Pixel Scroll 1/30/21 Hiding In The Hamburger Menu

(1) WINTER IS HERE. The Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop will host the Winter Writers Series, monthly conversations via Zoom between Clarion alumni and instructors about the art of speculative fiction and their writing careers. The conversations are co-hosted by Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore. The online events are free and open to the public. Each conversation will include time for Q&A with the audience. RSVP to each event individually via the links below.

Writing the Magic and the Real. February 24, 2021, 5pm PT / 8pm ET (register here)

A conversation between Andrea HairstonKiik Araki-Kawaguchi and Sanjena Sathian about how they approach blending elements of realism—including historical events and contemporary culture—and the fantastic in their fiction.

  • Andrea Hairston is a playwright, novelist, and scholar. She has published three novels.
  • Kiik Araki-Kawaguchi writes dreampop speculative fictions and darkwave minimalist poetry that can be enjoyed on a bus ride or in line for coffee.
  • Sanjena Sathian was raised in Georgia by Indian immigrant parents. She’s a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, an alumna of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, and a former Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow. Her debut novel, Gold Diggers, will be released by Penguin on April 6, 2021.

Science Fiction: Balancing Worldbuilding and Narrative. March 24, 2021, 5pm PT / 8pm ET (register here)

A conversation about the art of creating science fictional worlds and the stories that bring them to life with Cory DoctorowKaren Osborne, and Kali Wallace, three incredible writers and Clarion alumni.

  • Cory Doctorow is a science fiction author, activist, and journalist.
  • Karen Osborne is a speculative fiction writer and visual storyteller living in Baltimore. Architects of Memory is her debut sf novel and its sequel, Engines of Oblivion, will be released on 2/9/21.
  • For most of her life Kali Wallace was going to be a scientist when she grew up. Only after she had her shiny new doctorate in hand did she admit that she loved inventing imaginary worlds as much as she liked exploring the real one. Her newest novel, Dead Space, comes out on 3/2/21.

(2) 2021 WESTERCON. Westercon 73, the one-year delayed Westercon in Seattle, posted on their website that the delayed in-person conference will now be a virtual/online conference. Also, due to health concerns Sally Woehrle has stepped down as convention Chair. Gene Armstrong has moved from Vice Chair to Chair of Westercon 73. The committee says she will be assisting the convention in going forward once her health improves. Meanwhile, Armstrong explained the move to a virtual event:

Since winning the Westercon 73 bid in 2018 our committee has been excited about planning and holding this Westercon! However, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a number of changes in the last year no one could have foreseen and this Westercon wasn’t exempted from any of those challenges. We’ve all had to be patient and adjust to new ways of keeping in contact and that has also meant new ways of holding conventions. Even though vaccinations are starting to be available it doesn’t look like there will have been enough to make major gatherings safe by our original convention dates. That has led to hard conversations and decisions as to how Westercon 73 will go forward. Westercon 73 will NOT be an in-person physical convention.

In order to ensure the safety and health of all participants Westercon 73 will be a virtual/online convention. We are still working out key details of what this will entail but some decisions have been established. Virtual Westercon 73 will be held on the originally planned weekend of July 1-4, 2021. Westercon 73 will be offering a film festival, filking, and all the programming that can be managed effectively in an online format. The cost of a full attending membership has been dropped to $35 for the weekend to reflect the online nature of the convention. Please check our website or Facebook page for more information and updates as they become available.

(3) LEPRECON GOES VIRTUAL, TOO. LepreCon 47, a fan-run sff convention based in Phoenix, will be virtual from March 19-21, 2021 via Zoom.

Artist Guest of Honor (GoH) is Jeffrey S. Veregge, an award-winning Native American artist and writer from the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. Also participating: artist David Dace, and authors Maxwell Alexander Drake, Gregory Benford, Larry Niven, and Evan Currie. FtM Musician Alexander James Adams will be doing a Filk Concert.

(4) FUTURE TENSE. Simon Brown’s short story “Speaker” which looks at human-hyena communication is the latest story from Future Tense Fiction, and the first in a series presented by Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, as part of its work on Learning Futures and Principled Innovation

Akata woke before sunrise because a question occurred to her.

“What is joking?”

Samora, 300 kilometers away, rubbed sleep from his eyes and said, “Repeat?”

“What is joking?” Akata repeated.

“Umm.” Samora sat up straighter. He realized the question could mark one of those turning points that Project Sentience referred to as Levers, a window to wider dialogue between Speakers. It was a word the Project always spelled with a capital L, as if those working there needed to be reminded of its importance. Samora played for time. “Why do you ask?”…

Iveta Silova’s response essay asks “If nonhumans can speak, will people learn to listen?”

Living in the Anthropocene is fraught with paradox. For centuries, we have convinced ourselves that we, humans, are special and superior to other species and the rest of the natural world. We stand as self-appointed speakers for the planet, as though no other beings can feel, think, or communicate.

Today, however, we are forced to acknowledge that we are not so special after all. On the one hand, we wonder and worry whether artificial intelligence will become conscious, leading us down a dystopian spiral of human irrelevance. On the other hand, we see a major shift in scientific thinking about plant intelligence and animal consciousness, suggesting that the difference between human and nonhuman species is just a matter of degree, not of kind. Meanwhile, our hyperseparation from the natural world is threatening every species on Earth—including humans….

On Thursday, Feb. 4, at noon Eastern, author Simon Brown and Iveta Silova, professor and director of the Center for the Advanced Studies in Global Education, housed under Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, will discuss this story in an hour-long online discussion. RSVP here.

(5) TRAINING DAY. First Fandom Experience, in “Via Freight Train, A Travelogue Tragically Truncated”, has pulled together as many installments as they could find of two Denver fans’ accounts of traveling to the 1940 Worldcon in Chicago via boxcar.

[For Olon F. Wiggins and Lew Martin] at the Chicago gathering was essential, for they had already hatched a plan to propose that the following Worldcon in 1941 be held in Denver. So — how to get to Chicago?

According to Martin:

“It all began one meeting of the Denver Science Fictioneers when I asked Chairman Wiggins if he planned to attend the Chicago 1940 World’s Science-Fiction Convention. He replied that he was and I told him of my desire and determination to go. He planned to go via bus and I had planned to hitch-hike, picking up Al McKeel at Jefferson City, Missouri. Several meetings elapsed before we had compromised on accompanying each other via freight train.”From “Via Freight Train” by Lew Martin, TSFF, v5n7, April 1941

(6) FELLOWSHIP OF TELEPHONE RING. [Item by rcade.] The science fiction author Cherie Priest has a Twitter thread about being hit up for professional book deal advice by somebody in desperate need of a come-to-Jesus. Thread starts here.

Spoiler alert: The guy was a major-league [redacted]. But her conclusion about the friendship of writers is quite nice, and includes —

(7) MENTORING OPPORTUNITY. Vanity Fair shares “A Wrinkle in Time Author Madeleine L’Engle’s Letters to Ahmad Rahman”.

Madeleine L’Engle’s mail arrived in prodigious batches by the summer of 1976, 14 years after the publication of A Wrinkle in Time. From her study in Manhattan’s Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, where she served as librarian, the 57-year-old author attended to editorial correspondence, fan art, manila envelopes stuffed with middle-school-reader responses, royalty statements, and speaking requests from around the world. Amid the usual haul, one correspondent stood out: Ron Irwin, inmate #130539 at the State Prison of Southern Michigan, a 25-year-old former member of the Black Panther Party.

Irwin, who later converted to Islam and adopted the name Ahmad Rahman, had just received an honorable mention in the nonfiction category of the 1976 PEN America Writing Award for Prisoners. PEN had recently launched a correspondence program pairing writers in prison with established writers on the outside. Rahman signed on, welcoming the opportunity for literary growth while completing his bachelor’s degree through Wayne State University. He articulated only one wish: that the correspondent not be antagonistic to his interests. “I do not subscribe to the so-called universalist school of Black literature that tries to downplay the uniqueness of the ways and politics of Black people in our American dilemma,” he explained. “I am not a writer first and then a Black man.”

A young PEN administrator named John Morrone played matchmaker. L’Engle, he knew, had asked to be a mentor. He forwarded Rahman’s concerns and writing samples. L’Engle saw raw talent. “I believe that literature is, in fact, a strong common meeting ground,” she responded to Morrone, “but he may not agree. I certainly have no objection to his writing out of his own background. That’s all any of us has to work from.” She typed an introductory letter to Rahman and had a copy of Wrinkle sent to the prison because, she told Morrone, “science fiction/fantasy transcends barriers of race.”

It was a match made of opportunity—as for alchemy, time would tell what no one then could have predicted: that a “mystical connection,” in Rahman’s words, would bind them for life; that their surviving letters—more than 200 pages—would lay bare the senselessness of excessively punitive “justice” and the ravages of mass incarceration; that the integrity of two extraordinary people would breed a leveling intimacy, making way for a mutual mentorship that purposefully, sometimes painfully, worked through the obstacles of politics, class, race, religion, gender, and generation….

(8) GUNN TRIBUTE. Catching up here with the photo-filled announcement “Founder James Gunn has died” posted December 23 by Chris McKitterick on the KU Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction site.

When he was teaching – and for at least a decade after retiring – Jim would go to his office each day and write there, door open to passers-by. If anyone had a question, he’d pause in his work and welcome their questions. I once asked him if I had what it takes to become a writer, because it’s a difficult and painful calling. He asked me why I keep doing it if I felt that way. I said that if I don’t write, I get grumpy and unhappy, and then went on to excitedly explain what I was trying to say in my newest story. As I spoke, he smiled, then nodded and said, ‘Anyone who can be discouraged from becoming a writer should be. The rewards are small and delayed, few people will ever care about your work, and there are no guarantees. Only those who cannot be discouraged find success. You have what it takes.’

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1996 Twenty-five years ago, the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel went to Christopher Priest for The Prestige. Runner-ups were James Blaylock’s All Bells on Earth, Tim Powers’ Expiration Date, Vikram Chandra’s Red Earth and Pouring Rain, Graham Joyce’s Requiem and Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s The Silent Strength of Stones. The film version of The Prestige would be nominated for a Hugo at Nippon 2007. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 30, 1866 – Gelett Burgess.  Famous – in my opinion, deservedly, but he hated it – for “The Purple Cow”; see the original, his reply, and more here.  Coined “blurb”, which most folks now take as neutral without bothering to learn GB’s distaste.  We may claim – although there is something fantastic about all he did – three novels, half a dozen shorter stories; he drew things, too; Don Markstein concurrently calls him a cartoonist, although as you can discern, DM’s description is defective.  (Died 1951) [JH]
  • Born January 30, 1924 – Lloyd Alexander.  (See 28 Jan 57 note for  Joanne Findon.)  Five novels, eight shorter stories in the Prydain Chronicles; another score of novels, and another of shorter stories, for us; other books, some nonfiction.  Cats recur.  Newbery Medal, two Nat’l Book Awards.  Co-founder of Cricket magazine.  A story and a drawing in the Oz Hundredth Anniversary Celebration.  Two translations of Sartre.  Also a violinist; once sent this Christmas card.  See a blog and a documentary about him. (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born January 30, 1926 Peter Brachacki. Set designer for the very first episode of Doctor Who. Everything I’ve been able to read on him and that work says that he was not at all interested in working on the series and did so reluctantly under orders. Doctor Who producer Verity Lambert would later recount that she was impressed with Brachacki’s work on the TARDIS interior even though she personally did not like him at all. His design elements have persisted throughout the fifty years the series has been produced.  His only other genre work that I’ve been able to find was Blake’s 7 and a short series called the The Witch’s Daughter done in the late Seventies. The BBC wasn’t always great at documenting who worked on what series. (Died 1980.) (CE) 
  • Born January 30, 1930 – Doll Gilliland.  Beloved late wife of Alexis Gilliland and, with him, active in WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n).  They hosted WSFA meetings in their home 24 years and ran six Disclaves together.  For Inside “2001: a Space Opera” see the ConStellation Program Book (41st Worldcon).  Here is AG’s appreciation.  Not every such widower is lucky enough to remarry but, like Kelly Freas, he did.  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born January 30, 1937 Vanessa Redgrave, 84. I think her role of Guinevere in Camelot is her first genre role. Yes, that’s a fantasy. From there I see she’s Lola Deveraux in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, Max in Mission: Impossible, Robin Lerner in Deep Impact, Countess Wilhelmina whose The Narrator of Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story in which Jim Henson reworked the story to give it “a more ethical, humanist view”.  Really. Truly. She next shows in the adaptation of Cornelia Funke’s The Thief Lord as Sister Antonia. I’ve only got two series appearances for her, one on Faerie Tale Theatre as The Evil Queen in, surprise not, the “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” episode; the other on the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as Mrs. Prentiss in the “London, May 1916” episode. (CE) 
  • Born January 30, 1941 – Jim Benford, age 80.  Identical twin of Greg Benford (see Cat Eldridge’s note).  Active as a fan, often with G; famously they both did the fanzine Void; since 2012, Motley; J has been in LofgeornostSF ReviewTrap DoorVertex, with and without G.  Some pro work: three short stories together, two Science Fact pieces in Analog – more recently J did one with Dominic Benford; anthology with G Starship Century.  [JH]
  • Born January 30, 1941 – Gregory Benford, 80. His longest running series is Galactic Center Saga, a series I find a little akin to Saberhagen’s Beserker series. I’ve not read enough of it to form a firm opinion though I know some of you of have done so.  Other novels I’ve read by him include Timescape (superb) and A Darker Geometry: A Man-Kzin Novel which was actually was quite excellent. (Yes, I do read Baen Books). (CE)
  • Born January 30, 1953 Michael J. Anderson, 68. He’s known for being as The Man from Another Place in David Lynch’s television series Twin Peaks, the prequel film for the series, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, and as Samson Leonhart on Carnivàle. He had one-offs on MonstersDeep Space NineX-FilesThe Phantom Eye and Charmed. (CE) 
  • Born January 30, 1955 Judith Tarr, 66. I’m fond of her Richard the Lionheart novels which hew closely to the historical record while introducing just enough magic to make them fantasy. The novels also make good use of her keen knowledge of horsemanship as well. Her Queen of the Amazons pairs the historical Alexander the Great, with a meeting with the beautiful Hippolyta, who is queen of the Amazons. Highly recommended. (CE) 
  • Born January 30, 1962 – Todd Hamilton, age 59.  A novel and two shorter stories with Patricia Beese; mostly active in visual art: two dozen covers, ten dozen interiors.  One Chesley.  Served a term as ASFA (Ass’n of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists) President.  Here is the Nov 87 Analog.  Here is Through Darkest Resnick with Gun and Camera.  Speaking of identity, here is A Case of Mistaken Identity.  Here is TH’s Chicon in 2000 trading card.  He also did the hippocampus for Chicon IV the 40th Worldcon; it’s on p. 1 of the fine Program Book, see here (PDF).  [JH]
  • Born January 30, 1963 Daphne Ashbrook, 58. Grace Holloway, Companion to the Eighth Doctor. Need I say more? And yes, she kissed him. Unlike so many other Who characters, she has not shown up in a Big Finish production. She’d show up as the title character in the “Melora” episode of Deep Space Nine, and she was Katherine Granger in the “A Knight in Shining Armor” episode of Knight Rider. (CE) 
  • Born January 30, 1973 Jordan Prentice, 38. Inside every duck, is a self-described person of short stature. In the case of Howard the Duck from the movie of the same name, one of those persons was him. He’s not in a lot of SFF roles after his performing debut there though he shows up next as Fingers Finnian in Wolf Girl,  playing Sherriff Shelby in Silent But Deadly, Napoleon in Mirror Mirror and Nigel Thumb in The Night Before the Night Before Christmas. (CE)
  • Born January 30, 1986 – Rebecca Green, age 35.  Of course a book called The Glass Town Game appeals to me; here is RG’s cover.  See more, including Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea (AAAS/Subaru Prize), at her Website.  How about a Wikipedia entry?  [JH]

(11) PEEKING INSIDE THE GLASS BALLOT BOX. Marvel tweeted an in-progress report on the fan vote to pick the final member of the X-Men team.

(12) AFRICAN SUPERHEROES. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Roye Okupe, whose line of African superheroes self-published through YouNeek Studios has just been acquired by Dark Horse Comics, a transaction which makes Okupe “one of the rising stars of a comic industry that has made attempts to diversify over the past decade.” “Roye Okupe dreamed of creating his own African superhero universe. Now it’s finally paying off”.

…By the time he graduated from George Washington University with a degree in computer science (while also studying animation at the Art Institute of Washington), Okupe was shopping around an eight-minute animated trailer for an African superhero. Years before “Black Panther” would go on to make $1 billion at the box office, Okupe received little interest from the TV world. One producer told him his ideas might work if he changed the race of his heroes.

But Okupe never lost confidence in his dream, and in 2015 he decided to introduce his heroes to the world by self-publishing comic books.

Now, in 2021, Okupe’s dream will become mainstream….

(13) TOP OF HIS FIELD. David Morrell on writing novels is the first of a series of Zoom seminars by notable writers hosted by SouthWest Writers. Takes place February 6, at 10 a.m. The author who created Rambo (in First Blood)is also a three-time Bram Stoker Award winner.

Zoom Meeting Information:
Topic: SWW Saturday Meeting – February 2021
Time: Feb 6, 2021, at 10:00 AM Mountain Time (US and Canada)

Join the Zoom Meeting. Click here to join the meeting. (Meeting ID: 446 372 3340, no password required.) For all sign-in options, go to the Zoom Meeting Sign In page.

(14) PAY THE ARTIST. Here’s Steve Wagner’s response to a t-shirt design contest.

(15) DOWN THE HATCH. Somebody’s getting paid for this effervescent “AYE! – Star Trek – T-Shirt” – hopefully that includes the artist.

Star Trek’s “Scotty” always says “Aye!” to a wee dram of Auld Aberdonian scotch whisky! Look for the distinctive red top. Since 1966.

(16) MY MIND IS BLOWN. In “The Kerminator” on YouTube, Pixel Riot asks, “What happens if you fuse The Terminator and Kermit the Frog?”

(17) THEY’RE PINK. File this under “horror genre” Food & Wine headlines that “Kraft Mac and Cheese Comes in Pink Candy Flavor” for Valentine’s Day. You could be a lucky winner. (Or a luckier loser?)

…Kraft doesn’t want to overdo it, so you can’t buy Candy Kraft Mac & Cheese in stores. Instead, from now until February 8, interested fans need to go to CandyKraftMacandCheese.com to enter a random drawing. Kraft says 1,000 winners will be selected and have one box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and one candy packet to turn the Mac & Cheese pink delivered to their door by February 14.

(18) BEAMING FROM THE PAST. Facebook invites you to “Watch: That Time William Shatner Appeared As Captain Kirk In 1970s Kids’ ‘Hollywood Squares”. The Hollywood Squares game show did some episodes for kids that aired on Saturday morning called The Storybook Squares, where celebrities appeared as characters out of fiction or history. Shatner is first introduced at the 45-second mark and contestants call on him a couple times during the show.

(19) SANDMAN CAST. “Oh bless, Gwendoline Christie is going to play Lucifer in Netflix’s The Sandman”Yahoo! Entertainment is excited – maybe you will be too!

Netflix has finally set the main cast for its forthcoming adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s DC comic, The Sandman, a dark fantasy that has been in the works for quite some time now. (In fact, it was first picked up a year and a half ago. Can anyone even remember a single thing about 2019 at this point?) While there were early concerns that this project might roam Development Hell for a while, Gaiman recently assured fans and Seth Meyers that there was an active set after a brief COVID-related pause. Today, Netflix reveals the players that are on said hot set: Tom Sturridge, star of Starz’s Sweetbitter, will take on the role of Dream, Lord of the Dreaming realm. Netflix also added Vivienne Acheampong, Boyd Holbrook, Charles Dance, Asim Chaudhry, and Sanjeev Bhaskar to the intriguing ensemble.

