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

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

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

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

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

A short break followed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 11/5/20 007 Of Nine

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

Where To Start

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

Do I have a consistent style or theme?

Do I have a project to share?

Am I comfortable being held accountable for my output?

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

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

Are you a good teacher?

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

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

William Gibson

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

Cat Rambo

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

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

Kara Swisher

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

Jeff Vandermeer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The county also elected its first Black sheriff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video linked from the article.

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

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

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

Not at the KGB Bar, Hunts in Weird October with Joe Hill and Laird Barron

By Mark L. Blackman: On the night of Wednesday, October 21, the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series in a pre-Halloween event featured horror writers Joe Hill and Laird Barron. In its new normal (or abnormal), with the Series’ longtime venue, the KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village shut down due to the pandemic (though it’s starting to reopen with limited capacity), for the eighth time, the presentation was livestreamed on YouTube. (Hill called the Bar “one of my New York City happy places.” Missing the full KGB Bar experience, I considered climbing several flights of stairs before logging on.)

As the evening began, Hill and Barron schmoozed with co-hosts Ellen Datlow (who has been hosting these readings for 20 years) and Matthew Kressel about everything from what they were and weren’t drinking (Madeira is too sweet), masks and pizza breath, candied bacon (a mix of sweet and savory), and that no one liked getting apples or food trick or treating. Kressel relayed that the evening was sponsored by Tor’s Nightfire line (and not by Jeffrey Toobin), then introduced the first reader.

Laird Barron is the author of several books, including The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us AllSwift to Chase and Worse Angels., and short fiction that has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, “stories about the evil that men do.” He spent his early years in Alaska and currently resides in the Rondout Valley in upstate New York. His reading selection was “Lorn,” a work in progress set in the wilderness around a dying town (“Lorn” is all that remained on its sign), which he began with a caution that it was “R-rated” and included animal violence. “Animals can be murderers,” he said, and related a true story about a Husky serial killer that had slaughtered sled dogs. Two brothers, Paul and Casey Arnaz, are recruited by an old buddy to hunt a predator killing the area’s pets; it could be a late eccentric’s menagerie on the loose or “local yokels who’ve gone back to the old ways.”

During a break, Hill was asked about the TARDIS behind him. He and his family were huge fans of David Tennant’s stint as the Doctor, and he even (with help from Neil Gaiman) pitched stories to Doctor Who; but they don’t, never have and never will accept scripts written by Americans. Datlow segued into his introduction.

Joe Hill (yes, I saw Joe Hill last night) is the author of Full ThrottleStrange Weather, The Fireman, NOS4A2, Heart-Shaped Box and Horns, the short story collection 20th Century Ghosts, and the comics and graphic novels Locke & Key, Basketful of Heads and Plunge.(the latter under his Hill House Comics imprint with DC, ). Much of his work has been adapted or is in development for film and TV. He is, incidentally, the son of Stephen and Tabitha King, and, he joked, his wife “collects writers’ tears.”

He read from “Faun,” a short story in Full Throttle. A very wealthy young man is invited to a presentation in Boston about joining a curated hunt in Maine. For a quarter of a million dollars he can go through a little door and stalk a faun (a variety of satyr, a goatman with hooves and horns). (Hill got to do a Maine accent and a sort of Mickey Mouse voice.) The story alludes to Bradbury’s “A Sound of Distant Thunder,” but, as Hill revealed during the Q&A that followed, was also inspired by Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia; however, instead of decent English children going through a wardrobe, here a spoiled young man is the traveler. Imagine running hunts, he said, into Middle Earth or Narnia, he said.

The Q&A and discussion that followed was far-ranging. The X-Files, Hill thought, was better as a romance (will they or won’t they) than as horror (the monster of the week). Is it easier to write horror when the world feels like a horror story? Barron said that he’s as isolated as when he lived in the woods. Hill said that when he writes, he’s buried in the mechanics of each paragraph, and described himself as “a wicked overwriter” (“Faun” should have been shorter, had “fewer words”). What he writes, he felt, “isn’t scary;” other people’s stories scare him.

Some horror stories, Hill continued, are “like comfort food;” Barron also finds horror “comforting” – “there’s a filter.” In some horror stories (and movies), observed Datlow (who’s edited more than a few horror anthologies), the good are saved and evil punished, though not always. Said Hill, if you make sacrifices, the worst things in the world can be driven back. Horror reminds us of our shared humanity. “Good horror is about empathy, not sadism” (“torture porn”).

The conversation shifted, appropriately, to horror movie viewing for Halloween. Barron said that a favorite was John Carpenter’s The Thing, also Hawks’ and Campbell’s short story “Who Goes There?” Datlow cited Personal Shopper, Get Out and Hereditary. Hill quipped that his horror viewing was the next night’s Presidential Debate. The Swedish film Sauna and Let the Right One In were also mentioned.

Favorite villain? Hannibal Lecter was shared, though Barron liked Nicholson’s. Hill said that he wants heroes to root for, but then cited Walter White and Bruce the Shark from Jaws, who’s “the perfect menace.” Barron observed that Jaws is, in essence, “a slasher film.” The shark is a shark; she isn’t evil. This reminded Datlow of Peter Watts’ “The Things,” The Thing from the Thing’s point of view.

Datlow concluded by announcing upcoming readers:

  • November 18: William Gibson and Cat Rambo
  • December 16: Priya Sharma and Justin Key
  • January 20, 2021: Lauren Beukes and Usman T. Malik
  • February 17: Kathleen Jennings and Shveta Thakrar

All dates are the third Wednesday of the month. The new setup allows readers from all over the world, noted Datlow, though time zones do limit things.

Pixel Scroll 10/2/20 In The Case Of An Emergency Landing, Your Pixel May Be Used As A Scroll

(1) 2020 DONATION. Literary Hub reports “Namwali Serpell will donate Clarke Prize money to those protesting Breonna Taylor’s murder.”

Within an hour of hearing that she had won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, a top honor given to science fiction published in the UK, Namwali Serpell also heard the news that the police officers who killed Breonna Taylor would not be charged for her murder.

“I received these two pieces of news about being a black woman in 2020 and it felt like a kind of whiplash, but it’s a feeling I’ve grown used to,” she told the BBC. “So I’ve been trying to figure out how to acknowledge both the honor that this award grants to my novel and the feeling that the political revolution I’m describing in the novel is yet to come.”

She decided to donate her prize money, £2,020.00, to the Louisville Community Bail Fund, with the goal of helping those who have been detained while protesting Breonna Taylor’s death….

(2) THE WHOLE TRUTH. Ross Showalter says “Writing Fantasy Lets Me Show the Whole Truth of Disability” at Electric Lit.

…I tried to find a replacement for a show I’d outgrown. I wanted to find representation, something that could comfort and validate me as I move through a world that doesn’t accommodate me. I couldn’t find anything that reflected my real experience.

What I found instead was horror and fantasy.

Instead of real-world dramas like Switched at Birth, I started watching darker fare like Hannibal and Teen Wolf. Even though I couldn’t relate specifically to lycanthropy or hyper-empathy that borders on telepathy, I related with the emotional arcs these shows presented; both shows follow their protagonist trying to find their place in a world that either persecuted them or paid them little attention. I found myself rapt at the way they presented identity and community. Both Hannibal’s blood-soaked surrealism and Teen Wolf’s paranormal fantasy hit harder—and felt more relevant to my experience—than any realistic portrayal of deafness I found.

(3) RHIANNA ON RADIO. Today’s BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour has an interview with Rhianna Pratchett, the fantasy games designer and author, about her work, her latest book and includes a bit on her life with dad.. Rhianna’s interview is about 35 minutes in. The program can be downloaded as an .mp3

(4) KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB readings on October 21 with Joe Hill and Laird Barron will be livestreamed on YouTube at 7 p.m. Eastern. Link forthcoming.

Joe Hill

Joe Hill is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Full ThrottleStrange Weather, and The Fireman, among others. Much of his work has been adapted or is in development for film and TV. His third novel NOS4A2 was the basis for the AMC program of the same name, while his comic Locke & Key — co-created with artist Gabriel Rodriguez — is now a hit series for Netflix. The fall sees the release of five graphic novels under his Hill House Comics imprint with DC, including his own Basketful of Heads and Plunge.

Laird Barron

Laird Barron spent his early years in Alaska. He is the author of several books, including The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us AllSwift to Chase, and Worse Angels. His work has also appeared in many magazines and anthologies. Barron currently resides in the Rondout Valley writing stories about the evil that men do.

(5) SNOWBALL EFFECT. A lesson in keeping the work working for you, “The Big Idea: Jane Yolen” at Whatever.

… And sometimes magic happens. A poem turns into a picture book. A short story turns into a novel. A novel or a picture book turn into films or tv shows. The magic is not the turning, it is in the money! As my late agent said, “It can’t be reprinted unless it’s printed.” Which made me understand why sometimes you can sell an 8-line poem for a hundred dollars and someone pays $10,000 to reprint it. This actually happened to me. Once. But once is enough for a story and a moral lesson.

But if you write a lot of short stuff…it can become BIG. And what was a small idea (a scary story in Asimov’s magazine, another two or three in various Datlow anthologies, or Greenberg anthologies, or…And suddenly you have a Big Idea—a collection. 

(6) NOT THE END. “On Reengaging with Franz Kafka’s Astonishing Worlds” as encouraged by LitHub.

…Unofficial and incomplete texts are nothing new to readers of Franz Kafka; the problems of textual authority haunt nearly all his work. Kafka’s aesthetic practice cultivates a resistance to finality and what Judith Butler calls a “poetics of non-arrival.” The bulk of the literary output he left to posterity, as Michael Hofmann notes, “ends” rather than “finishes.” More crucially, all of Kafka’s novels, and a considerable haul of his short stories, beast fables, and aphorisms, owe their existence to Max Brod’s refusal to honor his best friend’s wish and burn all the manuscripts in his possession (unlike Kafka’s last lover Dora Dymant, who destroyed those in her keeping). The material in The Lost Writings is no more fringe or “lost” than any other unfinished text like The CastleThe TrialAmerikaThe Great Wall of China,” “Investigations of a Dog,” or “The Burrow,” since Kafka’s publication history has been determined by the accidents of editorial preferences and decisions over the last century.

Regardless, Kafka, along with his editorial and translational collaborators, is one of our most prolific contemporary writers… 

(7) C.S. LEWIS READINGS. On the Marion E. Wade Center blog David C. Downing writes about the availability of “The ‘Lost’ C. S. Lewis Tapes on the Ransom Trilogy and Chaucer” to listeners.

The only thing better than reading C.S. Lewis’s novels would be listening to Lewis himself read from his novels. It is now possible to hear Lewis reading from both Perelandra (1943) and That Hideous Strength (1945). Additionally, Lewis fans can listen to him reading the famous opening section of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in resonant Middle English.

The Marion E. Wade Center, in partnership with the Rabbit Room, is releasing all three segments of “The Lost Lewis Tapes” to the public. Excerpts of the tapes, along with in-depth analysis of the Ransom trilogy, are available for free on the Wade Center Podcast. All three segments (45-minutes in total) are now available in the Rabbit Room store.

These tracks were first recorded at Lewis’s home, the Kilns, in August 1960. After Joy Davidman Lewis passed away in July 1960, her former husband, Bill Gresham, traveled to Oxford to see his two sons, David, 16, and Douglas, 14, as well as to meet Lewis face to face. Gresham brought a portable tape recorder with him and apparently asked Lewis if he would do some readings….

(8) SAFETY FIRST. The mask makes a good point.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

October 1920 — The Belgian detective Hercule Poirot  first appeared in Agatha Christie’s first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which was published by John Lane in hardback though the first true publication was as a weekly serial in The Times which included the maps of the house and other illustrations included in the book. This novel would be one of the first ten books published by Penguin Books when it began publishing in 1935. If you need a genre connection, David Suchet who played the most popular Poirot showed up in the Twelfth Doctor story, “The Landlord”, and Agatha Christie herself is portrayed in the Tenth Doctor story, “The Unicorn and The Wasp”.  

