Pixel Scroll 5/31/21 I’m At The Godstalk, The Death Star, The Second Fifth Hotel, The Pixels Keep On Scrolling And Rolling Files As Well

(1) HANSEN BOOK FREE FROM TAFF. Another ebook is available from the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund’s website, #60 in the free library, Rob Hansen’s Faan Fiction 1930-2020: an exploration. Cover artwork adapted from Rob Hansen’s cover for his fanzine Epsilon #7, July 1981. Approximately 61,000 words. (TAFF hopes you’ll make a little donation to the fund if you please.)

In this combined critique and anthology, Rob Hansen discusses the phenomenon of fan fiction (in the fannish fanzine sense) with a particular focus on the UK. His commentary is interspersed with many examples from such diverse fan writers as John Berry, C.S. Youd (John Christopher), Leroy Kettle, David Langford, Mark Plummer, Bob Shaw, Ian Sorensen, James White, Walt Willis – and Rob Hansen himself, including previously unpublished work. There are several surprises.

From Rob Hansen’s Foreword:

One aspect of fandom only lightly touched on by me in Then was fan fiction. By which, of course, I mean fiction about fans and/or fandom. This is a thread that has been woven through SF fandom since it began, enduring almost to the present day, and so is worthy of consideration in that light. I’ll be looking at the people who wrote it and all its various forms and the purposes to which they were put. Inevitably, the quality of the writing varies wildly, with that of those who later went on to write professionally usually being a cut above the rest.

…Where possible the pieces of fan fiction reprinted herein to illustrate various types and forms – all by UK fans – were specifically chosen from those not already available. As a result, most will be things the majority of readers won’t have encountered before.

(2) SF ART COLLECTORS WILL SPEAK. Tomorrow on Comic Art Spotlight Doug Ellis joins a panel with three friends — Glynn Crain, John Davis & Victor Dricks — discussing SF/fantasy art.  All four have large collections of vintage SF art. They’ll be highlighting and discussing various artists and pieces in those collections, including creators like Virgil Finlay, Frank Kelly Freas, Ed Emshwiller, Wally Wood, Ed Valigursky, George Barr and many more.  The panel kicks off June 1 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern:

(3) PLONK YOUR MAGIC TWANGER. The Haffner Press’ two-volume edition of The Complete John the Balladeer by Manly Wade Wellman is available for pre-order.

John, whose last name is never revealed, is a wandering singer who carries a guitar strung with strings of pure silver. He is a veteran of the Korean War and served in the U.S. Army as a sharpshooter (in the novel After Dark, he mentions that his highest rank was PFC). In his travels, he frequently encounters creatures and superstitions from the folk tales and superstitions of the mountain people. Though John has no formal education, he is self-taught, highly intelligent and widely read; it is implied that his knowledge of occult and folk legendarium is of Ph.D level. This knowledge has granted him competent use of white magic, which he has used on occasion to overcome enemies or obstacles, but it is primarily his courage, wit and essential goodness that always enables him to triumph over supernatural evils (although the silver strings of his guitar and his possession of a copy of The Long Lost Friend are also powerful tools in fighting evil magic), while basic Army training allows him to physically deal with human foes.

Haffner recently posted this photo of artist Tim Kirk’s dropcaps for the book.

(4) FEELIN’ GROOVY. John Coulthart has a gallery of “groovy” sf covers in “The art of Mike Hinge, 1931–2003” at { feuilleton }.

Back in March I ended my post on the psychedelia-derived art style that I think of as “the groovy look” with the words “there’s a lot more to be found.” There is indeed, and I’d neglected to include anything in the post by Mike Hinge, a New Zealand-born illustrator whose covers for American SF magazines in the 1970s brought a splash of vivid colour to the groove-deprived world of science fiction. This was a rather belated development for staid titles like Amazing and Analog whose covers in the previous decade wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Gernsback era. Opening the door to someone like Mike Hinge, a graphic designer as well as a general illustrator, was probably a result of both magazines having undergone recent changes of editorship.

(5) HEVELIN COLLECTION UPDATE. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.]Just found out the University of Iowa’s “Hevelin Collection” Tumblr account, which posted pics of items from Rusty Hevelin’s collection of fanzine and other SFnal material (but has been inactive for the last several years), announced about ten days ago they’re officially suspending the Tumblr. (But past posts will remain online for the foreseeable future.)

But you can still see over 700 fanzines, etc., from the Hevelin Collection in the Iowa Digital Library: Hevelin Fanzines — The University of Iowa Libraries.

And rather than single pictures like the Tumbler account did, the IDL archive leads to scans of the full contents, so far as I’ve tested it. Probably a fair amount of overlap with Fanac.org and eFanzines.com, but always good to have fannish history backed up in multiple places.

(The IDL archive may, it occurs to me, be old news to those who keep up with fanzines past and and present more than I do. “Slight” is a polite way to describe my level of involvement these days. Still, news to me.)

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • May 31, 1990 — On this day in 1990, Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall premiered. It starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, and Michael Ironside. It’s rather loosely based on Philip K. Dick‘s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” story. Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon and Gary Goldman wrote the screenplay. It finished second at Chicon V for Best Dramatic Presentation to Edward Scissorhands.  Most critics liked it well-enough though a number of feminist critics thought it excessively violent towards women. It currently holds a seventy-eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 31, 1893 – Elizabeth Coatsworth.  Newbery Medal for The Cat Who Went to Heaven (1930).  Four “incredible tales” for adults; four books of poetry; ninety in all; memoir Personal Geography.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1895 — George R. Stewart. As recently noted in the Scroll, his 1949 novel Earth Abides won the first International Fantasy Award in 1951. They were a British award and the first one, this very one, was given at Festivention. Other genre works would include Man, An Autobiography and Storm which is at least genre adjacent. (Died 1980.) (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1910 – Aubrey MacDermott.  Possibly the first fan.  He always said he was. Unfortunately, the supporting evidence is thin.  He may well have founded the Eastbay Club in the San Francisco Bay area around 1928.  Anyway, he was Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon XXXX (Oakland, 1987).  Here is his Origin Story as of 1990.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1921 – Arthur Sellings.  Six novels, fifty shorter stories, in Fantastic, Galaxy, Imagination, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, NebulaNew WorldsNew WritingWorlds of Tomorrow. Antiquarian, book & art dealer.  (Died 1968) [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1930 — Gary Brandner. Best remembered for his werewolf trilogy of novels, The Howling, of which the first was very loosely made into a film. He wrote the script for Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf. The fourth film of the series, Howling IV: The Original Nightmare, is actually almost an accurate adaptation of the first novel. He wrote a lot of other horror and penned the novelization of Cat People. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born May 31, 1942 – Brian Burley.  Active fan in Ohio and New York.  Co-founded Marcon.  In 1979 he was in FISTFA (Fannish Insurgent Scientifictional Ass’n); here he is (with S.H. Craig and Pat O’Neill) on “Fandom in New York” for the Lunacon XXII Program Book.  Co-founded the Beaker People Libation Front, which Fancyclopedia III mildly calls “not entirely serious”; see here.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1948 — Lynda Bellingham. She was The Inquisitor in the Sixth Doctor Story, “The Trial of The Time Lord”.  Other genre appearances include the Landlady in Hans Christian Andersen: My Life as a Fairy Tale, and one-offs in Blake’s 7Robin Hood and Julia Jekyll and Harriet Hyde. (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born May 31, 1950 — Gregory Harrison, 71. I’m always surprised to discover a series didn’t last as long as I thought it has. He was Logan 5 in the Logan’s Run TV series which only lasted fourteen episodes. He was also in Dark Skies, twenty episodes before cancellation, as the voice of Old John Loengard, and had one-offs in Dead Man’s Gun (cursed object and that series actually lasted awhile), Touched by an AngelOuter Limits and Miracles. (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1961 — Lea Thompson, 60. She’s obviously best known for her role as Lorraine Baines in the Back to the Future trilogy though I remember her first as Beverly Switzler in Howard the Duck as I saw Back to the Future after I saw Howard the Duck. Not sure why that was. Her first genre role was actually as Kelly Ann Bukowski in Jaws 3-D, a film I most decidedly did not see. If you accept the Scorpion series as genre, she’s got a recurring role as Veronica Dineen on it. (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1977 – Cat Hellisen, age 44.  Fantasy for adults and children; free-lance editing; also archery, aikidô, figure skating.  Six novels, a score of shorter stories.  “The Worme Bridge” won the Short Story Day Africa award.  More recently in Fife she likes the forests and the fields and the Forth.  Has read Giovanni’s RoomFlatlandHerland, five plays by Aeschylus, Peter Pan, both Alice books, Les liasons dangereusesThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1979 — Sophia McDougall, 42. She has a very well crafted alternative history series,  the Romanitas series, In which Rome did not fall and rules the world today. She has two SF novels —Mars Evacuees is sort of YA alien invasion novel; Space Hostages reminds of a Heinlein YA novel. (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1995 – Jeremy Szal, age 26.  One novel, thirty shorter stories.  Fiction editor at StarShipSofa 2014-2020 (Episodes 360-600).  Collects boutique gins.  See his review of Predestination at Strange Horizons here.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full could be making a combined Alice in Wonderland and Simon & Garfunkel joke. Or not.

(9) WRITING PROMPT. From Agatha Chocolats:

Popehat suggests: “Cthulhu fhtagn exact change only.”

(10) SHAVER MYSTERY MAGAZINE ADDED BY FANAC. “If you’ve been hearing the words ‘Shaver Mysteries’ bruited about, now’s your chance to see what all the fuss is over,” says Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari. Check here: Shaver Mystery Magazine, by Richard S. Shaver. There are 7 issues of this semi-pro, related zine. 

Siclari further says, “Some might not consider this a fanzine because rumor has it that it was paid for by Ray Palmer and Ziff-Davis. However the Shaver Mystery stories were a subject of great controversy in fanzines. So it is of related interest. It definitely was not a money-maker. It seems to fit into the category we later called a semi-prozine. And the art! McCauley, Finlay…”

(11) JUMPING IN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Pepe The Frog creator Matt Furie who is trying to recapture his character from the alt-right by creating non-fungible tokens featuring Pepe and other of Furie’s characters that have sold for up to $1 million. “Matt Furie is trying to reclaim his famous cartoon Pepe the Frog — through NFTs”.

To Furie, the NFT realm is about more than coin. During the era of Donald Trump, extremist social media users adapted Pepe so often that the Anti-Defamation League deemed it a hate symbol. But the exploding world of crypto-art is allowing the cartoonist to reclaim a character who was never meant to stand for much beyond love, peace, hedonism and altered-state chillaxin’.

“The NFT world is new, and there are a lot of optimistic people creating cool things,” Furie says of his interest in exploring non-fungible tokens — unique digital files whose origins and ownership can be verified.“Pepe does not have the baggage here that he does in the ‘real world,’ and I like working with utopians and optimistic freethinkers. There are so many possibilities.”

(12) A SCHULZ CURIOSITY. Cavna has also written: “Three ‘lost’ Charles Schulz strips have been rediscovered. Do they show the adult Lucy Van Pelt?”To some, they resemble “Peanuts” characters — if Charlie Brown and the gang had ever grown up.

These rare curiosities intrigue and baffle even the experts. “They’re a puzzle to me,” says Jean Schulz, wife of the late cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, who drew them.

