Pixel Scroll 10/6/20 Don’t Clickety, Don’t Call Me, Let Me Sit For A While, I’m Reading All The Books In My Tsundoku Pile

(1) POWERFUL CANON. Amy Tenebrink shares the impact that stories by a leading sff author had on her: “Personal Canons: Nnedi Okorafor”.

…Onyesonwu is one of those angry, defiant, adventurous heroines of my heart. But Who Fears Death isn’t just a story of a warrior girl; it’s the story of all warrior girls. Who Fears Death is, itself, angry, defiant, and adventurous. It rips apart the fabric of our quotidian world and shows us, more clearly for all its speculation, what is wrong with us but what could be right with us. This is speculative fiction at its best: incisive, unflinching, uncompromising. Untethered from what’s “real” in a way that can show us what is, in fact, actually real—and what could be real if only we reached for the stars.

In Who Fears Death, Nnedi put a heroine of my heart into a book of my heart. Who Fears Death showed me, in a moment, what speculative literature can be: not just a series of quest-wanderings, of dragon-slayings, of evil mage-vanquishings, but an inspirational, aspirational blueprint for me and my place in the world. Who Fears Death is itself a sword, a magic wand, a spell that can change everything.

(2) ALPHA OF THE OMEGA. The award administrators — Sci-Fest L.A. and Light Bringer Project — have announced that the Tomorrow Prize and The Roswell Award will now reside under an umbrella competition name, the Omega Sci-Fi Awards. Here’s the new logo.

(3) MEMBERS OF THE JURY. James Davis Nicoll introduces the Young People Read Old SFF panel to “The Pleiades” by Otis Kidwell Burger.

The Pleiades is impressive enough readers would no doubt run out to acquire her other works. Unfortunately, Rediscovery’s biographical entry on her reveals that her SF career was quite short1. At least, I assume younger readers would react as positively as I did. How did my Young People actually feel?

(4) QUESTIONS ABOUT THE POLICY. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Non-binary writer Akwaeke Emezi, whose works are at least borderline SFF, has declared that they will no longer submit their novels to Women’s Prize for Fiction (where they were a finalist last year), after being asked to provide proof of their legal gender: “Akwaeke Emezi shuns Women’s prize over request for details of sex as defined ‘by law'” in The Guardian.

Emezi said that when Faber got in touch with the Women’s prize about submitting The Death of Vivek Oji, they were informed: “The information we would require from you regards Akwaeke Emezi’s sex as defined by law.”

“Forget about me – I don’t want this prize – but anyone who uses this kind of language does not fuck with trans women either, so when they say it’s for women, they mean cis women,” wrote Emezi. “And yes, this does mean that them longlisting [Freshwater] was transphobic. It’s fine for me not to be eligible because I’m not a woman! But you not about to be out here on some ‘sex as defined by law’ like that’s not a weapon used against trans women.”

The Women’s prize was established in response to the Booker failing to shortlist a single female writer in 1991. Following Emezi’s nomination in 2019, the organisers of the £30,000 award said it was working on a policy “around gender fluid, transgender and transgender non-binary writers”.

Responding to Emezi’s comments, the prize organisers said that their terms and conditions for entry equated the word “woman” with “a cis woman, a transgender woman or anyone who is legally defined as a woman or of the female sex”.

(5) O’DELL KICKSTARTER. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Here is a Kickstarter of interest: Claire O’Dell is looking for funding to republish her River of Souls trilogy, which came out in 2010 from Tor, when she was still writing as Beth Bernobich: “The River of Souls Trilogy, Second Edition” With 26 days left, $566 of the $2,500 goal has been raised.

I’m Claire O’Dell, author of the Lammy Award-winning Janet Watson Chronicles, the River of Souls trilogy, and the Mage and Empire books.

Back in 2007, writing as Beth Bernobich, I landed my very first book deal—a three-book contract with Tor Books for my novel Passion Play and two sequels, aka, the River of Souls trilogy.  Passion Play came out in October 2010, and to my absolute delight it won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Epic Fantasy. Queen’s Hunt and Allegiance followed in 2012 and 2013, with great reviews, and a prequel novel, A Jewel Bright Sea, appeared last year from Kensington Books.