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 2, 1885 – Ruth Bryan Owen.  Pioneer filmmaker, first woman U.S. ambassador (to Denmark; appointed by F.D. Roosevelt).  Collected Scandinavian fairy tales, The Castle in the Silver Wood.  Many adventures at home and abroad.  Wikipedia entry here.  (Died 1954) [JH]
  • Born October 2, 1906 – Willy Ley.  Early student of rocket science.  Gifted author of science-fact articles, two Hugos for them.  Fled Nazi Germany 1935.  Rockets (1944); The Conquest of Space (1949, with Chesley Bonestell).  Science column in Galaxy 1951-1969.  Rockets, Missiles, and Space Travel (1957).  Regular participant at SF cons; sole Guest of Honor at Philcon II the 11th Worldcon.  One novel; four shorter stories under another name.  Much more in and out of our field.  (Died 1969) [JH]
  • Born October 2, 1909 – Alex Raymond.  Outstanding pro artist for us with Flash Gordon.  After combat service in the U.S. Marines, drew the also excellent Rip Kirby (detective fiction; won a Reuben).  Eisner Hall of Fame, Soc. Illustrators Hall of Fame.  (Died 1956) [JH]
  • Born October 2, 1911 Jack Finney. Author of many novels but only a limited number of genre, to wit The Body SnatchersTime and Again and From Time to Time. He would publish About Time, a short story collection which hah the time stories, “The Third Level” and “I Love Galesburg in the Springtime”. (Died 1995.) (CE) 
  • Born October 2, 1944 Vernor Vinge, 76. Winner of five Hugo Awards, none for what I consider his best series which is the Realtime/Bobble series. I’m also very fond of his short fiction, much of which is collected in The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge, though the last eighteen years’ worth of his work remain uncollected as far as I can tell. (CE) 
  • Born October 2, 1947 – Ann Broomhead, F.N., 73.  Chaired two Boskones (22 & 51), co-chaired two (12 & 33).  Edited Reynolds, Deep Navigation Co-edited (with Tim Szczesuil) Bellairs, Magic Mirrors; Dozois and others, Strange Days; Stross, Scratch Monkey.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award).  [JH]
  • Born October 2, 1948 Avery Brooks, 71. Obviously he’s got his Birthday write-up for being Benjamin Sisko on Deep Space Nine, but I’m going to note his superb work also as Hawk on Spenser: For Hire and its spinoff A Man Called Hawk which are aren’t even genre adjacent. He retired from video after DS9 but is an active tenured theater professor at Rutgers. (CE)
  • Born October 2, 1968 – Range Murata, 52.  Animémanga, video games.  Seiun for Best Artist of the Year, 2006.  Character designer on Last Exile, see here.  A 2015 interview (in English) here.  [JH]
  • Born October 2, 1953 Walter Jon Williams, 67. The last thing I read by him was his most excellent Dagmar Shaw series which I highly recommend. I also like his Metropolitan novels, be that SF or fantasy, as well as his Hardwired series. I’m am surprised how few Awards that he’s won, just three with two Nebulas,  both for shorter works, “Daddy’s World” and “The Green Leopard Plaque”, plus a Sidewise Award for “Foreign Devils”.  (CE) 
  • Born October 2, 1972 Graham Sleight, 48. He’s The Managing Editor of the third edition of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction which won the Hugo for Best Related Work at Chicon 7. He’s also a critic whose work can be found in LocusStrange HorizonsThe New York Review Of Science Fiction, and Vector. And he’s a Whovian who edited The Unsilent Library, a book of writings about the Russell Davies era of the show, and The Doctor’s Monsters: Meanings of the Monstrous in Doctor Who. (CE) 
  • Born October 2, 1974 Michelle Krusiec, 46. She was the eighteen-year-old Molly O’Brien in DS9’s “Time’s Orphan’s”. She had a recurring role as Nadine Park on the fourth season of Fringe, and appeared as Wu Mei on Community which we’ve agreed is almost genre, if not genre. She showed up on Supergirl as Natalie Hawkings in “Parasite Lost”. (CE) 
  • Born October 2, 1981 – Leah Wilson, 39.  Currently Editor-in-Chief for BenBella Books’ Smart Pop.  Here is an interview about Through the Wardrobe (i.e. C.S. Lewis’ Narnia) from Ben Bella’s Teen Libris.  Here is Boarding the “Enterprise”.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off The Mark has a genre take on mask wearing.
  • And xkcd has a brilliant chart comparing the effectiveness of various masks.

(12) QUINO MOURNED. Harrison Smith in the Washington Post has an obituary for Argentinian cartoonist Quino, who died on September 30 at age 88.  Quino’s strip “Mafalda,” which ran between 1964-1973, was a strip in the Peanuts style with sharp criticism of poverty, injustice, and political repression.

…When Mafalda spots workmen trying to locate a gas leaks, she asks: “Are you searching for our national roots?” In another sequence, Mafalda’s pet turtle is revealed to have an unusual name, Bureaucracy. When a friend asks why she gave it that name, Mafalda replies that she needs to come back the next day for more information. She can’t say exactly when.

“In Argentina I had to censor myself, because when I started to draw in Buenos Aires they clearly told me ‘no military, no religion, no sex,’ ” Quino once said, according to the Agence France-Presse. “And then I talked about all that, but in another way.”

(13) KEEPING TRACK. The Digital Antiquarian revisits the triumph of Chris Sawyer’s Transport Tycoon. (I sure spent plenty of hours playing it.)

…So, while he was waiting for his better-known colleagues to send him the next chunks of their own games for conversion to MS-DOS, Sawyer began to tinker. By the time Elite II was wrapping up, he had an ugly but working demo of an enhanced version of Railroad Tycoon which did indeed shift the viewpoint from vertically overhead to isometric. “I decided to devote all my time to the game for a few months and see what developed,” he says. He convinced a talented free-lance artist named Simon Foster, who was already an established name in commercial graphics but was looking to break into games, to provide illustrations, even as he made the bold decision to step up to cutting-edge SVGA graphics, at more than twice the resolution of standard VGA. At the end of that few months, he was more convinced than ever that he had a winner on his hands: “Even people who didn’t normally play computer games would sit for hours on end, totally engrossed in building railway lines, routing trains, and making as much profit as possible.” He soon made his train simulator into an all-encompassing transportation simulator, adding trucks and buses, ships and ferries, airplanes and even helicopters.

(14) CHILD SIGHTING. Michael Clair, in “Baby Yoda is a Braves fan” on mlb.com, says that Baby Yoda made an appearance in Atlanta during the Red-Braves playoff series, accompanied by Braves mascot Blooper cosplaying as “The Mandabloopian.”

(15) SPARTACUS’ CITYSCAPE. Hollywood’s Academy Museum will showcase one of cinema’s most impressive examples of matte painting: a detailed portrayal of ancient Rome, used in Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus (1960): “Preserving a Vanishing Art: Peter Ellenshaw’s Spartacus Matte Painting”.

…Matte paintings are everywhere in movies. Picture the vast, secret government warehouse that closes Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), or the image of the Statue of Liberty, half-buried in sand at the end of Planet of the Apes (1968). Or the view of London and the River Thames that unfolds behind Mary Poppins as she rises, umbrella in hand.

This detailed portrayal of ancient Rome, used in Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus (1960), was painted with oils on glass by Peter Ellenshaw. Using Ellenshaw’s painting, the director framed groups of actors moving about the faux Roman city, which includes details of the Parthenon, Temple of Athena, and other well-known buildings. Black blobs on the painting indicate where the director inserted these actions into his film.

…Ellenshaw’s son, Harrison, who enjoyed his own career as a matte painter, estimates the Spartacus piece took his father eight to ten hours, spread over several weeks. “He would work on more than one at a time,” he remembers. “The schedule was based on making the deadline for the final negative cut in time to make enough prints for the film’s release.”

Now more than 60 years old, Ellenshaw’s Spartacus painting needed some conservation before going on display. Before replacing a yellowing varnish layer with a new, UV-protecting one, Kathryn Harada, an L.A.-based paintings conservator, worked to repair cracks in the glass and paint. When conservators discovered that Ellenshaw himself had retouched the painting, years ago, they chose to preserve his efforts….

(16) OUT OF THE PARK. Yahoo! News sets the frame as “Jeff Goldblum Recreates Sensual ‘Jurassic Park’ Scene With Sam Neill”.

…Just a couple days ago, Jeff Goldblum promised that he’d recreate one of his scenes from “Jurassic Park” if 1,000 people would “register to vote, or check your registration status, or request a mail-in ballot.” On Friday, his character, Dr. Ian Malcolm, was back.

“That was fast!” Goldblum wrote on Instagram, posting a video recreating his famous “chaos theory” scene from the 1993 movie. In the original moment, he dropped water gently on Laura Dern’s hand. In the recreation, he’s got a different scene partner.

(17) MORE NEEDLES FOR YOUR TREE. Grandma’s Gift Shop pulls together some of the year’s dominant themes in their 2020 Commemorative Christmas Tree Ornament.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “William Shatner feat. Pat Travers ‘I Put A Spell On You'” on YouTube is an animated film by Balazs Grof of a track from Shat’s new blues album featuring Shatner’s take on the classic Screamin’ Jay Hawkins song.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Dann, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, JJ, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Jeffrey Smith, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]

Pixel Scroll 9/6/20 Pfiltriggi Longstocking

(1) NEVER GIVE UP HOPE. That’s Sultana Raza’s advice in an “Essay on writing life” at Facebook.

If people see someone giggling away on a bus for no apparent reason, they tend to back away, wondering how crazy that person might be. Unless that person happens to be typing away on their tiny mobile. Depending on the flow of words coming, I can type my stories in buses, trams or trains. Sometimes even in crowded cafes where no one knows me, which is the case right now, with a 90s song blaring away in the background. Usually though, I tend to type away at night, when I have the impression I have unlimited time, and no interruptions. However, as soon as I go on the internet to research something, it’s easily an hour or so before I notice I’ve been page surfing, reading up related trivia. So I wait till I have a few points to research before I jump in the whirlpool of research.

Though I’ve been writing from school days, my very first note-book got lost when I moved away from India….

(2) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Livia Llewellyn and Craig Laurance Gidney in a YouTube livestream event on Wednesday, September 16 at 7 p.m. Eastern.

Livia Llewellyn

Livia Llewellyn is a writer of dark fantasy, horror, and erotica, whose short fiction has appeared in over 80 anthologies and magazines. Her collections, Engines of Desire and Furnace have both received Shirley Jackson Award nominations for Best Collection, and her short story “One of These Nights” won the Edgar Award for Best Short Story. She lives in Jersey City.

Craig Laurance Gidney

Craig Laurance Gidney is the author of the collections Sea, Swallow Me and Skin Deep Magic; the novels Bereft and A Spectral Hue and numerous short stories. Both his collections and A Spectral Hue were finalists for the Lambda Literary Award and Bereft won both the Bronze Moonbeam and Silver IPPY Awards. Hairsbreadth, a fairy tale novel, is currently serialized on Broken Eye Books. Craig is a lifelong resident of Washington, DC.

(3) CURSES. Stephanie Merry and Steven Johnson have a piece in the Washington Post about readers commenting on the books they read this summer: “What the country is reading during the pandemic: Dystopias, social justice and steamy romance” T. Andrew Wahl of Stanwood, Washington read Chuck Wendig’s Wanderers.

“I read this epic pandemic tome when it came out last summer, and it scared the hell out of me.  At the time, it was just a well-crafted sci-fi thriller.  Now it feels prophetic as we’re living through just about every plot twist in the book…Damn you, Chuck Wendig:  It’s time to write a happy book about the world recovering and everything being all right!”

(4) BLACK PANTHER FREE. The Verge spread the word that “Black Panther titles are free right now on Comixology”. (I made this screencap an hour ago.)

Amazon-owned cloud-based comic book platform Comixology appears to be offering a wide selection of Marvel’s Black Panther comics for free this weekend. The unannounced sale was noticed by tweeters and Redditors; many Marvel comics related to the fictional African country Wakanda, where Black Panther is set, are available for free.

It’s not clear how long the “sale” will last, however; there doesn’t appear to have been any official announcement.

(5) TODAY’S DAY.

From memoirs to sci-fi; there are so many different types of books out there today, so use Read a Book Day to find the perfect book for you to really get stuck into. Read on to discover everything that you need to know about Read a Book Day and the different ways that you can celebrate this date…. 

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • September 6, 1953 — The Hugo awards are first presented in 1953 at the 11th Worldcon in Philadelphia. (According to its Program Book the con had no official nickname, however, The Long List calls it Philcon II.) Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man won Best Novel and Best Professional Magazine  jointly went to  Astounding Science Fiction as edited by John W. Campbell, Jr. and  Galaxy as edited by H. L. Gold.  Best Cover Artist (Hannes Bok and Ed Emshwiller), Best Interior Illustrator (Virgil Finlay), Excellence in Fact Articles (Willy Ley), Best New SF Author or Artist (Philip José Farmer) and  #1 Fan Personality (Forrest J Ackerman) rounded out the Hugos. Toastmaster was Isaac Asimov. The Convention guide is here.
  • September 6 , 1989 — On this day in 1989, Doctor Who began  its twenty-sixth and final season of the original run on BBC. The Seventh Doctor was portrayed by Scottish actor Sylvester McCoy, here in his third season. That was the same time as his two predecessors but not nearly as long as the Fourth Doctor who went seven seasons, the longest to date. It began with Ben Aaronovitch‘s Battlefield“ story and ended with Rona Munro‘s “Survival” story. (She would write the Twelfth Doctor story, “The Eaters of Light”, making her the only writer to date to have worked on the old and new eras of the show.) BBC would not aired another Doctor Who story until the “Rose” aired on the 26th of March, 2005 with actor Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 6, 1904 – Groff Conklin.  One of our first and finest anthologists; also poetry, nonfiction, outside our field.  The Best of SF appeared months before Healy & McComas’ great Adventures in Time and Space; forty more; also the monthly 5-Star Shelf in Galaxy 1950-1955.  Perhaps his best, besides The Best, are A Treasury of SFThe Big Book of SFPossible Worlds of SFOmnibus of SFSF Adventures in Dimension.  Barry Malzberg said “the most important science fiction anthologist through the years [when] its previously magazine-bound masterpieces were being systematically located….  all our postwar history exists in the penumbra of his work.”  (Died 1968) [JH]
  • Born September 6, 1936 – James Odbert, 84.  Half a dozen covers, a hundred thirty interiors.  Here is Home From the Shore.  Here is the Spring 94 Fractal.  Here is the Minicon 10 Program Book.  Here is an illustration for Sturgeon’s “Talent”.  Here is his Three of Swords in Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck (each card done by a different artist in that artist’s own manner).  Artist Guest of Honor at Empiricon V, Balticon 46.  [JH]
  • Born September 6, 1943 Roger Waters, 77. Ok, I might well be stretching it in saying that Pink Floyd genre.  The Wallis maybe. And quite possibly also The Division Bell with its themes of communication. Or maybe I just wanted to say Happy Birthday Roger! (CE)
  • Born September 6, 1946 – Halmer Haag.  Chair of Balticon 25, 35; Balticon’s Gaming Czar; Ghost of Honor at Balticon 44.  Instigator of the Baltimore in ’98 Worldcon bid, which succeeded and became BucCONeer (56th Worldcon).  BSFS (Baltimore SF Soc.) Board of Directors.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born September 6, 1951 – Val Lakey Lindahn, 69.  Thirty covers, two hundred ten interiors; two short stories; many with co-artists e.g. Artifact, John Lakey, Ron Lindahn; more outside our field.  Here is the Sep 83 Analog.  Here is The Asimov Chronicles.  Here is “Time On My Hands”.  Here is Fire from the Wine-Dark Sea.  One Gaughan, one Chesley.  [JH]
  • Born September 6, 1953 Elizabeth Massie, 67. Ellen Datlow who’s now doing the most excellent Year’s Best Horror anthology series was the horror editor for Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror where she selected Massie’s “Stephen” for the fourth edition. A horror writer by trade, she’s also dipped deeper into the genre by writing a female Phantom graphic novel, Julie Walker is The Phantom in Race Against Death! and a Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Power of Persuasion novel. (CE) 
  • Born September 6, 1953 Patti Yasutake, 67. She’s best remembered for her portrayal of Nurse Alyssa Ogawa in the Trek universe where she had a recurring role on Next Generation and showed up in Star Trek Generations and Star Trek First Contact. In doing these Birthdays, I consulted a number of sites. Several of them declared that her character ended her time as a Doctor. Not true but it made for a nice if fictional coda on her story. (CE) 
  • Born September 6, 1966 – Ellen Key Harris-Braun.  Yale summa cum laude.  Certified professional midwife.  Editor at Del Rey; started DR Internet Newsletter.  After DR, independent On-line Writing Workshop.  “Some of what is great about Ellen … believing in things, making them happen with grace and perseverance”.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born September 6, 1972 — Idris Elba, 48. He was Heimdall in the Thor franchise, as well as the Avengers franchise as well. First genre role was as Captain Janek in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and later he was in Pacific Rim as Stacker Pentecost. And let’s not forget him as the Big Bad as Krall in Star Trek: Beyond. (CE)
  • Born September 6, 1972 China Miéville, 48. My favorite novels by him? The City & The City which won a Hugo at Aussiecon 4 is the one I’ve re-read the most followed closely by Kraken. Scariest by him? Oh, that’d King Rat by a long shot. And I’ll admit the dialect he used in Un Lun Dun frustrated me enough that I gave up on it. I’ll hold strongly that theNew Crobuzon series doesn’t date as well as some of his other fiction does. Now his writing on the Dial H sort of horror series for DC was fantastic in all ways that word means. (CE)
  • Born September 6, 1976 Robin Atkin Downes, 44. Though he’s made his living being a voice actor in myriad video games and animated series, one of his first acting roles was as the rogue telepath Byron on Babylon 5. He later show up as the Demon of Illusion in the “Chick Flick” episode of Charmed and he’s got an uncredited though apparently known role as Pockla in the “Dead End” episiode of Angel. He does the voice of Edward in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, and he‘s Angelo on Suicide Squad. (CE) 
  • Born September 6, 1979 – Anna Sheehan, 41.  Young Shakespeare Players of Madison.  Technical degree in commercial goldsmithing.  A Long, Long, Sleep winning a Golden Duck, it and sequel No Life But This, based on Sleeping BeautySpinning Thorns a re-telling.  Ranks Harold and the Purple Crayon above The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.  [JH]