They are the seven black-and-white works of comic art from the mid-’50s collectively called the “Hagemeyer” strips. Four of them have appeared in books. The three other “lost” strips were found and purchased at auction in May 2020— but have never been widely published, according to the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center.

(13) IT’S IMPOSSIBLE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] From this week’s Nature: “First Nuclear Test Created Impossible ‘Quasicrystals’”.

SF is full of exotic substances from Cavorite to Corbomite. Now it has been discovered that the world’s first nuclear bomb test created ‘impossible’ quasicrystals.

The previously unknown structure, made of iron, silicon, copper and calcium, probably formed from the fusion of vaporised desert sand and copper cables. Quasicrystals contain building blocks made up of arrangements of atoms that — unlike those in ordinary crystals — do not repeat in a regular, brickwork-like pattern. They have symmetries that were once considered impossible.

Materials scientist Daniel Shechtman first discovered such an impossible symmetry in a synthetic alloy in 1982. He won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery. In subsequent years, materials scientists synthesised many types of quasicrystal,
expanding the range of possible symmetries. In the aftermath of the Trinity test — the first detonation of a nuclear bomb in 1945 researchers found a field of greenish glassy material that had formed from the liquefaction of desert sand. They dubbed this trinitite. The bomb had been detonated on top of a 30-metre-high tower laden with sensors and their cables. As a result, some of the trinitite had reddish inclusions: it was a fusion of natural material with copper from the transmission lines. The quasicrystal recently found from this trinitite has the same kind of icosahedral symmetry as the one in Shechtman’s original discovery.

(14) NOW IN 3-D. Nature also reports on “The most detailed 3D map of the Universe ever made”.

A survey of the southern sky has reconstructed how mass is spread across space and time, in the biggest study of its kind. The data provide striking evidence that dark energy, the force that appears to be pushing the Universe to accelerate its expansion, has been constant throughout cosmic history.

The Dark Energy Survey (DES) collaboration revealed its results in an online briefing on 27 May and in several papers posted online1.

…The researchers grouped the galaxies by colour, to get a rough indication of each galaxy’s distance from our own: as the Universe expands, galaxies that are further away appear redder because their light waves have stretched out to longer wavelengths. That way, the team was able to add a third dimension to its map.

Looking further away also corresponds to looking to the past, so a 3D cosmic map provides a record of the Universe’s history. By tracking how galaxies spread out over time, cosmologists can then indirectly measure the forces at play. These include the gravitational pull of dark matter, the invisible stuff that constitutes some 80% of the Universe’s mass and dominates the formation of galaxies and clusters of galaxies.

(15) DRONE WARFARE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] It’s not exactly a Terminator-style HK-VTOL, but the first autonomous wartime kill by a robot might have happened last year in Libya. Gizmodo reports on the story: “The Age of Autonomous Killer Robots May Already Be Here”.

…“The lethal autonomous weapons systems were programmed to attack targets without requiring data connectivity between the operator and the munition: in effect, a true ‘fire, forget and find’ capability,” the UN Security Council’s Panel of Experts on Libya wrote in the report.

It remains unconfirmed whether any soldiers were killed in the attack, although the UN experts imply as much. The drone, which can be directed to self-destruct on impact, was “highly effective” during the conflict in question when used in combination with unmanned combat aerial vehicles, according to the panel. The battle resulted in “significant casualties,” it continued, noting that Haftar’s forces had virtually no defense against remote aerial attacks.

The Kargu-2 is a so-called loitering drone that uses machine learning algorithms and real-time image processing to autonomously track and engage targets. According to Turkish weapons manufacturer STM, it’s specifically designed for asymmetric warfare and anti-terrorist operations and has two operating modes, autonomous and manual. Several can also be linked together to create a swarm of kamikaze drones.

(16) CLOCKING IN. CBS Sunday Morning did a segment about “Exploring the boundaries of time travel”.

Breaking the bonds of time has been a timeless pursuit in science fiction stories and movies. Will it ever become science fact? Correspondent Faith Salie explores the possibilities of taking a journey to the future, or the past, even without a souped-up DeLorean.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Cruella Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spolier-filled episode, says that the only way to get viewers interested in Cruelle DeVil’s backstory–“How does she become the person who wants to skin puppies?”–is to have her work for a boss even more evil than her.  Also the screenwriter warns the producer that if he wants all those groovy hits of the 1970s in the movie, he’d better have plenty of money for the rights.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, David Langford, Jennifer Hawthorne, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little.]

Pixel Scroll 5/13/21 Sympathy For The Pixel

(1) STRANGE DOINGS AT EBAY. The online sales site eBay has reorganized a large number of categories and reclassified products into them. The new U.S. table is here: US_Category_Changes_May2021_NFT-update.

If you do a search for “comics” on that page, you’ll find that eBay has decided to retire the categories for “Superhero,” “Platinum Age”, “Golden Age”, “Silver Age”, etc. All listings are being moved into a general Comics & Graphic Novels category.

(2) LEVAR BURTON BOOK CLUB. “LeVar Burton launches a new book club: See first three picks” reports Entertainment Weekly.

The LeVar Burton Book Club launches Tuesday via the “social reading app” Fable, with selections handpicked by the actor. To start off, he’s chosen three books that “represent how my identity as a reader has been shaped,” he says: James Baldwin‘s semi-autobiographical novel Go Tell It on the MountainOctavia Butler‘s modern sci-fi classic Parable of the Sower, and the essay and poetry collection The Fire This Time, edited by Jesmyn Ward. (Baldwin’s book will serve as the first month’s pick, with three new titles being revealed every three months.)

“For me, if I’m going to start a book club, I’m going to begin with who I am and my story as a reader,” Burton tells EW. “Obviously, there are hundreds of books that have shaped my identity as a reader, and these three are really representative of an important aspect of that journey for me.”

And while all three are by Black authors, Burton takes care to emphasize that to view his book club as an exclusively Black book club “does me and the literature that I promote a great disservice.”

“I know I have demonstrated over time that my attitude towards literature is ecumenical,” he says. “As it happens, the first three books are by people who look like me, and if one wants to pigeonhole that, then that would be, in my estimation, their shortcoming. It’s nothing more than a starting point that reflects who I am.”

(3) KENYAN BOOKTUBERS. SFF history is being made! Thread starts here.

(4) MACHADO Q&A. CBC Radio posted a transcript of their interview with Carmen Maria Machado: “Author fights to keep her queer memoir on a Texas high school reading list — dildo and all”.

A couple weeks ago, author Carmen Maria Machado got a message from a friend that a video was circulating online that involved her memoir and an angry mom wielding a pink strap-on dildo.

The clip was from a Feb. 25 school board meeting in Leander, Texas. The woman was upset that Machado’s memoir, In The Dream House, was on an approved reading list for high school students.

The book, which chronicles Machado’s experience of being in an abusive relationship with another woman, contains a sex scene involving a dildo. The protesting parent read it aloud during the meeting while waving the sex toy around, according to the Austin American Statesman

That’s how Machado learned that her book is one of several that are up for review in Leander because of parents’ complaints. They are part of a book club program that allows students to pick and read one book each semester from a list of 15 chosen by their teachers for their grade level.

The school board told KVUE ABC that it has already removed six books from the program and is devising a policy to exclude “inappropriate literature for the assigned students’ ages.”

Also on the potential chopping block are books by Margaret Atwood, Jodi Picoult and Jacqueline Woodson, who, along with Machado, have penned an open letter with the free expression organization PEN America demanding the books remain available to students.

Machado spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off on Wednesday. Here is part of their conversation….

After this particular meeting, there’s a spokesperson for Leander [Independent] School District who said: “Our goal is to explore what the community feels are age-appropriate materials for classroom reading.” Is there a valid argument? Do you think that In The Dream House is a book that is age-appropriate for that group?

Professional educators chose the book for their students. This all started because a bunch of teachers were like: We want this book on this list. And that is their job. That is what they’re supposed to be doing.

Certainly there are books that are appropriate for certain ages, but I think saying that students at 17 and 18 can’t read anything with sex in it, and that there’s no value in a book like that for those students when your teachers have said otherwise, the people who you pay to educate your kids, that strikes me as very odd and very disingenuous.

The community is also not a monolith. Like, there are gay teens at that school. There are gay people in Leander, Texas. There gay people in Texas…. And it feels a little, I think, strange that this very conservative religious group can sort of make the agenda for all the other students.

Because the parents who want this, their kids did not have to read the book. They could have chosen a different book. They’re trying to remove the book from the list for all the students. So I don’t think it’s really about age-appropriateness. I mean, there’s a reason they they target books with gay content.

(5) SFWA AUCTION. The “Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association Online Silent Auction!” is in progress and will continue through May 17. It has raised $5,060 so far.

In addition to autographed books and manuscripts and other collectibles, the featured items include virtual career coaching and manuscript feedback sessions like these:

  • Virtual Career Coaching from N. K. Jemisin

A one-on-one 30-minute virtual career session with 2020 MacArthur Fellow N. K. Jemisin, the first writer to ever to win three consecutive Hugo Awards for Best Novel.

  • Virtual Career Coaching from Catherynne M. Valente

A one-on-one 30-minute virtual career session with Catherynne M. Valente, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of fantasy and science fiction.

  • Virtual Manuscript Feedback from Mary Robinette Kowal

The winning bidder on this item will enjoy a 30 minute Zoom discussion providing feedback on a story or an excerpt of a longer work, up to 3,000 words. An amazing opportunity to receive personal feedback from Hugo and Nebula Award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Mary Robinette Kowal.

(6) CHAIR-ITABLE CAUSE: [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Colin Howard did much of the cover art for Doctor Who‘s VHS releases. See his covers here for “The Android Invasion” and “The Green Death”. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis ten years ago which has affected his mobility. Currently, there’s a fundraiser to help him: “Fundraiser by Michelle Howard : Please help me get Colin back outside in nature”.

… Colin was diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis 10 years ago, this ridiculously talented artist, nature lover and extrovert.

Progressively as MS does it has taken away his mobility, his confidence and he has become more and more isolated. Unable to get outside with ease, making everything he does exhausting and unenjoyable.

We did buy a manual wheel chair, however it is heavy and he is now unable to use his arms to self propel and it’s so cumbersome and there is no pleasure or enthusiasm for him to use it. It’s become easier for him to stay home…. not good.

After doing tons of research I stumbled across this amazing wheel chair. For those of you who know Col, you’ll know what a huge fan of formula one he is. So you’ll know why I’ve chosen this model of wheel chair…. it has formula one technology… carbon fibre and super light….

