Pixel Scroll 4/10/21 Scrollier Than Thou

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) MEMORY LANE.

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

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

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

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

We may be approaching that point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 3/29/21 Listen, Billy Pixel’s Come Unscrolled In File

(1) WOOKIEEPEDIA CONTROVERSY RESOLVED. The Wookieepedia editors’ vote on an “Amendment to naming policy for real-world transgender individuals” discussed in yesterday’s Scroll (Item #2) has been rendered moot by management’s decision that the status quo – using deadnames from production credits – violates the company’s Terms of Use:

…With the creation of our Community Safety team, we have an opportunity to lead on an evolving topic in society at large. That’s why we’ve been actively monitoring this conversation over the last week, including working with members of Wookieepedia’s administration knowing that there are a lot of opinions involved here.

Having reviewed the situation, and in keeping with the evolving understanding of these issues, Fandom has determined that, while it may not have been the intention, knowingly using a deadname in an article title is a violation of our Terms of Use. This is a global determination, meaning it applies to all wikis—including Wookieepedia. Since this supersedes local policies, this vote should be closed and policies should be updated to reflect the Terms of Use. The policy proposal here fits with our Terms of Use. Returning to the previous status quo (deferring to credits despite someone stating what their chosen name is) does not….

This is a final decision and Fandom staff will not be participating in a debate here or elsewhere right now. We will be discussing the topic of content related to the transgender community in greater detail with the Fandom community at large in the near future. We are committed to working with our community, internal teams, and outside experts to build a comprehensive framework to help guide our communities on how to properly create content relating to both fictional characters and real-life individuals who do not fit into outmoded definitions of identity and gender. Our goal is to provide an educational and growth framework for those who do not have real-life experience in these topics but want to learn more about creating inclusive content.

Our communities often spend much time debating the nuance of canon or the particulars of a given content policy, but we must also be willing to engage in challenging conversations about the nuance of external factors surrounding these topics. To that end, when wiki content is talking about real human beings with real needs, they must be respected.

(2) PLUMBING THE DEPTHS. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune calls on a scientist to answer “Which superhero should we call if the Suez Canal gets plugged again?”

…Our first thought was this is obviously a job for Superman, or someone nearly as strong like Thor, Wonder Woman or even the Incredible Hulk.

“Global supply chain blockage make Hulk mad! Hulk smash!” is how we imagine that would play out.

Not so fast, says our friendly neighborhood physics professor.

In addition to being an expert in stuff like amorphous semiconductors, University of Minnesota professor James Kakalios has pondered the physical properties of the superpowerful in his book, “The Physics of Superheroes.”

Kakalios explained that a 1,300-foot-long ship is designed to have its weight supported by water under the length of its hull. So a brute force effort by a single superhero could be counterproductive.

“Tanker ships are not meant to be picked up,” Kakalios said. “Even if supported under its center of mass, there would be enormous twisting forces, called torques, that would snap the vessel in half.”

Kakalios suggested that a better superhero for the job would be DC Comics’ Aquaman or Marvel Comics’ Namor the Sub-Mariner….

(3) FUTURE TENSE. Released this week, the latest in the monthly series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives: “The Trolley Solution” by Shiv Ramdas, about a college professor pitted against a machine. This is the third and final entry in their recent series about the future of learning.

From the moment the text message arrived with an aggressive ping, Ahmed knew something was amiss. Oh, it read innocuously enough, just the one line from Niyati asking if they could have a chat, but he knew better. It was still two weeks before his meeting with the tenure committee, which made it unexpected. Plus, it was Those Words. Whenever someone said that they wanted to have a chat, what they actually meant was that they had something to say to you that they knew you wouldn’t like one bit…. 

It was published along with a response essay by Katina Michael, a scholar of technology, policy, and society: “’The Trolley Solution’: How much of higher ed can be automated?”

Imagine a university without any teachers, just peer learners, open-access resources, and an office space full of high-speed internet-enabled computers, accessible to anyone between 18–30 years of age, regardless of any prior learning. That university is called 42. It does not have any academic instructors; the teachers are the self-starting students who have their eyes set on a job in Big Tech. Aided only by a problem-based learning curriculum, students gain a certificate of completion about three to five years after starting out. They are guaranteed internships in some of the world’s most prestigious firms and have set their sights on launching their careers as coders. 42’s philosophy is steeped in peer-to-peer learning, where human learners themselves spearhead the learning process….

(4) RELEASING A BOOK DURING THE PANDEMIC. Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore presents S.B. Divya, C.L. Clark, Arkady Martine, and Premee Mohamed in conversation on Friday, April 9, 2021 – 2:00 p.m. (Pacific). Register here.

S.B. Divya is a lover of science, math, fiction, and the Oxford comma. She enjoys subverting expectations and breaking stereotypes whenever she can. Divya is the Hugo and Nebula–nominated author of Runtime and co-editor of Escape Pod, with Mur Lafferty. Machinehood is her debut novel from Saga Press.

C.L. Clark graduated from Indiana University’s creative writing MFA. She’s been a personal trainer, an English teacher, and an editor, and is some combination thereof as she travels the world. Her short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, FIYAH, PodCastle and Uncanny. 

Arkady Martine is a speculative fiction writer and, as Dr. AnnaLinden Weller, a historian of the Byzantine Empire and a city planner. Under both names, she writes about border politics, rhetoric, propaganda, and the edges of the world.

Premee Mohamed is a scientist and writer with degrees in molecular genetics and environmental science, but hopes that readers of her fiction will not hold that against her. Her short speculative fiction has been published in a variety of venues.

(5) SPY QUEEN. Francis Hamit is on the third segment of today’s Matthews and Friends podcast talking about his alternative history spy novel, The Queen of Washington. Hamit says, “I go into how I do research, so that may interest some people.” Here is the link: “Matthews and Friends” (3-29-21).

(6) @EATONVERSE IS BACK. Andrew Lippert announced that the official twitter of the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy at UC Riverside is returning to active status. “It will primarily be used to share items and documents from the collections that spark interest or are discovered while processing and working with the collections.” Here’s one of their latest tweets:

(7) STARTING THE NEXT CENTURY. Bradbury 101, produced by Phil Nichols, is a sequel to last year’s audio podcast series, Bradbury 100, which celebrated the centenary year of Bradbury. Here’s what Episode 04 is about —

THE ILLUSTRATED MAN is Ray Bradbury’s 1951 short story collection. As a follow-up to the previous year’s THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, it secured Bradbury’s reputation as a science fiction writer of quality – and at the same time saddled him with the label “science fiction writer” even though most of his fiction after this point was NOT science fiction.

(8) CRACKED FACTS. Item #2 in Cracked’s “13 Scintillating Now-You-Know Facts About Movies, Science, And More” from March 28 remarkably gets some things wrong that were not wrong in the cited source article from Racked (“Meet the Woman Who Invented Cosplay”). Like, Forrest J Ackerman (the unnamed guy) and Morojo (her fan name) were never married.

(9) SHATNER’S 90TH BIRTHDAY WISDOM. “William Shatner Explains Star Trek’s Continued Popularity: ‘We’re on the Verge of Extinction’”. Don’t you know we’re on the eve of destruction? Shat does.

For more than 50 years, even though eras when the franchise was in a lull, Star Trek fandom has been vibrant and strong. Upon his 90th birthday, and turning himself into artificial intelligence, original Star Trek series star William Shatner reflected on why Gene Roddenberry’s vision has so firmly stood the test of time and why it seems to resonate even more strongly today. Shatner was blunt with the situation we find ourselves in during an appearance on PeopleTV‘s Couch Surfing, stating that “We’re on the verge of extinction. We are poisoning ourselves out of life, and the Earth will survive and this little cancer, mankind, that’s growing all around her will die off the way a body gets a temperature and kills the germs off. Mother Earth will get rid of us because we’re a pestilence. But we don’t have to be. And we can join with the rest of life that makes it here on Earth with equanimity.”

(10) NIMOY MONUMENT PLANNED. “Nimoy Family and Boston’s Museum of Science Announce Vulcan Salute Monument” reports StarTrek.com. The project was announced on Nimoy’s birthday, March 26.

The Museum of Science, Boston, one of the world’s largest science centers and one of Boston’s most popular attractions, in collaboration with the family of Leonard Nimoy, legendary actor of the historic television series, Star Trek, today, announced the development of a monument honoring the Boston native to be located at the Museum of Science.

The 20-foot, illuminated, stainless steel monument, designed by artist David Phillps, will be shaped in the famous “Live Long and Prosper” hand gesture that the actor’s character Mister Spock was known for. It will be located in front of the Museum, at Science Park, welcoming visitors and Star Trek fans from around the world.

The Museum wants to raise a million dollars for the Leonard Nimoy Memorial.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 29, 1968 –On this date in 1968, Star Trek’s “Assignment: Earth” first aired as part of the second season. Guest starring Robert Lansing as Gary Seven and Terri Garr as Roberta Lincoln, our crew which has time-travelled to 1968 Earth for historical research encounters an interstellar agent and Isis, his cat, who are planning to intervene in Earth history. It was intended as a pilot for an Assignment: Earth series that Gene Roddenberry planned but that never happened.

Interesting note: The uncredited human form of Isis was portrayed by actress, dancer, and contortionist April Tatro, not Victoria Verti, actress (in Rosemary’s Baby under the name of Angela Dorian) and Playboy Playmate of the previous year, as would become part of Trek lore.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 29, 1914 – Roy Hunt.  Program Book for Denvention I the 3rd Worldcon.  Here is his cover.  Here is the Pacificon I Combozine (4th Worldcon).  Here is a cover for The Gorgon, used on five issues 1947-1948.  Here is an illustration for “The Ghost” (Van Vogt, 1948).  Here is vol. 1 no. 2 of Fantasy Book.  Here is the LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) coat of arms, which he designed.  Here is the Dec 59 New Frontiers.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1926 – Tom Adams.  Two short stories, eight covers, five interiors for us; much else, poetry prints, light shows e.g The Jimi Hendrix Experience, covers for Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie; a copy of AC’s Death in the Clouds with TA’s cover appears in the Dr. Who episode “The Unicorn and the Wasp” (10th Doctor).  Here is Needle in a Timestack.  Here is Patron of the Arts.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1930 John Astin, 91. He is best known for playing as Gomez Addams in Addams Family, reprising it on the Halloween with the New Addams Family film and the Addams Family animated series. A memorable later role would be as Professor Wickwire in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., and I’d like to single out his delightfully weird appearance on The Wild Wild West as Count Nikolai Sazanov in “The Night of the Tartar” episode. (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1943 Eric Idle, 78. Monty Python is genre, isn’t it? If not, I know that The Adventures of Baron MunchausenYellowbeardMonty Python and the Holy GrailQuest for CamelotShrek the Third and Nearly Departed, an updated version of Topper, which he all had a hand in certainly are. And it turns out he’s written a witty SF novel, The Road to Mars: A Post-Modern Novel, which involves an Android, comedy and interplanetary travel. (CE)
  • Born March 29, 1944 – Linn Prentis.  Began working as an agent for Virginia Kidd, then her own agency with offices in Washington State and New York.  Among her clients, Kage Baker, Patricia Briggs, Rick Bowes, A.M. Dellamonica, James Morrow.  Prentis Literary continues.  (Died 2016 – on December 24th, alas) [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1947 Patricia Anthony. Flanders is one damn scary novel. A ghost story set in WW I it spooked me for nights after I read it and I don’t spook easily. Highly recommended.  James Cameron purchased the movie rights to  her Brother Termite novel and John Sayles wrote a script, but the movie has not been produced. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1956 Mary Gentle, 65. Her trilogy of Rats and GargoylesThe Architecture of Desire and Left to His Own Devices is a stunning work of alternate history with magic replacing science. I also highly recommend her Grunts! novel. Gamers particularly will love it. She has a cyberpunk novel, Left To His Own Devices, but I’ve not read it. Who here has read it? I’m surprised that she hasn’t been nominated for any Hugo Awards according to ISFDB database. (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1957 Elizabeth Hand, 64. Not even going to attempt to summarize her brilliant career. I will say that my fav works by her are Wylding HallIllyria and Mortal Love. We did do an entire edition at Green Man on her and I need to update it to the present site. It’s got a neat conversation with her on what her favorite foods are. (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1963 – Michelle Mitchell-Foust, Ph.D., age 58.  Two poetry books; two anthologies (with Tony Barnstone), Poems Dead and Undead and Poems Human and Inhuman (also called Monster Verse).  Elixir Press Poetry Prize, Columbia University Poetry Prize, Missouri Arts Council Biennial Award.  [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1968 Lucy Lawless, 53. Xena in Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Cylon model Number Three D’Anna Biers on that Battlestar Galactica series. She also played Countess Palatine Ingrid von Marburg, the last of a line of Germanic witches on the Salem series. Her most recent genre role as Ruby Knowby, one of the Dark Ones, on the Ash vs Evil Dead series. Though not genre, she was Lucretia in  Spartacus: Blood and Sand, its prequel Spartacus: Gods of the Arena and its sequel Spartacus: Vengeance. (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1978 –  Nerine Dorman, age 43.  Four novels for us, a score of shorter stories; half a dozen anthologies.  Won a Nommo and a Sanlam Gold.  Has read The Count of Monte CristoThe Master and MargaritaThe Big TimeThe Stars My DestinationDouble StarWho?  [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1990 – Kiran Millwood Hargrave, age 31.  Poet, playwright, novelist.  Three novels for us.  Waterstone Children’s Book Prize, British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year, Blackwell Children’s Book of the Year.  First novel for adults opened at No. 1 on The Times (i.e. of London) Bestseller Chart.  “Our parents took us everywhere – Jordan, India, China….  India is particularly special to me as my mum is from there.”  From The Girl of Ink & Stars: ‘A myth is something that happened so long ago that people like to pretend it’s not real, even when it is.’  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest discover robots with ethical problems – according to their designers.

(14) WISHBONER. Some show-biz pros are asking what turkey thought up this idea: “Comic-Con Criticized for In-Person Thanksgiving Weekend Event” in The Hollywood Reporter.

San Diego Comic-Con will return this year with an in-person convention during Thanksgiving weekend.

The pop culture event will host a “Comic-Con Special Edition” at the San Diego Convention Center from November 26-28. The announcement comes less than a month after Comic-Con International announced a virtual event would be held this summer due to uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic and the risk of large-scale gatherings. The three-day Comic-Con@Home virtual event is set for July 23-25.

“It is our hope that by Fall conditions will permit larger public gatherings,” an announcement for the event said. “Comic-Con Special Edition will be the first in-person convention produced by the organization since Comic-Con 2019, and the first since the onset of the global pandemic COVID-19. The Fall event will allow the organization to highlight all the great elements that make Comic-Con such a popular event each year, as well as generate much needed revenue not only for the organization but also for local businesses and the community.”

…The announcement for an in-person Thanksgiving weekend event received immediate criticism across social media, with many noting the pandemic impacted the ability for many to be with their families during the holidays last year.

“So they scheduled #SDCC on the same weekend as the first chance most families will (hopefully) be fully able to celebrate Thanksgiving in two years. See you in 2022!” Charles Soule, writer and author for Daredevil and She-Hulk, shared on Twitter.

“Sure. Make it during the one non-denominational fall holiday weekend in U.S., w/ always peak airfare prices. And I’m sure A-list celebs will LOVE doing this. Black Friday, indeed,” author Tara Bennett wrote.

Linda Ge, who writes for CW’s new series Kung Fu, also tweeted “Does Comic-Con realize that most people didn’t get to spend last Thanksgiving with their families because of the pandemic? #SDCC”

(15) C3PO, R2D2, AND BBQ€590. This summer you could be “grilling from another galaxy” with the Star Wars-inspired Galaxy Grill for a mere 590 Euros.

Amaze your friends with a real space vehicle – they will definitely join the dark side with you.

(16) TECH SKEPTIC. In the Washington Post, Dalvin Brown says the likelihood you will have a robot with legs helping you in your home is very small, because robots are expensive, heavy (what happens if a robot falls on you?) and robots with humanlike hands are really expensive.  “Robots don’t know much about the world they’re operating in, so a robot needs a great deal of education to learn where things are in your house.” “For all the hype, robots are limited in what they can do in your home”.

… But how likely is it that you’ll ever be able to own a true robotic butler?

Robots are indeed getting more complex. As AI continues to advance, it allows machines to figure out more complex problems and reliably chat with humans. Still, robotics and AI firms say you’ll have to wait quite some time before you’re able to own anything remotely similar to Rosey the Robot from “The Jetsons.”

In fact, companies are having a hard time commercializing anything more complex than a Roomba — which has been vacuuming houses for 20 years.

… Right now, robots are doing well in factories where there’s plenty of space, no small kids around and employees wearing protective gear. They’re really good at completing a single repetitive task, like screwing on a wheel.

But imagine introducing machinery with legs and lifting capabilities into your home where things can and do go wrong. What if it falls on someone, or a software update causes it to go haywire? It’s funny on “The Jetsons,” but it wouldn’t be so comical if your grandmother were on the receiving end….