(8) SPIN ME A YARN. The Raksura Colony Tree hosts “The Yarnbomb@CoNZealand Gallery”.

Organized by Jan Bass and Monique Lubberink, CoNZealand had a lovely community craft project planned: Yarnbombing along the routes connecting the different venues in Wellington. I posted about this earlier this year. Then 2020 happened, and CoNZealand had to go virtual. The project pivoted to yarnbombing wherever the contributors lived and sending in pictures and/or video of the results. We certainly could do with a bit more colour in our lives this year!

We ended up with a lovely display of everybody’s contributions in the Virtual Exhibits Hall at CoNZealand. With the kind permission of the contributors involved, I’d like to share the fun with all of you. Click on the pictures to see a close-up and title!

(9) THE DYING OF ART. Eater Los Angeles mourns the loss of another famous place with art on the walls: “Moore’s Deli, Hollywood Animator Hangout and Burbank Staple, Closes After Ten Years”.

Ten-year-old Valley restaurant Moore’s Delicatessen has closed permanently, just shy of its October anniversary. The longtime restaurant was a haven for Hollywood animators in the Burbank area, and featured a ton of hand-drawn artwork on the walls of a back room.

(10) CHECK YOUR DRAWERS. The Guardian asks“Are aliens hiding in plain sight?”

In July, three unmanned missions blasted off to Mars – from China (Tianwen-1), the US (Nasa’s Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover) and the United Arab Emirates (Hope). The Chinese and American missions have lander craft that will seek signs of current or past life on Mars. Nasa is also planning to send its Europa Clipper probe to survey Jupiter’s moon Europa, and the robotic lander Dragonfly to Saturn’s moon Titan. Both moons are widely thought to be promising hunting grounds for life in our solar system – as are the underground oceans of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus.

Meanwhile, we can now glimpse the chemical makeup of atmospheres of planets that orbit other stars (exoplanets), of which more than 4,000 are now known. Some hope these studies might disclose possible signatures of life.

But can any of these searches do their job properly unless we have a clear idea of what “life” is? Nasa’s unofficial working definition is “a self-sustaining chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution”. “Nasa needs a definition of life so it knows how to build detectors and what kinds of instruments to use on its missions,” says zoologist Arik Kershenbaum of the University of Cambridge. But not everyone thinks it is using the right one.

Astrobiologist Lynn Rothschild of Nasa’s Ames research centre in California sees a cautionary tale in AA Milne’s story from Winnie-the-Pooh, in which Pooh and Piglet hunt a Woozle without knowing what it looks like and mistake their own footprints for its tracks. “You can’t hunt for something if you have no idea what it is,” she says.

(11) MULAN’S SCREEN HISTORY. In the Washington Post, Martin Tsai gives a backgrounder on non-Disney versions of the Mulan legend, including the fourteen other films about Mulan, with the most recent Chinese version, with the most recent Chinese version being Jingle Ma’s Mulan: Rise Of A Warrior (2009). “The live-action ‘Mulan’ is not the first retelling of the legend. Or the second. Or the sixth.”

…Since her story first graced the big screen in 1926, the folk heroine has, under different interpretations over the course of a century, come to variously emblematize filial piety, patriotism, feminism and, perhaps inadvertently, cultural commodification. Given that Hua Mulan may not be an actual historical figure, faithfulness has seldom been a point of contention in the reworkings of “The Ballad of Mulan” in every form and medium — including literature, music, dance, theater, martial arts and television, as well as film — as expanding on those 330 words necessitates artistic license.

(12) UNPUTDOWNABLE. If Popsugar is right that these are “12 Sci-Fi Books About Pandemics That You Won’t Be Able to Put Down”, you’ll need to learn to do a lot of things with your feet.

For some people, the scariest science-fiction books involve alien attacks, rebellious robots, and malevolent technology. For others, sci-fi is truly at its best when it introduces an unseen killer: a deadly disease. While fictitious, pandemic novels hit a little bit closer to home than tales of time travel and parallel universes because — unlike most anything written by Nnedi Okorafor or Octavia Butler — they reflect a very possible reality, even if the stories are a little more fantastical. Novels about inexplicable viruses and devastating pathogens definitely shouldn’t be overlooked by sci-fi-lovers (or really anyone), and these 12 books about pandemics are some of the best out there….

(13) FACE ART. The worldwide mask industry now boasts two for fans of the Inklings, a Narnia map mask and a Hobbit book cover mask.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/31/20 And I Won’t Forget To Scroll Pixels On Your Grave

(1) GALACTIC WALKTHROUGH. Journalists get a virtual tour as “Virgin Galactic Unveils Comfy Cabin for Jet-Setting to the Edge of Space” reports the New York Times.

The inside of Virgin Galactic’s space plane is like a space-age executive jet.

The seats recline to absorb the forces of acceleration toward space. Mood lighting shifts during each phase of the flight. Twelve windows — two for each of the six passengers, who have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars each for a seat — provide an impressive view of Earth and the darkness of space. Sixteen cameras will capture you floating. And the back of the cabin includes a big circular mirror so that you can watch yourself enjoying a few minutes escaping the effects of gravity.

Virgin Galactic will be offering short up-and-down trips to the edge of space, essentially like giant roller coaster rides with better views, in its space plane, SpaceShipTwo.

But how can the company unveil the fancy new interior of its space plane in the middle of a global pandemic when journalists are not able to gather for a fancy media event?

Modern technology provided an imaginative solution. Virgin Galactic sent Oculus virtual reality headsets as loaners to journalists so that they could chat with the designers of the cabin while walking through a computer-generated version of it — an experience of almost being there while being nowhere near there….

(2) REASONS FOR SITE SELECTION WRITE-INS. Yeah. No.

(3) DRAGON AWARDS. Almost there – Dragon Awards.

Dragon Awards dates

Ballots for the awards will be released in the first week of August.

Voting registration closes on 9/4/20.

Voting closes on 9/5/20.

(3) JUST LIBRARIANS. “Internet Archive Answers Publishers’ Copyright Lawsuit”Publishers Weekly distills the defendant’s legal reply to the lawsuit.

In a July 28 filing, the Internet Archive answered a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by four major publishers, asserting that its long-running book scanning and lending program is designed to fulfill the role of a traditional library in the digital age, and is protected by fair use.

“The Internet Archive does what libraries have always done: buy, collect, preserve, and share our common culture,” reads the IA’s preliminary statement to its answer, contending that its collection of roughly 1.3 million scans of mostly 20th century books, many of which are out of print, is a good faith and legal effort to “mirror traditional library lending online” via a process called Controlled Digital Lending (CDL).

“Contrary to the publishers’ accusations, the Internet Archive, and the hundreds of libraries and archives that support it, are not pirates or thieves,” the filing states. “They are librarians, striving to serve their patrons online just as they have done for centuries in the brick-and-mortar world. Copyright law does not stand in the way of libraries’ right to lend, and patrons’ right to borrow, the books that libraries own.”

The IA’s answer comes in response to a June 1 copyright infringement lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York by Hachette, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, and Penguin Random House, and coordinated by the Association of American Publishers….

(4) KGB READINGS. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Elizabeth Hand and Michael Libling in a YouTube livestreamed event on Wednesday, August 19 at 7 p.m. Eastern.

Elizabeth Hand

Elizabeth Hand is the author of sixteen multiple-award-winning novels and collections of short fiction including Curious ToysWylding Hall, and Generation LossThe Book of Lamps and Banners, her fourth noir novel featuring punk provocateur and photographer Cass Neary, will be out this year. She divides her time between the Maine coast and North London.

Michael Libling

Michael Libling is a World Fantasy Award-nominated author whose short fiction has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Realms of Fantasy, Amazing Stories, and many others. His debut novel, Hollywood North: A Novel in Six Reels, was published in 2019. Michael is the father of three daughters and lives on Montreal’s West Island with his wife, Pat, and a big black dog named Piper.

 (5) CEASELESS GIVEAWAY. Beneath Ceaseless Skies is running a giveaway of Marie Brennan’s upcoming book Driftwood. The rules and other details can be found here: “First Marie Brennan Driftwood Book Giveaway”

To enter the giveaway that’s in this very post, comment on this post (here) and tell us what your favorite Marie Brennan short story is. Whether a Driftwood story or one of her many other stories; whether published in BCS or elsewhere.

Your comment will enter you in a random drawing for the signed copy of Driftwood. This giveaway ends Wed. Aug. 12. (Full Rules are here, at the end of this post.)

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 31, 1930 — The Shadow first made his appearance as the narrator of the Detective Story Hour radio program which was intended  to boost sales of Street & Smith’s monthly Detective Story Magazine. Harry Engman Charlot, a scriptwriter for the Detective Story Hour was responsible for the name. The Shadow would be developed into the character that we know a year later by Walter B. Gibson. (CE)

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 31, 1807 – Clara de Chatelain.  In her Child’s Own Book of Fairy Tales, two more, retold fifty classics and wrote a hundred forty.  The Sedan Chair and Sir Wilfred’s Seven Flights comprises two for adults.  Translated four hundred songs for music publishers e.g. Schott; tr. Cammarano’s Italian lyrics for Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor (whose protagonist is Scots).  Wrote widely under “Leopold Wray” and other names.  Friend of Victor Hugo.  (Died 1876) [JH]
  • Born July 31, 1879 – Kenneth Morris. Ranked by Le Guin with Eddison, MacDonald, Tolkien as master 20th Century fantasy prose stylist.  Three novels (this one published posthumously), forty shorter stories, sometimes under the Welsh form of his name Cenydd Morus.  (Died 1937) [JH]
  • Born July 31, 1924 – Waldemar Kumming.  Leading German fan for decades.  Joined SFCD (Science Fiction Club Deutschland; note combined English-German name) 1956, chair 1962-1968.  Fan Guest of Honour at Seacon ’84  – combining Eastercon 35 (U.K. nat’l con) + Eurocon 8.  Published Munich_Round_Up with Walter Reinicke until WR died 1981, then alone until 2014; I was glad to contribute.  Kurd_Laßwitz_Special Award for MRU and life achievement.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  Wolf von Witting’s appreciation here.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born July 31, 1928 – Allen Lang, 92.  One novel (Wild and Outside, US baseball shortstop sent to civilize the planet Melon), a score of shorter stories translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian, most recently (“Fuel Me Once”) in the Jul-Aug 20 Analog.  [JH]
  • Born July 31, 1929 – Lynne Reid Banks, 91.  A dozen novels for us, forty other books including The L-Shaped Room.  Children’s fantasy The Indian in the Cupboard, ten million copies sold; four sequels.  Eight years teaching on a kibbutz (“not a Jew, but Jew-ish”).  Barrie Award. “Writing for a living is a great life, if you don’t weaken.”  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born July 31, 1932 Ted Cassidy. He’s best known for the role of Lurch on The Addams Family in the mid-1960s. if you’ve got a good ear, you’ll recall that he narrated The Incredible Hulk series. And he played the part of the android Ruk in the episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” on Trek, and provided the voices of the more strident version of Balok in the episode “The Corbomite Maneuver” and the Gorn in the episode “Arena”. In The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode “The Napoleon’s Tomb Affair”, he was Edgar, who kidnapped, tortured, and repeatedly attempted to kill Napoleon and Illya. (Died 1979.) (CE) 
  • Born July 31, 1935 –Dave Van Arnam.  Seven novels (some with Ted White), translated into Dutch, Japanese, Spanish. Two anthologies (with Kris Neville, William Tenn).  “How I Learned to Love Fandom” in NyCon 3 Program & Memory Book (25th Worldcon; DVA was co-chair).  Co-founded, or something, APA-F.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born July 31, 1951 Jo Bannister, 69. Though best-known as a most excellent British crime fiction novelist, she has three SF novels to her credit, all written in the early Eighties — The MatrixThe Winter Plain and A Cactus Garden. ISFDB lists one short story by her as genre, “Howler”, but I wasn’t at all aware that Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine printed genre fiction which is where it appeared first. (CE)
  • Born July 31, 1956 Michael Biehn, 64. Best-known in genre circles as Sgt. Kyle Reese in The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Cpl. Dwayne Hicks in Aliens and Lt. Coffey in The Abyss. He was also The Sandman in a single episode of Logan’s Run. Though not even genre adjacent, he was Johnny Ringo in the magnitude Tombstone film. (CE)
  • Born July 31, 1959 Kim Newman, 61. Though best-known For his Anno Dracula series, I’d like to single him out for his early work, Nightmare Movies: A critical history of the horror film, 1968–88,  a very serious history of horror films. It was followed up with the equally great Wild West Movies: Or How the West Was Found, Won, Lost, Lied About, Filmed and Forgotten. He’s also a prolific genre writer and his first published novel, The Night Mayor, sounds very intriguing. (CE)
  • Born July 31, 1962 Wesley Snipes, 58. The first actor to be Blade in the Blade film franchise where I thought he made the perfect Blade. (There’s a new Blade actor though their name escapes right now.) I also like him as Simon Phoenix in Demolition Man. (CE)
  • Born July 31, 1976 John Joseph Adams, 44. Anthologist of whom I’m very fond of The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West which he did. He was the Assistant Editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction for nearly a decade, and he’s been editing both Lightspeed and Nightmare Magazine since the early part of this decade. (CE)
  • Born July 31, 1979 – B.J. Novak, 41.  Author, actor, writer-director.  Fifteen short stories ours in The New YorkerZoetrope, and collection One More Thing (it has 64 total; six weeks a NY Times Hardcover Fiction Best-Seller).  For children The Book With No Pictures (also a best-seller; “a lot of the other one-star reviews are from people who object to speaking of a hippo named Boo Boo Butt”).  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe needs help finding a dystopian book.

