Pixel Scroll 9/22/20 Bene And Cecil Gesserit

(1) YOU HAVEN’T MISSED FUTURECON SF. View sessions from this past weekend’s FutureCon SF on their YouTube channel. For a list of the topics, check the schedule.

William Gibson once said that the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed. Geographical location and wealth could indeed limit access to considerable advances in technology. However, imagination is a more subtle power. It does not know borders or languages. From Beijing to Lagos, from Rio de Janeiro to Los Angeles, ideas are flourishing in the form of stories.

In the 21st century, a worldwide pandemic demands realists of a larger reality. So we reach out to you with our voices from all over the world through our devices. The time has come to draw attention to Science Fiction stories written all over the planet — stories made of different languages, colors, shapes, hopes, and beliefs.

The future happens everywhere. That’s why we are here.

(2) GOOD TO THE LAST DROP. “Miles grinned sleepily, puddled down in his uniform. ‘Welcome to the beginning.’” So starts Tom Comitta’s “Loose Ends”, a short story/study of sci-fi and fantasy novels published today in Wired magazine — a literary supercut made entirely out of last lines from 137 science fiction and fantasy novels.

Fragments of climactic and revelatory moments from classics and pulps line up into a sequence of vignettes that meditate on genre norms and the ideological undercurrents that support them. As with any of my supercuts, the goal is to examine patterns in how we produce fiction, while creating a new story in the process.

Comitta explains:

“Loose Ends” is a follow up to “First Impressions,” which was BOMB Magazine‘s most-read piece of 2018. While “First Impressions” explored the first sentences of hundreds of New Yorker stories, “Loose Ends” looks at how we conclude some of our greatest genre stories. Expect lots of long goodbyes, drinking, returning “home,” and turning away into the darkness.

(3) DOGGONE GOOD. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The kids fantasy TV show Wishbone, in which a Jack Russell terrier travels in time, is celebrating its quarter century this September. Christian Wallace and Cat Cardinas of the Texas Monthly took a deep dive into the series, its legacy and how it came to be in their article “Top Dog: An Oral History of ‘Wishbone’”.” It is a delightful (and surprisingly detailed) piece of reporting, filled with absolute gems such as: “If you could be friendly with the dog, you were a made man. Like mafia made.”

Texas has plenty to bark about when it comes to fictional canine heroes. There’s Old Yeller, the loyal Lab mix whose tragic end has made schoolchildren weep for six decades, and everyone’s favorite do-gooder Benji, whose antics have made him a box office smash. And of course there’s Hank the Cowdog, the self-styled head of ranch security who’s forever on patrol (when he’s not sleeping on his gunnysack) at his Panhandle spread in Ochiltree County. But only one pooch took children on adventures through classic works of literature: Wishbone.

Set in the fictional Texas town of Oakdale, Wishbone, which first aired on PBS in 1995, followed a plucky Jack Russell terrier as he daydreamed his way into literary masterpieces. …

(4) THE CAT’S MEOW. Cat Rambo’s latest Cat Chat is an interview with Russian speculative fiction writer Yaroslav Barsukov, the first installment of whose novella “Tower of Mist and Straw” appeared in the September issue of Metaphorosis Magazine.

Barsukov discusses the genesis of his novella, writer’s block, Russian speculative fiction and specifically Russian fantasy, as well as his hopes for the novella.

(5) SILVERBERG Q&A. At LA Review of Books, “Man in the Maze: A Conversation with Robert Silverberg” is conducted by Rob Latham.

As you say, from fairly early in your career, you were able to produce publishable copy quickly and efficiently. During the mid-to-late ’50s, you were publishing close to a million words of SF annually, which is a stunning amount. A lot of your ’50s output was produced to order: you had contracts with several magazine editors that specified monthly wordage for a set fee. You’ve described much of your work during this period as “utilitarian prose […] churned out by the yard,” and you’ve written about how, when you attended the Milford Writers’ Conference in 1956, some older authors there upbraided you for essentially wasting your talents on slick product. Can you describe the sorts of pressures writers were under at the time, especially someone who, like you, was trying to make a career in SF, as opposed to simply moonlighting in the field, as so many others did?

Since I was particularly prolific and capable of meeting the demands of various markets from high to low, selling better than a story a week in those early years, I was under no particular economic pressure — right out of college, I was earning at the Heinlein and Asimov level. Except for Philip K. Dick and, for a time, Robert Sheckley, most of the other SF writers of the day were unable to produce any notable volume of material, and although the pay level of the magazines (book publication was not yet much of a factor) was quite good in terms of the purchasing power of the dollar in those days, one could not live comfortably selling one or two stories a month, as most of them did. Right out of college I had a handsome five-room apartment on one of Manhattan’s best residential streets, went to Europe in 1957, etc.

The older writers did not exactly “upbraid” me for my willingness to write quickie space opera, but they did tease me in a fairly affectionate way. The most useful criticism I got came from Lester del Rey, who pointed out that, although I was selling everything I wrote and making a good living at it, there was no long-term value in writing pulp stories that would never be reprinted in anthologies or story collections — all I would get would be the initial sale. I took that to heart and began concentrating on more ambitious stories for the better magazines. What neither Lester nor I nor anyone else foresaw was that in the age of the internet even those early pulp stories would be reprinted again and again and continue to bring in income, just as my stories for Astounding and Galaxy were doing. He was, though, fundamentally right, within the context of the times, that even if money was my primary concern, I would ultimately make more by aiming high rather than by churning out reams of “utilitarian” prose.

(6) SUPERGIRL TUNING OUT. TV Line delivers the bad news: Supergirl Ending With Season 6″.