(17) RYAN GEORGE. In “Godzilla Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says the producer is happy that the son of Bryan Cranston’s character is named Ford because “selling your son’s name as advertising space is tight!”  (The producer’s three sons are Ben, Jerry, and Outback Steakhouse.)

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Filers will remember when OwlKitty entered the Lord of The Rings.  But in “Godzilla v. Cat (OwlKitty Parody)” on YouTube, OwlKitty takes on Godzilla!

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Chris R., JJ, Cat Eldridge, David K. M. Klaus, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, David Doering, Andrew Porter, Joey Eschrich, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 12/26/20 Wenn Ist Das Pixel Git Und Slotermayer? Nein! Beiherhund Die Oder Das Flipperwald Gescrollt!

(1) THE DEAD BODY PROBLEM. Lin Qi, producer of the upcoming Three-Body Problem adaptation, has died following an alleged poisoning by a colleague:  “Lin Qi, Yoozoo CEO and Producer on Netflix’s ‘Three-Body Problem,’ Dies at 39” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Lin Qi, the chairman and CEO of Yoozoo Group who was hospitalized after having been poisoned on Dec. 16, has died. The Chinese company confirmed that Lin died on Christmas Day. He was 39.

On Wednesday evening in China, the Shanghai Public Security Bureau had announced that Lin was receiving treatment after being poisoned and that a Yoozoo coworker of Lin’s, surnamed Xu, had been apprehended amid an investigation.

The statement read: “At 5 p.m. on Dec. 17, 2020, the police received a call from a hospital regarding a patient surnamed Lin. During the patient’s treatment, the hospital said it had determined that the patient had been poisoned. Following the call, the police began an investigation. According to investigations on site and further interviews, the police found that a suspect surnamed Xu, who is a coworker of the victim Lin, was the most likely the perpetrator. The suspect Xu has been arrested and investigations continue.”

The Hollywood Reporter reported that local media have said a dispute among the Chinese entertainment company’s executive ranks preceded the assault on Lin, which was allegedly carried out via a cup of poisoned pu-erh tea.

(2) A PIXAR FIRST. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Kemp Powers, a Black co-writer of Soul, who explains how his experiences helped ensure that the African-American experiences portrayed in the film were authentic. “Kemp Powers of ‘Soul’: His long journey to becoming Pixar’s first Black writer-director”.

The geniuses at Pixar had a problem, and this time, they would need to look beyond the walls of their esteemed studio for help.

The movie in question was “Soul,” a tuneful jazz tale that somehow didn’t quite swing. Rather ironically, the movie’s main character was lacking in texture and truth and, well, any depth of soul. What to do about a lead role that, in the words of Pixar chief and “Soul” director Pete Docter, “was kind of an empty shell”?The call went out to Kemp Powers, a rising playwright and “Star Trek: Discovery” TV writer who headed to Pixar’s Bay Area headquarters with much more than notes. He had a lifetime of relevant insights.

The character in question was Joe Gardner, Pixar’s first leading Black character and the heart of “Soul,” which will be released on Disney Plus on Christmas Day after bypassing domestic theaters because of the pandemic. Powers will compete against himself that day when the film adaptation of his play “One Night in Miami,” directed by Regina King, will land in theaters (ahead of its Jan. 15 release on Amazon Prime)….… And Daveed Diggs, who voices Joe’s trash-talking rival Paul, says Powers brought a humanity and a fearlessness to the tale. “There’s a strength and level of conviction in the storytelling,” says Diggs, no easy task because with its supernatural spaces and existential themes, “Soul” is “a weird movie.”

(3) CONTINUE CELEBRATING. Filer Cora Buhlert has assembled “A Holiday Story Bonanza” in her newly-released book A Christmas Collection. Full details and options to purchase in various formats at the link.

Romance, cozy fantasy, murder mysteries, pulp thrillers, science fiction, horror and humor – we have all that and more.

  • Watch young people find love in the pre-holiday shopping rush at Hickory Ridge Mall, at a Christmas tree lot, on the parking lot of a shuttered outlet mall and at the one bar in town that’s open on Christmas Eve.
  • Experience Christmas in Hallowind Cove, the permanently fog-shrouded seaside town, where strange things keep happening.
  • Watch as Santa’s various helpers unite to depose him.
  • Follow Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd and her team as they investigate the death of a robber dressed as Santa Claus as well as a wave of thefts at a Christmas market.
  • Meet Richard Blakemore, hardworking pulp author by day and the masked crimefighter known only as the Silencer by night, as he fights to save an orphanage from demolition in Depression era New York City.
  • Watch Alfred and Bertha, an ordinary married couple, as they decorate the Christmas tree and live their marvellous twenty-first century life.
  • Experience Christmas on the space colony of Iago Prime as well as after the end of the world.

Enjoy thirteen novellas, novelettes and short stories in six genres. This is a collection of 118000 words or approx. 390 print pages.

(4) AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME. [Item by Francis Hamit.] The CASE Act, the legislation creating a Copyright Small Claims Court, is becoming law as a part of that massive stimulus bill passed by Congress.  I am taking a victory lap on this one.  You may recall I was quite active in the early part of this century on Copyright matters, including prosecuting two lawsuits for infringements of magazine articles by database firms.  I spent thousands of dollars for filing and legal fees over four years and came out ahead, but dropped four other suits because they would cost more than the maximum possible cash reward.  There had to be a better way, I thought, and came up with the idea of a Copyright Small Claims Court, which was published in the September/October 2006 issue of The Columbia Journalism Review. [File 770 previously mentioned Hamit’s advocacy of the idea in 2011: “A Future for Small Copyright Claims?”] So it is done, and small individual creators have a path to legal recourse that wasn’t there before.  Very gratifying.  Those who would like to thank me can buy one of my books or stories on Amazon,com  (Reviews are appreciated too).  I have a stage play at Stageplays,com which I’m trying to get produced.  I may add others soon.  Donations are accepted on Paypal at francishamit@earthlink.net.  I’m not a crusader, just a businessman.  Support allows me to create new work.

(5) EYES ON THE PRIZE. At the risk of turning into a platform that mainly steers its audience to Camestros Felapton (oops, too late!), there are some good things there this weekend:

…Yet not unlike DC’s Shazam! film , WW84 form offers charm and its apparent naivety at least avoids the dourness of the Snyder films or broader cynicism…

(6) WWDC. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Wonder Woman 1984 director Patty Jenkins, who explains the reason the film is set in Washington in the 1980s is because it reflects Jenkins’s experiences.  For example, there are sequences at the Hirshhorn Museum because Jenkins was an art student there in 1987. “How Patty Jenkins turned ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ into a personal Washington story”.

“First of all, where would Diana go?” Jenkins says of the Amazonian warrior from the isle paradise of Themyscira, who headed to World War I’s European theater in “Wonder Woman.” “She would go to the heart and center of where power is.”

Once Jenkins and co-writer Geoff Johns were settled on setting, the director plunged deep into her own memories of Washington, where she often visited before moving to the area as a teenager in 1987, staying for a bit over a year.

“The style of D.C. is so wonderful” for Wonder Woman, says Jenkins, who shot numerous scenes on the Mall, in Georgetown and in Northern Virginia. “Having her live at the Watergate, the modernity of it, cut against the Reflecting Pool and the Hirshhorn — it just felt elegant and beautiful and intellectual and pop at the same time.”

(7) NPR’S BOOKS OF THE YEAR. [Item by Contrarius.] NPR’s Best Books Of 2020  is out. The sff included on the list are mostly the usual suspects for this year. Sadly, The Vanished Birds isn’t on it. Interestingly, the new translation of Beowulf is.

Click this link to go direct to the list’s Sci Fi, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction section.

(8) EVANS OBIT. 1632universe author Kevin H. Evans died on December 23 announced Eric Flint on Facebook. Evans often wrote in collaboration with his wife, Karen, who survives him.

Evans also was known as Sir Thorgeirr in the Society for Creative Anachronism.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • December 26, 1954 — On this day in 1954, the very last episode of The Shadow radio serial aired.  This was the program’s 665th installment and its twenty-first season. The serial first appeared on the air on Sept 26, 1937 with Orson Welles as Lamont Cranston and The Shadow and Agnes Moorehead as Margo Lane. It would end its run with Bret Morrison, who took over the lead roles from season twelve onward, and Gertrude Warner, who was Margo Lane from season thirteen onward. The final episode was “Murder by the Sea” which unfortunately is lost to us as the tape was not kept. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 26, 1842 – Laura Gonzenbach.  German-Swiss of Sicily.  Collected Sicilian fairy tales; her two volumes among few major collections by a woman. Beautiful Angiola (2004) has the title story and sixty more in English.  (Died 1878) [JH]
  • Born December 26, 1903 Elisha Cook Jr. On the Trek side, he shows up as playing lawyer Samuel T. Cogley in the “Court Martial” episode. Elsewhere he had long association with the genre starting with Voodoo Island and including House on a Haunted HillRosemary’s BabyWild Wild West, The Night Stalker and Twilight Zone. (Died 1995.) (CE) 

  • Born December 26, 1938 – John Kahionhes Fadden, age 82.  (Kahionhes “Long River” is his Mohawk name; he’s Turtle, his mother’s clan.)  Maintains the Six Nations Indian Museum (i.e. the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy; see e.g. the 2010 U.S. dollar coin; Haudenosaunee on it is “People of the Long House”, the Iroquois) started by his parents.  Four covers for us; here is Native American Animal Stories.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born December 26, 1942 – Catherine Coulter, age 78.  Six novels, four shorter stories for us; ninety books all told, many NY Times Best-Sellers.  Historical romances (“I love in particular Georgette Heyer, a British author who actually invented the Regency Romance – an extraordinary talent”), suspense thrillers (“at least six times as many loose ends that I have to keep searching out and tying up, and they always seem to multiply”).  Advice, “READ TO YOUR CHILDREN.”  [JH]
  • Born December 26, 1951 – Priscilla Olson, F.N., age 69.  Chaired Boskone 29, 38, 42, 48; introduced Featured Filker.  Ran Programming at Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Introductions & essays in NESFA Press books An Ornament to His ProfessionCybele, Rings (Charles Harness); Ingathering (Zenna Henderson); Far From This EarthFrom Other Shores (Chad Oliver); Once More With Footnotes (Sir Terry Pratchett); also “…And What We Think It Means”, ConJose Souvenir Book (60th Worldcon).  Fan Guest of Honor at Minicon 34, Windycon 33.  [JH]
  • Born December 26, 1953 T. Jefferson Parker, 67. Author of the rather excellent Charlie Hood mystery series which ISFDB claims is paranormal. Huh. He’s one of the very few writers to win three Edgars. (CE) 
  • Born December 26, 1953 Clayton Emery, 67. Somewhere there’s a bookstore that consists of nothing but the franchise novel and collections that exist within a given franchise. No original fiction what-so-ever. This author has novels in the Forgotten Realms, Shadow WorldThe Burning GoddessCity of Assassins, The Secret World of Alex MackMagic: The Gathering and Runesworld franchises, plus several genre works including surprisingly Tales of Robin Hood on Baen Books. Must not be your granddaddy’s Hood. (CE)
  • Born December 26, 1960 Temuera Morrison, 60. Ahhhh clones.  In Attack of the Clones, he plays Jango Fett and a whole bunch of his clone troopers, and in Revenge of the Sith, he came back in the guise of Commander Cody. He goes on to play him in the second season of The Mandalorian.  Crossing over, he plays Arthur Curry’s father Thomas in Aquaman. (CE) 
  • Born December 26, 1961 Tahnee Welch, 59. Yes, the daughter of that actress. She’s in both Cocoon films as well in Sleeping BeautyBlack Light and Johnny 2.0 which she’s in might qualify as genre in the way some horror does. She stopped acting twenty years ago. (CE)
  • Born December 26, 1968 – Julia Elliott, Ph.D., age 52.  Jaffe Foundation award.  Amazon Shared-Worlds Residency.  A novel (“loopy lyricism … whacked out paranoia … joyous farce”, NY Times Book Review) and a dozen shorter stories.  Teaches at Univ. S. Carolina (Columbia). [JH]
  • Born December 26, 1970 Danielle Cormack, 50. If it’s fantasy and it was produced in New Zealand, she might have been in it. She was in Xena and Hercules as Ephiny on recurring role, Hercules again as Lady Marie DeValle,in Jack of All Trades, one of Kage Baker’s favorite series because, well, Bruce Campbell was the lead. She was Raina in a recurring role, and Samsara on Xena in another one-off and Margaret Sparrow in Perfect Creature, an alternate universe horror film. (CE)
  • Born December 26, 1983 – Nicholas Smith, age 37.  Thirty novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  Ironman tri-athlete.  NY Times and USA Today Best-Seller.  Has read Custer Died for Your Sins and The Hobbit.  “I only leave positive reviews…. If I don’t like a book [and] don’t finish it … I don’t trash it because who knows what I missed.”  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close to Home shows how Santa anticipated the current surveillance society.

(12) PLAY IT AGAIN. Nerdist would like to convince you “Why LEGENDS OF TOMORROW Is Perfect for 2020 and 2021”.

…It’s not the writing, acting, special effects, or deus ex furby plot twists that make Legends worth a (re)watch these days. While the show found its niche in a careful balance of absurdity with genuine tension (case in point: season four, episode 13, which simultaneously featured an Indiana Jones-esque plot to keep a dragon egg away from Nazis, a book club gone wrong, and a surprise attendee at a romance novel convention; we cannot make this stuff up), it’s the surprising attention to character development and the ongoing themes of hopefulness, redemption, and growth in the face of trauma and loneliness that sets Legends apart.

(13) REVISITING LEMURIA. A news story I couldn’t link here because it’s member-locked turned out not to be all that new – except to me, and perhaps you, too. Here are three updates that appeared between 2015-2018.

Erin Ehmke on hibernation in the fat-tailed dwarf lemur:

It could be an internal genetic trigger for hibernation in the fat-tailed dwarf lemur. Since we share genetic code with the federal dwarf lemur, [the medical community is interested in understanding if] we have that same intrinsic trigger that could be tapped into for long term coma patients to prevent the cell breakdown – deep space travel, could we somehow trigger hibernation in astronauts to help get to deep space travel.

… Those lemurs could hold the key to faster recovery times from injuries and even deep space travel because of hundreds of species of primates, the fat-tailed dwarf lemur is the closest genetic cousin to humans that can hibernate.

“That suspended animation doesn’t occur in primates very often,” explained Duke Lemur Center veterinarian Bobby Schopler. “These are relatives of ours that do this, and it’s a fascinating aspect.”

Scientists have been studying the primates in their natural habitat for 48 years at the Duke Lemur Center. Duke researchers want to find out how some of the lemurs can regulate body temperature, store massive amounts of energy and sleep for 7 months at a time.

… Interest in suspended animation, the ability to set biological processes on hold, peaked in the 1950s as Nasa poured money into biological research. The hope was that sleeping your way to the stars would mean spacecraft could carry far less food, water and oxygen, making long-haul flights to distant planets more practical. It would also save astronauts from years of deep-space boredom.

Nasa’s interest died at the end of the space race, but Mr Vyazovskiy and his team of researchers at the University of Oxford are now exploring ways to put astronauts into stasis, using knowledge gained from mammals, including bears and dwarf lemurs.

(14) PRESERVED IN PUMICE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Archeologists have discovered a 2000-year-old street food stall in Pompeii, complete with illustrations of the food (or rather the animals that provide the food) on offer. I’m amazed how modern the whole thing looks. I can imagine this stall setting up shop at our annual autumn fair without raising any eyebrows: “Pompeii: Ancient snack stall uncovered by archaeologists” at CNN.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Contrarius, Francis Hamit, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, Steven H Silver, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Wright.]

Pixel Scroll 12/7/20 When All You Have Is A Scroll, Everything Looks Like A Pixel

(1) WHERE THE BLOOD STILL PULSES – SO TO SPEAK. R.S. Benedict’s article for Blood Knife “How Horror Makes Itself Ungovernable” says that horror alone resists the corporatization of geek culture.

…Geek culture—comic books, video games, sci-fi, fantasy—is mainstream now, squeezing out mysteries, dramas, and period pieces at the box office.

…This is nothing to be celebrated. This is not victory. The mainstreaming of geek culture is artistic gentrification, a way for moneyed interests to wrest control of culture from the creatives who built it and crowd out any voice with something new or subversive to say. Sci-fi, which once gave us visions of the future, and fantasy, which once nurtured our imaginations, have been hijacked to sell imperialism and soda pop. The invaders have won; our loved ones have been replaced by pod people.

Only one speculative genre has managed to escape the Disneyfication process and retain something resembling a soul: horror….

(2) THE TRUTH, OR SOMETHING, IS OUT THERE. The news got George Takei’s attention.

“Former Israeli space security chief says aliens exist, humanity not ready” reports The Jerusalem Post.

Has the State of Israel made contact with aliens?

According to retired Israeli general and current professor Haim Eshed, the answer is yes, but this has been kept a secret because “humanity isn’t ready.”