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

May 13, 1994 — On this day in 1994, The Crow premiered. It was directed by Alex Proyas, written by David J. Schow and John Shirley. It was produced by Jeff Most, Edward R. Pressman and Grant Hill.  It starred Brandon Lee in his final film appearance as he was killed in a tragic accident during filming. It’s based on James O’Barr’s The Crow comic book, and tells the story of Eric Draven (Lee), a rock musician who is revived to avenge the rape and murder of his fiancée, as well as his own death. Critics in general loved it, it did well at the box office and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a ninety percent rating. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 13, 1907 – Daphne du Maurier.  Two novels, a score of shorter stories for us; a dozen other novels, three dozen other shorter stories, three plays, nonfiction e.g. The Winding Stair about Francis Bacon, memoirs.  “There are few strains more intolerable in life than waiting for the arrival of unwelcome guests,” The House on the Strand ch.13 (1969) – quoted as a reader’s favorite line on her Website.  (Died 1989) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1937 — Roger Zelazny. Where do I start? The first half of The Amber Chronicles are a favorite as is The Isle of The Dead,  Eye Of The CatHome is The HangmanTo Die in Italbar, and well, there’s very there’s very little by him that I can’t pick him and enjoy for a night’s reading. There’s to my knowledge only one thing he recorded reading and that’s a book he said was one of his favorite works, A Night in the Lonesome October. (Died 1995.) (CE)
  • Born May 13, 1940 – Rachel Ingalls.  One novel, ten shorter stories for us.  British Authors’ Club Award.  British Book Marketing Council named one of those ten, the novella “Mrs. Caliban”, among the twenty greatest from America since World War II.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1945 – Maria Tatar, Ph.D., age 76.  Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages & Literatures, and Chair of the Committee on Degrees in Folklore & Mythology, at Harvard.  Among her publications, The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy TalesThe Annotated Hans Christian AndersenThe Annotated African American Folktales (with Henry Gates).  “Alice [notice I don’t have to identify it any further – JH] is the world’s greatest book.  It’s one of the deepest books.”  [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1946 — Marv Wolfman, 75. He worked for Marvel Comics on The Tomb of Dracula series for which he and artist Gene Colan created Blade, and the Crisis on Infinite Earths series in which he very temporarily untangled DC’s complicated history with George Pérez. And He worked with Pérez on the direct-to-DVD movie adaptation of the popular “Judas Contract” storyline from their tenure on Teen Titans. (I’m not going to list his IMDB credits here. Hell he even wrote a Reboot episode!) (CE) 
  • Born May 13, 1949 — Zoë Wanamaker, 72. She’s been Elle in amazing Raggedy Rawney which was a far better fantasy than Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone ever waswhere she was Madame Hooch. And she was Cassandra in two Ninth Doctor stories, ”The End of the World” and “New Earth”. (CE)
  • Born May 13, 1951 — Gregory Frost, 70. His retelling of The Tain is marvelous. Pair it with Ciaran Carson and China Miéville’s takes on the same legend taking an existing legend and making it fresh it through modern fiction writing is amazing. Fitcher’s Brides, his Bluebeard retelling is an fantastic novel though quite horrific. (CE) 
  • Born May 13, 1951 – A.J. Austin, age 70.  Two novels (with Ben Bova), nine shorter stories.  Interviewed Forry Ackerman and Mike Resnick for Thrust.  Ten years hosting a midday call-in radio program in Connecticut.  [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1957 — Frances Barber, 64. Madame Kovarian, a prime antagonist during the time of The Eleventh Doctor showing up in seven episodes in totality. Fittingly she played Lady Macbeth in Macbeth at the Royal Exchange in Manchester. I’ve got her doing one-offs on Space PrecinctRed Dwarf and The IT Crowd.  (CE) 
  • Born May 13, 1981 – Kieran Yanner, age 40.  A dozen covers, half a dozen interiors; games; Magic: the Gathering cards; concept art.  Here is Before They Were Giants.  Here is Demon in White.  Here is Ghen, Arcanum Weaver.  [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1983 – Nate Ball, age 38.  Mechanical engineer, pole vaulter, beatboxer.  Eight Alien in My Pocket science-adventure chapter books for kids.  Here is Blast Off!  Here is Ohm vs. Amp. [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) BBC VS. FANFIC? iNews says “Doctor Who fans feel ‘demonised’ by BBC crackdown on fan fiction”.

But recently a number of fanfic creators have received worrying demands from the BBC to remove their work from the public domain, arguing that they are infringing on copyright. Under the question “Can I create Doctor Who fan fiction?” on the show’s online FAQ page, the BBC advises that while anyone is “welcome to write Doctor Who fiction for your own enjoyment, but we should remind you that it is not permitted for you to publish this work either in print or online.”

The rules – which were published in 2014 – were unknown to the majority of creators but were widely shared on Twitter this week in response to the BBC’s demands. In response, 21-year-old student Jamie Cowan has started a petition calling for the BBC Studios, the production company behind Doctor Who to offer the fans a seat at the table in these decisions.

Cowan’s petition is at Change.org: “Petition of concern about BBC Studios approach to Doctor Who fan content”. His reference to video clips suggests the BBC’s issue is about more than written Who stories. The petition only has 166 signatures as of this moment.

… The current experience of BBC Studios staff contacting fanfiction and fan audioplays about the own original non-profit ventures – is concerning.

The manual targeting of those who use clips of the show for review purposes or for ‘Top 10’ videos that strongly promote the episodes that they are discussing – is concerning.

We, of the Doctor Who fandom – both creators and the viewers of said creators – call upon you to make a strong reconsideration of the actions you are taking against passionate fans who are doing no damage to the sales or marketability of the brand….

(11) DISNEY RIDES UPDATE HITS A BUMP. “Disney takes ‘woke’ steps toward inclusivity, but sparks a conservative backlash” finds Yahoo! Entertainment.

…The “wench auction” was among the first to go in the exodus of classic-but-problematic Disney scenes. In 2018, the popular Pirates of the Caribbean ride got an overhaul when a redhead who had once been sold as a bride became a pirate instead.

Two years later, the theme park giant announced it was overhauling the Splash Mountain flume ride to lose its story line inspired by “Song of the South” — an outdated Disney film that the company no longer makes available to view because of its rosy view of post-Civil War plantation life. More recently, the company announced updates to the classic Jungle Cruise ride to remove “negative depictions of ‘natives’” and add new elements, just in time for a new movie out this summer….

But these changes aren’t taking place without pushback. Fans created a petition to “save” Splash Mountain from the new theme. Disney-focused sites are full of users who decry what they see as a progressive agenda in the parks, and announcements about updates are typically greeted with threats of a boycott. People who vocally advocate for revisions are often subjected to abusive messages….

The updates in the parks follow a shift in the company’s films over the past several decades. Anne Zimmermann, a lecturer in the Rollins College English department in Winter Park, Florida, said Disney’s princesses started becoming more inclusive, assertive and even feminist over the past couple of decades.

“Today’s generation, they are kind of expecting this of Disney, and they will tell you it’s long overdue,” said Zimmermann, who uses Disney stories in her classes.

At the same time, Disney has recognized that some of its older films include outdated and racist cultural stereotypes and has added warnings on its streaming platform or removed those movies from children’s profiles.

“They’re moving not just toward not being racist, but anti-racist,” Zimmermann said. “Changing the parks continues their own narrative of change.”

Her students visit Disney parks for field research — or, more recently, explore rides online — and flag those that strike them as problematic.

For now, there’s a laundry list of other nominees for eventual updates: the Peter Pan ride for stereotypical depictions of Indigenous people; a ride in Epcot’s Mexico area that includes broad stereotypes; Dumbo, which is based on a movie that includes racist tropes. Fan sites circulate longer lists of what rides might be under the microscope next, occasionally with outraged remarks: It’s a Small World, Hall of Presidents, Country Bear Jamboree.

Disney isn’t saying what is next, but the company has dedicated a team to making sure that updates are done right.

“You create experiences that will make people feel welcome, seen and heard and to let them know that their stories are just as important,” Carmen Smith, creative development and inclusion strategies executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, said in a video. “And so my responsibility is to look at what do we have now and does it resonate with our guest in making them more reflective of the world we live in.”

(12) TOXIC AVOIDER. Alan Yu interviews Amy Ratcliffe about her book A Kid’s Guide to Fandom at NPR: “How Kids Can Avoid Toxic Fandoms”.

…So how do fans navigate these communities, to find the good parts while being aware of the bad? It’s about teaching kids that there are … many other people who like the same things that they do in the same enthusiastic ways and hopefully, helping kids feel more comfortable and confident.

Amy Ratcliffe, managing editor for the pop culture site Nerdist, addresses this as part of her new book, A Kid’s Guide to FandomShe says it’s the book that she wishes she could have had when she was a young fan looking for others like her. Ratcliffe remembers growing up as a fan of the Wheel of Time series, using her family’s dial-up internet to visit online forums.

She says her objective is for kids to be aware of fandom, “that other people like the same things that you like … even if it’s one other person, like you’re not alone.”

“I still hear stories about young girls being bullied because they like Star Wars; they think they’re the only kid,” she says. “It’s about teaching kids that there are … many other people who like the same things that they do in the same enthusiastic ways and hopefully, helping kids feel more comfortable and confident.”

No one gets to decide who is a “real” fan

Ratcliffe explains in her book that some fans can become gatekeepers, people who want to decide who is or is not a “real fan.” Fans, she says, should never have to prove themselves.Ratcliffe herself has run into gatekeepers; once, at a Star Wars convention, a man saw her Rebel Alliance tattoo, “looked at the tattoo, looked at my then-boyfriend who was with me, and was like … completely serious by the way, no sarcasm, like, ‘oh that was really nice of you to get that tattoo for your boyfriend.'”

Her advice for younger fans who want to find communities is to start with groups or places that they know: a local library, or a game shop they go to with their family; to trust their instincts when they feel something is off; and to get an older sibling, a parent, or guardian involved….

(13) HE FINALLY GOT TO SPACE. In Heritage Auctions’ May 21 – 22 Space Exploration Signature Auction one of the items up for bid is this Apollo-Soyuz Test Project Flown Silver Robbins Medallion with a lot of history behind it:

Apollo-Soyuz Test Project Flown Silver Robbins Medallion, Serial Number 43F, Personally Presented by Deke Slayton to and Directly from the Estate of NASA Legend Chris Kraft, with Slayton’s Signed COA and Handwritten Letter of Appreciation. This 35mm sterling silver medal is one of only ninety-three flown (of 285 minted) aboard the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, the first international manned space effort, July 17-19, 1975, with U.S. crewmembers Thomas Stafford, Vance Brand, & Deke Slayton and Soviet crewmembers Alexei Leonov & Valery Kubasov. The obverse features the mission insignia depicting the docking maneuver above the Earth and the names of the mission and crewmembers. The reverse features the title “First Joint U.S.-U.S.S.R. Space Flight” and the engraved dates. The serial number is on the rim along with the sterling and Robbins hallmarks. This mission effectively ended the “Space Race” between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. We seldom are able to offer flown examples of this mission’s medal and this one is likely the nicest we have ever handled. A great candidate for grading and encapsulation.

If this were just a Robbins medal with astronaut or even crewmember-provenance, it would be desirable and valuable. When the history behind it is revealed, it becomes a very special item indeed. Deke Slayton was one of the original “Mercury Seven” but was the only one who never flew into space due to being grounded in 1962 with an atrial fibrillation. Ten years later, he was cleared to fly on Apollo-Soyuz with Dr. Kraft’s blessings. On December 1, 1975, Slayton met with Kraft and presented this medal to him loose in an envelope hand-addressed ” Dr. Chris Kraft/ Personal“. Additionally, inside was a December 1st-dated typed letter signed on NASA letterhead that reads: “I hereby certify that Apollo-Soyuz medallion, serial number 43F, was flown in space aboard the Apollo Command Module from July 15, 1975, through July 17, 1975, and that this medallion was presented to Dr. Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., on December 1, 1975. [signed] D. K. Slayton“. 