(9) COMING TO A MT. TBR NEAR YOU. Andrew Liptak has released his book list for August. (Formerly published by Polygon.)

(10) NEW HONOR FOR HOPPER. In line with the Rosalind Franklin Mars rover, Google announces “The Grace Hopper subsea cable, linking the U.S., U.K. and Spain”. Press release.

Today, 98% of international internet traffic is ferried around the world by subsea cables. A vast underwater network of cables crisscrossing the ocean makes it possible to share, search, send, and receive information around the world at the speed of light. In today’s day and age, as the ways that we work, play and connect are becoming increasingly digital, reliable connectivity is more important than ever before. That’s why we’re excited to announce a new subsea cable—Grace Hopper—which will run between the United States, the United Kingdom and Spain, providing better resilience for the network that underpins Google’s consumer and enterprise products.

Grace Hopper joins our other private subsea cables, Curie, Dunant and Equiano to connect far-flung continents along the ocean floor. Private subsea cables allow us to plan effectively for the future capacity needs of our customers and users around the world, and add a layer of security beyond what’s available over the public internet.

Once commissioned, the Grace Hopper cable will be one of the first new cables to connect the U.S. and U.K. since 2003, increasing capacity on this busy global crossroads and powering Google services like Meet, Gmail and Google Cloud. It also marks our first investment in a private subsea cable route to the U.K., and our first-ever route to Spain. The Spanish landing point will more tightly integrate the upcoming Google Cloud region in Madrid into our global infrastructure. The Grace Hopper cable will be equipped with 16 fiber pairs (32 fibers), a significant upgrade to the internet infrastructure connecting the U.S. with Europe. A contract to build the cable was signed earlier this year with Eatontown, N.J.-based subsea cable provider, SubCom, and the project is expected to be completed in 2022.

(11) MOVIE AMBIENCE. [Item by algorithm connoisseur Martin Morse Wooster.] The YouTube algorithm introduced me to a website called Ambient Worlds, whose creator has come up with Harry Potter Movie Ambience: “Hogsmeade Relaxing Music, Crowd Noise And Snow”, which is an hour of music from the Harry Potter movies mixed into background music for whatever you happen to be doing (in my case, writing, because I write with music or baseball in the background).  I’ve never heard of such a thing.

Ambient Worlds has a Lord of the Rings background music video that’s three hours!

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Nothing to do with sff, I just want to share my appreciation of this editing job!

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

Pixel Scroll 6/30/20 The Pixel Scroll Is Read, Yet There’s Much More To Be Said

(1) DON’T BE THAT AUTHOR. Brenda Clough’s list grows longer: “Ways to Trash Your Writing Career: An Intermittent Series”.

There are the really obvious ways to torch your career — rudeness to editors, for instance.  And then there are the hidden trap doors.  The one I am going to reveal today is truly obscure.  It could be broadly described as meddling with the publication process. More specifically, you can enrage the publisher’s sales reps.  Kill your book dead in one easy step! …

(2) AND DON’T BE THAT POET. F.J. Bergmann wrote and Melanie Stormm designed “How To Piss Off A Poetry Editor” for readers of SPECPO, the blog of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. Here’s the header —

(3) KGB READINGS ONLINE. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Benjamin Rosenbaum and Mike Allen Wednesday, July 15 in a YouTube livestream event. Starts at 7 p.m. Eastern.

Benjamin Rosenbaum

Benjamin Rosenbaum’s short fiction has been nominated for the Nebula, Hugo, BSFA, Sturgeon, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards, and collected in The Ant King and Other Stories. His first novel, The Unraveling, a far-future comedy of manners and social unrest, comes out this October from Erewhon Books. His tabletop roleplaying game of Jewish historical fantasy in the shtetl, Dream Apart, was nominated for an Ennie Award. He lives near Basel, Switzerland with his family.

Mike Allen

Mike Allen has twice been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award. His horror tales are gathered in the Shirley Jackson Award-nominated collection Unseaming, and in his newest book, Aftermath of an Industrial Accident. His novella The Comforter, sequel to his Nebula Award-nominated story “The Button Bin,” just appeared in the anthology A Sinister Quartet. By day, he writes the arts column for The Roanoke (Va.) Times.

Listen to podcasts of the KGB readings here.

(4) FUTURE TENSE. The June 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “The Last of the Goggled Barskys,” by Joey Siara.

Transmitted herewith are excerpts from statements provided by members of the Barsky family regarding the incident with Hayden Barsky, age 11.

The true origins of KHAOS remain unknown….

It was published along with a response essay, “How Not to Optimize Parenthood” by Brigid Schulte, director of the Better Life Lab and author of the book Overwhelmed: Work, Love, & Play When No One Has the Time.

Most parents are well-intentioned. We try to do the right thing, hoping to spare our children at least a measure of the pain or heartache we muddled through, to smooth the rough edges of life and give them every advantage to make it in an uncertain and often cruel world.

That’s at least the hope. In practice, no one really knows how to do that. So, particularly in America, where “winning” and the self-improvement dictate to “beat yesterday” are akin to sacred commandments, we have always turned to the experts for help. What does the science say? What are the neighbors doing? What book or podcast or shiny gadget will instantly make my child’s life easier? More joyful? Miraculous? And, perhaps most importantly, better than your kid’s?…

(5) LOCKDOWN MOVIE. “Quarantine Without Ever Meeting”Vanity Fair profiles the filmmakers. Tagline: “The actors set up lights, did their own makeup, and ran the cameras. The filmmakers advised on Zoom. Somehow…it worked.”

…While Hollywood is struggling to figure out if it’s possible to make a feature-length movie in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, this group of independent filmmakers and actors have already done it. “The whole movie has been written, produced, packaged, shot within quarantine. Now we’re in postproduction, and I had a first cut of the whole film done on Friday,” said director and cowriter Simon. As The Untitled Horror Movie nears completion, its producers are finally announcing the secret project and seeking a distributor. It appears to be the first movie created entirely within the parameters of the lockdown.

The horror comedy is about a group of needy and desperate young stars from a once-popular TV series who learn, via video conference, that their show has just been canceled. Fearing obscurity, they decide to stay in the spotlight by making a quickie horror film—but while shooting it, they perform a ritual that accidentally invokes an actual demonic spirit. Mayhem follows. “We kind of described it going into it as Scream meets For Your Consideration,” Simon said.

(6) OFF THE COAST. In the Washington Post, Rob Wolfe says that Wizards of the Coast has banned seven Magic:  The Gathering cards it says are “racist or culturally offensive” and promises a review of all 20,000 cards to find any other ones it deems questionable. “‘Racist’ and ‘culturally offensive’ images pulled from hugely popular trading card game”

The card had been around since 1994, tagged “Invoke Prejudice” by the world’s most popular trading card game. It showed figures in white robes and pointed hoods — an image that evoked the Ku Klux Klan for many people.This month, the company behind “Magic: The Gathering” permanently banned that card and six others carrying labels like “Jihad” and “Pradesh Gypsies.” Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of toy giant Hasbro, acknowledged the images were “racist or culturally offensive.”

“There’s no place for racism in our game, nor anywhere else,” the company said in a statement announcing its action.

With the country roiled by tensions and protests over African Americans’ deaths at the hands of police, the issues entangling Magic and its creators are unlikely to subside soon. The fantasy game of goblins, elves, spells and more boasts some 20 million players, and in pre-pandemic times, thousands flocked to elite international tournaments with hefty prizes. Players of color say they have long felt excluded in the white- and male-dominated community from the game’s top echelons, as well as employment at the company….

(7) WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN. “A Better World ?” seems to be a kind of text-based game letting players choose among “Uchronies,” a French term that partakes of alternate history but is more fantastic in nature. I racked up a lot of karma in a hurry, sad to say.

The dates you can change are in yellow.

The dates you just changed are in pink.

Click on one of them to change the past!

Your current karma:

0

See the list of Uchronies (cancels the current game)

It didn’t go well, I’d like to start over…

(8) ANOTHER TONGUE. James Davis Nicoll says there are a bundle of “Intriguing SFF Works Awaiting English Translations” at Tor.com.

I am monolingual, which limits me to reading works in English. One of the joys of this modern, interconnected world in which we’re living is that any speculative fiction work written in another language could (in theory) be translated into English. One of my frustrations is that, generally speaking, they haven’t been. Here are five works about which I know enough to know that I’d read them if only they were translated….

(9) I’M READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP. Olav Rokne says, “Sometimes, you just want to ask the question nobody wants.” He passed along some of the hilarious responses.   

(10) CARL REINER OBIT. The creator of The Dick Van Dyke Show and straight man to Mel Brooks’ “2000 Year Old Man,” died June 29 at the age of 98. The duo won a Grammy in 1998 for their The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000. (The New York Times eulogy is here.)

He shared the lead in The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming and appeared in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. He directed numerous movies, including several starring Steve Martin. In recent years he voiced characters in several genre animated TV shows — and Carl Reineroceros in Toy Story 4.

John King Tarpinian remembers:

He is not genre but his passing reminds me of the good old days.  Back in the 80s, I was president of the largest Atari club consortium in the US.  One of the members owned the Vine Street Bar & Grill.  It was between Hollywood & Sunset.  The first Wednesday of the month the guest jazz singer was Estelle Reiner.  Ron Berinstein, club member and club owner invited me to come on Estelle’s nights to make sure the club was always full.  The first time I went her husband, Carl, was also there.  I learned that he always came…and that he’d have friends join them.  Over the years everybody from Sid Caesar, Buck Henry, Neil Simon, Dick Van Dyke, Mel Brooks & more.

During Estelle’s break between sets Carl & whomever was also there would get up and entertain.  Carl & Mel would do their 2000 Year Old Man routine but not the Ed Sullivan version but the version they’d do a parties.  My ribs would be sore the next morning from laughing so hard. 

