve been visiting Steve Saling in Chelsea, Massachusetts, where he lives in a residence he designed for himself and a couple dozen other people, a mix of stunning “smart home” technology and human care that he created to arrive in time for his body’s big changes. Steve got a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in his late 30s. He’s 51 now. More than a dozen years into his condition, he has said repeatedly that his life is worth living—and that technology, in the absence of medicine, is “the cure.” Maybe that sounds like one more instance of overhyped claims for Silicon Valley—I would have thought so upon first hearing—but, over time, I came to understand what he meant.

In the architecture of the life that Steve created, I saw a kind of “anticipatory design”—to repurpose a term of Buckminster Fuller’s. At Saling House, the residence that bears Steve’s name, there are impressive digital devices that act, in one sense, as treatment: a whole array of ingenious software and hardware made to maximize his independence even as his body gradually changes. The sheer novelty of the engineering is impressive. But more impressive by far are the ideas packed into all his designed gear and services for life with little mobility—ideas about help, about needfulness. About assistance itself in every life. On my afternoons with him, my perspective and my vocabulary about giving and receiving help changed. Steve taught me to think differently about the plain fact of human needfulness and its role in a desirable life….

(3) EXCELLENT. We’ve recently seen what a John Scalzi 1990s movie review looks like – here’s your chance to see one from 2020: “Movie Review: Bill & Ted Face the Music”

I enjoyed Bill & Ted Face the Music quite a bit, which is utterly unsurprising as I am both Gen-X, i.e., the generation of Bill and/or Ted, and also I used to live in San Dimas, home of Bill and Ted and the town in which almost all of this film takes place (fictionally; it doesn’t look like they did a whole lot of filming in actual San Dimas this time around). Also I am the fan of the first two films, particularly Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, the first film in history to successfully reference both Ingmar Bergman and the glam band Poison. What was surprising to me was that I teared up a bit at the end of this one. I know why, and I’ll tell you in a bit.

(4) D&D IS BETTER THAN IRL. “Plague Comforts: Dungeons & Dragons Is the Real World Now” contends Mother Jones writer Wll Peischel.

…In Dungeons & Dragons,everything pretty much goes as planned. 

In the real world, the pressing themes—pandemic, climate change, state-sanctioned brutality, the government’s emphatic disinterest in functioning properly—lend themselves to a darker, more surreal plot. It is serious. We’re holed up in our homes. The absence of bars, physical workspaces, and cheap baseball tickets from our lives creates a sense of confused inertia. Are we a tenth of the way through the pandemic or halfway? Are we actually getting anywhere, or are we stuck in the last season of Lost? There is endless horizon in every direction—we’re measuring our time in hair growth, if at all.

D&D, on the other hand, is full of clear lines and brighter absurdities. I’m on my 18th session; I live in a tower on the outskirts of a village called Goosetown. Like real life, much of what goes on isn’t scripted. But, unlike reality, it’s safely self-contained. In a session of D&D, the cocktail of youth nostalgia and fantasy otherworldliness could give rise to almost anything—as long as it abides by the game’s few rules. It isn’t the leap into unbounded fantasy that appeals; it’s the lines, the structure, the finitude (with a sort of community working within them).

(5) DON’T FIRE THE RETROS. Cora Buhlert takes up the challenge of explaining “Why the Retro Hugos Have Value” – of which this excerpt is just part of the introduction.

…Now no one is obliged to care about the Retro Hugos. However, if you didn’t nominate and vote, you don’t get complain about the results. I also understand the frustration that Retro Hugo voters keep voting for familiar names like John W. Campbell and weak early stories by future stars of the genre over better works, because I share it. However, unlike many other folks, I didn’t complain, but decided to do something about it, so I started the Retro Hugo Recommendation Spreadsheet and Retro Science Fiction Reviews to help potential Retro Hugo nominators and voters make more informed choices. Because I believe that it’s better to try and fix something than destroy or abolish something that some people enjoy.

And while I understand why Worldcons are reluctant to give out Retro Hugos due to the work and expense involved, I really don’t understand the intense hatred they engender in some fans. There are a lot of things going on at Worldcons that I personally don’t care about, but that doesn’t mean I want to take those things away from the people who do enjoy them. I simply focus on the things that give me joy and ignore the rest.