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

Pixel Scroll 3/12/21 All Unshielded Surfaces

(1) 2021 FAAN VOTING DEADLINE. FAAn Awards Administrator Nic Farey reminds everyone that today is the last day of voting – it closes tonight — March 12 — at midnight Pacific time. Guidelines and the ballot are available in The Incompleat Register 2020 [PDF file]

(2) SOLVING FOR PIE. Scott Edelman invites listeners to “Grab a slice of pie with Gil Roth” on Episode 140 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Gil Roth

I’ve been wanting to bring Gil to you for awhile, and had been hoping we’d be able to sneak away for a meal during either Readercon or the Small Press Expo, but neither occurred last year, at least not outside of a virtual space, and both will be virtual again this year. So as you listen, I’d like you to think of yourself as being with us at one of those cons, and tagging along as we head off to chat and chew.

We discussed his surprising (and my unsurprising ) guest with the greatest number of downloads, the advice John Crowley gave him about his potential writing career, how a guy who used to memorize X-Men comics got turned on to Love & Rockets, the way we process the deaths of former guests, the song he wants played at his memorial service, how to get often-interviewed guests not to regurgitate their favorite soundbites, why no comic book movie beats the first Superman, how he became the publisher of every letter Samuel R. Delany wrote in 1984, why during his days reviewing for The Comics Journal readers thought he was the secret identity of another writer, the Italo Calvino quote which has kept him going through the pandemic, and much more.

(3) YOUR IMAGINARY FRIENDS WHO WANT A PERCENTAGE. Victoria Strauss posted another Scam Alert at Writer Beware: “Paper Bytes Marketing Solutions and its Stable of Imaginary Agents”.

…To go with its brand-new name, Paper Bytes has initiated a brand new scam: a stable of imaginary literary agents. It’s an unusually detailed endeavor, with actual websites for each agent (albeit not very good ones) that include photos–some stock, some stolen–as well as made-up bios and false claims about who/what they represent. All share the email address @bookliteraryagent.com, which no doubt is convenient for the interchangeable roster of Paper Bytes marketers who inhabit these agent personas, but also makes them easier to track and expose.

I’ll list them all below. But first, How It All Works!…

…How to protect yourself?

1. Know how things work in the publishing world. Real literary agents don’t sell services to potential clients, or refer them to companies that do. Real agents don’t commonly contact writers out of the blue. The warnings at the Writer Beware website can help you recognize non-standard or predatory practices.

(4) ZIGGY STARDUST’S BROTHER BIGGY? Mental Floss recalls when “David Bowie Tried to Turn George Orwell’s ‘1984’ Into a Musical”.

The track list for David Bowie’s 1974 album Diamond Dogs offers a couple obvious clues about one source of inspiration: song titles include both “1984” and “Big Brother.” But Bowie didn’t just want to use themes from George Orwell’s 1984 on the record. As Open Culture reports, he initially hoped to turn the 1949 dystopian classic into a full-fledged musical of its own.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/x2xfpMMQIJ8 What form that musical was ultimately meant to take isn’t totally clear. According to Christopher Sandford’s biography Bowie: Loving the Alien, the adaptation would’ve been “a West End musical, with an accompanying album and film.” But in a Rolling Stone interview with William S. Burroughs from February 1974—just months before the release of Diamond Dogs—Bowie himself mentioned he was “doing Orwell’s 1984 on television.” It’s possible the project went through several iterations when the “Space Oddity” singer was still brainstorming it. But thanks to Orwell’s widow, Sonia (believed to be the basis for 1984‘s Julia), the musical never progressed past the incubation stage.

“My office approached Mrs. Orwell, because I said, ‘Office, I want to do 1984 as a musical, go get me the rights,’” Bowie explained in 1993, according to David Buckley’s Strange Fascination: David Bowie, the Definitive Story. “And they duly trooped off to see Mrs. Orwell, who in so many words said, ‘You’ve got to be out of your gourd, do you think I’m turning this over to that as a musical?’ So, they came back and said, ‘Sorry, David, you can’t write it.’” Since Bowie had already started “putting bits of it down” in the studio, the surprise rejection forced him to pivot quickly. His ill-fated musical became a concept album with Orwellian overtones.

(5) IT’S NEWS TO SOMEBODY. The publication of Matthew Yglesias’ article “Oh, the intellectual property rights you’ll extend” at Slow Boring has caught up with the already-played-out week-old Twitterstorm. Nevertheless, at the link you can read him make a case about copyright law, triggered by the Dr. Seuss controversy. 

…Regardless, under U.S. law, the copyrights last for the duration of their creator’s life plus 70 years — i.e., until 2061.

That’s a big change from how we did things in the Founders’ era, when copyrights lasted 14 years with an option to renew the copyright for an additional 14 years.

Since then, not only has Congress repeatedly extended the duration of copyright terms, they’ve even extended them retroactively, basically preventing Mickey Mouse (created in 1928) or Superman (created in 1938) from ever entering the public domain the way that 19th century characters like Frankenstein1 or Sherlock Holmes have.

I bring this all up because I think it’s relevant policy context for the recent controversy over Seuss Enterprises withdrawing six books from publication that were deemed problematic. Right-wing agitators have responded to this as if it’s the government censoring Dr. Seuss, and so out of solidarity with Dr. Seuss, they are buying non-canceled classics like “Green Eggs and Ham” in droves. But this is just not factual. Dr. Seuss has been dead for nearly 30 years. His heirs — likely these two stepdaughters, though that’s not entirely clear — canceled the books, and now are the ones reaping the financial rewards from the backlash to their own actions….

(6) BEHIND WANDAVISION. Marvel Entertainment dropped a trailer for “Marvel Studios’ Assembled: The Making of WandaVision”, a behind the scenes look at the series.

(7) MORE BINDING. The Verge reports on a trend toward “Making fanfiction beautiful enough for a bookshelf”.

… Lesure spends hours making sure each book looks unique and regal, but she has to be careful not to use any specific imagery that could land her in trouble.

That’s because the books Lesure crafts contain works of fanfiction, and she’s found an entire community of avid readers looking to turn their unauthorized digital favorites into physical treats.

Nothing about the process is simple. There are “literally hundreds of moments where I could do something wrong and everything falls to shambles,” Lesure, a student who started bookbinding during a gap year in 2019, told The Verge. Her process includes typesetting, redoing the typesetting, doing that again and again until it’s right, printing, folding, sewing, making the cover, and finally putting it all together.

Fanfiction has traditionally been confined to online sites like Archive of Our Own (AO3) and FanFiction.Net, but some of the most prolific artists within the space have found a way to help people enjoy their favorite titles in new ways: binding the stories into physical novels designed to read better and stand out on bookshelves. The crafts have helped bring some of the most popular unofficial stories set in Harry PotterStar Wars, and other universes onto shelves where they can sit right alongside their authorized counterparts.

(8) OUR BRIGHT FUTURE. The New York Times takes stock of the city’s inescapable barrage of LED sign advertising: “Am I in Manhattan? Or Another Sequel to ‘Blade Runner’?”

…Adrian Benepe, the former New York City Parks Commissioner and current head of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, sees “creeping Blade Runner syndrome” everywhere, from the clogged skies over Manhattan to the subways, which he rides to work every day from his home on the Upper West Side.

“They’re empty,” Mr. Benepe said. “I’ve been alone many times at rush hour. It’s eerie as hell.” He also finds the movie prescient in its depiction of a world saturated by intrusive, omnipresent advertising.

“Places in New York that used to not have advertising now have ads,” he said. “You can’t get away from it. It’s in the subways, it’s on the streets, it’s on barges. You never stop being assailed.”

Giant screens are nothing new, of course. But New York’s streetscape had been permeated as never before with twitchy, adhesively catchy LEDs, a trend that has only accelerated during the pandemic, with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announcing last summer the addition of 9,000 screens broadcasting “Covid-relevant safety information.”

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 12, 1927 –On this day in 1927, Metropolis premiered in Germany. It was directed by Fritz Lang. It was written by Thea von Harbou in collaboration with Lang. It  stars Gustav Fröhlich, Alfred Abel, Rudolf Klein-Rogge and Brigitte Helm. The film’s message is encapsulated in the final inter-title of “The Mediator Between the Head and the Hands Must Be the Heart.” In 2001 the film was placed upon UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, the first film so distinguished. It is considered one of the greatest films ever made, and has a 92% rating among audience members at Rotten Tomatoes.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • March 12, 1879 Alfred Abel. His best-known performance was as Joh Fredersen in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.  It wasn’t his only genre as Phantom, a 1922 German film, was fantasy, and my German is just good enough for years I studied it to see how much of work could be considered genre or genre adjacent. (Died 1937.) (CE) 
  • March 12, 1886 Kay Nielsen. Though he’s best known for his work with Disney for whom he did many story sketches and illustrations, not least for Fantasia and The Little Mermaid be it thirty years after his death, I’d be remiss not to note his early work illustrating such works as East of the Sun and West of the MoonHansel and Gretel and Andersen’s Fairy Tales. (Died 1957.) (CE) 
  • Born March 12, 1911 – Edmund North.  Major in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II.  Served a term as President of the screen branch of the Writers Guild of America.  A score of movies; co-winner of the Best Screenplay Oscar for Patton; for us, screenplay for The Day the Earth Stood Still – which, despite its staggering difference from Bates’ “Farewell to the Master”, I think a classic.  Coined Klaatu barada nikto.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • March 12, 1914 John Symonds. Critic of Alistair Crowley who published four, yes four, books on him over a fifty year period starting in the Fifties: The Great BeastThe Magic of Aleister CrowleyThe King of the Shadow Realm and The Beast 666. Needless to say the advocates of Crowley aren’t at all happy with him. Lest I leave you with the impression that his only connection to our community, he was a writer of fantasy literature for children including the feline magical fantasy, Isle of Cats  with illustrations by Gerard Hoffnung. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born March 12, 1916 – Richard Dorson, Ph.D.  Pioneering and possibly great folklorist – thus our neighbor; pioneering because, in his day, commercial and even arguably artistic success of retellings like Davy Crockett and inventions like Paul Bunyan were clouding the mind.  Coined urban legend and fakelore.  General editor, Folktales of the World.  Two dozen books, including a 1939 one on Crockett; Folk Legends of JapanAfrican Folklore.  “Suspicious of attempts by other disciplines –anthropology, sociology, and psychology, among others – to co-opt folk culture for their own … purposes…. emphasized the necessity for the accurate collection and documentation of folk materials” (quoted from this).  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • March 12, 1925 Harry Harrison. Best known first I’d say for his Stainless Steel Rat and Bill, the Galactic Hero series which were just plain fun, plus his novel Make Room! Make Room! which was the genesis of Soylent Green. I just realized I’ve never read the Deathworld series. So how are these? See OGH’s post on the Alex Cox animated version of Bill, the Galactic Hero here. (Died 2012.) (CE)  
  • March 12, 1933 Barbara Feldon, 88. Agent 99 on the Get Smart series. Other genre credits include The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and reprising her character on the short-lived follow-up to this series, Get Smart, done twenty years later. She didn’t have that much of an acting career though she did show up in the pilot of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. (CE) 
  • Born March 12, 1936 – Virginia Hamilton.  National Book Award, Newbery Medal (first black to win it), Hans Andersen Award, Wilder Award.  Amer. Lib’y Ass’n King-Hamilton Award named for her (and Coretta Scott King).  Eight novels (including Willie Bea and the Time the Martians Landed), thirty shorter stories, four collections for us; twoscore books all told.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • March 12, 1952 Julius Carry. His one truly great genre role was as the bounty hunter Lord Bowler in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. – oh, but what a role it was! Over the course of the series, he was the perfect companion and foil to Bruce Campbell’s Brisco County, Jr. character. He did have one-offs in The Misfits of Science, Earth 2Tales from the Crypt and voiced a character on Henson’s Dinosaurs. (Died 2008.) (CE) 
  • Born March 12, 1955 – Jim Mann, F.N., age 66.  Living in Pittsburgh, hard-working member of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) for whose NESFA Press he has edited a dozen books including The Compleat Boucher and The Rediscovery of Man (Cordwainer Smith).  Chaired Boskone 25 (with wife Laurie Mann) and 47.  Fan Guest of Honor (with LM), ArmadilloCon 27.  Fellow of NESFA (service award).  [JH]
  • Born March 12, 1963 – David B. Coe, Ph.D., age 58.  A score of novels, as many shorter stories (some under another name). Crawford Award for LobTyn Chronicle (trilogy).  Reviews and Robots called Time’s Children Best Fantasy Novel of 2018.  Interviewed in Strange HorizonsTeleport.  “We … construct our worlds twice…. for ourselves [and] again … digestible and entertaining and unobtrusive, not to mention elegant, poetic, even exciting….  all the necessary material – and not an ounce more….  [after we] have unraveled their mysteries … decided which elements … are most important to our stories.”  [JH]
  • Born March 12, 1971 – Rob St. Martin, age 50.  Six novels, one novelette, anthology Ages of Wonder (with Julie Cznerneda).   Has read Pride and PrejudiceThe Phantom TollboothA Tale of Two CitiesMoby-DickRomeo and JulietCurious George.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) GUARDIAN ANGLE. Lisa Tuttle has a new installment of “The best recent science fiction and fantasy – reviews roundup” at The Guardian in which she reviews Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley; Birds of Paradise by Oliver K Langmead; The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey; A History of What Comes Next by Sylvain Neuvel; and A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine.