Sid Caesar would come to Ray Bradbury’s plays.  Imagine somebody being able to upstage Ray…who also would be laughing so hard.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 30, 1971 Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory premiered. Based on Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory novel, it was directed by Mel Stuart, and produced by Stan Margulies and David L. Wolper. The screenplay was by Roald Dahl and David Seltzer. It featured Gene Wilder as Willie Wonka with a supporting cast of Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum, Roy Kinnear, Julie Dawn Cole, Leonard Stone and Denise Nickerson. Some critics truly loved it while others loathed it. It currently holds an 87% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 30, 1905 — Nestor Paiva. Sometimes it only takes one film or series  for a performer to get a Birthday write-up from me. Paiva makes it for Lucas the boat captain in The Creature from the Black Lagoon and its oft forgotten sequel Revenge of the Creature. Though that was hardly his only genre role as his first role was in the early Forties as an uncredited prison guard in Tarzan’s Desert Mystery and he’d be in many a genre film and series over the decades as Prof. Etienne Lafarge in The Mole People, as the saloon owner in (I kid you not!) Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, Felicity’s Father in The Spirit Is Willing, Captain Grimby in “The Great Treasure Hunt” of The Adamms Family and a Doorman in the “Our Man in Leotards” episode of Get Smart. (Died 1966.) (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1920 Sam Moskowitz. SF writer, critic, and historian. Chair of the very first World Science Fiction Convention held in NYC in 1939. He barred several Futurians from the con in what was later called the Great Exclusion Act. In the Fifties, he edited Science-Fiction Plus, a short-lived genre magazine owned by Hugo Gernsback, and would edit several dozen anthologies, and a few single-author collections, most published in the Sixties and early Seventies. His most enduring legacy was as a historian of the genre with such works as Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of “The Scientific Romance” in the Munsey Magazines, 1912–1920 and Hugo Gernsback: Father of Science Fiction. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1929 – Anie Linard, 91.  Active from France, herself and with Jean Linard, in the 1950s and 1960s; fanzines Innavigable MouthMeuhVintkatX-trap.  Voted in the 1958 TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) campaign.  She was, like many of us, a correspondent of Ned Brooks.  I have not traced her more recently than June 1962.  Anie, if you see this, salut!  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1935 – Jon Stopa, 85.  Active with Advent publishing house, half a dozen covers including In Search of WonderThe Eighth Stage of Fandom, and The Issue at Hand.  Three stories in Astounding.  Program Book for Chicon III the 20th Worldcon, and cover for its Proceedings; with wife Joni, Fan Guests of Honor at Chicon V the 49th, where I think they were in some of the Madeira tastings I assembled when I found four or five D’Oliveiras in the hotel bar.  The Stopas were (Joni has left the stage) also great costumers, both as entrants and judges; there’s a YouTube of their work here.  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1959 Vincent D’Onofrio, 61. Kingpin in that not terribly good or bad Daredevil film, Edgar the Bug in the only truly great Men in Black film and Vic Hoskins in Jurassic World. He also was Jason Whitney / Jerry Ashton in The Thirteenth Floor, loosely based upon Simulacron-3, a early Sixties novel by Daniel F. Galouye. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1961 Diane Purkiss, 59. I’ve not read her Corydon Trilogy she wrote with Michael Dowling, her son, but I can say that  At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Nymphs, and Other Troublesome Things is as splendid as the title suggests it is. She’s also written Fairies and Fairy Stories: A History. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1961 – Nigel Rowe, 59.  Published Timeless Sands history of New Zealand fandom, then moved to Chicago.  Here is a 1994 photo of him with Russell Chauvenet (who coined the word fanzine) at Corflu 11 in Virginia.  A 2019 photo of him is on p. 47 of Random Jottings 20 (PDF), the Proceedings of Corflu 36 in Maryland; he’s also on the cover (back right; you may be able to make out his badge “Nigel”).  Very helpful relaying paper fanzines across the seas.  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1961 – carl juarez, 59.  No capital letters in his name.  Co-edited the fanzine Apparatchik with Andy Hooper (from Apak 62), later Chunga with Hooper and Randy Byers.  Here is his cover for Chunga 8.  He’s on the right of the cover for Chunga 17 (PDF).  Chunga credited cj as designer, the results being indeed fine.  He, Byers, and Hooper were such a tripod that with Byers’ death, Chunga tottered; should it fall, may cj find his feet.  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1963 Rupert S. Graves, 57. Here because he played Inspector G. Lestrade on that Sherlock series. He also appeared on Doctor Who as Riddell in the Eleventh Doctor story, “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”. He had one-offs in The Nightmare Worlds of H. G. Wells: The MothTwelve MonkeysKrypton and Return of the Saint. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1966 – Penny Watson, 54.  Degrees in plant taxonomy, horticultural science, biology, and floral design; “there is nothing better than getting up in the morning, heading out to your garden and picking fresh basil, cherry tomatoes, cukes, and arugula greens for breakfast.”  Obsessed with dachshunds.  Has trained dolphins, coached field hockey and lacrosse.  Nat’l Excellence in Romance Fiction Award.  Eight novels, five of them and a novella for us.  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1966 Peter Outerbridge, 54. Dr. David Sandström in what I think is the underrated ReGenesis series as well as being Henrik “Hank” Johanssen in Orphan Black anda recurring role on Millennium as Special Agent Barry Baldwin. He’s currently in two series, The Umbrella Academy with a recurring role as The Conductor, and as Calix Niklosin in V-Wars, yet another Netflix SF series. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1972 Molly Parker, 48. Maureen Robinson on the current Lost in Space series. One-offs in Nightmare Cafe, The Outer Limits, The SentinelHighlander: The SeriesPoltergeist: The LegacyHuman Target and she appeared in The Wicker Man asSister Rose / Sister Thorn. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1974 – Juli Zeh, 46.  A dozen novels so far, three for us.  Deutscher BücherpreisSolothurner Literaturpreis; doctorate in international law, honorary judge at the Brandenburg constitutional court.  About Schilf (“reed”, name of a character – likewise an English surname), translated into English as Dark Matter (London) and In Free Fall (New York), when a Boston Globe interviewer asked “Are you asking the reader to reconsider the nature of reality?” JZ answered “Yes, I want to take the reader on an intellectual journey”; to “Can a novel of ideas be written today, without irony?” JZ answered “As long as mankind doesn’t lose its curiosity to think about the miracles of being.”  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur shows us the first science fiction writer — and true Hard SF, even as to the medium it’s composed on.
  • Today’s Bizarro is not an SF comic, but one with good advice for the privileged rich kid starting a literary career.

(14) DOOMSCROLLING. I learned a useful new word from John Scalzi’s post “Check In, 6/30/20”.

…With that said, there’s another aspect of it, too, which I think I’ve been minimizing: it’s not just time on social media, it’s engagement when I am on it, and how social media is making me feel when I use it. The term “doomscrolling” refers to how people basically suck down fountains of bad news on their social media thanks to friends (and others) posting things they’re outraged about. It’s gotten to the point for me where, particularly on Twitter, it feels like it’s almost all doomscrolling, all the time, whether I want it to be or not.

(15) STANDING UP. David Gerrold’s unlocked Patreon post “I Stand With The Science Fiction Writers of America” may be a reaction to yesterday’s item about the publisher of Cirsova, and certainly gives emphatic support to SFWA’s recent statement about BLM.

…The BLM movement are not terrorists. They are not thugs. They are peaceful protesters, marching against industrial discrimination and system-entrenched bigotry. The demonstrators have actually caught looters and rioters and delivered them to the police.

It doesn’t matter how much the limousine-liberals preach equality if there are no serious efforts to redress the grievances of the disadvantaged. 

If we truly are all in this together, then it behooves all of us to reach out to each other and create partnerships and opportunities. This isn’t preferential treatment. It’s a necessary bit of repair work to a damaged genre. 

If we don’t talk about it, if we don’t take steps, if we don’t address it, then we are guilty of complicity. If the racism of the past was a product of its time, then let our attempts to redress the situation be a product of our time. 

(16) BLOCKED OUT. Missed this in March: “Lego embraces the dark side with three helmet building kits”. And it’s not like I didn’t have time on my hands.

… These sets are up for preorder now from Lego at $59.99 and are set to ship on April 19.

  • Stormtrooper Buildable Model Helmet ($59.99; lego.com)
  • Boba Fett Buildable Model Helmet ($59.99; lego.com)
  • TIE Fighter Pilot Buildable Model Helmet ($59.99; lego.com)

With the Stormtrooper, you’re getting a 647-piece helmet-building set, complete with the blacked-out visor, two nodes on the bottom for speaking and stickers to complete the look. Similarly, the Boba Fett helmet will let you pay homage to the original Mandalorian. This set is 21 centimeters tall (a little over 8 inches) and has 625 pieces. You’ll be constructing each detail of the helmet, including the fold-down viewfinder that lets Boba easily track down his targets. (He is a bounty hunter, after all.)

(17) HAKUNA ERRATA. [Item by Daniel Dern.] In Pixel Scroll 5/27/20 Johnny Mnemonic B. Goode I’d said —

This in turn reminded me of one of my favorite songs by Chris Smither, “Henry David Thoreau” riffing on (same tune) Berry’s song. Oddly, even incomprehensibly, I find NO mention of it anywhere via DuckDuckGo nor Google, even though I’ve heard Smither sing it numerous times. (I also checked his discography.

It turns out that, while I have heard Chris Smither sing this song, he wasn’t the author. That was Paul Geremia, one of Boston/Cambridge’s wonderful acoustic blues musicians.

The song is on his Self Portrait In Blues album. (And on my ~2,800-song Spotify playlist, which is how, when it came around again this morning on the guitar, as it were, I realized my mistake.)

Here’s a so-so performance:

The song (and much of the album) is on Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple, and elsewhere. Apple’s got a reasonable sample snippet.

(18) THE STAR VANISHES. The BBC says Alfred Hitchcock isn’t involved in “Mystery over monster star’s vanishing act”.

Astronomers have been baffled by the disappearance of a massive star they had been observing.

They now wonder whether the distant object collapsed to form a black hole without exploding in a supernova.

If correct, it would be the first example of such a huge stellar object coming to the end of its life in this manner.

But there is another possibility, the study in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society reports.

The object’s brightness might have dipped because it is partially obscured by dust.

It is located some 75 million light-years away in the Kinman Dwarf galaxy, in the constellation of Aquarius.

The giant star belongs – or belonged – to a type known as a luminous blue variable; it is some 2.5 million times brighter than the Sun.

Stars of this kind are unstable, showing occasional dramatic shifts in their spectra – the amount of light emitted at different wavelengths – and brightness.

(19) YOU WILL BELIEVE A…EH, NO YOU WON’T. NPR explains “How Snakes Fly (Hint: It’s Not On A Plane)”

Flying snakes like Chrysopelea paradisi, the paradise tree snake, normally live in the trees of South and Southeast Asia. There, they cruise along tree branches and, sometimes, to get to the ground or another tree, they’ll launch themselves into the air and glide down at an angle.

They undulate their serpentine bodies as they glide through the air, and it turns out that these special movements are what let these limbless creatures make such remarkable flights.

That’s according to some new research in the journal Nature Physics that involved putting motion-capture tags on seven snakes and then filming them with high-speed cameras as the snakes flew across a giant four-story-high theater.

How far they can go really depends on how high up they are when they jump, says Jake Socha at Virginia Tech, who has studied these snakes for almost a quarter-century. He recalls that one time he watched a snake start from about 30 feet up and then land nearly 70 feet away. “It was really a spectacular glide,” Socha recalls.

Part of the way the snakes do this is by flattening out their bodies, he says. But the snakes’ bodies also make wavelike movements. “The snake looks like it’s swimming in the air,” he says. “And when it’s swimming, it’s undulating.”

(20) BLOCKBUSTED. “With Big Summer Films Delayed, AMC Theatres Puts Off U.S. Reopening”.

The nation’s largest movie theater chain is delaying its U.S. reopening until the end of July because film companies have postponed release dates of two anticipated blockbusters.

AMC Theatres announced that a first round of approximately 450 locations will resume operations two weeks later than initially planned, to coincide with the updated August release dates of Warner Brothers’ Tenet and Disney’s Mulan.

“Our theatre general managers across the U.S. started working full time again today and are back in their theatres gearing up to get their buildings fully ready just a few weeks from now for moviegoers,” CEO Adam Aron said in a June 29 statement. “That happy day, when we can welcome guests back into most of our U.S. theatres, will be Thursday, July 30.”

The company said it expects its more than 600 U.S. theaters to be “essentially to full operation” by early August.

AMC Theatres made headlines earlier this month when it announced patrons will be required to wear masks, reversing course on a controversial reopening plan that had only encouraged them to do so.

(21) ALL THE SMART KIDS ARE DOING IT. “Famous New York Public Library Lions Mask Up To Set An Example”.

For the first time, the familiar marble faces outside the New York Public Library will be obscured by masks.

Patience and Fortitude, the iconic lion sculptures guarding the 42nd Street library, are wearing face coverings to remind New Yorkers to stay safe and stop the spread of COVID-19.

The masks arrived on June 29, and measure three feet wide by two feet tall, according to a library statement.

New York Public Library President Anthony Marx emphasized the symbolism of the aptly named lions, and said New Yorkers are similarly strong and resilient.

(22) NEVERENDING SENDUP. The Screen Junkies continue their look at oldies with an “Honest Trailer” for The Neverending Story, where they show that gloomy Germans created “a world of neverending misery.”  They discovered that star Noah Hathaway subsequently played Harry Potter Jr. in Troll (1986) with Michael Moriarty playing Harry Potter Sr.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Joey Eschrich, Rich Horton, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Darrah Chavey, Olav Rokne, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to wandering minstrel of the day Cliff.]

Pixel Scroll 5/29/20 And One Wormhole Going Nowhere Just For Show

(1) DYNAMIC DINOS. Camestros Felapton continues celebrating his fifth blogoversary with the release of a post collection — “Book Launch: The Hugosauriad”. And the price is right: “As always the cost is FREE and half price for dinosaurs.”

Two hundred and fifty two million years in the making, a book that spans geological eras, astronomical bodies colliding, and people getting upset at award ceremonies. Space! Big game hunters! A surprising number of priests! Atheist therapods! This is a book that has everything but a simple premise!

…Picking a single theme opened up a way into the huge scope of the Hugo Awards. Instead of just winners, I could look at notable finalists as well but more than that, I could look at stories that weren’t even nominated (in some cases because they preceded the Hugo Awards) but which were influential. It also meant that I could trace how one theme had changed and shifted in the genre over decades but also how features of the Hugos (such as the infamous No Award) had played out in multiple eras.

To my delight and surprise other themes volunteered themselves as if eager to jump on the bandwagon: the boundary between science fiction and literary fiction, the influence of changing scientific ideas on science fiction, the role of humour in science fiction, the representation of women as both authors and characters in the awards.

(2) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present N.K. Jemisin and Kenneth Schneyer online Wednesday, June 17th, 2020, at 7 p.m. (The in-person event is cancelled.) The YouTube link for the livestream is forthcoming.

N.K. Jemisin

N.K. Jemisin is a New York Times-bestselling author of speculative fiction short stories and novels. In 2018, she became the first author to win three Best Novel Hugos in a row for her Broken Earth trilogy. She has also won a Nebula Award, two Locus Awards, and a number of other honors. Her latest novel, The City We Became, is out now from Orbit Books. She lives and writes in Brooklyn.

Kenneth Schneyer

Kenneth Schneyer has been nominated for the Nebula and Sturgeon awards. His fiction has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Uncanny Magazine, Strange Horizons, Analog, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Clockwork Phoenix. Fairwood Press will release his second collection, Anthems Outside Time and Other Strange Voices in July. He teaches Shakespeare, constitutional law, sf, criminal procedure, and introductory logic to college students in Rhode Island.

(3) LEGENDS OF TOMORROW RECAP. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Tuesday night’s episode of DC’S Legends of Tomorrow was the episode where they parodied Star Trek.  The premise this season is that the three Greek Fates are in the Legends of Tomorrow universe and have three rings, and these rings are plot coupons that you can turn in for the prize, which I think is absolute power or something.  Two of the Fates are evil and one, Clotho, is a good character who helps the Legends.  In Tuesday’s episode, Clotho places the Legends in a universe where they are on TV all the time, in shows that are analogues of Friends, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Downton Abbey, and Star Trek.