And for a serious kicker, Gwendoline Christie will step in to play Lucifer…. 

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Cat Rambo reads her short story “Acquainted with the Night”. Trigger warning: child murder, violence. Rambo says: “This is an early superhero fiction story of mine that originally appeared in Corrupts Absolutely?

[Thanks to John Hertz, JJ, Frank Catalano, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Todd Mason, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, rcade, Woody Bernardi, Steve Wagner, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editors of the day Anna Nimmhaus and Colin H.]

Pixel Scroll 1/24/21 Big Pixel in Little Scroll

(1) CHALLENGER COIN. On January 28, the 35th anniversary of the Challenger shuttle disaster, the U.S. Mint will release the Christa McAuliffe 2021 Proof Silver Dollar and Christa McAuliffe 2021 Uncirculated Silver Dollar. [H/t to Guy Lillian III.]

 In 2021, the United States Mint will mint silver dollars with proof and uncirculated finishes to commemorate the life of Christa McAuliffe, a social studies teacher selected in 1985 to be the first participant in NASA’s Teacher in Space Program. On January 28, 1986, McAuliffe and six astronauts were tragically killed during the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Her memory and dedication live on.

Surcharges in the amount of $10 for each silver dollar sold are authorized to be paid to the FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics program to engage and inspire young people—through mentor-based programs—to become leaders in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

FIRST is dedicated to carrying on the legacy of Christa McAuliffe by inspiring students and creating a new generation of dreamers and innovators.

Obverse
Features a portrait of Christa McAuliffe with a hopeful gaze. Inscriptions are “CHRISTA McAULIFFE,” “2021,” “LIBERTY,” and “IN GOD WE TRUST.”

Reverse
Depicts Christa McAuliffe as a teacher, smiling as she points forward and upward—symbolizing the future. Three high school-age students look on with wonder. The seven stars above them pay tribute to those who perished in the Challenger tragedy. 

(2) I COULD OF BEEN A CONTENDER. In Radio Times, former Doctor Who showrunner “Russell T Davies pitches MCU-style Doctor Who universe”.

…“I was in the middle of running an empire,” Davies said of his time on Doctor Who. “And my god I did that 10 years too soon, didn’t I?”

The screenwriter is referencing the point at which his run on the show included spin-offs Torchwood and  The Sarah Jane Adventures, which ran alongside – and occasionally crossed over with – the main series.

Notably, this was before Marvel Studios enjoyed its meteoric surge in popularity, normalising the concept of shared universes in film and television.

Davies continued: “There should be a Doctor Who channel now. You look at those Disney announcements, of all those new Star Wars and Marvel shows, you think, we should be sitting here announcing The Nyssa Adventures or The Return of Donna Noble, and you should have the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors together in a 10-part series. Genuinely.”

The most recent Doctor Who spin-offs are 2016’s Class, which was cancelled after one season, and the recent YouTube series Daleks!, consisting of five episodes between 10-15 minutes long.

(3) THE YEAR IN MANGA. ICV2 posted the sales leaders from 2020: “Full Year 2020 NPD BookScan – Top 20 Adult Graphic Novels”. They say COVID-19 lockdown led to more people reading whole manga series, of which My Hero Academia is the popular favorite. Watchmen sneaked onto the list, too.

We can get the long view of the past year from the list of the top 20 adult graphic novels in the book channel, based on NPD BookScan data for 2020 (1/5/20-1/2/21) provided to ICv2.

The top selling title is Volume 1 of My Hero Academia, which isn’t surprising as it has been leading the monthly charts lately.  Nine of the top 20 slots are volumes of this series, and the fact that the first five and the last four volumes are the ones that are selling best indicate two things: New readers continue to come to the series, and they are sticking with it.  It’s not unusual to see the first volume or two of a series sell well enough to make the chart, but these nine volumes suggest this is a series people are sticking with.

The remaining manga are all first volumes (or in the cast of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, the first two). 

(4) MONSTER MASH. The Godzilla vs. Kong Official Trailer has dropped. In theaters and streaming exclusively on HBOMax on March 26. SYFY Wire sets the stage.

Directed by Adam Wingard (Death Note), the film sees the return of Godzilla: King of the Monsters stars Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler, along with franchise newcomers Alexander Skarsgard, Brain Tyree Henry, Rebecca Hall, and Demian Bichir, among others. And from what we can gather, they’re in for a seismic shakeup: The story focuses on a young girl named Jia (Kaylee Hottle), who it seems can communicate with Kong. The girl’s gifts may prove essential to a team of experts, led by Skarsgard, who seek the hulking beast. “We need Kong,” Skarsgard’s character, Nathan Lind, implores. “The world needs him, to stop what’s coming.”

(5) ZOOMING WITH TED WHITE. Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari says their Fan History Zoom series featuring a Ted White interview by John D. Berry “was very successful with over 50 people signed up for the Zoom. The session was planned for about an hour and went over two hours. And people clamored for more.”

And in fact they’re getting more. Siclari says they have scheduled a continuation session for Saturday February 6 at 4 p.m. Please RSVP at fanac@fanac.org

In the first session Ted told about his fannish Origins and about his early career as a jazz music critic. He covered things like fanzine design and theory, working with 1950s fanzine editors, starting a Worldcon in New York City and other interesting topics. Part one of the first session is now on our YouTube Fan History Channel.

(6) BERNSTEIN OBIT. The New York Times reports “Walter Bernstein, Celebrated Screenwriter, Is Dead at 101”. He died January 23. His movies included Fail Safe, and The Front, based on his own experience of being blacklisted.

…Mr. Bernstein was considered untouchable both in Hollywood and in the fledgling television industry in New York once his name appeared in “Red Channels,” an anti-Communist tract published in 1950 by the right-wing journal Counterattack.

“I was listed right after Lenny Bernstein,” Mr. Bernstein recalled. “There were about eight listings for me, and they were all true.” He had indeed written for the leftist New Masses, been a member of the Communist Party and supported Soviet relief, the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War and civil rights.

Mr. Bernstein and other blacklisted writers were forced to work under assumed names for sympathetic filmmakers like Sidney Lumet, who used Mr. Bernstein, now back in New York, throughout the ’50s on “You Are There,” the CBS program hosted by Walter Cronkite that re-enacted great moments in history.

It was during this period that Mr. Bernstein and his colleagues, notably the writers Abraham Polonsky and Arnold Manoff, began the ruse of protecting their anonymity by sending stand-ins to represent them at meetings with producers, a ploy later dramatized in “The Front.” (In addition to Mr. Allen, the movie starred Zero Mostel, who, like the film’s director, Mr. Ritt, had also been blacklisted.)

“Suddenly, the blacklist had achieved for the writer what he had previously only aspired to,” Mr. Bernstein joked in “Inside Out.” “He was considered necessary.”…

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

January 24, 1969 — Trek’s “That Which Survives” first aired on NBC.

“What is it, Jim?”

“A planet that even Spock can’t explain.”

– McCoy and Kirk, on the Kalandan outpost

This episode has the Enterprise crew members stranded on a ghost planet and terrorized by Losira, the image of a beautiful woman. (Former Miss America Lee Meriwether plays her.) It was the seventh episode of the final season.  It was directed by Herb Wallerstein. It was written by John Meredyth Lucas as based on a story by D.C. Fontana under the pseudonym Michael Richards. In her original “Survival” story, Losira is much more brutal, and actively encourages the crew to turn on each other and fight.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 24, 1776 – E.T.A. Hoffmann.  Author of words, music, graphics; jurist; theater manager; critic; three novels, fifty shorter stories for us; source of Offenbach’s opera Tales of Hoffmann, Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker, Delibes’ ballet Coppélia; as A.J. Budrys said in the Jul 68 Galaxy, “a gifted music critic and competent composer…. this man, who was real and who thought some very interesting thoughts, [laid] down the groundwork for some of our most enduring themes,” recommending particularly “The Golden Flower Pot,” “Automata,” and “The Sand-Man” in Bleiler ed. 1968, The Best Tales of Hoffmann, whose cover illustration is by H.  (Died 1822) [JH]
  • Born January 24, 1862 – Edith Wharton.  Two dozen short stories for us (alas, “A Bottle of Evian” was republished as “A Bottle of Perrier”, but tastes vary), well known otherwise e.g. for The Age of Innocence (with which she was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature).  Fluent in French, German, Italian.  Active supporter of French World War I efforts; Legion of Honor.  Honorary doctorate from Yale.  Fifteen novels, ninety shorter stories, poetry, design, travel, criticism, memoir A Backward Glance.  (Died 1937) [JH]
  • Born January 24, 1911 —  C. L. Moore. Author and wife of Henry Kuttner until his death in 1958. Their work was written collaboratively resulting in such delightful stories as “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” and “Vintage Season”, both of which were turned into films which weren’t as good as the stories. She had a strong writing career prior to her marriage as well with such fiction as “Shambleau” which involves her most famous character Northwest Smith. I’d also single out “Nymph of Darkness” which she wrote with Forrest J Ackerman. I’ll not overlook her Jirel of Joiry, one of the first female sword and sorcery characters, and the “Black God’s Kiss” story is the first tale she wrote of her adventures. She retired from writing genre fiction after he died, writing only scripts for writing episodes of SugarfootMaverickThe Alaskans and 77 Sunset Strip, in the late fifties and early sixties. Checking iBooks, Deversion Books offers a nearly eleven hundred page collection of their fiction for a mere three bucks. Is their works in the public domain now? (Died 1987.) (CE) 
  • Born January 24, 1917 Ernest Borgnine. I think his first genre role was Al Martin in Willard but if y’all know of something earlier I’m sure you’ll tell me. He’s Harry Booth in The Black Hole, a film whose charms still escape me entirely. Next up for him is the cabbie in the superb Escape from New York. In the same year, he’s nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor as Isaiah Schmidt in the horror film Deadly Blessing. A few years later, he’s The Lion in a version of Alice in WonderlandMerlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders is horror and his Grandfather isn’t that kindly. He voices Kip Killigan in Small Soldiers which I liked, and I think his last role was voicing Command in Enemy Mind (2010). Series wise let’s see…  it’s possible that his first SF role was as Nargola on Captain Video and His Video Rangers way back in 1951. After that he shows up in, and I’ll just list the series for the sake of brevity, Get SmartFuture CopThe Ghost of Flight 401Airwolf where of course he’s regular cast, Treasure Island in Outer Space and Touched by an Angel. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born January 24, 1930 – John Romita, age 91.  Worked for Atlas, DC, eventually transforming Marvel’s Spider-Man from the drawing of Steve Ditko (although “People laugh when I say this, but…. I wanted to stay on Daredevil”), among much else designing Mary Jane Watson, the Rhino, the Kingpin.  Marvel’s Art Director.  Inkpot Award.  Eisner Hall of Fame.  Sinnott Hall of Fame.  [JH]
  • Born January 24, 1936 – Douglas Chaffee.  Fifty covers, forty interiors for us; Dungeons & DragonsMagic, the Gathering.  Head of IBM’s Art Department.  NASA, the Navy, National Geographic (illustrating Carl Sagan on Mars, I mean about Mars), Bible schools.  Artist Guest of Honor at DeepSouthCon 29, Archon 19, EerieCon 3.  Phoenix Award.  Frank Paul Award.  Here is the Apr 67 Galaxy.  Here is the Dec 72 Fantastic.  Here is the Program Book for ConFederation the 44th Worldcon.  More archived here.  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born January 24, 1942 Gary K. Wolf, 78. He is best known as the author of Who Censored Roger Rabbit? which was adapted into Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It bears very little resemblance to the film. Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit? which was written later hews much closer to the characters and realties of the film.  (CE)
  • Born January 24, 1944 David Gerrold, 77. Let’s see… He of course scripted “The Trouble With Tribbles” which I absolutely love, wrote the amazing patch-up novel When HARLIE Was One, has his ongoing War Against the Chtorr series, and wrote, with Robert Sawyer, Boarding the Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles, and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. Setting his work as a novel writer, he’s been a screenwriter for Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Land of the Lost, Logan’s Run (the series), Superboy, Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sliders, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II, and Axanar. Very, very impressive. (CE) 
  • Born January 24, 1947 – Michio Kaku, Ph.D., age 74.  (Personal name first, U.S. style.)  Physicist and, as it has been called, physics outreach specialist, e.g. HyperspacePhysics of the ImpossiblePhysics of the Future, radio, television, film.  Summa cum laude at Harvard (and indeed won the Hertz Engineering Scholarship, but I ain’t talkin’).  Professor of theoretical physics at City College NY.  String-theory pioneer.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  [JH]
  • Born January 24, 1949 —  John Belushi. No, he was no in a single SFF series or film that I can mention here though he did voice work on one such undertaking early in his career that I’ll not mention here as it’s clearly pornographic in nature. No, he’s here for his brilliant parody of Shatner as Captain Kirk which he did on Saturday Night Live which you can watch here. (Died 1982) (CE)
  • Born January 24, 1967 Phil LaMarr, 54. Best known I think for his voice work which, and this is a partial list, includes Young Justice (Aquaman among others), the lead role on Static Shock, John Stewart aka Green Lantern on Justice League Unlimited, Robbie Robertson on The Spectacular Spider-Man, various roles on Star Wars: The Clone Wars and T’Shan on Black Panther. Live roles include playing a Jazz singer in the  “Shoot Up the Charts” episode of Get Smart, a doctor on The Muppets in their ”Generally Inhospitable” segment, a lawyer in the “Weaponizer” episode of Lucifer and the voice of Rag Doll in the “All Rag Doll’d Up” episode of The Flash. (CE)
  • Born January 24, 1986 – Aimée Carter, age 35.  Nine novels, half a dozen shorter stories for us; eight other novels.  Tae kwon do first-degree black belt.  Her Univ. Michigan degree in Screen Arts & Cultures is “a fancy way of saying [I] watched a lot of old movies and wrote a lot of bad screenplays”.  [JH]

(9) ROY V. HUNT ART BOOK. First Fandom Experience’s retrospective of the fan, artist and illustrator Roy V. Hunt is available for pre-order.

This 144-page volume offers an extensive collection that covers the full span of Hunt’s career. It includes many exceptionally scarce fanzine illustrations, amazing wood block prints created for the WPA in the 1940s and his professional work for pulps and FPCI. Hunt’s work is put in perspective in a foreword by Martin Mahoney, Director of Operations and Collections at the Norman Rockwell Museum. As you’d expect from FFE, we include lots of historical context and a full index of works.

…Roy Vernon Hunt lived and worked in Denver, Colorado from 1914 until his passing in 1986. His first published art appeared in the fanzine The Alchemist in February 1940. Hunt was a founding member of the Colorado Fantasy Society, a group formed to organize the 1941 World Science Fiction Convention in Denver.

Hunt is obscure, even among ardent science fiction historians. Our interest was first sparked by a remarkable artifact: an illustration included in the Spring 1941 issue of the fanzine Starlight. The image struck us as perhaps the best ever rendering of H.P. Lovecraft’s iconic Elder God, Cthulhu….

(10) IWERKS, THE NEXT GENERATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I heard a podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Leslie Iwerks,  Iwerks comes from Disney royalty.  Her grandfather, Ub Iwerks, collaborated with Disney on very early cartoons, when he could personally produce 700 drawings a day.  He then was poached by another studio for a few years and returned to Disney as chief technical officer and the first “imagineer,”  Iwerks’ father, Don Iwerks, is, at 91, one of the few people who knew Walt Disney well enough to tell Disney stories.

Iwerks heads Iwerks & Co., and half of her films are environmental (including one on residents of a garbage dump in Guatemala  that was Oscar nominated) that and half are genre-related,   She’s done two films about Pixar and one on the League of Legends video game.  Her most recent achievement is “The Imagineering Story,” a six-part documentary about the technical side of Disney that is the most streamed show on Disney Plus after The Mandalorian.  It took her five years to produce and has a lot of rare archival footage.

Her website is iwerksandco.com. Here is the trailer for “The Imagineering Story.”

(11) YOUNGARTS. In the WASHINGTON POST, Kelsey Ables reports on a program of the National YoungArts program where 19 artists were commissioned to make portraits of birds and the paintings are being turned into a four-minute animated film by Igor + Valentine which will be posted on the YoungArts website tomorrow night.  YoungArts will then sell 1,500 stills from the film for $175 each with proceeds to be split between the foundation and the artists who supplied the paintings. “National YoungArts Foundation releases animated short with work by KAWS and Shepard Fairey”.

… Set to debut on the YoungArts website on Monday at 8 p.m., “Together” features work by 18 artists, who were each commissioned to create a bird. The works — polymer clay, embroidery on canvas, paintings — have been animated by Igor + Valentine. The final product, a four-minute-long short, is a collage of moving images set to meditative music by YoungArts alumna Nora Kroll Rosenbaum.

“Together” boasts contributions from big-name artists like art-market star KAWS and Shepard Fairey — of Barack Obama “Hope” poster fame — both supporters of YoungArts.Fairey’s contribution, a brown thrasher rendered in red ink, has his signature street-inspired wheatpaste look, and KAWS’s bird is immediately recognizable for its X-ed out eyes. But with an eclectic array of contributions — there is a cartoony, triangular bird by Isabela Dos Santos and a more abstract creation from Sheree Hovsepian — the video is less about individual artists standing out than it is about mixing disparate artistic styles. Bringing artists together that you would be unlikely to see congregated in a single gallery — let alone on the same canvas — the video is born of experimentation necessitated by a covid-19 world. YoungArts says it is meant as a message of solidarity and interconnectedness. And at an arts-starved moment, it’s a visual treat….

(12) CYBERDUD. Bloomberg does a deep dive into “Cyberpunk 2077: What Caused the Video Game’s Disastrous Rollout”.

… Interviews with more than 20 current and former CD Projekt staff, most of whom requested anonymity so as not to risk their careers, depict a development process marred by unchecked ambition, poor planning and technical shortcomings.

… Adrian Jakubiak, a former audio programmer for CD Projekt, said one of his colleagues asked during a meeting how the company thought it would be able to pull off a technically more challenging project in the same timeframe as The Witcher. “Someone answered: ‘We’ll figure it out along the way,’” he said.

For years, CD Projekt had thrived on that mentality. But this time, the company wasn’t able to pull it off. “I knew it wasn’t going to go well,” said Jakubiak. “I just didn’t know how disastrous it would be.”

Part of the fans’ disappointment is proportional to the amount of time they spent waiting for the game. Although Cyberpunk was announced in 2012, the company was then still mainly focused on its last title and full development didn’t start until late 2016, employees said. That was when CD Projekt essentially hit the reset button, according to people familiar with the project.

Studio head Adam Badowski took over as director, demanding overhauls to Cyberpunk’s gameplay and story. For the next year, everything was changing, including fundamental elements like the game-play perspective. Top staff who had worked on The Witcher 3 had strong opinions on how Cyberpunk should be made, which clashed with Badowski and lead to the eventual departure of several top developers….

(13) ROCK ‘N ROLL. How’d you like that staring back at you from a geode?

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

Pixel Scroll 12/28/20 This Irrepixel-Able, Trantor ‘Original’, This Mule-Produced Crime

(1) FRONT AND CENTER. Octavia Butler is on the cover of Huntington Frontiers, published by the Huntington Library in Pasadena. Read the cover article here: “A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky” by Lynell George.

When I last encountered Octavia E. Butler, it was 2004 and she was slated to deliver the keynote at the Black to the Future Festival in Seattle, Washington. Time has flattened or obscured some of the details of days spent reporting on panels, lectures, and post-event gatherings. I don’t remember the precise order of events of that opening evening, but I do recall some of Butler’s heartfelt words about finding and making community in this brief but special moment when we were assembled together. I sat, scribbling notes in my reporter’s notebook, making shapes of letters in the darkness of the auditorium. Her voice didn’t seem to need amplification—it was warm and deep and burnished with authority, as if she was not just leading things off, but leading a country….