Supergirl‘s tenure as the resident defender of National City is reaching an unexpectedly early conclusion. The upcoming sixth season of The CW’s superhero series will be its last, TVLine has learned….

Supergirl‘s freshman run, which premiered in October 2015 on CBS, averaged 7.7 million total viewers and a 1.7 demo rating (in Live+Same Day numbers). Upon being relocated for Season 2, it slipped to a CW-typical 2.4 mil/0.7. With its most recent, fifth season, the Arrowverse series averaged 840,000 total viewers and a 0.22 demo rating, down a good (but not) 30 percent from Season 4.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

September 1997 — Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s Timequake was first published by Putnam. This semi-autobiographical novel is definitely genre. It would not be on the Hugo ballot as his win for Best Dramatic Presentation for Slaughterhouse Five at TorCon twenty-four years earlier was his last appearance on the Hugo ballot, and his only Hugo. This novel didn’t impress the genre award nominators, only getting a preliminary nomination for the August Derleth Fantasy Award for Best Novel. It would be his final novel as another one was not forthcoming in the last decade of his life. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 22, 1917 Samuel A. Peeples. Memory Alpha says he’s the person that gave Roddenberry the catch phrase he used to sell Star Trek to the network: “[As] fellow writer Harlan Ellison has credited him with the creation of one of the most famous catch phrases in Star Trek-lore, ‘[Gene Roddenberry] got “Wagon Train to the stars” from Sam Peeples. That’s what Gene said to me. They were at dinner and Sam Peeples, of course, was a fount of ideas, and Gene said something or other about wanting to do a space show and Sam said, “Yeah? Why don’t you do Wagon Train to the stars?”’” (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born September 22, 1921 – Will Elder.  Comic Book Hall of Fame, 2003.  Harvey Awards Hall of Fame, 2019.  May have been a mad satirist; was certainly a Mad satirist.  His first, “Ganefs!”, which I got in Son of Mad, with the 1959 cover, at a used-book shop, already had his characteristic line (though he grew famous for imitating others’) and gags.  Of course I’d like to learn just what connection led him to the propeller beanie he put on “Woman Wonder!”.  He and Harvey Kurtzman after leaving Mad drew Little Annie Fanny for Playboy; either they’d read Candy, or were phlebotomists enough to find the vein.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born September 22, 1925 – Aurel Buiculescu, 95.  Fifty-five covers for Science Fiction Stories (in Romanian).  Here is No. 88.  Here is No. 124.  Here is No. 337.  Here is No. 408.  Here is No. 464.  Also I found this cover for Yefremov’s Andromeda Nebula (in Hungarian).  [JH]
  • Born September 22, 1947 – Jo Beverley.  One novel, half a dozen shorter stories for us.  Better known for historical and modern romances: forty novels, a dozen shorter stories there; five RITAs; two Career Achievement Awards from Romantic Times; Golden Leaf; Readers’ Choice Award; only Canadian romance writer in the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame.  Website.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born September 22, 1952 – Paul Kincaid, 68.  Reviews in fanzines; in Vector, variously Features Editor, Reviews Editor, Editor; reviews in FoundationInterzoneNY Rev of SFSF Site, Strange Horizons; also Literary ReviewNew ScientistTimes Literary Supplement.  Co-edited three issues (with Bruce Gillespie, Maureen Kincaid Speller) of Steam Engine Time.  Wrote A Very British Genre and What Is It We Do When We Read SF.  Twenty years chairman of Clarke Award; co-edited (with Andrew Butler) the 2006 Clarke Award anthology; received Clareson Award.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born September 22, 1954 Shari Belafonte, 66. Daughter of Harry Belafonte, I first spotted her on Beyond Reality, a Canadian series that showed up when I was living in upstate Vermont. You most likely saw her as Elizabeth Trent in Babylon 5: Thirdspace as that’s her most well-known genre performance. (CE) 
  • Born September 22, 1968 — Eve Gil, 52. Eight novels (one for us), a few shorter stories.  Premio La Gran Novela SonorensePremio Nacional de Periodismo Fernando BenítezConcurso de Libro Sonorense (three times), Premio Nacional Efrain Huerta.  Her SF novel Requiem for a Broken Doll has been excerpted in English.  [JH]
  • Born September 22, 1971 Elizabeth Bear, 49. Her first series was a superb trilogy, which might be considered cyberpunk, centered on a character named Jenny Casey. She’s a very prolific writer; I’m fond of her Promethean AgeNew Amsterdam and Karen Memory series.  She won a Astounding Award for Best New Writer, a Hugo Award for Best Short Story for “Tideline”, and a Hugo for Best Novelette for “Shoggoths in Bloom”. One of only five writers to win multiple Hugo Awards for fiction after winning the Astounding Award! Very impressive indeed! It is worth noting that she was one of the regular panelists on now sadly defunct podcast SF Squeecast, which won the 2012 and 2013 Hugo Awards for “Best Fancast”. (CE)
  • Born September 22, 1981 Maria Ashley Eckstein, 39. She’s voice of Ahsoka Tano on Star Wars: The Clone WarsStar Wars Rebels, and Star Wars Forces of Destiny. She even has a voice only cameo as Ashoka in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. (CE)
  • Born September 22, 1982 Billie Piper, 38. Best remembered as the companion of the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, she also played Lily Frankenstein in the TV series Penny Dreadful. She also played Veronica Beatrice “Sally” Lockhart in the BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in The North.(CE) 
  • Born September 22, 1984 – Mo Francisco, 36.  Four short stories for us in Alternative Alamat (Tagalog, “fable”), Philippine Speculative Fiction; half a dozen others. “Always very perky and friendly, but that could be just the caffeine.”  [JH]
  • Born September 22, 1985 Tatiana Maslany, 35. Best known for her superb versatility in playing more than a dozen different clones in the TV series Orphan Black which won win a Hugo for Dramatic Presentation (Short Form), for its “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried“ episode, She received a Best Actress Emmy and more than two dozen other nominations and awards. She’ll be playing She-Hulk in an upcoming Marvel series. (CE)

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) THE NEXT PRATCHETT. “Rhianna Pratchett: ‘Dad would be smiling to see my name on a book'”  — so she tells The Guardian.