Speaking in an interview to Yediot Aharonot, Eshed – who served as the head of Israel’s space security program for nearly 30 years and is a three-time recipient of the Israel Security Award – explained that Israel and the US have both been dealing with aliens for years.

And this by no means refers to immigrants, with Eshed clarifying the existence of a “Galactic Federation.”

The 87-year-old former space security chief gave further descriptions about exactly what sort of agreements have been made between the aliens and the US, which ostensibly have been made because they wish to research and understand “the fabric of the universe.” This cooperation includes a secret underground base on Mars, where there are American and alien representatives.

If true, this would coincide with US President Donald Trump’s creation of the Space Force as the fifth branch of the US armed forces, though it is unclear how long this sort of relationship, if any, has been going on between the US and its reported extraterrestrial allies.

But Eshed insists that Trump is aware of them, and that he was “on the verge” of disclosing their existence. However, the Galactic Federation reportedly stopped him from doing so, saying they wished to prevent mass hysteria since they felt humanity needed to “evolve and reach a stage where we will… understand what space and spaceships are,” Yediot Aharonot reported.

As for why he’s chosen to reveal this information now, Eshed explained that the timing was simply due to how much the academic landscape has changed, and how respected he is in academia.

“If I had come up with what I’m saying today five years ago, I would have been hospitalized,” he explained to Yediot.

Of course, the timing may also have something to do with the release of Eshed’s newest book, The Universe Beyond the Horizon – conversations with Professor Haim Eshed. And considering all the year’s travails, I liked this reaction —

(3) FELLOWSHIP OF THE PREQUEL. In the “Silmarillion Seminar”, hosted at The Tolkien Professor, a bunch of academics sit down and talk about the Silmarillion chapter by chapter:

Despite its challenging learning curve, The Silmarillion is an amazing set of stories. Some of these stories may be even more profound and more moving than The Lord of the Rings. What’s more, once you know The Silmarillion, you will begin to understand The Lord of the Rings in a whole new way.

In the Silmarillion Seminar, listeners will be reading through the book slowly and carefully, at the pace of about a chapter a week, and gathering together to have an online audio discussion with the Tolkien Professor about each chapter. Each session will be recorded and posted here on this page. Hopefully, you will pick up your copy of the book and give this truly incredible book another chance.

(4) IN A BEGINNING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] OK, now here’s a book I want to read (and have just library-reserved)…

A year or two or three ago, I went to an interesting lecture at Harvard on the origins of alphabets. It was interesting… but it didn’t address my question, and, when either in the Q&A session at the end or while we were milling afterwards, I asked about the origin of alphabetic order, to which I was told, more or less, IIRC, that was a different question. Fair ’nuff.

So, I just saw this review in our paper edition of the December 6 New York Times’ Book Review section (tho, per the URL, I see it ran online back in late October): A Place For Everything: The Curious History of Alphabetical Order by Judith Flanders.

A few paragraphs into reading the review, I made a note (snapped a pic using my phone) and have reserved-requested it through/from my local library.

(5) YOUNG PEOPLE. Young People Read Old SFF reaches the second-to-last story in the Rediscovery collection from Journey Press, “Cornie on the Walls” Sydney van Scyoc. What does James Davis Nicoll’s panel think about this 1963 entry?

Sydney J. van Scyoc was mainly active in the 1960s through the 1980s. Although new short pieces appear as late as 2005, her most recent novel was 1991’s Deepwater Dreams. I haven’t read Deepwater because van Scyoc occupied a blindspot in my collecting. Having read this example of her work, I’ve taken to picking up her novels when I see them. Finding time to read them has thus far eluded me.

But were my Young People as enthusiastic? Let’s find out…. 

(6) MURDER IN SPACE. James Davis Nicoll also found time to write about “Five Space-Based Murder Mysteries” for Tor.com. One of them is —

Places in the Darkness by Christopher Brookmyre (2017)

230,000 kilometres above the Earth’s surface, Ciudad de Cielo is filled with almost every vice and foible known to humanity. This is a paradise for bent private cop Nicola “Nikki Fixx” Freeman, because it offers many ways for a high-ranking Seguridad officer to siphon off some extra wealth for herself. The system works, as long as nobody gets too greedy and everyone remembers that there are limits to the crimes to which the authorities can turn a blind eye….

(7) GHOSTS IN THE BIG APPLE. The NY Ghost Story Festival can be viewed free on YouTube.

Night One: Thursday December 10, 2020 7PM EST

Guests are Gwendolyn Kiste, Hysop Mulero and Rudi Dornemann

Night Two: Saturday December 10, 2020 7PM EST

Guests Sarah Langan, Lee Thomas, and Douglas Wynne

Here is the event page for Night Two on Facebook.

When the year grows old and December’s daylight departs too soon it is time to fill the dark nights with stories of ghosts and the supernatural.

Welcome to The New York Ghost Story Festival. An annual event of ghost story readings and discussion hosted by Daniel Braum. Featuring authors of the uncanny, strange and fantastic from New York and around the globe.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • November 1995 — “Two Tales of Korval,” the very first stories in Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Adventures in the Liaden Universe series was published by SR in a very limited sixty copies. There was two stories here, “To Cut an Edge” and “A Day at The Races”, plus “A Partial Liaden Glossary”.  More printings would follow. Both stories are in A Liaden Universe Constellation: Volume 1 which is available from the usual digital suspects.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 7, 1873 – Willa Cather.  A dozen stories for us, besides the work of her fame like O Pioneers!My ÁntoniaOne of Ours.  Pulitzer Prize.  Fellow, Amer. Acad. Arts & Sciences.  Nat’l Inst. Arts & Letters gold medal for fiction.  Nat’l Women’s Hall of Fame.  New York Writers Hall of Fame.  (Died 1947) [JH]
  • Born December 8, 1886 – Heywood Broun.  Sportswriter, drama critic, columnist, editor; co-founded the Newspaper Guild.  One of the Algonquin Round Table.  Often wrote against racism, censorship, persecution of people for their beliefs. A novel and three shorter stories for us, much other work.  (Died 1939) [JH]
  • Born December 7, 1915 Leigh Brackett. Let’s us praise her first for her Retro Hugo this year for Shadow Over Mars, originally published in the Fall 1944 issue of Startling Stories. Now surely her scripts for The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye are genre adjacent? Why not? Ok, then her very pulpy Sea-Kings of Mars is? Being rhetorical there. And I love her Eric John Stark stories! (Much of these were written with her husband Edmond Hamilton.) And yes, she competed The Empire Strikes Back script just before she died.  Is that the actual shooting script? (Died 1978.) (CE) 
  • Born December 7, 1947 – Anne Fine, O.B.E., age 73. Three novels, four shorter stories for us; seventy children’s books, eight adults’.  Two Carnegie Medals, two Whitbread Awards, The GuardianAward.  Children’s Laureate (U.K., awarded every two years).  Fellow, Royal Soc. Literature.  Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.  [JH]
  • Born December 7, 1949 Tom Waits, 71. He’s got uncredited (but obviously known) roles in Wolfen and The Fisher King. He is in Bram Stoker’s Dracula as R.M. Renfield, and he shows up in Mystery Men as Doc Heller and in Mr.Nick in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. He’s simply Engineer in The Book of Eli. (CE)
  • Born December 7, 1953 Madeleine E Robins, 67. I’m very fond of her Sarah Tolerance series which starts often Point of Honour, it features a female PI in an alternate version of Georgian London. The Stone War set in a post-apocalyptic NYC is quite interesting as well, and she has quite a bit short fiction, though only three have been collected so far in Luckstones: Three Tales of Meviel. Much of her fiction is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born December 7, 1957 – Terri Blackstock, age 63.  Six novels for us; forty others.  Carol Award.  Two NY Times best-sellers.  “I still print things out and mark all over the hard copies after each draft.  Under glass, I have pictures of my characters, with important stats about them, such as their ages, so I can refer to them often.”  [JH]
  • Born December 7, 1973 Kelly Barnhill, 47. Her The Girl Who Drank the Moon novel was awarded the Newbery Medal and she was a McKnight Writing Fellow in Children’s Literature. Four years ago, her “Unlicensed Magician” novella received the World Fantasy Award for Long Fiction. Iron Hearted Violet was nominated as Andre Norton Award.  (CE) 
  • Born December 7, 1980 – Satô Yûya, age 40.  (Surname first, Japanese style.)  Mishima Yukio Prize.  A dozen novels, as many shorter stories.  “Same as Always” closes the just-released Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories.  [JH]
  • Born December 7, 1984 – Walter Dinjos.  This just-emerging Nigerian had a dozen stories in e.g. Abyss & ApexBeneath Ceaseless SkiesGalaxy’s Edge.  (Died 2018) [JH]

(10) ROLLING ON THE RIVERS. You Rivers of London fans might want to know about Ben Aaronovitch’s Titan Comics series, the latest title being Rivers of London Volume 8: The Fey and the Furious. (Writers: Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel. Artist: Lee Sullivan.)

Trouble never lies far from the race track. When a flash car belonging to a young boy racer from England washes up in the Netherlands with a bagload of unusual cargo, it’s evident there is more than meets the eye happening at street races held in an Essex car park. Enter Detective Inspector Peter Grant. Fresh from suspension, he takes to the track in his orange ‘asbo’ Ford Focus to try and infiltrate the big leagues. But Peter soon finds himself sucked back into an Otherworld – a real-life fairyland!

They’ve also diagrammed where the comics fit into the overall series. (Click for slightly larger version.)

(11) PANDEMIC HEROES. “Real Nurses, Real Stories” describes The Vitals, a comic Marvel produced in collaboration with the Allegheny Health Network based on true stories of nurses fighting the pandemic. Read the comic here —  The Vitals: True Nurse Stories (2020). (I’ll start typing again in a moment, right now I have something in my eye…)

(12) ALIEN COMICS ON THE WAY. Marvel Comics earlier announced plans for all-new comics set in the iconic world of the Alien franchise. The first of these will arrive March 2021 with ALIEN #1, written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, art by Salvador Larroca, and cover by InHyuk Lee.

ALIEN #1 will be a thrilling addition to the incredible legacy that began with the groundbreaking 1979 film. Featuring both new and classic characters from Earth and beyond, this bold take on the Alien mythology will entertain both longtime fans and newcomers to the legendary horror/science-fiction saga.

The new story will feature a Weyland-Yutani mercenary named Gabriel Cruz as he battles a deadly new breed of xenomorph with the survival of his child hanging in the balance.

(13) THE PLAY’S THE THING. File 770 contributor Francis Hamit’s stage play Memorial Day is now available for community and other theatre groups. See Stageplays.com. To read the opening scenes, click here.

Francis Hamit is the last guy you would expect to write an anti-war play.  He is an Army brat who served four years in the U.S. Army Security Agency during the Vietnam War and had a tour there himself.

“I mostly write about two things,” he says, “Soldiers and spies.  My background is in Military Intelligence and I try to stay current with how the American military has changed in the decades since the Vietnam War ended.  For many of those who were it there, it never did, because American society turned on us and blamed us for losing the war and every bad thing that happened there.  We were all accused of being drug addicts and war criminals, and that legacy has passed to subsequent generations of American soldiers.  Most Americans no longer know us, nor do they want to.  We are there on the front lines, but everyone else is at the Mall.”

MEMORIAL DAY is a two act, one set, seven character play set in a small town or city neighborhood someplace in the USA.  Anywhere between Alabama and Alaska.  One of the men was an Army Ranger on D-Day in World War Two.  Part of the so-called “Greatest Generation”.  The others came later.  The bar is owned by a Vietnam veteran, a draftee who one day got into a situation that earned him the Medal of Honor.  He doesn’t know what to do with the fame that comes with that award, and resists efforts by other to exploit it.  He will not even march in the town’s annual Memorial Day parade.  Anyone who ever lived in a small town will find these folks relatable.

(14) A NIP HERE, A TUCK THERE. Peter Jackson didn’t pull a Lucas on Lord of the Rings, but here’s what did change: “Peter Jackson talks 4K remasters for Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies” at SYFY Wire.

Peter Jackson recently revisited Middle-Earth to remaster his Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies in 4K Ultra HD. The undertaking allowed the celebrated director to go back to the original films (for example, The Fellowship of the Ring turns 20?! next December) and update their visual effects with modern tools. But don’t worry, this isn’t a Star Wars Special Editions-type situation of a director going back in and adding a bunch of stuff that wasn’t there originally.

“Visual effects technology has advanced a lot in 20 years and when they became ultra-crisp and sharp with the 4K process, we realized that some of the shots were not holding up too well. So, we got the opportunity to go back and remove and paint out any imperfections,” Jackson explains in a new video posted by Warner Bros. “I should make it clear: we didn’t upgrade or enhance any of the effects shots. They’re exactly the same as you’re used to seeing them, except they do look as if they were done today rather than 20 years ago.”

In doing so, he was also able to make both trilogies feel like one seamless unit, despite the fact that The Hobbit adaptations were shot years later and at a much higher frame rate. “They now feel like it’s one big, long film, telling the same story and looking and sounding the same,” Jackson added.

(15) CELEBRITY TSUNDOKU. “Dolly Parton Likes to Read by the Fire in Her Pajamas” according to the New York Times Book Review. Some of what she reads is sff!

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of? 

Not enough folks know what a great book “Kindred,” by Octavia E. Butler, is. It’s kind of tricky to describe but somehow it all works — it’s about race relations and there’s time travel and romance. It’s powerful.

Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid? 

I love historical fiction with a touch of romance — writers like Lee Smith or Diana Gabaldon. I avoid horror.

(16) WERE YOU INVITED TO THE FUNERAL? Colin Broadmoor claims “The Future Died in 1999” at Blood Knife.

The future died in 1999. Ever since, we’ve been trapped in the eternal present—waiting for the other shoe to drop.

For two decades, we’ve fought the same wars, watched the police murder the same people, voted for the same duopoly, and paid for the same IPs in books, movies, and video games. I’m typing this at the close of A.D. 2020—the year I waited for all my life, the way some Christians wait for the Second Coming.

2020, the year forever associated with media like R. Talsorian’s Cyberpunk 2020 (2nd ed., 1992). Each day I wake in 2020 and look around to see myself surrounded by the ash and shadows of the spent neon future of my youth.

For those of you who were not there or don’t remember, it’s difficult to explain the ways in which the 1990s were different from today. There are two key aspects of that final decade of the 20th century that you must keep in mind:

  1. It was the last decade in the West in which the analog took precedence over the digital in all fields.
  2. People felt as if we were witnessing the first rays of a 21st-century dawn, one that promised humanity better living through technology.

(17) A REASON FOR THIS SEASON. Several versions of this holiday tree decoration are for sale — no wonder! The 2020 LED Flickering Dumpster Fire.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/6/20 On My Screen, Words In Ether, Written Like Zine

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to share Sachertorte with Steve Toase in Episode 131 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Steve Toase

My guest this time around for a conversation which couldn’t happen earlier this year but which we’re going to pretend did, thanks to the urging of my Patreon supporters, is Munich-based writer Steve Toase.

Steve’s fiction has appeared in AurealisNot One Of UsNox PareidoliaThree Lobed Burning EyeShimmerLackington’s, and other magazines and anthologies. His stories have been reprinted multiple times in volumes of The Best Horror Of The Year. He was also the lead writer on a project called Haunt, about Harrogate’s haunting presence in the lives of people experiencing homelessness there. He writes regularly for Fortean Times and Folklore Thursday. His first short story collection, To Drown In Dark Water, will be released by Undertow Publications in January.

We discussed how his COVID-19 lifestyle has been both an inspiration for and a distraction from his writing, the way reading his stories at open mic nights helped him hone his craft, the importance of dread in horror, how his background in landscape archeology helps make his fiction more visceral, the challenge of scripting a planetarium show for the visually impaired, what gave birth to his fascination with Forteana, his advice for those who’d like to improve their flash fiction, the short story sale which told him he’d made it, our shared love of the great Italo Calvino, which of his creations brings him the greatest pride, the advice he wishes he could give his younger self about writing, and much more.

(2) CITY TECH SYMPOSIUM. The Fifth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium on Race and Science Fiction will be held on Thursday, November 19 from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. online via Zoom Webinar. “Program and Registration for The Fifth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium on Race and Science Fiction”

The day-long event features this sff author panel —

1:40PM–2:45PM Roundtable: Science Fiction Writers
Organizer: Emily Hockaday
Moderator: Joy Sanchez-Taylor
Panelists: Alaya Dawn Johnson, Cadwell Turnbull, Erin Roberts, Carlos Hernandez

(3) DEPP OUT AS GRINDELWALD. Actor Johnny Depp has resigned his Fantastic Beasts role at the studio’s request.

(4) THE PLAY’S THE THING. Francis Hamit, a frequent File 770 contributor over the years, has published the text of his play Memorial Day.

This is a link to a stage play I wrote in 2004.  It was preened in a workshop as part oft  the Envision program at the Masquers Playhouse in Richmond, California in May, 2005, after which I did revisions based on audience feedback.,  Since them I’ve had parts of it read in staged readings in a local workshop.  I think it’s ready for a full production but my health and Covid make that unlikely in the near term so I am simply making it available for reading through Stageplays.com.

