Pixel Scroll 4/10/21 Scrollier Than Thou

(1) LEND A HAND? Another Titan Comics blog tour will be rolling through on Monday. Would one of you volunteer to write a review of a comic by tomorrow night? I’d be thrilled, and so would Titan Comics. (Email me at mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com and I will send you a link to the PDF.)

(2) WISCON SAYS SUPPORT THEIR HOTEL. [Item by Jeffrey Smith.] This is different. The convention hotel saying: No convention this year? Come and hang out anyway! The SF3/WisCon Newsletter encourages readers to  “Spend Memorial Day weekend at the Concourse Hotel”.

As you know, we’re not able to hold a WisCon in Madison this spring. However! The Concourse Hotel, the longtime home of WisCon, is running a special promotion for members and friends of the WisCon community over Memorial Day weekend, May 27-31, 2021

… The Concourse hosted its first WisCon in 1984 and has been our full-time hotel partner since 1995. They are an independently owned and operated hotel and as such have been hit especially hard by the loss of business during the pandemic. This is a fantastic chance to support them, get away from home for the weekend and see some friends in a clean, well-ventilated, socially distant environment….

(3) BOTH SIDES NOW. Lincoln Michel is writing an interesting series about the different genre and literary ecosystems for his Counter Craft newsletter. Here are links to the first three posts.

… I’m NOT going to try and delineate the (various and conflicting) definitions of “genre” and “literary” here. I do plan to get into that in some future newsletter but for now when I refer to the “literary world” I’m speaking of what you’d expect: MFA programs, magazines like The Paris Review or Ploughshares, imprints like Riverhead or FSG, agents who list “literary fiction” on their websites, etc.

When I say “genre world” I’m focusing mostly on science fiction, fantasy, and horror fiction (plus the one hundred billion subgenres of those). Those are the genres I write in and am most familiar with. Obviously, there are other genre ecosystems: crime fiction, romance fiction, etc. Those tend to overlap a fair amount with SFF world, and also tend to function similarly in terms of how professional organizations operate, how awards are structured, and so on. But when I speak of something like “genre jargon” I’m pulling primarily from SFF. I don’t think I need to define SFF, beyond saying that acronym means “science fiction and fantasy.” You know it. Magazines like Lightspeed and Uncanny. Imprints like Orbit, Del Rey, and Tor.

Because genre vs. literary fiction is so often treated like a team sport where you pick a side and scream insults at the other one, I want to state up front that I root for both. Or perhaps play for both, in this metaphor. I’ve published in both “literary” magazines like The Paris Review and Granta as well as “genre” magazines like Lightspeed (forthcoming) and Strange Horizons. My story collection was published by the literary Coffee House Press and my science fiction novel is coming out this year from Orbit. I really love both “teams” here….

…Popular authors also tend to contend over and over. This can easily be seen by the list of multiple winners. Many SFF writers have won the Hugo for Best Novel multiple times. You have 6/12 (wins/nominations) for Heinlein and 4/10 for Bujold. Five different authors have won three times and nine have won twice. There is nothing like that in the Pulitzer. No author has won three, four, or six Pulitzers. Only four have won twice: Booth Tarkington, William Faulkner, John Updike, and Colson Whitehead. This is despite the fact that the Pulitzers have been around since 1918 and the Hugos only since 1953. (This pattern is a little less prominent in other, newer awards, but still there.)

It’s fair to note that SFF perhaps has a smaller pool of books to choose from, since at least theoretically the literary awards are drawn from all of literature. But if the literary world is as narrow and parochial as many SFF fans contend then you’d expect to see that in the rewards.

As with almost everything I discuss here, there are arguments for both ways of doing things. In the genre side, the titans of the genre can be adequately reflected in the awards. A monumental work like N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy—truly one of the best fantasy series of modern times, which I’ve written about a bit here before—can even win three times in a row . That would simply never happen in the literary world, no matter how deserving. And one could certainly argue that the awards more accurately reflect the tastes of readership.

This can be a downside too, since biases and prejudices are also reflected. Before N.K. Jemisin won in 2016, no black author had ever won the Hugo for best novel. If you had died before 2015, when Cixin Liu won, you would have never witnessed a POC win the Hugo. It was hardly perfect in the lit world, but you did have Ralph Ellison, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Ha Jin, Jesmyn Ward, Junot Díaz, Jhumpa Lahiri, and others winning NBAs and Pulitzers. It’s about the same for gender. Ursula K. Le Guin was the first woman to win a Hugo for Best Novel in 1970. (Ditto the Nebula, although that had only started in 1966.) By that time, dozens of women had won the Pulitzer and/or National Book Award.

All of that said, both the lit world and SFF world have been far better on the diversity front in the last five to ten years than they have been historically. Hopefully that will continue.

… Publishing runs on novels. At least when it comes to fiction, novels are what agents want to hear about, what editors want to look at, and—with a few exceptions—what readers want to buy. Perhaps because of this, short stories hold a special place in fiction writers’ hearts. The short story is our form. Our weird mysterious little monster that no one else can love.

Strangely, the opposite was true 100 years ago. For the first few decades of the 20th-century, the short story was the popular form of literature. It was a magazine world back then. Short stories were what paid the bills. Authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald felt forced to write short stories that they could afford to write “decent books” (novels) on the side! In the genre world, the short story was so dominant that even the “novels” were often a bunch of existing short stories stitched quickly together in what was known as a “fix-up.” I’m not talking obscure books here, but some of the pillars of SFF from that era: Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, Asimov’s I, Robot, and Simak’s City. Also several of Raymond Chandler’s best hardboiled novels over in crime fiction. (Here’s a good post by Charlie Jane Anders arguing the fix-up is the ideal form for SFF.)…

(4) INSIDE BASEBALL. Kevin Standlee views with alarm: “DisCon III Moves to December — and Ignores the WSFS Constitution”.

…You may be asking, “So what? All the bids we knew about have already filed, so what difference does it make?”

I contend that there are two reasons for being concerned about this. The first is that frankly, there are groups that are unhappy about both the bids on the ballot, for various reasons. A “sprint” bid might enter the field. Now even though I have agreed to run Memphis’ WSFS division should they win, I’m trying to be as fair as I can about the known deficiencies of all currently filed bids. In 1990, I was a member of the San Francisco in ’93 Worldcon bid committee, facing filed bids from Phoenix and Zagreb. Due to unimpressive performances from all three filed bids at the 1989 SMOFCon (the filing deadline at that time was the close of the previous Worldcon, and sites were selected three years in advance at that time), a heretofore hoax bid for Hawaii was pressed into service by a large number of SMOFs and a write-in bid for Hawaii in ’93 filed. The write-in bid placed second ahead of the Zagreb and Phoenix bids, and I rather expect that had they been on the ballot, they might have beaten San Francisco. In 1991-92, I wrote and was a co-sponsor of a change to WSFS rules that changed the filing deadline to 180 days before the convention, a rule that, had it been in effect for the 1990 election for the 1993 Worldcon, would have allowed Hawaii to be on the ballot. So even though it would have been used against me back then, I recognize the value in keeping the door open for “sprint” bids. If there are groups that still want to take a shot at the 2023 Worldcon, I think they should have a chance to file until the T-180 deadline that is written into the Constitution.

The second reason I think DisCon III should reopen filing, even if nobody else files, is philosophical. WSFS rules are not self-enforcing. We trust Worldcon committees to follow WSFS rules as much as they can, subject to local laws and other contingencies. There is no higher authority that can force a Worldcon committee to obey WSFS rules. There’s no WSFS Inc. that can step in and give orders. There is no appeal from a Worldcon committee’s decisions. A Worldcon committee that refuses to follow a clearly-written and unambiguous rule that would not be difficult to follow is telling us that no rule is safeWSFS governance is based on trust. If we can’t trust a committee to follow the rules, then the unwritten contract between the members of WSFS and the Worldcon committee that manages the members’ annual convention breaks down….

… I think DisCon III should change their initial decision and reopen site selection filing until June 18, even if no other bid surfaces, to confirm that insofar as they are able to do so, even under the difficulties of a worldwide pandemic, they will continue to obey the rules of the organization whose membership is the World Science Fiction Society. To do otherwise is to do a disservice to the members of WSFS….

(5) READ ALL ABOUT IT. The New York Times takes readers “Inside the Fight for the Future of The Wall Street Journal”, in the process showing what journalists believe is the way to attract today’s audience.

… Now a special innovation team and a group of nearly 300 newsroom employees are pushing for drastic changes at the paper, which has been part of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire since 2007….

… As the team was completing a report on its findings last summer, Mr. [Matt] Murray [WSJ Editor] found himself staring down a newsroom revolt. Soon after the killing of George Floyd, staff members created a private Slack channel called “Newsroomies,” where they discussed how The Journal, in their view, was behind on major stories of the day, including the social justice movement growing in the aftermath of Mr. Floyd’s death. Participants also complained that The Journal’s digital presence was not robust enough, and that its conservative opinion department had published essays that did not meet standards applied to the reporting staff. The tensions and challenges are similar to what leaders of other news organizations, including The Times, have heard from their staffs.

In July, Mr. Murray received a draft from Ms. [Louise] Story’s team, a 209-page blueprint on how The Journal should remake itself called The Content Review. It noted that “in the past five years, we have had six quarters where we lost more subscribers than we gained,” and said addressing its slow-growing audience called for significant changes in everything from the paper’s social media strategy to the subjects it deemed newsworthy.

The report argued that the paper should attract new readers — specifically, women, people of color and younger professionals — by focusing more on topics such as climate change and income inequality. Among its suggestions: “We also strongly recommend putting muscle behind efforts to feature more women and people of color in all of our stories.”

The Content Review has not been formally shared with the newsroom and its recommendations have not been put into effect, but it is influencing how people work: An impasse over the report has led to a divided newsroom, according to interviews with 25 current and former staff members. The company, they say, has avoided making the proposed changes because a brewing power struggle between Mr. Murray and the new publisher, Almar Latour, has contributed to a stalemate that threatens the future of The Journal.

…About a month after the report was submitted, Ms. Story’s strategy team was concerned that its work might never see the light of day, three people with knowledge of the matter said, and a draft was leaked to one of The Journal’s own media reporters, Jeffrey Trachtenberg. He filed a detailed article on it late last summer.

But the first glimpse that outside readers, and most of the staff, got of the document wasn’t in The Journal. In October, a pared-down version of The Content Review was leaked to BuzzFeed News, which included a link to the document as a sideways scan. (Staffers, eager to read the report, had to turn their heads 90 degrees.)…

(6) THE POWER OF ANTHOLOGIES. Featuring Linda D. Addison (Sycorax’s Daughters), Maurice Broaddus (POC Destroy Horror & Dark Faith), and Sheree Renée Thomas (Dark Matter), and moderated by author and editor Nisi Shawl (New SunsEverfairStories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany), “Ancestors and Anthologies: New Worlds in Chorus” is a free livestream panel hosted by Clarion West and the Seattle Public Library on Monday, April 12 at 6:30 p.m. Register at the link. It’s part of the “Beyond Afrofuturism: Black Editors and Publishers in Speculative Fiction” Panel Series.

From the groundbreaking Dark Matter to Sycorax’s Daughters to POC Destroy!, anthologies are one way marginalized voices gather in chorus on a particular subject, subgenre, or genre. Our anthologies panel will delve into the world of bespoke collections with luminaries in the field.

(7) AUTHOR’S LIBRARY GOING UNDER THE HAMMER. “L’Engle Library up for auction to benefit three organizations” announces the Madeleine L’Engle website. The books will be sold in lots on April 8, 13, 20, 22, and 27, but bidding opens early.

… What took so long? 1) It is a daunting thing when a loved one dies to be responsible for the accumulations of a lifetime. 2) We’re book people! Letting go of books is painful. A bookcase is a record of time spent and history and books are harder to find good homes for than one might think. 3) Her particular status as beloved author made every decision weighted.

(8) STANISLAW LEM CENTENNIAL DEBATE. On April 18, Polish Society for Futures Studies (PSFS) will present a live online debate “The expansion of future consciousness through the practice of science fiction and futures studies,” celebrating the Stanis?aw Lem centenary. Lem was a celebrated science-fiction writer and futurologist from Poland. The Centennial Debate will feature international participants: Thomas Lombardo, professor emeritus of Rio Salado College and author of books on science-fiction and future consciousness; Karlheinz Steinmüller, PhD, science fiction author, publisher and eminent German futurist; Kacper Nosarzewski, futurist from Poland and a literary critic.

The event will be streamed live on Zoom and YouTube, April 18th 12:00 am Pacific Standard Time, 3:00 pm Eastern Standard Time, 20:00 Central European Time, and the admittance is free. More information including links to the event will be posted at https://centennialdebate.ptsp.pl/.

The event is being supported by the World Futures Studies Federation, Association of Professional Futurists and Lem Estate, among many others.

Stanis?aw Lem wrote, in Solaris: “We don’t want to conquer the cosmos, we simply want to extend the boundaries of Earth to the frontiers of the cosmos.” The Centennial Debate will explore the practice of science-fiction and futures studies as different ways of “using the future” and increasing our understanding of humanity’s hopes, fears, prospects and predicaments.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • On a day in 1986 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home premiered.  It was directed by Leonard Nimoy who wrote it with Harve Bennett. It was produced by Steve Meerson, Peter Krikes, Nicholas Meyer and Harve Bennett. It starred the entire original original Trek cast. It would lose out to Aliens at Conspiracy ’87. The film’s less-than-serious attitude and rather unconventional story were well liked by critics and  fans of the original series along with the general public. It was also a box office success. And it has an exemplary eighty-one percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 10, 1936 – David Hardy, age 85.  Astronomical and SF artist.  European Vice President of the Int’l Ass’n of Astronomical Artists.  Artbooks e.g. Visions of SpaceHardyware50 Years in Space: what we thought then, what we know now.  Two hundred fifty covers, a hundred interiors.  Here is the Jun 74 Amazing.  Here is King David’s Spaceship.  Here is Understanding Space and Time (note that the piano is a Bösendorfer).  Here is the Apr 2010 Analog.  [JH]
  • Born April 10, 1940 Raul Julia. If we count Sesame Street as genre which it should, his appearance as Rafael there was his first genre role. Yeah, I’m stretching it somewhat. OK, how about as Aram Fingal In Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, a RSL production off the John Varley short story? That better?  He later starred in Frankenstein Unbound as Victor Frankenstein as well. His last role released while he was still living was in the superb Addams Family Values as Gomez Addams reprising the role he’d had in The Addams Family. (Died 1994.) (CE) 
  • Born April 10, 1948 – Jim Burns, age 73 (not James H. Burns 1962-2016).  Four hundred twenty covers, two hundred interiors.  Three Hugos.  Twelve BSFA (British SF Ass’n) Awards.  Artist Guest of Honour at Conspiracy ’87 the 45th Worldcon, several other more local cons in the U.K. and U.S., see here.  Artbooks e.g. LightshipTransluminalThe Art of Jim Burns.  Each in The Durdane Trilogy used a segment of this, e.g. The Asutra.  Here is Interzone 11.  Here is the Jul 94 Asimov’s.  Here is The Wanderer.  Here is Dozois’ 34th Year’s Best Science Fiction.  Here is Dark Angels Rising.  [JH]
  • Born April 10, 1951 – Ross Pavlac.  Co-chaired Marcon XIII-XIV, Windycon VIII, Chicon IV the 40th Worldcon.  Fan Guest of Honor at Torque 2.  Sometimes appeared in a blue aardvark costume; RP’s fanzine for the apa Myriad was The Avenging Aardvark’s Aerie; RP was one of the first fans to extrude a Website, also so called.  Chaired Windycon XXIV from his deathbed.  See these appreciations.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born April 10, 1953 David Langford, 68. And how long have you been reading Ansible? If he’s not noted for that singular enterprise, he should be noted for assisting in producing the second edition of the EoSF, not to mention some 629,000 words as a principal editor of the third (online) edition of the Encyclopedia of SF, and contributed some eighty thousand words of articles to the most excellent EoF as well. And let’s not forget his genre writing as well that earned him a Short Story Hugo at the Millennium Philcon for “Different Kinds of Darkness”.  And yes, he has won other Hugos, too numerous to recount here. (CE) 
  • Born April 10, 1955 Pat Murphy, 66. I think that her most brilliant work is The City, Not Long After which I’ve read myriad times. If you’ve not read this novel, do so now. The Max Merriwell series is excellent and Murphy’s ‘explanation’ of the authorial attributions is fascinating. And The Falling Woman by her is an amazing read as well. She’s reasonably well stocked at the usual suspects. (CE)
  • Born April 10, 1957 John M. Ford. Popular at Minicon and other cons where he would be Dr. Mike and give silly answers to questions posed to him while wearing a lab coat before a whiteboard. His most interesting novel I think is The Last Hot Time, an urban fantasy set in Chicago that might have been part of Terri Windling’s Bordertown series but wasn’t. Possibly. The Dragon Waiting is also excellent and his Trek novels are among the best in that area of writing.  I’d be lying to say he’s deeply stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born April 10, 1959 – Ruth Lichtwardt, age 62.  Hugo Adm’r for Anticipation the 67th Worldcon.  Chaired MidAmeriCon II the 74th; her reflections as Chair here.  Long active with the Gunn Center for the Study of SF; Adm’r for the 2021 Conference.  Co-chaired ConQuest 49.  Drinks Guinness.  [JH]
  • Born April 10, 1975 – Merrie Haskell, age 46.  Three novels, a score of shorter stories, recently in Beneath Ceaseless Skies 313.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  Schneider Book Award.  “I don’t think I’m unique in finding stories where female agency is non-existent, or is punished, as really troublesome….  I’m not even talking about the waiting-for-rescue parts; I don’t love that, mind you, but where are the choices?”  [JH]
  • Born April 10, 1978 Hannu Rajaniemi, 43. Author of the Jean le Flambeur series which consists of The Quantum ThiefThe Fractal Prince and The Causal Angel. Damn if I can summarize them. They remind me a bit of Alastair Reynolds’ Prefect novels, somewhat of Ian Mcdonald’s Mars novels as well. Layers of weirdness upon weirdness. Quite fascinating.  (CE) 
  • Born April 10, 1984 – Rachel Carter, age 37.  Three novels for us.  Nonfiction in e.g. The New Republic.  Teaches fiction-writing, also a freelance editor.  [JH]
  • Born April 10, 1992 Daisy Ridley, 29. Obviously she played the role of Rey in The Force AwakensThe Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. She was also in Scrawl, a horror film as well as voicing Cotton Rabbit in Peter Rabbit. Though stretching to even call it genre adjacent even, she was Mary Debenham in Murder on the Orient Express which was rather well done. (CE)

(11) THE GREAT (PRICE) LEAP FORWARD. “Comics are only getting more expensive. How high is too high?” asks Mike Avila at SYFY Wire.

…I won’t lie, though: I sure do miss the time when a buck got you two comics and change. But I get how inflation works and how rising paper costs can’t be ignored. I’m also quite aware that the higher cover prices of today’s market have led to creators being able to make a decent living while entertaining us. That benefits the fans, who get to enjoy the great stories that spring from their imaginations.

However, there does come a point where comic books can simply become too expensive for many fans, forcing readers to drop titles not because they don’t like reading them, but because they simply can’t afford to anymore.

We may be approaching that point.

One of the Big Two publishers, DC Comics, is bumping the price up on some of its monthly titles to $5.99 for a 40-page issue. In its solicitations for June releases, several ongoing series, The Joker #4, Superman Red & Blue #3, Wonder Woman: Black White and Gold #1, and one of the company’s flagship books, Batman #109, are all listed with $5.99 cover prices. Think about that for a moment. If someone wanted to read all four of those titles, it would cost about $24 (before tax) to do so. Four comics, $24. That’s a big financial hit….

(12) JONESING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] “Phoebe Waller-Bridge to star in new Indiana Jones” reports CNN. Let’s hope the 35-year-old Waller-Bridge is not the love interest for the 78-year-old Harrison Ford. She wouldn’t pass the “half+7” rule for another 22 years.

(13) TRADECRAFT. Francis Hamit was a guest on the Spies Like Us podcast to discuss “Pine Gap (2018) Part One”. (The trailer for the Netflix series is at the link: Pine Gap: Season 1).

2018 Australian 6-episode series which we HIGHLY recommend both for spy geeks and people that don’t care much about tradecraft but enjoy a solid human drama.  Watching these characters unwind and reveal their true characters under the duress of multiple intertwining espionage threats was a real treat for both of us.  ALSO!!!!  It is our first episode featuring a guest with actual expertise in the field, author and ex-intelligence officer Francis Hamit.  Really excited about this one.

Hamit says: “This was a very positive experience for me.  Tod and Dave are really nice guys and very ‘Otaku’ for any spy film or television show.  Some of those (James Bond, etc) fall into the SF&F genre and they’ve done about fifty so far.  Each is an hour long and they usually do two part, one hour each, in depth discussions.  I was on as a topic expert on SIGINT.”

(14) AMONG THE NEVERS. The New York Times’ Mark Hale tells why he found it hard to get into the show: “Review: ‘The Nevers,’ From HBO and (Formerly) Joss Whedon”.

One of the puzzlements of “The Nevers,” the new alt-superhero show beginning Sunday on HBO, is the title. The peculiarly gifted late-Victorian Londoners, mostly women, who serve as the show’s heroes (and some of its villains) are never called “nevers”; they’re most often referred to as the Touched. In the first four of the series’s 12 episodes, nothing is called the Nevers. You can understand not calling a show “The Touched,” but it’s still a little confusing.