(2) NOT OUT OF LEFT FIELD. First Fandom Experience solves three eofannish mysteries in “V is for Vincent, Vernon, Vytautas”. Learn more about a famous photo taken over the weekend of the First Worldcon in —

V is for Vincent

Below is one of early fandom’s most iconic images. On Independence Day, 1939, this carload of irascible youth from states far and wide ventured forth from the World Science Fiction Convention in New York to Coney Island. It’s a who’s-who of prominent First Fans: Madle and Agnew from Philadelphia, Korshak and Reinsberg from Chicago, Rocklynne from Ohio, and one very tanned Ray Bradbury from Los Angeles.

But among the who’s-who, there’s a “who’s that?” V. Kidwell. …

During the first Worldcon, fans took the opportunity to visit Coney Island where this foto-op took place: Front: Mark Reinsberg, Jack Agnew, Ross Rocklynne Top: V. Kidwell, Robert A. Madle, Erle Korshak, Ray Bradbury Coney Island, July 4, 1939)

(3) JAPANESE BOFFO BOX OFFICE. [Item by N.] “’Demon Slayer’ Overtakes ‘Spirited Away’ to Become Japan’s Biggest Box-Office Hit Ever”The Hollywood Reporter has the story. (Also it’s the fifth highest grossing film of the entire year, surpassing Sonic the Hedgehog, which is a coherent sentence I have just typed.)

Demon Slayer is based on a popular 2016 manga by Japanese artist Koyoharu Gotoge. But the property didn’t become a pop cultural phenomenon until it was adapted into an anime series for television. Produced by Tokyo-based studio Ufotable, the 26-episode series aired on Tokyo MX and other channels in 2019, but later became a sleeper smash hit when it re-aired on Netflix and Fuji TV. The popularity of the series reignited interest in the manga, making it a runaway bestseller. As of December, the Demon Slayer manga series has sold nearly 120 million copies.

When Ufotable’s big-screen adaptation of the series hit Japanese cinemas this fall, conditions were ripe for a box-office bonanza. Japanese cinemas nationwide had fully reopened nationwide after a brief period of COVID-19 shutdown in the spring. Since the Hollywood studios had postponed most of their releases until 2021, Demon Slayer had limited foreign competition and Japanese cinemas were highly motivated to wring as much earnings potential as possible for the local blockbuster. 

(4) WILL POWER. “Brain-controlled gaming exists, though ethical questions loom over the tech” reports the Washington Post.

As the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center shut its laboratories following the covid-19 outbreak, Nathan Copeland, a 33-year-old volunteer, collected the equipment that would grant him transformative abilities during lockdown. Paralyzed from the chest down with only limited arm movement, Copeland took home an advanced brain-computer interface, a device that allows him to control on-screen actions using only his mind.Copeland is part of cutting-edge research into brain-computer interfaces at the University of Pittsburgh, recently awarded over $8 million by the National Institutes of Health. The team’s experiments are a peek into a potential transhumanist future more commonly associated with cyberpunk movies “The Matrix” and “Ghost in the Shell.” Since 2015, Copeland has lived with a transistor-like chip, known as a multi-electrode array, surgically implanted directly into his brain. Copeland’s chip records the rapid-firing of cellular neurons — an almost inscrutably complex neurological signal — which is ferried over to a computer for what’s referred to as “decoding.” This signal is subsequently “translated” into the desired, seemingly telekinetic actions of its user.

To date, one of the team’s biggest successes has been decoding the complicated neural signals to allow Copeland to control a nimble robotic arm…. 

(5) JEDI CONSERVATION MOVEMENT. Musings on Mouse analyzes “Star Wars ‘nostalgia fatigue,’ and Marvel’s bankruptcy lesson”. BEWARE SPOILERS. I don’t think I included any below, however, definitely some in the linked article.

…Quality, some may argue, isn’t just representative of one episode or one movie, but the franchise as a whole. Case in point: The Mandalorian finale….

That, many critics argued in the days after the episode aired, is precisely the problem. As Matt Zoller Seitz wrote on Vulture, “the series succumbs to the dark side of parent company Disney’s quarterly earnings statements, which keeps dragging Star Wars back toward nostalgia-sploitation and knee-jerk intellectual-property maintenance.” Other fans rolled their eyes at the criticism, pointing out that Star Wars has always returned to the franchise’s most popular characters, most noticeably in the Expanded Universe’s novels, comics, and video games. 

Sound familiar? It should — it’s the exact same debate that popped up in 2017 after Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi hit theaters. What is Star Wars? It’s an argument we’ve come back to with The Mandalorian’s second season finale. I’m not a critic, and this newsletter doesn’t exist to critique art. What I’m more acutely interested in is determining Star Wars’ future business. Let’s be clear: Star Wars is more than fine, but as Star Wars expands under Disney, there’s always room to figure out how to ensure it grows at a healthy rate instead of risking alienating parts of its consumer base every year.

(6) PUTTING THEIR STAMP ON THINGS. JSTOR Daily’s Livia Gershon points to the introduction of a new academic work that overviews “James Tiptree Jr. and Joanna Russ: Sci-Fi Pen Pals”.

At first glance, the classic science-fiction authors James Tiptree Jr. and Joanna Russ might not seem to have much in common. Behavioral psychologist Alice Bradley Sheldon began writing under “James Tiptree Jr.” in 1968, when she was in her fifties. She used the fictional male name and real knowledge of science and the military to infiltrate male-dominated science-fiction magazines. Russ, two decades younger, was an outspoken radical feminist, English professor, and critic. And yet, as Nicole Nyhan writes, the two writers exchanged hundreds of letters over fifteen years. Nyhan provides the introduction to a selection of writing from Tiptree’s side of the correspondence.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1970 — Fifty years ago at Heicon ’70 in Heidelberg, Germany, “Ship of Shadows” by Fritz Leiber wins the Hugo for Best Novella. (It would also be nominated for a Nebula.) It was published in F&SF in July, 1969 which as you can see was billed as a Special Fritz Leiber Issue. This was a bizarre story of Spar, a blind, half-deaf barman at the Bat Rack. We’ll say no more. The other finalists were “A Boy and His Dog” by Harlan Ellison, “We All Die Naked” by James Blish, “Dramatic Mission” by Anne McCaffrey and “To Jorslem” by Robert Silverberg.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 28, 1913 Charles Maxwell. He makes the Birthday List for being Virgil Earp in the “Spectre of the Gun”, a not terribly good Trek story.  He also appeared in My Favorite Martian in “An Old Friend of the Family” as the character Jakobar. His longest running genre role was as the Radio Announcer on Gilligan’s Island for which he was largely uncredited. Interestingly he had six appearances playing six different characters on the Fifties series Science Fiction Theatre. (Died 1993.) (CE) 
  • Born December 28, 1922 Stan Lee. Summarizing his career is quite beyond my abilities. He created and popularized Marvel Comics in such a way that the company is thought to be the creation of Stan Lee in way that DC isn’t thought if of having of having a single creator.  He co-created the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk,  Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch and Ant-Man, an impressive list by any measure. And it’s hardly the full list.  I see he’s won Eisner and Kirby Awards but no sign of a Hugo. Is that correct? (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born December 28, 1929 – Janet Lunn.  Three novels, two shorter stories, one anthology for us; much else.  Metcalf Award, Matt Cohen Award, Order of Ontario, Governor General’s Award, Order of Canada.  Quill & Quire obituary here.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1932 Nichelle Nichols, 88. Uhura on Trek. She reprised her character in Star Trek: The Motion PictureStar Trek II: The Wrath of KhanStar Trek III: The Search for SpockStar Trek IV: The Voyage HomeStar Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Other film SF roles included Ruana in Tarzan’s Deadly Silence with Ron Ely as Tarzan, High Priestess of Pangea in The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space, Oman in Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes and Mystic Woman in American Nightmares.  Other series appearances have been as Lieutenant Uhura and additional voices in the animated Trek, archive footage of herself in the “Trials and Tribble-ations” DS9 episode and as Captain Nyota Uhura In Star Trek: Of Gods and Men which may or may not be canon. (CE)
  • Born December 28, 1934 Maggie Smith, 86. First genre role was as Theis in Clash of the Titans though she’s better known as Minerva McGonagall In the Harry Potter film franchise. She also played Linnet Oldknow in From Time to Time  and voiced Miss Shepherd, I kid you not, in two animated Gnomes films. (CE) 
  • Born December 28, 1942 Eleanor Arnason, 78. She won the Otherwise Award and the Mythopoeic Award for A Woman of the Iron People and also won the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Best Short Fiction for “Dapple”.  She’s a Wiscon Guest of Honor. I wholeheartedly recommend her Mammoths of the Great Plains story collection, which like almost all of her fiction, is available at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born December 28, 1945 – George Zebrowski, age 75.  A score of novels (Macrolife particularly applauded), a hundred shorter stories, several with co-authors.  Clarion alumnus.  Edited Nebula Awards 20-22; four Synergy anthologies, half a dozen more e.g. Sentinels with Greg Benford in honor of Sir Arthur Clarke.  Three years editing the SFWA Bulletin (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) with Pamela Sargent and Ian Watson.  Nonfiction anthologies Beneath the Red Star (studies on international SF), Skylife (with Benford; space habitats), Talks with the Masters (Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Gunn).  Book reviews in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Campbell Memorial Award.  “Never Forget the Writers Who Helped Build Yesterday’s Tomorrows” in SF Age.  [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1946 – Sheryl Birkhead, age 74.  Long-time fanartist and (it serves us right) veterinarian.  Here is a cover for Tightbeam.  Here is one for It Goes on the Shelf.  Here is one for Purrsonal Mewsings.  Here is one for The Reluctant Famulus.  Kaymar Award.  [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1952 – Ramona Wheeler, age 68.  Two novels, a score of shorter stories.  Essay “The Sailor of No Specific Ocean” in the Hal Clement memorial anthology Hal’s Worlds.  Here is her cover for her collection Have Starship, Will Travel.  Here is her cover for her collection Starship for Hire.  [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1963 – Robert Pasternak, age 57.  A dozen covers, two dozen interiors for us.  Interviewed in On Spec.  Aurora Award.  Here is Leslie Fiedler’s biography of Stapledon. Here is the May 93 Amazing.  Here is the Dec 00 Challenging Destiny.  Here is the Summer 13 On Spec.  Here is a review of a Jun – Jul 07 exhibition.  Here is an image from a Winnipeg Free Press interview.  Here is an ink-drawn face; see here.  [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1979 – D. Renée Bagby, age 41.  Eight novels for us, five dozen others (some under another name).  Air Force brat, now wife; born in the Netherlands, has also lived in Japan, six of the United States.  Has read The Cat in the HatPersuasionThe Iliad and The OdysseyThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  “The voices start talking and I type what they say.” [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1981 Sienna Miller, 39. The Baroness in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. More interestingly, she’s Victoria in the flawed but still worth seeing Stardust. (Go listen to Gaiman reading it for the best take on it — brilliant that is!) And she’s Darcy in Kis VukA Fox’s Tale, a Hungarian-British animated tale that sounds quite charming.  (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) A DISH BEST SERVED LOLD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Zachary Pincus-Roth discusses how a bunch of Millennial Disney musical fans came up with “Ratatouille: The Musical,” created songs, cosplayed characters from the imaginary musical (including enlisting their parents to play older characters) and even creating a fake cover of Playbill for the imaginary musical.  Disney Theatrical Productions stated “although we do not have development plans for this title, we love when our fans engage with Disney stories.” — “How TikTok and social media are changing Broadway fandom”.

(11) OBI BUT NO OBI-WAN. This happened last year, but it’s news to me… “Japanese theatre to stage kabuki version of Star Wars” in The Guardian.

The Star Wars franchise is about to breach the artistic final frontier with a one-off performance of a kabuki adaptation starring one of Japan’s most revered stage actors.

The classical Japanese theatre, which combines highly stylised movement and unusual vocalisation, will swap samurai swords for lightsabers and replace feudal warriors with the forces of light and darkness.

Star Wars Kabuki-Rennosuke and the Three Light Sabers, which are being staged in Tokyo, will combine plots from each of the franchise’s latest trilogy, substituting plots drawn from the days of feudal clan rivalry with drama from a galaxy far, far away.

Ichikawa Ebizo XI, Japan’s pre-eminent kabuki actor, will take to the stage as Kylo Ren, the conflicted son of Han Solo and Princess Leia, in front of 50 winners of an online lottery….

(12) UNFINISHED TOLKIEN. John M. Bowers asks “Did Tolkien Write The Lord of the Rings Because He Was Avoiding His Academic Work?” at Literary Hub. The trouble with this headline is that it’s not as if Tolkien didn’t procrastinate about working on his fiction, too.

…Already by 1932 he admitted to Chapman the weight of the Chaucerian incubus upon his conscience. His Gawain edition, “Chaucer as a Philologist,” and “The Monsters and the Critics” had all appeared before the Second World War. Set against this relatively slender résumé were undelivered assignments such as his Pearl edition, the book-length “Beowulf” and the Critics, and his EETS edition of Ancrene Wisse. If his own harsh remarks about George Gordon holding up their Chaucer edition did not quite qualify him as a “slanderer,” these complaints did de?ect blame from his role as an “idler” who failed to reduce his annotations to a publishable length. He would confess during a newspaper interview in 1968, “I have always been incapable of doing the job at hand.”

(13) AROUND AND AROUND. “Animation reveals invisible center of solar system that’s not the sun”Business Insider knows where it is. In a minute, you will too.

It’s common knowledge that the sun is the center of the solar system. Around it, the planets orbit — along with a thick belt of asteroids, some meteor fields, and a handful of far-traveling comets.

But that’s not the whole story.

“Instead, everything orbits the solar system center of mass,” James O’Donoghue, a planetary scientist at the Japanese space agency, JAXA, recently explained on Twitter. “Even the sun.”

That center of mass, called the barycenter, is the point of an object at which it can be balanced perfectly, with all its mass distributed evenly on all sides. In our solar system, that point rarely lines up with the center of the sun…

(14) THOUGHT OF THE DAY. From Mike Kennedy: “I just realized that the various dings, buzzes, and clicks our phones/watches play to get our attention are clearly intended to train us to understand R2-D2.”

(15) EMERGENCY HOLOGRAPHIC IP LAWYERS. CinemaBlend will explain “Why James Bond’s Studio Once Sent A ‘Very Stern Letter’ To Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Crew”.

Star Trek is a franchise that primarily deals in the world of sci-fi, but it’s not unheard of for the franchise to attempt parody other genres every so often. Such was the case in the Deep Space Nine episode “Our Man Bashir,” in which an accident in the Holosuite traps the crew in Bashir’s spy fantasy program. The episode is a fun nod to the genre of ’60s spy films but apparently was not well-received by James Bond studio MGM.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mind Matters sets the frame for a DUST short in “Sci-Fi Saturday Film: The Robot Tries To Learn About Grief”.

An elderly woman, Sheila, whose daughter has been in a high-conflict zone in a military environment, learns to manage with a robot—ordered apparently off the internet, with a manual—that can learn to do homework and hang Christmas decorations.

It’s an agreeable story and good Christmas fare!

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

Pixel Scroll 8/22/20 Unobtainium Glistens Like Chrome In All Of The Federation Parsecs

(1) BRADBURY CENTENNIAL. Here are a few more of the many entries about Ray Bradbury today.

The Martian Chronicles is not a child’s book, but it is an excellent book to give to a child—or to give to the right child, which I flatter myself that I was—because it is a book that is full of awakening. Which means, simply, that when you read it, you can feel parts of your brain clicking on, becoming sensitized to the fact that something is happening here, in this book, with these words, even if you can’t actually communicate to anyone outside of your own head just what that something is. I certainly couldn’t have, in the sixth grade—I simply didn’t have the words. As I recall, I didn’t much try: I just sat there staring down at the final line of the book, with the Martians staring back at me, simply trying to process what I had just read.

The fifth episode of my podcast Bradbury 100 drops today. The theme of the episode is biographies, as my interview guest is Jonathan R. Eller, author of three biographical volumes on Ray: Becoming Ray Bradbury, Ray Bradbury Unbound, and Bradbury Beyond Apollo.

Jon is also the Director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, and has done more than anyone to explore Bradbury’s thinking and authorship.

… Bradbury’s poetic, metaphor-filled prose was not easy to adapt to the screen, which is perhaps why there have been far fewer screen versions of his work than that of, say, Stephen King. But there were still a number of significant adaptations of Bradbury’s work for both the small and big screen, including some that he was directly involved in as a screenwriter….

01 – It Came from Outer Space (1953)

With the exception of a handful of short stories adapted for various early 1950s anthology TV shows, this was the first relatively major film based on Bradbury’s work and still remains one of the finest. Oddly, it wasn’t adapted from a published story but an original screen treatment he developed for director Jack Arnold (Creature from the Black Lagoon). 

In the film (the first sci-fi movie to use a 3D filming process), an alien ship crashes on Earth and its crew makes copies of the local townspeople to gather what they need to effect repairs. The aliens are not hostile, but merely want to fix their ship and leave peacefully. This was an unusual idea for the time — the extraterrestrials in most films from the era were decidedly dangerous — and sets It Came from Outer Space apart as a thoughtful yet still suspenseful piece. 

(2) FROM WAUKEGAN. When she was seven years old, Colleen Abel tells LitHub readers, she took something her grandmother said literally: “Growing Up With Ray Bradbury’s Ghost in Waukegan, Illinois”.

…Bradbury, intoning gravely over shots of the artefacts: People ask, Where do you get your ideas? Well, right here. As the camera pans, Bradbury says, Somewhere in this room is an African veldt. Beyond that, the small Illinois town where I grew up. He sits at a typewriter and the keys clatter. One night, watching these credits, my grandmother said to me, “You know, he’s from here.” She meant, of course, from Waukegan, “that small Illinois town” where he grew up and where we sat now in her neighborhood of tiny homes called The Gardens. But I, at age seven, thought she meant here, here in the house we sat in, that he had grown up in the house, perhaps even still lived in the basement which resembled, in its murk and books and clutter, the same office Bradbury sat down to write in during the opening credits of his tv show.

It wouldn’t be a bad premise for a Bradbury story: a young girl, bookish and morbid, discovers an author living in her grandmother’s musty basement. And in a way, he was there. My father’s old room was part of that basement, still set up the way it had been when he lived there, commuting to college and working part-time at a bookstore. One room was floor to ceiling bookshelves and by the time I was in junior high school, I would go down there regularly and pick something out to read. Most of the books were yellowed and falling apart, their covers marked with their original prices: fifteen cents. Among these were a few volumes of Bradbury’s short stories. I would pick one, often The Illustrated Man, and take it back upstairs to the velour armchair and settle in.

(3) “IN AN ATOMIC NUTSHELL.” First Fandom Experience dramatizes young Ray’s fanzine article: “In 1940, Ray Bradbury Asked, ‘Are You Ad Conditioned?’”

The latest video from First Fandom Experience brings to life a three-page screed by a young Ray Bradbury addressing the issue of the incongruous and annoying ads in pulp magazines.

The piece appeared in the Spring 1940 issue of Sweetness and Light, an edgy, satirical fanzine from a faction of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. A full reading of the piece is presented along with historical context and a selection of the offending advertisements. Enjoy!

(4) PIXEL BUDS. Plainly, it’s our duty here to signal boost the review of a product by this name: “Thoughts on Pixel Buds 2: The Buddening” by John Scalzi at Whatever.

1. To begin, they look pretty cool. Like the first generation, they come in their own little charging case, and when they’re nestled in there and the top is flipped open (which is a solidly satisfying tactile experience, by the way), it looks for all the world like a cute little robot with bug eyes (at least in the orange variant).