If there is one, teeny tiny upside for Rhianna Pratchett in the fact that her father is no longer around, it’s that she doesn’t have to hear what he thinks about her first novel.

“Obviously, it goes without saying that I wish he was still here,” says Rhianna. Her father, Discworld author Terry Pratchett, died in 2015. “But the tiniest silver lining is that he would have had lots of opinions about what I was doing right and wrong, and I think it would have been probably even more nerve-racking to have him read it.”

Out next week, Crystal of Storms is the latest instalment in the rebooted Fighting Fantasy books, the popular 80s and 90s adventure game series in which the reader plays the hero, battles monsters armed only with a pencil and a dice, and makes choices (fight the beast or run away; take the left fork or the right) in an attempt to survive their quest unscathed. Twenty-million copies of the game books have sold around the world since the first was published in 1982.

(11) FAUX CONTROVERSY. ScreenRant dares you to care! “The Lord Of The Rings: 5 Reasons Gandalf Is The Stronger Wizard (& 5 Reasons Why It’s Saruman)”.

7. Saruman: Can Influence The Weather And Conjure Storms

During an intense scene of Fellowship, Saruman is seen conjuring an ominous snowstorm to stop the heroes from passing through Caradhras. This quickly turns into a death storm that threatens to bury the Fellowship. And the fact that Gandalf’s efforts to counter it comes up empty would seem to show Saruman has the upper hand when it comes to influencing the weather.

Aside from Saruman’s ability to birth an army of super-Orcs with his industrial machine, he also proves to be quite a “force of nature” too.

(12) DINO FEST. The Los Angeles County Natural History Museum kicks off “Dino Fest at Home” tomorrow, September 23. See the full schedule at the link. It kicks off with the “Dino Puppet Meet and Greet”.

Come and meet one of our Dinosaur Puppets and a Puppeteer from the Museum’s Performing Arts team in this virtual performance. They will share how they work together with paleontologists to help bring science to “life” through puppetry!

Events will be broadcast live on NHMLA’s YouTube channel. See past events by selecting the Dino Fest at Home Playlist HERE

(13) HALLOWEEN SAFETY TIPS. “CDC releases new guidance on Halloween, calls trick-or-treating ‘high risk'”TODAY has the story.

… The CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] also offers advice for mask-wearing.

“A costume mask … is not a substitute for a cloth mask,” reads the CDC guidance. “A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face.”

The CDC says that people should not wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask, because the costume mask may make it hard to breathe.

… To capture the thrill of trick-or-treating while still staying safe, the CDC recommends having a “scavenger-hunt style trick-or-treat search with your household members” instead of going from house to house.

Some trick-or-treating options can be done outdoors while still maintaining social distance. According to the CDC, a “moderate risk” option is participating in one-way trick-or-treating neighborhood event where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up at the edge of driveways or yards for kids to grab and go while maintaining a safe distance, and all going in the same direction. If you do choose this option and prepare goodie bags, make sure to wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after preparing.

(14) GREEN FRUIT FOR THE RED PLANET. “Avocados Can Be Cryogenically Frozen and Taken to Mars, New Research Says”Food & Wine took this angle because they didn’t think the real purpose for the science was sexy enough, I guess.

The novel and film Jurassic Park are based on the idea that DNA preserved in amber resin could provide the key for bringing dinosaurs back to life. Luckily, for avocados, making sure the world’s favorite toast topping doesn’t go extinct could be significantly easier.

Recent research out of Australia’s University of Queensland has demonstrated that avocado shoots can be cryogenically frozen for use by future generations. “The aim is to preserve important avocado cultivars and key genetic traits from possible destruction by threats like bushfires, pests and disease such as laurel wilt—a fungus which has the capacity to wipe out all the avocado germplasm in Florida,” PhD student Chris O’Brien stated. “Liquid nitrogen does not require any electricity to maintain its temperature, so by successfully freeze avocado germplasm, it’s an effective way of preserving clonal plant material for an indefinite period.”

…Neena Mitter, a professor at the University of Queensland’s Centre for Horticultural Science who has been working with O’Brien, was willing to take things one giant leap further. “I suppose you could say they are space-age avocados—ready to be cryo-frozen and shipped to Mars when human flight becomes possible,” she added. “But it is really about protecting the world’s avocado supplies here on earth and ensuring we meet the demand of current and future generations for their smashed ‘avo’ on toast.”

(15) PURCHASE ORDER. That’s right, Disney says get ready to cough up your cash! It’s time to Pre-Order NEW Collectibles from The Mandalorian. Including this rather bizarre Lego set of The Child.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, Andrew Porter, Kathy Sullivan, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Tom Comitta, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Chris Barkley, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 8/16/20 I Holler As I Overturn Mike’s BBQ And Turn The Pixel Of Scroll Into, Uh, Something Something

(1) THE POSTMAN RINGS FIRST. David Brin can be good at thinking things up – and he’s put his creative powers to work to support the US Postal Service: “Going Postal? And the ‘TOC’ you want… the book no one has read.”