And the confusion doesn’t end there. “The Nevers,” while handsomely produced and, from moment to moment, reasonably diverting, doesn’t catch fire in those early episodes in part because we — along with the characters — are still trying to figure out what the heck is going on.

Before this goes any further, it’s time to mention that “The Nevers” — a rare case these days of a genre series not based on an existing property — was created for the screen by Joss Whedon. There are things to be explained about Whedon’s involvement with the show, but for now let’s stick to the synergism between the new series and his great creation, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”…

(15) WHAT’S UP, DOCK. AP News is there when “American, Russians dock at International Space Station”.

A trio of Russian and American space travelers launched successfully and reached the International Space Station on Friday [April 9].

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov blasted off as scheduled at 12:42 p.m. (0742 GMT, 3:42 a.m. EDT) aboard the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft from the Russia-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan.

They docked at the station after a two-orbit journey that lasted just over three hours.

It is the second space mission for Vande Hei and the third for Novitskiy, while Dubrov is on his first mission.

(16) KING PONG. SYFY Wire tells how “Elon Musk’s Neuralink gets monkey to play Pong with its mind”. (The video is here.) “The darn monkey probably gets higher scores than I ever did,” says John King Tarpinian.

By today’s standards, Pong doesn’t appear to exactly offer the latest, greatest gaming experience around, but just try and tell that to Pager, a macaque monkey who works for Elon Musk at Neuralink, who is currently playing the game with just his mind…

The gameplay is all part of Musk’s master plan of creating a “fully-implanted, wireless, high-channel count brain-machine interface (BMI),” aka a Neuralink, according to the company’s latest blog post highlighting Pager’s gameplay. While the end goal of the implanted device is to give people dealing with paralysis a direct, neural connection to easily and seamlessly operate their computers and mobile devices, the technology is currently giving this monkey some solid entertainment (as well as some tasty banana smoothies)

In the best video you’ll see of a monkey playing video games all day, we get to hang out for a few minutes with Pager, a 9-year-old macaque who, about six weeks ago, had a Neuralink device implanted into each side of his brain. By appearance, he doesn’t seem to be ill-affected by the procedure, save for some missing head fur. Although, it’s hard to say we’re really having a good hang, as Pager is intently focused on playing mind games with a joystick, and on the sweet, sweet smoothies he gets for interacting with the computer. (Hey, at least he’s getting paid.)

(17) BEACH BLANKET BIG BROTHER. Mr. Sci-Fi – Marc Scott Zicree – is running a multi-part series about radio and on-screen adaptations of Orwell’s novel. The latest is “1984 Marathon Part 5 — 1984 Meets Dr. Phibes!” However, the cute title is deceptive — it’s really an audio copy of Vincent Price’s 1955 radio performance in the role of Winston Smith.

[Thanks to Danny Sichel, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Jeffrey Smith, Michael J. Walsh, Andrew Porter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 2/14/21 Oh Mandalorian, You Came And You Gave Without Taking That Too-Cute Baby Yoda

(1) UNBOXING DAY. Juliette Wade’s copies have arrived!

(2) IF IT WASN’T FOR THE HONOR OF THE THING. John Scalzi unpacks his “General Unstructured Thoughts On ‘Being Cancelled’” at Whatever.

…2. ‘Canceling’ is certain people discovering that capitalism doesn’t love them as much anymore. I don’t want to say that capitalism is value-neutral, because, whoooooo boy, it is not, buuuuuuut it is pretty much 100% percent accurate that capitalism will always, always, follow the money. And where is the money? Well, in America two decades into the 21st century, the large capitalist structures have decided that the money will be multicultural* and socially inclusive* and politically liberal*, and all those asterisks are there because it should be understood that the capitalist take on each of these concepts is heavily modified and strained through the “to the extent we can make money off this” filter, i.e., don’t expect capitalism to lead us to a multicultural American utopia, just expect it to be happy to rent-seek inclusively on the way there….

(3) ANCESTORS. Ann Leckie is interested in genealogy. Look who fell out of her family tree —

(4) IT’S NOT BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND. At Vector, Paul Kincaid tries to deduce the elusive answer to “When Was Westworld?”

There is no particular issue with the timeline of the original 1973 film, Westworld, written and directed by Michael Crichton. It is set in the then near future, 1983, and the linear action takes place entirely within the Delos theme park. But when the film became the basis for the television series created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, Westworld (2016-present), time became a complex and confusing issue.

Nolan had already displayed a rather cavalier attitude towards time in his earlier television series, Person of Interest (2011-2016). The first series, first broadcast in the autumn of 2011, was set in 2012, but contained multiple flashbacks to events over the previous decade. Although these flashbacks are often dated, it can be difficult to construct a coherent timeline for the two principal characters, Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) and John Reese (Jim Caviezel). But when it came to Westworld, that tendency to play fast and loose with chronology became an often understated but defining characteristic of the series.

To date there have been three series of Westworld (it has subsequently been renewed for a fourth season)…each of which presents time in a different way, even though theoretically each is a direct sequel to the series before….

(5) GOONAN MEMORIAL SCHEDULED. There’ll be a Zoom memorial held for Kathleen Ann Goonan on March 7 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. Register here. Those who wish to speak should reach out to Kathy.committee@gmail.com.

(6) SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE. HBO Max released a new trailer for The Snyder Cut of Justice League which includes new footage of Jared Leto as the Joker.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 14, 1988 — On this date in 1988 on BBC 2, the Red Dwarf series premiered. It was created by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor and it aired on BBC Two between 1988 and 1999, and on Dave since 2009. It is a sort of a SF comedy. We think. It’s based off Dave Hollins: Space Cadet, a BBC Radio 4 series. The official website explains the convoluted cast changes over three decades far better than we could. The audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it an excellent rating of eighty percent. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 14, 1906 – John Gould.  Three hundred interiors for us; much else in a long career for the pulps (so called because printed on cheap wood-pulp paper) and others e.g. RedbookThe Saturday Evening Post.  Advertising and fine art too.  Here is a cover for The Spider (no, not that one).  Here is an interior from the Jan 31 Astounding (illustrating C.D. Willard, “The Eye of Allah”).  Here is a 1948 toucan.  Here is a 1960 page for General Electric’s celestial-guidance system.  (Died 1996) [JH]  
  • Born February 14, 1919 – Dave Kyle.  A Pictorial History of SF and The Illustrated Book of SF Ideas and Dreams – a title which is like him.  Three novels, ten shorter stories.  A dozen anecdotes of “The Worldcon from the Beginning” (1939, 1956-57, 1962-63, 1969, 1974, 1977, 1982, 1986-88) in the souvenir book for Noreascon Three the 47th Worldcon; chaired NYCon II the 14th, was Fan Guest of Honor at ConStellation the 41st; by 2011 had attended more Worldcons than anyone else fan or pro.  Two dozen fanhistory articles in Mimosa; see here.  Big Heart (our highest service award; later administered it, 2000-16; after his death, named for him).  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  Notes by me here.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born February 14, 1925 – J.T. McIntosh.  A score of novels, a hundred shorter stories.  Journalist under another name.  I wish I could tell you that “Men Like Mules” was about Bel Riose, or even that “200 Years to Christmas” was about Eratosthenes, but it’s not so.  Nevertheless his early work warrants revival.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born February 14, 1942 Andrew Robinson, 79. Elim Garak on Deep Space Nine. He wrote a  novel based on his character, A Stitch in Time  and a novella, “The Calling” which can be found in Prophecy and Change, a DS9 anthology edited by Marco Palmieri. Other genre credits include Larry Cotton in Hellraiser, appearing in The Puppet Masters as Hawthorne and playing John F. Kennedy on the The New Twilight Zone. (CE)
  • Born February 14, 1951 John Vornholt, 70. I was musing on the difference between fanfic and profic (if such a word exists) when I ran across this writer. He’s written in a number of media properties with the most extensive being the Trek verse where he’s written several dozen works, but he’s penned works also in the Babylon 5BuffyverseDinotopiaEarth 2Marvel metaverse… Well you get the idea. All authorized, but really no different than fanfic on the end, are they? Other than they pay a lot better. (CE) 
  • Born February 14, 1952 Gwyneth Jones, 69. Interesting person that she is, let’s start with her thoughts on chestnuts she did when she was Winter Queen at Green Man. Just because I can. Now regarding her fiction, I’d strongly recommend her Bold As Love series of a Britain that went to pieces as it now certainly is, and her twenty year-old Deconstructing the Starships: Science, Fiction and Reality polemic is still worth reading. (CE) 
  • Born February 14, 1954 – Jeff Easley, age 67.  A hundred covers, two dozen interiors.  Here is the Jul 84 Amazing.  Here is the Dec 98 Dragon.  Here is Legions of Space.  Here is Empire of Imagination.  [JH]
  • Born February 14, 1963 Enrico Colantoni, 58. Any excuse to mention Galaxy Quest is one I’ll gladly take. He played a delightful Mathesar on that film and that was his first genre role, lucky bastard. Up next for him was A.I. Artificial Intelligence as The Murderer followed by appearing in the most excellent animated Justice League Dark as the voice of Felix Faust where his fate was very, very bad. He had an amazing role on Person of Interest as Charlie Burton / Carl Elias. Not genre, but his acting as Sgt. Gregory Parker on Flashpointa Canadian police drama television series is worth noting as it that excellent series. (CE) 
  • Born February 14, 1970 Simon Pegg, 51. Best known for playing Montgomery Scott in the new Star Trek franchise. His first foray into genre was Shaun of the Dead which he co-wrote and had an acting role in. Late gernre roles include Land of the Dead where he’s a Photo Booth Zombie, Diary of the Dead where he has a cameo as a Newsreader, and he portrays Benji Dunn in the ongoing Mission: Impossible franchise. (CE) 
  • Born February 14, 1972 – Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, age 49.  A novel (won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize) and two shorter stories for us; another novel, eight other shorter stories.  “I’m always looking and hoping for the swerve [alluding to Joan Retallack].”  [JH]
  • Born February 14, 1975 M. Darusha Wehm, 46. New Zealand resident writer who was nominated for the Nebula Award and won the New Zealand Sir Julius Vogel Award for The Martian Job novel. They say it’s interactive fiction. You can read the standalone prequel novella, Retaking Elysium, on their website which can be found here. (CE)
  • Born February 14, 1991 – Roshani Chokshi, age 30.  Nine novels (three NY Times Best-Sellers), half a dozen shorter stories; two poems in Strange Horizons and Uncanny.  Top of her class in law school, so dropped out and wrote.  Greek and Hindu myth, magic in 19th Century Paris.  Has read EmmaFrankensteinIvanhoeLolitaMoby-Dick, M. Tatar’s Annotated GrimmComplete Stories & Poems of Lewis Carroll.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark shows how kaiju celebrate Valentine’s Day.
  • Sarah C. Andersen thinks the action really happens on Valentine’s Night.
  • Lar De Souza depicts the surprising truth:

(10) NOTES FROM A BOSKONE 58 INTERVIEW.

(11) THE JETSONS. SYFY Wire eavesdrops as “SpaceX founder Elon Musk teases a lofty Tesla upgrade in the future” in a podcast.

During a recent appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Musk commented that he’d love to have upcoming Tesla Roadster hover “like a meter above the ground.”  Musk always makes the most of his visits to Rogan’s online program and it’s usually a treasure of interesting antics and sound bites.

“Maybe it can hover like a meter above the ground, or something like that,” he explained to the popular comedian and host. “If you plummet, it’ll blow out the suspension, but you’re not gonna die.”

Clearly not completely satisfied with the Roadster’s current roster of options, Musk has previously claimed that a next-generation version might be offered with a SpaceX package with rocket-like thrusters employing pressurized air to assist in acceleration, deceleration, and handling.

(12) THE BREW THAT IS TRUE. “Archaeologists unearth world’s oldest known beer factory in Egypt”Yahoo! has the story.

American and Egyptian archaeologists have unearthed what could be the oldest known beer factory at one of the most prominent archaeological sites of ancient Egypt, a top antiquities official said on Saturday.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the factory was found in Abydos, an ancient burial ground located in the desert west of the Nile River, more than 280 miles south of Cairo.

He said the factory apparently dates back to the region of King Narmer, who is widely known for his unification of ancient Egypt at the beginning of the First Dynastic Period (3150BC-2613BC)….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “How Wonder Woman 1984 Should Have Ended” on YouTube, the How It Should Have Ended team takes on the many problems of Wonder Woman 1984.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/26/21 When I Know Every Button On Galactus’ Planoform

(1) ANOTHER YP PROJECT. James Davis Nicoll has set his Young People Read Old SFF panelists to work on a new series – “Young People Read Old Hugo Finalists.” And he’s looking for more contributors —

…This time I will exposing my youthful volunteers to the Hugo Finalists of Yore, specifically the finalists for Best Short Story, starting with a story from 19561! The Hugo Awards reward the best SFF of their time, as chosen by the members of WorldCons through the centuries. How much fun we will have discovering how effectively Hugo finalists have kept their luster!

If you are 30 years of age or younger and you would like to take part in this phase of Young People Read Old SFF, please send email to jdnicoll at panix dot com. If you are already a contributor to Young People, you are welcome to keep contributing regardless of age issues. After all, I let me post.

(2) GOOD TO THE LAST DRAGON. A trailer has dropped for Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon, theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access on March 5.

“Raya and the Last Dragon” takes us on an exciting, epic journey to the fantasy world of Kumandra, where humans and dragons lived together long ago in harmony. But when an evil force threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, that same evil has returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the legendary last dragon to restore the fractured land and its divided people. However, along her journey, she’ll learn that it’ll take more than a dragon to save the world—it’s going to take trust and teamwork as well.

(3) NOBODY HOME. In “The Best Books on Abandoned Places” at Five Books, Cal Flyn recommends novels by Jeff VanderMeer and J.G. Ballard for readers who like books about abandoned places.

VanderMeer followed this up with Authority and Acceptance.

Yes. What’s interesting about the Southern Reach trilogy is that it doesn’t answer all the questions that it poses. You have to be quite willing to come away at the end still not quite certain what is going on. But I like that about it.

I made the mistake of taking Annihilation with me on a trip to Swona, an abandoned island off the north coast of Scotland, where I spent 24 hours alone and slept in an abandoned house. I’d travelled there in June, when the wildflowers were in bloom and the birds were breeding; I thought it would be nice to see it so full of life, and it was. But the ‘life’ was not pleased to see me. I was threatened by what we call bonxies – great skuas, big busty seabirds – and then dive-bombed and scratched by Arctic terns when I accidentally got too close to their colony.

Being there amid the abandoned houses, all in various states of dereliction, some with belongings still in the cupboards and one with the dining table still set, was very unsettling. Even though I knew myself to be safe, I just couldn’t relax. There were birds stamping around in the roof space of the house I stayed in overnight, which kept me awake. And my only reading matter was this, which definitely didn’t help. In the end I had to put it back in my rucksack and read a 1974 Readers Digest that I found in a cupboard, because it was making me far too jumpy to sleep.

(4) ON THEIR WAY TO THE FUTURE. The Edmonton crew is interviewed by Cora Buhlert — “Fanzine Spotlight: Hugo Book Club Blog”.

In the past twenty years, fanzines have increasingly moved online. What do you think the future of fanzines looks like?

Our book club includes librarians and former journalists, and even we are surprised by some of the changes in publishing technology. Who knows what will happen next? Perhaps blockchain-mediated identity verification will drive a new revolution in trustworthy news sources, and we’ll end up singing kumbaya in a unified and peaceful version of fandom. Perhaps the next generation of fans will be dealing with ink-and-paper fanzines delivered by a Kevin-Costner-on-horseback-based mail system. Or perhaps the singularity will happen and every fanzine that could ever exist will be beamed straight into your neuro-cortex.

(5) CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN. “Paramount+ teaser unites Star Trek, Beavis and Butt-Head, Dora & more” in the promo for the rebranded CBS All Access streaming service. SYFY Wire sets the frame:

It’s not every day that Spock and Captain Kirk get to go mountain climbing — let alone with a motley gang of questers that includes Beavis and Butt-Head and Dora the Explorer. But as CBS All Access gets ready to make the switch to the new Paramount+ streaming platform, the service is giving fans a fun reminder of all the cross-genre stars who’ll be making the big ascent together.

(6) ANOTHER NAME TO CONJURE WITH. After nearly 12 years on the air, Krypton Radio yesterday rebranded itself SCIFI.radio (“sci-fi dot radio”). Gene Turnbow says:

We’re the oldest and biggest scifi fandom radio station in the world now, with more than 100,000 listeners ever month in 183 countires around the world.

Gene Turnbow’s 2017 guest post “Krypton Radio: Music for the Geeking World” has much information about the project that is still relevant.

(7) BALTICON 55. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society made it official that their annual Balticon will remain virtual this year.

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) and Balticon look forward to once again holding in-person events when it is safe to do so, but the health of our membership, guests, and volunteer staff is our top priority. Accordingly, we will be holding Balticon 55 as an online event on May 28-31, 2021.

We apologize for the delay in this announcement. While we anticipated that the 2021 Balticon would be virtual, we needed to finalize key details with our host hotel regarding future Balticons before announcing this change.

We will continue to roll over previously-purchased memberships towards our next in-person Balticon. If you have any questions or need further membership information, please email Registration at registration@balticon.org.

While Virtual Balticon 55 will be a free online event, it does not come without cost to BSFS. Like last year, we will be launching a GoFundMe campaign with great swag at each giving level. As always, you can donate to BSFS and Balticon year-round through PayPal.

(8) ATTRACTED TO BANKS. In “The Culture War: Iain M. Banks’s Billionaire Fans” at Bloody Knife, Kurt Schiller theorizes about the author’s appeal to a pair of super-rich space enthusiasts.

…At times, reading or watching long-form fiction from someone to whom you are ideologically opposed can feel exhausting, draining, aggravating, and ultimately a bit futile—like being at a party where you simply don’t like anyone, don’t care about the discussions, and are annoyed at the food. There’s much to be gained by engaging with our rhetorical opponents… but, frankly, only up to a point.

What then are we to take from the distinct and quite public fascination of the two richest men in the world—Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, together worth more than $375 billion—with the sci-fi works of Iain M. Banks, an avowedly socialist author who set his far-future fiction in what might best be described as a post-scarcity, anarcho-communist utopia; a world where your Bezoses and your Musks are not just irrelevant, but actively sought out and disempowered by a society comprised of property-less workers and all-caring, mostly-benevolent A.I.s?

…At first glance, it seems like exactly what you’re imagining when you hear the phrase “space opera,” and so of course two super-wealthy spaceflight-and-sci-fi aficionados would be fans, right? After all, both men own private spaceflight contractors (Musk’s SpaceX and Bezos’s Blue Origin) and speak often of mankind’s future among the stars, with Musk proposing a mission to Mars and Bezos pitching a return to the moon and other intrasystem exploration. Seeking the stars seems to be in their blood (assuming it hasn’t been completely replaced with Soylent and whatever nootropics billionaires get).

Both men have found ways to conspicuously show their fandom: Musk by naming SpaceX rockets after Banks’s tongue-in-cheek Culture ships (“Just Read The Instructions,” “Of Course I Still Love You”) and a “brain interface” loosely patterned after the Culture’s neural laces; Bezos by attempting to bankroll a big-budget TV series based on the books, although this latter effort was unceremoniously canceled after Banks’s estate abruptly backed out. (Probably a wise decision, given both the challenge of adapting the material and the absurdity of one of the most exploitative corporations in the world attempting to adapt proudly far-left sci-fi.)

(9) ARNOLD OBIT. Richard Arnold, Gene Roddenberry’s assistant and the Star Trek archivist, has died. He worked many conventions, including helping Showmasters at some of LA’s Doctor Who-themed Gallifrey One conventions.  