The Trek parody was called “Star Trip,” a spaceship whose continuing mission was to find strange new worlds and then blow them up.  They faced characters called “Gromulans” who looked vaguely like Klingons.  There was also a character who looked like Khan and was called Don, and the joke here is that Don had long flowing white hair while Dominic Purcell, who played Don, is a bald character in the Legends universe.  Caity Lotz did her Shatner impression and was funny, but I thought the best character in the show was Matt Ryan, who played the head butler in the Downton Abbey analogue but on the show plays dissolute demon hunter John Constantine.

My problem with the Arrowverse shows is that their writers discovered parallel worlds, making the show’s story arcs ridiculously complicated.  I think Tom Cavanaugh on The Flash has played four variants of his character from four parallel worlds.  But Legends of Tomorrow has a less complex backstory and is entertaining.  I also think Stargirl is promising, at least for the first two episodes.

(4) LET’S KEEP LOOKING. Robert Zubrin, in “Searching for Life in the Outer Solar System” at National Review Online, has a positive review of JPL scientist Kevin Peter Hand’s Alien Oceans, which discusses the need for continuing deep-space exploration.

You Earthlings are all alike. Whether humans, turtles, wasps, trees, mushrooms, tardigrades, or bacteria, you all use the same DNA, RNA, ATP biochemical operating system. You offer some interesting diversity, that is true. But are you all there is to life?

Kevin Peter Hand, a scientist with the Jet Propulsion Lab, really wants to get the answer. In his engaging new book, Alien Oceans: The Search for Life in the Depths of Space, he lays out why, where, and how we can do so.

English, French, Spanish, German, and Polish all use the same system for encoding information: the Latin alphabet. Greek and Russian employ alphabets that differ significantly but still work according to the same basic principles. That is because all these scripts have a common origin. If all you knew were European languages, you might think that variation on such writing systems exhausted the possibilities. Chinese, though, on the other hand, utilizes an information technology with no resemblance to any Western phonetic alphabet. It accomplishes the same function but does so in a fundamentally different way.

There are, as Hand explains, fundamental reasons why we might expect that life everywhere uses the same carbon- and water-based chemistry we see here. But Earth life is far more restricted in its format than such considerations alone require. Specifically, it all uses the same DNA-RNA alphabet for encoding genetic information from one generation to the next — the Latin alphabet, if you will. That works well enough, but could life elsewhere be using Chinese? And what could that mean if it does? …

(5) BE AWARE. Angela Yuriko Smith advises readers of the Horror Writers Association newsletter about the need to do “Marketing Without Marketing”.

…For many of us (including my own family) expendable income has been reduced or dried up completely. Even those of us who were flush before the pandemic are feeling the pinch now. Many of us are looking at all the avenues of income we have access to. And suddenly, I’ve noticed, everyone has something to sell.

Here’s the problem: when people don’t have extra money, how do blatant advertisements make them feel? For me, I get annoyed. I’m already upset that my extra money is gone and I’m having to cut back on luxury items. Some people can’t even cover bare necessities right now. When we’re broke and you get hit with a blunt “buy this” notice, we typically have a negative response.

If I can no longer purchase the things I do regularly, a “buy this” marketing approach only serves as a reminder of the bitter truth. As artists, we never want anyone to feel a negative response to us or our work. That feeling of dislike can last long after the current pandemic becomes history.

(6) CALLED OFF. A piece in the Washington Post with the theme “summer is not cancelled” that names a lot of activities still happening or going online, also lists local cancellations – including two large Washington media conventions:  Blerdcon, the “black nerd” convention, and Otakon, a giant 30,000 person anime convention that was in Baltimore and moved to Washington a few years ago.

Blerdcon and Otakon: It’s a tough year for those who love dressing up as their favorite pop-culture icons. Both Otakon, the mega-convention which drew almost 30,000 attendees to a celebration of anime, manga and Asian art at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in 2019, and Blerdcon, a diverse gathering for thousands of gamers, cosplayers and fans of nerd culture at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, are off.

(7) CREATING TO SCALE. Tor.com’s Alan Brown might talk you into making a model yourself: “Bringing Stories to Life: The World of Science Fiction and Fantasy Model Building”.

Science fiction and fantasy fans love to dream about things that never existed. And some of them enjoy bringing objects and ideas from their imagination to life. Whether working from kits or making something from scratch, there is a great deal of enjoyment to be gained from model building, and satisfaction in seeing a finished project. This is a great time for those who enjoy the hobby: the internet has provided ways to share information with other modelers and to shop for kits and products from around the world, and the new technology of 3D printing has opened up even more ways to bring imaginary things to life. So if, like a lot of people these days, you have some extra time on your hands, you might want to look into model building

We live in a time where social distancing has become imperative. Folks are being warned to minimize contact with other people, keep a safe distance and remain in their homes as much as possible. This has become a source of good-natured humor in the model-building community, whose members spend a lot of time at benches tucked away in a basement or corner of their house. “We’ve been training for this our whole lives,” they joke. But this also raises a good point: Modeling is a perfect hobby for these times…. 

(8) AT SEVENTEEN. PureWow’s Sarah Stiefvater did it: “Every Single ‘Harry Potter’ Movie Explained Using Only a Haiku”.

2. ‘HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS’

Dobby tries to help

Gang gets whomped by a willow

Tom Riddle—uh oh!

(9) JAMES OBIT. Actor Anthony James, famed for playing creeps and villains in major films like The Heat of the Night and The Unforgiven, died of cancer May 26. His extensive resume included appearances in TV’s Beauty and the Beast (1989), and Star Trek: The Next Generation (“The Neutral Zone” as Romulan Sub-Cmdr. Thei, 1988). (His career included getting killed by Clint Eastwood’s character in two different movies.)

James had made a single brief appearance on a TV series before Norman Jewison cast him as the killer Ralph in 1967’s In the Heat of the Night, starring Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger. The film went on to win five Oscars, including Best Picture.

His memoir, Acting My Face — a title borrowed from an oft-told story about his acting idol Marlon Brando — was published in 2014.

Anthony James on the right as Sub-Cmdr. Thei.

(10) HERD OBIT. Actor Richard Herd, best-known for his work on Seinfeld, died May 27. The New York Times paid tribute:

Richard Herd, who played lawmen, tough guys, a general, an alien commander and a Watergate burglar, but was best known as Mr. Wilhelm, George Costanza’s supervisor, on “Seinfeld,” died on Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 87.

Mr. Herd was also known for roles on several science-fiction series, among them Supreme Commander John on the mini-series “V” in 1983 and its sequel the next year; L’Kor, a Klingon, on “Star Trek: The Next Generation”; and Admiral William Noyce on “Seaquest 2032.”

Richard Thomas Herd was born on Sept. 26, 1932, in Boston. In 1970 he was cast in his first film, “Hercules in New York,” whose star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was also making his movie debut.

He stayed busy for nearly 50 years. He had roles in the mini-series “Ike: The War Years” (1979), “The China Syndrome” (1979), “All the President’s Men” (1976), and the TV series “T.J. Hooker,” “Quantum Leap” and “Desperate Housewives.”

In 2017, Mr. Herd played the founder of a cult in one scene in Jordan Peele’s acclaimed horror film “Get Out.”

(11) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” was inspired by a real bird, specifically Charles Dickens’ pet  Grip, who also makes an appearance in his owner’s story “Barnaby Rudge.” Grip died in 1841 but was preserved in arsenic and taxidermied. He can be seen in the Rare Books department of the Philadelphia Free Library.

Source: Atlas Obscura

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 29, 1956 X Minus One aired Gordon R. Dickson’s “Lulungameena.” It first appeared in the Looking Forward anthology in November 1953 (edited by Milton Lesser), and is the first story where his Dorsai mercenaries are mentioned (though it was not considered a Dorsai story by him). Four years after this aired, Dorsai! would finish second to Starship Troopers for Best Novel Hugo at Pittcon. The script was by George Lefferts who did most of the scripts here. The cast was Ralph Camargo, Ned Weaver, Jack Grimes, Bob Hastings and Kermit Murdock. You can hear the show here.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 29, 1874 – G.K. Chesterton.  Wrote essays, fiction, poems (is poetry fiction?), plays, biography, criticism.  Illustrator; journalist; radio broadcaster.  Half a dozen of his eighty books are ours, famously The Napoleon of Notting Hill and The Man Who Was Thursday; eighty of his two hundred shorter stories.  Events in his Father Brown stories turn out not to be fantasy.  But GKC was the prince of paradox.  Translated into Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish.  (Died 1936) [JH]
  • Born May 29, 1901 – Ken Fagg.  A dozen covers for If and a few others; co-creator of world’s largest geophysical relief globe; illustrator for LifeHolidaySaturday Evening Post; art director for 20th Century Fox.  See three of his If wrap-arounds hereherehere.  Here is A Volcanic Eruption on Titan, Sixth Moon of Saturn.  (Died 1980) [JH]
  • Born May 29, 1906 – T.H. White.  We can claim six of his novels (counting The Once and Future King as one – although its publication history made its first part “The Sword in the Stone” eligible for a Retro-Hugo, which we gave it), twenty shorter stories.  He lived to see Once & Future made into the Lerner & Loewe musical Camelot, which L&L told each other was impossible, and they were right, but luckily that didn’t matter.  He translated a Bestiary, called non-fiction, which is like calling Once & Future a children’s story.  (Died 1964) [JH]
  • Born May 29, 1909 Neil R. Jones. It is thought that “The Death’s Head Meteor,” his first story, which was published in Air Wonder Stories in 1930, could be the first use of “astronaut” in fiction. He also created the use of a future history before either Robert A. Heinlein or Cordwainer Smith were to do so. They’re collected in The Planet of the Double SunThe Sunless World and a number of another overlapping collections.  He’s a member of the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1988.) (CE)
  • Born May 29, 1923 Genevieve Linebarger. Widow of Cordwainer Smith. She had a hand in The Instrumentality of Mankind series, co-authoring “The Lady Who Sailed the Soul” (1960), and “Golden the Ship Was — Oh! Oh! Oh!” (1959) and, after her husband’s death, was the sole author of “Down to a Sunless Sea” (1975) published under his name, and completed “Himself in Anachron“ (published 1993). (Credits per NESFA Press’ Rediscovery of Man collection.) (Died 1981.) (CE)
  • Born May 29, 1930 – Richard Clifton-Dey.  Five dozen covers in our field; a hundred total, Westerns, war books, advertising, romance; a few interiors; much unsigned, identified by his widow.  See here (Fritz Leiber), here (Tim Powers), here (H.G. Wells).  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born May 29, 1939 Alice K. Turner. Playboy fiction editor from 1980 to 2000. Silverberg praised her highly and she did much to make sure SF had an important place in the fiction offered up there. The Playboy Book of Science Fiction collects a good tasting of the SF published during her tenure. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born May 29, 1948 – Larry Kresek.  Thirty covers in our field.  First chair of illustration dep’t, Ringling School of Art & Design; movie posters, record albums, national ads, pharmaceutical illustrations; adviser to education committee, N.Y. Society of Illustrators; professor, Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design; various projects with wife Joan Kresek.  See here (Spider & Jeanne Robinson), here (Theodore Sturgeon), here.  [JH]
  • Born May 29, 1952 – Louise Cooper.  Eighty novels in our field: a dozen Time Master novels; also CreaturesDark EnchantmentIndigoMermaid CurseMirror, MirrorSea Horses; a dozen stand-alone novels, another dozen shorter stories. Translated into French, German, Spanish.  She and husband Cas Shandall sang with the shanty group Falmouth Shout.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 29, 1959 Adrian Paul, 61. Duncan MacLeod on Highlander. And yes, I watched the whole bloody series. His first appearance in genre circles was as Dmitri Benko in the “Ashes, Ashes” episode of the Beauty and the Beast series. He shows up next as Prospero in Masque of the Red Death. He’s got several series before HighlanderWar of the Worlds (not bad at all) where he was John Kincaid, a short-lived role as Jeremiah Collins on Dark Shadows and an even shorter-lived rolled on Tarzán as Jack Traverse. His first post- Highlander Sf series is Tracker where her he players alien shapeshifter Cole / Daggon.  A decade ago, he returned to a familiar role in Highlander: The Source. His last series role was playing Dante on Arrow.  Note: this is not a complete list. (CE)
  • Born May 29, 1987 Pearl Mackie, 33. Companion to Twelfth Doctor, the actress was the first openly LGBTQ performer and companion cast in a regular role in Doctor Who. Mackie, says Moffatt, was so chosen as being non-white was not enough. Her other notable genre role was playing Mika Chantry in the audiowork of The Conception of Terror: Tales Inspired by M. R. James. (CE)
  • Born May 29, 1996 R. F. Kuang, 24. She’s an award-winning Chinese-American fantasy writer. The Poppy War series, so-called grimdark fantasy, consists of The Poppy War which won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel, The Dragon Republic and The Burning God (forthcoming). She’s a nominee this year for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. (CE)

(14) COMICS SECTION.

Q: Why is the suspense killing him?

A: Someone has to do it.

Wondermark on time traveling assassins.

(15) BLEEDING OUT. Sarah McNally asks in a New York Times opinion piece, “What Could Kill My New York Bookstores?” There’s no doubt about it. Tagline: “It won’t be Amazon or the coronavirus. It will be artificially high rents.”

Every weekday I drive to my four bookstores, pick up our customers’ orders, wedge them into the back of my car and take them to the Cooper Station post office. My route takes me to Williamsburg to Downtown Brooklyn to the South Street Seaport, and ends at my original store in NoLIta.

I sweep the deserted sidewalks — if you own a shop, you’re responsible for the sidewalk — and I wonder how many of the stores and restaurants around mine will be able to reopen and pay the debts they accrued during the lockdown.

So many closed long before the pandemic. I miss my old neighbors in NoLIta, the restaurants and their chefs, the bodega that magically had everything I needed, like Mary Poppins’s carpetbag, the Buddhist monk from the Tibetan store who gave me cardamom for tea, the bar where I had the most beautiful date of my life.

How many more distinctive stores and restaurants can our city lose before we find that we are no longer New York, but a dead-faced simulacrum?