Below, find the TOC you’ll want to tick… the Table of Contents of a book that might help…. but first… yes, there are countless times I’d prefer to be wrong!  Especially when it comes to the predictions made in THE POSTMAN!

TIME Magazines called EARTH one of “8 best predictive novels,” and there have been many other hits. But I always figured that my portrayal of lying-betraying-prepper “Holnists” in THE POSTMAN would prove to be artistic exaggeration — not a how-to manual for evil and treason.

Just as Adolf Hitler described his approach in Mein Kampf — and no one took him at his word — Nathan Holn is recalled having laid it all in the open… but Americans didn’t believe anyone would so baldly offer such a despicable program. The warning went unheeded till it was too late. 

Likewise, Donald Trump has said publicly that his attack on the U.S. Postal Service is intended directly to interfere in the election. Of course crashing USPS also undermines rural America, a major part of the GOP base. So how is this supposed to benefit Republicans? The answer is… it’s not. Chaos and dysfunction are the goal. To Trump’s puppeteers, it doesn’t matter if he loses, so long as America dissolves into bitterness and pain. 

Already it’s clear we need to start a mass movement akin to BLM to support Postal Workers!

(2) NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE COMIC-CON. Robert J. Sawyer challenges some assumptions about Canadian sff award voters in a Facebook post.

Yesterday, I attended the annual general meeting of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, which was held by Zoom, due to the COVID pandemic.

The first issue the chair raised was what he considered to be a precipitous drop in the number of voters over the years. Years ago, he said, the number was in the mid-two-hundreds and he cited year-by-year figures showing a steady decline down to the current tally of 140 or so. Much discussion ensued about how to beef up the number.

My feeling is two-fold. First, it’s NOT an Aurora-specific issue, and, second, it’s NOT even a problem….

When people talk about bringing in vast new swaths of fans to beef up Aurora voting numbers, they usually mean finding a way to get young fans involved. But young fans, by and large, AREN’T SF&F readers, and have their own fandom traditions — they expect, for instance, their events to be high-cost and run to professional standards (even if mostly staffed by volunteers).

These are the fine folk who enjoy the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo; Fan Expo in Toronto; Anime North, also in Toronto; OtakuThon in Montreal; and so-called “comic-cons” across the country. They want to see actors and comic-book artists. Politely, they don’t need us — AND WE DON’T NEED THEM.

If traditional fandom is shrinking — and it IS, mostly through attrition as people get old and finally go on to that great hucksters’ room in the sky — then so be it. But is that hurting the Aurora Awards?

I say no. I had no horse in the race this year — I was not even eligible in any category except for related work (for my bimonthly columns in GALAXY’S EDGE magazine) and wasn’t nominated. But I studied the ballot and, even more important for posterity, the actual winners this year, and my verdict is this: the Auroras are doing just fine.

… In the past, we’ve also seen ballots with conspicuous omissions and even more conspicuous inclusions. When a Canadian work is nominated for the Hugo, the Nebula, or the World Fantasy Award, it SHOULD raise eyebrows when it has been squeezed off the Aurora ballot by lesser creations.

This year, though, the best short-form Aurora went to the most-generally-lauded Canadian-authored (or, at least, co-authored) work on the ballot: THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, which had already won the Hugo AND the Nebula Awards.

In the past, we’ve seen huge numbers of votes of dubious pedigree: people who have no known connection to fandom but a personal connection to one of the nominees nominating and voting en masse, propelling dubious works onto the ballot and sometimes shamefully even winning the award.

Thankfully, those days of hustling seem to have fallen by the wayside….

(3) NASFIC 2020. The virtual Columbus 2020 NASFiC Opening Ceremonies start 3:00 p.m. on Friday, August 21. Here’s =“How To Attend”:

Attending the North American Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention will now be easy as everything will be online!

On the day the convention begins, the page you are viewing now will provide you with a virtual “log book”. When you have signed it, this website will provide you access to several more pages, with embedded chat channels and streaming video.

It will be free, but we will still accept donations.

(4) SFF AROUND THE GLOBE. FutureCon, a new virtual international sff convention, will launch September 17-20. Cheryl Morgan gives an overview in “Introducing FutureCon”. (See the schedule here.)

While we might all be stuck at home wishing that we could sit in a bar with our friends, one of the benefits of the new virtual world in which we find ourselves is that travel is instantaneous and free. This means that we can have conventions that are genuinely global, and very cheap or free to attend.

Into this space comes FutureCon. It is being organised primarily by folks in Brazil, but with a lot of help from Francesco Verso in Italy, and also a bunch more people around the world. It will take place from September 17th-20th, and will be free to all on YouTube. All of the programming will be in English. Confirmed guests include Ann Vandermeer, Aliette de Bodard, Chen Qiufan, Ian McDonald, Lavie Tidhar and Nisi Shawl. But more importantly there will be speakers from over 20 different countries including Argentina, Croatia, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey & Uganda.

… Francesco can read in many different langauges, and he said something today in a launch meeting for the event that really struck a chord. I’m paraphrasing slightly, but the gist was, “the quality of science fiction is evenly distributed around the world, but it is unevenly visible.” I hope that FutureCon can be an important step along the road to changing that.

(5) IN THE ZOOM WHERE IT HAPPENS. Cora Buhlert has written up everything else at CoNZealand that was not the Hugo ceremony: “Cora’s Adventures at CoNZealand, the Virtual 2020 Worldcon, and Some Thoughts on Virtual Conventions in General”.

… After the 1960s SF panel, I had only ten minutes to get to my next panel “Translation: The Key to Open Doors to Cultural Diversity in SFF”. I was moderating again and the panelists were Libia Benda from Mexico, Luis F. Silva from Portugal, Wataru Ishigame, speaking from the POV of a publisher publishing translated SFF in Japan, and Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld Magazine as the token American. Though that would be mean, because Neil Clarke has done more than pretty much any other magazine editor to bring translated SFF to English speaking readers.