(13) GEARING UP. I’m always ready to read more about the Antikythera mechanism: “Scientists may have solved ancient mystery of ‘first computer’” in The Guardian.

…The battered fragments of corroded brass were barely noticed at first, but decades of scholarly work have revealed the object to be a masterpiece of mechanical engineering. Originally encased in a wooden box one foot tall, the mechanism was covered in inscriptions – a built-in user’s manual – and contained more than 30 bronze gearwheels connected to dials and pointers. Turn the handle and the heavens, as known to the Greeks, swung into motion.

Michael Wright, a former curator of mechanical engineering at the Science Museum in London, pieced together much of how the mechanism operated and built a working replica, but researchers have never had a complete understanding of how the device functioned. Their efforts have not been helped by the remnants surviving in 82 separate fragments, making the task of rebuilding it equivalent to solving a battered 3D puzzle that has most of its pieces missing.

Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, the UCL team describe how they drew on the work of Wright and others, and used inscriptions on the mechanism and a mathematical method described by the ancient Greek philosopher Parmenides, to work out new gear arrangements that would move the planets and other bodies in the correct way. The solution allows nearly all of the mechanism’s gearwheels to fit within a space only 25mm deep….

(14) ROCKET’S RED GLARE. “Green Run Update: NASA Targets March 18 for SLS Hot Fire Test – Artemis”.

NASA is targeting Thursday, March 18 for the second hot fire of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s core stage at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

After performing tests to demonstrate that a recently repaired liquid oxygen pre-valve was working, the team has continued to prepare the core stage, its four RS-25 engines, and the B-2 test stand for the second hot fire at Stennis. Later this week, the team will power up the core stage again and do a final check of all its systems. Then, on March 16, two days before the test, they will power up the stage, starting the clock for the second hot fire….

(15) YOU ARE NUMBER SIX. Paul Weimer meets the challenge of reviewing the sixth book in a series: “Microreview [book]: Out Past the Stars by KB Wagers” at Nerds of a Feather.

… This is in many ways a very different book than the previous book, Down Among the Dead. Reading it in quick succession after the second book might give some emotional whiplash, it certainly is a gear shift. It’s much more like the first book of the Farian War trilogy, There Before the Chaos, in the sense that it builds up to a big set piece finale of a conflict. Unlike that first book, though, this book is much more about the action beats. 

This shows the range and power of the author across the three books, and sets them apart from the first trilogy as well, which is more adrenaline filled….

(16) TIGER TIGER. Elsewhere at Nerds of a Feather, Sean D assesses a novella by Aliette de Bodard: “Microreview [Book]: Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard”.

…This novella constantly shifts from plot point to plot point, that kept me on my toes without unmooring me into confusion. The craft involved with implementing poetic language that benefits the atmosphere, pacey scenes that never lose focus, and characters that I felt like I knew inside out by the story’s conclusion, deserves kudos. Mostly because the novella juggles a small, insulated cast of characters with subterfuges and violence that impact other kingdoms. Fireheart Tiger is like an expansive web that leaves the reader in the center of it, while also skillfully and pithily letting them know of all its disparate parts.

(17) ELDRITCH SCIENCE. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert couples an alarming report with a Cthulhu reference. “Quarantinewhile… Please Stop Reviving Ancient Pathogens From The Sea Floor”.

Quarantinewhile… In “Hey, maybe don’t do that” news, Japanese scientists are experimenting on 100-million-year-old bacteria that wake up from their slumber when brought to the surface and provided with food.

(18) PIPING AT THE GATES OF DAWN. And speaking of Lovecraft –

[Thanks To John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, rcade, Nic Farey, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Michel Toman, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 5/24/20 He Was A Bug-Eyed, Lizard-Gorn, Filing Purple Pixel Scroller

(1) VIRTUAL BALTICON IN-PROGRESS REPORT. The Sunday Edition of the Virtual Balticon 54 Newsletter Rocketmail, which can be downloaded here, says the total unique attendance on Zoom for all of Friday was 1,343 and on Saturday 2,787 people. This does not count the fans participating on other platforms. The newsletter also contains Masquerade participant info, and fundraising totals.

Balticon runs through tomorrow, and you can access it in a variety of ways. Dale S. Arnold explains:

You can of course continue/start enjoying the Virtual Balticon 54 by going to WWW.balticon.org and choosing links off the schedule and or links on the platform page. You can ghost by just watching the YouTube and Twitch feeds which stream the items each hour that the most people signed up for participating on that item in zoom if you prefer not to register on zoom as well…. Programs continue all the way through Monday…

However, they are running a GoFundMe to pay the virtual freight.

For the record as of 5:20 AM on 5/24/20 the total GoFundMe donations are at $11,065.00 gifted by the generous fans that are making Virtual Balticon 54 possible. An additional $495.00 has come into the BSFS paypal account during the GoFundMe campaign by folks who did not want to use GoFundMe using the http://www.bsfs.org/donate.htm link. The BSFS treasurer reports that “almost” $2,000.00 has also been received as checks and or people donating their B45 memberships instead of taking a refund.

(2) FANFIC DISPUTE GOES TO COURT. There’s a lawsuit in progress over reuse of fanfic tropes in commercial genre fic. It could have repercussions well beyond hyper-niche erotica. The New York Times devotes a long article to the litigation: “A Feud in Wolf-Kink Erotica Raises a Deep Legal Question”.

…Then, in 2018, Ms. Cain heard about an up-and-coming fantasy writer with the pen name Zoey Ellis, who had published an erotic fantasy series with a premise that sounded awfully familiar. It featured an Alpha and Omega couple, and lots of lupine sex.

…Ms. Cain urged Blushing Books to do something. The publisher sent copyright violation notices to more than half a dozen online retailers, alleging that Ms. Ellis’s story was “a copy” with scenes that were “almost identical to Addison Cain’s book.” 

… “You have to make sure you use the tropes of Omegaverse in order to be recognized by fans of the genre,” Ms. Ellis said. “Crave to Conquer” and its sequel, “Crave to Capture,” were published in early 2018 by Quill Ink Books, a London company she founded. Readers gave the series glowing reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, calling it “sensational new Omegaverse!” and the “best Omega yet.”

In late April 2018, Ms. Ellis got an email from a reader who had ordered one of her books from Barnes & Noble, then learned that it wasn’t available anymore. She soon discovered that all of her Omegaverse books had disappeared from major stores, all because of a claim of copyright infringement from Ms. Cain and her publisher. Ms. Ellis found it bewildering.

“I couldn’t see how a story I had written using recognized tropes from a shared universe, to tell a story that was quite different than anything else out there commercially, could be targeted in that way,” Ms. Ellis said. “There are moments and scenarios that seem almost identical, but it’s a trope that can be found in hundreds of stories.”

A lawyer for Ms. Ellis and Quill filed counter-notices to websites that had removed her books. Some took weeks to restore the titles; others took months. There was no way to recover the lost sales. “As a new author, I was building momentum, and that momentum was lost,” Ms. Ellis said. And she worried that the “plagiarist” label would permanently mar her reputation.

Ms. Ellis decided to sue. “Everything would have been in question, my integrity would have been questioned, my ability to write and tell stories — all of that would have been under threat if I didn’t challenge these claims,” she said.

In the fall of 2018, Quill Ink filed against Blushing Books and Ms. Cain in federal court in Oklahoma, where Ms. Ellis’s digital distributor is based, seeking $1.25 million in damages for defamation, interfering with Ms. Ellis’s career, and for filing false copyright infringement notices. In the suit, Quill’s lawyers argued that “no one owns the ‘omegaverse’ or the various tropes that define ‘omegaverse.’”

Ms. Ellis’s lawyers thought they had a strong position. But they struggled to find a prior case that addressed whether fan fiction tropes could be protected by copyright….

The biggest development in the case so far is that Blushing Books has left Ms. Cain to contest the matter alone. Last year, the publisher conceded that no plagiarism or copyright infringement had occurred, and a judgment was entered against the company, which paid undisclosed monetary damages to Quill and Ms. Ellis. (Ms. Cain is now self-publishing.)

Ms. Ellis and her publishing company filed a new civil suit against Ms. Cain in her home state of Virginia, arguing that she maliciously directed her publisher to send false copyright infringement notices to retailers. Ms. Cain’s lawyers have denied the claims, and have lined up authors, bloggers and readers as witnesses.

If the judge, or a jury, finds Ms. Cain in the wrong, the case would send a message to overzealous genre writers that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is not to be abused. By the same token, authors of genuinely original stories might find they have one fewer legal lever to protect their work. And a victory by Ms. Cain could encourage a free-for-all, emboldening authors to knock back competitors and formally assert their ownership of swaths of the fan fiction universe and common tropes in genre fiction.

Discovery is ongoing, and a pretrial conference before a judge is scheduled for June. In the meantime, the Omegaverse continues to thrive. This year, more than 200 new books from the genre have been published on Amazon.

The latest batch draws on virtually every genre and trope imaginable: paranormal shifter romances, paranormal Mpreg romances, reverse harem romances, sci-fi alien warrior romances. There are fantastical Alpha-Omega stories featuring witches, unicorns, dragons, vampires, wolf-shifters, bear-shifters, and wolf-shifters versus bear-shifters. There are comparatively pedestrian Omegaverse romances about celebrity chefs, dentists, frat boys, bakers, bodyguards and billionaires. In a teeming multiverse of stories, the tropes are still evolving, inexhaustible.