However, the current campaign against the Retro Hugos is part of a larger trend to dismiss the past of our genre as racist, sexist and irrelevant. Also witness the recent debate about the SFF canon, what it is and whether it is relevant with contributions by John Scalzi (here and here), Nina Allan, Camestros Felapton (here and here), the Hugo Book ClubFont FollySteve Davidson, Doris V. SutherlandAidan Moher and others. The canon discussion is mostly civil (and the only uncivil are the usual idiots I haven’t linked here) and also makes a lot of good points, such as that there is no one fixed SFF canon, but that individual people have different works which are important to them, that canons can be abused as a form of gatekeeping, that it’s not necessary to read classic SFF works, unless you enjoy them or want to write an academic work about SFF. However, pretty much everybody who is interested in older SFF has experienced hostility about this interest, even if we don’t go around and tell people that they’re not “real fans” (TM), unless they have read the entire output of Heinlein, Asimov, Lovecraft, etc… (and in that case, I wouldn’t be a “real fan” (TM) either). Witness Jason Sanford saying that the Retro Hugo voters are “a small group of people stuck in the past giving today’s genre the middle finger”, never mind that most Retro Hugo voters are Hugo voters as well. Or the person who called me a Nazi on Twitter for tweeting about the Retro Hugo winners, until I blocked them.

As I said before, no one has to care about older SFF and no one has to read it, if they don’t want to. But attacking people for being interested in older SFF and enjoying the Retro Hugos is not okay. Nor is everybody who’s interested in older SFF a reactionary fascist, even if received wisdom claims that the SFF of the golden age was all racist and sexist stories about straight white American men in space, lorded over by the twin spectres of Campbell and Lovecraft.

There is just one problem: The received wisdom is wrong. Because the golden age (intended here as a designation for a specific time period, not a value judgment) was more than just Campbell and Astounding.  It was also a lot more diverse than most people thinkas I explained in a three part post last year….

(6) SKIFFY TREATS. “I scream, you scream, what’s up with all the celebrity ice cream?” asks FastCompany. Followed by Cat Eldridge asking, “So I wonder what would be celebrity genre ice creams?” 

… It appears that we are now entering into a new phase of celebrity signature products, one that combines the scarcity of a limited-edition booze or sneaker, with the massive scale of something everybody loves.

Welcome to celebrity ice cream.

This week two very different arbiters of cool dropped their very own frozen treat collaborations. First up was pop star Selena Gomez, who managed a double dip collaboration, first on a song called . . . yep . . . “Ice Cream” made with K-pop stars Blackpink, and spinning that into her very own flavor for specialty ice-cream brand and chain Serendipity. It’s called Cookies & Cream Remix, and it’s pink vanilla ice cream with crunchy cookie bites and fudge bits.

(7) GARCIAGATE GOFUNDME. The “GarciaGatePenguins Fire Relief” GoFundMe has raised $11,115 (the original goal was $10K) and is still taking donations. Chris Garcia, Vanessa Applegate and the boys had to evacuate from their Northern California home because of the fires. So far their house has survived, but there’s no telling when they will be able to return. Til then, they’re in hotels.

(8) BOSEMAN OBIT. Actor Chadwick Boseman died August 28 reports Yahoo! News.

Chadwick Boseman, who played Black American icons Jackie Robinson and James Brown with searing intensity before inspiring audiences worldwide as the regal Black Panther in Marvel’s blockbuster movie franchise, died Friday of cancer. He was 43.

…Boseman was diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago, his family said in a statement.

“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much,” his family said. “From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more – all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.”

Boseman had not spoken publicly about his diagnosis. He is survived by his wife and a parent and had no children, Fioravante said.

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

John Hertz celebrates it.

The sun’s risen on
Independent Bookstores Day.
May they earn still more.