Now that I have the rights back to the trilogy, I’d like to re-release them with new covers that better match the story and the characters. (Not to mention fixing a few continuity errors that crept in along the way.) Pledges from this campaign will pay for custom cover art and rewards.

(6) FOUNDATION. At WIRED, “The Geeks Guide to the Galaxy” interviews several creators to support the claim that “‘Foundation’ Has One of the Best Sci-Fi Concepts Ever”.

John Kessel on psychohistory:

“I studied physics as an undergrad, and basically what [Asimov] is doing is taking classical thermodynamics and applying it to human behavior. In thermodynamics, you can’t predict what one atom is going to do, but if you have several billion atoms in a contained box, you can predict—very precisely—if you raise the temperature, exactly what the effect on pressure is going to be, things like that. He’s basically saying if you have enough human beings—you have 100 million worlds, all inhabited by human beings—that psychohistory can predict the mass behavior of human beings, without being able to predict any individual human being’s behavior. That’s a cool idea.”

(7) WHITE SCREEN OF DEATH? [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Guardian has run several articles and opinion pieces about how the postponement of Dune and that James Bond movie will affect British cinemas — and may kill them off altogether. A lot of anger, which is partly understandable, because movie theatres are open again at reduced capacity in the UK and much of the rest of Europe, but have nothing to show, because all of the big Hollywood movies are being held back. Here are four views of the situation.

He’s best known for sweeping in at the last minute to save the day – but James Bond’s latest act could be the death knell for many British cinemas.

The announcement that the release of No Time to Die, the 25th film featuring the secret agent, would be delayed again has left cinemas facing financial obliteration because of the absence of other forthcoming blockbuster films.

Our movie industry was just about keeping its morale steady. It was enforcing perfectly workable rules on sanitising and physical distancing and not subject to those closures taking theatre and live entertainment to the cliff edge. The pilot light of big-screen cinema culture was flickering. But it was still alight.

But this is a serious blow. If it is really true that Cineworld will close 128 cinemas, putting 5,500 jobs at risk (and it is not simply a scare-story negotiating ploy leaked to the press alongside the company’s official letter to the culture secretary Oliver Dowden demanding action) then this is potentially devastating. 

…For an understanding of how we got here, look at the fates of two films that did get released during the pandemic. Following a tense summer in which Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and Disney’s live-action Mulan remake competed against the coronavirus in a game of grandmother’s footsteps, both films were finally released using opposing strategies.

“Warner Bros did a brave thing bringing out Tenet [in cinemas] at that very fraught time,” says Naman Ramachandran, international correspondent at Variety magazine. “It sent a positive message to the exhibition sector as a whole.” Disney, on the other hand, launched Mulan on its streaming service Disney+, where it came with a premium price tag (£19.99/$29.99) in addition to subscription fees. Cinemas screened it only in territories where Disney+ is not available. “My opinion is that Disney should’ve released Mulan in cinemas also,” says Ramachandran. “There was a demand for it and it would’ve kept the theatrical chains happy.” As it stands, no one is: not the exhibitors who lost out on an event movie, nor Disney, who won’t be thrilled if the mediocre streaming audience estimates are correct.

Mulan’s defection and Tenet’s under-performance in the US (it still hasn’t opened in the lucrative New York and Los Angeles markets, where cinemas remain closed) have had a devastating effect on other big releases.

…After six weeks of global release, Tenet has grossed more than £235m worldwide – a number that means different things to different analysts. For a latter-day Nolan film, it’s borderline disastrous: far short of the £405m grossed by his last film, Dunkirk, which itself was a modest performer compared to the £830m racked up by The Dark Knight Rises. With a production budget around £154m, it’s fair to say these are not the receipts of Nolan’s or Warner Bros executives’ dreams. Others would argue that they’re not half bad for a film released in the midst of a global pandemic in which the filmgoing public has been actively discouraged from communal indoor activity – a metric for which there is no precedent to set the bar. Globally, it’s the third-highest grosser of the year, behind Chinese epic The Eight Hundred and January’s Bad Boys for Life, which already feels like a relic from another era.

All in all, things could be worse for Tenet – except for the fact that, by just about anyone’s yardstick, things haven’t been nearly good enough….