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • January 26, 1967 — On this date in 1967, Star Trek’s “Tomorrow Is Yesterday” first aired on NBC. Written by D. C. Fontana and directed by Michael O’Herlihy, It was nineteenth episode of the first season. It was not nominated for a Hugo the following year when five episodes of the series were. A nifty time travel episode, the slingshot trick used here would later be used in the season two “Assignment: Earth” episode and The Voyage Home film as well. Later reviewers really liked it. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 26, 1923 Anne Jeffreys. Her first role in our end of things was as a young woman on the early Forties film Tarzan’s New York Adventure. She’s Jean Le Danse (note the name) around the same time in the comedy Zombies on Broadway (film geeks here — is this the earliest zombie film?). And no, I’ve not forgotten she had the lead role as Marion Kerby in the Topper series. She also had one-offs in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.Fantasy Island and Battlestar Galactica. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born January 26, 1926 – Jean-François Jamoul.  Essays and covers for FictionGalaxieUnivers.  I’ve not found his writing in English, but here is the Jul 71 Galaxiehere is the May 72; here is one from the 3rd trimester 1973; here is the Apr 79 Fiction.  Here is the back cover for Joy Division’s record Licht und Blindheit (Side A “Atmosphere”, Side B “Dead Souls”).  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born January 26, 1928 Roger Vadim. Director, Barbarbella with Jane Fonda in a leather bikini. That alone gets a Birthday Honor. But he was one of three directors of Spirits of the Dead, a horror anthology film. (Louis Malle and Federico Fellini were the others.) And not to stop there, he directed another horror film, Blood and Roses (Et mourir de plaisir) and even was involved in The Hitchhiker horror anthology series. And Don Juan, or If Don Juan Were a Woman is at least genre adjacent… (Died 2000.) (CE)
  • Born January 26, 1918 Philip José Farmer. I know I’ve read at least the first three Riverworld novels (To Your Scattered Bodies GoThe Fabulous Riverboat and The Dark Design) but I’ll be damned if I recognize the latter ones. Great novels those first three are. And I’ll admit that I’m not familiar at all with the World of Tiers or Dayworld series. I’m sure someone here has read them.  I do remember his Doc Savage novel Escape from Loki as being a highly entertaining read, and I see he’s done a number of Tarzan novels as well.  (Died 2009.) (CE) 
  • Born January 26, 1929 Jules Feiffer, 92. On the Birthday list as he’s the illustrator of The Phantom Tollbooth. Well and that he’s also illustrated Eisner’s Spirit which helped get him into the Comic Book Hall of Fame. Let’s not overlook that he wrote The Great Comic Book Heroes in the Sixties which made it the first history of the superheroes of the late Thirties and Forties and their creators. (CE) 
  • Born January 26, 1943 – Judy-Lynn del Rey, F.N.  Spectacular editor for GalaxyIf, Ballantine, and after marrying Lester del Rey, her own line Del Rey Books.  Skylark Award.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Seven Stellar SF anthologies plus one Stellar Short Novels.  Interviewed by Bill Rotsler for Vertex.  P.K. Dick called her a master craftsman (the suffx -man is not masculine) and “the best editor I’ve ever worked with”.  She left us a few months before ConFederation the 44th Worldcon; she had won a Hugo as Best Professional Editor, but Lester declined it on her behalf, saying she would have objected to an award’s being given her just because she had recently died. (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born January 26, 1952 – Dwight Decker, age 69.  Four novels, nine shorter stories.  Active in comics fandom; translator for Fantagraphics and Gladstone.  Did an Elfquest Gatherium with the Pinis.  Correspondent of NY Review of SFRiverside QuarterlySF Review.  Fanzine Torch.  [JH]
  • Born January 26, 1960 – Dave Bara, age 61.  Half a dozen novels, four shorter stories.  “If you let your mind wander, inspiration will find you.”  [JH]
  • Born January 26, 1960 Stephen Cox, 61. Pop culture writer who has written a number of books on genre subjects including The Munchkins Remember: The Wizard of Oz and BeyondThe Addams Chronicles: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about the Addams FamilyDreaming of Jeannie: TV’s Primetime in a Bottle and The Munsters: A Trip Down Mockingbird Lane. I’ll admit to being puzzled by his Cooking in Oz  that he did with Elaine Willingham as I really, really don’t remember that much for food in the Oz books… (CE)
  • Born January 26, 1974 – Shannon Hale, age 47.  A dozen novels, as many shorter stories, for us, some with husband Dean Hale; thirty novels all told.  Newbery Honor.  Josette Frank Award, Whitney Award, Cybils Award.  Three NY Times Best Sellers.  Keeps all her rejection letters, so far a sixty-foot scroll.  Has read Moby-DickLes MisérablesA Tale of Two CitiesHuckleberry FinnOne Hundred Years of Solitude.  [JH]
  • Born January 26, 1979 Yoon Ha Lee, 42. Best known for his Machineries of Empire space opera novels and his best excellent short fiction. His first novel, Ninefox Gambit, won a Locus Award for Best First Novel. Dragon Pearl would win a Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel. (CE) 
  • Born January 26, 1986 – Brian McClellan, age 35.  Eight novels, a dozen shorter stories.  Morningstar Award.  Lives on the side of a mountain in Utah.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) TREK REUNION. They’re making another short together, though not playing their TOS characters. Heavy.com has the details: “Nichelle Nichols & Walter Koenig Star in ‘Star Trek’ Film”.

Two cast members of the Star Trek: The Original Series are teaming up with another Star Trek legend to create an epic new sci-fi adventure. Nichelle Nichols, known to fans as Lieutenant Uhura, and Walter Koenig, also known as Pavel Chekov, will co-star in the upcoming short film Star Trek Renegades Ominara. The film is directed by another Trek actor, Tim Russ, who fans know as Tuvok from Star Trek: Voyager.

The short is a follow-up to two previous fan films in the Star Trek: Renegades series. The series was set 10 years after Voyager’s return to Earth. Koenig reprised his role as Pavel Chekov and co-starred with Russ, who reprised his role as Tuvok. Russ also directed both shorts.

Though Koenig starred as Admiral Chekov in the previous shorts in the Renegades series, he will not be reprising that role in the new film. Additionally, Nichols will not be appearing as Uhura.

(14) BABY T.REX FOUND. An exciting development in paleontology was announced yesterday, giving a clearer picture at the lives of one of the most iconic dinosaurs. “Scientists unearth first baby tyrannosaur fossils ever found” in the University of Alberta Folio.

“Tyrannosaurs are represented by dozens of skeletons and thousands of isolated bones or partial skeletons,” said Mark Powers, second author on the study and PhD student in the Department of Biological Sciences. “But despite this wealth of data for tyrannosaur biology, the smallest identifiable individuals are aged three to four years old, much larger than when they would have hatched. No tyrannosaur eggs or embryos have been found even after 150 years of searching—until now.”

(15) VOTE FOR THE FINAL MEMBER OF THE X-MEN. The first-ever X-Men election is here! The fate of the X-Men is in YOUR hands. Vote at marvel.com/xmenvote starting January 27 until February 2 to determine the final member of the first X-Men team of the Krakoan era – and one of the most iconic teams in the Marvel Universe.

 As revealed in X-MEN #16, Cyclops and Jean Grey shared the need for a new X-Men team to protect the mutant nation of Krakoa and fight on mutantkind’s behalf. A number of nominations have been accepted since then…but the last member of the X-Men is now in YOUR hands!

 X-Men Ballot Nominations include:

  1. Banshee
  2. Polaris
  3. Forge
  4. Boom-Boom
  5. Tempo
  6. Cannonball
  7. Sunspot
  8. Strong Guy
  9. Marrow
  10. Armor

Election results, along with the full X-Men team, will be unveiled during the Hellfire Gala in Marvel comics this June.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/12/20 When The Scrolling Gets Weird, The Pixels Turn Pro

(1) THE NEXT GENERATION. James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF panel took a look at “’No Trading Voyage’ by Doris Pitkin Buck”. What did they think of this 1963 poem?

This month’s entry is from Doris Pitkin Buck, a Science Fiction Writers of America founder. Buck was mainly associated with The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, which for various stupid reason was not a magazine I followed closely back in the day. Accordingly, I was not familiar with her work when I encountered this example of it way, way back in 2019. I see I carefully side-stepped my issues with poetry in my review. Let’s see what my Young People made of her poem. 

(2) FREE MARS? In “Elon Musk’s Martian Way (Empire Not Included)”  on National Review Online, Texas Tech economist Alexander William Salter says a curious clause in Musk’s Starlink satellite contracts doesn’t mean Musk quietly wants to conquer Mars.

…But a much more exotic charge against Starlink, and Elon Musk himself, has recently come to light. A curious clause in Starlink’s terms and conditions suggests SpaceX’s future plans for a Martian settlement will result in SpaceX becoming a law unto itself. As the service agreement reads:

“For Services provided on Mars, or in transit to Mars via Starship or other colonization spacecraft, the parties recognize Mars as a free planet and that no Earth-based government has authority or sovereignty over Martian activities. Accordingly, Disputes will be settled through self-governing principles, established in good faith, at the time of Martian settlement.”

Nefarious! Or is it? We need some context.

Clearly, the clause doesn’t pose any immediate legal concerns. This is a long-term issue. One of Musk’s ambitions is to create a settlement on Mars. In Musk’s vision, much of the infrastructure for the settlement, including Internet via Starlink, will be supplied by SpaceX itself. That includes governance: the rules dictating how the intrepid Martian explorers will live together. In fact, SpaceX’s legal team is currently working on a Martian constitution.

This science-fiction-esque plan predictably led observers to decry the prospect of corporate domination of space. “Elon Musk plans to get to Mars first, and that means he can quickly establish a fiefdom where he makes his own rules by a first-come, first-serve system,” complains Caroline Delbert at Popular Mechanics. Legal experts weighed in soon after, claiming that this language violates international law. The smart set seems more than happy to cast Musk in the role of Hugo Drax, the tech-savvy Bond villain who sought space power to control humanity….

(3) ISFIC WRITERS CONTEST EXTENSION. Steven H Silver brings word that the ISFiC Writers Contest  for unpublished writers of science fiction and fantasy has extended its deadline for submissions to November 27. Guidelines for entries are at the link.

(4) HOW CAN THE SAME THING HAPPEN TO THE SAME GUY TWICE? “Bruce Willis returns to space to kick some alien derriere in Breach trailer”Ars Technica sets the frame.

…Originally titled Anti-Life, the film’s premise is that a devastating plague has wiped out much of Earth’s population, and the survivors are being evacuated via an interstellar ark to “New Earth.” Willis plays Clay Young, described as a hardened mechanic who is part of the crew selected to stay awake and maintain the ark for the six-month journey. But then he discovers a shape-shifting alien (or “a malevolent cosmic terror,” per the early press materials) has also stowed away on the ark, and it seems to be intent on killing everyone on board…

(5) FIRST FANDOM SALUTE TO MADLE. First Fandom Annual 2020 has just been published with the theme “Celebrating Robert A. Madle.”

Robert A. Madle

This is a tribute to legendary fan Bob Madle, who just recently celebrated his one hundredth birthday.  In a long article featuring rare photographs and illustrations, Bob recounts his involvement in science fiction fandom over the course of ten decades.   He also reflects on the early days of Amazing Stories, the origins of FAPA, and the genesis of First Fandom.

Among the highlights: appreciations of Bob by some of his long-time friends, including a poem from 1968 by Robert Bloch; a gallery of First Fandom photos and a Robert A. Madle bibliography prepared by Christopher M. O’Brien.

Edited by John L. Coker III and Jon D. Swartz. 60 pages, limited edition (26 copies); Laser printed on good quality paper; Photographs and interior illustrations; Gloss covers, 8½ x 11, saddle-stitched.

This will soon be out-of-print, so order your copy today by sending a check or money order for $30 payable to John L. Coker III to 4813 Lighthouse Road, Orlando, FL 32808.

(6) COVID DELAYS ANOTHER CON. The Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo has been pushed back: “C2E2 Postpones Next Convention to December 2021” at Comicbook.com.

The convention circuit has been profoundly impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as social distancing guidelines and fluctuating positivity numbers have thrown out the possibility of large scale events. As a result, many high-profile events have been forced to move into a digital format, or delay their dates well into next year. The Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo, or C2E2, is the latest to do so, announcing on Tuesday that its next convention will be held from December 10th through December 12th of 2021. This delays the 2021 convention pretty significantly, as it was originally set to occur March 26-28, 2021.

(7) MCCAULEY OBIT. Literary agent Kay McCauley died on Sunday. Melinda Snodgrass paid tribute in “Living Life On Your Own Terms — Kay McCauley”.

I met Kay McCauley at the World Science Fiction Convention in Toronto back in 2003. I was in desperate need of a new literary agent, and George offered to introduce me to his agent. Kay was there to support George who was the GoH, but wasn’t much into the convention scene so I took a taxi and met her for lunch at her hotel.

The woman I met was a bit taller than me with elegantly coifed brunette hair, elegant gold jewelry, a chic pantsuit and a perfect manicure. Kay alternated between being charming, brusque, funny, judgmental, demanding. She pushed me — what are your goals? Why do you do this? What do you want to write? I could tell she was sizing me up in every way possible. I guess I managed to do something right because she became my agent a few months later.

She worked tirelessly for me for nearly twenty years. But this wasn’t just a professional relationship. Kay became my dear friend and confidant and it was a two way street. I could call her when I was sad or upset and she knew she could lean on me whenever life dealt her a blow. We always kept each other’s confidences. We had each other’s backs….

(8) LAFARGE OBIT. Tom LaFarge (1947-2020) died on October 22. He is survived by Wendy Walker and his son Paul La Farge. Tom had recently completed The Enchantments, a series of three novels published 2015-18. Author Henry Wessells wrote an essay on his writings for NYRSF, “Ticket to Bargeton”.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1975 – Forty-five years ago, Poul Anderson’s A Midsummer Tempest would win the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and be nominated for the Locus, Nebula and World Fantasy awards as well.  Set in a world where Shakespeare was the Great Historian, all the events depicted within his plays were historical fact. Lester Del Rey in his August 1974 If review said that it is “a fantasy I can recommend with pleasure.”  Tom Lewis is the cover artist. It is available in print and digital editions. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 12, 1877 – John R. Neill.  Starting with the second Oz book, illustrated the rest of Baum’s, all of Thompson’s, three of his own.  Before, worked on newspapers; around the time of Baum’s death, became a free lance, drawing for e.g. Boy’s LifeLadies’ Home JournalVanity FairSaturday Evening PostArgosy.  Here is The Lost Princess of Oz.  Here is The Magic of Oz.  Here is Scraps, the Patchwork Girl.  Here is an interior from the Dec 19 Everybody’s.  Here is “Beyond the Dark Nebula” from the 4 Apr 31 Argosy.  A granddaughter maintains a Website.  (Died 1943) [JH]
  • Born November 12, 1929 Michael Ende. German author best known for The Neverending Story which is far better than the film which only covers part of the novel.  Momo, or the strange story of the time-thieves is a charming if strange novel worth your time.   The rest of his children’s literature has been translated from German into English mostly by small specialist presses down the years. Unlike The Neverending Story and Momo which I’ve encountered, I’ve not read any of these. (Died 1995.)  (CE)
  • Born November 12, 1930 – Irma Chilton.  Ten novels, a few shorter stories.  Wrote in English and Welsh.  Tir na n-Og Award.  Crown for prose at 1989 Nat’l Eisteddfod.  Welsh Arts Council’s Irma Chilton Bursary prize named for her.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • Born November 12, 1943 Wallace Shawn, 77. Probably best remembered as the ferengi Grand Nagus Zek on Deep Space Nine, a role he only played seven times. He was also Vizzini in the beloved Princess Bride, and he played Dr. Elliott Coleye in the My Favorite Martian film.(CE)
  • Born November 12, 1943 Julie Ege. A Bond Girl On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as Helen, the Scandinavian girl. She also appeared  in Hammer‘s Creatures the World Forgot and The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. And in The Mutations which got released under the alternative title of The Freakmaker. She had a role in De Dwaze Lotgevallen Von Sherlock Jones which got dubbed into English as The Crazy Adventures of Sherlock Jones. (Died 2008.) (CE) 
  • Born November 12, 1943 Valerie Leon, 77. She appeared in two Bond films, Never Say Never Again and The Spy Who Loved Me, and in the horror flick Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb as Margaret Fuchs / Queen Tera. She was also Tanya in Revenge of the Pink Panther, and had one-offs in The AvengersSpace:1999 and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). (CE) 
  • Born November 12, 1945 – Michael Bishop, 75.  A dozen novels, a hundred thirty shorter stories, fifty poems; a dozen “Pitching Pennies Against the Starboard Bulkhead” essays, many others e.g. Introductions to Nebula Awards 23-25, “Forty Years with Asimov’s SF” (Jul-Aug 17 Asimov’s), letters in LocusNY Rev SFRiverside QuarterlySF Commentary; a dozen collections, recently The Sacerdotal Owl.  Reflections, Reverie for Mister Ray.  M.A. thesis on Dylan Thomas.  Two Nebulas, a Rhysling, a Shirley Jackson.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born November 12, 1950 – Michael Capobianco, 70.  Two novels and a shorter story; four more novels, two shorter stories, with William Barton.  Two (non-consecutive) terms as SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) President; Service to SFWA Award.  MC & WB interviewed in SF Eye.  [JH]
  • Born November 12, 1952 Max Grodenchik, 68. He’s best known for his role as Rom, a recurring character on Deep Space Nine. He has a long genre history with appearances in The RocketeerHere Come The MunstersRumpelstiltskinStar Trek: Insurrection (scenes as a Trill were deleted alas), Tales from The CryptSlidersWienerlandThe Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Bruce Almighty. (CE)
  • Born November 12, 1969 – Olivia Grey, 51.  Three novels, four more under another name; half a dozen shorter stories.  Muse of the Fair at 2011 Steampunk World’s Fair.  Avalon Revisited won Steampunk Chronicle’s 2012 Reader’s Choice for Best Fiction.  M.A. thesis on Le Morte d’Arthur.  [JH]
  • Born November 12, 1976 Richelle Mead, 44. Best known for her Georgina Kincaid series, the Vampire Academy franchize and its spin-off series Bloodlines, and the Dark Swan series. I’ve only read Succubus Blues by her but it’s a truly great read and I recommend it strongly. Spirit Bound won a Good Reads Award.  (CE)
  • Born November 12, 1984 – Benjamin Martin, 36.  Moved to Okinawa from Arizona.  Two fantastic samurai novels (Samurai Awakening won a Crystal Kite Award), one shorter story.  Karumi Tengo photography prize.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) THE FIRST. James Davis Nicoll digs into “Science Fiction’s Very First ‘Year’s Best’ Anthology” at Tor.com.

… This 314-page hardcover, published by Frederick Fell, with a cover by Frank McCarthy (1924–2002) collected twelve stories from 1948. It sold for $2.95, which in today’s currency is about $30.

What did the best of 1948 look like, you wonder? I am so happy you asked.

The table of contents is dominated by men. One of the two women included, Catherine Moore, was concealed behind her husband’s byline effectively enough that an editorial comment makes it clear the editors believed the story was by Kuttner alone. Women were active in the field at the time, but as documented by Lisa Yaszek, the editors crafting SF canon were not much interested in acknowledging women. Who else, one wonders, was overlooked?

Still, one has to review the Best SF anthology one has, not the Best SF anthology you might want or wish to have at a later time….

(13) HOW SOME WRITERS GET PAID. “BYU Vending Machines Dispense Short Stories” reports KSL TV.

They are far from the typical vending machines found on college campuses.

At Brigham Young University, two new dispensers are offering a different kind of fare — short stories.

“I thought, ‘what a brilliant way to not be staring at your phone all the time!’” said Leslee Thorne-Murphy, an English professor and associate dean at the BYU College of Humanities.

Thorne-Murphy said she first saw the Short Edition dispensers in an urban mall in London and helped bring the idea to BYU as part of an initiative launched by the College of Humanities.

Three contactless buttons allow a student to select either a 1, 3, or 5-minute read, and the machine prints out a story selected at random from its database.

Stories range from famous works to student-submitted stories that have been added through writing contests.

(14) MAKE IT SO. SYFY Wire is there when “The Star Trek Cocktails book arrives with a bounty of libations to enjoy…for medicinal purposes”.

Relaxing from the universe’s withering stresses has always been an important part of the Star Trek universe. For some, that included imbibing alcoholic drinks. Be it solemnly inside their quarters to mark a moment, or collecting with peers in a bar like Ten-Forward, Trek has given us plenty of tantalizing visual cocktails in all of its various film and television iterations that audiences have long wished to taste at home

Luckily, you can now give almost 40 different Star Trek inspired alcoholic drinks a spin at home with the release today of Hero Collector’s Star Trek Cocktails: A Stellar Compendium. Written by Glenn Dakin with drinks curated by mixologists by Simon Pellet and Adrian Calderbank, the coffee table book features photos and illustrations of the drinks, the characters, and the events that inspired their creation.

(15) SPACEX IS GO. SPACEX but it’s THUNDERBIRDS! by Psyclonyx.

(16) BE KIND TO YOUR WEBFOOTED FRIENDS. “Who Would Rig This Vote? The Fraud Was Real (and Feathers Were Ruffled)” – the New York Times has the story. Tagline: “More than 1,500 fake votes were slipped into New Zealand’s Bird of the Year 2020 contest in favor of the kiwi pukupuku.”

…The scandal has roiled Bird of the Year 2020, an online popularity contest among the native birds of New Zealand, and made headlines in the remote Pacific Island nation, which takes its avian biodiversity seriously.

“It’s kind of disappointing that people decide to try their little tech tricks on Bird of the Year,” Laura Keown, the spokeswoman for the competition, told Radio New Zealand on Tuesday. “I’m not sure what kind of person could do it, but I like to assume that it’s somebody who just really loved native birds.”

No one has claimed responsibility, and no one is expected to.

The contest, which began on Nov. 2 and ends on Sunday, is conducted through an instant-runoff system that allows voters to rank their favorite birds — just as New Zealanders do when they elect humans to office. The organizer, a New Zealand-based advocacy group called Forest & Bird, has said that the contest is designed to raise awareness about the plight of the country’s more than 200 species of native birds, many of which are threatened or at risk of extinction.

(17) HONEST TRAILERS. In “Honest Trailers:  The Evil Dead Movies,” the Screen Junkies say the three “Evil Dead” movies are “as light on substance as they are heavy on style” and contain “enough red-dye corn syrup to flood the Eastern Seaboard.”

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

Pixel Scroll 10/19/20 We Keep Our Cats As Happy As We Can

(1) OOR WOMBAT KNOWS HOW TO WRITE HORROR. Kansas City’s The Pitch has Nick Spacek “Asking author Ursula Vernon to reveal what hides in The Hollow Places.

…Part of what makes Vernon’s books so terrifying is that they’re quite relatable. Told in the first person by rather chummy narrators who immediately become something like your best friends, The Twisted Ones‘ Mouse and The Hollow Places‘ Kara feel like folks you’d love to get to know better, making each page in both books an absolute treat.

“Horror is sufficiently immediate and visceral that you spend a lot of time thinking, ‘What would I do in this situation?’” Vernon explains her style. “It has to be very immediate, so that the reader isn’t yelling, ‘Don’t go in there!’ when they’re about to open the door. You don’t want that. You want people to relate to why they’re making these choices. You need a pressing reason why they will stay in this situation that is obviously bad. Things are going down, so it has to be a believable reason.”