Years before Covid, many city blocks had been reduced to a few overlit national chains — Dunkin’ Donuts, Metro by T-Mobile, Subway, Starbucks — and a whole lot of dark, depressing vacancies. Almost every business owner I spoke to or read about seemed to give the same reason: soaring rents. In some neighborhoods, even as vacancies are increasing, rent keeps rising….

(16) DEEP EIGHT. “World’s deepest octopus captured on camera”.

The deepest ever sighting of an octopus has been made by cameras on the Indian Ocean floor.

The animal was spotted 7,000m down in the Java Trench – almost 2km deeper than the previous reliable recording.

Researchers, who report the discovery in the journal Marine Biology, say it’s a species of “Dumbo” octopus.

The name is a nod to the prominent ear-like fins just above these animals’ eyes that make them look like the 1940s Disney cartoon character.

(17) ONE TO MEME UP. William Shatner tweeted a photo of him inside one of the new SpaceX spacesuits and said he’s available if NASA wants him.

(18) WAVE OFFERING. “‘Cannabis burned during worship’ by ancient Israelites”

Ancient Israelites burned cannabis as part of their religious rituals, an archaeological study has found.

A well-preserved substance found in a 2,700-year-old temple in Tel Arad has been identified as cannabis, including its psychoactive compound THC.

Researchers concluded that cannabis may have been burned in order to induce a high among worshippers.

This is the first evidence of psychotropic drugs being used in early Jewish worship, Israeli media report.

The temple was first discovered in the Negev desert, about 95km (59 miles) south of Tel Aviv, in the 1960s.

In the latest study, published in Tel Aviv University’s archaeological journal, archaeologists say two limestone altars had been buried within the shrine.

Thanks in part to the dry climate, and to the burial, the remains of burnt offerings were preserved on top of these altars.

(19) ASSUMING THIS IS YOUR IDEA OF COOL. “When Covid-19 hit, zookeeper Caitlin Henderson ended up in lockdown with 70 spiders” — video with lots of cool closeups.

Caitlin Henderson was working for a spider exhibition when the coronavirus pandemic hit. The venue closed, and suddenly she was living in lockdown with 70 spiders in her bedroom.

(20) BACK IN THE DAY. Superman serial star Kirk Alyn plays baseball with other movie celebrities of 1950, including Hopalong Cassidy, in this Paramount News feature.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Nina Shepardson, John A Arkansawyer, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 4/8/20 Why The Pixel Shudders When It Perceives The Scroll

The Sad Puppies always predicted, for their own vindictive reasons, that the time would come when the internet fell on me. I never disagreed. I knew they were right. Today was that day.

(1) SAVING BOOKSTORES. In his latest e-newsletter Barry Hoffman, Publisher of Gauntlet Press, included this news about aid to crisis-affected indie bookstores:

  • James Patterson has donated $500,000 in partnership with the American Booksellers Association to help Independent bookstores (#SaveIndieBookstores).
  • Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, Mass., launched a GoFundMe campaign earlier this week after being closed to the public since March 17.
  • Annie Philbrick, owner of Bank Square Books in Mystic, Conn., and Savoy Bookshop & Cafe in Westerly, R.I., launched a GoFundMe campaign. Philbrick and her team are looking to raise $100,000, and raised over $10,000 on the fundraiser’s first day. Funds raised will go to payroll, utilities, liabilities and rent.
  • The Bookworm of Edwards in Edwards, Colo., launched a GoFundMe page. In the days since, store owner Nicole Magistro has managed to raise more than $62,000 out of a $75,000 goal. Since launching the campaign and appealing to customers, Magistro reported, online sales have jumped tremendously.

(2) WAIT A MINUTE, THAT WAS YOU? Veteran conrunner Laurie Mann also works as a movie extra: “Happy Tales from Set: The “Quiet” Jack Reacher Bus Scene”.

I’m a movie extra, paid for something like 30 different productions since 2008, and this turned out to be my favorite day on set…

… The movie came out in 2012, and I think the DVD came out in 2013.  I love to listen to director’s commentary, which, for this movie, was both the director, Christopher McQuarrie and the star, Tom Cruise.  When this scene came up, they both made a point of saying how hard the Pittsburgh extras worked on this movie!!  So what was another reason this scene was my favorite scene – not only was I in it, but I got to suggest three bits of business that the director used!

(3) SOMTOW’S LISTENING GUIDE. Somtow Sucharitkul lists “Programming on OperaSiamTV.com  that MIGHT be of interest to my friends in science fiction community” — all times GMT+7 (Thailand Time)

  • Thursday 8 pm with reruns midnight, Friday morning 8 am, 12 noon: by popular request, the Ultimate Star Wars Symphony Concert once again (this is all Thursday for L.A.)
  • Friday (Good Friday) 8 pm and 12 am plus 8 am and 12 noon a production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” from Bangkok, directed by Somtow
  • Saturday (for Passover) – first broadcast of Somtow’s opera about the Holocaust, Helena Citrónová 8 pm, 12 am, 8 pm, 12 noon
  • Sunday (Easter) same times — Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony
  • Monday (Songkraan, Thai Buddhist New Year) — marathon run of the first seven works in Somtow’s “Ten Lives of the Buddha” noon and midnight (this will run around 10 hours) — this probably has some interest in the fantasy crowd

(4) FOWL PLAY DELAYED. Shelf Awareness reports –

Disney has pulled its upcoming film Artemis Fowl, based on Eoin Colfer’s fantasy novels, from theatrical release and will debut the movie exclusively on its Disney+ streaming service sometime this summer. The Wrap reported that the move “comes as all theatrical releases are being shuffled around and delayed–some by as long as a year–while movie theaters remain closed during the coronavirus pandemic.”

(5) HOMEWORK. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna talks to comics creators Lynda Barry, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Paige Braddock, Faith Erin Hicks, and Dean Haspiel about how they are staying creative during the coronavirus pandemic.“5 tips to spark your creativity while working alone, from artists who do it all the time”.

1. Find an inspiring place to think

Many of [Jeff] Kinney’s familiar haunts are shuttered during the pandemic — including An Unlikely Story, the bookstore and cafe he owns in town. (Closed for nearly three weeks, the store had to cancel even Hillary Clinton’s scheduled tour stop.)

Sign up for our Coronavirus Updates newsletter to track the outbreak. All stories linked in the newsletter are free to access.

“Theoretically, the coronavirus quarantine shouldn’t affect a cartoonist’s productivity, because we’re experienced at working from home,” Kinney says. But “I’ve lost all my spaces in which I could generate ideas.”

So, he now spends his workdays parked at the local cemetery. Even his supplies and goodies support his creative routine.

(6) FISH IN A BARREL. National Review’s Jack Butler made me click, which I guess was the whole point. “Isaac Asimov’s Comforting Technocratic Fable”. Tagline: “The sci-fi great’s Foundation novels are an unrealistic depiction of free will, civilization, and crisis management.”

As leaders and those they govern struggle to confront the global challenges of COVID-19, wouldn’t it be nice if a hologram from the past spontaneously appeared with a pre-recorded message telling us exactly what to do? In Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels, that’s exactly what happens. First serialized as novellas in the sci-fi magazine Astounding Stories between 1942 and 1950 and published as proper novels in the early ’50s, the first three books in the Foundation series provide a superficially comforting tale of technocratic triumph. But they suffer from a failure in their central conceit that both renders the works fundamentally flawed and limits their utility for our own confusing time….

(7) KGB. Ellen Datlow and Matt Kressel announce:

Due to the NYC Coronavirus shutdown, there will be no in-person reading at the KGB Bar. Instead, we will live stream readings with April’s authors, Michael Cisco and Clay MacLeod Chapman on YouTube on April 15th, 2020, 7pm Eastern Time.

You can watch the readings live by clicking here.

If you wish to support the KGB Bar during the shutdown, you may do so here.

Michael Cisco

Michael Cisco published ten novels including The Divinity StudentThe Great LoverThe NarratorAnimal Moneyand Unlanguageand a short story collection called Secret Hours.  His short fiction has appeared in: The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited DiseasesLovecraft UnboundBlack WingsBlood and Other CravingsThe WeirdThe Grimscribe’s Puppets, and Aickman’s Heirs, among others.  He teaches at CUNY Hostos.

Clay McLeod Chapman

Clay McLeod Chapman is the author of The RemakingNothing UntowardCommencement, and several other novels. He has written the films The BoyHenley, and Late Bloomer. In the world of comics, he is the writer for Marvel’s ongoing series Scream: Curse of Carnage, as well as Iron Fist: Phantom LimbLazarettoSelf StorageEdge of Spider-Verse, and American Vampire, among others.  For more information, check out his website: www.claymcleodchapman.com

You can listen to podcasts of KGB readings here.

(8) THE WINTER LINE. George R.R. Martin said this was coming in “Crossovers and Cameos”. Now you can see a clip on YouTube.

I got a message from my friend Jonah Nolan last week. Jonah is one of the creators and showrunners of HBO’s WESTWORLD, along with his wife Lisa Joy, and he told me to be sure to catch Sunday’s episode, there might be something that would amuse me.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 8, 1912 John Carnell. British editor well regarded  for editing New Worlds two different times. He also edited Science Fantasy starting in the Fifties. After the magazines were sold off to another publisher, he left to create the New Writings in Science Fiction serieswhich ran until his death. Damien Broderick and John Boston have a two volume history of him entitled Building New Worlds, 1946-1959: The Carnell Era. (Died 1972.)
  • Born April 8, 1933 Cele Goldsmith. She was editor of Amazing Stories and Fantastic from 1958 to 1965 during which time Zelazny, Le Guin and Disch had their first published stories appeared in those magazines. She has given a special Hugo at Chicon III for editing Amazing Stories and Fantastic. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 8, 1942 Douglas Trumbull, 78. Let’s call him a genius and leave it at that. He contributed to, or was fully responsible for, the special photographic effects of Close Encounters of the Third Kind2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Blade Runner, and directed the movies Silent Running and Brainstorm. And Trumbull was executive producer for Starlost
  • Born April 8, 1967 Cecilia Tan, 53. Editor, writer and founder of Circlet Press, which she says is the first press devoted to erotic genre fiction. It has published well over a hundred digital book to date with such titles as Telepaths Don’t Need Safewords and Other Stories from the Erotic Edge of SF/Fantasy (Wouldn’t Bester be surprised to learn that. I digress), Sex in the System: Stories of Erotic Futures, Technological Stimulation, and the Sensual Life of Machines and Genderflex: Sexy Stories on the Edge and In-Between. She has two series, Magic University and The Prince’s Boy
  • Born April 8, 1974 Nnedi Okorafor, 46. Who Fears Death won a World Fantasy Award for Best Novel.  Lagoon, an Afrofuturist novel, was followed by her amazing Binti trilogy. Binti won both a Nebula Award and a Hugo Award for best novella. Several of her works have been adapted for video, both in Africa and in North America. 
  • Born April 8, 1981 Taylor Kitsch, 39. You’ll possibly remember him as the lead in John Carter which I swear was originally titled John Carter of Mars. He also played Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and was Lieutenant Commander Alex Hopper in Battleship which was based off the board game.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Today’s Lio comes with a tip of the hat to H.G. Wells.
  • Nancy’s April Fools Day explanation of who (or what) she really is was too good to miss.

(11) IT IS THE END, MY FRIEND. CBR.com knows everybody would rather read a prediction of doom: “Coronavirus Could Be the Beginning of the End for Super Conventions”.

…Now, however, with the justifiable closure of these conventions due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s unclear how much we really need these super conventions. We’ve already started to see a trend of major studios skipping them. Marvel and Sony opted out of these events for the past couple years, and it’s not a stretch to say they might reconsider attending in the future.

As digital media has expanded, the convention model has become more and more antiquated. Today, companies can draw the same amount of hype with an online trailer release and press conference as they used to by premiering a trailer at Comic Con — and the online trailer is a lot less hassle. It also allows studios to control how much gets out about their upcoming releases, lets them limit press access and saves them the embarrassment of a poor fan reaction at a live show.

(12) BITE ME. Eater Los Angeles says this “Rad New LA Pizza Delivery Service Comes With Immersive At-Home Vampire Game”.

What’s better than getting a pizza delivered at home during the time of the coronavirus pandemic? How about a pizza delivered by an ageless vampire family, complete with mysterious clues and puzzles to solve along with those slices?

That’s precisely the idea behind Vampire Pizza, a new at-home interactive food experience in Los Angeles that has been designed specifically for this current COVID-19 quarantine life. The idea is simple: a ghost kitchen pizza company partners with experiential artists and producers who are also stuck at home to create a one-of-a-kind character and clues-based game that gets delivered to a customer’s doorstep this weekend. It’s basically dinner and a (personal) show.

(13) D’OH! “A Family in Lockdown Recreated The Simpsons Opening and It’s Absolutely Joyful”Io9 points the way.

(14) BORING SCIENCE. The Harvard University Press blog advises about “Responding to Boredom during Self-Isolation”.

… To make matters worse, isolation often goes hand in hand with the strain of monotony. The Norwegian-built ship Belgica was the first to overwinter in the Antarctic during its epic 1898 voyage. Despite facing numerous challenges, Frederick Cook, the onboard doctor, was particularly struck by the problem of isolation and monotony. “We are imprisoned in an endless sea of ice, and find our horizon monotonous. We have told all the tales, real and imaginative…time weighs heavily upon us as the darkness slowly advances,” was his grim description. Allegedly, one crewmember was so fed up he jumped ship proclaiming that he was going to walk home to Belgium across the ice!

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Every C3PO Costume Explained By Anthony Daniels” on YouTube is a 50-minute documentary done for WIRED in which Daniels describes every costume he wore in the nine Star Wars films and includes a lot of rare behind-the-scenes footage.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/13/20 The Sun Comes Shining As I Was Scrolling, The Pixels Waving And The Dust Clouds Rolling

(1) BUTTIGIEG INTERVIEWS SIR PAT. “Recently unemployed” Mayor Pete Buttigieg guest-hosted The Jimmy Kimmel Show. Due to public health concerns over the coronavirus, they cancelled their studio audience. Sir Patrick Stewart was a guest on the show.