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • Twenty five years ago this year at Intersection, the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form went to Star Trek: The Next Generation’s two-part series finale, “All Good Things…“.  (It beat out The MaskInterview with the VampireStargate and Star Trek: Generations.) It was directed by Winrich Kolbe from a script written by Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga. The title is derived from the expression “All good things must come to an end”, a phrase used by Q during the story itself. It generally considered one of the series’ best episodes with the card scene singled out as one of the series’s best. 

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

10/6 Mad Hatter Day. The original picture of the Mad Hatter by John Tenniel in Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll depicts him wearing a hat, bearing the note “In This Style 10/6”. Although we know this is really an order from the time the picture was drawn to mean a hat in that style cost 10 shillings and sixpence, we take this as inspiration to act in the style of the Mad Hatter on 10/6 (In the UK this would point to the tenth of June, but as the day was founded in America it is the 6th of October).

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 6, 1895 – Caroline Gordon.  Guggenheim Fellowship.  O. Henry Award.  Honorary D.Litt. degrees from Bethany College (West Virginia), St. Mary’s College (Indiana).  The Glory of Hera for us, her last novel; ten others; short-story collections; non-fiction.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born October 6, 1928 – Frank Dietz.  Co-founder of the Lunarians; chaired the first 15 Lunacons; Fan Guest of Honor at Lunacon 50.  Fanzine Luna (and Luna’).  Recorded many SF cons on wire and tape, unfortunately most now seems lost.  File 770 appreciation by Andrew Porter here.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born October 6, 1942 – Arthur Hlavaty, 78.  A dozen times Best Fanwriter Hugo finalist.  No doubt inspired by the C.M. Kornbluth story “MS. Found in a Chinese Fortune Cookie” – maybe the only circumstance in which no doubt could be applied to him – he called a fanzine The Diagonal Relationship, later The Dillinger Relic, then Derogatory Reference; not seen since 2002, but in Fanzineland that’s neither complete nor conclusive: No. 33 of his Nice Distinctions just appeared after three years.  Fan Guest of Honor at Empricon 3, MidSouthCon 2, Westercon 42, Minicon 37; Detcon the 11th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas).  If Sarcasm is in anger, satire is with love, he is as so often with him both.  [JH]
  • Born October 6, 1942 Britt Ekland, 78. She starred in The Wicker Man* as Willow MacGregor, and appeared as a Bond girl, Goodnight in The Man with the Golden Gun. She was also Queen Nyleptha in King Solomon’s Treasure based off the H. Rider Haggard novels. *There is only one Wicker Man film as far as I’m concerned. (CE)
  • Born October 6, 1946 John C. Tibbetts, 74. Film critic, historian, author. He’s written such articles as “The Illustrating Man: The Screenplays of Ray Bradbury” and “Time on His Hands: The Fantasy Fiction of Jack Finney”. One of his two books is The Gothic Imagination: Conversations on Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction in the Media, the other being The Gothic Worlds of Peter Straub. (CE) 
  • Born October 6, 1950 David Brin, 70. Author of several series including Existence (which I do not recognize), the Postman novel and the Uplift series of which The Uplift War won the Best Novel Hugo at Nolacon II and is most excellent. I’ll admit that the book he could-wrote with Leah Wilson, King Kong Is Back! An Unauthorized Look at One Humongous Ape, tickles me for its title. So who’s read his newest novel, The Ancient Ones? (CE)
  • Born October 6, 1953 – Roseanne Hawke, Ph.D., 67.  Wolfchild, 11th Century story set in the lost land of Lyonesse (RD was awarded Bard of Cornwall in 2006).  Daughter of Nomads, Mughal empire.  Chandani and the Ghost of the Forest, Himalayan mountains.  Memoir, Riding the Wind.  “I started a romantic novel when I was 17 but I burnt it….  working for ten years in the Middle East and Pakistan … I started writing seriously.”  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born October 6, 1955 Donna White, 65. Academic who has written several works worth your knowing about — Dancing with Dragons: Ursula K. LeGuin and the Critics and Diana Wynne Jones: An Exciting and Exacting Wisdom. She’s also the author of the dense but worth reading A Century of Welsh Myth in Children’s Literature. (CE) 
  • Born October 6, 1955 Ellen Kushner, 65. If you’ve not read it, do so now as her sprawling Riverside seriesis amazing. I’m reasonably sure that I’ve read all of it. And during the the High Holy Days, do be sure to read The Golden Dreydl as it’s quite wonderful. As it’s Autumn and this being when I read it, I’d be remiss not to recommend her Thomas the Rhymer novel which won both the World Fantasy Award and the Mythopoeic Award. (CE) 
  • Born October 6, 1962 – John Knoll, 58.  Chief Creative Officer at Industrial Light & Magic.  Creating the Worlds of “Star Wars”; covers for The Art of “Star Trek” (with M. Uesugi), Inside “Star Trek”.  Scientific & Engineering Award given him and his brother Thomas for creating Adobe Photoshop.  Cameo appearance as a pilot in The Phantom Menace.  More in his Wikipedia entry.  [JH]
  • Born October 6, 1978 – Anna Elliott, 42.  Three Tristan & Isolde books; four about Jane Austen characters, two about Sherlock Holmes, a few more.  Among her favorites by other authors, Life With Father, Wodehouse’s books about Bertie Wooster, Sayers’ books about Lord Peter Wimsey.  “What do you like to do when you’re not writing?”  “Mostly think about writing.”  [JH]
  • Born October 6, 1986 Olivia Jo Thirlby, 34. She is best known for her roles as Natalie in Russian SF film The Darkest Hour and as Judge Cassandra Anderson in the excellent Dredd. And she was Holly in the supernatural thriller Above the Shadows. (CE)  