Again, we had a lively e-mail debate before the panel and just as lively a debate during the panel, complete with an audio zoombombing by a Mexican street vendor. I had also asked all panelists to recommend some SFF books or stories from their country that had been translated into English (and Neil Clarke generally recommended SFF in translation), so there were book recommendations as well.

The translation panel also overran by almost half an hour, because once the Zoom recording  was stopped, the Zoom meeting just remained open. After ascertaining that the audience could still hear us, we just continued talking about SFF in translation for another twenty five minutes or so, until the Zoom host shut down the room.  Now that’s something that could never have happened at a physical con, unless you were the last panel of the day and the room wasn’t needed again…. 

(6) RUNNING THE NUMBERS. Steve Mollman studies the “No Award” tea leaves in “The 2020 Hugo Awards: Interesting Statistics” at Science’s Less Accurate Grandmother. Lots of graphs.

I called my post from last week “Results and Final Thoughts“… but after it went up, I had another thought. So that title was a lie! Many people out there analyze various aspects of the results, but I want to look at two things: how many people vote in each category, and how many people vote No Award.

… Voting No Award in first place usually means one of two things, I would claim. First, it could mean that you find the concept of the category invalid. Every year, I vote No Award for Best Series, Best Editor, and a couple other categories, for example, and leave the rest of my ballot blank. I have some fundamental disagreements with the premises of those categories, and do not think they should be awarded. (Very few Hugo voters agree with me, though, clearly.) It could also mean that you just found everything in that category subpar: this year I voted No Award for Best Short Story, but still ranked finalists below it.

How well does Mollman’s interpretation hold up? And what is there to learn in the voting pattern from Jeannette Ng’s acceptance speech for the 2019 Campbell Award?

(7) BEYOND THE GREEN BOOK. NPR’s Glen Weldon chimes in: “‘Lovecraft Country’: Facing Monsters—And A Monstrous History”.

Here is a list of things that the HBO series Lovecraft Country, premiering Sunday, August 16th, has in common with the 2018 film Green Book:

1. Setting: Jim Crow-era America

2. Acting: Subtle, nuanced performances (Viggo Mortenen’s dese-and-dose Green Book gangster notwithstanding).

3. Subject: Story features a road trip involving a travel guidebook written to inform Black people where they can safely eat and stay. (Green Book: Entire film; Lovecraft Country: Opening episodes only.)

And here is a brief, incomplete list of the things that Lovecraft Country prominently features that Green Book emphatically does not:

1. A story centered on the lives of Black characters.

2. Black characters with agency, absent any White Savior narrative

3. Shoggoths.

Shoggoths, of course, are creatures imagined by writer H.P. Lovecraft — blobs covered with eyes that continuously arise and dissolve back into their putrid, pulsating flesh. (The Shoggoths of Lovecraft Country are shaped more like Pit-bulls than protoplasm, though they’ve got that whole creepy-eyes thing covered.)

Lovecraft Country is only the latest in a series of movies, television series and novels to engage with America’s greatest moral, economic, social and psychological wound — the legacy of slavery — by way of the fantastic. Creators like Jordan Peele, Damon Lindelof, Toni Morrison and Colson Whitehead didn’t avail themselves of, respectively, body-swapping, superheroes, an angry ghost and an entirely literal subterranean mass-transit system as a means to distract from, or to trivialize, racial injustice. No: They knew that when grappling with a foundational truth so huge and ugly and painful, utilizing the metaphorical imagery of science-fiction and horror offered them a fresh way in — an opportunity to get their audiences to re-examine, to re-feel, the enduring impact of that evil.

…Though it’s sure to be compared to Watchmen, given both its prominent HBO Sunday night berth and its determination to view race in America through the prism of science fiction, Lovecraft Country is lighter in tone, and far pulpier in sensibility, than Lindelof’s comparatively grand, sweeping epic. It’s much more apt to go looser and loopier, sprinkling magic spells, sacred codexes, secret passages and the occasional light tomb-raiding into the mix. It’s also far more eager to serve up the satisfyingly grisly thrills of pulp horror — bad guys getting their bloody, cosmic comeuppance, for example.

But for every fun, if wildly anachronistic, element — needle-drops like Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money,” say, or abdominal muscles like Majors’ — Lovecraft Country is always careful to re-center itself on its characters, and their hemmed-in status as Black women and men in 1950s America. Between every narrow escape and exposition dump about “finding the missing pages from the forbidden tome” or whatever, it gives its characters and their relationships breathing room. Case in point: Letitia’s contentious bond with her sardonic, disapproving sister Ruby (the quietly astonishing Wunmi Mosaku, in a warm, deeply compelling performance) gets a chance to grow and complicate. And in a later episodes (only the first five were screened for press), Ruby happily manages to step off the sidelines and mix it up with the series’ deep, abiding weirdness.

(8) YS REVIEW. NPR’s Etelka Lehoczky offers “Feeling Deluged By News? Let ‘The Daughters Of Ys’ Wash Over You”.

Though M. T. Anderson couldn’t possibly have planned it, his new book The Daughters of Ys feels like it was created for just this moment. The story’s driving force and key image — a torrential flood of natural and unnatural origin that sweeps away a city — is the perfect symbol for our era. If you’ve felt your brimming anxiety about the coronavirus overflow as you’ve tried to keep up with the never-ending tide of news about it, you’ll sympathize with Anderson’s characters.