(5) WEREWOLF. THERE COURTHOUSE. “George R.R. Martin files lawsuit over film rights to a werewolf novella”: the LA Times has the news.

Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin has filed a lawsuit over the film rights to his werewolf novella “The Skin Trade.”

According to the complaint, filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday, Mike The Pike Productions was granted an option to the film rights of Martin’s novella in 2009. The company subsequently assigned the option to Blackstone Manor, LLC., the named defendants.

Described as a “werewolf noir,” “The Skin Trade” was originally published in 1988 as part of “Night Visions 5,” a horror anthology that also included stories by Stephen King and Dan Simmons. The story follows Randi Wade, a private investigator who is looking into a series of brutal killings in her small town, which eventually leads to her learning about werewolves and other demons. The story won a World Fantasy Award in 1989.

According to the complaint, Blackstone exercised the option on Sept. 2, 2014, and, per the 2009 agreement, it had five years to start principal photography before the rights reverted to Martin.

The complaint alleges that Blackstone “hastily assembl[ed] a barebones cast and crew” a day before the 2019 deadline “to shoot a handful of scenes” for no other reason than to maintain the appearance that it was making the progress necessary to retain the rights. Martin says the “token” production was “insufficient,” comparing the move to a contractor hurriedly building a gazebo in lieu of the agreed-upon skyscraper when faced with a deadline…

(6) WW84. DC dropped a new trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 at the DC Fandome event.

Fast forward to the 1980s as Wonder Woman’s next big screen adventure finds her facing two all-new foes: Max Lord and The Cheetah. With director Patty Jenkins back at the helm and Gal Gadot returning in the title role, “Wonder Woman 1984” is Warner Bros. Pictures’ follow up to the DC Super Hero’s first outing, 2017’s record-breaking “Wonder Woman,” which took in $822 million at the worldwide box office. The film also stars Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Kristen Wiig as The Cheetah, Pedro Pascal as Max Lord, Robin Wright as Antiope, and Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta.

(7) LEFT IN THE SILO. Nicholas Whyte, CoNZealand’s Deputy Hugo Administrator, in “The 1945 Retros that weren’t”, runs the numbers to show why various categories did not make the final ballot.

We didn’t publish the full stats for the 1945 Retro Hugo categories that weren’t put to the final ballot this year, mainly because voting ended only seven days before the Retro ceremony and we had to prioritise fairly ruthlessly.

But after internal discussion, we are publishing them here….

(8) THE SLUSHPILE’S MY DESTINATION. DreamForge Magazine returns with further explanations: “Why We Didn’t Buy Your Story, Part 2”.

What are the numbers again? This time we received over 600 works from hopeful contributors. At a guess, over 2 million words of fiction.

The majority of those writers really tried to send us something they thought we could use. For instance, we’re not a horror magazine. People knew that and sent very little horror. We didn’t get much in the way of apocalyptic dystopia either. Sex and swearing were at a minimum, yet people also recognized we’re not a children’s magazine nor specifically aimed at the young adult market.

By and large, the stories contained hopeful themes, big ideas and presented worlds filled with diversity, empathy, heroism, and hope.

I don’t have the exact numbers, but we read a lot of good stories. Let’s say 25% were “good to excellent.” It could be more. Conservatively, that would be over half a million words.

At $0.06/word, that’s over $30,000 (if we were able to buy all those good stories). While we do a good job of making DreamForge look big-time, that’s more than our annual budget for everything related to the magazine. And if we could somehow invest in all those stories, they would fill our pages for the next 3-4 years.

Second, creating an issue of a magazine is not just about selecting great stories. It’s about creating a reading experience. Think of it as a variety show. If all the stories are literary, philosophical, message pieces with troubled characters navigating complex plots, our readers aren’t going to make it through the whole issue.

Some stories are challenging, and they require a clear head and concentration before delivering a payoff in emotion or thoughtful meaning. And honestly, I don’t want to read those at 11:30 pm after a long day when I open a magazine for a few minutes of relaxation. I check the Table of Contents for a short story that looks light and easy to get through…

(9) ANGUS BUCHANAN OBITUARY. Industrial archaeologist and biographer Angus Buchanan died June 17. He is profiled in The Guardian. There’s a kind of steampunk sensibility to the topic.

Engineers shape economies, landscapes and how people work and live in them. Yet in the past their achievements were little celebrated. Angus Buchanan, who has died aged 90, did much to increase awareness of their endeavours and breakthroughs.

The appearance of his book Industrial Archaeology in Britain as a Pelican Original in 1972 marked a significant step forward for an emerging discipline. It supplied the crucial link between the development of industrial archaeology at regional and national levels in Britain, leading to the conservation, restoration and reuse of buildings, sites and engineering that might otherwise have been lost.

…The culmination of Buchanan’s research came with Brunel: The Life and Times of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (2002). In building the Great Western Railway and important bridges, tunnels and dockyards, the great Victorian engineer changed the face of the British landscape. Innovations at sea included the SS Great Britain, the first screw-driven iron transatlantic steamship, and his designs revolutionised modern engineering.

The biography provided the first fully documented and objective account, placing Brunel’s significance in a historical context. The desire to avoid concentrating on familiar incidents and the legends surrounding them led Buchanan to a thematic approach rather than a chronology, covering Brunel’s overseas projects and professional practices, and the politics and society within which he functioned, as well as familiar subjects, among them his other major ship, the SS Great Eastern.

The [Bristol Industrial Archeology Society] BIAS had a major influence on the preservation of Bristol’s city docks, thwarting traffic planners who wished to build a major road complex across them. In 1970 the Great Britain was returned from the Falklands to the dry dock where it had been built in 1843, and it is now a popular tourist attraction; nearby is another of Brunel’s masterpieces, the Clifton suspension bridge.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 22, 1957 X Minus One’s “Drop Dead” first aired. Based off of Clifford D. Simak‘s story of that name which was first published in Galaxy Science Fiction in July of 1956,  it’s a superb tale about a planet with a very obliging inhabitant called The Critter and how it serves the astronauts who land there. The radio script was by Ernest Kinoy with the cast being Lawson Zerbe, Ralph Camargo and Joseph Bell.  You can listen to it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 22, 1880 – George Herriman.  Wrote the immortal and so far unique comic strip Krazy Kat; also illustrated Don Marquis’ poetical tales of Archy and Mehitabel a cockroach and another cat.  Krazy sometimes seems male, sometimes female, which hardly matters; is endlessly the target of bricks thrown by Ignatz Mouse, taking them as a sign of affection; is the subject of protection by Officer Pupp, to whom they are merely illegal.  Other characters, equally unlikely, are also animals (including birds), whom anthropomorphic is equally inadequate for.  Nor does dialectal justly describe the language, nor surreal the landscape.  Here is the theme.  Here is a variation.  Here is an elaboration.  (Died 1944) [JH]
  • Born August 22, 1919 Douglas W F Mayer. A British fan who was editor for  three issues of Amateur Science Stories published by the Science Fiction Association of Leeds, England. He was thereby the publisher of Arthur C. Clarke’s very first short story, “Travel by Wire”, which appeared in the second issue in December 1937. He would later edit the Tomorrow fanzine which would be nominated for the 1939 Best Fanzine Retro Hugo. (Died 1976.) (CE)
  • Born August 22, 1920 Ray Bradbury. So what’s your favorite work by him? I have three. Something Wicked This Way Comes is the one I reread quite a bit with The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles being my other go to regularly works by him. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born August 22, 1925 Honor Blackman. Best known for the roles of Cathy Gale in The Avengers, Bond girl Pussy Galore in Goldfinger and Hera in Jason and the Argonauts. She was also Professor Lasky in “Terror of the Vervoids” in the Sixth Doctor’s “The Trial of a Time Lord”. Genre adjacent, she was in the film of Agatha Christie’s The Secret Adversary as Rita Vandemeyer. (Died 2020.) (CE) 
  • Born August 22, 1945 David Chase, 75. He’s here today mainly because he wrote nine episodes including the “Kolchak: Demon and the Mummy” telefilm of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. He also wrote the screenplay for The Grave of The Vampire, and one for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, “Enough Rope fur Two”, which he also directed. (CE) 
  • Born August 22, 1946 – Rafi Zabor, 74 Seldom does work from outside our field wholly engage with our spirit.  But The Bear Comes Home is superb.  Naturally we ignore it.  It does have explicit sexual activity, not gratuitous.  In a year when Earthquake Weather could not reach the ballot, of course The Bear could not muster even 5% of the nominations.  Don’t let that stop you now.  [JH]
  • Born August 22, 1948 – Susan Wood.  Her we do recognize.  Met Mike Glicksohn at Boskone 4, 1969; Energumen together to 1973, Hugo as Best Fanzine its last year; both Fan Guests of Honour at Aussiecon (in retrospect Aussiecon One) the 33rd Worldcon though marriage gone.  Three Hugos for SW as Best Fanwriter; Best of SW (J. Kaufman ed.) 1982.  Taught at U. British Columbia; Vancouver editor, Pac. NW Rev. Books.  Atheling Award, Aurora Award for Lifetime Achievement, Canadian SF Hall of Fame.  One Ditmar.  (Died 1980) [JH]
  • Born August 22, 1952 – Chuck Rothman, 68.  Two novels (Atlanta Nights with many co-authors was –), fifty shorter stories.  Interviewed in Flash Fiction Online Nov 15.  Movie-TV-music blog Great but Forgotten.  Einstein and CR’s grandfather.  [JH]
  • Born August 22, 1954 – Gavin Claypool, 66.  Los Angeles area actifan.  LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Society) Librarian.  Won LASFS Evans-Freehafer service award twice; only five people have ever done so.  Reliably helpful to others e.g. at SF cons.  [JH]
  • Born August 22, 1955 Will Shetterly, 65. Of his novels, I recommend his two Borderland novels, Elsewhere and Nevernever, which were both nominees for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature, and his sort of biographical Dogland. Married to Emma Bull, they did a trailer for her War for The Oaks novel which is worth seeing as you’ll spot Minnesota fans in it. And Emma as the Elf Queen is definitely something to behold! (CE)
  • Born August 22, 1963 Tori Amos, 57. One of Gaiman’s favorite musicians, so it’s appropriate that she penned two essays, the afterword to “Death” in Sandman: Book of Dreams, and the Introduction to “Death” in The High Cost of Living. Although created before they ever met, Delirium from The Sandman series is based on her. (CE)
  • Born August 22, 1964 – Diane Setterfield, Ph.D., 56.  Three novels.  The Thirteenth Tale sold three million copies (NY Times Best Seller), televised on BBC2.  “A reader first, a writer second….  The practice of weekly translation from my undergraduate years [her Ph.D., from U. Bristol, was on André Gide] has become an everyday working tool for me: when a sentence doesn’t run the way I want it to, I habitually translate it into French and retranslate it back into English.  It’s like switching a light on in a dim room: suddenly I can see what’s not working and why.”  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SUICIDE SQUAD ROLL CALL. Adam B. Vary, in the Variety story “‘The Suicide Squad’ First Look, Full Cast Revealed by Director James Gunn at DC FanDome” says that director James Gunn revealed at DC Fandome that the cast of The Suicide Squad, coming out in April 2021, includes Margot Robbie and Viola Davis from the 2016 film Suicide Squad but also Nathan Fillion, John Cena, and Peter Capaldi as “The Thinker,” a DC villain from the 1940s.  Principal photography was completed before the pandemic hit and the film is completed and ready to go.

… Among the new cast, Gunn said that he reached deep into the DC Comics canon to find a motley crew of villains to populate the movie, and it appears he brought some invention of his own to the project as well.

(14) A LEAGUE OF HIS OWN. “DC FanDome: Snyder Cut of Justice League to be four hours” at Lyles Movie Files.

…A big question was how the Snyder Cut would get released in HBO MAX. Snyder revealed it will be split into four one-hour segments.

Snyder then teased an entire full uninterrupted version as well with maybe the possibility of a solo purchase version.

(15) SOME CELESTIAL OBJECTS WILL BE RENAMED. “NASA to Reexamine Nicknames for Cosmic Objects”. The full statement is at the link.

Distant cosmic objects such as planets, galaxies, and nebulae are sometimes referred to by the scientific community with unofficial nicknames. As the scientific community works to identify and address systemic discrimination and inequality in all aspects of the field, it has become clear that certain cosmic nicknames are not only insensitive, but can be actively harmful. NASA is examining its use of unofficial terminology for cosmic objects as part of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

As an initial step, NASA will no longer refer to planetary nebula NGC 2392, the glowing remains of a Sun-like star that is blowing off its outer layers at the end of its life, as the “Eskimo Nebula.” “Eskimo” is widely viewed as a colonial term with a racist history, imposed on the indigenous people of Arctic regions. Most official documents have moved away from its use. NASA will also no longer use the term “Siamese Twins Galaxy” to refer to NGC 4567 and NGC 4568, a pair of spiral galaxies found in the Virgo Galaxy Cluster. Moving forward, NASA will use only the official, International Astronomical Union designations in cases where nicknames are inappropriate. 

…Nicknames are often more approachable and public-friendly than official names for cosmic objects, such as Barnard 33, whose nickname “the Horsehead Nebula” invokes its appearance. But often seemingly innocuous nicknames can be harmful and detract from the science. 

The Agency will be working with diversity, inclusion, and equity experts in the astronomical and physical sciences to provide guidance and recommendations for other nicknames and terms for review….

(16) HONEST GAME TRAILERS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Fandom Games asks in this Honest Game Trailer, “Destroy All Humans”, since alien invasion is “the only box left on the 2020 bingo card” why not enjoy this 2005 game where you’re an alien mowing down humans and giving bad Jack Nicholson impressions?

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

Pixel Scroll 7/8/20 Here’s What We All Must Learn To Do, Scroll And Pixel

(1) HALLOWEEN ALREADY? People who sell candy are getting ready. But no need for anybody to go door-to-door: buy your own bag and tuck in at at home. “Hershey’s Will Have A Ton Of New Halloween Candy This Year Including Reese’s Cups With Green Creme” says Yahoo! Life.

…Next up are these Vampire Milk Chocolate Kisses that might look like your classic Hershey’s Kisses (with adorable bat foil) but when you bite in, they’re stuffed with a strawberry creme filling fit for a vampire. You get the strawberry flavor before you even bite in, which I loved. They taste like a chocolate-covered strawberry but, like, way easier to eat.

…In addition to new candies, you’ll also find some old faves on shelves this fall like Reese’s Pumpkins, mini Pumpkin Pie Kit Kats, Hershey’s Glow-In-The-Dark minis, and milk chocolate Monster Kisses with adorable themed foils. All of these will start rolling out in stores as the holiday gets closer which gives you plenty of time to coordinate a Halloween costume around your favorite candy.

(2) COVID-19 TAKES DOWN ANOTHER CON. The Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention, initially postponed from April til September, now has been cancelled says organizer Doug Ellis:

…We regret to announce that after consultation with our convention hotel, the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center in Lombard, Illinois, we have determined that it is not possible to hold our convention this year due to COVID-19. The next Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention is scheduled for April 16-18, 2021 at the same location.

…The 2020 show would have been our 20th, and we had plans to make it our best yet. We’ll take this extra time to work on making what will now be our 20th show (albeit in 2021) even better!

(3) STILL WAITING BY THE LAKE. Meanwhile, some X-factor is keeping Salt Lake City’s FanX event from actually cancelling, no matter how close they might be to making that decision: “What Happens if FanX 2020 is Postponed due to COVID-19?”

The FanX® staff, much like the attendees, looks forward to all our events all year long. We never fathomed we would be in such a state of uncertainty for this year’s event because of a global pandemic. With the recent rise of Utah’s COVID-19 cases, the possibility of having the event this September and meeting again with our FanX family is looking bleak. Unless we see a significant reduction in the number of new COVID-19 cases in the next couple of weeks, we do not feel it is in the best interest of the community and the attendees for us to continue with the plan to have the event this year. Keeping the safety of everyone at the event is always our top priority. 

…In the case that we are able to have FanX® in September 2020, we are preparing to have plenty of safety features in effect and are working with health professionals to take as many safety precautions as possible. We are still preparing details of what this might look like for attendees, and we will continue to monitor COVID-19 best practices at that time for events. 

(4) ON WITH THE SHOW. “‘Batwoman’ Casts Javicia Leslie as New Series Lead”Variety has the details. Leslie, who was on God Friended Me for two seasons, will replace Ruby Rose on “Batwoman” but showrunner Caroline Dries says that Rose’s character, Kate Kane, will not be killed off on the show.

Batwoman” has found its new series lead, with Javicia Leslie set to step into the cape and cowl for the show’s upcoming second season on The CW.

“I am extremely proud to be the first Black actress to play the iconic role of Batwoman on television, and as a bisexual woman, I am honored to join this groundbreaking show which has been such a trailblazer for the LGBTQ+ community,” Leslie said.

Leslie will portray a new character on the show named Ryan Wilder. She is described as likable, messy, a little goofy and untamed. She’s also nothing like Kate Kane (previously played by Ruby Rose), the woman who wore the Batsuit before her….

(5) FRIENDLY PERSUASION. Camestros Felapton advocates for a fourth finalist: “Hugo Fan Writer: Why you should vote for…Bogi Takács”.

… Bogi’s writing is a positive challenge that asks people to reconsider the scope of works that they engage with. “Positive” in the sense that it is driven by creative output and the advocacy for creators of speculative fiction rather than the sense of simply being ‘feel-good’ or avoiding pointing out the ingrained prejudices and issues within the wider SF&F community.

(6) BLM. Essence of Wonder will be joined by Maurice Broaddus this Saturday, July 11 at 3:00 p.m.to discuss his writing, as well as the youth movement taking the lead in the recent Black Lives Matter protests: “Maurice Broaddus and the BLM Youth Movement: The World We Want to Create”

(7) GAIMAN PANEL LIVESTREAM. The 2020 Auckland Writers Festival went virtual and is running a Winter Series of livestreamed panels. On Sunday, July 12, Episode 11 will feature:

 English master storyteller Neil Gaiman with his latest, ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’, author and curator Kolokesa Uaf? M?hina-Tuai discussing ‘Crafting Aotearoa’ and Canadian writer and artist Leanne Shapton with ‘Guestbook: Ghost Stories’.

(8) BRADBURY’S PSEUDONYMS. First Fandom Experience fills readers in about “The Making Of ‘The Earliest Bradbury’”, their recently published volume of his earliest writing as a science fiction fan.

… However, developing a comprehensive list of Bradbury’s fanzine contributions required intensive effort by the FFE team and others.

Fortunately, there was a clear starting point: the first and most numerous of Bradbury’s fanzine appearances are found in the club organ of the Los Angeles Science Fiction League (LASFL), Imagination! This title ran for thirteen issues from October 1937 — the same month that Bradbury joined the group — to October 1938. The FFE archive includes a full set of these rare issues, and we read them exhaustively to find anything written by or referring to Bradbury.

This seemingly straightforward task soon revealed a key challenge: Bradbury and other members of the LASFL frequently published under a variety of pseudonyms. We puzzled over a number of articles that might have been penned by Bradbury, but sported whimsical bylines like “D. Lerium Tremaine” and “Kno Knuth Ing.” (A previous blog post discusses our early attempts to sort this out.)…

(9) LIGHTS AND SIRENS. LitHub celebrated Hilary Mantel’s July 6 birthday with a look back at her days as a film reviewer: “On Hilary Mantel’s birthday, please enjoy her 1988 review of RoboCop.”

Today, Dame Hilary Mary Mantel, author of the Booker Prize-winning novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, and the likely future Booker Prize-winning novel The Mirror and the Light, turns 68.