(3) MEXICANX INITIATIVE REMEMBERED. This San Antonio Current story shows John Picacio, winner of SFWA’s 2020 Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award, is also a hometown hero: “San Antonio Science Fiction Artist John Picacio Wins Award for Opening Door to Mexicanx Talent”.

… “Many of the folks I selected were rising stars such as David Bowles, Julia Rios and Marcela Davison Aviles,” Picacio said. “The Initiative enhanced their networks, but the vast majority of my picks were much newer talents to the field. The industry badly needs their cultural perspective and their voice right now.”

(4) AFRICAN SFF AT STORYBUNDLE. The “African Speculative Fiction Bundle curated by Ivor W. Hartmann” is available from StoryBundle. Same deal as always – “Support awesome authors by paying however much you think their work is worth!”

This is the most comprehensive collection of African speculative fiction authors ever assembled. With the complete bundle containing nearly 100 authors and over 145 works it stands both as an excellent introduction to the rapidly evolving canon of African SF and a unique one-time collection of their works. From established stars you might know such as Nnedi Okorafor, Tade Thompson, and Sarah Lotz, to upcomers like Wole Talabi, Chinelo Onwualu, Nerine Dorman, Dilman Dila, and so many more.

The road to this bundle has been paved by the work of countless African writers, editors, publishers, and most importantly readers. For too long was the African experience, imagination, and insight, held captive and until relatively recently only glimpsed through the thick lens of other cultures and their inherent biases. In a big way this is what the new wave of African Speculative Fiction is about: telling our own stories, revealing our vibrant cultures from within, sharing our unique perspectives, and writing ourselves into futures that for so long seemed to spell our doom by virtue of our absence.

(5) CLASSIC RETURNING. “Battlestar Galactica Reboot Producer Sam Esmail Teases the New Series” at Comicbook.com.

[Sam] Esmail says he never planned to helm the series himself. “I’m a huge fan of Ronald Moore’s Battlestar, but I don’t know if I’m great at hard sci-fi like that,” he says. “I love it. I’m a fan of it. But I knew early on that we were going to have to bring somebody in to run the room and to write the scripts.”

He went to explain why the job went to Lesslie, who is best known for the miniseries The Little Drummer Girl. “He’s just a fantastic writer,” Esmail says. “I loved his series, Little Drummer Girl, and the one thing that really struck me about him and his take for Battlestar, one of the reasons I even wanted to do Battlestar, was that the way Ron Moore, what he did with his remake in the early 2000s where it was this sort of hard sci-fi series with lots of action set pieces and really this exciting sci-fi adventure but purely grounded in an allegory of what was going on at the time, which was post-9/11. And it wasn’t that subtle, the links, I would say. But because he was also attuned to the sci-fi nature of the show, you didn’t feel it.

“When I was approached to do Battlestar now, it has to have that same sort of dynamic. It can’t be just a retread of what he already did so masterfully back then. What are we saying about today’s world? And Mike just had this great take, and I’m not going to go into it because obviously, I don’t want to spoil it for fans, but you kind of see it a little bit in Little Drummer Girl where politics plays a big part in it but without compromising the entertainment value, because in my opinion, you’ve got to have that….” 

(6) SUPER RESOURCE. There’s always a ton of news at the Superman Supersite about the iconic Kryptonian and those who keep the legend going. It’s where I found out about this new series: “’Superman & Lois’ Detailed Synopsis and Premiere Announced”.

The CW Network has announced that “Superman & Lois” will officially premiere in January, 2021 when the network launches its new season.

…In “Superman & Lois”, after years of facing megalomaniacal supervillains, monsters wreaking havoc on Metropolis, and alien invaders intent on wiping out the human race, the world’s most famous superhero, The Man of Steel aka Clark Kent (Tyler Hoechlin, “Teen Wolf”) and comic books’ most famous journalist, Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch, “Grimm”), come face to face with one of their greatest challenges ever – dealing with all the stress, pressures and complexities that come with being working parents in today’s society. Complicating the already daunting job of raising two boys, Clark and Lois must also concern themselves with whether or not their sons Jonathan (Jordan Elsass, “Little Fires Everywhere”) and Jordan (Alexander Garfin, “The Peanuts Movie”) could inherit their father’s Kryptonian superpowers as they grow older.

Returning to Smallville to handle some Kent family business, Clark and Lois are reacquainted with Lana Lang (Emmanuelle Chriqui, “Entourage”), a local loan officer who also happens to be Clark’s first love, and her Fire Chief husband Kyle Cushing (Erik Valdez, “Graceland”). The adults aren’t the only ones rediscovering old friendships in Smallville as the Kent sons are reacquainted with Lana and Kyle’s rebellious daughter, Sarah (Inde Navarrette, “Wander Darkly”). Of course, there’s never a dull moment in the life of a superhero, especially with Lois’ father, General Samuel Lane (Dylan Walsh, “Nip/Tuck”) looking for Superman to vanquish a villain or save the day at a moment’s notice. Meanwhile, Superman and Lois’ return to idyllic Smallville is set to be upended when a mysterious stranger (Wolé Parks, “All American”) enters their lives.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 24, 1957 Quatermass 2 premiered In the U.K. It was produced by Anthony Hinds, and directed by Val Guest. It’s a sequel to The Quatermass Xperiment. Screenplay was by Nigel Kneale and Val Guest.  It stars Brian Donlevy, John Longden, Sid James, Bryan Forbes, Vera Day, and William Franklyn. Like the first film, some critics thought it was a lot of fun, some were less than impressed. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a respectable sixty percent rating. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz!]

  • Born 24 May 1794 – Rev. Dr. William Whewell.  Pronounced “hew-ell”.  Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, 1841-1866. Crater on the Moon named after him.  Mathematician, Anglican priest, historian of science.  Coined the words scientistphysicistlinguisticsosmosisionastigmatism.  Royal Medal for organizing thousands of volunteers internationally to study ocean tides.  Clifton Fadiman put him here by anthologizing in Fantasia Mathematica this poem.  (Died 1866) [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1917 – Irving Cox.  Five dozen stories in AmazingAstoundingCosmosFantasticFutureIfImaginationOrbitRocket StoriesSaturnSF AdventuresSF QuarterlySF StoriesUniverse – and that’s just some of the prozines we’ve had – translated into French, German, Italian.  You can read ten of his stories from 1953-1960 here.  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1925 Carmine Infantino. Comics artist and editor, mostly for DC Comics, during the late 1950s known as the Silver Age of Comics. He created the Silver Age version of the Flash (with writer Robert Kanigher), Deadman with writer Arnold Drake and the Elongated Man (with John Broome). He also introduced Barbara Gordon as a new version of Batgirl. Infantino wrote or contributed to two books about his life and career: The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino (Vanguard Productions and Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1928 – William Trevor.  Whitbread Prize for The Children of Dynmouth, reviewed by Elaine Cochrane in SF Commentary 60/61, p. 26 [PDF]; two more Whitbreads; Hawthornden Prize; Saoi; four O. Henry Awards (not limited to U.S. authors since 2002).  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born 24 May 1930 – Terri Pinckard.  Stories in Fantasy BookVertex; wrote the Introduction to Womanthology (F. Ackerman & P. Keesey eds. 2003).  Told the L.A. Times (3 Jun 99) that when we landed on the Moon “I cried.  Science fiction writers were the ones who dreamed it.”  With husband Tom hosted the Pinckard Salon; Big Heart Award to both, 1984; the Salon drew Ackerman, Bloch, Bradbury, Daugherty, George Clayton Johnson, C.L. Moore, Niven, Pournelle, Roddenberry, Spinrad, and like that.  Dian Girard dedicated Tetragravitron (as by J.D. Crayne) to “Members of the Pinckard Salon”.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1935 W. P. Kinsella. Best I’d say known for his novel Shoeless Joe which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams, one of the few films that Kevin Costner is a decent actor in, ironic as the other is Bull Durham. Kinsella’s other genre novel is The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and it’s rather less well-known than Shoeless Joe is but it’s excellent. He also edited Baseball Fantastic, an anthology of just what the title says they are. Given that he’s got eighteen collections of short stories listed on his wiki page, I’m reasonably sure his ISFDB page doesn’t come close to listing all his short stories. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1945 Graham Williams. He produced three seasons of Doctor Who during Tom Baker’s era as the Fourth Doctor. He’d write a novelization of his story, The Nightmare Fair, developed as a Sixth Doctor story but never filmed when Colin Baker’s contract was terminated. He would die at home of an accident gunshot wound. (Died 1990) (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1949 Barry Windsor-Smith, 71. Illustrator and painter, mostly for Marvel Comics. Oh, his work on Conan the Barbarian in the early Seventies was amazing, truly amazing! And then there was the original Weapon X story arc involving Wolverine which still ranks among the best stories told largely because of his artwork. And let’s not forget that he and writer Roy Thomas created Red Sonja as partially based on Howard’s characters Red Sonya of Rogatino and Dark Agnes de Chastillon. (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1960 Michael Chabon, 60. Author of the single best fantasy novel about baseball, Summerland which won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. His other two genre novels, Gentlemen of the Road and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, winner of Best Novel at Denvention 3, are stellar works in themselves. He was Showrunner for the first season of Picard but will be Executive Producer for the upcoming season. (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1960 Doug Jones, 60. I first saw him as Abe Sapien on Hellboy, an amazing role indeed. To pick a few of my favorite roles by him, he’s  in Pan’s Labyrinth as The Faun and The Pale Man (creepy film), a clown in Batman Returns, the Lead Gentleman in the “Hush” episode of Buffy and Commander Saru on Discovery
  • Born May 24, 1965 – Shinichirô Watanabe.  Co-directed Macross Plus; directed Cowboy Bebop, alternative-history Samurai ChamplooSpace DandyCarole & Tuesday.  Blade Runner – Black Lotus is in the works.  Don’t ask me why my host’s daughter at the Yokohama Worldcon was rehearsing The Magic Flute but I don’t know any of my fellow gaijin rehearsing Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees.  [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1985 – Isabelle Melançon.  Drawings in Oziana and The Baum Bugle.  Oz found its way into the Webcomic that Isa co-authors, Namesake – or vice versa.  Here’s a sketch for Quibbling and even one for Hamilton – will this man write The Federalist?  [JH]

(9) SUPERERO GENESIS. In the Washington Post, African-American author Tre Johnson discusses how he is using the language and ideas of superheroes to enable him to cope with the pandemic. “The coronavirus has made the waking world into a dreamscape”.

A more perfect origin story would’ve had a superheroic tinge. Maybe I’d be sitting in my apartment, on the couch, contemplating how to move safely about Philadelphia when a clatter of glass would erupt and a ball of coronavirus — the size of a grapefruit with the spiny ridge of a porcupine — would bound through my window, roll to my feet and pulse with exhaustion. I’d stare at it and think Yes, father, that is what I will do, I will become an anti-virus. And that would be the reason to don the mask that I now wear daily when I walk my neighborhood.

(10) BAKE ME A CAKE AS FAST AS YOUR CAN. And mark it with a “C” – for corona. “Pandemic-Baking Britain Has an ‘Obscene’ Need for Flour” – the New York Times has a full accounting.

A week before Britain came to a standstill in mid-March, the Wessex Mill found itself fielding nearly 600 calls a day requesting one of the country’s hottest commodities: flour.