The celebration had been delayed from April until today.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 29, 1957 X Minus One’s “Volpla” was first broadcast. Based on a story by Wyman Guin who first gained noticed with his “Beyond Bedlam” novella in Galaxy Science Fiction in August 1951. (In 2013, he would receive the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award.) His story in “Volpla” is that an individual creates small creatures and teaches them to say they are aliens. Ernest Kinoy as usual wrote the radio script. Nelson Olmstead, Adele Newton and Sarah Fussell were the cast. You can listen to it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 29, 1905 – Don Wilcox.  Five novels for us, ninety shorter stories; detective  and Western stories; plays; paintings.  Some Captain Video for television.  For a while with Amazing and Fantastic under Palmer, averaged 40,000 words a month.  Best of DW vol. 1 appeared 2016; vol. 2, 2017.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born August 29, 1926 – Thomas N. Scortia.  Chemist.  Worked in aerospace.  Six novels for us (some with Frank Robinson), fifty shorter stories.  The Glass Inferno (with FR) became The Towering Inferno (I. Allen dir. 1974).  With Dalton Trumbo, The Endangered Species.  Collection Caution! Inflammable! has an introduction by Theodore Sturgeon.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born August 29, 1942 – Dian Crayne.  Three novels, eight shorter stories (one with Larry Niven), a few interiors; The Game of Fandom.  Married to Bruce Pelz 1964-1970 (their divorce party inspired LN’s “What Can You Say About Chocolate-Covered Manhole Covers?”; a chocolate-covered manhole cover has been part of the L.A. Science Fantasy Soc, Gift Exchange every December since), to Chuck Crayne 1972-2009 (he and BP co-chaired L.A.Con the 30th Worldcon, co-founded the North America SF Con held when the Worldcon is overseas).  Here she is at Pacificon II (22nd Worldcon) as Thuvia, Maid of Mars, BP at her left.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • August 29, 1942 Gottfried John. He’s likely best-known as General Arkady Orumov on GoldenEye but I actually best remember him as Colonel Erich Weiss on the extremely short-lived Space Rangers. He was Josef Heim in the “The Hand of Saint Sebastian” episode of the Millennium series, and played König Gustav in the German version of Rumpelstilzchen as written by the Brothers Grimm. (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born August 29, 1946 – Robert Weinberg.  A dozen novels, fifty shorter stories; five dozen anthologies; Biographical Dictionary of Science Fiction & Fantasy ArtistsThe Art of the Pulps (with D. Ellis, H. Hulse), The Collectors’ Book of Virgil Finlay (with D. Ellis, R. Garcia).  Letters, essays, editorials in Collecting FantasyThe DiversifierERB-dom (E.R. Burroughs), Fantasy NewsletterHorrorstruckThe “Weird Tales” CollectorWindy City Pulp Stories.  Co-chaired Chicago Comiccon 1976-1996; 9th and 16th World Fantasy Cons.  Sam Moskowitz Archive Award (excellence in collecting).  Chicon 7 (70th Worldcon) Special Award for service.  (Died 2016).  [JH]
  • August 29, 1951 Janeen Webb, 69. Dreaming Down-Under which she co-edited with Jack Dann is an amazing anthology of Australian genre fiction which won a World Fantasy Award. If you’ve not read it, go do so. The Silken Road to Samarkand by her is a wonderful novel that I also wholeheartedly recommend. Death at the Blue Elephant, the first collection of her ever so excellent short stories, is available at iBooks and Kindle though Dreaming Down-Under is alas not. (CE) 
  • August 29, 1953 Nancy Holder, 67. She’s an impressive four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award. I’m not much of a horror fan so I can’t judge her horror novels for you but I’ve read a number of her Buffyverse novels and I must say that she’s captured the feel of the series quite well. If you are to read but one, make it Halloween Rain. (CE)
  • August 29, 1954 Michael P. Kube-McDowell, 66. A filker which gets major points in my book (filker link: “Back in Black” .) And yes, I’m stalling while I try to remember what of his I’ve read. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read both of his Isaac Asimov’s Robot City novels, and now I can recall reading Alternities as well. God, it’s been twenty years since I read him. I’m getting old.  (CE) 
  • August 29, 1959 Rebecca de Mornay, 61. May I note she made a deliciously evil Milady de Winter in The Three Musketeers? She’s Clair Dupin in The Murders in the Rue Morgue, Wendy Torrance in The Shining miniseries (no, I never heard of it) and Penelope Decker in several episodes of Lucifer. Oh, and she was Dorothy Walker in Marvel’s Jessica Jones series. (CE) 
  • Born August 29, 1970 – Jenn Reese, 50.  Five novels; Tales of the Chinese Zodiac, twelve shorter stories 2005 adding in 2006 a carp, a mantis, an owl; Alphabet Quartet perhaps inevitably became 26 flash-fiction stories “Arthur” – “Zoom” (with G. van Eekhout, T. Pratt, H. Shaw); two dozen other short stories; nine covers.  Here is Mitigated Futures.  Here is Do Better.  Currently a graphic designer in Portland where she can revel in the rain.  [JH]
  • Born August 29, 1977 – Renée Carter Hall, 43.  One novel, thirty shorter stories.  Limestone Circle (poetry) 1999-2002.  Cóyotl Award.  Co-authored a story in 8th Grade with two friends which reached Steven Spielberg and was used in Tiny Toon Adventures with all three friends as cartoon characters.  Website here.  [JH]
  • August 29, 1989 Charlotte Ritchie, 31. Like so many British performers, she’s had a role on Doctor Who playing Lin in the Thirteenth Doctor story, “Resolution “. Her first genre role was an uncredited one in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and I see she was Alison in the first season of Dead Pixels, and another Alison in Ghosts, a truly haunting series. (CE) 

(12) BLACK-OWNED BOOKSTORES. O, the Oprah Magazine, lists “120 Black-Owned Bookstores in America That Amplify the Best in Literature”. Even a few comics stores in there.