But you probably knew that. What you might not have known was that Mantel was the film critic for the UK’s The Spectator for four years, between 1987 and 1991, during which time she reviewed many films, including Overboard (“God bless us all. And send us better films next week.”), The Accused (“Economy is commendable, but a woman in all her complexity cannot be represented by a pair of outsize shoulder-pads.”), and Fatal Attraction (“A quite unremarkable film in most ways, with its B-movie conceits, cliché-strewn screenplay and derivative effects.”).

She also reviewed RoboCop—and rather enjoyed it:

“F—— me!” cry the criminals, as RoboCop blasts them into the hereafter. Rapists, robbers, terrorists are minced before our eyes. Villains are blown apart, defenestrated, melted down into pools of toxic waste. “You have the right to an attorney,” the courteous robot voice reminds them, as he tosses them through plate glass. The pace is frenetic. The noise level is amazing. You absolutely cannot lose interest; every moment something explodes….

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

Forty-three years ago in the Bananas literary zine which was edited by Emma Tennant and published by Blond & Briggs, Angela Carter’s “The Company of Wolves“ was first printed. (A novelette by J.G. Ballard, “The Dead Time”, and a short story by John Sladek, “After Flaubert” comprised the rest of the zine.) Three years later, it was included in Carter’s The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories collection. It would win a BSFA Award for Best Media as it would become a film of that name written by Angela Carter and Neil Jordan which starred Sarah Patterson, Angela Lansbury, Stephen Rea and David Warner. It is quite often produced as a theatre piece in the U.K. (CE)

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 8, 1906 Walter Sande. He’s best remembered for being on Red Planet MarsThe War of the Worlds and Invaders from Mars, but he also showed up playing a heavy in such serials as The Green Hornets Strikes Again! and Sky Raiders, the latter being at least genre adjacent. He’s had a recurring role as Col. Crockett on The Wild, Wild West, and one-offs on Voyage to the Bottom of The SeaThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Lost in Space and Bewitched. (Died 1971.) (CE)
  • Born July 8, 1925 – Lou Feck.  Forty covers, a few interiors.  Here is Rogue in Space.  Here is Cinnabar.  Here is On Wings of Song.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born July 8, 1930 – George Young.  Program Book and publicity for Detention (17th Worldcon).  His head was under the first propeller beanie, made (i.e. the beanie) by Ray Nelson, inspiring on another evolutionary track Beanie Boy of Beanie and Cecil; here’s RN telling the story to Darrell Schweitzer.  See photos of and by GY via the FANAC.org index.  [JH]
  • Born July 8, 1934 – Merv Binns.  Co-founded Melbourne SF Group, founded Melbourne Fantasy Film Group; ran first Australian SF bookshop Space Age Books; Guest of Honour [note spelling] at 9th Australian nat’l SF convention (“natcon”), 13th, 44th; at 2nd New Zealand natcon; chaired Cinecon, SF film convention.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  Ditmar, Chandler, Infinity, McNamara Awards.  Fanzines Australian SF NewsOut of the Bin.  (Died 2020) [JH]
  • Born July 8, 1944 Jeffrey Tambor, 76. I first encountered him on Max Headroom as Murray, Edison’s editor. Later on, and yes, I sat through that film, he’s Mayor Augustus Maywho in How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Finally, I’ll note he was in both of the only true Hellboy films playing Tom Manning, director of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. (CE)
  • Born July 8, 1944 Glen Cook, 76. With the exception of the new novel which I need to read, I’ve read his entire excellent Black Company series. I’ve also mostly liked his far lighter Garrett P.I. series which it seems unfortunately he’s abandoned. And I should read the Instrumentalities of the Night as I’ve heard good things about it. (CE)
  • Born July 8, 1945 – D. West.  First-rate fanartist.  See here (cover for Chunga), here (Inca), here (Banana Wings); a hundred fifty interiors in his consummately sour style.  Here’s Randy Byers’ tribute (some harsh language, some fanzine slang).  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born July 8, 1953 – Mark Blackman, 67.  Chaired Lunacon 38.  Illustrated (with Greg Costikyan) the New York Conspiracy’s Hymnal.  I met him in TAPS (the Terrean Amateur Press Ass’n), later in person.  Reports from New York, like this; can often be found in WOOF.  [JH]
  • Born July 8, 1954 Ellen Klages, 66. Her novelette “Basement Magic” won a Nebula Award for Best Novelette. I strongly recommend Portable Childhoods, a collection of her short fiction, which published by Tachyon Publications, my boutique favorite publisher of fantasy. Passing Strange, her 1940 set San Francisco novel which won a BSFA Award and a World Fantasy Award is also really great. (CE)
  • Born July 8, 1970 Ekaterina Sedia, 50. Her Heart of Iron novel is simply awesome. I’d also recommend The Secret History of Moscow as well. It’s worth noting that both iBooks and Kindle list several collections by her, Willful Impropriety: 13 Tales of Society, Scandal, and Romance and Wilfill Impropriety that ISFDB doesn’t list. They’re quite superb it turns out as is Paper Cities: An Anthology of Urban Fantasy anthology she edited which won a World Fantasy Award. (CE)
  • Born July 8, 1978 George Mann, 42. Writer and editor. He’s edited a number of anthologies including the first three volumes of Solaris Book of New Science Fiction. Among my favourite books by him are his Newbury & Hobbes series, plus his excellent Doctor Who work. (CE)
  • Born July 8, 1978 – Erin Morgenstern, 42.  New York Times Best-Seller The Night Circus won Alex and Locus Awards; 127 editions in 21 languages.  The Starless Sea came next.  Does Nat’l Novel Writing Month which indeed produced Circus; “I’m grateful to Chris Baty for coming up with such an outlandish idea and also he has very good taste in wine.”  Otherwise she drinks Sidecars without sugar.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • You know what a bear does in the woods. Heathcliff shows what an alien does in the woods.

(13) SLAP HAPPY. [Item by Dann.] I came across this one and thought it might be of interest. Sasha Wood’s Casually Comics channel on YouTube offers a frequently fun and detailed look into various comics. This episode from last year covers the ubiquitous meme where Batman slaps Robin. Sasha does an entertaining dive into the alternative universe that was the World’s Finest series.

I have found Sasha’s approach to be well balanced, informative, and fun. A little signal boost in her direction would be a good thingTM.

(14) FLYING BY. Cat Rambo will be teaching “Principles for Pantsers” online on Saturday, August 1, 1-3 PM Pacific time. Registration and scholarship info at the link.

Some people outline. Others don’t. There’s plenty of advice on how to do the former, but those who practice the latter sometimes feel that they’re floundering, and no one’s providing any principles. Working with my own process as well as that of students, clients, and mentees, I’ve come up with twelve principles that you can apply, post-pantsing, in order to start moving from chaos to order.

Join Cat Rambo for a workshop in which they teach you how to pants successfully.

(15) WORD POWER. NPR relayed on the verdict: “Regardless Of What You Think, ‘Irregardless’ Is A Word”. How many fucks do you give?

Merriam-Webster raised the hackles of stodgy grammarians last week when it affirmed the lexical veracity of “irregardless.”

The word’s definition, when reading it, would seem to be: without without regard.

“Irregardless is included in our dictionary because it has been in widespread and near-constant use since 1795,” the dictionary’s staff wrote in a “Words of the Week” roundup on Friday. “We do not make the English language, we merely record it.”

(16) WHY WAIT? Robert Zubrin says that an Artemis flight around the moon is possible this year: ““Artemis 8” using Dragon” in The Space Review.

A mission equivalent to Apollo 8—call it “Artemis 8”—could be done, potentially as soon as this year, using Dragon, Falcon Heavy, and Falcon 9.

The basic plan is to launch a crew to low Earth orbit in Dragon using a Falcon 9. Then launch a Falcon Heavy, and rendezvous in LEO with its upper stage, which will still contain plenty of propellant. The Falcon Heavy upper stage is then used to send the Dragon on Trans Lunar Injection (TLI), and potentially Lunar Orbit Capture (LOC) and Trans Earth Injection (TEI) as well.

(17) RUSSIAN SPACE AGENCY ADVISOR CHARGED. “Russia Arrests Space Agency Official, Accusing Him of Treason” reports the New York Times. But is it a bum rap?

Russia’s secret police on Tuesday arrested a respected former reporter who worked in recent months as an adviser to the head of the country’s space agency, accusing him of treason for passing secrets to a NATO country.

Life News, a tabloid news site with close ties to the security apparatus, posted a video of the former reporter, Ivan I. Safronov, being bundled off a leafy Moscow street into a gray van by plainclothes officers of the Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., the domestic arm of what was known in Soviet times as the K.G.B.

The F.S.B. said that Mr. Safronov was suspected of working for the intelligence service of an unspecified NATO country, passing on “classified information about military-technical cooperation, defense and the security of the Russian Federation.”

What information that could be, however, was unclear. Mr. Safronov only started working at the space agency, Roscosmos, in May. Before that, he worked for more than a decade as a well-regarded journalist for Kommersant and then Vedomosti, both privately owned business newspapers with no obvious access to state secrets.

Outraged at what was widely viewed as another example of overreach by Russia’s sprawling and often paranoid security apparatus, journalists and ordinary Muscovites gathered in small groups outside the headquarters of the F.S.B. to protest the arrest. Several were detained for holding up signs in support of Mr. Safronov.

(18) HEYERDAHL VINDICATED. “Ancient Americans made epic Pacific voyages”.

New evidence has been found for epic prehistoric voyages between the Americas and eastern Polynesia.

DNA analysis suggests there was mixing between Native Americans and Polynesians around AD 1200.

The extent of potential contacts between the regions has been a hotly contested area for decades.

In 1947, Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl made a journey by raft from South America to Polynesia to demonstrate the voyage was possible.

Until now, proponents of Native American and Polynesian interaction reasoned that some common cultural elements, such as a similar word used for a common crop, hinted that the two populations had mingled before Europeans settled in South America.

Opponents pointed to studies with differing conclusions and the fact that the two groups were separated by thousands of kilometres of open ocean.

Alexander Ioannidis from Stanford University in California and his international colleagues analysed genetic data from more than 800 living indigenous inhabitants of coastal South America and French Polynesia.

(19) VIRGIN TECH. “The tech behind Virgin Orbit’s mission to space” – a BBC video.

Virgin Orbit plans to launch its rockets from a plane. This new approach means no need for a launch site or the need to burn masses of fuel to get the rockets off the ground.

The rockets will be used to take satellites into space. A test launch in May failed but now the company is looking to make a further attempt.

BBC Click’s Marc Cieslak went to find out more about the technology behind the launches.

(20) GET READY AGAIN. Andrew Liptak told Tor.com readers today “Ernest Cline’s Ready Player Two Will Hit Bookstores in November”.

… Penguin Random House hasn’t revealed a plot for the novel, but presumably, it’ll pick up the adventures of Wade, Aech, and Art3mis now that they’re in charge of the OASIS, and will come with plenty of nerd references.

However, Liptak was no fan of Ernest Cline’s most recent book, Armada, as he reminded his Reading List audience by reposting his review titled “Ernie Cline’s Armada Fucking Sucks”.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Truly, Madly, Cheaply!  British B-Movies” on YouTube is a very entertaining 2008 BBC documentary presented by Matthew Sweet about the B movies produced in Britain from the 1930s to the 1970s.  These films were in all sorts of genres, and ones in the 1930s gave Merle Oberon and Sir John Mills some of their first parts, but sf and fantasy films are discussed, including Devil Girl From Mars, Trog, and Konga. Also discussed is the 1973 film Psychomania (also known as The Death Wheelers), a zombie biker movie so bad that star Nicky Henson, interviewed by Sweet, said, “I can’t believe I’m talking to you about this film nearly 40 years later.”  (Psychomania was also the final film of George Sanders.)

[Thanks to Doug Ellis, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Olav Rokne, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, David Doering, Cat Eldridge, Dann, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

A Bradbury Avalanche

Thanks to bloggers’ outpouring of interest in his work we again can celebrate “all Bradbury all the time” here at File 770.

(1) SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO. First Fandom Experience has announced a remarkable project: “Coming Soon: The Earliest Bradbury & More”.

This year (2020) marks the centenary of Bradbury’s birth, and we at First Fandom Experience hope to honor him by contributing to the extensive body of literature that surrounds him. Building on our work for The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom, Volume One: The 1930s, we are on schedule to publish a volume titled The Earliest Bradbury, an exploration and celebration of his earliest writings as a science fiction fan, ahead of his centennial in August.

Like The Visual HistoryThe Earliest Bradbury explores history by wrapping an archive in a story. We use original artifacts from the past, such as fanzines, letters, and photographs, to tell the story of Bradbury’s journey as a young fan and author. Although we discuss his more well-known works, such as Futuria Fantasia and Hollerbochen’s Dilemma, we pay special attention to the often overlooked articles, letters, and stories Bradbury published as a teenager and young adult, and tease out the relationships that influenced the young Bradbury and launch his career as a professional author. As with The Visual History, many of the artifacts reproduced in The Earliest Bradbury are rare and difficult to find as originals or reproductions.

They’ll publish a deluxe, hard-bound edition of The Earliest Bradbury in July, which will be available through the FFE website. 

(2) AT NINETEEN. This month Wil Wheaton released his reading of one of Bradbury’s fanzine stories – the kind of thing we may expect to see in the FFE collection: “Radio Free Burrito Presents: Luana the Living by Ray Bradbury”.

Actor & writer Wil Wheaton (Star Trek, The Big Bang Theory, and Stand by Me) read Bradbury’s “Luana the Living” on an episode of his podcast, Radio Free Burrito. Wheaton describes this story of an explorer’s harrowing experience in the jungles of India as “*exactly* the kind of book I would have picked up from the spinning rack of fifty cent paperbacks in the drugstore.”

Published in 1940 in the fanzine Polaris when Bradbury was 19 years old, “Luana the Living,” offers a rare glimpse into the writers’ earliest works.

(3) HIT PERSON. In the tenth post of a series at BradburyMedia, Phil Nichols reviews the title story in the Bradbury’s Small Assassin collection: “Lockdown Choices – The Small Assassin”.

…It’s classic Bradburyan paranoia of the type we have seen in “The Crowd”, “The Wind”, “Skeleton” and “The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl”. And as with most of those stories, the paranoid protagonist turns out to be justified in their paranoia. Bradbury, in his classic horror period, was never one to leave the reader to decide; he nearly always set things up to make you think the hero is crazy, then make you empathise with them, and then vindicate them….

See Phil Nichols’ entire slate of Lockdown Choices in “Reading at Home”.

Phil Nichols, historian, educator, and creator of Bradburymedia, offers his series of suggestions for the best Bradbury stories to enjoy at home while the world is engaged in social distancing.

Nichols also recounts Bradbury’s avalanche of productivity in the decade of the Fifties in his post titled “The Breathless 1950s”.

If you’ve been following my posts of late, you will know that I have been working through each of Ray Bradbury’s books in order of original publication, explaining a bit about how each book came about, and selecting the best stories and adaptations from each one.

So far, I have covered all the books from the 1940s and 1950s. And what a breathless decade(-and-a-bit) it’s been.

By the end of 1959, Bradbury had published nine books: three novels (or packaged to appear like novels), five short story collections, and one children’s book.

By the end of 1959, at the age of thirty-nine, he had been publishing short stories for twenty-two years, and had totalled 249 of them. That’s an average of 11.3 per year, but with a peak of 24 stories in 1950….

(4) THE FUTURE OF RACE. Kathryn Ross’ Pasadena Now opinion piece “Why Race Still Matters in a Post-Race Universe” takes a Bradbury story as a key text to lead up to this conclusion about representation; “Will race still matter then? Will it matter after we’ve discovered extensive space travel and aliens and new worlds and parallel universes? Perhaps not. But does it matter right now for audiences like myself and Andre? and my parents to see black people belonging as integral parts of these fantastical narratives? I think it does. However far into the future we’re reaching, it matters.”

June 2003. The American south is still segregated, blacks are employed by wealthy whites and treated like the lowliest of servants in an effect reminiscent of the Mammys, Bucks, and “boys” of old Hollywood, lynching is an after-dinner pastime, and use of the n-word in casual conversation abounds.

Celebrated sci-fi literary giant Ray Bradbury paints this raw and oftentimes hard-to-read picture as the context within his short story, “Way in the Middle of the Air.” Bradbury imagines a mass exodus of all the black people in America —not back to Africa as one white character suggests, but to the planet Mars— to escape the racial tyranny of Earth. This short appears in Bradbury’s famous first novel, The Martian Chronicles, first published in 1950.

From Bradbury’s 1950s viewpoint, June 2003 is the farthest reach of the future, and in this future, racism is still alive and as virulent as ever. To be clear, Bradbury is not writing as pro-racist. Rather, he is musing on what would happen to the racists if their prey could —and did— just leave, far beyond where they could reach. 

(5) A MATCH MADE IN HELL. Christina Dalcher, in “The Dystopia At Home” on CrimeReads, looks at five dystopian novels (including Fahrenheit 451) for what they say about families.

You work hard all day, setting books on fire, waving your portable blowtorch around at anything that might be read, and when you come home, all you want is a little hug. Forget it, brother. Your wife is permanently glued to the largest boob-tube ever invented: the parlor wall, so stuck on it that she can barely remember your name. You start having second thoughts about your chosen trade, you want someone to talk to, and you turn to that one person who’s supposed to be your life partner, your sounding board in all things intimate. She tunes you out. You try reading a book, just for fun, and end up being locked out of the bathroom while your wife swallows enough pills to bring down a bull elephant.

Ah, marriage.

(6) GAIMAN AND WELLER ON BRADBURY. On May 9, as part of the Big Book Weekend programme, award-winning Bradbury biographer and writer Sam Weller joined in a spirited discussion with Neil Gaiman about Ray Bradbury’s inestimable influence and enduring popularity, and how it has inspired their own work.

The Big Book Weekend is a 3-day virtual festival, taking place on MyVLF.com (My Virtual Literary Festival), that brings together the best of the British book festivals cancelled due to coronavirus. The festival is sponsored by BBC Arts and The Arts Council, among others.

The program can still be viewed, however, free registration is required at https://myvlf.com. Other panels and discussions from various different genres are also available.

A transcript of the Weller/Gaiman discussion is accessible here. The URL seems to work if I’m not logged in, too, but no guarantees.

(7) DOING SOME WEEDING. If Bradbury hadn’t named a book after it I might never have heard of dandelion wine – now I even have a recipe for making it.

What started as a poor man’s wine in Europe slowly made its way into a tradition on the Great Plains of North America. Settlers found patches of the weed and started fermenting it into a sweet drink to enjoy after working in the fields all day.

Along with having a bit of alcohol, dandelion wine is also a medicinal drink. Dandelion flowers are packed with vitamins A, B, C, and D and are great for digestive health because they clean the kidneys and liver.

Today modern homesteaders make the wine at home and relish in its taste. Ever wanted to give winemaking a try? Now’s your chance to try homebrewing all those dandelion blossoms you have in your yard.

…While this dandelion wine recipe does take months to make, you’ll be happy you created it once you take the first sip of your very own homemade dandelion wine. In the meantime, read Ray Bradbury’s novel, Dandelion Wine, a 1957 novel that uses the flower petal wine as a metaphor for packing all of the joys of summer into a single bottle.

(8) COVERED IN ART. Anna Felicity Friedman explains how “Ray Bradbury Understood the Narrative Power of Tattoos” at LitHub.

…Tattoos and perceptions of them have transformed enormously from 1950­–51 when Esquire first published Bradbury’s short story in July of 1950, followed by the author using the character again as a frame device for the prologue and epilogue to The Illustrated Man collection. Tattooing was mired in a dark time in its history then, perhaps at its lowest point of popularity in modern times.