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) HEAVY GOING. Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson finds it easy to curb his enthusiasm: The Haunting of Bly Manor Is an Erratic, Melodramatic Follow-Up”.

A great actor whose name I am not supposed to mention here narrates much of the new Netflix series The Haunting of Bly Manor (out October 9). In 2007, her character tells a wedding party a chilling, sad story of 1987 (and years previous) England, when a spooky estate’s resident ghosts tangled fitfully with living people, all caught in the grip of personal loss. This American actor tries her noble best to maneuver a Northern English accent, though it gets a bit wobbly as her narration scrapes the ceiling of profundity but never quite breaks through. 

The voiceover, with its heavy writing and uneven if committed delivery, is pretty neatly representative of the whole of Bly Manor, which aims for something scary and sweeping but is too often hampered by messy adornment. Bly Manor is the second series in the Haunting franchise that began with 2018’s Hill House, an adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel led by horror auteur Mike Flanagan.

(13) SCRUBTOBER IS OVER. “After series of scrubs, SpaceX launches Starlink mission from Kennedy Space Center” reports Florida Today.

After more than a month of scrubs and delays, SpaceX broke the Space Coast’s launch drought early Tuesday when a Falcon 9 rocket boosted 60 Starlink internet satellites from Kennedy Space Center.

The 7:29 a.m. liftoff from pad 39A signaled the end of what was commonly referred to as “Scrubtober,” a long series of mission delays that actually began in September due to hardware issues and inclement weather. Tuesday’s Starlink mission, for example, had been scrubbed four times…

(14) FINDING THE GEMS. The Virtual Memories Show devotes Episode 399 to editor “Sheila Williams”.

With her new fantastic short story anthology, Entanglements: Tomorrow’s Lovers, Families, and Friends (MIT Press), editor Sheila Williams brings together a panoply of voices to explore how technology and scientific advances have on the deepest human relationships. We talk about Sheila’s nearly 40 years editing science fiction stories at Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, how she manages to balance new and diverse voices with a foundation of SF’s history, how she copes with receiving ~800 stories a month (while only being able to buy 5-6), and technology’s greater role in day-to-day life and what that means for writers’ and readers’ imagination and expectations. We also get into her author freakouts (like going blank when she met Samuel R. Delany many years ago), how her philosophy background helps her as an editor, missing cons and festivals, the challenge of editing an author in translation (in this case Xia Jia), and more. Give it a listen! And go read Entanglements!

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

Pixel Scroll 7/5/20 Voyage To The Bottom of the Wonderful Mushroom Planet

(1) LAST NIGHT IN MY HOMETOWN. LA County banned cities from hosting the usual Fourth of July public fireworks displays. But as you know, nature abhors a vacuum.