… Kalima Desuze, owner of Cafe con Libros in Brooklyn, New York, describes recent business as both “lucrative” and “bittersweet.”

“Many folks are buying books, but may not have a home to dialogue about it,” she says. “This work cannot be done in isolation; we all need community. I’m tired of solidarity with Black folks only coming after death when some of us have spent our lives talking about and organizing against systemic racism… So, while I definitely appreciate the support, it’s been hard to profit off the bodies of fictive kin.”

It should also be remembered that independent book stores owned by African Americans have been around for decades. The first in the country was Oakland, California’s Marcus Books, which opened its doors in 1960 and is still in business today. There are now 119 other Black-owned establishments in the country, and though they make up just 6% of indie bookselling companies in the U.S., they’re home to powerful works that serve to educate and amplify vital voices.

“The stories have always been there, and the experiences have always been there, but not everybody was comfortable talking about them,” says La’Nae Robinson, who co-owns Bliss Books & Wine in Kansas City with her sister, La’Nesha Frazier. “So I think now that it’s more in the spotlight, it’s creating more conversations, and people are open to having conversations—and they’re actually holding them in their hands and educating themselves on topics that they just didn’t think about.”

(13) SFF MARKETING. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron will do a show about “SF&F Marketing Masters: Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Self-Publishing” on September 5, 2020.

Joining us on the 5th of September will be those who plan and execute the marketing of legends.
– Dave Farland will join us to discuss his plan with Scholastic for making Harry Potter big.
– Ed Elbert will discuss the advertising of Star Wars.
– Craig Miller will share the stories of fandom and community outreach for Star Wars.
– Brian Meeks will bring us to 2020 with a discussion of self-publishing.

(14) YOU COULD WRITE AN EPIC WITH IT. Fork over $4,275 and this sterling silver “Montegrappa The Lord of the Rings Fountain Pen” will be on its way to you. Comes with a removable gold ring!

One pen to rule them all. Our tribute to J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved trilogy is made with a level of craftsmanship to rival the great Elven-smiths of Eregion. The Lord of the Rings Limited Edition is a magical creation of lostwax casting that celebrates imagination, creativity and heroic journeys at their finest.

…Armaments and regalia belonging to the Fellowship of the Ring make up the elements of the barrel. Gandalf’s staff, Aragorn’s sword and Gimli’s axe are just some of the icons contained within a structure crowned by a cubic zirconia set in the emblem of the White Tree of Gondor.

The cap’s major features are a hand-enamelled Eye of Sauron suspended in the Tower of Barad-dûr, and a clip resembling Frodo’s Elvish blade, Sting. In place of a conventional capband sits a removable replica of the One Ring, inscribed with Tengwar script and plated in gold.

(15) R.H.I.P. Popular Mechanics boosts a signal from Admiral Kirk: “William Shatner to Space Force: Use Navy, Not Air Force Ranks”.

A sci-fi legend is making the case for the new U.S. Space Force to use naval ranks. In an Military Times op-ed, Star Trek‘s William Shatner argues—with prodigious use of emoji—the long history of naval ranks in science fiction makes it appropriate for the burgeoning Space Force to follow suit.

Although Shatner’s argument is tongue in cheek, there’s actually a more practical reason why the Space Force might emulate the U.S. Navy—not the U.S. Air Force.

…Shatner writes:

“Star Trek” has borrowed so much of its iconic rank symbols from the U.S. military and NASA. When you unveiled the Space Force logo, many immediately saw it as an homage to “Star Trek” (even though our Delta was an homage to the previous military space insignias). Why not borrow back from “Star Trek” and adopt our ranks as well? We took them from the Navy for good reason, even though Gene Roddenberry was a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps. They made better sense when talking about a (space) ship.

In a practical sense, there is some rationale for using naval ranks. Spaceships are a lot like submarines: enclosed vessels traveling through a void-like medium on long treks. Like subs, spaceships handle hull pressures, though they must deal with pressure on the inside and outside.

Naval forces have deep experience with planning and conducting voyages that could take weeks or months, while most Air Force missions last several hours at the most. When the Space Force finally operates spaceships, it might find itself more culturally aligned with the Navy than the Air Force….

(16) FLY FREE. The Austin Chronicle tells how this weekend’s virtual con will escape Planet COVID: “ArmadilloCon 42 Blasts Off Into Cyberspace”.