Please let people know.  Not SF but still something of my own.  I started as a writer with plays.

The tagline for Memorial Day:

In the early days of the Iraq War a Vietnam veteran who was awarded the Medal of Honor confronts and questions his own service and the cost of always “answering the call” for military service in a small town

As do the other characters, all of whom have served and still pay the cost

This is a pro-military anti-war drama

(5) AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY FLAT. At Open Culture, “Terry Gilliam Reveals the Secrets of Monty Python Animations: A 1974 How-To Guide”.

…Gilliam preferred cut-out animation, which involved pushing bits of paper in front of a camera instead of photographing pre-drawn cels. The process allows for more spontaneity than traditional animation along with being comparatively cheaper and easier to do.

Gilliam also preferred to use old photographs and illustrations to create sketches that were surreal and hilarious. Think Max Ernst meets Mad Magazine. For Monty Python’s Flying Circus, he created some of the most memorable moments of a show chock full of memorable moments: A pram that devours old ladies, a massive cat that menaces London, and a mustached police officer who pulls open his shirt to reveal the chest of a shapely woman. He also created the show’s most iconic image, that giant foot during the title sequence.

(6) PALMER OBIT. Actor Geoffrey Palmer has died at the age of 93. A tribute in The Guardian:

At first a dour and dignified supporting actor, usually playing figures of authority and moral rectitude, Geoffrey Palmer, who has died aged 93, became a television star in three highly popular series. In each, he punctured his own apparent pomposity with a comedy technique that made him attractive and funny to audiences over several decades.

… …Admiral Roebuck, M’s adviser, in … Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)… 

… Sporadic appearances in Blackadder (as Field Marshal Haig, naturally), Doctor Who and Fawlty Towers – as the doctor demanding his breakfast while Basil is trying to conceal a corpse – kept his ever straight face before the public. 

… Almost his last public deeds were to play the head geographer in the first Paddington movie in 2014 before reverting to dignified outspokenness as the lord chief justice in Richard Eyre’s BBC film of Henry IV Part 2 – and in vocal off-camera opposition to the HS2 rail line, due to be passing near his Buckinghamshire front door. He is due to appear in the forthcoming Roald Dahl film An Unquiet Life, as Dahl’s Repton headmaster (and later archbishop of Canterbury) Geoffrey Fisher.

(7) GORDON OBIT. Charles Gordon, the Oscar-nominated producer behind such films as Field of DreamsDie Hard, October Sky and Waterworld, has died of cancer at the age of 73. Th Hollywood Reporter obituary is here.

He and his brother, Laurence, also produced Die Hard 2 (1990), Leviathan (1989), Lock Up (1989), K-9 (1989), Unlawful Entry (1992) and The Rocketeer (1991).

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • November 6, 1981 Time Bandits premiered. Co-written, produced, and directed by Terry Gilliam and starring Kenny Baker, Sean Connery, John Cleese, Shelley Duvall, Ralph Richardson, Ian Holm, Michael Palin, and David Warner. Gilliam has referred to it as the first in his Trilogy of Imagination followed by Brazil  and ending with The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. It received widespread critical acclaim with a current ninety percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers and was a financial success as well.  Apple has gained the rights for a Time Bandits television series for their Apple TV+ service with Gilliam on board in a non-writing production role and Taika Waititi who directed Thor: Ragnarok as the director of the pilot.  You can read Kage Baker’s review of the Criterion edition here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz]

  • Born November 6, 1907 – Catherine Crook de Camp.  Married six decades to Sprague de Camp, collaborating with and without credit.  Some of Footprints in the Sand attributed to her alone; named sole editor, Creatures of the Cosmos; appreciations of Heinlein, Leiber in Locus.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born November 6, 1914 Jonathan Harris. Doctor Zachary Smith, of course, as seen on Lost in Space. He was somewhat typecast as a villain showing up as such as Mr. Piper on Land of the Giants, The Ambassador on Get Smart and the voice of Lucifer on the original Battlestar Galactica. He did play lighter roles such as Johann Sebastian Monroe on Bewitched  in the “Samantha on the Keyboard” episode, and the voice of Professor Jones, the second Butler of Freakazoid on the series of that name. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born November 6, 1929 – Ed Cox.  Long-time fan, mainstay of Fourth or perhaps Fifth Fandom, tried to establish minimum activity for the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n) which was naturally not adopted though he was elected; in FAPASFPA; one of the three prophets of Roscoe.  Fanzines today still sport blank spaces marked “Ed Cox, doodle here”.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born November 6, 1948 Michael Dirda, 72. Currently book critic for the Washington Post. His connection to genre is a fascinating work entitled On Conan Doyle; or, The Whole Art of Storytelling which won the Edgar Award for Best Critical / Biographical Works in 2012 and which looks at his SF work as well. Also worth bringing to your attention is Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books which y’all should naturally be interested in reading. (CE) 
  • Born November 6, 1951 Nigel Havers, 69. The bridegroom Peter Dalton in “The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith” on The Sarah Jane Adventures, the spin-off of Doctor Who.He’s done a lot of children’s genre theatre: Jack in the Beanstalk twice, Robin HoodCinderellaPeter Pan and Aladdin. He’s been in one Doctor Who audiobook and narrated Watership Down once upon a time. He was Mark Ingram in An Englishman’s Castle, an alternate telling of WWII. (CE) 
  • Born November 6, 1954 – Jay Rothbell, 66.  Fourth wife of Robert Sheckley; two dozen stories under her name and his (i.e. “Jay Rothbell”, “Jay Sheckley”, “Jay Rothbell Sheckley”) not counting collaborations; poetry.  Here is a 1982 photo of them.  [JH]
  • Born November 6, 1955 Catherine Asaro, 65. She is best known for her books about the Ruby Dynasty, called the Saga of the Skolian Empire. I don’t think I’ve read them, so if you have please do tell me about them. The Quantum Rose won a Nebula as did “The Spacetime Pool” novella. And I would argue strongly that her magnificent “Ancient Ages” song is definitely genre in content. It’s available from the usual musical digital sources with her books available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born November 6, 1958 – Rodica Bretin, 62.  A dozen novels, four dozen shorter stories for us; a dozen nonfiction books about unexplained phenomena and fantastic literature, four anthologies (she has done historical and archeological research in France, Italy, Romania), four translations including Lady Chatterley’s Lover.  Best Foreign Story at 1996 Int’l Festival of Fantastic Art, France; Best Foreign Novel 2005 from Fantasia Art Ass’n; Opera Omnia Award, 40th Nat’l SF Con, Romania, 2019.  [JH]
  • Born November 6, 1961 – Kim Huett, 59.  Member (from Australia!), Stipple-APA.  Edited John Brosnan collection You Only Live Once (rev. 2018), Lucy Huntzinger coll’n A Bright Particular Star.  Helpful provider of photos, scans, to fanac.org.  Often seen in letter columns of e.g. Banana WingsSF Commentary; has a tag here.  Current zine Doctor Strangemind.  [JH]
  • Born November 6, 1965 Sandra Newman, 55. She has two genre novels, both of which did well as mainstream fiction as well: The Country of Ice Cream Star, a near future dystopian feminist novel and The Heavens which may or may not involve time travel back to Elizabethian times. She also co-authored with Howard Mittlemark, How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them–A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide. (CE)
  • Born November 6, 1972 Rebecca Romijn, 48. Played Mystique in the X-Men film franchise but my favorite role for her was as Eve Baird, The Guardian of the Library that crosses all realities in The Librarians series.  She also was a regular playing Roxie Torcoletti in Eastwick, yet another riff off the John Updike novel. She was now Number One on Discovery, a rolewhich she’ll be reprising on the forthcoming Strange New Worlds series. (CE) 
  • Born November 6, 1978 – Nicole Dubuc, 42.  Yale woman – which was once impossible.  Child actress (e.g. Robin in Major Dad, television 1989-1993); Clio Award.  Story editor and writer on Disney’s My Friends Tigger and Pooh.  Co-created Transformers: Rescue Bots.  At DC Comics, first woman to write for The Flash.  Co-author under another name of six My Little Pony “Ponyville Mysteries”.  Showrunner for Disney’s Rocketeer.  Eight Emmy nominations.  2018 Animation Writers Caucus’ Animation Writing Award for lifetime achievement.  [JH]

(10) HANNA-BARBERA EVOLUTION. John King Tarpinian has ordered one of these t-shirts: “I could not resist.”

(11) SOYLENT GREEN ADJACENT. Gizmodo hopes you’re not tired of the grind: “The First Human Composting Company Is Nearly Ready to Lay You to Rest in Washington”. (That would be the state of, not the national capital.)

 The Evergreen state has become even more, uh, evergreen. Washington passed a law in 2019 allowing people to turn themselves into compost after death. This month, the first officially licensed human composting company has opened its doors to help citizens meet their maker in a more environmentally friendly manner.

Recompose, whose founder helped drive the law into existence, is one of a small handful of green death companies licensed in Washington state and the first to offer its services. The company is the first to be certified by the state to break down your body into organic fertilizer. The company’s process involves sealing a body into a capsule with plant matter; microbes then break it all down over the course of about 30.

(12) D&D DOA. Krypton Radio’s “Video Of The Day: ‘Dungeons & Dragons Animated Series: Requiem’”.

It’s the final piece of the puzzle. Dungeons & Dragons was an animated series on CBS Saturday morning television between 1983 and 1985, running 27 episodes over three seasons. It was one of the greatest disappointments to D&D fandom that there was never a final episode where the six friends finally got to go home. The show was canceled before the final episode could be produced, leaving millions of fans in the lurch. There was a TV Commercial released by the Brazilian branch of Renault that finished the story, but while it pulled at the heartstrings, it didn’t tell the whole story, and really centered on selling cars.

The final episode, however, wouldn’t die. The script has since been published online and was performed as an audio drama as a special feature for the BCI Eclipse DVD edition of the series. Now a group of dedicated fans, led by Marshall Hubbard and Ryan Nead, have combined some of the original footage from the show with new animation to create the closest thing to an official final episode for the series that anyone will ever see. Original cast member Katie Leigh reprises her role of Shelia, and the music was reconstructed from the original series.

(13) TWENTY THINGS. [Item by Dann.] A couple of recent “10 Things You Didn’t Know…” videos from Minty that I thought were interesting.

  • 10 Thing’s You Didn’t Know About Connery’s James Bond
  • 10 Thing’s You Didn’t Know About Logan’s Run

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Kohl’s holiday commercial. Big box of tissues recommended.

This year looks different—and so do our wish lists. Where once we just wished for things like toys and tech, we’re now wishing for happiness, understanding and kindness more than ever. And time spent together is the greatest gift of all. This year looks different because the world is different. So give with all your heart.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/19/20 If You Like My File And You Think I’m Pixely, Come On Baby Let Me Scroll

(1) ’45 CALIBER. Ian Moore’s “Where to find the 1945 Retro Hugo Awards finalists” on Secret Panda is a Homeric compilation of publicly available material and alternative sources for learning about the Retro nominees. And it ends with a great cat photo.

…But what of the 1945 Retro Hugo Awards finalists? There is unlikely to be a Voter Packet for these, so how are Hugo Awards voters to go about making an informed choice here? Fortunately, many of the works that will be on the ballot are available online, either on the Internet Archive or elsewhere. Below I have compiled links to as many of these as I could find, and provided information about whether items are in print or otherwise…. 

(2) RESIZING THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING. The Hard Times reports “Middle Earth Temporarily Bans Fellowships of More Than Five”.

MINAS TIRITH — The White Council of the Wise issued a decree today that all fellowships in Middle Earth shall be no larger than five companions for at least the next quarter-age to help slow the spread of the Samund-01 curse that has already killed over 30,000 elves, dwarves, and men.

(3) BLACKOUT. Connie Willis blogged her “Journal Of The Coronavirus Year III”.

…It does feel like we’re living through another Black Death.

But in recent days, as the horrors of the coronavirus pandemic have begun to unfold,
I’ve also been reminded of similarities of this pandemic to the Blitz:

1. The disruption of our daily lives.
The orderly schedules of the British people was completely upended by the Blitz. People found themselves sleeping under the kitchen table or in basements or tube shelters. They went to work in the morning after a sleepless night with bombs falling overhead, only to find that their place of work was closed or bombed out, and when they went home, they found that had been bombed out, too. Everything changed in an instant. Theaters and museums were closed, and the way of life they’d always known disappeared overnight as if it had never been….

She comes up with three more parallels before concluding –

Everybody’s rising to the occasion, and, in spite of my having occasional worried thoughts about all of us becoming the crazy characters in Shirley Jackson’s WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE, we’re doing great. When this is all over, we’re going to be able to say, just like the British, “This was their finest hour.”

(4) SEEKING DONATIONS. The Ray Bradbury Experience Museum (RBEM) asks for help to open ‘The Martian Chronicles’ exhibit area for the Ray Bradbury Centennial celebration in “Green Town” in 2020. The donation link is here.

(5) WHO MEMORIAL. “Farewell, Sarah Jane” on the official Doctor Who YouTube channel.

Today marks the anniversary of the passing of Elisabeth Sladen, who played the Doctor’s friend Sarah Jane Smith. In a new video, scripted by Russell T Davies and narrated by Jacob Dudman, Sarah Jane Smith’s closest friends come together to say “Farewell, Sarah Jane”.

(6) MORE SARAH JANE. Coincidentally, SYFY Wire ran this story a couple of days ago — “Wire Buzz: Elizabeth Sladen’s Daughter In Doctor Who Radio Drama”.

Doctor Who is keeping it in the family.

Sadie Miller, the actress daughter of the late Elizabeth Sladen, is boarding the TARDIS in the role her mother made famous on the iconic BBC sci-fi series — that of intrepid investigative reporter Sarah Jane Smith — in Big Finish‘s highly anticipated audio drama Doctor Who: Return of the Cybermen.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 19, 1907 Alan Wheatley. Best remembered  for being the Sheriff of Nottingham in The Adventures of Robin Hood TV series, with Richard Greene playing Robin Hood. In 1951, he had played Sherlock Holmes in the first series about him, but no recordings of it are known to exist. And he was in Two First Doctor stories as Temmosus, “The Escape” and “The Ambush” where he was the person killed on screen by Daleks. (Died 1991.)
  • Born April 19, 1925 Hugh O’Brian. He was Harry Chamberlain in Rocketship X-M which you can see here. (It was nominated in the 1951 Retro Hugo Awards given at The Millennium Philcon but lost out to Destination Moon.)  He would later play Hugh Lockwood in Probe, the pilot for Search, and Search itself, an SF series. His only other genre appearance I think was playing five different roles on Fantasy Island. (Died 2016.)
  • Born April 19, 1933 W.R. Cole. Author of A Checklist of Science Fiction Anthologies, self-published In 1964. Ok, I’m including him today because I’m puzzled. SFE said of this work that ‘Though it has now been superseded and updated by William Contento’s indexes of Anthologies, it is remembered as one the essential pioneering efforts in Bibliography undertaken by sf Fandom.’  Was this really the first time someone compiled an index of anthologies? I seem to remember earlier efforts though I can’t remember precisely who. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 19, 1935 Herman Zimmerman, 84. He was the art director and production designer who worked between 1987 and 2005 for the Trek franchise. Excepting Voyager, he worked on all other live-action productions including the first season of Next Gen, the entire runs of Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, as well as six Trek films. As Memory Alpha notes, “Together with Rick Sternbach he designed the space station Deep Space 9, with John Eaves the USS Enterprise-B and the USS Enterprise-E. His most recognizable work though, have been his (co-)designs for nearly all of the standing sets, those of the bridge, Main Engineering (co-designed with Andrew Probert) and Ten Forward for the USS Enterprise-D in particular.” Not surprisingly, he co-wrote the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual with Rick Sternbach and Doug Drexler.
  • Born April 19, 1936 Tom Purdom, 84. There’s very little on him on the web, so I’ll let Michael Swanwick speak for him in the introduction to his Lovers & Fighters, Starships & Dragons collection: ‘How highly do I regard Tom’s fiction?  So highly that I wrote the introduction to the collection — and I hate writing introductions.  They’re a lot of work.  But these stories deserve enormous praise, so I was glad to do it.’  He’s written five novels and has either one or two collections of his stories. He’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born April 19, 1946 Tim Curry, 74. Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show of course, but it’s not his first genre appearance as he’d appeared a year earlier at the Scottish Opera in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Puck. And yes I know that he appeared in the live show which was at the Chelsea Classic Cinema and other venues before the film was done. Other genre appearances include playing Darkness in Legend, an outstanding Cardinal Richelieu  in The Three Musketeers, Farley Claymore in The Shadow (great role), another superb performance playing Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island and in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as The Player.
  • Born April 19, 1952 Mark E. Rogers. Best remembered for the Samurai Cat series which in the first book, The Adventures of Samurai Cat, lampooned Tolkien, Lovecraft and Howard. Indiana Jones. Burroughs’ Barsoom and Star Wars would also get their due. (Died 2014.)
  • Born April 19, 1967 Steven H Silver, 53. Fan and publisher, author, and editor. He has been nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twelve times and Best Fanzine four times.  He’s a longtime contributing editor to SF Site and has written that site’s news page since its beginning. Over twenty years ago, he founded the Sidewise Award for Alternate History and has served as a judge ever since. He publishes his own fanzine, Argentus, and is a Hugo nominee this year for his work on Journey Planet.
  • Born April 19, 1968 Ashley Judd, 52. Best known genre wise for playing Natalie Prior in the Divergent film franchise. She was also Carly Harris-Thompson in the Tooth Fairy film, and was Ensign Robin Lefler in a few episodes of Next Gen. She played Beverly Paige on several episodes of Twin Peaks as well. 