(2) LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS FEN. Camestros Felapton is firing up a new series of posts about the Best Fan Writer Hugo finalists. First on deck is: “Hugo Fan Writer: Why you should vote for…Cora Buhlert”.

… Cora has been doing the hard working of promoting self-published and small press SF&F for years. While sections of fandom have been trying to reframe publishing mode as some kind of partisan ideological battle, Cora has been writing, publishing and promoting indie sci-fi consistently and in a way designed to enhance science fiction writing….

(3) FOLLOW THE MONEY. NPR takes “A Look Into The Wild Economy Of Tabletop Board Game Funding”.

Long before the coronavirus pandemic, tabletop board games were having something of a renaissance, with popular games like The Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride becoming mainstream additions to family game nights.

Then, COVID-19 hit and, as Quartz reported, it changed how many hobbyist board game creators approached the industry. But for many people who suddenly found themselves stuck at home under lockdown, the pandemic also spurred newfound interest in strategy games that require creativity and concentration. Board game hobbyists had more time to spend learning about new games coming out, while newbies to the scene were discovering a world beyond classics like Monopoly and Clue.

Then, on March 30, the board game Frosthaven — the dungeon crawling, highly-anticipated sequel to the hit game Gloomhaven — surpassed its funding goal of $500,000 on Kickstarter in mere hours. Today, it is the most-funded board game on the site ever, with nearly $13 million pledged toward funding the game’s development. Only two projects have ever crowdsourced more funding on the site.

Frosthaven’s success seemed to exemplify a shift that has been happening in the tabletop gaming community for years: toward games that are not only focused on strategy and adventure, but also a new type of funding model where fans have more say than ever in which games move from the idea stage to their living rooms. And hobbyist tabletop games are a different breed of entertainment altogether.

“You have mass market games, which are Monopoly and everything that you find at Target or Toys “R” Us, and you have hobbyist games, which you typically find at your FLGS — your friendly local gaming store,” said Cree Wilson, the programming and tabletop gaming manager for Comicpalooza. “Then there’s this blurry line of stuff in between, which I’ve heard sometimes called entertainment gaming, and it’s games selling tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of copies, but isn’t selling millions yet.”

For many of these smaller games, funding from fans has proved essential. Hasbro, the company that makes games like Monopoly and Connect 4, earns hundreds of millions each year through everything from game sales and licensing deals to its TV and film business. But funding models are far different for newer or smaller game makers. These makers have become part of one of the country’s most popular quarantine hobbies, but they’ve done so through a mini-economy that relies on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter.

(4) AI-YI-YI! “Star Trek’s Robert Picardo Sings About Not Being Brent Spiner in New Music Video”  – Comicbook.com sets the stage.

… “A few weeks ago, my friend and colleague Brent Spiner tweeted a hilarious musical spoof of himself that inspired me to do something in my characteristically more sophisticated manner, as an homage,” Picardo says in a statement about his new video. “My good friend James Marlowe (The Marlowe-Pugnetti Company) directed a crack mini-crew. Legendary event planner and TV personality Edward Perotti does a great cameo.”

And by popular demand, the Brent Spiner video he is reacting to:

(5) LAYING THE FOUNDATION. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] WIRED talked to one of the principals on the upcoming Apple TV+ adaptation of the Foundation series: “The Producer of ‘Foundation’ on Asimov, Covid-19, and Race in Sci-Fi”.

The Covid-19 pandemic all but halted Hollywood. Production on most movies and television shows (except for a handful of  animated programs) became too risky, and ceased. It’s only in the last few weeks that organizations like SAG-AFTRA and the Directors Guild of America have begun publishing guidelines for how cast and crew members might safely return to work. In this lull, however, studios are still cobbling together their stockpiled footage and releasing tantalizing trailers for upcoming projects. The most recent to ricochet around the internet? A first look at Apple TV+’s adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s beloved Foundation series.