Sir Patrick talks about Mayor Pete’s huge “Star Trek” fandom, civil disobedience, Sir Ian McKellen performing the multiple marriage ceremonies he had to his wife, and he surprises Mayor Pete with one of his original scripts from “Star Trek.”

They also did a sketch about “a Star Trek trivia game show for the ages called ‘Who’s the Captain Now?’” hosted by LeVar Burton.

(2) HELIOSPHERE CANCELLED. Heliosphere, which was to have been held April 3-5 in Tarrytown, NY has been called off. The committee has not yet decides whether to try and hold it later this year.

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus, HELIOsphere 2020 will not be running as scheduled for April 3-5. At this time, we don’t know whether we will be postponing or simply cancelling for this year. We will keep you posted as we work out the details with the hotel.

(3) STOKERCON STATUS. The Horror Writers Association’s annual StokerCon is scheduled to be held in the U.K. next month. HWA President John Palisano gave this update to Facebook readers today:

At this time, more than two-thirds of attendees are based in the U.K., you should all be aware that the political situation has been changing by the hour. Only in the last 24 hours has travel in Europe (with the exception of the U.K.) been generally banned. The U.K. may take a similar step, or the U.S. may prohibit travel to and from there. So it’s a very real possibility that in the next few days, the decision of whether to hold the Con may be taken out of our hands. We don’t want to cancel the event unnecessarily, because that could cause severe financial hardship to many of our attendees and volunteers. On the other hand, we want to be respectful of individual decisions about whether or not to travel. We ask for you to be patient for a few more days while we try to sort out various options, including streaming the Bram Stoker Awards ceremony.

Meanwhile, our Librarians Day event, scheduled for May 7th of this year in Chicago, is still a go at this point. The organizers are also carefully watching this pandemic and are working on contingencies should the issues stretch that far into the future. They will have an announcement tomorrow.

Know that heading my first StokerCon as President of the HWA carries no small weight, and that my main priority is and will remain our members’ safety and well-being as we navigate these treacherous and unmapped waters.

(4) UP IN THE AIR. Fans inquiring about the status of Minicon 55, planned for April 10-12 in Minneapolis, have been told there’s a committee meeting this weekend and an announcement one way or the other may follow.

(5) MORE COVERAGE. Tor.com’s Andrew Liptak is also tracking the status of sff events. “Coronavirus: The Sci-Fi/Fantasy Conventions Canceled So Far”.

Those events include major science fiction, fantasy, and gaming conventions, as well as adjacent events like conferences. We’ve compiled a list of major and regional events that have been postponed, canceled, or which are as of now still running.

(6) SMITHSONIAN’S OPEN ACCESS IMAGE COLLECTION. We ought to be able to do a lot with this: “Smithsonian Releases 2.8 Million Images Into Public Domain”.

Culture connoisseurs, rejoice: The Smithsonian Institution is inviting the world to engage with its vast repository of resources like never before.

For the first time in its 174-year history, the Smithsonian has released 2.8 million high-resolution two- and three-dimensional images from across its collections onto an open access online platform for patrons to peruse and download free of charge. Featuring data and material from all 19 Smithsonian museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives and the National Zoo, the new digital depot encourages the public to not just view its contents, but use, reuse and transform them into just about anything they choose—be it a postcard, a beer koozie or a pair of bootie shorts.

And this gargantuan data dump is just the beginning. Throughout the rest of 2020, the Smithsonian will be rolling out another 200,000 or so images, with more to come as the Institution continues to digitize its collection of 155 million items and counting.

When I searched “science fiction” lots more photogenic things came up – from lunch boxes to C3PO – but I was intrigued by this 1951 Astounding advertising rate card:

(7) SCIENCE IN THE HOUSE. That’s candidate Brianna Wu’s latest appeal:

Media has focused on the dangers of Coronavirus. Brianna Wu speaks with Geneticist Frank Wu about the possible treatments and vaccines being developed by the biotech industry

(8) ANOTHER WORLD. Henry Lien posted this thought experiment on Facebook.

WHAT WOULD THE WORLD BE LIKE IF EVERYONE WERE LIKE YOU?
I used to play a game and ask people what the world would be like if everyone were like you. Here are some features of my world.
1. Restaurants would be filled with constant people traffic as everyone went to wash their hands after touching the menu and after touching cash.
2. Doorknobs, elevator buttons, light switches, hotel TV remotes, and ATM interfaces would all be redesigned for elbows.
3. There’d be no shoes in the house and people would bow instead of shaking hands.
4. Everyone would be at home on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights happily writing, making music, reading, or playing Nintendo.
5. No one would get a cold more than once every ten years.
6. Extroverts and free-spirited folks would be miserable.

(9) SPEAKER IN THE HOUSE. Cat Rambo shares her experience in “How to Stay Sane and Productive While Working at Home”. One of her eight main headings is —

Exercise is good. You may not be able to get to the gym — I’m currently avoiding it, myself — but you will be happier and healthier if you are doing something. For me, that’s walking, because I’m lucky enough to live in a great area for it. I also have a standing desk that I got from Ikea years back. Your mileage may (literally) vary, but at least stretch when you can and be mindful of your back.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 13, 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. You can see it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 13, 1911 L. Ron Hubbard. Ok I’ll admit that I tried reading Battlefield Earth and really didn’t like it. Some of his early pulp fiction is actually quite good. So what do y’all think of him as a genre writer? (Died 1986.)
  • Born March 13, 1928 Douglas Rain. Though most of his work was as a stage actor, he was the voice of the HAL 9000 for 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel. He’s in Sleeper a few years later as the voices of the Evil Computer and Various Robot Butlers. (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 13, 1932 Richard Lawrence Purtill. He’s here because EoSF list him as the author of  Murdercon, a1982 novel where a murder is discovered at a SF Convention. I’ve not heard of it but was wondering if y’all had heard of this work. (Died 2016.)
  • Born March 13, 1938 David McKail, 82. He was Sergeant Kyle in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. He also was Sir Henry Roscoe in Beatrix: The Early Life of Beatrix Potter, and was in the adaptation of Iain Banks’ The Crow Road which I know is neither genre or genre adjacent but it had Peter Capaldi in it.  
  • Born March 13, 1950 William H. Macy Jr., 70. I’ll start his Birthday note by noting that he was in the superb Pleasantville as George Parker. He’s shown up in a lot of genre works including but limited to Somewhere in Time, Evolver, The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue, The Night of the Headless Horseman, Jurassic Park III, Sahara and The Tale of Despereaux.
  • Born March 13, 1956 Dana Delany, 63. I’ve come today to praise her work as a voice actress. She was in a number of DCU animated films, first as Andrea Beaumont in Batman: The Mask of The Phantasm, then as Lois Lane in Superman: The Animated Series, Superman: Brainiac Attacks and Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. (That’s not a complete listing.) Remember that Wing Commander film? Well there was an animated series, Wing Commander Academy, in which she was Gwen Archer Bowman. 
  • Born March 13, 1966 Alastair Reynolds, 54. As depressing as they are given what they lead up to, The Prefect Dreyfus novels are my favorite novels by him. That said, Chasm City was fascinating. The only ones by him that I absolutely failed to get any enthusiasm for is his Revenger Universe series.
  • Born March 13, 1967 Lou Anders, 53. Hugo-winning Editor. He’s has been editorial director of Prometheus Books’ SF  imprint Pyr since its launch fifteen years ago. He’s a crack editor of anthologies. I’ve very fond of his Live Without a Net, Sideways in Time and FutureShocks anthologies. I note that he has a fantasy trilogy, Thrones and Bones, but I’ve not heard of it til now.
  • Born March 13, 1968 Jen Gunnels, 52. Writer and genre theater critic, the latter a rare thing indeed. She does her reviews for Journal of the Fantastic in the ArtsFoundation: The Review of Science Fiction and New York Review of Science Fiction. With Erin Underwood, she has edited Geek Theater: Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy Plays

(12) KGB TO STREAM. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series with Daniel Braum and Robert Levy has been converted to a livestream. Hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel invite everyone to see it here on YouTube on March 18 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

We will, for the first time in our history, be live-streaming readings from both of our authors on YouTube. We hope you will join us for this historic event.

UPDATE March 13, 2020: For the safety and well-being of our readers and guests, we have decided to cancel this month’s in-person Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading with guests Daniel Braum & Robert Levy.

Instead, we will be hosting a YouTube Live event with both authors, who will be reading their work. Anyone with YouTube access can watch.

(13) PIKE PEEK. We Got This Covered confirmed “Captain Pike Star Trek Spinoff Series Reportedly In Development”.

… Of course, there’ve been calls for CBS to move ahead with such a spinoff for the past couple of years. EP Alex Kurtzman has addressed the possibility in the past, refusing to rule it out and commenting that they’re trying to find ways to bring these characters back. True, they did all appear in a few episodes of the Short Treks anthology series, but this didn’t fully satiate our appetite to see more of Pike and his crew.

As Discovery itself addressed, Pike is fated to meet a tragic end. As detailed in an episode of TOS, he’s eventually left paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair after rescuing Starfleet cadets from a delta ray radiation leak. Our intel says that this spinoff show will build up to that fate, properly filling the gap between TOS‘ pilot, “The Cage,” and his return in “The Menagerie.”

(14) WEEKEND NEWS BACKDATE. Galactic Journey’s John Boston has a 1965 news flash: “[March 12, 1965] Sic Transit (April 1965 Amazing]”.

The big news, previously rumored, is that Amazing and its stablemate Fantastic are to change hands.  The April Science Fiction Times just arrived, with the big headline “ ‘AMAZING STORIES’ AND ‘FANTASTIC’ SOLD TO SOL COHEN.” Cohen is the publisher of Galaxy, If, and Worlds of Tomorrow, but will resign at the end of next month to take up his new occupation. 

Why is this happening?  Probably because circulation, which had been increasing, started to decline again in 1962 (when I started reviewing it!).  The SF Times article adds, tendentiously and questionably, that “the magazine showed what appeared to be a lack of interest by its editors.” Read their further comment and draw your own conclusions on that point.

(15) ACROSS THE DIVIDE. Law & Liberty’s Brian A. Smith, in “Ursula Le Guin and the Persistence of Tragedy”, looks at The Dispossessed from the right.

At least when their authors avoid offering a thesis, novels acquire peculiar value in deranged times. They allow us to see cracks in our political and social foundations from another perspective, and as a result, open paths to conversation and thought that might otherwise remain closed. Lots of genres can unsettle us, but one peculiarity of science fiction is that its authors have the freedom to create worlds.

At the genre’s most stereotypical, this license to invent lends itself to both ham-fisted allegories and didacticism. But if the author happens to be coming from the “right” direction, so to speak, and has some real talent, it’s relatively easy to take an imaginative leap into their world. Reaching beyond one’s own tribe may present a challenge, however. It is difficult to read David Drake, Iain Banks, China Miéville, Robert Heinlein, or John Varley without observing how they view human nature, what they think family means, or the political order they endorse—and a lot more besides.

Critics often complain that such novels fail precisely because they think the author is stacking the deck in favor of their pet ideas. It’s easy for partisans to forgive this because such novels entertain while also fortifying our opinions against a hostile world. And it’s not surprising that sci-fi readership so often divides along partisan lines.

The Work of Sympathy

It is harder to name many great works of science fiction that offer a definitive point of view, while also presenting us with unresolvable tensions and latent anxieties that no attentive reader can quite escape. Neal Stephenson’s best work probably qualifies. Arguably Frank Herbert’s Dune or Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos also do this. We need the sympathy and broadening of horizons that such novels can cultivate more than ever, and for the present moment, the most compelling book of this kind remains Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed.

(16) STANDING UP. “Disney promises LGBT ‘commitment’: ‘We want to represent our audience'”.

Disney has promised to continue making films and TV shows with “an increased commitment” to diversity in its output, according to its boss Bob Chapek.

“We want to represent our audience,” he said at a meeting for the company’s shareholders this week.

“We want to tell stories that our audience wants to hear, that reflects their lives.”

He was responding to a question about LGBT characters in their films and pride events at theme parks.

There will be a transgender character in a future Marvel film, and upcoming superhero movie The Eternals will introduce Marvel’s first openly gay lead character to cinema screens.

…At the shareholder’s meeting, Disney CEO Bob Chapek was asked a question by Catholic campaigner Caroline Farrow, who represents conservative group Citizen Go.

As part of her question, she asked: “Is it perhaps time to reconsider what you can do to make Disney more family friendly, to make it safe for people around the world, not just one particular minority?”

She also claimed a petition which asks Disney not to hold gay pride events in its parks was signed by “almost 700,000 people”

(17) CLIMB EV’RY MOUNTAIN – NOT. From the BBC — “Mount Everest: Nepal’s government shuts off mountain amid virus outbreak”.

Mount Everest has shut down for the rest of the expedition season because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Nepal’s government announced that it would cancel all climbing permits from 14 March until 30 April.

China had already cancelled expeditions from the northern, Chinese-controlled, side of the mountain.

According to the Kathmandu Post, Nepal earns $4m (£3.1m) by issuing Everest climbing permits every year, aside from wider tourism revenue.

(18) THAT IS NOT DEAD… “Marine pollution: Russian fly spray and 1800s shoes among beach litter”.

Russian fly spray, US prohibition-era rum, shoes from the 1800s and a council bin have been among the stranger items to have washed up on British shores.

To highlight pollution, the National Trust has revealed the oddest objects to wash up on beaches it manages.

The 19th Century shoes, Russian insect spray and an aerosol from Saudi Arabia were all found at Orford Ness, Suffolk.

The National Trust saidit illustrated the “deluge” of marine litter and how long items such as plastic could last.

(19) NO PICTURES! They tore it out by the roots: “Christmas Island: ‘A giant robber crab stole my camera'” — video, including some impressively mangled equipment and a crab walking off with a coconut.

Researcher Annabel Dorrestein set up a thermal imaging camera to study flying foxes, or bats, at night on Australia’s Christmas Island.

But when she returned one morning to collect the camera, she discovered it had been stolen – almost certainly by the island’s famous robber crabs.

[Thanks to Dann, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Olav Rokne, Andrew Liptak, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]