(8) GAULD Q&A. On NPR: “Scientists Are Human, Too: Questions For Cartoonist Tom Gauld”.

As a sci-fi and fantasy nerd, of course I love the cartoon of the scientist being tempted by science fiction. Where did that one come from?

I think the scientist character in that cartoon is a bit like me when I’m making these cartoons, because I have to resist the temptation to draw silly robots and over-the-top science fiction technology every week. I am a SF/F nerd myself and while that’s one of the things that draws me to science, I have to remind myself to look in all the different areas of science to find cartoon themes.

(9) MARLOWE AND THE QUEEN. Francis Hamit, who frequently shared with File 770 readers his experience as a writer publishing via early indie platforms, and has spent years trying to get a movie made, sends this update.

I dissolved the Kit Marlowe Film Co, Ltd in February after five years and one month of trying to get CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE produced.  My recent surgery for spinal stenosis, (the first of two with the second on hold now because of the pandemic) makes it impossible for me to produce anything, even if our great producer Gary Kurtz hadn’t died in September, 2018, the HMRC had not changed the EIS rules and Brexit had not changed all of the assumptions we had when we started the company in 2014.   I’m an old poker player.  I know when to fold a losing hand.  Rising from the ashes, however, is the five-time award-winning screenplay and the curious fact that BFI says our letter of comfort for the film tax relief can be used by any UK film production company.  That’s a twenty percent rebate on the spend in the UK.  But coronoavirus has shut down the entire industry in the USA and UK.  Except for “development” and I have that script and two others out for consideration.  (Details on Facebook). 

I also have a few hundred copies of The Shenandoah Spy and The Queen of Washington left in the distributor’s warehouse.  I am reducing the retail price to $12.95 and $14.95 respectfully.  This is slightly below my break-even point but will free up cash to get another book to market.  Regular publishing has ls shut down so it may be DIY for the one I’m working on now STARMEN, a multi-genre romp that begins in El Paso, Texas in 1875 with the Pinkertons, who investigated all sorts of strange things.  I might also do some crowd-funding. 

Anyway those who would like to buy a copy of either book should call Pathway Book Service at 1-800-345-6665.  The Shenandoah Spy is $12.95 plus shipping and handling and they take credit cards.  The Queen of Washington is  a hardbound at $14.95 plus shipping and handling.  Amazon has a few copies at the old prices but has stopped taking third party distributors’ books to deal with the emergency.  Both books are in e-book at $9.99 on Amazon Kindle and as audiobooks at  Audible, Amazon and iTunes, sometimes for free. 

Anyone who wants a signed copy should contact me directly. (francishamit@earthlink.net). (My other books are also available but not discounted.)

Direct sales will be $27.50 per book, $50 for two plus $5.00 shipping each and these will be signed.  I’m running out of copies here and will have to order some from Pathway, which costs me for shipping.  If they are able. In the current emergency.  We can’t be sure.   On the other hand they will be signed.

Gail Shalan and I are converting The Shenanoah Spy audiobook to a Young Adult title.  That simply means we are going to cut the more graphic sexual content. Probably less than a thousand words that won’t be missed.  Times have changed since 2008 when the book was first published and we don’t want to provide “triggers” that get some readers upset and detract from the story. That means the sexual content is still there but more is left to the imagination.  Gail’s performance will be intact.  BTW the audiobook is “free” if it is a title used to sign up for Audible and Gail and I split a nice bonus.

(10) RABBIT TRACKS. Up for sale are “Charming letters and early drawings by a young Beatrix Potter showing Peter Rabbit from the 1890s”Daily Mail has the story

An archive of early drawings and letters by children’s author Beatrix Potter have emerged for sale for £250,000.

The charming illustrations date from the 1890s when the writer was honing her craft and had not yet become a household name.

One drawing from 1894 shows Peter Rabbit seven years before the first of his famous tales was published.

(11) A MONSTROUS REGIMENT. JDA shares another secret of his success.

(12) A WELL-DONE ENDING. Richard Paolinelli auditions as a script doctor.

(13) MIDDLE-EARTH’S BOTTOM LINE. “Here’s how much money the Lord of the Rings franchise has made”Looper added it up. (If only they’d had a good script doctor!)

.. The first three films in Jackson’s Middle-earth franchise raked in nearly $3 billion worldwide. And no, that number doesn’t account for DVD or memorabilia sales, or the sale of the trilogy’s television broadcast rights.

(14) SFF ART ON THE BLOCK. Heritage Auctions’ 2020 April 24 Illustration Art Signature Auction online sale includes two cover paintings for Weird Tales: Virgil Finlay’s ‘The Thief of Forthe’ (July 1937) and Lee Brown Coye’s ‘The Vampire’ (July 1947).

(15) FROST READS. The editors of the Beatles-themed anthology Across the Universe, Michael A. Ventrella and Randee Dawn, are posting videos of various authors in the anthology reading from their work. Here, Gregory Frost reads “A Hard Day’s Night at the Opera.”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/26/19 Sitting On The Dock Of The Pod Bay Door

(1) MANGA AT THE MUSEUM. The British Museum will host an exhibit on “Manga” from May 23-August 26.

Enter a graphic world where art and storytelling collide in the largest exhibition of manga ever to take place outside of Japan.

Manga is a visual narrative art form that has become a multimedia global phenomenon, telling stories with themes from gender to adventure, in real or imagined worlds.

Immersive and playful, the exhibition will explore manga’s global appeal and cultural crossover, showcasing original Japanese manga and its influence across the globe, from anime to ‘cosplay’ dressing up. This influential art form entertains, inspires and challenges – and is brought to life like never before in this ground-breaking exhibition.

For those who haven’t encountered manga before there’s a familiarization post at the Museum’s blog: “Manga: a brief history in 12 works”.

Japanese manga artists find inspiration for their work in daily life, the world around them, and also in the ancient past. Many people are familiar with modern manga, but the art form – with its expressive lines and images – is much older than you might think. …Here is a brief history of Japanese manga in 12 works.

(2) LEFT ON THE BEACH? SYFY Wire springs a little surprise: “Patrick Stewart won’t be a captain on the Picard spinoff series, says Jonathan Frakes”.

The upcoming Picard TV series on CBS All Access will feature one major difference regarding its titular main character played by Patrick Stewart—he won’t be a starship captain. Speaking with Deadline about the current Star Trek revolution being helmed by Discovery showrunner, Alex Kurtzman, actor/director Jonathan Frakes revealed this interesting bit of news.

“Patrick isn’t playing Captain Jean-Luc Picard this time, he’s done with Starfleet in this show. That’s about the only thing I do know about the show,” he said.

(3) VERDICT COMING FOR OPPORTUNITY. NASA has received only silence from Opportunity since contact was lost during a global dust storm on the red planet last June. The agency may soon decide to move on. The New York Times has the story — “‘This Could Be the End’ for NASA’s Mars Opportunity Rover”.

…The designers of the spacecraft expected that dust settling out of the Martian air would pile up on the solar panels, and the rovers would soon fail from lack of power. But unexpectedly, gusts of Martian winds have repeatedly provided helpful “cleaning events” that wiped the panels clean and boosted power back up.

In 2009, Spirit became ensnared in a sand trap and stopped communicating in March 2010, unable to survive the Martian winter.

Opportunity continued trundling across the Martian landscape for more than 28 miles. Instead of just 90 Martian days, Opportunity lasted 5,111, if the days are counted up until it sent its last transmission. (A Martin day is about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day.)

This time, the dust may have been too thick to be blown away or something else broke on the rover. John L. Callas, the project manager, conceded that hopes were fading. “We’re now in January getting close to the end of the historic dust cleaning season,” he said.

(4) AFROFUTURISM IN DC. The Folger Library in Washington, DC will host a reading with Tananarive Due, N.K. Jemisin, & Airea D. Matthews on February 12 at 7:30 p.m. — “What Was, What Is, and What Will Be: A Cross-Genre Look at Afrofuturism”. Tickets available at the link.

Due, Jemisin and Matthews

Cultural critic Mark Dery coined the term “Afrofuturism” in his essay “Black to the Future,”and its meaning has expanded to encompass alternative visions of the future influenced by astral jazz, African-American sci-fi, psychedelic hip-hop, rock, rhythm and blues, and more. This reading is co-sponsored with PEN/Faulkner Foundation as part of its Literary Conversations series and The Library of Congress’s Center for the Book and Poetry and Literature Center. 

The reading at the Folger will be preceded by a moderated conversation with all three writers at the Library of Congress. This event is free and will take place at 4 p.m. Register here.

(5) FANTASTIC WOMEN. As part of the celebration of Women’s History Month, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation and the National Museum of Women in the Arts will present “Fantastic Women” on March 10 in Washington, DC.

Arimah, Link and Machado

Join us in celebrating the work of Lesley Nneka ArimahKelly Link, and Carmen Maria Machado, women writers who all use elements of the fantastic in their work, often in ways that allow them to explore crucial themes (power, sexuality, identity, the body) without the constraints imposed by strict realism. These authors play with the boundaries of time and space through short stories and novels, and use their writing to push back against the traditional boundaries of women’s fiction.

(6) KLOOS’ AFTERSHOCKS. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak interviewed Marko Kloos and revealed the cover of his new book series which begins with the novel Aftershocks“Sci-fi author Marko Kloos on what it takes to build a brand new solar system”.

…An eye-opening moment for Kloos came when he attended another science fiction workshop: the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop, held each year at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. (Disclaimer — I was an attendee in 2014). The week-long boot camp is engineered to impart science fiction writers with a baseline of astronomy and physics knowledge, with the idea that more scientifically accurate works will in turn help provide readers with better science. “That gave me a lot of ideas that I wanted to put into this series,” he says, “and basically created the solar system from scratch.”

The workshop “taught me all the things I did wrong with Frontlines, which was luckily not a whole lot,” Kloos says, “but there are some whoppers in there, like a colony around a star that does not support a habitable zone.”

(7) BLEAK ENOUGH FOR YOU? Behind a paywall at the Financial Times, John Lanchester argues that Brave New Worlds did a better job than 1984 in predicting the future.

One particular area of Huxley’s prescience concerned the importance of data.  He saw the information revolution coming–in the form of gigantic card-indexes, but he got the gist.  It is amusing to see how many features of Facebook, in particular, are anticipated by Brave New World.  Facebook’s mission statement ‘to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together’ sounds a lot like the new world’s motto ‘Community, Identity, Stability.’ The world in which we ‘haven’t any use for old things’ dovetails with Mark Zuckerberg’s view that ‘young people are just smarter.’  The meeting room whose name is Only Good News–can you guess whether that belongs to Huxley’s world controller, or Sheryl Sandberg?  The complete ban on the sight of breast feeding is common to the novel and to the website. The public nature of relationship status, the idea that everything should be shared, and the idea that ‘everyone belongs to everyone else’ are also common themes of the novel and the company–and above all, the idea, perfectly put by Zuckerberg and perfectly exemplifying Huxley’s main theme, that ‘privacy is an outdated norm.’

(8) HAMIT. Francis Hamit, a longtime contributor here, has a new Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/francishamit. He says, “There is s lot of free stuff in the Public area.  Some of it is even science fiction.  Feedback is welcome and the minimum sign-up is $2.25 a month for those who want to support my efforts.”

(9) TERMINATOR REBOOT. Variety has behind-the-scenes video (in English with Hungarian subtitles) from the next Terminator movie (“Arnold Schwarzenegger and the late Andy Vajna Appear in Video From ‘Terminator’ Set”). The movie, currently called just Untitled Terminator Reboot, is said to be coming out 1 November 2019.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Andy Vajna, the Hollywood producer who died earlier this week, have appeared in a just-released video from the set of the latest movie in the “Terminator” franchise, which shot in Hungary last year.

The behind-the-scenes promotional video, posted online by the Hungarian National Film Fund, sees Schwarzenegger and the movie’s director, Tim Miller (“Deadpool”), sing the praises of Budapest as a location, and Vajna complimenting the “Terminator” franchise. It ends with Schwarzenegger saying, “I’ll be back.”

It was Vajna’s last set visit to one of the international productions filming in Hungary, where he served as the government commissioner for the film industry. With partner Mario Kassar, Vajna founded the indie powerhouse Carolco, which produced blockbusters including “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” the first three “Rambo” films and “Basic Instinct.” He died Sunday in Budapest after a long illness. He was 74.

(10) AN ANCIENT EASTERCON. Rob Hansen has added a section about “Bullcon – the 1963 Eastercon” to his British fanhistory website THEN “featuring the usual cornucopia of old photos:”

BULLCON the 1963 UK National Science Fiction Convention – the fifth to be run under the aupices of the B.S.F.A. – took place over the weekend of 12th April – 15th April, 1963. It was held at the Bull Hotel in Peterborough (see it today here), as it would also be the following year. Guest of Honour was Bruce Montgomery aka Edmund Crispin. In SKYRACK, Ron Bennett reported that: “this was the best attended British Convention to date, with over 130 avid fans gathering to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the British Science Fiction Association.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 26, 1928 Roger Vadim. Director of Barbarella which was based on the comic series of the same name by Jean-Claude Forest. Need I note that it starred Jane Fonda in the title role? (Died 2000.)
  • Born January 26, 1928 Philip Jose Farmer.  I know I’ve read at least the first three Riverworld novels (To Your Scattered Bodies GoThe Fabulous Riverboat and The Dark Design) but I’ll be damned if I recognize the latter ones. Great novels those are. And I’ll admit that I’m not familiar at all with the World of Tiers or Dayworld series. Anyone read them? I know, silly question. I do remember his Doc Savage novel Escape from Loki as being a highly entertaining read, and I see he’s done a number of Tarzan novels as well. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 26, 1943 Judy-Lynn Del Rey. Editor at Ballantine Books after first starting at Galaxy Magazine. Dick and Asimov were two of her clients who considered her the best editor they’d worked with. Wife of Lester del Rey. She suffered a brain hemorrhage in October 1985 and died several months later. Though she was awarded a Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor after her death, her widower turned it down on the grounds that it only been awarded because of her death. (Died 1986.)
  • Born January 26, 1949 Jonathan Carroll, 70. I think his best work by far is The Crane’s View Trilogy consisting of Kissing the Beehive, The Marriage of Sticks and The Wooden Sea. I know de Lint liked these novels though mainstream critics were less than thrilled. White Apples I thought was a well crafted novel and The Crow’s Dinner is his wide ranging look at life in general, not genre at all but fascinating.
  • Born January 26, 1979 Yoon Ha Lee, 40. Best known for his Machineries of Empire space opera novels and his short fiction. Ninefox Gambit, his first novel, received the 2017 Locus Award for Best First Novel. His newest novel, Dragon Pearl, riffs off the fox spirit mythology. 

(12) THOUSAND WORLD SPACE FORCES. Stephanie at Holed Up In A Book connected with Yoon Ha Lee — “Weekly Author Fridays featuring Yoon Ha Lee – Author Interview”.

Do you have a writing routine? 
More or less. I get up, walk my cat (or more accurately, she walks me), maybe work on one of the languages I’m trying to learn (French, German, Welsh, Korean, and Japanese), brew myself a cup of tea, then set up in my study. For a long project like a novel, I usually write in Scrivener, although for a shorter project or to mix things up I sometimes write longhand with fountain pen. When I’m working in Scrivener, it gives me a running wordcount. So every 100 words that I write, I go to my bullet journal and write out the phrase, “100 words down, 1,900 words to f***ing go!” “200 words down, 1,800 words to f***ing go!” It’s kind of aggro but it keeps me going? I generally aim for 2,000 words in a writing day. More than that and my brain seizes up. 

(13) ST:D RECAP. Let Camestros Felapton fill you in on the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery: “Discovery: New Eden”.

Discovery decides to play it safe with an episode that’s so The Next Generation that it needs Commander Riker to direct it.

The mystery of the red signals leads Discovery to the Beta quadrant via a quick use of the spore drive. There they discover a colony of humans from pre-warp Earth. Meanwhile in orbit, the collapse of a planetary ring of radioactive rocks (just go along with it) imperils not just the lost colony of humans but the away team (Pike, Michael and crew member of the week).

It’s nice enough. There’s a theme of faith versus science with Pike sort of taking one side and Michael the other.

(14) ATWOOD. Shelf Awareness reports on “Wi14: Margaret Atwood in Conversation” at a New Mexico conference.