She points to the fact that in The Twisted Ones, Mouse doesn’t want to leave her dog behind, and I concur, pointing to the fact that much of The Hollow Places is due to the fact that Kara’s Uncle Earl is still recovering and Kara doesn’t want to abandon him.

“That’s why people stay in scary situations,” Vernon agrees. “I think that’s a more relatable reason than something I don’t actually believe. People stay in situations either because they’re too poor to leave, they have nowhere to go, or there’s someone they just can’t bear to leave behind. You got to have the personal stakes.”

 (2) MARS MY DESTINATION. Tesmanian listens in as “Elon Musk shares SpaceX Starship plans at the Mars Society Convention”.

SpaceX’s founder Elon Musk was a guest at a the virtual International Mars Society Convention on Friday, October 16 (full video below). During the conference, he held a discussion with Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin. –“I think we want to be on track to become a multiplanet species and a spacefaring civilization, in order to […] ensure the continuance of consciousness as we know it,” Musk told Zubrin. “… As far as we know… we could be the only life.”

When Zubrin asked about Starship, SpaceX’s next-generation launch vehicle, Musk said he will manufacture many iterations of the vehicle. Starship will be capable of transporting tons of cargo and one hundred passengers to space destinations. It is actively under development at Boca Chica Beach in South Texas. Musk talked about the challenges SpaceX faced to develop the Falcon rocket, stating that he expects to have Starship failures throughout its development before reaching orbit.

Musk told Zubrin that Starship is being designed to enable a self-sustaining ‘city’ on Mars. “If the ships from Earth stop coming for any reason, does Mars die out?…” he said. So, Starship must be reusable and capable of carrying all the resources needed to aid humans’ survival on the Red Planet. Musk stated SpaceX’s goal is to get enough people and tonnage to the Martian surface ‘as soon as possible’, –“Are we creating a city on Mars … before any possible World War three… […]” — He told Zubrin he hopes to takes humans to Mars before any nuclear war, asteroid strike, any potential disaster threatens humanity’s existence.

(3) ANTE AND DEAL. If you didn’t catch it live, here’s a video of the latest Wild Cards panel.

Join five of the Wild Cards authors as they discuss what it’s like to write in a shared universe series and how exactly the Wild Cards Consortium works. Featuring Melinda Snodgrass, Paul Cornell, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Kevin Andrew Murphy, and David Levine.

(4) EMPLOYMENT IN TIMES OF PANDEMIC. “‘I worked in horror films. Now I’m an undertaker’: arts workers who had to find new jobs”The Guardian tells how entertainment industry workers are adapting.

For many workers who would ordinarily be earning a living in theatres, live music venues and nightclubs, which largely still remain closed in the UK, however, retraining has been a harsh reality since they lost their jobs in March. Countless creatives have already been forced to find other income to make ends meet, while a recent report found that 34% of musicians alone had thought about hanging up their instruments for good. Here we meet some of the people who’ve added some unusual strings to their bow during the pandemic …

‘In undertaking, you get to drive luxury cars’

Paris Rivers: SFX technician turned undertaker
Paris Rivers is on the phone from a cemetery in London, where he has just done a cremation. Formerly a special effects technician in film and TV, as well as a cabaret performer, he became an undertaker at the start of lockdown. Last week, he had to help dress the body of a man who had died from stab wounds. Even more shocking was seeing a child’s brain. “I’m doing a job that most people wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole,” he says. “But a lot of us didn’t have any alternatives.” Besides, he adds, “when people ask, ‘What did you do during 2020?’ I can say I was there on the frontlines.”

Rivers, 31, was “really scared and desperate for work” when Covid-19 hit and by chance, had a friend who was working in one of the temporary morgues set up at the beginning of the pandemic. After working there for two months, he contacted funeral homes to see whether anyone would take him on as a funeral service operator. He’s been transporting ashes, cadavers and coffins ever since. Compared with being on a film set, he says, the job is relatively “stress-free”.

“It’s strangely relaxing,” Rivers explains. “You get to go to beautiful cemeteries, wear a nice suit, drive luxury cars. Some people are shocked by the ick factor, but I started in horror films, so I find this fascinating. And how many people who work in horror films have actually worked around death? I feel this will be helpful for me in the long run.”

Even when the film industry starts back up properly, Rivers says, he’ll continue as an undertaker part-time. The job has inspired him in other ways, too. “I’m developing an Elvira-esque cryptkeeper,” he says of a character that he plans to bring to the stage. There will, of course, be “lots of black humour”.

(5) WIZARDS SUED. “Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman sue Wizards of the Coast after it abandons new Dragonlance trilogy” reports Boing Boing.

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, creators of the Dragonlance fantasy mythos, are suing Wizards of the Coast after the company ditched a licensing deal for the latest books in the long-running series.

Filed in district court in Seattle, the lawsuit [Scribd, PDF] was first reported by Cecilia D’Anastasio. The lawsuit claims that WoTC breached their contract without explanation and in “stunning and brazen bad faith”, despite having been intimately involved in the development of the new work, approving a trilogy’s worth of characters, storylines and scenes and signing with a publisher, Penguin Random House.

The lawsuit claims $10m in damages.

Weis and Hickman created Dragonlance, set within the broad ambit of WoTC’s Dungeons & Dragons role-playing franchise, in the 1980s. Its lively mix of colorful heroes and epic drama was a hit with gamers and readers, growing into a sprawling shared universe fleshed out by many authors, artists and designers. According to the lawsuit, Weis and Hickman agreed with Wizards of the Coast to produce the new novels in 2017, capping off the series and giving fans a final sendoff.

But the company pulled the plug in August 2020—and Weis and Hickman blame controversies at WoTC itself….

(6) TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN TV SHOW. This sff production went more quietly. NPR delivers the eulogy: “‘The Venture Bros.’ Creators On The Show’s Legacy, Its Fans — And Its Cancellation”.

An era of American television ended in September.

Its death came quietly, with news of its passing drowned out from all sides by crumbling institutions, environmental disasters, a historic pandemic and pervasive social unrest. As with all matters of public interest in 2020, its demise was announced via Twitter.

After spanning three presidencies and surviving several cultural sea changes, The Venture Bros. was cancelled after 17 years on the air.

If you’ve never heard of the animated series despite its longevity, you’re far from alone: Neither the half-hour comedy nor its home, Cartoon Network’s late night programming block Adult Swim, are often mentioned in the same breath as HBO and AMC or what’s conventionally viewed as “prestige TV.”

The Venture Bros. began airing its first season in 2004. It followed Dr. Thaddeus S. “Rusty” Venture, his sons Hank and Dean — the titular brothers of the program — and bodyguard Brock Samson on episodic romps in the action-adventure and science fiction vein…

(7) EARLY WARNING. The New York Times tells how Disney unabashedly apologizes and monetizes when it comes to some of its animated classics: “Disney Adds Warnings for Racist Stereotypes to Some Older Films”.

The 1953 film “Peter Pan” portrays Indigenous people “in a stereotypical manner” and refers to them repeatedly with a slur, according to Disney.Disney

They are classic animated films like “Dumbo” (1941) and “Peter Pan” (1953), but on Disney’s streaming service they will now get a little help to stand the test of time.

Before viewers watch some of these films that entertained generations of children, they will be warned about scenes that include “negative depictions” and “mistreatment of people or cultures.”

The 12-second disclaimer, which cannot be skipped, tells viewers, in part: “These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.”

In addition to “Peter Pan” and “Dumbo,” the warning plays on films including “The Aristocats” (1970) and “Aladdin” (1992), and directs viewers to a website that explains some of the problematic scenes.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • October 19, 2010 — On this day in 2010 in the United Kingdom, the BBC’s adaption of H.G. Wells’ The First Men In The Moon premiered on BBC Four. This film was written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Damon Thomas, it stars Gatiss as Cavor and Rory Kinnear as Bedford, with Alex Riddell, Peter Forbes, Katherine Jakeways, Lee Ingleby and Julia Deakin. It ends with a tribute to Lionel Jeffries, who played Cavor in the 1964 feature film, and who died earlier that year. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a so-so forty five percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 19, 1889 – Miguel Asturias.  A novel and a few shorter stories for us, maybe more; nine novels all told, story collections, poetry.  A Kind of Mulatto (tr. English as Mulatto and Mr. Fly) called “a carnival incarnated….  a collision between Mayan Mardi Gras and Hispanic baroque”.  In Men of Maize (Eng. in UNESCO Collection of Representative Works) a postman turns into a coyote, his people into ants, “written in the form of a myth….  experimental, ambitious, and difficult to follow.”  Nobel Prize in Literature.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1909 Robert Beatty. He’s best known for being in 2001: A Space Odyssey as Dr. Ralph Halvorsen. He played General Cutler in “The Tenth Planet,”  a Third Doctor story, and was General Halstead in The Martian Chronicles. He was in Superman III and Superman IV, respectively playing a tanker captain and the U.S. President. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1940 Michael Gambon, 80. Actor on stage and screen from Ireland who is best known to genre fans as Professor Albus Dumbledore from the Hugo-nominated Harry Potter films (a role he picked up after the passing of Richard Harris, who played the character in the first two films), but also had roles in Toys (for which he received a Saturn nomination), Mary ReillySleepy Hollow, and the Hugo finalist Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He has had guest roles in episodes of The Jim Henson HourDoctor Who, and Tales of the Unexpected, and played an acerbic storyteller and possibly tomb robber in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. He has also done voice roles in animated features including Fantastic Mr. FoxPaddington, and The Wind in the Willows, in which he voiced very nicely The Badger. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1943 – Peter Weston, F.N.  Founded Birmingham SF Group.  Fanzines Zenith, renamed SpeculationProlapse, renamed Relapse.  Reviewed fanzines for Vector as “Malcolm Edwards”, confusing when a real ME appeared later, indeed each chairing Worldcons (PW the 37th).  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Doc Weir Award (British; for service).  Fan Guest of Honor at Boskone 37, Eastercon 53, Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Lifetime Achievement Award at Corflu 32 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid).  His foundry cast the rockets of the Hugo Awards trophies.  (Died 2017)
  • Born October 19, 1945 John Lithgow, 75. He enters SF fame as Dr. Emilio Lizardo / Lord John Whorfin in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’ll later be in Santa Claus: The MovieHarry and the HendersonsShrekRise of the Planet of the ApesInterstellar and the remake of Pet Sematary. He was on television’s Third Rock from the Sun for six seasons. Oh, and he voiced The White Rabbit on the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland series! (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1943 L.E. Modesitt, Jr., 77. Writer of more than 70 novels and 10 different series, the best known of which is his fantasy series The Saga of Recluce. He has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including a World Fantasy Convention. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1946 Philip Pullman, 74. I’ll confess that I like his Sally Lockhart mysteries, both the original versions and the Billie Piper-led series,  far more than I enjoy the Dark Materials series as there’s a freshness and imagination at work there I don’t see in the latter. Oh, some of the latter is quite good — I quite enjoyed Lyra’s Oxford and Once Upon a Time in The North. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1948 – Jerry Kaufman, 72.  New York fan, then Seattle.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Fanzines with Suzanne Tompkins, The Spanish InquisitionMainstreamLittlebrook.  Also Sweetmeats (Sandra Miesel collection); The Best of Susan WoodThe Portable Carl Brandon; final issue of Innuendo (with Robert Lichtman).  Frequent loccer (loc = letter of comment) to fanzines.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 10, Rustycon 1, Minicon 26, Westercon 44, Boskone 34.  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1961 – Mike Manley, 59.  Draws The Phantom (daily since 30 May 16; Sundays by Jeff Weige), also Judge Parker (since 23 Feb 10).  Worked at Marvel (Spider-Man; co-created Darkhawk), DC (Batman, did 500th issue; Superman), Warner Bros. (Kids WB BatmanSuperman).  Plein air painter.  Teacher.  See his Weblog Draw!  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1964 – Kathleen Cheney, 56.  A dozen novels, thirty shorter stories.  Here is her cover for her own collection Shared Dreams.  Taught math through calculus, coached the Academics and Robotics teams, sponsored the chess club.  Fences with foil and saber.  Gardener.  Two large hairy dogs.  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1966 Roger Cross, 54. Actor from Jamaica who moved to Canada. He played a lead role in the series Continuum and has had parts in genre films The Chronicles of RiddickWar for the Planet of the Apes, the remake of The Day the Earth Stood StillX2Doomsday RockVoyage of TerrorThe Void, and the adaptations of Dean Koontz’ Hideaway and Sole Survivor. (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1982 – Jenny Bellington, 38.  One novel so far, about a boy whose gift is making maps.  More in the works.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) GOOD NEWS, FEATURING BABY YODA. The Washington Post traces the beginnings of a legend: “A boy gave a Baby Yoda to crews battling Oregon wildfires. They lovingly passed it among firefighters, across state lines.”

Sasha Tinning took her 5-year-old grandson, Carver, grocery shopping earlier this month to buy granola bars and other snacks to contribute to a donation drive for firefighters battling wildfires in Oregon.

But when Tinning ended up in the toy aisle that day, Sept. 12, her eyes — and Carver’s — were drawn to a Baby Yoda doll, the last one on the shelf.“I said, ‘The firefighters could use a friend, couldn’t they?’ ” said Tinning, 54, who lives in Scappoose, Ore., about 20 miles north of Portland.

“He would be a very good friend for them,” she recalled Carver saying.

They agreed that volunteer firefighters needed “The Force” more than anyone. So instead of buying granola bars and nuts, they picked up Baby Yoda — also known as the Child — from the popular Star Wars series “The Mandalorian.”

On their way home, they stopped by a donation tent for firefighters with the big-eyed, pointy-eared doll in hand. Tinning helped Carver write a quick note on a piece of scrap paper she found in her car trunk:“Thank you, firefighters,” it read. “Here is a friend for you, in case you get lonely. Love, Carver.”

Tyler Eubanks, a 34-year-old horse dental technician who was working in the donation booth that afternoon, showed the note and Baby Yoda to a few other volunteers. They all started crying, she said.

“The fires were close to us, and everyone was really high on emotion,” said Eubanks. “We were all really touched that Carver wanted to give a companion to the men and women who were out there risking their lives to fight the wildfires.”

Eubanks brought Baby Yoda to some firefighters who were helping in the effort to contain the 25-acre Unger Road Fire near Colton, Ore. She snapped a few photos of the fire crew with the doll so that she could send them to Carver, and thought that would be the end of it.

“But then the firefighters said, ‘We want to take him with us,’ ” Eubanks said.

So they did. And when they came upon other fire crews and showed off their Baby Yoda, those firefighters asked if they could have him for a while. The answer was yes.

“Before I knew it, Baby Yoda was out there traveling the universe,” Eubanks said.

Eubanks quickly came up with the idea to start a Facebook page — Baby Yoda Fights Fires — to chronicle the adventures of the Child.

More than 26,000 people now follow the page, which is full of photos of Baby Yoda hanging out with firefighters on the front lines of wildfires in Oregon and Colorado, and relaxing in fire base camps.

(12) HANGING OUT WITH THE DEAD. BBC Radio 4’s series A Natural History of Ghosts kicks off with an episode about “Ancient Ghosts”

‘When was the first time a human felt haunted?’

Kirsty Logan travels back to the world’s earliest civilisations to uncover where tales of ghosts first emerged.

From the earliest evidence of belief in an afterlife, seen in decorated bones in early grave sites, to Ancient Egyptian letters to the dead, and predatory Chindi unleashed to wreak deadly vengeance in the snowy wastes of North America, Kirsty tells the tales of the spirits that haunted our most ancient forebears, and became the common ancestor for ghost stories across all of human history.

(13) HARD CHARGING. “Die Hard’s Bruce Willis reprises John McClane role for unusual commercial”Digital Spy has the story.

…Now Bruce Willis has reprised the role once again, only this time it’s for… a car battery commercial?

The ad, for the DieHard Battery from Advance Auto Parts, sees John McClane crash through a window, escape through an air vent and face off against the villainous Theo, played by a returning Clarence Gilyard Jr.

De’voreaux White also reprises his role as driver Argyle, and steals the “yipee ki yay” line from Willis, who is probably glad that he didn’t have to say it.

(14) THE UNFORSEEN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “MVPs of Horror: How ‘The Simpsons’ creators added COVID-19 masks to this year’s ‘Treehouse of Horror'” says Simpsons writers were already planning an election segment for this year’s Treehouse of Horror, but added jokes about masks (which everyone in Springfield wears except for Homer).  Next year’s Treehouse is already in development, and will include a segment based on the Oscar-winning film Parasite.

When the staff of The Simpsons sat down to write the thirty-first edition of the show’s annual “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween anthology in 2019, they knew that the 2020 Presidential election would be the scariest subject they could tackle. That’s why “Treehouse of Horror XXXI,” which airs Nov. 1 at 8 p.m. on Fox, opens with an election parody that’s not for the faint of heart. “We predict what will happen on January 20 if people like Homer don’t smarten up a little,” longtime Simpsons showrunner, Al Jean, teased during the all-star The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror at Paley Front Row 2020. “Amazingly, most of it was written a year ago, and all of it still seems true!” (Watch the panel above.)

Simpsons fans know that the show has a knack for seeing into the future, whether it was predicting President Donald Trump back in 2000 or calling the winners of multiple Super Bowls. But there’s one thing that the writers didn’t predict while writing their own 2020 election parody: that Americans would be casting ballots for either President Trump or Vice President Joe Biden during the midst of a deadly pandemic….

(15) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Food & Wine found a portal story in the candy section of the store: “Reese’s Created a Roving, Remote-Controlled Door to Help Make Trick-or-Treating Safer This Halloween”.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full force, this year’s Halloween celebrations will look significantly different than they did in 2019. Trick-or-treating, specifically, is problematic as attempting to visit as many neighbors as possible in a single night is pretty much the opposite of staying “bubbled.” But major candy brands are doing what they can to keep the Halloween spirit alive with interesting interpretations on how to make trick-or-treating coronavirus-friendly.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are a Halloween favorite, and for 2020, the always inventive brand is introducing an over-the-top new candy delivery system: the Reese’s Trick- or-Treat Door. This robotic door uses voice-recognition technology to deliver candy hands-free. When the remote-controlled, nine-foot-tall front door (lamps and all!) uses its three motors to lumber your way, simply say “trick-or-treat,” and a Bluetooth speaker should know it’s time to spit out a king-size Reese’s candy bar via a retractable shelf in the mail slot.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/5/20 I’ve Got A File, You Can Comment If You Like, It’s Got A Pixel, A Scroll That Rhymes

(1) OFF SCRIPT, ON POINT. Cat Rambo was profiled by The Seattle Times today: “Fresh off a Nebula Award and kicking off a book deal, West Seattle writer Cat Rambo speaks about craft, George Floyd protests and more”

… Though her presidency ended last year, the legacy of her work was on full display during a vibrant awards ceremony and conference, a gathering forced online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“She’s the reason that SFWA was able to do this pivot because she put the organization on such firm financial footing,” said Mary Robinette Kowal, SWFA president, during the awards, adding: “She was such an amazing president for five years. Let me say that again. She was president of SFWA for five years. Five.”

Asked to give a speech that Saturday night, the webcast from her delightfully book-cluttered office turned into a toss-the-script moment.

“I had a pretty speech all prepared, but the news this morning convinced me to throw that all away,” she said of the developing clashes around the country between protesters and law enforcement after George Floyd was killed by arresting police in Minneapolis last week.

She noted that the SFWA was started by a small group of writers who wanted to look out for their fellow writers. The need for that mission has only been reinforced in a time of pandemic and pandemonium.

(2) THE NOT RIGHT SPEAKS OUT. Alt-right blog Bounding Into Comics did a roundup of the opinions of writers Jon Del Arroz, Jennifer Marie Brissett, Kit Sun Cheah, Yakov Merkin, and Louie Lozano. who condemned plans SFWA announced yesterday in “A Statement from SFWA on Black Lives Matter and Protests”.

(3) LEGO SOFT-PEDALS COP SETS. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertaiment story “Lego pauses marketing its police-themed playsets ‘in response to events in the U.S.'”, says Lego announced it will still sell, but not market, such kits as “Sky Police Air Base” and “Police Highway Arrest” as well as kits of the White House in response to the protests over George Floyd’s death

…Earlier this week, the Toybook published the copy of an email sent to affiliates by the marketing network Rakuten LinkShare. “In light of recent events, Lego has requested the below products to be removed from sites and any marketing ASAP,” the letter begins. The list of more than 30 products includes such playsets as Sky Police Air Base, Police Highway Arrest, Police Handcuffs & Badge and Police Pursuit, as well as a Lego version of the White House, which has been the site of several clashes between police and protesters.

In a statement provided to Yahoo Entertainment, Lego stresses that these playsets are not being pulled from sale in stores or online, but confirms that they are part of an ongoing marketing pause. No end date was specified as to when the brand would resume marketing. (Read the full statement below.)…

…There is no place for racism in our society. We stand with the black community against racism and inequality. Our mission is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow, and that includes inspiring them to be tolerant, inclusive and kind. There is more to do and as one small step, we are donating US$4 million to organizations in the U.S. dedicated to organizations that support black children and others that educate all children about tolerance and racial equality. …

(4) TRASH OF THE TITANS. “Elon Musk calls for ‘break up’ of Amazon”

Elon Musk has called for the “break up” of tech giant Amazon, following a dispute about a coronavirus e-book.

The entrepreneur came to the defence of an author after Amazon’s Kindle publishing division rejected his book about the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Musk tagged Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos in a tweet, saying the decision was “insane”, adding: “Time to break up Amazon.”

Amazon said the book had been removed in error and would be reinstated.