This book is an excellent read right now for other reasons, too. Trying to keep abreast of your daily news feed may have made you impatient of any pleasure reading that isn’t perfectly absorbing (OK, that’s the last flood pun, I swear). A graphic novel, The Daughters of Ys is fun and easy to read. Anderson’s story, a reinterpretation of a Breton folktale, is effortlessly page-turning and actually feels a bit like a young adult title — not surprisingly, considering YA is Anderson’s preferred genre. But like Anderson’s National Book Award-winning The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, this book is both accessible to a wide age range and rich with ideas that will intrigue adults. (Note, however, that due to dark themes, some gore and the fact that the characters have sex, it may be best kept away from immature readers.)

Best of all, Daughters of Ys is a terrific respite for eyes weary of scanning headlines. Artist Jo Rioux isn’t as well-known as her coauthor — as is often the fate of illustrators who focus on children’s books — but she should be. Her drawings here aren’t just beautiful, with their deep, layered colors and elegant compositions; they’re also smart. Nodding to the original tale’s 5th-century setting, Rioux uses the style and motifs of Anglo-Saxon art (think of the Bayeux Tapestry and the metalwork of Sutton Hoo). But she doesn’t just replicate the style, she uses it to explore the evocative possibilities of minimalist cartooning. The characters’ faces have flat-looking eyes and minimal features, but they express intense, ambiguous emotions. Rioux also borrows the glowing lights and velvety shadows of Maxfield Parrish’s work for certain scenes, including a wonderful interlude set inside a circle of standing stones. The reader is encouraged to recall Parrish’s turn-of-the-20th-century America, when astonishing and alarming technological advances triggered a yearning for the romantic past, and to compare it with our own time.

(9) CHECK OUT COUNTER. WorldCat’s Library100 – I’ve read 41 of these.

What makes a novel “great”? At OCLC, we believe literary greatness can be measured by how many libraries have a copy on their shelves.

Yes, libraries offer access to trendy and popular books. But, they don’t keep them on the shelf if they’re not repeatedly requested by their communities over the years. We’ve identified 100 timeless, top novels—those found in thousands of libraries around the world—using WorldCat, the world’s largest database of library materials.

So, check out The Library 100, head to your nearest library, and enjoy the read!

(10) GOLDENBERG OBIT. American music composer, conductor and arranger Billy Goldenberg (William Leon Goldenberg) died on August 3, aged 84 reports Stephen Jones.