The mill in Oxfordshire has produced nearly 13,000 small bags of flour each day during the coronavirus pandemic, a fourfold increase. Demand led Emily Munsey, a flour miller who runs the business with her father, to hire more staff and add afternoon and night shifts to keep the mill running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the first time in its 125-year history.

“It’s been very challenging as a company. The amount of work we’ve all had to do has increased a huge amount,” said Ms. Munsey, who has since scaled back to five days a week, though still around the clock, to give employees a weekend break. “Demand remains consistently obscene.”

Commercial mills produce nearly four million tons of flour each year in Britain, according to the National Association of British and Irish Flour Millers. With much of the country stuck at home, baking has surged, and retail-size flour bags have become scarce on grocery shelves.

The coronavirus outbreak has flooded social media with #coronavirusbaking and #quarantine cookies. Yeast is in short supply, and butter sales have soared. In April, Google searches for cake, bread and flour skyrocketed….

(12) CURTAIN CALL. [Item by JJ.] Anthropomorphic phone — I’m calling it genre.

(13) READING IN THE NEW CAPTAIN. Ted Anthony, in the Associated Press story “Kirk 2.0:  Capt. Pike of the New ‘Star Trek’ A Welcome New Icon” says he welcomes Christopher Pike as the captain of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds because he sees James T. Kirk as “an interstellar Don Draper–brooding, arrogant, a top-down manager who earned his privilege but often presumed it” and thinks Pike will be a more responsible captain.

…It’s not accidental that Pike is the son of a father who taught science AND comparative religion — an embodiment of the empiricism-faith equation that “Star Trek” and its captains have always espoused. In many ways, in fact — even more so than Chris Pine in the movie reboots — Pike functions as James T. Kirk 2.0.

(14) COSMIC CREEPOUT. “Every ‘I Have A Bad Feeling About This’ In Star Wars Movies”: ScreenRant tries to round up every time someone said they had a bad feeling about something.

…However, George Lucas’ wonderful world of science fiction space opera has also provided the world with a series of timeless movie quotes. “May the Force be with you” has taken on a life of its own and “I am your father” is now a staple of Father’s Day greetings cards. In more recent years, less prominent quotes have come to the fore thanks to the onset of meme culture, “it’s a trap!” being the most famous. Now The Mandalorian is getting in on the act with “this is the way” and “I have spoken.

But undoubtedly one of the most famous utterances in the Star Wars universe is “I have a bad feeling about this,” …

(15) A WHOLE NEW BALL GAME. As reported last month (item 13), Lou Antontelli is running for Congress in Texas. But this week the district’s Republican incumbent John Ratcliffe resigned his seat to accept appointment as director of National Intelligence. With no incumbent to run against, shit just got real! And at least one Texas paper (besides the one owned by the candidate himself) thinks it’s terrific that Lou Antonelli is running: “Libertarians field viable candidate for District 4 seat”. The question is how well these pearls of wisdom will play with the locals:

… Antonelli said his goal running as a third party candidate is to inject original ideas into the discussion, and push for the Libertarian Party to become the second party in the district, displacing the Democrats.

“Can you imagine how much better our political system would be if the two major parties were the Republicans and Libertarians, instead of the Republicans and Democrats?” Antonelli asked. “Libertarians are the loyal opposition, as opposed to the Democrats, who are the disloyal opposition.”

Antonelli said Libertarians stand for hacking away strangling bureaucracy at all levels of government, and returning as much authority as possible to individuals.

“Thanks to the Covid pandemic, we have all gotten a free trial of socialism,” he said. “How do you like it?”

(16) ON YOUR MARK: “Nasa SpaceX launch: Astronauts complete rehearsal for historic mission”

Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have completed their dress rehearsal for Wednesday’s flight to the International Space Station.

The mission, the first crewed outing from American soil in nine years, will see the pair ride to orbit in a SpaceX Falcon rocket and Crew Dragon capsule.

It’s a demonstration of the new “taxi” service the US space agency will be buying from the Californian firm.

Lift-off on Wednesday is timed for 16:33 EDT (20:33 GMT / 21:33 BST).

The weather around the Kennedy Space Center in Florida may have other ideas, however.

A forecast released on Saturday by the US Space Force 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron predicted just a 40% chance of favourable conditions come launch time.

There is a strong possibility the Kennedy complex could see thick cloud, rain and even thunder.

If controllers are forced to scrub, everyone will come back on Saturday for a second try.

Hurley and Behnken are now all but done with their preparations.

The weekend “Dry Dress” rehearsal saw the pair don their made-to-measure spacesuits, walk out to a Tesla, and then make a 6km drive down to Kennedy’s famous Launch Complex 39A.

(17) GET SET: “Nasa SpaceX launch: Who are the astronauts?”

On 27 May, two US astronauts will achieve a world first when they launch to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a spacecraft built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Here, BBC News profiles the astronauts who will make the historic journey.

Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are about to break a nine-year hiatus for Nasa, becoming the first astronauts to launch from US soil since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.

…”It’s well past time to be launching an American rocket from the Florida coast to the International Space Station and I am certainly honoured to be a part of it,” Hurley, 53, said earlier this month.

Behnken, 49, added: “On my first flight… I didn’t have a son, so I’m really excited to share the mission with him.”

Nasa has chosen two of its most experienced astronauts to help California-based SpaceX ready the Crew Dragon for launch. The two are also longstanding friends.

“Being lucky enough to fly with your best friend… I think there’s a lot of people who wish they could do that,” says Hurley.

When they blast off atop a Falcon 9 rocket, their spouses will know exactly what they are going through. That’s because they’re astronauts too.

(18) GO: “Nasa SpaceX launch: What’s the mission plan?”

On Wednesday, the California company SpaceX will launch a mission to the International Space Station (ISS). It’s something the firm has done many times before, taking cargo to the sky-high laboratory. But on this occasion, the firm will be transporting people.

It’s one of those seminal moments in the history of spaceflight.

When Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken lift off atop their Falcon-9 rocket, inside their Crew Dragon capsule, it will mark the first time humans have left US territory to reach low-Earth orbit in almost nine years.

But more than that, it sees a shift to the commercialisation of human space transportation – of companies selling “taxi” rides to government and anyone else who wants to purchase the service.

This page details the key phases in the mission sequence.

Launch will occur from the Kennedy Space Center’s Complex 39A. This is the famous Florida pad from where the Apollo 11 moonwalkers and the very first shuttle, Columbia, also began their missions.

(19) CLASSIC OR STINKER? In the Yahoo! Entertainment story “The ‘Lost’ finale at 10: Why viewers loved and hated ‘The End'”, Ethan Alter says even though it was 10 years since Lost ended, controversy continues over whether the ending of the show was brilliant or stupid. UH, SPOILERS, I GUESS?

…What the duo decided to do was to design a finale that emphasizes character over mystery. “The End” plays out in two realities: the mysterious island where mystical forces and weird science live side-by-side, as well as the “Flash sideways” timeline where Jack and the rest of the castaways were back in the real world, albeit leading different lives than what we saw in the flashback sequences that were a major part of previous seasons. The island-based sequences are explicitly devoted to tying up some, though not all of the loose ends: Jack has a final confrontation with the Man in Black, currently housed in the body of John Locke (Terry O’Quinn); Hurley (Jorge Garcia) becomes the new protector of the island, with Ben Linus (Michael Emerson) as his sidekick; and pilot Frank Lapidus (Jeff Fahey) gets everyone else — including Kate (Lilly), Sawyer (Holloway) and Claire (Emilie de Ravin) — the heck out of dodge. As the plane soars away from the island, a mortally wounded Jack watches it depart from his final resting place as his eyes close, a direct nod to the first shot of the first episode….  

(20) WHO SAW IT COMING? Usually we’re filling in this blank with Philip K. Dick’s name. See how bad things have gotten, that PKD isn’t the answer! “2020 Is One Great Big George Saunders Story” says InsideHook.

…But there is one author who predicted these dumb and absurd times: George Saunders. 

The MacArthur “Genius” and Booker Prize-winning Saunders has been publishing darkly hilarious visions of America since the early 1990s. Zadie Smith has said “not since Twain has America produced a satirist this funny” while The New York Times noted “no one writes more powerfully than George Saunders about the lost, the unlucky, the disenfranchised.” Perhaps the archetypal Saunders story is “Sea Oak,” which follows a trod-upon worker at an aviation-themed male strip club called Joysticks: “Guests rank us as Knockout, Honeypie, Adequate, or Stinker. Not that I’m complaining. At least I’m working.” At home, his family lives in a dangerous neighborhood and anesthetizes themselves with reality TV shows like How My Child Died Violently while fantasizing about the American dream, summarized by one character as “you start out in a dangerous craphole and work hard so you can someday move up to a somewhat less dangerous craphole. And finally maybe you get a mansion.”

(21) JANELLE MONÁE. On Late Night with Seth Meyers Janelle Monáe talks about David Byrne using one of her songs in his musical American Utopia, a musical she wrote as a child and her efforts to help communities during the pandemic.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/21/19 Oh, This Is The Scroll, It’s A Beautiful Scroll, And We Call It Pixela Scrollte

(1) DALLAS TORNADO. Fanartist David Thayer and his wife Diana had a close call last night but are unscathed themselves:

A tornado with winds of 165 m.p.h. cut a swath through Dallas just a mile south of our house yesterday evening after dark. A powerful gust snapped the trunk of our 70 ft mesquite halfway up and sent it crashing down into our front yard. The only property damage we sustained was to our yard light. Seeing all the destruction in the news this morning, we are thankful we came through relatively unscathed.

(2) AVENGERS ASSEMBLE. Just in case the Marvel Cinematic Universe needs any defense against the negative opinions of Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, a couple of well-known figures connected with the MCU have spoken up.

James Gunn:

Many of our grandfathers thought all gangster movies were the same, often calling them “despicable”. Some of our great grandfathers thought the same of westerns, and believed the films of John Ford, Sam Peckinpah, and Sergio Leone were all exactly the same. I remember a great uncle to whom I was raving about Star Wars. He responded by saying, “I saw that when it was called 2001, and, boy, was it boring!” Superheroes are simply today’s gangsters/cowboys/outer space adventurers. Some superhero films are awful, some are beautiful….

Natalie Portman:

I think there’s room for all types of cinema,” she told The Hollywood Reporter at the 6th annual Los Angeles Dance Project Gala on Saturday at downtown Los Angeles’ Hauser & Wirth. “There’s not one way to make art.”

“I think that Marvel films are so popular because they’re really entertaining and people desire entertainment when they have their special time after work, after dealing with their hardships in real life.”

(3) HOW EAGER ARE YOU? ESPN will be airing the final trailer for Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker tonight during Monday Night Football.

(4) NAVIGATING THE ROCKETS SAFELY HOME. In “What happened to the 1944 Retro Hugos?”, Nicholas Whyte asks fans to consider the burden of producing a whole run of trophies when it’s this hard to find homes for them after the ceremony. Of course, the job would have been a little easier if the nominees with accepters had won:

…I’m glad to say that we did have a few designated acceptors in the room on the night. Apart from those noted below, Betsy Wollheim was on hand in case her father Donald won (unfortunately he lost in all three categories where he was nominated); June and Naomi Rosenblum were there for their father-in-law/grandfather J. Michael Rosenblum; Stephanie Breijo was there for her great-grandfather Oscar J. Friend; and Harper Collins sent a rep for C.S. Lewis. So, for 66 finalists, we had acceptors on hand for 10. Future Worldcons might like to bear that in mind when planning whether or not to run Retro Hugo Awards.