The author of the book, Alex Berenson, caught Mr Musk’s attention by tweeting a screenshot from Amazon, which told him that his book about the pandemic did not meet its guidelines.

(5) DC DEALS DIAMOND OUT. ComicsBeat brings news of a seismic upheaval in comics distribution: “DC pulls out of Diamond, will use Lunar and UCS for periodical distribution”.

…DC’s comics will be available through Lunar Distribution and UCS Comics Distributors, the companies that were set up during Diamond’s downtime, as well as Penguin Random House, which has been DC’s book distributor for many years.

…Asked for confirmation, a DC spokesperson sent this statement:

“After 25 years, DC and Diamond Comic Distributors are ending their long-standing relationship. Moving forward, comic book retailers can obtain their DC books from Penguin Random House, or their books and periodicals through Lunar or UCS comic book distributors. DC continues to be committed to providing the Direct Market with best in class service and the fans with the world’s greatest comic books.”

The mailer included this answer to “Why is DC Doing This?”

DC has been analyzing its Direct Market distribution for some time, long before COVID, specifically in light of sustained stagnant market growth. The timing of the decision to move on from Diamond was ultimately dictated by the fact that DC‘s contract with Diamond has expired, but incidentally, the disruption by COVID to the market has required DC to forge ahead with its larger growth strategies that will benefit both the Direct Market and DC.

… Diamond has just released a response from owner Steve Geppi….

Today, DC sent out a retailer communication indicating they are ending their long-standing relationship with Diamond. In April, we were informed that DC was going to begin distributing products through additional partners. At that time, they asked us to submit a proposal for a revised agreement with the understanding that Diamond would continue to be one of their distributors. Which we promptly did. They then requested an extension to June 30 which we also accommodated. Last week, DC requested an additional extension through July. We responded with questions and DC indicated they would reply today, June 5. Instead of receiving a response, today we received a termination notice. While we had anticipated this as a possible outcome, we, like so many others in the industry, are disappointed by their decision to end our partnership so abruptly at this time.

(6) INSIDE THE SERIAL BOX. Nerds of a Feather’s Andrea Johnson scored an interview with two of the creators behind a new Jessica Jones project: “Interview: Lauren Beukes and Fryda Wolff”.

Marvel’s Jessica Jones: Playing With Fire launched on Serial Box on May 28th, with new episodes available every Thursday.   Jessica Jones’ dry sense of humor,  her brand of “self care”, and a simple missing person case, what could possibly go wrong? (well, everything of course, and that’s what makes this so addictively entertaining!).

The 16 episode season was written by Lauren Beukes, Vita Ayala, Sam Beckbessinger, Zoe Quinn, and Elsa Sjunneson, and narrated by Fryda Wolff. …

NOAF: How did the team decide who was going to write which episodes?  Any funny stories about how particular scenes were plotted out or designed?

LB: We settled it with an old-fashioned rage-in-the-cage, home-made weapons, anything goes, no backsies. No, that’s not right. We used our words and talked it out. What was interesting was how particular episodes really resonated with different writers. It was very organic and democratic. Elsa was excited to write the Matt Murdock chapters because it’s the first time the blind Daredevil has been written by an actual blind writer. Vita called dibs on the big fight scene, and Zoe wanted to delve into the psychological trauma and head games. I wanted to kick it off, set the tone and then we brought in another wonderful South African writer, Sam Beckbessinger, post-writers room, to write some of the later chapters.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 5, 1956 X Minus One’s “Project Mastodon” first aired. Based  off multiple Hugo Award wining author Clifford D. Simak’s novella from the March 1955 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction, Three adventurers return to prehistoric times, found a country called Mastodonia, and try to establish diplomatic relations with the United States with somewhat mixed results. The script is by Ernest Kinoy. The cast members were Floyd Mack, Dick Hamilton, Charles Penman,  Raymond Edward Johnson, Frank Maxwell, Bob Hastings, John Larkin and Joe Julian.  You can listen to it here.                                

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 5, 1844 L. T. Meade. Author of series aimed generally at girls but who wrote several genre series as well, to wit Stories of the Sanctuary ClubThe Brotherhood of the Seven Kings and The Sorceress of the Strand. All of these were co-written by Robert Eustace. Meade and Eustace also created the occult detective and palmist Diana Marburg in “The Oracle of Maddox Street” found initially in Pearson’s Magazine in 1902. (Died 1924.) (CE)
  • Born June 5, 1899 – Boris Artzybasheff.  Prolific graphic artist in and out of our field; 200 covers for Time (one was Craig Rice – pen name of Georgiana Craig – first mystery-fiction writer shown there, 28 Jan 46).  Here is his cover for The Circus of Dr. Lao – he did its interiors too; here is The Incomplete Enchanter.  Here is a commercial illustration, “Steel”; here is Buckminster Fuller.  Don’t miss him in Vincent Di Fate’s Infinite Worlds.  Book of his artwork, As I See (rev. 2008).  (Died 1965) [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1908 – John Fearn.  British author of SF, crime fiction, Westerns; fairground assistant, cinema projectionist; wrote under two dozen names.  Two hundred books in our field, two hundred eighty shorter stories.  Guest of honor at Supermancon (the second Eastercon – British national SF con – to be held at Manchester).  (Died 1960) [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1928 Robert Lansing. He was secret agent Gary Seven in the “Assignment: Earth” episode of Trek. The episode was a backdoor pilot for a Roddenberry series that would have starred him and Teri Garr, but the series never happened.  He of course appeared on other genre series such as  The Twilight ZoneJourney to the UnknownThriller and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born June 5, 1931 – Barbara Paul, 89.  She says, “I did not grow up reading science fiction….  I was one of those smug mundanes who thought ‘sci-fi’ was all death-rays and aluminum-foil spacesuits and Robby the Robot.  (Well, maybe sci-fi is, but not SF.)  It wasn’t until my son, eleven at the time, handed me a book f short stories by Robert Sheckley that I began to realize what I’d been missing.”  For us, six novels (I’m counting Liars and Tyrants and People who Turn Blue, which depends upon a psychic character), a dozen and a half shorter stories; more of other kinds e.g. detectives.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1946 John Bach, 74. Einstein on Farscape (though he was uncredited for most of the series), the Gondorian Ranger Madril in the second and third movies of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, also a British bodyguard on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. And he was the body double for shooting Saruman in place of Christopher Lee, who was unable to fly to New Zealand for principal photography on The Hobbit film series. (CE) 
  • Born June 5, 1949 – Ken Follett, 71.  Five novels, as many shorter stories, in our field, under this and other names; translated into Dutch, Finnish, German, Hungarian, Italian, Spanish; dozens more, some international best-sellers; The Pillars of the Earth, about building a 12th Century cathedral, sold 27 million copies as of 2019; film and television adaptations.  Non-fiction On Wings of Eagles about rescuing men from Iranian prison.  Four honorary doctorates.  Bass balalaika with folk group Clog Iron.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1953 Kathleen Kennedy, 67. Film producer responsible for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, her first film, and later produced the Jurassic Park franchise.  She’s been involved in over sixty films, I’d say at least half genre, starting with Raiders of the Lost Ark as an associate to Steven Spielberg. Amblin Films with her husband and Spielberg has produced many of the genre’s best loved films. (CE) 
  • Born June 5, 1960 – Margo Lanagan 60.  A dozen novels, six dozen shorter stories, in our field; among the two dozen contributors to “Celebrating 50 Years of Locus” in Locu s687.  Two Ditmars, three World Fantasy awards.  Recent collection, Singing My Sister Down.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1964 – P.J. Haarsma 56. Author, photographer.  Co-founder of Kids Need to Read.  Four Rings of Orbis books, two Spectrum comics (with Alan Tudyk, Sarah Stone) in that world, and an electronic role-playing game.  Crowd-funded $3.2 million to start Con Man (television).  Redbear Films commercial production.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1971 Susan Lynch, 49. Northern Irish actress whose career in film started off by being a selkie in The Secret of Roan Inish with her next role being an unnamed Paris Vampire in Interview with a Vampire. Film wise, her last role to date is Aunt Alice in Ready Player One. She’s got one series credit to date playing Angstrom In the Thirteenth Doctor story, “The Ghost Monument”. (CE)
  • Born June 5, 1976 Lauren Beukes, 44. South African writer and scriptwriter. Moxyland, her first novel, is a cyberpunk novel set in a future Cape Town.  Zoo City, a hardboiled thriller with fantasy elements is set in a re-imagined Johannesburg. It won both the Arthur C. Clarke Award and a Kitschies Red Tentacle for best novel. And The Shining Girls would win her a August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel. (CE) 

(9) UNDER THE HOOD. SYFY Wire reports: “Mark Hamill Surprises Star Wars-Loving Nurse In Heartwarming ‘Kimmel’ Segment”.

Do you need a dose of optimism and joy in such uncertain and turbulent times? We’ve got just the thing with a wonderful Jimmy Kimmel Live segment in which Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker himself!) surprises a California healthcare worker who also happens to be a massive Star Wars fan. That’s Chloé Ducos, a registered nurse who works in a coronavirus testing tent in San Diego.

“I’m a pretend hero, you’re the real hero. Thank you for your service,” Hamill told Ducos, who burst into genuine tears of shock and happiness when the actor appeared on the virtual call and removed his Jedi-like hood. Her heartwarming reaction alone makes the video below worth watching.

Kimmel’s YouTube intro adds:

…We are also giving her $10,000 from our friends at PayPal, who will also be sending PayPal vouchers to all of her coworkers as well.

(10) PRO TIP. Matt Wallace cannot be denied.

(11) MORE THAN CATAPULT FODDER. Paul Weimer is high on the novel and the author: “Microreview [Book] Savage Legion by Matt Wallace” at Nerds of a Feather.

…Savage Legion is most definitely the best work from the pen of an author whose skills, to my eye, are growing by leaps and bounds.

(12) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. NPR asks “Are There Zombie Viruses — Like The 1918 Flu — Thawing In The Permafrost?”

Zac Peterson was on the adventure of a lifetime.

The 25-year-old teacher was helping archaeologists excavate an 800-year-old log cabin, high above the Arctic Circle on the northern coast of Alaska.

They had pitched tents right on the beach. Over the course of a month, Peterson watched a gigantic pod of beluga whales swim along the beach, came face-to-face with a hungry polar bear invading their campsite and helped dig out the skull of a rare type of polar bear.

But the most memorable thing happened right at the end of that summer trip.

“I noticed a red spot on the front of my leg,” Peterson says. “It was about the size of a dime. It felt hot and hurt to touch.”

The spot grew quickly. “After a few days, it was the size of a softball,” he says.

Peterson realized he had a rapidly spreading skin infection. And he thought he knew where he might have picked it up: a creature preserved in the permafrost….

(13) JETBOY’S LAST ADVENTURE. “Combat drone to compete against piloted plane”

The US Air Force will pit an advanced autonomous aircraft against a piloted plane in a challenge set for July 2021.

The project could eventually lead to unpiloted fighter aircraft that use artificial intelligence (AI).

Lt Gen Jack Shanahan, head of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, called the test a “bold, bold idea”.

Air Force Magazine also described the development of autonomous fighter jets as a “big Moonshot” for the military.

(14) ALFRED’S GHOST. “Crows ‘terrorise’ staff at Essex Police headquarters”. BBC learns a policeman’s lot is not a happy one.

Police officers and staff are being “terrorised” by a family of crows that is nesting at its headquarters.

Essex Police Deputy Chief Constable Pippa Mills warned visitors to the site to “beware” and “keep calm and keep walking” in a tweet about the issue.

She shared a photo of a warning sign which has been put up at Essex Police HQ.

It advises people to “take an alternative route” or “wear a hat or use an umbrella”.

The sign urges people to “not act aggressive as they will feel threatened”.

(15) IT REALLY BUGS THEM. The Harvard Gazette finds the worst problem with a lack of sleep might not center where you’d think: “Sleep, death, and… the gut?”

The first signs of insufficient sleep are universally familiar. There’s tiredness and fatigue, difficulty concentrating, perhaps irritability or even tired giggles. Far fewer people have experienced the effects of prolonged sleep deprivation, including disorientation, paranoia, and hallucinations.

Total, prolonged sleep deprivation, however, can be fatal. While it has been reported in humans only anecdotally, a widely cited study in rats conducted by Chicago-based researchers in 1989 showed that a total lack of sleep inevitably leads to death. Yet, despite decades of study, a central question has remained unsolved: Why do animals die when they don’t sleep?

Now, Harvard Medical School (HMS) neuroscientists have identified an unexpected, causal link between sleep deprivation and premature death.

In a study on sleep-deprived fruit flies, published in Cell on June 4, researchers found that death is always preceded by the accumulation of molecules known as reactive oxidative species (ROS) in the gut.

When fruit flies were given antioxidant compounds that neutralize and clear ROS from the gut, sleep-deprived flies remained active and had normal lifespans. Additional experiments in mice confirmed that ROS accumulate in the gut when sleep is insufficient.

The findings suggest the possibility that animals can indeed survive without sleep under certain circumstances. The results open new avenues of study to understand the full consequences of insufficient sleep and may someday inform the design of approaches to counteract its detrimental effects in humans, the authors said.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Looking for Mr Bond, 007 at the BBC–James Bond Documentary” on YouTube is a 2015 BBC documentary,, directed by Matthew Thomas, that includes 50 years of behind-the-scenes footage from the BBC of Bond movies, including interviews with Ian Fleming, John le Carre, and Roald Dahl, who wrote the screenplay for From Russia With Love.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/21/20 Six Out Of 14 Duchies Vote OK To Release The Dragons In Two Weeks

(1) CALIFORNIA GETTING BACK IN BUSINESS – CASE BY (BOOK) CASE. “For booksellers in L.A., a partial reopening brings hope and anxiety” – the LA Times has the story.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, Hillary McMahon pulled up into a parking spot in Pasadena, where a sign attached to a traffic cone read: “Reserved for Vroman’s Curbside Pickup. Space 1.” She dialed the number listed below the sign and let the store know she was ready for her book.

McMahon, 72, of La Cañada Flintridge, got out of her car, opened the trunk, hopped back inside and put on her blue mask. Minutes later, an employee wearing sunglasses, blue gloves and a mask walked out of the empty bookstore on an eerily quiet Colorado Boulevard, brown paper bag in hand, and dropped into the trunk a copy of Claudio Saunt ’s “Unworthy Republic.”

Vroman’s , with locations in Hastings Ranch and Pasadena, is among L.A.’s many independent bookstores — including Stories, Pages and Chevalier’s — that have started offering contactless, curbside service since Gov. Gavin Newsom allowed some retailers to reopen May 8 within strict guidelines for limiting the spread of the coronavirus….

…On May 14, the California Independent Booksellers Alliance held a virtual town hall for booksellers featuring a special guest — a nurse.

In advance of the meeting, nurse Jean Taylor-Woodbury distributed information on the state’s guidelines: site-specific protection plans; disinfecting protocols; training and screenings of employees and a detailed risk assessment.

Over the course of the call, which went over an hour, 72 booksellers from across the state asked Taylor-Woodbury a variety of questions: How long does the virus stay on paper and cardboard? How do you disinfect money? Do we have to disinfect books after browsers touch them? (The answer was “yes”.) How do you disinfect books? What do we do if customers won’t wear masks? Is there a better way to access testing? How long will someone test positive? …

(2) NO ALBACON THIS YEAR. Add Albacon 2020 to the roster of cancelled conventions. The event, which was to have been held in Albany, NY in September, has been postponed to 2021.

Due to the ongoing issues with Covid-19 health and safety, the Albacon Committee has decided to postpone the convention until Fall of 2021. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have agreed to attend as Guests of Honor. Memberships will roll over, but, given the situation, we will make an exception to our usual policy and give refunds on request.

(3) I SOLEMNLY SWEAR. This is wild. “This ‘Harry Potter’ Mask Reveals the Marauder’s Map as You Breathe”.

…Hook told Insider that she created these masks to “bring some magic” into the real world. While the masks were created using simple tools— an inexpensive sewing machine, standard sewing supplies, licensed cotton fabric, elastic, and of course the special color-changing pigment — the design process was lengthy. Each mask took her about 17 hours to create start to finish. “The majority of the time is waiting for the treatment to set into the fabric,” she told Insider.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CAYcXtiBYYp/

(4) STAR PERFORMER. “NASA Names Dark Energy Telescope for Nancy Grace Roman”. The New York Times tells what the late astronomer did to earn the honor.

NASA announced Wednesday that one of its most ambitious upcoming space telescopes would be named for Nancy Grace Roman, who pioneered the role of women in the space agency.

Dr. Roman joined the agency in 1959 when NASA was only six months old, and rose to be its first chief astronomer. She is credited, among other things, with championing and spearheading the development of the Hubble Space Telescope. Around the agency and in astronomical circles she is known as “the mother of Hubble.” She died in 2018.

The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, as it is now named, is being designed to investigate the mysterious dark energy speeding up the expansion of the universe and to scan space for exoplanets belonging to distant stars. The project to build the telescope has survived several attempts by the Trump administration to kill it, and is now slated to be launched later this decade.

Until now it has been known by the decidedly uncatchy name of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, or Wfirst. The acronym had a double meaning: “W” is the name for a crucial parameter that measures the virulence of dark energy, thus giving a clue to the fate of the universe.

“It is because of Nancy Grace Roman’s leadership and vision that NASA became a pioneer in astrophysics and launched Hubble, the world’s most powerful and productive space telescope,” Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, said in a statement issued by the space agency.

(5) TOWEL DAY. It will be time to celebrate again on May 25, and BookRiot’s contribution to the festivities is —“Quiz: How Well Do You Know The Hitchhiker’s Guide Trilogy?” I scored 13/15, and talked myself out of yet another right answer, so you may suspect it’s not that hard.

Traditional Towel Day celebrations primarily involve carrying a towel everywhere you go. (A towel, after all, “is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.”) Last year, I celebrated with a Which Hitchhikers Guide Character Are You? quiz. For Towel Day 2020, I decided to put together a different sort of quiz, this time to test your knowledge on this zaniest of franchises. In this quiz, I’ll lob you 15 questions about all five Adams-penned Hitchhiker’s Guide books (no disrespect, Mr. Colfer, but today is literally not your day), plus one or two about the numerous adaptations.

(6) TRIFFIDS REDUX. The New York Times reviews Kenneth Oppel’s Bloom: “A Few Brave Kids Battle a Toxic World”. (May be paywalled.)

If flu-pandemic books make cold sufferers anxious and zombie books make agoraphobics jittery, here’s something to rattle the Zyrtec set.

You name an allergy, and adolescent Anaya in Kenneth Oppel’s BLOOM (Knopf, 320 pp., $16.99; ages 10 and up) has it. Gluten, eggs, milk, smoke, dust — all of these things aggravate her acne. Anaya’s gorgeous ex-BFF Petra doesn’t have zit issues, but her allergy is a rare and lethal one: water. New kid Seth is allergic to life in general: Being shuttled between foster families who don’t want you sucks.

Then rain falls upon their Canadian home of Salt Spring Island. A peculiar rain. It clears Anaya’s skin and Petra isn’t allergic to it. In the hours that follow, the farm Seth tends with his current fosters, Mr. and Mrs. Antos, sprouts an invasive species of tall, black, spiky grass.

Soon it’s popping up all over the world, outgrowing even kudzu. Picture the xenomorph from “Alien,” only leafier. It destroys lawn mower blades. Cutting it releases acid. Burning it generates toxic fumes. And everyone seems to be allergic to it — except Anaya, Petra and Seth, who haven’t felt this lively in ages.

…There is nothing especially deep to this story. But these are deep times, and readers will have no choice but to overlay their current Covid-19 experiences on Oppel’s chillingly prescient details: the initial blaming of China, a shrinking work force gutted by sickness, closed schools, stay-at-home orders, overloaded hospitals and the omnipresence of medical masks.

It is a helpless situation with which readers will powerfully identify. How cathartic to imagine a few brave kids might turn it all around. This makes “Bloom” the perfect book right now for young readers searching for hope, strength, inspiration — and just a little horticultural havoc.

(7) TRAILER PARK. IGN reports “Tenet: New Trailer Premieres Tonight on Fortnite” – so it will already be available by the time you see today’s Scroll.

For anyone excited for Christopher Nolan’s highly-anticipated new movie, Tenet, you will be able to watch the brand new trailer on Fortnite starting tonight.

In the latest collaboration with Epic Games’ popular battle royale shooter, Warner Bros. is premiering the brand new Tenet trailer on Fortnite’s virtual big screens. The new Tenet trailer will premiere at the top of every hour starting at 5 pm PT/8 pm ET tonight, May 21.

What did I say?