The heyday of the circus sideshow had passed, tattooing was mainly relegated to skid-row areas and near military bases, and, aside from macho characters like the soon-to-be-conceived Marlboro Man, tattoos were not for everyday people. By the 1950s, tattooed men held little appeal—especially compared to tattooed ladies—and Bradbury masterfully captured the pathos of being a washed-up tattoo performer, despite still being an extraordinary work of art, in his portrayals of Mr. William Philippus Phelps.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael O’Donnell, and Martin Morse Wooster for these stories.]

Pixel Scroll 5/9/20 A Pixel Scroll Title That Turns Out To Have Been Used Before

(1) NOT DEAD YET. Since the cancellation of San Diego Comic-Con 2020 was announced in mid-April the people behind it have been thinking about an online counterpart. This humorous video dropped on May 8.

What it all means has yet to be revealed. However, in April SDCC started posting coloring books and videos with the theme of Comic-Con Museum@Home.

While Comic-Con 2020 has been cancelled (we’ll return in 2021!) and the Comic-Con Museum is currently closed along with the rest of the museums in Balboa Park, we want to welcome you to our newest endeavor: Comic-Con Museum@Home!

We have great plans for this new section of our website. This will be your main source for some amazing Comic-Con Museum content, such as exclusive videos—including past events (Sense of Wonder with Jen Bartel, The Art of Shag, Will Eisner Week), and new video content created exclusively for the Museum@Home program. Plus, we’re proud to introduce our exclusive “Fun Book” series, a regularly scheduled downloadable PDF featuring activity and coloring sheets created by the Comic-Con Museum for various age groups.

For one example – “Comic-Con Museum Celebrates Will Eisner: Life Forces: The Art of the Comics Memoir.“

(2) GNAW, YOU’RE KIDDING ME. The New York Times’ Cathy Weaver says it’s “Time to Check Your Pandemic-Abandoned Car for Rats”.  

You might want to make sure there’s not a rat living (or recently dead) in your car’s engine.

Why are you still reading? Check your car for a rat, I said. That’s the tip. Rats like it in there, and while they could take up residence in a car engine at any time, anecdotal reports (and mankind’s modern if imperfect knowledge of rat behavior) suggest the phenomenon may be occurring more frequently right now.

Three line breaks into this story, it is becoming increasingly clear that the depth of your interest in rats plunges far deeper than basic car maintenance tips. You are a person who seeks to understand rats in a way that rats may not even understand themselves. You want to read the invisible instruction encoded in a rat’s brain that compels him to abandon the deli dumpster where he has spent the majority of his short life and, all of a sudden, carry a leaf and perhaps some twigs into the engine of your Jetta. OK. Here is more rat information…

(3) LEAPIN’ LEPUS. “Juliet Johnson and Peter Capaldi On The Story of Richard Adams’ Watership Down” on YouTube is a promotional video for Black Stone Publishing in which Richard Adams’s daughter, Juliet Johnson, and Peter Capaldi discuss a new, unabridged version of Watership Down which Capaldi recorded to commemorate Richard Adams’s centennial.

(4) SURVIVAL OF THE SFFEST. “Everything I Need To Know To Survive Covid-19 I Learned By Watching Scifi & Horror Movies” is a clever mashup by Evan Gorski and Michael Dougherty.

(5) SOFT RE-OPENING. South Pasadena’s Vidéothèque movie rental business told people on its mailing list they expected to be allowed to reopen for pick-up service today.

Pursuant to County Health Dept provisions (& crossing our fingers), we will re-open Saturday, May 9 from 11am-7pm with front door service & will keep these hours daily.

Please refer to our website vidtheque.com to search for titles 

They included a bunch of movie recommendation lists to stimulate the demand, including Time Out’s “The 100 best horror films – the scariest movies ranked by experts”. Number four on the list is

Alien

The miracle of birth
Talk about above and beyond: Ridley Scott was hired by Twentieth Century Fox to make ‘“Jaws” in space’, and came back with one of the most stylish, subversive, downright beautiful films in either the horror or sci-fi genre. The masterstroke, of course, was hiring Swiss madman HR Giger as the film’s chief designer – his work brings a slippery, organic grotesquerie to what could’ve been a straight-up bug hunt (© ‘Aliens’). But let’s not overlook Dan O’Bannon’s script, which builds character without assigning age, race or even gender – plus one of the finest casts ever assembled.

(6) VIDEO GAME CREATOR. The Strong Museum of Play has received a collection of prototypes and projects from the family of inventor Ralph Baer.

Ralph Baer, known as the father of home video games and the first person to patent the idea of playing a video game on a television, spent more than four decades creating, inventing, and changing the landscape of play. The Strong museum, home to the World Video Game Hall of Fame, is pleased to announce that it has received a donation of prototype toys and technologies from Baer’s family that showcase his work and his creative thinking. The items add to the museum’s existing collection of Baer materials, which includes his personal papers and one of his desktop inventing workstations.

…Baer is known for his work in the video game industry, but in addition to creating the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972, the first home console machine, Baer led a successful career in toy and handheld electronic game design, creating the matching game Simon and the plush bear TV Teddy, among many other products. This collection includes dozens of items in various stages of development, including a Big Bird Talking Bank, the Video Buddy interactive system, augmented GI Joe rescue set, Super Simon, along with various other pieces or concepts, including talking greeting cards, a twirling carnival ride, modified stuffed animals, and a toy phone. Together, along with the museum’s existing personal papers, they provide a window into Baer’s design process.

“My father escaped Nazi Germany as a child, and he spent much of his life after that thinking differently about the world and trying to introduce more fun and whimsy into it. He was a visionary and creative force who never stopped learning, inventing, and tinkering—even into his 90s,” says Mark W. Baer, his son and the Trustee of the Ralph H. Baer Trust. 

(7) CREATURE FEATURE. Marie Brennan considers “New Worlds: Working Animals” at Book View Café.

…In fact, dogs serve as kind of a template for things we use working animals to do. The tasks of draft (pulling things like wagons or plows), pack (carrying loads directly) and riding came up when we talked about transportation, so I won’t rehash the list of species used in different parts of the world — but I will note that certain animals we can’t domesticate, like zebra and moose, can occasionally be tamed to perform those tasks. This category is where the Industrial Revolution made the most immediate and obvious dent: once we could replace muscle power with steam power and its successors, we no longer needed to keep millions of horses and mules and donkeys and camels and so forth to work for us.

(8) WHAT’S STUFFED INSIDE. NPR’s Jason Sheehan rides the line: “These ‘Little Eyes’ Watch The World Burn”.

Samanta Schweblin is not a science fiction writer. Which is probably one of the reasons why Little Eyes, her new novel (translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell) reads like such great science fiction.

Like Katie Williams’s 2018 novel Tell The Machine Goodnight before it, Little Eyes supposes a world that is our world, five minutes from now. It is a place with all our recognizable horrors, all our familiar comforts and sweetnesses, as familiar (as if anything could be familiar these days) as yesterday’s shoes. It then introduces one small thing — one little change, one product, one tweaked application of a totally familiar technology — and tracks the ripples of chaos that it creates.

In Tell The Machine, it was a computer that could tell anyone how to be happy, and Williams turned that (rather disruptive, obviously impossible) technology into a quiet, slow-burn drama of family and human connection that was one of my favorite books of the past few years. Schweblin, though, is more sinister. She basically gives everyone in the world a Furby with a webcam, and then sits back, smiling, and watches humanity shake itself to pieces.

You remember what a Furby is, right? They were those creepy-cute, fuzzy animal toys that could blink and squawk and sing, dance around and respond to some basic commands. They were toys that pretended (mostly poorly) that they were alive.

Schweblin’s version is called a kentuki. It’s a simple, fur-covered crow or mole or bunny or dragon with cameras for eyes, wheels, a motor. And a person inside. Virtually, of course. Not, like, for real. Because that would be horrifying. And Little Eyes is absolutely horrifying, but not that kind of horrifying….

(9) REDECORATING THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE. ScreenRant tries to explain “Why The Fourth Doctor Had A Second (Original) TARDIS Console Room”.

…In the debut episode of Doctor Who‘s original season 14, The Doctor takes his then-companion, Sarah Jane Smith, to a different, unused console room, and then strongly suggests this place was actually the original hub of the TARDIS. This console room remained The Doctor‘s base for the remainder of the season and was a massive visual departure from what had come before, with wooden panel walls, stained glass windows, and a smaller, cabinet-like console. Unfortunately, the Victorian-style console room only lasted a single season before the white, pimply decor returned. Reports conflict as to whether the wood of the previous set was proving problematic to maintain, or whether incoming producer, Graham Williams, simply wasn’t a fan.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 9, 1973 Soylent Green premiered in theatres. It was the last performance by Edward G. Robinson who gets a great death scene here. It starred Charlton Heston and Leigh Taylor-Young. It was directed by Richard Flieschier and produced by Walter Seltzer and Russell Thacher. It was rather loosely based on Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison. Most of the critics at the time generally liked it, and at Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 71% rating among audience reviewers.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 9, 1860 J. M. Barrie. For us and for many others he’s the author of Peter Pan.  After that he had a long string of successes in the theater.  He knew George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells.  He joined the Authors Cricket Club and played for its team along with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A.A. Milne, and P.G. Wodehouse.  He was made a baronet in 1913. (Died 1937.)
  • Born May 9, 1913 Richard McKenna. His short story “The Secret Place” was a Hugo finalist and won the Nebula.  “Casey Agonistes” (short story) and “Hunter, Come Home” (novelette) are in many anthologies; “Casey” has been translated into French, German, Italian; “Hunter” into French, German, Italian, Romanian; “Secret” into Dutch, German, Italian, Polish.  Cover artist for Volume 3 of the NESFA Press Essential Hal Clement (Variations on a Theme by Sir Isaac Newton).  Best known outside our field for The Sand Pebbles.  (Died 1963.)
  • Born May 9, 1920 Richard  Adams. I really loved Watership Down when I read it long ago so will not read it again so the Suck Fairy may not visit it. Are any of the various Watership animated affairs worth seeing? Reasonably sure I’ve read Shardik once but it made no impression one way or the the other.  Heard good things about Tales from Watership Down and should add it my TBR pile. (Died 2016)
  • Born May 9, 1920 William Tenn. Clute says in ESF that ‘From the first, Tenn was one of the genre’s very few genuinely comic, genuinely incisive writers of short fiction, sharper and more mature than Fredric Brown and less self-indulgent in his Satirical take on the modern world than Robert Sheckley.’  That pretty sums him up I think.  All of his fiction is collected in two volumes from NESFA Press, Immodest Proposals: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume I and Here Comes Civilization: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume II. (Died 2010.)
  • Born May 9, 1925 Kris Neville. His most well-remembered work, the “Bettyann” novella, is a classic of science fiction. It would become part of the Bettyann novel, a fix-up of it and “Overture“, a short story of his. He wrote a lot of rather great short fiction, much of which can be in the posthumous The Science Fiction of Kris Neville, edited byBarry N Malzberg (who greatly admired him) and Martin H Greenberg, and more (some overlapping with the first collection) Earth Alert! and Other Science Fiction Tales. He’s not alas wisely available in digital form. (Died 1980.)
  • Born May 9, 1926 Richard Cowper. Writer of some seriously comic genre fiction that Martin Amis loathed. The White Bird of Kinship series is what he’s best remembered for and I’d certainly recommend it as being worth reading.  It appears that all of here are available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 2002.)
  • Born May 9, 1936 Albert Finney. His first genre performance is as Ebenezer Scrooge in Scrooge. That’s followed by being Dewey Wilson in Wolfen, a deeply disturbing film. He plays Edward Bloom, Sr. In the wonderful Big Fish and voices Finis Everglot in Corpse Bride. He was Kincade in Skyfall. He was Maurice Allington in The Green Man based on Kingsley Amis’ novel of the same name. Oh, and he played Prince Hamlet in Hamlet at the  Royal National Theatre way back in the Seventies! (Died 2019.)

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Immortal words from The Far Side.
  • Bookshelves dominate Grant Snider’s new Incidental Comic.

(13) KEEPING COMIC SHOPS AFLOAT. Shelf Awareness reports money will start flowing from the rescue fund next week: “Binc Distributing $950K to Comic Book Stores”.

Next Tuesday, May 12, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) will distribute more than $950,000 raised by the Comicbook United Fund to comic store owners. The fund was created in response to the Covid-19 pandemic by Creators 4 Comics, Jim Lee, DC and Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group. Binc is distributing amounts ranging from $800 to $2,400 to 637 comic book shops across the U.S. and U.S. territories.

The Comicbook United Fund grew out of the Forge Fund, which Oni-Lion Forge established last year with a donation to Binc of $100,000. This year, DC added another $250,000 to the fund. In addition, after the pandemic hit, a coalition of artists, authors, comics creators and other supporters held more than 600 auctions on Twitter, and DC’s Jim Lee began auctioning 60 original sketches in 60 days on eBay, with 95% of sales going to Binc.

In addition to the more than $950,000 that Binc is distributing to comic stores next week, Binc has distributed another $174,786 to 156 comic retail employees and owners to help with rent, mortgage, utilities, food and other necessities during this pandemic

(14) TIME AND TIDE. Wil Wheaton’s latest read is “By request, an HP Lovecraft short story.” Hear him at Soundcloud.

…I love the Cthulhu mythos, but I’m not crazy about Lovecraft’s storytelling. I feel like he spends a lot of time in the high concept and the world building, without ever really going more than skin deep on his protagonists and narrative characters. NB: I haven’t read a ton of Lovecraft, probably six or so short stories, so maybe he has a novel or novella with rich characters and narratives, but I haven’t found it.

None of this is to suggest that he wasn’t brilliantly creative and imaginative, just that his stories aren’t the most satisfying use of my time.

However, hundreds of you have reached out in comments and emails, asking me to narrate something from the Cthulhu Mythos, so today’s RFB Presents is a short, weird, lurid story called Dagon.

(15) OUR DYING EARTH. Tammy reviews “GOLDILOCKS By Laura Lam” at Books, Bones, and Buffy.

Goldilocks has a fantastic premise and uses one of my favorite sci-fi tropes: leaving our dying Earth and striking out to colonize a new planet, in the hopes of saving humankind. And for the first half of the story, it lived up to this promise. But I ended up with mixed feelings, and I felt the first half was way stronger than the second half. Still, I had a lot of fun reading this book, and I’m going to recommend it to readers who love strong female characters and enjoy reading about current social issues. There are some scary events in Goldilocks that really hit close to home (can you say “pandemic”?) which added a lot of tension to the story, but I also felt that Lam made a few missteps with the characters’ choices in some cases.

(16) IN THE BEGINNING. “Supergirl: 10 Things You Never Noticed About The First Episode” at ScreenRant.

… Since so much has happened in the meantime, it’s easy to forget what Supergirl was like in its beginnings when Kara Danvers was still learning how to use her powers and was hoping to figure out how to be a hero. No matter how many times you’ve seen the show’s first episode, you might have never noticed the following 10 details.

Number 10 —

National City

Kara reveals shortly after the beginning of the first episode that she lives and works in National City. The name of the city is a nice easter egg for all fans of the publisher DC comics.

National City doesn’t have its origin in the comics, but by choosing this name for Supergirl’s home, the show’s creators paid homage to DC comics. Before DC was, well, DC, the company’s name was National Comics Publications, hence the ‘National’ in the name of Supergirl’s city.

(17) MASTERPIECE THEATRE. Gideon Marcus is there when That Was The Week That Was goes off the air, and other real news is happening, but no time to waste! This is the magazine with Robert Sheckley’s Mindswap! — “[MAY 8, 1965] SKIP TO THE END (JUNE 1965 GALAXY]” at Galactic Journey.

…And then, having given my report, I’d tie it pithily to the subject at hand, namely the June 1965 Galaxy science fiction digest.  But the fact is, there’s lots to cover and I’m anxious to get it all down while it’s still fresh in my mind.  So, you’ll just have to pretend that I was clever and comprehensive in my introduction…. 

(18) THE FAR FUTURE – 1947. At First Fandom Experience they’ll take you back even further in time where you can see “A Rarity: Tellus News”.

This issue of Tellus News, a “newspaper of the future,” was discovered among a collection of fanzines from the 1940s.  It was mis-categorized because of the cover date: “Sol 23, 1947”

But this hand-drawn fanzine was created in 1932 by Howard Lowe as a vision of what news might look like 15 years hence.  It’s not a copy — it’s an original set of drawings. Rendered in colored pencil, it was likely never reproduced, and as such is a one-of-a-kind artwork….

(19) STAR WARS FOR THE 1 PERCENTERS. Michael Verdon, in the Robb Report story “Why ‘Star Wars’ Characters Are Taking Over the World’s Most Expensive Superyachts” says the British superyacht firm Thirtyc has been putting out Star Wars-related yachts for Star Wars Day on May 4, and Verdon shows how the onepercenters are having cosplay fun with their expensive yachts.

…Seeing a storm trooper and Darth Vader on a million-dollar tender isn’t an everyday occurrence. Neither is catching a glimpse of Princess Leia or Chewbacca driving away on another tender.

At first, the firm received a lot of compliments about their whimsical but highly realistic work. “As it spoke to peoples’ imaginations, they started asking us to use their boats,” says Armstrong. Soon, Star Wars vehicles like AT-AT Walkers and Starfighters appeared on superyacht helipads and rear decks.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Universe” on YouTube is a 1960 documentary, directed by Roman Kroitor and Colin Low for the National Film Board of Canada, which Stanley Kubrick said was one of his inspirations for 2001.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/8/20 Shoes For Industry 4.0! Shoes For The Grateful Walking Dead

(1) INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY. ComicBook.com tells how some fans are watching as they celebrate the day: “Star Wars Releases Women of the Galaxy Video for International Women’s Day”.

Today is International Women’s Day, and people have been busy celebrating the women in their lives, including their favorite franchise characters. Chewbacca actor Joonas Suotamo wrote a special post in honor of Carrie Fisher, and he’s not the only one to celebrate the women of Star Wars. The official Instagram account for Star Wars also took to social media to share a “Women of the Galaxy” video, which showcases most of the women featured in the original Star Wars trilogy, prequels, sequels, and both live-action and animated series.

View this post on Instagram

Women of the galaxy. ?

A post shared by Star Wars (@starwars) on

(2) SF IN TRANSLATION. Rachel Cordasco posted the “Favorite SFT From 2019 Poll Results” on February 15. (See second and third place finishers at the link.)

Favorite Novel

  1. Waste Tide by Chen Qiufan, translated from the Chinese by Ken Liu (Tor)

Favorite Collection

  1. Everything is Made of Letters by Sofia Rhei, translated from the Spanish by Sue Burke, James Womack, and the author, with assistance from Ian Whates, Arrate Hidalgo, and Sue Burke (Aqueduct)

Favorite Anthology

  1. Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation, edited and translated from the Chinese by Ken Liu (Tor)

Favorite Short Story

  1. “All Saints’ Mountain” by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from the Polish by Jennifer Croft (Hazlitt)

Favorite Translator

  1. Ken Liu

(3) JACK BARRON IN MEXICO. Norman Spinrad cheers on the work of a Mexican publisher in “Viva La Fondo De Cultura Economica” on Facebook.

It started with my then agent telling me that a Mexican publisher wanted to publish BUG JACK BARRON in a cheap Mexican edition for a small advance. BUG JACK BARRON had been published in Spanish, but not in Mexico, since, like English language rights split between the US and Britain, Spanish language rights are generally split between Spain and Latin America. I shrugged, and said okay, not knowing much more about it, except that it was Paco Taibo, who I knew years ago, was making the deal, and I didn’t think much more about it then.

But then Paco asked me to come to Mexico City for the book launch, which was also going to be the launch of a new collection of the overall publisher, La Fondo de Cultura Economica. What is that ? I asked, and Paco told me the brief version.