Even if you’ve never read the Asimov novels, which were first published in the 1950s, every science fiction fan has felt their influence, especially in genre classics like Star Wars. Much of the plot concerns the fall of a certain Galactic Empire (ahem), and a desperate, surprisingly math-heavy attempt to save human civilization from a vast, bleak dark age. Apple’s adaptation, which is due to hit the tech giant’s streaming platform sometime in 2021, features stars like Jared Harris (Chernobyl) and Lee Pace (Halt and Catch Fire) and, based on the first teaser, looks epic. One of the people behind that epic-ness is Leigh Dana Jackson, Foundation’s co-executive producer. He can’t talk much about his new show yet, but WIRED still picked his brain about Asimov, Covid-19, and genre fiction’s unique capacity to capture revolution.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Published fifty-nine years ago as a novel by Ace Books, Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time started out as a two-part serial in Galaxy Magazine‘s March and April 1958 issues. It would win the Hugo Award for Best Novel or Novelette at Solacon. In general, it was well-received with Algis Budrys liking it but noting it was more of a play than an actual novel. In 2012, it was selected for inclusion in the Library of America’s two-volume compilation American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s. (CE)

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 5, 1878 – Howard Brown.  A hundred covers for us, forty interiors; only a small part of his prodigious work.  Cover artist for Scientific American 1913-1931.  ArgosyRadio NewsScience and Invention.  Main cover artist for Astounding while Tremaine was editor.  Also Startling and Thrilling Wonder.  Here is the January 1934 Astounding.  Here is the November 1938.  Here is the May 1940 Startling.  Here is an interior for At the Mountains of Madness (April 1934 Astounding).  Here is HB’s cover for the April 1934 Astounding and a more detailed biography.  (Died 1945) [JH]
  • Born July 5, 1935 – John Schoenherr.  Two hundred covers, seven hundred interiors.  Here is Starship Troopers.  Here is The Tomorrow People.  Here is the August 1980 Analog.  Here is the March 1965 Analog with the beginning of Dune that made JS famous for illustrating this story.  Here is an interior for Children of Dune.  Here is his cover for Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon (1987) for which JS won the Caldecott Medal.  See also “The Role of the Artist in Science Fiction” (with Kelly Freas, Jack Gaughan, Eddie Jones, Karel Thole), Noreascon I Proceedings (29th Worldcon).  Here is Kurt Snavely’s treatment of JS.  Here is Ian Schoenherr’s.  Hugo for Best Pro Artist, 1965.  Guest of Honor at Boskone 14, Lunacon 25.  SF Hall of Fame.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born July 5, 1941 Garry Kilworth, 79. The Ragthorn, a novella co-authored with Robert Holdstock, which won the World Fantasy Award. It’s an excellent read and it makes me wish I’d read other fiction by him. Anyone familiar with his work? (CE)
  • Born July 5, 1944 – Cathy Hill, 76.  Known in particular for drawing raccoons – cartoon raccoons.  Here is “Raccoons on the Moon”; here is “The Lisping Asteroid”, which was used for the cover of The “Rowrbrazzle” Sampler.  The raccoons even got involved with Cerebus the Aardvark; and CH published Mad Raccoons.  Here is an index of her comic-book work.  She’s done more, in and out of our field: here is Locus 52 from its fanzine days, with her logograph (note that her puzzled aliens get it wrong); here is her cover for the 1979 printing of The Blue Worldhere is her cover for the original Keep Watching the Skies! (note propeller beanie).  Here is a dinosaur she drew for Don Glut.  Her oil paintings will have to wait for another time.  [JH]
  • Born July 5, 1948 — William Hootkins. One of these rare performers who showed up playing secondary roles in a number of major film franchises. He was the Rebel pilot Jek Tono Porkins in Star Wars, he played Munson in the Flash Gordon film, he was Major Eaton, one of the two officers who gave Indy his orders in Raiders of The Lost Ark, and he was Lt Eckhardt in the 1989 Batman. (Died 2005.) (CE)
  • Born July 5, 1957 Jody Lynn Nye, 63. She’s best-known for collaborating with Robert Asprin on the ever so excellent MythAdventures series.  Since his death, she has continued that series and she is now also writing sequels to his Griffen McCandle series as well. She’s got a space opera series, The Imperium, out now which sounds intriguing. (CE)
  • Born July 5, 1958 Nancy Springer, 62. May I recommend her Tales of Rowan Hood series of which her Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest is a most splendid revisionist telling of that legend? And her Enola Holmes Mysteries are a nice riffing off of the Holmsiean mythos. (CE)
  • Born July 5, 1963 Alma Alexander, 57. Sixteen novels, a dozen shorter stories, for us; more outside our field.  The Secrets of Jin-Shei has been translated into fourteen languages; three sequels.  God of the Unmage has Nikola Tesla.  Of writing The Second Star, just released a few days ago, she says “dream fragments … wash up tantalizingly as flotsam and jetsam on the shores of coming awake.  One such fragment lay glittering on that shore one morning – a single sentence … a soul is like a starfish”; this proves to bear on interstellar travel.  She likes coffee, cherries, and sonnets.  [JH]
  • Born July 5, 1964 Ronald D. Moore, 56. Screenwriter and producer who’s best-remembered  for his work on Star Trek: The Next Generation where he fleshed out the Klingon race and culture, on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, and Outlander. He’s the creator and writer of For All Mankind. (CE) 
  • Born July 5, 1985 – Meagan Spooner, 35.  Ten novels (five with Amy Kaufman).  Shadowlark had a Booklist starred review; Hunted, a Kirkus starred review.  These Broken Stars (with AK) was a New York Times Best-Seller and won an Aurealis Award.  Here’s how she ranks some books I know: Euripedes, Electra, The Phoenician Women, The Bacchae (4.21); Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (4.18); Austen, Persuasion (4.14); Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac (4.07); Adams, Watership Down (4.06).  She plays guitar, video games, and with her cat.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