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 21, 1980 — Yoda made his debut appearance in The Empire Strikes Back, which was released in the United States on May 21, 1980. He has since appeared in over 50 films and TV shows.
  • May 21, 1981 Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior premiered. Directed by  George Miller and produced by  Byron Kennedy, the screenplay was by Terry Hayes, George Miller and Brian Hannant. Australian New Wave composer Brian May is responsible for the music.  It stars Mel Gibson and the Australian outback. It was extremely well received by critics, and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 87% rating currently. 
  • May 21, 1985 Ray Bradbury Theater premiered on HBO.  It ran for two seasons on there from 1985 to 1986, and then for four additional seasons on USA Network from 1988 to 1992. All 65 episodes were written by Bradbury and many were based on works he had previously written. The Ray Bradbury Theater site has the best look at the series. You can watch the first episode, “Marionettes, Inc.“ here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 21, 1471 – Albrecht Dürer.  Engravings, paintings, watercolors, woodcuts; printmaker; theorist.  The 15 Apocalypse pictures, or Knight, Death, and the Devilor Melencolia I, are each enough to make him an immortal fantasist.  (Died 1528) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1688 – Alexander Pope.  Second most quoted author in English (after Shakespeare); e.g. “damning with faint praise”.  Mock-heroic epic The Rape of the Lock (“lock” i.e. of hair; “rape” meaning “carry away by force”, same root as “raptor”) has sylphs.  Superb translations – if you are mainly looking for what wonderful English poetry he could make, not accuracy, because you know enough Greek to read the original, as Sam Johnson did, or don’t care – of Homer’s Iliad and (with collaborators) Odyssey, each being superb fantasy.  (Died 1744) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1889 Arthur Hohl. He’s Mr. Montgomery, the man who helps Richard Arlen and Leila Hyams to make their final escape in Island of Lost Souls, the 1932 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, which is considered the first such filming of that novel. Genre adjacent, he’ll show later in The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThe Three Musketeers and The Devil-Doll. (Died 1964.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1903 – Manly Wade Wellman.  Wrote for AmazingAstoundingPlanetStartlingStrangeUnknownWeird Tales.  Best-known characters, John the Balladeer (“Silver John”; I’ve always been fond – if that word may be used – of the story “Vandy, Vandy”) and the two occult-phenomena investigators Judge Keith Pursuivant and John Thurstone.  Comics: wrote the first issue of Captain Marvel, contributed to The Spirit and Blackhawk.  Sixteen novels, two hundred shorter stories, in our field, translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish; detective fiction, a Western, histories of the Old South.  World Fantasy Award for life achievement.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1911 – Virginia Haviland.  Librarian, author, folklorist, student of children’s literature.  Reviewed for The Horn Book thirty years.  Sixteen volumes of Favorite Fairy Tales, one each for France, England, Russia, India, Germany, Sweden, Poland, Spain, Ireland, Czechoslovakia, Scotland, Denmark, Japan, Greece, Italy, Norway.  Founded Center for Children’s Literature, U.S. Library of Congress.  Kate Greenaway Medal for The Mother Goose Treasury.  Regina Medal.  Grolier Award.  Simmons University gives a Virginia Haviland scholarship.  (Died 1988) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1917 Raymond Burr. Speaking of lawyers, we have the Birthday of the man who played Perry Mason. It looks the 1949 film Black Magic with him playing Dumas, Jr. was his first genre performance. Bride of the Gorilla was his next with Lou Chaney Jr. co-starring and  Curt Siodmak directing. He goes on to be Grand Vizier Boreg al Buzzar in The Magic Carpet before being Vargo in Tarzan and the She-Devil. And finally he’s in a Godzilla film, Godzilla, King of the Monsters! To be precise, as Steve Martin. And unfortunately, he played the same role in Godzilla 1985 which earned him a Golden Raspberry Award. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1918 Jeanne Bates. She’s Diana Palmer in the Forties The Phantom serial, possibly the first one done. Her first genre role was as Miss Norcutt in The Return of the Vampire, a unauthorized sequel to Lugosi’s 1931 Universal Studios film Dracula. Most of the films she’s known for are horror films such as The Soul of a Monster and Back from the Dead. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1935 Bill Williams. He appeared on Science Fiction Theater in five different roles, and played The Millionaire on Batman in “Fine Finny Fiends” and “Batman Makes the Scenes”. He also made an appearance on The Wild Wild West in “Night of the Casual Killer“ as Marshal Kirby. He also did a lot of seriously pulpish SF films such as Space Master X-7. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1945 Richard Hatch. He’s best-known for his role as Captain Apollo in Battlestar Galactica. He is also widely known for his role as Tom Zarek in the second Battlestar Galactica series. He also wrote a series of Battlestar Galactica franchise novels co-authored with Christopher Golden, Stan Timmons, Alan Rodgers and Brad Linaweaver. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1951 – Broeck Steadman, 69.  Eighty covers, two hundred sixty interiors, for AnalogAsimov’s (see here), Realms of FantasySF Age; books, see herehere; postage stamps, see herehere; murals, see herehere.   Keeps bees.  Twenty years running an art school with up to forty students a week.  Has done art for liquor bottles, soda cans, cars, jet planes, computers, toothpaste, chocolate.  [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1953 Trevor Cooper, 67. He plays Takis in the Sixth Doctor story, “Revelation of the Daleks“, and then will show up as Friar Tuck in a Twelfth Doctor story, “Robot of Sherwood”.  He’s currently playing Colin Devis in Star Cops, and he was Simeon in the Wizards vs. Aliens series before that. (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1958 – Jeff Canfield.  Photographer, system-software specialist, Formula Vee racer (he drove a Viper, which ought to count).  Recruited Kevin Standlee.  One of four founding directors, San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc.  Deputy vice-chair of 51st Worldcon, editor of its Program Book, timekeeper of its Preliminary Business Meeting, and its Speaker to Dr. Evil.  See here.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1984 – Jackson Pearce, 36.  As You Wish, young-adult urban fantasy; four fairy-tale-retelling books based on Little Red Riding HoodHansel & GretelThe Little MermaidThe Snow Queen.  With Maggie Stiefvater, Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures, two more.  Tsarina (as by J. Nelle Patrick), historical fantasy.  YouTube channel with 200 videos, 13,000 subscribers.  Her Website says “Young Adult 58%, Middle Grade 42%, Baked Goods 85%, Glitter 100%”.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) BOOKING THE DATE. “Iam pervenimus usque ad umbilicos”. I don’t know what the title means even after running it through Google Translate, however, the results forced me to discard my bellybutton theory. Whatever it means, Steve J. Wright was in the room where it happened:

Well, I did it.  What did I do?  I uploaded two of my novels to Amazon’s Kindle publishing system, and within the past couple of minutes, I hit the button marked “Publish”.  There’s a review process, which is currently very slow because of the ongoing plague, so the books won’t actually be available for at least two weeks… but, at the end of that time, I presume a jet of light will shoot out of my head, as I level up from “deservedly obscure blogger” to “deservedly obscure indie author”.  (Yes, I’ve been spending too much time in MMORPGs.)

So, anyone who has said to themselves, “Bah and tcha!  This Steve person is full of criticism for other writers, going on about how to present sympathetic characters and how to construct your plot structure, but how well could he do it himself, eh?”… well, any such person will shortly be getting the chance to find out.  I’m not really in a position to be objective, myself – I mean, obviously I think I’m wonderful, but I’m aware that this opinion may not be universally shared.

Hey – forget about waiting, they’re already available. Take Martial’s word for it: “Ohe! iam satis est, ohe! Libelle”.

(12) SORRY, WRONG NUMBER. “She Gets Calls And Texts Meant For Elon Musk. Some Are Pretty Weird” reports NPR.

There are a lot of people trying to reach celebrity entrepreneur Elon Musk. Sometimes, though, they get Lyndsay Tucker, a 25-year-old skin care consultant.

Tucker, who works at a Sephora beauty store in San Jose, Calif., had never heard of the Tesla and SpaceX founder and CEO until a couple years ago, when she began fielding a steady stream of calls and text messages intended for him.

“I asked my mom, ‘Hey, I keep getting these text messages’ — and I was also now starting to get phone calls — ‘for this guy Elon Musk. I don’t know who this is,’ ” Tucker said. “And my mom’s jaw just dropped.”

Turns out, Tucker’s cellphone number used to be registered to Musk. On any given day, she receives at least three calls or texts intended for Musk, whom she has never met.

If the maverick billionaire stirs controversy, as he is wont to do, her phone blows up with a torrent of messages. (Full disclosure: I reached out to Musk during one of those controversies, when he threatened to sue the California county that is home to Tesla’s headquarters over its coronavirus-related restrictions. Instead, I got Tucker.)

She has accidentally intercepted far more interesting calls than mine, however. One woman volunteered to go to space with SpaceX. Another person sent a blueprint for a bionic limb. “Which is, No. 1, really cool,” Tucker said. “But I have no idea how it’s built.”

(14) WHY. Today, Yahoo! Entertainment thinks they know the answer to “Why ‘Batwoman’ Star Ruby Rose Left the CW Series”.

…According to multiple sources, Rose was unhappy with the long hours required of her as the series lead, which led to friction on the set. It was thus decided by her and the network and studio, Warner Bros. Television, that they would part ways.

(15) THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS. And Ars Technica thinks they might be able to fill in a blank about another previously unexplained departure:“Here’s why NASA’s chief of human spaceflight resigned—and why it matters”.

Why did Doug Loverro resign?

He made an error during the procurement process of the Human Landing System, during which NASA selected bids from Blue Origin, Dynetics, and SpaceX to build lunar landers as part of the Artemis Program. In his resignation letter to employees on Tuesday, Loverro admitted he made a “mistake” earlier this year. Multiple sources have suggested that he violated the Procurement Integrity Act.

It’s worth noting that on March 25, 2020, NASA’s inspector general announced an audit of “NASA’s acquisition strategy for the Artemis missions to include landing astronauts on the Moon by 2024.” It seems plausible that this audit may have involved some action taken by Loverro.

The article tells what he may have done, and assesses the implications of his departure on NASA’s hopes to meet the 2024 target.

(16) ARTIFACT. “Expedition To Salvage Titanic’s Wireless Telegraph Gets The Go-Ahead”.

In the final hours it took the R.M.S. Titanic to sink, wireless telegraph operators issued a series of increasingly frantic messages calling for rescue.

They went from detailed to desperate.

The last transmission — issued just a few minutes before the “unsinkable” ship disappeared below the surface of the North Atlantic after striking an iceberg — was just five words: “Come quick. Engine room nearly full.”

The messages offer a poignant record of the final moments of chaos and tragedy aboard the Titanic in April 1912.

And this week a federal judge ruled that the wireless telegraph set may be recovered from the wreckage.

U.S. Judge Rebecca Smith said retrieval of the Edwardian technology — the most advanced of its time — “will contribute to the legacy left by the indelible loss of the Titanic, those who survived, and those who gave their lives in the sinking,” the Associated Press reported.

The decision is a victory for RMS Titanic Inc., a private company with exclusive rights to salvage artifacts from the ship. It has been waging a decades-long legal battle to gain the right to extract the equipment and other artifacts from the ship.

In 2000, an earlier judge denied the company permission to cut into the shipwreck or detach any part of it. But Smith appeared swayed by RMST’s argument that remnants of the luxurious vessel are rapidly deteriorating.

“While many items that remain in and around the Titanic wreckage have the ability to enlighten generations on the lives of its passengers, only one item holds the story of all of the survivors,” Bretton Hunchak, president of the company said in a statement on Facebook.

(17) HOW ABOUT A NICE GAME OF CHESS? “Years Before The Pandemic, War Games Predicted A ‘Global Tempest'” says NPR.

One day in early March, as the coronavirus was spreading across the country, Margaret McCown was in her office at the Pentagon figuring out how her staff could work from home.

As McCown went over the logistics, she began to feel a sense of déjà vu.

A pandemic. Government on alert. Schools and offices closing. It was a scenario she had seen before. Just not in real life.

“That was that uncomfortable moment where you find yourself a little bit living in your own war game,” McCown said.

Starting in 2006, when she was a war gamer at the National Defense University, McCown spent two years running pandemic simulations for senior policymakers. The scenario: A novel flu strain is racing across the planet. The virus is deadly and highly contagious; U.S. officials are trying to contain the outbreak before it hits the United States. (Spoiler: They don’t succeed.)

McCown called the first exercise “Global Tempest.” In the office that day in March, she dug out an article she’d written about it for a defense journal. The title was “Wargaming the Flu.”

“As I looked through it, I was realizing the extent to which it had really identified some of the things that we were living and some of the debates I was seeing on TV,” she said.

In McCown’s simulations, as in several others in the early 2000s, participants foresaw an overwhelmed health care industry struggling to respond to unprecedented demand. McCown’s teams worried about the number of ventilators and hospital beds.

What’s more interesting to McCown is that the gamers also identified the many ways a pandemic could disrupt ordinary life.

(18) NO FIGHTING IN THE WARP ROOM. Everybody loves this house — the link is circulating widely: “480 Rainier Dr, Pittsburgh, PA 15239 – 3 Bed, 1 Bath Single-Family Home – MLS# 1445093 – 24 Photos” at Trulia. The goodies are in the middle of the photo deck, so keep flipping.

Do you like Fun & Adventure? See this One of a Kind Brick Ranch, Converted into a 2 Story. Enter the Door to a 13th Century Castle Décor Sunken Living Rm, w/ Dramatic, High, Oak Beamed Ceiling, Hardwood Floor, Brick Fireplace, a Ladder to an Elevated Library. Time Travel at Warp Speed to the 25th Century Starship. A Talking Space Alien greets you as you walk toward the Floor to Ceiling, Outer Space Wall Mural. The Dining Rm Command Center Rear Wall opens up to the Spaceship Main Bridge-Working Computer & Controls from an Apache Helicopter, Speakers & a 55 Inch Screen (TV works)…. 

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

Pixel Scroll 5/6/20 Look Dave, I Can See You’re Really Upset About This. Take A Pixel Scroll, And Think Things Over

(1) CAREER PATH. At Lit Reactor, Nick Mamatas hits close to home — “Ask Nick: Publishing 201 — Do I Need to Attend Conventions or Conferences?”

…A relative handful of science fiction/fantasy/horror conventions are considered “professional” and it is expected that people who work in publishing will travel cross-country or even internationally to make an appearance. In the mystery and romance genres, a greater percentage of conventions are “professional” and relatively fewer are run by and for fans. Regardless of whether the convention is fannish or professional, published writers are essentially zoo animals to be gawked at for the weekend. You can tell the writers from the other attendees because they are always clutching a drink in their hands like it was only accidentally given to them for free.

The conference, by way of contrast, has different roots. Literary conferences are often organized like other academic conferences—the focus is on writers who work in academe and the concerns of pedagogy and craft, though the keynote speakers are almost inevitably prominent writers who don’t need to grade term papers for a living. Panels at conferences are only occasionally roundtable discussions; more often the panelists read from essays, bits of memoir about the struggles of trying to either publish or teach their dumb-ass students, or their critical work. There are also lots of poets who constantly declare their identity as poets: “Oh, I don’t know how to organize my receipts to get reimbursed by my department! I’m a poet.” “I can’t be expected to know which button to press in this hotel elevator, I’m a poet!” In the sales room, university presses and university-backed literary journals that demand writers pay to submit and that have an organic audience somewhere in the low teens predominate, while at conventions you can buy ratty old magazines, leather corsets, and insipid badges with phrases such as “Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup” on them. So clearly, attending either kind of gathering is a fate worse than death.

(2) SUPER STRINGS ATTACHED. Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter ae having “A Super Lockdown Supermarionation Superconversation in 5…4…3” – read the transcript at Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon.

AR: It was Gerry Anderson’s birthday a couple of days ago (he’d have been 91) so given that we’ve both watched Thunderbird Six recently -and have a shared enthusiasm for his shows – I thought it would be fun to talk about the film, as well as the puppet series more generally. Perhaps we could start by covering our introductions to the worlds of GA? I know you go back at least as far as Stingray, the series which preceded Thunderbirds – was that the first exposure to Supermarionation for you, or are we looking at the even earlier shows like Fireball XL-5, Supercar and so on? Any really early memories of the shows or even the merchandise surrounding them?

SB: As it happens I was born on the day Anderson’s first show was first broadcast,  The Adventures of Twizzle. An omen! But the first show I remember properly was Fireball, which was launched when I was nearly 5. Supercar was around but as repeats, I  guess.  Fireball was the one. It wasn’t the stories that struck me I think as much as the background world. The fantastic huge ship, and it looked huge thanks to good effects work, luxurious inside – Professor Matic  lived on it,  and how I envied him! And this was no fantasy, we were given one-century-ahead dates, 2062 and so on. Authentic SF, and I was lost forever.

(3) HYBRID PRODUCTION. The Hollywood Reporter reveals “‘The Blacklist’ Turns to Animation to Complete Season Finale”.

…NBC’s The Blacklist will close out its seventh season with a twist: After production on the drama was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, the show turned to animation to help complete the season finale.

The hybrid episode is set to air May 15 and will serve as the season finale for The Blacklist (it has already been renewed for 2020-21). 

The episode, titled “The Kazanjian Brothers,” was midway through filming in New York when production stopped in mid-March due to the pandemic. The show’s producers looked for outside-the-box ways to complete the installment and settled on graphic novel-style animation (as shown above) to be incorporated with scenes that had already been filmed. 

Actors recorded dialogue from their homes for the animated scenes, and all animation and editing was done remotely. As The Hollywood Reporter has reported, production on a number of animated series has continued largely uninterrupted during the pandemic as studios and producers have adapted to working remotely.

(4) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! Lorie Shaull explains — “I assure you we’re not open,” a reference to the movie Clerks, and “You’re Still here? It’s over. Go home. Go,” from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, seen on the Uptown Theatre marquee in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

(5) AIR APPARENT. Pirated Thoughts reports “DC Comics Wants to Flatten “Swampthing” Tires”.

DC Comics is battling a tire company that is using the SWAMPTHING mark in association with its monster tires.

Transamerica Tire, Co widely distributes its “Swampthing” tires which figure some “monster” treads that allow  added traction thru sand, gravel, dirt, mud or…swamps. 

…In July 2019, Transamerica filed a trademark registration to protect the name SWAMPTHING for its tires. But there is a big green guy who has something to say about that.

(6) SECOND FIFTH. Craig Miller prefers the “Revenge of the Sixth” as a reference, and in honor of the date he’s shared a couple more things he’s remembered since his book Star Wars Memories was released.

…But I’d completely forgotten that I’d also gotten a character’s name changed. A document in my files reminded me….

(7) PROCESSING GRIEF. A writer tells the BBC “How the Marvel Cinematic Universe has helped me grieve”

Since writer Hanna Flint’s grandmother died from Covid-19 complications, she has found solace in superheroes. Here she explains why the films are great for processing tough emotions.

…After my parents called me that Friday night to tell me the news, I cried myself to sleep. But the next morning, I woke up with the strongest urge to escape into the fantastical world of Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Steve Rogers, Thor and the rest of these Marvel heroes – so I camped out on my sofa and binge-watched MCU movies for the remainder of the Easter Weekend.

I’ve spent more than a decade being invested in this film franchise, so it’s no wonder that it’s become the cinematic equivalent of an emotional support dog for me in my time of need. There’s a familiarity that I have with these heroic characters and their fist-pumping adventures that must cause a release of serotonin in my brain, because with each film I watched anew, I felt the thrum of grief lessen, allowing in moments of joy that lifted my spirit.

…Alongside the gags, the series has also deepened as time has gone on, with the MCU opening itself up to a broader range of stories and sensibilities. No longer is the focus only on white male heroes and villains – instead there is a diverse range of characters for a wider audience to connect with. Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man films, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy movies, Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel from Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, are all brilliant examples of Marvel Studios allowing the filmmakers’ voices to shine, while still staying true to the unifying structure and webbed narrative of the franchise. Ragnarok is probably the most distinctive individual Marvel offering so far – Waititi’s deadpan, self-referential humour keeps things especially grounded and accessible, despite the out-of-this-world setting. The Kiwi filmmaker flips your expectations of certain characters – as when Korg, a member of the rock alien Kronan race, turns out to be far more mild-mannered and intellectual than his previously-seen peers – but also uses comedy to make space for a deeper cultural commentary on issues like refugees, slavery and the white-washing of history.

(9) MAY THE FOURTH PROMOTION GOES AWRY. “Alberta police take down woman, 19, dressed as Star Wars stormtrooper to promote reopened restaurant” – Canada’s National Post has the story.

Police in southern Alberta are being investigated after a restaurant worker in a Star Wars stormtrooper costume who was carrying a plastic gun was forced to the ground and ended up with a bloody nose.

…The Lethbridge Police Service said officers were called to the restaurant Monday morning for reports of a person in a stormtrooper costume carrying a firearm. A news release Tuesday said when officers arrived, the person dropped the weapon but didn’t initially comply with directions to get down on the ground.

Whalen disputes the account that his employee didn’t obey police commands. When officers arrived, she immediately dropped the weapon and put her hands up, he said.

But Whalen said that the stormtrooper helmet makes it hard to hear and to be heard. It also makes it difficult to move, let alone to kneel or get down on your stomach. Whalen said this may have caused a delay in the employee getting on the ground.