His many credits include Fear No Evil, Silent Night Lonely Night, Ritual Of Evil, Steven Spielberg’s Duel, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark (1973), The Legend Of Lizzie Borden, The Ufo Incident, Metamorphoses, This House Possessed, Massarati And The Brain, Prototype, Frankenstein (1986), 18 Again! and Sherlock Holmes And The Leading Lady. On TV Goldenberg composed music for the pilots of Night Gallery (again for Spielberg), Future Cop and Gemini Man, plus episodes of The Name Of The Game (Spielberg’s ‘LA 2017’), The Sixth Sense and Circle Of Fear (along with the theme music for both shows), Amazing Stories and the 1989 mini-series Around The World In 80 Days. He also composed one of the themes to the Universal logo.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 16, 1951 Dimension X’s “The Vital Factor” was first broadcast. The story is that a ruthless millionaire is determined to be the first man to conquer space…no matter what the cost. The script was used later on X Minus One. It was written by Nelson Bond who is the holder of a Nebula Author Emeritus award for lifetime achievement. He’s also the recipient of First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. His Meg the Priestess stories gave us one of the first powerful female characters in the genre. Daniel Ocko and Guy Repp are the actors here.  You can listen to it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 16, 1884 Hugo Gernsback. Publisher of the first SF magazines, Amazing Stories in 1926, and Wonder Stories in 1929. He  also played a key role in creating fandom through the Science Fiction League. Writer of the Ralph 124C 41+ novel which most critics think is utterly dreadful but Westfahl considers “essential text for all studies of science fiction.” And of course he’s who the Hugos were named after back in 1953. (Died 1967.) (CE) 
  • Born August 16, 1913 – Will Sykora.  Active at least as early as Jan 30 letter in Science Wonder Stories.  With Sam Moskowitz, thought the true fannish spirit meant promotion of science.  President of ISA (Int’l Scientific Ass’n) which sought to include amateur scientists, maybe the first fan club, unless disqualified in retrospect for insufficient frivolity – or insufficient leftism, which the Futurians were charged with excess of.  Charter member of FAPA (Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n).  (Died 1994) [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1930 – Paul Lehr.  Three hundred covers, fifty interiors.  Here is his beginning, Satellite E One.  Here is his famous Nineteen Eighty-four (no mustache on Big Brother!).  Here is Spectrum 4.  Here is The Ringworld Engineers.  Here is the Mar 81 Analog.  Here is the Aug 96 Tomorrow.  What a giant.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1930 Robert Culp. He’d make the Birthday Honors solely for being the lead in the Outer Limits episode “Demon with a Glass Hand” which Ellison wrote specifically with him in mind. He would do two more appearances on the show, “Corpus Earthling” and “The Architects of Fear”. Around this time, he makes one-offs on Get Smart! and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. before being Special FBI Agent Bill Maxwell in The Greatest American Hero. Did you know there was a Conan the Adventurer series in the Nineties in which he was King Vog in one episode?  (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born August 16, 1931 – Walt Lee.  Monumental if only for his 20,000-entry Reference Guide to Fantastic Films (with Bill Warren) – which, allowing for differences in scale, is like saying Cheops (or Khnum Khufu if you prefer) is monumental if only for the Great Pyramid of Giza.  OGH’s appreciation here.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1933 Julie Newmar, 87. Catwoman in Batman. Her recent voice work includes the animated Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face, both done in the style of the Sixties show. They feature the last voice work by Adam West. Shatner btw plays Harvey Dent aka Two Face.  She was on the original Trek in the “Friday’s Child” episode as Eileen. She also has one-offs on Get Smart!Twilight ZoneFantasy IslandBionic WomanBuck Rogers in the 25th CenturyBewitched and Monster Squad. (CE) 
  • Born August 16, 1934 Andrew J. Offutt. I know him through his work in the Thieves’ World anthologies though I also enjoyed the Swords Against Darkness anthologies that he edited. I don’t think I’ve read any of his novels. And I’m not Robert E. Howard fan so I’ve not read any of his Cormac mac Art or Conan novels but his short fiction is superb. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born August 16, 1934 Diana Wynne Jones. If there’s essential reading for her, it’d be The Tough Guide to Fantasyland with a playful look at the genre. Then I’d toss in Deep Secret for its setting, and Fire and Hemlock for her artful merging of the Scottish ballads Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer. Now what’s the name of the exemplary short story collection she did late in life? Ahhh it was Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories with the great cover by artist Dan Craig. (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born August 16, 1952 – Edie Stern, F.N., 68. “Andre Norton’s Diamond Celebration” (with husband Joe Siclari) in Fantasy Review.  “Fancy Jack” (Jack Speer; with Siclari) in Noreascon 4 Souvenir Book, hello Guy Lillian III (62nd Worldcon).  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award).  Introduction (with Siclari) to Virgil Finlay Centennial book for 2014 World Fantasy Convention.  “LeeH” (Lee Hoffman, or for some of us, Hoffwoman), Journey Planet 27.  “Wheels of IF” (Irish fandom; with Siclari) for 77th Worldcon Souvenir Book.  Noted SF art collector (with Siclari), very helpful with SF con Art Shows.  Fan Guest of Honor, Loscon 46.  Big Heart (our highest service award; with Siclari).  Since 2016, Webmaster of the FANAC Fanhistory Project (fanac = fan activity; Florida Ass’n for Nucleation And Conventions was originally formed for MagiCon the 50th Worldcon, Orlando).  [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1958 Rachael Talalay, 62. She made her directorial debut with Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, and she also worked on the first four of the Nightmare on Elm Street films. Moving from horror to SF, she directed Tank Girl next. A long time Who fan, she directed all three of Twelfth Doctor’s series finales: series 8’s “Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven”,  along with series 9’s “Heaven Sent” and “Hell Bent” before directing series 10’s “World Enough and Time” and “The Doctor Falls”. She capped who Who work with “Twice Upon a Time”, the last Twelfth Doctor story. (CE) 
  • Born August 16, 1967 – Betsy Dornbusch, 53. Five novels, fifteen shorter stories. Co-editor Electric Spec 2006-2015.  Essays & interviews there.  Likes writing, reading, snowboarding, punk rock, the Denver Broncos, and how are you, Mr. Wilson?  [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1969 – Michael Buckley, 51.  A score of novels, some about the Nat’l Espionage, Rescue, & Defense Society (which spells –  ), NY Times Best Sellers; some about the Sisters Grimm (yes).  Robotomy for the Cartoon Network.  Finn and the Intergalactic Lunchbox just released (April).  Used to be in a punk rock band called Danger, Will Robinson.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) MALTINS TALK ANIMATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Leonard and Jessie Maltin’s latest Maltin on Movies podcast, which dropped on the 14th, is with animation expert Jerry Beck

Beck runs two websites: animationscoop.com for news and cartoonresearch.com for longer articles.  One recent article on cartoonresearch.com by Keith Scott lists all the voice actors on Tex Avery’s cartoons, which did not give credits for voice work.

Beck in the interview discusses many aspects of his career, including his providing the commentary for DVDs of Fritz Freleng cartoons to running a popular panel at Comic-Con called “Worst Cartoons Ever” so that fans can howl at a smorgasbord of stinkers.  Beck also has written several histories of animation.  But he was also one of the first Americans to understand the importance of anime.  He recalled that when Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was released in the mid-1980s, Roger Corman controlled the rights and released it in a heavily-cut, badly dubbed version.  Beck realized Miyazaki’s importance and was the first to distribute Miyazaki’s films uncut to theaters.

As part of his anime distribution, Beck talked to the producers of Akira, who explained that they were shutting down their studio and offered Beck the contents.  Eight months later, Beck got a call from the Port of Los Angeles (“and I’ve never gotten a call from a port before”) with eight giant containers of cels and other stuff, which Beck sold to the delight of serious collectors.

Also in the podcast, Maltin revealed that he learned Roman numerals from Popeye cartoons, which taught him that MCMXXXVI meant “1936”.

(14) BRING ME THE HEAD OF ADMIRAL ACKBAR. Coming right up! The Nerdist says it will be one of the lots available for bid in a Star Wars prop auction happening August 26-27.

For sci-fi movie prop collectors, items from the Star Wars saga are the Holy Grail. Now, fans who have wanted to get their hands on authentic items from a galaxy far, far away are in for a treat. Several props and costumes from the saga are going up for auction by The Prop Store of Los Angeles and London. Some very coveted pieces are among the items, including a full Darth Vader costume from 1977.

These Star Wars items are part of a much larger sci-fi/horror movie auction, being held on August 26th and 27th. One lucky fan will have a chance to get their hands on one of the great heroes of the Rebel Alliance: this Admiral Ackbar sculpt. Made after Return of the Jedi, from the original mold, it will set you back at least $3,000 to $5,000.