Jan Eliot’s Stone Soup comic strip is winding down:

For those of you who saw this Sunday’s strip, I know you can see that I have decided to retire Stone Soup. I can’t imagine turning the strip, which is so personal to me, over to anyone else, and my syndicate is not planning on running reruns. The last Stone Soup strip will appear on July 26, when I will officially jump off the funny pages.

And the artist has been breaking the news to the characters, within the strips: June 14, June 21, June 28, and July 5.

(9) DESPITE HAMILTON. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik interviews “frequent chronicler of Disney” Josh Spiegel about whether Disney’s business model works any more. “How Disney could be facing a lot more than a lost summer”.

Disney has long been an outfit fueled by nostalgia…But Disney’s little secret is that such nostalgia cannot stand on its own–it needs to be continually fed and reinforced.  New Star Wars offerings drive longing for the ’70s, a Beauty And The Beast remake powers nostalgia for the 1990s.  Marvel movies draft off pleasant feelings of a childhood of comic books (and, 12 years into their run, of themselves).  Disney is a constant interplat between past and present, a continuous bicycle chain between the pieces we once loved and the current releases we see to remind us of them.

And that chain has now been severed.

‘What Disney really needs to do, what they rely on, is creating new nostalgia; they can’t just let the old kind stand for itself,’ Spiegel said.  ‘Because, at some point, the umpteenth time you watch Frozen is the last time you watch Frozen.’

(10) OOPSIE. “Rocket Lab: Latest mission from New Zealand lost in flight” – BBC can’t find it either.

The American launch company that flies its rockets out of New Zealand has lost its latest mission.

Rocket Lab said its Electron vehicle failed late in its ascent from Mahia Peninsula on North Island.

All satellite payloads are assumed to have been destroyed.

These included imaging spacecraft from Canon Electronics of Japan and Planet Labs Inc of California, as well as a technology demonstration platform from a UK start-up called In-Space Missions.

Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck apologised to his customers.

“I am incredibly sorry that we failed to deliver our customers’ satellites today. Rest assured we will find the issue, correct it and be back on the pad soon,” he said on Twitter

Rocket Lab has made everyone in the space sector sit up since it debuted its Electron vehicle in 2017. It’s at the head of a wave of new outfits that want to operate compact rockets to service the emerging market for small satellites.

Saturday’s lift-off from New Zealand was the Electron’s 13th outing to date. All prior launches had been a complete success, bar the very first which failed to reach its intended orbit.

(11) BEYOND BURGERS. “Can a BBC reporter make better pizza than a machine?” – video.

A machine which is able to put together about 300 pizzas per hour has been developed by Picnic.

The dough base still has to be prepared by a human but the sauce and toppings are added by machine.