Erin Morgenstern and Margaret Atwood

“I think this is very uplifting. We’re all still in this room. There’s still books, people are still reading them,” said Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin and much more, during the breakfast keynote on the second day of Winter Institute 14 in Albuquerque, N.Mex.

“Part of the uptick of books is that’s one of the places people go when they feel under both political and psychological pressure,” Atwood continued. “It is actually quite helpful to know that other people have been through similar things before, and have come out of them.”

Atwood was in conversation with Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus and the upcoming The Starless Sea, and during a wide-ranging, illuminating and often funny discussion, topics ranged from forthcoming novels to blurring genre lines, early book-signing experiences, and past and present reactions to The Handmaid’s Tale.

On the subject of her new novel, The Testaments—the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale coming from Nan Talese/Doubleday on September 10—Atwood joked that her publisher would kill her if she said too much, but she did say that it is set 16 years after the events of the previous book and features three narrators. Beyond that, her publisher “would be very cross” with her.

When asked what led her to return to the world of The Handmaid’s Tale more than 30 years later, Atwood replied that there have “always been a lot of questions asked” about the book, like what happens next and what happens to the main character after the end of the novel. She said that she never answered those questions, because she didn’t know. Writing The Testaments, Atwood explained, was “an exploration of the answers” to those many questions

(15) LITIGATION. The New York Times reports “Jay Asher, Author of ‘Thirteen Reasons Why,’ Files Defamation Lawsuit”. In 2017 Asher was accused of sexual misconduct, and when that went public last year he agreed to stop attending Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators events.

More than a decade ago, Jay Asher’s young adult novel, “Thirteen Reasons Why,” a dark story about a bullied teenager who kills herself, became an unexpected best-seller. Teachers and librarians around the country embraced the novel as a timely and groundbreaking treatment of bullying and teenage suicide, and the novel went on to sell several million copies. A popular Netflix adaptation set off controversy over its depiction of the causes of suicide, but still drew hordes of new readers to the book, and has been renewed for a third season.

Then, last year, Mr. Asher’s career imploded when he was accused of sexual misconduct, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators announced that he had violated the professional organization’s anti-harassment policy. The repercussions were swift: His literary agency dropped him, speaking engagements and book signings evaporated, and some bookstores removed his novels from their shelves.

Now Mr. Asher, who denied the allegations, has filed a lawsuit against the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the group’s executive director, Lin Oliver, claiming that Ms. Oliver and the organization made false and defamatory statements about him that torpedoed his career, and caused financial harm and intentional emotional distress.

(16) ONE SMALL STEP. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Checkers? Long since mastered. Chess? Mere child’s play. Go? Can’t you make me work a little?

Now what? StarCraft? Humans down to defeat again. Wired has the story of another victory for robot-kind (partial paywall: “DeepMind Beats Pros at StarCraft in Another Triumph for Bots”).

In London last month, a team from Alphabet’s UK-based artificial intelligence research unit DeepMind quietly laid a new marker in the contest between humans and computers. On Thursday it revealed the achievement in a three-hour YouTube stream, in which aliens and robots fought to the death.

DeepMind’s broadcast showed its artificial intelligence bot, AlphaStar, defeating a professional player at the complex real-time strategy videogame StarCraft II. Humanity’s champion, 25-year-old Grzegorz Komincz of Poland, lost 5-0. The machine-learning-powered software appeared to have discovered strategies unknown to the pros who compete for millions of dollars in prizes offered each year in one of e-sports’ most lucrative games. “It was different from any StarCraft that I have played,” said Komincz, known professionally as MaNa.

[…] Mark Riedl, an associate professor at Georgia Tech, found Thursday’s news exciting but not jaw-dropping. “We were pretty much to a point where it was just a matter of time,” he says. “In a way, beating humans at games has gotten boring.”

(17) WHO NEEDS ROVER? “Rare angel sharks found living off Wales”.

Scientists have found evidence that one of the world’s rarest sharks is alive and well, living off the Welsh coast.

Sightings from fishing boats suggest the mysterious angel shark is present in Welsh waters, although no-one knows exactly where.

The shark’s only established stronghold is the Canary Islands, where the animals have been filmed on the seabed.

Wales could be a key habitat for the critically endangered shark, which is from an ancient and unique family.

(18) INCREASE YOUR WORD POWER. “Obscure words with delightful meanings” — animation: “12 words we don’t want to lose.”

Paul Anthony Jones collects terms that have fallen out of use and resurrects them. We have featured 12 of our favourites in an animation celebrating forgotten phrases. Animation by Darren McNaney.

(19) MARVEL CASTING. The Hollywood Reporter tells about another superhero series: “Marvel’s ‘Vision and Scarlet Witch’ Series Lands ‘Captain Marvel’ Writer”.

The Vision and Scarlet Witch, one of the first series that Marvel Studios will be making for Disney’s streaming service Disney+, has landed a writer and showrunner.

Jac Schaeffer, one of the scribes behind Marvel’s upcoming Captain Marvel movie, has been tapped to run point on the series that will focus on the two characters that are integral members of the Avengers. She will pen the pilot and executive produce, say sources.

Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen are expected to star in the series, reprising the roles they originated on the big screen.

(20) RETURN TO ROSWELL. Critic Darrell Fienberg covered the mid-January reappearance of this series: “‘Roswell, New Mexico’: TV Review”.

…As The CW’s Roswell, New Mexico is set to premiere, my guess is that audience response to the series’ fitfully immigration-heavy perspective will fall into two camps.

First: “Keep your politics out of my teen-friendly supernatural soaps!” This group of detractors will be frustrated that a series about aliens set in the American Southwest in 2019 would attempt to connect that extreme circumstance to what is actually happening at the border in 2019. Leaving aside that those people may not like or understand science fiction on a very fundamental level, they won’t like Roswell, New Mexico anyway.

Second: “If this is your skid, steer into it!” This’ll be from those who want Roswell, New Mexico to do more with the immigration metaphor or, rather, to approach it better. It’s the thing that makes Roswell, New Mexico relevant as a brand reinvention, so there’s very little purpose in soft-selling it.

(21) DISCONTINUITIES AND OTHER PROBLEMS. Seems it’s never too late to find something wrong with The Original Series: “30 Mistakes In The Original Star Trek Even Trekkies Completely Missed” at ScreenRant. There might even be a Filer who caught this gaffe when it originally aired —

27. SCRIPT SPELLING ERROR

It is always an awkward situation when a movie or TV show spells something wrong in the credits. This can be problematic if an actor’s name is spelled wrong, but as for Star Trek, the word “script” was spelled incorrectly for 13 episodes of season 1.

When giving the crew member George A. Rutter his title, the credits credit him as a “Scpipt” Supervisor. This mistake was eventually fixed on the show, but in the ‘60s, it likely would have cost a lot of money to redo the credits to fix one spelling error. 

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

Pixel Scroll 12/5/17 Pixels Scrolling In An Open File

(1) PETER JACKSON MUSEUM PROJECT AT RISK. The New Zealand Herald says the Wellington City Council got a long grumpygram from the famed director: “Peter Jackson threatening to pull plug on Wellington’s movie museum”. There are 55 things he’s unhappy about.

The Wellington City Council is refusing to comment on reports Sir Peter Jackson is threatening to pull the plug on the capital’s $150 million Movie Museum.

The famous director has been working with the council to create the new attraction i but a report this morning claims that relationship could be on rocky ground after Sir Peter sent an angry letter to the council.

Councillors have described it as a “divorce letter”, according to Fairfax.

Fairfax reports Jackson sent the letter out of anger over how the council has been managing the museum plans.

(2) MIRRY CHRISTMUS. Adweek tells how “Air New Zealand’s Christmas Ad Takes the Piss Out of Its Own Country’s Accent”.

Deck the halls! It’s yet another ad in which the fictional inner workings of Santa’s workshop are imagined in elaborate detail. This time around, Santa is a kind of corporate virtuoso, seated behind a desk, where he takes direct calls from kids and manages linguistic switching with finesse while a fawning elf takes notes on a tablet.

Chinese? No sweat.

Then the New Zealanders start dialing in. What kind of kid asks for a new beard, a biscuit ball or an ear plane?

 

(3) MARKET DAY. The “SFWA Market Report For December” begins with —

NEW MARKETS

Factor Four Magazine
If This Goes On
Kferrin.com
Ogrezine

(4) DON’T GET ‘LOST IN SPACE’. “This Spacesuit Comes with a “Take Me Home” Button” — a patent has been filed.

The system can operate the jet pack autonomously or give the astronaut directions with a combination of visual, auditory and sensory cues through a web of sensors and a helmet visor display. If something were to happen during a spacewalk (also known as an Extravehicular Activity, or EVA) the self-return system can be initiated by the astronaut, a space station crewmember or mission control.

Draper’s “take me home” system features options. According to the patent, the spacesuit’s sensors can be configured to monitor movement, acceleration and relative position of the crewmember to a fixed object, such as an accompanying orbiting spacecraft. The navigation, guidance and control modules can also accommodate various scenarios. For instance, the navigation module can be configured using GPS, vision-aided navigation or a star-tracker system. To improve the astronaut’s positioning and orientation, Draper has developed software that fuses data from vision-based and inertial navigation systems and benefits from the advantages of both sensing approaches.

(5) NPR PICKS. The 374 books in “NPR’s Book Concierge, Our Guide To 2017’s Great Reads” include 54 in the science fiction and fantasy category.

(6) WINTER JACKETS. Six SFF wrappers made a Bookish list of “The Best Book Covers of 2017”.

People say you shouldn’t judge books by their covers, but here at Bookish we’re not just readers—we’re cover-judging-rebels. As 2017 draws to a close, we wanted to pay homage to the incredible designs that stood out on bookstore shelves like works of art. Are you a rebel too? Let us know what your favorite covers of 2017 were!

But where are the covers from McEdifice Returns, I ask you?

(7) DID YOU HEAR THAT? As John Brunner said in The Shockwave Rider, “The Future arrived too soon and in the wrong order.” Gizmodo’s Adam Clark Estes argues “Don’t Buy Anyone an Echo”.

Let me make this point dreadfully clear, though: Your family members do not need an Amazon Echo or a Google Home or an Apple HomePod or whatever that one smart speaker that uses Cortana is called. And you don’t either. You only want one because every single gadget-slinger on the planet is marketing them to you as an all-new, life-changing device that could turn your kitchen into a futuristic voice-controlled paradise. You probably think that having an always-on microphone in your home is fine, and furthermore, tech companies only record and store snippets of your most intimate conversations. No big deal, you tell yourself.

Actually, it is a big deal. The newfound privacy conundrum presented by installing a device that can literally listen to everything you’re saying represents a chilling new development in the age of internet-connected things. By buying a smart speaker, you’re effectively paying money to let a huge tech company surveil you. And I don’t mean to sound overly cynical about this, either. Amazon, Google, Apple, and others say that their devices aren’t spying on unsuspecting families. The only problem is that these gadgets are both hackable and prone to bugs.

(8) DARK INSIDE, Find out more about the new Netflix Dark series, including spoilers, in Camestros Felapton’s Dark Debrief”.

I’ve finished watching the German Netflix show Dark and it was indeed Dark. I also bought and ate a Twix today without thinking. Spoilers below as this post is for me to take stock and make notes of the twisty turns – particularly if there is a second season as the ending implies.

A fold and then don’t continue unless you like spoilers or have watched it all already.

To make life easier, characters get a year after their name so you know who is when. If I’ve got names wrong please correct me!

(9) TODAY’S STAR WARS CLICKBAIT. According to CheatSheet, “‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ New Trailer May Have Answered This 1 Lingering Question”.

Fans will recall that in the main trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Luke Skywalker says, “I’ve seen this raw strength only once before. It didn’t scare me enough then. It does now.” This comes after a scene in which Rey cracks the ground while training on Ahch-To, so it communicates the idea that Luke is actually scared of Rey because she is so powerful and does not want to train her.

But when Luke makes reference to seeing raw strength “once before,” who is he talking about, exactly? In the trailer itself, he doesn’t specify, and this is something fans have been in disagreement about.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 5, 1980 Flash Gordon was released

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born December 5, 1890 – Fritz Lang
  • Born December 5, 1901 – Walter Elias Disney

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SIR PAT. Brent Lang of Variety, in “Patrick Stewart on ‘Logan,’ Harvey Weinstein and Returning to ‘Star Trek’”, learned that Sir Pat Stew was very proud of his work on Logan but “I cannot think of another chance” to play Jean-Luc Picard.

How did you prepare to play an aged Charles Xavier in “Logan”?

I lost 20 pounds. I’ve always been blessed by being able to lose weight easily, and I spread this out over the span of a few months so that it was easier to take. When I lose weight, it tends to be most noticeable in the face, and that’s what I wanted. I wanted to look sick and undernourished and stressed and frail and vulnerable. Hugh had to carry me in the movie, and I assured him that I would do my damnedest to make sure I was carry-able.

Is this your last “X-Men” movie?

Oh, yes. Hugh had been on record that this would be his last time before “Logan” even started shooting. I hadn’t given it a thought until I saw the film for the first time with an audience at the Berlin Film Festival. It was Hugh and James Mangold and myself, and when it got to the last 10 minutes of the movie, it was emotional and intense, and I could feel myself getting choked up. Then I looked over at Hugh and he was wiping his eyes, and I thought if Wolverine can weep at a movie, Charles Xavier can do the same thing. Then Hugh reached over and grabbed my hand and we held hands for the rest of the movie.

(14) DYSTOPIC CHOW. An author and a chef imagine how we’ll eat if bees and fish vanish in “A Dinner at the End of Our World” at Atlas Obscura.

…The results were unfamiliar. Moss-green spirulina ice cubes kept diners’ drinks cool. Spirulina is super-nutritious microalgae that grows quickly, perfect for a food-scarce world. A soup of mussels and seaweed came with a lump of shrimp paste and encouragement to stir it in. This was intended to be a hopeful dish, symbolizing shrimp farms in small ponds that might be a vibrant future food source…

(15) PUPPY POWER. Milo Yiannopoulos is turning John C. Wright into the Hieronymous Bosch of the op-ed page at his new site Dangerous, in a biweekly feature titled Wright On What’s Wrong. The first 2,000-word opus, “This Christmas, Give Thanks or Get Stuffed”, asks —

Last week, did you notice Thanksgiving is dying?

I challenge you to find a line of thought which leads from that beginning to this sentence later in the essay: “His anus is turned inward.”

(16) EDIFICE COMPLEX. The BBC visits “The awe-inspiring buildings created as temples of tech”:

Each year, more than 100,000 visitors trek through and around a cluster of solemn, hauntingly impressive late-18th Century buildings on the hem of England’s Peak District National Park. This is Cromford Mill, Derbyshire, founded in 1771 by the entrepreneurial inventor Richard Arkwright. Here, long before Henry Ford was born, mass production began.

In these buildings – their floors free of partitions and with windows on all sides – water-mills powered looms that spun reams of cotton, 24 hours a day, the chattering machinery attended by children as young as seven, working 12-hour shifts. Cotton ceased spinning here in the 1840s as the great mills in and around Manchester took on the challenge of making and shipping cotton to the world. The massively ambitious Houldsworth Mill in Reddish, designed by Abraham Stott, was one of the mightiest temples yet devoted to industrial technology when it opened in 1865.

(17) SLOW VERNE. Galactic Journey’s Lorelei Marcus says your time machine can skip this first run movie: “[December 4, 1962] Like Five Weeks in a Theater (Five Weeks in Balloon)”

Everything before the balloon’s take off (the first 20 minutes or so) was funny, clever, and fast paced. The first scene, in which the professor and his inventor friend take reluctant investors on a demonstration flight, and then the next bit in which the professor prepares for the expedition and collects funds and crew, was quite fun to watch!

But once he’d picked up the American reporter, and the balloon took to the skies, the movie ground to a sudden halt. Unfortunately it never seemed to pick back up again either. The entire movie was: the balloon flies around, lands someplace; the crew gets out and gets into trouble, they run back to the balloon and fly away. There were no real conflicts, because they could always just retreat to the balloon and escape danger. Moreover, many of these scenes went on for ‘way too long. There was never any real tension through the whole movie, and without tight pacing of events, the movie felt like it was really dragging on for five weeks!

(18) DID IT HIMSELF. Move over, MIT: “Bored teen in Kentucky builds his own rollercoaster”. (Video.)

Logan Moore, 16, surprised family and neighbours when he quickly built a wooden structure in his backyard.

Chip Hitchcock comments, “I’m forgetting whether you ran the story about the MIT dorm that built a rollercoaster as part of freshman welcoming. Theirs was just a straight shot, even simpler than the one this guy built — but there are pictures of people riding the MIT coaster.”

(19) PLONK YOUR MAGIC TWANGER. App calls on citizen scientists for Australia’s frog count.

Croaks and chirps. Even whistles and barks.

These are some of the sounds that Australian frogs make, and local biologists are hoping members of the public will help record them on a new app called FrogID.

It is part of a conservation effort to better track 240 frog species around Australia.