This is what happened with the trophies, in increasing order of the difficulty we had in dealing with them….

(5) HOUSE CALL. Can it be that we are about to have a visit from the Doctor and his companion? (No, not that one.)

(6) TARDIGRADES LITIGATION RESUMES. Plagiarism Today’s Jonathan Bailey urges against a court appeal in “An Open Letter to Anas Abdin”

Three weeks ago, it seemed as if the Tardigrades lawsuit was over. Anas Abdin’s lawsuit was tossed decisively and at an early stage, Abdin himself said, “I respect the ruling and I expect everyone to do so,” and there seemed to be little interest in any kind of an appeal.

However, that respect for the decision did not last long. On Friday, Abdin announced that he was appealing the verdict and was launching a GoFundMe to finance the campaign. As of this writing, that campaign has raised more than $17,500 from more than 470 donors and is inching closer to its $20,000 goal….

(7) CONFACTS. Kees Van Toorn announced that all issues of ConFacts, the daily newsletter of ConFiction, the 1990 Worldcon, have been uploaded on their archival website in flipbook format.

(8) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present David Mack and Max Gladstone on November 20,  2019.

David Mack is a New York Times bestselling author of over thirty novels of science fiction, fantasy, and adventure. His most recent works are The Midnight Front and The Iron Codex, parts one and two of his Dark Arts trilogy from Tor Books. He currently works as a creative consultant on two upcoming Star Trek television series.

Max Gladstone is the author of Empress of Forever, the Hugo finalist Craft Sequence, and, with Amal El-Mohtar, This is How You Lose the Time War, in addition to his work with short and serial fiction, games, screenwriting, and comics. He has been a finalist for the Hugo, John W Campbell /Astounding, XYZZY, and Lambda Awards, and was once thrown from a horse in Mongolia.

The event starts at 7 p.m. in the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.) in New York, NY.

(9) FANFICTION. Sff writer Sara L. Uckelman, Assistant Professor of logic and philosophy of language at Durham University, issued an invitation: “Anyone interested in the paper behind the talk, my paper ‘Fanfiction, Canon, and Possible Worlds’ can be downloaded here.”

…The study of fanfiction from a philosophical point of view raises a number of questions: What is fanfiction?  What distinguishes it from ordinary fiction? How can we make sense of what is going on when people create and interact with fanfiction?  In this paper, I consider two competing accounts of fanfiction—the derivative or dependent account and the constitutive account—and argue that these competing views parallel two competing ways in which a possible worlds account of fiction can be fleshed out, namely, Lewis’s modal realist account and Kripke’s stipulative view. I further argue that this parallel is not a mere parallel, but provides us with a test of adequacy for the possible worlds accounts: It is worthless to provide a philosophical account of the theoretical foundations of fiction if such an account doesn’t coordinate with the actual practice and production of fiction. 

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 21, 1977Damnation Alley premiered. Based somewhat on Zelazny’s novel, it starred George Peppard as Major Eugene “Sam” Denton and Jan-Michael Vincent as 1st Lt. Jake Tanner. It bombed and was pulled quickly. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is 34%.  For now at least, it’s on YouTube here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 21, 1904 Edmond Hamilton. One of the prolific writers for Weird Tales from the late 20s to the late 40s, writing nearly eighty stories. (Lovecraft and Howard were the other key writers.) Sources say that through the late 1920s and early 1930s Hamilton wrote for all of the SF pulp magazines then publishing. His story “The Island of Unreason” (Wonder Stories, May 1933) won the first Jules Verne Prize as the best SF story of the year. This was the very first SF prize awarded by a vote of fans, which one source holds to be a precursor of the Hugo Awards. From the early 40s to the late 60s, he work for DC, in stories about Superman and Batman. He created the Space Ranger character with Gardner Fox and Bob Brown. On December 31, 1946, Hamilton married fellow science fiction author and screenwriter Leigh Brackett. Now there is another story as well. (Died 1977.)
  • Born October 21, 1914 Martin Gardner. He was one of leading authorities on Lewis Carroll. The Annotated Alice, which incorporated the text of Carroll’s two Alice books, is still a bestseller. He was considered the doyen (your word to learn today) of American puzzlers. And, to make him even more impressive, in 1999 Magic magazine named Gardner one of the “100 Most Influential Magicians of the Twentieth Century”.  Cool! (Died 2010.)
  • Born October 21, 1929 Ursula Le Guin. She called herself a “Narrative American”. And she most emphatically did not consider herself to be a genre writer instead preferring be known as an “American novelist”. Oh, she wrote genre fiction with quite some brilliance, be it the Earthsea sequence,  The Left Hand of DarknessThe Dispossessed, or Always Coming Home. Her upbringing as the daughter of two academics, one who was an anthropologist and the other who had a graduate degree in psychology, showed in her writing. And the home library of the family had a lot of SF in it. If you’re interested in the awards she won in her career, she garnered  the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award, and World Fantasy Award. At last she was also awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters It won’t surprise you that she was made a SFWA Grandmaster, one of the few women writers so honored. (Died 2018.)
  • Born October 21, 1933 Georgia Brown. She’s the actress who portrayed Helena Rozhenko, foster mother of Worf, in the Next Gen’s “Family” and “New Ground” episodes. She was Frau Freud in The Seven-Percent Solution, and was Rachel in “The Musgrave Ritual” episode of the Nigel Stock fronted Sherlock Holmes series. (Died 1992.)
  • Born October 21, 1945 Everett McGill, 74. Stilgar in the first Dune film. Earlier in his career, he was a Noah in Quest for Fire. Later on, he’s Ed Killifer in License to Kill, and in Twin Peaks, he’s Big Ed Hurley. He was also Rev. Lowe in Stephen King’s Silver Bullet, a werewolf flick that actually has a decent rating of 55% at Rotten Tomatoes! 
  • Born October 21, 1956 Carrie Fisher. In addition to the original Star Wars trilogy, Star Wars Holiday SpecialThe Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the forthcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, she was in Amazon Women on the Moon, The Time Guardian, Hook, Scream 3, and A Midsummer Night’s Rave. (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 21, 1973 Sasha Roiz, 45. I know him only as Captain Sean Renard on Grimm but he’s also been Sam Adama on Caprica as well. And he’s also been on Warehouse 13 in the recurring role of Marcus Diamond. He even showed up once on Lucifer as U.S. Marshal Luke Reynolds.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz makes a nifty dinosaur pun.

(13) UNLIKELY BONANZA. Joseph Hurtgen studies the illustration of an economic system in a Hugo-winning novel: “Gateway – Frederik Pohl: A Critique of Capitalism”.

…Consider the name of the alien space station for which Pohl’s book gets its name: Gateway. In the same way that taking highly random and highly dangerous alien space flights is the gateway to potential wealth, the capitalist system is also the gateway to the extreme fortune of the limited few that have, through luck or pluck, benefited most from the system. But no billionaire earns their riches without exploiting populations. Behind every fortune are the underpaid, the underfed, the forgotten, and the have nothings. The capitalist system, most simply defined, is a system of using the work of others and the work of wealth itself, to gain more wealth. It doesn’t take too much mental work to see that people are a form of capital in the capitalist system. Indeed, within capitalism everything is a form of capital. The best capitalist is the individual that figures out how to make more out of what they have….

(14) MYLNE’S GENRE ART. Artist James Mylne has been in the news lately (see, for instance ITV: “Boris Johnson turns into The Joker in new artwork”) for a political commentary that leans heavily on a genre reference. Filers might, therefore, be interested to know that his work has sometimes borrowed from other genre sources also. Example below.

(15) SOLARIS ON STAGE. Those passing through London between now and November 2 can see the play Solaris (nearest tube/metro/underground is Hammersmith).

On a space station orbiting Solaris, three scientists have made contact with a new planet.

Sent from earth to investigate reports of abnormal activity on-board, Kris Kelvin arrives to find one crew member dead and two who are seeing things that cannot be explained.

When her dead lover appears to her, it seems she too has fallen victim to the mystery of this strange planet. Should she return to reality, or is this her chance to turn back time?

Have the crew been studying Solaris – or has it been studying them?

This psychological thriller asks who we are when we’re forced to confront our deepest fears.

(16) ATWOOD PROFILE. Behind a paywall in the October 12 Financial Times, Horatia Harrod has a lengthy interview with Margaret Atwood.

In Oryx and Crake, Atwood wrote about a world decimated by environmental catastrophe; her understanding of the fragility of the Earth and the rapaciousness of its human inhabitants came early.  “My father was already talking about this over the dinner table in 1955,” says Atwood, who has been committed to raising awareness of the climate crisis for decades (she promised her 2000 Booker Prize winnings to charities dedicated to endangered animals.  “There is so much data and evidence.  But people would rather adhere to a belief system that favours them. So, what view of the climate is going to make more money for me?”

Atwood’s mother, meanwhile, was a tomboy, whose favored pastimes were speedskating, horseback riding, canoeing, fishing, not doing housework.  “I can’t think of much she was afraid of. This is a mother who chased a bear away with a broom, saying the following word:  ‘Scat!’” There were other tough female role models:”Inuit women, who have done some pretty spectacular things.  My aunt Ada, who I named a character in The Testaments after, was a hunting and fishing guide, and a crack shot with a .22.”

(17) PLANETARY ANTHOLOGIES MIGRATE. Superversive Press has dropped the Planetary Anthologies line says Declan Finn, whose contribution, Luna, is awaiting publication. (Indeed, a search on Amazon showed Superversive Press books as a whole are now only available from third-party vendors.) However, Finn says another publisher is stepping up.

The Planetary Anthology series is being discontinued.

In fact, even the five anthologies that have been published already have been discontinued. They will no longer be available for sale online from the publisher.

Which is odd for me. Especially after a year where the Area 51 anthology I was in this year was conceived of, edited, and released in 3 months from call for stories to publication.

So, yeah, the original publisher isn’t doing them anymore.

Finn says “the anthologies have all been picked up again by Tuscany Bay Books,” the imprint of Richard Paolinelli whose own unpublished Planetary Anthology, Pluto, will be next to appear. Contributors to these anthologies have included Jody Lyn Nye, Dawn Witzke, Lou Antonelli, Paolinelli, L Jagi Lamplighter, Hans G. Schantz, John C. Wright, Joshua M. Young and many others.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Lego In Real Life TRILOGY” on YouTube, Brick Bros. Productions looks at what happens when common household objects turn into Legos.

[Thanks to Camestros Felapton, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (please roll him a meatball).]

Sheila Willis Passes Away

Filker Sheila Willis, part of the filk music group “Technical Difficulties”, has died, reportedly of a heart attack. (Exact date unknown.)

“Technical Difficulties “ with Willis, Linda Melnick and T.J. Burnside (now T.J. Burnside Clapp) won a Pegasus Award (“For Excellence In Filking”) at the Ohio Valley Filk Fest in 1989. Their recording “Come You Knights” [YouTube] is available online. The group’s legend persists – it even garnered a mention in The Drink Tank #300.

Sheila Willis also co-edited Fifth Season, a Blake’s 7 fanfic zine, and contributed art to other zines celebrating the tv show, including Southern Seven and Vault of Tomorrow.

Sheila Willis illo from Southern Seven.

[Thanks to Susan de Guardiola and Andrew Porter for the story.]