La Fondo de Cultura Economica is a non-profit publisher subsidized by the Mexican government which publishes 500 books a year, distributes the books of other publishers in its 140 book stores in Mexico and the rest of Latin America, whose mission is to allow people who otherwise might not be able to afford buy them to buy a wide assortment of books at cut-rate prices.

(4) LEM IN TRANSLATION. The Washington Post’s Scott Bradfield believes “Stanislaw Lem has finally gotten the translations his genius deserves”.  The Invincible is just one of the books worth reading that’s available in the U.S. for the first time in a proper Polish-to-English translation.

Lem’s fiction is filled with haunting, prescient landscapes. In these reissued and newly issued translations — some by the pitch-perfect Lem-o-phile, Michael Kandel — each sentence is as hard, gleaming and unpredictable as the next marvelous invention or plot twist. It’s hard to keep up with Lem’s hyper-drive of an imagination but always fun to try.

(5) BAD ACTORS AT GOODREADS. Camestros Felapton notes that Ersatz Culture “has been doing some deep data-driven detective work on Goodreads sockpuppet accounts” and rounds up the related Twitter threads here — “Just some links to Ersatz Culture’s detective work”. Felapton explains why the abuse is so easy:

To register an account with Goodreads you have to give an email address BUT unlike most websites these days there is no email verification step i.e. you don’t NEED multiple actual email addresses to set up multiple accounts. The system is wide-open for abuse.

Ersatz Culture says the issue is: “Suspicious Goodreads accounts giving a slate of books 5-star reviews, and potentially getting them onto the Goodreads Choice Award as write-in nominees.”

* On a Hugo-related list on Goodreads that Contrarius admins, a few months ago I noticed patterns of user rating that were atypical and (IMHO) suspicious

* I spent a load of time this weekend digging into why this happened.  Ultimately it came down to 80+ brand new user accounts created in October and November 2019 all giving 5-star ratings to a slate of 25-35 books (plus a few others)

* The November cohort of these accounts were created in the week when the Goodreads Choice Awards were open to write-in candidates.  Quite possibly this is coincidence – there’s no way of proving any connection, that I can see – but two of the books on their slate were successful in getting into the nominations; one of them turns out to be a massive outlier compared to the other nominees in its category when you look at metrics of number of Goodreads users who’d read it etc.

The details are in three long Twitter threads: here, here, and here.

(6) THE ROARING THIRTIES. First Fandom Experience is at work on a project to acquaint people with “The Earliest Bradbury”.

In honor of the upcoming centenary of Ray Bradbury’s birth (August 22, 2020), we’re digging through our archive of 1930s fan material to find the earliest appearances of Ray’s writings — in any form. We hope to publish a compendium of these in the next several weeks.

We’re not talking about the well-known and oft-reproduced works such as Futuria Fantasia, or even the somewhat-known and occasionally-reproduced “Hollerbachen’s Dilemma.” We’re seeking anything that appeared prior to 1940 that has been rarely if ever surfaced, especially as it was originally printed.

A primary source for Ray’s earliest articles is the Los Angeles Science Fiction League’s organ, Imagination! This zine’s first issue was published in October 1937 — the same month that Ray joined the LASFL. It ran for thirteen issues through October 1938. Through years of ardent questing, we’re fortunate to have assembled a complete run.

See pages from those zines at the link.

(7) ALDISS DRAMATIZATION ONLINE. Brian Aldiss’ Hothouse is a 5 part audio book series downloadable from BBC Radio 4 Extra: “Brian Aldiss – Hothouse” read by Gareth Thomas.

Millions of years from now, a small tribe battles to stay alive in Earth’s dense jungle.

(8) WHERE NOVELLAS COME FROM. Odyssey Writing Workshops presents an interview with “Graduate & Guest Lecturer Carrie Vaughn”.

Congratulations on having three novellas come out this year, including two Cormac & Amelia stories, and “Gremlin,” which came out in Asimov’s Science Fiction, about a gremlin partnering with a WWII fighter pilot. What are some of the challenges in writing novella-length fiction?

Thank you! Novellas have actually reduced some of the challenges I’ve been facing recently, as strange as that sounds. Over the last couple of years, I’d been putting a huge amount of pressure on myself to write a “big” novel. Big ideas, big impact, etc. That wasn’t working out so well for various reasons, and novellas gave me a chance to back up and rediscover my creative well, without as much pressure. Novellas have enough space to tell an in-depth story with lots of detail and character development, but without the commitment of writing a full-length novel. I went into my rough drafts folder and found some stories I had abandoned or not really developed because I thought they were supposed to be novels—but it turns out that maybe they were meant to be novellas. I could finally develop them without the pressure to “go big.” “Gremlin” and “Dark Divide” both came out of that effort. So did “The Ghosts of Sherwood,” which will be coming out in June 2020. I’ve found novellas to be more liberating than challenging.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

To celebrate the 42nd anniversary of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Dan Mersh and Helen Keen put on their dressing gowns and make themselves a nice hot cup of tea as they introduce all 6 episodes of the 1978 radio series alongside archive programmes and especially made H2G2-related features and interviews.

  • March 8, 1984 — The comedy musical Voyage of the Rock Aliens premiered. It was directed by James Fargo and Rob Giraldi.  It starred Pia Zadora, Jermaine Jackson,  Tom Nolan, Ruth Gordon and Craig Sheffer. It was conceived as a B-movie spoof, and you can see if that’s true here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 8, 1859 Kenneth Grahame. Author of The Wind in the Willows  of course, which it turns out has had seven film adaptations, not all under the name The Wind in the Willows. Did you know A.A. Milne dramatized it for BBC Radio 4 back in the Seventies as Toad of Toad Hall? Oh, and he did write one other fantasy, The Reluctant Dragon which I’ve never heard of. Have any of y’all read it? (Died 1932.)
  • Born March 8, 1914 Priscilla Lawson. In 1936, she was cast in the very first Flash Gordon serial as the daughter of Ming the Merciless. Princess Aura’s rivalry with Dale Arden for Flash Gordon’s affection was one of the main plots of the serial and gained Lawson lasting cult figure status. (Died 1958.)
  • Born March 8, 1921 Alan Hale Jr. The Skipper on Gilligan’s Island which y’all decided wasgenre, and he did show up in such films as Captain Kidd and the Slave GirlThe Fifth Musketeer and The Giant Spider Invasion which is most decidedly SF, if of a pulpish variety. Series wise, I see he was on The Wild Wild West and Fantasy Island. (Died 1990.)
  • Born March 8, 1934 Kurt Mahr. He’s one of the first authors of the Perry Rhodan series which, according to his German Wiki page, is one of “the largest science fiction series of the world.” I’ve not read any Rhodan fiction, so how is it? (Died 1993.)
  • Born March 8, 1939 Peter Nicholls. Writer and editor. creator and co-editor of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction with John Clute. His other publications were Science Fiction at LargeThe Science in Science Fiction edited by Nicholls and written by him and David Langford, and Fantastic Cinema. He became the first Administrator of the UK’s Science Fiction Foundation. He was editor of its journal, Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction, from 1974 to 1978. (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 8, 1950 Peter McCauley, 70. I remember him best from the most excellent Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World series where he played Professor George Challenger. He also showed as Mr. Spilett on Mysterious Island, another series shot in New Zealand and based off Jules Verne’s novel L’Île mystérieuse. Continuing the Verne riff, he was Admiral McCutcheon in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a Nineties TV version of the novel. 
  • Born March 8, 1970 Jed Rees, 50. Another Galaxy Quest performer, he played Teb, a Thermian. His most recent major genre outing was on Deadpool as Jared / Agent Smith / The Recruiter. He’s had one-offs in Ghost WhispererThe Crow: Stairway to Heaven, The Net, X-Files, Outer Limits,The Sentinel and Sliders.
  • Born March 8, 1976 Freddie Prinze Jr., 44. I’m fairly sure his first genre role was in Wing Commander as Lt. Christopher Blair followed by the animated Mass Effect: Paragon Lost in which he voiced Lieutenant James Vega. Speaking of animated endeavors, I’ve got him in Kim Possible: A Sitch In Time voicing Future Jim / Future Tim followed by being in all in all four seasons of the animated Star Wars Rebels as Kanan Jarrus. And that’s a series which I highly recommend as it may well be the best Star Wars fiction ever done. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Foxtrot’s Jason Fox discovers that role-playing the Witchers may be harder than it seems.
  • Rhymes with Orange makes it two genre references in row, albeit with an awful pun.

(12) NO SXSW THIS YEAR. Strictly speaking, public health wasn’t the reason it got canceled; every sponsor wasn’t going to be there. The Hollywood Reporter explains: “SXSW Canceled Due to Coronavirus Outbreak”.

…In communication with The Austin Chronicle late on Friday, SXSW co-founder and managing director Roland Swenson told the outlet that the festival does not have an insurance plan to cover this specific reason for cancellation. “We have a lot of insurance (terrorism, injury, property destruction, weather). However bacterial infections, communicable diseases, viruses and pandemics are not covered.”

The cancellation follows many companies choosing not to participate this year as a safety precaution, including Netflix, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, WarnerMedia and Amazon Studios. 

In announcing their cancellations, several companies cited concerns over the spread of the virus, which has resulted in 3,000 deaths worldwide and affected over 90,000 people in numerous countries. Though little is known and a vaccine is not currently available, coronavirus causes the virus, which involves flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough and respiratory trouble. 

(13) MICKEY AND MINNIE VISIT THE MUSEUM. In “The Walt Disney Archives are shaping the culture of tomorrow. Ask Marvel’s Kevin Feige”, the LA Times talks about how Disney history is preserved, and the Bowers Museum exhibit that will share it with the public.

…In an industry not known for its permanence, it is perhaps no surprise that the Great Movie Ride is no more — its replacement, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, opened this week — but Feige’s comments cut to the importance of not only remembering but also safeguarding our past. The value of pop art, and how revered and inspirational it can be to its audience, is arguably directly proportional to the care with which we treat it. At least that’s a core thesis of a new Disney-themed exhibit opening at Orange County’s Bowers Museum, which aims to look not only at Disney’s history but the art of conservancy itself.

For 50 years, the Walt Disney Archives has amassed one of Hollywood’s most extensive corporate histories, a collection that ranges from company memos — the initial contract for the silent 1920s Alice Comedies — to figurines from, yes, the recently retired Great Movie Ride. That Alice Comedies contract, as well as a xenomorph from “Alien,” which was once housed in that Walt Disney World attraction, are part of the expansive “Inside the Walt Disney Archives: 50 Years of Preserving the Magic,” an exhibit opening this weekend and continuing through Aug. 30 at Santa Ana’s Bowers Museum.

See full details about the exhibit at the Bowers Museum website.

(14) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. “The first SpaceX Dragon capsule is taking its final flight”.

[Friday] night, SpaceX launched its first generation Dragon capsule on its twentieth — and final — resupply run to the International Space Station.

The launch marks the Dragon’s last mission as the capsule makes way for SpaceX’s updated and improved Dragon 2 capsule, which will begin making resupply runs to the space station in October.

Alongside cargo to resupply the ISS, the Dragon will be bringing along payloads for experimental research aboard the space station. Including an Adidas experiment to see how it can manufacture midsoles in space; a project from the faucet maker, Delta, to see how water droplets form in zero gravity; and Emulate is sending up an organ-on-a-chip to examine how microgravity affects intestinal immune cells and how heart tissue can be cultured in space.

(15) …TWICE. “SpaceX Successfully Lands 50th Rocket In 5 Years”.

SpaceX launched another cargo mission to the International Space Station Friday, successfully landing the flight’s rocket booster for the 50th time in the last five years, the Associated Press reported.

The rocket lifted off to a countdown and cheers from an audience at SpaceX’s headquarters in California, but the largest cheers came for the successful landing of the rocket’s first-stage booster. After falling away from the Dragon capsule, the “Falcon 9” touched back down on the landing pad, amid flashes of bright light and smoke.

“And the Falcon has landed for the 50th time in SpaceX history!” announced lead engineer Jessica Anderson on a livestream from SpaceX HQ.

(16) MODERN FARMING AKA YOU COULDN’T MAKE THIS UP. BBC tells how “Bacon saved after pedometer-eating pig’s poo starts farm fire”.

A peckish pig who swallowed a pedometer ended up sparking a fire in its pen.

Fire crews were called to a farm near Bramham, Leeds, at about 14:00 GMT on Saturday after copper from the pedometer’s batteries apparently reacted with the pig’s excrement and dry bedding.

The pedometers were being used on pigs to prove they were free-range. No pigs or people were hurt in the fire.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said it had gone to “save the bacon”.

(17) THE BAT CAPITAL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] And here everybody thought Gotham was a stand in for NYC. Turns out it was London all along. ComicBook.com is there when “Epic Batman Statue Debuts in London”

DC Comics just debuted an epic new Batman statue in Leicester Square. They posted about the monument to the superhero on Facebook with an image of the Caped Crusader looking down on the populace. The detailing on this piece looks very intricate with the muscle work, utility belt, and cowl deserving special shout outs. The post also calls back to Batman Day when the company made Bat-Signals all across the world in different cities. London was on the list of places that got the light show…

A lot of fans have big hopes for Matt Reeves’ The Batman next year. They believe it could give them a fresh take on the character that will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the other movie version of the hero.

“It’s very much a point of view-driven, noir Batman tale. It’s told very squarely on his shoulders, and I hope it’s going to be a story that will be thrilling but also emotional,” Reeves said to THR. “It’s more Batman in his detective mode than we’ve seen in the films. The comics have a history of that. He’s supposed to be the world’s greatest detective, and that’s not necessarily been a part of what the movies have been. I’d love this to be one where when we go on that journey of tracking down the criminals and trying to solve a crime, it’s going to allow his character to have an arc so that he can go through a transformation.”

(18) 007 VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Saturday Night Live host Daniel Craig of course talked about playing James Bond in the opening monologue.  He also played a purported clip from No Time To Die. It’s really funny!

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

Pixel Scroll 3/1/20 Sometime Ups Outnumber The Downs, But Not In Pixlingsham

(1) UNREAL/UNFIT/UNFINISHED. Yoon Ha Lee observed that Unreal / Unfit magazine, which aroused the ire of writers by listing and scoring their rejected submissions, continues to respond defensively (or offensively) to complaints. Thread starts here.

David Steffen of Diabolical Plots tweeted another observation: “Convenient that comments posted on thinkerbeat from writers who dont like the practice mysteriously disappeared!”

(2) FURRY AWARD LOSES LEADER. Mary E. Lowd resigned as chair of the Cóyotl Awards in January. The awards are given for excellence in anthropomorphic literature.

After a great deal of soul searching, I must regretfully step down from chairing the Cóyotl Awards. I apologize for the awkwardness of this timing with awards season at hand. Unfortunately, until the season arrived, I didn’t realize how much the newer commitments in my life (among others, editing the furry e-zine Zooscape and a 3-book deal for a space opera trilogy) had conspired to take up every last minute of my time for the foreseeable future, extending into the next few years.

The Cóyotl Awards have survived awkward transitions before. The year when I took over, we held voting for two years’ worth of awards at once and hosted a double awards ceremony to cover the previous year that had been missed. So, even if this transition is rocky, it is survivable.

(3) THE HISTORIC RECORDS. Fanac.org has posted video of Dave Kyle being interviewed by Joe Siclari in 2012.

Dave Kyle was an enthusiastic and productive science fiction fan and professional, with an 80+ year tenure. 

In this 2012 interview conducted at Philcon 2012, Dave talks about how fandom started, the first Worldcon, fandom in the 1930s (and 40s and 50s and …), the Science Fiction League, decades of controversies, Gnome Press, chairing his Worldcon and much, much more. 

The interviewer, Joe Siclari, is an able and knowledgeable fan historian, and asks all the right questions. 

Thanks to Philcon 2012 and Syd Weinstein for providing the video. 

(4) AN AMAZING EDITOR. At First Fandom Experience, wonderful artwork illustrates “Palmer’s Ascension: A True Story From Early Fandom”.

Raymond A. Palmer began his pioneering work in science fiction fandom in 1928 at age 18. In 1938, his amateur accomplishments as a club organizer, fanzine publisher, author, editor and promoter of science fiction launched his professional career when he became editor of the iconic pulp magazine Amazing Stories. This is his story, an excerpt from The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom, Volume One: The 1930s.

(5) SKY HIGH LID. Alasdair Stuart’s “The Full Lid for 28th February 2020” is all about the high frontier.

In New Model Astronauts we take a look at how Hollywood’s perception of the astronaut as mythical figure has changed and continues to do so. Our other main story, Boldly Going, takes a look at how what we remember something as being and what it was changes over time and what that means for us as viewers in a modern age. 

This week’s Women in Horror Month spotlights directors, including Karyn Kusama, Chelsea Stardust, Julia DeCourneau and Issa Lopez. 

This week’s Signal Boost includes  Zinequest 2 by Kickstarter. You can find them here. Also this excellent piece by Dave Jeffrey from the always-great Ginger Nuts of Horror on the way horror fiction deals, or too often fails to deal, with mental illness. We’ve also got Better Than IRL, a collection of writing about what it’s like to find your chosen family online. and TG Shepherd going through the John Wick movie fight scenes 30 seconds at a time. Then there’s Dominion: An Anthology of Black Speculative Fiction, and the Princess World RPG and live plays and podcasts from Haggis and Dragons.We also have John Miereau‘s Serving Worlds and an excellent new Magnus Archives fan project.  lilnan’s work is amazing and this is going to be something special.

Finally, the brilliant Tim Niederriter has work in a StoryBundle right now. Do check it out and fellow Word Make Gooder, Kat Fowler is part of a really fun D&D livestream you should check out. They’re on Twitch and YouTube..

(6) AT THE BOTTOM OF THE STAIRS. Darcy Coates knows her readers because she knows herself: “Don’t Go Into the Basement! (Let’s Be Honest, We’re Going Into the Basement)” at CrimeReads.

…Inadvisable behavior is a well-known trope in horror films and fiction, whether it’s investigating strange noises in the basement, or splitting up, or ignoring enormous neon warning signs.

But how do real humans react in those situations? How would I, someone who writes horror fiction for a living and who is in possession of a long list of rational and irrational fears, react?

Not much differently, as it turns out….

(7) NEGATORY, GOOD BUDDY. Snopes is called upon to answer the question “Is the ‘Umbrella Corporation’ Logo Oddly Similar to a Wuhan Biotech Lab’s?”