Scientists also believe the crowd-sourced mapping could lead to the detection of new species.

Australians are encouraged to record and upload the sounds of frogs they hear anywhere, from their suburban backyard to the outback.

(20)TODAY’S 10,000. Google pledges 10,000 staff to tackle extremist content.

Google will dedicate more than 10,000 staff to rooting out violent extremist content on YouTube in 2018, the video sharing website’s chief has said.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Susan Wojcicki said some users were exploiting YouTube to “mislead, manipulate, harass or even harm”.

She said the website, owned by Google, had used “computer-learning” technology that could find extremist videos.

More than 150,000 of these videos have been removed since June, she said.

(21) WOLVERINE DRAMA PODCAST COMING. Marvel New Media and top podcast listening service Stitcher today announced “Wolverine: The Long Night” , the first-ever Marvel scripted podcast, launching in spring 2018.

The 10-episode series will be available exclusively on Stitcher Premium until fall 2018, when it will see a wide release across all podcast platforms….

The show’s cast includes notable actors Richard Armitage (“The Hobbit”), Scott Adsit (“30 Rock”), Bob Balaban (“Moonrise Kingdom”) and Brian Stokes Mitchell (“Mr. Robot”).

The “Wolverine: The Long Night” story is a captivating hybrid of mystery and the larger-scale fantasy of the Marvel Universe. It follows agents Sally Pierce (Celia Keenan-Bolger) and Tad Marshall (Ato Essandoh) as they arrive in the fictional town of Burns, Alaska, to investigate a series of murders and quickly discover the town lives in fear of a serial killer. The agents team up with deputy Bobby Reid (Andrew Keenan-Bolger) to investigate their main suspect, Logan (Richard Armitage). Their search leads them on a fox hunt through the mysterious and corrupt town….

Also cast in the series are actors Zoe Chao, Chaske Spencer, Jordan Bridges, David Call, Michael J. Burg and Lannon Killia. Chris Gethard, host of the popular “Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People” podcast, also will make a cameo appearance.

(22) RENAISSANCE FARE. Zero emissions will soon be the new standard: “Electric black cabs hit London’s roads”

The cab costs £55,599 up from £45,000 for the newest petrol equivalent.

Chris Gubbey, boss of manufacturer the London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) insists the cab will “play a major role in helping to improve air quality”.

The launch comes weeks ahead of rules requiring new cabs in the capital to be capable of emitting zero emissions.

More than 9,000 such taxis, roughly half the current black cab fleet, are expected on London’s roads by 2021.

Chip Hitchcock adds, “Did you know that the late Peter Weston’s firm (where the Hugos are made) makes the hand bars that make getting into and out of these cabs easier?”

(23) LETTER MAN. BBC meets the designer of “The typeface that helps dyslexics read”.

Dyslexie is a font that aims to overcome some of the problems that people with dyslexia can have when reading. Due to the way their brains process visual information, they will often subconsciously switch, rotate and mirror letters, making it harder to recognise the characters.

It is thought that their brains start treating two-dimensional letters as three-dimensional objects that can be freely manipulated.

When this happens, the letter “b” can look like a “d”… or a “p” or a “q”. It is easy to see why this can quickly become confusing.

“Traditionally in typeface design, there are ‘rules’ that say it is best to make the letters as uniform as possible,” says Boer, now 36. “If you make the arch of an “h” the same as an “n”, it produces a typeface that is clean and quiet for ordinary readers. For me, these letters become three dimensional so you can turn them around and they begin to look alike. What I wanted to do was to slap these 3D letters flat.”

(24) JURASSIC APPETIZER. Here’s the teaser for the full trailer coming on Thursday –

(25) MORE PLAUDITS FOR MARLOWE. Francis Hamit takes another prize — “Christopher Marlowe Screenplay Wins Grand Jury Award At Sherman Oaks Film Festival”.

Francis Hamit’s “based on a true story” screenplay for the forthcoming feature film CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE has won the prestigious Grand Jury Award at the Second Annual Sherman Oaks Film Festival held in November.  This is the fourth major award for this unproduced screenplay.  Previous wins were at the GO Independent International Film Festival in Washington DC, The New Renaissance Film Festival in London, England and the 2016 Hollywood Book Festival.

The well-researched script about the Elizabethan-ere poet, playwright and secret agent for the Crown is a classic tragedy about a brilliant man undone by his own fatal flaws in the form of a spy thriller.

 

Festival director Jeff Howard and Francis Hamit.

(26) TRAVELER FROM AN ANTIC LAND.  Another testimony to TSA screening!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock (who really has something in today’s Scroll), Hampus Eckerman, Cat Eldridge, Brian Z., Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Francis Hamit, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 11/25/17 In The Scrolling, The Mighty Scrolling, The Pixel Scrolls Tonight

(1) A-WEEMA-WEH. Derek Kunsken, one of the guests of honor, tells Black Gate readers about “The 4th International Science Fiction Conference, Chengdu, China, November 2017”.

Among the international guests were authors Michael Swanwick and Ted Komsatska from the USA, Taiyo Fujii from Japan, Robert J Sawyer and I from Canada, and editors Neil Clarke from the USA, Francesco Verso from Italy, con organizer Crystal Huff from the USA, and a few others. A few of us got to visit the Panda breeding facility the day before the conference started.

…Incidentally, China is interested in hosting a WorldCon, and some of my expedia searching has shown me that flights from Ottawa to Chengdu were in the neighborhood of $900 Canadian, and the hotel they got us in downtown Chengdu was about $110 Canadian a night. I don’t know how much more or less expensive that is compared to Helsinki or Dublin, but I would vote for a Chinese bid on a WorldCon!

Black Gate adds this background about the author —

Derek Künsken writes science fiction and fantasy in Gatineau, Québec. His first novel, The Quantum Magician, is being serialized right now in China in the magazine SFWorld before its publication in book form in the spring.

(2) ALL BRADBURY, ALL THE TIME. Hillsdale College historian Bradley J. Birzer, in “Out of the Shire:  Life Beyond Tolkien” in The American Conservative, recommends several writers for Tolkien fans, but “of all 20th century fabulists, Ray Bradbury comes closest to equaling Tolkien’s literary and imaginative powers.”

If you look at what’s playing on your television, at what’s showing at the local cinema, at what video games your children are playing, or at what is selling in the young adult section of your neighborhood Barnes & Noble, you’ll see something that is at once deeply cultural and deeply countercultural at the exact same moment: Romanticism.

It’s difficult to know exactly where the movement started, though most historians and literary scholars would give the nod to Edmund Burke and his second great work, On the Sublime and the Beautiful. From Burke’s treatise, almost all modern Romantic thought arose. Burke’s presence is, at times, implicit, and, at times, blatant in the works of such critical figures as Wordsworth and Coleridge, but it can be found throughout most of the romantic poetry and art of the early 19th century. It’s not hard even to imagine Burke’s shadow lingering over Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, the Pastoral. In his own writings on Western civilization, Christopher Dawson argued that the rise of Romanticism, whatever its excesses and failings, was as important to Western civilization, as the re-discovery of Hellenic thought in the Renaissance. Whatever its original and essential intent, Romanticism successfully saved Christianity from the utilitarianism and rationalism of the 18th century, Dawson continued. In its recovery of medieval Christianity in the early 19th century, the Anglo-Welsh Roman Catholic scholar asserted, the Romantics actually discovered “a new kind of beauty.”

From its earliest origins, one can trace Romanticism’s history through the 19th century and into the early 20th century through figures as diverse as Friedrich Nietzsche, G.K. Chesterton, and Willa Cather. Perhaps most importantly for Western culture, however, was its manifestation in the vast mythology of J.R.R. Tolkien….

(3) TOP LGBT SFF. Rocket Stack Rank has consulted the ratings for excellent stories and come up with the “Best LGBT Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2015-2016”.

Greg Hullender sent the link with a note: “We’ve been talking about doing this for a while, but we finally got it put together. Note that this is just 2015-2016. Because we depend on scores from other reviewers (including the 4 annual anthologies plus Hugo and Nebula nominations), the earliest we could do anything like it for 2017 would be April 2018, so our current plan is to do 2017 in June for Gay Pride Month and try to make that a regular thing.”

In addition to regular monthly ratings we’re going to start publishing occasional lists of excellent stories from particular subsets of Science Fiction and Fantasy (SFF). We’ve previously done this for Hard Science Fiction, and this month we’re doing it for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) stories.

As always, our focus is on the stories, not the authors. These are stories with memorable LGBT characters—not necessarily stories by noted LGBT authors. These include excellent stories in which a key character merely happens to be an LGBT person as well as stories where the LGBT angle is crucial to the plot.

Also, these are stories that had at least one recommendation from a “prolific reviewer” (that is, any reviewer who reads at least 500 stories a year from major print and online sources); no single reviewer can really capture the tastes of all readers, so drawing from a pool of reviewers makes it more likely that we haven’t omitted anything.

(4) BLACK FRIDAY. New Zealand’s Weta Workshops is running a Black Friday sale through Monday. All kinds of figures and paraphernalia from Lord of the Rings and other films they’re associated with.

(5) UNICORN ANTIDOTE. This will cure your post-ceramic stress — JJ calls it “Brain bleach for the wine caddy.” If you need that explained, consider yourself lucky.

(6) TIMEY-WIMEY. Holiday shipping has run amok:

(7) XL5. Galactic Journey’s Ashley R. Pollard turned on the TV and found this new show on channel 1962 — “[November 25, 1962] Great Balls of Fire!  (Gerry Anderson’s new series, Fireball XL5)”

I’ve mentioned in a past article that Britain has Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future.  Now we also have Colonel Steve Zodiac of the World Space Patrol.  Not the hero of a comic strip, but rather of a children’s television show from Anderson Provis Films (APF), which you may all remember from when I talked about their production last year, Supercar.

Gerry and Sylvia Anderson are back with another Supermarionation series, Fireball XL5.  Supermarionation is their term to describe puppets that speak using electronic synchronization, and the Andersons have used it to great effect, creating a brand new medium for SF.

(8) KIT SHIRT. Francis Hamit, whose movie script has been winning prizes, offers the “Christopher Marlowe fan T-shirt” through Zazzle.

Check out the CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE fan t-shirt that I designed at Zazzle.co.uk. We did this because we have about 1,400 Facebook friends in London and we need to sell something to prove that we are actually in business. Zazzle seemed like the easiest way to do this and we already own the art. We also have a similar product. on CafePress.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) THE SLEUTH’S BOSS. The Financial Times’ Henry Mance profiled Mark Gatiss, a writer for Doctor Who and the showrunner for Sherlock, where he also plays Mycroft Holmes: “‘We will all be dust soon’: Sherlock’s Mark Gatiss on death, despair and drama”. (Usually these are behind a paywall, but I was able to see this one. Caveat non-emptor.)

When asked if Sherlock Holmes has Asperger’s, Gatiss says, “I don’t think it (Asperger’s) is a disorder.  You can read Conan Doyle and think he is–you can diagnose him. Clearly that is based on people who have manic mood swings.  We made Mycroft the Niles to Holmes’s Frasier, who apparently feels nothing–though of course he does, he just keeps it under control.”

When asked if there will be more episodes of “Sherlock,” Gattis says, “Dunno.  Honestly.  It’s the first time we haven’t had to make plans for 18 months down the line.  The last episode of Sherlock was both “a possible natural ending, and a possible place for them to do another one.”

Gattiss’s next project, with Mark Moffat, is a version of “Dracula” which will appear on the BBC in 2019.

(11) WORTHY OF THE VOGONS. History.com found a by-product of its cipher-cracking project: “This Supercomputer Was Programmed to Think Like the Zodiac Killer. No Wonder Its Poetry is So Creepy”.

Now Knight, CARMEL and a team of code-breaking researchers are working with the HISTORY Channel to try and crack the Z340, the Zodiac killer’s most impenetrable cipher. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the self-named murderer terrorized Northern California with a succession of random killings and taunting letters to the police and newspapers. Four of those communiqués contained ciphers filled with perplexing letters and abstract symbols. Cryptologists consider the Zodiac’s 340-character cipher, sent to The San Francisco Chronicle in November 1969, a holy grail of sorts.

As part of Knight’s research into what computers can do with language, CARMEL can churn out complex verse on any given topic within a matter of seconds.

(12) PARTS OF SPEECH. Fast Company explains why “John Waters Doesn’t Need To Make Movies To Make Trouble”.

Despite the fact that he has “never graduated from anything,” John Waters was invited by the Rhode Island School of Design to deliver its 2015 commencement address. In his speech, Waters urged the graduating class to cause trouble. “Go out in the world and fuck it up beautifully,” he advised. “Design clothes so hideous they can’t be worn ironically. Horrify us with new ideas. Outrage outdated critics. Use technology for transgression, not lazy social living. Make me nervous.”

Understandably, the speech went viral, or as Waters puts it, “it had a little trip.” In April of this year, the speech was turned into a book called, Make Trouble. Now, that book has been turned into a vinyl record of the same name, released by Jack White’s Third Man Records. Waters recorded the audio at his dining room table in his New York apartment in an afternoon. “But it took me three days to write it,” he says in mock defensiveness.

(13) SCORING THE COVERS. Camestros Felapton has started the ball rolling with “The Book Cover Thing 2017: Draft Long List”. Jump over and add your suggestions.

A reminder of how this works. There is no eligibility period.

  1. A draft long list is made from finalist from the Hugos, Nebulas and Clarke Awards, as well as the winners of book categories from the Dragons.
  2. To the long list we add book covers suggested in the comments by anybody (and yes that includes Phantom as per last year). Also I may add additional covers to keep it interesting.
  3. The covers are then scored on a set of criteria (see below).
  4. Points are totaled and the highest scoring cover(s) are the winners.
  5. Winning artist/designer gets a JPEG of Timothy.

(14) CULTURE WARRIORS. And while you’re visiting Camestros’ blog, check out the full-length edition of Doris V. Sutherland’s lyrical comment:

Jason Rennie was ill
When the Hugos stood still
But Superversive’s where he stands
And Chuck Tingle was there
While lacking underwear
Dec Finn was the most Pius man
But something’s not right
With Vox Day and John Wright
They got caught in a No Award jam
Then at a deadly pace
It was in cyberspace
And here’s how the message ran…

(15) IT’S WEIRD. Bookmunch recommends this compilation of 2016 weird fiction: “We are living in an apocalyptic moment and we have a duty to be witnesses” – Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume Four ed. Helen Marshall

Helen Marshall is the guest editor for this year’s book. An award winning writer and creative writing lecturer, she comes at weird fiction from a very different angle to last year’s editor Simon Strantzas. This is no bad thing. The key to weird fiction is its malleability. Last year, Strantzas put together a very horror centric anthology, with weird fiction’s key players such as Robert Aickman, Rob Shearman (who will be guest editing volume five) and Ramsey Campbell at the forefront. Marshall instead has assembled a vastly different kind of anthology, which demonstrates the vastness of the genre. Yes, there are horror stories in here, most notably Usman T Malik’s ‘In the Ruins of Mohenjo-Daro’, but then there are also stories like Irenosen Okojie’s magnificent ‘Outtakes’, or Aki Schilz’s ‘Beating the Bounds’, both of which are highlights of a brilliant book.

(16) LOOKING AHEAD. Paul Kincaid, whose book about Iain M. Banks came out earlier this year, talks about his next book in “A Priest chronology”.

So, my next book will be about Christopher Priest and will be published by Gylphi, which is something that makes me inordinately pleased. I’ve started the reading and note taking that inevitably accompanies such a task. But I’ve also put together a chronology of his books and short stories, just as a way of keeping everything straight in my mind.

(17) CHOW TIME. Aaron Pound continues cooking his way through Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook — “Ad Astra Review – C3PO by Ef Deal”

Review: C3PO is a pretty simple recipe. It more or less consists of a can of crushed pineapple with chopped bell pepper, onion, and pecans all mixed into a pile of cream cheese. That is basically it. The only change I made from the text of the recipe was that I used a red bell pepper instead of a green bell pepper, mostly because I had a red bell pepper on hand. The end result is a spread than can be used on crackers or fresh vegetables. The end result is also delicious.

(18) AN ETHNIC FIRST. The Washington Post’s Noah Berlatsky, in “With ‘Justice League,’ now there’s a Jewish superhero played by a Jewish actor on the big screen”, notes that The Flash is the first movie superhero to be Jewish, and he looks at other Jewish superheroes in the comics, including The Thing, who was revealed to be Jewish in the early 2000s.

I’m sure this statement will provoke some disagreement among people who pay attention to firsts in films. Depending on how you look at it, you could argue that the first superhero was also the first Jewish superhero. Superman, after all, was created by two Jews, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and fans have found some (often overstated) traces of Jewish cultural influence in his creation.

There’s also Thing of “The Fantastic Four,” who wasn’t officially declared Jewish in the comics until the 2000s, and hasn’t been identified as Jewish in the films. But he was often seen by fans as a working-class ethnic stand-in for his creator, working-class ethnic Jew, Jack Kirby. The X-Man Kitty Pryde was Jewish in the 1980s, and the X-Man villain Magneto was retconned into a Holocaust survivor at about the same time.