“It’s not the easiest thing to kneel down in. You can’t even sit down in it. It takes 20 minutes to put on.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 6, 1956 Dimension X’s “Knock” aired. It was based on Fredric Brown’s story of the same name, first published in the December 1948 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories. It was the first of three adaptations of his story, with the latter ones being X Minus One and Sci Fi Channel’s Seeing Ear Theatre. This version was adapted was by Ernest Kinroy. Fred Wiehe and Edward King were the directors. Norman Rose was heard as both announcer and narrator. The entire script can be summed up as “The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door…” Frederic Brown is the running for two Retro Hugos this year, one for Best Novelette for “Arena” and another for Best Short Story for “And the Gods Laughed“. You can hear “Knock” here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 6, 1914 Randall Jarrell. Author of the ever so charming The Animal Family which is illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Go read it – you’ll be smiling afterwards. The Anchor Book of Stories has more of his genre friendly stories. (Died 1965.)
  • Born May 6, 1915 Orson Welles. Certainly the broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” in 1938 was his pinnacle of genre success. But for the Federal Theatre Project he did a 1936 adaptation of Macbeth with an entirely African American cast. That it was known as the Voodoo Macbeth might give you an idea of what he did with it. He would later do a more straightforward film of Macbeth. And, of course, he made a most excellent radio Shadow as well! (Died 1985.)
  • Born May 6, 1946 Nancy Kilpatrick, 74. Fangoria called her “Canada’s answer to Anne Rice.” I know that I’ve read something of her fiction but I’ll be damned if I remember what it was. I do recommend the anthology she edited Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper as it’s a most excellent horror collection. 
  • Born May 6, 1952 Michael O’Hare. He was best known for playing Commander Jeffrey Sinclair on Babylon 5.  Other genre appearances were limited — he played Fuller in the 1984 film C.H.U.D, was Jimmy in the “Heretic” episode of Tales from the Darkside and appeared as a thug on the subway train in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 6, Carlos Lauchu, 59. Anubis, the captain of Ra’s personal guard, in the original Stargate film. His only other genre acting was two appearances in the Monsters anthology series. 
  • Born May 6, 1969 Annalee Newitz, 51. They are the winner of 2019 Hugo Award for Best Fancast at Dublin 2019 for “Our Opinions Are Correct”. And their novel Autonomous was a finalist for the Nebula Award for Best Novel, John W. Campbell Memorial Award and the Locus Award for Best First Novel while winning a Lambda Literary Award. They are also the winner of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short science fiction, ”When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis”. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows Spider-craft.
  • Peanuts from 50 years ago today:

(13) BRUSHWORK. Cora Buhlert has an eye on some of the latest – in 1965 – high culture trends: “[MAY 4, 1965] THE OP AND THE POP: NEW MOVEMENTS IN MODERN ART”

…So what do you see, when you look at a work of Minimalist art? You’ll see simple patterns, geometric shapes, hard edges, primary colours and monochromatic palettes. The so-called “Black Paintings” by the above mentioned Frank Stella consist of concentric stripes painted on raw canvas in the black wall paint that Stella uses in his day job as a house painter. Canadian artist Agnes Martin paints grids and stripes in pastel watercolours. Meanwhile, Dan Flavin eschews paint altogether and instead creates artworks from tubes of neon lights arranged in various geometric patterns.

(14) SOCIAL MEDIA GAVEL BANGERS. BBC is there when “Facebook’s ‘supreme court’ members announced”.

Facebook has announced who will sit on an independent board, set up to have ultimate say over what controversial content should be taken down.

Former Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt will co-chair the panel with three others.

The panel said they will judge some of the “hardest cases out there.”

One expert said it was a bold experiment, but others were more cynical about how much difference they would make.

In a blog announcing the oversight board, Facebook said it “represented a new model of content moderation”

Initially consisting of 16 members, there are plans to expand numbers to 40. It will begin hearing cases later this year.

At first this will just be deliberating on content that individuals feel has been wrongfully removed but, in following months, it will also look at appeals from users who want Facebook to remove content.

(15) BOOKS BY THE POUND. The New York Times analyzes why “The ‘Credibility Bookcase’ Is the Quarantine’s Hottest Accessory” – provided yours isn’t filled with duds.

…In April, an anonymous Twitter account, Bookcase Credibility, emerged to keep an eye on the trend and quickly accumulated more than 30,000 followers. Its tagline is “What you say is not as important as the bookcase behind you,” and it offers arch commentary on the rapidly solidifying tropes of the genre as well as genuine respect for a well-executed specimen. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki appears before “a standard credibility wallpaper presentation in the unthreatening homely style.” The migrants’ rights activist Minnie Rahman’s Encyclopaedia Britannica collection “is a lazy hand wafted at convention.” And the British politician Liam Fox’s “bold grab at credibility is somewhat undermined by the hardback copy of The Da Vinci Code.”

Similarly, Atlas Obscura reports “The Zoom Era Inspires a ‘Bookshelf Championship’ in Portugal”.

…As expected from a nation with one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, the Portuguese rallied behind the Bookshelf Championship. All of a sudden, book-related opinions were all over social media. “He’s stacking books horizontally to fit more,” a Twitter user said of his preferred contestant, journalist Nuno Rogeiro, whose all-embracing bookshelf featured books wedged into every available cranny. Some contemplated the definition of a bookshelf: Should a shelf full of binders be disqualified, or was it a “spectacular variation” on the theme? Others called for the “immediate resignation” of the Minister of Education, Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, on the grounds that his video conference set-up featured zero books. It didn’t take long for the debate to make it, in an apt twist, onto the evening news. Ricardo Araújo Pereira, one of Portugal’s top comedians, submitted his formal entry by taking a conference call from a deserted university library, where he sat flanked by tidy bookshelves in perfect social isolation. Twitter deemed his entry “extremely strong.”

(16) A CRUISE IN SPACE. The original report from Deadline: “Out Of This World! Tom Cruise Plots Movie To Shoot In Space With Elon Musk’s SpaceX”.

I’m hearing that Tom Cruise and Elon Musk’s Space X are working on a project with NASA that would be the first narrative feature film – an action adventure – to be shot in outer space. It’s not a Mission: Impossible film and no studio is in the mix at this stage but look for more news as I get it. But this is real, albeit in the early stages of liftoff.

Mission: Impossible Fallout took a break, literally when he broke his ankle in a leap from one rooftop to the other and he also hung from a helicopter; he hung from the side of a jet plane during takeoff in Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, and in Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol he scaled the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai skyscraper, and executed stunts 123 floors up. He is meticulous in preparing these stunts he does, which are frightening just to watch.

There has never been a leading man (Jackie Chan might dispute this) who puts himself at risk as often as does Cruise, in the name of the most realistic action sequences possible. If he is successful shooting a project in Musk’s space ship, he will be alone in the Hollywood record books. Stay tuned.

NPR picks up the story: “Tom Cruise And NASA Could Be A Match Made In The Heavens”.

… NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine confirmed by tweet that “NASA is excited to work with @TomCruise on a film aboard the @Space_Station! We need popular media to inspire a new generation of engineers and scientists to make @NASA’s ambitious plans a reality.”

At 57, the actor is a good deal older than the run-of-the-mill astronaut (if there is such a thing) though a number “spaceflight participants” (the official NASA and Roscosmos — the Russian space agency — designation for non-astronauts) have flown before.

Cruise is demonstrably in excellent shape, and evidently fearless when it comes to doing his own stunts. That’s fortunate, as up to this point, Space X has launched only unmanned missions of its Dragon 2 craft, which is designed to transport astronauts to the International Space Station. Its first launch with a human crew is scheduled for later this month.

(17) AND BABY MAKES E=MC2. Is everything Musk does newsworthy? (Or is this just freaky enough to be interesting?) “X Æ A-12: Elon Musk and Grimes confirm baby name”.

Elon Musk and singer Grimes have confirmed they have named their baby X Æ A-12.

The Space X CEO announced the birth of their son on Monday. “Mom & baby all good,” he said on Twitter.

He posted that the child would be called X Æ A-12 Musk and his girlfriend later offered an explanation to her followers on social media.

(18) COME OUT OF YOUR SHELL. “‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Movie 30th Anniversary Pizza Party Announced by Original April O’Neil”. Actress Judith Hoag, who played April O’Neil, is hosting the official 30-year cast reunion Pizza Panel Party on May 23rd, “World Turtle Day,” with the original cast and crew – Food & Wine has the story.

“It’s our 30th anniversary. We had some really great stuff planned to celebrate with you guys, and then the pandemic hit,” Hoag said. “It would be great to have a virtual pizza party with you guys, our fans […] We want to get together, hang out with you, and eat some pizza. I personally will probably be having a martini while I’m doing it.”

As of this writing, there aren’t any additional details about the Zoom event, but the TMNT Movie 1990 Facebook page says that it will post more information for online attendees in the days ahead….

(19) FROG GOT YOUR TONGUE? Delish is sure “‘Star Wars’ Fans Will Love These Fruit Roll-Ups With ‘Mandalorian’ Tongue Tattoos”.

…Giving yourself a temporary tongue tattoo from a sticky fruit roll-up is an inexplicable joy. Why is it so fun to have a blue outline of a character on your tongue? Who knows, but it’s about to get a whole lot more exciting. Star Wars-themed Fruit Roll-Ups with The Mandalorian tongue tattoos are expected to come out this fall, which means you can take your Baby Yoda obsession even further that you thought.

The Fruit Roll-Ups by General Mills are expected to be released this September, according to Nerdist. The package features two Mandalorian-themed tattoos: one of Baby Yoda with a frog in his mouth and the other of the Mandalorian’s helmet.

(20) OF HUMANS YET TO COME. John Folk-Williams applauds this developing series — “The Quantum Evolution by Derek Künsken: A Review” at SciFi Mind.

Derek Künsken’s series, The Quantum Evolution, so far consisting of two novels (The Quantum Magician and The Quantum Garden) is a brilliant space opera that probes the depths of a future human nature engineered to produce new subspecies. And they are wild, at times repulsive, at times capable of incredible breakthroughs in knowledge or massive deception and theft, at times mired in twisted love of false gods.I’ve rarely been so intellectually engaged by the idea of a quantum evolution of humankind and so drawn to a set of fascinating characters as they fight and con their way across various star systems.

(21) MURDER HORNET. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From today’s NY Times — even more timely as Wednesdays are also when the Gray Lady does its weekly Food/Dining section (although this wasn’t in that section, hardcopywise): “In Japan, the ‘Murder Hornet’ Is Both a Lethal Threat and a Tasty Treat”.

… But in the central Chubu region, these insects — sometimes called “murder hornets” — are known for more than their aggression and excruciating sting. They are seen as a pleasant snack and an invigorating ingredient in drinks….

(22) STEPHEN KING ON THE LATE SHOW. The legendary master of horror covers a lot of ground in this talk with Stephen Colbert, including how he would fare in quarantine with his most feared characters, some things he learned about pandemics when doing research for “The Stand,” and the many reasons he recommends reading The Lord of the Rings.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, StephenfromOttawa, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Lise Andreasen, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Susan de Guardiola, Olav Rokne, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 4/30/20 A File And Scroll Reunion Is Only A Pixel Away

(1) CATS TRIUMPHANT. Naomi Kritzer has had a big week. Her YA novel Catfishing on Catnet won an Edgar Award today, and won a  Minnesota Book Award on Tuesday. Here’s an excerpt of the Q&A she did for the St. Paul Library:

How does it feel to be a Minnesota Book Award finalist?

It is a huge honor and feels amazing!

Tell us something about your finalist book that you want readers to know?

It is loosely based on my (Hugo Award-winning) short story Cat Pictures Please, which you can still find online:

Share something about your writing process and preferences. For instance, where is your favorite place to write?

When I’m outlining or brainstorming, I use a notebook of unlined paper, like a sketch diary. I like to write in my sunny living room but discovered at some point that the ergonomics of a couch, hassock, and lap desk will lead quickly to back problems, so I usually write at a desk in my home office.

(2) BOOKSTORE LOVE. LitHub tells the world “Now you can use your favorite indie bookstore as your Zoom background.” Like this shot of Vroman’s – where John King Tarpinian and I got John Scalzi to sign our copies of The Collapsing Empire a few years ago. The complete list of bookstores with notes on each one can be found on the Lookout + Ecotone blog.

(3) INGENIOUS. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand blog gives a good rundown of Alison Scott’s plans for “The Virtual GUFF Tour”, since she can’t travel there in person this year. It’s an effort completely worthy of a former editor of the fanzine Plokta, “The journal of superfluous technology.” 

Alison Scott is the recently elected European GUFF delegate. The plan was for the winning delegate to travel down under to meet local fans and addend the 2020 Worldcon – CoNZealand. Of course because of you-know-what the borders are closed and CoNZealand has gone virtual. But Alison appears undaunted – she now plans to take a virtual tour of Australasia visiting Australian and New Zealand places and fans before attending the virtual worldcon. There will be a proper itinerary mimicking a physical journey and Alison even plans to adhere to the local timezones (yay jetlag!). You can read more about her plans and follow her progress over on the facebook group dedicated to the trip.

(4) RAMPING UP TO THE APOCALYPSE. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society has completed the ADA compliant ramp in front of their building. The January 20 Pixel Scroll ran details about the permits coming through. Club President Dale S. Arnold said today –

Although the COVID-19 emergency and related closures caused some delays, eventually the weather and logistics worked to allow completion. Many years ago when the plan for renovations to the BSFS Building was announced the author Jack Chalker commented that if a bunch of SF Fans were able to pull off that complex of a plan it would be a sign of the coming apocalypse.  With the completion of this ramp (except final painting the door which was altered in the ramp design) we have now realized the dream from 1991 having completed everything planned when we bought the building.

And BSFS didn’t finish a moment too soon, because the apocalypse appears to be just around the corner.

(5) NOT GENTEEL. Errolwi points out how well today’s Merriam-Webster tweet complements James Davis Nicoll’s famous quote about the English language:

(6) AIMLESS, IF NOT LOST, IN SPACE. And by no coincidence whatsoever, the next item is about James Davis Nicoll’s latest Tor.com post, “Far From Any Star: Five Stories About Rogue Worlds”.

It’s been weeks since you last socialized (in the flesh) with anyone outside your household…or with anyone, if you live alone. Loneliness is tough. But things could be worse: you could be a rogue world, ejected from your home system billions of years ago. You could be a pitiful world formed far from any star. Such worlds are commonplace in our galaxy. They are not quite so common in science fiction. Still, a few of them feature in books that you may have read…

(7) JEMISIN AND GAIMAN. The Fisher Center will present “UPSTREAMING: Neil Gaiman in Conversation with N. K. Jemisin” on May 2 at 7:30 p.m. EST. However, the website says, “Tickets are not currently on sale. Call the box office for more information, 845-758-7900.” So if you’re interested, call.

Join Professor in the Arts Neil Gaiman for a remote, live streamed conversation with Hugo Award-winning author N. K. Jemisin (Broken Earth trilogy), whose new work The City We Became was released in March to great acclaim. The conversation is part of an ongoing Fisher Center series in which Gaiman discusses the creative process with another artist.

(8) LE GUIN IN ’75. Fanac.org has posted a video recording of an Aussiecon (1975) Worldcon panel with Ursula K. Le Guin, Susan Wood and others, “Worlds I Have Discovered.”

AussieCon, the 33rd Worldcon, was held in Melbourne, Australia in 1975. This panel centers on questions to Guest of Honor Ursula Le Guin’s on her writing for young adults (or at least classified as for young adults). The panelists, moderated by Fan Guest of Honor Susan Wood, are Ursula herself, Stella Leeds, Peter Nicholls, Anna Shepherd, and Ann Sydhom. The video quality leaves a lot to be desired, but the discussion on Le Guin’s process of writing, the panel’s views on children’s literature, and children’s literature as a literary ghetto remain interesting and very pertinent. Remember, this was decades before the phenomena of Harry Potter.

Andrew Porter sent the link with this reminder that the same year his Algol Press published Dreams Must Explain Themselves, a 36-page chapbook whose title essay is about how Le Guin got ideas for books.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 30, 1955  — Science Fiction Theatre’s Y.O.R.D. episode first aired. Directed by Leon Benson from a screenplay by him and George Van Marter as based on a story written by Marter and Ivan Tors. Truman Bradley Was The Host and the cast included Walter Kingsford, Edna Miner Louis,  Jean Heydt and DeForest Kelley. The latter would be playing Captain Hall, M.D.  You can watch it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge. Bonus typos provided by OGH.]

  • Born April 30, 1913 Jane Rice. Her first story “The Dream” was published  in the July 1940 issue of Unknown. Amazingly, she’d publish ten stories there during the War. Her only novel Lucy remains lost due to somewhat mysterious circumstances. Much of her short stories are collected in The Idol of the Flies and Other Stories which is not available in digital form. (Died 2003.)
  • Born April 30, 1920 E. F. Bleiler. An editor, bibliographer and scholar of both sff and detective fiction. He’s responsible in the Forties for co-editing the Best SF Stories with T.E. Dikty. They later edited Best Science-Fiction Stories. He also did such valuable reference guides like The Checklist of Fantastic Literature and The Guide to Supernatural Fiction. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 30, 1926 Edmund Cooper. Pulpish writer of space opera not for the easily offended. His The Uncertain Midnight has an interesting take on androids but most of his work is frankly misogynistic. And he was quite prolific with over twenty-four novels and a dozen story collections. A lot of his work is available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1982.)
  • Born April 30, 1934 William Baird Searles. Author and critic. He‘s best remembered  for his long running review work for Asimov’s  where he reviewed books, and Amazing Stories and F&SF where he did film and tv reviews. I’m not familiar with his writings but I’d be interested to know who here has read Reader’s Guide to Science Fiction and Reader’s Guide to Fantasy which he did, as they might be useful to own. (Died 1993.)
  • Born April 30, 1938 Larry Niven, 82. One of my favorite authors to read, be it Ringworld, The Mote in God’s Eye with Jerry Pournelle, or the Rainbow Mars stories which I love in the audiobook version. What’s your favorite Niven story? And yes, I did look up his Hugos. “Neutron Star” was his first at NyCon 3 followed by Ringworld at Noreascon 1 followed by “Inconstant Moon” (lovely story) the following year at L.A. Con I,  “The Hole Man” (which I don’t remember reading) at Aussiecon 1 and finally “The Borderland of Sol” novelette at MidAmericaCon. He’s not won a Hugo since 1976. 
  • Born April 30, 1973 Naomi Novik, 47. She wrote the Temeraire series which runs to nine novels so far. Her first book, His Majesty’s Dragon, won the Astounding Award. She most deservedly won the Nebula Award for Best Novel for Uprooted which is a most excellent read. I’ve not yet her Spinning Silver, so opinions are welcome.
  • Born April 30, Gal Gadot, 34. Wonder Woman of course in the DC film universe. Other genre work, well, other than voicing Shank on Ralph Breaks the Internet, there really isn’t any. She did play Linnet Ridgeway Doyle in the Kenneth Branagh production of Murder on the Orient Express which is quite lovely but hardly genre or even genre adjacent. 

(11) SOUNDTRACK. Steve Vertlieb would like to introduce the world to French film composer, Thibaut Vuillermet.

(12) REVENGE OF THE GRINDHOUSE. SYFY Wire reports ”Trolls World Tour Rocks $100 Million On Vod”.

The decision to skip a theatrical release in the age of coronavirus was a wise move that led to big returns for DreamWorks’ Trolls World Tour

According to The Wall Street Journal, the animated movie has racked up nearly $100 million in the three short weeks since it arrived on VOD and digital platforms Friday, April 10. With approximately 5 million rentals at $19.99 a pop, Universal has generated over $77 million from a digital release model that allows studios to keep an estimated 80 percent of profits. Since the traditional theatrical model relies on a 50-50 kind of split, a film playing in a physical venue has to make a lot more money in order for a studio to turn a profit. 

The real point here is that Trolls Would Tour has brought in more tangible revenue during its first 19 days on demand than the first movie did during five months in theaters.

However, one theater chain intends to punish Universal for their plans to reproduce the success by simultaneously releasing movies in theaters and through video-on-demand, presumably trimming their revenue. The Hollywood Reporter covered the announcement: “AMC Theatres Refuses to Play Universal Films in Wake of ‘Trolls: World Tour'”.

AMC Theatres on Tuesday delivered a blistering message to Universal Pictures, saying the world’s largest cinema chain will no longer play any of the studio’s films in the wake of comments made by NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell regarding the on-demand success of Trolls World Tour and what it means for the future of moviegoing post-coronavirus pandemic….

“The results for Trolls World Tour have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD,” Shell told The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the numbers. “As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.”

In a strongly worded letter to Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley, AMC Theatres chairman and-CEO Adam Aron said Shell’s comments were unacceptable. AMC is the largest circuit in the world.

“It is disappointing to us, but Jeff’s comments as to Universal’s unilateral actions and intentions have left us with no choice. Therefore, effectively immediately AMC will no longer play any Universal movies in any of our theaters in the United States, Europe or the Middle East,” Aron wrote.

“This policy affects any and all Universal movies per se, goes into effect today and as our theaters reopen, and is not some hollow or ill-considered threat,” he continued. “Incidentally, this policy is not aimed solely at Universal out of pique or to be punitive in any way, it also extends to any movie maker who unilaterally abandons current windowing practices absent good faith negotiations between us, so that they as distributor and we as exhibitor both benefit and neither are hurt from such changes….” 

(13) CHICKEN EATER OF THE SEA. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] From the Harvard Gazette: “Water Beast: New paper argues the Spinosaurus was aquatic, and powered by predatory tail”.

New paper argues the Spinosaurus was aquatic, and powered by predatory tail

Back in the Cretaceous period, 145 to 66 million years ago, dinosaurs dominated the land and sky. They also, a new paper argues, terrorized the aquatic realm. Recent fossil evidence has revealed that Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, among the largest of all known carnivorous dinosaurs, was a creature of the water, with a center of gravity and a giant tail fin perfect for swimming. The same paper shares robotic modeling by two Harvard scientists that shows how that large, flexible tail fin — unique among dinosaurs — would have given the giant predator a deadly propulsive thrust in the water, similar to a salamander or crocodile tail.

The paper, “Tail-Propelled Aquatic Propulsion in a Theropod Dinosaur,” in the April 29 issue of Nature, uses new fossil evidence and robotically controlled models created by Harvard co-authors Stephanie E. Pierce and George V. Lauder, professors of organismic and evolutionary biology, to show its power.

Pierce said the new fossils were necessary to make their argument, as much of the fossil evidence of Spinosaurus, unearthed by German paleontologist Ernst Stromer, had been destroyed in World War II. University of Detroit paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim, the Nature paper’s lead author, had located more traces of the dinosaur in Morocco in 2014, and in 2018 he went back, successfully excavating extensive Spinosaurus remains. The fossils included tail vertebrae with meter-long spines that seemed to form an expanded paddle, raising questions as to what the tail was used for.