Claim

The fictional “Umbrella Corporation” from the game “Resident Evil” shares a logo with a biotech lab in Wuhan, Hubei Province in China, where a new coronavirus is believed to have originated….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 1, 1978 — The Crime Traveller series premiered on BBC. It was produced by Carnival Films for the BBC. The premise being of time travel for the purpose of solving crimes. It was created by Anthony Horowitz, and starred Michael and Chloë Annett. It would last but eight episodes being caught in the change of guard in the BBC Head of Drama position. You can watch the first episode here.
  • March 1, 1991 Abraxas, Guardian Of The Universe premiered. directed by Damian Lee and starring Jesse Ventura and Sven-Ole Thorsen, with a cameo by James Belushi. premiered. It directed by Damian Lee. It starred Jesse Ventura and Sven-Ole Thorsen, with a cameo by James Belushi.  Critics used the words “cheesy, low budget, shoddy effects and dreadful acting” to describe it. The audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes reflects that at 19%. You can see it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 1, 1885 Lionel Atwill. He had the lead roles in Thirties horror films Doctor X, The Vampire Bat, Murders in the Zoo and Mystery of the Wax Museum but his most remembered role was the one-armed Inspector Krogh in Son of Frankenstein which Kenneth Mars parodied in Young Frankenstein. He would appear in four subsequent Universal Frankenstein films. (Died 1946.)
  • Born March 1, 1915 Wyman Guin. Ok, occasionally doing these Birthdays results in me being puzzled and this is one of those times. In 2013, he was named as recipient for the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award at ReaderCon 24. When I look him up, I find that he wrote a single novel and seven stories according to the folks at ISFDB. I’ve not read him. So, was he that good? Should I seek out his novel, The Standing Joy,and add it to my reading list? His short stories are available at the usual digital publishers but the novel isn’t. (Died 1989.)
  • Born March 1, 1918 Roger Delgado. The first Master in the Doctor Who series. He would appear only with the Third Doctor as he died in car crash in Spain. Other genre appearances were Quatermass II, Danger Man, The Mummy’s Shroud and First Man into Space. (Died 1973.)
  • Born March 1, 1923 Andrew Faulds. He’s best remembered as Phalerus in Jason and the Argonauts in which he was in the skeleton fight scene that featured model work by Ray Harryhausen. He appeared in a number of other genre films including The Trollenberg Terror, The Flesh and the Fiends and Blood of the Vampire. He had one-offs on Danger Man and One Step Beyond. Oh, and his first acting gig was as Lysander in A Midsummer’s Night Dream. (Died 2000.)
  • Born March 1, 1938 Michael Kurland, 82. The Unicorn Girl which he pennedis the middle volume of the Greenwich Village trilogy by three different authors, the other two being by Chester Anderson and T.A. Waters. Kurland has also written other genre novels including Ten Little Wizards and A Study in Sorcery, set in the world of Garrett’s Lord Darcy. His other genre novels are Ten Years to Doomsday (written with Chester Anderson), Tomorrow Knight, Pluribus and Perchance.
  • Born March 1, 1941 Martin Greenberg. Founder of Gnome Press who’s not to be confused with Martin H Greenberg. My research for this Birthday note shows that he’s definitely not on Asimov’s list of favorite people despite being the first publisher of the Foundation series. Not paying authors is a bad idea. (Died 2011.)
  • Born March 1, 1946 Lana Wood, 74. She’s best remembered as Plenty O’Toole in Diamonds Are Forever. She was in The Wild Wild West as Vixen O’Shaughnessy in “The Night of the Firebrand” and Averi Trent in “The Night of the Plague” episodes. She was in both up the CBS televised Captain America films playing Yolanda, and she was still active in the genre as little three years ago playing a character named Implicit in Subconscious Reality. It’s very suspicious that all the Amazon reviews of the latter are five stars. 
  • Born March 1, 1954 Ron Howard, 66. Director of Cocoon and Willow. Also responsible for the truly awful thing that is How the Grinch Stole Christmas. And opinions are I believe are definitely divided on Solo: A Star Wars Story. As a producer only, he’s responsible for Cowboys & Aliens and The Dark Tower.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • The way Rich Horton sees it, “Olivia Jaimes takes a bit of a swipe at epic fantasy/cyberpunk in today’s Nancy. (Perhaps it’s affectionate, but I confess I took a bit umbrage.)” But he adds, “That said, Sluggo’s strategy for reading at school seems like a good one!”

(11) BAKED BOOKMARK. Does Cambridge make library users take an oath, like the Bodleian does? If so, I guess they better add a prohibition about snacks: “Librarians stunned after opening 500-year-old Tudor manuscript and finding a half-eaten 50-year-old biscuit” reports The Sun.

LIBRARIANS opened a rare Tudor manuscript yesterday — and found a half-eaten biscuit stuck between pages.

The find stunned staff and academics at Cambridge University.

It is believed a clumsy schoolboy dropped what appears to be a chocolate chip cookie while leafing through the book more than 50 years ago.

The manuscript — which dates back almost 500 years — was given to the university by a grammar school in 1970.

The 1529 volume from the complete works of St Augustine is stored inside the university’s rare books archive, where no food, drink or even pens are allowed.

Emily Dourish, deputy keeper of rare books and early manuscripts, discovered the biscuit….

(12) GETTING READY FOR ST. AQUIN. “Catholic leaders call for ethical guidelines around AI”Axios has the story.

Catholic leaders presented Pope Francis with a broad proposal for AI ethics, education and rights on Friday as part of an AI conference at the Vatican in Rome.

Why it matters: Algorithms are already starting to replace human decision-making, but ethicists and activists say now is the time to speak up on the values those algorithms should embody.

Driving the news: Members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, a group of scholars that studies bioethics, are calling for AI to be developed in a way that protects the planet and safeguards “the rights and the freedom of individuals so they are not discriminated against by algorithms.”

  • IBM executive vice president John Kelly and Microsoft president Brad Smith are signing the “Rome Call for AI Ethics” on behalf of the two tech companies.
  • The group outlined ethical principles related to transparency, access and impartiality — what they call an “algor-ethical” framework.
  • It is a “first step toward awareness and engagement” with other companies and international institutions for a public debate about AI ethics, a spokesperson for the Academy told Axios in an email.

(13) EIGHT ARMS GOOD? “The Tentacle Bot” — some short videos.

Octopus-inspired robot can grip, move, and manipulate a wide range of objects

Of all the cool things about octopuses (and there’s a lot), their arms may rank among the coolest.

Two-thirds of an octopus’s neurons are in its arms, meaning each arm literally has a mind of its own. Octopus arms can untie knots, open childproof bottles, and wrap around prey of any shape or size. The hundreds of suckers that cover their arms can form strong seals even on rough surfaces underwater.

Imagine if a robot could do all that.

Researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Beihang University have developed an octopus-inspired soft robotic arm that can grip, move, and manipulate a wide range of objects. Its flexible, tapered design, complete with suction cups, gives the gripper a firm grasp on objects of all shapes, sizes and textures — from eggs to iPhones to large exercise balls.

(14) A LITTLE MEME THINGY.

(15) OFF BROADWAY. Last night on Saturday Night Live the sketch “Airport Sushi” has the Phantom of LaGuardia emerging to warn someone boarding a flight at LaGuardia airport that he really shouldn’t eat the airport sushi.

(16) LEAP YEAR LEFTOVER. Comicbook.com frames the next item:

Reynolds owns Aviation Gin, and the recent ads for the alcohol company have been nothing short of hilarious… Now, Reynolds’ latest ad, which features his voiceover, is celebrating Leap Day, which happens every four years in February. Of course, that means folks born on February 29th have an especially interesting birthday. In the new ad, Reynolds enlists a woman who was born on Leap Day 84 years ago, which means tomorrow is technically her 21st birthday.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/28/20 Speak To Geeky People, Get Geeky Answers

(1) PLAY IT AGAIN, JEAN-LUC. At Amazing Stories, Kimberly Unger tells how Picard is doing in checking off “The Required Plots of Star Trek”. She has an infographic with 13 of them.

A few years ago, I had the privilege to work on a game being built for Star Trek: Discovery (I will remain salty about the cancellation of this game until the day I die).  While that game ultimately never made it to market, it gave me a chance to do a number of deep dives into one of my favorite properties.  While we were in the early days of building the game design bible to give to the writers, I came up with a list of recurring broad plotlines that seemed to show up in every variation of Star Trek (and many other SF shows including Dr. Who, Stargate, etc.).

Now that Star Trek: Picard is on the air, I’m working my way down the list, watching to see which of these thirteen recurring plots show up. 

(2) CORONAVIRUS AND FANDOM. Chuck Wendig, in “Running A Con, Conference “Or Festival In The Age Of A Burgeoning Pandemic!”, wants upcoming conventions to address five points (see them at the link).

Am I an expert in any of this? Hardly. I just try to keep up to date on what’s up while simultaneously not fall for conspiracy theories or mis/disinformation. (Harder than you’d think in this age, sadly.)

So, now we circle back around to say —

Hey, there are a lot of conventions, conferences and festivals coming up.

For me, these are writing- or book-related, but again, I see a lot on the horizon and some that just recently passed: toys, electronics, food service, etc.

It’s convention season.

And, apparently, coronavirus season.

So, if you’re running just such a conference, lemme give you some advice:

Get ahead of this now.

Do not make us e-mail you to ask you what’s up.

This isn’t about causing panic — it’s about undercutting it. It’s about reassuring us that you have this in your mind, with plans forming….

Regina Kanyu Wang, a council member of World Chinese Science Fiction Association (WCSFA) and who lives in Shanghai, commented today on Facebook about the situation.

Talking about the coronavirus (COVID-19), now the situation in China is OK, with doctors and nurses really fighting in the frontier as well as normal citizens sacrificing their convenience of daily life (Especially those who live in Wuhan and Hubei in general! They’ve endured so much.) I am in Shanghai and my life is as normal, but I have friends and friends’ families living in Hubei, who are really trading their normal life to win more time for the world to take control of the plague. Recently, there have been an increase in numbers of cases in Korea, Japan, Italy, Iran and the US, and also first cases confirmed in more countries.

I realize that local governments may not tell the people how dangerous the virus is because they are afraid of panics and influences on economics. Wuhan and Hubei government did the same, and look what it’s like now….

(3) A PLAGUE OF STORIES. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar suggest “Coronavirus feels like something out of a sci-fi novel. Here’s how writers have imagined similar scenarios” in the Washington Post.

… Pandemic novels, like pandemics, come and go in waves. The 60s had Michael Crichton’s “The Andromeda Strain.” The 70s saw the mega-success of Stephen King’s “The Stand.” Robin Cook gave us “Outbreak” in the 80s. By the 2000s, Max Brooks’s “World War Z” and related “The Zombie Survival Guide” were deemed so plausible for emergency scenarios that Brooks now consults for the military. And in 2014, Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven,” about a deadly plague called the “Georgia Flu,” dominated award lists and won widespread recognition.

With the coronavirus on everyone’s minds, reading books about epidemics can either be a frightening turnoff or a fascinating “what if” thought experiment. For readers in the latter category, let’s talk about books you might dare to consider.

(4) DELANY IN PARIS REVIEW. “Sex in the Theater: Jeremy O. Harris and Samuel Delany in Conversation” in The Paris Review. Not unexpectedly, includes frank conversation about sexual matters.

Though the two had never met before, Delany has been hugely influential on Harris, and served as the basis for a character in the latter’s 2019 Black Exhibition, at the Bushwick Starr. And Delany was very aware of Harris. The superstar playwright made an indelible mark on the culture, and it was fitting that the two should meet on Broadway, in Times Square, Delany’s former epicenter of activity, which he detailed at length in his landmark Times Square Red, Times Square Blue and The Mad Man. …

Over turkey club sandwiches and oysters, Harris and Delany discussed identity, fantasy, kink, and getting turned on in the theater.

HARRIS

Can I ask you about the play? How are you processing it?

DELANY

I was confused in the beginning, but then I realized, Aha! This is therapy. And then, Aha! The therapists are nuts! Then I traveled around having sympathy for all the characters, especially the stupid good-looking guy. He was sweet, I’ve had a lot of those. The character that I identified with most is the one who insists that he’s not white. I used to get that all the time, I mean, the number of times I was told by my friends at Dalton, Well, I would never know that you were black. As if I had asked them.

One of the best things that ever happened to me happened when I was about ten, which was a long time ago. I was born in 1942, so this is 1952, and I’m sitting in Central Park doing my math homework. This kid, he could have been about nineteen or twenty, and I think he was homeless, he walks up to me, and he says to me with his Southern accent, You a n****, ain’t you? I can tell. You ain’t gonna get away with nothin’ with me.

And I looked up at him, I didn’t say anything, and he looked at me and said, That’s all right. You ain’t gonna get away with nothing from me.

And I was so thankful for it. I realized, first of all, he was right. He was being much more honest with me than any of my school friends.

It was also my first exposure to white privilege. There were a lot of white people from the South who felt obliged to walk up and say, You’re black, aren’t you? They thought it was their duty. In case I thought, for a moment, that they didn’t know. This was part of my childhood: people telling me that I was black….

(5) YOUNG PEOPLE. At Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll introduces the panel to “’Step IV’ by Rosel George Brown”.

Rosel George Brown is a classic SF author of whom I have long been aware without managing to track down much of her work. Step IV was in fact the third Brown piece I ever read, after 1959’s ?“Car Pool”, and Earthblood, her 1966 collaboration with Keith Laumer. In large part this is because her career was cut tragically short. Aged just 41, she died of lymphoma in 1967. Most of her work is very much out of print.

Still, this particular story is available. What did my Young People make of it?

(6) DYSON OBIT. Freeman Dyson, acclaimed physicist whose ideas inspired Larry Niven’s Ringworld, died today: “Physicist And Iconoclastic Thinker Freeman Dyson Dies At 96” at NPR. The New York Times eulogy is here.

…During World War II, he was a civilian scientist with the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command.

After the war, he came to the U.S. to study physics. Together with physicist Richard Feynman, he was able to reconcile two competing theories of quantum electrodynamics, the study of how sub-atomic particles and light interact. “He was able to show that all these different points of view were one and the same thing,” Dijkgraaf says. “He was a great unifier of physics.”

… Dyson permanently joined the Institute for Advanced Study in 1953. From his perch there, he pursued many other topics of interest. He helped to design an inherently safe nuclear reactor that could be operated “even in the hands of an idiot.” In 1958, he joined Project Orion, a plan to power a spacecraft with controlled nuclear explosions.

The spaceship was never built, but Dyson later described it as “the most exciting and in many ways happiest of my scientific life.” Dijkgraaf says Dyson was probably one of the few people on Earth that felt let down by the 1969 moon landings: “This all looked very disappointing in Freeman’s eyes,” he says. Dyson wanted to go to Saturn with nuclear-fueled rockets. “[He] was kind of envisioning jet planes, and in the end we took a bicycle.”

I heard him speak at the Starship Century Symposium in 2013 — “Freeman Dyson, ‘Noah’s Ark Eggs and Warm-Blooded Plants’”.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 28, 1956 — The “A Pail of Air” episode of X-One first aired. A boy narrates tale of a lifeless Earth. The Earth has been pulled away from its orbit by a comet when he was a baby, and his family live in a nest. The script’s by George Lefferts from a story by Fritz Leiber. Two more episodes would be based on stories by him, “Appointment in Tomorrow” and “The Moon is Green”. The cast includes Ronnie Liss, Pamela Hamilton and Joe De Santis. You can hear it here.
  • February 28, 1989 Journey To The Center Of The Earth premiered. It was written by Debra Ricci, Regina Davis, Kitty Chalmers, and Rusty Lemorande, as directed by Lemorande and Albert Pyun. It starred Emo Philips, Paul Carafotes, Jaclyn Bernstein and Kathy Ireland,. It was based on an uncompleted version for a different studio that Lemorande wrote and directed which was much more more faithful to Verne’s text. It was a sort of sequel to the film Alien from L.A. which has been noted here before. Critics usually used one word to describe it — “a mess”. Though it actually has a middling rating among the audiences Rotten Tomatoes at 42%. 
  • February 28, 2011  — Tyrannosaurus Azteca  premiered on Sci-fi. (Also known as Rex Aztec.) It was directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith as written by Richard Manning. It starred Starring: Ian Ziering, Shawn Lathrop, Milan Tresnak, Marc Antonio, Dichen Lachman and Jack McGee. It was made on he cheap, less than a million in total and critics noted that the CGI at times is much less than believable. You can see it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 28, 1913 John Coleman Burroughs. Artist known for his illustrations of the works of his father, Edgar Rice Burroughs. At age 23, he was given the chance to illustrate his father’s book, The Oakdale Affair and the Rider which was published in 1937. He went on to illustrate all of his father’s books published during the author’s lifetime — a total of over 125 illustrations.  He also illustrated the John Carter Sunday newspaper strip, a David Innes of Pellucidar comic book feature and myriad Big Little Book covers. I remember the latter books — they were always to be found about the house during my childhood. (Died 1979.)
  • Born February 28, 1928 Walter Tevis. Author of The Man Who Fell to Earth which became the basis of the film of the same name starring David Bowie. There’s apparently a series planned of it. He also two other SF novels, The Steps of The Sun and Mockingbird. All off his work is available from the usual digital sources. (Died 1984.)
  • Born February 28, 1942 Terry Jones. Member of Monty Python who is considered largely responsible for the program’s structure, in which sketches flowed from one to the next without the use of punchlines. He made his directorial debut with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which he co-directed with Gilliam, and also directed Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life. He also wrote an early draft of Jim Henson’s 1986 film Labyrinth, though little of that draft remains in the final version. (Died 2020.)
  • Born February 28, 1946 Leanne Frahm, 74. Australian writer whose “Deus Ex Corporus” won the Ditmar Award for best Australian short fiction. She won a Ditmar again in for “Catalyst”. Her story “Borderline” won an Aurealis Award for best science fiction short story. She’s won the Ditmar Award for best fan writer twice.
  • Born February 28, 1947 Stephen Goldin, 73. Author of the Family d’Alembert series which is based on a novella by E.E. “Doc” Smith. I think the novella is “Imperial Stars” but that’s unclear from the way the series is referred to. Has anyone read this series? How does it match up to the source material?
  • Born February 28, 1960 Dorothy Stratten. She played the title role in Galaxina. She also showed up on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as Miss Cosmos in the “Cruise Hip to the Stars” episode. And she was Mickey on the Fantasy Island episode of “The Victim/The Mermaid”. (Died 1980.)
  • Born February 28, 1968 John Barnes, 62. I read and really liked the four novels in his Thousand Cultures series which are a sort of updated Heinleinian take on the spread of humanity across the Galaxy. What else by him do y’all like? He’s decently stocked by the usual digital suspects.
  • Born February 28, 1970 Lemony Snicket, 50. He’s the author of several children’s books, also serving as the narrator of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Though I’ve not read the books, they’re very popular I’m told at my local bookstore. It has been turned into a film, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and into a Netflix series as well which is named, oh you guess. 

(9) CONVERSATION WITH DECANDIDO. Scott Edelman says now’s your chance to brunch on biscuits and gravy with Keith R.A. DeCandido in Episode 116 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

My guest this time around was Keith R.A. DeCandido, who has written novels and short stories in so many franchises — more than 30, including Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who, Supernatural, Stargate SG-1, Farscape, and on and on — that a decade ago he was named Grandmaster by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.

He writes fiction in his own worlds as well, including multiple novels and short stories in the Dragon Precinct series, a police procedural set in a high fantasy universe. He also writes reviews and essays for tor.com, including his popular rewatches of multiple Star Treks, Stargate SG-1, and other series. And those are just a few of his facets, which include music, martial arts, and more.

(10) ORIGIN STORIES. Back from hosting a fan table at Boskone, Daniel Ritter of First Fandom Experience considers the question: “Are Young People Interested in Early Fan History?”.

…Young fans are interesting to us because the audience of people who have been most interested in our work so far is relatively small and skews to an older demographic. We cherish this community of long-time fans with some existing connection to the history we study, but we are also interested in reaching a younger audience who have little to no connection to early fan history.

This begs the question… 

Are Young People Interested in Early Fan History?

This is a question we ask ourselves often..

Although almost none of the First Fans of the 1930s are still with us, we fortunately can learn something of their stories through the people that knew them. This is the core community of collaborators and readers that we have interacted with through the course of this project so far, and is one primary audience for our work. 

But what about, for lack of a better phrase, young people? Do Millennials and Gen Z, born into the chaotic fullness of modern fandom, have any interest in the origin story of the SFF fan community?

(11) BALANCING THE SCALES. James Davis Nicoll is determined justice will be done! “Five SFF Novels Set in the Much-Maligned City of Toronto” at Tor.com.

Above by Leah Bobet

Far below Toronto’s streets, Safe provides a refuge to beings living with marvelous gifts and onerous curses—people who, if caught by the authorities, would be subjected to unpleasant experiments. Some of the refugees have been so subjected before they escaped to Safe.

Matthew is able to pass for a regular human. He can venture above to buy necessary supplies without letting any normal know that Safe exists….

(12) THE DOCTOR. THE MASTER. THE CYBERMEN. “Set course… for Gallifrey” The Doctor Who season 12 finale airs March 1 on BBC One.

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