…Sure, we know as well as you do that the transition to online events has been 50 shades of awkward for most organizations. But if any group should be prepared for a transition to the digital plane, it’s fans of speculative fiction, who have been immersed in synthetic lifeforms, alien worlds, next-wave tech, and cyber-realms for years. No need to be skeptical about ArmadilloCon 42’s virtual nature; these folks are hardwired for it.

More importantly, the ArmadilloCon team is still inspired by the same spirit of community and love of the genre that was shared by the 300 or so fans who gathered at the Villa Capri Hotel in May of 1979 for the first con. That means not just celebrating the futures of the past – those imagined by Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Dick, and their peers – but also the futures of the future: those being conjured by writers breaking into the field. The con’s 42-year mission, to borrow a phrase, has always been to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new writers and new speculative fiction, to boldly go with them where no fan has gone before. You can count on ArmadilloCon to continue that mission online in the same way it always has IRL.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Bill, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John Hertz, Gadi Evron, Cat Eldridge, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Book Anniversary: The Year’s Best Fantasy First Annual Collection

By Cat Eldridge: In honor of Ellen Datlow sharing the cover for Best Horror of the Year, Volume Twelve, let’s note that the first volume in what would be the long-running award-winning Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror anthology series was published in August of 1988. It wasn’t called that but was titled The Year’s Best Fantasy: First Annual Collection. Cover art here as it was for all twenty-one volumes is by Tom Canty.  It was edited by her and Terri Windling as it would be for the next sixteen years until Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link would take over for Windling for the last five volumes. 

As a reviewer would note of a later volume, “…the essays at the beginning are fascinating: Summation of Fantasy 1993 by Windling; Summation of Horror 1993 by Datlow; Comics by Will Shetterly and Emma Bull; Horror and Fantasy in the Media by Edward Bryant.” I don’t remember if the first volume had the summations but I’ll ask Ellen. (Some hours later and after a long email conversation of fiction, living spaces and dark chocolate.) Yes, she says that they’ve always had the summations. 

Oh, the authors you ask. Just look at the cover below. It’s a fair representation of the writers found in the series but I couldn’t summarize the diversity of those whose writings are here as Datlow and Windling over their sixteen volumes would find writers and  fiction of an amazing breadth, often delving into literary publications for these works  that were delightfully obscure. Harlan Ellison and Jane Yolen are here, but so are Natalie Babbit, author of Tuck Everlasting, and Kathryn Ptacek, later winner of two Stokers, who I’d never heard at that point but who turned out to be delightful writers. Did I mention there’s a Alan Moore Liavek novella here?

The first volume won a World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology and the series would eventually win a total of three World Fantasy Awards and a Stoker. You won’t find them being offered up in digital form as the packager has said in an email to me when I asked if that was planned that they didn’t secure digital rights when the original author contracts were done. 

A hallowed series was off to a very fine start. If you’ve not read it, the trade paper edition can be had rather reasonably.

Datlow Shares Cover for Best Horror of the Year Volume Twelve

Editor Ellen Datlow has unveiled the cover for The Best Horror of the Year volume Twelve.

With each passing year, science, technology, and the march of time shine light into the craggy corners of the universe, making the fears of an earlier generation seem quaint. But this light creates its own shadows. The Best Horror of the Year chronicles these shifting shadows. It is a catalog of terror, fear, and unpleasantness as articulated by today’s most challenging and exciting writers.

It will be released October 6. Available for preorder here.

Table of Contents:

  • Ice Cold Lemonade 25? Haunted House Tour: 1 Per Person by Paul Tremblay
  • A Song For Wounded Mouths by Kristi DeMeester
  • Birds of Passage by Gordon B. White
  • The Puppet Motel by Gemma Files
  • The Senior Girls Bayonet Drill Team by Joe R. Lansdale
  • The Night Nurse by Sarah Langan
  • They Are Us (1964): An Oral History by Jack Lothian
  • As Dark As Hunger by S. Qiouyi Lu
  • I Say (I Say, I Say) by Robert Shearman
  • The Pain-Eater’s Daughter by Laura Mauro
  • The Hope Chest by Sarah Read
  • Nor Cease You Never Now by Ren Warom
  • Playscape by Diana Peterfreund
  • Adrenaline Junkies by Ray Cluley
  • Watching by Tim Lees
  • Mr. And Mrs. Kett by Sam Hicks
  • Below by Simon Bestwick
  • My Name is Ellie by Sam Rebelein
  • Slipper by Catriona Ward
  • How To Stay Afloat When Drowning by Daniel Braum
  • This Was Always Going to Happen by Stephen Graham Jones
  • The Butcher’s Table by Nathan Ballingrud
  • Honorable Mentions
  • About the Authors
  • Acknowledgment of Copyright
  • About the Editor