“The working hypothesis was that Spinosaurus used its tail to swim through water,” said Pierce, Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. Ibrahim and his team reached out to Pierce, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, to test their idea. She was immediately intrigued by the 5-plus-meter-long tail.

Yes, Dave, “Predatory Tail” would be a great name for a band.

(14) YOUR MISSION… “Nasa names companies to develop Moon landers for human missions”

Nasa has chosen the companies that will develop landers to send astronauts to the Moon’s surface in the 2020s.

The White House wants to send the next man and the first woman to the Moon in 2024, to be followed by other missions.

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Alabama-based Dynetics were selected to work on landers under the space agency’s Artemis programme.

The 2024 mission will see astronauts walk on the Moon’s surface for the first time since 1972.

Combined, the contracts are worth $967m (£763m; €877m) and will run for a “base period” of 10 months.

“With these contract awards, America is moving forward with the final step needed to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, including the incredible moment when we will see the first woman set foot on the lunar surface,” said Nasa’s administrator Jim Bridenstine.

“This is the first time since the Apollo era that Nasa has direct funding for a human landing system, and now we have companies on contract to do the work for the Artemis programme.”

(15) RECIPES WITH CHARACTERS. “Need new recipes for quarantine? Pixar’s YouTube channel is here to help”. Entertainment Weekly shares some examples.

As Pixar taught us, anyone can cook… and now the animation studio is giving you something to cook.

The Pixar YouTube channel features a series called “Cooking With Pixar,” a collection of recipes inspired by the studio’s films. At the moment, the series only has three videos, but they should provide some inspiration if you’re in need of something new to cook — which, it’s fair to say, most of us probably are at this point.

(16) YOU’RE MELTING! “Nasa space lasers track melting of Earth’s ice sheets” – BBC has the story.

Scientists have released a new analysis of how the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have changed, from 2003 to 2019.

The study shows that ice losses from melting have outpaced increases in snowfall, resulting in a 14mm rise in global sea-levels over the period.

We’ve had a number of very similar reports to this recently.

What makes this one of interest is that it uses data from the highest-resolution satellite system dedicated to studying the poles – IceSat.

This system flies space lasers over glaciers and other ice fields to track their constantly shifting shape.

The US space agency (Nasa) has now launched two of these altimeter instruments.

The first, IceSat, operated between 2003 and 2009; the second, IceSat-2, was put up in 2018.

Thursday’s report is a first attempt to tie both satellites’ observations together.

(17) BROTHER GUY’S AIR. “Antarctic meteorites yield global bombardment rate”

A team of UK scientists has provided a new estimate for the amount of space rock falling to Earth each year.

It’s in excess of 16,000kg. This is for meteorite material above 50g in mass.

It doesn’t take account of the dust that’s continuously settling on the planet, and of course just occasionally we’ll be hit by a real whopper of an asteroid that will skew the numbers.

But the estimate is said to give a good sense of the general quantity of rocky debris raining down from space.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Horizon on Vimeo is a short film by Armond Dijcks based on images taken by the International Space Station.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/22/20 Come And See The Filers Inherent In The Pixel

(1) YOU’VE SEEN HIM EXPLAIN HUGO VOTING, SO YOU KNOW HE’S GOT THIS. Kevin Standlee, a volunteer in Nevada’s Democratic Caucuses, appeared on CNN Newsroom with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto to answer questions about the assistive technology being used there (not the one that sparked controversy in Iowa). See the video here.

Kevin added, responding to a File 770 email:

My specific role was “Precinct Chair,” meaning that I conducted the caucus for my own precinct (Lyon County precinct 40), conducting the votes and certifying the results to the site lead. (Seven precincts caucused at our site.) The Site Lead then took the official paper records, reported them to the party headquarters by telephone and by texting pictures of the records to the party, then he took custody of the paper records and returned them to the party headquarters in Reno.

And before I finished today’s Scroll Kevin had written a complete account (with photos) on his blog — “3 1/2 Minutes of Fame”. Plus, his photos of the CNN appearance start here, and photos of the Nevada Caucus start here.

(2) AXE FALLS AT DC. Dan DiDio was ousted as co-publisher of DC Comics yesterday, says The Hollywood Reporter: “DC’s Dan DiDio Out as Co-Publisher”.

…Since stepping into an executive role at the company, DiDio has served as DC’s public face at conventions and public events, and has worked to champion not only the company as a whole but specifically the comic book division — and comic book specialty market — as being integral to DC’s success on an ongoing basis. DiDio was also part of the push to expand DC’s publishing reach into Walmart and Target via exclusive 100-Page Giant issues, an initiative that proved so successful that the issues were expanded to the comic store market.

…With DiDio’s departure, Jim Lee becomes sole publisher at DC, in addition to his role as the company’s chief creative officer, a position he’s held since June 2018.

Why is he out? The Hollywood Reporter didn’t address the question. Bleeding Cool received an answer from unnamed sources: “So Why Did Dan DiDio Leave DC Comics Anyway?”

Bleeding Cool now understands that yes, DiDio was fired this morning by Warner Bros at 10.30am PT in their Burbank offices and he left the building straight away. I am told by sources close to the situation that he was fired, for cause, for ‘fostering a poor work environment’ – as evidenced, as we previously stated, by significant departures at the publisher by editors. Dan DiDio has a reputation of being a micro-manager from some, for being very involved in projects from others. And DC Comics was heading towards a big change in its publishing programme – one aspect of which was the much-rumoured 5G – or Generation Five. Which would have seen DC’s major figures Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, Diana and more aged out and replaced with new characters taking the roles of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman as part of the new DC Timeline. And some folk at DC Comics were very much against this. But opposition never worried Dan, after all he was at constant odds with the direction the company line was pushed for pretty much his entire career as Publisher, and was always was striving to put comics first, as he saw it….

(3) FIRING THE IMAGINATION. At Boston Review, John Crowley interviews Elizabeth Hand: “Elizabeth Hand’s Curious Toys”

JC: Historical fictions are designed largely as a sort of medley: true details of time and place, actual persons of the period treated as fictional characters with their own point of view, invented persons who interact with the historical ones, real events that will form memories for the real people and for the fictional ones. You’ve long been drawn to this kind of fiction and its possibilities. What do you think its power is, for writer and reader?

EH: Well, as you know yourself, history is an immense sandbox for a writer to play in. I would add “fulfilling,” but can a sandbox be fulfilling? I love research, searching for and delving into primary sources in hopes of discovering some nugget of information that’s somehow gone unnoticed, that I can then use in a story. And while I always try to create as authentic and absorbing a portrait of a period as I can, I love playing with all the what ifs of history. Darger and Chaplin and Hollywood screenwriter Ben Hecht and others were all in Chicago at the same time: what if their paths crossed in some way?

JC: A theme of Curious Toys is how people in that period were fascinated with human oddities (fake or real), and you explore how, as much as that was about fear and wonder over the bodies of differently-abled people, it was also connected with the period’s gender rules and expectations. How much of this background psychology do you expect readers will sense?

EH: I never know what readers will “get” or not. To me, some things in a narrative seem perfectly obvious, yet are completely overlooked by readers (and critics). But I hope that my depiction of that period and its fears and bigotries is realistic enough that readers grasp how similar it was to our own time, even though many things have changed for the better. I came across an anti-immigrant government screed from around 1915 that could have been written yesterday by a member of the current administration. Gender expectations have changed since 1915; I suspect Pin would have very similar experiences were she to pull the same gender reversals today, though they’d be updated for the twenty-first-century workplace. I guess my real concern should be that some readers will think my historical depiction of an earlier era’s prejudices is fake news.

(4) AS SEEN ON TV. Nerds of a Feather’s Andrea Johnson poses the questions in “Interview: Myke Cole, author of Sixteenth Watch”.

NOAF: You’re also on TV! While us viewers only see the polished, edited version, you literally get to see what happens behind the scenes. Any funny or surprising stories from your experiences filming the Contact and Hunted TV shows? Is television something you hope to do more of?

MC: I love doing TV. For one thing, I love attention. I used to think of this as a character flaw (we’re all raised to be self-effacing and taught that seeking the spotlight is a sign of egomania), but I’ve come to accept that for better or worse, it’s who I am. TV is so much easier than writing. It’s grueling work (12-15 days when you’re shooting), but it’s compressed into a tight period (Hunted was two month’s work. Contact was one month’s work). I get paid more to do a single TV show than I do in a year of writing, and a book takes me 1-2 years to write.

But just like writing, just because you’re doing it at a professional level is absolutely no guarantee you will get to keep doing it. I thought that starring on two major network shows and having an agent at CAA (it’s really hard to get in there) meant my TV career was set. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The only real benefit of having done two shows is that I now have a gorgeous, professional “reel” (clips of me on TV) that I can show to other shows I am trying to get to book me. Otherwise, I’m basically at square one. So, I’m currently hustling for my next show and there’s no guarantee that I’ll get it.

(5) MAKE IT SO MUCH. ComicBook.com says the floodgates have opened: “Star Trek: New Movie, Two New Series, and More Confirmed in the Works”.

A lot more Star Trek is on the way. ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish confirmed during the company’s 2019 earnings call that two more Star Trek television shows are in the works. These are on top of Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the already announced Star Trek: Lower Decks, Star Trek: Section 31, and the untitled Nickelodeon Star Trek animated series. Bakish also confirmed that the next installment of the Star Trek film series is being developed by Paramount Pictures. This was the first earnings call since ViacomCBS formed out of the merger of Viacom and CBS in 2019. The merger brought the Star Trek film and television rights under the same roof for the first time since the two companies split in 2006.

Bakish says that the reunited ViacomCBS plans “take the Star Trek franchise and extend it across the house.”

To that end, Bakish confirmed that a new line of Star Trek novels is on the way from VIacomCBS subsidiary Simon & Shuster. This line will include prequels tying into Star Trek: Picard. The first Picard tie-in novel, The Last Best Hope by Una McCormack, was released in February.

Bakish also confirmed that more Star Trek comics are on the way…

.(6) DARK MATTERS. “Chasing Einstein: The Dark Universe Event” will be hosted by The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination on March 2. A screening of the feature documentary Chasing Einstein will be followed by a panel discussion and Q & A.

Could Einstein have been wrong about the true nature of gravity? Does his general theory of relativity and the Standard Model need an update? Unprecedented advances in experimental particle physics, astronomy and cosmology are uncovering mysteries of cosmic consequence. Among the most challenging is the realization that 80% of the universe consists of something unknown that exerts galactic forces pulling the universe apart. The search for Dark Matter extends from the worlds most powerful particle accelerators to the most sensitive telescopes, to deep under the earth. Nobel worthy discoveries await. Scientists at UC San Diego are at the epicenter of the search for Dark Matter leading efforts to build the next generation of instruments and experiments to uncover its secrets.

The panelists will be —

  • Professor, and Founder of the XENON Dark Matter Project, Elena Aprile
  • Chancellor’s Distinguished Professor of Physics Brian Keating
  • Kaixuan Ni, Ph.D, Ni Group at UC San Diego. Dr. Ni leads the development of liquid xenon detectors for the search of dark matter.
  • Patrick de Perio, postdoctoral research scientist, Columbia Univerity
  • Steve Brown, producer, Chasing Einstein

(7) THE TAIL OF BO. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson tells what his dog was like: “Bo Davidson 2003 – 2020”.

…Bo used his body.  He developed specific stances and specific locations, along with a variety of sounds.   One such was to come running up to you, circle once, face you straight on and chuff.  We quickly learned that this meant “I’m trying to tell you something and you are too stupid to figure it out.”  So we’d guess, and here’s the cool thing:  we’d know if the guess was right or wrong by what Bo did.  We’d offer (something like “do you need to go out”?) and if we were wrong, he’d look at whatever it was, but not move, then look back at us.  “Nope, that’s not it.”

Finally, if we were unable to come up with an answer, we’d say “show me”, and off Bo would go.  He’d walk right to the immediate vicinity of whatever it was (oh, I left food in the microwave – Bo standing, facing the microwave on the counter, or oh, your toy is way under the jelly cabinet – Bo standing facing the cabinet, then looking up at us, then back down at the floor).

Once he learned that attempts at communicating would be rewarded, he never stopped.

Steve still needs to pay some on-going expenses for Bo’s treatment and has a GoFundMe campaign here.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 22, 1918 — In Denmark, A Trip to Mars (Himmelskibet in Danish), premiered. It is a 1918 Danish film about a trip to Mars. In 2006, the film was restored and released on DVD by the Danish Film Institute. Phil Hardy, the late English film critic, in The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction claims it is “the film that marked the beginning of the space opera subgenre of science fiction”.  You can watch it here.
  • February 22, 1956 The Mole People premiered. It was produced by William Alland, and directed by Virgil W. Vogel. It stars John Agar, Hugh Beaumont, and Cynthia Patrick. (Beaumont is best remembered for his portrayal of Ward Cleaver.)  The story is written by László Görög who also scripted The Land Unknown and Earth v. The Spider,  two other late Fifties SF films. Though I can’t find any contemporary critical reviews, currently audiences at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 28% rating. Oddly enough, the only video of it on YouTube is the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 airing which you can see here. That video alludes to the changed end which may have been done to placate the studio and their sensitivities to Fifties social mores.  

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 22, 1899 Dwight Frye. He’s  the villain in classic Universal Thirties horror films such as Renfield in Dracula, Fritz in Frankenstein and Karl in The Bride of Frankenstein. You might also know him as Wilmer Cook in The Maltese Falcon. He’s uncredited as a Reporter in The Invisible Man. (Died 1943.)
  • Born February 22, 1917 Reed Crandall. Illustrator and penciller best known for the Forties Quality Comics’ Blackhawk (a DC property later) and for stories in myriad EC Comics during the 1950s.  In the late Sixties, he did the illustration work on King Features Syndicate’s King Comics comic-book version of the syndicate’s Flash Gordon strip. He’s been inducted into Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame.  (Died 1982.)
  • Born February 22, 1925 Edward Gorey. I’m reasonably sure that his animated introduction to the PBS series Mystery! was my first encounter with him. I will recommend Gorey CatsThe Haunted Tea-Cosy: A Dispirited and Distasteful Diversion for Christmas and The Doubtful Guest. Ok if he’s not genre but he’s still fun and delightfully weird. Oh, and do go read Elephant House: Or, the Home of Edward Gorey, with superb photographs and text by Kevin McDermott. (Died 2000.)
  • Born February 22, 1929 James Hong, 91. Though not quite genre, he became known to audiences through starring in The New Adventures of Charlie Chan in the late Fifties. Genre wise, his first role was in Godzilla, King of the Monsters! voicing Ogata/Serizawa. He then pops up in The Satan Bug as Dr. Yang and next is seen playing Ho Lee in Destination Inner Space. You’ll no doubt recognize Colossus: The Forbin Project wherehe’s Dr. Chin but I’ll bet you’ve never heard of, oh wait you have, Blade Runner in which he’s Hannibal Chew and Big Trouble In Little China which I love in which he’s wizard David Lo Pan. It’s back to obscure films after that with next up being Shadowzone where he’s Dr. Van Fleet and Dragonfight where he’s Asawa. He’s next in The Shadow as Li Peng but I’ll be damned if I can remember his role and the same holds true for him as Che’tsai In Tank Girl too.  He’s Mr. Wu in the very loose adaption of the classic The Day the Earth Stood Still
  • Born February 22, 1933 Sheila Hancock, 87. Helen A. In the Seventh Doctor story, “The Happiness Patrol”.  Other than voicing The White Witch in an animated version of The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, that’s it for her genre work as far as I can tell but it’s a role worth seeing if you’ve not seen it! 
  • Born February 22, 1937 Joanna Russ. Is it fair to say she’s known as much for her feminist literary criticism as her SF writings? That The Female Man is her best known work suggest my question really isn’t relevant as there may be no difference between the two. She was for a long time a influential reviewer for Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction where I think it would fair to say that you knew clearly what she thought of a given work. (Died 2011.)
  • Born February 22, 1953 Genny Dazzo, 67. She attended the first Star Trek Convention in New York. She has since been involved in the local SF con, Lunacon. Moving out to LA, she was on the committee for all of the LA WorldCons as well as the Westercons, Loscons, and AmineLA. 
  • Born February 22, 1959 Kyle MacLachlan, 61. Genre wise known for his role as Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks  and its weird film prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, Paul Atreides in Dune, Lloyd Gallagher in The Hidden, Clifford Vandercave In The Flintstones, Calvin Zabo in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Jeffrey Beaumont in Blue Velvet (OK not genre, just weird).

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • At Family Circus, the kids ask their Mom a challenging genre question.

(11) BOOK FU. This seems like something no one should miss.

(12) WEASLEY SQUIRREL REVIVAL. Four Weasleys will reunite at a Dallas con happening at the end of March: “Harry Potter: Weasley reunion coming at Fan Expo Dallas 2020”. (John Cleese will be there too…!)

If you need a Weasley reunion, look no further than Fan Expo Dallas 2020. Four Harry Potter actors are getting together for some exciting times.

That’s right. You’ll get four of the Weasley siblings. And these aren’t the ones that you didn’t see enough off on screen. Fan Expo Dallas 2020 has managed to get the four Weasley siblings who spent most of their time on screen; the ones you cried over and rooted for.

Rupert Grint, Bonnie Wright, and Oliver and James Phelps will all attend the multi-fandom convention….

(13) FUTURE VISION. At CNBC’s Make It, “Elon Musk shares the science fiction book series that inspired him to start SpaceX”.

As a teenage boy, Elon Musk felt a “personal obligation” for the fate of mankind, according to the book “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” by Ashlee Vance.

Musk’s love of books and the lessons he took from them inspired him to create “cleaner energy technology or [build] spaceships to extend the human species’s reach” in the future, according to Vance.

One set of those books Musk still recommends today: the seven-book “Foundation” science fiction series by scientist and author Isaac Asimov.

(14) 1968 ASIMOV AUDIO. Fanac.org presents a recording of Isaac Asimov’s talk at the 1968 Boskone.

In this audio recording (illustrated with more than 50 images), Isaac Asimov spends an hour talking about everything and anything. He is speaking to his extended family – a roomful of science fiction fans. 

Isaac speaks with great good humor about his writing (both science fiction and science fact), ribs his fellow writers, especially Lester Del Rey and others who were in the room, and tells stories about Harlan Ellison and John W. Campbell.  

He is charming and arrogant, explaining his view of women, why he doesn’t write for TV, his experiences on late night TV and more. 

This is an opportunity to get to know one of science fiction’s greats as his contemporaries did. 

Thanks to the New England Science Fiction Society (NESFA) and Rick Kovalcik for providing the recording. Brought to you here by FANAC.org , the Fanhistory Project. For more fan history, visit FANAC.org and Fancyclopedia.org .

(15) THEY, ROBOT. Plagiarism Today discusses “Why Web Scraping/Spinning is Back” and blames Google.

The big question is “What changed?” Why is it that, after nearly a decade, these antiquated approaches to web spamming are back?

The real answer is that web scraping never really went away. The nature of spamming is that, even after a technique is defeated, people will continue to try it. The reason is fairly simple: Spam is a numbers game and, if you stop a technique 99.9% of the time, a spammer just has to try 1,000 times to have one success (on average).

But that doesn’t explain why many people are noticing more of these sites in their search results, especially when looking for certain kinds of news.

Part of the answer may come from a September announcement by Richard Gingras, Google’s VP for News. There, he talked about efforts they were making to elevate “original reporting” in search results. According to the announcement, Google strongly favored the latest or most comprehensive reporting on a topic. They were going to try and change that algorithm to show more preference to original reporting, keeping those stories toward the top for longer.

Whether that change has materialized is up for debate. I, personally, regularly see duplicative articles rank well both in Google and Google News even today. That said, some of the sites I was monitoring last month when I started researching this topic have disappeared from Google News.

(16) FROM POWERED ARMOR TO CRAB SHELL. “Anytime you think I’m being too rough, anytime you think I’m being too tough, anytime you miss-your-mommy, QUIT! You sign your 1240-A, you get your gear, and you take a stroll down washout lane. Do you get me?”  He’s had quite a career since playing Sgt. Zim in Starship Troopers – the Maltin on Movies podcast interviews Clancy Brown.

With films ranging from The Shawshank Redemption to Starship Troopers and recent TV appearances on The Mandalorian, Emergence, Billions, and The Crown (as LBJ), Clancy Brown is the living definition of a “working actor.” He’s also been the voice of Mr. Krabs on Spongebob Squarepants for more than twenty years! Leonard and Jessie have been after him for many months to appear on the podcast and finally found a day he wasn’t on a soundstage; it was well worth the wait.

(17) AND THE JUDGES SAY. Paul Weimer assesses the end of a trilogy at Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [book]: The Poet King by Ilana C Myer”.

In The Poet King, Ilana C Myer sticks the landing, in completing the Harp and the Blade trilogy, a poetical and lyrically rich fantasy of the tumultuous return of magic to a fantasy land, and the poet central to the mythically infused events.

(18) EL SEGUNDO. Paul Weimer also reviews a second book in a series — “Microreview [book]: The Hanged Man, by K D Edwards” at Nerds of a Feather.

The Last Sun introduced us to a fascinating world of Atlanteans, their world gone, living on the occupied island of Nantucket. A world where the most powerful Atlanteans carried terrible magical power, Rune, last heir of fallen House Sun, became wrapped up in the machinations of other, great Houses, and slowly coming into his own power in the process. An unusual sort of urban fantasy, The Last Sun was notable for its invention, its strong character focus, and the queer friendliness of Atlantean society.

Now in The Hanged Man, K.C. Edwards continues the story of Rune, and Brand, his bonded Companion, and their slowly accumulating set of friends, lover, and allies.

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