Flash, though, is the first character in our ongoing superhero film frenzy who is identified specifically as Jewish — he mentions he’s Jewish quickly, offhand, when he first meets Batman (Ben Affleck).

(19) SCORCHED PLASTIC. The Lego Millennium Falcon – if you haven’t already ordered, you’re screwed: “What’s $800 And Already Sold Out? This Lego Star Wars Ship”.

It made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. But a new buildable version of Han Solo’s famous Millennium Falcon is currently stalled.

Those hoping to snag one of Lego’s new Star Wars sets for the 2017 holidays will likely be disappointed. It’s currently sold out online. After a September release only to its VIP list, the company promises it’s working as fast as it can to “make more sets available and keep our LEGO builders happy.” At a cool $799.99 and more than 7,500 pieces, it’s the expensive, easy-to-lose gift that keeps on giving.

Dang, these went faster than Worldcon 76 hotel rooms.

(20) FOR YOUR TREE. Of course, these are still available — “Holiday Gift Idea: ‘Elvira Christmas Ornament’”. I don’t suppose that comes as a surprise.

Sculpted by artist MATTHEW BLACK and painted by DAVID FISHER, these specialty Mistress of the Dark ornaments come in two versions; Standard has Elvira in black dress, while the Limited Edition has her in red and is limited to 500 pieces.

(21) TURNED DOWN. The news behind Deadline.com’s report “Time Responds To Donald Trump’s “Incorrect” Claims Of Turning Down Person Of The Year — Update” is inspiring things like Will Brown’s tweet —

(22) DUDE. Two compilations of “Super Café” videos from How It Should Have Ended.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 10/16/17 Three Times Pixel Filer Dreamed Of The Marvellous Scroll

(1) CORE FOR RAVENCLAWS. At BookRiot, Rachel Brittain offers “A Hogwarts House Reading List: 20 Books for Ravenclaws”.

It’s also about creativity and individuality, originality and acceptance. All Ravenclaws value learning and curiosity, but not all Ravenclaws are traditionally book smart or love school. Like all the houses, Ravenclaw is home to a wide and diverse group of students. Admittedly, most of them have aced arithmancy, potions, transfiguration, care of magical creatures, DADA, and received OWLs so good it made Professor Flitwick cry, but still. No two Ravenclaws are alike. Except in one thing: Ravenclaws. Love. Books.

So set down your Self-Spelling Quill and your charms homework for just a moment, friends, and check out these twenty books for Ravenclaws that are sure to spark your imagination and make you a little smarter along the way.

Two of the books on the list are:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

About: the letters written between Juliet Ashton and a group of friends from Guernsey who survived the German occupation by concocting a fake book club after being caught breaking curfew.

Because: it’s all about books and the friends you can make because of them, even in the midst of chaos and crisis.

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

About: Naoki Higashida, who describes what it’s like to be autistic in his own words.

Because: learning how other people think and process the world around them is something you find endlessly fascinating and important.

(2) STAR CROSSED (OUT). Slate’s “Browbeat” blog tells how Kirkus Reviews changed their review after fierce criticism – from people who can’t have read the book yet: “YA Novel About ‘Mob Mentalities’ Punished After Online Backlash”.

American Heart won’t be published until January, but it has already attracted the ire of the fierce group of online YA readers that journalist Kat Rosenfield has referred to as “culture cops.” To them, it was an irredeemable problem that Moriarty’s novel, which was inspired in part by Huckleberry Finn, centers on a white teenager who gradually—too gradually—comes to terms with the racism around her. On Goodreads, the book’s top “community review,” posted in September, begins, “fuck your white savior narratives”; other early commenters on Goodreads accused Moriarty of “profiting off people’s pain” and said “a white writer should not have tackled this story, and neither should a white character be the center of it.”

The backlash escalated last week, when Kirkus Reviews gave American Heart a coveted “starred review,” which influences purchases by bookstores and libraries. Kirkus’ anonymous reviewer called the book “by turns terrifying, suspenseful, thought-provoking, and touching,” and praised its “frighteningly believable setting of fear and violent nativism gone awry.” The book’s critics were not pleased with the commendation.

Author Laura Moriarty commented on Facebook:

Dear friends, I write this with a heavy but hopeful heart. If and when you have time, I would appreciate your thoughts on this (longer than average) post. And feel free to share.

My new novel, American Heart, is a crossover novel (for both older teens and adults) that imagines a United States where American Muslims are deported to “safety zones” in Nevada. The main character is a young non-Muslim who believes the deportations are necessary until she meets an American Muslim headed to freedom. You may or may not have noticed, but even though the book isn’t due out until 1/30/18, it already has a very low rating on Goodreads. This is because a group, profiled in Kat Rosenfield’s “The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter” for Vulture, has been bombarding American Heart with one-star reviews because they don’t approve of the idea of the book and because they are assuming it is a white-savior narrative. (Actually the main character realizes, accurately, that she alone can’t save anyone, but you would only know that if you’d read the book.) Most of reviewers on Goodreads openly admit to not having read the book.

I was encouraged last week when Kirkus Reviews gave American Heart a starred review (starred as in ‘this is great!’ not one star like the mad people on Goodreads), calling it a “moving portrait of an American girl discovering her society in crisis, desperate to show a disillusioned immigrant the true spirit of America.” The Kirkus reviewer, an observant Muslim and a woman of color, called the book “sensible, thought-provoking, and touching . . and so rich that a few coincidences of plot are easily forgiven.” (Okay, okay, fine, I’ll take it.)

As one may have predicted, the book’s very vocal critics (again, this group is made up almost entirely of people who have not read the book) were outraged by the starred review. That’s fine. That’s their right to free speech. What has both surprised and disturbed me, and what I think would be surprising and disturbing to anyone concerned about censorship and free speech, was that this morning, Kirkus announced it was: retracting American Heart’s starred review.

Kirkus offered this explanation in “A Note From The Editor In Chief”.

It is a policy of Kirkus Reviews that books with diverse subject matter and protagonists are assigned to Own Voices reviewers—writers who can draw upon lived experience when evaluating texts. Our assignment of the review of American Heart was no exception to this rule and was reviewed by an observant Muslim person of color (facts shared with her permission). Our reviewer is an expert in children’s & YA literature and well-versed in the dangers of white savior narratives. She found that American Heart offers a useful warning about the direction we’re headed in as far as racial enmity is concerned.

The issue of diversity in children’s and teen literature is of paramount importance to Kirkus, and we appreciate the power language wields in discussion of the problems. As a result, we’ve removed the starred review from kirkus.com after determining that, while we believe our reviewer’s opinion is worthy and valid, some of the wording fell short of meeting our standards for clarity and sensitivity, and we failed to make the thoughtful edits our readers deserve. The editors are evaluating the review and will make a determination about correction or retraction after careful consideration in collaboration with the reviewer.

(3) INDIE. SFWA President Cat Rambo completes her series about what the organization has to offer indie writers: “SFWA and Independent Writers, Part Four: What Lies Down the Road”

Going forward, I expect more and more indies to enter the organization as it proves that it’s giving them solid valid for their membership in the form of:

  • Community
  • Knowledge sharing
  • Publications like the Bulletin and the Singularity
  • Chances attend and sell books at places like Baltimore Bookfest, ALA, and other book-related events
  • Marketing opportunities for themselves such as the Speakers Bureau
  • Promotional opportunities for their work such as the New Release Newsletter
  • Reading material (there’s a lot on those internal forums)
  • The wealth of networking and information available via the SFWA Nebula Conference
  • Existing programs like Griefcom, the Emergency Medical Fund, and the Legal Fund

(4) CHECKMATE. A recent episode of The Post Atomic Horror Podcast, which appeals to fans with an interest in filking and other poetic diversions, featured a guest who summarized the Enterprise’s episode “A Night In Sickbay” to the tune “One Night in Bangkok”. The summary begins about 2 minutes into the episode and proceeds for roughly 4 minutes.

Come for the filk, stay for the commentary!

(5) VIEW FROM A GANTRY. Rocket Stack Rank’s October 2017 ratings are live, and Jeremiah Tolbert’s novella The Dragon of Dread Peak was the highest-rated story.

(6) REMODELING COMPLETE. Locus Online’s lovely redesigned website went live today.

(7) HOT OFF THE PRESS. An institute for design in Holland has come up with an experimental edition of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 which requires you to nearly burn the book to read it: “Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: This edition can be read only if you apply heat to the pages”. See it in action —

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 16, 1995 Candyman was released in theaters in the U.S.

(9) EYE SPY. At Fantasy Book Critic, Tom Doyle considers “The Unreliability of Magical Surveillance”.

In my American Craftsmen trilogy, psychic spies (farseers) can view intel across the distances of time and space (farsight). Their visions guide the missions of magical and mundane soldiers, and they play against the farseers of hostile powers. I want to look briefly at some of the popular stories of magical surveillance. The use of magical or psychic means to view across space and time is an old idea. Yet few of the stories that come immediately to mind view such power as an unambiguous good for the wielder. In the story of Snow White, the evil queen uses a magic mirror for scrying. Like many such devices, the mirror is a two-edged weapon. On the one hand, the mirror demonstrates what powerful surveillance can accomplish; for example, the attempt of Snow White and the huntsman to fake her death fails because of it. On the other hand, the mirror seems to be driving the queen to her eventual destruction by doling out only as much information as she requests and no more. In The Lord of the Rings, we have the Mirror of Galadriel, the palantíri, and the Ring itself. All of these are in their own way unreliable. The Mirror of Galadriel shows Sam a vision of an industrializing Shire that momentarily discourages him from his mission, when his mission is the one hope of Middle Earth. Denethor’s palantir gives him true intel, but only what Sauron wants him to see, and so he goes mad with despair. In turn, Aragorn is able to use Saruman’s palantir to nudge Sauron into rushing his attack. The Ring seems to serve as a sort of tracking device, but only when Frodo puts it on does it work well enough to zero in on him….

(10) SPEAKING UP. AudioFile is campaigning to get a Grammy Award nomination for Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. Those eligible to vote will do so between October 16-19.

What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? There’s no better guide through these mind-expanding questions than acclaimed astrophysicist and bestselling author Neil deGrasse Tyson.

But today, few of us have time to contemplate the cosmos. So Tyson brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in digestible chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day.

(11) BALLS. Motherboard takes readers “Inside the Most Exclusive High-Powered Rocketry Event in America”.

“We might be digging a hole to get at this thing, man,” Joshua Allen told me as we barreled across Nevada’s Black Rock Desert in the back of a covered pickup truck.

Allen and his peers from Oregon State University had just launched their homemade rocket at Big Ass Load Lifting Suckers (BALLS), an annual gathering of rocketeers that showcases the most powerful amateur rockets in the US. It was their first time at the event, held late in September, and they hoped that their two-stage rocket would fly to 100,000 feet, about one-third of the way to space proper. The Oregon State students, many of whom graduated in May, had spent the last year designing, building, and testing the rocket we were hunting from a pickup. Allen estimated that it contained over $20,000 of purchased and donated materials—and after a malfunction during its flight, he wasn’t sure they would recover it in one piece, if at all.

Every September for the last 27 years, the Tripoli Rocketry Association—one of the two amateur rocketry groups in the US—has hosted BALLS as a showcase of the rockets built by people like Allen that are too powerful to be safely flown anywhere but the middle of the desert. Black Rock is a well-worn stomping ground for amateur rocketry due to its expansive, barren lake bed that lacks any signs of life or flammable materials. This was the location that the first civilian team launched a rocket into space in 2004 and is frequented throughout the year by local high-powered rocketry groups in the southwest.

In order to bring hundreds of rocketeers together for a weekend of punching holes in the sky, Tripoli must obtain a flight waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration that allows the organization to fly over 100,000 feet. It’s the highest flight waiver granted to amateur rocketeers by a federal administration anywhere in the world.

(12) TOURIST ATTRACTION. Just how many tourists will be attracted is the question “A Giant Concrete Orb in Northern Iceland Moves With the Arctic Circle”. (Say what you like, it looks like Rover from The Prisoner to me.)

On Grímsey, a remote island 25 miles off the northern coast of Iceland, sits a massive orb of concrete that marks the Arctic Circle. The artwork, called Orbis & Globus (“Circle & Sphere”), weighs 8 metric tons (almost 9 tons US), and will be physically moved a short distance each year because the Arctic Circle is moving, too.

“The Arctic Circle marks a point where the Sun never sets in the summer and never rises in the winter,” Steve Christer, a partner with Studio Granda, which created the work in a partnership with artist Kristinn E. Hrafnsson, told me over the phone from Reykjavik. “It isn’t just a point on a map.” At 66.5 °N, the Arctic Circle moves a little bit each year as the Earth travels through space, shifting on its axis. (Earth’s axial tilt can vary by about 2° over the course of a 40,000-year cycle.) This giant orb will have to be repositioned every year by an average of 14.5 meters. Christer told me they’ll hire a contractor to do it.

The orb was commissioned by the nearby town of Akureyri, which was seeking “a symbol for the Arctic Circle on the island of Grímsey,” he said. Getting the work there was no easy feat.

(13) HALLOWEEN REVIVALS. Joel Ryan, in the Yahoo! TV piece “TV’s Lost Halloween Classics:  Six Specials From Beyond The Grave”,  introduces a new generation to “Mad Monster Party,” “Halloween is Grinch Night,” and the Cartoon Network adaptation of “The Halloween Tree.”

  1. The Worst Witch The Tim Curry Halloween movie for the whole family, about a boarding school for aspiring broomstick types, also boasts the fabulous Diana Rigg, Fairuza Balk (The Craft), the post-Facts of Life Charlotte Rae, and production design that screams HBO in the mid-1980s. (Yes, we know The Worst Witch was a British coproduction, but then again, that’s what HBO originals looked like in the mid-1980s: things that were not quite of Hollywood.) In any case, the movie is a charming reminder of those simple days before the Hogwarts Express rolled into the creative space.

(14) GULLIVER’S CREATOR. Nature’s Greg Lynall, in “In Retrospect: Gulliver’s Travels”, looks at the science in Gulliver’s Travels, in a piece commemorating the 350th anniversary of Jonathan Swift’s birth. (Apologies – I can’t make my computer pick up excerpted text.)

(15) HAMIT SCRIPT RACKS UP ANOTHER AWARD. Francis Hamit has won a third screenwriting contest with his screenplay for the forthcoming feature film Christopher Marlowe.

The Elizabethan-era historical thriller is slated to be produced primarily in the United Kingdom by famed Producer Gary Kurtz. On September 16, 2017 the screenplay won the “Best Thriller Screenplay” prize at the GO International Independent Film Festival in Washington, DC. Hamit’s previous awards for this work were at the 2016 Hollywood Book Festival and the 2017 New Renaissance Film Festival in London.

(16) WOKE-O-METER. Motherboard offers a solution: “Want More Diverse Entertainment? A New Site Has You Covered”

When it comes to movie reviews, there are plenty of resources that can tell you the most critically-acclaimed films and popular flicks. But what about when it comes to how woke they are?

Enter Mediaversity, a website that reviews TV and movies based on how well they represent diverse gender, race, and LGBTQ characters and stories, created by Li Lai, a graphic designer from New York.

“What really solidified this idea for me was last year when I was watching Oscar nominees and critically-acclaimed TV shows,” Lai told me over the phone. “Right in a row I watched Narcos, Game of Thrones, and The Revenant. All of them had awful portrayals of women.”

She was surprised that all of these highly-praised works were so tone deaf. Lai hopped online to look up reviews that might elucidate this aspect of media, as well as diverse representations of race and LGBTQ characters and stories. But she realized there was a dearth of information. There are plenty of resources if you want to know how entertaining a movie is, or how artistic, or how clever the dialogue is. But it’s a lot harder to find out whether or not the only time women appear onscreen is in rape scenes.

So, nine months ago, Lai decided to create Mediaversity, a labor of love which she said she currently has no plans to monetize. Though, like all reviews, the ratings are subjective, Mediaversity has a guideline for how Lai and her fellow reviewers—a diverse team of friends and bloggers—measure a show’s representation success, and uses a letter grading system from A+ to F.

(17) ANOTHER HALLOWED BREW. A gigantic “monster” IPA with just the right balance to bring palates back from the dead: “Stone Brewing’s Concoctions Go Wild and Dr. FrankenStone’s Monster IPA is Born”.

Late one evening, into the deepest vaults of Dr Frankenstone’s steaming lab – a monster IPA was born. This morbid creation was the result of our brewers pushing the hop limits (most of which are successful) to an insane level that would unleash an IPA like none other from the brewery. It was a creature that haunted our brewers for many nights, as this beaker-buster was something they could not explain, yet was such a balanced delight to taste. Unbeknownst to our brewers, the horrific beast of a beer was a result of their blending sessions that got out of hand! After the first taste of the fresh liquid, our brewing team of mad scientists knew they had to re-create this experiment for October only in draft form.

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Harold Osier, John A Arkansawyer, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]