Inside the machine are ingredient modules such as sauce, cheese, vegetables and meat.

A camera takes pictures of each stage of the ingredients being added to the pizza which is then analysed by artificial intelligence software to help it improve the process.

(12) THE THINGIE WITH A DONGLE. “Why Singapore turned to wearable contact-tracing tech”.

Singapore’s TraceTogether Tokens are the latest effort to tackle Covid-19 with tech. But they have also reignited a privacy debate.

The wearable devices complement the island’s existing contact-tracing app, to identify people who might have been infected by those who have tested positive for the virus.

All users have to do is carry one, and the battery lasts up to nine months without needing a recharge – something one expert said had “stunned” him.

The government agency which developed the devices acknowledges that the Tokens – and technology in general – aren’t “a silver bullet”, but should augment human contact-tracers’ efforts.

The first to receive the devices are thousands of vulnerable elderly people who don’t own smartphones.

To do so, they had to provide their national ID and phone numbers – TraceTogether app users recently had to start doing likewise.

If dongle users test positive for the disease, they have to hand their device to the Ministry of Health because – unlike the app – they cannot transmit data over the internet.

(13) HOLLYWOOD ON THE LINE. “A Theater Student Gets Supersized Attention After Superhero Video Goes Viral”NPR story and video.

Julian Bass loves Spider-Man, a trait you can easily glean by scrolling through the videos he posts to his TikTok and Twitter accounts.

“I just think Spider-Man is so fun. It’s so inspiring to me,” Bass told NPR’s Weekend Edition. “Everything, every little aspect that you could possibly think of about Spider-Man is something that I’m aware of, that I know of.”

In one now-viral video, the 20-year-old theater major at Georgia State University morphs into his favorite heroes using his own special-effects — first a Jedi wielding a blue lightsaber, then Ben 10, before his final transition into Spider-Man. He asked his followers to retweet the video “enough times that Disney calls.” Twenty million views later, Disney wasn’t the only one he heard from.

At first, he said his video gained “some small traction with my immediate circle.”

“And then the verified profiles started commenting,” he said. “The first one for me was The Lonely Island. And then I started seeing Josh Gad, Matthew Cherry. I saw Mark Hamill liked it. I mean if Mark Hamill likes it, I’m a Jedi now.”

Bass said these aren’t just retweets — he’s also getting messages from “bigwigs” such as Marvel co-president Louis D’Esposito and people from HBO Max.

(14) NZ LETS IN SOME PRODUCTIONS. Variety reports various genre shows get exemptions for cast and crew to enter NZ: “‘The Lord Of the Rings’, ‘Cowboy Bebop’ Series Among 5 Productions Granted New Zealand Border Exemptions”.

Several more overseas productions will join James Cameron’s Avatar sequels and Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog Netflix film in New Zealand in the coming months.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment has announced that Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings series, Netflix series Cowboy Bebop and Sweet Tooth, Peter Farrelly’s film Greatest Beer Run Ever starring Viggo Mortensen, and Power Rangers Beast Morphers series have been granted border exemptions.

A total of 206 foreign-based cast and crew from those productions, along with 35 family members, will be allowed to enter New Zealand in the next six months, according to MBIE manager immigration policy Sian Roguski, quoted by New Zealand’s Stuff. Additionally, 10 more Avatar crew – in addition to the 31 already in New Zealand – had been granted border exemptions. All new arrivals will be subject to self-quarantine….

(15) BLOWN UP, SIR! In “Independence Day Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that the film’s aliens are very considerate by blowing up monuments that can be put in the trailer.

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

Foundation Teaser Trailer

Apple TV+ has dropped a teaser trailer for its adaptation of Asimov’s series, Foundation.

Based on the award-winning novels by Isaac Asimov, Foundation chronicles a band of exiles on their monumental journey to save humanity and rebuild civilization amid the fall of the Galactic Empire: https://apple.co/_Foundation Foundation stars SAG Award-winner and Emmy-nominee Jared Harris as Hari Seldon; Lee Pace as Brother Day; Lou Llobell as Gaal; Leah Harvey as Salvor; Laura Birn as Demerzel; Terrence Mann as Brother Dusk; and Cassian Bilton as play Brother Dawn.