(15) BLESSED EVENT. Queen Elizabeth II has revealed her favourite film and it’s an SF movie, namely the 1980 Flash Gordon – The Guardian has the story: “Brian Blessed: Flash Gordon is the Queen’s favourite film”.

Brian Blessed has claimed that the Queen revealed to him that her favourite film is Flash Gordon, the 1980 sci-fi in which he stars as Prince Vultan.

Speaking about the film’s 40th anniversary to Edith Bowman on Yahoo Movies, the actor said that whenever he goes, people demand he recite his character’s catchphrase.

“Everywhere I go, they all want me to say ‘Gordon’s alive!’,” said Blessed. “The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, horses and queens, and prime ministers, they all want me to say ‘Gordon’s alive!’, it’s their favourite film.”

He continued: “The Queen, it’s her favourite film, she watches it with her grandchildren every Christmas.”

The actor then assumed the Queen’s accent, quoting her as saying: “You know, we watch Flash Gordon all the time, me and the grandchildren. And if you don’t mind, I’ve got the grandchildren here, would you mind saying ‘Gordon’s alive’?”

(16) STAR TREK, THE NEXT GAG. ScreenRant is sure they know: “The 10 Funniest Star Trek Episodes, Ranked”.

6. TNG: Qpid

From this fourth season episode of The Next Generation comes one of Worf’s most famous quotes. Transported to Sherwood Forest by Q and adorned in the costume of Will Scarlett, one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men,  Worf exclaims, “I am not a merry man.”

“Qpid” has one of the series lightest touches, to the point it feels like an old Errol Flynn film. While Picard plays Robin Hood, the rest of his Merry Men try to get used to their temporary roles. One of the funniest parts is during the fight between Robin’s friends and Nottingham’s guards. Both Doctor Crusher and Counselor Troi knock two of the bad guys out by bashing large vases over their heads.

(17) STOP-AND-POP. Ethan Alter, in “How Netflix’s new Black superhero movie ‘Project Power’ addresses real-life policing and ‘how police should be held accountable'” on Yahoo! Entertainment, interviews writer Matthew Tomlin (whose next project is co-writer of The Batman) and co-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt about Project Power, which dropped on Netflix this week.

When screenwriter Mattson Tomlin sat down to write Project Power in 2016, he knew that he wanted to create a superhero universe that put Black heroes front and center. The film that arrives on Netflix on Aug. 14 stays true to that vision, with Jamie Foxx and Dominique Fishback portraying the dynamic duo of Art and Robin, who take on a top-secret government agency that’s dispensing ability-enhancing pills on the streets of New Orleans. But there’s also a third superhero in the mix: a white police officer named Frank (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is the kind of “plays by his own rules” cop that’s been a popular Hollywood protagonist for decades.

As the film begins, Frank’s personal rules include popping those contraband pills to get a super-powered boost for daring busts. But after Art and Robin awaken him to the sordid story behind those drugs — a story that includes the exploitation of Black research subjects — he opts to join their cause. “Ultimately, the character goes through the movie trying to do the right thing,” Tomlin says. “Sometimes he goes about it in a messy way, but that’s where his heart is.”

(18) ROBOTIC VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. “Robot boat completes three-week Atlantic mission”.

A UK boat has just provided an impressive demonstration of the future of robotic maritime operations.

The 12m Uncrewed Surface Vessel (USV) Maxlimer has completed a 22-day-long mission to map an area of seafloor in the Atlantic.

SEA-KIT International, which developed the craft, “skippered” the entire outing via satellite from its base in Tollesbury in eastern England.

The mission was part-funded by the European Space Agency.

Robot boats promise a dramatic change in the way we work at sea.

Already, many of the big survey companies that run traditional crewed vessels have started to invest heavily in the new, remotely operated technologies. Freight companies are also acknowledging the cost advantages that will come from running robot ships.

But “over-the-horizon” control has to show it’s practical and safe if it’s to gain wide acceptance. Hence, the demonstration from Maxlimer.

(19) LIKE YOU DO. “How Do You Solve a Moon Mystery? Fire a Laser at It” – the New York Times explains. Tagline: “Researchers have used reflective prisms left on the moon’s surface for decades, but had increasingly seen problems with their effectiveness.”

…One obvious culprit is lunar dust that has built up on the retroreflectors. Dust can be kicked up by meteorites striking the moon’s surface. It coated the astronauts’ moon suits during their visits, and it is expected to be a significant problem if humans ever colonize the moon.

While it has been nearly 50 years since a retroreflector was placed on the moon’s surface, a NASA spacecraft launched in 2009 carries a retroreflector roughly the size of a paperback book. That spacecraft, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, circles the moon once every two hours, and it has beamed home millions of high-resolution images of the lunar surface.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter “provides a pristine target,” said Erwan Mazarico, a planetary scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center who, along with his colleagues, tested the hypothesis that lunar dust might be affecting the moon’s retroreflectors.

(20) MARGE SIMPSON FIRES BACK. The New York Daily News urges you to “SEE IT: Marge Simpson ‘p—ed off’ at Kamala Harris comparison”.

On Wednesday, senior Trump adviser Jenna Ellis compared Democratic vice presidential contender Kamala Harris to Marge Simpson, who’s voiced by actress Julie Kavner.

“Kamala sounds like Marge Simpson,” [Ellis] tweeted.

Marge responded on “The Simpsons” Twitter account with a 27-second clip in which she says the matter makes her uncomfortable.

“I usually don’t get into politics,” Marge said Friday, adding that her show-daughter Lisa informed her the comparison wasn’t meant as a compliment to either woman.

“As an ordinary suburban housewife I’m starting to feel a little disrespected,” the cartoon mom said. “I teach my children not to name-call, Jenna.”

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